The Romantic City of Heidelberg
I lost my heart in Heidelberg much like many others, ranging from everyday people such as myself to big names such as Goethe, Hugo and Twain to name a few. Given its romantic castle ruins, beautiful architecture in the old city, and serene walkways along the Neckar which flows nestled between two mountains, it is hard not to fall in love. With the advent of Spring, the magnolias and cherry blossoms in seductive pink compete for our admiration. Picnics on the bank of the river becomes a common sight, as do row boats, kites and a sprinkling of wildflowers of every color imaginable. I consider myself fortunate to be able to call this fairy tale city my home for almost two years.
Heidelberg escaped bombing in the World War II because it was not an industrial hub and therefore of no particular strategic interest to the Allies. Therefore, unlike many German cities, it has buildings dating back to late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.
Towering over the Altstadt, the castle ruins of the late Medieval and early Renaissance period looks majestic. It looks even more striking at night when seen across the Neckar River, brilliantly illuminated. The castle can be reached either by walking up a steep, cobbled trail in about 15 minutes or by taking the funicular railway which dates back to 1890, from Kornmarkt station (tickets include Schloss entry). Students possessing a semester bus ticket get considerable discount. If you can, I would suggest that you take the trail and enjoy the the spectacular view of the city as you walk uphill.
The terrace is a perfect picnic spot. In spite of having visited the castle countless times, every time I am on the castle terrace gazing down at the far-reaching views over the Neckar River and the red rooftops of Alstadt, I am awestruck.
Apart from the the rich history of the castle buildings, the Elizabeth Gate, which was built overnight as a gesture of love, the Grosses Fass, the world’s largest wine barrel with a capacity of about 58,000 gallons is a must see. There is even a wooden dance floor on top of the barrel, led by a staircase!
Another popular site of Heidelberg is the Philosophenweg or the Philosopher’s Way. Walking through steep fields, orchards and even vineyards on the slopes across the Neckar from the Altstadt, the winding path offers panoramic views of the castle and the city. Further up, it leads to the Thingstätte , a Nazi-era amphitheatre.
To talk about Heidelberg and not mention the university is a sacrilege. Indeed, Germany’s oldest university witnessed the rise of many great minds such as Hegel, Schumann, Bunsen and Heidegger, to name a few. In fact, fifty-six Nobel Prize winners have been in some way connected to Heidelberg University.
Established in 1386 with only four faculties, the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg now comprises 12 faculties with a staggering 30,000 students from all over the world. I should add that, there is no tuition fees for students. However, all undergraduate programmes are conducted in German, whereas, there are a few graduate programmes, which are entirely taught in English.
I thank the day I chose Heidelberg University as a student, because as I leave for my homeland at the of this year, I will carry with me a treasure trove filled with fond memories and the satisfaction of having lived in one of the most bewitching places in the world.