When my in-laws visited us for the Christmas/New Year holiday, we felt it would be a good opportunity to see Heidelberg, an hour and a half by train from Stuttgart. With under 200,000 residents, Heidelberg is less than half the size of Stuttgart and is known as a quaint university town with stunning scenery, aided mainly by the 14th-century castle towering over the city. First constructed as a “royal residence,” the building was expanded as a proper castle and fortress over two centuries of renovation. The castle has weathered a somewhat tumultuous history, as it was destroyed during the 30 Years’ War, struck by lightning, and used as a quarry of sorts to build new houses in Heidelberg at one point. However, it was apparently spared from bombing during World War II and when we went, I noticed signs advertising a New Year’s Eve party in the castle, complete with live music and a gala dinner, as well as a further renovation project. So the castle appears to be thriving. Walking over the grounds and through the echoing rooms on this snowy winter day was an otherworldly experience. The crumbling stone in the courtyard and the cold, empty halls felt ancient, even decayed, while the imposing Gothic figures on the walls and regal structure lent the castle a majestic air. It was not hard to imagine snow, during a winter as cold as this one, drifting down into the courtyard seven centuries ago just as it did while we were there.