I knew Heidelberg would be bliss because my dad served there during the WWII Allied
occupation, and I studied descriptions of the city to color my recounting of his story. The bridge and city have been calling me ever since, but I was blown away all the same. My historic sources painted the castle as a fading ruin above the city. Clearly that was before the restoration. The palace is now everything you could want in a castle, except maybe knights on horseback. Actually the red sandstone fortress offers more than I’d have thought to request—an apothecary museum, the world’s largest wine barrel (for collecting liquid taxes), a sundial mounted upright on a wall. Being the daughter of a genealogist and a descendant of Charlemagne’s sister, I especially appreciated the wall of statues recording one of the rulers’ family trees back to Charlemagne. Part of the castle is maintained as a ruin, which is much more of a job than fixing it because the elements play havoc. Why the Germans want to pay a premium to keep sections broken, isn’t clear. Maybe they want to remember that those stinking French destroyed all the castles back in the 17th century.
Unlike the castle, the Heidelberg Bridge was somewhat less than expected. The statue of a bronze monkey that greets visitors approaching the bridge is an eye-catcher, but confusing. The sleek, vaguely Asian critter seems misplaced, and why is it holding a large, golden disk? If I’d read something written after 1979, I’d have had a better chance of appreciating his mirror’s message of equality. As it was I hurried by, anticipating stunning statues mounted all along both bridge rails. The arched portal with towers and vertical lift gates at the entrance of the bridge was glorious, so much so that the span itself was a letdown. The many sculptures I pictured from my reading were grouped onto two platforms extended outside the span and made little impression–just another fabulous old bridge. How sad is that?