Tue 17 Dec - Heidelberg, Germany

Hiking to the castle... and beyond... all downhill and on flat.

Today we managed to do just a little bit of hiking and it was very nice indeed as it has been a long time since the last time we had been in the "bush". Of course not quite the wilds and national parks of USA or Scotland...

We started at the bottom but cheated a bit on the 430m uphill stretch. We took the Heidelberger Bergbahn to the top of Königstuhl (King's Seat). First tickets, organised by Di -18€ for 2 people one way to the top, including castle admission.

The Heidelberger Bahn was in 2 stages - the lower part being a modern train that goes to the Schloß and then onto Mollenkur where it terminates.

Reminded Di of the Ski tube in the Snowy Mountains with one small difference, this one has a very steep section of 43 degrees.

A few punters but not many as this was one of the earliest trains of the day. We sat in the very last seat looking back - a selfie was required.

At Mollenkur you then switch vehicle and its a whole different story for the last 260m climb - a furnicular from 1907. Not as steep, with "only" a 41 degree grade in it - but Hans was excited.

The views were fantastic...but the focus should have been on the outside, the outside...

Approaching the top station of Königstuhl.

During this second part of the journey, we were at the very front and it was just us and the driver in the whole train - gotta love it when you have a chauffered furnicular.

We expected it to be colder at the top and rugged up - but nope. Away from the river at a 548m altitude, it was very pleasant. The furnicular route (straight up of course).

Or straight down...

Hans doing his best Rio de Janeiro impersonation.

Our hiking trails awaited us.

An original marker of the top of Königstuhl and Hans wearing his super warm, "I don't care how I look" beanie. You know, the same type of beanie that Di managed to misplace yesterday.

This is how we walked today, including a further exploration later on the flats around the river Neckar.

The markers were really clear, and elaborate, and they separated out mountain bikers from hikers so our only challenge was being sure we did not overshoot the Schloß.

A crossing point between hike and bike trail - hmm...maybe they had accidents in the past.
Well, you take your chances if you choose the mountain bike trail, although we saw no bike nor any hiker on that trail. In fact in our whole hike we saw maybe 5 people. Nice to have the forest to yourself.
Trail markers were varied in style and not very cohesive, but we figured we were safe traversing our way down as long as we followed Schloß signs.

What can we say? Great weather and great views down to the old town. You can see Alte Brücke in this photo, where we were last night.

A broader perspective of modern day Heidelberg. The old town is lower right of their photo.

On a country road. Our path varied from steep stone steps to broad easy gravel road. We were so happy to be on our own "back in the bush" that we were singing - " Valderie, Valdera...a knapsack on my back". Of course, then someone came along...

This view also reminded us of our hiking in Virginia, US back in April. Very similar feel to it.

Not completely on our own...evidence here of wild pigs taking over the path.

Then we came to a small slippery stretch of road and realised we may have overshot the castle as we had not seen a Schloß sign for a while.

A short stretch up and to the right and we knew we had arrived...so had the tour groups. Inevitable in such a famous destination.

Maybe not quite as predicted...a giant moose featured in the Christmas markets in the castle grounds...seriously, does my butt look big next to this?

Heidelberg Schloß is very old and much in ruins. With help from Wikipedia...some parts were built in early 13th century and old partially rebuilt after the wars, 2 separate hits by lightning and several fires.
From the inner courtyard you see the main palace building that still stands, on the left, and some of the ruins.

The rebuilt sections have been done well, including plenty of pompous statues.

Including this chubby version of one of the Ludwigs (in the middle people, in the middle). However, with the amount of fried food that we had been eating in Europe we felt we should compare with a selfie...

Looking towards the ruins.

Our admission took us into this courtyard first, which was quite nice...

But our interest was more captured by the other side....overlooking the river Neckar.

With more fantastic views.

Clearly a popular place for lots of photos...for us too.

The other side of the Neckar is planned for tomorrow.

A Knight's Footprint...that can be seen under Hans' foot is one of many legends of the Schloß.

There are many stories of how this footprint came to be here but is generally agreed that it belonged to a knight. From there it varies significantly - one story is the knight having leapt from a third-story window when a prince made an early return to his wife’s bedroom; another after he was caught upstairs during a big fire, having fallen asleep after a night on the drink. All legends say the knight survived. Hmm...

We wandered back into the castle area and headed to the main attraction...the Großes Faß (“great cask”), an enormous wine vat standing two stories tall in the cellar.

Once the largest functioning wine vat in the world, it had to be seen. Yep, its huge and you can go up on top of it.

