This past weekend, we decided to hit up the city of Heidelberg. We’ve wanted to go here for a while now, but there has always been something that’s come up…usually it’s been weather related. The first weekend we had planned to go, Mom Nature decided to crank up Satan’s thermostat and it ended up being a roasty, toasty 104*F. We called it off, because really, no one wants to be out in that. The second attempt ended up being almost the exact opposite: 65*F, rainy and essentially gale force winds. Last weekend finally ended up to be perfect. Perfect weather and perfect timing. The night before, we decided that attempting the Deutsche Bahn (German Train) again sounded like a good plan; especially since there is a train station that dumps you off in the altstadt (old city) of Heidelberg. Win!
The nice thing about NOT taking a tour is that we were able to roll out when we wanted. We didn’t have to wake either kid, and we still managed to hit the Kaiserslautern hBf at 10:15am. There was no repeat of the spectacular display of brawling this time around, and we managed to get our tickets without any issue. Just as a FYI: if you’re tooling around Germany on the weekend and don’t mind taking the non-high speed trains, I highly recommend Schöenes Wochenende (Happy Weekend) ticket. For us, it was 52 Euro for the ticket and covered the four of us. With this ticket, we could travel anywhere in Germany (and on a few lines in Poland, apparently). If we wanted to take the slow train to Berlin and then to Munich and then back to Kaiserslautern, we could…all on this magical ticket. Granted, it’s only good for the weekend and basically you have to use the regional lines and transfer, but it’s possible and awesome if you have the time and the patience. We only had to wait about 5 minutes for the train. We took the S1 red line toward Osterburken; which worked out well, since we didn’t have to change trains. It was the Schnell Train…and again, it wasn’t very schnell. It took roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes and about a gazillion stops to get to the Heidelberg altstadt.
When we arrived, we were greeted by two platforms. Seriously. That’s really all there is to the Heidelberg Altstadt station. I think they honestly put it there so us lazy bums that don’t want to walk the 3 kilometers from the main Heidelberg hBf station to the altstadt have somewhere closer to jump off the train. The day was beautiful; sun was nice and warm and the skies were brilliant and blue. There were a lot of other people who had the same idea we did, so we followed the crowd into the altstadt. As you walk from the station to the old town, the Schloss Heidelberg (Heidelberg Castle) is basically visible from any vantage point. You look up and voila! there it is! You also get to walk past the University of Heidelberg, which is the oldest university in Germany. Kind of makes the university that Husband and I went to look like an infant in comparison.
We walked into the Kornmarkt (which we mistakenly thought was the main square) and decided that we needed some grub. We were amazed at how many tourists there were from all over. The amount of Chinese tourists was particularly surprising. We walked around looking for a cafe and settled on a place by the cathedral called Schmidt’s. I’m pretty sure that it’s a quaint little place during the day and a happening bistro/gastropub at night. The menu was in German and English and the waitresses spoke perfect English. We ordered our meal and then they came. No, not some sort of Kardashian/OneDirection royalty. Wasps. Let me preface by saying that Germany doesn’t control their bee/wasp/flying insect population. It’s actually against the rules to try to use pesticides against them. Let me also say that when you’ve been stung a couple of times (Girl Child) or even just once (me), you kind of freak out about the wasps. While the food and drink were delicious (highly recommend pretty much everything at this place), the wasps brought the excitement level to hysteria.
After our lunchtime drama, we walked over to the castle. You have the option of taking a funicular up and/or down to access the main part of the castle. Husband and I thought it would be a great idea to walk up instead. Word to the wise: Schnitzel and beer should be had AFTER said walk…NOT before. When we reached the first landing, the view was pretty amazing. You could see over the river and through the woods (and almost to Grandma’s house). We kept going up through the outer walls and toward the main part of the castle. Husband and I debated as to whether or not we wanted to pay to get into the belly of the beast. I voted yes, so we were going in. The cost for all four us to go in was 20 Euro total. It included admission to the castle, admission to the Apotheke Museum (Pharmacy Museum) and one way ride on the funicular.
The castle courtyard is beautiful. There are statues of the previous tenants built into the walls and there is a little bistro, where I’m sure the schnitzel and beer are a great idea. What’s neat about this castle is that while there is still quite a bit of it left intact, there is a LOT that is not. They abandoned the rebuild in the 1700s and it looks just like that…frozen in time where and as it stands. As you walk in and go toward the inside of the castle, there is another little place to get food and then you see it. A really big wine cask. I remember doing my homework and reading about the world’s largest wine cask being located within the castle. When I mentioned it to Husband, he started laughing. He told me the one I was looking at surely wasn’t it. He pointed to something behind me and there it was. The world’s largest wine cask. Calling it huge or ginormous really doesn’t give it the justice it deserves. It can hold approximately 1.7 MILLION liters of wine. Say what!?!?
It was starting to get crowded inside so,we walked up along the other side of the outer walls and the view was stunning. If you walk along the outer wall, you get a clear shot of the castle, the city, the river and beyond. At this point, Boy Child’s legs were starting to bother him. He’s usually pretty good about not complaining, but soccer season just started back up and the poor kid has had some catching up to do. Since the funicular ride was included in the price of admission, we decided to take it back down into town. We waited about 5-10 minutes and hopped on. We all smushed into the car and headed down the mountain. Honestly, it was completely underwhelming. I think the only true use for it is for those that either a) truly need it to get up to the castle or b) for notoriety. That said, unless you want to see the world’s largest wine cask, you can probably forgo the 20 Euro fee and just meander on the outside of the Schloss.
Once we made down to the town, we decided it was time for some gelato. And wouldn’t you know it? More wasps since they seem to have a sweet tooth. We got ours to go and walked across the Alte Brüke (Old Bridge). This bridge was built in 1786 and finished in 1788. We walked along the other side of the Neckar River and were treated to some spectacular view of the city.
Fun Fact Time: Heidelberg’s library is the oldest in Germany. Heidelberg was also lucky to escape bombing in WWII…with the exception of the German Army destroying a small part of the Alte Brüke as they were fleeing from the US Army. Because it was not an industrial or transportation hub, the US didn’t bomb the city. Also, because the infrastructure was still in excellent condition, the US Army chose the city to set up a Garrison there after the war.
Heidelberg is fantastic. Although we just did a quick day trip, I can guarantee that we’ll be back. There is a lot more to see and do, so I’m pretty sure that there will be a second or third post on this one. So far, it’s probably my favorite German city thus far.