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Heidelberg is one of the visited cities in Germany, but not many people go there to hike and that’s a pity since there is some great hiking trails just across the river and up behind the magnificent castle. Here is one hike that will get your blood pumping but also provide you some great views of the city and a chance to see some history, both ancient and fairly recent.
We started our hike on a chilly February day in the town of Handschuhsheim located just north of Heidelberg and home to a little known castle called Tiefburg. (address: Steubenstrasse 78, 69121 Heidelberg). It wasn’t open for visitors on the day we were there but it was still a great starting point for the hike given the free parking along the residential streets nearby and some nice views of the exterior of the castle. From the castle, you want to head toward Heidelberg City by walking down Steubenstrasse which will merge into Route 3 which is called Handschuhsheimer Landstrasse at this point. Continue down Route 3 until you cross the Neckar River and enter the city.
As you cross the bridge look up the river to see you next destination : the Alte Brücke or old bridge. Head to the bridge by walking along the river or heading into town and walking along the main pedestrian walkway called Hauptstrasse. When you cross back over the Neckar River on the Old Bridge look for a sign pointing to the Philosophen Weg (Philosopher’s Way) which was where some famous German poets used to walk and think on great matters. Can’t remember who they were but I’m sure they were famous.
The path is a pretty steep climb with lots of steps and switchbacks and contained on both sides with stone walls. There are several places to pull off the path to take some pictures and catch your breath. At the top of the climb, head to the left (back down the river). You are now on the Philosopher’s Way and on the “red line” trail. Continue down this path with its excellent views of Heidelberg until you see the “red line” trail head off to the left and up the hill. Stay on the “red line” trail all the way to the top of the mountain (maybe not a mountain but it is a very large hill). Along the way you will see a Turm (a tower) you can climb up, ruins of two abbeys (one with a tower you can climb up for an excellent view looking down on Heidelberg and one with a tower that lets you look down over the abbey ruins) and an amphitheater built in the 1930s.
When you are done checking out the sites continue on the “red line” trail until you see the “upside down T” trail which you will want to take to the left (East), down the hill and back to your car. Stay on this trail all the way back into Handschuhsheim, to the castle and to your car.
The entire route is a little over 7 miles with steep uphill assents, doable if you take your time and are in average shape. We stopped for lunch in Heidelberg at the brewery restaurant called Vetters but still completed the hike in under 4 hours. If you want to see the sites but don’t think you can make the hike there is parking at the top of the hill which is how many of the folks we saw walking around arrived at their destination.
Written Mar 18, 2013
When I asked about Heidelberg in the Travel Forums, christine.j advised me to go to Handschuhsheim to get a different perspective on Heidelberg. This part of the town ist not visited by many tourists, but it has some very interesting sites, particularly St Vitus Church and the Tiefburg. St Vitus is especially noted for its medieval frescoes and the impressive tombs of the knights of Handschuhsheim, which are described in seperate tips. This tip is about the church itself.
In the past, Handschuhsheim was connected to the famous Lorsch Abbey and the abbot of Lorsch constructed the church in the beginning of the 11th century. There had already been a preroman church at this place, though. Many alterations were done throughout the centuries, a particular one in the 15th century by the knights of Handschuhsheim who also founded an abbey. Another big alteration was done in 1933/34 so that part of the building looks very modern now. While in the back there are the interesting medieval frescoes, the front looks like a very new building with many modern elements.
The atmosphere in the church was so quiet. I was the only visitor, and I did not meet any other tourists in Handschuhsheim. This was very nice after the hustle and bustle in the Old Town, and I enjoyed the visit very much.
Adress: Pfarrgasse 5, Heidelberg
Directions: Handschuhsheim is north of the Old Town. Take tram No 5 (f.ex. from Bismarckplatz) and get off at Hans-Thoma-Platz.
Updated Sep 4, 2011
The reason why I immediately wanted to go to Handschuhsheim when christine.j told me about it was to see the medieval frescoes. They are from around 1400 and later, they originate from the original Roman church located here.
The frescoes cover the whole of the eastern wall of the church and a part of the western wall. There are also frescoes at the reveals of the southern windows who depict the saints Wendelin, Odilia, Jacobus and Appolonia. The other frescoes, which are a little older, depict the life of Jesus.
I found the paintings so beautiful that I spent a lot of time here looking at them.
Updated Sep 4, 2011
St Vitus was the traditional burial place of the knights of Handschuhsheim and their families (see the tip on the Tiefburg. There are several glamourous tombs within the church, and a number of smaller tombs scattered around the graveyard that surrounds the building.
The tombs within the church are very splendid and big.
The first picture shows a detail of the tomb of Johann V von Handschuhsheim. I like how it symbolizes knighthood.
The second picture shows the tomb of Diether von Handschuhsheim and Margarethe von Frankenstein.
The third picture shows one of the graves outside of the church.
The fourth picture shows Johann V and his sister Barbara - they were the last members of the family of Handschuhsheim and died without heirs, as is described in the Tiefburg tip. Barbara died in 1599, her brother was killed in a duel in 1600.
The tomb in the fifth picture shows both of them with their parents, it is their parents tomb and Johann V and Barbara are depicted as children.
The tombs are very impressive, especially because the knights and their families are depicted larger than life. It is an oppressive atmosphere, but it is full of dignity.
