Europe Top Ten, Part Two

Aug 3, 2016

We spent the second part of our trip in Frankfurt, Germany (and surrounding areas). Mike's parents are currently living there on a church assignment, and so we were able to stay with them, which was absolutely wonderful. It was just so nice to be able to sleep in the same bed for more than one night in a row, relax in the backyard, and eat food that we (or I should probably say, they) cooked ourselves. It was perfect having the week in Germany sandwiched between our other travels. It let us recuperate after France and the Netherlands and gear up for Norway. As an added bonus, we were joined for this phase of the trip by Mike's cousin and her husband and baby, so we even had traveling buddies to go on adventures with. Here are ten of the things we enjoyed the most:

1. Rhine River Cruise

This 90-minute tour took us down a picturesque strip of the Rhine where the vineyards crawled up the hills on both sides, the little villages on the shore beckoned to us, and we were never out of sight of a castle. The weather was lovely and didn't get too hot until the very end. We went with Rachel, Micah, and Benji, and we kept saying to each other, "Isn't this amazing?! Here we are, just hanging out on the Rhine River together!" Definitely something we'll always remember.

2. Burg Eltz

Although we saw dozens of castles from the road (and river), we ended up touring just one, and it was a good one. Burg Eltz dates back to the 12th century and felt totally legit with cannonballs in the courtyard, towers and buttresses, and hanging baskets in the kitchen (the only place inaccessible by rats). Plus, we had the most awesome tour guide who sounded like he was straight out of Dungeons and Dragons.

3. Rothenburg (i.e., the Christmas village)

Rothenburg is this classic German village with darling half timbered houses, overflowing flower boxes, and an iconic wall that encloses the village. It was just my mother-in-law, Mike, and me for this particular adventure, and after driving for two hours, we arrived in Rothenburg, but it wasn't at all what we expected. In fact, it didn't look the least bit touristy (we couldn't even find a village square), and my mother-in-law, who had been there before, didn't see anything that looked familiar. Turns out, we'd gone to the wrong Rothenburg. The one we wanted was actually Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Not easily deterred, we drove three more hours to the real Rothenburg, and the fact that I'm including it on the list of favorites shows that it was worth all those hours in the car (although I think Mike's mom, who had white knuckles from Mike's driving on the autobahn, would disagree).

4. The best ice cream I've ever eaten in my life

While in (the real) Rothenburg, we got ice cream (not an unusual occurrence--I made it my business to try out the ice cream pretty much everywhere). Because of the high quantity of ice cream we ate on this trip, I'm sure you will realize the magnitude of claiming this as the best ice cream of my life, but it was. I was expecting it to be soft serve, but it wasn't just soft, and it wasn't just creamy. The only word I can think to describe it with is silky. We had something that came close in Norway, but it was vanilla, and the Rothenburg cone was lemon, so it got the edge. (If you're ever in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, check it out--that's a photo of it up there.)

5. Feeling at home in Frankfurt

One of the great things about this trip was just spending time with Mike's parents: shopping at the nearby grocery store, going on their favorite walks (my mother-in-law: the cemetery; my father-in-law: the park overlooking Frankfurt (pictured above)), meeting their friends, playing games at their house, and chatting over a homemade dinner. Now when they write about the things they're doing, we can picture it because we've been there. I was sad to leave.

6. Frankfurt market

It had the same charm as Pike's Place in Seattle but was smaller and cleaner and didn't have any fish throwing going on (which makes it sound nothing like Pike's Place, but Mike and I both agreed it reminded us of it). We wish we'd made the time to go back later in the week and do more exploring (and more buying).

7. Window boxes

Every house, every hotel, every little shop in big cities and small villages has window boxes, literally overflowing with gorgeous flowers. You would have thought I'd have gotten used to it by the end of our trip, but I still found myself snapping all the pictures all the time because they just made me so happy. I'm ready to hop on the window box train . . . anyone else with me?

8. Stuttgart Library

I really only had one thing on my Germany bucket list: visit the Stuttgart Library. I'll probably save most of the details (and pictures) for its own post (because where else can you devote an entire post to a library than on a book blog?), but just know this: It was incredible.

9. Cute alleyways

I'm sure dark, scary alleyways do exist in Germany (but that's not the kind of thing I generally seek out when I'm traveling), but every one that I saw looked like this: clean and bright with a cobblestone path and adorable doors and (of course) more window boxes.

10. Spending time with Rachel and Micah (and little Benji)

During our first year of marriage, Mike and I were fortunate enough to be in the same ward as Mike's cousin, Rachel, and her husband, Micah. During that time, they became some of our dearest friends. And the great thing about being related to your friends is it's easier to stay in close contact even when you live thousands of miles away from each other. Earlier this year, Rachel called us and asked, "Hey, do you guys want to go on a trip together this summer?" And we said, "Well, we're going to Germany, but if you want to come with us, we would love it." And what do you know? They did! It was so much fun talking to each other for hours, playing games in the evenings, and going on adventures together (and their one-year-old baby was a total traveling champ). I'm so glad our memories from Germany will always have Rachel and Micah in them.

Stay tuned because our top ten from Norway is still to come!


  1. Yay! Glad to see of the Shepards too!

  2. Looks like such a great time! I loved Rothenburg the one time I was there, but unfortunately I don't remember eating any ice cream. I do remember having some fresh pressed apple cider from a street vendor, and being completely amazed at how amazing it tasted (why is all food in Europe just so much better?). Also, I bought a couple of the wood carved nativities, and they are still some of my all time favorite souvenirs, they get used every year!

    1. Okay, this is too funny--I tried the fresh pressed apple cider, too, but I was eating that delicious ice cream at the same time and thought the cider was extremely bitter. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, was thoroughly enjoying the cider, so I blame the fact that my taste buds were too sugared up at that point. Now I want to go back and try it again!

      We bought our one big souvenir in Rothenburg (a Christmas pyramid), and I can't wait to put it out this Christmas. Crossing my fingers my kids don't break it.


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