Day 8: Heidelberg

We slept in a little and wandered down for breakfast around 9:30, only to be told by the hotel operator he would let us check out today without additional fees.  We profusely thanked him, packed up the car, and headed straightaway to Heidelberg, the town the Brits had suggested.  It took about 1 ½ hours and Gretel took us directly to the TI by the train station, where we found the TI lady to be super helpful and informative about touristing the area.  This was the norm in Germany, the people as a group are some of the friendliest we’ve ever encountered.

The TI lady also helped us find a room, as we had nowhere to stay.  She gave us a hotel directory, quoted a few last-minute room prices, outfitted us with maps and other assorted town information, told us where the nearest Jack Wolfskin store was (turned out it was right behind the train station) and off we went.  At the Jack Wolfskin store I was able to find that cute travel bag I’d seen a week earlier, and was happy as a clam to finally buy it.

Next we took the car to the P12 parking garage, which the TI lady said was geographically the best one to park in.  It was.  And off we went to get our Heidelberg on.

Heidelberg and Schloss

Heidelberg is a great town, and we can’t figure out for the life of us why Rick Steves speaks of it so disparagingly.  Yes, it is fully of native English speakers, as there are apparently 2 Army bases nearby, but it has a great vibe and is a beautiful, hip, friendly cosmopolitan town with a long, prime people watching pedestrian zone.  It rocks.  We walked first down the pedestrian zone in search of lunch, and stopped at the Coyote Café, which also had the sign “Doctor Flotte” above it.  Turns out Chris and Chuck have peeps there.  We ate lunch (Jimmy had a strangely-textured burger, I had a delicious mac-n-cheese), then wandered around a bit more.

And then it rained.  A lot.  AND I’d left my raincoat in the car, while Jimmy smartly had his.  AND we ran smack into a protest march, but were able to escape it – and the rain – for a bit by standing under the umbrella of a group of people who had a booth set up for some reason or another.  They didn’t seem to mind.  After most of the rain passed, we went out again, down the length of the pedestrian zone, and back up via the river pathway.  Along the way we found the Villa Marstall Hotel, the hotel the TI lady said was her favorite, but their last-minute rate was €95/night, not including breakfast (still, the €95 rate was significantly less than their normal rate).  So we stopped in on a whim to see if we could get an even better rate, and were told their normally €155 rate was dropped to €105 (€95 plus €10 for breakfast).  We said we didn’t want to pay more than €80, and after a call to her boss, the very friendly front desk girl said done, you have a room.  And it was a beautiful little room with a fabulous bathroom.  Very fancy, and we got a very fancy rate on it.

Now comforted in the fact we had a place to lay our heads, we got back to the business of sightseeing, starting with the Schloss Heidelberg Castle.  To get there you have to take a funicular up to the castle, and if you pay a bit more (it was €13.30 total for both of us) you can go all the way to the top of the hill.  We started out by getting off at the castle stop and explored the grounds.

The Schloss Heidelberg is cool, a large estate complete with the Big Vat – literally – that is a wine vat the size of our bedroom in Chicago, actually probably bigger.  That was cool to see, along with the gardens overlooking the city, and as it was drizzling a bit, we were virtually the only ones out there in the gardens.

After the castle we got back on the funicular to go up to the top of the hill, but what we didn’t realize is you have to go up one more level and transfer to another funicular (an old-time one that had been restored) to get to the top.  So we sat on the second level for quite a while, wondering why everyone had gotten off, only to soon realize that this particular funicular doesn’t go up any higher and we, too, needed to get off.  The funicular employee who had to let us out just looked at us strangely.  Score two for the funiculars in Germany.

The second funicular ride took us waaaaay up, to a point that overlooked the entire city and region.  It must be

Looking down the Nekar River

spectacular when it is sunny, but it was a bit overcast for us.  No worries, it was still very cool to be looking at Heidelberg along the Neckar River and nearby environs.

Having stuffed our heads with scenery we headed back all the way down, this time knowing when to transfer.  As it was getting later, I was starting to panic about finding a gift for Megan, our neighbor who watches Yossarian when we are gone, but my fears were unfounded because we almost immediately found the Rosenthal store, which turns out to be a maker of German ceramics and china.  We selected a beautiful vase, then stopped and also got her a box of Studenten-Kuess (the student’s kiss), which is the official welcoming chocolate of Heidelberg, given to all foreign dignitaries when they arrive.  As we felt like foreign un-dignitaries, we picked up one for ourselves, too.

With our newly acquired wares in hand, we unloaded the car and schlepped our stuff to the hotel, where we showered and rested a bit before going out again.  We started our walk along the river, where we went onto the pedestrian bridge and watched the barges come through the locks for a bit before making our way back to the pedestrian zone.  We found a restaurant with outdoor seating and sat for a liter of beer in a big stein, chatting with the friendly waitress. At one point it started to downpour, so we were forced inside where we had dinner (Jimmy had his bratwurst, I had potato soup, which was delicious), then moved on.

Nectar of the Gods by night; Nectar of the demons by day

Before going back to the hotel we decided to stop for “one more” and wound up at some sort of locals joint with a bartender at least 2 sheets to the wind by the time we arrived, and probably 5 sheets by the time we left.  We each had 3 more beers (2 big, one small), which was probably, oh, 3 more than we needed, but we had a blast watching all the people coming in and out and chatting with the bartender/owner who was getting more and more liquored off shots of ouzo she was doing with the customers.  All in all, we got drunk.  I mean super drunk.  And I know this because walking out of there (after 1:00 am) I announced to Jimmy that I was super drunk, and the morning was going to be trouble.  It was.

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