Friday, March 8, 2013

Heidelberg Castle - Germany

The Heidelberg Castle or Heidelberger Schloss is a top tourist destination in Germany. The castle sits on the south flank of the Neckar Valley. We had hiked up to and around the castle, but had never taken the tour, so on a rainy day in February we scheduled it in.



This is the view of the castle from Heidelberg's Altstadt. The best way to get to the castle is to take the Heidelberger Bergbahn funicular railway. You can buy a combination ticket for the castle courtyard and funicular railway at the Heidelberg website here. The train leaves Heidelberg from the Kornmarkt, stops at a halfway point where the castle is, and then continues up to the top of the hill, I mean mountain, which provides a panoramic view of the castle, town, and river valley from above. 


From the top you will see things like this. A cute German house perched on the hillside.


Or this. The bricked in path in the center of the picture is the Philosophenweg, a hiking trail that traverses the northern side of the Neckar Valley up to a beautiful point that provides great views of the castle and town from another vantage. 



I highly recommend taking the train to the castle. Or you could walk. There are a few parking spots, but they fill quickly during the summer.

You can walk around the grounds and the gardens of the castle for free. But to go inside the courtyard or castle and get the tour you have to buy tickets. They offer German and English speaking tours. Prices are listed in several languages and the ticket sellers spoke English.

The castle is built around an open courtyard. 



The castle has a long and painful history. It seems like it was in a constant state of building or destruction. Every time part of it was repaired, acts of God, like lightning or the French army, came along and messed it all up again.



A structure was first built on the site in 1225. It was small, but it served its purpose. It was added to sometime between 1294-1303. When Rupert III of Germany became Emperor in 1401, he found the castle too small to serve his needs. He added on and turned it into a fortress.



It was continually added on to until 1619, until the outbreak of the Thirty Years War. It was at the start of this war that the castle was attacked for the first time. 

The French attacked the castle in 1688. It seems like France and Germany haven't always played very nice with each other. At times the border between France and Germany was the Rhine River which is in view of this castle way out in the valley.



The French blew up one tower in 1689 as they withdrew. But then in 1693 they had a chance to finish their work and they blew up more portions with mines. Oh, France. If you had only knew what was coming (Germany invaded France three times in a 70 year period).



After this last attack of the castle by the French, the Elector Palatine (the guy in charge of this area of Germany at the time) decided that Baroque hill-side palaces weren't fitting his needs and he moved his court to Mannheim and built a new castle there.



Once the castle was abandoned, it became fair game. Towns people took stone, wood, iron, and even ornaments to build their own houses. Further destruction of the castle happened when it was struck by lightning in 1764.

In 1868 people started debating if they should restore the castle to its former glory. It was decided that rebuilding it would be too difficult, but that they could preserve it in it's current condition.



Work on the castle to prevent further destruction of it by the elements.

Over three million tourists visit the castle every year. It's reputation has spread far beyond Europe and it attracts visitors from all corners of the world.



They do over 100 weddings a year, right here in this chapel in the castle.

Although the castle is famous for many things, one item stands out. 



The Heidelberg Tun or Großes Fass, built in 1751, is an extremely large wine vat in the cellar of the castle. It can hold around 220,000 liters or 58,100 gallons. That's a whole lotta wine.



There is also a German Apothecary Museum located in the cellar which houses 20,000 objects used in the history of compounding medicine. It is supposedly the largest collection anywhere. 

I love living in a town with its own castle. Can't wait to go back. Want to join me?



6 comments:

  1. this is my fav place in germany! :-)

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  2. We toured this one as well. My first memory is sitting outside the Schloss and running into a kid with an Alta Hawks t-shirt. He wasn't anywhere near my graduating class, but funny anyway. Small world.

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    1. I love running into people here. Our radiologist and andres teacher both grew up in sandy and went to Alta.

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  3. I totally need a wine cask that big! Also, "acts of God, like lightning or the French army" is hilarious. You're awesome.

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    1. I saw you have a penchant for wine drinking! How long do you think the wine would last in a vat that big? ;-) Thanks for the read!

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  4. Heidelberg is the best city in Germany! Easiest to get around and nicest people! So jealous of your time there.

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