Heidelberg Day 1: Christmas Cheer and Lots of Beer

My adventures in Heidelberg began late Friday afternoon, after a catching up on some serious sleep, fixing up my paper one last time, and sending it off while simultaneously breathing a huge sigh of relief. Officially done. While I did lose almost a whole day to staying in bed and editing a paper, I honestly couldn’t have been happier doing just that – spending some much needed time alone, in a hotel room, and most importantly, catching up on all the sleep I had been missing the previous nights. It was luxurious, and when I left the hotel on Friday I felt rejuvenated and ready to take on my next adventure.

Christmas Market at Markplatz

I set out walking from the hostel, which is probably almost a mile from Altstadt. It was pretty cold, but nothing a brave New Englander like me can’t handle. Snow was falling gently but with surprising steadiness, and it seemed to set the tone for my winter escape to Deutschland. I arrived at Bismarckplatz and stumbled upon the first market in a line of many – there were young girls singing carols to anyone who would listen, and vendors selling candy/roasted chestnuts/soup/jewelry. I kept walking onto Hauptstrass, the main road that goes through Altstadt from Bismarckplatz. I was immediately enchanted: Christmas lights were just being illuminated, the stores were all decorated for the season, and tourists and locals alike seemed enthralled with their holiday shopping.

One vendor on the Haupstrass sold these beautiful candles, in my new favorite color!

I wondered around the Christmas markets for a while, enjoying Christmas-ness in all its glory. I have to say, if Christmas cheer was a natural resource, Germany would own the rest of the world. Seriously. If they could tap into that and convert it into like, world domination, they totally could. One of my favorite places was right in front of this beautiful church, which I later visited, and had a beautiful Christmas tree and lots of awesome German people drinking gluhwein and eating bratwurst.

Christmas tree!

I also ate my first bratwurst, and yes, I did giggle slightly when eating it. It just invites innuendo. It was delicious though – the Germans have truly mastered comfort food. Warm, hearty, and simple, German food seems to be made just for sitting in a ski lodge and drinking beer with friends while watching the snow fall outside. I know that sounds so….stereotypical, but in my experience, it’s perfect. After wondering around the markets for a while, I picked out a restaurant that looked like it would have good German food (it was decorated like a ski lodge, I made the right choice). Palmbrau Gasse, on the Hauptstrass, turned out to be a little bit touristy, but I actually heard all German as I ate. I was seated next to two German girls (it was crowded and I was, of course, dining alone) who turned out to be very nice: one of them had studied abroad in Alaska and seemed to have recognized my American accent. They were helpful, and pointed me to a street just behind the Haupstrass that had a lot of bars. I thoroughly enjoyed my weinerschnitzel, which I admit I had no idea what it was before I tried it, and it turns out it’s basically fried pork served with fries. Delicious!

Although wienerschnitzel is actually Viennese ("wiener" actually means Viennese, not, well, you know), I still insist it's German food. Germans are hesitant to admit this.

I took the German girls’ advice and headed to Untere Strasse, the little street behind Hauptstrass with more bars than I have ever seen in one place. It’s probably the best place to bar hop, since it’s one road and there’s about 7 or 8 bars all within stumbling distance. I happened upon Destille, one of Heidelberg’s more famous bars (I tend to get lucky like that), which is hardly discernible from outside. The Germans seem to have mastered the art of discreet partying: the door to this incredible bar could have been an empty building for all I knew, it had a small sign and hardly seemed like the crazy bar it turned out to be. It has a tree in the middle of it!! A tree!! And of course, it was decorated for the holidays.

Destille bar on Untere Strasse likes to use nature to decorate...kind of

I met a lot of really nice people that night – German guys seem to be just very good-natured, and most importantly, generous. I think I paid for 1 beer the entire night, and had many many more than that. The German men I talked to were far more respectful than the French ones I’ve known, and it seems like the rest of the world could take some hints from Germany’s egalitarian society. Women are on the same level as men in all ways, but in spite of this, the men are still incredibly chivalrous and respectful. They respect women as being equal players, but still respect them for being women, and not men. It is absolutely perfect, and I felt much more comfortable as a solo traveler there than I ever would in Paris. My night ended around 4 am, after going to another bar down the street called Kaiser. It was a great night, and was the beginning of what would be an incredible trip.


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