Rather than spend another day around Frankfurt, we opted to head to Heidelberg using our train passes. Though it is possible to reserve seats on the train we decided to just show up and hope for the best. And, it was a most excellent decision – the first class section of the train was deserted. We saved nearly $30 by skipping the reservations.
It is only a little over an hour ride from point A to point B. The train claimed it was air conditioned but it did not feel like it. Again, I think the excessive heat is more than their system is designed to handle.
Immediately outside the Heidelberg HBF (train station) is a TI (Tourist Information). Unlike the one in Frankfurt, the employees were very helpful and friendly! We asked how to reach the castle and old town area. Not only were we given excellent printed directions, we were able to purchase tickets for the castle/funicular and the bus directly from the TI. And, we could use a credit card! Woo-hoo!
To reach the castle, there is a stop for bus 33 right outside the TI. Alas, bus 33 was not air conditioned. If you ever visit here, be sure to validate your ticket if you purchased it from the TI rather than the bus driver. At one stop, an inspector came on board to check all tickets. If yours is not validated, you can be fined 60 Euros. He was not a friendly inspector; I was happy that we had validated those tickets! The bus ride was probably 20-30 minutes long and dropped us off right at the entrance to the funicular that zips you up to the castle. I suppose you could hike up, but I somehow doubt too many people do, at least during a heat wave.
The funicular is handicap accessible and there were a couple of people in wheelchairs that rode up with us. Once reaching the top, it is possible to access the gardens if you are in a wheelchair but getting around in the castle would be extremely difficult, if not impossible due to the cobblestone paths and steps.
The Heidelberg Schloss (castle) was actually in pretty good shape. I had thought it was a ruins but the majority of it is intact. I love the little details on the exterior.
The views from the castle are magnificent – the city of Heidelberg and the Rhine River valley are visible below.
This is called the Big Barrel Room. I wonder why?
A sundial clock?
There is an apothecary museum that has many displays in both German and English that trace the history of the use of medicinal plants to that of modern pharmaceuticals.
After enjoying the castle and grounds, we rode the funicular back down to the old town area. I told you they don’t like credit cards here!
As we walked toward the old town area, we could hear a middle-eastern style horn being played off in the distance. As we approached the town square we could see that a wedding was being celebrated. The newlyweds were dancing (though it was difficult to get a picture of them due to the crowd that was surrounding them).
We meandered down the streets that were lined with lots of interesting shops and restaurants. By now, the temperatures had reached the low 90’s and we were fading fast. We walked as far as the university which is where you catch bus #32 back to the HBF.
Once again, the first class section of the train was mostly deserted so we had no problem at all getting back to Frankfurt. Oddly enough, we were going to ride an RB (Regional Bahn) train back but it was really crowded so we opted to wait a few minutes to catch an IC (InterCity) train; it was almost empty.
Tomorrow, we leave Frankfurt for the Rheingau. I think a couple of days in Frankfurt were plenty!
One brief note on leaving Frankfurt: we were able to pay for our room using a credit card, but had to pay a 12 Euro tourist tax in cash (2 Euros per person per day). We keep getting surprised by the need for cash.