Heidelberg by itself has a lot of history and several interesting cultural sites. I am not trying to take away the beauty of this student city to anyone who has never been or who loves it there.
But another good thing I have come to appreciate about Heidelberg is its proximity to other amazing villages, towns, and cities. Take Frankfurt International Airport for example. It’s a one hour drive away, and so is the Schwabencapital Stuttgart. Mannheim with its historic castle, high nightlife, and other attractions is a rough 20 minutes by car (depending on speed and traffic).
And then there is a small town called Schwetzingen right in between. It takes you only 10 minutes at the most to get there. When I had actually lived in the area, I hadn’t known too much about this town. I used to go there to have my hair trimmed and maybe stop for a scoop of delicious Italian ice cream in its cute pedestrian zone, since I was there anyways. For some reason I had walked past its castle (Schloss) many, many times before but had miserably failed to check it out or notice its beautiful assets hidden to my one-sided mind.
The castle! Surprisingly familiar to more people than one would assume at first for the popular German soul band “Söhne Mannheims” (Sons of Mannheim) with the well-known singer Xavier Naidoo have performed here on several occasions already. They call their acts “Wettsingen in Schwetzingen” (this is a funny German word pun roughly translating to “Singingly competing in Schwetzingen – it rhymes in German) and their beautifully composed songs reverberate from the historic halls of the Schwetzingen Castle. If you’re interested, check out this video, it conveys the gist of it all. Just seeing their performance can give you goose bumps. They are a great band!
When I checked out Heidelberg during my last visit, I also dedicated some time for a day-long stay in Schwetzingen. Now eight hours are surely not enough to meet up with friends, visit a flea market and see the entire castle, which closes at a certain time on Saturdays. However, eight hours turned out to be enough to meet up with friends, visit a flea market and see a small portion of the unique castle garden, which is open until 11 o’clock in the evening. We happened to eat at a restaurant right across from the castle. For those who are into Schnitzel with Cordon Bleu (really tasty French blue cheese) and good German beer, I can highly recommend this spot.
While indulging in our typical German food, we got the idea of pretending to be complete tourists and doing some sightseeing. How much could we scoop into this quite sunny late-summer day (remember, we are still in the first week of September)? Well, the castle garden seemed like a great compromise since it was already past 6:30 PM and, as we found out, the entrance was half-priced in the evening, meaning it cost €2.50 per person (usually it costs € 5.00, which isn’t too bad, either).
So we entered through the old-style metal gates and stepped into a world which had been hidden from our eyes for too long already. What a great time we had here! I will let the pictures below speak for themselves, but before I do this, I will give you some interesting facts and figures:
The garden was designed under the supervision of several kings but notably it attained its biggest influence in the second half of the 18th century by a landscape architect called Nicholas de Pigage. Rumors have it that the many side entrances and the maze that can be found in the garden were intended for hide-and-seek-games with the current king’s mistresses. The entire gardens measure 30 km (19 miles) in length, so it would take you forever to walk this piece of Eden on earth. I am not sure if you can rent a bike or bring your own, you might want to check into that, as it facilitates matters. Many hidden paths and other beautiful ornaments revealed themselves to our curious eyes when we stepped off the main path and we got to see at least three wedding couples on this day – one of them who was shooting a video and who will probably have us in the background, sadly.
Despite us walking for almost three hours past some carefully designed flower beds and fountains, we didn’t really get to see much of the Schwetzingen Castle Gardens, maybe an estimated 10 percent. I find it a great place to work on your photo skills and to shoot pictures of unforgettable value.
And Schwetzingen not only has a castle, medieval churches, stores, and tasty Italian ice cream, but it is popular for its asparagus, too. White asparagus, that is. Asparagus season is only for two months each year, and if you miss it, then you won’t be able to eat freshly planted, local goodies. I believe asparagus season in the Southwest of Germany is from the end of April until the end of June, but this can vary, of course, depending on how warm spring season starts off.