View from Philosopher's Walk

View from Philosopher's Walk

The last you heard from me we had made it to Sprockhövel, it was raining, we were feeling isolated, and so on.  So, we decided to take off for Heidelberg.  This was our first trip on the German Bahn (train) system on our own.  It took us more than 3 hours to get to Heidelberg, but it was fine.  Charli’s seat mate was a 21 year old Engineering student from Tokyo.  They chatted the entire time.  Apparently, he was a bit surprised to find out that she was only 17, but, even so they exchanged Facebook addresses.

I’ve noticed that she gets quite a bit of male attention and wondered why even though it is obvious that I am travelling with her, maybe I don’t glower enough?  Charli says it’s because they probably think that she is a travelling companion for her elderly relative.  Oh ha ha ha…..

Charli is fun to travel with. We have a lot of laughs and get along very well. There is just one problem travelling with a teenager.  They like to sleep!   A certain someone gets a bit testy sometimes when she doesn’t get her 10-12 hours in.

Charli - mega beer in grocery store

Charli - mega beer in grocery store

This was the second time I had been to Heidelberg and I liked it just as much as the first, perhaps more so as Charli and I saw more of it.  My feet can attest to that!

Heidelberg is a city with a population of 146,466 (Dec. 2009).  As well as being a hot tourist town (3.5 million visitors a year)  it is also a university town, and about 32,000 students of various nationalities study at the University of Heidelberg which was established in 1386, making it the oldest university in Germany and one of the oldest in Europe.    Although Heidelberg can trace its beginnings to the 5thCentury BCE as a Celtic fortress and place of worship, it is considered to have a “modern” founding date of 1196.  Vestige ruins of the Celtic fortress are still visible.  Heidelberg’s public library was founded in 1421 and is the oldest library in Germany still intact.

Heidelberg University Library

Heidelberg University Library

Charli and I were staying in the “new” section of Heidelberg, but we wanted to see the sights of the old. Who doesn’t?!  We marched around the old town city centre and the 1.8 km of specialty shops on both sides of the narrow main street.  In theory this street is pedestrian only but those who actually live on the street do have vehicles, and taxis seem to be allowed to go anywhere as do the bikes and bikes and bikes.   There are a LOT of bicycles in Heidelberg; even being ridden in buildings.  As it was high season there were masses of people milling around.  Given that the street is quite narrow, maybe 20 feet wide, with buildings, some dating to the 1300’s, of 5-7 stories high on either side it was actually kind of claustrophobic.   We bought a couple of touristy things and then scooted out to a street along the Neckar River’s edge.

Library detail

University Library - detail

Dinosaur in New Town

"Dinosaur" in New Town

The Neckar River, from Celtic “Nikros” meaning wild water or wild fellow, runs through Heidelberg, and at 367 km long is the 10th longest/largest river in Germany.  Several other rivers, including the Jagst and Kocher Rivers feed into it and the Neckar, in turn, flows into the Rhine. It is the 4th largest tributary of the Rhine.  You can take river boat tours, but Charli and I enjoyed sitting on a bench and people watching.

That was when she spotted the Philosopher’s Walk high up on the hill on the other side of the river.   Erroneously thought to be named the Philosopher’s Walk because of philosopher types and others such as Twain, Goethe, Hegel, and Turner who rambled on the Walk in the 1800’s during Germany’s Romantic period, the name actually originates from students of the university who wandered the path in search of enlightenment, or more likely wine.  Many years ago all German university students were required to take philosophy before they specialized, so they were called philosophers.  In those days the path wandered through the vineyards that clung to the side of the hill.  Now, no more vineyards, but you can still see the old walls and stone steps leading in to dense bush.

It hadn’t been MY intent to tackle “the Walk” but Charli said it would be good practice for my pilgrimage.  Couldn’t argue with that so over the old bridge we went, stopping first to take several photos, like everyone else, of a funky monkey statue of questionable delicacy and then up the steep Schlangenweg (snake’s alley) we trudged.

Funky monkey

Funky monkey on the Old Bridge

Well I trudged, puffed and sweated, Charli pretty much merrily skipped along.   Those legs of hers might be short but she can sure motor.   Maybe she should have done the pilgrimage in my name as she sometimes walks up to 25K a day without a huff or a puff. I would at least have lit a candle in her name as penance.  A lit candle would have come in

Charli and the backside of the Funky Monkey

handy too when the farting jogger passed us by.

At one of the blessed rest stops we met a group of three young German women travelling together.  We took photos of them and they took photos of us against the backdrop of Heidelberg.  It was well worth the walk as the views from up there, practically at cloud level, are fabulous.

View from Philosopher's Walk (without castle)

View from Philosopher's Walk (without castle)

As we were in Heidelberg for only the day we never had time to go to the castle. Charli was quite enamoured with the city and its “young” energy and would like to go back and take a German language course for a couple of months.

However, not all was sweet sunshine during our Heidelberg Sojourn.  There were two jarring incidents.   On our walk back to the hotel we stopped for a rest at the main bus terminal, not just for me, Charli also said she had sore feet!  Anyway,  there was some altercation going on in a covered outside waiting area.  A fellow “in his cups” was arguing loudly and often leaning in towards someone and, it seemed, hitting them.  While keeping firm hold of his own bottle he grabbed the other’s and tossed it in the garbage.  The other person never once put up a fuss.  When we went by we were surprised to see several other people in this same shelter and that the person being abused was a slim male in his 60’s or 70’s.

Charli showing how small elevator is

Charli in tiny elevator of the Ibis Hotel

The other incident was during the wee hours at the hotel.  It was a hot sticky night so I was having some trouble sleeping.  I’m used to the dry Okanagan heat and find the muggy heat quite uncomfortable.  One thing though, your skin always feels soft!  At any rate I did not appreciate getting woken up at 2:30AM by two girls who just had to have a shrieking game of hide and seek in the hall.  I was debating about getting up and what language I would use to tell them to kindly stop messing about when a German woman beat me to it.  The girls quickly took off to go outside.  German – definitely the better choice.

Health and Happiness,

Anita and Charli