Sunday, September 07, 2003

Several times every summer, the city of Heidelberg stages a mock burning of its famous castle ruins. According to my USO guidebook, "the illumination is a recreation of the actual 17th century destruction and burning by the French Army."

In June of 1989, Fred and I had our very first date at the burning of the castle. We met up with friends of his (a field artillery officer and a new JAG captain who were also on their first date and who also wound up married to each other, as well as the legal intern from Fred's office). We staked out a picnic spot on the banks of the Neckar River, ate cotton candy, and perused Fred's yearbook from his senior year at Stetson. ("Did you know So-and-So?" "Yeah, did you know his brother What's-His-Face?") That night Fred and I watched the fireworks as we huddled under one umbrella to stay out of the oh-so-convenient rain.

Last night we went back to where it all started to witness the final castle illumination for 2003. Rather than watching from the riverbank, we booked a cruise through the Mannheim USO. It rained again, though this time there was no romantic umbrella-snuggling. Funny how having kids along can change the mood, isn't it?

The food was good, though we wound up one schnitzel short in the end. When Fred and I went downstairs to order from the limited menu, I suggested that we get 3 schnitzels and one hotdog, figuring that Annabelle would eat the hotdog. We took the food back upstairs, where Annabelle promptly tore into one of the schnitzels as if it were the only thing between her and death by starvation. Poor Fred was stuck with the hotdog and not even that much of one after we all tried a bite and proclaimed it to be the best hotdog ever. So Fred went back below to get himself a schnitzel ("And a couple more of those dogs!!!" we hollered after him), but alas there were no more. So he had to make do with yet another of the world's most awesome hotdogs, and Annabelle ate more meat in one evening than she has had in the entire previous year.

The illumination itself was just wonderful. At around 9:30, all the boats on the river went dark, as did all nearby streets and buildings. Then, out of the darkness, the castle started to glow. A few moments later, the castle went dark and the fireworks began.

Through the miracle of modern technology, you can experience your own castle illumination right in the comfort of your own home. Just click here. For a daytime look at the castle (not my photo--still waiting on the DSL connection), click here.

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