Thursday, March 5, 2009

Come With Me

If you were to sit with me on the grassy side of the Neckar River that travels through Heidelberg, Germany, you’d be sitting at a favorite spot of my childhood. For on the grassy side of the river, you can look up and see the most spectacular view of the Heidelberg Castle. It's so breathtaking a sight that when as a less confident and self-absorbed teenager I'd treat myself to its company, all my fairy tales seemed possible. The only impossibility in those moments was to overlook how fortunate I was to live out my youth in a most picturesque European city.

If you were to walk with me along the popular path that snakes up against this river that's held a castle's reflection since before AD 1214--the river that carries paddle boats, cargo boats, passenger boats, kayaks, and a family of ducks, we might daydream together, for it is impossible not to on a leisured stroll in this setting. Visions of what it might be like to bring my future fiancé home to Heidelberg one day was a favorite fantasy that often sent my young heart fluttering.

I'd frequently imagine the things I'd someday point out to this mysterious fiancé. He’d see that the river was a place for all cutouts of people: intellectuals lost in either political discussion or a philosophical book, lovers oblivious to the people-watchers’ obvious stares; artists coloring the city's designated wall; bikers leashed up with their panting dogs, soccer players skillfully dodging family picnics in a spontaneous and carefree game; sophisticated Germans; carefree Americans; the energetic young; the worn elderly; and in the humid summers that sent my curly hair afrizz, even sunbathers fit in. Topless or bikini-covered, they'd doze atop beach towels or blankets. If it was a weekday, they’d sun soak on their lunch break or after hours. On the weekend it was a longer affair. Regardless of where the sun clocked, their sun-kissed bodies faced the castle.

Ah, the castle. If you were to come with me to the castle from the bank of the river up the steep cobblestone road to its ruins, you’d be in the company of a happy girl, for the castle always had a cheering affect on me. Even when my masquerade prom was held there and I attended without a Romeo, I couldn't help but enjoy myself in the fancy dress my mother so skillfully made, with wings, even. I was going for a Drew Barrymore, "Ever After" look. Fitting, I thought.

A more casual evening at the castle happened on a Monday night with my family. We played an Allred game of soccer on the beautiful grounds, which ended in laughter and a family photo of us stacked in a funny pyramid. My mom even played. It was a rich day that left in me a strong desire to be with my family forever.

Every summer, there were three nights the castle was set aflame, a reenactment of the three historic times when the castle was damaged by fire. After the castle would “burn” for a few minutes, fireworks were launched from the Old Bridge, quite the sight against an ancient backdrop.

So, if you'd like to imagine a place I'll always love, think grassy side of the river. Think prom in a castle. Think cobblestone. Think fireworks and fire. Think family. Think diverse. Think old world and picturesque. Think all of these things, and you'll have come with me home.


  1. Aaah Prom in that castle was picturesque, wasn't it? There's nothing quite like it to encourage the princess fairy tale that lives in every teenage girl!! You don't know how badly I wished I could have been there for our final year of high school. The 10 months I spent in Heidelberg will never be enough.

    I don't know if you know this, but my Grandparents met in Heidelberg! We have the most beautiful picture of them in their late 1940s get-up, standing on the Old Bridge, the castle illuminating the backdrop. My entire life I've longed to return there with my love, and to stand in the place my Grandparents stood, and to take a picture in their place. They've been married for 57 years and are quite the inspiration to me and Gib!

    There's something about that view that makes everyone drip with love. You're so lucky to have an excuse to go back. A piece of my heart will always be there, filled with memories I have with YOU!

  2. As I read this, the that kept coming to my mind was, "how can she stand to be away from there?" Then I thought of our Heavenly Home and realized that if we could remember it, we would have those same poignant feelings which you described about the home of your youth. I hope we all make it back home one day, and I hope you will yet enjoy many happy moments in Heidelberg.

  3. What awesome memories!!! Honestly, that city is enchanting....I wish we could take our boys there. That castle was honestly so breathtaking, and I remember as we were walking through it I was so envious that you had prom there and could only imagine how awesome that must have been.
    I also loved that I finally go to go to H&M!! :)

  4. Oh my gosh, I loved all of your comments!

    Melissa--I didn't know that about your grandparents! That is SO cool! You have to take Gib someday! We'll have to arrange it so we're there at the same time!

    Pam--thank you for your comment. It's so true and it was wonderful to read this morning.

    And Amanda, I was totally going to write about H&M and downtown, but thought this post would be too lengthy if I wrote about how much I LOVE downtown Heidelberg. That's a post all in itself. I wish we could have been there when you guys were. :(

  5. seriously how can you stand to be here :)!!! that was beautiful, now i want to go!!

  6. what a lovely written "portrait" of a place that is so dear to my heart as well and for many of the same reasons (well, I missed the prom-boat by a "few" years heehee) - thanks for taking my back there!! Oh and I remember that dress with the dainty wings - it was beautiful and you looked like the princess you are!

  7. My parents have a painting of the Heidelberg Castle sitting above the Neckar River. I only just now put that together looking at your photo. Our family legends include a story that as a toddler, every time we'd cross a river I'd yell, "There's the Neckar River!" I was still yelling that apparently when we crossed the Willamette River after we moved there when I was almost 3. I'd love to go back to Germany since I would actually remember it now. Thanks for your reminisce and allowing mine!

  8. P.S. The Willamette River is in Oregon.

  9. I love that your prom was in that castle! What a dream for a high school girl :)

  10. oh i am so there, and the neat thing is that i too got to bring my love to the castle, actully in the end of 07 we went to germany and other places for 3 weeks, it meant so much to show my love the place i grew up that it was real and not just my imagination. Marie you are such a beautiful writer o love to read all your posts because they are so pretty.thank you for the visuals of a place so lovely and dear to my heart.

  11. Seriously, I am so jealous right now!! It never seems real to me that people actually live in these kinds of places!

  12. I did love that castle. You are right it is beautiful. I loved your town the most out of all the countries that we visited.
    P.S. You are a great story teller! Little did you know that your future fiance would already have his own love of that place!!!

  13. Marie,
    Thanks for this post. It brought back memories of when I lived in Germany. I remember going to that castle when I was in 2nd grade and finding chestnuts in the parking lot behind the castle from the huge chestnut trees. I have to admit in a 7 year-old mind, the castle wasn't too exciting, but I do remember it and I'd love to go back now. I loved the river too and how green it was. I loved the weekend trips my family would take to visit places like Heidelberg, the Loreli, Rottenberg, etc. Was a treat it was to be there.

  14. as I have none such quite like this I can relate as Pam said to the magic that home or a special place has in your heart. You have a beautiful way of expressing that love, thanks for letting me walk along with you...and totally jealous about the prom....

  15. I grew up in Heidelberg yet I have never read such a beautiful, accurate description. I was there from 1980 to 1995.

  16. Beautifully written! Thanks for the walk down memory lane. One day, I will go back!




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