Just when I thought I had seen the most beautiful of all, I drove into Heidelberg. Wow. There isn’t really much else you are able to say when in shock from the beauty of the Neckar River winding alongside this historic town. As I quoted elsewhere; “I shed a tear driving into Heidelberg… it is so beautiful and I am so lucky to have the opportunity to see and experience all of these wonderful places! The emotions were also possibly because the song “Mysterious Girl” by Peter Andre had just started playing for the 9th time on my journey today.”Point of interest: Michael Fassbender was born in Heidelberg!
I arrived in Heidelberg on Monday afternoon just before peak hour. I hadn’t booked anywhere to stay, so found a well-priced hotel online whilst pulled over. I thought I would go there and book inside rather than online. This was probably a good idea, on account of I could not find the hotel! I drove around the same block twice before I gave up. I saw the Crowne Plaza and settled for that… not bad 🙂
My room at the Crowne Plaza was nice, as was the Club Lounge that I had access to!
I found a really useful app to use in Heidelberg called “Heidelberg Walking Tours”. It was free and gave locations of the points of interest. It did not, however, point out that there was a cable car / funicular to the castle which would have saved me trying to navigate the streets of Heidelberg. That being said, I could have researched better and had I done this, I would probably have discovered this.
On Tuesday I got up and headed out, determined to see as much as I could. I walked to Heidelberg Castle and was met with such a magnificent structure! I loved touring the castle (just a Dianne tour, not one done by a professional) and came across some interesting things which I will have to research and elaborate on!
Heidelberg Palace/Castle (Source: Wikipedia)
- Ruins are synonymous with Romanticism;
- Palace silhouette dominates the old town centre of Heidelberg;
- Earliest castle structure was built before 1214;
- Expanded into two castles in 1294;
- In 1537 a lightning-bolt (!!!) destroyed the upper castle;
- Present structure had been expanded by 1650 before damaged in wars (War of the Grand Alliance) and fires;
- 1764: ANOTHER lightning-bolt caused a fire which destroyed some of the rebuilt sections.
The Fassbau (Barrel Building)
- Giant wine barrel in the Fassbau (Barrel Building);
- Adjacent to King’s Hall;
- Electors used to celebrate with rowdy gatherings in the Hall;
- Giant barrel built into the building’s cellar in 1591;
- Held 130,000 litres (WOW) of wine collected from the Palatinate in payment of taxes;
- Perkeo was the court jester – he entertained court society with his jokes but as per the anecdotes apparently liked a drink! A wooden figure of Perkeo keeps an eye on the Great Barrel today;
- During celebrations, the wine could be pumped directly from the Great Barrel to the Ladies’ Room Building next door and then into the King’s Hall.
- ANYONE can hire the room – it holds up to 600 guests. Just in case you were considering planning a celebration? I can imagine it would be the ideal place to host an event but most probably in the Summer months.
Heidelberg Castle Moat (Sources: trover.com; wikipedia.com;)
- Very deep moat that was filled with exotic animals whose carcasses were left there when they passed away.
After looking through the Castle/Palace, I caught the cable car up one stop to see the view, then back down to the town and looked through the Old Town then past the gorgeous bridge along the Neckar River.
Interesting places to see in Heidelberg:
The Old Town
The “old town” (German: Altstadt), on the south bank of the Neckar, is long and narrow. It is dominated by the ruins of Heidelberg Castle, 80 metres above the Neckar on the steep wooded slopes of the Königstuhl (King’s chair or throne) hill.
- The Main Street (Hauptstrasse), a mile-long pedestrian street, running the length of the old town.
- The old stone bridge was erected 1786–1788. A medieval bridge gate is on the side of the old town, and was originally part of the town wall. Baroque tower helmets were added as part of the erection of the stone bridge in 1788.
- The Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggeistkirche), a late Gothic church in the marketplace of the old town.
- The Karls‘ gate (Karlstor) is a triumphal arch in honour of the Prince Elector Karl Theodor, located at Heidelberg’s east side. It was built 1775–1781 and designed by Nicolas de Pigage.
