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Heidelberg, DE

by dan.kronstal on November 18th, 2011

Our first stop in town was at the TIC to figure out some place to stay. Heidelberg is home to the longest pedestrian street in Germany, called Hauptstrasse, and along the 1.6km of this street most of the interesting things in town are centered. Unfortunately there do not seem to be any “budget” accomodations near this strip, so our new home was a 20-minute walk from the action. We walked the length of Hauptstrasse nearly each day, and though not all weather was fair (or warm), it was good enough for us to have a few sunny days and a good look around town. Our best views were from the top of the bell tower of the Heiliggeistkirche (“Church of the Holy Ghost”), the Philosophenweg (“Philosopher’s Way”) on the far side of the river, and from the top of Heidelberg Schloss (the castle) which overlooks town and the river.

Top of Heiliggeistkirche Tower

Top of Heiliggeistkirche Tower

View from Philosophenweg

View from Philosophenweg

View of town from Heidelberger Schloss

View of town from Heidelberger Schloss

Das Große Fass

Das Große Fass

Touring the castle we checked out a museum showing the history of pharmaceutical medicine, from apothecary and alchemy to modern pharmacology. It was interesting, and I loved the staged pharmacies set up with authentic desks and many assorted bottles and lab equipment. We also had a look at  Das große Fass, a massive wine keg formerly used to store wine from many farms in the region. Apparently it’s not much used anymore, but they keep it out of a tradition of having a giant keg in the castle.

Aside from looking around town our time was spent preparing for departure from Germany, and concluding our European leg. We posted some things home, and discarded what we could to lighten our baggage.

It was on the train ride from Vienna to Innsbruck during a chat about our travels with a family from Germany when we had begun to be concerned about our exit from Europe. All the travel books had said that we could stay in France for 90 days, or in Italy for 90 days, or in Germany for 90 days, so we thought that we had all kinds of time to lark about the countryside with no need to worry about the length of stay. This family broached the idea, in true German polite-yet-firm style, that perhaps the 90 days was an inclusive count, and not calculated by country.

We did some research and discovered that many of our European stops are part of a group called Schengen – a collection of countries with a collaborative boarder control arrangement. We had wondered why we weren’t racking up all kinds of cool stamps in our passports, and this was the reason. Our 90 days allowed was for the entire region, and we were scheduled to depart after having accrued 137 days in Europe – though only 114 days in the Schengen countries, since the UK doesn’t count. Still, we were over the limit, and my searching online turned up a few hair raising tales of people being detained (sometimes for days), and/or fined hundreds of Euros, and/or banned from returning to any of the Schengen countries for years. In our case most of these aren’t a problem. Paying fines sucks, but we can do it. Not coming back for a few years is ok, since we won’t be able to afford international travel for a few years anyway. Missing the flight is not so cool though, since the fine-print on our itinerary had us thinking (possibly incorrectly) that missing a flight after checking in would invalidate the rest of our itinerary and have us flying home early and at our own expense.

We had gone through a few cycles since discovering the dilemma. Christina would be worried and I would feel that everything would be fine. Then I would worry and she would be more at ease. At the airport I was worried. I don’t want to overstate or exaggerate, but I was fairly anxious.

Having cleaned ourselves up and dressed presentably for the occasion – and having spent no little time in prayer – we approached the Passport Control gate and stepped up to the line. The agent took our passports and flipped through the pages. He said something to his partner and looked at our passports and flipped through the pages again. He looked at the Amsterdam stamp marked on the 27th of July, the date by which we were incriminated (and incidentally, Joe’s birthday), then flipped through the other pages again. He chatted more with the other agent, then asked us how long we’d been in Germany, and where we had come from. This was a huge relief, since we could honestly answer that we’d been here three weeks, and had come from Prague. He wasn’t in a curious mood, so stamped us through and that was that.

I had prayed fervently for a immigration officer who was either feeling gracious or lazy, my preference being lazy. So our guy who was more interested in chatting with his buddy than investigating why the stamps in our passport were so old was a perfect fit. After being delivered so thoroughly (I had been quite ready to pay a fine, so long as we could do it promptly and still make our flight) the rest of the ride seemed rosy. A couple of hours through to Madrid, then we waited for a few more before the 12 hour long haul to Buenos Aires. I’ve never felt so good about a horribly uncomfortable flight.

One Comment
  1. Mom and Dad E. permalink

    Our prayers were answered! All the worries for nothing! But it made a good story with a twinge of nervous thrill of anticipation of what could have been a worst case scenario! Most of the time you were lucky! escaping dire predicaments…

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