Heidelberg: Deciding to Enjoy When Travel Goes Bad

Tonight I had one of those moments that are the reason I love travel so much.  I was going to say that it was odd to have one of these highlight moments, since several things didn’t work out for us leading up to the moment. But actually, while that is true, it is also true that several things also worked out better than expected.  Which is generally how these moments come about.

Ok, I need to explain instead of talking in circles.

Getting here to Heidelberg was… not smooth.  Pregnant turtles on the runway meets sitting in the queue to take off too long and needing to refuel before re-entering the 70+ airplane queue, meets bad weather coming through… and we were at JFK airport in what our pilot called ‘gridlock.’  We waited over 5 hours on the plane before we could take off.  It was crazy.

We get here 5 hours late to find our bank wants us to verify it’s really us before letting us use our ATM cards.  That’s fine, except it still won’t let us get cash although we’ve done all the verification stuff. We travel a lot, this has never been an issue before.

We had a small continental breakfast on the plane and missed lunch.

And the tourist office is already closed.  According to the online information it was supposed to be open another 2 hours, but it’s closed.  And online says it is open shorter hours tomorrow, but it’s not, it’s closed tomorrow, too.  So there’s no tourist office until our third day here, and we leave the morning of the 4th day.  Of course, this is the first trip in a LONG time where I didn’t book everything ahead of time.  I wanted to talk to someone in person about the options.

Well, this was not how all this was supposed to go.

SO, here we are, talking to the nice young girl at the front desk of the hotel about options.  We know our first evening is going to be taking it slow.  We’re exhausted.  We want food, and then we were thinking of just walking over the old bridge and taking in the views.  She says, “Oh, you can go over to that side and watch the fireworks.”

“The Schloss Heidelberg fireworks?”

“Yes, they start at 10pm.”

“Online, it said the summer fireworks start next weekend.”  (I remember specifically because I was kinda bummed about that.)

“No, they are going to be tonight.”

Oh, well, isn’t that a nice little bonus?  Ok, let’s shake off the mess so far, we’ll work it out.  It’s dinner, and then walk over and find a good viewing point to watch the fireworks.  Which is what we do.  We find one spot that is possible, but I’m worried we’re so far away that Schloss Heidelberg will be really small in the pictures.  So Scott saves that spot, and I walk closer to the Old Bridge, and wind up finding a spot with a great view of the castle.  Not so much the Old Bridge as far as view, but they are the Schloss Heidelberg fireworks, so I think this will be fine.  (Yes, now I know.)  I text Scott and he finds me, and we camp out waiting for the fireworks.

Crowds gathered for Fireworks in Heidelberg Germany. Traveling Happy Plans Ruined
The crowd gathered for the fireworks – and this is only in one specific greenspace. There were lots more!

The couple beside us live in a nearby town and came on a whim when they heard there would be fireworks.  They’re originally from Romania, but live in Germany now.  We have a fun little chat.

Just before fireworks start, the boats start pulling up to give their passengers a good view.  Right in front of us.  Big old dinner cruise mast right between us and the schloss.  Sigh.  So, Scott and I move a little further up, though it means the big tree blocks even more of the bridge.

Scloss Heidelberg fireworks view blocked by boat
Seriously, this was our view once the boat pulled up. Thanks for that.

The fire works start!  The schloss lights up, the fireworks – are meh.  Scott and I start giving each other sidelong glances.  Is this it?  Ah well, it’s fireworks, we weren’t expecting to have anything, and Schloss from Hell (It’s almost completely lit up red, and quite ominous) is pretty cool looking, so it’s ok.

And all of a sudden, the real show begins.  Streaks of golden shimmer shoot up in series.  Patterns arc through the sky.  Starbursts of lights in alternating colors shoot off in series… all up and down the bridge… that is behind the big cluster of trees… so we can’t see 80% of it.

Well, crap.

I try a couple of times to get a good photo or two.  It’s pretty much pointless.  And if we try to get around the big clump of trees, we’re going to hit a wall of people.  We can see the people-mass from here.

Partial firework showing around silhouette of tree blocking view.  Traveling Happy when plans ruined.
Yep, this was the best I could do for a photo. Most of the fireworks went off below and to the left of this one, which was totally blocked by the tree silhouette you see.

