Traveling beyond Feldkirch
Heidelberg, That’s the German town where American soldiers meet ‘green’ Austrians girls in Irish pubs,,,,and marry them. Al least that’s how it worked out for us. Going back to Heidelberg is a happy occasion to which we always eagerly look forward. Ursula’s touring company is having a one day ‘work-shop’ and she decided to let me tag along. We’ve added a day on either side, just for walking the old ‘strasses’, seeing less old friends (but long term) and enjoying the ancient city and and it’s culture and cuisine. This year we spent Thanksgiving in Heidelberg – not a bad option!
Some of you may be wondering, “what about the Cats?”, as is also our main concern (ball & chain) when leaving home for a few days. No worries, our upstairs neighbor is a fascinating and elegant lady who readily warmed to the idea of cat sitting in our absence (who wouldn’t want to hang out with the ‘fat-boy’ and ‘little girl’?). We were lucky to get her during our time away; even though she’s an 85 year old widower, she’s an extremely active traveler and very much fully engaged with her time. So, with her assistance, its on to the train station and off to Heidelberg to walk down memory lane in one of Germany’s more quintessential beautiful castle towns. No worries for us!
Heidelberg Alt Stadt
Somehow Heidelberg miraculously survived, relatively unscathed, the 30 Years War and all wars up to the bombings of WWII. As an ancient university town the streets are strewn with living examples of the finest architecture available 800 years ago, and every century since. An amble up and down it’s ‘gasses’, ‘wegs’,and ‘strasses’ is a history lesson in the making. From virtually every street in the ‘Alt Stadt’, or old town, one can look up to the hill and observe the 820 year old castle majestically over-watching its town, river and valley below.
Regrettably, the castle is the one landmark that invading armies decided needed a ‘lesson’ and portions of it did not survive it’s incarceration. But, what remained after the occupation armies departed doesn’t leave one with a need for much of an imagination to wonder how spectacular it’s sights were during it’s hay-day. The remnants of the Heidelberg Schloss is splendid and worth every visit one can arrange.
Heidelberg’s ‘Fussganger’ Strasse (or central walking street) is be-speckled with all the latest trendy shops displaying the most modern in US and Euro fashions. In between each you’ll find cafes and, restaurants with every international flavor to appeal most unique appetites; but the more traditional flavors seem to be the most popular to out of town visitors.
This week the workforce was in full action building up the little hut village that will transform the streets and back ally’s of downtown into the traditional Christmas Market Village (Weinacht Markt). Gluewein (hot sweet red wine) will begin to flow on Monday (we’ll miss it this year!) as the village opens to floods of visitors kicking their holiday season into gear.
Ursula and I reminisced as we strolled up and down the near mile long street easily a dozen times. Although the old buildings still regally dominate the streets, many have had facelifts since our last visit. We did pick up on subtle changes in the composition of stores and restaurants as the trend moves to appeal more and more to the growing Asian and Middle Eastern visitors and residents. The cosmopolitan nature of those rambling the streets is always evident as you can hear a myriad of German dialects as well as innumerable languages from all over the world.
The dress also varies from the typical American with jeans and tennis shoes to the more extravagantly, but refined, dressed up ‘upper crust’ residents; there are many sightings of the hijab as well as African wrap garments and the occasional purple and orange hairdo of the young Japanese ‘Manga’ tourist. But most noticeable is that people were impeccably well dressed in crisp and fashionable style. It seems as though every fourth shop is a hairdresser and the one next to it is a shoe shop. Their popularity is evident as well groomed strollers wear the latest hair fashions (ne’er a hair out of place) and stylish shoes are on all but (and again) the American tourist (with some exceptions).
Immigration Policy impact
Also noticeable in evidence are the results of Madam Merkel’s immigration policy. Since we last lived there one can readily see a change in the composition of the residents. In 1995 when I first arrived in Heidleberg the tourist group was fair mixture from everywhere but the residents seemed to be of a homogeneous set of Western Europeans with a few Southern Europeans thrown into the mix (the Turkish emigres were evident only in the major cities). The contemporaneous disruption to that mix back then was the invasion of Easterners from the recent fall of the Wall.
Today, however, due to immigration policies and infusion of ‘Fluechtliners’, or refugees, the migrant population is from further afield and has grown much beyond the traditional boarders surrounding the main train and bus stations and into every visible aspect of life in Heidleberg. The die for change has been cast and only the future will pretend to know its impact on traditional German culture.
These policies and its effects was the one discussion that surfaced in all of our encounters with old German friends. In the past internal politics was not part of polite discussion with ‘Auslanders’ (as are Ursula and I – but perhaps we’ve been friends for so long, they no longer consider us outsiders when there are so many new outsiders?). Another surprising aspect was to discover a very subtle support for our President and his policies. Even in a tide of very liberal seas, and public media denunciations, I was surprised to hear the suppressed and whispered support from several moderate ‘Greenies’. There is perhaps a nascent yearning for their leaders to pick up on similar ‘hardline’ policies. Discourse that I found uncommon in the past seems to be reflecting the change in times.
Heidelberg is a fascinating and electrifying place. It’s always good to go ‘home’ again to feast on the culture, architecture, cuisine and beverages and visit with and share delectable meals with good friends. On our long train trip back to Vorarlberg, we were already planning on the day we could return. So much to see and do and so little time.
- Interested in the ‘Thanksgiving in Heidelberg’ Blog, Link here to our Year in Vorarlberg Series
- See our ‘Best of Photos’ from this a adventure and from the Rhein’s Lands
- Care to comment on the Blog or Adventure? Jot down your comments in the form below – thanks