An Afternoon In Heidelberg

This weekend, a one-day meetup of bloggers descended on Heidelberg for some tourism and a light lunch.   The bloggers who came along for the fun are (in no particular order,)  Nina of Indie Rock Kid, Charlotte of Sherbert and Sparkles, Frau Dietz of Eating Wiesbaden, Kathleen of Lehrer Werkstatt, Jordan of Beer Time with Wagner, and Bev of Confuzzledom.  I had lots of fun with this group.  This is really a great bunch of people, and I highly recommend their blogs for your perusal.

Charlotte, Kathleen, and I started in Frankfurt, and we picked up Nina in Mannheim.  From there, we took the S-Bahn into Heidelberg where we were met by Bev and Frau Dietz (with an attached Mini-Dietz accessory.)  Heidelberg local Jordan also met us there.  She’s a student in Heidelberg, so she served as our tour guide.  Once everyone was present, we set out for the castle.

Heidelberg’s castle is on a hillside overlooking the Neckar river.  There’s a funicular to get up to the top, but the climb is doable on foot.  Steep, but doable.  The view from the top is fairly spectacular.


Visible from the top is the Karl-Theodore-Brücke over the Neckar river.


Inside the castle, one of the first things we saw was a giant wine barrel.


This was nothing compared to the other wine barrel around a corner. Behold the Heidelberg Tun (Großes Fass),  the world’s largest wine barrel.  My good and dear friend Wikipedia says that this was built in 1751 from one hundred and thirty oak trees.  Wikipedia goes on to say that at the time of its construction, it “had a capacity of 221,726 litres (58,573.8125 U.S. gallons). Due to the drying of the wood its current capacity is 219,000 litres (57,853.6795 U.S. gallons).”    Here’s the Heidelberg Tun:


After leaving the giant wine barrel, we saw some of the exterior of the castle, even passing by a wedding that was going on there.


Through the Elisabethentor, there were more nice views to be had.


From here, we picked out our path to the city center, to have lunch.  First, we had to get down there.  Luckily, there were stairs nearby.


Walking into the Marktplatz…


We ate lunch at Café Knösel, because it was close, the menu looked pretty decent, and Tripadvisor rated it well.  I didn’t know at the time that it’s the oldest cafe in Heidelberg, open since 1863.  I had a pricey but delicious plate of salmon, spinach, and potatoes.

After lunch, we hopped over to the Karl-Theodore-Brücke.  There’s a rather nifty statue of a monkey at the end of the bridge which has space enough to put your head inside, cheerfully demonstrated here by Bev.


On the low wall next to the monkey sculupture are these little metal mice.  I quite liked these little guys.


This is the view of the castle, Schloss Heidelberg, looking back from the Karl-Theodore-Brücke.


…and back at the archway leading onto the bridge.


After we visited the bridge, we wandered toward the Studentenkarzer.   On the way there, we found another tourist…


Heidelberg is a University town.  Founded in 1386, the Heidelberg University is the oldest university in Germany and the third to be established in the Holy Roman Empire.  The Studentenkarzer, or student jail, was in service from 1823 to 1914.  Students would be sent there for drunken misconduct, messing about with the police, throwing rocks at churches, or dueling.  The perpetrators would be sent to the jail for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the offense.

Students were still allowed to attend classes, and over the years a tradition formed of marking the walls with graffiti to note the person, their offense, and logos from their fraternity houses.  The Heidelberg Studentenkarzer has been preserved in its original state, with the original furniture left in place, as well as the marks of the incarcerated from years gone by.    120 year old graffiti is rather interesting.

The next eight photographs are all from inside the Studentenkarzer.

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Next to the Studentenkarzer is a small University Museum documenting the history of Heidelberg University.  There was a great deal of fascinating old technology, but it’s really best summed up by this Pneumothorax treatment device from 1950.  Heidelberg is a research university, and it’s really fantastic to think about the innovations made here over the years.


Upstairs from the museum is the Great Hall, which is, well, a great hall.

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After the great hall, the group stopped for frozen yogurt, before heading down the main shopping street to pick up the bus back to the Bahnhof.


Have you ever been to Heidelberg?



On my last trip to the UK, we took a day trip to Cardiff by train out of London’s Paddington Station. This makes Wales my fifteenth country visited! (Not including the US.)


Cardiff is a fascinating little city.  We didn’t see even a third of what the city has to offer, but we did take a stroll past this nifty clock down Queen Street.


At the end of the street are the outer walls of Cardiff Castle.


Through the main gate of those outer walls is the original Norman shell keep, flying the flag of Wales.


