Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 3 - Heidelberg, Germany (2011)

It's our third day in Germany, and based on our semi-flexible itinerary, we were Heidelberg-bound for the day.

Heidelberg is located in the south-west part of Germany, that means we needed to drive south again from our base town Gelnhausen. It's about 130kms, a good hour and a half drive (or shorter if you drive really fast in the autobahn). 

Same as the other days, we had breakfast at home first. We arrived in Heidelberg just in time for lunch (after twelve lunch that is). We parked the car and walked to a mall in the centre of the city. My brother-in-law suggested we go to Chinese restaurant where he and my sis-in-law had lunch (or was it dinner?) during their visit before. We walked for about 10mins to get to the mall - which had most of its shops closed, except for the restaurant we were going to dine in. We ordered, ate, chatted and went on our way.

Since my bro-in-law was already familiar with the place (he used to live here during his uni years), we didn't worry much about getting lost, or walking around in circles just to get to the different points of interest. It's going to be a full afternoon of walking and sight-seeing with our trusty "local" host.

As we came out of the mall, we walked towards Theodore-Heuss Brucke (bridge) and crossed over.

the kids took turns making out how this works. They should put their hands on it and wait for the traffic light to turn red (for cars) and green (for pedestrians)

view of the Neckar River from the bridge, with people sunbathing on the side

photo op on the bridge before embarking on our long walk up the Philosopher's Walk

overlooking the Old Bridge, where we will be walking on after going down from Philosopher's Walk and on the way up to the castle

We passed by some shops (closed, unfortunately), an array of different motorcycles/mopeds, until finally reaching Ladenburger Street which connects to the Philosopher's Walk (locally known as Philosophenweg). Beware though cause there are cars using the road and some of them drive by very fast.

kids zigzagging along the street

short stop on our long uphill walk

we saw this place where honey was being sold (but without anyone overseeing the "shop").  I think it's some sort of an "honesty shop" where the seller is relying on the honesty of the passerby (customers) to pay the exact amount for the goods they are getting. The price per jar was indicated on the sign (Euros 5). My sis-in-law decided to buy one jar and searched for coins in her wallet.

Of course, the kids wanted to experience paying at this extraordinary shop. They took turns dropping one coin each to pay for the jar of honey.

after paying for the amount, the jar of honey was all ours (or more accurately, my sis-in-law's). We were honest!

Enough of the intermission, we continued our walk to the Philosophenweg. We were catching up to a group of older folks ahead of us, but some younger (or well-fit) group were also passing us by. Suddenly, a car rushed through the street and one of the old ladies in front got furious.  We were wondering if she got mad because she was frightened by the sound of the car (which also jolted us) or because the car almost hit her. Then we realized it was a one-way street and the car was going on the opposite direction!

After about 15-20mins of walking, we finally got to the start of the famous Philosophenweg. There were gardens on the hills on both sides of the street. There were tourists walking up with us, and some already on their way back. There was nothing really spectacular about it at first. Not until we had a great view of the castle from the top of the hill.
a view of the Heidelberg Castle from the hill

A stroll along the Philosopher's Walk is a great opportunity to see Heidelberg from above. It offers fantastic views across the River Neckar to the Schloss.

The original Marstall (stable) was built during the first half of the 16th century on the banks of the Neckar River so that the trading vessels could anchor in front of it. Following the original building's destruction in the second half of the 17th century, a new structure - the one we see today - was built in the 19th-century in neo-classical style.

a view of the Old Bridge from above

the two towers make up the gate of the Old Bridge

the funicular going up to the Castle and beyond

Aside from the great views of the castle and the town below, there were also some beautifully designed gardens along the way.

this garden was one that stood out among the rest. The owner of the land probably even hired a landscape artist to design this garden.

admiring one of the gardens along the hills of Philosopher's Walk

Other lots along the walk were planted with fruit trees like berries, while others seemed to have been forgotten by their owners with all the weeds and wilted plants lying around.

taking a short break (again) before continuing our walk

modelling time while I still had the energy to smile a little

Philosopher's Walk view point. A great photo op area and pit stop before the descend towards the main town area

our official photographer (hubby) changed lenses - portrait or zoom?

making our way down

we had to make the children form a line and walk slowly and carefully, otherwise they would run towards the end of the trail, stumbling and rolling along the way

Finally we reached the end of the almost unending series of steps, crossed the road and walked towards.........
Alte Bruecke (Old Bridge) across Neckar River. One of the most visited places in Heidelberg. 

of course, the visit wouldn't be complete without a photo with the Old Bridge as the background :)

of the sculptures decorating the bridge. There were several of them showing 4 icons of the most important rivers in the area - Rhein, Neckar, Mosel and Donau. 

approaching the gate to the city

another view of the castle from the Bridge

At the end of the bridge, we turned right and found this monkey statue.

