By Emma Harvey
“Behind the Castle swells a great dome-shaped hill, forest-clad, and beyond that a noble and loftier one. The Castle looks down upon the compact brown-roofed town; and from the town two picturesque old bridges span the river. Now the view broadens; through the gateway of the sentinel headlands you gaze out over the wide Rhine plain, which stretches away, softly and richly tinted, grows gradually and dreamily indistinct, and finally melts imperceptibly into the remote horizon. I have never enjoyed a view which had such a serene and satisfying charm about it as this one gives.” ~ Extract from A Tramp Abroad, by Mark Twain
Heidelberg is an idyllic university town in Baden-Württemberg, south-west Germany, situated on the banks of the river Neckar in a steep valley in the Odenwald, bordered by the Gaisberg, Heiligenberg and Königsstuhl mountains. If you are a history enthusiast, lover of the outdoors or admirer of the arts, this town tucked away in the Rhine Valley is for you!
You take a stroll through the narrow, cobbled streets of the Baroque Altstadt, surrounded by colourful buildings with old-fashioned window shutters and vibrant, overflowing window-boxes, such as the iconic, Renaissance-style Hotel Zum Ritter. Towards the market square, past the oldest university in Germany, you see the Heidelberg Rathaus and Heiliggeistkirche, whose tall steeple rises up above the rooftops. The market square buzzes with activity. Locals, tourists and students bustle back and forth, whilst others sit outside cafés drinking coffee. Then you turn down a side-street towards the river Neckar, through the Old Bridge Tower, where you pose for a photo on the old, cobblestoned bridge with various statues from the Roman Goddess of Wisdom to Elector Karl Theodor. All the while, the stunning mountains create a perfect, fairy-tale background. You look up towards the Königsstuhl hillside and see the gothic ruins of Heidelberg Castle sitting proudly at the top. You rush to make your way up the hill, stopping frequently, but determined to get to the top, realising once you are at the top that you could have taken the Heidelberger Bergbahn from Heidelberg’s Kornmarkt. However, the climb is worth it! The ancient Schloss Heidelberg is jaw-dropping and even more breath-taking are the scenic views from the top of Königsstuhl. You feel as if you have walked into a fairy tale. No wonder so many artists and writers are inspired by Heidelberg’s romantic landscape and the 13th century sandstone castle, nestled in the hills. You go into the castle and on a walkway above the Heidelberg Tun, the biggest wine barrel in the world and take a walk through the Deutsches Apotheken Museum. Finally, you follow in the footsteps of 18th and 19th century romantics such as Goethe, along the northern banks of the river and through the exotic Philosopher’s Garden, charmed by the incredible views.