The brass monkey on the Alte Brücke in Heidelberg has a unique story behind it. Touch the mirror for wealth, the mice for many children, and the hand to return to Heidelberg. I am neither wealthy or have an abundance of children, but this is my second time in Heidelberg so I must have touched the hand when I visited as a child.
This time around I went with a bunch of friends instead of my family. It was in the middle of July but the sun wasn’t exactly very high this day. There were six of us in total. I believe we just bought two Schönes Wochenende tickets and just split the cost.
Coming out of Heidelberg train station, there isn’t much to see but walking about five minutes towards the center, we reached the main pedestrian street of Hauptstrasse. Coming from Stutggart, it is much like Königstrasse with its shops and stores. We took a few minutes to look at the Jesuit Church, but we headed towards the main attraction of the Schloss (or castle).
The path up to the castle is at a slight incline up a hill. There was no tram or bus that we knew of that took us up there. It was a walk that provided some difficulty as I was slightly huffing and puffing by the time we got to the ticket office.
Schloss Heidelberg is a ruiined castle like many of the castles in Europe. However, it is just beautiful as any other castle. The castle is an example of a Gothic-Renaissance castle. Its oldest structure dates from the thirteenth century.
Inside the castle there is the Deutsches Apothekenmuseum, the Grosses Fass, and the courtyards. We opted not to take the guided tour, because it cost extra and we thought we could wander the castle grounds ourselves.
We headed for the apothecary museum first. It was a nice little exhibit of medieval chemistry and alchemy. There were also displays of some suspect ingredients. It took all of about twenty minutes to get through it. There were great views of the Neckar River, which cuts through the hills that make up Heidelberg.
We wandered around the grounds. We saw a giant fountain statue of Neptune, the Gunpowder Tower, and the foot in print on one of the verandas. The story goes that it was a left by a knight who jumped from a third story window after the prince came back early to his wife’s room. I have a bigger foot than the knight.
The last thing we saw was the Grosses Fass, which is basically a very large keg. I thought it was pretty cool to see something that could hold over two-hundred twenty-one thousand liters of beer. There is also a nice wine bar near the Fass, where you can taste some of the local wine. I paid the the three euros to have a taste of Eiswein. Contrary to what some Canadians think, ice wine was first made in this region. It was a very good sweet dessert wine. I kept my little glass cup instead of returning it for the deposit. If I had known better, then I probably would have bought a bottle home as a present.
Alte Brücke and the Neckar
All of us brought our lunch to save some money. Since it was such a nice day, we decided to eat along the Neckar. I brought a simple sandwich with deli meat. Someone made some pasta salad. We actually decided to climb up the trees and eat. It was reminiscent of boys acting like monkeys. Fun times.
The Alte Brücke connects the old town square, where the Heiliggeistkirche stands, and the northern part of town. The Heiliggeistkirche, which is literally translated to Holy Ghost Church, seems like the center of town. Market stalls line the outside of the church selling their wares.
The bridge is where the brass monkey is of whom I first mentioned at the beginning of the article. As rubbed the hands of the monkey for the second time in my life, I wonder if I would return here. I would be glad to. But there is actually more to see of Heidelberg than just the town center and the castle. There is a small hiking path called Philosphenweg north of the bridge.
The way to Philosophenweg starts at a few stairs to cut into some residences and local vineyards. The philosopher Hegel was said to be inspired by the path. It is a great place to see the entirety of the Altstadt from a high vantage point. It is fairly devoid of tourists as most won’t make the physical effort needed to get up here.
As the sun starts to set, the lights on the bridge start to glow dimly. The castle lights wraps a golden aura to offset the approaching dusk. It is a magical city to live out small town German dreams. It was a special day.