Posted: 12/16/2008


       Heidelburg, on the River Neckar is a pleasure anytime of year and just before Christmas with the frost on the ground, in the trees and on the statues, it had an old fashioned holiday feeling as I strolled from the station to the old town.

      Past Adenauer Platz, through Bismark Platz and down Haupstrasse, lined with Christmas Markt stalls and decorations with wonderfuls smells of chocolate, cakes, roast chestnuts, candles, beer, coffee and more.  There was a Mexican playing Guadalajara on his guitar, a trio of under 10 year olds with trumpets and horns, a 12 year old girl with a wooden flute and a West Indian with steel drums, while little kids screamed with delight on a carousel.

      I turned left at the Korn Markt just below the castle ramparts and to the river and the Alde Brucke. It was bombed by the Germans 2 days before the end of World War II as the US Fifth Army advanced but has been restored. There is a little square, Am Bruckentor and I came upon a delightful scene. There was a Dogs Christmas Markt with a few stalls and lots of dogs. There were greyhounds, huskies, golden retrievers, short haired terriers, collies, german shepherds, a St. Bernard and more. I chatted with ALEX who runs the Wirsthaus Zum Nepomuk restaurant in the square and he started it 5 years ago, and he was expecting over 150 dogs to visit and sniff each other.

       Stalls were selling dog jewelry, collars, toys, coats, Jeffie Bonanza mix, friekardle knocke, struddles, lots of cakes, plus gulasch suppe and gluwein-the latter two for the people. There was a mobile dog training unit and a stall offering water therapy. Tierphsiotherape. Alex said that they raise money for the Heidelburg dogs home. What a nice suprise.

       Well we have come to the winter break in the German Bundesliga I.II,and III season, with newcomers 1899 Hoffenheim and old timers Bayern Munchen on top of Bund. 1. The very last match was tonight in Bund II, at Fritz Walter Stadium with 1 FC Kaiserslautern in third place entertaining SC Freiburg just above them and below Mainz 04. The stadium stands like a giant medieval fortress on a huge sandstone rock, Betzenberg, towering over the city and the Kaiserslautern Hbf 200 metres away. I remember in 2006 strolling along the main street, Eisenbahnstrasse with a one kilometre of stalls and a crush of fans for the Italy v USA World Cup match. Coming out under the railway bridge is a big display on the traffic circle,  11 FREUNDE  with a standing team of 11 soccer players on the grass. Sitting atop the railway parapet are 3 statues of fans in the colours of The Red Devils, 1

        It's a stiff walk 300 metres up steep steps and an even  steeper winding road to the stadium.which has huge stands on all 4 sides and is a fan favourite. In front is another statue of the five 1 FCK men at the Miracle of Bern, July 04,1954 when a new nation, West Germany beat favourites Hungary 3-2 in the FIFA World Cup Final at the Wankdorf Stadion, Bern, Switzerland.: Horst Eckel, Werner Kohlmeyer, Werner Liebrick, Fritz Walter (captain) Ottmar Walter. I watched on black and white TV as the rain came down and Adi Dassler, the genius of a shoemaker and founder of ADIDAS looked at the dark sky and told coach Sepp Herberger to have the players wear his new, revolutionary screw-in soccer shoes.

       The Red Devils are unbeaten at home this season and a 4-0 victory would take them above Mainz 04 to the top. There was a big crowd, and in fact the Bundesliga has some excellant crowds.  Borussia Dortmund average 73,000, Bayern Munchen 69,000, Schalke 04 61,000, Hamburg 54,000, Stuttgart 51,000, Koln 50,000. Even in Bund. II, TSV 1860 Munchen had 57,000 at the weekend local derby with Bavarian rivals 1 FC Nurnberg at Allianz Arena, which they share with FC Bayern.

      Once again 'You'll Never Walk Alone' was the fans favourite in the Sextion West, packed full of scarf and banner waving chanting, heaving support, with a special standing room section. It was a very exciting match with visitors Freiburg first out of the blocks and Julian Schuster close in the 3rd minute.  The skill level was not that great and lots of 'diving' including the worst culprit, Slovakian,  Erik 'the pathetic' Jendrisek of 1 FCK.  It was bitterly cold and I was thankful for the hot chillie and beans before the match and vegetable and wurst soup at half-time in the presse room.

    1 FCK finally took the lead in the 72nd minute from a header by Martin Amedick and, suprise, suprise!!, a 2nd goal by Erik Jendrisek 11 minutes later before he was substituted by coach Milan Sasic. Also a 'shut-out' for Reds goalie Luis Robles a Puerto Rican born in Fort Huachuca, AZ, and previously with Univ of Portland Pilots and DC United of MLS.   So, Mainz 04 in the capital of Rhineland-Pfalz, are Autumn Champions-just-on goal difference from 1 FCK and SC Freiburg in third place.  I finished off with a couple of large glasses of 1 FCK house sparkling wine (sekt) champagne before the walk down hill to my hotel 5 blocks away,

   Frohe Weihnachten und Alles Gute fur 2009 from Kaiserslautern the Herz der Pfalz-the Heart of the Palatinate.