According to one legend surrounding this curious statue, the Bridge Monkey is intended as a symbolic reminder to Heidelberg’s citizens that neither the city-dwellers nor the people who lived outside the city of Heidelberg were better than the other, and that they should look over their shoulder as they cross the bridge to remember this.

The Heidelberg Bridge Monkey is now very popular with tourists, many seeking to rub off some good fortune from the monkey. It is believed that if you touch the fingers of the Bridge Monkey it would ensure your return to Heidelberg, touch the mirror for wealth and touching the mice will ensure fertility. (Source: Travelsignposts)

Good thing I touched the mirror :) (I didn't know about the wealth attributed to touching it before we came here!).

we passed by an Evangelist Church upon turning left at Haspelgasse

upon coming out from Haspelgasse is the most beautiful and preserved patrician house/hotel in the heart of the Old Town

At it's doorstep is the 1.6km long pedestrianized area (Europe's longest) which leads to a whole lot of tourist shops and eating places. We strolled along this street (Hauptsrasse) and saw some a few town squares with fountain attractions.

Then we backtracked to Haupstrasse going to Kornmarkt to get to the Heidelberger Bergbahnen Station - the funicular going up to the castle.

a VERY short ride up to the castle. So short that we almost just sat down for a few seconds!

just came out from the station and walked towards the castle grounds

Heidelberger Schloss - a famous ruin in Germany and landmark of Heidelberg. The castle ruins are among the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. (wikipedia)

final approach to the castle entrance gates

knocking on the door of the castle's main entrance

view of the town from the castle

overlooking the bridge from one of the castle's towers

After exploring the outside of the castle, we headed inside for a quick tour (it's almost closing time). We saw a room with big barrels of wine and got curious.

this was one of the first barrels we saw. We were already impressed by it's size.

until we followed the stairs going to this bigger barrel

this is the biggest barrel in the castle - the Heidelberg Tun.
The World's Largest Wine Barrel. 
Was built in 1751 by Prince Elector Karl Theodor to house the wine paid as taxes by the wine growers of the Palatine. It stands seven meters high, is eight and a half meters wide, holds 220,000 liters (58,124 gallons) of wine, and has a dance floor built on top of it. (tourism-heidelberg)

There is a staircase on the left and right sides of the barrel. The one on the left is a spiral staircase while the one on the right 
the kids exploring the spiral staircase

a glimpse of the dance floor on top of the barrel

spiral staircase going up to the top of this giant keg (view from the other side of the barrel)

stopped for a rest at the gardens before taking the funicular down to the town

same as the normal train gantry, we needed to insert the tickets and retrieve it from the top of the machine

passed by some shops with knight armors

photo op with STA office in Heidelberg

my brother-in-law used to stay here during his Uni years so this trip was like walking down memory lane for him. Of course, it wouldn't be complete without a photo of him in front of his old "home" (actually we forced him to do so).

my brother-in-law enjoying the beer in Heidelberg (in the university canteen)

after the long walk back to the parking lot, it was time to pay the parking fees

Major blooper though. We paid using the first machine we saw in the parking lot then decided to use the lift (located in the other side of the parking lot) to go to the cars. To our disappointment, the entrance access to the lift was already closed so we had to walk back to the place where we paid our tickets and use the stairs to get to the cars. It took us probably almost 10 minutes to go back and forth, got into the car and drove off to the exit gate. When we inserted the ticket to the machine to open the gantry it didn't work. We were wondering what was wrong since the cars before us didn't have any problems going out. We then decided to park on the side and figure out what the problem was. Then we realized that the time it took us to walk back and forth paying for the parking fees and getting into the car and driving out was too long that we needed to pay extra! 

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