There are some places you visit that take you pleasantly by surprise and others that just disappoint. For us, Heidelberg was the latter.
We arrived at the Altstadt by train and walked along the river Neckar which has a lock opposite the old town. The lock is one of 27 along the river making it navigable for cargo ships to travel about 200 kilometres (120 miles) upstream from Mannheim to the river port of Plochingen. At our campsite which is about 10 Kms upstream from Heidelberg, we regularly saw commercial barges carrying coal, cars and foodstuffs sailing by, as well as smaller cruise ships.
Anyhow, back to the lock, we wanted to see it working and we were lucky enough to time it right to watch a large barge and pleasure boat negotiate the lock….
Little did we know it but this turned out to be the highlight of our Heidelbergian visit!
We also took in the general view of the city from the far side of the river, with the famous Heidelberg Castle in the background, and the old bridge over the river…..
As we crossed back over to the town side of the river it got a bit crowded….
And as we walked to the old town it just got worse. Mostly Japanese and American tourists in large tour groups disgorged from cruise ships and buses parked up nearby. I’ve read that Heidelberg castle in particular attracts 1 million tourists each year, most of them in the Spring and summer months. It gets quite busy.
We popped into the Tourist Information Centre to get a town map. Usually these are handed out free, in Heidelberg they are not. We weren’t getting a good feeling about the place.
We decided to get a coffee in a nearby square – this was the experience which finished the whole visit for us. We had to order our coffee separately from our cake and so they didn’t come together. Of course not. In fact I had to remind the waiter a couple of times that I hadn’t had my cake though I had finished my coffee 10 minutes before. When it came to pay the bill, he looked me straight in the eye and said ‘In Germany service charge is not included’, so I looked at him straight back and said ‘thank you for letting me know’. We paid (no tip) and decided to forgo visiting the castle which I’m sure would have been heaving with visitors. Instead we walked along the high street to the train station and headed back to the campsite.
We had hoped to spend a couple of days in Heidelberg but initial impressions put us off. We left the following day…..