If you want to feel young, head to a university town of Heidelberg in SouthWest Germany, the common name for the state of Baden-Württemberg. Even if you were one of the backbenchers in class, you would want to go back to school here and never want to leave. I visited just before the academic break was about to end so did not see too many students, but a day was enough to tell me that this is the town where one could spend years and not get enough of it.
A short cab ride took me from the railway station to my hotel in the old town. It could well have been a movie set. I walked on cobbled streets lined with amazing cafes, shops, restaurants, university buildings, churches and more. I looked up on the hilly side to see the impressive Heidelberg Castle looking down upon the town; on the other side, you had the pristine Neckar river with boats showing the sights of the city. Beyond lay more hilly forests, inviting one to explore its many trails.
Of course, I had just a day on this particular occasion – so what stood out for me? Here are some highlights you may want to explore yourself.
COFFEE AND CAKE
Those who know me know that I go sniffing for the best coffee and cakes in every new town. My senses get confused when spoilt for choice as I was in Heidelberg but that’s a good problem to have. During the day, I took three breaks for coffee – the images below should get your mouth watering.
TRAIN RIDE TO THE HEIDELBERG CASTLE
All caffeinated, the best way to start would be to get a bird’s eye view of the city from the Heidelberg Castle set on the north flank of Königstuhl hill, also referred to as the palace. The fun way is to take the funicular railway up and get off the at the Schloss (palace) station; it is a good idea to get there early as queues can get very long. If the city was beautiful below, it was breathtaking from up above; you can plan to spend a full day there if you want to, and even hike down back to town. Or hire a bicycle to go both ways.
One of the grandest palaces of the Renaissance, the earliest mentions of the palace go back to 1225. Wars, fires and acts of Nature saw it partly or completely destroyed over the centuries, before being restored to its current state in the 19th century. In the 17th century, it was commonly referred to as the eighth wonder of the world; one can only imagine what it would have looked like in its glory days.
More on the Heidelberg Castle at http://www.schloss-heidelberg.de
LET’S GO ON A SOLAR BOAT RIDE
Having seen the town on foot and from above, it was only natural to take a boat ride – on the Neckarsonne. The 36.9 metres long ship, powered by solar energy, is literally a silent machine gliding over the waters of the Neckar river. With a capacity of up to 250 people, it claims to be the largest solar steel ship in the world. The 50 minute ride showed me a good part of the town, including houses I would love to make a home in. And who could have missed out on a coffee on board to add to the experience?
Book your ride at http://HDSolarSchiff.com
TIME TO GO TO JAIL
I have never heard of students having their own prison – but Heidelberg University had one. From 1823 to 1914, students could be sent to ‘jail’ for transgressions like night-time carousing or other offences against the public order. Imprisonment could last two days to four weeks. Students were still allowed to attend classes but many chose this as an opportunity to cut classes and make artistic and political statements on the walls and ceilings on their quarters. Life was relatively comfortable inside the prison so students did not really mind being there.
A BOHEMIAN NIGHT
What better way to round up a visit to the city than by joining a Bohemian themed party; I may not have been prepared for the dress code but neither were many locals. For me, the singers seemed to be singing just one tune: Come back to Heidelberg, we will be waiting.
TIP: Pick up a HeidelbergCARD for free and discounted entry to attractions, restaurants and shops.