I will write about our experiences in Heidelberg soon, but for some general information, here are some exerts from the Lonely Planet – Germany chapter on Baden-Wurttemburg:
Whether you go to Heidelberg to tiptoe in the footsteps of Mark Twain, who quipped about its drunken, duelling fraternities and eulogized its ruptured castle in his 1880 novel A Tramp Abroad; to see the light of William Turner in the Altstadt and the Neckar River; or to crawl the pubs Goethe-style in a quest for enlightenment, this postcard-perfect city obliges.
Cultured and conservative, rebellious and erudite, philosophical and frivolous, sober and smashed: Heidelberg is one city, many personalities. With an academic elite to rival the Oxbridges and Harvards of this world, this is Germany’s oldest and most famous university city, home to 32,000 students who fizz up the nightlife and uphold the longstanding reputation for academic excellence.
Heidelberg’s Altstadt spreads along the Neckar River. Europe’s longest pedestrian zone, the 1600m-long Haupstrasse, runs east-to-west through the Altstadt. Sticking up above the Altstadt like a picture- book pop-up against a theatrical backdrop of wooded hills, the partly ruined, red sand- stone Schloss is Heidelberg’s heart-stealer. Palatinate princes, stampeding Swedes, Protestant reformers, raging fires and lightning bolts – this Gothic-Renaissance fortress has seen the lot.
Its tumultuous history, storybook looks and changing moods have inspired the pens of Mark Twain and Victor Hugo as well as Turner’s prolific paintbrush.
Indeed Germany’s oldest university, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität, established in 1386, has plenty of gravitas with a student hall of fame starring composer Robert Schumann and chancellor Helmut Kohl. Today it comprises 18 faculties with 32,000 students from 80 nations.
Second only to the Schloss on the must-see list is the ochre-red Heiliggeistkirche (built 1398–1441), an imposing Gothic church and a Protestant place of worship. The late-medieval markings on the façade were used to ensure that pretzels were of the requisite shape and size.
The trickling Hercules fountain in the centre of the Marktplatz is where petty criminals were chained and left to face the mob in the Middle Ages. On the Altstadt side of the bridge, listen for the giggles and clacking cameras to pinpoint a statue of a brass monkey holding a mirror and surrounded by mice: touch the mirror for wealth, the outstretched fingers to en- sure you return to Heidelberg and the mice for many children. Speaking of fertility, the Karl-Theodor-Statue on the bridge refers to the legend that the prince fathered almost 200 illegitimate children.
Take a contemplative amble along the Philosophenweg (Philosophers’ Way), on the hillside north of the Neckar River. Snaking through steep vineyards and orchards, the trail commands Kodak views of the Altstadt and the Schloss, which inspired German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The view is captivating at sundown when Heidelberg is bathed in a reddish glow. The walkway is a well-known lovers’ haunt, where many a young local is said to have lost their heart (and virginity!).
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD