Gasp. Wheeze. Further up the hill we go. How many switchbacks does this path have anyway? Will we ever get to the top?
We’re on our way to the Philosopher’s Walk, which is situated well up a hill in the German city of Heidelberg. Not because we have any profound philosophy to resolve, or because the walk itself has any magical philosophical properties. We do it simply because it has a terrific view of the old section of Heidelberg. The trouble is, the most direct route from the old town to the Philosopher’s Walk is a longish, fairly steep path. Ergo, gasp, wheeze…
The view from the top is quite nice, it made the hike worth it. From there you can see down into the old town, with the castle on the far side and the Neckar river in the foreground spanned by the old bridge.
While Heidelberg was first mentioned as a town way back in 1196, much of the “old” town isn’t that old. The French, in that same rampage that destroyed many of the castles on the Rhine in 1689, captured Heidelberg and destroyed the castle and much of the town. They returned again in 1693 and finished the destruction, so everything in town was rebuilt from the 18th century on.
Like many old European towns, the main square of the old section is dominated by a big church, and an open air market operates nearby. Cobblestone streets spill off in various directions, for both shopping and residential areas. Narrow streets are the rule, giving character to the town, but ensuring pedestrians need to be quick footed to avoid cars and bicycles. This character brings in lots of tourists, wandering about, shopping, enjoying the outdoor cafes, and mingling with the locals.
Heidelberg is known for its university. It was founded in 1386 and is the oldest university in Germany. It has over 30,000 students, which makes up a sizeable chunk of the cities 140,000 population. The school buildings are spread out in both the old town and in newer sections, and being rebuilt after the wars are new enough to be unremarkable.
While some of the students probably walked the full philosopher’s path, once we got up there we just moseyed down a short stretch of it. We had arrived at a philosophical decision; rather than ponder the view for an undue amount of time, we’d rather head back down to the old town and grab a bite and a beer. So off we went, to complete our walk and enjoy our philosophy.