Showing posts with label Deutsche Schlößer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Deutsche Schlößer. Show all posts

Friday, May 8, 2015

Heidelberg Castle - from the other side

The Ruins

Heidelberg Castle

At some point in our lives most of us have seen the ruins pictured above of the world-renown ruins of Schloß Heidelberg, be it in a history book, travel brochure, or on a visit to Germany. But, how many have seen the "other side" of the castle, what it looks like from behind, or even heard the story of how this large castle became a ruin in the first place? Let's have a look at some of other angles and views of Heidelberg Castle from within the grounds of the castle itself. 

Black and white images of Heidelberg Castle. I took the photo above from a square in the Old Town below. The photo below is within the castle itself after passing through the arched entrance into the Innenhof.  

The ruined façade above is what one first encounters upon entering the castle from the river front. It is to the left after coming through into the inner courtyard. 

 The sentinel's box in the photo on the left is just before the main entrance to Heidelberg Castle. When entering the castle, one would have been easy target for anyone posted in there, watching as you made your way into the entrance gate (see below). These little boxes on the outer walls here remind me of similar ones found on castles I've visited along the coasts of Portugal and Spain. The tower on the right has had its roof rebuilt. It is one of the main gates from the mountain side of the castle. 

The Coat of Arms above the main entrance of Heidelberg Castle.
Note the garter band around the center which reads, "Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense"
Ring a bell? That's right, it is also the motto of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
of England. Can you guess why it is in the Elector's  coat of arms here?

When visiting, just stop and make a point of looking at the figures in the niches included within the historical walls of this great fortress. All throughout the castle ruins one comes across a variety of military leaders, dukes and electors chiseled within them. Fortunately, selected parts of the castle have been restored, including many of the statues seen there.

Much still remains of the former moat around this side of the castle, as can be seen in the two photos above. To enjoy a better view of the ruins up close and to get a vivid picture of how the castle was destroyed, a walk inside this huge moat is necessary. Some climbing can actually be done on the castle's ruins from down in there. 

Seen from down on the riverfront and the town, this tower ruin is one
of the most famous parts of the entire scene sitting on the side of the
mountain above. At this view from behind, it makes you wonder how
the rest of these bricks are even holding on! Compare the size of the
person enjoying the view from the ramparts with the overall structure. 

The sheer number of stones is remarkable. You don't need to look hard at these two photos (above and below) to see them. You can well imagine how many meters thick these broken walls are; I mean, look at the density. Think of how many explosives were required to split this and the other castle towers! This wasn't done with just any old canon ball during battle. No, this was planned and calculated several years after the last major battle following the French defeat of the armies of the Elector whose seat Heidelberg Castle was. 

Photo taken from down within the castle moat.

As I stood there, staring at these incredible, thick walls, I thought about how the demolition was carried out back in those days. It goes to show how remarkably powerful and resourceful  military people of that day were in tackling the major challenges before them. They knew how to fell such massive constructions; they knew the weak points, or how to accentuate them, and bring these mighty structures down. I guess if they can build them, they would certainly be able to bring them down as well. In the case of Heidelberg Castle, its destruction took place over a period of four years during the 9-Years War of the Palatine Succession. 

The Gardens

These balustrades are probably mixed with original and reconstructed pieces. This massive garden was evidently something else in its day! As can be seen in these several shots, the terraces were of two or three different levels and once upon a time contained all sorts of different gardens and patterns. 

It is nice to enjoy a stroll along them, imagining how they once looked when in their full glory. Despite the destruction of the castle, these terraces seem to have been pretty well left in shape. Over the past 300 years since the fall of Heidelberg Castle, these former gardens have at least maintained their original integrity of shape and outline. 

The gardens were built between 1616 and 1619. They were designed by Salomon de Caus for the Kurfürst Friedrich V, who had them built for his wife. They were destroyed by the French in 1689 during the 9-Years' War. It's terraces can still be enjoyed today.

Heidelberg Castle suffered the effects of fire three times. The first was in 1689 during the 9-Years' War of the Palatine Succession, which was the first time the French came through Heidelberg and defeated the Elector's army at the castle; in 1693, when the French returned to effectively destroy the castle as well as the city below enough to put the castle completely out of foreseeable military commission; and, again, in 1764 when it was struck by lightening which made it completely uninhabitable. 

From then on, stones from the castle ruins were used by Heidelberg citizens for the building of homes. This was not unheard of in history. Even parts of the Great Wall of China were used by locals for such similar purposes. This trend stopped at the beginning of the 19th century when the Count de Graimberg began the process of conserving what was left of the castle.

Without a doubt the photo above is one my favorite in this series. The lush green of the forest and overgrowth on this sunny day, engulfing the simple but lovely arches of the terrace are very pleasant to my eye. I stood where I was on one of the garden terraces just taking in the view. It reminded me of a Roman ruin almost, but in this case the stonework looks in excellent shape; it is certainly no ruin. Unfortunately for me, however, I could not seem to figure out how to get over there. The view back at the Heidelberg Castle ruins would no doubt have made for a very good photograph. 


See this very interesting two-and-a-half minute video on the destruction of Heidelberg Castle present by Spiegel Online. It shows a beautifully recreated castle before and during its downfall, as well as an easy-to-follow explanation.

How to get to Heidelberg

Trains of all types leave frequently each day from major cities such as Frankfurt, Mannheim, or Karlsruhe, Darmstadt, etc. on a regular basis. Heidelberg is such a famous tourist destination and international university city, that you will have no trouble finding Heidelberg on any train schedule. The average train ride from any of the above-mentioned cities should be one hour or less, depending on the particular train you choose.

The castle itself is not visible from the main train station. Taking a bus or tram from just outside the station into the Old Town, Bismarckplatz, or any other stop after Bismarckplatz will put you almost at the foot of the great castle. All you need to do is look up and see it. Then, get ready to climb... Enjoy!