There are a million ways to travel, but for me they all boil down to two fundamental approaches: Stay a few days and glimpse only the highlights — or stay a lifetime and still only glimpse the highlights.
In other words, you can never see it all.
I tried to keep this in mind as Esteban and I sped through Heidelberg last December. I had only 60 hours in this beautiful little city, so I was a bit reluctant when Esteban suggested spending our only full day on a hike up to the castle (Schloß, in German).
There has been a castle on this spot — perched some 300 feet above the city — since the 1300s. And although Heidelberg has grown considerably since then, you can still see the Schloß from almost anywhere in the city.
I grabbed my 600mm telephoto lens for a closer look. “Well, it does look pretty impressive,” I (grudgingly) admitted.
And so, armed with our 3€ tourist maps, we set off on our hike.
Yes, we got lost a couple of times — but very happily so. The views from those winding roads were fantastic!
I also stopped along the way to gawk at some of the mansions that were built into the hillside. Even the rain spouts exuded personality.
And after about an hour of leisurely strolling, we finally reached the castle.
I won’t bore you with a history lesson. Except to tell you that the term “castle” is a bit — how shall we say? — outdated. What we actually have at the top of the hill, ladies and gentlemen, is the shell of a castle.
Yup, that’s right. The imposing-looking fortress that towers over the city is actually just a façade, the hollow remnants of a once-glorious regal residence. (I later learned that it’s sat empty since it was struck by lightning in 1764.)
I should have been disappointed, but I didn’t mind. We’d had a lovely walk — and I was enjoying the relative silence and solitude of the ruins.
Plus, we soon discovered perhaps the best reason to climb up that hill: the castle gardens and, especially, the Philosophenweg (“Philosopher’s Path/Way”).
Yes, I’d given up my only full day in Heidelberg. But in exchange, I’d gained this view of the entire city. (Well done, Esteban!)
Planning your own visit? Here are some more details about the castle — and how to get there.
Up next: Freiburg.