live slow, love nature, be adventurous

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Of River Islands & Dragon Stones

On the long weekend over Corpus Christi, my part of Germany was hit by a little bit of a heatwave and so I let my To-Do-List be and headed out into the sun instead. I'm not good at handling heat: High temperatures make me feel sluggish and lethargic and so there's always a certain temptation to just hide away at home until temperatures drop in the evening. But since that kind of behavior isn't exactly conductive to living an interesting life, I'm usually trying to ignore my natural inclinations and last weekend that meant heading out into the scorching sun for some outdoor activities.

A Bike Ride to the Ketscher Rheininsel

My bike had a flat tire for months, but I finally managed to get it fixed a few weeks ago and ever since then my boyfriend and me have been trying to use every opportunity to head out on little tours with our bikes. Despite the fact that I may just have the worst physical endurance in the world, I love to get active when I’m out exploring and bike rides are definitely a welcome diversion from my usual hiking trips.

On this particular weekend, we didn't have any proper plans except for saying "Let's drive to the Rhine!" and a look at Google Maps quickly introduced us to a little river island that was about a 20 kilometer ride away from Heidelberg. We set off in high spirits – there’s something quite exhilarating about biking through wide wheat fields with the light so bright you can barely bear to look around – and eventually stopped at a café where I found myself a beach chair and a milkshake to take a break from the merciless sun.

We hadn't been sure what to expect of the Ketscher Rheininsel as information online had been scarce and pictures on Google hadn't looked all that impressive, but we were in for a pleasant surprise when we finally arrived in the small town of Ketsch and found a relaxing oasis of calm. We decided to ditch our bikes to explore the island on foot and while we continually had to chase away annoying little mosquitoes, we cherished the peacefulness of the forest and the welcome reprieve from the heat it offered.

While we enjoyed the tranquility of the forest, the highlight of our island walk was certainly ambling along the Rhine. This part of the river isn’t quite as impressive and in-your-face beautiful as the Rhine Valley, but the water was glittering so brightly in the sun and the water shone in such a pretty and unique icy blue color that I couldn’t help but smile at this lovely sight. The river was busy with private little speedboats whizzing through the water and there was a sort of salty scent in the air that almost made me feel as if I was at the German seaside.

The scorching sun quickly got a little too intense for me (I told you, I can’t handle heat!) and so I welcomed to return of the forest with open arms. We drove back to Heidelberg slowly – the effects of forgetting to apply sunscreen in the morning suddenly becoming all too obvious for us – and when I finally arrived at home I literally just crashed on the couch, exhausted from both the heat and the ride.

Hiking to the Drachenfels in the Palatinate Forest

A few days later and a little bit more sensible dressed, I headed to the Palatinate Forest (that’s the Pfälzerwald for all of my fellow German-speakers who think the English names of German places sound really weird) with Margo for some hiking. The Palatinate Forest is a vast low-mountain range in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz and merges with the French Vosges mountains in the south and there are tons of different outdoor activities to partake in: You could go climbing, mountain biking or do some serious hiking, but since we were still feeling the aftermath of the heatwave, we opted to just do a short and sweet little ramble.

I had stumbled upon the Drachenfels (that's German for dragonstone) online a few months prior and filed it away in my head as a place to potentially visit one day and when a quick look in a hiking guidebook (only me?) promised great landscape views without too much effort we were sold. The hike was only about seven kilometers long and while the first third lead us continually uphill, it wasn't very hard and the forest provided good shelter from the heat.

And the views certainly didn't fail to wow us! Margo and me just started oohing and aahing from the moment we first stepped out of the forest and onto the large rock that served as a viewing platform, but eventually decided to be good bloggers and take pictures of each other. According the Germanic mythology, the Drachenfels is the place where the hero Siegfried slayed a dragon and became invulnerable by bathing in its blood and so I was a little disappointed to not find any dragons to wrestle or at least conquer Westeros with (I may have told my boyfriend the opposite, though). But the landscape looked so wonderfully vast and utterly removed from the world that I didn't mind too much.

A few meters farther along the path, we found another large rock with a view that was just begging us to do some posing. While I was just casually overlooking my empire (or at least pretended that that’s what I did on Instagram), Margo was decidely more adventurous than me and let me put the action mode on her camera to good use. I’m sure many of you read and love Margo’s travel blog and let me just say that she really is just as sweet in real life as on her blog – I really wish she would stay in Heidelberg a little bit longer!

The last few kilometers of our hike were very easy and relaxed: We chatted about blogging - there's nothing more gratifying than talking to someone who gets the overwhelming urge to document everything - and our recent and upcoming travels and I was continually surprised by just how quiet the forest was. We only met a handful of other people on our entire hike and I certainly expected it to be much busier, but maybe most people were just a little bit more sensible than us and decided to spend the day by the pool.

Before we headed back to Heidelberg, we couldn't resist stopping for some Apfelschorle and fresh strawberries with vanilla ice cream and finally got to bask in the sunshine a little after all. I may never become a true sun worshiper, but there's still nothing better than heading out into nature on a warm summer's day!

How do you like to spend hot days?


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