Journaled through the eyes of a female solo traveller
Palm trees greet me on the corners of the quaint streets of Lahr and Offenburg – two precious towns based in the Tuscany of Germany – perfectly capturing the essence of summer drawing me in with that familiar smell of dry straw, freshly cooked food and a hint of sunshine. On such a day I find myself cycling to Offenburg and just as I conclude my exploratory town walk the Gifiz-see whispers my name, reinforcing that well-painted summer picture as I blissfully sink into a luxurious lounge chair at the Essgut Beach bar. Ecstatic about the ample choice in romantic seating and the calm, relaxed beach vibe I tune into some well-needed me-time for the rest of the day, floating around in the fresh water only to be pulled back to my beloved cocoon by ‘het dagboek van Sara‘ – the book I am currently reading. The only things that are able to lure me away from this gorgeous paradise are the arrival of my dear friend with the promise of pizza and the car drive taking us home.
Back on the road with no place to be and no timeframe to pursue I surrender to the music blasting from the speakers and the endless nature running alongside the Highway, the pristine view only interrupted by the words Baden-Baden which somehow sound insanely adorable and familiar. Suddenly the concrete road compresses and I find myself driving through the heart of the town, winding uphill on a still narrowing cobbled street. Thrilled to find a free parking spot on top of the hill and unwilling to put my life at risk again – at least that’s what it felt like twisting and turning uphill a tiny cobble stone street in my huge van – I pull up my hand break and stay put.
On my way down the quaint buildings shine a new light on the terrifyingly narrow street instantly making me regret leaving my Polaroid camera behind, urging me to climb back up the hill. Camera at hand now I stumble upon a cluster of impressive buildings home to the famous thermal baths on which this town thrives. Apprehended by the splendor as I enter through the grand doors of the Friedrich bad I have to remind my body to continue moving towards the counter where – allured by the promise of the beautiful craftsmanship likely to be found inside and therefore a possibility of taking incredible photographs – I decide to take a wellness day.
Disappointed that the baths are only to be entered when nude I decide to leave the majestic buildings and photographic opportunity behind, redirecting my focus onto the town centre. Lavish buildings adorn both sides of the picturesque streets flaunting the country’s former glory with petite roads acting as little streams eager to unite with the river, in this case the main road. In such a natural way the main walkway transforms into a wide gravel path with tall, bulky trees guiding me towards the pearl of Baden-Baden, aka. the casino.
Ten pm and a wardrobe change later I enter the classic building that houses the casino. Confused by the unexpected modern indoor setting I am unsure of what is and is not part of the casino and therefore enter a live-music night club – which I thought was part of the casino but in fact is not – by mistake. After two hours of sipping the same glass of prosecco – I do not like alcoholic beverages but it was free – the ‘club’ is still as good as empty thus I prepare to leave the club behind and try to find the casino so I can check it out before calling it a night and undertaking my uphill hike .
White with a touch of gold leaf baroque decorations contrast with a soft red velvet carpet creating the most exquisite and luxurious atmosphere I could have ever imagined, unquestionably the reason this casino was part of the ‘Casino Royal’ movies et. Unwavering legs move towards me in a gorgeous black dress exhuming the confidence and elegance of a woman knowing she belongs, unlike me. Questioning my entire wardrobe – wishing I hadn’t left my most extravagant dress at home – I feel well-underdressed and overwhelmed by the striking grandeur that is more than worth its five euro entrance fee.
Waltzing my way through the flamboyant landscape I finally reach the casino’s night club, the club I wanted to be at to start with. The welcome darkness and the uncomfortable amount of male attention swiftly erase my previous feeling of not belonging, turning this night into an adventure I won’t ever forget; Who says one can’t go out by oneself?! Completely bedazzled I resume my trip northwards transforming baden-baden into a sweet memory replayed only in the realm of my dreams.
Brought to Heidelberg by recommendation of friends the quaint summer town vibe doesn’t disappoint and reverberates the most loving warmth throughout the entire town. When ignoring the cloud of tourists trying to get that one fabulous Insta picture this romantic atmosphere is mirrored in the carefully crafted gate of the old bridge making me long for the days that architecture was still entwined with the fine arts. Confronted with the perfect mixture of sun and magnificent architecture I slowly make my way across the old bridge.
Suddenly I find myself staring at a narrow and steep passageway slithering uphill, inspired by the view and recommendations I usher up the oscillating stairs of the ‘schlangenweg‘ to be united with the ‘philosophenweg‘ at last. Starving I unpack my previously bought lunch whilst I comfortably settle down onto one of the available benches soaking in the view over the town and the impressive castle. Not quite ready to leave the top of the hill I open Google maps in search of other interesting places that might be near. ‘Der mystische schlund des Talos‘ catches my eye and after Imagining a bright blue lagoon covered in a fog that hides various mystical creatures from sight, I decide to take the short hike from the viewpoint. Once I forfeit Google’s directions and start embracing the random forest trails for guidance instead, I arrive at a very green, mossy and small pond, not quite the mystic place I had in mind. Hence I decide to head back to the more romantic atmosphere fabricated by Heidelberg’s charming town squares.
The act of buying some artsy postal cards – that will never reach their destination – concludes my day in the quaint Heidelberg propelling me towards another unexpectedly romantic destination.
