Heidelberg’s Schloss – Heidelberg, Rhineland, Germany

In Germany’s Oldest University City, a Romantic Icon

In a magnificent hilltop setting of woodland and terraced gardens sits Heidelberg’s magnificent, crumbling Schloss, probably the country’s most famous castle. Sacked by French troops under Louis XIV in 1689, it has remained a dignified ruin ever since, only enhancing its romantic allure.

Painters and poets from around the world have immortalized it in picture and verse. Mark Twain described it as “the Lear of inanimate nature—deserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms, but royal still, and beautiful.” The Prince Electors had the red sandstone castle built over the course of three centuries (1400 to 1620), but it was already in ruins when “discovered” by the 18th-century Romantics who fell under its spell.

For a vision of the castle to cherish, stroll along the Philosopher’s Walk (Philosophenweg), a hill­side wooded path above the Neckar River on the opposite (north) bank, where Goethe and Hegel wandered, or hop a sunset cruise on the Neckar and take in the famous scenery.

Nestled on a historic side street off the Philosopher’s Walk is the only place you want to stay—Die Hirschgasse. The hotel dates back to 1472, and started as a tavern for the students of the local university (a tipsy Otto von Bismarck carved his name into one of the tables).

The University of Heidelberg is Germany’s oldest, founded in 1386. Mark Twain was smitten with picturesque Heidel­berg, his first stop in Europe and the first he wrote about in his famous travelogue A Tramp Abroad. Guests will know how he felt after their first night at Die Hirschgasse, in the shadow of Germany’s most romantic schloss.

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