Historical Travel-The Rhine Continued

One Tuesday our ship changed course once again this time turning up the Main River heading into the Bavarian region. I was now expecting to see everyone in lederhosen and drinking beer out of steins, but once again I was surprised. The people of the Main River do not consider themselves Bavarians, but Franconians. They consider themselves derived from the Franks and are Catholic wine drinkers. Again, wineries are on every hillside. What I have learned is that you need to travel south to around Munich to see the type of Germany I imagined.

We spent the day in was Heidelberg, which is mostly famous for its world renown university, the oldest in Germany. The school was founded in 1386. To put that in context I attended the second oldest university in the states, The College of William and Mary, and it was founded in 1693. Even our oldest is new compared to this region. With the university, Heidelberg became the scientific center of Germany but also the artistic, as it drew in young artisans and became the cradle of the romantic period. It drew in authors like Johann Wolfgang Goethe who wrote possibly the worst book I have ever read, The Sorrows of Young Werther, uggg it was awful.

Heidelberg is one of the oldest cities in Germany, the first found mention of it was in 769 AD. It has old and beautiful bridges that cross the Neckar River. There are pictures of the arch leading to the bridge and the bridge itself. Above the town is the Heidelberg Castle that housed the Prince Elector who both spiritually and politically controlled the region during the Holy Roman Empire. There are pictures of the castle as well as the view when the Prince Elector could look down on all the little people. The local Catholic Church, the Church of the Holy Spirit, dominates the town and was finished in 1515.

Being a university town, it was full of young boys (around 14 at the time) and was also full of young girls at finishing school. The two were watched closely, especially the girls, so they came up with a way to show the girls they liked them when a chocolate company started making kissing chocolates. Stores that sold them had this picture outside, you can still buy them today.

On a darker note, Heidelberg strongly supported the Nazi movement from early on, especially the students. On November 9, 1938, what is known as Kristallnacht, or night of broken glass. The town burned down the two synagogues and the next day began sent their Jews to Dachau. In the picture with the gold bricks on the ground, marks the homes of Jews and shows where they were sent. The town is still coming to grips with their past.

One thing of interest is that unlike many of the towns I have seen the last couple days, Heidelberg was basically spared during WWII. Some think because it was a university town full of students and not strategic and some because the US eventually use it as a base of operations. Our guide said it was because the Eisenhower’s trace their ancestry to Heidelberg and he wanted to spare it. Whatever the reason American planes dropped leaflets telling the people their town would be spared to the joy of those that lived here. Our next stop was not so fortunate

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