Heidelberg Scenic - Part 2

Heidelberg Scenic - Part 2, Heidelberg, Germany (A)

Heidelberg is well-known all over the world for its romantic charm, its old university and its scenic beauty. Many famous poets, painters and authors have praised Heidelberg and its charm in their texts, songs or in their paintings. A visit to Heidelberg is incomplete without an excursion to its surroundings, notably the ancient castle which keeps watch over the city.
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Sights Featured in This Article

Guide Name: Heidelberg Scenic - Part 2
Guide Location: Germany » Heidelberg
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: Horst Schenk
Author Bio: I was born in Germany, grew up and was educated in the USA. I spent almost 23 years in the US Air Force as a meteorologist, then almost 20 more years developing software for military and meteorological applications. I now live in Heidelberg, Germany and write books, articles and computer programs.
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Bergbahnstation Kornmarkt
  • Elisabethentor
  • Stückgarten
  • Torturm
  • Schlosshof
  • Altan
  • Pulverturm
  • Hortus Palatinus
  • Scheffelterrasse
Bergbahnstation Kornmarkt

1) Bergbahnstation Kornmarkt

We begin our tour at the Kornmarkt station of the Heidelberg Bergbahn or Mountain Railway. Immediately to the left of the Bergbahn station is a walkway called "Kurzer Buckel" which will take you up to the castle via 315 steps in about 10 minutes. This walkway is very romantic as it travels along the hillside which holds the castle, and between some stately old villas. An alternative is to take the Bergbahn to the castle. With its two sections totaling 1.5 kilometers, the Heidelberg Bergbahn is the longest cable car of its kind in Germany. The lower section opened in 1890, the upper section started operating in 1907. The Bergbahn underwent extensive renovation between 2003 and 2005 when all new, larger, modern cars replaced the old ones from the lower section, the Kornmarkt and Heidelberg Castle stations were rebuilt, and the original cars of the upper section were carefully modified to meet the latest safety standards and restored to their original look and color. The Bergbahn takes travelers up to the Heidelberg Castle, to the Molkenkur, and finally to the Königstuhl. (Source: Wikipedia)

2) Elisabethentor

Our first stop is the Heidelberg Castle whose construction began around the year 1300 and continued for the next 400 years. It was partially destroyed in 1689 and again in 1693 and was finally abandoned when it was struck by lightning in 1764 which resulted in a devastating fire. It fell into decay until the French emigre, Charles de Graimberg, initiated the preservation of the castle ruin in the early 1800s. The first site of interest of the Heidelberg Castle is the Elisabethentor or Elizabeth Gate very near the entrance to the castle grounds. It reportedly was built overnight in 1615 as a birthday surprise by Friedrich V for his 19-year old wife, Elizabeth Stuart. At that time the gate probably had a hedge at its side and was the entrance to a garden where Elizabeth could stroll with her entourage. The gate consists of four columns in the form of tree trunks around which ivy is wound. Upon closer examination one can see various small animals such as frogs, bugs, snails, salamanders or squirrels hidden among the leaves of the ivy. Female figures with flowers and cornucopia, and two small lions that hold the orb that signifies ruling power, adorn the arch forming the gate. Although the legend that this gate was erected overnight is not documented anywhere, the fact that the stones on the back side were left in their raw state seems to substantiate that the legend is based on fact. (Source: Heidelberg, Günter Heinemann, Prestel-Verlag, München, 1983)

3) Stückgarten

After passing through the Elizabeth Gate we enter the Gun Park or Stückgarten. It was built by Ludwig V and was intended to be a mighty fortification for the protection of the castle. A tower-shaped bastion in the middle of the western wall, the Rondell, was five stories high which were connected with winding stairs. A few years before the Thirty Years War the young Elector Friedrich V reduced the effectiveness of this fortification by partly filling in the Rondell and turning the Gun Park into a pleasure garden for his wife Elizabeth. The tower at the northern end of the Stückgarten is called the Thick Tower for its seven meter thick walls. It strengthened the fortification by connecting the Stückgarten with the northern fortifications and with its 30 meter diameter seemed indestructible. Nevertheless, the French blew it up in 1689, like all the other round towers of the castle. The deep moat that borders the eastern side of the Stückgarten not only served a defensive purpose, but it also provided a place of entertainment for the inhabitants of the castle in that animals such as deer and bears were released into the moat to be hunted by members of the court. The view from the western wall of the Stückgarten is one of the most famous because not only the rooftops and various landmarks of Heidelberg, but also the stately villas that hug the side of the mountain, seemingly seeking the protection of the castle can be seen. (Source: Heidelberg, City Guide in Colour, Edmund von König-Verlag, Heidelberg, 1993)

4) Torturm

The mighty Torturm or Gate Tower is the only tower that survived all sieges almost undamaged. It rises to a height of 52 meters from the bottom of the moat and the former castle dungeon is on its lower levels. The entrance to the castle was protected by four gates, a huge wooden portcullis and a drawbridge. In the vaulting above the entrance is a small opening through which the watchman in the tower could be supplied. The two stories above the entrance were for defenders and above that were the quarters of the entrance watchman. The two knights in armor above the entrance date to 1534 and 1536. The heavy iron ring on one of the wooden gates originally was a door knocker by which visitors requested to be let in. Legend has it that anyone who can bite through this ring will receive the castle as a present. The small notch on the ring, so the legend, was made by a witch who tried to get possession of the castle, but only left a tooth mark when she failed to bite through the ring. (Source: Heidelberg, City Guide in Colour, Edmund von König-Verlag, Heidelberg, 1993; Wikipedia)

