Jet-lag surrendering first to adrenaline and then routine, I was one week into my summer backpacking trip through Europe. The difficult task before me would be hitting as many countries en route to visit friends throughout the EU, but I was eager to see my first real castle. Following a whirlwind tour of Paris and Strasbourg in France, I discovered that the ruins of an ancient castle were close to the border, in Heidelberg. I booked a hostel and journeyed east with my French friends. We spent the day at an amusement park before they dropped me off as close as possible to the 16th-century remnants… by no means empty handed. With a heart full of memories and home-baked chocolate brioche in my hands, I embraced my friends farewell and turned to venture into the city of beauty, history, and architectural gems.
The stunning city of Heidelberg is home to the oldest university in Germany, which is over 630 years old. College students fill the Green Space, Neckarwiese, along the winding Neckar River with picnics and bottles of wine, though public drunkenness was enough to get them locked up in the former Student Prison, or Studentenkarzer, which was used for unruly students from 1778 to 1914. Today most of the locals are seen running and biking along the scenic pathways, or congregating in intriguing alleyway bar patios. Seekers of historical knowledge stroll cobblestone streets and cross monumental bridges, none celebrated as much as the Karl-Theodor-Brücke, or the Old Bridge.
Most of my adventures included the walking tour of the Heidelberg Castle, which over looks the city from the top of the hill. The Castle was home to a King who had quite an intense love for drinking, and there you can see the largest wine barrel in the world, the Heidelberg Tun or Grosses Fass, which could hold over 58,000 gallons, (or 220,000 litres). On the opposite side of the river, another hike called the Philosopher’s Way, beckoned to me. Winding paths along green pastures, stone walls covered in green ivy, and additional views of the city allow you to reflect on the transition of the Romantic Era, and the allure of peaceful nature to the wisdom seeker. For those who don’t find themselves as confined to the budget of a shoestring backpacker, exquisite dining opportunities exist with options for every palate. A stop in Marktplatz gives even the sober saunterer a chance to observe and people watch, as lovers and friends and locals and tourists bask in the glory of the ancient relic tucked away in the southeast nook of Germany.
As is claimed in “Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren,” I lost my heart in Heidelberg, but I believe there to be more of an exchange of reciprocity. You see, I tucked away some incredible moments in my heart from the time spent wandering through the charming city.
Read more about Thirty by Thirty here…