Ups and Downs of Heidelberg
Sometimes it doesn’t feel worth it to travel. Heck, sometimes it doesn’t feel worth it to get out of bed, let alone get on a train and go fight through a horde of snap-happy tourists. In the end, everything has good aspects and bad aspects, although it is almost never an even distribution. Sometimes the downs pile up.
Ali and I had a long stressful week last week and decided to go up to Heidelberg for the weekend. We have discovered the Baden-Württemberg Ticket from the Deutsche Bahn. 25 Euros for the two of us anywhere in the state on regional trains. It makes a trip up to Heidelberg quite reasonable. The trip was good over all, but Saturday really felt awful.
And So It Begins
It started on the train trip. The first train was running late, so we had to run to catch our connection in Offenburg. It was full enough that we didn’t get seats and had to stand the 40minutes to Karlsruhe. Not a big deal really, until one stop after another more people piled on. First the large group of students with bags and beer. Off on some fun-in-the-sun trip no doubt. Talkative, but not disruptive.
Annoying to be jostled about. Next a group of over 30 guys in their matching bachelor party t-shirts. Most were carrying mini-kegs and were already drunk (at 10:30am on a Saturday). The noise and singing and whooping was intolerable. I nearly lost it, but knew doing anything, even talking, would just make it worse. One of the most torturous half an hour on a train in my life.
Follow this by a fairly awful lunch in Karlsruhe station. Ok, no one really expects high quality food from a Asian take-away in a train station, but I only ate half of mine.
A Nice Walk
Then the day started to look up. Beautiful weather in Heidelberg. Ali took my picture with the statue of Bunsen, creator of the Bunsen burner. You know those cool fire things in chem-class in high school. Yeah, he invented them. So I was in nerd-vana for a bit.
Heidelberg is a tourist hive. You can hear all kinds of languages from Japanese to English to Russian and finally some German. It shows in the souvenir stands around the cathedral too.
Ali was buying some postcards and noticed one of Neuschwannstein. That is several hundred kilometers away on the Austrian border. So NO WHERE near here. I guess they figure that a tourist wants to see what they expect from Germany and that is the fairytale castle near Munich.
We wandered a little through the university area as well. I had read on the guide map of an Art Nouveau Library building. I love this time period and wanted to see it. And it was indeed gorgeous.
Heidelberg has the oldest university in Germany and yet the library was built around 1900. We stood there for a while admiring all of the detail. The Jugendstil time period in Germany is something I studied in Vienna and quite enjoyed. I like seeing examples sprinkled about.
The Ticket Debacle
Then we got up to going to the castle. This is the signature sight in Heidelberg. It is on all of the postcards and looms over the old town. There is a funicular that runs up to the castle and I had read in several places that the castle ticket includes a funicular ride up and back. Sounds like a nice deal right?
Well it is a nice deal, but apparently a funicular ticket from the machine up and back to the castle costs 6Euro and does not include the castle. However, there is a Castle ticket that costs 5Euro and DOES include the funicular. I thought I would be slick and buy a ticket from the machine for us both. I switched it to English and bought the ticket to the Castle stop for us both, confident I had gotten the right thing. Nope, we got turned away at the castle.
This was almost the breaking point for me. Seriously? There is an option in the machine to pay more to get less? On the attendants suggestion, we walked back to the funicular to ask if we could exchange tickets. The girl there said we could, but we had to bring the castle tickets back to do it. When I told her about the machines, she pointed at a price schedule with a tiny yellow highlighted line about the castle ticket. Apparently the machines don’t do them, but the window staff does. Really?
For the most highlighted site in town, this really feels like a disservice to tourists. Though we did get our 6Euro each back from the tickets, it still left a bad taste in my mouth. They must deal with this enough as she didn’t argue, so why not do something about it?
Annoyances Abounded Also
The ticket debacle was probably the low point, but it kept going on with annoyances . Partly because of needing to take a break and cool off from the tickets and partly because of being distracted by a wedding, I missed going into the Apothecary museum in the castle by about 10 minutes. It closes at 17:40. It isn’t a big deal, but it is one of the advertised sights in the castle beside the large vat and the great view, so it sucks to miss it.
After taking pictures of the castle and still grumbling from the tickets and funicular, we wandered back into town to our pre-scouted place to have dinner and watch the Eurocup game of the night. I was all ready to chow down on the advertised Schnitzel deal. Then the waitress tells me it is only during the game, which wouldn’t be on for 2 hours. Ugh. Thankfully this is the end of the bad things. The other special of 4 Euro cocktails made up for a lot.
The More Awesome Castle
The highlight of the trip came the following day. Since I was unwilling to pay the funicular people any more money to see the view from the top of their mountain, we read our map and found another castle to see within the tram range. Tiefburg is a cool small medieval castle to the north of town that I really enjoyed.
- Everything does work out. Even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
- Going to the Heidelberg Castle? Go early enough to see the Apothecary Museum. Buy tickets from the window, asking for castle entrance and avoid their machines.
- Head off the main tourist grid. Tiefburg was really awesome.
- Avoid drunken bachelor parties on trains if at all possible.
We will probably make it back to Heidelberg at some point. There are still a few things to see and who doesn’t like the sport of tourist-watching. Sometimes it is not worth getting out of bed, but usually it is. Especially to travel.
Jemma @ Philippine Travel
August 5, 2012 @ 12:54 pm
It doesn’t look like you had a frustrating vacation because the photos look really great! I love the castles and I’m interested to know what’s inside them. I hope you’ll have a more fun vacation next time.
