Wednesday, January 1, 2014

An interruption: happy new year!

I'm still in the depths of writing about the epic travel adventure in December but now that it's January 1, 2014, I must say this: happy new year! Frohes neues Jahr!

My friend in Heidelberg invited me to a party at her friend's place. I've been there once before for another party so it was one of those nice situations where I knew most of the people there already. Even though I'm an introvert, I have learned to enjoy the challenge of attending a party where I only know one person and by the end of the night hopefully I've met/chatted with everyone else there too. Initially, as an introvert, it feels weird to do that, but it has the nice result of many friendly new acquaintances.

It was a fun party because it was such a mix of everyone. I love hanging out with international groups. It was funny, too, because the spoken languages kept changing all night. I heard lots of German, some Russian, Dutch, and of course, English. My German has progressed enough that I could listen to some conversations in German and understand them enough that I could ask related questions in English.

Just before midnight we headed outside and stood on the cold, windy bridge which had a nice view of the castle and the downtown. This was my first new year's eve spent in Germany. I know that people go crazy for fireworks, as I believe it is the one night of the year that every Tom, Dick, and Harry is allowed to buy mass quantities and set them off. However, it was very striking at just how many were going off! It sounded like a battle outside. I took a short video (horrible quality, unfortunately) and it doesn't even give the whole effect. Despite the slight feeling of danger because it was the amateur hour with some people incorrectly setting off the fireworks sideways, it was still an amazing experience. In the video, the castle is in about the middle of the screen. It's somewhat lit up.

Noticing that some people were accidentally setting off fireworks sideways, we decided it would be a good time to go back inside for the party. One of the guys was asking in German for what I thought I heard as a "stück," which means "a piece." I was asking what on earth he wanted a piece of. Apparently he wanted a stick (I misheard him) and we soon found out why: he was organizing a limbo dance! It was really fun to watch the tall German and Dutch guys try to dance under it.

Soon it was 4 a.m. and it was a good time to say good night and walk back to my friend's house. The aftermath that night's festivities was staggering; there was trash all over the place from the fireworks and empty liquor bottles.

Just a small sampling of the trash left behind, seen the next day.

I woke up today with a bit of a headache from enjoying some drinks, but nothing too bad. My friend made us queso and chips for breakfast and it helped to fortify our faintly aching heads. After "brunch" I bid her goodbye and met up with another friend who was in town.

That friend and I agreed that it would be nice to take a stroll through Heidelberg.

View of the castle on the hill.

We stopped at the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge).

This is a cheeky monkey near the bridge. It was sculpted by Gernot Rumpf, who also made the fountain in Kaiserslautern as well as other towns in the Pfalz. Tons of tourists were sticking their faces into the bottom part of the monkey's face for goofy pictures.

To the left of the monkey are some mice, which are a common theme in Rumpf's works.

We continued our plans for a hike on the Philosophenweg, which is a steep path up the Heilingenberg that gives a lovely view of the town. To get to the path, we crossed the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) to the north side of the river, turned left immediately off the bridge, crossed the road, and started the trail on Schlangenweg.

The (steep!) trail is in the middle of the picture, just to the right of the white building.

What a workout it was! The path up the hill is walled and very steep with uneven cobblestones. It's not remotely accessible for those with disabilities and I had to watch my ankles on the uneven ground because I'm prone to spraining them. My friend C and I huffed and puffed up the hill and enjoyed the views at the top.

We then gingerly walked down the super steep path to the west and passed some beautiful homes as well as some Heidelberg University buildings. My friend recommended that we visit the park under the Theodor-Heuss bridge. Apparently it's a really popular place for picnics during warmer weather. We laughed at the honking geese and hissing swans (who weren't impressed by the dog that came up to sniff at them).

It is said that what one does on New Year's Day sets the tone for the whole year. I am happy with how I spent the first day of the new year: being with friends, enjoying some residual happiness from a party, seeing historical sights while getting a great workout, and even eating some non-traditional breakfast foods. It was a very pleasant day, made even better by fair weather (51 degrees F and even a bit of sun!).

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