So… I just write it off.  I put the camera in my bag, lean back against my hubby, and watch what I can see.  The guys sitting by us now have snacks and beer and wine.  One turns to me, and I can’t understand a word he’s saying, but he’s offering me some of his peanuts.  It turns out I can smile, nod, and point in German, so he smiles and nods back.  They pull out little paper cups and start offering some of their wine up and down the line.  The dinner cruise boat that pulled in front of us plays music, and they start singing along, half drunk and having a wonderful time.  Really, they were a lot of my entertainment for the evening.

As the fireworks come to an end, the boat in front of us lays on his horn, and the rest of the boats down in the river do the same, like the boat version of the applause and cheering that’s broken out in the crowd.  We all turn and start making our way out of the melee, but it’s all laid back and celebratory.  Everyone has beer or wine.  One girl’s drinking wine right from the 750ml bottle, but mostly it’s open cups and beer bottles and lots of different languages, and smiling and laughing and occasional bursts of loud chanting.  Scott and I buy beers at a street-side biergarten and hold hands as we weave in and out of people, drinking as we go.

Nothing that happened today was what I had planned.  Well, aside from the fact that we did actually make it to Heidelberg, and we did, in fact, eat dinner.  And, I’m happy.  I’m enjoying the chaos and mish-mash of languages, and just the feel of being in a festive foreign city.

All that stuff I would usually plan?  It’s nice.  But this feeling right here?  This is better.


Traveling Happy Plans Keep Getting Ruined Heidelberg Germany


8 thoughts on “Heidelberg: Deciding to Enjoy When Travel Goes Bad

  1. Oh man, sometime travel don’t go exactly as planned. It is definitely your attitude that makes everything worthwhile. I was in Ottawa for Canada150 celebration. (the crowd were insane) but I kept an upbeat attitude, knowing I’ll enjoy whatever comes my way. It really helped. I could have easily got upset of offended during the entire trip, but I didn’t let it ruin my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 🙂

    1. Great attitude! When you say “I could have easily gotten upset or offended…” you are exactly right, that’s how it is sometimes. You *could* get upset… OR you *could* choose not to be. I choose the latter as much as humanly possible. If I’m looking for ways to make it an enjoyable time, most of the time I can make that happen. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Great Post. I love when people can shrug off their expectations and make the best of situations. Sometimes it is the unplanned moments that are the best. Also, it helps being a travel blogger because you know at the very least you will have a good story.

    1. Sarah, it does take a bit of an effort of the will sometimes to shrug off those expectations – but it’s always better when I can do so, and just accept and enjoy. And you are absolutely right – it absolutely helps to have a place to share and vent!! Sometimes my best stories come from when things go wrong! 😀

  3. Heidelberg seems like a very lovely place to visit when being in Germany. I am definitely adding it to my bucket list. How many days would you recommend staying there?

  4. I stumbled over your site by accident, but as a local from Heidelberg, I find it quite interesting to read about my town from a tourist perspective. Just a few days later, there was a newpaper article about the original students prison (the one with the tiny door), which might be interesting to you, I will forward it to you. The firework at the castle take place a couple of times throughout the year, the ones in the summer are always crowede of course. I case you make it back to Heidelberg somewhen (in time for the fireworks) walk up to the philosophers path. It will be crowded, but you have a great view from up there. For Agnes: Heidelberg is not a very big town, so you don’t need too much time to see the most interesting (touristic) spots. If you have some more time, check out the ‘Thingstätte’, an old amphitheatre like meeting space on top of the holy mountain (Heiligenberg). Those places used to be quite common and had a rennaissance during the thrid reich. (Old germanic tradtions etc…. ) The one in Heidelberg has been rebuild but never really used because Heidelberg was well protected (there is more, I just give you the super short version here). On the same mountain you can also find the ‘Heidenloch’. A deep, manmade hole in the forest. It is still not clear what the purpose of it was, some say it was for (possibly) human sacrifices, others claim there was a giant burried there upright. If you can manage try to plan your visit so that you can see the ‘Heidelberger Herbst’ (Heidelberg autum), the biggest party we have. It normally takes place end of September, get up early and score some rare objects at the fleamarket and stay up late to see the various bands playing in the streets all over the old city centre. The surrounding area of Heidelberg is also very beautiful and worth a visit, with many castles and forest to the one side, and the plains of the palatina to the other one. Palatina is famous for its wine and if you time it right, you can see the almond trees blossom there.

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