This part of the world is lending itself to the ways of a well seasoned August. The air is sticky, the mountains shadowed by dew. Wafts of rotting fruit and perfume from bicycle passersby linger in the atmosphere as we leave our village.
Moments later we are making our way through Altstadt Heidelberg before the city is fully awake. It’s the last of a four day holiday. Cars line the narrow, hand laid stone streets; soft music or cleanser fumes escape every third open window. Lavender sachets outside the gift shop beckon from 50 feet ahead.
We cross the Alte Brücke (old bridge) and already my arms are picking up the condensation that hangs around us. When we reach the opposite side of the Neckar River, an entrance framed by greenery and positioned between modern day flats is as inviting as it is secluded and damp.
In the early days of Heidelberg, University professors, philosophers, doctors, friends in need of working through a conundrum would get away from the city and meander up this path.
Today, this path in Heidelberg is called “Philosophenweg” or Philosopher’s Way. It’s assumed that Goethe composed some of his writings from here since he was known to frequent the path. The trail is paved, lined with private gated gardens and vineyards, and occasionally you get a peak through the thick foliage to the beautiful city. Walking out of the walled path and into a lookout point, I couldn’t help but feel appreciation that WWII Allied troops had no reason to obliterate the panorama before me.
Continuing up the mountain, the hush of the forest is only interrupted by a falling acorn per second or the sporadic dogs and hikers.
Two hours had passed by the time we arrived at our final destination.
After climbing, with stops at the Bismarck Tower, Stephen’s Monastery, Celtic ring wall remains dating back to 400 B.C., and a Nazi youth rally amphitheater, we made it to the finale of St. Michael’s Monastery. And we were soaked, 95% from earth’s humidity, 5% our own.
From Philosopher’s Way on to the inner altar room of St. Michael’s and back again, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that there is something sacred about that mountain. It’s no wonder they named it “Heilingenberg”, the interpretation being “Holy Mountain”.
For our Philosphenweg tour, you’ll definitely want to click below.