Friday, May 28, 2010

Visit to Heidelberg

Our first morning in Mannheim we walked up the street to the bakery to stock up for the weekend.

Wolfgang bought a little of everything. We went back to the apartment for coffee and pastries and then went back to buy more. My favorite was the apple tart. There were two versions. One with apples diced into small cubes, and one with larger pieces made from local apples. I liked them both.

Then we walked about 10 blocks to the lot where Andrea keeps her car. The drive to Heidelberg was about 15 minutes. Finding a parking place wasn't too bad since we didn't mind the 20 minute walk to the city center. The space was for two hours, so Wolfgang set the clock on the card that you leave in a visible space on the dashboard to let the parking police know what time you intend to return.

There is more reliance on the honor system here than there is in the US. We have a 1-month metro/bus pass for Berlin. We have been here almost a month and so far our passes have never been checked. We show it to get on the bus, but the metro has no entry machines, you just walk right onto the train. Occasionally an inspector comes through to check and you can be fined if you don't have a ticket or a pass.

On our walk to the town center, we passed several crops of mushrooms. It has been a cold rainy May here too.

I thought this was a particularly whimsical cluster. These little white flowers are everywhere in Germany right now.

Our first stop when we got into town was a chocolate shop called St. Anna's No. 1.

We sat outside in the sun while the owner prepared our chocolate. Dave and I ordered the orange chocolate. Wolfgang chose chili coffee chocolate. The owner expressed concern that he might want to rethink this combination, but Wolfgang assured her that he is tough, he can take it. The tiny shop was crowded with people buying handmade chocolates so we had time to sit in the sun outside before our chocolate arrived.

As you can see, this is not American style hot chocolate. This is real chocolate melted into a bit of milk. When she brought it, she told us to stir it to melt the lumps of chocolate. You can eat it with a spoon or go ahead and risk a chocolate milk mustache. The water is to drink between sips of chocolate. It was velvety smooth, not too sweet, with a hint of orange. Quite elegant.

Before we left, I bought a couple of her chocolates.

There is a disk of chocolate at the bottom of each. I'm not sure how they do the sides. Maybe it's a special mold, but the sides are very thin, like it is spread onto acetate strips. The center is a slightly soft ganache. The white chocolate one is coffee and the dark is hazelnut. The packaging is simple but elegant.

The outskirts of Heidelberg are modern but as you approach the center, it becomes more historic. The streets here were mostly pedestrian.

The Subway restaurant sign seemed kind of out of place here.

On the hill, we could see the remains of the old castle.

Wolfgang took us to his favorite place for coffee at the end of the street before we turned toward the bridge and began the climb up the hill (that he hadn't really told us much about at this point).

Turns out they had some really interesting chocolates as well. A solid disk of chocolate is poured into the bottom and then a very soft ganache is piped on top. Another disk of solid chocolate is poured on top. These are a little messy to eat but they were quite delicious.

Yes, the Starlight mice will eventually have their own perspective of the Berlin/Paris/So. Germany trip online but right now they are too busy exploring.

Here is one of the older buildings we passed as we headed towards the bridge.

The bridge crosses the river Neckar.

Wolfgang mentioned the little loop he would like to take us on to show us some pretty nice views of the city... with a nice Italian restaurant at the end.

We agreed that would be fun. It started out quite idyllic as a narrow winding path.

"You see, it's not so bad." But it got a little steeper. And it went up and up and up. "Just around this corner, we're almost there."

Oops, here are a few stairs. "You will see. It will be beautiful."

"Come on, it's not very far anymore." We finally did reach the first viewing spot.

And it was lovely (especially the part where we got to sit down on a bench). This is the snow-globe city in the winter with spires rising up out of the snow. Oh, but wait... that's not all! There are more stairs and a little bit further to reach the top.

And this is what to see from the top.

Going down didn't see quite as steep. Dave thinks it was about 400 feet to the top. The path is called the Philosopher's Walk.

By the time we got to the bottom it was later than Wolfgang had expected so we took a short break at the Italian cafe and called Andrea to find out if she wanted to meet us for dinner at an outdoor restaurant on the Rhine in Mannheim.

Wolfgang and Dave had coffee. I ordered their special of the day, Spargel Soup. Spargel is the thick white asparagus that is in season right now and for sale all over Germany and France.

The soup was salmon, dill, and white asparagus. It was my first taste of this seasonal treat. I've had a lot of white asparagus since and I like it this way the best. The texture of the soup was silky smooth with garlicky fried crumbles of salmon suspended in the light creamy soup.

It was a bit difficult to stand up and walk again after this short break, but we were well past our 4 pm parking deadline. Actually finding our car was a bit of a problem, but Wolfgang picked up the scent and led us through the city outskirts to the warm interior of the car.

We drove directly (well actually we missed the Mannheim bridge a few times but eventually found the correct street and got into the right area) and found a parking space within a convenient quarter to half mile walk to the restaurant. We sat outside and ate traditional German food as boats moved up and down the Rhine near our table.

Since I didn't have my camera, I thought I'd try out the video feature on my iPhone while we waited for our food to arrive.

We headed back to our car at sunset. We needed to rest up for the early morning train to Koln then next day.

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