Heidelberg II – The Philosopher Walk

After a nice first evening in Heidelberg it was time to explore the city.  I came up with a plan to do some exercise following the famous Philosophers Walk along the Neckar and then continue visiting the Old Town by day. Well, obviously I would stick to my plan as usual!!!

Declining the breakfast at the hotel for €14 I headed from Bismarcksquare towards the river and crossed the Theodor-Heuss-Brücke (named after the first German president of the Federal Republic of Germany) to find the start of the Philosopher Path. Seeing a few cafes I decided having breakfast wouldn’t be a bad idea at all. I liked the look of the River Cafe on Brückenkopfstr. It had some comfortable seats next to the road, and my breakfast containing a croissant, homemade jam, honey and coffee was actually very nice. It is certainly a nice place to stop by.

Getting the required strength I then followed the signs for the Philosopher Walk. To get there you have to turn into a little road that leads up the hill, and you will pass some beautiful houses – that are certainly are not cheap. This was the posh part of town it seems. Between the nice houses you got a few hints of the view until you reach the end of the residential area and the real start of the Philosopher Path – a little garden with several benches and a fantastic view of Heidelberg – the river Neckar, the Old Town and the castle lying in front of you. And the garden with the flowers and trees is another welcoming feature to sit down at one of the benches and to enjoy the scenery.

Here it was time to make a decision, continue on the main path following the river, or turn left to walk up the hill. Eager to get even a better view I decided to walk up the hill – unfortunately my planning skill failed and I didn’t buy a drink at the little shop on the corner. I was sure it was a short walk up. it always amazes me how naive I am when travelling!!!!

A few minutes on the path I saw some stairs going up, and I saw a glimpse of a tower. Obvious it meant to leave the path and climbed the stairs and path that led me to a tower on the hill. More stairs to walk up and I was on top of the tower that offered another great view over Heidelberg. Thankfully I was on my own there, as it could be very crowded. And no witness to see me exhausted after climbing all the stairs. I really hoped I would not encounter any further. Well – it was a short-lived dream.

From the tower I followed a little path that led me to a paved road again. I could have turned right and go down the road to the main Philosopher path, but despite my better judgement I turned left and just followed the road up. The tall trees on both sides provided cover from the sun, but it meant it was a little bit cool as well. But it was still a nice walk.

I ended up at a little viewing station called Fuchs-Rondell – and my, what a treat the view was. Stunning – beautiful – great. It is certainly worth the exercise. If someone would have been prepared and bought some snacks or drinks, this would be a nice place for a rest. Well – I had neither so I continued my walk.

Once again I decided not to go down again, but turned left and continued a little path further up the hotel – straight through the forest. It was such a nice area for a long walk, and I just didn’t want to return to Heidelberg already. I heard that the top of the hill Heiligenberg is a nice place to get to – and without a map or knowledge of the area I was hoping that I was actually heading the right direction. Following the path, crossing a road and another little forest I arrived at a car park, and a restaurant at the back of it. At least it seemed I was somewhere tourists go to. Which is not a bad sign. And there was a sign for another interesting site of the area – Thingstätte.

During their 13 year reign the NSDAP attempted to build several open air stages called Thingstätten to host political and cultural events. All over Germany around 60 were built – planned were between 200 and 400. The Heidelberg Thingstätte was opened in 1935.

The location for this open air stage is impressive, being on top of a hill and surrounded by forests. Like other Thingstätte this one has a greek amphitheater style, with seats and stands for over 10.000 people in a circular set-up, the stage on the bottom of this hill, an arc providing the entrance. Standing on top of this facility you really get a great impression what the facility would have been 80 years ago. It still must be a great place to be when it is used nowadays. Though, unfortunately I had to walk more stairs to get to the top of the theatre for the best view of the Stätte..

Further up the hill, even above the Thingstätte are the ruins of the St. Michael monastery. Hardly any building of it is still standing, though the two towers can still be climbed, providing a great view of what the monestary must have looked like. Thanks to the good signage it is very interesting to spend some time here to explore the ruin. It is also a good place for a little picnic (yes – if you have thought about buying anything to drink or eat…). Overall it is a nice place to visit.

Talking about food, after all the walking and having no water or snacks with me I decided to have lunch at the restaurant “Waldschenke” next to the Thingstätte. I must admit, I walked into their lovely beer garden expecting a touristy place with bad food. On the menu I found some very nice sounding dishes, and ordered their local wild boar sausage, mashed potatoes, red cabbage and their home-made cranberries mustard, coming with their cherry spritzer. What can I say – the food was absolute delicious. The sausages were absolutely lovely and their mashed potatoes had little potato pieces – it was just perfect. One of the best dishes I had for a while. I didn’t expect that, but I would highly recommend having lunch here when visiting Heiligenberg.

Happy and belly filled I started the walk back to the valley. Returning to Fuchs-Rondell I decided to follow the little path back to the Philosopher Walk. it was an ice section through the forest, and I loved the shade provided by the trees – until I reach the paved road again. Turning right I saw a path turning left down to the valley – it was rather steep. Following that path for a while I realised it was the wrong way. Unfortunately it meant I had to walk up that steep road. And that after walking for over 4 hours. I wasn’t very motivated, but cursing my own stupidity (again!!!) I was back at the main road and followed it – hoping it would lead me to the famous stairs leading to the Old Bridge of Heidelberg. And thankfully it was the right way, as I got some great views over the Old Town of Heidelberg again. The nice thing here was , that there are plenty of benches along the road to sit down and enjoying the view while taking a break.

