A Week in Heidelberg, Germany: Castles, Monasteries, & Zwiebelkuchen!
Is this thing on?
Well labas, y'all! You miss me? I'm back from a week-long holiday in Heidelberg, Germany, far removed from Lithuanian basketball and equinox celebrations. While I traveled there with The Scientist, I had plenty of time to explore the city on my own, ducking into cozy coffee shops and taking in the scenery.
First off, I know we have castles and manors in Lithuania, but Heidelberg's castle in Altstadt just adds one more layer to my European experience. (When did I get so classy?) I remember a large European trip as a child, taking in numerous Cinderella-esque castles from a boat, but I got to go into this one. (Cue the Disney score.) This castle was old, first mentioned in 1214, and it's still standing even after being taken down by wars and lightning. It's had some interesting tenants, most notably Frederick I and his favorite Elizabeth Stuart. While originally a marriage of great political power, he devoted and dedicated numerous castle grounds to her - and our tour guide made a point to inform us that their descendants are the current reigning monarchs of England. But more than anything, I just enjoyed walking through the castle; one opulent corridor led into a stoned artery, up narrow stairways before spitting out into another rich room. I never knew what was going to be on the other side of the wall! Highly recommended if you're visiting.
We got to town just in time for the last Wine Festival of the season, and it was... well, it actually felt pretty American. I took the train over thinking it would be a relaxing schmooze in wine country - wrong, so wrong! It was a huge party - the largest wine festival in the world - with wine booths and looming American-style carnival rides. It was like a fever dream! After finding out that Germans like mixing sparkling water with everything - hey, me too! - I tried their Weinschorle, a refreshing German wine spritzer. Eh, not my thing, but this is coming from the queen of Topo Chicos and kombucha. I give them an A for including sparkling water in the mix.
Check out that castle!
Other cool things about Heidelberg?
It's got the oldest university in Germany; Heidelberg University was established in 1386 and it, um, even has its own student prison! While it's not in use anymore - and Heidelberg doesn't appear to have a lot of unruly students these days - I got a huge kick out of this spot. We also ventured over to Maulbronn to check out a beautiful and well-preserved monastery founded in 1147 - yes, I was nerding out! - before moving on to Stuttgart for the Mercedes-Benz museum and a great Swabian meal with friends. (A note on the museum: I was really disappointed in how they handled their participation in the Nazi regime - y'all just gonna gloss over that!? - but the top floor on automotive history made up for their, uh, clerical error.) I really loved the monastery-adjacent maultaschen - and Germany's zwiebelkuchen reminded me so much of Ashkenazi kugels I've eaten throughout my life. Worth a try if you're in the area.
Now that we're back in Lithuania, I'm looking forward to diving deeper into my Lithuanian language courses - doing my best to embrace the weather as it gets rainier, darker, cloudier, cozier. People are always so curious to know how we - Americans! - feel about Lithuania, so here's my real time response: the weather may not be as good as, say, Portugal, but I really, truly, deeply missed attending the Rudens lygiadienis (Autumn Equinox) ceremony - an experience so unique to Lithuania. I searched for a similar event in or around Heidelberg but came up short, so you could say I've been spoiled by Lithuania's heartfelt and obvious connection to the natural world and cycles. I love me a good ritual.
Speaking of cycles, I'm beginning a new cycle via Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, a time to focus on the wide, delicate sweetness of a new year before the intense, focused reflections of the next ten holy days in the Jewish calendar. The point is this: the more we honor our inner and outer rhythms and cycles, the more enriching our lives can become. Whether you're culturally Jewish like me, an agnostic, a Christian, an atheist, spiritually nourished or malnourished, I hope you take the time this Autumn season to focus on how you can fortify your inner stores for the coming winter months. (And to those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, I wish you enriching times as well!)
Feel free to subscribe at the bottom of this page to receive a bi-weekly email from me on,... Well, even I don't know exactly what I'm going to write about until I sit down. (That playfulness is key!) So I'll see you there?! And as always, I'll see you next time here at Into the Forests I Go - iki pasimatymo - see you soon, and don't be a stranger!