We went back and forth…The logical thing to do when heading to London from Strasbourg would be to take the train to Paris Gare de l’Est then transfer to the Eurostar. But what fun is that?! We had family to visit in Germany anyway!
So we were off! We left the beautiful French Alsace region and headed towards the very old German town of Heidelberg to visit my mother’s cousin’s wife’s brother and his fiancé. (Phew, that’s a month full!) It’s easier just to call them Alex and Tanja.
We’re not sure what we did to deserve it, maybe it was all our begging for rain in the heat of SE. Asia but we seemed to be surrounded by rain throughout most of Germany and Switzerland… and Heidelberg was no exception. Even though our entire day encompassed consistent heavy rain, we didn’t let that put a damper (pun intended!) on our spirits! We met up with Alex and Tanja around noon after a soggy drive, hoping as each kilometer passed that the skies would clear and we would not be forced to dodge rain drops as we strolled through this beautiful old city. Sadly, no such luck. What else can one do in a situation like this but to embrace the cold rain and try not to focus on how drenched you are but what you are getting to see! Lucky for me, there was 1 umbrella between the 4 of us, Dean…not so lucky!
We started our day walking along the Neckar river with the goal of seeing the historic Castle overlooking the town, the beautifully restored bridge that was destroyed during World War 2 and having lunch at a historic 300 year old tavern that is a favorite of the Heidelberg University students.
The leisurely stroll along the river was very nice, even if it was mostly fog. The river boats passing by in the drizzly weather were empty, but you could tell that during the sunny days it would be ideal way to see the city with a sweeping view of the brightly colored houses on one side and the beautiful Castle on the hill on the city side.
The first stop was the bridge, a fun fact, the bridge has markings that recall the historic floods that have hit the tow. We saw some dating back to 1780! Alex and Tanja showed us the bridge, explained it’s history and showed us its beautiful archway with twin turrets watching over the town.
Probably one of the best attractions by the bridge was the famous brass monkey (a funky monkey!). Legend says there has been a monkey at the bridge since the 15th century reminding people to look over their shoulders to remind them of where they’ve been. Very fitting for us after the amount of travel that we can look back on! The current monkey was placed in 1979, and has a hollow face to place your head, almost as if the professor that cast the statue knew selfies would take off 40 years later. He is also good luck, we made sure to rub all the lucky spots, even the very realistic hind quarters! Taking a picture here is among the top must do’s of the city! You can’t say you’ve been to Heidelberg without that picture!
We strolled through the town and even with the nonstop downpour of rain, Heidelberg proved to be such a beautiful, quaint town.
The dominating view without of a doubt is of the famous castle, for us, shrouded in the low lying clouds. The earliest parts being constructed in 1214 with additions being added in 1294. More additions were made throughout the years, but we won’t bog you down with endless history lessons. The castle has had a string of bad luck with a few lightning strikes causing fires which has left the castle in partial ruins but there is still plenty to explore. Thankfully, there is a funicular that will take you to the castle, much nicer than walking, which would be quite a hike since the castle lies at 260 feet up a hillside. Rain plus steep hill equals no fun! The castle has many fun sites to explore, we could only imagine meandering around the gardens, exploring the courtyards and taking in the sweeping views of the river valley on warm sunny days. There is a great Pharmaceutical museum ranging from early cures to modern medicines, especially Germany’s many contributions. More up our alley was the castle’s 220,000 litre (58,000 gallons) wine cask. It took up a whole room, and would probably last us about 2 years if it were full!
A few hours of exploring in the rain meant only one thing. Warm up and fill our bellies! The perfect place was Zum Roten Ochsen, highly recommended by Alex and Tanja. We started off with some beers (is there any better way to warm up?!) and ordered or warm, filling meals. Dean got the “Schwabisches Nationalgericht” which loosely translates to the Swabian regional dish. It was stewed lentils tossed with spaetzle with 2 sausage links on top. It was delicious and so filling, and it warmed him right up! I had one of the specials of the day which, while I can’t think of the name, involved pasta in a delicious, creamy, mushroom sauce. Perfect for a rainy day!
After filling up on beer and lunch, we continued on our rainy journey through this gorgeous town. One of our final stops was the student prison for the university. Yes, you read it right, the student prison. Basically a detention hall for misbehaving students…. although it seemed as if it were a rite of passage to spend a night or two in “prison” and make your mark on any available space with initials, drawings or phrases. It was so interesting to see all the writing on the walls.
We loved our time visiting Heidelberg and were so grateful to have been shown around by family! We got so see so many things we wouldn’t have!
After just a short afternoon in Heidelberg we made our way to Frankfurt to our nights stay before our train that would eventually lead to our next stop… London! Cheerio!
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