One of Germany’s most romantic towns, located on the Neckar river, at the foot of the Odenwald forest, Heidelberg is seat of Germany’s oldest university, and home to an important heritage of baroque architecture. These are only a few among many reasons that make this city one of the most visited destinations in Germany, get to know all of them on our Heidelberg shore excursion!
The Schloss, Heidelberg’s half-ruined Renaissance castle, it 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 red-roofed 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, at the end of the 17th century, it was destroyed by Louis XIV's soldiers, and afterwards only partially restored. By entering teh 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: it is mentioned in official documents already 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. Local legend has it that rubbing the mirror brings good luck. 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. Internationally renowned and consistently ranked among Europe's top universities, the Rupert-Karls-Universität was stablished in 1386 by Count Palatinate Ruprecht I. The most historic 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 contains a collection of Hebrew manuscripts dating back to the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. Among the manuscripts are the songs of the Jewish troubadour Süsskind von Trimberg decorated with 137 illuminated 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.
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 recorded.
In fact, Jewish History in Heidelberg starts as early as 1275. In the years thereafter numerous Jews lived in Heidelberg until the community was decimated during the Black Death (1349). 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.
More than two hundred and seventy years passed before Jewish families were formally admitted to Heidelberg again, in 1660. Joseph Suess Oppenheimer, the famous Court Jew, was born here in 1698. In 1714 the authorities approved the establishment of a simple prayer room in the Mantelgasse in the house "Zur blauen Lilie”, but it shouldn’t be recognizable as such from the outside.
Only in 1878 a synagogue was inaugurated on the same street, and 60 years later, on the pogrom night of the 10th of November 1938, it was burned down by the Nazis.
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.
Discover the rich Jewish and general cultural heritage of Germany’s oldest University City on our Heidelberg shore excursion.