July 31st (part 2)~ Heidelberg, Germany
Our afternoon was taken up with an optional tour that began with a motor coach ride to Heidelberg. Some consider this the most romantic city in Germany and for good reason. Towering over the town are the extraordinary castle ruins.
Situated on the Neckar River, with its impressive Old Bridge, the nations oldest university, and a charming baroque Old Town it is sure to have something to please any traveler. But just in case you need more, there is a fascinating Student Jail, the longest pedestrian street in Germany and of course a plentiful supply of divine churches.
“The earliest castle structure was built before 1214 and later expanded into two castles circa 1294; however, in 1537, a lightning-bolt destroyed the upper castle. The present structures had been expanded by 1650, before damage by later wars and fires. In 1764, another lightning-bolt caused a fire which destroyed some rebuilt sections.” ~ Wikipedia
A bit fairy tale land, combined with towering Renaissance structures, this is a sight to behold. Some of the castle (palace) is still being used for special functions, but it is primarily a tourist magnet these days.
Our bus carried us up the hill to within a short walk of the castle entrance, but there is also a funicular (Heidelberger Bergbahnen) that you can take to get to the castle.
The world’s largest wine barrel, Heidelberg Tun, can be found in the castle. Built in 1751, it holds 220,000 liters (58,124 gallons) of wine. There are stairs that you can take to climb on top where I understand you will find a small dance floor. I stayed on the main level, so I’ll just have to take their word for it.
From on top of the castle, there are sweeping views of the surrounding area, including the Old Bridge far below as it crosses the Neckar River.
People are alike the world over, capturing themselves in “Selfies”.
The most famous church in Heidelberg, dates back to the neighborhood of 1239, when it was first mentioned in manuscripts. As most ancient churches, it has been built, destroyed through conflicts and/or fire and rebuilt several times.
But what I found most interesting about it is that in its history, the church has been used by both Catholics and Protestants, even simultaneously! Back in 1706, a partition was built which separated the congregations, allowing them to both hold their services without disturbing the other.
Having some free time to further explore before meeting back up with our group, we enjoyed walking the longest pedestrian street, admiring the architecture and checking out one more church.
But what for me was a highlight of the day was found at the University.
Dating back to the 1600’s, many of the schools, both college and academic schools had karzers, (jails) where students could be detained for usually minor offenses such as drinking, being disrespectful to authorities or staging a duel.
Little more than rooms with a bed and desk, students were lodged for a few days to a few weeks, but were allowed to attend classes. What was originally deemed as a punishment, over the years became a rite of passage for many students. Visitors were allowed and eventually the “jails” evolved into a party house. Marking the walls with graffiti became a ritual.
Although no longer in use, the Heidelberg karzer has been turned into a museum of sorts, complete with its original iron frame beds and engraved wooden tables. The walls are covered with the markings of proud delinquents, works of art, and mindless scribbles.
The Student Jail is actually part of the University Museum, and is attached, so we took a few minutes to explore there as well. The only part that stood out for me was the Great Hall chambers, still in use today.
“The Neo-Renaissance interior originates from the university’s 500th anniversary in 1886 and includes depictions of major persons and events from the history of Heidelberg University.” ~ Heidelberg University
Our tour of Heidelberg wrapped up when we met our group down near the Old Bridge.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: What a full day we had, starting with our walking tour through Speyer (previous post), lunch on board the ship and then an even fuller afternoon tour through Heidelberg. As much as I enjoy exploring independently, the huge plus side of being on a guided tour is the tremendous amount of things that we can squeeze into one day.
Yes, there are times that I would love to dally a bit longer, take my time, explore deeper at many of the sites. For example, I would have so enjoyed seeing the interior at Heidelberg Castle. But that being said, I do love that I don’t have to plan how to get from point A to point B, all transportation is arranged, knowledgable guides fill in the corners with facts and figures, and we get to experience far more in a day than we could have possibly done on our own.
A sincere WELCOME to anyone new to our blog!