I was walking to my workplace on a sunny Monday morning in March, already depressed about the week. I had a presentation due that day, and had to issue drawings for construction that Friday, which meant working late all week. The billboard across the road displayed a picture of a castle. My mind immediately thought ahead to May, when we were going for a holiday to Germany. The details of Heidelberg Castle and the town of Heidelberg which I was looking at just the previous day flashed in front of my eyes. I couldn’t wait to get there and explore!
Heidelberg was the second place on our itinerary. It is an old town in South Germany, on the banks of the river Neckar, with the oldest library in Germany. It is known for its universities and philosophers. The Philosophenweg or the Philosophers’ Walk is a path in the hills, that is believed to be tread on by many philosophers and university professors. However, as we went on a family trip, our priority was to stay together and visit places that held everyone’s interests. The first few hours in the new town, we went on a walking tour or bus tour of the place, to get the feel of the town and to get an idea of what places we wanted to explore in the next day or two. And climbing a steep hill just to walk down an old path wasn’t something most of my family wanted to do.
The day we arrived at Heidelberg, we walked around the old town, went up to the Heidelberg Schloss (Castle) and the Schlossgartens. From the castle, we could see right across to the neighbouring hill, where glimpses of a half forgotten path were beckoning me. The Philosophenweg! I tried to convince myself that not going there wasn’t such a big deal. I had to enjoy and learn from whatever places we could explore. We had lunch at a small cafe at the marketplatz, and then had a peaceful boat trip down the river Neckar in the evening.
The next morning at breakfast, we realised that we had a couple of hours to spare before our train to Stuttgart. So my cousins and I decided to explore the town further, while the rest of my family was packing.
“Philosophenweg,” I exclaimed.
“It’s so far.”
“It’s too much to walk.”
“I’m too tired,” they all protested.
But since I was the oldest among us, I naturally insisted, and we were soon trekking up to the Philosophenweg! The town looked so fresh in the morning; ready to face a new day. Enthusiastic cyclists, joggers, professionals and students were busy on their way to their destination. And so were we. We crossed the Alte Bruck or the Old Bridge to the new part of town, until we reached a small signboard, which showed us the way to Philosophenweg.
A narrow winding path in the hills led up to it; cobbled floor, and high walls on either side. The slight gradient of the path was broken periodically by a series of stone steps. Suddenly, we reached a break in the wall. We got just a glimpse of the town, before our view was blocked by the trees. Five minutes passed; another break in the wall; red roofs in the distance. The next break brought with it a view of the Old Bridge and the river Neckar which it crossed.
Before long we reached the Philosophers’ way. The view took my breath away. The entire town could be seen in the valley below; the Heidelberg Schloss and the furnicular on the hill opposite us, the Old Bridge, which we took to get here, the new Bridge which we were heading to, and the bridge beyond that. We could see the new town, grey, crisp and businesslike. And across the bridge, we could see the old town, with its quaint old world charm; the stone walls, the red roofs, cobbled streets, and the Gothic church spire towering over the entire town. And all around us were trees and shrubs. All along the path, small gates led to private gardens on the hillside. And as I breathed in the fresh pure air, I felt alive and free. The past few months of work seemed totally worth it, even for just two weeks of holiday.