Friday, 22 November 2013

Heidelberg

The city of Heidelberg has relevance to British history because of the marriage of Elizabeth, daughter of James VI and I, to Frederick V, The Elector Palatine. The gate he constructed (allegedly overnight) in her honour can still be seen at the castle.
Elizabeth's grandson George I was to be Britain's first Hanoverian king, but she herself became known as 'The Winter Queen' because her Protestant husband was removed from the throne of Bohemia after only a few months' reign by the Catholic Hapsburgs. This was the first major campaign of the Thirty Years' War, early in which the unfortunate couple also lost Heidelberg itself.
First blown up in 1537, Heidelberg Castle was repeatedly sacked during the Thirty Years War and used as a quarry for the building of houses in the town in the later 18th century. It is a strange mixture of architectural styles. Perhaps its most interesting curiosity is the wine cellar in which were kept giant barrels (above left) into which tenants of local vineyards were required to pour a tithe of their products. It is probably best not to enquire too closely into what the resulting blend tasted like.
The elongated old town is mostly baroque. There are beautiful views of the town and the Neckar River available from the Königstuhl Hill which overlooks the valley (right).  Germany's oldest university is in Heidelberg, which has a famous student culture, highlighted in 'The Student Prince'. Were we to believe the tourist guides, the city has scarcely yet emerged from 19th century Romanticism. It is however less romantic in the rain.