After a miserable first day, we were ecstatic that the skies were blue and the sun was out when we woke up in Heidelberg. We took a tram from our apartment to the quaint Altstadt (old town) area. Even though it was probably 10am by the time we got there, it seemed like the city was just waking up.
We ate breakfast at an outdoor cafe, after spending a while translating the menu. Our server was very patient with us! Here's your German language lesson for today: Käse is cheese, Speck is bacon, and Rührei is scrambled eggs. Nouns are always capitalized, FYI.
After our leisurely meal, we walked through the baroque-style Altstadt toward Heidelberg Castle. I was surprised how clean and fresh everything looked. They obviously spend a lot of time keeping the town manicured.
The castle sits on a hill above the town, and there are three ways up -- stairs, a gradual incline, or a funicular. Guess which way we went up and which way we went down?
Yep, we're backwards. Stupid Americans. It was a crisp morning, but by the time we climbed the 315 steps, I had ripped off my trench coat and cardigan and was sweating. Oh, and let's not forget the huffing and puffing. We even got passed by a guy carrying his bike up the steps. (There are some homes along the way up the steps. Very inconvenient, but very lovely.) And to top it off, the funicular ride was included in the cost of our castle admission. Oh well! The positive of our climbing experience was a pause midway up to pet a friendly black cat that reminded me of my kitties at home.
We took a guided tour of the castle itself, which was much swankier than medieval Marksburg Castle we had toured the day prior. In the lower level of the castle is the world's largest wine barrel. At 7 meters (23 feet) high, it's a doozy. Actually, when you first enter the area there is a giant wine barrel and we didn't realize until after we'd taken a photo and then turned the corner that it wasn't THE wine barrel. In the photo below, Zachary and Jason are standing on the right, above the barrel. Yep, it's large!
Have you ever heard of a moat that didn't hold water? Here it is. It did serve as a deterrent to enemies, but the Heidelberg Castle moat was also used for entertaining its inhabitants. Deer and bears were released into the moat area to be hunted by members of the court. (I guess they didn't realize it's like shooting fish in a barrel.)
We weren't allowed to take photos inside the castle, although I did sneak one of an amazing spiral staircase made of stone. The handrail was a continuous almost-vertical spiral down the middle. I'm such a rebel.
If we had more time, we would have crossed the Alte Brücke (old bridge) and taken the scenic "Philosopher's Way" walk for the great views, but we just had a few hours to spend in Heidelberg, so we admired the Neckar River from below the bridge instead.
This last photo is just something that cracked us up as we passed through the shopping area in the Altstadt.
If you're European or have traveled here, you may be familiar with this German brand, but we were not, so it got a chuckle from us. Very clever.
From Heidelberg, we traveled east to the medieval walled town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. More on that next time!