While planning this trip I had sighed a little that we have to spend 3 precious days in Wiesbaden because of the conference (I wanted some more time in Vienna) – but it was already Day 3 and I was not ready to leave! By then I was already the local expert and was stunning S’s colleagues into what I believe was awed silence (but could be post-conference daze) by informing them of the various things to see there. They seemed especially surprised (and elated) to hear about the existence of a casino there. I didn’t mind having the difficult job of checking out the city as a social service while the rest got on with their work (heh). I just read a travel post by Shooting Star which neatly sums up what every traveller feels at journey’s end (even though this was hardly ‘the end’…more like the start of our vacation).
Anyway, suddenly time was too short and I was helplessly sorting through the multi-coloured brochures I had picked up. S was looking at me doubtfully…according to him I had been murmuring names of bus stops in my sleep – I’m pretty sure he made that up because he didn’t know the bus stops, and since knowledge is power and all that, I speedily used it to my advantage. Ever since I had visited Market Church on the first day and found it closed, I had a hankering to go back. It was an ancient-looking huge red-brick structure with heavy wooden doors, of which I wanted to get to the other side of. So I took another chance and headed there – and got lucky this time. I studied in what is known as a ‘convent school’ (yes, them of the matrimonial ad fame), and have been familiar with churches since childhood, although my associations are more of the senses rather than holy. I love the cool stone floors, high ceilings, stained glass windows, hushed whispered tones, flickering candles and the overall atmosphere of calm. I went in and sat on the familiar wooden pews for some time, remembering the last time I had been in one, which was more than ten years back. This church had something unique which I’ve never seen anywhere else – five colossal (probably around 10 feet) statues in white marble, arranged in a semicircle right at the centre of the altar. There was an old man sitting near the door doing his own thing and keeping a watch on whoever was entering, and I asked him about the statues. He seemed most pleased and explained at length that the they depicted Christ and his four Evangelists (I thought only Marketing departments had those). I did my good deed for the day by lighting a candle, which I’m sure was more out of fun than belief. But the atmosphere does do strange things to you.
There was a corner of the map I hadn’t touched upon yet (I had ridden the bus to pretty much most parts of town), and that was where I headed next, following the yellow brick road (the bus line actually). This took me, much like Dorothy, to a deserted palace. Schloss Biebrich (Palace Biebrich) was not an old ruin (which was slightly disappointing), but imposing nonetheless. There didn’t seem to be anyone around, so I climbed up a flight of stairs to the entrance and peered in through huge glass french windows. There wasn’t much to be seen, just a big ballroom with chairs piled in a corner – it was evidently used for functions of some kind. I walked around to the back and discovered a small restaurant on the palace grounds! There didn’t seem much more to do there, so I walked out – and there in front was the Rhine. It was grey, cold, and severe-looking – very ‘German’ somehow. There were a few teenagers performing impossible stunts on unicycles, but since there was a chilly wind blowing I preferred to keep walking by the river rather than watch them. My friends, the brochures, had assured me about cruises offered down the river, but the few ticket booths I encountered were firmly closed. Even the gangways at intervals which were obviously boarding areas for cruises, had “Closed” signs in front. The place was deserted (as was most of the city, which is part of it’s charm), except for me and a lone man who watched me peer into the boarding areas for a while before coming up to chat. I was not sure at first whether it’s a good idea to get into conversation with “stranger in strange deserted place”, but it was fine. He was able to inform me that the cruises were closed during this time of the day/year. We had a nice chat about Wiesbaden tourism, Indian artifacts and their worldwide demand, the Euro situation. It was a satisfying interlude, and after some time we each went our own way. It was quite cold, and I sat and waited for the bus to continue my adventures in some other part of town.
This turned out to be Burg Sonnenberg (Sonnenberg Castle) which was everything I could have wished for in the crumbling ruins of a deserted castle situated high above town on a mountain. It was not easy to find, and I stopped at a gas station (or petrol pump as we know it) to ask for directions. The lone guy there looked a little surprised at hearing my destination, and I soon realised why. As I puffed and panted up the steep cobbled road leading upto it, an elderly couple were coming down. And that was the last human contact I had during the next 20 min or so I spent there. It was bright afternoon, and very eerie – I can’t even imagine what it would be like at night. What was even more spooky was that the place down in the plains where the bus had dropped me had a semblance of civilization – small houses, a row of shops, a person or two. But a few minutes (ok many minutes for me) climb and it was a different world. I think what I loved most about quaint little Wiesbaden was that there were so few people around to clutter your enjoyment of the beauty of the place. And since in India we are especially not used to it, I think I valued it even more.
The day ended much too quickly, and I headed back to the hotel for one last time to tell S about my adventures. There was a company event that evening which we attended, but by the time it was over some of us were still not ready to call it a night. So off we went with some of S’s colleagues to a little bar which was supposed to be famous for some reason but I don’t remember why now. And that ended the second leg of our ‘Eurotrip’, which just left me wanting more.
Now because a travel tale of mine cannot conclude without any mention of food, I will at least leave you a picture of what I was eating there – and you can consider this just the ‘teaser’.