When cruising on Rhine or Neckar, do not miss an opportunity to take our private Jewish tour in Heidelberg, one of Germany`s most romantic cities. Located at the foot of the Odenwald forest, not only Heidelberg is Germany`s oldest University city, but it also hosts one of the most distinguished universities for Jewish studies. Explore this city`s rich history and culture, with a particular focus on Jewish heritage with our Heidelberg shore excursion.
On our Heidelberg shore excursion, we will delve into the eventful and captivating history of Heidelberg’s Jewry, which reinvented itself many times since the 13th century, when the first community was documented.
In fact, Jewish History in Heidelberg starts in 1275. In the years thereafter, numerous Jews lived in Heidelberg until the community was decimated during the Black Death in the mid 14th century. Those who survived were accused of poisoning the wells and causing the bubonic plague: many were murdered, others expelled. Soon after, in 1357, a second, well-organized community began functioning again, but its development was halted abruptly, as the Jews were expelled again from the city in 1390.
Almost three centuries passed before Jewish families were formally admitted to Heidelberg again, in 1660. Joseph Suess Oppenheimer, the famous Court Jew, was born soon after to one of those family. In 1714, the authorities approved the establishment of a simple prayer room in the Mantelgasse in the house "Zur blauen Lilie”, but it was not to be recognizable as such from the outside. It took over a century for the synagogue on the same street to be inaugurated, which took place in 1878. Exactly 60 years later, on the pogrom night of the 10th of November 1938, the Nazis burnt it down.
Despite destruction and persecution, on our Heidelberg shore excursion we will follow the thread of continuity that characterizes Jewish life in the city. Together, we will visit the memorial dedicated to the old Heidelberg Synagogue, and the new synagogue, erected in 1994.
Our Jewish tour will also include general city highlights. The Schloss, Heidelberg’s half-ruined Renaissance castle, is the city’s landmark, and definitely the top one of its many jewels and attractions. Perched on the mountain Königstuhl, 70 meters high, it offers a stunning view over the Neckar river and the Altstadt’s picturesque townscape to those who reach it via a cobbled trail or by taking the Bergbahn (cogwheel train). It was built around the 13th century as a defensive fortress with towers, casemates and ditches, and it was used for some time as residence of the princes electors of the Palatinate. During the war against France in the 17th century, it was destroyed by Louis XIV's soldiers, and afterwards only partially restored. By entering the Schlosshof, the castle’s central courtyard, you can admire reconstructed Gothic and Renaissance buildings with elaborate facades.
The Alte Brücke (old bridge) over the Neckar is another impressive attraction. Officially called Karl-Theodor-Brücke, it is one of the oldest bridges in Germany, and the official documents mention it in the early 13th century. Initially made of wood, the bridge obtained its present form in 1788. It connects the Old City with the eastern part of the Neuenheim district of the city on the opposite bank and with the Schlangenweg (Snake Path), whose switchbacks lead to the Philosophenweg (the Philosopher’s walk).
While you are on the Alte Brücke, look for the Heidelberg Bridge Monkey, a brass statue of a monkey holding a mirror located next to the Tower Gate, another of Heidelberg’s symbols. Rub the mirror for good luck, as a local legend promises, and discover more about this bizarre statue and its history on our Heidelberg shore excursion!
Heidelberg is marked mostly by a lively student life, which boasts one of the longest traditions in the world. Renowned far beyond Germany’s borders, the Rupert-Karls-Universität was established in 1386 by Count Palatinate Ruprecht I. The most notable facilities are around Universitätsplatz, dominated by the Alte Universität (1712–28; on the south side) and the Neue Universität (1931; on the north side). The Universitätsbibliothek on the banks of the Neckar River hosts an enchanting collection of Hebrew manuscripts from the 12th until 14th centuries, some of them decorated with beautiful miniatures. It is not a coincidence that one of Germany’s most renowned universities for Jewish Studies (Hochschule für Jüdische Studien) is here, in Heidelberg.
Discover the rich Jewish and German cultural heritage of Germany’s oldest University City on our Heidelberg shore excursion.