Travel Review: Hechingen, Germany and Burg Hohenzollern

3 Oct

South of Heidelberg is Hechingen, a town that–admittedly–we didn’t see much of. We arrived on the train and immediately had a “Oh no, how do we get anywhere?” moment. We didn’t see any taxis (though of course, the next day when we went back to the train station by taxi there were several there). There were a couple of buses that seemed to be going up to the castle, though, and we knew th497at our hotel was at the base of the castle’s hill. Let’s hop on, we thought. It will be easy, we thought.

The first bus looked a bit more like a city bus, but the driver pointed us to the bus ahead of us which looked more like a coach. We had a hugely embarrassing conversation with the driver of the second bus, who didn’t speak much English, and ended up having to get a translation by one of the other passengers. We had asked to buy two adult tickets. Apparently, the driver wanted to see our train tickets. I was confused, but handed it over. He sort of shook his head and just waved us through without us paying anything.

I say all of this because I really don’t think we were supposed to have been on that bus. I looked at our tickets and the Bahn.com website where we purchased them, and apparently there is an option to add on “city public transport” to your destination for an extra cost, but it was something we hadn’t done. The bus did wind around Hechingen a bit, which told us it at least wasn’t a direct-to-castle shuttle, but as it flew past our hotel we resigned ourselves to wearing our big bags and trying to figure out how to get back down eventually.

A note on the bags, because I realize I’ve been complaining about them a bit through these reviews. A lot of this whole Europe trip would not have been doable with a rolling suitcase, and certainly the adventure we had at Hohenzollern would have been even more miserable. But our bags were not hugely comfortable, at least at this stage, and we struggled with them at some points–I’ll be doing a separate review of those later.

Whatever bus we were o469n ended up dropping us off at a parking lot near a gift shop/ticket counter where we purchased our tickets. There was an option to go on a shuttle bus up to the castle, but my husband thought it would be a good idea to walk on the path. Pro Tip: It was NOT A GOOD IDEA TO WALK ON THE PATH. Not when you’re burdened with 30 extra pounds of stuff. It certainly would have been manageable if we had just had our day packs, but the rest of it was too much for me. I struggled up the first little section–my legs would barely carry me due to how steep this hill was — and Cal ended up taking my big bag along with his big bag, while I carried both of the day packs. Let’s just say, he didn’t have much fun with that.

When we finally got up to the castle, I was in a grumpy mood because I was uncomfortable with the bag and felt like pictures would be ruined by them (so silly, I know) and we wouldn’t be able to move around in the rooms anyway with these big honking things on our backs. Even the idea that Hohenzollern looks like Hogwarts couldn’t break through my gloom.460

Then we discovered that the information centre beside the gift shop in the castle actually allows you to leave bags with them. Sigh of relief! What wonderful people. We noticed a few items in there when we passed by and I thought it couldn’t hurt to check. The bags were simply left out–not put into a cloak room or lockers or anything — but there were people there to watch them and it seemed relatively safe for bags filled with dirty clothes. We carried our valuables with us. (Moral of the story, folks? Figure out how to get to your hotel FIRST, maybe before you leave for the trip, drop off your bags, and then go to the castle!)

At last, we were free of the weight! We celebrated with some food at the outdoor restaurant–I had a schnitzel again, while Cal had currywurst. It was a bit overpriced for what it was, but you can’t begrudge them when the views are so spectacular.

Hohenzollern really is as beautiful as the pictures make it look. After you walk through the castle gates you’ll walk up a winding pathway with arched windows looking into a little garden. Then there’s an outer courtyard area with little towers, what looked a bit like a mini-cemetery, 476statues of various kings, and lots of photo ops–the views are seriously gorgeous.

In the inner courtyard, there’s the restaurant I talked about, a little ice cream cart, and the entrance to the children’s museum just up the staircase to your right. Honestly, I didn’t love the museum, but it was interesting enough to walk through.

As for the castle itself, you’re able to see quite a few rooms. We started in the chapel–we couldn’t explore the whole thing because a wedding was taking place there later (how cool would that be?) but I think it’s usually mostly open to the public. We then went into the interior rooms, exploring the dining room, living areas, and (unless I’m getting my castles mixed up!) bedrooms and bathroom. For part of our self-guided tour, we had to wear slippers so as to maintain the floor’s integrity, which was kind of fun (they were very slippery!).

All in all, I really did have a good time at Hohenzollern despite the rocky start and the rain that started to fall. We ended up taking the shuttle back down rather than risk slipping down the wet mountain with our heavy bags. The shuttle took us to a lower parking lot. We had no idea where buses were or how to call for a taxi. So we decided: well, heck. Let’s walk. We’d seen our hotel on the way up so we knew it wasn’t that far, and that the whole thing was downhill.

It turned out to be pretty fun, actually! I was apprehenisive as there are no sidewalks on the way, but the road wasn’t tha494t busy. At one point we did cross over onto a farm path so we could be off the road a bit. We did have a moment of indecision when we reached the big highway as we didn’t know exactly where to go. We took a chance and it paid off–there was our hotel right in front of us!

Accommodation Review: Hotel Brielhof

We picked Hotel Brielhof because of its proximity to the castle and its relatively good pricing–about 80 Euro for the night, including breakfast. We were astonished to find how nice it was. Our double room also contained a couch and a little balcony and a wonderful bathroom–we felt so pampered we might have been in the castle hotel again!

Brielhof is also a restaurant, so when we walked in and saw a bunch of tables we were a bit confused and wondered if there was a different entrance for the hotel, but nope, that was it! We were greeted by friendly staff who gave us our key to our room and directed us up. We were surprised by how quiet it was because it was such a nice place for the price. After my husband had a soak in the tub (I mean, come on, the guy did just carry something like 30 kilos up a mountain!), we headed downstairs for dinner. We knew this wasn’t going to be the most cost-effective meal, but it was sure better than trying to find somewhere else to eat when we were so far removed from the rest of the town.

The meal itself was really good. I can’t remember what we had, save for the drinks: my still water still tasted a bit like sparkling water, though it was most definitely still, and Cal’s local beer tasted oddly like bananas. Also, we had absolutely amazing service by the waiter who went above and beyond, telling us local history and stories, recommending things to do and places to see in Germany, and being super friendly. Loved it!

After we ate, we went to bed (because we’re such party animals) and tinkered on the internet for a little while. Free wifi, but the internet was a bit spotty in our room.

Breakfast was a bit embarrassing, as it demonstrated that we were very likely the only people who had stayed in the hotel the night before! They asked us when we wanted to eat and we were like, “Oh, maybe 7 or 7:30 or maybe 8?” and they were too polite to ask us to pick a time. When we went down, we were shown to a tiny buffet and a table for two. The buffet contained breads, meats, and cheeses–more than enough for the two of us, but not much if more people were going to show up. We felt so bad! But, the food was good and we felt full for a long while afterwards.

The hotel was also kind enough to call us a taxi to the train station when we left in the morning.

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