Part 1: A Fairytale Christmas
Part 2: A Winter Day In The City
Part 3: Heidelberg, Germany – Beyond Magical
Part 4: Frankfurt Favorites
Today, my Bin and I are taking a day trip to Heidelberg. Just 93 kilometers south of Frankfurt, an hour’s train ride away, this little city is one of Germany’s most captivating. Its charms grab us from the get-go and never let go.
Equally alluring from every angle is the 200-meter long Old Bridge (Alte Brücke), built of Neckar valley sandstone in the 18th century. Linking the old town (Alstadt) to the Neuenheim district in the east, every step seems to offer ever more jaw-dropping panoramas.
It’s one of those made-in-heaven days where the sun warms the winter’s chill and its rays dapple the waters of the Neckar River. “This is just magical,” we say, in what would become today’s constant refrain.
Seen from the bridge and seeming to soar into the clouds is Heidelberg’s Renaissance castle. Simultaneously romantic and haunting, we can’t wait to see it up close.
Walking towards the medieval Bridge Gate, part of the former city wall.
A scene from the old town.
We stop at a Lindt chocolate store. Our hearts (and hands!) are delighted with the warmth provided by the cups of hot chocolate we buy.
We make our way to the castle by riding a Bergbahn, funicular or cogwheel train, from Kornmarkt station. Perilously steep but surprisingly, not frightening. The ride is less than five minutes.
At the top, the Schlosshof, the castle’s central courtyard, is a tableau of restored Gothic and Renaissance buildings. Their ornate but half-ruined facades evoke feelings in us of dismay (what happened?) and awe (destroyed but far from decrepit).
Further into the castle is the Friedrichsbau, buildings in ruins embellished with sculptures of kings and emperors.
Rather curious is the Grosses Fass, the largest wine cask in the world situated within the cellars of Heidelberg Castle. Constructed in 1751, it holds some 228,000 liters. I can’t imagine that wine stored in such a massive cask would be good to drink.
My Bin and I are transfixed at this far-reaching scene as seen from one of the castle perches. We stare and sigh, exhaling deeply at the exuberance extending before us. “This is so magical,” we say again.
We’re so high up that we feel like birds looking down onto the Neckar River and swooping over the Altstadt rooftops.
A spooky, stirring scene of the castle illuminated by the fast-fading rays of a winter sun.
The castle has an extensive garden, which, even in the frosty wintry air, is inviting. Hand in hand we walk, listening to our boots crunch on the broken branches, a soundtrack interrupted only by the caws of the crows flying overhead.
The garden’s trees, rendered naked by winter, frame the sky starkly.
Suddenly, amidst all this awesomeness, comes the sound of stomachs that need to be satisfied. We look at each other and laugh.
On our way to a restaurant, we marvel at the ongoing Christmas market at the Marktplatz (market square), very similar to the one we enjoy in Frankfurt.
At old time German tavern, Bier Brezel, a duo of hearty meat dishes for shivering, starved us. My Bin enjoys the wiener schnitzel, the pounded-thin veal’s tenderness contrasting with its crisp coating. For me, a rump steak adorned with rosettes of herbed butter. A Coke for him, apfelwein (apple wine or alcoholic cider) for me. It is familiar food eaten in foreign surroundings, filling up our stomachs, sating our souls. We savor and sigh (again). “This is magical!” We say (again).
Sufficiently satisfied, we stroll along Hauptstrasse, the main shopping street of Heidelberg. It’s 1.6 kilometers long and is Europe’s longest pedestrian alley.
Peeking from a distance on Hauptstrasse is Providenzkirche or Providence Church, a 17th century Lutheran parish church.
Tiny side streets on the Hauptstrasse surrender stolen scenes, stunning and unforgettable.