Another Heidelberg philosphe weg, my fourth, down to the new bridge, past the Irish bar that Angela said was good, but I don’t do Irish bars unless they are in Ireland. Then a joyous pilgrimage down the Neckar river, as instructed by my lovely, old school, hotelier. All dams and fishermen and long shadow silhouettes and turns to see the castle and the wonders of Old Heidelberg. Dramatic clouds.
All wrong of course. Wrong river. You can’t, as Goethe wrote, teach ein alt hund neue tricksen. I just will never get this real life GPS thing right; I’m saved by my IPAD – again.
I walk back, meet a bunch of youngsters running the toe-path, then their teacher. I ask him the way. I could walk to meet the Rhine, but that’s to Mannheim. No.
What are the kids doing?
They’re better than me.
You’ll learn, good luck.
Back through neue Heidelberg, nichts so nice, and then the barnhof and the tourist information. A nice map-paper-based guide. Up past the station, watching a huge caravanserai of Audi cars of a train to Frankfurt. Then a US military base, some autobahn hugging, and then full Americana: Holiday Inn followed by drive through Burger King – where I buy water that comes in a carton, not a bottle. Then the paths open up on wonderful farmlands, and the sun is playing, doing marvellous dramatic things to the clouds, and the pylons and the church spires. I’m happy. The factory meets the fields meets the pylons and the spires – that light. I have those rapturous early Anita Baker songs in my head. Feel wind-blasted and demi-sun-kissed. A dauphin shortly to visit my summer palace.
It will be Schwetzinger for lunch and schloss. But – naturally – I am two hours later than I should be. Late because I necked the Neckar too long. But is worth it, a L’Oreal River.
Tired by Schwetzinger I carb on Carbonara, then walk to the schloss, whose labyrinthine, classically designed gardens are an hour’s visual distraction, lovely. An elderly Mannheim couple feeding the aristocratically fat carp. They loved holidaying in Cornwall, in Penzance, in the old days. Live for pleasure, Sylvie says, but in moderation.
You will enjoy Speyer, she says, then quotes some Shakespeare, There is a time in the fortunes of man…You know that there’s a story, a myth, that when the Emperors knew they were going to die, they went to Speyer. I don’t know how many of them are buried there. How nice to know.
I’m in the Palatinate Emperor’s summer residence, very baroque. Nice gig.
Outiside Ketsh, on the home run, Rhine-side, stunning late afternoon landscapes, sun-shadows, the river curving like it did outside Strasbourg, like Richmond, Surrey. Then, suddenly, a large caravan, clothes hanging by every window, a tractor to tow it. A bunch of women picking vegetables, fruit?, from a field. I take a photo.
No photos, no photos. A woman tells a man, he repeats the request. More Roma, more dispossessed. This is terrible, what does Sarkozy think he is doing? He should have married Joan Baez. Another miserable moment.
A few ups and downs, nothing too heavy, a air strip – gliders, oh Thomas Crown, c’est moi.
And then the view down the sun-darkened river to Speyer, four towers; that cathedral. Romanesque. Unesco, world heritage etc. 357 photographs down since Heidelberg.
A pedestrian town, pretty perfect, old town Rathaus and Tower. Canterbury without the students or the choirboys. At the guest house Ingrid is in russet. No nonsense. I complement her on the jacket. “I’ve had it 20 years. I bring it out for this week of autumn.”
Over filet steak for energy I write up my day, and know that it does no justice to its elemental happiness.
Now, what is the bloody Romanesque?