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Part IV – Heidelberg, the perfect ending. February 28, 2007

Posted by thebigswede in Uncategorized.

And so it is. The anticipated conclusion to my little trip in Germany. Whats with all this excitement in the air? You can practically cut it with a knife! Alright enough hype, you’ve waited for the goods and now its time to deliver. Picking up where part III ended, Sarah and I woke up early early Saturday to catch a morning train for Heidelberg. I’m not going to lie – I was pumped. Usually when I visit a new place I end up reading about it from a guidebook, looking at maps and haphazardly wandering my way through a place, hoping to see the best the area has to offer. In reality this strategy works about only about 50% of the time. But today I had with me a secret weapon: a native German! Anything and everything I saw in Heidelberg was pretty much the doing of Sarah and I have to give thanks where thanks is due. The train trip took roughly 2.5 hours, and the scenery was pleasant, with rolling hills and little villages dotting the countryside. Is it just me or do the blue chairs really bring out the blue in my eyes (in a scary way)? Lol.

So we got there, made a brief stop at the tourist info station and headed into the center of town. The main street is packed with every imaginable store, from designer fashions to bakeries to electronics. I was told that the whole concept of the “shopping mall” hasn’t quite caught on yet in Germany so…streets like these are their equivalent. In Germany there are as many stand-alone bakeries every block as there are Starbucks and Tullys stores in Seattle. If you know anything about Seattle, that means a lot. I had to stop at one and try a few of the special breads that my German friends back in Uppsala were always making a big deal about. Well guys, I tried them, and you are right – German bread (for whatever reason) is just better. We were in the heart of old town Heidelberg and along this old street are statues, fountains and other items which make for good pictures. Like here!

And here!

As we were meandering through these cobblestone streets we ran into the city museum. I’m kind of a museum nut so we stopped and explored. I was really impressed at their collection of artifacts from this area of Germany, dating from thousands of years ago. Heidelberg was a location the Roman Empire took some interest in and recent excavation has uncovered evidence of Roman activity in the city. The museum was, of course, in German but Sarah was kind enough to give explanations. We ended up spending more time then we thought in the museum and found a place to take a proper German lunch on the street. In retrospect I’m so angry that I didn’t take any pictures in that restaurant. You could tell it had been around since the 1700s and the wooden carvings as well as the paintings created an old world atmosphere. Try the spicy ‘satanswurst’ and you won’t be disappointed. A short distance from here was the cathedral of the city.

In it was this sizable pipe organ and we noticed a sign saying there would be a organ concert this evening. During one of the handful of conversations we had back in Seattle, Sarah said she had expressed a desire to hear a organ concert (knowing that I play) and apparently (although I have no recollection of this) I promised that we would go to one, so she insisted that I hold up my end of a long standing agreement. So it was settled, although in truth I needed no convincing. It was already early afternoon and we hustled up a long and steep pathway to the main attraction of Heidelberg – the castle. The term ‘castle’ hardly applies however, as it was so big that no one picture can do it justice; it is more of a complex of buildings and ruins. Very impressive, all the way around.

We took a picture just outside this area on the raised wall, you can also see some fantastic views from this vantage point of the city itself.

In the main castle there is housed a pharmacy museum and we decided to take a look. The museum has preserved drugs from hundreds of years ago and also does a nice job of explaining (in English!) the history of medicine and pharmacy, which is right up my alley. It was crazy to read about how many people actually died in the ‘trial and error’ testing of new medications; it certainly makes me grateful to be living in the 21st century. You wouldn’t believe what people used to eat as an aphrodisiac…lets just say its far from appealing. At this point we had actually taken so much time to explore around the city, museums and the outside of the castle that we were too late for the last tour to go inside the castle itself! Bummer! Actually it was just fine as the weather was perfect (sunny) and we had more to see (the ruins and gardens) as well as an evening organ concert to catch. Parts of the castle had fallen into disrepair over the years and through the many wars it had seen. Personally I loved the look.

The first picture in this post was taken in the adjacent gardens to the castle. Close to Mr. Poseidon statue were the gardens themselves. Even in winter they were impressive and I’m sure that in spring time they are out of this world.

As the daylight began to fade we hiked back down the hill and into town to catch the aforementioned organ concert. The performer clearly had talent and he played some classics but also improvised and even, spontaneously, did a duet piece with a guy who happened to bring his clarinet to the concert. I’m sitting there thinking….what?! this had to have been planned, but apparently not. In any case we both enjoyed it a lot (including an intermission with champagne! – another first for me at an organ concert). We headed back to the central station to catch our train, but not before stopping at a Starbucks (I do come from Seattle after all) as we were both tired from being on our feet all day. This had been, by far, the most fun day of my trip. I can’t remember much of the evening other then enjoying left over German chocolate cake and packing for the flight the next day. And just like that, after such a fun week of new experiences it was time to say goodbye. Sarah (although you already know this): I can’t begin to thank you enough for your generosity and hospitality. To the people I met while in Deutschland who are reading this blog: you are always welcome to come and visit in Uppsala and Stockholm, I would love to show you around my Nordic home-away-from-home.

One thing that I really learned recently, or at least realized while traveling is that I have done far, far too little of it since coming to Sweden. Sure I’ve been to Iceland, Denmark, Finland and a few different places in Sweden. But, it wasn’t until I went to Germany that I realized how important it is to take advantage of the fact that I am living in Europe. Call me slow, call me whatever you want but its true. When I look back on Sweden in the years to come I will not be remembering the homework, the tests or the classes that I sat through in Uppsala. No, it is the times that I’ve traveled to meet new people and new places that will stay with me. What I’m trying to say is since coming back to Uppsala I already have several trips in the works, including a trip to Kiruna (the far, far north of Sweden) in March and to Russia (St. Petersberg and Moscow) in April. Can you expect long winded and detailed reports with pictures from these places, similar to what I’ve done here with Germany? You’re damn right you can. Thanks for staying patient, checking back often, sending emails and leaving me comments. I love you guys, this is only the beginning.



1. The infamous Sarah M. - February 28, 2007

Wow Mike, you’re just an amazingly talented writer! Well had I not been to Heidelberg with you that day I sure would try to go there next weekend as your description of it is just picking out the really great things and helps me remeber that day so much better! Thanks again for coming down here, and I actually feel more like you were the one showing me around rather than I!

2. Mark - March 1, 2007

Mike, I’m so glad that you got Part IV up, and it was worth the wait! I love the pics and the descriptions. Pharmacy museum?? How interesting–so what DID they use as an aphrodisiac back then? 🙂

I’m so happy that you had such a great time. See you in a few weeks!

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