Travel Postcard and a New Rabbit Hole

After a week’s silence, I want to at least write what I have been up to. I’m back travelling in the Rhine-Neckar area with my son, visiting new places and revisiting old favourites. Since he loves railways, that is our focus, but I am also bringing back some culinary material.

And again, this should come with a few travel tips. I mentioned railways, let us talk about different approaches to heritage:

Midway meeting of cable cars (Heidelberg)

There are functioning cable funiculars (Standseilbahnen) in both Heidelberg and Stuttgart. The one in Heidelberg is world-famous. Lovingly restored, it caters to the tourist trade, bringing crowds to the local beauty spot of Königstuhl to enjoy a spectacular view of the area. Tickets are quite pricey, but you get a ride in an actual functioning cable car from the 1900s.

Midway meeting going down (Stuttgart)

The one in Stuttgart is a little younger, just appoaching its 100th birthday, and you need to do a bit of walking to get to the lookout point. But on the upside, it is also a fully functioning funicular operating original cars from the 1920s, and it is part of the regular public transit system. That means you can step out of the U-Bahn, sit down on a hardwood bench in a wood-panelled, brass-fixtured interior, and ride to your heart’s content. If you have a day pass or, as we do, a Deutschlandticket, it’s free. So, by the way, is the other funicular in the city, a Zahnradbahn running spiffy modern trains with flatcars for bicycles.

Lower station in Heidelberg

This is not a question about which is better. Both were great experiences. You get something for your money in Heidelberg – looks at the restored engine room, lots of historic documentation, service, and the amazing view. But Stuttgarters love that these trains are features of their daily lives still.

They have those unmessy, unfussy, no-waste dispensers with the edible wafer cups everywhere. This is from Speyer: strawberry jam, chocolate nougat spread, cherry jam, apricot jam, chocolate again, and honey.

I mentioned a rabbit hole, but it is actually two. One is the renewed experience of Germany’s youth hostel cuisine. I love the Jugendherbergen (full disclosure: I am a member of the association, but receive no benefit or remuneration for writing about them) and happily stay there whe travelling. This time, between stays in Heidelberg and Stuttgart, I went back to one of my absolute favourites, Speyer, whose breakfast buffet I eulogised in an earlier post. My son, who is a more clear-eyed critic than me, said that in Heidelberg, the food was good, but the room was not while in Stuttgart, it was the reverse. In Speyer, though, both were excellent. The latter is absolutely true. And I was surprised to find that while some hostels produce recipe booklets or even feature their kitchens online, there is no published resource on hostel cuisine. Since organised school trips – Klassenreisen – traditionally useyouth hostels, the experience is central to the memories of many Germans, and that may well be a project worth undertaking. I have no idea if I will ever be able to write the Jugendherbergs-Kochbuch, but it really ought to be done.

More on the other rabbit hole to follow.

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