Germany’s Most Famous Castle “The Beautiful Ruin”
A poet once defined beauty as the blue sky and clouds showing through the windows of the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. The combination of the red stone and gothic arched filigree of the old destroyed hall against a cloud filled sky of blue embraced by the green trees of the Konigstuhl mountain side where it stands overlooking the old town of Heidelberg and the Neckar River has been a fascination for tourists for two centuries. Heidelberg is undoubtedly Germany’s best known romantic city, principally for its castle. Since tourism became a pre-occupation of the wealthy and the literati in the early 19th Century, Heidelberg’s castle has been one of the most painted, revered and commented on castle ruins in Germany’s Rhineland and one of its most visited.
Heidelberg Castle History
The castle has a complex history, home to the Elector’s of the German Palatine, destroyed and rebuilt, hit by lightning, set a blaze, bombarded by cannon shells. Mark Twain who wrote of the castle ruin at Heidelberg in his “A Tramp Abroad”, eloquently describing the ruin of its “Fat Tower” split in half by the explosion of a powder magazine when French solders set the castle on fire in 1633, once commented that the French made the most beautiful ruins, for the havoc much of the destruction of castles in the south western part of Germany, but it was the Swedish Army who defeated the castle in the 30 Years War, by maneuvering cannons to positions on the hill above. The castle suffered more destruction at the hands of the residents of Heidelberg who would mine its stones to build houses. And it was a Frenchman who came to the castle’s rescue when the Heidelberg came under the control of Baden and plans for its demolition were proposed, but Count Charles de Graimberg instead promoted it as a tourist destination.
The remaining main halls of the castle forming its most recognizable façade date from the Renaissance. The geometric castle terraces form levels for strolling among its ruins as Victor Hugo once did. In the south-east end of the gardens one can find what remains of the “Great Grotto” which one had trick water fountains like those at Salzburg’s Hellbrunn but now gone (see Hellbrunn Palace Fountains). Goethe as well was a fan of the castle and a plaque dedicated to him is still to be found on the wall of the former aviary, still a target of birds no longer captive. The King’s Hall (Königsaal) now used for events, banquets, weddings and concerts wasn’t added until the early 20th Century and has just undergone a renovation. During the Heidelberg Castle Festival in the summer, the courtyard is the location of open air musicals, operas and theatre performances and concerts performed by the Heidelberg City Orchestra, like the classic "Castle Serenades".
One of the castle’s best known attractions is the big wine barrel in the castles cellar, where farmers of the region once had to pay part of their taxes in wine, poured into the barrel (see Heidelberg Tun). The first barrel was constructed in 1591 but a second larger one was created in competition with the Dukes of Wurttemberg (see Schloss Ludwigsburg Palace). Once the world’s largest, but now second place after Bad Dürkheim (see Durkheimer Fass Wine Barrel).
Something else to look for, not on the official tour, but a Heidelberg tour guide though one of the elector statues on the round tower looked rather the spitting image of actor George Clooney. She sent a letter and photo and he apparently agreed, though has perhaps not been in person to check it out, but you can decide what you think.
Visiting Heidelberg Castle
castle can be reached on foot from the old town of Heidelberg,
but a Bergbahn
train) funicular to the top of the Konigstuhl mountain
stops at the castle. The funicular station is in the parking structure
#2 at the Kornmarkt stop of bus 33, or on foot just a block behind the
old town hall and main square (see Hotel
Ritter St Georg). Admission
to the castle, including the big wine barrel and the curious
is only €3 (see Pharmacy
Museum Heidelberg), with a guided group
tour in English for €4.
If you don't want to hike up the hill the funicular is €5 for a
roundtrip including the castle. There is a restaurant and beer and wine
For more castles less famous, with a car you can head east from Heidelberg
along the Neckar River and the castle road (see Castle
Road in Necker Valley). Bargain
Best hotel and vacation deals in Heidelberg on TripAdvisor
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