"My soul is elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there." -- Rumi

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Heidelberg: Walking the Philosopher's Way

After only spending one short day exploring the best of Heidelberg, it was pretty damn easy for me to see how the city had been so popular with writers and Romantics.  Mark Twain took a liking to it, as did Goethe.

So for my Sunday in this pretty city, I wanted to follow in their footsteps and take a walk along the Philosophenweg, or Philosopher's Way, a windy series of trails through the woods on the other side of the Neckar River from the main part of town.  Near the top, highlights included a Nazi amphitheater and ruined 11th century monastery, both of which sounded freaking amazing but I didn't have my heart set on getting that far.  My hostel-furnished map wasn't to scale so I didn't know the distance, and the trails, whilst named, did not seem to wholly have the same names that were marked on my map, and the trail markers did not include whether or not you were heading to the main the sites of note, St. Michael's Monastery and the Thingstätte.  So I simply decided to wander... up.  Seems I do this a lot.  Why do I put myself through all this again??  Oh right -- for these reasons.

It felt great to get out and away from everything.  As I climbed higher, I found myself in some of the thickest fog I'd ever seen.

Trees disappearing into cloud
It was in this otherworldly, murky haze that I saw something looming up out of the fog.

I'd found the Thingstätte, but it was so incredibly foggy I couldn't get a picture of inside the amphitheater because it was just a wall of white.  It was chilling to be there though, at the same place where Nazi propaganda rallies were held less than a century earlier.  I climbed up to the top of the stairs/seats, found another trail and continued on my way.

I walked through this totally not-creepy gate, and soon saw this:

I had, miraculously, made it to the Monastery of St. Michael.

1070, and some interestingly pagan offerings of holly and evergreen

I loved getting to explore this place.  It's a fairly large complex, and the Germans have put up signs saying what each room had been used for.  In German, naturally, but then they also included a little drawing of a monk praying, or eating, or sleeping, or whatever, which I thought was very cool.  For some reason, there were something like a dozen small children playing here during my visit though, and that was less awesome.  Although I could hardly blame them... if I'd seen something like this when I was seven, my parents would have had to endure months of "Princess in the Ruined Tower-Castle-Place" or whatever elaborate fantasy game I surely would have constructed.  Hell, I do this now, and I'm 34.

Believe it or not, I kind of did have a train to catch that afternoon at 4:45, so was on something of a schedule.  I said farewell to St. Michael and retraced my steps to the Thingstätte, where luckily the fog had lifted enough to get some good(ish) photos.

From the top
From the bottom
 Just down the path from the Thingstätte, I'd passed an utterly adorable-looking tavern.  My plan had been to hike back down and get lunch in the Altstadt, but how on earth is a girl supposed to pass up a cozy tavern in the middle of the foggy German woods?  It even had smoke coming from a chimney!

So I went in, and sat.  Instant, complete win.  This place was great.  Blue-checked tablecloths, with a single while taper burning at the center of each table.  The waitress was extremely sweet, and I ordered an apfelwein, which turned out to be some seriously dry, yummy cider, and then I went for broke (semi-literally), and ordered a steak of wild boar, which was served with dumplings and red cabbage.

It was a fantastic lunch.  The boar was very lean but a little tough, which I guess can only be expected.  The red cabbage was very nicely flavored, and the dumplings were pretty good but they weren't my favorite part of the meal.  Very heavy and not much flavor.  (Pretty standard for dumplings, I guess?)  The mushroom sauce helped with that.  All in all, I was very happy I'd made the choice to stop here.

And then it was time to stump my way down the mountain (my knees hate the living crap out of downhill, more and more every day).  I found my way back to the main trail along the river, and followed that to the Schlangenweg (Snake Path), which curved its way down the mountain and lets you out just opposite the Karl Theodor Bridge.

Bridge from the top of the path
I walked a cross said bridge, paid my respects to this weird monkey statue on the other side, and then walked one more time along the Neckar back to my bus stop, and rode back to Steffi's.

That, dear ones, was Heidelberg.  If you love old things and pretty things and picturesque things (and lots of college kids, yes), I can wholeheartedly recommend this city to you.  I had an unqualified good time at every part of my weekend (except the bedbugs, but hey).  I think it was a good choice for my German Maiden Voyage, and definitely has whetted my appetite for further adventures in Deutschland.

So now, the thing to do is start planning the next one!  I'm thinking Köln looks like it deserves some exploring.  Also Bonn, Rothenburg, Dusseldorf, Hamburg... Certainly not spoiled for choice or anything here.  Stay tuned, lovers.

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