Activities in Heidelberg Germany

By: David Robinson

Being from central California, I might be forgiven for feeling some trepidation when I flew from United States to live in Germany as my impression was of a dark and dreary land. I suspect it's natural for one to assume that any place on the same general latitude of Winnipeg Canada was certainly bound to yield less than the balmy 110 degree summers of my erstwhile mountain home. Arriving in Frankfurt and traveling south on the autobahn at significantly higher rates of speed than I was used to, deposited me in a small town by the name of Schwetzingen. By way of landmarks, Schwetzingen is approximately ten miles west of Heidelberg and ten miles south of Mannheim in south central Germany.

Having arrived in the spring, I was pleasantly surprised at the temperate climate and lush foliage. I particularly enjoyed the intermingling of fields and cities that give a feeling of cohabitation between city dwellers and the countryside (although it's a bit less attractive when the farmers are spreading liquid manure). It's very different in that regard than the urban sprawl that we experience in America wherein the farmers are priced out of an area and the mini-malls and subdivisions move in.

After getting somewhat acclimated to my accommodations at the edge of town and procuring some local currency I walked into town and proceeded to get to know the place. As an amateur history buff I was really enjoying the architecture, particularly the Schloss (palace) downtown. The city seems to be a suburb of the larger towns around it and boast a mellow feeling. Not at all fluent in speaking German I decided to take a chance and ventured into a restaurant where I was warmly greeted, seated and given a menu (in German of course). After perusing it for a bit I decide that schweineschnitzel means something like a pork chop so I confidently indicate to the waitress that I would like a jagerschnitzel, with water and I was quite relieved to see that "beer" was pronounced pretty much the same so I ordered one of those as well. Lo and behold, the woman came out with a pork chop smothered in my nemesis the dreaded mushroom and some foul black liquid in a glass that seemed almost to be a solid, potentially requiring me to chew it. Apparently, German "Alt" beer is not unlike a Guinness stout. I gamely ate everything on the plate sans the mushrooms and with much gesticulation complimented them on a meal that was more than satisfactory.

Further exploration in Schwetzingen yielded an Italian restaurant with lasagna served still boiling from the oven that I became addicted to. And just east of town is the Bellamar swimming complex that I came to reside at as my second home. This is a family friendly swimming complex that includes indoor/outdoor temperature controlled pools, sauna, hot tubs, sun lamps, a restaurant that allows for seated as well as outdoor and poolside dining. For the summer months and there is also an adjoining Olympic sized pool and park. What's not to love? Swimming in the steamy indoor / outdoor pool under the crisp winter night's sky with snow falling all around is something that stays with you. As a note, with many places in Europe, the saunas are clothing optional.

This area of Germany is very foot traffic friendly so I rode my bike along paths through fields and surrounding towns to Heidelberg to explore this scenic city nestled at the foot of the mountains. This towns most prominent landmark is the Castle that was used both as a fortress and palace located on the hill overlooking the Neckar river. As you pass through town approaching the hills you will find a street that is blocked to automotive traffic called the Hauptstrasse (hoff-straus-a) that features a plethora of stores and restaurants. At the eastern end there is a Mecca for a homesick American, a McDonalds! And even better, they serve beer! So, after an arduous ride into town one can score some fast food and a six pack of beer for a day on the northern grassy banks of the Neckar river with the picturesque view of the town and castle directly in front. Shirts seem to be optional in the park here as well.

All in all I found the German people pleasant and receptive, particularly when I made efforts to converse with them in their own language.

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