Sunday, 16 August 2015

Heidelberg: Rapunzel Johnston and the Tower of Torment

Heidelberg, Germany
When we first emerged from our underground carpark in Heidelberg, we were greeted with fenced off streets and shrill whistling. Immediately confounded by the commotion, we stopped in our tracks to see what would come barrelling down the path. 
A cycle race! Any time a marshal saw a cyclist coming round the bend, they would blow into their whistle and clap their hands. It took us several attempts to cross the cycle lane, as every time we had nearly been ushered under the red and white tape, whistling started up and we were forced back lest we hamper the race. It was an unexpected event to stumble upon, though not as exciting as the surprise Ring Riding in Middelburg [link to Zeeland]. 
Finally through, we were able to meander through market stalls and enter the church Heiliggeistkirche. 
The interior was dappled with workmen on cherrypickers setting up for what may have been a concert. We clambered up the shoulder-hugging helix of the tower staircase to the very top where we were blocked from the balcony by an iron gate. We rattled it, pushed and pulled, worked the hinges and shook our fists at the sky but it would not budge. We had paid €2 to get a view of the town from a few tiny barred windows. Starting back down, I was resolved to demand my money back, but paused to squash myself flat against the wall to let a German fellow pass. When I heard a distinctive metal creak, my ears perked up and I flounced back to see that somehow he had opened the "locked" gate! I called the others back and we breathed fresh air while we took in spectacular panoramas of Heidelberg. 
The downwards trudge was dizzifying as the spiral descent seemed to go on and on like a neverending gif. 
The hilltop schloss was another ascent we took, though much less vertigo-inducing and more hot than the church tower as we walked up in the rays of the blazing sun. We had intended to enter the castle courtyard and visit the Deutsches Apotheken-Museum - a free museum dedicated to the history of Germany's influence on Western pharmacology. However, since the last Lonely Planet guide was released (which told us of the free courtyard and museum), the Schlosshof had been fenced off and you required a ticket to enter. We instead toured the parklike gardens, which were indeed gratis.  
I liked this fountain of a guy relaxing. It's a bit more unusual than cherubs spitting. 
The schloss itself was in half ruin, but still looked quite imposing. In the late 1600's, Louis XIV stormed through and demolished much of the town (where did he not destroy?), but luckily Heidelberg escaped nearly scot-free from WWII. After scurrying down the hill, we strolled along the Altstadt (or old town) where red roofed buildings sprouted up in the Sun King's wake, and circled interesting university buildings. When we returned to our car, the cycle race had packed up, so our ears were not assaulted, and we drove off with love for alt Heidelberg in our hearts.