I remember the Heidelberg old bridge, or Alte Brücke, being as much a part of the city landscape as the castle itself. I think my eyes were always drawn to the high walls on the hill above, but the bridge was another landmark to be seen whenever we ventured out of Patrick Henry Village.
I recall that they used to light up the castle each night, and I’m pretty sure at some point we took in the view from either bridge itself, or from one of the long glass-topped tourist boats like the one seen docked in the above photo. The bridge has quite a history going back hundreds of years. I found this German-language Wikipedia page which, although I can’t read the text, seems to indicate that perhaps the bridge was covered at some point. I also learned elsewhere that in World War II the retreating German army destroyed three of the bridge’s spans, making it one of the few architectural casualties for the city since it surrendered without a fight and was spared the bombing that destroyed many others.
There’s just one story I can conjure up related to the bridge itself. One night we were standing on the bridge in order to watch a fireworks display. As I recall, they had closed a bridge further down the river and were launching fireworks from there and perhaps from the castle as well. Everything was going great, until it started to rain. At that point, everyone on the bridge started to move for cover. Our family, like everyone else, headed for the big white-towered gatehouse at the end of the bridge.
The problem was that the people in the front of the pack had decided to stop underneath the guardhouse to use it as shelter. I’m not sure if our goal was to push through and keep going or if we were also seeking to stop under that imposing portcullis gate, but it became impassable very quickly. Being very young, I didn’t have a good idea of what was going on but I remember the crowd of people and then somebody yelling out in English, “There are children here!” My dad may have put me on his shoulders, I don’t remember clearly.
Eventually the blockage seemed to break and I remember us hurrying through the gatehouse and underneath the overhang of the building across the street, where we then tried to make our way back to the car without getting too wet. This whole experience is sort of a hazy half-memory for me, but I do recall sensing the building panic in the moments before we were able to push through and finally get off the bridge.