Heidelberg: Higher Education

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Photos by Ann Yungmeyer

Best known as home to Germany’s oldest university, founded in 1386, Heidelberg has many other historic attractions.

Chief among them is its Castle, perched on a hillside and overlooking the Neckar River Valley. A partially destroyed medieval fortress, it’s touted as Germany’s largest, most picturesque ruin.

Open for tours and accessible by a modern funicular from town, the castle houses the largest wine barrel in the world, with a capacity of about 222,000 liters.

I stood on top of it, then headed to the castle terrace for the awe-inspiring views that help give Heidelberg a reputation for beauty and romance.

More postcard views are found along the Alte Brucke (Old Bridge), immortalized in numerous poems and paintings.

Our tour guide, an American living in Heidelberg, told us that Thomas Jefferson, while serving as U.S. ambassador to France, walked across the Alte Brucke to christen it when it was completed in 1788.

A less frequented Heidelberg gem, but worth a visit, is the Benedictine Monastery Neuberg, about a 40-minute walk from town, or less by riverboat taxi.

Founded in 1130, the monastery is still active today and offers tours of the grounds and its Klosterhof brewery. Visitors are also welcome at 5:15 morning Prayer and chanting of psalms.

IMG_2966_3Klosterhof Neuberg brews unpasteurized, bio beers in the monastic tradition and ages the beer in whiskey barrels.

We cleared our palates between samples with the delicious regional specialty bretzel – a cross between baguette and pretzel.

Later, we enjoyed a traditional abbey lunch of soup, salad and fresh baked bread in the Klosterhof restaurant.

Near the monastery, a scenic hillside path called Philosophers’ Walk has inspired many scholars with its terrace gardens and peaceful landscaped nooks. Who could resist a stroll on such a path of intellectual inspiration?

From the mind to the heart, Heidelberg has it all covered.

In 1863, the city’s best known chocolatier, Herr Knosel, created a candy known as the Student’s Kiss, a token for university students to give to the young ladies in finishing school whom they wished to court.

The chocolate is still made in the family tradition at the original confectionary, owned by a great granddaughter of Knosel.

A sweet ending to a delightful visit.