Dec 21 – Heidelberg
We woke up early enough this morning to shower and have a great breakfast on the ship this morning. It was nice and we were all impressed with the portion sizes. Much more reasonable than some cruises which is nice…it’s way too easy to stuff yourself on here!
We were all set to leave for the 9am bus that would drive us out of Frankfurt and off to Heidelberg when mom realized she was the only one wearing shoes and not boots…so she made a quick switch and cut across the grass (which was funny because about 5 minutes earlier they made an announce to walk around and not through the grass) to beat Shawn and I to the bus. It was all good. And it was cold, so I am sure she was happy she had boots all day that we were outside.
We drove for just over an hour to reach the Heidelberg castle. The bus was able to wind up the narrow roads and drop us off at the top of the castle ruins. The castle is mostly in ruins because when the town itself was torched by the French during one of the wars, later on the stones were pillaged from the castle to rebuild the city. I guess living somewhere was more important than keeping the castle intact.
We also learned that students in Germany pay about $200 per semester to attend university as it is always covered by the government! But you pretty much need a PHD to work in a professional industry at all. So better like being in school. The castle was surrounded by beautiful fraternity houses that are all maintained by previous members so that current students can live in the house for free or very low cost. Nice advantages, eh?
The first part of the Castle was built as early as 1214. It was added on to by different rulers over various centuries. Parts of the castle have been destroyed from a fire and a lightening strike. Since then it was abandoned over 300 years ago.
One of the very young kings that was living here was actually in love with his wife. There was only an age difference of three years and though it was an arranged marriage, they fell in love at first sight. Because he was so in love, he dedicated much building time and money to improvements on the castle. He removed cannons and put in English gardens and built beautiful archways. However, when he was under attack (I believe it had to do something with the 30 year war between the Protestants and the Catholics) he didn’t last very long defending and had to live in exile after less than 1 year of fighting.
There was one wall of the inside castle courtyard that had sandstone carvings of people who influenced various important events in the city. One of these people was King Rupert! He proved to the Pope in Avignon that there was a benefit to having educated people living around him and was able to bring the first library to the people here. That made us proud – you know, dog named Rupert and all! 🐶
One of the funny things left in the castle was a huge oak wine barrel. It is a 250 year old vat that was built from 130 oak trees and was able to hold 50,000 gallons of wine! Apparently it was not very good because any and all fruit was used to make the wine, not just good quality grapes like today. Obviously, the barrel isn’t used any more today. We were able to walk up on top of it, which was kind of fun, however.
After we drove back down to the lower part of the city and parked, we walked past a few little Christmas markets and explored the little town. There were a few student bars that have been owned by different family members for generations as well as a chocolate store that had been around for just as long.
We had lunch in a little local place so we could warm up. It was cute and very pub-y. Shawn had a hearty been soup with a full sausage sitting in the middle of it! Dad had potato sop and mom and I shard a pretzel with cheese. It was good food, but it kind of cut out personal exploring time down. We were really sad we didn’t have much time to spend on our own and go shopping.
We did manage to walk a ways down the “mile long” shopping district (one of the longest in Germany). Mom was looking for some winter boots, so we went into this great outdoor shop. Shawn and I ended up spending quite a bit as there was lots of good quality stuff on sale. We bought some new camping pillows and quick dry towels that were on a killer deal…now we have to bring them home! Shawn found some marina wool two for one long underwear and I bought a fleece. I’m looking forward to adding in this layer tomorrow when we’re walking around tomorrow!
Fortunately, we did hit up a bit of the Christmas market too! We bought a Gluhwine and got the collector glass from this city too. Lol. Funny collection, but it is kind of fun! Mom found a few really cute wood tree ornaments but other than that the stalls were mostly food and we didn’t have too much more stomach room to eat anything extra.
It took almost two hours to drive back to Aschaffenburg. It frustrated me to be in a city we didn’t get to see at all. Basically, the ship moved along upstream while we were out visiting all day. And it took off again as soon as we met up with it. The bus driver told me that I wasn’t missing much, though, so I guess I’ll live!
Dinner was good but unexciting. I had salmon and a brownie thing for dessert. What was better was that both Shawn and dad drank their weight in Martinis and were a bit happy for the rest of the night! And we bought these great little cone things with flavoured marshmallow cream inside from the market yesterday and ate them in the lounge after dinner with the live pianist playing! That was excellent!
Now time to curl up in bed to stay warm while the ship goes through a bunch more locks throughout the night.