Monday, June 19, 2017

Heidelberg, Part the 1st

We got off to a fairly early start this morning owing to the fact that our bedroom in the Airbnb did not have shutters, and in northern Europe around the summer solstice, the sun rises at something like 5:30. We were on our bikes headed for the train station by 9.

We got tickets to Heidelberg for ourselves and our bikes on the 10:14 train, with a transfer in Ludwigshafen, across the Rhine from Mannheim, to a local commuter train into Heidelberg central station. Good thing we got on when we did, because at the first stop in Mannheim, the train filled to the brim, and many people with bicycles weren't able to board. Luckily, it was only 3 stops in the sardine can.
Bikes on a train!
The ticket agent in Mainz suggested that if we wanted to reserve a spot for our bicycles on our next trip (to Cologne), we should do so earlier rather than later, so once we got into Heidelberg Hbf, we bought tickets on the direct train to Cologne on Thursday and reserved spots for our bikes. It will be an early start (7:55 a.m.), but at least we won't have to worry about whether there will be room for them on a regional train, and we will get into Cologne with lots of time to do some sight seeing (which, for me, means seeing the cathedral and drinking Kölsch, not necessarily in that order).

Once out of the station, we had a picnic lunch in a nearby park before setting off to look around a bit. Today was hot (and the forecast is for even hotter in the coming days).  Heidelberg is, very obviously, a university town. It's teeming with young students, most of whom apparently spend Monday afternoons zooming around on bicycles.

After walking our bikes down Hauptstraße (i.e., Main Street) for a few blocks, we decided to get off the main drag and visit the Neckar (the city's river), 'cause, y'know, we hadn't quite seen enough of Germany's rivers yet...

Then it was back into town for a gelato (one of Sonia's birthday treats). And can I just say here for the record that German coffee ice cream is just as mystifying as German coffee...
Birthday gelato for Sonia

At 3 p.m., we got into our Airbnb, a lovely little 2-room apartment (with a washing machine!) on a quiet street in the Altstade, a few blocks down from the university library. We started some laundry, settled in and then went to find some groceries (home cooking for 3 whole days!).

After dinner, we took the funicular up to Heidelberg Castle, which is truly impressive. It's in ruins, but no so much so that you don't get a great idea of what the place must have been like 400 years ago. The 17th century was very good to a certain class of people! Also, it's just one great photo op after another, especially with the evening light.

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle from the castle gardens
View of the city from the castle (with Heiliggeistkirche in the middle)
We walked back down the hill into town and into the main Marktplatz, which is dominated by the Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit), a space I hope to get inside before we leave. Here, Sonia had another birthday treat, a piece of almond tarte, and we had drinks in the square.

Sonia enjoying another birthday treat
As we strolled back home, one of those magical holiday moments occurred. Just as we were walking past another lovely church (Jesuitenkirche), we heard a very good choir (probably amateur) from down a side street, practicing with the windows open. Among other things, they were singing "For Unto Us a Child is Born" from Handel's Messiah. It seems a bit early in the year to be rehearsing Messiah, but it was a lovely treat to hear some fine singing. After listening for a while, we continued on, and I guess Monday night is choir night, because we came across another choir rehearsing – not quite as good as the first (but still quite good). They were singing "Cantique de Jean Racine" by Fauré – very familiar to Québec choral audiences.

So a full first day in Heidelberg. Tomorrow we will be up early to hike in the hills before it gets too hot!

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