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Notes on the Geography of Germany: Heidelberg

Heidelberg, population 150,000, is an industrial town, a university town, a military town, and a tourist town. 


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Germany: Heidelberg  picture 1

The tourist magnet is the tiny historic core, a rectangle measuring less than 500 by 1,200 meters.  It's all wedged on the left-bank of the Neckar as that river drops through the Odenwald to the Rhine graben.  On the left bank is the bounding slope of the castle hill (a bit of its forest shows here); the Neckar flows against the hill on the right and continues into the distance.  There's room for only four streets paralleling the river. 

Heidelberg began sprawling onto the distant plain with the arrival of the railway and by the 1870s had a population of 22,000.  Small as that now seems, Karl Baedeker would complain in 1878 that "this venerable seat of the Muses has therefore now lost much of that poetic charm with which it was so long invested."

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 2

Like the previous picture, this one is taken from the town's castle but has swung upstream a bit to take in the Heilig Geist Kirche (1400), the Corn Market, and the old (but rebuilt) bridge.

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 3

Here's looking the other way around, from the church steeple back to the castle.

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The bridge, built in 1786-8 by Elector Charles Theodore, has statues of him and--modest juxtaposition--Minerva. The whole thing had to be rebuilt after World War II.

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 5

Here's the Corn Market with a statue of the Virgin. The intact part of the castle is the Friedrichsbau, added in 1601.

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 6

The Hauptstrasse, in British usage the High Street, runs past the Corn Market and is one of the two interior streets paralleling the river. Yes, that would be a McDonald's, but by 2007 the company had retreated from the Altstadt in favor of locations in newer parts of town. /P>

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 7

The Hauptstrasse starts here, at Karlstor or Charles' Gate, now surrounded by a traffic circle.

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 8

Lots and lots of pedestrians walk the Hauptstrasse.

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 9

Enter the American mall developer: "I want those facades. Copy them and put them on the front of the parking garage."

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 10

Amazing that a mall developer hasn't copied the facade of the Ritter Hotel, formerly the city hall and, earlier still, a private house dating to 1592.

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Opulence of a later vintage: the Stadthalle, an active concert hall.

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 12

Perhaps this is the "poetic charm" Baedeker had in mind. From 1225 to 1720 Heidelberg was the capital of the Palatinate, whose early Count Palatine Rudolph I began building Das Heidelberger Schloss.  The castle was fortified by later electors, but in 1688 the castle capitulated to the French, who before abandoning it in the face of an approaching German army blew up the fortifications and burned the palace.  Lighting in 1764 destroyed whatever was left and created the ghosts so necessary to romantic poetry.  Since then, the castle has been partly rebuilt.

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 13

A few houses--small only in comparison to the schloss--crowd near it on the theory that prestige is contagious.  In the background is the Koenigstuhl funicular.

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 14

A lane winds down the hill from the castle.

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 15

The streets perpendicular to the river tend to be very narrow--and antiseptically clean.

Germany: Heidelberg  picture 16

Another side street, ready to do battle with Japan for best residential hygiene.

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