- The house Zum Ritter Sankt Georg (Knight St. George) is one of the few buildings to survive the War of Succession. Standing across from the Church of the Holy Spirit, it was built in the style of the late Renaissance. It is named after the sculpture at the top.
- The Marstall (Stables), a 16th-century building on the Neckar that has served several purposes through its history. It is now a cafeteria for the university.
The castle is a mix of styles from Gothic to Renaissance. Prince Elector Ruprecht III (1398–1410) erected the first building in the inner courtyard as a royal residence. The building was divided into a ground floor made of stone and framework upper levels. Another royal building is located opposite the Ruprecht Building: the Fountain Hall. Prince Elector Philipp (1476–1508) is said to have arranged the transfer of the hall’s columns from a decayed palace of Charlemagne from Ingelheim to Heidelberg.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Prince Electors added two palace buildings and turned the fortress into a castle. The two dominant buildings at the eastern and northern side of the courtyard were erected during the rule of Ottheinrich (1556–1559) and Friedrich IV (1583–1610). Under Friedrich V (1613–1619), the main building of the west side was erected, the so-called “English Building”.
The castle and its garden were destroyed several times during the Thirty Years’ War and the Palatine War of Succession. As Prince Elector Karl Theodor tried to restore the castle, lightning struck in 1764, and ended all attempts at rebuilding. Later on, the castle was misused as a quarry; stones from the castle were taken to build new houses in Heidelberg. This was stopped in 1800 by Count Charles de Graimberg, who then began the process of preserving the castle.
Although the interior is in Gothic style, the King’s Hall was not built until 1934. Today, the hall is used for festivities, e.g. dinner banquets, balls and theatre performances. During the Heidelberg Castle Festival in the summer, the courtyard is the site of open air musicals, operas, theatre performances, and classical concerts performed by the Heidelberg Philharmonics.
The castle is surrounded by a park, where the famous poet Johann von Goethe once walked. The Heidelberger Bergbahn funicular railway runs from Kornmakt to the summit of the Königstuhl via the castle.
Some history of Heidelberg, from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidelberg
- Heidelberg is a university city situated on the river Neckar in south-west Germany. At the 2015 census, its population was 156,257, with roughly a quarter of its population being students.
- Located about 78 km (48 mi) south of Frankfurt, Heidelberg is the fifth-largest city in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. Heidelberg is part of the densely populated Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region.
- Founded in 1386, Heidelberg University is Germany’s oldest and one of Europe’s most reputable universities. A scientific hub in Germany, the city of Heidelberg is home to several internationally renowned research facilities adjacent to its university, including four Max Planck Institutes.
- A former residence of the Electorate of the Palatinate, Heidelberg is a popular tourist destination due to its romantic cityscape, including Heidelberg Castle, the Philosophers’ Walk, and the baroque style Old Town.
Between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, “Heidelberg Man” died at nearby Mauer. His jaw bone was discovered in 1907. Scientific dating determined his remains as the earliest evidence of human life in Europe. In the 5th century BC, a Celtic fortress of refuge and place of worship were built on the Heiligenberg, or “Mountain of Saints”. Both places can still be identified. In 40 AD, a fort was built and occupied by the 24th Roman cohort and the 2nd Cyrenaican cohort (CCG XXIIII and CCH II CYR).
The Romans built and maintained castra (permanent camps) and a signal tower on the bank of the Neckar. They built a wooden bridge based on stone pillars across it. The camp protected the first civilian settlements that developed. The Romans remained until 260 AD, when the camp was conquered by Germanic tribes.
Modern Heidelberg can trace its beginnings to the fifth century. The village Bergheim (“Mountain Home”) is first mentioned for that period in documents dated to 769 AD. Bergheim now lies in the middle of modern Heidelberg. The people gradually converted to Christianity. In 863 AD, the monastery of St. Michael was founded on the Heiligenberg inside the double rampart of the Celtic fortress. Around 1130, the Neuburg Monastery was founded in the Neckar valley. At the same time, the bishopric of Worms extended its influence into the valley, founding Schönau Abbey in 1142. Modern Heidelberg can trace its roots to this 12th-century monastery. The first reference to Heidelberg can be found in a document in Schönau Abbey dated to 1196. This is considered to be the town’s founding date. In 1155, Heidelberg castle and its neighboring settlement were taken over by the house of Hohenstaufen. Conrad of Hohenstaufen became Count Palatine of the Rhine (German: Pfalzgraf bei Rhein). In 1195, the Electorate of the Palatinate passed to the House of Welf through marriage.
