Friday, September 30, 2011

Heiliggeistkirche, Heidelberg

Heiliggeistkirche has quite a history in Heidelberg. Rupert III laid the foundation stone in the 1300s, though the construction went on for quite some time and many additions have changed the layout and look of the church.

The church was originally built as the university's church dedicated to the Holy Ghost, Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. The other main function the church served was as the burial ground for the local leaders. The only tomb remaining in the church is for Rupert and his wife, the rest were torn out and thrown to the street in the late 17th century by those pesky French soldiers.

I wonder if my wife would go for this kind of tomb for us

Germany had been highly divided during the rise of the Protestant faiths, though Heidelberg was more tolerant than other areas. To solve the problem of who should use the church, the people of the town decided to build a wall in the middle. The Catholics worshiped in the choir while the Protestants worshiped in the nave.

Where the dividing wall was

Protestant side of the church

Catholic side of the church

This was known as the simultanium, allowing the services to go on at the same time. In 1886 the university celebrated its 500th anniversary. They didn't want an unsightly wall in the university church, so the wall was take down temporarily. Finally, the wall was removed in 1936 since the evangelical church had bought the rights  to much of the rest of the church.

The church does feature some impressive stained glass, one seemingly dedicated to the end of World War II.

This is the first window I've seen with "e=mc2"

Bright and lovely window

Climbing up the stairs for a nominal fee, one can discover some of the exterior gargoyles brought inside for closer inspection.

I think this is a duck.

Obviously a dog

Ascending to the top on increasingly narrow staircases, one is rewarded with an amazing view of the town and even the squares below.

Jacob would have loved the stairs

The trail up to Philosophenweg

The Schloss on the hill

The town

Outside the church are found numerous little shops and trinket stands built into the base of the church. Originally, these booths were used by merchants and craftsmen to sell their wares. Over time, souvenirs and food have replaced the classier offerings. I guess I can't complain, since I did pick up a needed bottle opener as a practical souvenir.

The seller I went to also spoke Spanish

After this visit, I returned to the hotel in time to find the rest of my family ready for dinner. We had a lovely meal in the platz by the church. I had wiener schnitzel and a hefe-weissen to wash it down. The children ate a little of my schnitzel and some apple juice. Then we walked about until we discovered a fun little playground near the river.

The playground seems to have been randomly placed and follows the scheme of the one from Stuttgart--some fun climbing and some science too! Jacob and Lucy enjoyed the scientific equipment (basically lifting sand with a pulley and pouring it through a tunnel or a wheel) almost more than the other parts. They did a great job taking turns playing with the equipment.

Lucy ran in to have fun

Jacob, look out for the sand!!

The playground did have some rules and the bust of someone who must have donated it. I really need to brush up my German to find out more about these things.

Thanks, whoever you are!

If only every playground was rauchfrei

After some play, we returned to the hotel for a quiet night of sleep before the morning, when we'd have to pack up and return to Stuttgart. I put the bottle opener to good use on a bottle of Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel, which I am enjoying as I write. [Editor's note: alas, that was a week ago, and now only water is available to drink. Sigh!]

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Flu Shots 2011

I took the kids to a local clinic to get flu shots. Jacob was understandably unwelcoming to getting shots. I talked to him the day before we went and he said, "Jacob doesn't want to get a shot." (He often refers to himself in the third person).

I explained to him that it would hurt a little bit but it would make him better. He asked what the flu was, providing an opening I wasn't sure would work. I tried to explain the flu, where your nose is runny and you lay in bed and have no energy. Auntie Gayle, who is visiting, threw in that the room feels like it's spinning. Jacob was fascinated with this idea and wanted to know more. I said it was like being on a merry-go-round or a roundabout, then getting off and feeling like everything was still moving. He said, "Like this?" and spun himself around and around. He made me smile and I said yes.

Then I tried to explain about the shot. I said, "It will hurt for a little while but that is much better than being sick for a week." He seemed convinced and comforted by the fact that I'd get a shot too and Lucy would get two shots (she also needed her delayed Hep-A shot for two-year olds).

