Heidelberger Schloss (Heidelberg Castle) sits partway up a mountain known as the Koenigstuhl, or King’s Seat. I’ll cover the castle in more depth later in a dedicated post, but for now I want to talk about the children’s park found at the top of Koenigstuhl.
You could drive to the top of the mountain, but the more interesting method was to take the funicular, or inclined railway. In fact, there’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to it and several YouTube videos like this one — the best part of the video is the beginning, with the Aldstadt (old town) and Neckar River far below. I remember the creaking of wood and slow side-to-side sway as the old car climbed up and down the slope. It looks like in more recent years they’ve extended the track all the way down to the Kornmarkt (Corn Market) in the Aldstadt.
At the top of the mountain was a decidedly low-tech and relaxed amusement park called Kinder Paradies, or Children’s Paradise. It took some doing to track this down, in part because it seems to have since been renamed to Marchen Paradies, or Fairy Tale Paradise. The renaming makes sense, based on my decades-old memories of one of the park’s features which I’ll get to in a moment.
When you first passed through the gate, the first thing you’d see would be a giant chessboard and pieces. Large, but not so big so that kids wouldn’t be able to move the pieces around and play their own game. Chess, in a kiddie park? I imagine such an attraction would go mostly ignored in one of today’s super high-tech thrill parks.
The next thing you’d come across would be several glassed-in displays of various fairy tale stories. You could press a button to bring the display to life–animatronic characters would move around as the story was recited over a loudspeaker. But the stories were only told in German, which I’ve never been able to speak beyond basic counting and a few phrases picked up in class, so I quickly lost interest in these once I’d seen the animations. I suppose a lot of the attractions are fairy tale-based and justify the park’s name change, but these displays are the most obvious example.
The Koenigstuhl is heavily treed, and the park made use of that by having somewhat isolated attractions with forested footpaths connecting them. You maintained a sense of being out in nature while strolling through the park. In one area there was a large swing set and slide and basically all the standard playground equipment. Like I said, low-tech. There was a functional miniature train which you could ride around the park, and I recall that the train passed just above and behind this playground area.
The other attraction that stands clearly in my memory is a giant caterpillar ride. It was essentially a series of large green balls suspended from ropes, with the largest ball in front and getting smaller toward the back to form the caterpillar’s body. They were all hanging from a circular track, and there was a long rope at the front of the caterpillar. Kids would climb aboard one of the balls and then the only way to get this ride to do anything was to get someone–presumably a parent–to pull the rope and move the caterpillar around the track.
With low-tech attractions like this, I suppose the park was more of a super-playground than an actual amusement park. I don’t recall anything that required a park employee to supervise except for the train. It sounds quaint, maybe even dull, but I remember having a lot of fun here.
I found the official site for this park here, but it is only available in German. If you click on Rundgang and then the resulting links, there are pictures of various attractions. It looks like very little has changed since I was last there over 30 years ago, and there’s something nice about that.
BONUS: If you look at this zoomed-in Google map view you can see the old chess board near the entrance! Then you can zoom out to see other attractions peeking through the trees, or scroll to the left to see Heidelberg itself.