August 12, 2012 @ 12:05 pm
I don’t take photos of the frustrating things, thankfully. Helps me forget in the long run.
It was not actually even a bad weekend, just a perfect storm of annoyances at the beginning.
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[…] The drive is mostly autobahn and is quick and easy to get to the city. This was a last minute trip, and I didn’t have much pre-planning time. I’m a planner, so I can’t manage to just go. I read thru the tourism website, and also found a free app by arrivalguides.com, and read some information from a fellow blogger at Grounded Traveler about his Ups and Downs of Heidelberg. […]
July 23, 2012 @ 11:25 pm
Despite all the little annoyances, I think the Bunsen statue is pretty cool too. I was a bit of a science geek at school but never knew that it was actually named after somebody!!
July 31, 2012 @ 10:28 pm
Yes, that was an awesome geeky moment. As Ali was taking my picture all happy near the statue, one of the slightly drunk guys was telling us that this guy invented those little burning things for chemistry. Apparently a cultured drunk, though it was a Saturday so maybe just relaxing.
July 10, 2012 @ 7:33 pm
A frustrating trip? Can’t tell from your photos! Useful tips, great stuff.
July 13, 2012 @ 8:22 am
Thanks. It was a really frustrating day actually, glad the pictures did not pick up my annoyance.
July 9, 2012 @ 9:22 am
Thanks for the tip about getting tickets at the window! That totally sounds like something that would happen to us. We are considering heading up to Heidelberg this weekend for the big fire works display. I hear the fireworks are beautiful, and only happen a few times a year. BUT can I handle the crowd, and the late night with our 2 small kiddos? We shall see!
July 9, 2012 @ 2:02 am
I feel like I just read another talented blogger writing about Heidelberg… must be a popular place! 🙂
July 13, 2012 @ 8:36 pm
Indeed. Tons of people there.. 🙂
The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen)
July 3, 2012 @ 2:25 am
Sorry your trip was a bit frustrating. I absolutely loved Heidelberg when i visited there in my teens, and hope to make it back as an adult. It’s one of my favorite travel experiences to date. I guess it was my first real taste of Europe!
July 5, 2012 @ 8:55 am
Cool. Those firsts always stick in your mind. And time dulls any sort of problems that were encountered then. We saw a big group of American teenagers walking around. Ali talked about being on a trip with the same company as was written on their bags when she was that age. Neat to see “first European experiences” being formed for others.
July 1, 2012 @ 11:00 am
Love the picture of you as a quest character 😉 And that ticket thing sounds like the sort of ridiculousness that would really get me too. How can you pay more to get less!?
July 1, 2012 @ 7:01 pm
Ha thanks. I was having a fun geeky morning.
Seriously. We were mumbling that for hours after it happened. And really no one fought us and everyone seemed to understand how it happens, so we were not the first ones to fall ill of it. That just make it feel even more like a scam.
Bret @ Green Global Travel
July 1, 2012 @ 7:00 am
I love castles, but every time I see one I think of two movies– The Princess Bride and Monty Python & the Holy Grail. So then I get distracted thinking about the old “Booo!!” lately and the “Fart in your general direction” Frenchman. I realize this has nothing to do with your post, but I just thought you might be interested in the way my pop culture-warped mind works…
July 1, 2012 @ 7:00 pm
I love it. See the last picture of me playing video game character at Tiefburg. I have a pop-warped mind too. I haven’t seen Princess Bride ina while, but we watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail twice very recently. My parents went to the castles in Scotland and wanted to see the movie. Even less to do with the post, but still awesome. BTW the flavor “elderberry” is quite popular in Germany. I have a hard time hearing it without thinking “your father was a hamster.”
June 30, 2012 @ 5:49 pm
Thank goodness for the cheap cocktails ha ha! Glad, despite the lows, you enjoyed the trip overall.
July 1, 2012 @ 6:58 pm
Yup, cocktails and beer fix a lot of ailments.
June 30, 2012 @ 11:16 am
We are always trying to avoid paying entrance fees for things as much as possible and very often find that the bests views of sights are anyway from outside. If I remember correctly, it’s possible to walk up “Philosophenweg” up the hill on the opposite river bank in Heidelberg for the best view of the castle and old town. Maybe something for next time, if you finally decide to come back 🙂
It’s great that despite of all those annoyance you still managed to have a good time! Heidelberg is touristic, but still has one of the best settings in Germany.
July 1, 2012 @ 6:57 pm
We will make it back at some point. Yeah, we had heard about the Philosphenweg, but it was supposed to be a relaxing weekend, so we decided no hiking. I would like to see the walled monastery up over the hill from the Weg at some point though.
June 30, 2012 @ 9:35 am
Like you, I would have been really annoyed as well. All the little things that happened may have ruined my day. From the photos Heidelberg looks beautiful. With the train ride, castle fiasco, and all the other stuff, wasn’t an ideal trip. Glad it was redeemed with some of the things you were able to do. Maybe a trip there the second time around will be a lot better.
I love that you are getting into the Euro tournament. Bet the German fans are bummed about losing to Italy (one of the PIIGS too!)
July 1, 2012 @ 6:56 pm
We have both been to Heidelberg before, just years ago. And thankfully a week later, we are able to laugh about most of the annoying bits. It just didn’t feel like it at the time.
Yeah, that game sucked.