Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Day Twelve: Heidelberg, Germany

City View


  • Tour the old walled city, even if the shops are closed on a Sunday
  • Find the path up to the castle on the hill
  • Make our way across the famous old bridge
  • Once across find one of the paths leading to the road with a view, Philosopher's Way
  • This is the night I've been waiting for. I will walk with my husband in the castle gardens at night and enjoy a touch of romance.

Somehow we were now in the stride of vacationing life and got out of the hotel in the morning and began walking the streets before moBerry Cute Angelst of the other tourists arrived. It was a Sunday and the shops were all closed except for a few that opened later to cater towards the tourists. The cathedral in the center of town was also closed, but you could hear the pipe organ playing from blocks around it's center. Like every other city street we've walked during this trip there was enough to distract us, making each block take a half hour to walk. A small fruit stand on the side of the road, a view of the mountains through a side street lined with multi-colored three story brick buildings, each bedecked with verandas or windows dangling with colorful vines and flowers.

Over time we found ourselves at the base of the castle. A long and steep cobblestone road led up to the gates and from there we wound our way through the various stages of walls and barricades. The castle never saw a single victory and with each capture the new inhabitants rebuilt or added on so the walls and ways were as confusing as numerous. But the view from the hill was lovely. The town A Sisters Gentle Boostconsisted of orange roofs and river running along its side. The historical arched bridge crossed the river to where a hill covered in various fields overlooked the town. I knew this would be our next adventure, but for now we enjoyed the castle and its gardens.

High above the city the gardens terraced themselves along the hill behind the castle. Artists came to entertain the tourists with their enchanting music here and many people either stood along the wall to stare out at the view, lazed on the green grass, or walked the enchanted lanes. We chose the later. I drew my daughter into my own fantasies, encouraging her to imagine the time when princes and princesses walked the gardens alone. Together we walked and everyone else vanished. The only sound was our own footfall and the splashing of water from the fountain in the middle of the pool at the end of our shady lane. Where another lane merged a prince bumped into us unannounced and asked to join us in our midday walk. Shyly she took his offered arm and he escorted us to the pool. He left us there to dream away our fantasies while looking into the waters and mingling with the modern crowds. The spell was broken, but I trust it was a time and place that will forever remain in her dreams.

We found what remained of the rooms of the castle, even what was hidden below: a huge beer barrel. Huge just does not describe it's size. There were stairs to get to the platform on the top of it. It was here we tasted our first ice wine. A bottle cost 50 euros, so we took the tasting first. It was the most glorious wine! I would easily be able to live off of the wine itself, but would likely have to sell my children and spouse to afford it (a thought which sometimes passes my mind). Our parents left with a bottle and upon remembering how hard my father looked for a bottle of this when we were last in Germany we picked them up a bottle as well. My mouth waters at the thought of this delicacy.

By now our tummies were rumbling and we took it upon ourselves to find the coziest place (for some reason "cozy" just doesn't describe the atmosphere as well as the Dutch word "gezellig"). Fearless Leader had spotted a pub with character along the main road in the old city earlier that morning so we headed towards it. Sure enough, the inside was full of charm and it only got better as you Fancy Hat Manwalked further into its various chambers. Before long we found ourselves on the back patio which was covered to form an extra room minus a wall or two. Subtle trickling sounds from the fountains set the mood and we relaxed for a delicious linner. The food was great and the beer was better.

We left the pub wishing we could have lingered a little longer, but our tummies could hold no more. It was tempting to make up an excuse to come back later. Instead we turned towards the river and crossed the arched bridge. She was beautifully made and as we found out later, she also used to be completely covered. Amazing it must have been.

Somewhere on the other side of the bridge was a path which supposedly met up with the Philosophers Way, a walking road which gave a phenomenal view of the city. We spotted the narrow entrance into what appeared to be an alleyway lined with tall brick walls covered in green moss and overhanging ivy. It was like a maze without the extra corridors and I soon found myself racing up the path behind my daughter who insisted the others were chasing us and we needed to get away from them as fast as possible. With each turn we were sure to lose them. Who's fantasy were we living now? We ran all the way until we reached a terrace with a view and I forced her to stop for a breather. I've never been a runner (for long, at least) and the steep uphill run was getting the better of my sea-level lungs. The others caught up to us and I realized there was an issue I had not witnessed first hand in my escape. The men were now carrying the double stroller and its charges up the hill as there were too many steps to get it up and at odd intervals. They'd already dismissed turning back as they had no way of letting the two escapees know of a change of plans, so on we went up the hill. Up and up it went with tiny switchbacks and narrow turns. The men had sweat drenching their shirts and all of us were puffing, but the view from The Way was worth it all (or so they claimed). There were many views along the path down and at each we took a few moments to take in the beauty of them. The sun was now beginning to set and gave a spectacular glow to the city.

