I soaked all of my clothes in the hotel sink and then wore them out to the lobby, wet. The dress code of this particular hotel was on the more formal side, but that clearly wasn’t in the cards for us.
We were spending the night in Heidelberg after our mission to pick up the rental car in Stuttgart had failed for the time being. We expected to only be out for a couple of hours, but after a boat, a train, another train and a third train, it was already 8pm and we still didn’t have our wheels. Imagine walking to go get the morning paper and then finding out you wouldn't be allowed to go back home until tomorrow. This is how laughably unprepared we felt. But we decided to make the most of it, as we often do. After all, we were staying in a nice hotel in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. My brother was basically a local at this point. He knew some of the best spots, and they knew him. No seriously, they remembered him after 4 years! I thought this was really cool and it made me look forward to coming back to Konstanz in a few years. This was kind of a magical time for us. It felt as if we were fugitives, with no belongings, no transportation and really no idea what we were going to do next. That night we toasted with some hotel tea and plotted our next move. We settled on a dealership in town that would allow us to pick up a car early that morning for the same price as the one in Stuttgart.
After giving my clothes a second soak and drying them out on the balcony overnight, I decided they were about as clean as I could get them with my current means. In the morning, we walked over to the dealership to pick up our rental car. Feeling as if we were both adults now, we decided to ask the salesman what kind of insurance we could purchase for our new vehicle. He gave us a few options. For 5 euros a day, we would get a $1,000 deductible, basically covering us financially if the car were to be totaled. Then there was the middle option, 10 euros a day for a $500 deductible. A very good plan, although it wouldn’t do much to protect us from dings or scratches, which could result in a surprise $200 fine during inspection. “What else can you offer?” we asked. Well there is one more plan, but it is a bit pricey. Seeing the look on our faces, the salesman decided to continue. 15 euros a day for full coverage, no deductible. “We’ll take that one” we said, smiling as my brother reached for his credit card. There it was, our shiny blue Peugeot, which we would later affectionately call “The Puge Wagon”. This would basically serve as our home for the next week, as we set out on the adventure of a lifetime.
We joked about this insurance plan for days. “Well, this plan really only makes financial sense if you are planning on destroying the car” we laughed. Seriously though, this plan was really the right move for us. We would be taking this car halfway across Western Europe, and who knows what kind of trouble we would be getting into. We didn’t want that liability hanging over our heads the entire time. Just to be clear, zero deductible means we could drive this car off a cliff and we wouldn’t have to pay a dime for it. We never did, but you would be surprised how close we came… More on that later.
We decided to go for a small little hike up to the Heidelberg castle. I had been here about 4 years ago and it was really cool to see the city again. A lot of things had changed with the city, but even more things stayed the same and I felt very nostalgic reminiscing about my first trip to Europe 4 years ago. We also hiked up the Philosophenweg, a beautiful hike up into the mountains with an amphitheater and a monastery that's about 1,000 years old. These ruins are leftover from a series of religious groups that used to occupy Heidelberg’s “Saints’ Mountain”. There is also a tower where you can get the best view of the Altstadt. My brother used to run up here a few mornings a week, and it was cool to see everything through his eyes.
We also headed up a hill on the other side of town to see beautiful fields and more ruins. There is so much beauty in this city, and I feel as if it’s often overlooked. Heidelberg is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Germany, if not Europe in general, but people rarely visit. When they stop by, it’s probably on the way from Frankfurt to Stuttgart, but rarely do people have time to find all the cool places unless they live here. I was lucky enough to have my brother with me to show me around all of his old haunts.
We picked up some lunch and headed out on our road trip back to Konstanz. It was nice to finally be mobile, even though we were stuck in traffic. We spent about 15 minutes positioning ourselves in just the right spot to get a picture of this truck. Well worth it!
This was something we found so hilarious at the time, but looking back it probably wasn’t the best use of our time. This set the stage for a trip that would be full of laughs, detours and shenanigans of all kinds.