Details: Travel via Cologne to Heidelberg
Towering over the train station is the Kolner Dom cathedral, which took seven centuries to finish, only to be scarred by 14 bombings during World War II. During your stop in Cologne, admire the cathedral’s striking architecture, and even go off on your own to climb the 509 stairs to the South Tower for a great view of the Rhine. Nine bells are housed in the Glockenstube, and in one corner, weighing in at 24 tons, is the Petriglocke, the world’s heaviest working bell.
Details: Heidelberg tour director-led sightseeing
Surrounded by mountains, forests, and the Neckar River, Heidelberg showcases a quintessential German landscape. Join your Tour Director as you drive through this granddaddy of all college towns, with its scores of bars, cafés, and shops. Get a beautiful view Germany’s oldest university —founded in 1386—from the Marktplatz, Heidelberg’s main square. Notice that behind the university lurks the Students’ Prison, used from 1778 until 1914 to imprison students for up to four weeks for minor offenses like drunkenness, practical jokes, and dueling. (Imprisoned students still had to attend lectures — think of it as the 19th-century equivalent of being grounded.) Then head up to Heidelberg Castle, which is still a little wobbly from its partial destruction during the Thirty Years’ War, a 17th-century attack by the French, and a major lightening hit in 1764. The castle’s courtyard is home to the largest wine barrel in world, the Great Vat, which holds about 50,000 gallons of wine (possibly another contributing factor to the castle’s romantically off-balance appearance).