Situated at the base of a mountain on the Neckar River 22 kilometers from the Rhine River, Heidelberg is a lovely old university town with great views and some of the most expensive property in Germany. Germany’s first public library was founded here and it was a major base for the occupying US military until 1915 when it moved to its new headquarters in Weisbaden.
Our morning tour began with a trip up the hillside to the castle shrouded in fog. It is a beautiful location although the heavy fog completely obscured the views of the town and river below. The most interesting points in the castle were the world’s largest wine keg a footprint in the brick patio created when a knight jumped from the window above to escape an irate husband or father.
The castle itself was begun in the 14th century and developed further over the centuries. By the 18th century it was being used as a quarry for stones to build new homes in town. The quarrying stopped in 1800 and restoration began including the building of a banquet hall built in 1934.
In town we visited a church with a very modern Nativity scene that included soccer players and Nelson Mandela.
We wandered the Christmas markets and visited the old bridge to look at the Bridge Monkey. The official legend about the monkey is that he is there to remind Heidelbergers that they are equal no matter which side of the bridge they live on. Looking in the mirror he is holding you see your own face and know that you are no better than anyone either in front of you or behind you as you cross the bridge. An added bonus to the legend says that if you touch his fingers you will return to Heidelberg. Touching the mice nearby will bring children and touching the mirror will bring wealth.
This is a new monkey created in 1979. However, the earlier monkeys which have been on the bridge since the 15th century may have a better story involving a dispute between two powerful men on either side of the bridge. I don’t remember the whole story, but what our guide told us had to do with love and sex and a monkey representing those who do bad things. The older monkeys held the mirror in one hand with the other on its butt. The creator was telling his nemesis that if he wanted to blame someone, he only needed to look at himself. Thus the mirror.
By the time we left the fog had lifted for our bus ride back to the ship and a few hours sailing to Rudesheim. We arrived in Rudesheim at dusk and only had time to wander the Christmas market for a few hours before dinner. It is amazing how busy every Christmas market is. I would have thought that since just about every decent sized town has a market, there would be some saturation point. However, every market we visited was crowded with people. It is a great way to socialize and spend an evening out with friends or family or both. We certainly enjoyed them.