Monday, April 21, 2014

Heidelberg Castle
Image from WikiCommons

When we have visitors at our home, they usually stay for a few days at least.  We like to take them to interesting places while they are here.  Castles are always a good choice.  Castles with indoor tours are a better choice in bad weather.  On those wet, cold days, a great destination to visit is Heidelberg castle.

What is Heidelberg castle?

Heidelberg castle is one of the more famous historical sites in Germany.   It was first referenced in 1196 as a single castle.  In 1303, two castles were referenced for the first time.  Martin Luther came to the castle in the 1500s to defend one of his theses.

The thirty years war were fought from 1618 to 1648.  It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history.  The war was mostly fought in what is now Germany.  Heidelberg fell in 1622 during the war.  Over the following years, the castle was sieged by three emperors, condemned by Pio II and destroyed by Louis XIV, the Sun King.

In 1688, French troops occupied Heidelberg.  The French war council ordered all fortifications destroyed to prevent any attacks from this area.  On March 2, 1689 they set the castle on fire and blew the front off of the Fat Tower.   Four years later, the French were back and finished what they started in 1689.  The towers and walls that had survived four years earlier were blown up.

In 1764, lightning struck the lit the castle on fire.  In a few hours, the castle was in ruins.  There is a legend that near the end of World War II, the Allies diverted bombs from Heidelberg and the castle as they had picked out Heidelberg as a future headquarters after the war.

Visiting the castle

The inner courtyard has a small entrance fee and the tour is another fee, but both are well worth the price.  There are frequent tours in English throughout the day.  The inner court has an apothecary museum that I always find interesting.

The tour is quite good and takes you through many rooms in the castle.  One room has a stage.  My son, who was about 9 years old, got up on stage in the banquet hall during the tour.  The tour guide said, “oh, we have a new court jester!”  I’ll never forget that.  One interesting fact about that room is it had a method to bring wine up from wine cellar for serving during meals.

How was the wine?

Wine was a used as a form of tax.  Farmers would bring in a percentage of their crop to the castle.  It was all mixed together in one giant wine vat.  This vat holds 220,000 liters of wine. It is so big, they built a dance floor on top of it.  Because the wine was a mixture of many grapes, the quality was not high.  What the wine lacked in quality they made up for with quantity.  After the tour, you can wander around the castle grounds and see the garden

The castle garden was famous

Salomon de Caus of London created the garden in 1614.  In 1620, Salomon de Caus published an essay on the garden that preserved the details of his work. The French destroyed the gardens in 1693.  Today, only fragments and restorations of the garden can be found.

In summary

Heidelberg is one of the historic landmarks you don’t want to miss.  They have a wonderful tour and seeing that wine vat is worth the trip alone.  About 100 couples get married in the castle each year so don’t be surprised if you see a wedding.  Bring your camera and enjoy this nearby treasure.

Heidelberg Castle
D-69117 Heidelberg
Tel +49 6221 53 84 14

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Keukenhof: The Garden of Europe

by Tom Nunamaker on April 6, 2011


Spring is one of our favorite times of the year.  The cold days and short nights are a fading memory as the plants come back to life.  I have allergies to pollens so the news is not all good, but Claratin is my friend in this season.  We have a great camera and a natural subject for any photographer is flower.  Next week, despite my apprehensions of going to ground zero of a pollen explosion, we are going to journey to the Garden of Europe in the Netherlands: Keukenhof.

What is Keukenhof?

Keukenhof (which is “kitchen garden” in Dutch) is a 32-hectare acre park that is home to about 4,500,000 tulips.  I think I must be crazy to go there with millions of tulips releasing pollen aimed at my nose!  The park was used as hunting grounds in the 15th century and was source of herbs for the Countess of Hainaut’s castle.

The garden was created in 1949.  The garden was designed to help show off the Netherland’s flower industry, which is the world leading exporter of flowers.  It quickly became the world’s largest flower garden and has been for the last fifty years.  It is only open for about two months.  The park is open this year from March 24th until May 20th.  The last week will have the world’s largest indoor lily exhibition.  The 2011 theme is Germany, Land of Poets and Philosophers.

