Frankfurt was an industrial center bombed to the ground during World War II. Today, it is the financial center of Germany and possesses many fine modern buildings. Our ship had left the Rhine and was on the Main when we woke up in Frankfurt, docked next to some very nice riverside parks.
We took a bus to Heidelberg, and when we returned, Michelle and I walked to the old Frankfurt city center. The buildings there too had been bombed, but were rebuilt to resemble their medieval origins. The reconstruction, however, is a curious blend that looks like a modern effort to create a medieval look. It most evident in the St. Nicolas Church, first built in the 13th century and then rebuilt in 1951.
Heidelberg is dominated by the castle above the city. It was built between the 14th and 17th centuries on the site of even older monasteries, and when you walk into it, you can easily see the different style architectures in the various additions. I was intrigued by the sundial on one wall but can’t imagine how long it would take me to figure it out.
The castle and valley sit before broad plains extending into France and was a natural defensive point for battles involving Germans, the French and the Hapsburgs. It was destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th Century, and a later effort to rebuild in the 18th century was suspended after a lightning strike caused a major fire.
After touring the castle and having lunch, we just walked around the town passing the University Library. The University was founded in 1386, and its library, founded in 1421, is the oldest library in Germany still intact.
The University maintained legal jurisdiction over its students. As a result, when a student was cited by civilian authorities, he was handed over to the University for punishment. This often meant serving time in the “student prison” but students in prison were allowed to leave during the day to attend classes. This practice continued to 1914, and it became a matter of honor to serve time in the prison. Students began putting graffiti on the walls with candle wax and soot. Then that too became a tradition, and students began bringing paint with them when sentenced. The “student kiss” is a Heidelberg chocolate confection with a label showing a silhouette of a young woman facing a student in his cap. We noted one of the paintings on the wall mimicked this silhouette but was of two students facing each other.
The Church of the Holy Spirit, built between 1344 and 1441, is next to the central market. For two hundred and thirty years, an inside barrier separated Catholics and Protestants from each other and each had their own door. Alie was anxious to see the stained glass window commemorating the bombing of Hiroshima. She was intrigued because during my 2002 visit with the students, I talked with stranger in front of that window, and it turned out the man was Alie’s brother-in-law’s Riverton, Wyoming neighbor and little league coach — a classic “small world” tale.