Dirndl dresses made of nylon and refrigerator magnets in black, red and gold … Even if it seems that tourist shops around Heidelberg all carry the same dime-a-dozen wares, there is a place in the old town that stands out among the throngs of the ordinary. Down Steingasse alley tourists are surprised to find a genuine parallel world apart from postcard motifs.
The Steingasse runs from the Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Ghost) in the old town to the world-famous Alte Brücke (Old Bridge). The cobblestone alley, scarcely longer than a hundred metres, tends to be quite crowded when the weather is nice. People listening to tourist guides on headphones and carrying selfie sticks, while slowly pushing down the alley towards the Neckar – not the place you would expect to find bars and shops run by owners with commitment and attention to detail. But if you take a closer look you will actually find an authentic and surprisingly harmonious biotope of old town city life in Heidelberg.
The glass doors of the Casa del Caffé are fogged over. The milk frother hisses – Barista Flocki churns out his caffeinated refreshment. People are already gathering here in the very early morning, but here it’s locals only. They come at a time of day when the coaches from Neuschwanstein are still stuck on Bavarian highways. University teachers on their way to work, mingling with pub goers still feeling the aftermath of an all-night party session. Over a croissant and a cappuccino they engage in vehement discussions. They fight over the daily newspaper, fool about and share the latest gossip.
“Mummy, mummy, the candyman’s car!” A little girl presses her nose against the shop door. The man with sunglasses in his hair getting out of his delivery van is Jens Meier. He is archaeologist – or used to be, to be precise. Today this is of no interest to anyone around here, especially not to his devoted fans. They often still attend nursery school or primary school and love his shop: the Heidelberg candy manufactory.
“I initially moved to Heidelberg in order to study here. After finishing my studies I worked as an IT specialist for some years, but at some point I did not want to spend most of my time in front of the computer.” Jens takes a large gulp of his coffee made by Flocki before opening the shop next door. “The candy thing was my idea, I just had to try it out.”