Updated Sep 4, 2011
Located in Handschuhsheim is also the Tiefburg - not nearly as famous as the famous Heidelberg castle, and much smaller, but still featuring an interesting history!
The castle was built in the early Middle Ages (the exact years are not known), and a sign located at the castle tells you about the history: The first documentary evidence of the knights of Handschuhsheim is from 1130. In the 15th century, the knights were on good terms with the electors of Heidelberg, and they possessed many estates and properties in the region. However, everything changed: The last knight of Handschuhsheim, Johann V, died on New Year's Eve in 1600, only fifteen years old, due to a duel. He had no male heir.
Johann V was buried in St Vitus church, as were his ancestors. His opponent in the duel was a knight of Hirschhorn, and after her sons death, Johann V's mother cursed the killer of her son: That he would die without a male heir. And that is what happened!
The mother died during the Thirty Years' War and the castle was damaged heavily during that time, and then destroyed during the Orléan wars in the 17th century. In 1950, it was acquired by the town of Heidelberg, and later recnstructed and renovated.
Unfortunately the castle was not open for visitors when I visited, but I was lucky because a supplier was there with his bus to supply the restaurant, so I was able to creep inside and have a short glimpse. The castle is not big, but it looks exactly like the castles I imagined as a child - a fairytale castle of brave knights and adventures :-)
The castle is usually open on tuesdays and fridays from 16.00 - 18.00.
Adress: Dossenheimer Landstraße 6, Heidelberg
Directions: In Handschuhsheim, north of the Old Town. Take tram No 5 from the Old Town and get off at Hans-Thoma-Platz, it's only a short walk from there.
Updated Sep 4, 2011
Phone: 06221 409 584
Especially if you're not a museum-fan, you'd probably walk past this building and never think you'd missed anything: wrong. Especially during the summer months, Heidelberg's old town is filled to annoyance-point with tourists and residents alike. There are numerous street cafes and al-fresco eateries, but finding one that's not too crowded might just be impossible.
That's why I love this restaurant / cafe: it is located right on the main street in the old town, but it's relatively unknown and off the "tourist track". Walk into the main entrance of the "Kurpfalz Museum" (Hauptstraße 97). The courtyard gardens has around 20 tables and they serve a full lunch or dinner menu. We usually prefer to visit for some nice traditional coffee and home-baked-style cakes. In summer 2006, my mother and I spent just over an hour here; relaxing in the cool of the trees' shade, resting our sore shopping-trip feet & enjoying the calm surroundings. Even in winter, you can sit inside their baroque and very grand dining rooms.
Prices are relatively reasonable, considering that you're still in the tourist centre of town, service is efficient and friendly, and generally it's a very pleasant experience with surprisingly good food.
Updated Apr 25, 2011
Phone: +49-(0)6221-583 4020
As early as 1130 the first monks moved to this place above the river near Heidelberg. The cloister there has been a monastery, later and more successful a nunnery, a boarding school , a summer residence for rich families and now it is a monastery again. It's located between Heidelberg and the suburb of Ziegelhausen. Most buildings today are from 20th century.I really liked the depiction of the weary traveller in the church.
The gardens were beautiful, naturally in July, and especially since the cloister is famous for their gardening.The monks are running a very successful garden shop, too.
There are some guest rooms for people who want to experience living in a cloister or who simply want to enjoy some days of complete rest. Since it's a monastery, only men can stay.
There is some parking up there, but most visitors we saw had walked there. It is a wonderful area for hiking.
You can also take the bus 34 from Heidelberg to Ziegelhausen and get off at Paulusheim, it's another five minute walk up the hill.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Next door to the back end of the City Theater at Friedrichstr. 9 is the Hochschule fuer Juedische Studien or "Hjs".
This unique institution offers a wide variety of courses in Jewish history, literature, art and philosophy, as well as languages such as Hebrew, Aramaic and Yiddish. It views itself as "the successor of the great institutions of Jewish scholarship that existed in Germany in the years before the Second World War" and includes a comprehensive 50,000 volume library on Jewish subjects.
It was founded in 1979 and works in close cooperation with Heidelberg University.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Phone: (0 62 21) 43 85 10
This is one of about twenty nice little streets in the Old Town that lead from the main street down to the Neckar River.
This particular one actually starts at Heumarkt (Haymarket) and leads down to Synagogenplatz (Synagogue Square), which is close to the river.
Updated Sep 19, 2010
My original reason for taking this picture was to show the nice row of bicycles stretched across one side of the Heumarkt square. (I always like to document bicycle usage in places I visit.)
It turns out that these two buildings are student residence halls. The one on the right was named after Gustav Radbruch (1878-1949), a German politician and law professor who was one of the first to be fired by the Nazis when they came to power, and one of the first to be reinstated after the Second World War.
The building on the left was once the Hotel Goldenes Ross, but it was bought in the 1920s for use as a student residence hall with money donated by an American named Hiram Watson Sibley (1845-1932), who is perhaps best known as the founder of the Sibley Music Library at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
Sibley was extremely rich because his father, Hiram Sibley (1807-1888), had made a huge fortune in the 1850s and '60s by consolidating a group of small telegraph companies to form the Western Union Telegraph Company.
Updated Sep 19, 2010
Phone: (0 62 21) 54 38 90
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