The red dragon motif is everywhere, as the symbol of Wales.  It’s also the symbol of the Brains brewery, which makes a pretty tasty beer.  I had a Brains Green Dragon at lunch when we were back in London later in the trip, and I wish I’d had a Brains while we were closer to the brewery- I’ve been told that the flavor loses something in transit.


Our goal for this jaunt to Cardiff was actually in Cardiff Bay.  From the Cardiff central station, we took a small local train to Queen Street a few stops from the main station, then changed to the smallest train ever to go to Cardiff Bay.  Seriously, it’s only got the one wagon and it just goes back and forth between Queen Street and Cardiff Bay.


From Cardiff Bay’s little train station, it’s a short walk to the Bay.  You’ll pass  the very pretty Pierhead building.


…and you’ll walk past the Wales Millennium Center.  If you watched Torchwood, this will look familiar.  This is an arts center which hosts events like concerts, opera, ballet, and so forth.  The dome is clad in steel that was treated with copper oxide, to represent Cardiff’s steel making history. It was designed to withstand the weather conditions on the Cardiff Bay waterfront.

Inscribed on the front of the dome, above the main entrance, are two lines written by Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis. The Welsh version is Creu Gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen, which means “Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration”. The English is In These Stones Horizons Sing.  (Thanks, Wikipedia!)


Walking further along the bay is the World Harmony Peace Statue. You hold the handle of the torch, and make a wish for world peace.


After a little bit more walking, we arrived at the goal for this side trip:  The Doctor Who Experience, situated in Cardiff Bay until 2017.  The first part of the DWE is an interactive walk-through adventure with the eleventh Doctor in which you get to fly the TARDIS, so that’s pretty fun.  Also, you get to learn how to walk like a scarecrow soldier or a Cyberman.


After the interactive part of the Doctor Who Experience, there’s an exhibition.  I took a bajillion photographs, but I won’t bore my non-geeky readers with all of those.  I selected just seven pictures to give you a sense of the place.  If you’re not into Doctor Who, just skip down to the picture that has me in it, and we’ll pick up the post from there.

The first picture is the outfit of Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor.  This was part of a row of outfits worn by each of the first ten Doctors.


Similarly, the companions each had outfits in the exhibition.  Here’s Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith outfit.


There were several TARDIS control rooms in the exhibition.  I’m pretty sure this was the fourth Doctor’s control room.


…and this was definitely Nine and Ten’s control room, brought over to the DWE in its entirety after the regeneration into Eleven.  They cleaned it up a bit, but you can still see smoke and fire damage from Ten’s fairly explosive regeneration.


No Doctor Who exhibit would be complete without  my favorite robot dog of all time, K-9.


Most of the Doctor’s adversaries were represented, but I particularly liked this Cyberman.


Of course, there were friends of the Doctor present as well.  Here’s me, hanging out with the Face Of Boe.


Ok, that’s enough geekery for this post.  Once we were done at the Doctor Who Experience, it was time to walk back from Cardiff Bay.  I had to force myself not to walk like a Cyberman.

Cardiff Bay is really a very pretty place.  Here’s a view out from the dock.


There’s a number of fascinating sculptures around the Bay.  This was my favorite- the Merchant Seafarers’ War Memorial, by sculptor Brian Fell.  It’s designed to look like both a face and the bow of a ship.


Walking back up the wide sidewalks from the Bay to the little rail station, we couldn’t help but notice all the spiders that were out.  I think they were collecting food and preparing for the winter.


Last but not least, on our way out of the Cardiff Bay area, this little cutie walked right up to us, flopped over, and demanded to be loved.  Who could say no to those little paws?


Have you ever been to Cardiff? Did you learn to walk like a Cyberman while you were there?

August Break: Schloss Neuschwanstein

I’m on an August Break from my regular blogging schedule. Here’s today’s pictures.

I finally made it out to Schloss Neuschwanstein this weekend, as a Saturday day-trip with Jenny and her boyfriend Robert.  King Ludwig II’s famous castle was the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle.  Roughly one and a half million people come to the castle every year, and I think about a third of them were present while we were visiting.

I encourage you to click through to the full sized pictures, because I purposely saved them to be huge and awesome.  I may use one of them as my desktop for a while.  The castle is nestled in the Alps, and it makes the views amazing.

When approaching the castle from the roadway into Schwangau, this is your first view of it:


Inside Schwangau, there are sections of roadway that are closed to cars- but open to bicycles and horse drawn carriages.  I love that they have signs for this.


