Day 11, Heidelberg

I woke up a few times during the night on my slightly sagging bed, a wee bit uncomfortable. Our third room mate never returned last night so we left the windows open to keep the air going, and I left the curtains open once my room mate had fallen asleep. 

I woke at 8, had breakfast, and the morning routine until I was ready to leave. I then walk down the main road from Steffis hostel to the castle, going into a number of shops along the way. I made a mental note to myself that I would like to go back to one of the department stores because there were some clothes there I wanted to buy, but I really shouldn’t do that now because it is still early in the trip, and I would need to load those items through at least two more countries. I did pause in a convenience store to buy a chocolate milk, some Riesen chocolate (which is my favourite from here), and a two pack of hazelnut scrolls. 

A small but wholesome breakfast

I went up the castle from what I think was a kind of side entrance, and paid for a ticket. Initially I wasn’t sure why I needed to buy a ticket, but I later realised that this was entry to the castle grounds – I guess you really need to decide for yourself it’s worth it or not, I went into the pharmacy museum which was good but not particularly my thing, you can also go downstairs into the food court area and have currywurst (German curried sausages), and there was enormous wine barrel. You also get a really good view of the other side of the city, but if you want to go inside the castle proper you need to take a guided tour, which is more money. The grounds themselves around the castle, and the gardens were free, so unless you really want to go inside and intend to take a guided tour, it would save you about seven euros to not walk into the castle area. 

Looking up at part of the castle ruins, from the balcony
Overlooking the city from the balcony

You do get a ticket which includes a cable car ride from the castle further up the hill (and I think down to the city?), but currently that is not running so at the moment you can take a bus, which I did not think would be nearly as exciting or scenic, so I walked back into the city after eating my pre-purchased lunch in the park, overlooking the city and a ruined part of the castle. 

From there I went to a museum called Kurpf√§lzisches museum (no photos!), I’m not sure of the translation of this, but it was only three euros so I went and had a look around at the art, and downstairs to the archaeology section which I really enjoyed. It was about 4 o’clock at this point and I really wanted to do the philosophers walk before I left Heidelberg, so I mapped a route and began to walk across the old bridge. It was sunny all day so the walk up the other side of the hill was a bit nasty, but you get an even nicer view of the city and the castle. I sat for a while here and there to enjoy the view along the walk and calm down, and also to eat some of my chocolates. 

On the way up to the philosopher’s walk
Juuuust around the river bend… ūüé∂

I read the message Cathy sent me again and she talked about a place to go on Heidelberg mountain, which I found is called Thingst√§tte. Except the walk Google maps had led me to was just the beginning and I could have mapped it far earlier, and turned earlier for a much quicker trip. So I began to power walk up the hill as the sun was setting and, while confident in the skills Swang had attempted to teach me, light would have been preferable for a good photo experience. 

They were everywhere. But I only knew where I wanted to go, and I think these are all names of walks you can do

Up the mountain in checking Google and looking at one f the stones with directions carved in them, and I hear a voice behind me: 

Where are you looking to go? 

I fumble to get my phone back out and tell him the name, saying ‘its called… uh….’ and he asks Thingst√§tte? He gives me directions which I understood (the things you learn early in language classes that you don’t care about learning WILL come in handy!), and set back of again. Eventually I reached it – as though I could miss it. It’s a giant amphitheatre which can sit something like 8000 people, built during the Third Reich (Nazi times). I took photos, and sat atop the steps, had my second scroll, the rest of my chocolate milk, another Riesen, and the rest of my water as I watched the sun set. 

Looking up Thingstätte
The view from where I had my late afternoon tea

But then of course, I had to get home. Now, the way that I chose to walk there was convoluted, so I thought the best rout down the mountain but be direct to the old fridge, where I could walk across the waterfront and then down to my hostel. Here’s a picture of the mountain to give you an idea of where I was, and where I had to go:

That green area for half the walk is like a forest!

So it’s getting dark and I’m walking down the other side (the dark side) of the mountain, just kinda squinting and being ginger with my steps so I don’t slip. Then I had a fantastic idea. 