More legends of course in such an old castle but we liked this one...

In the eighteenth century the vat’s guardian was a dwarf named Perkeo, a court jester with a tremendous thirst for wine. Some say he could consume the contents of the Great Cask in a single draught. 228,000 litres? Yep he deserved his own statue that boozer.

Hans thought maybe this smaller barrel was manageable. Trink, Trink brüderlein Trink...

Time to see more of the ruins...which we think are interesting and looked great. We wandered to the old castle gardens.

Oops, part of the wall slipped down..

From here you can see the old "moat" area, walls and castle bridge gatehouse.

We headed further away into the kings old gardens for a selfie. The weather and views don't often get much better than this (even with us in the views!)

From here there is an uninterrupted view of the AltStadt and we spied one of the many Christmas Markets on offer in a plaza.

The old Main Street (Hauptstraße) is now a pedestrian mall. Unfortunately mostly filled with the "same old same old" shops...

But we still think the town is pretty.

And of course the castle looked great from this side. The various rebuilding and damage over 900 years shows very clearly.

Time to descend from the home and seat of the Kings, which we've really enjoyed.
Back to earth, we opted for a light lunch break, with plans for a big dinner tonight. We found a bakery/cafe and ordered soup and bread, with drinks. Disappointingly the soup was canned, but the bread was great and it was nice to have a break. For 12€ combined we could not really complain.

Off for a little more exploring at the other end of town.

We figured this was an old toll gate...you can never escape taxes, not even in the olden days.

The onto the weir opposite.

We crossd the Neckar and realised that at this point there is about a 2 metre drop in river height and guess what that means? More locks! This time we did not wait around, looking upriver, for a boat to pass through but enjoyed the views downriver instead to the Alte Brücke.

The ladder behind Hans was a bit of a mystery, and definitely not for Di's use.

A nice surprise on the other side of the river Neckar, a walking path along the river below street level. Actually we think it was an old boat docking or loading area as the path was old cobblestone.

Coming back up to street level near the old bridge we found this - a love stone. Put up not long ago by the local council we think it's aimed at keeping padlocks off the old bridge. Very cute idea but maybe more are needed?

Yes, the Alte Brücke looked spectacular in the afternoon from the other side of River Neckar as well. And now, with the castle behind it.

We found this signboard depicting an old map of Heidelberg. The noticeable difference between then and now is how the Alte Brücke has changed. As you probably can see, it was covered then and with a tower in this northern side. Today it looks like... Well, just scroll up to the previous picture.

And didn't this just look lovely? Heidelberg given where it is along a river and with high ridges on both sides gets limited sunshine, but we reckoned that this would be a drawcard for sunstarved locals on days like today lapping up the sun the European way tilting your head towards the sun.

Of course, the Australian way would be to have a coffee cart on site so that people can enjoy a take away cuppa while there.

Heidelberg, the romantic town, has of course lovers padlocks everywhere. This experimental photo from the Alte Brücke looking west on River Neckar.

Not far from our hotel we found markers showing how high the waters had risen during big floods. Note the top maker above the pedestrian sign from 1784. That's high, but even as current as 1993, the bottom marker, there was a significant flood here.

The houses just looked fantastic along the narrow cobblestone streets. You could take many pictures like this one as there were a lot of them.

Back to the room for a nap (yeh!) before going out for beers and then dinner just before 6pm. We had zoomed in on this place, Vetters Brauhaus, as we passed it last night as it was full and looked like it had good karma.

Not to give anything away, this photo was taken after we finished our visit, but it lived up to our expectations.

Room ambiance as you step in...

... And from the far left corner where we sat. Of course, it wouldn't be a Brauhaus if they didn't brew their own beer.

We kicked off the proceedings by sample the home brew (of course). A half liter for Hans and a small one for Di of their house Pils.

Nice. Very nice. So nice that Hans had another one for his meal...

...and this was his meal. A meat platter of sorts with Leberkäse, Schnitzel and Nürnberger wurst on top of bratkartoffeln. Wunderbar. Far too much food of course, and not very healthy, but boy, didn't it just taste great.

After Di finished her meal of Halfhaxe (half knuckle of pork with dumpling) she needed (or so she claimed...) a digestive. It looks like she liked it...and at 40% alcohol this schnapps was breath-taking.

So around 8pm, we paid up and wobbled out of Vetters Brauhaus and wandered back home through a very Christmas looking Heidelberg.

Great day as we moved around a bit and then finished off with a great meal, but an early evening was just fine by us. Another Gute Nacht from us.

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