Where a heavy tourism market springs up, so must there be signs.  Lots and lots of signs.   This one tells you that there’s a bathroom 150 meters to the right, and points out ways to reach both castles, the Museum of Bavarian Kings, and the Alpsee (Alp lake).


This is the view taken from the castle ramparts.  This scene includes the town of Schwangau, the other castle (Hohenschwangau,) and the Alpsee.  Plus a small portion of the Alps themselves.


Most everyone who goes to Neuschwanstein walks around back to the Marienbrücke, a small pedestrian bridge that looks over the backside.  On a crowded day, the bridge looks like this:


Fighting those crowds is worth it though, because then you can get these next three shots:

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Have you ever been to Schloss Neuschwanstein?  What’s your favorite castle?

Burg Prunn

One of the things that you learn while living in Germany is that castles are to Germany what Waffle House, Coca-Cola, and the name Peachtree are to Atlanta.  There are castles everywhere over here.  Some of them aren’t all that stereotypically castle-ish.  For example, there’s Prunn Castle.

Burg (Castle) Prunn sits on the edge of a hill, so the view from the castle wall is nothing short of spectacular.  There’s literary historical significance to this castle, also.  The “Prunner Codex“, the fourth oldest complete manuscript of the high German heroic epic, the Nibelungenlied, was discovered in this castle.

The castle goes back to the 11th century, and there are clearly two parts to the castle. The central tower, and the buildings which were constructed around the tower later on.


There is a small courtyard near the main entrance to the castle.  Unfortunately, pictures are not permitted inside the castle, so I can only show you the outside walls.  The inside was cold, but fascinating.  The entire structure has even been immortalized in Lego.


Have you been to Burg Prunn?  What’s your favorite castle?

Back to Nürnberg, Part Two

After I was done at Doku-Zentrum, I took the tram back toward the Bahnhof, and from there I met Heather from “Heather Goes Deutsch”  for lunch and some hang time.  Heather lives in Nuremberg and teaches English there.

I’ve noticed a trend among other Americans that I’ve run into here. We tend to be in one of three categories:  Technology workers, Teachers,  and Students.  (Although there are a huge amount of American troops here in Germany, I’m not counting the military folk because they’re not necessarily in Germany by choice, and many of them tend to have short term assignments here before getting deployed elsewhere.)

Ah, but I digress.  I was talking about Nuremberg.  Heather went to lunch.  On the walk there, we saw some preaching Christians.  They were much louder and more preachey than the Mormons from my previous visit.

Heather and I ate at Alex, which is a chain-  I’ve eaten in the Regensburg location as well as the Nuremberg one.  Alex feels a bit like TGI Fridays or Applebees back home.   It overlooks a large courtyard which was filled with a green market at the time.

After lunch, it was time for a walk up a very steep hill to see the castle that I missed last time I was in town.  It was tall and castley.  Heather warned me about the hill, but it was much steeper to get all the way up than I expected.  (The journey back down looked like it would have been a lot of fun on roller blades.  Until you broke your neck, that is.)

Here is a rare photograph where I’m in front of the camera instead of behind it:

The castle ramparts were sufficiently high up that the view was pretty spectacular looking over the town.  Here’s part of it:

After our controlled descent from the castle, we walked around the city a little bit more.  While Regensburg has monuments to Kepler, Nuremberg has the Albrecht Dürer house.  Dürer, as it turns out, spent quite a bit of time in Nuremberg, born there in the late 1400s and returning for parts of the 1500s.  He was there in between stints in Italy and the Netherlands, and his famous painting of a hare has resulted in a lot of rabbits in stores and sculptures.   For example, there’s this super creepy statue.  I told Heather that it looks like Alice in Wonderland on peyote.

By this point in the afternoon, I was pretty much ready to hop a train back home, so we started to follow the city wall back toward the train station. Interesting fun fact:  The wall around the city of Nuremberg is mostly stil intact  You can walk along large sections of it and eventually you’ll wind up back at the train station.

On the walk back, I saw some nifty stuff that needed to be photographed. I’ll close out the post with these last three photographs-

1) Some nifty graffiti that translates to “Against sexism, against homophobia!”  At some point I will take pictures of more graffiti around town in Regensburg.  I’ve already got a nifty collection of pictures of the decals that people put on street signs and lamp posts- I find it fascinating.

2) A street musician playing an instrument that I can’t quite identify.  It’s not quite a harp, but it’s similar.  It also looks quite heavy.

3) Random Greenpeace protest.  Apparently they’re against nuclear power.  (And power is yet another topic on my future posts list.)