I have visited Heidelberg a couple of times and I have to say: it is a fun town. The second time I went, an expat living nearby took us into town to see the sights but also to sample all the beer styles on offer. A pub crawl for sure! I was invited by my friends Troy and Cybil to join them on this trip and I could not say “no” to go a second time (by the way, check out Cybil’s awesome photography at www.acybiloriginal.com).
Heidelberg sits on the Neckar River (which later connects to the Rhine) and its most famous sight is the Heidelberg Castle that overlooks the town and the river. Day or night, it is an impressive sight. But I like it the most at sunset. It is really in ruins since the 17th and 18th centuries (wars, fires and, yes, even lighting!) but it still is impressive in size and presence.
The town can be traced back a long way but it can mostly closely be tied to a 12th century monastery built in the area. Heidelberg University is quite old and its early 15-th century library is the oldest public library in Germany.
The old town is mainly baroque and is quite lively due to the town being quite appealing to tourists. We first walked around town and made our way to the river proper passing the Old Bridge Gate. At the start of the bridge, we saw the famous mandrill (like a baboon) guarding it and took the obligatory picture… (tou-ristssssssssss!).
But all that was just interesting… the real fun began when our host started the pub crawl. He was a friend of one of my friends’ parents but he wanted to show us German beer. He did not call it a pub crawl but we visited pubs and restaurants and we almost had to crawl… After a large lunch of wurst and sauerkraut (the REAL stuff!) and a beer, he started taking us to places that offered different types of beers. By the early evening, I was so stuffed with beer that when we went to a Thai restaurant for dinner (!), I did not eat a bite.
But the night was not over. As the final spot, he took us to some bar that fencing groups hung out at – except they were nowhere to be seen that night. The other group there that night was a group of local ladies in their 50s and 60s clearly on a night out on the town, drinking and doing shots of I-don’t-know-what. They would look at us four and raise their glass in “cheers” mode, and drink away. It was a fun experience. To cap it all off, our friend ordered an Italian after-dinner potion called Averna which he claimed would help settle our stomach after all the eating and drinking. He was right, that stuff really helped soothe our busy stomachs, so much so, that when we returned to the U.S. months later, we hunted the stuff down!
A final note is that when it came time to leave, our host could not figure what the way out of town was. One of my friends and I had had a bit more to drink so we could not really tell anything. It was my other friend, the one that was pregnant and 100% sober, who first noticed we were going past the same spots over and over… We made it out of Heidelberg safely to our host’s house and I, for one, slept fitfully!
So don’t miss out on Heidelberg if you go to Germany just make sure you have a designated we-are-lost spotter in the group!