Heidelberg

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Heidelberg… Oh boy. This was an adventure! Despite the nightmarish morning that was my arrival in Heidelberg, I think it may be one of my favorite places that I visited!

I was excited to visit Heidelberg, as all the images I had seen of it looked beautiful! I found a photographer through Airbnb experiences (which was something I had never used before), who would take photographs of you exploring Heidelberg for an hour and a half. You’d get all of the images for only $40! The deal seemed too good to pass up. As a solo traveler, it was hard to get good pictures of myself on this vacation. I thought this would be my one opportunity to get some good travel pictures, so I had to do it.

I spoke with the photographer, Ieva, the night before. I had realized Heidelberg was farther from Wetzlar than I thought, so I asked if we could push our appointment from 10a.m. to 10:30a.m. She replied that we could, but to keep her posted on where I was in the morning, because 10 would be better.

Alte Brücke, the bridge where I was meant to meet Ieva.

Despite the early morning traffic jams of the A5 outside of Frankfurt, I made it down to Heidelberg by 9a.m. No problem! I had also done my research and found a parking garage which was supposedly only a ten minute walk from where I was meant to meet her, at the famous bridge of Heidelberg. Of course though, at first, I missed the turn off at the roundabout to get to my parking garage. I figured I was early enough that I could just cruise around and check everything out. I turned myself around in a Rewe parking lot (what is it with me and Rewes?), and drove back along the river.

At about 9:20, I decided I should head to the parking garage. I went through the roundabout to discover that I had to go through a really LONG tunnel with no sidewalk to get over to where the parking garage was. Google said it was a 10 minute walk to the bridge, but I didn’t know if it wanted me to walk through the tunnel, and I had no way to check that info.

So I decided to bypass the parking garage and try to find parking closer to the bridge. Bad call. Ugh. What a nightmare this became. I drove past the garage and took the next right, wrongly assuming I could just “go around the block,” and end up back where I started. Poor, poor, poor, me. The worst decision of the trip.

This “alley,” that I turned down was a nightmare. I call it an alley because it was a very narrow, one way road. One side was completely lined with parked cars, the other side of the road was all buildings. On top of that, it was all cobblestone, and on a VERY steep grade. It was a massive hill that I was driving up. I got to the top to find out that “going around the block,” was really not an option, as a massive truck was blocking the rest of the road.

Admittedly, what I did next (or tried to do next), was not my best idea either. I became convinced that I could do some sort of 39 point turn and get my car turned around to drive out of there. There was adequate space (maybe). So I started slowly inching around. Put the car in drive. Move an inch. Put the car in reverse. Move two inches. I got my car about a quarter of the way turned around, when all of a sudden, an old man starts SCREAMING at me in German.

The gist of it was, “You CAN’T turn around here! NO. LEAVE.” At this point I’m starting to sweat, worried I’ll be late to the pictures. I had messaged her that 10 was fine, and never had heard back. So I wanted to be accurate and get there on time at 10. And now I was stuck up an alley with an old man yelling at me. Finally, I decided I had no choice but to back down the alley, 100s of meters, down this narrow cobblestone hill. The old man guided me down past his house (well, he yelled at me until I got it right), and from there, he death glared at me as I inched my way down the hill.

Oh god. I’ll have nightmares. I was sweating. No idea what my plan was to get out of this one. Thank GOD I had ParkPilot with sensors on my car. I made it halfway down the alley and stopped when I saw another guy. I hoped he spoke English, so I leaned out the window and asked him which way I should go once I got down the alley. He gave me directions (in English), to get back out to the main thoroughfares.

After I got out of that alley (ugh), I escaped and made it back out to the tunnel and back to the bridge where I needed to meet her. I had still not heard anything, so I desperately started trying to call her. And of course, I had no service and couldn’t get any calls out.

I was about to cry. I crossed the river and looked for parking. No luck. Every spot anywhere remotely near the bridge was completely full. I drove through town looking for anything, with no luck. I somehow ended up on top of a mountain, nowhere near the center of town, and still had no luck finding parking. The fact that I spoke no German did not help because all of the signs were in German so I had no idea where I legally COULD park.

