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What We Saw at the Kurpfälzisches Museum in Heidelberg

Centrally located in the middle of the pedestrian zone, the Kurpfälzisches Museum der Stadt Heidelberg, Electoral Palatinate Museum, is located inside the Palais Morass, a Baroque palace building. The history of the museum dates back to the initiative of the French emigre, Count Charles de Graimberg, who from 1810 began to devote himself to preserve the history of the Heidelberg Palace and the Palatine Princely House. His collection of coins, pictures and altars as well as sculptures (over 3,500) are the foundation of the Kurpfalz Museum.

The art collection of Charles de Graimberg was purchased from the city in 1879 and the museum was opened in 1908. After adding a new building in 1991 adjacent to the palace building, the collection grew immensely, and makes the museum experience itself a wild adventure of different styles of rooms, floors, and exhibits. It feels like the inside is so much bigger than the outside lets on. Besides collections of paintings from the 15th to the 20th century, you can also find sculptures, porcelain, Heidelberg city history, and costumes from a bygone era. Denise fell in love with Karl Weysser’s painting ‘Alte Poststation in Heidelberg mit Blick in die Seminarstrasse,’ and finding a postcard with the artwork on it in the gift shop made her very happy.

Besides art, there are also numerous archaeological finds in the museum, mainly through the remains of the Roman Neckar Bridge, which was discovered in 1877. Further archaeological excavations in Heidelberg and the surrounding palatine area after WWII, made the collection grow considerably.

History, art, porcelains, historical costumes, archaeology, period interiors, the Kurpfälzisches Museum der Stadt Heidelberg has something for everyone, and we enjoyed it very much! For more information regarding visiting hours and the history of the museum, visit their official site Kurpfälzisches Museum.


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Heidelberg's Old Bridge

Heidelberg's Old Bridge from various vantage points | Heidelberg, Germany

The Old Bridge, officially called Karl-Theodor Bridge, was built from 1786 to 1788 under Prince Karl Theodor, after eight wooden predecessors were destroyed by flooding and wars. It provides a great 360 degree spot for pictures of Heidelberg’s skyline complete with church spires, the castle, and riverfront homes.

Panorama view of the Heidelberg castle from the Old Bridge

Under Attack and Sabotage
If you look in the history books of Heidelberg, the Old Bridge is often mentioned as a place of warfare. The towers served as prisons and as the bridge guards’ domicile in earlier centuries. During the Coalition Wars (1792-1815) the French troops occupied half of the Palatinate up to the river Rhine, and attempted to conquer the Old Bridge, but did not succeed. The bridge you see today was rebuilt after WWII in 1947, when it was partly destroyed for the sake of a strategy. The German military blew up the fifth and sixth bridge pillars to prevent the entry of the American troops into Heidelberg. This approach to “secure” Heidelberg proved useless, the Allied Forces still made it over the bridge. From the 1970’s on, the bridge was modernized and adapted to serve a more modern infrastructure. Today the bridge can be driven on by vehicles between 6am to 10pm, so watch out for cars when you take selfies or watch boats float by. After 10pm, it serves as a pedestrian zone only until the next morning.

Guard Towers of the Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Bronze Monkey Sculpture Recreated by Professor Gernot Rumpf in 1979

Can’t Miss the Philosophical Monkey
One piece not to miss within all the beautiful surroundings is the bronze monkey. A monkey figure as a city monument has already been mentioned in a poem by German author Martin Zeiller in 1632, which is still written next to the new sculpture (see below for the text). The old monkey figure of the 17th century was destroyed in 1689 and a new monkey was not created until 1979, when artist Prof. Gernot Rumpf re-created it. The new bridge monkey, like the original, holds a mirror in his hand. Everyone that looks or takes a picture of the monkey will see their own face in the mirror. Next to the monkey is a bronze plaque with the following inscription:

WAS THUSTU
MICH HIE ANGAFFEN
HASTU NICHT GESEHEN
DEN ALTEN AFFEN
ZU HEYDELBERG
SICH DICH HIN UNND HER
DA FINDESTU WOL
MEINES GLEICHEN MEHR

This translates to: Look around you or in the mirror, and you will see more specimens of this species. Basically the monkey is telling us not to take ourselves so seriously.

