Planning Your Trip to Heidelberg

Author: KDanck

“Ich habe mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren” as the old song goes (translation: I lost my heart in Heidelberg) . I studied here from August 2011-August 2012 and as corny as it sounds… really did lose my heart here. With the beautiful architecture, castle, and history, there is so much to explore. Below is my list of things you need to check out if you decide to make it a stop when you adventure over to Germany. I’ve divided it into three main sections (to make it easier for you to plan):

The Castle and Best View of the City (aka the main reason you came)

The Castle

This is the most well known site in Heidelberg and is kept in its current condition (since that’s how tourists recognize it).  The castle has been repeatedly been attacked and even struck by lightning.


So what can you do when you visit the castle?

  1. The Pharmacy Museum
  2. The Castle itself – There are also tours available in both English and German.
  3. The Wine Barrel – This is the world’s largest wine barrel and can hold 220,000 liters (Yum!)

The best time to see the castle is during the Schlossbeleuchtung (being held on June 2nd, July 14th, and September 1st in 2018).  The castle is lit through Bengali flares creating a magical view from afar. Later there are fireworks over the Neckar (which is the river that runs through in Heidelberg)


A train will take you all the way up to the top or you can hike. Koenigstuhl offers arguably the best view of the city. Just in case being 1,700 feet up isn’t enough of a reason to go, there is also a falcon breeding station and a fairy tale themed park for children.

The Altstadt (or the Old City)

Please note that as you enter the old city that most of Heidelberg had been burnt to the ground. This has actually given Heidelberg a very unique look. The roads are all dating back to the middle ages, while most of the houses date back to the Baroque time period. I’d recommend booking a tour, since there is so much history here


The Sudentenkarze is the old student prison. Yes, you read that right. Student prison.

In the days before Bismark, the university operated as its own system. There was however, a door (which is now locked) to connect the prison to the old university so that students could still attend school.

The student prison became a rite of passage especially among fraternity brothers. You can still see their colors and graffiti on the wall. (Also – these fraternities still exist. On the way to the castle, look for the big houses with flags!)

student prison_02student prison

The silhouettes with the hats were done by the fraternity members who stayed here.

For ticket information, click here

Old University

This included in your ticket to the Unviersity Prison. Heidelberg University is the oldest university in Germany and one of the oldest in all of Europe.

One of the highlights of this part of the museum is the “Alte Aula” or the auditorium. Hint: Look closely around the room and see the names of famous professors lining the top. You’ll notice that Bensen, who invented the Bensen Burner, is at the back. They had forgotten to put his name in originally.

For ticket information, click here

The Old Bridge

This is not the first bridge linking the sides of the Neckar. However, after all the destruction caused by fire, Prince Karl Theodor ordered the construction of this bridge in brick. Be sure to check out to take a picture with the bridge monkey of Heidelberg and to try some Heidelberg beer at Vetter’s, which is right down the road.

old birdgeold bridge monkey

That’s the monkey ❤

Thingstaette, Philosopher’s Way and the Monastery

Plan a full day for this, since you will be hiking. For some of the best views of the city, cross the old bridge (though there are several entrances) and embark on a journey up Philosopher’s Way. At the top, you will first see Thingstaette. This was modeled after the Greek style and was built between 1934 and 1935 by the State Labor Service and University students.


View from Philosopher’s Way in the winter time.

If you climb Thingstaette’s steps, you will come across some more ruins from a 16th century monastery ruin


Thingstaette. Climb those steps to get to the monastery

Events: May 1st is Hexennacht (literal translation: witch night). There is a giant bonfire with thousands of people gathering at Thingstaette to drink and celebrate. If you are around, venture up and have fun with the crowds of people.

Any more places you really think people need to check out? List in the comments below:

A Hobbit’s Tale – Traveling To Middle Earth

Author: SDanck

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Growing up, my imagination was captured by Tolkien’s world; the darkness of Mordor, the purity of the elves and, especially, the joy and innocence found in Hobbits.  After the movies were filmed in New Zealand, Middle Earth came alive. Words on paper were given color and the story breathed air with Tolkien’s characters coming to screen.  From that moment, it became my dream to visit New Zealand before I turned 30 and at 25, I made that dream come true.


