With the last week of the Fall semester wrapping up, I’m celebrating by looking forwards to next semester – in Heidelberg! Now that classes are over, I will turn my attention to packing, assembling my documentation, reviewing my German, and preparing to leave the US. In the meantime, I’ve been reading up a little bit on the history of the city of Heidelberg. It’s in incredibly old town, dating back at least to the 1200s. One of the most notable features is the Schloss Heidelberg, or Heidelberg Castle, which overlooks the city.
Mark Twain wrote about the castle in his A Tramp Abroad (1880):
“A ruin must be rightly situated, to be effective. This one could not have been better placed. It stands upon a commanding elevation, it is buried in green woods, there is no level ground about it, but, on the contrary, there are wooded terraces upon terraces, and one looks down through shining leaves into profound chasms and abysses where twilight reigns and the sun cannot intrude. Nature knows how to garnish a ruin to get the best effect. Misfortune has done for this old tower what it has done for the human character sometimes−improved it.”
No doubt, this has contributed to Heidelberg’s popularity as a tourist destination. Even without Twain’s commendation, the castle has a rich and beautiful history that makes it work seeing.
Heidelberg Castle is first noted in historical documents in the early 1200s. It played a tactical role in both the Thirty Year’s War and the Nine Year’s War. Over that time, the castle has burned down three times – twice in battle and once due to lightning. Because of this, renovations to the castle have occurred many times over the past 800 years and display many different eras of German architecture.
To this day some of the castle still lies in ruins. Tourists come to see the spectacular gardens and views, diverse architecture, and the Heidelberg Tun. The Tun is the world’s largest wine barrel, which holds up to 220,000 liters of wine and is so big that there is a dance floor built into the top.
Learning a little about the old history of Heidelberg has been enlightening and made me even more excited for next semester to begin!