Tyler Wentworth in Heidelberg

These are some of my earliest travel doll pictures, taken in mid-2000, when Tyler Wentworth had just been released and the Travel Blythe Clan was not yet in sight.

Heidelberg´s Old City Centre with the 14th century Heiliggeistkirche (Holy Ghost Church) on the left and some University buildings on the right. The Old Bridge over the river Neckar that connects the Old City Centre with the surrounding modern quarters was built in 1788.

Heidelberg was officially founded in the 12th century, but settlement in the area is going back way before Roman times. It´s not quite sure where exactly the name originates from. It´s either a corruption of "Heidelbeerberg" (blueberry mountain), "Heidekrautberg" (heather mountain) or "Heidenberg" (heathen mountain).

Heidelberg is home to the oldest university in Germany, founded in 1386. It has become the epitome of a romanticized vision of student life - as pictured in "The Student Prince" - and the well-preserved students´ prison (Studentenkarzer - for background information on that see Travel Blythe´s adventure in Erlangen) is one of its most famous sights. 

In more recent times, Heidelberg University was also the somewhat less idealized setting for the horror movie "Anatomy", which deals with unexplained deaths, secret societies and fraternities, and bizarre human experiments.

Heidelberg has applied for the Unesco World Heritage list, but no matter whether it makes it on there or not, it´s still considered one of the most beautiful cities in Germany.

Heidelberg Castle,  overlooking the city, is one of the most famous - and romantic - ruins in Germany. What you can presently see there dates back to the Renaissance period, but traces of earlier buildings have been found.                                                                                    The castle was the seat of the Prince-Electors of the Palatinate until it was destroyed in the Nine Years´ War at the end of the 17th century.

These prince-electors (Kurfürsten) were the 7 (later 9) members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire -  they, and they alone, elected the Holy Roman Emperor.

Rome? I thought we were in Germany? - Yep. The Holy Roman Empire was named so because its rulers claimed to be following in the tradition of the Roman Empire, appointed by divine grace. In fact, it was a was a union of territories in Central Europe between the Middle Ages and the early 19th century. Although the first Holy Roman Emperor was considered to be Charlemagne, crowned on 25 December 800, the continuous line of emperors began only with Otto the Great in 962 and the name was first documented in 1157. The last was Francis II, who abdicated and dissolved the Empire in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars.                                                                                                                                      The Empire's territorial extent varied over its history, but at its peak it encompassed the territories of present-day Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Belgium, and the Netherlands as well as large parts of modern Poland, France and Italy. For much of its history the Empire consisted of hundreds of smaller kingdoms, principalities, duchies, counties, Free Imperial Cities, and other domains. Despite its name, it never included Rome within its borders. (Wikipedia).

Walking up the mountain to the castle.

Not too long after its destruction, the picturesque ruin became popular with painters and artists. The Gingko tree in the castle garden that inspired Goethe to his famous poem  (http://www.xs4all.nl/~kwanten/goethe.htm) is actually still there!

The Romanticist era was extremely fond of ruins, but few of them inspired their own literary sub-movement -  the "Heidelberg Romantics" include poets such as Joseph von Eichendorff, Clemens Brentano, his wife Bettina von Arnim and her brother Achim (friends with Goethe, Beethoven and related to English writer, Elizabeth von Arnim and her cousin, Katherine Mansfield), Friedrich Hoelderlin, the Brothers Grimm and others.
William Turner traveled several times to  Heidelberg and painted the castle. Victor Hugo wrote about it, as well as Mark Twain and many others. 

The Legend of the Witch´s Bite

There is a small side door that leads into the courtyard of Heidelberg castle. A heavy iron ring is attached as a knocker, and it is said that whoever is able to bite right through that ring will be the new owner of the Castle. Many have tried but none have succeeded yet.

  Once, even a witch tried - but had no luck. She only managed to bite a small tear into the ring - which is now known as the "Witch´s Bite".

On the castle terrace, one can see an impression like a footprint in the stone.  It is said to have been left by a knight who leapt from a third-story window when a prince made an early return to his wife’s bedroom.

The "Krautturm" (herbs turret), also known as "Pulverturm" (gunpowder turret) or "gesprengter Turm" (blown-up turret) was - guess what - blown up in 1693 during the Nine Years´War. It used to be a gunpowder (nicknamed "herbs") magazine. Goethe used to love this ruin and his drawing of it is one of the oldest renderings of this tower.

