Heidelberg is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany, the embodiment of German Romanticism. The preserved medieval architecture creates a unique charm of the city. Every year it is visited by nearly 12 million tourists. Famous poets have sung praises of Heidelberg Castle ruins and famous painters have painted them. The world’s largest wine barrel is kept in the basement of the castle. Germany’s oldest university is the pride of Heidelberg. "Student’s Kiss" chocolates became its symbol. Surely everyone will wish to walk on Hauptstrasse (Hauptstraße) -the longest shopping street in Germany. Its length is 1.6 km, so it may take several days to tour the shops.
Heidelberg is situated on the banks of the Neckar River, surrounded by three not high mountains: Mounts Königsstuhl, Gaisberg and Heiligenberg. Primitive people inhabited this valley about 600,000 years ago. This is confirmed by the remains of Neanderthal predecessor found near Heidelberg in1907. The find is recognized as the most ancient traces of man in Europe’s territory. The Celts and ancient Romans came to replace the so-called Heidelberg man. The city was first mentioned in the annals of the XII century.
Heidelberg was the residence of the Electors Palatine. In the XIII century they began to build the majestic Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberg) on Mount Königstuhl. It immediately became famous as one of the most beautiful Renaissance castles in Germany. At the end of the XVII century, Heidelberg appeared in the centre of a large-scale war for the Palatinate Succession and the army of Louis XIV left the castle in ruins. They tried to reconstruct it, but the attempts stopped after a fire caused by lightning in 1764. But the castle has retained its greatness. In the XIX century the ruins surrounded by a romantic aura began to attract poets, writers and painters to the city.
People have come to Heidelberg since long ago to get an education in one of Europe’s oldest universities. Elector Ruprecht I (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg) founded it in 1386. Outstanding scientists and philosophers - from Hegel to Karl Jaspers -taught at this university and many Nobel Prize winners worked in it. They say that the popular student anthem Gaudeamus was born at this university. Today many people dream to get an education in Heidelberg, although the university has branches abroad. Today, around 30,000 students study there.
Heidelberg attracts millions of tourists with its well-preserved medieval architecture. No wonder the old town (Altstadt) is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Old Bridge (Alte Brücke) with nine arched spans is one such structure delighting the eye. It was built of red sandstone in the late XVIII century in the Baroque style. All of its five wooden predecessors did not survive wars and floods. The famous bronze monkey with a mirror (Brückenaffe) is on the bridge. The sculpture was created by Professor Gernot Rumpf in 1979. The monkey figure reminds of the human vices - lust and shamelessness, and the mirror reminds of vanity. The monkey head is made hollow, so that tourists are willing to put their own heads and take a photo for memory. It is believed that the monkey’s raised up index finger and little finger protect against the evil eye. They are polished to a shine by tourists. There is another sign: the one who touches the mirror, will prosper. So, that means you should come here and try: what if it’s true?
While walking through the Old Town, you should take a look at the Heidelberg oldest café - Café Knösel. Here you should definitely buy the branded Heidelberg sweets – “Student’s Kiss” chocolates (Heidelberger Studentenkuss). In the XIX century, the founder of the café, Fridolin Knosel, came up with the idea of making them. At that time young ladies went for a walk with governesses and the students could not tell their sweethearts about their feelings. The chocolates helped the young people to express mutual sympathy. Now tourists buy these sweets with the image of a couple in love on the wrapper with pleasure as a souvenir of Heidelberg.
Delicious apple fritters (Apfelküchle) with cinnamon and vanilla sauce and crispy sweet yeast buns (Dampfnudeln) are served at almost all the cafes in the city. However, if it is time to have a rich meal, you should taste Maultaschen. This is one of the most popular dishes of Baden-Württemberg - huge quadrangular dumplings stuffed with minced meat with bread pulp, spinach and onions. Those who are particularly fond of meat will like Schlachtplatte assortment of boiled pig stomach, blood and liver sausages with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.
After eating well, you can continue your walk along the Kornmarkt. The locals consider it Heidelberg’s most beautiful area . Once people traded with grain and in 1717 the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Baden was built there. In the center is a fountain topped with a statue of the Madonna. The Jesuits established it in 1718, in the hope to persuade the Protestant majority of citizens into Catholicism. Right from the square you can get to the top of Mount Königstuhl on the funicular railway. Its first stop is at the ruins of the Heidelberg Castle, the next is at the Fairy Park (Märchenparadies) and at the Observatory (Haus der Astronomie).
In Heidelberg another day is another festive event. A grand salute (Heidelberger Schlossbeleuchtung) is held three times a year (in June, July and September). Holiday fireworks continue over the Neckar River. Elector Frederick the V started this tradition, who met his young wife, the daughter of the King of England, Elizabeth Stewart with fireworks. Philosophers’ Way (Philosophenweg) is the best place for watching the fireworks. The city hosts the International Jazz Festival “Enjoy Jazz” in October and November. In April, the city hosts a major international festival of classical music- "Heidelberg Spring" (Heidelberger Frühling). The city's main festival (Heidelberger Herbst) is held on the last Saturday of September. On this day, the city center hosts a fair and the flea market demonstrates its wealth here. The Market Square (Marktplatz) is filled with music and the streets are filled with the flavors of the local cuisine. In this city there is no chance for any tourist to get bored or hungry!