Was what I was recently told by Lukas, my German travel companion from a couple of months back. Not wanting to disappoint and considering this was in the direction I was heading, why not I thought and voila, that’s where I now write to you from. And look, after 116 days finally a Gino’s! (My brother).
Heidelberg lies within a State known as Baden-Württemberg which is immediately west of Germany’s largest State, Bavaria. I immediately ‘felt’ the Heidelberg to be more charming than my previous city of residence, Karlsruhe, but I have often found that to be the case when the city offers up a castle, various bridges, hills, a river, lots of ‘green’. For some reason all of those things bring romance and a positive vibe and you really feel it wherever you are in the city.
They also have one of the best universities in the country – or some my very young dormitory companion tells me. I’ll definitely take his word for it considering him and is slightly younger brother embarked on a road-trip just 24 hours prior. As in, they journeyed 500 kilometres north of Heidelberg for a potential ‘placement interview’ with the University. What a story. What a family road-trip.
To be fair to the city of Karlsruhe, I didn’t really give it much of a chance and my small memories of it will be tainted for a couple of reasons but it did teach me something politically…
Firstly I resided close to the main train station and as I’ve learnt over time, the less than scenic surroundings of the train station rarely accurately reflect the real city and what it has to offer. So it would be more fair for me to remain indifferent and phlegmatic to Karlsruhe as I intentionally didn’t see much of it and instead chose to visit Stuttgart.
Secondly it was also at the bus/train station and on my return from Stuttgart that I would become aware of something known as Pegida. When you exit your train and see what must have been around 100 police officers (and fair few protesters), naturally one enquires a little further…
Pegida, I’ve learnt, is a heavily contentious topic to a lot of countries and not just Germany. Put it this way, it stands for (and therefore supports) Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West.
Earlier this year in Dresden, Germany there were said to be up to 20,000 ‘supporters’ but thankfully this was a silent march and claimed to be dedicated to the victims of the Paris shootings. Now before you think support is completely one-sided, it isn’t, far from it. Whilst the numbers of people supporting Pegida have grown, so have counter-demonstrations by Germans alarmed by what they see as Islamophobia. So much so that back in Cologne, and as a counter act of defiance to what took place in Dresden, there were considerably more anti-Pegida protesters:
Despite their actions, Pegida says that it is not racist or xenophobic, just that it strongly opposes extremism and calls for the preservation of the country’s Judeo- Christian culture. They go on to say that the figures of asylum seekers can no longer be ignored and are therefore calling on the German government to do something about it!
It’s these figures which the supporters are trying to fight. Make your own mind up…
What I found most interesting was that Germany has the highest office asylum applicants in Europe! Did you guys know that? Check out this data from 2014 for asylum applicants per country.
And we think back home in the UK there is an immigration problem.
Thankfully I can report back that in Karlsruhe it was largely peaceful demonstration and apart from some loud chanting, I wasn’t disturbed too much as I slept. So with that short news report completed, as ever we can let some simple pictures of the charismatic town of Heidelberg do the talking:
Heidelberg’s main town is a mere 15 minutes walk from the train station and suddenly at that point, what appeared as a fairly small and quiet town becomes a not-so-small and bustling town bursting with many eateries and small retail outlets.
Although the following green images depict just that, the people of Heidelberg appear to take keeping fit very seriously. During an hour’s afternoon stroll, I lost track of the amount of runners that jogged on by. Mind you, I’d be tempted if this the River Neckar was on my door step. Wouldn’t you?
Once I got past the busy main shopping street, I found myself in a small square looking up at this incredibly eye-catching piece of history. Naturally I made my way up and was able to take a couple of courtyard and vantage point photos without needing to pay the 6 euros to enter.
Unsurprisingly the bridge you saw in the photos above was my next destination. This is known as the Karl-Theodor-Bridge which connects the Old City with the end of the Heidelberg quarter Neuenheim.
Images from on the Karl-Theodor-Bridge.
Finally it was time to do some more hill-walking along a path known as The Philosopher’s Walk which was on the opposite side to me and hence requiring to cross the bridge.
I would later learn that The Philosopher’s Walk went up further than I had reached which I was a little frustrated over and blamed the poor sign posting. And my inability to translate German didn’t much help neither.
I enjoyed my time here and can see why Lukas suggested I come here. Some of you might be thinking ‘hasn’t he seen enough rivers, bridges and castles ‘but I have to say they rarely get any less impressive and they continue to make you think back at how incredible human engineering and construction was those many centuries ago.
However, I think I’ve decided where I want to go after Germany and I’m excited to be visiting this next country next week. I’m also positive it will offer me history and scenery of a different sort…