New Zealand is beautiful.  Neverending rolling green hills with mountaintops covered by the clouds.  The country held some magic that was long there before Tolkien’s works saw life. Pack your bags and your plane ticket, as we’re going on an adventure.


The Shire/ Hobbiton
Matamata, Waikato

Personally, I think this should be the last stop on your Hobbit journey, but if you’re crunched for time this can be your one stop Tolkien fix. Hobbiton is located in the very quiet town of Matamata and wasn’t actually established as a permanent site until 2011 The tour lasts about 2 hours (wear comfortable shoes!) and you learn all about the filming of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies.  After exploring the set, the tour ends at the Green Dragon where you get a chance to sample one of four beverages made exclusively for Hobbiton (the stout is highly recommended).


Book your tickets in advance ( to ensure you get the date and time slot you want! Group tours run about every 30 minutes, but are limited to about 20 people so the tours fill up fast. You won’t be allowed into Bilbo’s Hobbit hole though, as only guests with party business are allowed!


Have some more time on your hands and find yourself craving a little more Tolkien?

Mount Doom

Mount Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park


Frodo and Sam’s quest centers on Frodo bringing the ring to Mordor and casting it into the depths of Mount Doom.  Remember Sam carrying Frodo up the final steps? Shivers!  I think we can all agree, that is one mountain no one should climb lightly


Luckily for us, the mountain that was used for filming is less intimidating. With a little movie magic, Mount Ngauruhoe in Tongariro National Park became Mount Doom.  


While scenes were not filmed at the summit (the summit is sacred to the Maori people), many scenes were filmed at the lower slopes. It’s a full day’s hike so pack water and lembas bread!

Mount Sunday, Canterbury


It’s easy to imagine the sprawling kingdom of Rohan in Mount Sunday’s shadow.  Rohan’s capital, Edoras, is on top of Mount Sunday.


Twizel, Canterbury


Imagine Gondor’s White Tree banners and relive the Battle of Pelennor Fields.  The Lord of the Rings Twizel Tour ( will let you recreate Eowyn’s heroic moment of stabbing a ring wraith in the face.


The Weta Cave
Wellington, New Zealand


While not a filming site, the Weta Cave is the studio that was responsible for creating the props, makeup, costumes and special effects used in the films.  


About the author: Stephanie Danckert studied history at Drew Univertisy and takes her love of fantasy wherever she goes.

$69 Flights to Europe. WOW!


Author: KDanck

I took Wow Airlines for the first time earlier this year. Getting to Iceland cost me as little as $300 round trip. I was really happy with their service and although only a personal item was included in the price, it was enough to fit my belongings for my extended weekend.

As a budget traveler, I try to stay on top of any deals I can get and I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my inbox earlier this week. Wow is now offering discount trips from Boston, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, San Fran, L.A. to European cities between September -November this year. If the cost of a transalantic flight has always been what has been keeping you back, now is the time to book!

Cities include: Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Copenhagen, and London.

Check it out here.



3 Tips to Easily Book a Trip to Miami

Author: KDanck

The sun felt really good on my face as I left the plane, escaping the New England winter. Miami really is a the perfect winter getaway for those of us who don’t enjoy the cold. Below are three things that will help you book your first stay in Miami. Be on the look out for my favorite sites to come out soon.

