Most people think of Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne when they talk about traveling to Germany. However, there is so much more to explore in this underrated European country.
This 367 kilometer long river Neckar flows undisturbed through many cities and towns in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg and my favourite place in Germany, Heidelberg, lies along its flowing currents. Maybe the cheesy love story of how my dad met my mom here is the reason why I find this town one of the most romantic and characterized. However, the cobbled streets and traditional buildings accompanied by the greenery of the Odenwald (Oden forest), along with the ruined Castle that stands looking onto the river, is reason enough to fall in love with Heidelberg. Even songs have been written about losing your heart in Heidelberg and that it beats by the river bed.
The quaint town also boasts a leading University that specializes in medicine and every time I come back to visit, I notice more and more tourists. The town is enriched with so much culture and 3 times a year you get the chance to relive it’s history with the Schlossbeleuchtung (lighting of the castle). This fireworks display on the old bridge while the castle glows a deep blood red is a reminder of the damage that the castle sustained through alleged lightning bolts that left behind terrorizing fires.
The Castle had to bare more destruction and fires with the invasion of the french in the late 1600s and although ruined, it still stands majestically on the hills of the Odenwald today. Mark Twain even wrote gloriously about the castle in his travel book A Tramp Abroad (1880)
“A ruin must be rightly situated, to be effective.
This one could not have been better placed.
It stands upon a commanding elevation,
it is buried in green woods, there is no level
ground about it, but, on the contrary,
there are wooded terraces upon terraces,
and one looks down through shining leaves
into profound chasms and abysses where twilight
reigns and the sun cannot intrude.
Nature knows how to garnish a ruin to get the best effect.
Misfortune has done for this old tower what it has done
for the human character sometimes – improved it.”
Apart from visiting the castle ruins, Heidelberg is the perfect place for strolls in the old town, sitting in cafe’s having gelato or a great meal. If you love greek food I recommend the “Goldener Stern” for authentic greek food at such a great price! I always go back to visit and it has been there for over 30 years with the same three brothers running the place.
Trips on the Neckar river is also a must. You can get the boat to the Vierburgenstadt (translated to the city of 4 forts) which is a picturesque trip that gives you a whole new view of the region.
After a 90 minute gentle journey on the Ferry (http://www.weisse-flotte-heidelberg.de/) you enter the realm of the medieval times where knights and kings roamed the earth, observing you from the distance in their tall towers. Then you abandon ship to trek through the strange lands and follow the route to all 4 forts, one of which is still occupied today.
The view from up here is amazing, it was a little cold on the day and the fresh breath of the Neckar kept us cold but the climb to the top was enough to keep my heart beat high and temperature even higher.
The only thing missing was the knight in shining armor. I guess it is still holiday season.
The next best thing about Heidelberg is that you can get here easily and at a low cost. You can either fly to Stuttgart with Germanwings or to Karlsruhe Baden-Baden airport with Ryanair from London Stansted and then get the regional train(http://www.bahn.com/).
Both airports are the smaller ones in Germany however, because they are both in the state of Baden-Württemberg, you can get the Baden-Württemberg day ticket which allows you to travel anywhere in the state for a set price a day(19euros for one per person and then 5euros per every person after so this is really worth it for group travels of up to 5).
Who know’s, maybe you’ll lose your heart here too.