Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Obsession With Castles: Heidelberg Castle

I have this obsession with castles that probably began as a young child reading fantasy novels, and then developed as I began traveling around the world and insisted on visiting as many of these famous sites as I possibly could.  I went through a phase when I was younger where I read as many novels as I could that had settings in castles, and if you combined that with ghost stories...well, I was completely hooked.  I will still drop anything today for a ghost story that takes place in a castle, so if anyone knows of any of these, please let me know and I will run to the bookstore or library.  In fact, I will probably go RIGHT NOW!!
Today, I'd like to feature Heidelberg Castle, a famous ruin in Germany, as I recently came across a beautiful print of this castle in an Etsy Store I was browsing.  I haven't heard a lot about it, so I thought I would feature it in this edition of My Obsession with Castles.

Heidelberg Castle, Germany

Heidelberg Castle was first mentioned as early as 1225 and is actually part of two original castles.  In 1537, the upper castle was apparently destroyed by lightning-bolt, while the lower castle is the one that we continue to see on the hillside today.

Heidelberg Castle was considered a Gothic and Renaissance masterpiece, but today a large part of it is in ruins.  In 1689, French troops set the castle and the town on fire, an occasion which is still commemorated with fireworks three times a year.  Although rebuilt by Karl-Ludwig, it was destroyed yet again in 1693 during the War of Succession.

There is a lot of history to this castle.  While the history is too long to recite here in this blog post, and it really is not my purpose to give a history lesson, I found some facts, in particular, really fascinating.  First of all, Victor Hugo visited the castle in 1838 and really enjoyed strolling around the gardens.  I would imagine it was not his inspiration for Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) and Les Miserables.  I wonder if he used any of the scenery for his other passionate creative outlet, drawing, as Hugo was a very prolific artist, producing over 4 000 drawings in his lifetime.  I can't imagine the beautiful scenery in the German mountains would not have found inspiration in his work.  Second of all, Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate was born at Heidelberg, the same woman who later married the brother of Louis XIV, Philippe I, Duke of Orleans.   I know from my own history lessons that many royal houses in Europe owe their descendency to this marriage, including the Spanish, Italian, Austrian, Bulgarian, Tuscan and Neopolitan royal families.  She is also the great-grandmother of Marie Antoinette.

In the eighteenth century, Heidelberg Castle was often used as a site for concerts, musicals, operas, and musical productions in the courtyard, to the delight of all.  Unfortunately, the early nineteenth century saw the castle being misused as a quarry, the castle stones being used to build new homes in the old town. 

Today, Heidelberg's reputation has spread around the world, with more than three million tourists a year.  Some renovation has occurred, but the main renovations are to preserve what is there and not for reconstruction purposes. The place is idyllic for weddings, and the scenery is breathtaking.  There are many observation towers from which to view the town and surrounding countryside.  If you wish, you can visit during the Heidelberg Castle Summer Festival and be treated to operas and other musical entertainments in the courtyard.

For those who like to exercise, you can take the 315 stairs to the castle (yes, they are numbered) or you can take the ten degree ramp that will make you legs burn.  For those who like to take things somewhat easier, there is a funicular that runs up the side of the mountain, giving the tourist a fantastic view of the town and surrounding countryside.  Whatever way suits your fancy, if you happen to be in this area of Germany, this is a must see tourist attraction!!

Heidelberg Castle - Majestic, Scenic, Breathtaking
Heidelberg Castle -
Pictures from


  1. My two boys love castles, too. A few years ago, I reviewed a new picture book on Castles for Family Fun magazine, and - even though my boys were a little old for it, they went crazy over it, studying the detailed photos of castles for hours!

    My dream - that I hope to make come true next year - is to take them to Europe to visit a couple of castles.

    This one looks beautiful!


  2. Hey, I've actually been there! I was too young to appreciate it though. From the pictures, it's gorgeous!

  3. OMG, I love castles too. The medieval times are my favorite time period. Thanks for the post with great pictures.

  4. What a gorgeous castle! I love castles too, and would love to visit more of them someday(if I ever win the lottery!). Great post!

  5. I'm a little late for this post but I'll write anyway! I just visited this castle two weeks ago and it is truly exquisite! We traveled much of Germany exploring the castles and cathedrals including the Cologne cathedral and Neuschwanstein, which are some of the most beautiful structures in the world, however... our favorite was most definitely Heidelberg! The grounds are magnificent, even in winter, and the whole place just had an air of mystery about it. We took hundreds of pictures while there and captured some amazing, inexplicable ones. Of them two stand out above all the others... orbs surrounding one of the wine barrels, one of the orbs is huge and bright and another has very clear spheres inside. I did capture orbs in the Cologne Cathedral as well but not nearly as exquisite as these in Heidelberg Castle! Another picture appears to be that of an other-than-human-being peering out a window. I'm trying now to find a program that can help me zoom in better! Anyway... I was just looking for information or answers to what I saw when I came across this blog so I thought I'd mention it! If you have the opportunity to see this fascinating place, do go! You will never regret it!! :)