I was going to give up. I thought I would drive back along the river, and if I didn’t find anything, I’d just pull up along the side of the road, play spot the photographer, and tell her, “sorry I wasted your time. Keep the money. I can’t find parking.” Magically, a spot not 50 feet from where I needed to meet her was open!!! I could not believe that something was finally going my way.

Confession: I can’t parallel park. When I found out that I was going to Germany, where I would likely need to parallel park at least once, I begged my Mom for a crash course. Which I failed. It was so stressful and I hated it. Luckily, the spot I chose was a great one! It was the very first spot in the line of cars, so I only had to back in around a pole, as opposed to trying to fit between two cars. I did it, albeit sloppily, and raced over to the bridge to try and find the photographer.

It was 10:32a.m. I was two minutes late and felt awful. I hoped she had not been there since 10! I finally was able to get a call through, and she came over to meet me. From there, I had an absolutely magical photoshoot! We explored the bridge, and then walked into the stadtmitte and checked it out.

At this point, I realized… The parking garage I was originally supposed to park in? If you’re DRIVING to the city center, you need to go through the tunnel. The way the city is laid out, once you’re through the tunnel and into the city center, you can easily walk to the bridge. Google hadn’t lied. If I’d just tried it and parked in the garage, I would’ve been fine. Ugh. Well, I got free parking! It came with a lot of stress, but it saved me a few Euros, I guess.

Schloss Heidelberg looms over the Christmas Markets, which I think is pretty awesome!

After my photoshoot, I checked out the Wiehnachtsmarkts in Heidelberg! There were two, one of which was completely open for the day, the other which was partially shuttered. I still enjoyed checking them both out though. And I got my fourth mug!

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From there, I decided I wanted to check out Schloss Heidelberg, or the Heidelberg Castle. I’m so, so glad that I decided to do this. It was a highlight of my trip! The Bergbahn (funicular) was right near the stadtmitte where I was wandering around. So I walked over and bought a ticket. They do have a student discount, which was great because it saved me a few bucks.

I then walked right onto the funicular with virtually no wait! Pretty great. We then rode up to Schloss Heidelberg! We got off and walked towards the castle. I took my time and checked out the views before “entering” the castle.

Now, I had never been in a true castle before this one, so it was amazing! It felt so magical, despite the fact that the courtyard was filled with modern technology. It really felt like a fairy tale.

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The Courtyard

I walked out onto the patio/balcony that overlooked the town, and was amazed by both the views, and by the architecture of the palace as well. It was just stunning. I would give anything to be back there right now!

The front of Schloss Heidelberg, facing out over the town.

After checking out that area, I headed down to the “wine cellar.” Schloss Heidelberg is home to the world’s largest barrel ever filled with wine. It’s MASSIVE. It’s when I see things like this that I wish I was not solo traveling. I would have loved to snap a picture of me next to this thing, for size comparison. I had to settle for a selfie of me next to it (proof I was there), and a picture of the barrel by itself!

Largest barrel ever filled with wine.

After checking out the barrel, I read the information that was posted near it. I learned a lot about the wines of the castle and about the barrel itself. I also found out that they had a souvenir wine glass from the castle that they could fill with wine that was made there! Of course, I had to get a glass.

I wanted to try the Riesling. The region is known for white wine, and honestly, I’m kicking myself for not getting the wine that I truly wanted. I asked the bartender for his recommendation and he recommended the red, because it would “make my heart healthy.” The wine was good, but I still wish I would’ve gone with the Riesling or at least the white, because I think either of those would have been better based on the region. Oh well. Next time.

I enjoyed my wine, then decided it was time to go. I had a 2 hour drive to Strasbourg to make, and I wanted to get there before night fell. Of course though, I got sidetracked one more time on my way out of Schloss Heidelberg! The castle is also home of the Apothecary Museum. This was a surprisingly interesting place. Very cool to check out, with free admission. It was a fun way to end the day. From there, I boarded the funicular to head back down to town and walked back to my car.

The Apothecary Museum

With a surprisingly heavy heart, I said goodbye to Heidelberg. I truly did fall in love with it, despite the nightmarish start to my day.

I even got the pictures back the same day! It was just an amazing experience, I truly had the best time there.

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Stay tuned for a blog post about my visit to Strasbourg!