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Heidelberg, what is the fuss all about?

Old Aug 11th, 2003, 11:29 AM
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Heidelberg, what is the fuss all about?

I just returned from a 4 days trip to Heidelberg and I must say that I'm a bit puzzled as to why this place is so popular,
especially among americans.

I mean, it's a pleasant little town on a river, with some beautiful views, and it looks like a good place to go to college
if you are a german-speaking student.

But aside from the ruins of a rather mediocre castle, a few pubs, and attractions like the student prison (!!) there is little to see in terms of culture, art, history, architecture.
I can probably name 50 small towns in Italy with a lot more to offer, and even in Germany there are more interesting places.

The natural scenery is nice but far from exceptional, again there are tons of nicer places...

So I don't mean to put down other people's experiences but can somebody explain to me why Heidelberg is #1 German destination for american tourists?

A puzzled traveler.
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Old Aug 11th, 2003, 11:36 AM
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I couldn't agree with you more, but prepare to take a beating from posters that think it is sacrilegious to make a negative comment about any European destination.

The Heidelberg tourism speil is that it is a town virtually untouched by the ravages of the world wars. What they fail to mention is that the place was pretty thoroughly destroyed by Louis 14th. A well-preserved 17th century town would be remarkable by US standards, but is nothing exceptional by European standards. I do think that Heidelberg has some value as a tourist destination, but that value is limited.
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Old Aug 11th, 2003, 11:58 AM
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First of all, I'm not convinced that this is the German locality which is the "#1" destination...is this some sort of "official" information or does it just seem like it given the many posts?
Let's face it...the majority of travelers to Europe couldn't care less about this board or what's on it-perhaps because they realize that a great deal of the content is strictly opinion-based and one man's treasure is another man's trash.
 
Old Aug 11th, 2003, 12:09 PM
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Steve, the way I ususually see it here, the "beatings" tend to occur when someone goes out of their way to put a place down, not when they say -- as Virgilio essentially did -- that they simply did not care for a place.

I actually think you helped answer the question when you wrote "A well-preserved 17th century town would be remarkable by US standards, but is nothing exceptional by European standards." Perhaps non-European tourists who like, or love, Heidelberg, are not comparing it to other European towns but, rather, to what they do not have in their countries.
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Old Aug 11th, 2003, 12:17 PM
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Virgilio

I agree with your description of Heidelberg. I think it is worth a one night stop if you are traveling between Romantic Road area and Rhine/Mosel wine regions. I would definitely not recommend it for four days.
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Old Aug 11th, 2003, 12:24 PM
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Here's my take on Heidelberg, when I took a tour throughout Europe which began in Switzerland, then visiting Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and about five stops in Germany. After visiting all of these (by comparison) crowded metropolis areas, Heidelberg was a welcome reprieve. I wouldn't suggest that anyone spend four days there (there's certainly not that much to see!), however I will always recommend that first time visitors to Germany include it on their itinerary. I would agree there are comparable (or better) small towns in Italy, France and Switzerland, however I didn't see anything else similar in Germany. I'll also admit much of that was probably due to our hitting the "hot spots", and there probably are just as beautiful places elsewhere in the country that are hidden away.

Perhaps when I head there again next summer I'll have a chance to find out!
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Old Aug 11th, 2003, 12:36 PM
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Capo, our ballroom dance coach is from Germany and she has told us that Germans like Heidelberg because, to them, it represents the quintessential university town (sort of like Berkeley, CA or Cambridge, MA). Not exactly a compelling reason to include HD on an American tourist itinerary.
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Old Aug 11th, 2003, 12:57 PM
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A little of history about Heidelberg. I spent a glorious 18 months there while in the Army many years ago. The story we were told is that there was an unwritten agreement between the Allies and Axis during WW2. The Allies would not bomb Heidelberg and Axis would not bomb Oxford and Cambridge. And, as far as I know, the agreement was not violated on either side. The only war damage in Heidelberg occurred when the retreating Germans blew up part of the Karlsbridge over the Neckar River. It was repaired shortly after the war.
While we loved it there and had some wonderful experiences with the local population, I will agree with previous posters that Heidelberg can be "done" in a day or two.
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Old Aug 11th, 2003, 04:13 PM
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I can recall an article in the German Press about a year ago that Heidelberg was the top destination for American tourists, while the Japanese prefered Trier and the Palatinate. Even the Germans were amazed at the popularity of Heidelberg. Yes, it is a charming University town with a castle and worth a day or two, but there are so many other towns in Germany that have more charm and better castles. Try Marburg a.d.Lahn for example.
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Old Aug 11th, 2003, 05:32 PM
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To paraphrase Virgilio
"I just returned from a 4 days trip to Cambridge and I must say that I'm a bit puzzled as to why this place is so popular, especially among americans.

I mean, it's a pleasant little town on a river, with some beautiful views, and it looks like a good place to go to college
if you are an English-speaking student.

But aside from the ruins of a rather mediocre castle, a few pubs, and attractions like the student prison (!!) there is little to see in terms of culture, art, history, architecture.
I can probably name 50 small towns in Italy with a lot more to offer, and even in England there are more interesting places.

The natural scenery is nice but far from exceptional, again there are tons of nicer places...

So I don't mean to put down other people's experiences but can somebody explain to me why Cambridge is #1 English destination for american tourists?

A puzzled traveler".

Chacun a son gout.

