The Castle


Heidelberg Castle Illuminations              2. June 2012  

By D. Godfrey

You’ve probably been enticed into your Heidelberg excursion by your travel agent discussing the Castle Illumination, which is no more and no less than a fireworks show symbolizing one of the the castle’s destruction (see below).

The first mention of an elevated fortress in the valley of the Neckar was in a document issued in 1225 by Count Ludwig of Bavaria to bestow a fiefdom. The lower parts of the castle was build between 1400 and 1544 and were, in functional terms, designed as fortifications and living quarters. Prince Elector Ludwig V (ruling from 1508-1544) is mentioned in this context. The second phase introduced the Renaissance period to the construction site and was influenced by the rule of Prince Electors Otto Heinrich and Friedrich IV, who ruled the Palatinate until the Palatinate War of Inheritance in 1688/89 lead to the sacking of the castle by French troop, the second time Heidelberg sees enemy troops (the first time was during the 30 years war period in the early part of the 17th century).

You will need to read up on the history of Europe during this period understand why such substantial buildings were laid to waste by competing nobility or world views. It is certainly not the intent of this web page to school you in follies of men. How will world history view theUS- Irak wars in 3-400 years?

On a good day and if your legs are still twenty-something even if your drivers license says DOB 1949, we can proceed from the Castle to the Old Bridge of the city by transversing the 315 steps, downwards (!) (try them going up!!), crossing the Kornmarkt (more about this later), into the Hauptstrasse, past the Church of the Holy Ghost (see Palatinate Wars, above). Start sniffing for fresh water or follow the crowds down to the banks of the Neckar River. If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive in Heidelberg on one of those days the River is overflowing its banks (3-4 times a year), with brown water suspiciously touching on the edge of some city streets, sand bags parked at all cellar/street interfaces and police barriers preventing you from peeking into certain interesting looking courtyards and antique shops.

Now, in 2002/3 the Old Bridge was undergoing a certain face-lifting, and it is not known at this time whether this has been completed. On the other hand, the face-lifting and flooding will not normally stop the tri-annual (meaning 3x/year) Castle Illumination (see Castle, above) which occurs for the most part in the vicinity of the Old Bridge unless it is pouring outside. A simple rainy day will not prevent the Castle from being illuminated, however, so bring a raincoat (it must be yellow to be acceptable in Germany) or an umbrella. Those day tourists caught without an umbrella on rainy days will be encarcerated in the Student prison until the Castle Illumination is concluded (this may – or may not be true).

Outside the Castle

Inside the Castle

Perkeo and the Great Vat

By R. Oliver

Aside from the world famous Heidelberg Castle, information about which is abundantly available here and elsewhere, there are points of interest to satisfy everyone’s taste. There is something about the Heidelberg castle, however, that should be of interest to the wine lovers of the world. The largest wine cask in the world! Yes, you read it right. THE WORLD! It is a must see if you ever visit the castle. It is 28.7 feet long and 23 feet in diameter. It held 58,573 US gallons. There is an interesting little story that the wine steward (a dwarf named Perkeo), who refused any drink but wine, had his wine goblet switched for one containing water by some pranksters. As a heavy wine drinker accustomed to guzzling his drink he had downed the water before realizing the switch. According to the story he immediately dropped dead from heart failure. You will find a statue figure of this steward directly in front of the famed cask in the castle. Don’t be surprised to see images or miniature statues of him in a variety of other locations throughout Heidelberg.

The Old Bridge

Heidelberg History