I wouldn’t have thought of this, but Kris did: a quick stop at Heidelberg, land of beer steins and lots of dark beer to fill them and leather pants. The opportunity came during a business trip that she and a half-dozen colleagues had to Germany last week, and naturally, since I wasn’t along, it involved yet another European train.
The city of 145,000 is still one of the highlights of the country, and you can check out the highlights on Wikipedia. It’s long history is by turns both charming and messy, but Kris discovered that the emphasis now is on the charming. The famous castle is still there, somewhat worse for wear, and weiner schnitzel — Kris was not impressed — is available on nearly every street corner.
What she really found amazing was Heidelberg’s interest in matters green, even beyond the verdant hills. To be sure, Germany is well-known for its Autobahn, which runs through Heidelberg, but the local train station offers a stark contrast to the traditional kiss-and-ride seen at our local Amtrak stop.
Bikes. People ride and secure them by the thousands at endless racks that surround the station where her train arrived. So what you get is pedal-ride-walk-ride, with not a single gallon of gas consumed, since the trains themselves are electric powered.
“There were bazillions of bikes all over town,” Kris said, “along with racks to hold them. There are buses as well to take you wherever you wanted to go, but those bikes were everywhere.” But not a lot of riders. She said that the city was surprisingly quiet, perhaps, she assumed, because of a holiday.
“We did the touristy things,” she said, “including lunch at one of the restaurants near the Old Bridge, and we paid a visit to the ‘monkey by the gate,’ which has some kind of significance that managed to escape us. It was a matter of following the crowds of visitors.”
And price? The train was about three bucks, which included free access to the buses.
“Business took us to Frankfurt and other larger cities,” Kris added, “so the chance to see Heidelberg, one of Germany’s most famous towns, was a big draw. We charged up our cameras and jumped for it.”