Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Heidelberg (Stairway to Heaven)

I'm glad we're taking the train to Cologne tomorrow, 'cause I wouldn't want to get on my bike tomorrow (other than the few kilometres to get to the train station). It was another long day – a great day – but I'm tired now, thanks. I think it's time for another beer, don't mind if I do. 

The forecast was for another hot day, so we decided to head up to the hills again, and this time, the smart money said we should just stay up there all afternoon. We started a little late, but were out the door by 9:30, destination: Königstuhl (king's chair, or king's seat), the hill on the city side of Heidelberg, opposite the Heiligenberg that we climbed yesterday. While yesterday's hike was up to 440 metres, today, we ascended to 567 metres, and believe me, my legs are feeling the extra 127 metres.

There are so many paths and trails up the mountain that we didn't really have any fixed route planned. So when we came across a sturdy stone staircase, we decided that it looked to be the most expedient way up the mountain. While that may be true, it is definitely not the easiest way. Indeed, I learned today that climbing stairs is not a terribly efficient way for the human body to ascend a slope. 

The stairway we encountered was called the Himmelsleiter (literally, "heaven's ladder," but I'm going to call it "stairway to heaven," which is more poetic and accurate. Sorry for the ear worm.).  As far as I can tell, it was built in the 19th century. The stairway ascends 260 metres vertically and 700 metres horizontally, which, according to my calculations, makes an average grade of 37%. Basically, after the first 5 minutes, we stopped for a rest every 50 steps, or about 10 metres. By the time we got half way, my shirt was so wet that I could literally wring the sweat out of it. We considered peeling off to take one of the many switchbacking side roads, but Sonia's a gamer, and so after a solid rest we decided to keep going. Thankfully, the slope eased off a little toward the top, and we also discovered that walking beside the steps was MUCH easier. Turns out, the achilles tendon is a pretty good spring. In the end, we climbed the whole thing. High-fives were definitely in order!

Only 200 vertical metres left to go!

Our initial goal was to get to a falconry centre at the top (with a website worthy of the 90s), which was advertising a show at 11:30. As we ascended, we figured there was no way we'd make it, but in the end, we made it just in time. Which was fortunate, because it was a wonderful show. I was thoroughly entertained, even though the whole thing was in German. There were 2 or 3 school groups there, and it was so nice to see a great educator doing what she does best. The kids were absolutely rapt (that's a pun, in case you were wondering).

After the show, we wandered around the summit a bit and then had lunch. The view from the top, west across the Rhine flatlands is spectacular. We spoke to an older women while we were having lunch, and she quipped that the Himmelsleiter might be better called Teufelsleiter (Devil's ladder). I had to agree. 

The view from Königstuhl
Then we trundled back down to the castle gardens, found a nice patch of lawn under a big tree and just hung out for a few hours, dozing and reading for the rest of the afternoon, before returning to the apartment for supper.  

Tomorrow, we're taking the early train to Cologne. 

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