Travel: Fun in Heidelberg

During my first month visiting Germany, I saw the town of Heidelberg near the Neckar River in southwest Germany. The highlights of this town are the historical areas such as the Heidelberg Palace, the Old Bridge, and
Heidelberg Zoo. Heidelberg is also home to many universities and a romantic cityscape with narrow roads and thousands of hidden spots around every bend. Germany is jammed packed with history and locations that echo the past of a bygone era standing alongside the modern. Heidelberg also has a beautiful shopping center with almost every store you can think of, from Sephora to unique boutiques and traditional shops. Heidelberg can easily cater to anyone’s interest, so if you are a history buff, outdoor enthusiast, foodie, or shopaholic, there is something for you here.

On my first visit, we decided to hike to see an outdoor theater built-in  1933 called Thingstätten or Thingplätze. Then after that, we ventured to the ruins of an old monetary called the Monastery of St. Michael German:  Michaelskloster built-in 1023. It took some work getting here for an  out-of-shape person like me, but it was well worth it. The last place I visited was the Heidelberg Palace, sometimes referred to as the Heidelberg Castle.

Thingstätten or Thingplätze

The Thingstätten is a historical place where court assemblies, grand performances, and annual meetings were conducted. In researching the history of this place, I discovered that dancers, singers, and poets all performed there at one time. Years before the Thingstätten was completed, Germany planned on build 400 of these theaters in various communities, but only 40 were completed.

 

In its plural form, this outdoor theater was also called Thingspiel or Thingspiele; and is described as a multi-purpose outdoor theatre for social gatherings. I will be frank with my readers, but I found the link to various social movements a bit perplexing. The movements and groups that used these complexes were social, political, religious, or academic. The Thingstätten is built in the hills of Heidelberg tucked away in the woods, which wasn’t done by accident. This outdoor theater was often built in a natural setting close to trees, rocks, ruins, hills, or a combination of all of the above. Apparently, there is a historical and mythical reason behind this, and any discerning person could feel it when they visit. When I saw the Thingstätten, I felt that rituals were performed there, and I am not saying this to paint an image of witches and human sacrifices. It felt like a special place where people gathered, but later on, I found out it is known as a cult place. Places such as the Mithras Temple in London and Abu Simbel Temple in Egypt are cult places. I had to point this out to remove the idea that cult places are where unhanded rituals took place.

Once my party and I made it to this area, we noticed many cairns or stacked rocks that were stacked in a way that let you know that it was not done by nature or animals. I am not sure why there were so many stacked rocks and couldn’t figure out the purpose. Cairns were often built as landmarks, or in some instances, it’s a habit of visitors to mark their arrival to a place by stacking rocks. Visiting Aruba, I recalled seeing a beach filled with stacked stones and was told that many tourists marked their presence by stacking rocks until the coastline area was almost covered in stacked rocks. Before modern times, these stack rocks were more than decorative but marked the spot of significant events, burial sites, ceremonial purposes, astrology related, mark trails, or hunting purposes.

Michaelskloster (Monastery of St. Michael German)

The Monastery of St. Michael German was built in 1023 but was abandoned in the 16th century. The ruins of the Monastery of St. Michael German stands just above the Thingstätten and offer a splendid view of Heidelberg. The monastery was built on an old church that was constructed in 870. Later the Monastery of St. Michael German was also known as a place for pilgrimages. The monastery was officially closed when the last few monks reciding there were killed when the steeple collapsed on them.

Heidelberg Palace

The Heidelberg Palace is a significant tourist highlight for Heidelberg. This ruin is filled with history and was built in the 13th century; while it has been damaged or destroyed over the century, a good bit of it is still intact. Sitting atop a hill is not difficult to access, but if you are out of shape, you can expect to be out of breath by the time you make it to the castle. Germany is littered with castles from a bygone era, and I wondered why so many castles exist in this country. When we think of palaces and castles, we think of kings and queens; and with all the castles in this country, you might think that they had many kings and queens.

Unfortunately, that isn’t quite the case because throughout Europe you can find ruins of palaces and castles. Some, of course, were homes of kings and queens, but many were home to knights, noblemen, and other groups with ties to royalty. These people had the money and power to build such edifice. Like the many mansions and grand houses in Scotland, England, or Ireland, many of the Duke, Earls, Counts, Marquess, Viscount, Barons, and other noble titles often kept large households. Outside of displaying their wealth, these people kept these places ready for a visit from their king or queen. It is well known that when kings, queens, princes, princesses, and other nobility traveled, there was no such thing as a hotel or Air B & B, so their routes were often planned around these castles. They would stop at these places and spend a couple of days before moving to their destination or next stop. While I would love to dive into the history of the Heidelberg Palace, it’s honestly too tedious to mention every aspect of Heidelberg Palace in this blog. If you are interested in a quick overview of the Heidelberg Palace, I will encourage you to check out this YouTube video by denniscallan or visit https://www.schloss-heidelberg.de/en/home .

 

Check out the few pictures I collected from my time walking the grounds of The Heidelberg Palace and roaming the city center. Unfortunately, the day I visited, there were tons of people, and long lines, so I never did get to go inside the palace, but I am pretty sure I will be back. So, I will end this blog by saying I will be back in Heidelberg again. It’s impossible to think that I could see all of this place in just three visits. For now enjoy the pictures of the beautiful streets and central shopping area of Heidelberg.