8 Jan


Heidelberg is a city in south-west Germany. The fifth-largest city in the State of Baden-Württemberg after Stuttgart, Mannheim, Karlsruhe and Freiburg im Breisgau, Heidelberg is part of the densely populated Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region. In 2009, over 145,000 people lived in the city. Heidelberg lies on the River Neckar in a steep valley in the Odenwald. A former residence of the Electorate of the Palatinate, Heidelberg is the location of Heidelberg University, well known far beyond Germany’s borders. Heidelberg is a popular tourist destination due to its romantic and picturesque cityscape, including Heidelberg Castle and the baroque style Old Town.

Heidelberg is in the Rhine Rift Valley, on the left bank of the lower part of the River Neckar. The River Neckar here flows in an east-west direction. On the right bank of the river, the Heiligenberg mountain (445 m) rises. The River Neckar leads to the River Rhine approximately 22 kilometres north-west in Mannheim. Villages incorporated during the 20th century reach from the Neckar Valley along the Bergstraße, a road situated along the Odenwald hills.

Between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago “Heidelberg Man” died at nearby Mauer. His jaw bone was discovered in 1907; with scientific dating, his remains were determined to be 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 signalling 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.

The Heidelberg 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; castle stones were taken to build new houses in Heidelberg. This was stopped in 1800 by Count Charles de Graimberg, who then began the preservation of the Heidelberg 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.

There are many historical churches in Heidelberg and its environs. The Church of the Holy Spirit has been shared over the centuries since the Protestant Reformation by both Catholics and Protestants. It is one of the few buildings to survive the many wars during the past centuries. It was rebuilt after the French set fire to it in 1709 during the War of the Palatinian Succession. The church has remains of the tombs and epitaphs of the past Palatinate electors. This Church stands in the Marktplatz next to the seat of local government. In 1720, Karl III Philip, Elector Palatine came into conflict with the town’s Protestants as a result of giving the Church of the Holy Spirit exclusively to the Catholics for their use. It had previously been split by a partition and used by both congregations. Due to pressure by the mostly Protestant powers of Prussia, Holland, and Sweden, Prince Karl III Philip gave way and repartitioned the church for joint use. In 1936 the separating wall was removed. The church is now exclusively used by Protestants. Furthermore there is the Catholic Church of the Jesuits. Its construction began in 1712. It was completed with the addition of a bell tower from 1866–1872. The church is also home to the Museum für sakrale Kunst und Liturgie (Museum of Ecclesiastical Arts). The oldest church in Heidelberg is the St. Peter’s Church (now Lutheran). It was built by early Christians (Catholics) sometime during the 12th century, although there is no exact documentation of the date.

Among the most prominent museums of Heidelberg are the Carl Bosch Museum which shows life and work of chemist and Nobel Prize-winner Carl Bosch. Then there is the Documentation and Culture Centre of German Sinti and Roma describing the Nazi genocide of the Sinti and Roma peoples. The German Packing Museum (Deutsches Verpackungsmuseum) gives an overview on the history of packing and wrapping goods whereas the German Pharmacy Museum (Deutsches Apothekenmuseum) which is located in the castle illustrates the story of Pharmacy in Germany. The Kurpfälzisches Museum (Palatinate Museum) offers a great art collection and some Roman archeological artifacts from the region. In the honour of Friedrich Ebert one established the President Friedrich Ebert Memorial which remembers the life of Germany’s first democratic head of state. Besides, there are guided tours in most of the historical monuments of Heidelberg, as well as organized tourist tours through the city available in several languages.

Heidelberg is known for its institutions of higher education. The most famous of those is Heidelberg University. Founded in 1386, it is one of Europe’s oldest institutions. Heidelberg is the oldest university town of today’s Germany. Among the prominent thinkers associated with the institution are Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Jaspers, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jürgen Habermas, Karl-Otto Apel and Hannah Arendt. The campus is situated in two urban areas and several buildings. In numerous historical buildings in the old town there are the Faculties of the Humanities, the Social Science and the Faculty of Law. The Faculties of Medicine and Natural Science are settled on the Neuenheimer Feld Campus.

Heidelberg has a reputation as Germany’s most romantic old city. Part of this has to do with the writers of the romantic literary age who wrote of it on the grand tour, some who attended its university. Part of the romantic reputation can be laid at the door of a small café near the Heiliggeist Church and the sweet chocolate treat, the Student Kiss. In Heidelberg today you encounter vibrant young woman attending the university, but in the 19th Century, of course, the university was all male, primarily upper crust sons of nobility and the rising industrialist class (see Heidelberg Student Prison). Young women of similar class attended finishing schools in the city and in the proper society of the time, rarely were allowed to mingle without the watchful eye of chaperones.

Fridolin Knösel, a charming and witty baker and master confectioner opened his Café Knösel on Haspelgasse street in 1863, a rather novel idea spreading through Europe based on the cafes of Vienna (see Vienna’s Traditional Cafes), and quickly became a hit among the city’s university lecturers and students. Young ladies of Heidelberg were particularly partial to the sweet chocolate delights of his sweet shop. The male students of the university certainly flocked to the shop, hoping to steal a glance or notice from the girls, during the averted attention of the governesses. A master marketer as well as a chocolate maker, Knösel clasped on the idea of a delicious little delight of praline nougat on a waffle wafer covered in dark chocolate, which could be offered as a present, which he named the Student Kiss . A gallant and elegant idea which quickly caught on as a way to exchange a token of affection to which the chaperones couldn’t object and which could pass muster in the proper social order.

The custom of the Student Kiss (Studenten Kuss) of Heidelberg has continued for a century and a half, with the descendants of the Fridolin Knösel continuing the family tradition of the romantic symbol of chocolate in its distinctive package of red with 19th Century student silhouettes, still made by hand from the original 1863 recipe. This charming Heidelberg specialty souvenir as drawn the hearts of locals and visitors alike for generations. The noted and famous from Mark Twain (see Mark Twain Heidelberg Mystery) to world leaders Bill Clinton and Angela Merkel, even Michelle Obama on a recent trip have made it a point to stop in for a kiss at the little shop on Haspelgasse. You’ll also find Student Kiss coffee cups and a selction of other chocolates. A single Student Kiss with a message insert in your choice of languages is about €2, a box of 3 is about €6. Take home a kiss to give to a sweetheart who didn’t make the trip to Germany, but make sure to have an extra, because it’s easy to end up with just a wrapper left over from temptation.

The Café Knösel Konditerei, the oldest café in Heidelberg, is separate from the chocolate shop next door on the corner, and you can still sit down for a homemade cake or warm food in the historic wood décor. The Café Knösel is also a hotel with 6 rooms above. Just a door or two away from the Knösel Chocolate sweet shop is the Schnookeloch Restaurant where students carved their initials in the tables, still there today. Needless to say we brought a few home for the kids, with varying success. “Geez, that chocolate sure tasted good. What’s with the fancy wrapper?”












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