So I took my sunnies off, and that gave me an extra half hour or so of light – enough to get into the city at least. When I did I was starving, and so I searched currywurst on Google maps to see what I can find. I ended up going to a place that was kind of like a fast food restaurant – and ordered a currywurst with a bread roll. It was fantastic, not quite how I remember it, but I have been making my own since I got back from Germany, so it’s probably different because I’ve forgotten it. 

It was GOOD

I walked back to the hostel, wondering what I should do with Friday. I talked to Cathy about what I did, and she said I could it easy since I packed everything she recommended into one day. Just after that I passed by a massage place And carefully read everything outside, making sure that they offered nothing sexual (in France I was looking at a massage flyer and was informed by reception that it was offering massages for couples and other ‘sensual’ activities, so I decided I had better wait until I understand the language). 

I walked in, used all the skills my German teacher and lecturers taught me, and I booked a massage for the following day at 11am. I then popped back to the hostel and booked my bed for one more night. Rest day was planned for Friday.

Once I lay down to rest (at 7:30 in the evening!) I worked out, if I take into account ALL euro spending since I got to France and came to Heidelberg (so that’s accommodation, travel, food, gifts), i have spent about 60 – 65 euros a day. That’s between about 90 and 107 NZ dollars each day. So I took a high estimate of ‚ā¨80 per day and found to survive until I’m back in London I will need something like ‚ā¨1700 (about 21 days, 3 weeks). So as long as I don’t lose any money or make any stupid purchases, I’ll have money left over as a safety net if I need it. 

I had no trouble falling asleep that night, but I kept waking through the night, due to the light, noise, heat, and probably back pain. 

The sun setting over Heidelberg behind me, the castle in the distance

Day 10, Paris – Heidelberg

I woke up ready to go. Did my teeth and hair and had breakfast with Swang, then checked out for the pair of us (just for the record, I owe him ‚ā¨4), and walked with my bags to Gare de l’Est where my train was to depart. 

There I panicked for a little, unable to figure out which is my train based on name or number. Eventually I asked and the guy says 20 minutes. Blue screen. So I go and look at the blue screen again and I’m still confused. I go to a different information desk, this time with a woman, hoping for a little more friendliness. I did not find it there. Again she says 20 minutes, and responds with ‘i don’t know’ when I ask for the gate number. At this point I’m getting my translation app open but she asks the next person and I’m dismissed. 

I sit down and translate the board, figuring out the bits I can’t guess and studying the numbers. Eventually I see that my train is starting service with another, which is why didn’t immediately register the number (that, and the train I’m on goes to Karlsruhe where I change, but it just said Stuttgart on the board). So with that sorted, and my assumptions confirmed that the gate will appear 20 minutes before departure, I waited. The number appeared, I went to the gate. I sat down. I saw each car was numbered and each seat too – but I had a lot of numbers on my printout which was only in German, so I asked a man. 

The following occurs in German unless otherwise noted: 

Excuse me, are you German? 


Do we have places we must sit, like numbers? 

Yes, do you have your ticket? 

(I hand him my ticket) 

Ah ok… Are you French? (Speaks a sentence in French) 

No, English-

(His wife interjects) he just spoke German to you. Speak German! 

Oh right! You’re in carriage 21, seat.. 73.

A man in the row adjacent is laughing and I ask which direction that is – he tells me, I begin to go that way. 

The first man then laughs as he makes fun of the fact he responded in French when I spoke in German. 

I found my seat and sat down, and because of the recent pick pocketing was on edge even though the train was comfortable, spacious, and kind of empty. Eventually at Strasbourg I managed to start relaxing, and noticed I was connecting to which was exciting for me. On the way out of Strasbourg I noticed a couple of.. communities? Where there were ramshackle houses all over the plots. Maybe huts is a better word. In the second set I also saw greenhouses. Google did not enlighten me so I have no idea what they were. 

Then as we moved through into Germany , 4 police officers who had walked to the front of the train began to walk through to check passports. I got a quick look and a thank you before they moved on. 

