Well I made it to Heidelberg! I got here fairly late on the night of the 16th, so I checked in and just walked around the block before the sun went down. One of my roommates was a German student that was taking the entrance exam at the university to start his master’s program for English and Spanish translation. I knew he had to wake up early and well-rested, so I called it an early night. I woke up around 0630 (as I have been doing every day for some reason) and showered and ate breakfast. The breakfast at the hostel is 3 Euro, but well worth it. Especially because I would sit there for 45 minutes filling up to make sure I didn’t get hungry until well after noon.
After breakfast I ventured into Old Town Heidelberg. There are trams and buses that go into town, but the walk is only 3km from Steffi’s Hostel, so I hoofed it. I would rather walk and see more of the town than pay to get there a few minutes quicker. I trekked up and down the main streets for a few hours checking out the university and some big churches. At one point (I was on a bridge) it started raining sideways. I took cover for about ten minutes until the worst of it passed. Of course, the only reason people come to Heidelberg is the castle (a friend told me that shopping is also a tourist attraction, but I don’t really see how or why). So I walked the painful “Stairway to Heaven” that was probably a good half-kilometer of 30-40 degree incline – in the rain no less. I paid the 7 Euro entrance fee, and then remembered the words of wisdom I imparted upon my readers last year: if you have seen one castle, you have seen them all. The courtyard offered some impressive views of the city, aside from that there was an apothecary museum (just google ‘history of medicine’ and save yourself some time) and several overpriced restaurants. That was it.
So on the wet, slippery stone road I slowly made my way back down into town. At this point Hanna messaged me and said she was arriving within the hour on a tram from Mannheim. I ate lunch real quick then met her at Bismarckplatz, the tram station (not to be confused with the Hauptbahnof, the train/bus station). Apparently Hanna has been to Heidelberg several times, but never visited the castle. So at her request we trekked all the way back up the Stairway to Heaven (the “Himmelsleiter”), but stopped short of the ticket counter. The views from the top of the hike were almost as good as from the courtyard, and 7 Euro cheaper. We stayed in an alcove for about an hour hoping the rain would soon let up. It did, but not for another hour or so, after we were already back in the town square.
We bought some gelato along the main road through the Old Town at a store called “Gelato-Go,” then we went to a few of the local shops just to see what they offered. Hanna REALLY wanted a Schneeballe (translation: snowball), so we stopped for one of these German treats. I would not recommend them; they are fried balls of dough rolled in seasonings such as cinnamon and sugar that lose flavor after eating the tasty outside. Hanna had to return to Mannheim to have dinner with her sister, so she left on the tram about 1600. I went to a pizza shop across the street from the hostel and ordered a pizza for dinner, which actually lasted me until the next day. I was exhausted, so I went back to the hostel and watched a movie, then fell asleep by midnight.
That brings us to this morning. I awoke early and enjoyed another breakfast buffet – cereal and bread and lunch meat, but I ate enough to last me several hours. I walked across the Neckar River and started on the path known as the “Philosopher’s Way.” This was another grueling, uphill walk that offered some fantastic views of the city at the summit. Along the way I found the Physics Campus of Heidelberg University. Coming down the plethora of steps from the top of the trail, I entered the city via the historic main entrance. I found the library, but didn’t get too much out of the quick tour I gave myself. I came back via Plock Street, which is one block south of the main street (Haupstrasse) through town. I would highly recommend it, as there are few if any tourists, and it still offers several cafes and shops. On the way back to the hostel I circled a block that contained a very talk chimney. I was hoping to find a way in so I could climb it, but they had it fenced in pretty securely. Oh, well. I’ll keep my eyes open for the next one.
So now I am just waiting in the hostel commons room until my bus to Berlin arrives (not until 2330). If anyone were to ask, I don’t feel like Heidelberg is worth a visit unless you are in the area and already passing through. Even so, one day here is plenty if you get an early start. It seems about as populous as Freiburg, but because of the castle the streets are choked with tourist groups. I guess its location makes it a good way-station if you are traveling to other parts of the country. Otherwise, I don’t really feel like it is a top choice for travelers.
Well, I suppose that is all I have so far. In a few short hours I will be on a bus to Berlin, where I am staying at the Sunflower Hostel for at least four nights. I haven’t decided beyond that, but I probably will have that figured out within a day or two. Until next time!