5) Schlosshof

On the left of the Schlosshof (Castle Courtyard)one finds the oldest part of the castle, the Ruprecht Building. The next building, the Königssaal (King's Hall) originally had two more stories which held the quarters for the ladies of the court and their servants. Somewhat set back between the Ruprecht Building and the Königssaal is the former library. The building straight ahead is the Friedrich Building. It is adorned with the statues of Friedrich IV, who had the building built, and his famous ancestors. To the right is the ornate Ottheinrich Building which is the most imposing building of the castle. Its world-famous courtyard facade is a fine example of German Renaissance architecture. In the cellar of the Ottheinrich Building is the German Pharmacy Museum which reportedly contains the world's most complete collection of pharmacists' utensils from as far back as medieval times. Between these two buildings is the so-called Hall of Mirrors Building. A festival hall on the first floor, which was fitted out with Venetian mirrors, gave its name to the whole building. The buildings that complete the circle of buildings were built by Ludwig V, the great builder of the castle, and reflect his preference for unadorned simplicity. They contained service facilities as well as living quarters for service personnel. A few steps from the center of the courtyard will take the visitor to the Great Barrel in the cellar of the King's Hall. It was built in 1751 and has a capacity of 221,726 liters. (Source: Heidelberg, City Guide in Colour, Edmund von König-Verlag, Heidelberg, 1993; Wikipedia)

6) Altan

Walking through the arched passage of the Friedrich Building we find ourselves on the castle's balcony, so to speak. From here one has another magnificent view of Heidelberg and the surrounding area. The two little towers at the front corners allow an especially romantic view of the scene below. A curiosity which is the subject of several different versions of a legend can be found by facing the Friedrich Building approximately in the middle of the length of the terrace and somewhat closer to the building. There, in one of the stones that form the floor of the terrace, an indentation in the form of a footprint can be seen. One version of the legend has it that during a fire in the Friedrich Building everyone was able to escape except for one knight who found all the exits blocked by flames, who decided to risk a leap from one of the windows and thereby left the footprint where he landed. The second version is that the builder of the Friedrich Building, Friedrich IV, who was reputed to be a heavy consumer of wine jumped from one of the windows while heavily intoxicated. The third version, most popular, is that a knight was visiting one of the ladies of the court while her husband was away and upon hearing of the husband's sudden arrival the knight leaped out of the window in full armor, thus leaving the tell-tale footprint. (Source: Heidelberg, City Guide in Colour, Edmund von König-Verlag, Heidelberg, 1993; Wikipedia)

7) Pulverturm

On our way to the castle gardens we pass the Pulverturm or Powder Tower. This mighty tower received its name from the gunpowder which was stored in its lower parts. The tower with its up to 6.5 meters thick walls resisted French efforts to blow it up in 1689, but when they tried again in 1693 the tower split in two and part of it slid down into the moat, allowing a view of the inside. Three levels with their vaulted ceilings and central supports can be seen. Defenders would fire from these three levels, which is evident from the gun ports, the chimneys that let the powder smoke escape and the rings for supporting early muskets. Today this is one of the most picturesque sites of the castle. (Source: Heidelberg, City Guide in Colour, Edmund von König-Verlag, Heidelberg, 1993; Wikipedia)
Hortus Palatinus

8) Hortus Palatinus

Being a lover of the way of life of his time, young Friedrich V wanted to adapt the northern and eastern surroundings of his castle to the splendors of his household. He had a French physicist and engineer design a garden with several terraces, ponds, fountains, statues and grottoes between flower beds and exotic trees which at the time was viewed as the Eighth Wonder of the World. It was never completed, a picture of what it was to look like can be seen at the beginning of the garden area. Straight ahead at the end of the lowest terrace of the garden the Great Grotto is located where rare stones, corals, shells and fountains once were displayed. The only attraction there today is the sculpture of "Father Rhein" on his stony bed. Further to the left, we pass Goethe's stone bench and a memorial to the great German poet who, in the early 1800s, visited Heidelberg several times at which time this garden was one of his favorite places. (Source: Heidelberg, City Guide in Colour, Edmund von König-Verlag, Heidelberg, 1993; Wikipedia)

9) Scheffelterrasse

Finally, at the northern end of the gardens we come to the Scheffelterrace, which is named after the German poet who lived from 1826 to 1886 and who wrote several poems and songs about Heidelberg. Originally, a pavilion was planned for the large terrace, but it was never built. Interesting is that the foundation of the terrace consists of 20 meter high arches which allowed the level ground to be extended from the rising hillside behind it. The terrace received its name from a bronze statue of the poet, Joseph Victor von Scheffel, which stood here from 1891 to 1942 when it was melted down as part of the war effort. Not until 1976 was a new, more modest memorial to the poet erected in form of a stone with a plaque. Here the view of the city and the countryside below was a favorite of painters in the 1800s. This is where our tour ends. You can now make your own way back down to the city or further explore the surroundings of the castle. I hope you enjoyed the tour and that you continue to have a pleasant stay in Heidelberg. Auf Wiedersehen! (Source: Wikipedia)

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