Wow, there we go – the first German metropolis I visited! (Wait, does Hamburg count?) I’d budgeted 4 whole nights for this city only second to the capital, so that I could either see ‘everything’ in time or take everything slowly. Well, ‘everything’ as in what everyone says I must see – I don’t really believe in that. I could reassure you though, I did honour the city’s fame: the first thing I did, after finally successfully arriving at my host’s home, was having a bottle of dark beer.

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Neckar river

Lonely Planet’s tagline for Heidelberg is ‘surrender to your inner romantic’: this city is not only home to the oldest university in Germany, unscathed by the wars in the past century, but also a cozy and charming city at the same time – a place to fall in love (with). And I think I did. It was mildly enticed to hop off the train at Weinheim, but I didn’t know what awaited me at my destination yet, did I? Since my time there I’ve been asked many times about my favourite part of Germany, and though I couldn’t name why – everyone judges a place by their own experience – it was always this town; perhaps this is love at first sight?

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Reading signs in Prague

After documenting around a week of my journey – granted, at a terrible pace – I’d like to take a short break from travel blogging. Instead, I’ll write my first blog post on language learning here! Fact is, I’ve been taking some time to settle in Lund, Sweden, after 1.5 months of non-stop travelling. Now that I’m not gonna be back in Germany again any time soon, it’s time to reflect what I’ve gained linguistically – and I still can’t believe how much my German has improved compared to two month ago, especially in the spoken aspect. Therefore I decided it’s time I jotted down a few thoughts on what I did right over this period to kick my skills up a notch, and hopefully help you gain some insights too.

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Everyone who heard I’m going to Frankfurt says I shouldn’t spend more than a day or even go there at all. Despite all this, I ended up spending two nights there – granted, one night more than I planned, but I found out that this city is not all about the airport and the commerce; it also has some treasures to offer to tourists. These might not suit all visitors’ interests, but hey, isn’t that true for all tourist spots? Read on and you’ll see what I, coming from quite a similar city – Hong Kong, found worthwhile in this commercial centre.

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Schloss Schwerin - busy in renovation, German-style.

Whoa! It’s been quite some time. First I’ll have to apologise for the infrequent posting – I’m around three quarters through my whole journey, and travelling for such a time span (quite long for me at this stage!) is quite tiring, with all the spontaneous planning necessary on the way. Indeed my solo travelling style is almost planned last-minute: a friend of mine calls that ‘controlled indeterminacy’ (fancy name). I’ve also had unstable Internet connections all the way, especially on trains. Plus my monthly mobile data limit is 300MB! Anyway rest assured that the stuff I write is all fresh, even though I post it weeks later. Because I’m the kind of person who records everything I see and every thought I have right on the spot. So without further ado, onto day 4!

My original plan was 3 days in Hamburg, but I ended up with an overhaul: a friend of mine had been living in Schwerin for around two weeks at the time with the family of a friend of hers. (Sounds a bit complicated but not really.) Schwerin is a small town around one hour by train to the east of Hamburg. Not quite a big name, considering I’d never heard of it either, but it actually turned out to be a really nice place to stay, or just take a look and spend a nice few hours, since it’s home to the so-called Neuschwanstein of the North, despite the myriad of castles throughout Germany.

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Hamburg, the Venice of Germany

You might be wondering.

Why start from day 2?

Turns out I’m arriving in Copenhagen to start my German trip – a round trip from the north back to the north. That’s why day 1 (particularly long due to time zones) was simply sitting on the plane, then getting lost on the streets of Denmark looking for my hostel to survive the night. Thankfully three friendly Danes helped to orient this foreigner with zero sense of direction, and I arrived before midnight with my brand-new backpacks!

Day 2 was the real start of the journey. I mean it would have been, if it weren’t for a frustrating setback…

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Readying my luggage!

It’s now July, and in less than a week’s time, I’ll be in Germany, on my first (true) adventure alone! Looking back, preparing for this has been a hard time, I must say. Originally I was going to fly to Denmark with my family in August, but since the moment I decided to take my turn exploring Europe alone, I’ve really come a long way. So how did my 26-day plan appear from scratch?

In late February my family bought tickets to Copenhagen, but then in two months I realised it’s my exchange year, and I should try my best to make the most out of it! It was a hard time deciding, since the ticket prices were rising every hour, and I wasn’t psychologically ready to crash into such a big country on my own yet. So I tried my best looking for a companion, predictably to no avail, but I made up my mind anyway and paid the EUR200 extra to change my ticket.

I started planning in late May or June I think. I basically looked at wikitravel plus a map of Germany and picked the cities I know of. I also took reference from a friend’s itinerary and other sample ones from the Internet. I made a list of cities I want to go – I was considering taking a detour to the Netherlands but gave up – then started assigning days to each city, according to how many sightseeing spots wikitravel says they have. So yeah, not very accurate – something that I will evaluate after going.

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