Having spent a wet and cold couple of hours in Heidelberg early this year I was keen to go back and actually see the city. Not that the inside of a coffee shop and a burger joint aren’t lovely places to while away the time when it’s -1 outside but the architecture made me want to go back, when it was warmer at least. Luckily I got the chance to visit with an expat friend from Bavaria, so we decided to make a weekend of it in early Spring, and if it rained there’s always wine!
We ditched the cars for the weekend and both took the train, booking tickets in advance meant they were really good value, check out Deutsche Bahn for more details. Our first time Airbnb experience was great, we could not have asked for a better located place, it was clean, had everything we needed and had more added quirks than a mad hatters tea party. Public transport makes finding your way around really easy, you can get a bus right outside the train station that takes you into the centre of town (stadt mitte), it even went down the street our apartment was on, which is so useful for one so directionally challenged as I.
I had time to kill on my own before her train got in and since I’d planned for us to do the big sights together I hit the side streets. Heidelberg is a University town and if you got to go to University here you got so lucky, I’m so very jealous. It reminds me of Cambridge and Harry Potter in equal measure but without the Pimms or Quidditch. There is so much more than just the main street, if you are looking for vegan, vegetarian or studenty type eateries head for the back streets, and if you want frozen yoghurt head to Yolicious, a great recommendation from the former Heidelberg resident and blogger extraordinaire Jordan.
Prepare for neck ache in Heidelberg, I spent a lot of time gazing up at the facades, and a little time bumping into people, once I had my bearings I decided to check out the Jesuit Church and I’m so glad I did. It was full of tour groups when I first went in so I had a quick look and left my camera in my pocket but as I headed for the door I realised that I was alone in the church, so I had to stop and take these.
I also got my first glimpse of the castle itself, it kind of sneaks up at you, you’re in a lovely square admiring a fountain and them boom, you look up and there’s the castle. I stood and watched the hangliders soaring over the castle for a while in the sun.
`The Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Ghost) has tourist shops at the bottom of it’s walls selling their wares, good to pick up those Heidelberg fridge magnets and postcards. The weather was so good I walked for miles and miles up and down the high street, back streets and down by the river, take some good shoes, heels and cobbles don’t mix, at least not for me.
Unfortunately the weather on Saturday was not the best, it was absolutely freezing with mist and cloud thrown in for good measure, we were still upbeat, who isn’t when there’s a funicular to ride! The Heidelberger Bergbahn is the longest in Germany and takes you right from the town centre to the castle and beyond. The most expensive ticket is 12euro and entitles you to travel all the way up (and back down) including using the historical restored Funicular at the very top, entry to the castle, the wine cellar and the German pharmacy museum. The first stop on the way up is the castle, which houses the wine cellar and the pharmacy museum, the views were somewhat hampered by the weather on the day we were there.
The architecture of the castle is stunning, so much detail and no one statues face is the same as another. The castle is a mishmash of styles, some of it dates back to before 1214, although it has had a pretty hard life attracting multiple lightening strikes and of course living through multiple wars. you can see how the older and newer architecture melds together clearest in the pictures above, some grandiose features next to more simple constructions.
The Heidelberg Tun was our next find, it’s located in the wine cellar, unsurprisingly since it’s a wine cask! If you are visiting its worth knowing that they offer an unpretentious looking wine tasting in the cellar, it all looked very reasonably priced but at 10am it was a little early for us, next time. When you walk in you’ll see to your right a huge wine cask, do not do what I saw many people doing, taking a picture and then turning and walking back out, go further in, you’ll thank me.
The largest cask has a capacity of over 200,000 litres, not that it actually contains wine anymore, you can have a dance on top of it however where there appears to be a kind of dance floor, there was a wedding reception happening whilst we were there maybe they headed up there later. The surprise was the museum of Pharmacy which is housed within the castle (and is free to enter with your bergbahn ticket), it’s small but perfectly formed, I’d recommend the audio tour.
The museum has a number of individual pharmacies through the ages set up, the one above (with the crocodile and puffer fish) is one taken from a pharmacy in Bamberg, again I’d recommend the audio tour since the place is quite small, and though what signs there were had English translation, there really wasn’t a lot on them.
We took the Bergbahn all the way to the top and for the last leg you leave the fancy new carriages for a lovely old restored one, unfortunately with the weather being uncooperative and neither of us in the mood to hike around the forest, we had a short wander, saw some scarily health and safety lax tree cutting and made our way back down the hill. Heidelberg on a Saturday is pretty full on, there are a lot of tour groups (and the bergbahn heading up was really busy as we were heading down) so it’s lucky that besides the history and architecture Heidelberg has pretty good shopping, in particular a TKmaxx and an afternoon of husband and kid free shopping was a must.
Sunday started off cold and grey, the Bavarian had an early train to catch so we grabbed a bakery breakfast and walked through the (pretty much deserted) main street towards the station. After we’d said our goodbyes I still had some photos that I wanted to take, so I headed to the river.
I really love the spires, steeples, shutters, arches, everything, and the glimpses of castle, I do love a good castle. The barbed wire on the last picture is actually the Studenkarzer (student prision) which is now a museum. A place where you could get locked up but were still allowed to attend lectures, sounds ideal to get some revision in before finals, no? I plan on visiting next time.
The Heidelberger Brückenaffe (Heidelberg Bridge monkey) was something that I completely missed due to the swarms of tourists until Sunday, although it is a relatively new addition to the old bridge, there was previous bridge monkey as far back as the 15th century. He holds a very shiny mirror, not surprising since touching it is meant to bring you wealth, touching his fingers ensures your return to Heidelberg, whilst touching the mice on the wall next to him ensures you will have lots of children, beware the mice! The monkey bum is also pointedly facing the other side of the river, make of that what you will.
I had one photo in mind that I wanted to take, it’s on all the postcards and whilst it’s not perfect it was my parting shot of a lovely well deserved weekend.