The White Lady of the Hohenzollern

In 1887, a castle guard claimed to have seen the ghostly appearance of a White Lady. The man, however, was either drunk and nobody believed him or they believed he was drunk because of the story he told. Whichever it was, three weeks later, the Hohenzollern family - the Prussian royal dynasty who is related to the Electors of the Palatinate by marriage - was struck by a series of seven unexpected deaths. In 1914, even the New York Times wondered whether the White Lady would walk again soon, heralding death and misfortune to the dynasty of the German Emperor. That was the year World War I broke out, which ultimately led to the end of the German Empire and the reign of the Hohenzollern. The White Lady is said to be the ghost of an ancestor who murdered her two children from a previous marriage so she´s be free to marry into the family. She has been seen in castles all over Germany, but the drunken guard´s encounter at Heidelberg was her last known appearance.

Cough. Alright, so she´s not really a ghost belonging to Heidelberg Castle, but rather a traveling ghost who happened to turn up here, among other places, but I couldn´t find a ghost story that was associated with the castle itself only (if you know of one, please let me know) and hey, what´s a romantic castle ruin without a ghost?!

The Courtyard with the so-called Friedrich wing (built 1601 - 1607 by Prince-Elector Friedrich, or Frederick I.).  The statues on the facade represent his ancestors (more Electors). 

Interestingly enough, the Prince-Electors of the Palatinate were related to the Bavarian Wittelsbach family which includes Prince Clemens August, the guy who built Castles Augustusburg and Falkenlust in Bruehl (see Travel Blythe´s visit there) as well as Ludwig II., probably the ultimate designer of elaborate fantasy castles. Sisi ("Sissi") of Austria belongs to the Palatinate branch of the Wittelsbachs as well. Some things seem to run in the family there... ;-)

Prince-Elector Frederick I., nicknamed "The Palatine Fritz", led a bit of an excessive life and was regularly piss drunk. There´s even a song about him, which goes: "--- I´ve been sloshed again!"  (http://www.musicanet.org/robokopp/Lieder/wutendwa.html)

War halt doch ein schönes Fest, alles wieder voll gewest.

Another unique character born at Heidelberg Castle was Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine, better known as "Liselotte von der Pfalz" - she was the great-grandmother of Marie Antoinette.                                                                                                                                    Liselotte was married off to Philippe, duc d'Orléans, the younger brother of Louis XIV of France. She never saw her beloved Palatinate again and missed it all her life.          Earthy, with a "no nonsense"-attitude, blunt, opinionated and prolific, sometimes even vulgar, but proud, she was quite an unusual figure at the court of Versailles and not exactly popular with everyone - and vice versa. She especially disliked the king´s maitresses and their children and didn´t do much to hide it. Her letters to her aunt Sophia and others document a vivid picture of life at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV and the Regency era of her son, also named Philippe.


The Ottheinrich wing, built by Elector Ottheinrich (= Otto Heinrich) 1557 - 1560. The statues on the facade depict legendary heroes and emperors, allegories of the virtues a Christian ruler should possess (strength, faith, hope, charity, justice), as well as classical deities representing the planets.

Ottheinrich was another character true to the family tradition: he, too, led an excessive life and finally went bankrupt.  His poison wasn´t booze, however, but  books and learning - he was the founder of the  Biblioteca Palatina, one of the largest and best libraries of the time which today is in possession of the Vatican.

This picture reminds me so much of "Picnic at Hanging Rock"!


While the picture shows some of the castle casemates, it also suggests how the cellars look like - which house the famous Great Cask of Heidelberg, an enormous wine vat standing two stories tall. Once the largest functioning wine vats in the world, it was reputedly made from 130 oak trees and has a capacity of some 50,000 gallons.

The Vat is mentioned in Jules Verne's novel "Five Weeks in a Balloon", Washington Irving's "The Specter Bridegroom", Mary Hazelton Wade's "Bertha", Mark Twain's "A Tramp Abroad", Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" and Heinrich Heine´s "Lyrisches Intermezzo".

