Three years ago, in July 2017, I came back to France after an extraordinary year in Australia. I had lived many amazing adventures in the past twelve months, but I didn’t want to stop travelling yet; I had already booked my tickets for a second long-term trip beginning in September, and the first thing I did after spending a couple of days at home with my parents was beginning a road trip around Europe. From Switzerland to Belgium via Germany, Czech Republic and Poland, here’s the story of that trip, including beautiful landscapes, gorgeous cities… and a lot of food! This is the first part, from Neuchâtel to Prague.
🇫🇷 Cliquez ici pour lire cet article en français.
Click here to go back to the Blog menu.
Prologue: Neuchâtel, Switzerland
This road trip started from Switzerland and more specifically from Neuchâtel, the place where I lived between 2011 and 2016. I went back mostly to catch up with the many friends I still have there, but it was also the occasion to do a few strolls and to take some nice pictures.
Neuchâtel is a relatively small town (around 35,000 inhabitants), with a long history; when I arrived there for the first time, the city was celebrating its thousandth anniversary! It is located in the Canton of Neuchâtel, next to the lake of… Neuchâtel, about one-hour drive from Bern, the Swiss capital. During the five years I spent there, I always loved exploring the surroundings, walking through the vineyards next to where I lived, wandering around the pedestrian streets, climbing to the castle… On bright summer days, the view from there was stunning, with the tiled roofs of the city below and the large lake and the snow-capped summits of the Swiss Alps in the distance. I could never get bored of staring at this sight!
As you’ll see further in this article, there was a lot of food (and a few drinks as well) during this road trip… Even if it’s more a winter than a summer dish, I had to eat a cheese fondue before leaving Switzerland! There are two great places to enjoy that dish in Neuchâtel: the first one is called the “Taverne Neuchâteloise” and its lovely little terrace is in the city centre; the second one called “la Plage de Boudry” (where I went to during this trip) is directly on the short of the lake. A perfect place for a dinner with a view!
Stage 1: Lindau, Germany
After a couple of days in Neuchâtel, I took the direction of Lindau in the South of Germany, on the shore of Lake Constance, next to the border with Austria. I already went there once many years before, back in 2009 when I was doing an internship in Germany; I found the city really beautiful and was very excited to come back. The least I can say is that I wasn’t disappointed by that second visit!
The Old Town of Lindau is entirely built on an island, connected to the mainland by two bridges, and can easily be explored in a day. The weather was perfect and it was a great pleasure to walk around the island, meander through the paved streets, admire the view over the lake and the mountains on the opposite side, and dream of living in one of these wonderful houses…
With its painted facades, the “Rathaus” (the Town Hall) is probably the most beautiful building of Lindau…
…but the nicest part of the city is definitely its harbour. It is sheltered behind two large jetties, with a picturesque lighthouse on the right-hand side, and the massive 6m-high statue of a lion, emblem of Bavaria to the left. A night-and-day gorgeous sight!
I didn’t go to any restaurants in Lindau; instead, I bought bread, ham and cheese and made myself sandwiches that I ate next to the lake, staring at the sunset over the horizon, surrounded by many other people doing the exact same thing and enjoying that perfect summer evening.
Stage 2: Ulm, Germany
120 kilometres North of Lindau, Ulm is famous mostly because of its minster: it’s the tallest church in the world, with a steeple measuring not less than 161.5m. You need a lens with a very wide angle to take a good picture of it!
It was my second visit to Ulm, where I went as well during that same trip of 2009. A friend of mine was also doing an internship in the area and we explored the city together. My memories of that first visit were a little bit blurry, but I quickly found my way again: the murals of the Town Hall, the city walls along the Danube, the lovely houses of the Old Town… That second time in Ulm was very short, a couple of hours only, but I really appreciated it.
There was one thing that I clearly remembered from our 2009 visit: the restaurant where we ate in the Old Town. We both tried the “Käsespätzle”; this traditional dish of the region consists of “spätzle” (a type of pasta) with lots of grated cheese and fried onions. My goal for this road trip was to look for the terrace of that restaurant and try it again; I eventually managed to find it, and the dinner was still as good as the first time!
Stage 3: Prague, Czech Republic
Prague was the place I was most looking forward to visiting during this trip. I spent three days there but I probably could have stayed a couple more nights without getting bored… and significant bonus, as you’ll see below, food was delicious!
Prague is a wonderful city, one of the most beautiful in Europe: its historic centre is on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1992. The river Vltava flows through it; there are a total of 17 bridges in Prague, but the most famous is definitely the Charles Bridge, connecting the Old Town located in a meander of the river to the districts of Mala Strana and Hradcany, where the Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral can be found on top of a hill. Crossing this iconic (but also always crowded!) bridge and admiring the view over the city from Hradcany Square next to the castle was a great part of my visit.
I also particularly enjoyed wandering and getting lost in the labyrinthic streets and lanes of the Old Town, with the Old Town Square as a landmark in the middle of it. I was amazed by the beauty of all the buildings and facades around this vast square. The massive tower of the Old Town Hall overlooks it on its South-West corner, with an outstanding astronomical clock on one of its walls. It was installed in 1410, and it’s the oldest astronomical clock in the world still in operation. Every hour of the day, twelve animated figures representing the twelve Apostles appear at the doorway on top of the clock.
There are many other attractions in Prague and I can’t mention them all, but if you’re exploring the city, a visit of the Jewish Quarter next to the Old Town Square is a must. A large part of the district has been destroyed in the late 19th/early 20th century and it has become a very touristic place, but six synagogues can still be found around it, as well as the Jewish Museum of Prague and the famous Old Jewish Cemetery. I found this cemetery and its thousands of leaning headstones beautiful and very moving.
Finally, one last word about the “Lennon Wall”, a wall filled with graffiti and paintings close to Charles Bridge. After the death of John Lennon in 1980, his portrait was painted here by young people protesting against the communist regime. The wall became a symbol of these protests, with graffiti and inscriptions defying the authorities. It’s a sort of memorial for peace today, but unfortunately Instragramers and influencers have recently converged to this spot, taking selfies for social media without caring about the original message. It’s still worth a detour anyway! Fun fact: John Lennon actually never visited Prague…
Food isn’t expensive in Prague and I treated myself to many delicious dishes. I especially remember the sweet meals more than the savoury ones, such as these two amazing breakfasts, one in Café Letka (left picture, probably in the top 3 of the best breakfasts I ever had) and one in Café Louvre.
And how could I forget the yummy “trdelnik”? This pastry made from rolled dough wrapped around a stick and filled with any kind of ingredients is actually originally from Slovakia and if it’s so popular in Prague, it’s mostly because of tourists’ demand… but it’s so delicious!
Finally, it’s impossible to miss the dozens of absinthe bars around the Old Town when you’re exploring Prague. Once again, this is more a touristy thing than a real tradition (absinthe is originally from Switzerland, from a place very close to Neuchâtel) but it’s now considered as a “must do” of a visit in Prague; up to you to decide if you’d like to try it, I didn’t!
That’s where the first part of this trip ends, click here to read the second part!