Sunday, September 09, 2007

Day 3: Here comes Heidelberg

A big hearty German breaky helped the inescapable hangover, although the bendy little roads did not. By about 11am and a few coffees though, we were starting to feel less shoddy. Ten points to Dad who had the unenviable pleasure of driving for the day – and negotiating with Betsy - with a pounding head.

Heidelberg was our destination, and we meandered through green rolling hills laden with vineyards and orchards. They looked to be mainly apples and stone fruits, and the squat trees were absolutely bulging with fruit. European drivers flew past us. We were doing a respectable 90-100kms/hour on secondary roads, but these guys had to be overtaking at speeds of 120-140kms. They do like to go fast!

Heidelberg finally came into view. The Neckar River runs straight down the middle of this predominantly student town, although the side which houses the Old Town and the huge old Schloss was definitely the side to see first. Parking was once again a nightmare, and we had to do a couple of laps of the town before we could find a space. It was interesting to hear a news report that morning that estimated that by next year, more of the world’s population would live in cities than in rural areas. God knows where we’re all going to park in the future.

Anyway…we eventually found a small gasthoff right in the old town – next to a sex shop I might add. The sex shop looked out of place amongst such grand old buildings. A big hot lunch helped to take the final edge off our Rudesheim heads, and we were then ready to tackle the 320-ish stairs to the top of the Schloss. Our guide book noted that this was one of the oldest castles in Germany.

The main castle was being restored, so unfortunately had scaffolding round some of the turrets. Nevertheless, it was immense and stunning. The grounds were lush green and very well kept, and the huge trees looked like they’d been there as long as the castle. The view over the city from the top of the hill was great – I love looking over Old Towns, with their uneven and colourful rooflines. A charming arched bridge crossed the river and Heidelberg’s cathedral seemed to stand out as the centre of town.

The castle had sustained some fairly major damage in the war, and they had left the remains of a huge chunk of turret where it h ad fallen. Amazingly, huge amounts of the castle remained intact, and while we didn’t go inside, people wandered round the turrets and walls. It would have been a historian’s paradise. I just like very old chunks of rock!

We admired yet more view, then made our way down the 320-ish stairs, headed straight for a café to rest the knees and ankles and pigged out on yet another strudel. We were on holidays after all!

We then walked across the pedestrian bridge to the other side of the Neckar, to get some pics of the town and castle from a different perspective. It was quant and quintessentially German.

By dinner time, we were (surprisingly) up for a beer again, and tried more local lager – or pils as they say. We found a quaint little German restaurant full of old musical instruments used as decorations – violin and tuba light shades abounded!

The food, as it had all been, was hearty and yummy. I had a game-stuffed ravioli, although it looked more like a green lasagne. In any case, it was great.

We called in an early night after a final wander back over the bridge, and a peek of the backlit castle. Wunderbah!

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