Corrib Rambler's Adventure in Heidelberg 2003
By Mary Kyne
The Corrib Rambler’s Club set out on August 13th excited and exhilarated in anticipation of visiting Roland Wirsching’s home city of Heidelberg in Germany. The temperature was 30 degrees on arrival. The landscape of rolling hills of forests and larger maize fields stretched for miles along the motorway from the airport to our hostel. There seemed to be no speed limits as the cars were travelling up to 90-100 miles an hour. Our hostels, like all of our accommodation, were clean and comfortable.
At night some of the group were saying that they heard the roar of elephants and others said that they were kept awake by strange bird noises. At first it was thought they were suffering from heat exhaustion or perhaps over indulgence on cheap Geramn beer!! In fact, the clear light of day told us that they were not hallucinating – our hostel was situated near a Zoo!!
Our breakfasts were the usual continental breakfasts of various breads, excellent homemade jams, various meats and cheeses, coffee and tea.
Location of ‘The Student Prince’ Film.
After a well earned rest we walked up a very steep hill to get a panoramic view of the city made famous by the film ‘The Student Prince’ and HeidelbergCastle. People come from all over the world to admire this castle that ranks with the Acropolis and the Palace of Versailles. We stood in the centre of this breath taking composition of river and hill, a jumble of roofs and the tranquil greenery of the surrounding forest. We visited the impressive ruins of the Benedictine monasteries of St. Stephen and St. Michael. It was here that Roland took his Boy Scout’s Pledge, fifty years ago. ‘Be Prepared.’
Performance in the Amphitheatre
We visited a huge open air theatre, with a crowd capacity of 8,000 people build by Hitler. Later we descended a spiral staircase of hundreds of steps known as ‘The Snake’. The Irish tenors have performed here and not to be out done the Corrib Ramblers danced the ‘Siege of Ennis’ and sang ‘the Fields of Athenry’ while Roland played the mouth organ to the amusement of the visiting tourists. We had lunch in a small restaurant high up in the hills under the welcome shade of the trees.
We really relished the German beer in the stifling heat. Later we descended a spiral staircase of hundreds of steps known as ‘The Snake’ to the water edge of the river Neckar, on which Heidleberg is situated.
We completed this wonderful day with dinner in TSG Sport restaurant with Roland’s German friends. This was a very special gathering as most of Rolands’s friends have visited Oughterard. We shared a meal and exchanged views on Ireland and Germany.
What makes Heidelberg so famous?
It is location and the heart of the town with its many ancient buildings that gives it charm. Heidelberg lies on the edge of the ‘Odenwald’ forest where the Neckar begins its journey from the mountains to the Rhine valley. The centre of Heidelberg is surrounded by the Heiligenberg (the Holy Hill), which we climbed along the famous ‘Philosopher’s Way’ and the Konigsstuhl (King’s Seat). Ancient houses and narrow streets are characteristic of the Altstadt (OldTown), which is partially situated on a slope. Heidelberg was spared from bombardment during World War 11, which gives the visitor an idea of what old German towns looked like , and it also enabled the US Army to establish its headquarters there in 1945.
Heidelberg Castle is built with red Neckar sandstone. It strikes the eye at once that the castle did not arise from any uniform constructional plan and that there is no common building line or any uniform building style. The very plain Gothic structures and the magnificent highly decorated Renaissance palace with its rich sculptured figures stand side by side. This edifice is used as a backdrop for open-air performances, which attract thousands of visitors from all over the world.
We saw Karl Theodor’s famous ‘Big Barrel’ which can hold 220,000litres of wine. The peasants paid their taxes to the Lord of the castle with wine. Needless to say they didn’t give the best wine and they often mixed it with other impurities. All the wines collected were mixed together in this huge barrel. The lords and nobles spent the greater part of the day drinking wine, as the water was polluted. The inhabitants of the castle and the surrounding area were known to dump all of their rubbish into the water supply.
A statue of the famous dwarf, Perkeo, stands beside the ‘Big Barrel’. He was the court fool and the wine-loving guardian of the ‘Big Barrel.’ He was said to be capable of consuming a lot of wine. His name is supposed to have come from his habitual reply to the question whether he would like one more beaker of wine to drink.? ‘Perche no’ Why not! Tradition has it that Perkeo died as a result of being talked into drinking a glass of water!!
Visit to the Vineyards of Speyer
In the afternoon we took a trip to visit the great vineyards of the area of Speyer. We tasted six different wines. Here the Ramblers lost the run of themselves as they bought numerous bottles of wine ranging in price from 3 euro to 10euro for the more expensive wines. We discovered that we are paying exorbitant prices here in Ireland, not only for wine but also for everything else as well except petrol, which costs over a euro a litre.
A Stopover at Seppl
A visit to Heidelberg wouldn’t be complete without a visit to ‘Seppl’, a student drinking house. What a surprise we got when we saw the bar tender arrive with a huge glass boot of beer which was passed around the table for everyone to drink from – a local tradition. Here we showed that the Corrib Ramblers can sing as well as walk. In hindsight they should stick to the walking!!
Strasburg – France
Next day we took the scenic route along the RhineValley to Strasburg in France. We visited the famous Notre Dame Cathedral with its very impressive stain glass windows depicting scenes from the scriptures. These were used as visual aids at the time as people couldn’t read or write. The astronomical clock, organ gallery and pulpit are also truly magnificent works of art.
We continued our journey towards LakeTitisee in the Black Forest, home of the cuckoo clock. Several of our group purchased the clocks. There was much laughter and fun about the clocks so we hope that they are not cuckooing all night on the hour!!
This is dairy and sheep country with its smooth low valleys of rich green pasture. The barn for the animals and the farmer’s own living quarters are often within one huge building structure. We spoke with one young farmer who had his animals indoor due to the recent heat wave and the poor quality of his pasture land due to the lack of rain.
Black Forest Walk
On Sunday we visited the parish church for mass. When no priest turned up we conducted our own prayer service. We were preparing for the future when we will have a shortage of priests in Ireland. Later we noticed that we were in an Anglican Church!
We travelled up into Heidi country with tall majestic pine trees towering into an azure blue sky. Whole families were making their way up the steep slopes, some walking, others jogging, while others used mountain bikes. The lower slopes of rich pasture land gave way to mountain heather and a carpet of Alpine wild flowers as we climbed higher up into the hills. On reaching 4,000 feet above sea level we were rewarded by seeing several pairs of hawks hovering in the sky above us. One cheeky fellow perched himself on the rail of a tall mast so we all had ample time to view him through our binoculars. Soon ravens came to join in the fun.
Along the way we came across cows with bells tied around their necks. It was wonderful to hear the bells clang as they grazed leisurely on the green slopes. I also a shepherd dressed in a long frock coat with a wide brimmed hat holding a long walking stick herding a flock of up to 200 sheep with the aid of two dogs winding his way along a narrow mountain path down into the valley.
The Village of Titisee
We made our way down into the village of Titisee. There are several hotels and guest houses situated beside the beautiful LakeTitisee. This region is a blaze of colour as every house has hanging baskets and wooden boxes of geraniums, busy lizzies and dwarf petunias on their window ledges.
The following day we headed for Bavaria.