All great romantic cities have a river: Prague has the Vltava, Paris has the Seine, Florence the Arno, and Heidelberg the Neckar river.
"Die Alte Bruecke" (=the old bridge) is named after Kurfuerst (Prince Elector) Carl Theodor and apparently is Germany's 2nd oldest bridge.
The stone structure itself is not actually ancient (built in 1788, destroyed in WWII, rebuilt in 1947) but has been preceeded by ancient wooden structures, the first one dating back to the year 1284! Of course, these wooden bridges weren't very sturdy and didn't survive floods, ice and rot over the years.
The bridge has nine (9) red sandstone arches, blending-in perfectly with the same building material used throughout the old town. On these arches you can see the marked heights and dates of historic and recent floods in the Neckar Valley. A few years ago (2001) the bridge was finally closed to traffic in order to preserve this endangered monument. Nowadays, (thankfully) only pedestrians & bicycles are allowed to cross.
--> NOTE: The bridge is a great spot for photographing the castle.
You will notice two (2) statues on the bridge.One is a monument to Prince Elector Carl Theodor. The statue was restored last year (in 2006) and I witnessed the unveiling ceremony (see pictures). The figures around his feet symbolize the most important rivers of the lands governed by him: the Rhine, Mosel, Danube & Isar.
He was also said to be a great fan and supporter of the arts & sciences. That's why the other statue is dedicated to the goddess of wisdom (Roman goddess Minerva; in Greek: Pallas Athene).
(see my separate tip on the famous Heidelberg Bridge Monkey)
The Old Bridge or Carl Theodor Bridge was originally built in 1786-88. It was destroyed by retreating German soldiers at the end of the Second World War, but was quickly rebuilt and was reopened on July 26, 1947.
To get a better picture of it, with the castle in the background, you should go over to the other side of the river and walk downstream a ways. I was too lazy to do this, obviously. But maybe next time.
The Alte Bruecke (Old Bridge) spans the beautiful Neckar River. It is about the fifth bridge built in that spot. The first four were wooden and were destoyed by fire and flood. It was not until the latter part of the 18th century that Prince Elector Karl Theodore ordered the construction of a stone bridge.
The "Alte Brücke" in Heidelberg, also named "Karl-Theodor-Brücke" after the nobleman who established it, connects the Old Town with the suburb of Neuenheim on the opposite shore of the Neckar. A bridge across the Neckar is documented since medieval times, but the bridge in its present form dates back to 1788. The bridge gate though is even older and dates back at least to the 16th century. Interesting details of the bridge are several classicist statues of antique goddesses and a statue of St. Nepomuk on the Neuenheim river bank.
The modern sculpture of the "Brückenaffe" ("bridge monkey") relates to an ancient relief on the bridge showing a monkey with a mirror, according to legend intended to teach all new arrivals entering the city some humility.
You cannot fail to miss the monkey sitting at the side of the old bridge which crosses the Neckar river.
Apparantly there has been a statue of a monkey here for hundreds of years but the present one has only been here for 20 years or so. You won't be alone if you pose here. In fact Chris had to queue to be a typical tourist!
There is a sign by the monkey which reads something like "why are you looking at me ? There are plenty more monkeys in Heidelberg"
The old bridge is a great place to relax and take in the sights of Heidelberg. The views from the river are among the most amazing in Germany in my opinion and each time I have been here I have spent at least thirty minutes to an hour just hanging out watching the world.
Prince Elector Karl Theodor instructed that this bridge be built in 1786. On the town side, one can see the medieval bridge gate which was originally part of the town wall.
The interesting thing about the Alte Brucke is that you will want to get pictures of it and also take pictures of other things while you are on it. It is a very picturesque bridge which is impressive from all angles. However, don't miss strolling across it either as the views of Heidelberg from it are spectacular, especially the Schloss.
West of the Old Bridge Gate you'll find something quiet un-German: the Heidelberg Bridge Monkey. He holds a mirror in his left hand, with a sly smile on his face. This bronze sculpture was installed here in 1979 by Professor Gernot Rumpf.
Apparently there was a bridge monkey in Heidelberg as far back as the 15th century. Old drawings of the town show it next to the tower on the north end of the bridge. Seems like the old one disappeared sometime in the 17th century. Nobody is sure how or why.
The plaque next to the statue reads:
"Why are you looking at me? Haven't you seen the monkey in Heidelberg? Look around and you will probably see, more monkeys like me."
Crazy German humor? Well, I think it more likely means that Heidelberg is a city with visitors from all over the world, of different cultures, religions and nationalities. So don't stare - cuz to somebody out there you're an exotic monkey, too! Another interpretation confirms my theory:
"As you look at me, world (or traveller), don't laugh too quickly at me - because if you were to look at humanity or even into a mirror, you might just see something equally funny."
Apparently it's good luck to touch the mirror the monkey is holding, but don't ask me why the artist gave this primate huge brass "unmentionables"... There are also 2 mice that sit next to the monkey (see photo). These are the artist's signature.
The touristy-thing to do is to stick your head inside the monkey's mask and take a picture (see my photo)... the embarrassing things I do for V.T...!
(See my seperate tip on the Old Bridge.)
Next to the Old Bridge is this marvellous monkey sculpture. I never figured out just which of the many princes in Heidelberg's history it referred to, but he had lots of illegitimate children and well...is therefore represented by this mischievous-looking monkey. Upon returning home, I learned that it is said that if you touch the little mouse sculpture next to it, you too will have many children. My 8-year-old loved the mouse so here's me hoping for grandchildren one day :) If you touch the monkey's mirror, you will be rich (so it's looking good for Alice here, using both hands) and if you touch its fingers, you will return to Heidelberg. I cannot remember touching anything apart from its huge cheeks so heaven only knows what will befall me :))) It is a great piece of art though!
One of the most famous images of Heidelberg after its castle, the bridge really is a lovely affair. Its proper name is Karl Theodor Brücke since the Prince Elector by that name was the first to build a stone bridge after the four previous wooden bridges were constantly swept away in floods. This he did in 1786-88, using the medieval gate still left from the old town walls and where today, you can see a portcullis (see second picture). He also added the Baroque style twin towers to it which is one of its more characteristic features. The little gate to the side of the bridge was used for cattle to access the river to drink. The bridge was bombed in WWII and according to the plaque on the bridge it says that this was totally unnecessary since it was in the last few days of the war but our guess, not knowing what movements happened around the Neckar specifically, is that Allied forces wanted to stop any troop from getting away. The proud citizens of Heidelberg quickly decided to rebuild the bridge though and I am glad they did since it is lovely. There is also the famous monkey here (see separate tip) which children love.
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