Our first day trip after moving to Germany was to Heidelberg, a university town about an hour outside of Frankfurt whose original buildings from the later Middle Ages and early Renaissance escaped destruction by World War II air raids and are largely intact. Heidelberg is home to the oldest university in Germany, dating to 1386.
I know I’ve thrown around the word “picturesque” a lot to describe much of our travels around Germany, but Heidelberg truly is such a town. It belongs on a postcard, with the beautiful Gothic-Renaissance Heidelberg Castle overlooking the Neckar River.
Our first visit was in mid-October, during a warm and sunny mid-autumn day, before the leaves started changing colors, but when the cloudless, sunny sky was a perfect, bright blue.
Now, almost six months into what seems to be an endless string of cold, gray, damp days, I can’t even remember what that was like. But back then — just about six weeks after arriving to our new home — we were high on European living. Fall festivals! Cafe culture! Public transportation!
Thus enthused, Kail and I packed Piopio into a stroller and boarded a train to Heidelberg.
We walked the main street lined with shops and cafes, bought some postcards and fancy crayons for Piopio from LAMY, the fancy German pen maker, and took the funicular up to Heidelberg Castle. We went on a self-guided tour, managed to take some beautiful photos that we ended up using for our Christmas card, and had lunch at the restaurant before taking the funicular back to town.
We visited the Church of the Holy Spirit in the main town square, crossed the Old Bridge over the Neckar River, and got some gelato before taking the train back to Frankfurt.
We returned to Heidelberg when Kail’s parents visited to check out the Heidelberg Christmas market. By this time, our car had arrived, so we drove instead of taking the train, which was nice and gave us more flexibility with arriving/departing — essential for toddler travel.
This particular December day could not have been any more different, weather-wise, than the perfect day we spent there in October. It was cold, rainy — like, a pretty heavy/steady downpour about half the time — and gray.
Still, we managed to have a good time. Nothing is cosier than a Christmas market! Piopio got his carousel ride in (though not a train ride because it started raining too hard), and the adults sampled glühwein and kartoffelpuffer (not as good as the Frankfurt Christmas market). We also bought neat hand-painted mugs for Piopio and my sister, with their names painted on them.
As I eventually discovered, while much of the Christmas market features seem to be the same everywhere, each one has its own unique vendors and atmosphere to make it a worthwhile destination. That, and anything to add some cheer to these dreary German winters.
We’ll definitely be heading back to Heidelberg again during different seasons.
Have you ever ridden a funicular? Kail and I have randomly been on multiple — this one in Heidelberg, one in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, Scenic Railway (which bills itself as the steepest passenger train in the world) in Australia’s Blue Mountains, and the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh.