Hi everyone and welcome to this week’s People & Pints! This past weekend I decided to visit my great friend from Boston College: Caz, who is studying in Heidelberg, Germany. I was joined by our friend Tyler, who also goes to BC and is currently studying in Paris, for a fantastic weekend. I hadn’t heard of Heidelberg before Caz decided on the city for his study abroad experience. Heidelberg is a very small city relatively close to Frankfurt that is situated along a beautiful river and between some gorgeous hills. The typical fall scenery was very refreshing because, although I love Amsterdam, I haven’t been able to experience nature like I did in Heidelberg. Although it wasn’t necessarily the focus of my weekend, I did have a few delicious beers. More importantly, I had fantastic conversations with some incredible friends and experienced a totally new city.
After arriving late Friday night, Caz warned Tyler and me that, unlike Paris or Amsterdam, “there isn’t a ton to do in Heidelberg.” Caz, of course, wasn’t expressing any regret about his city, but was simply letting us know that Heidelberg doesn’t have the same options of activities as a major European city. Nonetheless, we had some great hiking adventures over the span of a few days. On Saturday, Caz led us along the Philosophenweg, a very old trail, about 2 km, that leads to the top of the hill. It was a great hike, in which we decided to wander and get a little lost, and the views along the trail were spectacular. At the top of the hill there are ruins from an old monastery and a small lookout post. The following day we explored the Schloss or Castle of Heidelberg, which was a shorter walk up the opposite hill. We lingered on the grounds of the Schloss for quite some time as the sun began to set behind a nearby hill. On both short hikes I was shown a different aspect of life in Europe. Amsterdam is by no means a gigantic city but it felt much larger by comparison. I thoroughly love life in the city and enjoy biking along the canals, but it was quite refreshing to see the leaves changing in breathtaking ways and surveying the city from beautiful heights.
Our nights were rather tame as we preferred enjoying each other’s company over the noise of a “discotheque”. Saturday evening we opted to check out a local jazz club. I expected this choice to be a perfect opportunity for People & Pints, and although it didn’t turn out as I had anticipated, it was still an interesting experience. Ironically, the bar served almost exclusively virgin drinks; a sign in German proudly revealed that this was the first alcohol free bar in Heidelberg. I did manage to get a glass of Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier, which is a German Wheat Beer. The beer was smooth and tasty with notes of fruit. The Jazzhaus was a really cool underground venue. The “jazz cats,” as Tyler called the guys playing, were unique and definitely produced some good music.
As I said earlier, the weekend was not spent only beer, which was perfectly fine. Although Germany is more or less the world capital of beer, we decided to space out our imbibing. I did manage to find an awesome craft beer bottle store, Upper Glass. They had a plethora of local beers as well as some great American imports. My friend Eli in Amsterdam has been searching relentlessly for some San Diego beer and Upper Glass happened to have Ballast Point, Karl Strauss, and others so I decided to bring some back for him. I told the cashier about this quest and it didn’t really seem to affect him. I looked at him awkwardly for a few minutes before he pleasantly responded that he was happy I found the “holy grail.” I realized that he wasn’t being distant, he probably just didn’t know how to properly answer my query in English. I asked him if the beers were popular and he said that they were, “but they’re going to stop exporting here. Not enough money I guess.” I nodded understandingly and asked if he had any other recommendations for local beer. He directed me to a few bottles from a local brewery, Welde Bräu. Welde is located in Plankstadt, which is very close to Heidelberg. Welde is an interesting brewery because it is in fact a macro-brewery but it had produced a few bottles that were more “craft beer” focused. I had the Hop Stuff Ella + Equinox, which is a Zwickelbier/Kellerbier. The Zwickel or Keller is an unfiltered, hoppier version of a Helles Lager. It is apparently quite popular in Germany, though I had never come across it before. It was a nice beer that was a little hazy in color without a particularly strong aroma. The taste was a bit hoppy with subtle citrus flavors and a very warm, smooth finish. I decided to also bring a bottle of Bourbon Barrel Bock home, which I believe will be very nice.
I didn’t necessarily drink my way through Heidelberg in this short trip, but I did manage to serve perhaps the more important aspect of People & Pints: the People. My conversations with Caz and Tyler brought me right back to Boston College; it was as if we hadn’t skipped a beat. Between laughing over inside jokes and fretting about classes, it made me feel at home. Alongside quoting The Office and Youtube videos, we managed to have some great conversations about nostalgia and sentimentality. I’ve always believed hiking could be a very cathartic, often spiritual activity and I was proved right this weekend. Along the Philosophenweg, we talked about the combination of excitement and anxiety of returning to the US. We’ve all been enjoying our respective experiences abroad but there are certainly aspects of being back home that we all miss. On the other hand, our programs felt like they have been going incredibly quickly. Caz mentioned how strange it is that we’re within a year of our final year of university. “Real life is too close,” Tyler noted. We all felt the pang of nostalgia as we reminisced over simpler times and on our hike shared stories from our younger years.
But ultimately we ended the weekend with broad smiles and Tyler noted how valuable our experience abroad really is. “We’ve been learning a lot while in Europe. It’ll be great to take that back.” I agreed saying how we’ve grown in independence and responsibility. We all felt a little more reassured as we took in the sun on my final day in Heidelberg. Although real life might be approaching, I think we’ll be well prepared. After learning a few German phrases like how to order a beer–or a scoop of ice cream–or apparently the motto of Heidelberg “Ich hab mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren,” I had to bid Auf Wiedershen to my friends and to Heidelberg. Luckily, Tyler will be visiting the coming weekend so I’m sure we’ll have even more adventures. If nothing else, we will have some good beer and some great conversations.