You know what they say about road trips: getting there is half the fun. That’s especially true on short trips to Heidelberg, when you pass an impressive-looking castle atop a hill and decide to stop and explore it. You follow the signs that point you toward Schloss Auerbach, driving through a quaint little town before following a narrow road that curves around and up the hill. There are hikers and bikers (on cycles and scooters) and big black beetles, but the wooded path you take on foot is peaceful. Birds chirp and a tiny stream trickles by. At the top of the hill stands the mighty fortress. In the 13th century it was built, and in 1674 it was invaded by Scottish Highlanders by way of an underground tunnel. Today it serves as a giant playground of sorts, where the imagination can soar far above the hills and trees and modern civilization that bustles below. It’s hard to confirm which view is the most impressive: the perspective from the ground looking up at the massive, rustic stone walls; the vantage point from the tops of the two towers; or the frightening drop of an ancient well (or is it the tunnel entrance?), deep and dark. After plenty of exploration, you return to your car and continue on your way to the original destination. There you take a bathroom break and buy a stuffed elephant, and then it’s time to return home. Yes, getting there is definitely half the fun.
As promised, here are photos from last month’s ski trip…during which no actual skiing was done by us. We did spend a lovely afternoon at Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein the only clear day during our time in Bavaria. Most of the photos here are from that day; the castles provided a superior view of the Alps and farmland around us. The rest of that weekend was spent napping as snow fell on the mountains looming outside our window, eating the best steak we’ve had in Europe (as well as some tasty pasta, soup, wine, and of course, creme brulee) three nights in a row at the restaurant in the hotel, playing cards, enjoying a couple pastries and lattes before perusing the shops and sidewalks of Garmisch, and working together to build the biggest snowman of our lives. It was everything a vacation should be: a change of scenery (a beautiful one at that), a little sight-seeing, a taste of the local culture, plenty of rest, good food, and lots of fun time together.
This morning, as I was finishing my breakfast of leftover chocolate cake, I happened to catch a glimpse of the vivid orange sky outside my window. Leaving the dirty plate and fork on the counter, I quickly changed into jeans, threw on my coat, grabbed the camera, and headed outside. The beautiful sunrise ended up drawing me to the fields not far from our apartment, but before I had reached my destination, I received the dreaded message from the camera: “Battery Depleted.” This did a sufficient job of reminding me of my forgetfulness, as I left in such a hurry that I didn’t bring the camera case that contains a spare set of batteries. I decided to enjoy the walk and the view with my own eyes; I could still appreciate the beauty without taking any pictures. In a spark of inspiration I remembered that the camera still has power for a few seconds after being turned off and then on again. Employing this technique, I managed to take some pictures to share with you, though I fear I missed capturing the best of the sunrise. It’s clear that I need to learn a bit more about taking pictures of the sun and the sky, but I opine my little excursion resulted in a handful of pretty pictures nonetheless. The surprisingly successful ones I’ve posted are the work of God’s creativity and skill, not mine. As I arrived back at the front door of the apartment building, the clouds above started to sprinkle. I didn’t get wet, nor did the camera, and that I also owe to God.
We just had a four-day weekend, in honor of Martin Luther King Day. We have yet to do any major traveling, though we do intend not to spend all of our time in Europe close to home. We have plans to go to Normandy and Poland sometime, and to learn as much history and culture as we can first-hand while we are here. There has been a lot of that within walking distance of our apartment. I am sure this is the case no matter where you live, you just have to keep your eyes open and your brain working. On this walk we ended up at a large cemetery. We have learned by observation that many Germans like solitude and privacy. We found the cemetery to reflect this as well. Many of the gravestones were surrounded by large shrubs, creating a strikingly peaceful atmosphere. The overcast skies definitely added to the somber feeling, as we wandered along the paths in near silence. We saw only one other couple in the whole place. In Germany it is very rare to see any hustle-and-bustle on Sundays; stores are closed, the streets are nearly empty, and especially in such a place as a cemetery there is little noise or activity.
A recap of January thus far (because we are not yet faithful, daily bloggers):
January 1: Fireworks in Neroburg