Heidelberg, Germany was very high on our travel list since it is where my husband was born as well as where his parents fell in love. We wanted to combine the area with a couple surrounding countries so we decided to fly and rent a car to prevent all the miles on our own car and maximize vacation time. Flights were really cheap: about $120 total and the rental car was also a great price. We found the perfect Airbnb. It was about ten minutes drive to the sights but we saved a lot of money and had plenty of space.
Our first day in Germany we drove 2 hours south to see a castle that was recommended to me. I was told it was one of the most beautiful in the country and open for touring in November. Apparently a lot of the castles in Germany close for the winter. The drive was really easy and absolutely beautiful as there were plenty of hills and fall colors to look at. Ben thinks it was the easiest country to drive in thus far. I have to mention this small detail because some countries really need to step up their game…the rest areas had indoor and outdoor playgrounds. When you are on a road trip with toddlers this is a big deal. When I can combine playtime, potty breaks, and lunch in one stop that just makes my day.
We first drove to a mountain that gave a birds eye view of Hohenzollern castle. I probably could have spent the entire day walking around this mountain. Germany seems to be really big on trails and hiking. These are my kind of people. I can get lost in the forest. Viewing the castle from afar definitely gave it that fairy tale feeling and had me really excited to see it up close.
Since the castle is atop a 3,000 foot mountain we parked at the visitor center and took the bus to the grounds. Our entire first day in Germany we couldn’t get any of our cards to work and we had no Euro. We had alerted our bank ahead of time. Yet every time Ben tried to get out money it wouldn’t work. They worked fine the rest of our trip but for some reason that first day….We basically had to ask the bus driver to take pity on us and thankfully he did. This also meant we couldn’t pay to tour the inside of the castle. Sigh. We came all that way. But the grounds were still gorgeous and the views were stunning from up there. I didn’t get to read much history while there (kids…) on Hohenzollern but it seems it has been built, destroyed and rebuilt several times since the 11th century. The final building was completed in the 1800’s.
Wow. What a charming little city! First on our agenda was to tour the castle overlooking old town. You have to park in the city and walk a good bit uphill but it wasn’t too bad and the weather was great. We got there first thing in the morning so it wasn’t crowded at all. We spent a bit of time walking around the garden area and taking pictures.
Being a castle tied to Ben’s past, it was important for us to take a tour of the entire thing. We bought our tickets and headed to the meeting area. The boys were running around the courtyard playing and the tour guide walked up to us and said if our boys could not be quiet inside the castle we would be asked to leave. So we gave Carter a pacifier and crossed our fingers. As soon as we got inside Carter discovered the wondrous power of an echo and instantly fell in love with his own voice. He just couldn’t help himself. So that was the end of the tour. Thankfully, they gave us a refund.
We still had a good time walking around the castle grounds. There is a great view over the city and river. Heidelberg castle, as with so many castles in Europe, was slowly built over time. It began in the 11th century and had to be rebuilt over time due to lightning strikes, fires and wars.
After the castle we drove down to the University in the city where Ben was born. Its a sprawling campus and we had a hard time finding the exact labor and delivery unit so we decided to just take pictures of the areas outside the hospital .
That evening was the opening of the Christmas market and it ended up being my favorite market we visited on the trip. It was small, intimate and very family friendly with carousels and trains for the kids. The market is along the main street in old town which has historical significance for Ben’s family. We tried to find the bar where Ben’s father first asked his mother on a date; however, it no longer exists. We were also searching for the McDonald’s his mother worked at when she was 16…her first job! We were able to find the building but it has since been turned into a clothing store. But it was a lot of fun being able to bring the boys here and talk about their grandparents and great grandparents.
Ben’s goal at the Christmas market was to drink mulled wine. I’m not a huge wine drinker but it was amazing! Even better was the kinderpunch which tasted like real apple cider mixed with white grapes. I might have drank more of that than the kids did. We ate sausages and shopped for souvenirs. We found a great drawing of the old town area similar to one Ben remembered having in his house growing up.
On our last day in Germany we went looking for the house Ben lived in as a baby but we ended up getting mixed up and landing in a random neighborhood. Fortunately, we will be returning to the area next year and will have another chance to find the right house!