Friday, February 22, 2019

5 Great Reasons To Visit Heidelberg, Germany (Mark Twain Slept Here!)

By Jacquelin Carnegie
The picture-perfect town of Heidelberg sits on the banks of the Neckar River, about an hour from Frankfurt. With its' Baroque architecture, red gabled roofs, cobblestone streets, and stunning castle ruins, it's downright charming. Once the royal seat of power for German prince electors, the town dates back to 1196. While steeped in history, Heidelberg is not stuck in the past. As a university town, it’s bustling with activity. Hauptstrasse, the pedestrian-only, main shopping street, is lined with historic pubs and trendy boutiques. This blend of ancient and modern adds to Heidelberg's charm. There are many reasons to visit but, for anyone who loves literature, this one's at the top of the list--Mark Twain lived here!
MARK TWAIN IN HEIDELBERG
Mark Twain traveled a lot. Partly, for his own amusement, but mostly to earn a living—doing research for books or on
extensive lecture tours. In 1878, he spent several months in Heidelberg, Germany. His exploits here--real and imagined--are recounted with glee in A Tramp Abroad. No one is entirely sure why he chose Heidelberg: perhaps because its' university is the oldest in Germany (founded in 1386); maybe because the name comes from the German word "huckleberry mountain" and Twain was struggling to finish The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; or, possibly because it’s just such a pretty place.
Follow in Twain's Footsteps - Go On a Walking Tour
Since little has changed in Heidelberg, it’s easy to follow in Twain's footsteps in the vain hope that his wit and way-with-words will miraculously rub off. Retrace Twain’s sojourn here on your own or with a tour, “In the Footsteps of Mark Twain” (https://bit.ly/2O9B1I0
). 
Heidelberg Castle
Mark Twain Slept Here
Twain first stayed at the Hotel Schrieder, now a Crowne Plaza (Kurfürstenanlage 1). He looked out on a fancier hotel that is, today, the police headquarters. During the heat of summer, Twain moved to the Schloss Hotel (now a luxury condo) on the hill near the castle.
Mark Twain Hiked Here
The castle at the top of the hill has Gothic and Renaissance architectural elements. It was started in 1400 and burned by the French in 1689. Twain enjoyed hiking up to the ruins and watching the Castle Illuminations.
Now, you can ride the funicular up to the castle for a visit and stroll in the gardens. The Illuminations take place three times a year (June, July, September) with a concert beforehand in the Heiliggeistkirche
Heidelberg's largest and most important church (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played here)!
Mark Twain Hung Out Here
Student Jail (photo: J.Carnegie)
Twain liked to sit in on lectures at the university and got a kick out of visiting the student jail Studentenkarzer (Augustinergasse 2) in operation from 1778 to 1914. The students weren’t jailed for getting poor grades, but for pulling pranks on the locals. 
HeidelbergCard - With the card, you can check out the jail and the university in the Alstadt (old town), along with countless other attractions.
Mark Twain Was Inspired Here
In A Tramp Abroad, Twain recounts a fictional raft trip down the Neckar (the inspiration for Huck Finn’s later ride). Today, you can cruise the lovely river on the Neckarsonne, a solar-powered boat.
Mark Twain Eat Here
You can still eat some traditional German fare at places where Twain chowed down: Zum Roten Ochsen (Hauptstrasse 217; www.roterochsen.de) - The Red Ox has been a pub since 1703. Zum Güldenen Schaf (Hauptstrasse 115; www.schaf-heidelberg.de) - The Golden Sheep has been a restaurant since 1749.
Other Literati
Mark Twain isn’t the only writer to have enjoyed a stay in Heidelberg. There was Goethe, Victor Hugo, and Hemingway to name a few. Imagine a conversation between them, sipping a cold one at Hemingway's (Fahrtgasse 1). They’d certainly agree that, while the world has changed, Heidelberg’s charm prevails.
Neckar river (photo: J.Carnegie)
What's New: Visiting Heidelberg today, you can also enjoy plenty of year-round cultural events ranging from a Vampire Ball to music, art, and literary festivals.
Where To Stay: Hip-Hotel (www.hip-hotel.de) - Hip, indeed! Each room is decorated as a different country. (The Kischka family also owns the Zum Güldenen Schaf restaurant, right next door.)
Getting There: Fly into nearby Frankfurt then, directly from the airport, take a shuttle, bus, or train to Heidelberg.
[A version of this article first appeared on Frommers.com]

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