About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Trains to Heidelberg

We woke up at our usual vacation time of 8am. We finished packing and went upstairs for breakfast. The breakfasts are great here at the Rhein Haus. I would recommend this place to anyone visiting.

After breakfast I checked out, we gathered our bags and headed to the train platform. Since we had a prepaid ticket, but no reservation, we jumped on an earlier train to Bingen – a whopping 15 minute ride. We were going to spend some the extra time in Bingen looking around, but after we arrived we realized that the station was not really in town, but on the edge of town. After talking to a conductor on the platform (Katrina’s little bit of German has come in pretty handy several times), we found out we could catch the next train to Heidelberg instead of waiting for the one with our reserved seats. We jumped on the next train and found it pretty full, so we stood in the corridor with our luggage. After the first station stop a few seats opened up and we grabbed them, Katrina in a single seat and Brandon and I a few rows up. The ride was a little over an hour.

We arrived in Heidelberg just after lunch time and grabbed a truly American meal for lunch – McDonalds in the station. We are finding McDonalds in Europe to be mostly the same as in the US, with a few differences. All of them have a McCafe with espresso , croissants, and other European goodies. About half of the sandwiches are the same: Big Mac, Filet of Fish, hamburger and cheeseburger, as well as the fries. There are several other sandwiches as well: Mc Royal, and a few different chicken sandwiches, as well as a few ham sandwiches. Most of them serve mayonnaise with fries and charge extra for ketchup packets. Oh, and soft drinks are served cold, but without ice.

We also stopped at the tourist information office located outside the station. We found a guidebook for Heidelberg and I needed to find internet. In my planning of the trip I forgot to write down or print out the information for our Heidelberg hotel. I was pretty sure where it was located, but not 100% sure. It didn’t help that I could not remember the name. I was directed to an internet cafĂ© inside the station, where for e2 I was able to look up the info in my gmail account.

The Hotel Tannehauser was about a 20 minute walk from the train station. We walk so much on our travels that it wasn’t that big of a deal. We are pulling two small suitcases with wheels, one backpack, a camera bag and Brandon’s small daypack.
Katrina had been wanting a wallet small enough to fit in a pocket of her camera bag, but big enough to hold her credit cards, ID and passport. The passport is the big one. Well, we passed a shop on the way to the hotel that had wallets on display in the doorway. She found one she liked and it was just the right size. The funny thing is, the owners of the shop were a husband and wife. He was Italian and she was German. Katrina was able to speak some Italian in Heidelberg.

We finally made it to the hotel. It is located at the corner of the Bismarkplatz, the main transportation intersection on the edge of the old town. We were given our room key and told we were on the 2nd floor by an unfriendly desk attendant.
The hotel is in a very old building. Our room was pretty small. The bathroom was almost as big as the room. The planked floors were very creaky and the room smelled a bit musty when we entered. I was not that impressed, but it was clean and centrally located. The room attendant showed up at the door ready to setup Brandon’s cot, so we put our bags in the corner and headed out for the afternoon.
Our first stop was Woolworth, right next door. I thought Woolworth was out of business?! I guess not in Germany. We were looking for some new socks for Brandon. He’s been stopping every few steps to push up his socks because they are too big and stretched out. We didn’t find any suitable socks, but Brandon and I did find a nice selection of Siku diecast cars for great prices. Sorry Errol, but they are so much cheaper here in Germany. I know this is not interesting to many of you, but Errol, Andy and a few others will be interested. Single car packs were e2.49 or less. Some of the big 1/87th scale trucks that range in price for $28 - $38 in the US were only e9.99 – 14.99 at Woolworth. I also found some 1/87th Shuco cars. I know, this is not exciting , but I am a train geek and these 1/87th scale vehicles will fit great on my layout.

We crossed the transportation plaza and headed down into the old city and the pedestrian zone. The pedestrian zone in old Heidelberg is one of the largest and most frequented in all of Europe.

Heidelberg Castle.

Corn Madonna with castle in background.

We worked our way slowly down the street, stopping to look in shops a few times. Our destination for the afternoon was the castle above the old town. There are two ways to get up to the castle: 1) Via funiculare, or 2) walking. We’ve walked up to all the castles so far, and this one would be the shortest walk so far, but we had a funiculare to ride, and we couldn’t pass that up! There were two destinations and two funiculari. The first one takes you up to the castle. The second funiculare takes you all the way up to the top of the hill.

We rode the first one up to the castle then toured the castle. The world famous ruined castle on the Jettenbuhl, the narrow hillside terrace jutting out above the roofs of the old town, arouses the curiousity of all who visit Heidelberg. The imposing complex of buildings were constructed on the orders of the Prince Electors during a period of over three centuries. The palatial living quarters and utility buildings provide striking evidence of the life-style of the lords of the castle in the period of 1400 - 1600. It is readily understandable that, with the invention of firearms, the position of the castle became less strategically tenable, even with walls up to 7 meters thick. Its destruction was wrought firstly by the War of the Grand Alliance and then by a stroke of lightning in 1764. Today, the greatest threat to the remains of the castle comes from atmospheric pollution.

Funiculare up to castle.

Most of the interior of this castle can only be seen with a tour guide. We chose not to do this. With our guidebook we walked through the castle grounds, visited the castle pharmacy, the terrace over looking the city, the cellar and the small gardens.

Early Baroque Frederick Building completed in 1607.

View of the old town and Old Bridge.

View of the dam on the Neckar River.

Castle pharmacy.

Tower ruins.

The ornate Renaissance facade of the Otto Henry Building. The interior burned down from a lightning strike.

Fat Tower ruins.

A visit to the castle must include a look at the Great Tun. After all, it is claimed to be the biggest wooden barrel in the world ever to have been filled with wine. It was constructed under Carl Theodor in 1751 from 130 oak tree trunks; it can hold 221,725 liters (58,000 gallons) is is 8.5 meters wide and 7 meters high, with a dance floor on top.

The Great Tun. It was very difficult to get a photo. The room was dark and the barrel fills almost the entire room. Add tourists into the mix, and well, this is the best I could get.

A 'smaller' wine barrel.

After leaving the castle, we made our way back to the funiculare and rode it up to the middle point, where we had to switch over to the “Historic” funiculare for the ride to the top. This is the oldest part of the ride and takes you to the restaurant and hiking trails on top of the mountain.

At the top we walked around a little bit, taking in the panoramic views of Heidelberg and the valley in the distance. We also visited the power and cable room on the ground floor of the station. We only stayed at the top for a short while before taking the trams back to the old town.

Historic funiculare.

View from the top.

Brandon spending e1.05 for a smashed e.05 souvenier.

Funiculare power room.


We made our way over to the Heidelberg's Old Bridge crossing the Neckar River. This bridge was built in 1788.

View of Heidelberg Castle from the Old Bridge.

Bridge Gate, built as part of the medieval town fortifications.

Brandon on the Old Bridge.

This is a modern statue of a monkey next to the Old Bridge. He holds a mirror up to onlookers, inviting them to be photographed within his monkey mask.

After visiting the bridge, we were hungry for dinner. Asian food seems to be a major theme for us this trip. We found a Chinese restaurant near the bridge and had dinner. Very good. We have been lucky . Europe seems to have a lot of good Asian food.

We were tired and it was getting late, so we headed back through town and to our hotel.

Our hotel.

Our room is hot with little air flow, even with the window open. I was extremely hot and decided to sleep on the cot and let Brandon sleep with Katrina. I watched a recap of the Tour on TV, then we went to bed.

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