One day in Christmas-land: Heidelberg

Last November, I visited Germany on an official trip. We had an offsite training planned for five days in the lovely hotel Sonne in Frankenberg, a village about 130 km from Frankfurt. Before the training, I had 3 days in which to see a bit of the country. This being my first trip to Germany, I decided not to fly too far and instead confined myself to Hessen country. However, I did venture into the neighboring state of Baden-Württemberg for a whirlwind trip to Heidelberg.

I landed at the Frankfurt airport by 1:00 pm, met my friend, and we purchased train tickets to go to Heidelberg. From the main Frankfurt town there are direct trains that go to Heidelberg. However, from the airport, we had a change at Mannheim. The journey took about an hour. The change was not too painful, except with a 3 minute layover between the two trains and changing platforms, we made it to the waiting train just in the nick of time.

At the Heidelberg station, a waft of cool air greeted us. After days in the tropical heat of Singapore, the freshness of cold was exhilarating. Gone was any remnant of flight fatigue or jet lag – I was ready for a long evening.

From the Heidelberg rail station, we took a tram upto the Bismarkplatz and walked down the haupestrasse to our hotel – The hip hotel. Almost all of heidelberg’s altstadt (old town) is contained within 3-4 streets around the Haupstrasse, so once you have entered there, you do not need any other means of commute but your feet.

Hip hotel was a cozy and nice place. Of course having less than 24 hours to spend in the town, we hardly spent much time in the hotel. Yet it was nice to come back to our London room, styled in strong British tones.

We spent the evening strolling the streets, enjoying a cup or two of the gluhwein – hot wine for the uninitiated. Other than an unsavory taste of Vin chaud in France somewhere, this was my first experience with a steaming wine and for the lovely weather I enjoyed it thoroughly. The town was alive till quite late – particularly the pubs. We hopped through a few, until by 2:30 all the lost sleep caught up with me.

In the morning, we started with a stroll around the river and a hearty breakfast near the townsquare. From the cafe window, we could see the Schloss Heidelberg, which seemed to be handing out an invite.So without waiting for the food to settle, we walked up. It is a very pretty climb, and not too steep. We first climbed to the opposite side of the schloss, which leads to a beautiful walkway from where the town is visible in its pristine beauty. This is also the best place to see the Schloss. At the time we went, there was some repair going on, which is strange because I can now recall seeing at least 5 big monuments I have visited and seen them undergo repair. At least this one was not covered with some ugly green canopies.

 We then crossed over to the castle – and honestly, you can skip going inside (I have that approach to many monuments – they look lovely from the outside and lose part of the charm when you wander inside them with a ticket in hand – it seems very museum-like as soon as you walk in with that ticket).

Anyways, after a climb down, we strolled through the streets some more, enjoying one of the lovely chocolateries of Heidelberg (with its myriad chocolate spoons and oodles of chocolate, not to mention a cozy little fire, this was delightful). Then another climb – this time to Philosopher’s Way. Apparently many a philosopher’s have found on this walk the solitude they needed to focus their minds. Also rumored that many lost their virginity here, so definitely I was intrigued on seeing this place which held so much promise once, both for the body and the mind. It is a steep climb, much steeper than the castle, specially because of our heavy jackets. But once you reach the top, there is a long walk on a level road, following the river Neckar from a distance. In November, this is most refreshing. Here we ran into a woman with a couple of rabbits – she said she was Russian and had come to germany following a man. Now that they were separated, she was looking for men or work – whichever she could find more suitably. How women follow someone across continents without securing themselves in any way against the possibility of a split is something I completely fail to understand. If I ever found love to be such a strong bond, I think that must have been another life.

Another couple of hours in this Christmasworld, and it was time to go. I parted with my friend regretfully. I had seen her after 2 years and 24 hours just seemed too short. It was a melancholic train ride to Wiesbaden where I was meeting my colleagues with whom I went to Rudesheim before we all went to Frankenberg for the offsite.


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