Germany, Day 8: Like A Bridge…


Today was our last full day in Heidelberg, so the the four of us (me, Ma, Pa and Argie) decided to check out the previously undiscovered parts of the old town, starting with the old bridge.  The bridge is old and mostly pedestrian so we had a good chance to amble around and take photos of the city, castle and bridge itself.


The one end of the bridge houses a love lock fixture at a peaceful riverside point with a beautiful view of the castle.


Following our time on the bridge, we headed over to check out parts of the old university.  Heidelberg houses one of the oldest universities in Europe and is still a popular institution today.


The rest of the day was pretty much a day for relaxing.  We learned that gummy bears and gummy candy come from the west part of Germany, so we filled up with gummy bears and gummy Heidelbergs, bought some Christmas ornaments, sampled some Schnapps native to the region, ate some cake, sent off a parcel and lots of postcards, had dinner at a burger joint decorated with birch trees and finally watched the sun set over the square while drinking hot chocolates and cointreau, sad to say goodbye to Heidelberg but excited to find out what’s in store in Rothenburg.

Germany, Day 7: Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head

This morning we woke up early to grey skies and wet cobblestones – looks like we brought a piece of Vancouver with us after all.  After a 2 hour train ride via Mannheim we arrived in the cozy Black Forest town of Freiburg in Breisgau.  This town is famous for two things – its UNESCO World Heritage cathedral and minster (pictured later), and little canals that wind through the city called bachles.  In the summertime you can find people cooling off their feet in these canals and children pulling toy boats on string.


Legend has it that if you fall into one of these, you will marry a Freiburger and judging from the men’s style in the area, I wouldn’t turn that down.  Minus the man buns.  So many man buns…

After a short walk from the train station, we were in the historic old town, ready to do our Rick Steves walking tour.


After learning about the downhill and adjacent buildings, we came upon the historical and visual focal point of the city, the Freiburg Munster (minster).  Its giant, spiny tower can been seen from everywhere in town and is as tall as it is wide. It occupies the middle of a huge square.


We came to the front door right at noon and the giant bells chimed, calling the faithful to mass.  We decided to come back to it when mass wasn’t in session, so we moved on.

We walked down what originally looked to be a side street, but turned into a beautiful cobblestoned street, draped in arbour which blooms wisteria in the summertime.  Because it was Sunday most of the shops were closed, but we still found a lot of things we would spend our pennies on, including a new hat for Pa and a beautiful wool coat for Ma.  They will have to wait for another day.


An interesting part of the cobblestoned road is that in front of a lot of the businesses are mosaics that indicate what kind of shop is there:


A more sobering thing we noticed in the ground stones were a few seemingly random copper ‘stones’ with writing on them in front of some of the old apartments.  They were in German, but we could make out names, birth dates, death dates (usually between 1940 – 1944) and one chilling word that ended all of them: Auschwitz.

By the end of our walk we had worked up quite a hunger and decided to try the recommended Hausbrauerei Feierling for lunch and beer.  I ordered a beer which was slightly smokey and flavourful, and had possibly some of the best bratwurst I’ve ever tasted.    We settled up and headed back towards the Munster so we could get a look inside.  The rain had let up and we liked the walk we took before so much, we walked past the same way.  When we had gotten back to the Munster mass was done so we were free to walk about the church.


The church’s stained glass was sponsored by different workers, tradesmen and craftsmen back in the medieval time, so a portion of the window is dedicated to that worker’s profession (bakers, tailors, cobblers, etc).  After our walkabout the castle it was time to hit the road and headed back to Heidelberg, sharing a train car with a bunch of drunken football rowdies (go St. Pauli, I guess).

We ate a delicious dinner at the Italian restaurant next door to our hotel and then moved over to our hotel for some hot chocolate.  The sky cleared up and the air chilled and we sipped our hot drinks in anticipation of a special guest on our trip, my friend Argie.  Argie works with me in the tower of terror known as our job and is hanging out with us for a few days on her way back from Budapest.  At 1900hrs a black Mercedes pulled up and Argie stepped out excited to be done her 11 hour train sojourn.  She met Ma and Pa and we chit chatted until it was time for bed.

