Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Schloss Heidgelberg

On our first full day in Heidelberg, we had a simple and satisfying breakfast at the hotel. The adults had bread and a plate with a slice of cheese, black forest bacon, and a slice of chicken. Lucy was not interested in the yogurt but she perked up when we found the Nutella. We tricked her into eating little bites of bread by spreading a little Nutella on top. Jacob enjoyed the mixed cereal Mommy concocted for him out of the three or four cereals available. Lucy discovered the cereal was good when she found little chocolate chunks in it.

We walked to the information center, where we rented an itour guide. It's a PDA programmed with little talks about 35 different sites in Heidelberg. We also bought tickets to the castle and the train to Konigstuhl, the highest point in Heidelberg with fantastic views.

We went to the Kornmarkt for the train to the schloss. The Kornmarkt is where they used to trade grains. Now it is just a plaza with a fountain, some parking, a bank, and some stores. The train station is just north of the Markt where we found the castle train (bergbahn) doesn't start till 9 a.m. So we admired the fountain for a while and listened to some of the audioguide's descriptions of the Kornmarkt and other nearby areas.

No pigeon on this statue!

Academy of Science!

Finally, the time had come to ride up. The train went in several stages, the first taking us to the castle. The castle is known as Heidelberg Palace or Schloss Heidelberg. It was built when the counts palatine (later called prince electors) established Heidelberg as their residence. The castle stands magnificently over the Altstadt. During the Renaissance, many new buildings were constructed, each with an amazing facade. In the late 17th century, the ravages of war with France and two lightning strikes (causing large fires) left the castle in ruins. As the Romantic movement swept the 19th century, Heidelberg's beauty and history attracted many poets and philosophers, and that great poet-philosopher, Mark Twain. Restoration began but is still in process even today.

We came in through the Schlosseingang, or main gate, to the gardens and the castle beyond. Jacob enjoyed the garden though it was quite crowded early in the morning. A lot of group tours filled the garden like weeds. Some were from boat tours that stop in cities along the Neckar River. I guess their tours start early so the people can sail or shop later. We had a little trouble navigating the crowds, but they eventually thinned out.

Our gang comes through the schlosseingang

Jacob named his smiling backpack after himself

Two statues guard what's left of the tower

Then we entered through the castle gate, or Torturm, which brought us many wonderful sights to see. Jacob saw his favorite, fountains, we saw some statues and impressive walls.

Jacob wanted to go in, not get his picture taken

Not just one fountain....

Fire damaged wall

Ah, there's the other fountain!

We eventually figured out this was David and Goliath, well, part of Goliath

We then proceeded to the spectacular town view from the Ottheinrichsbau, a very popular and well guarded spot.

Amazing view of the town and the old bridge

Cannon below!

What the townsfolk can see from below (with a telescope)

Next we had a snack at the castle shop and went to see one of the other great achievements of the castle, the Tun Cellar. This location houses the great wine vat mentioned by Mark Twain in A Tramp Abroad, where he mused on its use as a dance hall or if it was ever even full of wine. The cask's contents were often used to pay the locals (to supplement or eliminate the use of cash). The court jester from the 18th century, Perkeo, is said to be able to finish the vat in one drink. Or so he claimed. Seems unlikely, since its capacity is over 200,000 liters. Jacob also enjoyed the little clock next to the vat. When you pull the string at the bottom, a bell rings and a fox's tail comes out. He showed it to me after I showed it to him, then he showed it to Mommy. He probably would have accosted strangers if the boat people were still around.

Now that's a wine cask!

View from the top of the wine cask

Jacob's other favorite feature, winding stairs!

Perkeo and the clock

Done with the castle, we proceeded uphill to the Molkenkur/Umstieg transfer station where the last rickety train took us to the top of Konigstuhl. The station at the top provided fabulous views as well as a peek at the mechanism that takes the train up and down. Also, hiking trails were available, but not recommended for Jacob and Lucy.

Jacob looks over the valley Neckar

Handy sign

Museum of trains in the station

Another amazing view of the German countryside

Town was very far away from the train station

We also saw some service being performed on the tracks, which made us a little nervous going up. As did this warning sign, which didn't seem to refer to regular people:

Guys working on the tracks, even though the train still runs

This looks suspiciously like a "no zombies" sign.

We finally returned to the bottom of the hill by rail and went to find lunch. We had some delicious baked goods from a local store. I tried a new-to-me soda called Mezzo Mix which claims it is ColaKusstOrange. Basically it was like Cherry Coke except with orange instead of cherry. I liked it though my wife didn't want to try it. We returned to the hotel for naps, though I snuck out for more adventure on the Philosophenweg, or Philosopher's Walk, another part of the romantic charm of Heidelberg. But that will be another post.

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