What can you do at Keukenhof?

There are 15 kilometers of walking trails.  Make sure you don’t walk on the grass.  There are roughly 1 million visitors in two months.  Many of them visit on the weekends, so try to plan your visit during the week.  Mid-April is the ideal time to see the tulips in their full beauty.

There are  “whisper boats” with electric engines that can take you on a 1-hour tour.  The Keukenhof web site says you can get the best photographs from the boat, but I think if you have a good DSLR camera, you’ll be better pictures if you walk and can get very close to the flowers.  12 swans are released for the two-month period so perhaps the boat ride is a good way to get close to a swan.

Cycling is permitted so bring your bicycle if you’d like to.   There are bicycle rentals if you don’t want to bring your own bicycle.  You are limited to cycling outside of the park.  There are lots of beautiful flowers to see on the cycling routes, but you’ll have to stay on foot inside of the park.

The annual Flower Parade will happen on the 16th of April 2011.  It is a 40-kilometer parade called the “face of Spring.”  It is the most famous parade in the Netherlands.  If you miss it in 2011, the next one is April 21, 2012.

In summary

I have great trepidation about putting my nose in the middle of 4.5 million tulips at the height of their pollination.   I’m stocking up on Claratin and charging my camera and flash batteries so I can enjoy my visit.  We should be able to take some spectacular photographs.  I think a few hanging in the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center are from Keukenhof.  Come and see for yourself.  I think it’s worth the trip.

Stationsweg 166a
The Netherlands
Telephone: +31 (0) 252 465 555


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Burg Eltz: One of the Best Preserved Castles in Germany

April 5, 2011

Image from Wikicommons When our squadron was new, a co-worker who sat near me was in a one-person deep position.  He had several statues of medieval knights.  I believe he had three of them.  That was his staff for his staff meetings!  He really loved military history and was always finding interesting places and facts […]

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The Euro: What is it and What Do I need to Know About it?

April 4, 2011

When we first arrived in the KMC, we heard about a big grocery store just across the French border.  We didn’t know what to expect.  We heard we needed to bring French Francs with us because they didn’t take credit cards.  We had to go to the bank on base and exchange US Dollars for […]

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Porta Nigra: The Oldest Defensive Structure in Germany

April 2, 2011

Image from Wikimedia Commons My son and his wife had flown from Boston to visit us in December.  Spencer‘s wife, Amanda, had never been outside of the United States so we wanted to show her some things you just can’t see in the U.S.  There are so many things you can take a visitor to […]

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The Battle of Verdun, France

March 31, 2011

It was a day with clear skies and a light wind.  It was a perfect day for my first solo flight as a US Air Force student pilot.   The thrill of piloting a jet all alone is hard to describe.   It’s one of life’s experiences that never leave you.  There are other memorable things that […]

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Discovering Musée D’Orsay in Paris, France

March 30, 2011

My wife, Gaby, went to industrial art school in Antwerp, Belgium many years ago.  She has an art studio in our home and loves to visit museums.  Her favorite kind of museum is an art museum.   She’s always excited to go to a larger city and check out what museums that city has. We […]

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Fixing Camera Shake and Shutter Speed for Better Photographs

March 29, 2011

Now that you’re living in the KMC, you want your friends and family to see what it’s like to be here.  Your photographs are blurry most of the time and not very interesting.  Even after you bought a really nice DSLR camera with a good lens, you still can’t get good pictures. Who wants to […]

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The French Officers Quarters in Paris, France

March 27, 2011

Paris is the number one tourist destination in the world with 45 million visitors annually. There is so much to see and do in Paris that no two trips are the same. We always enjoy visiting the city of light but it is a very expensive city to visit. One way to reduce your cost […]

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The Beautiful European Magpie

March 26, 2011

I’ve always loved everything that flies, and especially birds. We live near the forest and have several trees around our back yard. There are birds in our yard every day. We had a nest in a pine tree on our fence line with a family of European Magpies. We noticed there are about 6-10 magpies […]

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