Herbst-ing In Heidelberg
Trip Start Sep 21, 2005
17Trip End Oct 09, 2005
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Once we returned to the base, we picked up Dianne, Denise, and Julia for our day trip to Heidelberg. As I mentioned on a previous day's entry, traveling with a two year old was a different experience because Dianne and I didn’t have any children (at that time). While Dianne had an understanding of what it takes to operate with small children (thanks to her nephew and niece), I had zero understanding in that area. Thus, I kept having nightmares that we'd be delayed and/or prevented from seeing sights that we had traveled several thousand miles to see. And, after seeing all the preparation and care that Kelly and Denise were taking in order to make sure Julia was prepared for just a day trip, I was sure my nightmares would be coming true. Still, as the day went along, it became clear that Kelly and Denise were trying their best to attend to Julia's needs in a way that was of minimal impact to us. Their actions set a great tone for the rest of the trip, and made us very grateful for their hospitality.
With Julia firmly secure and the rest of us comfortably stowed away, we set off for Heidelberg. Just about every travel book I’d read said that Heidelberg was the prettiest town in Germany. Kelly had told me that he agreed with that assessment. Plus, Heidelberg was having its Herbst (Harvest) Festival that day. So, I thought it would be a great place opportunity to begin our travels and immerse myself in all things German.
As we made drive to Heidelberg, I paid closer attention to the countryside
After about an hour, we entered Heidelberg’s industrial suburbs. There wasn’t much of interest in these suburbs. But, things improved dramatically as we got closer to the town’s center. The buildings become older, the streets became narrower, and the entire scene was framed by a massive castle over the town and a river below the town. It didn’t take a genius to figure out why Heidelberg has its reputation.
As is the case with a lot of European town centers, Heidelberg’s is primarily a pedestrian walkway. However, there were a couple of roads that led to underground parking garages beneath the old town. Kelly tried a couple of times to get to these roads. But, the crowds that were trying to attend the Herbst had jammed those entrances. We spent about a half hour driving around before one of those entrances cleared and he was able to park.
We began strolling Heidelberg’s streets, taking in the Herbst’s sights and sounds
By now, we were getting hungry. However, we found that we were having trouble deciding what to get, because there were too many options from which to choose. We finally settled on a chicken kabob stand. Dianne and I had chicken kabobs for € 4, which were excellent. For desert, we found a cinnamon roll stand and purchased two rolls for € 1.50 each. As was the case with the kabobs, the rolls were excellent. But, we notice the first sign of a trait that we discovered throughout Germany. As has been our practice whenever we travel, Dianne and I learned a few key phrases of the native language of whatever country we were visiting before we arrived (obviously, in this case, we learned some German). We’ve found it to be a great way to break the ice with people in foreign countries. In every other county we’ve visited, it seemed that people were very appreciative that we were trying to speak their language and were not offended at all by our mispronunciations. But, it was different in Germany. After a successful attempt at German at the kabob stand, we tried speaking German again at the cinnamon roll stand
After eating, we continued our walking tour of Heidelberg. We stopped at Heidelberg University, where I bought a sweatshirt to add to my university attire collection. We also stopped in at the Kathe Wohlfahrt store. This store is famous for the amazing collection of Christmas ornaments and other holiday items that it contains. To say I was blown away by the collection would be an understatement. It was simply the best Christmas store I’ve in which I’ve been
With our shopping urges satisfied, we began to walk down some of old town Heidelberg’s side streets. These streets were just as crowded as the main streets. But, instead of food vendors, these streets were filled with Heidelberg’s residents. They had set up tables and were selling personal items. The whole scene felt like one big garage sale. It certainly wasn’t what I expected to find at the Herbst; but, it did give me another insight into German culture.
Eventually, our wanderings started taking us in the direction of the castle. As we made our way to this stately structure, we came across the Jesuit Church. I thought I’d poke my head in and see what it looked like. Unfortunately, there was a wedding going on when I arrived, so I wasn’t able to do much exploring. That was too bad, because the church’s interior was magnificent. The interior was painted in a pale green that glowed in the sunlight streaming through the windows
We walked up the steep path (carrying Julia up part of it) to the castle, eventually reaching the castle’s gates. After paying the entrance fee, we went to the castle’s terraces to look over Heidelberg’s old town. The perspective from this vantage point just confirmed why Heidelberg is considered so beautiful. We then went into the castle’s interior. Since most of the castle is a ruin, there aren’t many structures in the complex to visit. Still, the red sandstone ruins are magnificent enough to give one a very good impression of how imposing the castle must have been in its heyday.
We toured the castle’s courtyard and some of its ramparts. The only structure we visited was the building holding the massive beer barrels. I first saw the “smaller” barrel, and thought that was the big barrel. Then, I turned a corner and saw the real “big” barrel. “Big” doesn’t begin to describe it. It is so massive that one has to climb a set of stairs to reach the top
We could tell from the large number of people (both tourists and residents) that the castle was a very popular place to visit. This point was brought home when we saw the couple that was earlier being married at the Jesuit Church. They were posing for their “after wedding” pictures in the castle’s courtyard. Seeing them reminded me that I wanted to visit the church after their wedding had finished. So, we ventured back into the town. I got to the church, only to find the doors had closed at 5 p.m. I was disappointed, but I was also getting tired. The jet lag was settling in again. Hence, we got back in the car and headed back to Ramstein. I went to bed, feeling very satisfied that this trip had gotten off on the right step.