30/09/2015 11:43 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Why You Should Visit Saarbruecken, Germany's Riverside Gem

The usual "10 places to visit" tourist attractions are not enough to reveal the secrets of this city. Living here for the past four years has given me the pleasure and time to explore the capital of the state of Saarland. The city, named after the river Saar, has its own pace that allows you take time off a busy travelling schedule and enjoy delights that you are unlikely to find elsewhere in Germany. Saarbruecken, the city that trails along the river, has a lot more than the riverbanks to explore.

Soniya Kumar

Living in Saarbruecken, I have had the privilege to show off by saying, "France is just 6km away, we can just walk to the border!" to every new visitor I meet. Indeed, it is true and the end station of one of the tram lines is a French city. And what's more, Paris is exactly 1 hour and 50 minutes by a train that speeds at 350km per hour.

Bordering three different countries: France, Luxembourg and Germany, this city exhibits a blend of cultures. To experience the local vibe, don't miss the central marketplace known as the St Johan Market. This place gives you the perfect cosy surrounds to spend an evening or two of dining and enjoying Saarland's Karlsberg beer. (And they say you can taste a little bit of French-German culture.)

Another typical treat well worth trying is Schwenker. As a Saarlander, you definitely need to know Schwenker! The only translation that I have is "to grill", but the word means three things. A cut of pork, usually from the neck, is called a Schwenker. The person who grills this meat is also called a Schwenker and, most importantly, the circular swinging grill is called a Schwenker. When you are in Saarland, never forget a Schwenker and the traditional saying (it's kind of untranslatable but easy enough to figure out) goes: "Der Schwenker schwenkt einen Schwenker auf dem Schwenker."

Shopping in this city is a wonderful experience and has its own charm. Unlike other German cities, where you mostly hear shoppers speaking their native language, Saarbruecken offers you the pleasure of hearing sweet and soft French (you'll hear it at cafes and the riverbank too). The store named Primark is an asset to this city, and is a wonderful place to go on a full-day shopping spree. Another great place to spend a few Euros in the shop-lined Bahnhof Street; it's impossible to miss because as you walk out of the main station, you step right on to this street. Unexpectedly, this city also offers you a shopping mall, called Europa Galeria.

I must add that a bakery that you must visit is the one at the main station. They are not famous for their bakes and cakes, but if you grab a coffee and make yourself comfortable at the high seats facing the city, you'll easily be able to lose yourself for hours gazing at the shopping street outside. A picture is not enough to explain its beauty; it is truly an experience as seasons pass by.

A walk by the Saar

This river that flows through northeastern France and western Germany has played a tremendous role in the life of Saarlanders. It has contributed towards the coal, iron and steel industries of the state. It is more than just a river for any Saarlander or even a tourist. The bank of the Saar is the city's equivalent for a town plaza or square. The banks are the venue of every festival hosted by the city. A walk by the river is a must-do, the walkways adorned with beautiful flowering trees and lush grass. If you're here on a warm evening, you could also just sit and gaze at the reflections in the water. Playing, barbequing, cycling, skating, coffee, beer-festing and an endless number of other activities unfold along these banks in the summer.

And if you're the type who can't resist a typical beach experience, visit "Potato Island" for a frolic. It is a small sandy area at the riverbank, where you can sunbathe in summer and even play beach volleyball.

I'd also highly recommend going to see the reflection of the theatre in the river at night. This, to me, is the sight that will have a long-lasting impression in your heart about Saarbruecken.

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