Germany, Day 6: I Can See For Miles and Miles

Today was our first full day in Heidelberg.  We had planned to go to Stuttgart to visit the Mercedes Benz Museum, but we all woke up late, I had a, uh, headache, and Pa wasn’t previously as excited to go as he was before, so we made the decision to stick around Heidelberg instead.  Heidelberg is mostly famous for its partly ruined castle, Schloss Heidelberg, which is perched on the side of the high hills that surround the city, and is accessible by way of one of Pa’s favourite contraptions, the funicular.  We had a lazy breakfast in the hotel restaurant and ambled over to the funicular, conveniently located next to the square over from our hotel.


There are actually two funiculars on the hill – a newer modern one that takes you from the bottom to the castle and halfway up the mount, and then a creaky wooden 125 year old one that takes you to the top.  We decided we wanted to see the castle first, so we exited the funicular and headed down the marked path, past a couple of small shops and cafes to the partly ruined castle.


The castle is cool and different – its a mishmash of different styles as it was chronically being hit by lightning and parts of it got damaged.  Construction started in the Renaissance and eventually stopped, leaving half of it ruins and the other parts in differing states of crumble.  The castle overlooks the city and on a clear day (like the first part of today), you can see all the way to Mannheim.


The castle is enormous.  We spent the better part of the morning and afternoon wandering around the grounds, with a brief stop in the castle cafe to have our standard beer/pretzel/apple strudel.


A relatively recent feature of the castle is you can get married in a sacred or civil ceremony there, so we got to see a few different bridal parties of varying fanciness.  I am a creeper at heart, so I had to get a couple of snaps in.


We had had our fill of castle so we headed back to the funicular station and got on board ye olde funicular.  The funicular cars are adorable and shake and sigh through the 10 minute ride to the top of the hill.  The top of the mount didn’t have much to offer – a closed falconry, a derelict boarded up restaurant and more spectacular views.


We decided that it was time to head back and got on our little shaky funicular, then the smooth modern funicular and headed to the hotel restaurant patio for beers and so that I could write out some postcards.  The next few hours were filled by dinner, ice cream, and a frantic shop at the Lindt chocolate shop and as the rain started, we headed in for the night.


Germany, Day 5: On the Road Again

Today we woke up to a mercifully cloudy sky and cooler temperature – for the first time since we’ve been in Germany it was under 27 degrees.  We packed our bags, settled our hotel, said our goodbyes to the Mosel Wine Valley and headed to the train.  At Koblenz we hopped off to catch our connecting train to the Baden-Wurttemberg city of Heidelberg for our next set of days.  For those of you who believe that German trains run on time – they don’t.  Our train was 30 minute late today, and the train on our platform before that coming from Zurich was even later.  At about 1430 hrs after an unremarkable journey through Bingen, Mainz and Mannheim we wandered off the train and into the ancient university town of Heidelberg.  We hired a very friendly cab driver who dropped us off at our hotel, Goldener Falke.  We felt like we hit the jackpot – a beautiful 19th century building with a restaurant and patio on the ground floor and faces out into a main square filled with cafes, a cathedral, and a fountain.


One big difference that we’ve noticed between Heidelberg and the Mosel Valley is the number of tourists.  We sat in the square this afternoon to take a breather from the previous 4 busy days and watched many tour groups come through and heard many different languages spoken.  Pa and I had a couple of Heidelberger beers (another pilsner) and I wrote out some postcards.  _mg_6625_mg_6630_mg_6639_mg_6642

We had an excellent dinner of coq au vin, beer and strudel at the hotel restaurant, took and stroll around the square and turned in to watch some BBC news._mg_6663_mg_6665_mg_6666_mg_6668_mg_6676_mg_6679