HEIDELBERG, GERMANY December 30, 2017: When it comes to finding a destination with a youthful vibe surrounded by history and picturesque scenery, Heidelberg, Germany ranks among the best. All thanks to the nearly 650-year old Heidelberg University.
The university is Germany’s oldest institution of higher learning and one of the world’s oldest surviving universities,
Heidelberg, Germany: One of the most prestigious universities in Europe.
Founded by Pope Urban VI in 1386, Heidelberg is a scientific hub in Germany. The city has several famous research facilities, including four Max Planck Institutes.
From it’s elevated natural setting, the castle overlooks the Neckar River and the Old Stone Bridge. From here it is difficult to deny the charismatic appeal of Heidelberg.
Heidelberg is a favorite tourist destination thanks to its romantic cityscape, historic castle, the Philosopher’s Walk (Philosophenweg in German), its baroque architecture and its panoramic views of the Neckar River Valley.
Heidelberg, Germany: Center of Philosophy
Across the river, on the northern side of the Neckar, is the famed Philosopher’s Walk. Tradition says that Heidelberg’s philosophers and university professors stroll and discuss important issues of the day.
Marked by forested views of the old town, the river and its castle, this tranquil setting is an ideal place for scholars to lose themselves in thought.
The Philosopher’s Walk is especially appealing in the fall when it is awash in earth tones of gold, yellow, amber and rust as the season dissolves into winter.
Heidelberg, Germany: The Castle
Running the length of the Old Town for approximately a mile is the Hauptstrasse, or Main Street. This thoroughfare is famous for the ruins of the Heidelberg Castle. Among the most important architectural Renaissance landmarks north of the Alps, the castle has been partially rebuilt since being demolished in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Initially constructed in the early 13th century, it was later expanded into two castles, but the upper castle was destroyed by lightning in 1537.
Among the most popular attractions at the castle is an enormous wine barrel, known as the Heidelberg Tun, a massive wine cask for which the city has long been famous.
Heidelberg, Germany: Wine and Court Jesters
The eternal keeper of the Tun is the unofficial mascot of Heidelberg, the dwarf Perkeo. Perko became famous as a wine drinker of epic proportions.
Once a court jester, the tale of Perkeo supports a multitude of festivals, songs and cultural institutions as well as hotels and restaurants since the first half of the 18th century.
Heidelberg has been famous for its gargantuan barrels since 1591. Fass, the current Tun, is the fourth in the history of the city, this one dating to 1751.
Mark Twain even wrote about Perkeo’s cask in 1880 in “A Tramp Abroad”:
“Everybody has heard of the great Heidelberg Tun, and most people have seen it, no doubt. It is a wine-cask as big as a cottage, and some traditions say it holds eighteen thousand bottles, and other traditions say it holds eighteen hundred million barrels.
I think it likely that one of these statements is a mistake, and the other is a lie. However, the mere matter of capacity is a thing of no sort of consequence, since the cask is empty, and indeed has always been empty, history says. An empty cask the size of a cathedral could excite but little emotion in me.”
Heidelberg, Germany: The Karl Theodor Bridge
The Karl Theodor Bridge, better known among locals as the Old Town Bridge, is the ninth to span the Neckar River. It is one of the most famous and important landmarks in Heidelberg. The first wooden bridge was rebuilt out of stone around the year 200.
When the Roman stone bridge fell, Heidelberg did without a pedestrian crossing for nearly a thousand years. In 1254 the new bridge, built on the site of the modern day structure, was built.
The current bridge has been standing on the site for approximately 250 years, although the south gate closest to the city, traces its history back to the Middle Ages.
Heidelberg, Germany: The Zum Ritter
Just opposite the Town Hall sits the magnificent Hotel Zum Ritter St. Georg which has attracted visitors since 1592. Except for Heidelberg Castle, the Zum Ritter is the most photographed site in the city.
The Zum Ritter is one of the few buildings to survive the War of Succession. Today the Zum Ritter is an elegant yet rustic hotel.
No historic university town would be without structures that are now contemporary facilities. Heidelberg’s Marstall, otherwise known as “Stables” in English, is just such a place.
The 16th-century building serves today as a cafeteria for the university.
Heidelberg is a medieval city with a 21st-century-atmosphere that’s part of its’ magic. Filled with history, pubs, cafes, museums and captivating restaurants.
You see, Heidelberg, Germany is just good old-fashioned fun.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime
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