What we did in Heidelberg, Germany
Updated: Jan 2, 2019
We arrived into Heidelberg at 10:00 pm on a Tuesday evening after a 5 hour-long bus ride. I was in a half-conscious dazed state, for a number of reasons. The air vents on the bus weren’t working, effectively turning it into a sauna on wheels. Add to this the sleep deprivation from a trans-Atlantic flight, plus a day of wandering with backpacks in an immaculate Swiss city, and you have the perfect recipe for a stumbling and irritated traveler.In that context, the first cool kiss of German air on my face felt like coming home to a long-lost sweetheart.
Donna and I grabbed our backpacks out of the bus and began the trek to our #AirBnb. But, despite the refreshing evening, I wasn’t very impressed. The town was empty and Heidelberg seemed like any other European city. Doner Kebab shops. An H & M in the main square. Bicycles and scooters littering the streets. We found our AirBnb and friendly host and then immediately passed out. Only the next morning would the magic of Heidelberg begin to reveal itself.
"We stumbled out of his apartment at 3am, dazed and heads spinning, the streets as empty and quiet as when we arrived the night before."
Thanks to jet lag, we woke at 5:30 am. To start the day, we laced up our shoes and took a run to Heidelberg Schloss (castle), sitting at the top of a hillside and standing sentry for the rest of the city. The schloss, built in 1400, is the main sightseeing destination in Heidelberg, for good reason. You could wander for hours amongst its ancient courtyards and enormous stone walls. Expansive views of the Rhine-Necker valley are waiting for you around every corner. Plus, Donna had memories to relive here. They had prom INSIDE the castle when she was in high school. During her study abroad college days, they would come here at night to party, as only foreign students are wont to do (if you’ve ever done study abroad, you know what I mean).
We then wandered around the old town for a couple of hours. Grocery shopping. Tasty pastries. Narrowly avoiding collisions with German cyclists. In the afternoon we crossed the river and went for another robust walk up Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s Way). This provides another great view of the city, and you can see the schloss sitting majestically and very well-lit on the opposite side of the river. We came home and made dinner, and then went on an introductory tour of the local German watering holes. This proved to be very fruitful, as almost immediately after sitting down at the first bar (Carl’s), we made friends with a medic from Heidelberg who has traveled around the world on missions
with the Red Cross. He shared stories and gave us travel advice, and after a couple of rounds of beers and ouzo shots, invited us back to his flat for a nightcap and a spliff. We stumbled out of his apartment at 3am, dazed and heads spinning, the streets as empty and quiet as when we arrived the night before.
The next day, thankfully, we slept in and recovered. Wandered around the city buying some random items we’d forgotten (power adapter, who knew you'd need that?). Had our first #vegan food experience in Germany, a plant-based #currywurst from #MyCurrywurst, cut up and smothered in ketchup.
I was also grateful to learn that my inner #yerbamate compass is still active and in fine working order. I was worried that I would run out of mate soon into our voyage, as I was only able to bring .5lb in my luggage—where would you find loose-leaf in a small German town? (the German obsession with mate will be another post though). But, on the way back from running errands I ran into an open-air market with an Argentine stall selling loose-leaf, bombillas, and empanadas. I smiled at the synchronicity, promptly bought 1 kilo of mate, and gave thanks to the Yerba Mate gods. We ended the day with a beer on the old bridge, and all was perfect in the world. The magic of Heidelberg was fully revealing itself, and there was nowhere else I would have liked to be