Sorry for the lack of posts – the past two weeks have been a busy but amazing adventure! I’ve traveled to Rome, re-fell in love with Florence, and then had some friends from Georgia visiting, so I practiced what I preach and spent less time on my phone and more time enjoying what was in front of me. There is so much that I want to share, and I think I’ll do the LIFO method of updating (horrible accounting joke), starting with the most recent trip. Last Thursday, our Georgia friends and I took a quick day trip to Heidelberg, Germany.
Heidelberg is a little over an hour away from Ramstein via car or two hours via train. Known for its romantic streets and buildings, its world famous castle and the oldest university in Germany, Heidelberg blew us all away. Mark Twain, who lived with his family in Heidelberg for a summer, said it best when he claimed that the city was “the last possibility of the beautiful.” We were only there for a short day, thanks to an early sunset around 5pm, but we were able to really appreciate the beauty of the town.
Climb the Church Tower
The Church of the Holy Spirit is located right in the center of Heidelberg, and has an amazing view of the city. For two euro, you can climb to the top of the tower. Unlike some church towers, there are a lot of breaks in between the climb, but it is still a steep and narrow climb to the top. My favorite fun fact about this church is that for many centuries this church was used by both Catholics and Protestants, and a partition barrier was even put up in the 1700s to allow both denominations to hold services there. The partition was taken down in 1936 and it is now a Protestant church. The view from the top is breathtaking!
Admire the River and Bridge
It was chilly and windy on the day of our visit, but we still took a moment to appreciate the waterfront buildings, the mountains, and the beauty of the Old Bridge. I can only imagine how perfect it would be to sit in the warm sun and listen to the waves of the Neckar River. This is definitely on our list of things to do again in the spring or summer.
The Heidelberg castle rests on the hill above Heidelberg and consists of both Gothic and Renaissance buildings. One part of the castle, the Ottheinrich Building, is one of the oldest palace structures of the German Renaissance. The first building was constructed in the 1300s and from there continued to expand. It was burned by the French army in 1689 and then during reconstruction was struck by lightening on two different occasions. Talk about bad luck. Reconstruction stopped after that, and now the Heidelberg castle ruins are one of the most famous castle ruins in Germany.
To get to the castle, you can either hike up 300+ stairs or take the tram. Tickets cost 8 euro and include the tram ride, and since it was chilly outside we decided to take the free ride up. To find the ticket booth and the tram entrance, type in Parkhaus Kornmarkt/Schloss in your google maps – it is located under the parking deck in the Kornmarkt square. You can also take a guided tour for an additional 5 euro. I think on the next visit when I have more time I’ll take the guided tour to learn a little more about the history of the castle. I also think you get to see more of the interiors of the castle on the guided tours.
German Apothecary Museum
Included in your ticket to the castle is entrance to the German Apothecary Museum. It was interesting to read about the transformation of pharmaceutics, from the herbal and natural remedies of ancient times to medicine as we know it today. My favorite part of the museum however was looking at the different fully preserved apothecary interiors from the 17th through 19th centuries.
World’s Largest Wine Barrel
Heidelberg also boasts the world’s largest wine barrel, the Heidelberg Tun. This wine barrel was completed in 1751 and can hold 220,000 liters of wine, but was only filled three times because it always leaked. It’s big enough that there are stairs to the top, which holds a small platform that was likely used as a dance floor. While a tad bit underwhelming, it was still fun to see, and there is a wine bar in the barrel building.
Lunch at Vetter’s
Vetter’s Brauhaus is a delicious, welcoming German brewery restaurant located in the heart of the old town, a short walk away from the Old Bridge. Since it was chilly outside, we were in the mood for something warm, but they also needed to try German spatzle before they left to go home. This was such a great choice! They agreed it was one of their favorite meals since being over here, and it was definitely my favorite spatzle I’ve had. Vetter’s had a few English menus, but there were mostly Germans eating there, so we knew we were in good company. Overall, I definitely recommend this restaurant when you visit.
Another fun thing Heidelberg is known for is the Studentkuss, or the “Student Kiss” chocolate. In a nutshell, in the 1800s Fridolin Knösel opened up a cafe that was visited by young men in school as well as young ladies with their governesses. The lads and ladies would exchange secretive flirtatious looks but could do no more than that under the watchful eye of their chaperones. The owner decided to create a delicious chocolate delight that could be given as a present, i.e., the student kiss.
The Heidelberger Studentkuss shop and the original Cafe Knosel is still open today, but it happened to be closed when we were in town. Still in the mood for chocolate, we opted for another chocolate shop a few streets over, and it was delicious! The chocolates from Pralinenmanufaktur Vorbach are handcrafted by the owner and her husband and make great souvenirs. I tried the Caramel, Irish Coffee, and the Caipirinha (sugarcane brandy & lime). The last two are made with a little bit of liquor – and all were so good.
Next Time – Christmas Market
When deciding on a day trip, we were in between Trier and Heidelberg. Since I hadn’t been to Heidelberg yet, we decided to try something new, and it was more beautiful than any pictures will do it justice. They were already setting up for their Christmas market when we were there in early November, and since it is so close, I hope to make it back next month! I also definitely want to make another trip to Heidelberg in the warmer months, to explore the other side of the Old Bridge and to visit the castle again. Three times a year there is a Castle Illumination show complete with fireworks over the river, in remembrance of the destruction of the castle by the French and lightening strikes. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it to one of those as well!