We pulled into the station at Karlsruhe and waited around a bit, still not yet hungry. Got on the train and stared at the rail map inside until I was sure the train was going the right way, and sat waiting for the train to leave, rudely eavesdropping on conversations now that I can finally understand the language. 

Eventually the train arrived in Heidelberg and I had pre-googled a place to stay called Steffis Hostel, which is really nice. Very homely. I got to the counter and asked to book a room, but once she asked for some ID and she saw my passport, she switched to English and says oh, you’re from New Zealand? She’s been there before she Australia, and is going to do a placement in Dunedin. So we chatted about Dunedin and New Zealand (this did not net me any discounts when it came to adding breakfast unfortunately). 

I got up to my 10 person dorm, claimed and made a bed and had a bit of a sit. It was about twenty to 4 and I realised I was pretty hungry. So I unpacked all my laundry and took it to the desk where I paid ‚ā¨5 to have it washed and dried by someone else, so like 8 bucks. I left and walked across the bridge and sheen the waterfront in the direction of the castle, enjoying the view and taking some photos of the water and castle.

I must have worked up quite the hunger, or at least my eyes did, as I bought a full meal of schnitzel and cheese noodles called Sp√§tzle (in a pepper- cream sauce, said the lactose intolerant), with a salad. Oh, and a boot full of coke. Which is a litre. He took my mostly empty plates away and left me with half a bit of coke for a while until I felt like I could do desert. 

So I walked down the main street of Heidelberg, looking at all the shops and a couple of department stores, nothing what I would like to come back to later. I accidentally went into an ice cream store and got some gelato, Nutella flavor. I then walked back to the hostel and gave Amy a quick Skype (Happy Birthday!!) and got ready for bed. 

One room mate was already there, and was very quiet. Then another came in and asked if she could open the window (she’s German, so in German) – the other guy manages a noise, so I’m not sure where he is from, but I say sure please do. Now I already knew this, but over here they have windows which open towards you from the top as though there hinges are at the bottom. But they all have a trick so you can make them open like regular windows… I just forgot that trick.  

So I watch her open them and wonder how she did it, eventually plucking up the courage to say ‘so, this is a dumb question, but how did you open the window?’ 

She looks at me like I had just dropped my pants and begun to defecate in front of her. Then she laughs and repeats my question, her German maybe a little more fluent sounding than mine (on account of her likely German heritage).

I tell her I tried before but it came towards me, and mimed it working. She showed me what to do and I told her it’s not something we really have in New Zealand (throwing all of us under the bus, as though none of us have ever seen them before). 

In case you want to know, usually a half turn opens them like a regular window. Turn it too far and it opens as though the hinge is at the bottom. 

Matt’s handy hints number 2 
That’s a ploy. You see, now everyone will go hey, what was the first one again? And then scroll through my other posts looking for the first hint. 

Day 3, Oxford to London (Oxford thoughts)

Not quite a full night of sleep, ended up waking again for an hour or so between 5 and 6. When I woke properly at 9am I eventually got up and had breakfast, and found I lost one of the buds for my earphones and packed a bit sad. I think I might be experiencing a little homesickness with my jetlag – I found my backup pair of earphones and called my partner, which made me feel better. 
Cathy wanted to take me to feed the ducks at the park using Swang’s leftover bread, it had been raining all right and drizzled throughout the day, but we had enough time to walk through the park. I saw my first real live squirrel, and awkwardly snapped a bunch of photos on my camera. 

I want one

Then we rounded he corner and Cathy began to feed the ducks. We had a laugh and threw bread at each other, trying to swarm each other with ducks – which was all fun and games, until the geese showed up. Then we walked through the rest of the park, saw another squirrel and admired the scenery while Cathy told me the story of a man who murdered his mother and sister, then killed himself in that park. Good times. On our way back there was a pretty pleasant looking cemetery just across the road from Cathy’s which I had never seen before, so I awkwardly snapped some photos of that. 
I then had another couple of hours before I had to be at the bus station, so I walked up and down the main streets around where Cathy lives – I ended up going to the old Oxford Castle (it’s bow a series of other things such as restaurants and caf√©s, and a hotel. They do a tour through it, however the tour is guided and would take an hour (was ¬£11 so probably worth it), I didn’t have enough time to go on a tour so instead I paid ¬£1 to walk up the ‘Mound,’ a big hill. It was actually worth it for the views though, got some nice cityscape pictures. 

