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September 2020, Heidelberg – Germany
Sometimes you stumble across cool places in the most unexpected ways. During our roadtrip from the Netherlands to Switzerland, little did we know that the chosen midpoint stop in Heidelberg, Germany, would reveal so many surprises!
Nestled among green hills lining the banks of the Neckar River, Heidelberg is one of Germany’s most popular attractions.
But what makes Heidelberg so cool? you might ask. We were quite impressed by the twisted history and anecdotes including famous poets, philosophers, gifted or troublesome students.
Here are some of the cool facts about Heidelberg!
The Heidelberg bone
In 1907, a workman made a spectacular find of a human jaw bone at a sandpit in Mauer, south of Heidelberg. Tests have confirmed that the fossil is more than 600 000 years old, making it the earliest evidence of human life to be found in Europe at that time.
Heidelberg University is the oldest in Germany
The University of Heidelberg was founded in 1386 and is not only the oldest university in the country but ranks among the oldest in Europe.
27 Nobel Laureates have been associated with Heidelberg University, out of which 9 Nobel Laureates received the award during their tenure at Heidelberg. Wow!
Students were incarcerated in the university
Up until 1914 students could face jail time for trivial offences from nighttime disturbance to academic fencing duels. In time, the days spent in jail became a rite of passage for fraternities, transforming into parties celebrating incarceration. Murals and grafitti can still be seen today filling in every corner of the walls.
Heidelberg inspired artists
Great writers and philosophers such as Goethe, Max Weber or Mark Twain, all found inspiration in Heidelberg and mentioned the city in their works.
Mark Twain spent several months in Heidelberg during 1878. It is said that he enjoyed observing the student prison and sitting in on lectures at the university.
One in every four residents of Heidelberg is a student
Out of the 160 000 people who live in Heidelberg, a whopping 40 000 are students at one of the city’s five colleges and universities. That’s a quarter of the population!
Heidelberg was spared by World War II bomb raids
While many German cities faced severe destruction during the Second World War, Heidelberg was spared by the Allied bombings. Historians presume that the city wasn’t seen as strategically important because it wasn’t an industrial city nor a transport hub. Another assumption is that the US had already planned on establishing a garrison here after the end of the war.
The monkey symbol
The bronze sculpture of a monkey guards the southern end of the Old Bridge. The 1979 art piece was inspired by records from the 15th century which mention a monkey sculpture having stood there. According to legend, the old sculpture was meant to remind those who crossed the bridge to look over their shoulders at where they’ve come from. Whether a Heidelberg citizen lived inside or outside of the city, it reminded them they were no better than the other.
Nowadays, the new monkey is very popular among the tourists. Touching the fingers means you’ll come back to Heidelberg. We couldn’t even get near it because of the crowds, but we’ll surely come back to this lively city some day!
History of Heidelberg Castle starts in early 1200s when documents mentioned the presence of a castle in the location of the Heidelberg city.
After countless expansions, renovations, fires and wars, the castle ended up as a ruin. Salvation came from artists who started to paint or write about it, and promoting it across Europe. Complete restoration happened around the 1900s, bringing the castle to life for millions of visitors across the world.
That’s about what we could discover in a day about this cool city. Or just another sign to let ourselves amazed by the small surprises on the way.
Anita&Geo, World travellers