Jacob was the first to be shot. The medical technician asked if Jacob wanted a shot or the nasal spray version. Jacob opted for the shot. I guess the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. He sat in my lap and I held his arms to keep him from sudden movements. Jacob watched her jab him with the needle, which went in quite deep. He got upset at that but didn't cry. He was very brave. The lady offered him a gummy bear as a treat for the shot, but Jacob still maintains his disinterest in sweets.

Lucy's turn was next. Learning from Jacob's experience, I covered Lucy's eyes while holding her arms so she couldn't watch the shot. The first shot was okay; the second elicited a small amount of crying. Once band-aids were on, Lucy felt better. She did not turn down the gummy bear. If she had thought of it, I'm sure she would have asked for Jacob's bear.

I went last and got the arm stick. Learning from Jacob's experience, I didn't watch the needle go in and felt a little better about that. My arm was sore later that afternoon.

I would highly recommend hiding your child's eyes when he or she is getting a shot (or multiple shots). It made things a lot easier for Lucy. I'll hide Jacob's eyes next year.

And, yes, I did take a gummy bear for being brave.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Philosophenweg, Heidelberg

We returned to the hotel for naps on our first full day in Heidelberg, though I wasn't too sleepy and was dying to go somewhere that I'm sure the kids couldn't handle and my wife said she wasn't interested in: the Philosophenweg, or Philosopher's Walk, another place with romantic charm in Heidelberg.

From our hotel, I crossed the Old Bridge to the north side of the River Neckar. The far side of the bridge has a statue of Athena, perhaps an appropriate guardian for the entrance to the philosopher's walk.

Athena, most awesome goddess of the Greeks!

Following a sign on the street, I found a tightly twisting path that headed up to the Philosophenweg, a climb of 15 or 20 minutes. Such a climb would have been impossible or at least very, very, very long with Jacob and Lucy.

Go this way!

This was the way!

First view of the town from halfway up to the walk

At the top, the walk stretched off to the left and the right. The leftward way was the most popular, so I headed that way. The hypnotic charm of the area is hard to capture. Below is a fantastic view of old town Heidelberg; above is gardens and growths full of lingering bees, slowly collecting pollen as if it was still late July and not late September. The hillside walkway is quite warm even though the weather was cool below. The sun soaks the walls and trees and you feel like you are in Tuscany, or at least what the word "Tuscany" evokes for me, somewhat like the life depicted in Kenneth Brannagh's Much Ado About Nothing.

View of town along the way

Proof that I was there

A nice, flat walk after the vertical climb

The gardens here were originally vineyards, back in the days of the 19th century Romantics. They evoke a happiness that is still palpable, the joy of anticipated wine or even just grapes juicily bursting in your mouth. Who wouldn't be inspired to write poetry or muse on the ultimate meaning of life or existence here?

If that wasn't enough, I also found a playground and a snack bar along the top!

Sandbox and rope climb! And space for a picnic too!

I don't really enjoy gardening, but I can appreciate a garden like this

The snack bar advertised a 3 Euro milkshake that was nearly half a litter. It seemed like a good deal since I could easily pay with pocket change. That's the funny thing about England and Europe. Thanks to having 1 and 2 Euro coins or 1 and 2 pound coins, your pocket change could easily be the equivalent of ten dollars in the USA. A USA pocket of change rarely exceeds two dollars. So the milkshake actually cost just under five dollars American. It was basically strawberry milk, not the rich and creamy stuff you'd get in America. It was a little disappointing, but I took it philosophically, as was appropriate for the surroundings. After all, how could you complain with views like this to enchant you?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Schloss Heidgelberg

On our first full day in Heidelberg, we had a simple and satisfying breakfast at the hotel. The adults had bread and a plate with a slice of cheese, black forest bacon, and a slice of chicken. Lucy was not interested in the yogurt but she perked up when we found the Nutella. We tricked her into eating little bites of bread by spreading a little Nutella on top. Jacob enjoyed the mixed cereal Mommy concocted for him out of the three or four cereals available. Lucy discovered the cereal was good when she found little chocolate chunks in it.

