Heidelberg & Into Freiburg
As we were exploring the beautiful city of Heidelberg, we briefly stopped in the Old Town to see the building that Louis XIV did not destroy and where stands the Hotel Ritter – one of the famous landmarks of the Old Town square which also has a gothic style Church of the Holy Ghost. Further down is the Old Bridge which offers a spectacular view of the Heidelberg Castle on the other side of the Neckar River. The funicular station which is the gateway to Heidelberg Castle is also located less than 5 minutes from the Old Town Square. The original building was built over 400 years ago by a cloth dealer and has undergone several renovations retaining its original architectural beauty and renaissance style.
As we walked towards the Old Bridge we came across the Café KonditoreiKnösel – the makers of the Heidelberg Student’s Kisses – praline nougat chocolate filling on an exquisite wafer bottom and coated in delicious dark chocolate. Café Knösel houses Heidelberg’s oldest confectioner’s store and was established in 1863 and was a meeting place for the residents of Heidelberg. Knösel, the dedicated chocolatier was a master confectioner and young ladies who used to attend Heidelberg’s finishing schools loved his sweet chocolate delights and used to flock to the store. FridolinKnösel came up with a brilliant idea of inventing a delicious chocolate delight called the Student’s Kiss which if given as a present, was a discreet way to show your affection. The Student’s Kisses is one thing that is indigenous to Heidelberg.
As we started walking towards the historic Old Bridge which was originally constructed in 1284 and later replaced by a wooden bridge in 1788, we noticed a Bridge Monkey or Bruckenaffe on the south bank of the bridge. This carved monkey from medieval times was made of bronze by sculptor Gernot Rumpf and was installed here in 1979 and carries a mirror and a small inscription in German which translates as “Why are you looking at me? Look in the mirror and you will see more of the same.” Today, however, many tourists do a photo stop here and touch the mirror held by the monkey as it is believed to bring you luck. The bridge monkey in Heidelberg dates back to the 15th Century.
Just across the Old Bridge in the Old Town is the famous Vetter Alt Heidelberg, a famous Brauhaus and a must- visit place in Heidelberg not only for its ambience but the fine cuisine served. Here you will get traditional German food and it is extremely popular with tourists as they brew their own beer.
Ahead, we came across the Holy Ghost Church,Heidelberg’s main Protestant church which was started in the 1400s as a Catholic church. Until 1623, the church’s galleries contained Europe’s largest collection of handwritten books and documents, the Biblioteca Platina. We saw the statue of the Madonna on the Corn Market Square which has been part of Heidelberg since 1718 and it was the Jesuits who built this statue here to motivate people of Heidelberg to switch to Catholicism. Next we took the 90 seconds funicular up to the Heidelberg Castle. The Heidelberg Castle, now a ruin, is one of the most important of the Renaissance structures and was built before 1214 AD and later expanded into two castles.
The highlight of the tour was the story of Frederick V, also known as the “Winter King” who at 16 years fell in love with the daughter of the King of England, Elizabeth Stuart and he built for her an English building connected by a tower 7 metres thick and also commissioned the Elizabeth Gate at the peace garden. He was nicknamed the Winter King as his rule merely lasted one winter after which there was the Thirty Years War – the most brutal war in German history. Later, Liselotte, the granddaughter of Frederick V, was born in Heidelberg and grew up in Hannover but often returned to Heidelberg.
The other highlight is the largest wine barrel in the world which can be visited in the cellar of the Heidelberg Castle and was originally built in 1591. Thereafter, the barrel was made bigger in 1751 and can store almost 225000 litres of wine. In the 18th Century, the vat’s guardian was a dwarf named Perkeo, a court jester with tremendous thirst for wine.Today, an antique statue of Perkeo stands next to the Great Cask.
Our last stop was at the North Patio – the large balcony which overlooks the Old Town. Here one finds a footprint and local legends say that the footprint was that of a knight who tried to save the princess from a burning castle. Another legend has it that the Queen was having an affair and the King caught them in the act. The man leapt out of the window and the footprint is where his foot first hit the ground. However, the latest legend is that those who step on the footprint stencil will definitely return back to Heidelberg again and that’s what all of us did before bidding adieu to this wonderful city and heading to the southwest corner of Germany – Freiburg.
Freiburg lies on the western edge of the Black Forest on the crossroad of France, Germany and Switzerland.That evening we did a short walking tour of Freiburg and its Old Town.
Freiburg is one of the “greenest” cities in Germany with its diversity of forests and vineyards surrounding this region of diverse landscapes. From the altitude of Black Forest to the alluvial forests by the Rhine River, Freiburg is a city worth a visit not only for being the capital city of the Black Forest region but also the Gothic cathedral and the Munster Market which is held near the square of the cathedral. The unique part of the city of Freiburg is the famous Freiburg “Bächle” or streams which run through the town .The pavements of the Old Town are decorated with mosaics made of stones taken from gravel pits along the Rhine. The mosaics in front of many stores depict guild symbols or typical tools of that particular trade which is again peculiar to Freiburg. The town has its own University and hence it is bustling with cafés, pubs as well as vibrant night life. Additionally, the town is an important hub to visit one of Europe’s largest theme parks – Europa Park in Rust.