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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Europe 08 Heidelberg

The ship departed from Ruedesheim at 5:00 am and arrived in Mainz at 8:00 am.

We had a choice of destinations today. We could have stayed with the ship and toured Mainz, with the highlight the Gutenberg museum, then a cruise to Frankfurt and a tour of that town.

Instead we decided on the trip to Heidelberg. We made this choice a few days ago, on the basis that we would be on the ship for three weeks and it would be valuable to travel away from the rivers when possible.

The bus ride to Heidelberg took 90 minutes along an autobahn - which was similar to Australian freeways.
Heidelberg is not on the Rhine, its river is the Neckar. Like many of the cities and towns we visited, the history of the town goes back to Roman times, with a fort built in 40 AD. The city though is first mentioned in a document dated to 1196. This is considered the founding date for Heidelberg.

The most famous "sight" at Heidelberg is the Castle, or maybe the ruin of the castle. Victor Hugo summarised its history as follows:

In 1619, Frederick V, then a young man, took the crown of the kings of Bohemia, against the will of the emperor, and in 1687, the Philip William, Count Palatine, by then an old man, assumes the title of prince-elector, against the will of the king of France. This was to cause Heidelberg battles and never-ending tribuluations, the Thirty Years War, Gustav Adolfs Ruhmesblatt and finally the War of the Grand Alliance, the Turennes mission. All of these terrible events have blighted the castle. Three emperors, Louis the Bavarian, Adolf of Nassau, and Leopold of Austria, have laid siege to it; Pio II condemned it; Louis XIV wreaked havoc on it.

Source this site.

We toured the castle, as usual, high on a hill overlooking the city. As it is largely ruined we mainly inspected the exterior walls, some of which contained many statues. The cellar has survived and is the site of the large wine vat called the Heidelberg Tun. The vat is huge and has a capacity of approximately 220,00 litres.

It is a beautiful and picturesque city that was not bombed during the Second World War. It was probably spared as it was not an industrial city and did not have an important transport hub.

We toured the older portion of the town, seeing part of the famous University, founded in 1386. We walked the Haupstrasse, the main pedestrian walk and had lunch in a restaurant with a view to the castle. We ate a local specialty food called maultaschen. The linked article describes them accurately as:

a Swabian Baden-W├╝rttemberg specialty food, consisting of an outer layer of pasta minced meat spinach, bread crumbs and onions and flavoured with various spices. Their appearance is similar to Italian ravioli but larger, each Maultasche being about 8-12cm across.

Maultaschen are rumored to have been invented by monks of the Maulbronn monastery to conceal the fact that they were eating meat during lent. This is reflected in the semi-humorous alternative Swabian name "Herrgottsbschei├čerle" (roughly: little ones who cheat the Lord).



We quite enjoyed them. The photograph shows Margaret across the road from the restaurant, with the castle in the background.




We returned to the ship (which was now in Frankfurt) through the first rain of the trip. Although there was a little time to tour Frankfurt we stayed on the ship for four reasons: light rain was still falling, we were told that it was a modern city and not really interesting, we were tired from our trip to Heidelberg and it was pleasant to sit in the ships lounge comparing notes with other travelers.

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