Story and photo(s) by Gerry Barker …
HEIDELBERG, Germany – Today starts early. We need to get a hardy breakfast before we board buses to tour this historic, romantic city and visit Schloss Heidelberg, one of Europe’s most famous castles.
Ms River Splendor is docked at Aschaffenburg, from which Heidelberg is about 90 minutes by bus. The weather continues to be cold and rainy – pretty typical for November – so Pam and I add a few extra layers and pack our umbrellas. Back home in Palm Beach it’s about 50 degrees warmer, so it’s been a little bit of an adjustment.
After arriving here, we head to the funicular, which will take us from the Kornmarkt Station to Heidelberg Castle. Travel in these electric-powered cars uphill sure beats walking, especially in the rain. There were a number of other tour groups in town that day (3 million people visit Heidelberg yearly, mostly to see the castle), so cars were running at capacity both ways.
Like many of the castles we have seen, this one stands on a mountainside overlooking the city. Dating from the 1200s, over the centuries since it has been destroyed by both man and nature, and rebuilt several times. The ruins are indeed impressive, as are the views of the city and the Neckar River below. Another “must-see” is the world’s largest wine barrel. Allegedly built from the wood of 130 oak trees, it can hold 58,000 gallons of wine. It’s so big they even built a dance floor on top of it.
From the castle we headed into Old Town, an historic district of market squares, shopping and restaurants, for a traditional German lunch, a welcome respite from the rain. Recharged, we had some free time for – what else? — shopping, Pam’s favorite sport. Afterwards, we got some coffee and the best apple streusel we’ve ever had at Cafe Romantic. But when it came time to pay, I got a little jolt: They didn’t take credit cards, and I didn’t have any Euros on me. After a quick trip to an ATM, I avoided us having to wash dishes. Lesson learned.
While we were spending the day here, our ship was making the journey to our next port, Miltenberg. The drive back took us through picturesque towns and gorgeous woodlands, where the fall colors were just spectacular.
Back onboard, we were treated to a violin artist in the Cabaret Lounge. During dinner, they arranged a little surprise for Pam. Today happened to be our wedding anniversary (I tipped them off), and they presented us with a pyrotechnic cake, as well as a bottle of champagne. Very nice!
After dinner, we joined some new friends for disco dancing courtesy of Dariusz, the onboard musician. Earlier, he did a rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” With the German accent, it’s was pretty funny.
Maybe it’s the size of the ship, or just the Vantage clientele, but we have made more new friends in a shorter time than on any past cruises. That’s been really nice.
Tomorrow we go to Wurzburg, in Germany’s Bavaria region, famous for its wine, universities and the palace built for a prince-bishop, the Wurzburg Residence. They say it has to be seen to be believed. We’ll be the judge of that.
Story and photo(s) by Gerry Barker
Photo: The view of Heidelberg from the castle walls.