  1. It may be cheaper to fly into Fort Lauderdale/ Hollyowood. This airport is only about a 30 minute drive from Miami. Besides if you rent a car, you can go see the Everglades (which I highly recommend).  Parking is also reasonable (especially is you are from Boston). Click here to find a spot.1896900_811903585491780_1616826759_n
  2. Miami Beach and Miami are not technically the same thing. When booking a hotel, hostel or Airbnb, book in the South Beach area South Beach is the most popular part of Miami Beach.
  3. Clubs and bars may have special promotions via social media or may want you to sign yourself onto the guest list. Be sure to check these before going out. The 10 best clubs can be found here and keep in mind…. these clubs can be open until 5 am. So depending on where you are from, you may need to take a nap beforehand (like my friend and I did)

Any other tips before booking? Any recommended hotels or restaurants? Leave them below in the comments.

3 Lesser Known Sites in Paris

Author: KDanck

I finally arrived in Paris.

I had booked my ticket last minute, was limping due to a recently torn ligament, and I was tired, but I was so excited to finally be here.

I rushed (as quickly as I could with my leg) to my friend Ashley who greeted me with a hug. She was studying abroad in Paris. Luckily for me, Heidelberg was a quick bus ride away. We stepped outside of the station and Paris was in bloom. We began our tour of the city. Below is a list of my favorite things I saw while in Paris:


The view from Montparnasse at night

1. Montparnasse – “Let’s go to the Eiffel Tower!” I begged my friend.

“I have a better idea,” she smiled.

Around sunset, we headed to Montparnasse, the tallest building in Paris.

“Take a look,” Ashley instructed when we got to the top. The view was incredible and we had made it just in time for the Eiffel Tower light show.The Eiffel Tower glimmers for 5 minutes every hour after it gets dark. As the Parisians would say, C’est tres belle!

Dates: Everyday. No exceptions.

Times: April 1- September 30: 9:30am – 11:30pm

September 30 – April 1 (Sunday-Thursday): 10:00am – 9:30pm

September 30  April 1 (Friday, Saturday, holidays): 9:30am – 11:00pm

Rates: 15 €

Discounts: Be sure to bring your ISIC card if you are a student. If you are 16-20, you get an even bigger discount.


The stained glass windows in Saint Chapelle – definitely don’t miss this!

2. Saint Chapelle – “You can skip Notre Dame if you ever go to Paris,” my art history teacher Mrs. Petty said.

My class looked confused.

“You shouldn’t, but if you only have the chance to do Saint Chapelle or Notre Dame, you should pick Saint Chapelle.”

That was the first time I had heard of this church. It is not as well known, but it is one of the prettiest sites in all of Europe. The outside looks unimpressive, but the inside is spectacular. Glass windows stretch from the ceiling to the floor, covering every wall. Out of all the sites, I have been to, this makes my top 3.

Dates: Every day, but January 1, May 1 and December 25

Times:March 1- October 31 : 9:30am to 6:00pm

November 1- February 28 : 9:00am to 5:00pm

Open in the evening on Wednesdays – 15 May to 15 September

Rates:8,50 €

Discounts: If you a European citizen (under 26 years old) or a resident of France, be sure to bring proper ID so you can get in for free.


My friend Ashley and I in the catacombs

3. Catacombs (l’Ossuaire Municipal) – If you have never seen skeletons before, prepare yourself. 2 kilometers (1) of skeletons cover the walls as you walk in the underground tomb. My friend, Ashley and I knew that it would be a long walk, but even we felt a little overwhelmed by the amount of remains. Since Halloween is my favorite holiday, I really enjoyed the catacombs. It was almost like walking through a real haunted house

The Cemetery of the Innocents, where these bodies had previously been buried, was beginning to smell so bad that perfume stores refused to do business nearby (2). In 1780, rain destroyed the wall around the cemetery which resulted in rotting corpses spilling into a neighboring property (ew) (2). Over the span of 12 years (2), Paris moved the bones of the deceased to the tunnels underground, which is what the Catacombs have become today.

Times: 10:00am – 8:00pm

Rates: 15 €

Discount: If you are between 18-26, you get a discount. If you are under 17, you get in for free.

Have any other places you really like to visit? List them in the comments below.





Flight Review: Ryanair

Author: KDanck

“It’s pretty cloud, but we don’t have enough gas to hang out in the air, so we’ll see how it goes,” our pilot came on the intercom. No one was shocked. No one panicked. This was Ryanair afterall.

