Sunday, April 15, 2007

Discovering Heidelberg

I've had plenty of time to explore a bit of Heidelberg during the past year that we've been here and it seems like there's always something new to discover. We're very fortunate to live in the Altstadt (Old Town) which is the historic district featuring the medieval houses and shops and is overlooked by a huge castle. There's a lot more to appreciate about the historic district though. For one thing, the scenic Neckar River flows right through the valley and although the south side gets all the notoriety because of the Altstadt, I've come to love the north side just as much, if not more. On the north side, across the river from the Altstadt, is a medium sized mountain that offers spectacular views of the river, the Altstadt and the castle. A little ways up the mountain is a little pedestrian road called the Philosophenweg, or "Philosopher's Way". It is so named because the view from up there provided inspiration to many famous philosophers and writers over the years. Since our first excursion up there we've fallen in love with the Philosophenweg and take strolls up there often. Everyone who visits Heidelberg should take in the view from up there. Here's the view (click to enlarge):

And as much as I love the Philosophenweg, I recently discovered something even better - a couple months ago, a coworker and I made the hike to the top of the mountain which is just as fantastic. I've since developed a tradition of hiking to the top every weekend, both for the view and the exercise benefits. It's not that high (I think it's roughly 1600 feet or so) but it's all uphill with no level sections and gives me a good 30-45 minutes of strenuous exercise that I wouldn't normally get. On top of the mountain are a couple of cool points of interest. One of them is the "Thingstatte", which is a huge Roman Amphitheater built and used by the Nazis for their summer solstice celebrations:

There are also the ruins of two monasteries dating back to around the year 1000 AD. One of them features a watch tower that offers a direct view looking down at the castle and the famous old bridge. I've taken a few pics from up there and will post them as soon as I get them downloaded.

If anyone has Google Earth, you can see a good image of the Altstadt, the river, the mountain and the castle. Just search for Heidelberg, zoom in on the Altstadt and go from there. People have posted a ton of photos from everything I've described in this post as well as a bunch more. Feel free to email me or leave a comment if you need help finding it. Trust me, it's well worth it!

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