Monday, 18 November 2013

One happy trip to Heidelberg

When I told my brother I was on my way to Heidelberg, do you know what he responded? Of course you don't. How could you? Silly me for asking. Well, he said 'That sounds very German.' And I'd say he's right. Heidelberg. So Deutsch, I love it.

But I suppose if you don't study German or know much about the country, you'd be forgiven for having never heard of Heidelberg. Germany's oldest university is found in Heidelberg, making it basically the Oxbridge of Deutschland. The town also has the longest high street in Germany, but to be honest, it ain't really that long, so I think the uni claim to fame is a better one to go with.

As it's such a prestigious uni, I think my lovely friend Stef is super lucky to be studying there on her year abroad. (You know Stef, she of the yummy ginger crunch creams.) Stef can literally see the castle from her seminar room, but we'll get to the castle later, worry not.

So yes. With a good friend in Heidelberg and a three day weekend, y'all know what  occurred - yup, a trip to Heidelberg it was. And oh, what a marvelous trip!

I don't want to dwell loads on the journey but I just feel the need to share a teeny smidge - First up, I took the train from Bayreuth to Nuremberg (pretty much every journey starts with a trip to Nuremberg), where I got on a Deutsche Bahn coach to Mannheim. To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to this three hour bus journey but it actually turned out to be awesome. Well, as awesome as a coach journey can be.

The Deutsch Bahn coaches are roomy and have reclining seats, electric sockets and free wifi (an essential combo for a Twitter addict like myself), a loo, and a drink/snack machine. Sitting on the front row of the top deck, with a view of Germany by night ahead of me (and a cheeky bit of eye candy across the aisle), I settled in for a very relaxing few hours.

Of course, my journey took longer than scheduled - this is Deutsche Bahn - but what can ya do? In Mannheim I got on another train to Heidelberg. Except I didn't quite make it to Heidelberg. Note to self: don't listen to music on trains.

Unfortunately, I managed to get off my train one stop early and ended up slightly stranded in some dodgy-looking, deserted suburb of Heidelberg. There wasn't even a building at this supposed train station, only the occasional creepy man lurking in the shadows. Naturally, this was not ideal.

After various panicked texts to Stef and a fair bit of waiting, I eventually got on another train, made it the three minute journey to Heidelberg, spotted the fiery red hair I know and love, and happily met up with Stef. Phew.

Back to Stef's we went for an evening of catching up over sweeties and squash. (How nice is this? Having read this blog post, Stef saved me her last drop of orange squash from home! #whatababe)

The next morning we awoke to the smell of bolognese and a random man sleeping on the sofa. It was all a little odd. However, that did not deter us from whipping up a batch of peanut butter and banana pancakes and covering them with nutella before devouring them. OK, Stef whipped them up, I ate them. What a dutiful hostess she is.

Full of pancakey goodness, we set off to seize the day. Having arrived in the dark, I couldn't wait to see Heidelberg by day, and how lucky I was with the weather - it was a beautiful, fresh, late autumn day.

The aforementioned high street
So. It shall come as no surprise to you to hear that Heidelberg is yet another absolutely charming German town. Pretty old buildings, big houses nestling into the hills, and cobbled streets. COBBLED STREETS! I was sold.

Along the river we went, admiring the view of the famous Old Bridge, before heading into the old town centre.

I love that you can always see the Castle peering down from up the hill
Heidelberg certainly isn’t exactly the shopping capital of Germany, but it certainly has more to offer than dear old Bayreuth. I had a mosey round the main streets and stumbled across lots of cute little boutiques. For example, the Christmas shop, Käthe Wohlfaht - it’s open all year round and definitely made us feel even more festive. It may only be mid-November but I can definitely feel the Christmas magic in the air!

Naturally, we went in to soak up the magic.

We also couldn’t resist a cheeky visit to the above chocolate shop (oh, how emotional Stef and I became when the Love Actually theme tune came on! The lady behind the counter found it hilarious.)

The symbol of the Studentenkuß
Heidelberg is famous for it's 'Studentenkuß' (Student's Kiss - easy enough, I know, but thought I'd translate all the same), which is a yummy chocolate that's been produced for centuries. The story goes that the young ladies of Heidelberg's finishing schools would flock to Café Knösel for the chocolates, and so, unsurprisingly, the all-male students would follow suit. The café owner, Fridolin Knösel, noticed what was going on, and so created the Studentenkuß to be given as a token of affection. Isn't that sweet? No-one gave me one, but I did get tapped on the bum by one of those 'statue' street entertainers. Who says romance is dead?

Having treated ourselves to a yummy Starbucks each (I went for a Lebkuchen latte and it was DIVINE), we strolled through the town clutching our warm, festive, red cups. It's so great having a local to show you round.

