January 1-3, 2015
It had been forever since we’d seen our friends from Munster (DE). Our schedules were always busy or it just wasn’t the “right time”. But then I suggested the small window between New Year’s Eve and the return to work; it was possible!
I found an apartment to rent near the train station and we planned to meet Thursday afternoon. Our train ride from Basel was uneventful and I watched the brown, foggy landscape zip by the windows. Two and a half hours we arrived in Heidelberg and made our way to our rental apartment. It should have been a three minute walk, but we ended up walking right by the apartment and spent the next fifteen minutes unintentionally exploring Heidelberg. But I did learn that there is a “Dante Strasse” in the neighborhood! The hostess’ friend “Elena” met us with the key and made sure that we were comfortable. She said that if we needed anything to just give her a call and then she was on her way.
Our friends showed up and we immediately set out for die Altstadt, even as the light was failing behind the low clouds. We walked down the long Hauptstrasse and arrived at our dinner location: Brauhaus Vetter. The gleaming copper brewing vats visible through the window was enticing and we found a cozy table in the corner. We spent the rest of the evening catching up on past holidays and current work.
Friday we had nothing planned other than a mid-afternoon City Tour. We put on our coats and boots and prepared for a day of dodging rain drops. Then Dan asked me if I had the key. No, I hadn’t unlocked the door and didn’t have the key. Because the door locked automatically, no one had needed the key to lock the door. Instead, the key was inside the apartment and – to make matters worse – in the lock itself. Fortunately I had a contact number on my phone so I could call and I left a message. We quickly got a call back and Elena said that she would be there in half an hour. When she arrived she tried to open the door with her spare key, but because the key was in the door, it wouldn’t unlock. So here we stood, huddled around the door on New Year’s Day, wondering what to do. Elana said that she knew someone and spent some time on her phone, making arrangements for someone to come and open the door for us. Much to my surprise, he said that he could be here in ten minutes and we waited patiently in the hallway.
When he did arrive we all had some concern: he wore painter’s clothes and was carrying an orange bucket full of a mix of tools, none of which looked useful to opening a door. He set to work, poking and prodding and hammering away. Much to everyone’s surprise, the door was open within fifteen minutes. It was a Romanian lock picking success! We paid the “locksmith”, thanked Elena and proceeded to begin our day.
The forecast was for rain and it wasn’t wrong. Fortunately it held off while we revisited die Altstadt to see more of what we couldn’t see the previous evening. First on the list: the inventor of the Bunsen burner, Robert Bunsen!
We were running out of time before our City Tour and stopped in for a quick bite to eat across from Heiliggeistkirche, the biggest church in Heidelberg. The waitress was kind enough to rush our meal so that we weren’t too late for the tour. As it was, we were the last to join the group in front of the Rathaus.
The tour was ok. It didn’t help that it was entirely in German, but I did catch a phrase here and there, and our friends filled in some of the blanks in between the tour stops. The tour guide was animated, but we spent a lot of time standing around while he talked and not enough time seeing more of the historical sights/sites.
Castle above Karlsplatz
The photos I took turned out terrible. Unfortunately I took only my cheap Cannon Powershot and did not handle the situations I presented it with. I have since given it to my husband for work use and I’ll stick to my Panasonic.
Detail of The Ritter Hotel
We finished off our evening at a fancy restaurant, the Weisser Bockhttp://www.weisserbock.de/?lang=en. It was one of those places that goes over and above for service, but I found it annoying that the waiter refused to speak German to me once he knew that English was my first language.
Quiet evening street
The next morning we left the apartment (with key in hand!) and headed back for die Altstadt. We decided to visit the castle and began our ascent up the cobblestone streets at the edge of the city. We discussed taking the funicular further up the mountain behind the castle, but with the low clouds we realized that any views wouldn’t be worth the effort.
But first we stopped at Universitatsbibliothek. There was a wonderful exhibit on ancient manuscripts and we spent quite some time admiring the intricate illuminations and precise writing. Most of the books we saw had been written before Columbus even sailed to America and it was amazing the excellent condition they were in.
The rain was still holding off as we left the library and passed by the prison and ever more elegant homes. As we climbed, the leafless trees allowed for an almost clear view across the valley, overlooking the Necker River and to the hills on the other side. We were taking it easy: both guys had foot injuries and I was still nursing a chest cold. It was not a good time to push the physical limits.
The prison on Fauler Pelz
Nice front door
We finally crested the castle grounds and had a chance to look around. The crowds were sparse and a thin layer of icy slush made walking tricky. The first thing I did wasn’t to check out the castle but instead the view back down to the town below.
Alte Brücke Heidelberg
The castle itself has a long and tragic history, including part of a fallen tower being quarried by the townsfolk for use in building structures in the neighborhood below. Lightening struck it twice, each time causing damaging fires, and it was attacked heavily by the French. It is a wonder there are any stones still held together at all.
One of the fallen towers
I was really ruing my decision to leave my good camera at home, but the bad weather meant that no matter how good the camera, I’d still have an ugly, grey sky in the background.
Our friends from Munster
The rain started suddenly and built up quickly. Our umbrellas came out quickly and we decided that lunch would be a good way to get out of the rain. We looked for an alternative way back down, but ended up retracing our steps back through the grounds.
We tried the second brewery in town, Kulturbrauerei, and were not disappointed. The beers were flavorful and the food tasty. The interior was interesting as we could see that it had once been decorated very nicely but had been allowed to deteriorate over the years. It was interesting to see this intermediary look of the faded painted designs.
While we enjoyed our lunch the rain gradually turned from rain to snow. The drops became slow and thick and eventually began to create a white coating outside the window. It was time to get back: we had a train to catch and our friends still had a long drive ahead of them to get home. It would be even worse with the falling snow. It was a pleasant walk back through town amid the thick and wet flakes.
We packed our things, cleaned up the apartment and said our good byes. It had been great to visit with our friends and to see a little bit of historic Heidelberg. I hope to come back in the summer and put some blue skies in my pictures!