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The Hills are Alive...
Text by Inder Raj Ahluwalia
Published: Volume 14, Issue 4, July-August, 2006

It was in this small German town that Brentano and Arnim published their collection of folk songs... and Goethe lost his heart to the beautiful Marianne Von Willener. INDER RAJ AHLUWALIA inhales the romantic ambience of Heidelberg

Remember that adage, 'If you have a good reason for doing something, just do it.' Well, what if you have six?

I can think of at least six good reasons to visit Heidelberg. It's stunningly pretty, friendly, traditional, easily accessible, simple to discover, and literally oozes with character.

It was still early enough to be legitimately in bed when I hit the town, checked in at the Hotel Europa and met Ernst-Friedrich Von Kretschmann, the affable owner of the hotel who asked if I'd care to join him in the lounge for a welcome drink. Five minutes later I found myself seated with him in the hotel's salubrious lounge, being filled in on the property's finer points.

Venturing out, I started my town odyssey, taking the celebrated stroll along the river to the vantage point in the city - Heidelberg's world famous castle, its grand icon and showpiece, so lovingly featured in all its tourist brochures.

Rising majestically above the Old Town's narrow lanes and picturesque maze of roofs, the castle dominates the landscape. For five centuries, a centre of royal pomp and glory and the grand, glittering residence of the powerful Palatinate Prince Electors, it enjoyed enormous stature and fame that made it the rendezvous of poets and artists and a shining symbol of German romance.

A short tour is enough to explain why the Castle's so special to the city. Be they high Renaissance, Gothic, or surrealistic, the formidable structure's art forms reflect the history of the times. The Kaisersaal (Imperial Hall) features rotating art exhibits; the Konigsaal (Royal Hall) was used for ceremonies and coronations; and the Friedrichsbaukepell is where many couples took their marriage vows. July and August feature festivals that relive the glory of bygone days. Picture the splendour of courtly life, hunting horns blaring, followed by hearty feasting, with fireworks brightening the castle's walls.

My sweeping view had taken in hills, rivers and bridges. From the castle, the city appeared as a tangled mix of rows of houses, large courtyards, and gabled streets, neatly dissected by the River Neckar. A few degrees up, the frame was filled by thickly wooded hills. Still further up were blue skies.

A past of literary brilliance, refined passion and a host of love songs combine to make Heidelberg the gateway to Romantic Germany, and a premier tourist destination.

The seduction's easily explained. Dissected by the river, Heidelberg is a mix of castles, rivers, and ancient structures set amidst mountains, forests, and vineyards. Old Heidelberg reflects the three-fold harmony so beloved of the Romanticists and poets and writers of the Romantic Movement - the town tapering down to a river, imposing castle walls towering above it, with a background of rising wooded hills.

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