Heidelberg: Germany's romantic side
In the centre of the Old Town is Marktplatz square. Beautiful fountains, grand period houses, cafés, and pretty little shops adorn Heidelberg, and the views of the Neckar river and bridge from the castle, make Heidelberg one of Germany's most romantic cities.
The Elizabeth Gate is a true treasure. Located in the Artillery Garden at the Heidelberg Castle and commissioned by Friedrich V. As legend has it, he had it built in a single night as a birthday gift for his wife, Elizabeth Stuart, in 1615. It is adorned with delicate ornamental sculptures and has many hidden animals in the stone foliage. Now this is a demonstration of love at it's best!
Heidelberg is located in southwest Germany and is part of the densely populated Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region. It is a trendy tourist destination due to the romantic and picturesque cityscape and architecture. Although you would not dock in Heidelberg on a river cruise, you can take ground transportation from Mannheim to Heidelberg (a short day excursion), which is near the confluence of the Rhine and Neckar river.
During WWII, Heidelberg, spared by the allied bombings, and the castle ruins stand today. A tour of the castle offers romantic stories of the village, the families, and the culture of the times. The castle ruins are among the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. Rich in history, this castle will have you daydreaming as you wander through the pathways that so many rulers have and such that Mark Twain memorialized.
The world's most enormous wine vat, the Heidelberg Tun, is tucked in the castle's cellar. The first wine barrel in the castle was built between 1589 and 1590, holding 127,000 liters. When the vat was destroyed, two more followed over the years. Today's barrel, made in 1751 from the timber of 130 oak trees, has a capacity of 219,000 liters (57,853 gallons). Because of a leaking problem with the vat, it has only been filled three times over the years.
The book, A Tramp Abroad, by Mark Twain, recalls the beauty of Heidelberg. "One thinks Heidelberg by day - with its surroundings - is the last possibility of the beautiful; but when he sees Heidelberg by night, a fallen Milky Way, with that glittering railway constellation pinned to the border, he requires time to consider upon the verdict." This quote was Mark Twain's exact inspiration when he spent time in Heidelberg.
Heidelberg is a college town. The University is the oldest in Germany, established in 1386. With five colleges, a large percentage of the residents are students. However, one of the side effects is an overwhelming amount of the population is younger than 30 years old. Back in the day (1778-1914), students faced punishment for disturbances. The penalty was up to four weeks in the Studentenkarzer located on campus. They would attend classes, then spend the rest of their time in a private jail cell. Eventually, spending a couple of nights in the Studentenkarzer became a rite of passage for fraternities. Many preserved their experience through murals and graffiti, which still cover the walls today.
I've never stopped to think where many things originated from, and I certainly did not know that a Heidelberg University alumni invented the bicycle. After working for the forestry commission for a short time, Baron Karl Von Drais dedicated his life to his inventions. The first two-wheeled means of transportation, the Laufmaschine (running machine), aka the bicycle. On one of his early versions at the Kurpfälzisches Museum in Heidelberg, you can see a display.
You can't do Heidelberg justice in a short day excursion, but you can always return. Less than a couple of hours' drive from Stuttgart, it's a great option to spend a few days.
When you're ready to book your river cruise or a land trip to Germany, schedule a chat, and we can get you going.