Our Visit to the Valley, Rich Paschall
For most of my visits to Strasbourg, France I returned home by going directly to Frankfurt airport for my flight. It is about two and one-half hours away by Lufthansa bus, slightly longer by Flixbus as they usually make one brief stop. My friend from Alsace has driven me there as well. This year we had to change the plan.
Our return flight left early in the day so our options were to stay overnight near Frankfurt or get to someplace where we could make the journey in a short period of time. We decide to go to Heidelberg for two nights.
Heidelberg is a university town nestled among surrounding mountains in the Rhine Rift Valley. The Neckar River flows through the valley with the town being largely on one side and the Heidelberg mountain rising on the other. At just 48 miles from Frankfurt, it was a good place to be within the early striking distance of our morning flight.
The population of the city is approximately 160,000 with a fourth of that said to be students at the renowned university. Founded in 1386, it is Germany’s oldest and one of the world’s most respected universities. Its buildings are spread out over a large section of the old town.
The oldest streets are narrow, and making your way down them by on foot or by vehicle can be a challenge. Nevertheless, we found the city a great place to explore on foot. Narrow streets may surprise you by opening up onto plazas or university sites that provide open spaces.
In our travels about town, we often noticed many flower shops. For late October we found the abundance of flowers to be amazing. The moderate temperature and somewhat longer growing season may be partly responsible. The cultural interest certainly comes into play as tourists are not likely buying any.
In all of the European cities we explore, we stop by churches of many denominations. We often find structures of architectural and historical significance. Many still operate as churches. A few are no more than museums now. Some are both actually.
Almost in the shadow of the largest Heidelberg church, seen at the end of the main street above, is the Parish Church of the Holy Spirit and St. Ignatius, or more commonly known as the Church of the Jesuits. Built between 1712 and 1759, the church steeple was added over a century later.
Throughout the oldest section of town are buildings of the Universitat Heidelberg. One of the more impressive is the main library building, constructed between 1901 and 1905. It holds a collection of printed books counting in the millions, as well as paintings, maps and photographs, films and video. Of course, they are up to modern methods, with e-journals and other electronic services.
While the “modern” library is early 20th century, the university library dates back to 1388. It has enjoyed several locations around town. The Bibliothek, or central library, you see here is one of many libraries in the university system.
While the tram system is a good way to get around, students, as well as many locals, know that the best way to travel about is by bicycle. You will find that many of the university buildings are surrounded by bicycles throughout the day. With automobile traffic being difficult, if not impossible, around many of the school buildings, the only ways to navigate the distances between buildings are on foot and by bike.
For the Heidelberg stopover, we rented an apartment near a tram station. We found it on Booking.com as we searched sites for our stay. It was a bit more than a hotel perhaps, but the large space had a kitchen, a large living room, and a large bedroom. It had a washing machine which was essential at this late part of our trip. One of the things that amaze me around Europe is the washer and dryers, as they are actually the same machine. I just don’t know why we continue to buy two machines, but I digress. The apartment had everything you would need to set up shop, although we did no cooking. We used the refrigerator, however, to chill the wine we brought from Strasbourg and there were wine glasses in the cabinet.
Our brief visit to Heidelberg was just a day and a half, two nights. It did not give us enough time to see all of the historic sites. The autumn weather was mild and we were able to take many meals “in the streets” as my friend likes to say. Our living quarters were at the end of a quiet street in a beautiful old apartment building. Autumn would seem a lovely time to visit and we will hope we can add Heidelberg to our itinerary again.