We have found our first favorite place in Germany, Heidelberg. I have been wanting to go to the University city since Christmas but with weather and tire repair complications this past weekend was the first chance we got to go and we had a great time! The whole city is so romantic and beautiful. It is a picturesque city with the castle and mountain in the backdrop, nothing could be prettier. I cannot wait to go back.
Heidelberg is about an hour and a half south-west of us in the Baden- Württemberg region of Germany (we live in the Rhineland-Pfalz) along the River Neckar. People have lived here for a LONG time. In 1907 the “Heidelberg Man” was discovered nearby and his jaw bone dated 200,000-600,000 years ago. He is the earliest evidence of man in Europe! Also, remember how I called it the University city? That is because Germany’s first university was founded there in 1386.
Heidelberg is a romantic city, so picturesque with the old town along the river and high on the cliffs above a huge castle, Schloss Heidelberg. This castle was massive and still fairly well intact. As we drove in we couldn’t see it at first because of the fog and the steep grade of the mountain, but after we got out of the car and looked straight up there she was. We chose the athletic route and climbed the stairs to the castle which was much more of a climb than expected.
I was really surprised that along the stairs were homes that people still lived in because from below you can’t see them. The houses went right up to the castle gate. This castle was a huge complex that was built in the 13th century and added onto until the 17th century. The largest and most beautiful addition was completed in the early 1600’s by King Frederich.
Inside the castles wine cellar is the world’s largest wine barrel. It was constructed in 1751 and held 58,573.8 gallons of wine! The barrel is also quite famous and is referenced in Les Miserables, and Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad. Naturally, we had to do a wine tasting in the cellar of local German wines :). I tasted three Rieslings, and Fil tasted three reds.
After our wine and pretzel we went inside the other side of the castle to see the German Apotheken (apothecary) Museum. There were displays of old apothecary shops and lots of displays on old medicine jars and the roots and herbs used to create the cures.
After finishing the museum we took the Bergh-Bahn further up the mountain. From the castle to the next stop, Molkenkur, we rode a modern metal mountain train that is comparable to a monorail car except it climbs up the mountain. At Molkenkur station we switched trains and got on the historic 1909 wooden train for the last leg of the journey up to the Königstuhl station. The Heidelberg Bergh-Bahn is the longest of its kind in Germany.
The incline of the railway varied from 20-40 degrees, at least that is what we could tell from the signs, but the last portion looked completely vertical—very scary in an old wooden train car! Brock loved it though. He cried to get out of the carrier so he could stand up and look high up the mountain.
As we approached the top the fog got thicker, and snow started falling as we were 1436 ft above the city, 1804 ft above sea level. It was beautiful up there but I am sure it is far more beautiful in the summer. At the top there was a small beer garden, the Falconry club’s training area, and trails through the woods for walking and mountain biking. Scarier than the train ride was watching the mountain bikers’ ride down the cliff on the wet rocks and mud!
I was planning on walking down the mountain back to the city but the conductor explained that the walk takes about an hour so we decided to take the trains back down all the way to the city and warm up with some hot chocolate from the Chco Chocolate Company. They had chocolate pasta, spreads, fondues, bars, but best of all they have over 70 flavors of hot chocolate! You pick your brick of chocolate on a spoon and they provide the steaming milk. After maybe 2 minutes of swirling your spoon in the milk the chocolate is completely melted in to a delicious cup of hot coco. I got the black & white and Fil (who wasn’t planning on getting any till he saw the flavors) got the milk chocolate with Grand Marnier. SOO GOOD!!!
We explored the main street of the Alstadt (old town) but will have to go back again to see more! There were so many great shops and hotel/restaurants. We stopped at one and had an early dinner of ham hocks and lamb, yummy yummy :). In particular I will be going back to get Brock’s 1st Birthday outfit. I couldn’t get it on this trip because I don’t know what size he will be wearing. Just the other night we had to move him up to 12 month sized pajamas because the 9 month ones were too short for this tall boy!
It starts to get dark around 4 so once we finished our meal we decided to head out before it got too dark (it was midnight dark by 6 so we failed at that one). Along the way back we did a quick stop at Ikea to get a lamp and pre-shop for my quilt work station. Brock was pretty tired after the long day and we still had an hour drive so we cut it pretty short and ran out of there. By the way, Ikea in Europe are way crazier than any one I have been to in the US. There were kids jumping on every couch and bed, people everywhere, and really no concern for bumping into each other. It was almost like Black Friday.
In case you were wondering, the lamp was for our living room in our newly unpacked house. All I have to do is straighten up the storage room in the basement and hang pictures and curtains. We really love the house but the internet is a struggle. Right now we only have data access on our phones which is really poor. It takes over a month for the internet and phone to be hooked up so we still have a month at least before we can fully use the internet. I was able to post this by going on base and accessing wifi which I may have to do in the future too. We were told by one company that the max speed we could get in our village was on DSL lines at about 1/6th the speed we are used to in the states. We are basically back in 1999 when it comes to the internet.
More photos of Heidelberg? Check out our full album on Flickr!
P.S keep an eye out for our change of address cards around Valentines Day. Mail takes about 2 weeks from here to the states so by the time I get them and send them to you all it should be a happy Valentines Day 🙂