In Strasbourg, we walked through the old town and entered the Notre Dame cathedral that dates to the 12th century. Inside, a mechanical clock dating to the 1500s still operates daily, wound each day by a clock keeper. This meticulously-designed timepiece includes angels and apostles, an old man facing death and a young boy just beginning his life. Each hour, and even on quarter hours, this clock chimes and its pieces move to keep a watch over the seasons of life itself.
The following day we visited the massive Heidelberg castle. This medieval structure towers above a busy city characterized by red tile roofs and German architecture. At one point in its history, the castle was attacked by the French with its own dynamite, pilfered from stores it kept outside the walls. The castle is used today for many purposes including weddings and events, and each year the Student Prince opera is still perfomed outside here in one of its many courtyards. Afterwards, we enjoyed a beer, and a serving of kraut, bacon and potato cakes at an outdoor cafe.
The following day, we walked through Mainz, a city almost entirely destroyed during WWII. Today, it thrives and much of its rebuilt downtown is for pedestrians only, very little automobile traffic is allowed. Its cobblestone plazas and streets are filled with strollers, dogs on leashes and passersby.