In 1214, Ludwig I, Duke of Bavaria acquired the Palatinate, as a consequence of which the castle came under his control. By 1303, another castle had been constructed for defense. In 1356, the Counts Palatine were granted far-reaching rights in the Golden Bull, in addition to becoming Electors. In 1386, Heidelberg University was founded by Rupert I, Elector Palatine.
Heidelberg University played a leading part in the era of humanism and the Reformation, and the conflict between Lutheranism and Calvinism, in the 15th and 16th centuries. Heidelberg’s library, founded in 1421, is the oldest existing public library in Germany. In April 1518, a few months after proclaiming his 95 Theses, Martin Luther was received in Heidelberg, to defend them. In 1537, the castle located higher up the mountain was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion. The duke’s palace was built at the site of the lower castle.
In November 1619, the royal crown of Bohemia was offered to the Elector, Frederick V. (He was married to Elizabeth, eldest daughter of James VI and I of Scotland and England, respectively.) Frederick became known as the “Winter King”, as he reigned for only one winter before the Imperial House of Habsburg regained the crown by force. His overthrow in 1621 marked the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War. In 1622, after a siege of two months, the armies of the Catholic League, commanded by Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, captured the town. Tilly gave the famous Bibliotheca Palatina from the Church of the Holy Spirit to the Pope as a present. The Catholic Bavarian branch of the House of Wittelsbach gained control over the Palatinate and the title of Prince-Elector. In 1648, at the end of the war, Frederick V’s son Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine, was able to recover his titles and lands.
In late 1634 Imperialist forces attempted to take back the city, as the Swedish army had conquered it. They quickly took the city, but were unable to take the castle. As they prepared to blow up its fortifications with gunpowder the French army arrived, 30,000 men strong, led by Urbain de Maillé-Brézé, who had fought in many battles and participated in the Siege of La Rochelle (1627–1628), and Jacques-Nompar de Caumont, duc de La Force. They ended the siege and drove off the Catholic forces.[
To strengthen his dynasty, Charles I Louis arranged the marriage of his daughter Liselotte to Philip I, Duke of Orléans, brother of Louis XIV, king of France. In 1685, after the death of Charles Louis’ son, Elector Charles II, Louis XIV laid claim to his sister-in-law’s inheritance. The Germans rejected the claim, in part because of religious differences between local Protestants and the French Catholics, as the Protestant Reformation had divided the peoples of Europe. The War of the Grand Alliance ensued. In 1689, French troops took the town and castle, bringing nearly total destruction to the area in 1693. As a result of the destruction due to repeated French invasions related to the War of the Palatinate Succession coupled with severe winters, thousands of Protestant German Palatines emigrated from the lower Palatinate in the early 18th century. They fled to other European cities and especially to London (where the refugees were called “the poor Palatines”). In sympathy for the Protestants, in 1709–1710, Queen Anne’s government arranged transport for nearly 6,000 Palatines to New York. Others were transported to Pennsylvania, and to South Carolina. They worked their passage and later settled in the English colonies there.
In 1720, after assigning a major church for exclusively Catholic use, religious conflicts with the mostly Protestant inhabitants of Heidelberg caused the Roman Catholic Prince-Elector Charles III Philip to transfer his residence to nearby Mannheim. The court remained there until the Elector Charles Theodore became Elector of Bavaria in 1777 and established his court in Munich. In 1742, Elector Charles Theodore began rebuilding the Palace. In 1764, a lightning bolt destroyed other palace buildings during reconstruction, causing the work to be discontinued.