At first Würzburg doesn’t seem picturesque – let alone romantic – at all until I enter the grounds of the Würzburg residence, a baroque-rococo palace demonstrating the exuberance of past times. Passing through the meticulously constructed gardens ever revolving around it’s majestic epicentre reminds me of pride and prejudice drawing me into a state of day dreaming, starring in an intriguing love story of my own.
The cobbled stone streets – weaving a web through the beautiful historical buildings – lure me towards the old main bridge where the residents of Würzburg have been gathering for decades to witness the sunset whilst enjoying a freshly poured glass of wine. Even though I do not consume alcohol myself I find this to be one of the most romantic pictures ever painted, so romantic that it almost has me yearning for Prince charming’s embrace. Summer seems to bring forth, not only romance but a burst in creativity as well exhibiting in marvelous concepts such as the ‘stadstrand‘.
Every summer this concept is brought to life by covering a part of the east bank of the river main with sand, on top of which a beach bar and night club is constructed. After all, who wouldn’t want to celebrate summer with cocktails and beach parties, each day bearing a different event? After exploring this fabulous destination my friend suggest another similar concept – I can tell – one must not miss out on. Upon entering ‘Dornheim‘ my eyes light up and butterflies find their way twirling around in my stomach for this open-air café exists out of recycled materials and refurbished furniture creating an enticing and magical atmosphere I could reside at forever. Of course I visit my friend and this adorable town on a Monday robbing me from the unique clubbing experience this establishment provides when turning into a beach night club from Thursday to Sunday. However, that being said, the delicious pizza and the company of my friend is more than worth the visit and the only goodbye party I really need.
Last but not least I’m about to fall in love with the coastline of the Baltic sea, in particular with Timmendorfer strand. Arriving somewhat late in the evening provides me with the perfect parking spot, inadvertently launching me into a full week’s stay. Each time I am close to a large mass of water the first thing I tend to do is rush over towards the pier and tonight is not an exception. Slightly absent-minded I saunter towards the end of the landing, my eyes stretching far into the dark, endless sea aware of the luminous bloom of jellyfish chasing the last rays of light. The beautiful sight dilutes as the sun fades and the air turns brisk, kindly nudging me to retreat and say goodnight. Adventurous as I am I deviate from my original route, taking me on a midnight stroll through the holiday village instead. The illuminated decorations of an old fashioned circus tent captivate me, hold me into place, not that I have ever been a devoted customer of the circus but somehow its presence evokes that warm nostalgic feeling of happy childhood memories.
Another day has been brought to live – empowered by the inflamed star our solar system depends on – encouraging me to explore the town glistening in the sea of sunshine. Vacation paradise is the term that rushes to mind as I drift – slow paced – over the beautifully maintained paved roads whilst admiring the most adorable shops, cafés and restaurants imagining these streets to come straight out of a designer magazine. Unsure whether it is my bathing suit addiction or the stores luring me in with their wonderful window display, I end up adding another gorgeous suit to my collection. Triumphantly I skip towards the nearest beach impatient to wear my newest addition.
Never before have I been able to visit a coastline that isn’t covered in appalling and uncomfortable plastic sun beds therefore the natural beauty of the strandkorb sea rising up in front of me, stuns me. This coastline seems to have forgone that once popular yet unseemly fashion by using gorgeously woven and luxurious beach chairs instead, appointing the baltic sea beaches as the number one on my list of most romantic and beautiful beaches.
Since the promenade – extending from Timmendorfer strand niendorf to Haffkrug – is spacious, well kept and seemingly endless I decided to entertain my curiosity and unfold my tiny bicycle, ready for a new adventure. With the European sun finally up to heat I enjoy the freedom of my nomad life sunbathing and relaxing on the various beaches I encounter, submerging myself in the cool water of the baltic sea which I expected to be colder but am glad to find simply refreshing. Besides the vast variety of beaches I stop at Scharbeutz and the Niendorf hafen, both delightful places to visit and welcome alternations to Timmendorfer strand although I find neither as picturesque.
Active as I am I decide to take my bicycle on a slightly longer route for my last day, deviating from the wide promenade for the first time. Ten km later I arrive in Travemünde a quaint port town on the verge of celebrating its annual free festival – Travemünde Woche – and the reason I decide to visit this town after all. Unaware of the longstanding tradition of this grand festival created around the regatta – a race between boats or yachts – I happily attend the first day of its 130th edition. Astound by the amount of culinary offers, attractions, bars and shops I walk up and down the festival grounds which are seemingly empty for the first few hours however the later it gets the more people start flowing in and the more festive ambiance is created.
Exhausted and weakened by hunger I buy a plate of vegetarian fried noodles – not exactly the type I am used to after travelling Asia but it made do – especially since I was able to consume it whilst listening to live music. Although I am by myself with an uncomfortable sized backpack I just can’t resist the music blasting from the open-air beach club just a few meters further, heedlessly I make my way through the water bottle security, drop my backpack at my feet and dance the night away. Wishing I could stay here dancing on a massive sound box forever I knew I had to leave the party and just like Cinderella I left the party at the stroke of midnight knowing the long road still ahead of me.
PS. On a recurring visit I found out there actually is a three euro fee for entering the beaches along the Timmendorfer strand promenade, it still blows my mind that I managed to unknowingly avoid that for an entire week!