In the south of Germany, there is a university of town called Heidelberg that I was lucky enough to visit last summer for a significant birthday of my mother’s. It was my father’s suggestion that this was our final destination. Whilst not an immediately obvious choice for this culturally devoid travel blogger, my father came up trumps with this idea. I found Heidelberg to be an ideal town for a weekend – both for my husband & I coming from Paderborn, and the rest of my family from London. Heidelberg is just an hour’s drive from the well served Frankfurt airport.
Given the significance of the birthday, we plumped for the Hotel Europaeischer Hof, which had a very swish spa and 1950s style bar to help earn its 5 stars. After the four hour drive through the picturesque forests of mid Germany, the husband and I met my family in the hotel’s quaint courtyard for kuchen and cocktails. Thanks to my family’s constant and unswerving dedication to a thorough survey of any drinks menu, I can now heartily recommend the hotel's version of the Kir Royal and the Negroni. Our survey resulted in a lack of brain power and decision making skills, which led us to eat at the hotel’s restaurant that evening as opposed to many of the other restaurants Heidelberg has to offer. The hotel had put on a Friday night BBQ buffet and, after an Martini impassioned speech on how happy she was by the Mothership, the Family attacked the smorgasbord with its usual gusto. Imagine a gaggle of vultures around a rotting carcus, and you have something akin to a Carr family feed. Buffets, in particular, bring out the worst in us as we endeavour to heed any establishment making money out of us by eating everything in sight. (See my previous Singapore and Bajan blogs for more thoughts on Buffets) We ate well and went to bed well fed and watered.
On the Saturday morning, I woke up with a little hangover and big ringing noise in my head. That ringing noise came from my brother, calling to say that he was downstairs in the lobby and was I or was I not coming for the run I suggested the night before. I grunted my negative response and went back to my high thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, wondering why I would propose such a thing. The bed on which I retired was a typical German bed in that though a kingsize, it was made up of two large singles. This makes for better, albeit less romantic, sleeping next to one’s other half. The rest of the room in which we resided was perhaps a little small for such a bed, but it was exceedingly tasteful, had a well equipped bathroom with fluffy towels and large windows making for a bright and light space. The fathership was less impressed with his room, which he claims was much smaller than ours, but given that he did not step foot in our quarter, I am not entirely sure how he knew this. That being said, given that he spends a lot of his time in hotel suites with work travel, he is quite a good litmus paper for bedrooms abroad.
Back in bed, and with the dry mouth that I had self incurred, I was finding falling back to sleep difficult. I, cruelly, dragged the husband out of bed to try the Spa before breakfast. I was really impressed by the Spa facilities at the Europaischer and loved the small but perfectly formed swimming pool. It was just a shame that we weren’t fortunate to have a sunny August day as the rooftop terrace looked very inviting from the Jacuzzi. After doing a couple of laps of the pool, I felt a lot better and ready to tackle the buffet breakfast.
A hotel breakfast buffet, as any regular reader of this blog will know, is not to be overlooked as another litmus paper to aid rating a hotel. Indeed, my patron from St Girons, Mr H, has been doing this for years. My own father has an even more particular test, in that he grades a hotel solely on its scrambled eggs. I like to employ both and this hotel, as a consequence, rates very highly with me. Set in a regal room with high ceilings and large windows, the buffet selection was vast and high quality. With bubbles on offer, it already was a pace ahead of many in the buffet breakfast test™, and it also offered tasty cured meats, cheese and more pastries than you can shake a stick at. Importantly, for this travel blogger, the often omitted Cinnamon swirl was also included. A small, but significant win for Hotel Europaischer in my book.
Heidelberg itself, is not short of things to do. Yet, its quaint streets and street side cafes make it easy to spend any weekend there just meandering between eating and watering holes. However, given that it was the Mothership’s birthday, we were at her behest as to what we would be doing with our time there. My mother is the Culture Vulture of our cackle and we, therefore, did not just meander between eating and watering holes. No, my mother, requested a trip to the imposing Heidelberg castle, which is hard to miss when you enter the town’s valley. Her request saw the family gainfully employed for most of the morning. The funicular up the mountain to the Schloss was a highlight in itself. There is a fantastic view of the city and the surrounding area from its top stop and, being in Germany, an opportunity to have a beer. Still full from a large breakfast, the clan and I gave a beer a miss and headed for a guided tour of the castle instead. The Schloss is largely unfinished in parts, and decrepit in others, but fascinating. Its building is vast both in stature and in history. Our tour guide, Cindy from Rotterdam, told just the right amount of titbits (bears in the moat alongside intriguing affairs and marriages) as well as information of a practical nature regarding its mish mash of owners over the centuries. The cellar, with the world’s largest wine barrel, is an obvious highlight.
An obvious lowlight of my weekend, was the news that my family’s return flight the following evening had been cancelled. Having completed our tour of the huge castle, we were enjoying a lunch in one of the nearby squares. The sun was out, the fathership was happily ensconced practising his German to any German that passed, and the beer was cold. All this was unhappily curtailed by said news, and we dashed back to the hotel to call the offending airline. Whilst BA were able to put my family on another flight the same day, it was unfortunately in the morning meaning that they would have to leave at the crack of dawn.
We still made the most of our remaining time there. Whilst we could not get a table at the town’s Michelin starred restaurant Le Gourmet, we followed the hotel recommendation of Restaurant Akademie, an Italian eatery. I smile when I think of our meal here. Not only was all my family on very good form, we all also managed to eat very well. For me they served a plate of absolute heaven (hyperbolic but true), by offering a plate of Serrano ham with a huge island of Burrata in the middle. According to my husband, I apparently did not speak, or even look up in between mouthfuls, during my devouring of my starter. He has been serving me this concoction ever since.
The next day, I woke early again to say goodbye to the family, and thankfully without the previous day’s fuzzy head despite the nightcaps at the hotel bar post our dinner. After a couple more hours sleep, the husband and I made use of the quiet Sunday morning streets and slowly ambled through the town’s pretty lanes to the other side of the river for a walk. Or hike as it turned out to be. To say that we were ill prepared is a slight understatement. I was wearing pretty Kurt Geiger leather sandals and a silk top. At the bottom of the hill, I thought my look channeled Olivia Palermo and said silk top was a chic grey colour. At the top of the hill my silk top was a sweaty induced black thing.
All that being said, I did enjoy the walk and if we were ever in the vicinity again, I would like to do the longer version of it that we had intended to do, but the angle of the slopes denied. And, as ever, on these short weekends away, I still feel like there was swathes of things left for us to do in the city. We left shortly after our ramble to beat German Sunday traffic (a breed that should not be reckoned with), but there was the university to explore, Neckar river to float down, beer halls to discover and schnitzels to scoff.
My photos this week are family free and unfortunately free of the world’s largest barrel. It was literally too big to fit into any camera shot. Please leave any comments with recommendations for future readers and visitors of this pretty town. The photos themselves are available in these shapes and sizes.
PS Sorry for the token Serrano ham shot. Again. I am struggling with my addiction.