Gothic Heidelberg castle & a cruise through romantic Rhine Valley.

History in brick red…at dusk

As they say they, some of the best travel experiences are from those that are not so well planned. This one really was a perfect example of one such experience that I had when travelling in Europe. And the more you stay excited to explore places in the short gaps in between your planned travel, better are the chances that you find yourself enjoying such awesome experiences. This was one such “a day’s experience” that is sure to make a wanderlust soul like mine, very happy, when in Germany, especially in Frankfurt. 

The steamer by the pier for a cruise on the Rhine

Cruising through rich & interesting history

After a nice drive from Frankfurt, it is time to set sails along the Rhine river. A traditional steamer anchored by the pier looks more than inviting to unfold history so rich, as it cruised along the river. Though most popular among the travellers from across the world, this is a ‘must do’ one that should be featuring in your lists of ‘things to do’. This route takes us through UNESCO listed River Rhine and what better way to travel than on the top deck that is open to sky offering great views on either side as we cruise along. And if you are one with a camera and a couple of cool lenses, you are in for a treat. 

The Rhine Valley that is a world heritage site unfolds history as we cruise along. Some of the best known landmarks such as Lordly Rock and Rudesheim appears to be posing just the way we want them to. The quiet and romantic villages that appear on either side seem to be undisturbed by the chaos from the outside world.

By the Rhine…as we pass quietly
Calm & peaceful
a quiet & romantic village

This is clearly a ride to keep counting those medieval castles and feel intrigued as you hear interesting stories about everyone of them. The grand old castles, some of them almost as the remains of ruins bare a haunted look, while some look rustic but liveable are converted into expensive hotels. And I am sure every room in these castles will have an unique and interesting story to tell from the medieval age.

Standing the test of times…in twilight
Weathered & pricey
Testament to an incredible history…

Being the end of winter season, the flora on either side of the Rhine offers an interestingly eerie feel in different shades of grey. With cloudy skies above, the waters too seem to be dark and moody, as the chill winds keeps stinging my cheeks.

The youngest traveller who managed to distract me…very sweetly!

After the spectacular ride through history on Rhine, the cruise comes to an end, only to be hosted for a wonderful evening of wine tasting. The ambiance that the little ‘family run’ place provided us, was something that makes this wine tasting truly unforgettable.

An interesting set up for a fine wine tasting session

The entire place appeared to be a museum of some sorts, with every inch on the wall with an antique displayed. The floor just enough for the visitors to walk around, this place offers the best German wine with a lovely dinner.

The lovely loos with an incredible collection of interesting antiques

And the most adorable spot clearly are the toilets that is sure to retain every visitor in much longer than the usual, gazing around and most likely clicking pictures of a wide range of interesting artefacts.      

Heidelberg castle – the remains of rich history

The best landmark in this little town of castles is clearly the Heidelberg Castle. Standing high on the hill the Heidelberg castle appears to be in an elevated level from the plains, as one of the most important renaissance structure in the north of the Alps. Originally built in 12th century, the castle, as history says, has been hit by lightning bolts twice apart from the wars. Partially rebuilt in 17th and 18th centuries, the castle stands in all its gothic glory with its ruins narrating interesting stories from centuries past. 

Gothic glory stands elevated…
an approach marked by the ruins…
A gateway to a renaissance structure
To enter…back in time

Once on top the castles, you get a spectacular view of the old downtown, the beautiful bridges that run across the Neckar river, the similar looking houses that are built to appear in an orderly fashion with red tiled roofs.

The old Town, a beautiful bridge and river Neckar
A view…with the evening sun shining through the town

The dominating brick red colour all around and the ruins that seem to have experienced time and history, characterises the castle thus making it more interesting to know about.

The Fassbau

The best part of the castle is this giant wine barrel that sits inside the castle adjacent to the king’s hall. The Barrel Building’s cellar houses a giant wine barrel – the great Heidelberg Tun, sitting unbelievably big, all in oak wood and with an incredible story to narrate.

the great Heidelberg Tun – the giant wine barrel

The story narrates about a dwarf called Perkeo of heidelberg, a court jester who used to entertain people with his jokes and his legendary ability to drink wine. And boy, what a big barrel! Built in 15th century this giant barrel can store over 200,000 litres of wine, that was collected from the ruled territory as taxes during those days.

