Last summer, we did a 10 day road trip through parts of Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. Our itinerary was: Berlin – Weimar – Heidelburg – Freiburg – Lucerne – Lake Como – La-Spezia – Cinque Terre – Bussana Vecchia – Monaco – Éze – Gorges du Verdon – Moustiers-Sainte-Marie – Valensole – Chamonix – Tübingen – Swäbisch Hall – Berlin.
Finally, we had reached the last day of our road trip. We started our day in Tübingen, and would drive from there to Swäbisch Hall, another Swabian town, and from there onto Berlin. But before leaving Tübingen, we went for a walk around this lovely town. I’d been there before on a work trip (see here), but neither my husband nor my friend had, and I was keen to show it off to both of them. The old town centre looks like one of the fairytale villages in the Shrek movies or Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, all half-timbered houses and charming views.
Tübingen is a student town, with 87 544 inhabitants and 28 000 students, according to the last count of the tourist association. This means about 1 in 3 people living there is a student. It lies in Swabia, a region that was once the territory of Alemannia (where the Alemanni tribes lived), which is how Germany got it’s French and Spanish names (Allemagne, Alemania). In case you have every wondered why the names of Germany are so different in different languages, it’s because neighbouring countries tended to name it after whatever they called the German tribes with whom they most came into contact with. What I also didn’t realize before moving to Germany is that Germans from different regions have very different accents and dialects. It can be difficult even for Germans to understand the dialect of another region. There are also cultural differences – for instance, we were quite (pleasantly) shocked at how nice our waitress in Swäbisch Hall was to us, since we’re used to Berliner Schnauze! I nearly fell off my chair when she asked me how I’d enjoyed my ice coffee. Swabians also have a reputation for being very neat and tidy. Perhaps my grandmother’s friend, who used to vacuum her garden, was from Swabia!
When you’re in Tübingen, the must-see things are the castle Hohentübingen (which offers a great view of the town), the old town, with its beautiful buildings, and the walkway along the river Neckar.
Tübingen appears in offical records as early as 1191, and the castle has records doing back to 1078. It’s a pleasure just to wander around, and this is what we did for the morning.
In the castle, we happened to enter a small science exhibition, which had some interesting displays. I’d recommend it if you’re at all interested in science (our friend isn’t, but my husband and I enjoyed it, and it’s just one room so it doesn’t take long).
Soon it was time to leave Tübingen and hit the road again. Our planned stop for the day was Swäbisch Hall – we knew nothing about it, but it had an interesting name and had been recommended on an online forum for a town worth seeing in the area. It turned out to be a great stop – the old buildings there are simply amazing. And as I said, we also found a gem of a lunch stop, which had burgers with humorous names and ice coffee with watermelon syrup. It was so hipster it could easily be popular in Berlin.
If you visit Swäbisch Hall, don’t miss the view of the old buildings next to the Kocher river. Fun facts about Swäbisch Hall: it has been a centre of salt production from Celtic times (as early as the 5th century BC), and apparently there is still a Salt festival every year. As a town, it was first mentioned in the records in 1063. Nowadays it is popular with students who want to learn German, as there is a branch of the Goethe Institute here.
The rest of the day was mostly driving, as we had a long way to go back to Berlin. The only time we stopped again was to stretch our legs at a quarry in the middle of nowhere that happened to have some visitor info.
We arrived back in Berlin in the evening, our head filled with all the memories of our 9-day long trip. It’s taken me a year just to put it all in a blog. Let’s see where the next road trip takes us…