Robin's Adventures

River Cruise: Rhine and Moselle Rivers
Adventures with Medieval Castles and Charming Old Towns


Heidelberg is a modern city, but it also has a historic old town and a delightful castle. The Neckar River, a major tributary of the Rhine, runs through town and houses and shops line both sides of the river. The Old Stone Bridge that crosses the river was built in 1786 and the twin towers that are on the city side of the river were once part of the city wall and also contain a dungeon.

While driving through the more modern part of town, we noticed a 43 foot tall stainless steel horse that has the distinction of being the world's largest horse sculpture.

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg castle, first built around 1300, consists of several buildings that surround a central courtyard. The buildings were added to the castle at different times, so they all are built in different architectural styles.

The residence was used by various Prince Electors of the Holy Roman Empire until it was destroyed by lightening in 1764. The castle sat vacant for many years and the townspeople would scavenge castle stones to build new houses. In 1800, plans were made to conserve the castle ruins and today it is a thriving tourist attraction.

More Heidelberg Castle

One of the interesting stone archways is the Elizabeth Gate. The gate was built in 1615 in a single night. The gate was ordered by Friedrich V as a surprise for his wife, Elizabeth Stuart.

Design Ingenuity

There was a very interesting sundial on the front of one of the buildings at the castle. It used Roman Numerals to indicate the time and astrological symbols to indicate the time of year. I also liked the small door within the huge gate doors so that people could go in and out of the castle more easily.

We saw a huge wine vat called the Heidelberg Tun which was built in 1751 to store wine that the local growers paid in taxes. This is the world's largest wine barrel and it is about 23 feet tall and holds about 58,124 gallons of wine.

Old Town Heidelberg

The gathering point in old town Heidelberg is Market Square. One side of the square is dominated by the huge Church of the Holy Spirit which was built in the 15th century. The other side of the square is filled by the old Town Hall Building, built in 1701.

If you look up, Heidelberg Castle dominates the view on a nearby hilltop. Everywhere around the square are shops, restaurants, and lots of tables with umbrellas where people were enjoying snacks and engaged in people watching.

Time to Refuel

We found a comfortable spot in Market Square to refuel and enjoy the surroundings. Steve and Ruth both enjoyed an iced coffee. Eli, as was his passion, had hazelnut ice cream.

Robin decided to be adventurous and try a local delicacy called spaghetti ice cream. First, vanilla ice cream is pushed through a press to make it look like spaghetti, then it is topped with strawberry sauce to look like tomato sauce, and finally white chocolate shavings to look like parmesan cheese. The result was delicious.

Guild Signs

It was a practice in medieval towns for tradesmen to advertise their craft by hanging a sign over the front door. Since few people were literate, the sign needed to illustrate what the tradesman had to offer. Many of the signs were artistic, creative, and also incorporated a bit of whimsy.


Strasbourg is a city located in the Alsace region of France, very near to the German border. The European Union considers Strasburg to be its legislative capital, and it is home to the Council of Europe and the European Parliament buildings.

There is also a synagogue in Strasbourg that was built in 1954 to replace the one burned down by the Nazis during WWII. The temple has a capacity of 1,500 people and is surrounded by gates to prevent car bomb attacks.

While touring the city, we also noticed the anti-terrorism patrol making their rounds. Strange times we live in...

Old Town Strasbourg

Old Town Strasbourg was a delightfully beautiful area with 16th and 17th century half timbered houses along the banks of the Ill River. At one end of this section of town we saw the Ponts Couverts, or covered bridges, which are actually no longer covered. Along the bridge are several medieval towers that were once part of the city's defense system.

We saw the famous Kammerzell House, first built in 1427, which is one of the best preserved and ornate examples of medieval housing. In addition, we saw the Old Cerf Pharmacy, which was the longest running pharmacy in France dating back to the 13th century.

Another interesting aspect of the Pharmacy building is a pink pillar close to the edge of the building known as the buchmesser, or stomach measurer. The masons who worked on the Cathedral used to have to measure their girth to show that they were able to fit into the tight spots in the Cathedral.

Notre Dame Cathedral

The Strasbourg Cathedral, which was built between 1176 and 1439, is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture. The building is 466 feet tall and from 1647 to 1874 it was considered the world's tallest building.

The unique western front entrance is decorated with thousands of stone figures that draw your attention and inspire awe at the craftmanship of the masons who built the cathedral.