Mound is another word for certain parts of the anatomy, so you can imagine the jokes I made over snapchat.

On the way back I was going to go to a caf√© for food, but I passed by the bus station so I went by and noticed a square full of covered market stalls. Went around and looked at all the food, deciding it was too expensive (and also remembering a party I had been eyeing at Tescos), I went to the supermarket and bought what is now my new favourite water, strawberry flavoured, as well as two pastries and 5 Cadbury Creme eggs for just under 4 pound, so like 7 bucks NZ. If only living here were as cheap as the supermarkets can be. I also saw a pleasant little monument in recognition of Bonn and Oxford being sister cities for 60 years of exchange. Maybe if I go to Bonn there will be one there…
One book said Knowledge, the other said Freundschaft (friendship).

Popped back to Cathy’s and walked down to the bus station with my luggage and some things I picked up for Swang – said a sad wee goodbye and left Cathy for the 2 or so hours bus trip through the countryside to London, where I got off at the last stop and walked my luggage across the bridge and to the hostel.
Big bus

Snapped a quick shot in front of Big Ben (Cathy’s fun fact, it’s the bell that is called Big Ben, not the clock!) and was too sore to do any more sightseeing. At the hostel, (Walrus Bar and Hostel) I checked in, I have 15% off vouchers for drinks downstairs, and food down he road, plus breakfast each morning for free!

The walk I did carrying my heavy bags. Sympathy please.

Big Ben. (Not pictured, regular-sized Ben)

Up in my room I tried to throw some more money on my cash passport – originally not seeing the benefit to these cards, I’m glad I asked at the counter for more info. As it works like a credit card (MasterCard) I can load currencies onto it and then pay for things online without any fees associated with it, had I used my westpac card. There were no fees during setup (some one time deal thing I didn’t believe), and if I use a standard bank transfer to load money onto it, it costs a dollar NZ. 

Unfortunately my bank wasn’t as friendly and I had to input a text that westpac had sent to my phone into the gap to prove I am me and want the transaction to go through. The catch? I had my UK Sim in my phone and couldn’t find anything to use to remove the sim and swap to my NZ Sim in order to receive the text. I used a bunch of things I had, but eventually found a drawing pin outside which I used to swap it over (I had been logged out and had to do it all again, but got it sorted). I just threw a bunch more euros on to be safe, and a little more GBP for when I return at the end of my journey. This has me feeling pretty sorted – the only downside would be ‘accidentally’ locking in a bad exchange rate when you put the money on your card. 

I feel like I’m advertising for Travelex now so I’m gonna stop going on about how convenient it was.

For dinner I decided to use my 15% off voucher at a pub called the Horse and Stable – I went and ordered my food and promptly forgot about my voucher and posted full price. So, was only about 15 dollars NZ, so no biggie. I then went down there road to Tesco and got a jelly doughnut, some muesli bars and my new favorite strawberry water, and went back to the hostel to relax at the very late time of 7pm. 

My preference for this water has nothing to do with the brand name.
Obligatory meal photo

Once I settled down a girl was messing around with the plugs right after I plugged my USB adapter I bought special for this trip – there was a bang and a flash and now either the plugs aren’t working or she buggered my adapter, little dark about that as it was the only way for me to charge stuff in the UK. At least my phone is OK. Will need to buy another tomorrow – in the meantime using power from my prescious power banks. How dare she! I’m lying in bed eating my snacks loudly. That will teach her. Her, and the other twenty people in this dorm…

I really liked Oxford – one and a half days was not enough to do even the main things in the city, spending a little more (both time and money) would have been good – plus there were lots of things further out of the main city where you really need a car or at least a bike to reach. I think I wasted my sunny day going around indoor attractions and then had a miserable day for the gardens and the mound, but it was still a nice introduction to England.