Before moving to France, I had envisioned a modest travelling around Europe during my stay in France. Of course, at the beginning, climbing had been a focus. I have travelled, but in the grand scheme of things it has been quite minimal. I can’t complain though; I have been well contented to pursue recreation around Grenoble most weekends.
In the past month, with Rachael doing a tour of conferences in Europe, I had the opportunity to meet up with her in several cities.
Frankfurt am Main (14-07 to 16-07)
Despite Frankfurt having a big airport, through which I’ve flown many times, I had not seen the city – in recent times. (I had visited it years ago on a family vacation, but it was long enough ago that my memory of it had faded.) Frankfurt is a financial and industrial (not strictly in a manufacturing sense) hub within Germany.
Aside from touring the city, including a boat tour, we saw the natural history museum and the art (Stadel) museum. The natural museum did not appear to have a particular focus on Germany or even Europe; instead I felt it really gave a global picture to natural history. Of course, some fossils did come from close to Frankfurt, and there was an exhibit explaining a bit of the history behind the museum. That is, while there was definitely a connection to Frankfurt, it seems that the impression is that the residents, or at least scientists of Frankfurt, were keen to learn about the world beyond their borders.
This idea was reinforced at the art museum. There were very few paintings local to Frankfurt, but it seems that there were plenty patrons or collectors that were interested to acquire art from abroad.
Heidelberg (21-07 to 23-07)
Heidelberg is a town about an hour south of Frankfurt, by car or (~direct) train. Its main attraction is the Renaissance-era castle that overlooks the town. The architecture in town is appealing, but pales in comparison to the attraction of the castle. Because the town is not that large, and yet the castle attracts many visitors, the town felt overrun with tourists.
As a tourist myself, I was not upset with the number of other tourists. In fact, we took advantage of all the souvenir shops do do some shopping. We did see the castle, and similarly enjoyable for the views, there is a “philosopher’s walk” on the other side of the river.
Budapest (28-07 to 30-07)
In the final weekend of my travels, I went to Budapest to attend the wedding of a friend from graduate school. Amidst activities with the wedding attendees, there was ample time allotted to visiting the city. With another couple from graduate school, Rachael and I saw the great market hall, took a boat tour, walked by the parliament building, and visited the castle hill.
We had some time Sunday before our flights, and used this time to visit the history museum. Our timing (close to lunch) was not optimal as we were quite hungry (in Hungary, no less) at the end of it. I think the exhibits themselves were interesting and internally cohesive. However, there was little linkage from one exhibit to the next, which is amplified by the layout of the museum.
In my weekend of rest before my trip to the US, one of my climbing friends wanted to do some easy climbing. She is often inspired to climb multi-pitch routes (more so than I), but certainly for easy climbing, these are more interesting, as you are quite certain to get fantastic views. We decided to go to the Belledonne massif, where there is a well-protected route, all under 6a.
The first pitch (5b) had some moderate runout, at least for a first pitch when neither of us had climbed in terribly recently. Once warmed up though, all of the pitches were quite nice and well protected. Despite it being sunny (i.e. hot) and running out of water at the end of the day, it was an enjoyable outing.
We missed the chance to take a picture of a large (the largest I have seen) chamois. That prompted me to have my camera ready, and later, we stumbled upon a chamois that was eating some berries close to the trail. It wanted to keep eating, but at a certain point it decided that we were too close and ran off while we passed.