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Old Aug 11th, 2003, 11:18 PM
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CharlieB, I'm surprised to hear that the Japanese prefer Trier and Palatine to Heidelberg. All the Japanese tour groups used to make at least a half-day stop at Heidelberg before starting the Romantische Strasse. Have most of them even heard of (Trier, maybe yes) Palatine ? Maybe there has been changes in the trend in Japanese tourism ?
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Old Aug 12th, 2003, 01:11 AM
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I agree with some of the other posters. I think Heidelberg is good for a weekend at most. 4 days would be too long. I have places that I deem 'chill-out' destinations i.e. small, with nice restaurants, absence of cars, nice places to browse, a few interesting churches, sights, etc. I would definitely put Heidelberg at the top of that list. Heidelberg is a cute, chocolate box place - like Bath, Bruges, Cambridge, etc. Nice for a weekend but no more. Also, I think the weather can really affect your opinion of places - not yours obviously but mine!! I went to Heidelberg in the winter, on a sparkling sunny day. The castle had lots of melting snow and the air was fresh... aaaah

Interestingly, I had my best plate of pasta there!! With a beer. In the middle of winter.
 
Old Aug 12th, 2003, 08:33 AM
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Interesting...thanks, Steve.

Thanks also for the history info, Howard. Nice to know that even during the horrors of war there can be moments of humanity and sanity.

The story you were told about Heidelberg, Oxford, and Cambridge reminds me of a story I'd heard years ago about Paris, how the German commander there had been ordered by Hitler to destroy bridges/monuments/etc., but that the mayor of Paris apparently convinced him that to not destroy something when you could was actually a better demonstration of your power. It also helped that this German commander felt Paris was a beautiful city (which, of course, it is), and that he had recently come from visiting Hitler in Germany and felt he was going mad, so he did not feel as compelled to obey orders from him at that point.
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Old Aug 12th, 2003, 09:33 AM
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I have also read that the Nazi commander in occupied Paris told his aids that he refused to be remembered by history as the man who destroyed Paris. Apparently he was indeed taken with the place.
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Old Aug 12th, 2003, 09:41 AM
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Just found this...

"Liberating the City of Light"

http://www.army.mil/soldiers/august94/p50.html

Lt. Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz, the German commander in Paris, was under strict orders to defend the city, one of Adolf Hitler's most cherished prizes. Hitler ordered it held at any cost - including, if necessary, its destruction.

So when word reached Germany that the Allies had arrived in Paris, Hitler demanded, over and over, "Is Paris burning?" When he realized that Choltitz had refused to carry out his order, a frantic Hitler ordered a massive launch of his V1 and V2 rockets onto Paris, backed up by every available Luftwaffe plane.

The bombings, however, were few and far between. Choltitz surrendered the city intact to Brig. Gen. Jacques-Philippe Leclerc of the French 2nd Armored Div.
______________________

The program that I saw made it seem that von Choltitz's conclusion that Hitler was going mad, combined with the heartfelt plea of the mayor of Paris, were the two things that ultimately convinced him to refuse to carry out Hitler's spiteful order.





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Old Aug 12th, 2003, 09:58 AM
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AllyPatty: I completley agree with your desscription of Heidelberg which is just why I loved it so much!
I am constantly reminded in reading this forum how true "different strokes for different folks" really is.
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Old Aug 12th, 2003, 10:18 AM
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Not on topic I know but as a centre of the British Motor Car and Engineering Industries Oxford was indeed substantially bombed by the Luftwaffe in WW2.
I would imagine (but do not know) that Cambridge was too, to a degree as it would have been a rather obvious target for bombers returning (with payload intact from raids on the Midlands cities of Birmingham, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham)to continental airfields. If you had failed to drop your bombs on the designated target then far far better to jettison your payload over another town (and ambridge would have stood out like a sore thumb in the Fens)than to try and land with all that dangerous ordnance on board.

This is why Canterbury is rather wrecked.... bombers returning from aborted raids on London and the Medway Towns could easily sight the cathedral... hence the wholesale (though not complete) destruction of what had hitherto been a mediaeval gem.

And as for gentlemen's agreements and the like.... think about Dresden and the way that was obliterated precisely because it was such a beautiful city and the effect it was felt that this destruction would have on the German psyche.

Only extraordinary and principalled men in extraordinary opportunities could really save Europe's crown jewels from destruction.

Dr D.
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Old Aug 12th, 2003, 12:37 PM
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If you are interested in the story about Paris, there is a good book about it. The title is : IS PARIS BURNING? by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre. I have read it years ago.. interesting..
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Old Aug 12th, 2003, 01:53 PM
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You simply stayed too long.

We have been passing through Heidelberg since 1970. We have seen the castle in flames, enjoyed the Christmas market in December, cruised the Neckar by boat and visited the sites. Most of our trips have been maybe one full day and two nights. You stayed too long.

It is a great town to spend the night before you fly home out of Frankfurt. Easy drive to the airport, especially with a Saturday or Sunday morning departure.

You just stayed too long. Poor planning. You should have just left and gone somewhere else.
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Old Aug 12th, 2003, 03:41 PM
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Bob1 is so right.

Heidelberg is a nice town to visit for a short stay. I've never quite understood what all of the excitement is abiout heidelberg.

My mom was born 45 minutes from Heidelberg. Been there 3 or 4 times, always for the day. Did the cruise and the castle. Great place for a day or 2. Never any longer. Not much to do after the things mentioned.

3 years ago while travelling with my German Rail pass, I stopped in Heidelberg to do my wash and ended up sharing the laundromat with the US women's soccer team. Best time I've ever had washing my clothes.

There are so many other places to spend 4 days in Germany. Better planning definitely helps.

Mark
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