There is a platform on top of the vat, which used to be used as a dance floor. When the French ambassador´s party came to Heidelberg to talk about Liselotte´s marriage to the Duc d´Orleans, legend has it the Prince had a banquet held on the platform on top of the vat. He made a band of musicians hide inside the vat, who began to play when the mood was cheerful. The French, however, had no way of expecting this. Believing the devil had come out of the depths of hell with his demons to hunt them, they fled screaming down the staircase - in the dark, for in the confusion, the candles had dropped and gone out.

The most famous story of the Vat, however, tells of its guardian in the 18th century - a dwarf named Perkeo, a court jester and cellarer with a tremendous thirst for wine. Some say he could consume the contents of the Great Cask in a single draught, while a more reasonable source states that he only attempted to empty it by drinking eighteen bottles daily for fifty years. One day, however, Perkeo substituted a glass of water—some say, by accident, others, that he felt a little unwell that day and followed the ill advice of a quack—and died instantly!

Perkeo´s statue is in the cellar still guarding the vat to this day. He really existed: Elector Carl Philipp met him in Tyrol and hired him as a court jester. Perkeo was supposedly a nickname deriving from his response when offered wine, “Perche no?” (“Why not?”).

Another Winter´s Tale

In 1613, Friedrich - or Frederick - V., Elector Palatine married Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of James I. of England. It was a political marriage. Part of the intent of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (Guy Fawkes & Company) had been to put the nine year old Elizabeth onto the throne of England (and, presumably, Scotland) as a Catholic monarch, after assassinating her father and the Protestant English aristocracy. Frederick was the leader of the association of Protestant princes in the Holy Roman Empire known as the Evangelical Union, and so Elizabeth was married to him in an effort to increase James's ties to these princes. (Frederick´s sister Elizabeth Charlotte married the Elector of Brandenburg, thus linking the family to the Hohenzollern dynasty and their ghost).

The marriage celebrations involved great expense. William Shakespeare´s "Winter´s Tale" was performed at the wedding - a play in which one of the main characters happened to be the king of Bohemia. Strange but true - in 1619, Frederick was offered and accepted the crown of Bohemia. Since his reign lasted only one winter, he and Elizabeth became known as the "Winter King and Queen." 

Their youngest daughter was later known as Sophia of Hanover, the aunt of Liselotte. Following the English Act of Settlement 1701, Sophia and her descendants were made heirs to the English, Scottish and Irish thrones (later British throne). All monarchs of Great Britain from George I. are actually descendants of the Winter King and Queen - and the Elector Palatine. (Which makes England a Palatine colony. Mwahahahahahaha!)

The so called "Thick Tower" with the "English building" in the background. 

Frederick commissioned the Elizabeth gate at Heidelberg Castle for the wedding - it is said the gate was put up in just one night, the night before Princess Elizabeth's birthday. The masons probably had the pieces stored somewhere, and put them together in a hurry.

Frederick also had the English Building built for his wife. On it’s left (north) side, the Thick Tower served as a bastion. It has a diameter of 28 am and a wall thickness of 7 m.
The upper floor of the tower housed a theatre for Elizabeth. The English Building was destroyed during the Nine Years´War and never rebuilt.

Before his marriage, Frederick V had spent nearly a half year in England, and though he was only 17 years-old,  he made contact with important architects - Inigo Jones, to name but one - who later undertook changes and new building plans for the Heidelberg Castle. 

Very soon, the building of an enormous garden was tackled.

However, the plants were intended for level ground, and the slope of the mountain had to be converted. First earth movements had to be achieved, which contemporaries regarded as the eighth wonder of the world. Frederick´s garden was famous all over Europe.

Bonus: Making Of

Speaking of "Picnic at Hanging Rock"... I always wanted to know what really happened to Miranda and the others, so I was elated to find out that the author had actually written a final chapter explaining just that which she then decided to leave out of the book and not have published until after her death.

It is now available (well, it´s already out of print again, but here´s a summary and discussion: http://www.mck.com.au/users/brett/index.html?content=picnic.htm) but after reading it, I can really understand the decision to publish the actual story without it. The story was better that way.

On the other hand, with so much tension built up, so many questions raised and so much left to the readers´ speculation, I wonder if any explanation could have been written that would have satisfied. 

I guess sometimes it´s just better to not know and savour the mystery.