We walked to the information center, where we rented an itour guide. It's a PDA programmed with little talks about 35 different sites in Heidelberg. We also bought tickets to the castle and the train to Konigstuhl, the highest point in Heidelberg with fantastic views.

We went to the Kornmarkt for the train to the schloss. The Kornmarkt is where they used to trade grains. Now it is just a plaza with a fountain, some parking, a bank, and some stores. The train station is just north of the Markt where we found the castle train (bergbahn) doesn't start till 9 a.m. So we admired the fountain for a while and listened to some of the audioguide's descriptions of the Kornmarkt and other nearby areas.

No pigeon on this statue!

Academy of Science!

Finally, the time had come to ride up. The train went in several stages, the first taking us to the castle. The castle is known as Heidelberg Palace or Schloss Heidelberg. It was built when the counts palatine (later called prince electors) established Heidelberg as their residence. The castle stands magnificently over the Altstadt. During the Renaissance, many new buildings were constructed, each with an amazing facade. In the late 17th century, the ravages of war with France and two lightning strikes (causing large fires) left the castle in ruins. As the Romantic movement swept the 19th century, Heidelberg's beauty and history attracted many poets and philosophers, and that great poet-philosopher, Mark Twain. Restoration began but is still in process even today.

We came in through the Schlosseingang, or main gate, to the gardens and the castle beyond. Jacob enjoyed the garden though it was quite crowded early in the morning. A lot of group tours filled the garden like weeds. Some were from boat tours that stop in cities along the Neckar River. I guess their tours start early so the people can sail or shop later. We had a little trouble navigating the crowds, but they eventually thinned out.

Our gang comes through the schlosseingang

Jacob named his smiling backpack after himself

Two statues guard what's left of the tower

Then we entered through the castle gate, or Torturm, which brought us many wonderful sights to see. Jacob saw his favorite, fountains, we saw some statues and impressive walls.

Jacob wanted to go in, not get his picture taken

Not just one fountain....

Fire damaged wall

Ah, there's the other fountain!

We eventually figured out this was David and Goliath, well, part of Goliath

We then proceeded to the spectacular town view from the Ottheinrichsbau, a very popular and well guarded spot.

Amazing view of the town and the old bridge

Cannon below!

What the townsfolk can see from below (with a telescope)

Next we had a snack at the castle shop and went to see one of the other great achievements of the castle, the Tun Cellar. This location houses the great wine vat mentioned by Mark Twain in A Tramp Abroad, where he mused on its use as a dance hall or if it was ever even full of wine. The cask's contents were often used to pay the locals (to supplement or eliminate the use of cash). The court jester from the 18th century, Perkeo, is said to be able to finish the vat in one drink. Or so he claimed. Seems unlikely, since its capacity is over 200,000 liters. Jacob also enjoyed the little clock next to the vat. When you pull the string at the bottom, a bell rings and a fox's tail comes out. He showed it to me after I showed it to him, then he showed it to Mommy. He probably would have accosted strangers if the boat people were still around.

Now that's a wine cask!

View from the top of the wine cask

Jacob's other favorite feature, winding stairs!

Perkeo and the clock

Done with the castle, we proceeded uphill to the Molkenkur/Umstieg transfer station where the last rickety train took us to the top of Konigstuhl. The station at the top provided fabulous views as well as a peek at the mechanism that takes the train up and down. Also, hiking trails were available, but not recommended for Jacob and Lucy.

Jacob looks over the valley Neckar

Handy sign

Museum of trains in the station

Another amazing view of the German countryside

Town was very far away from the train station

We also saw some service being performed on the tracks, which made us a little nervous going up. As did this warning sign, which didn't seem to refer to regular people:

Guys working on the tracks, even though the train still runs

This looks suspiciously like a "no zombies" sign.

We finally returned to the bottom of the hill by rail and went to find lunch. We had some delicious baked goods from a local store. I tried a new-to-me soda called Mezzo Mix which claims it is ColaKusstOrange. Basically it was like Cherry Coke except with orange instead of cherry. I liked it though my wife didn't want to try it. We returned to the hotel for naps, though I snuck out for more adventure on the Philosophenweg, or Philosopher's Walk, another part of the romantic charm of Heidelberg. But that will be another post.