From the Land of Milk and Honey to the Land of Ideas, the shift from Switzerland to Germany was a bit difficult for us. We missed two trains to begin with, which seemed a bad omen, and our travel day was a bit fraught in general, Fridays are certainly busier than Sundays.
We arrived in the college town of Heidelberg, which called to us because of its charming architecture and smaller city vibes. Still, we went from a town of 6,000 to a city of 160,000, and found ourselves rocked off our axis a bit.
It took a couple days to find our footing, and the steps to get there took us on a rigorous hike up a mountain to who knows where. I grumbled much of the way, but as always, what we found at the top was a worthy reward.
Our first discovery on the way up the mountain was this lookout point, built from the ruins of a monastery. Built in 1094!!! Behind the tower lie ruins, where we saw what were once rooms and even a religious altar. It’s fun and interesting to imagine what it looked like in its prime. I enjoy picturing people walking, climbing and living in this space so long ago in history.
After seeing what we could see, we continued our ascent up the mountain. The Germans are lovely enough to put helpful markers on their trees to let you know there are more interesting things ahead. What we found was beyond our expectations. We both agreed that it was more impressive than many of the monuments in Rome that they charge an arm and a leg to view, meanwhile this place and all its historic significance, is hidden in a forest for anyone to see.
Deep in the trees, an Amphitheatre revealed itself. In its day I imagine it would rival Red Rocks in Colorado.
The purpose behind this space is much more insidious than that of the famed Colorado amphitheatre. Built in June 1935, “Thingstatte”, was created for the purpose of propaganda presentations during the first part of the Nazi era. 400 of these open air theatres were planned but due to the cold and damp conditions of Germany along with waning enthusiasm, only around 45 were built and those were eventually repurposed as festival sites. This particular space, which holds 8,000 people seated and 15,000 standing, was active until 2017 and is now a protected historical monument.
We were completely delighted by this find, and spent a fair bit of time observing the historic site, but we eventually continued on and beyond the theatre sits the ruins of the monastery, whose stones were used for the abbey and tower we first encountered. The ruins offered an unobstructed view of Heidelberg, no pollution clouded the sky, the horizon unobstructed. Of course I didn’t capture that as I was more interested in the layout of the ruin itself.
We walked about 10 miles that day and my feet didn’t really thank me for it, walking over roots and rocks and climbing up a mountain was a little rough, so we just did a couple errands the following day and gave our bodies a break.
Then on Tuesday, I was doing a poke around google maps and found our next destination. One I hoped would speak to my heart as much as I expected it would.
Gabe and I discuss often the effects of nature on human health, soul, and psyche, and contemplated the benefits of the colors of nature. Does green soothe the busy mind? I haven’t done any proper investigating on the science of it, but my heart and body says yes, the benefits of nature and its bounty of color are many.
When I saw the climb to get to my picked destination was strictly uphill, I was not enthusiastic to be sure, but I hoped that the treasure at the top would be worth our time. After about 40 minutes as we neared the spot that was supposed to be the pinnacle of our climb I grew concerned. I didn’t see anything, just dirt path and trees.
Then we rounded a corner and there it was.
We were not disappointed.
Looming large and magnificent, a Redwood tree. Surrounded by sequoia and more redwoods, hickory, eastern hemlock and others. The Magic Circle around the mammoth tree gave this place a sacred feel that spoke well and true to my witchy little heart.
This area was designed around Indigenous cultures and the sacred oneness of the earth and her inhabitants, the understanding that we are all related.
I really couldn’t have been happier, big trees bring me joy. One of my soul-trips was to California to see the Redwoods because they speak to me, as they do many. It was such a surprise to find them in Germany. Were they equally surprised to find me there? I know I was.
We are here for just a week, off on the next leg of our journey on Friday. It is safe to say neither of us found a sense of home here, and that’s okay, it would be weird, I think, if we had that sensation everywhere. It’s been a good adventure and Germany has so much more to offer, this is a big country. I’m sure we will be back again. We had a lot of opportunity for deep connection with each other, if not exactly with the place, and that is invaluable all by itself.
Would I recommend Heidelberg? Absolutely. It’s a great place to visit. Make sure you bring Euros for the shopping carts and reusable shopping bags, don’t cross against the light, and have flexibility in your travel plan as much as possible.
Until we meet again,