1803 to 1933
Heidelberg fell to the Grand Duchy of Baden in 1803. Charles Frederick, Grand Duke of Baden, re-founded the university, named “Ruperto-Carola” after its two founders. Notable scholars soon earned it a reputation as a “royal residence of the intellect”. In the 18th century, the town was rebuilt in the Baroque style on the old medieval layout.
In 1810, the French revolution refugee Count Charles Graimberg began to preserve the palace ruins and establish a historical collection. In 1815, the Emperor of Austria, the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia formed the “Holy Alliance” in Heidelberg. In 1848, the German National Assembly was held there. In 1849, during the Palatinate-Baden rebellion of the 1848 Revolutions, Heidelberg was the headquarters of a revolutionary army. It was defeated by a Prussian army near Waghaeusel. The city was occupied by Prussian troops until 1850. Between 1920 and 1933, Heidelberg University became a center of notable physicians Czerny, Erb, and Krehl; and humanists Rohde, Weber, and Gandolf.
Nazism and the World War II-period
During the Nazi period (1933–1945), Heidelberg was a stronghold of the NSDAP, (the National Socialist German Workers’ Party) the strongest party in the elections before 1933 (the NSDAP obtained 30% at the communal elections of 1930). The NSDAP received 45.9% of the votes in the German federal election of March 1933 (the national average was 43.9%). Non-Aryan university staff were discriminated against. By 1939, one-third of the university’s teaching staff had been forced out for racial and political reasons. The non-Aryan professors were ejected in 1933, within one month of Hitler’s rise to power. The lists of those to be deported were prepared beforehand.[vague]
In 1934 and 1935, the Reichsarbeitsdienst (State Labor Service) and Heidelberg University students built the huge Thingstätte amphitheatre on the Heiligenberg north of the town, for Nazi Party and SS events. A few months later, the inauguration of the huge Ehrenfriedhof memorial cemetery completed the second and last NSDAP project in Heidelberg. This cemetery is on the southern side of the old part of town, a little south of the Königstuhl hilltop, and faces west towards France. During World War II and after, Wehrmacht soldiers were buried there.
During the Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938, Nazis burned down synagogues at two locations in the city. The next day, they started the systematic deportation of Jews, sending 150 to Dachau concentration camp. On October 22, 1940, during the “Wagner Buerckel event”, the Nazis deported 6000 local Jews, including 281 from Heidelberg, to Camp Gurs concentration camp in France. Within a few months, as many as 1000 of them (201 from Heidelberg) died of hunger and disease. Among the deportees from Heidelberg, the poet Alfred Mombert (1872–1942) left the camp in April 1941 thanks to the Swiss poet Hans Reinhart. From 1942, the deportees who had survived internment in Gurs were deported to Eastern Europe, where most of them were murdered.
On March 29, 1945, German troops left the city after destroying three arches of the old bridge, Heidelberg’s treasured river crossing. They also destroyed the more modern bridge downstream. The U.S. Army (63rd Infantry, 7th Army) entered the town on March 30, 1945. The civilian population surrendered without resistance.
A popular belief is that Heidelberg escaped bombing in World War II because the U.S. Army wanted to use the city as a garrison after the war. As Heidelberg was neither an industrial center nor a transport hub, it did not present a target of opportunity. Other notable university towns, such as Tübingen and Göttingen, were spared bombing as well. Allied air raids focused extensively on the nearby industrial cities of Mannheim and Ludwigshafen.
The U.S. Army may have chosen Heidelberg as a garrison base because of its excellent infrastructure, including the Heidelberg-Mannheim Autobahn (motorway), which connected to the Mannheim-Darmstadt-Frankfurt Autobahn, and the U.S. Army installations in Mannheim and Frankfurt. The intact rail infrastructure was more important in the late 1940s and early 1950s when most heavy loads were still carried by train, not by lorry. Heidelberg had the untouched Wehrmacht barracks, the “Grossdeutschland Kaserne” which the US Army occupied soon after, renaming it the Campbell Barracks.
Heidelberg to Strasbourg Hyperlapse Video
All images © 2017 Dianne Hassard.