Well what a blissful nights sleep! Such comfortable beds. And the luxury of a long hot shower, and breakfast prepared for you. That's the life! The hotel location was amazing so once we checked out we were right in the town square ready to get some tourist info from the bureau. But whaddya know...they're closed! Ah of course, this Monday turns out to be a public holiday - some kind of independence day celebration the reunification. So after finding this out from a lovely woman with three kids outside the town hall we put the luggage in the car and came back into the square. Another gorgeous day and we could hear a band playing so j took the girls to see them while I ran back to the hotel as bunny had gone missing. I located him and managed to find some travel info and maps in the hotel lobby, sorting out where we would stay tonight.
Venturing back out into the sunny square we just looked around. The cafes and restaurants were setting out tables and chairs which were quickly filling up, the large brown stone gothic-esque cathedral dominated the square and various streets and alleys lined with lovely historic and half timbered buildings led off it. We went towards the church, stopping at the stalls surrounding it's walls full of touristy items - magnets, hats and t-shirts (was very tempted by the I heart Heidelberg one's!), cuckoo clocks and german Christmas ornaments. The cathedral had a number of gothic gargoyles leaning out from it's roof but inside was fairly simple. The girls were keen to climb the tower so I took them. Lots of steep stone spiral stairs until we reached the top. Both em and meg are very good with towers, excellent climbers and seem to enjoy it. What wonderful views. The whole town spread out before us, half timbering visible through the old town, the Neckar river lazily dividing the buildings, the old bridge with it's beautiful turretted gateway and of course the schloss perched in the hillside overlooking the town. Stunning. We jumped down (per usual) to join Jason and felix and made our way to the funicular station. Only a bit of a wait to get the tickets sorted and we were getting on the modern cable cars for the three stage ride. Em wanted to sit at the front of course to look out down the track as we ascended. At the station after the castle we had to disembark and change over to the old cars for the last and longest part of the journey to the nearly 600m viewing point. The cars didn't fit as many passengers as the new one's, and were much slower so there was a bit of a delay but not too bad. In this leg the track was sometimes at a 41% incline! At the top station, we paused on the viewing platform to drink in the sublime views. Not just the town itself laid out like a toy, not the river winding through the distance, but the miles and miles of rolling hills covered in verdant green pastures and trees with foliage in every colour of the autumnal rainbow, incredibly blue cloudless skies and beating sunshine. Wow.
There was a sole large building up there that seemed to be operating as a form of pub, with all the visitors sitting at tables outside with their drinks. On the outside of an asphalted track was a wide dirt verge with more tables, and large logs with people sat on them all looking down the hill and enjoying the sunshine. As well as the people who had come up the funicular, there were a large number of hardcore bike riders who I didn't envy their cycle up the mountain. We followed a little dirt path which led onto a steep grassy bank under the road, perfect to bask in the light and the view while the girls sucked their lollipops and felix tried not to roll down the hill.
Heading back down I was glad we'd gone up first as the queue trying to get onto the old cable cars was now at least tripled. Just outside the castle we stopped at what looked like a lovely beer garden and restaurant for a late lunch. Well we probably should have guessed that it might turn into an even later lunch when our order was taken by a young girl not more than 10 who was helping her struggling mother. It took more than an hour for them to deliver some calamari and salad, schnitzel and chips and sausages. They didn't even get jason's order right! We were so not impressed.
When we had finally finished and paid the bill (with the requested discount!) we wandered down to the castle, a romantically ruined brownstone expanse that would have been very impressive when intact. The views over Heidelberg were lovely and the girls enjoyed dancing and playing on the grass. On the ride down into town I sat with meg and felix who were both stared at and lovingly examined by three young Asian women. At least they didn't want photo's!
We went on a guided walking tour courtesy of Jason (haha!) and made our way back to the car, very impressed with Heidelberg. As J said, how nice to live in a place so visually appealing, and to be proud of it. Would make you happy to go out each day. I just thought what a fabulous place to go to university!
It took us rather longer than planned (another recurring theme!) to get to our camping spot in the Black Forest, and of course all shops were shut so we had no supplies for dinner. The campsite, called Langenwald just outside Freudenstadt, was nestled in a valley, and though it was dark when we arrived you could still see the trees towering above us. The reception was warm and welcoming, and luckily they had a little restaurant that had takeaway so we got some flatbread pizzas to have. Straight to bed after that.