The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur
February 18 - Heidelberg

I could have been very happy to head for home today ... but we don't leave until tomorrow. It was spitting rain most of the day but we thought it would be worth a few hours on the road to see Heidelberg -- certainly better than sitting in the hotel room all day -- so off we went.

Heidelberg is an old university town, dominated by the Schloss Heidelberg (schloss means castle) on the hill overlooking the old town. The castle is a dignified ruin today, but even in its deteriorated state, it's one of the finest Gothic-Renaissance castles in Germany. The ancient bell tower, at the northeast end of the Altan, dates from the early 1500s. The castle was built in stages from then until it started to fall into disrepair starting with the Thirty Years War in the mid 1600s, so it has been an elegant ruin for quite some time now.

You enter the main courtyard through the Bridge House and across the bridge over the site of the former moat. Along the north side of the courtyard is the rather severe palace of Friedrich IV erected in the early 1600s. The palace is less damaged than other parts of the castle, and apparently its rooms have been almost completely restored, including the gallery of princes and kings of the German empire from the time of Charlemagne. Rather impressive credentials.

In the cellars of the castle, is the Wine Vat Building , built in the late 16th century and worth a visit for a look at the Great Cask, symbol of the abundant and exuberant life of the Rhineland-Palatinate. This huge barrel-like monstrosity, built in 1751, is capable of holding more than 55,000 gallons of wine.

On the right side of the courtyard is the Hall of Mirrors Building, constructed in 1549 -- a Renaissance masterpiece. Only the shell of the original building remains, enough to give an idea of its former glory, with its arcades and steep gables decorated with cherubs and sirens. Next to Ottheinrich's palace is the Chemist's Tower which houses the German Pharmaceutical Museum. This museum shows a chemist's shop with utensils and laboratory equipment from the 18th and 19th centuries. This area was open when we were there and we had to check it out, if only to take a few photos for our neighbor who is a retired pharmacist.

We missed the English language tour, so we just wandered around on our own, grabbed a quick lunch in the little cafe by the gate and headed back to Stuttgart to turn in the rental car. The flight for home leaves at 6:30 in the morning ... and a little sleep was in order.

Click here for a look at Heidelberg and the castle

Click here for some miscellaneous observations

[Itinerary Page]

© 2004 Restaurant Doctor