This post is a combined one of trips and experiences along the beautiful Rhine River Valley in Germany: Marksburg Castle in Braubach, a historic fortress in Koblenz (Ehrenbreitstein), and the impressive monument in Rudesheim (Neiderwald). I will also share some reflections about living in Vallendar, a small town along the Rhine River, and studying abroad at WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management’s Vallendar campus. It’s always hard to say goodbye, but I’m glad to have this post to share my experiences.
In January, WHU had a trip for exchange students to Marksburg Castle, about a half hour drive from Vallendar. The castle is an intact medieval castle, made of stones, and even has a maintained herbal garden (more on the poisonous side for the protection of the castle). The view of the Rhine River from the castle was worthwhile, because it formed an U-shape as it curved. We were also lucky because we had clear skies and no rain on the day we visited.
On the way to Koblenz, I passed Ehrenbreitstein fortress many times before finally visiting it in February. The fortress was a pleasant surprise with gorgeous views of Koblenz and the Rhine River. If you look closely, Koblenz’s Deutsches Ecke (the huge statue) is visible from the fortress. We didn’t have to walk up steps to get to the fortress luckily, and it had an elevator similar to a roller coaster to reach it. There were very few people there because of the time of the year, but the fortress was still open, just the gondolas were closed.
My last trip along the Rhine River was in Rudesheim, Germany with family. It was a cold, clear day in March. We took a boat to Bingen (which some locals were using just as transportation). The round-trip ride lasted less than two hours. We saw so many castle remains, hills, and even a centuries old toll booth for boats. In front of the boat station in Rudesheim, we saw the 15th century Eagle Tower. We didn’t go inside, but it has views of the river. The famous German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had stayed there when he visited Rudesheim.
Not only was it special to visit the above along the Rhine, but it was also amazing to live in Vallendar! I grew up in Philadelphia. We lived in a crowded northeast neighborhood only twenty minutes from downtown Philly. Living in Vallendar, a small town, was a contrast. I had down time and began reading and cooking more. The town was incredibly peaceful and scenic. Locals really valued the Rhine River and the towns alongside it felt like “Rhine River towns.” The WHU studio apartment I was staying in was very spacious and furnished with views of the Rhine from the balcony.
I had been working and attending Drexel part-time until studying abroad during my last quarter. During those 2 years, I always felt spread thin and wished to be a full-time student. So while studying abroad, I realized I was more productive while being super busy, and missed having the routine of going to work in the morning. Some differences existed in the course structures (not so much the course material) and grading at WHU. For all 3 of my study abroad courses more than 70% of the grade depended on one group project or exam. While at home, courses often encompassed weekly assignments, exams, a group project, and participation.
Another bonus: I became very comfortable with traveling alone and learned to enjoy it. The best part about studying abroad was being able to take weekend trips; there was no holding back. Every weekend was impossible as a graduate student, so I tried to travel every other weekend instead and day or afternoon trips as well. I consistently kept a travel diary which was also so much fun to do. Below are some photographs sharing my experiences in Vallendar.