It’s a cold, dreary, drizzling day in the city; or perhaps it’s so unbearably hot the sweat falling from your brow is more like a waterfall rather than mere perspiration. Periodically, the weather might be this extreme, but most times this isn’t so. The weather is usually mild, with a summer high averaging 73 degrees Fahrenheit, but even with the mild temperature, rain still makes its appearance every once in a while. But let us imagine a nice sunny day in July: one that is rather warm, but not unbearably so.
To start off your day, you board a bus or a Strassenbahn (street car) to Altstadt, or the Old Town. Seeing the Old Town might have been one of the primary reasons you came to visit the city. With its cobbled streets, ringing church bells, and brilliant street performances, most people, if not all, consider it to be the city‘s most beautiful area; but with so many different sites to see, it’s very difficult deciding where to start!
There’s the Bridge Gate, the Bridge Monkey, and the ironically named Old Bridge, which is actually rather young. The Old Bride, whose actual name is Carl Theodore Bridge after the man who had it built, was preceded by several wood structures that fell prey to flood waters and ice. The first stone bridge was built from 1786 through 1788. This new stone structure survived floods and ice, but was made impassable along with all other bridges crossing the Neckar River towards the end of a war in 1955. It was then rebuilt the following year.
Along the Bridge stands two groups of sculptures: one which is dedicated to Prince Elector Carl Theodore, and the other to the Roman goddess of wisdom Minerva, because of the Prince‘s passionate belief in supporting the arts and sciences.
There’s the rubblestone-walled Hay Barn, Synagogue Square, which once held a synagogue that was burned down by Nazis; President Friedrich Ebert’s Memorial, preserved in memory of his work; the House of Knight St. George, which is used as a hotel and inn.
There’s the Holy Ghost Church, which housed both Protestant and Catholic services on each side of the building from 1705 through 1936; and the Market Square, with its fountain centerpiece displaying a statue of Hercules on a column. Facing the Market Square is the Town Hall, with its Baroque core structure.
There’s the unusually spacious Karl’s Square, named after Grand Duke Karl Friedrich of Baden; the BoisserÃ©e Palace on the north side of Karl‘s square, built originally to serve as a home and office for court official, Franz von Sickengen; the Baroque structured Grand Ducal Palace, located on the south end of Karl’s Square. Also to the south of the Square is the Baroque fashioned Mittermaier House; And in the middle of the Square is Sebastian MÃ¼nster Fountain, dedicated to the humanist and cosmographer. With so much to see, you decide to start at the Old Bridge and make your way to the Old Town’s center.
After seeing as much of the Old Town as you could, your hunger has called you to sit down and eat. Being of an experimental nature, you are swayed into trying a local dish. You find a restaurant, take a seat at a table, order a glass of beer, which can actually be cheaper than distilled water; and take a look at a menu. You have no idea what you’re reading, or perhaps you do and just have no idea what you should try; so you ask your waiter for advice. He encourages you to try one of their SpÃ¤tzle dishes. Once he tells you about the different varieties of the dish, you decide to try KÃ¤sespÃ¤tzle. After just one bite you fall in love with its doughy, cheesy, fried onion goodness.
After eating your plate clean, you take off and land at the Old Castle: another sight you made a priority to see. After all, the ruins are considered a major landmark of the city. The castle ruins have a special character to it: one that is romantic, in a gothic sort of way; which isn’t surprising, seeing that it was built during the Middle Ages.
While wandering the palace garden, you overhear a couple talking about some fireworks. Having a curious spirit, you decide to ask them about it, and they tell you about the Castle Illumination that was happening that night. They go on to say that it’s only done three times each year and that its one of the things you can’t miss if you’re in the city.
After talking with them, you debate whether you should visit the University of Heidelberg, one of the oldest universities in Europe, or go straight to the Neckar River to claim a spot and have one of the best views of the fireworks. After mulling it over, you decide that the Castle Illumination would be something worth seeing and should be seen at its best, so you make your way to the shores of the Neckar River. Exhausted, you lie down in the grass and close your eyes.
There were already a few people around the lake when you arrived, but you could hear the sound of peoples voices increasing in volume as more people claimed spots along the river. As you open your eyes, you see that the sun has begun to set. The air is becoming thick with the scent of smoke and liquor, mixing in with the smell of fresh cut grass. The cool breeze blowing off the river together with the drop in temperature makes you put on your sweater.
Night has fallen, and the Neckar has now been completely surrounded by people waiting for the Castle Illumination; which should start at any moment. You decide to take out your camera and take scenic pictures of the city at night, but get distracted by the random people posing for you to take their picture. Of course you laugh and go along with it, and then more people do the same. By the time people stopped posing for your camera, you probably took pictures of about twenty different people.
Again, you lay down in the grass. Looking up, you see the first firecracker pop in the sky. The Castle Illumination has begun.
Germany‘s small city, Heidelberg, with its many historical sites, tasty local dishes, friendly residents, and of course, its festivals and its events, like the Castle Illumination; is a city well worth visiting.
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