Tuesday, October 28, 2014


We always enjoy our time in Heidelberg, a lovely town in southwest Germany, but it never seems to get any closer. In the old days when we flew from Hong Kong it was a long ways. Now, in Germany, the drive continues to surprise us; typically four hours without traffic. Maybe it’s not the length of the drive but the time in the car with everyone. Thank goodness for podcasts!  But once there, we visit Opa and visit the places we know and love; the playgrounds and the zoo! Our kids have not outgrown the usual haunts (except maybe the library, where twenty books in English used to take a whole afternoon) but they are close to outgrowing them. We hit them all again on a recent trip, standing back, remembering and taking lots of pictures.
Heidelberg, hit hard during 17th century wars and rebuilt in the 18th century with a baroque style Old Town, is a wonderful place to wander. The main street through the old town is completely pedestrian and winds through many old buildings with plagues (which the kids can sort of read in German). We passed an old building that was a stable, a bar, and army headquarters, all within a couple hundred years. We walked past the hotel with Chris and Kelli stayed when meeting us years ago. The stand where Adam insisted on buying a wooden sword. The good gelato shop. The bad gelato shop. The old English bookstore is gone but we found a great craft supply store, a ceramics studio and a frozen yogurt shop. Sadly, our fun bike rental shop is no longer.
Without bikes, we wandered over the Old Bridge and up the north side of the Neckar River, walking along the old Philosopher’s Walk. A steep path up leads to a walk on the other side of the river with great views of the Old Town and the castle. Phil used the time to wax philosophical with the kids and they loved it but that all promptly turned off when we hit our old playground. The one with the wacky swings, part see-saw, part rope swing. The kids played, climbed trees and splashed through the big waterworks structure they have. A lovely last sunny day before the time change and official winter.
For many years, Heidelberg was the headquarters for US military forces in Europe with Campbell Barracks and Mark Twain Village. All that has been closing in the last few years. The elementary school closed after the 2011-2012 school year. The high school with its mascot drawn on the outside of the gym is empty. The military is mostly moved to nearby Wiesbaden. We drove past empty barracks, deserted playgrounds in route to visit friends from Munich who have moved to Heidelberg. It all seemed unspeakably sad. When at the friends, particularly a girl who is friends with Adam, he played tag with this girl, running hot and sweaty and our girls teased him mercilessly. Despite that brief nostalgic shift, all has reverted to usual; running, teasing, laughing, crying. And all continued in that vein on the next long car ride of our journey!


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