Heidelberg is situated in a valley, with autumnal tree-covered hills either side. On one side, you've got the castle, which is definitely a must-see. You can get a little train thingy up there from the town, but it's only 10 minutes walk and it was a lovely day, so up the hill by foot we went (getting embarrassingly out of breath but hey.)

At the top, round the side of the  castle, the view over Heidelberg was simply gorgeous (and is also the picture at the top of this blog post.)

The mid-day winter sunshine was pouring down over the top of the hill, casting the most beautiful light over the whole town and the castle.

One view appreciated, Stef and I found ourselves some warming pumpkin soup for lunch (autumn is the best), before strolling over the old bridge to the other side of the valley - we were off to walk the Philosophenweg (Philosopher's Walk.) OK, we didn't walk it all, but it's about 2km long in total and we still walked a fair bit.

The Philosophenweg is so-called as it's traditionally where philosophers would walk and talk, no doubt discussing the meaning of life. Stef and I happily followed in their footsteps, even if our topics of conversation may have been slightly less intellectual. (But I bet even philosophers sometimes discuss what cake they want for afternoon tea.)

Speaking of tea, the ever-organised Stef had so wisely thought to bring along a flask of the good stuff. So, halfway up the hill, we had a bench-stop and a tea-break as we drank in the ever-improving view.

Tea makes everything better. Even when you're already perfectly happy, tea will make you happier. (*Goes to make tea mid-blog post*)

Sufficiently warmed, we carried on our climb and stroll along the Philosophenweg. Stef and I can chat till the cows come home, and it is always so nice to meet up in person and just waffle to each other - catching up via Facebook, Snapchat and Skype is all very well, but nothing beats getting together face-to-face.

There are various monuments along the Philosophenweg, and Stef and I managed to find a little tower. Naturally, we climbed up to the top and emerged to find an incredible view over Heidelberg. It was interesting to see the city from the other side to earlier, and although the sun was hiding, it was still gorgeous.

Having decided that was quite enough philosophising for one day, Stef and I wandered back into town in search of cake. Being gluten-free, this isn't the easiest for Stef, but luckily she's discovered a great little place that caters to her needs.

Apple tart, hot white chocolate and plum strudel. HELLO!
A brief sit-down turned into a long sit-down (seriously, we can chat for England), but we eventually emerged from the café to find the sun had gone to bed and the cobblestones of Heidelberg were reflecting the pretty lights of the night.

The aforementioned Christmas shop at night
As we strolled through the town we found ourselves drawn in by the prospect of free alcohol. (What? We're students! Don't pretend you wouldn't too...) We sampled some delicious white chocolate liquor, but that was unfortunately a little too pricey. 

The lush white choc liquor
Much more affordable, however, was the plum Glühwein, and oh! how delicious it was. I'd had apple, cherry and blueberry Glühwein at Bayreuth Winterdorf (mmm Winterdorf), but couldn't pass up the opportunity to try another fruity mulled wine. The Germans sure do it well!

For 3.50 Euros, we each got a steaming mug of fruity, sweet, spiced plum Glühwein to-go, served in adorable festive mugs, decorated with Christmas trees, angels, stars and hearts. A mug and a Glühwein for 3.50?! Total barg, don'tcha think?

As we wandered through the town, wrapped up warm and sipping Glühwein as we went, it was all a little blissful. CAN IT JUST BE CHRISTMAS ALREADY!?

It gets dark so early now, and in Germany, shops tend to stay open into the evening, and I have to say I love shopping when it's dark. It always feels a bit festive to me. One H&M spree later, Stef and I headed back to hers for dinner, exhausted and looking forward to watching Children In Need and sharing a bar of chocolate. Not for dinner, mind. After. Obvs.

I only had a day and a half in Heidelberg altogether, but I have to say I absolutely loved it, and I can certainly see why it's a great place to be a student. Despite it being the middle of November though, there were still a fair amount of tourists, so I imagine Christmastime and the Summer are packed! Just like Oxford and Cambridge, I suppose.

It's another place ticked off my 'Year Abroad To Visit' list and another load of great memories. Do let me know if you have any recommendations of places I should visit! Next up: Prague. Watch this space...


  1. Hiii
    I came across your blog after reading about your Bicester Village trip but I'm glad to have come across this recent post from it too! My friend is currently doing her PhD at Heidelberg University and I've been wanting to visit her but didn't have a clue what the city might be like. Thanks to you I have a much better idea and can't wait to visit :)

    Thanks again.
    Farah :)

    1. Hi Farah,
      So glad my blog helped you out! You'll have a fabulous time in Heidelberg, I'm sure :)
      Thanks for reading and commenting! X


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