Deutschland, bitte.

The second leg of les Verts’ European adventure took them, and us, to France’s immediate eastern neighbor.  Every one of us – Nez, Riot, Nez’s sister, Joie, her husband, and their three children whose noms de web are, in order, Eurogrl, Kingskid, and Berryana – would now be a tourist.  And, before we rendezvous with Nez’s dad, who had flown to Germany directly from the States, we would be largely helpless with our feeble German, or the lack of it.  Yet, no one was really thinking about that minor inconvenience; we were all looking forward to exploring the German countryside as a sort of family reunion.  And, if it helps, our German adventure could be thought of as a castle tour with interesting train stories. 

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Castle No. 5:  Heidelberg.


•  Rothenburg - Steinach

•  Steinach - Ansbach
•  Ansbach - Stuttgart
•  Stuttgart - Heidelberg

22 May 2008.  We had the last breakfast at the Altfränkische Weinstube am Klosterhof before hopping on a taxi for the ride out of the old town to the train station.  Through a feat of coordination, we rode four trains and changed multiple platforms, with the great help of the luggage “escalators” along staircases, to get to our next destination, Heidelberg.

Compared to our last couple of destinations, Heidelberg was a bustling metropolis and correspondingly less charming.  Rick Steves did not hold back on his dissing of this “famous old university town [that] attracts hordes of Americans.”  (With us, add eight to those hordes.)  He continued:  “It doesn’t make it into Germany’s top three weeks.”  He was right about the rampant commercialism but the city was not without any redeeming qualities.  We made a mental note of spending a few more weeks in Germany in the future to make up for the sin of including Heidelberg in this trip.  Incidentally, on the commercialism point, the Language Chameleon recalled that he had in fact been here once before and thought that it was tacky to ring the Heiliggeistkirche with souvenir-peddling shops.  Years later it remained tacky.

The Kaisers and his girls discussed
the logistics of today’s train trip;
Riot and the Language Chameleon,
who were only tasked with the luggage,
deeply appreciated the luggage “escaltors”
at German train stations;

this is why Nez was nicknamed
“Ranger Nez” in her youth;

upon reaching their intended destination,
the girls and their proud father celebrated
at the ubiquitous Starbucks.


Our hotel sat at the foot of the Old Bridge spanning the Neckar.  From our windows, we could see the scaffolding behind the twin baroque towers topping the gate on this side of the river.  From the same windows, we could also see a Thai restaurant with outdoor seating where the Kaiser suggested that we lunch.  We happily complied.  It was a good lunch but the restaurant, while authentic to the extent that its staff spoke Thai, didn’t quite have the duck dish the Kaiser loves.  Instead, it served up a kind of duck schnitzel.  It seemed as though one could not escape the fried breadcrumbs traveling in Germany.

  We had a view of the little square and enjoyed watching tourists play tourists from our hotel window.
  Joie and Eurogrl spying on the Kaiser and us from their very own room with a view.

We spent the rest of the evening walking down the pedestrian-crowded Hauptstraße all the way to the Bismarckplatz before turning back.  We passed by a playground and ran into the Language Chameleon and the children.  It took some effort to tear Kingskid and Berryana away from the pulley contraption that brought sand to a platform only to be dumped down a chute, sometimes on the hapless, unsuspecting child below.  From this and many other playgrounds we happened upon, we observed that in Europe children seemed to be fascinated by the simplest of playthings, an observation which warmed our hearts.

Nez and the Brückenaffe (Bridge Monkey)
by the Old Bridge.  Most tourists, in putting
their heads inside the monkey’s head, neglect
to look at the mirror in its left hand.
This current sculpture was installed in 1979
but there had been a bridge monkey in Heidelberg as far back as the 15th century.
The Old Bridge is also rather new; this incarnation was rebuilt in 1946
after the previous one was blown up
in the waning days of World War II.

Nez and her other Affe.  


In the distance, high on the hill, a castle clearly in ruins sat invitingly.  The sky was already getting dark so we bid it goodbye until tomorrow.  For the rest of the evening, or at least for a long time, Nez, Riot, and the Kaiser sat and chatted about this and that in our hotel room.  It was a scene straight from a college dormitory:  the Kaiser sitting against the closet with his legs up against his chest, Nez plopped on one end of the bed, Riot hunching over the laptop on the other, and on the floor, Kingskid doing his best to keep himself busy or trying to figure out how to make an exit without arousing too much attention.  They could have been discussing philosophy, house parties, or football, but in this case, it was actually insurance and regulatory enforcement (eat your heart out, Johnny!).  Whatever it was, it was one of those moments that one could not have planned no matter how well one planned one’s trip.  It was also one of those priceless and simple moments that might very well be the highlight of one’s trip.  For one evening in a German town, we were all in our early twenties again (except Kingskid, who wished he was still just a kid).

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