When we were in Frankfurt in March last year, the weather was not so great that we decided just to have a day trip to Heidelberg to see its famous castle ruins (Heidelberg Castle / Schloss Heidelberg). By the way, the city is also famous for having the oldest university in Germany and one of the most reputable in Europe. It would take just an over an hour to get there from Frankfurt…. by train of course!
How to Get to Heidelberg
So the outbound journey we had was slightly confusing. We stayed in Galluswarte area and had to go to Frankfurt Central Station first. According to Google Map, at Frankfurt Hbf we were supposed to take a train heading straight to Mannheim Hbf, and then change trains there to continue to Heidelberg Hbf. But apparently, we had to get off at some small station somewhere and change trains again in order to get to Mannheim Hbf (not sure if it’s still the same now).😂
Anyway, after some delay because the train that was supposed to stop at this small station got cancelled (!), we eventually got to Mannheim Hbf, continued our journey and finally arrived at Heidelberg Hbf. At Heidelberg Hbf, we took an S-Bahn that stopped at Heidelberg-Altstadt station by Neckar river. The other option is to just walk or take a bus from Heidelberg Hbf to HD-Altstadt.
Because of the stupid train delay earlier, we got here a bit late and didn’t have much time to go around the town. On our left was (what looked like) a dense forest. So we just kept walking a bit further down the road and found ourselves at Karlstor (Carl’s Gate). I suppose this gate serves as one of the “entrances” to Heidelberg Altstadt. Once we went through the old gate, we walked along Hauptstraße (the main road) to reach the old town’s centre and the castle.
The town seemed pretty quiet although we did run into some people (most probably tourists) every now and then. As always, an old town like Heidelberg Altstadt gave me an unexplainable feeling of joy. Maybe it was the Baroque style buildings I saw around, the narrow cobblestone streets or just the idea that we were going to see a castle that made me excited! 😁
After a few minutes of walking, we arrived at at Karlplatz (Carl’s Square) and from the square we could clearly see the castle up there, nestled in the hill 80 meters above the ground.
We just kept following the flow of people going through the narrow streets and alleys (they were going to the castle, obviously!). And why did we just follow those people? Because we had no Internet access and offline map! That’s why since then I’d rather spend some Euros to buy a local SIM Card instead of trying to be “adventurous” in a country which language I barely understood! Anyway, we finally got to a stone walkway going up the hill where the castle is. What a fun exercise to do at 12°C! 😅
The castle was still open to visitors when we reached the entrance, but…. the ticketing counter was already closed (that’s how late we were!). Or at least that was what I thought. So we just walked in along with other visitors hoping that we would have time to look around.
The Ottheinrich Building
The first thing that got my attention was this beautiful façade, richly decorated with sculptures and carvings. It was built by the order of Elector Ottheinrich in the 16th century and it took 10 years to complete. Ottheinrich’s reign was short-lived, so it was his successor – Friedrich III – who saw to its completion.
Fassbau (The Barrel Building)
I have to say that this building was my favorite! 😂😂 Built at the end of the 16th century, this building was specifically functioned as a wine storage. I was already astounded when I saw this big wooden barrel in the corner. But there was more… in a separate room stood a super large barrel called Groβes Fass (Giant Barrel) that could hold over 200,000 litres (of wine, of course!). A staircase was put on its side so that visitors could climb up to the top of the barrel. Now that’s just very convenient for parties! 🥂🥂
But actually, the reason why such a giant barrel was built was not for a show. At that time the locals paid their taxes in the form of goods. Wine making was also one of the things that they used to do back then in this area. So, using the wine as a form of tax payment was a no-brainer! 😆
Around The Castle
With a big building (castle, palace, whatever), comes a bigger garden … and park! Outside the castle is the famous Hortus-Palatinus, a Baroque style garden built in 1614 by Friedrich V for Elizabeth Stuart, his wife. Then there was also a much bigger park. It was so big that sometimes I felt lost in it – especially in such a cold weather! But it was still nice to just stroll around, enjoying the view of Neckar river and houses down there. We could go further to the other side of the park and see the entire castle ruins from the distance. See the picture below? Yeah, lame quality, I know. But it should give you an idea about the size of the park!😁
What I had in my mind was … what if someone had been here in the garden and suddenly had to pee? Would he or she have made it back to the castle in time?? 🤣🤣
On our way back to Frankfurt, we had another mix-up with the train. We got off at the wrong station and had to wait for a while for the next train. 😂 But over all, despite all the troubles and unfriendly weather, I was glad we decided to do the trip to Heidelberg Castle.