It was arranged somewhere along the way down that we would get our date night tonight. There was a pool at the hotel which had to be used at least once during our stay and the grandparents thought it an appropriate diversion for our crew of kids. Isn't it funny that if you get a hotel with a pool you never have time to use it, but feel guilty if you don't? I wonder if it is more stress to get a hotel with a pool and constantly worry about how to fit in enough time to use it, or if you should just get a hotel without a pool and take in the sights instead. I suppose the moment you did that you'd find yourself with a huge chunk of time on your hands and nowhere to spend it.

We rushed out of the hotel and into our freedom. The city was not as active as it had been when we entered it on Saturday night, but we were not out for the night life. We were out just to be . . . free. We walked the streets at our own pace, stopped when we wanted to stop, peed when we had to pee, and laughed . . . a lot. We found a restaurant tucked into a candlelit square just off the main footpath. In the center of the garden square was a lit fountain and we seated ourselves at one of the tables placed around its rim. We were late enough that most of the other couples were slowly trickling out of the gates by the time our food hit the table. We didn't need much as we'd had our late dinner in the pub. In fact, we'd originally set out for ice cream, but who could refuse this scene. We ordered a pizza to share and chocolate desserts instead. It was wonderful to sit at a table and not have to talk over the numbing chatter of children or their constant interruptions. We could pick whatever topic we wanted without worry about little wondering ears, well maybe for the ears at the next table, but I think they were more interested in our English than the actual conversation. We sat by the foEvening Ladyuntain and laughed together until all the other tables had been cleared and ours was the only remaining candle lit. The air began to bring with it a slight chill and we took our cue to exit the garden gates and make the walk up the hillside to the castle gardens. The gardens and castle walls were lit and on every other bench sat lovers, some by candlelight with wine, others in a remote dark corner. What was this couple doing? Well, seeing that we'd forgotten the candles and the wine, had a bed waiting for us in an empty room back at the hotel, and had just had the best time talking since the ocean, we got out the camera and the tripod and set to work trying to capture some night shots of the castle. I suppose this may have been more for my own pleasure as my man would likely have chosen a dark corner if I'd really given him that option, but we were both happy with our chosen entertainment anyway. We captured angle after angle and soon the clock struck midnight and most all lights went out in the gardens. The security team made their rounds and we packed up the tripod and the camera for our journey back to the hotel.

The return journey was longer than I'd anticipated; it always takes at least twice as long to make as the original. My feet were killing me and I found walking along the cobblestones in my bare feet was preferable to the ache from my worn shoes. I refused to put them on even for our ritzy hotel and snuck across the marble floor as quiet as a mouse so as not to be detected without the proper attire. Once we made it back to the room I inspected the shoes and realized I'd worn a huge crack across the middle of the sole like a hungry mouth munching on the bottom of my foot with each step. Gladly, I threw them in the trash. Now I was stuck with my smelly Keens. I bought the Keens when they first arrived on the market and they have been great shoes with the common drawback that most sandals come with: odor. Although, these came with a special sole that if you placed them in the sun they'd descent themselves. Unfortunately, the weather this summer has not been sunny and I cannot say if their magic has worn off or if I have not been able to be as diligent as previous summers to keep them from getting a scent, but they've stunk out a number of victims this summer. Sorry to all of you had to come across their path. Dare I throw those handy, expensive, yet smelly things away? I haven't yet. Smelly though they may be I cannot bare to part with them, even if I cannot bare to wear them.

W.C. Report:

What is it with the places in Europe and toilet paper? Even in that classy pub we ate at they were all out of toilet paper. When I entered the ladies room I spotted a group of women dividing the last of their kleenex to share and took it upon myself to do something about it. I went to the bar and informed them there were several ladies in the WC without toilet paper and I was concerned for them. At least they got right on the issue and ran with a stack towards the room. Knowing the disaster which awaited in that room I took my chances with the toilet in the front room. Know what? No toilet paper. But I was getting used to the routine and checked before I even thought of establishing my position upon the thrown.

Tragedy Report:

We did not leave the town with souvenirs, we did not get ourselves a bottle of ice wine, and we did not get a coo-coo clock. And I left with worry over whether or not I stored or gave away the candle nativity carousel that our German-Dutch friends gave to us when they moved, as the same ones being sold here were several hundred of euros each. I loved it then, but did I find it worth the space it would take up in my in-laws basement at the time? I fear I may have let it go as my friends did, but like so many of my belongings left behind in the states, I cannot remember where it may have ended up. I hope it found a better home than Goodwill if it is not waiting for us in the basement.

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