Yesterday, I had the opportunity to travel to Heidelberg to see many of the historic monuments and architecture that the city had to offer. To get there, my friend and I took the Regionalbahn and the Regional Express. When I got on the train, I happen to see a group of Asian tourists and they kind of gave me a strange look. The only reason I can think of to explain that is that they probably don’t see a lot of Asians around here. In fact, seeing Asians other than myself surprised me too. While taking the train, I realized how much more I enjoy train rides over car and airplane rides. Probably my biggest pet peeve is the lack of leg room. The train I took was quite spacious and didn’t have a lot of people riding it so I was able to extend my legs as far as I wanted without disturbing anybody.
Upon arrival, we found the nearest tourist information center and got a map of the area. We knew which sites we wanted to see, but didn’t know how to get there. A short walk later, we reached the Neckar River, the river that separates the two sides of Heidelberg. Walking a bit further, we reached the Old Bridge (middle and right photo), situated in the Old Town (Altstadt), the historic city center.
The Old Bridge and the Neckar River
Walking through the historic city center exposed us to a lot of the baroque style architecture left over from the past (left photo). Instead of asphalt, the ground was made of cobblestone. Walking through the town made me feel like I was an anachronism. The only things that made the area feel modern was the addition of signage for cars, plumbing on the sides of buildings and the street lamps. In addition to the architecture, there was a German man that ran a souvenir store at the side of a church on Marktplatz speaking to group of Taiwanese tourists in Mandarin. That totally surprised me. He knew enough Chinese to have an actual conversation with the tourists.
The church that the man stood near selling souvenirs is called the Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggeistkirche), one of the three major churches in the city. The other two is The Church of the Jesuits (Jesuitenkirche) and St. Peter’s Church. The atmosphere in the Jesuitenkirche was so silent that when I put my backpack down and placed it on the pew a little too hard, a loud echo could be heard. It seemed almost disrespectful to make such a noise. I sat there for at least fifteen minutes just looking around before getting up. The paintings themselves seem to be the originals since upon close inspection, the cracks in the paint could be seen.
The Heiliggeistkirche, Jesuitenkirche, and Peterskirche
Each of these churches are located near the main street (Hauptstrasse), where a large number of tourists frequent. Along the street are mainly souvenir stores, cafes, restaurants, and ice cream places. The picture I took of the main street doesn’t look like there was a lot of people there, but later on the street became packed with people. I also saw a some modern franchises such as H&M. Every time I saw a store like that, it felt like these large businesses were slowly taking over the town.
However, the main attraction here has to be the Heidelberger Schloss. Anybody that doesn’t visit this castle when visiting the town is definitely missing out. Situated on the hillside, the castle could be seen from the ground. It looks quite high up, but the walk up there isn’t daunting at all. It’s probably the fact that there was so much to see along the way up so people don’t remember that they’re getting tired. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good enough angle to take a huge picture of the entire front side of the castle.
Through many of the wars in the middle ages that this castle has been through, lots of damage could be seen on the castle walls. The main one is the destroyed turret. Due to an explosion, a section of the wall fell down in one gigantic chunk.
Destroyed Castle Turret
At the top of the castle, one can almost see the entire city of Heidelberg. The old bridge, the churches and the market square can be seen from above. I managed to capture this gorgeous view.
After reaching the top of the castle, we decided to hike up to Konigstuhl, the very top of the hill. We learned that the hike would take an hour and that the destination was 350 m above where the castle was situated. We had already walked around for a great deal of time, but for some reason, I agreed to do the hike. Much of the hike was on muddy or icy paths that went uphill. One wrong step would mean falling at least ten meters down the slope. I dubbed it the “Stairway to Heaven”. If I fell, I’d die and end up in Heaven. It was already tough enough going up the slope, but I saw a mountain biker who dared to bike down the mountain despite a sign clearly stating not to bike down the hill. We were literally on a slippery slope. Somehow, we managed to get lost along the way, but one of the park rangers (I’m not sure if they’re even called that here) gave us a map and showed us the direction to go. As I walked up, I could feel my leg muscles burning with every step. But our timing couldn’t have been better. We made it up as the sun was setting and I managed to get a picture of the sun’s rays shining through the layer of clouds.
It’s Nice to be at the Top
After spending some time walking around the peak, we took a bus back down. It was a nice break. It had been a long day of hiking around, but it was very rewarding, to be able to finish the hike up to Konigstuhl. In the evening, we took the train back home. By the end of the day, I had taken 112 pictures of the historic place.