Beside the plaque you can see 2 mice, which is the creative “signature” of Prof. Gernot Rumpf, who has created the monkey sculpture and many more sculptures and fountains all over Germany.

By the way: Beside the plaque you can see 2 mice, which is the creative “signature” of Prof. Gernot Rumpf, who has created the monkey sculpture and many more sculptures and fountains all over Germany. You can see more of his work here.

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Visiting the Student Prison and Old Auditorium of Heidelberg University

The unusual and beautiful aspects of Heidelberg University, Germany. Notes from our visit to the Student Prison and Old Auditorium, with photos.

Studentenkarzer, Student Prison
On the back of Heidelberg’s Old University building lies the Studentenkarzer, which was a student prison. From 1778 to 1914, students were jailed in this building, being punished for trivial offenses such as nightly disturbances or public intoxication. At that time, the university still had its own jurisdiction so that an official could impose punitive punishment. The arrest lasted anywhere between three days to four weeks, depending on the offense.

The unusual and beautiful aspects of Heidelberg University, Germany. Notes from our visit to the Student Prison and Old Auditorium, with photos.

As you head up the worn and uneven stairs, you will see graffiti and art everywhere: on walls, above the doors, and even on the ceiling. Upstairs are five prison cells, big enough for two or three students to share a cell. During the first two days of confinement, students were only provided with bread and water. Starting day three, visitors could bring them food and even beer. Students were not allowed to leave the building during their sentence, but they were permitted to attend lectures for the university through a connecting door from the prison. In the end, the time spent in the Karzer was a lot more comforting than it sounds, since the cells were spacious, and had desks and regular beds in them.

The unusual and beautiful aspects of Heidelberg University, Germany. Notes from our visit to the Student Prison and Old Auditorium, with photos.

Many students spent their time immortalizing themselves on the walls with their faces, visions and the signs of their respective student connections. These original fixtures and graffiti can still be seen today. Even Mark Twain visited the Studentenkarzer and mentions it in his book, A Tramp Abroad; “The walls were thickly covered with pictures and portraits (in profile), some done with ink, some with soot, some with a pencil, and some with red, blue, and green chalks; and whenever an inch or two of space had remained between the pictures, the captives had written plaintive verses, or names and dates. I do not think I was ever in a more elaborately frescoed apartment.”

Mark Twain visited the Studentenkarzer and mentions it in his book, A Tramp Abroad; “The walls were thickly covered with pictures and portraits (in profile), some done with ink, some with soot, some with a pencil, and some with red, blue, and green chalks; and whenever an inch or two of space had remained between the pictures, the captives had written plaintive verses, or names and dates. I do not think I was ever in a more elaborately frescoed apartment.”

If you visit the student prison, buy a combined ticket, which will not only include admission to the student prison, but also to the University Museum and the Alte Aula, Old Auditorium. The museum will be of limited interest if you can't read German, but be sure not to miss the Alte Aula inside the museum. It is on the back side of the Studentenkarzer. Step out onto the cobblestone street and walk around the building to enter the museum.

The Alte Aula was designed for the 500th anniversary of the university in the year 1886. The architect Josef Durm created the neo-Renaissance style room, that was originally built in a baroque style. Today, this magnificent room is mainly used for academic ceremonies such as the opening lectures of newly appointed professors or graduate celebrations. The Alte Aula is also a venue for public concerts and lectures to give the venerable ambience of this auditorium a special glow.

Alte Aula, Old Auditorium
After entering the museum, take the staircase one floor up and turn left into the hallway. On the right side of the hallway you can enter the Alte Aula. The interior of the auditorium - as it is still visible today - was designed for the 500th anniversary of the university in the year 1886. The architect Josef Durm created the neo-Renaissance style room, that was originally built in a baroque style. Today, this magnificent room is mainly used for academic ceremonies such as the opening lectures of newly appointed professors or graduate celebrations. The Alte Aula is also a venue for public concerts and lectures to give the venerable ambience of this auditorium a special glow.

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