Perkeo…the eternal keeper stands guard

And the life size wooden figure of Perkeo by the giant barrel stands as a guardian, an eternal keeper of the barrel and became a mascot to the city too. On top of the giant barrel is a dance floor for the visitor who loves to shake a leg on the wooden floor seasoned with centuries old wine. And if you fancy a private celebration in such an historical structure, they hire out the King’s hall next to the barrel… obviously for a fat price.  

The fabulous facade and incredible interiors

Standing tall & majestic
A fabulous facade weathered over centuries

A part of the castle, as one of most beautiful palaces of German renaissance, stands with its facade adorned by amazing sculptures that seem to bring alive the likes of David, Hercules, Samson, other Kings and Emperors.

Designed to inspire…through the ages

The palace courtyard flaunts richly decorated creations of art on the inside and has lovely gardens on the outside, with incredible views.

A historical sit-out…
…for a beautiful view!

Heidelberg – the Gothic town 

The old…and the not so old…as the sun sets
…for a perfect walk
…for the shopper in us
An evening in the romantic town of Heidelberg…as the sun goes down!

After an overdose of historical ambiance, for those who wish to ease out into shopping, there is the city of Heidelberg with cobble stone streets and perfectly placed lamp posts, adding flair to the evening. The cute looking shops and inviting restaurants set up a perfect end to an awesome day of exploring and remising history in Heidelberg. 

Clearly a ‘must-do’ when in Frankfurt. 

5000 years and it still ROCKS!

An early start to an awesome calmness

Right after breakfast, I walked to the nearest Tube station to catch a train to Victoria Coach Station, exactly as the tour brochure at my hotel in London’s Earl’s Court had recommended. Boarding a mini tour bus at Victoria Station, I was excitedly on my way to a half-day tour of Stonehenge. The image of Stonehenge was a familiar one, as many computers come preloaded with it as a desktop wallpaper, but I knew very little else about the ancient place.

I needn’t have worried though as the bus driver’s introductory talk was packed with all the interesting information. “It was so saddening when I heard one man say that it is just a pile of big stones,” the driver said with genuine hurt in his voice, expressing dismay at visitors who have no sense of history. After all, what appears to be the remains of incomplete, but ‘thoughtfully arranged big rocks’ at Stonehenge is nearly 3,500 years old, making it one of the most important prehistoric monuments in Britain.

Driving through calmness

Picture perfect

The first thing that strikes you when you arrive at Stonehenge is the surrounding perfect English countryside — beautiful, lush green fields interspersed with delightfully yellow strips of rapeseed; a perfectly laid highway that runs more like an artist’s brush, making one long stroke from end to end.

An approach through yellow & green

Vehicles, especially long trucks loaded with new cars, suddenly appear up the curve and disappear below, before reappearing at the next curve and finally disappearing out of sight.

Cool country side – Wiltshire

Lending a picture-perfect touch was a flock of well-grown fluffy sheep grazing on the hillsides. It was especially delightful to watch them drink together from neatly arranged water troughs.

A typical english countryside

Prehistoric labour of love

Each visitor is provided an audio guide, with a pre-recorded voice narrating the history of the place. The best part about this arrangement is that you can always pause and rewind to the sections you may have missed at first hearing.

A storyline in rocks

The structure we see today is believed to have come up in three stages — an earth bank and a ditch came up in the first stage; the second stage is the dramatic part in which gigantic bluestones were dragged on rollers and sledges over a 240-mile track, all the way from Preseli Mountains to Amesbury. The third stage, set around 2000 BC, saw the arrival of Sarsen stones; after 1500 BC, the bluestones were rearranged to appear as we see them today. This truly is an awe-inspiring history in stones.

Interesting history in formation
Uniquely arranged
Solitary stand
A walk around…

Popular heritage site

Mystic rocks…narrating interesting history

Located a little more than an hour away from London, in the English county of Wiltshire, the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge is a popular tourist attraction. The site is also revered as a place of pilgrimage for neo-druids and others who follow pagan or neo-pagan beliefs; in June it turns into a popular venue for those celebrating the Summer Solstice.

A must visit when in London.

Picture – irk99