Next stop on the German adventure: the schloss, the castle, for which Heidelberg is so famous. When I had originally planned my trip to Heidelberg, I was told by my ex-boyfriend (he’s German, and every bit as German as they come) that the Heidelberg castle was the “Cinderella castle”. Not true. A week or two before my trip he admitted his mistake, but said that the castle was still beautiful and worth visiting. He was right – the castle of Heidelberg is beautiful in a very different way than we expect from Europe. It is in complete ruins (well, almost): it went through 3 waves of destruction and yet stands proudly in the hills of Germany, a testament to its fortitude and a reminder of the character of its country.
I began climbing after stopping at a few Christmas markets for some gluhwein (it was honey, and no, I did not like it). The first thing that struck me about the trip was that they had numbered each stair, so you knew exactly how far you had gone and how far you had to go. It seemed very German to me – the efficiency of the people in this country is astounding, and it was nowhere more apparent than in this simple effort. When I got to the top – tired, sweaty, and hot despite the freezing cold – I was in awe at the beautiful view of the city and the river, and at the humble beauty of the castle. It does not boast or brag, but simply is – it doesn’t apologize for its appearance, or seem ashamed of the damages that have been done it, but instead shows them proudly and remains strong. Ah, I love this!
I opted for a guided tour of the castle, which was only 2 Euro for students with admittance into the castle. I made the right decision: the tour was informative and I learned way more about German history than I would have been able to figure out on my own. It was interesting to learn about the history and political importance of the castle, which is built in both the gothic and Renaissance styles, and has many little details designed by the great families of Germany to denote their power. Though the castle is in ruins, it is still evident that this was once a grand and important place in German culture. My favorite part of the history, however, was the simple and almost laughable names of the different buildings, another testament to the efficiency of Germans: “This tower was called ‘seldom empty’, because, well, it was seldom empty!” Ah, so easy!
After the tour was over I walked around for a while and enjoyed the incredible view from the terrace, where I was able to convince a few fellow tourists to snap my photo on the beautiful balcony. The only disadvantage of traveling alone is this: you get sick of taking pictures of things, and long to take pictures of people. The alone time was necessary though, so I sucked it up and asked passerby if they would mind taking a photo. I walked around the gardens (well, kind of – it was really cold), sloshing through the snow bravely as I made sure not to miss anything. I also headed down to the wine cellar, where there is a MASSIVE wine barrel witha dance floor on top – yes, a dance floor. I kid you not. It was incredible. I ran into a girl who I had met on the train to Germany, and made plans to meet up with her and her friend later.
I then headed out, taking my time down the bajillion stairs – slipping and eating it only once, mind you – and wandered around the Christmas markets for a bit before heading home. I enjoyed a bratwurst and some pommes frites (fries) with gluhwein before finally venturing back to the hostel for some much needed warming up!
I met up with them at the Coyote Cafe, which I wasn’t really a fan of. I did have a delicious raspberry mojito though, but didn’t enjoy the tacky decor and lack of bar space. We then went to some forgettable German restaurant, where I had bratwurst with sauerkraut (read: smelly but delicious), and another giant beer. My meal was delicious – just basic sausage with sauerkraut and beer – how much more German does it get?
We were taken to a bar on Untere Strasse called Mohr, decorated in all red and black, and packed with locals all out enjoying their delicious German beer. I loved it – it was full of crazy German people making a bit of a ruckus and singing loudly while passing around beers and downing shots of Jager. Amazing. My friends (?) however, weren’t really digging the crazy atmosphere, so I bid them adieu as they left, deciding that I was better off on my own anyway. It was the right decision. I ended meeting a friendly group of German guys who were headed to Destille, the bar I had been to the previous night, and they invited me along. We arrived there and it was packed – just the way I like it! Highlight of the night: taking a shot of tequila with tabasca sauce, chased with a slice of lemon. My mouth was on fire for about an hour afterwards, but it was a specialty of the bar and I felt compelled to try it at least once. Glad I did – I feel like a brave soul. I headed home after a rowdy night out feeling already refreshed – the time alone in a foreign country was exactly what I needed, and I hadn’t encountered any troubles as a young, single, female traveler, which made it all the more relieving. What’s more, I even made a few German friends!