I was travelling from Germany to Rome, when our pilot made that announcement. Luckily I had already flown with Ryanair a few times before that. Ryanair is a budget airline in Europe, with tickets starting as low as 9 Euros (Yes you read that right, nine Euros).

Now, Ryanair is an interesting airline to say the least.

Would I recommend it? Yes.

If there are cheaper tickets elsewhere, should you book those? Yes.



The reason I say to look at other airlines is that Ryanair is not the most comfortable flight. Only a carry on is included in the ticket price.  Lottery tickets may or may not be sold on board. Also – Ryanair rarely goes to the main airport, which means a long bus or train ride to your destination city. 

Despite all its faults, Ryanair was the reason I got to see so much of Europe. As a student, I did not mind being uncomfortable. The flights are never that long. The planes are safe and the brand is reputable. I have never had a canceled flight (like *cough* Spirit *cough*) and the flight attendants were also helpful. I got tickets ranging as low as 9 Euros (They really do sell them!) to 40 Euros. Although I always needed to take a bus to get to my final stop, I always found that the bus and plane ticket cost me less than another airline. Ryanair also does travel to many different countries, allowing you to see the most during your time in the EU. For those on a budget, I would highly recommend checking out Ryanair when  in Europe.

Anyone else have cheap airline recommendations? List in the comments below.

Growing up in a German-American household


Author: KDanck


It was amazing how many of my middle school classmates felt that I had single-handedly caused World War II. And just in case, I, as a twelve year old did not cause enough destruction, my German counterparts would ask about Native Americans and the War on Terror.

Growing up in two cultures meant accepting the history alongside it. When singing “I’m proud to be an American”, I had to embrace all that being an American meant. When celebrating Oktoberfest with friends and family here, I had to remember the good as well the bad. This would be more extreme for me than my American and German counterparts who went to school alongside other American or other German children.

Children are naturally curious. What felt like an attack at the time was really a reaction to what they did not understand. I attended a Catholic school where almost everyone had an American mom and an American dad. My family was a little different. My dad was a veteran who had met my mom while stationed overseas. Upon leaving the army, he brought his German wife and three children back to the States with him.

Growing up, I hated it.

I did not want to be different. Being fluent in two languages required hard work and I did not feel as though I was reaping any of the benefits.

I started high school naively thinking that I could hide this part of me. I did successfully for a while until my French teacher and mom talked about my family’s German background, which ultimately blew my cover. As the word leaked out that I was bilingual however, no one seemed to mind. The curiosity was different this time. Instead of asking me about all the mistakes Germany has made in its history, people were genuinely curious about the country I had visited every summer. It was at this point that I really began to realize what a gift it was being bicultural.

Having two backgrounds meant that:

  • travelling was something I had been doing since childhood and….
  • I was comfortable in any environment, understanding already from a young age that people with different backgrounds may communicate differently than I do.

In 2011, I left to study abroad for a year in Heidelberg, Germany. Heidelberg has over 2,000 international students attend the school every year. With my background, I was able to easily make friends with people from around the world. I also got to see a lot of the world that year, including:

  • Portugal
  • England
  • Turkey
  • France
  • Ireland
  • Italy

heidelbergHeidelberg, Germany

After school, I continued to travel and landed a job (thanks to my background) in international marketing. My love of seeing the world continued to grow as I continued to meet people with different ideas and cultures than my own. I continued my travels, adding:

  • Peru
  • Greece
  • Iceland
  • Switzerland
  • Mexico

to my list of places I have been.  As Susan Sontag said, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it on my list.” Being bicultural was not only a gift. It was an opening for new experiences, a great job, and new friends. I am so grateful and proud to be part of two great cultures. But I realize a lot of people did not have the opportunities I did, so this blog is an attempt to help you start your own journey. Check out my other posts to spark your own travel ideas and let me know if there are any places you want recommendations for.