Finally I reached the start of the snake-stairs – called this as it went to the valley like a snake crawls down. If you have problems with stairs – do not use them. But if you do, it is a nice walk with some nice views. THere are plenty of little platforms with benches and great views. Perfect for selfies or having pictures taken without blocking the narrow stairs. I loved it – especially as it was all downhill. Not sure I would have had any energy left to walk upstairs!!!

The stairs end (or start) across the Old Bridge opposite the Old Town. So while you were treated to some spectacular views from the hill, down there you are welcomed to a view of the od Bridge, the river Neckar and the old Town. So no disappointment.

A few selfies later I was finally on the Old Bridge – and boy was it busy. So many tourists (including me…) tried to get a spot for some nice photos of the statue of the bridge, the Old Town, the river Neckar or the castle overlooking Heidelberg. You could easily stay there for hours and enjoy the 360° view from the middle of the bridge. it is just stunning. The performance of some local musicians added to the already great atmosphere (even with the amount of other tourists there). I just loved that spot, and it is one area you cannot miss when visiting Heidelberg. Just stunning.

Finally managing to get off the bridge I was back on Steingasse where I was last night for dinner. With the sun out the tables outside of the bars, cafes and restaurants were busy. And I was finally able to see  the impressive Heiliggeistkirche, the city hall and the main square in daylight. And all still looked beautiful and impressive. Unfortunately I was too late to walk inside the Heiliggeistkirche due to an Organ concert that was about to start. Usually I would use the opportunity to listen to such a little concert, but I think my legs were too tired – and I was keen to get back to the hotel. So I only managed getting one or two photos inside before starting my return journey.

Though it would have been boring just to follow Hauptstr. Instead I followed some of the smaller streets and alleys. I have no idea why, but I cannot resist exploring them when I see them. I find it just too tempting – especially if you have such beautiful old buildings on both sides of these alleys. It was just lovely. Yes, Heidelberg was a kind of town I just love. And thankfully my legs found new energy – nae idea where from…

Without realising I was suddenly  inside a shop selling different kind of liquor, made with different spices. Well – I like my alcohol, and I like such local places. I tried a few, though in the end I didn’t buy anything as I didn’t find the right kind of drink. Well – it was worth the effort.

I then spotted another beautiful church from Hautpstr. – Jesuitenkirche on Heugasse. It is a rather large church, and lucky as I am the church was just about to close. But I think the guy in charge saw how desperate i was to see the inside of the church, and let me in to walk around for a few minutes. And wow – it is a beautiful church. I didn’t expect that white interior. Far more impressive than the Heiliggeistkirche. I wish I had more time to visit it. I would highly recommend not missing this one.

From the church I just walked over to the next square where I got an excellent view to the side of the Jesuitenkirche, the Neue Universität and the University Museum. And it was a good place to enjoy the view over such nice buildings. In any other town a new square is just that – a square. In Heidelberg it is a new source of more beautiful buildings.

Obviously from the square I spotted something new that got my attention – Peterskirche. So I walked up the street to properly see it. I might have to confess that I like churches and temples. Wherever I go, I love visiting these buildings, mainly to see the differences. And Peterskirche was smaller than the Jesuitenkirche or Heiliggeistkirche – but still as interesting and beautiful. While I really wanted to see the inside I was now officially too tired and took the direct route to the hotel. Unfortunately, at Hauptstr.  I spotted something else that got my attention, and once again I could not resist. So I followed the road and arrived at the mensa of the University, a nice little square that looks absolutely peaceful, where students were sitting outside. It really reminded me of my time at the University of Glasgow, where I spend such afternoons at the campus as well. Boy – I really miss that time.

After that detour I somehow managed to get back to the hotel, fall into the bed and enjoying a short, but well deserved nap.

For dinner I got another recommendation from the reception, so I walked all the way back to the Heiliggeistkirche. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the restaurant I was told about. After checking the menu of different places I decided to walk into Palmbräu Gasse. I love the old fashion interior and I liked the recommended dish of the day – Semmelknödel with chanterelle in a creamy sauce. It was tasty, though I must admit, I would have preferred one of the meat dishes. So lesson learned – eating a vegetarian dish in a brewery house is not th best idea. But the food was still good, and so was their own beer. And having the Apfelstrudel with ice cream was a great way to finish the meal. Overall, I liked the look of this restaurant, the waitresses are very charming and the food was good. I would return there, but maybe after revisiting the Vetter’s.

My belly filled it was time to enjoy my last night at Heidelberg and to the market square to see the area by night again. The view of the city hall and the castle is stunning, but seeing the castle from Kornmarkt was even better, especially with the statue on the market in front of the castle. It is beautiful, well, I guess you could call it romantic. If you are there as a couple I guess. As solo traveller it just looked nice.

From here I just did a walk through the Old Town. Heading back to the Old Bridge to see it by night without rain, getting a better view of the castle. Followed by Untere Str. where the bars and pubs got busier and busier, and unlike last night the pebbled street was full of people enjoying the warm night. And without the rain the buildings, some lighten up, looked much more beautiful now. It is very easy to walk around there and just take in the sights. It is just beautiful, especially where the colour of green with the stone and lights provided some very atmospheric views.

If I wouldn’t have been a bit tired I could have walked around through the Old Town until early morning. Instead I resisted the temptation to have a few beer (I know – it seems miracles do happen!!!!) and instead returned to the hotel. Thankfully I had my key card with me, as the hotel was once again locked after 11pm. But I was able to enter the hotel and I was very happy to be in my comfortable to have a very comfortable sleep.

Day two in Heidelberg did not go according to plan as I somehow focused on walking around the Philosopher Walk instead of visiting museums  but I am glad I did it. It was very enjoyable and saw a lot of beautiful places. I was just hoping that my last day would be as good…

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