Surrounded by forest 93km south of Frankfurt, Germany’s oldest and most famous university town is renowned for its baroque Altstadt, spirited student atmosphere, beautiful riverside setting and evocative half-ruined hilltop castle, which draws 11.8 million visitors a year.
We flew into Frankfurt and took a train to Heidelberg to check into our amazing accommodation (birthday gift from Ross).
Heidelberg’s old town is so pretty! It feels very medieval. Heidelberg’s ruined Renaissance castle is stunning and cuts a romantic figure, especially across the Neckar River when illuminated at night from our balcony. It would be hard to imagine a more striking location for a castle, set against the deep green forests on the north flank of Königstuhl hill, the red sandstone ruins tower majestically over the Neckar valley. From its lofty position, the palace’s silhouette dominates the old town centre of Heidelberg. After a good nights sleep, the castle would be our first tourist stop. We reached the castle by taking the Bergbahn (cogwheel train from Kornmarkt station to the top of the hill an walking down through the muddy forest (there is a stop at the castle for those that are less adventurous but we felt like we wanted to get out in the fresh air).
Attractions at the castle (Schloss) include the world’s largest wine cask, with a capacity of about 228,000L and fabulous views. Rather than taking the train back down we took the steep, cobbled trail back into the main square which was only about a 10min walk.
We walked through the Christmas markets and back across the bridge via the bronze monkey to our accommodation.
According to legend, the bronze monkey on Heidelberg’s Old Bridge (who is holding a mirror) was meant to remind those who crossed it from either side to look over their shoulders at where they’ve come from. Whether a Heidelberg citizen lived inside or outside of the city, it reminded them they were no better than their respective counterpart.
The monkey is said to be good luck. Rubbing the mirror will bring you money; rubbing his fingers will ensure your return to Heidelberg, and rubbing the little bronze mice nearby will bring you fertility.
The current statue has only been around since 1979, though the bridge has featured a monkey at the spot as far back as the 15th century. An earlier incarnation also had the monkey holding a mirror up to passersby, but its other hand was clutching its butt. It disappeared somewhere around the Palatinate War of Succession, which lasted from 1689 to 1693.