1. Heidelberg University is the oldest university in Germany. Established in 1386, Heidelberg’s Ruprecht-Karls-Universität remains one of Germany’s most prestigious universities - it celebrated its 625th anniversary in 2011. It counts an impressive array of national figures amongst its alumni, including the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
2. Heidelberg is home to an amphitheater. Hidden from view from the town at the top of the surrounding wooded hills, the ‘Thingstätte’ was built in 1935 by the Nazi political party, designed by Heidelberg native Albert Speer. It was used for rallies and solstice festivals during WW2 and is now preserved as a monument, but also still used for festivals and cultural events.
3. The first bicycle was invented by a graduate of Heidelberg University. Karl Drais came up with the ‘Laufmaschine’, which represented the beginning of mechanized personal transport. It was nicknamed the Dandy Horse and was the first means of transport to make use of the 2-wheel concept, even though it didn’t have pedals.
4. The city hosts superb firework displays during the summer. Known as the ‘Schlossbeleuchtung’, there’s a fantastic firework display on the 1st Saturday in June, 2nd Saturday in July and 1st Saturday in September every year. It starts with the Heidelberg castle being lit up as though it is on fire. This is to remember the times in 1689, 1693 and 1764, when it actually went up in flames. After a few minutes of the castle ‘burning’, the fireworks begin. They’re launched from the old bridge and last about 15 mins.
5. Heidelberg is featured prominently in various poems and novels. The city is mentioned in works by the likes of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich Heine, and Mark Twain, who spent several months in Heidelberg in the late 1800′s. The novel ‘The Reader’, made into a film in 2008, was also set in the city.
6. Heidelberg escaped bombing in WW2. Unlike many German cities, it was not destroyed by air raids and therefore still has original buildings from the later Middle Ages and early Renaissance. It has been suggested that the city escaped substantial bombing because the US Army wanted to use it as a garrison after the war. In fact though, as Heidelberg was neither an industrial center nor a transport hub, there was nothing of particular strategic interest for them to bomb, so they focused on nearby industrial cities such as Mannheim.
7. The first evidence of human life in Europe was found in Heidelberg. In 1907 a jaw-bone was discovered in a gravel pit – it’s the earliest evidence found of human life in Europe. The ‘Heidelberg Man’ is the name given to a member of this extinct human species, considered closely related to “Homo erectus”.
8. It’s home to the world’s biggest wine barrel. The Heidelberg ‘Tun’ holds 220,000 liters. The vat (Fass) was built in 1751 and sits within Heidelberg’s famous castle.
9. 1 in 5 residents is a university student. As you might expect from a city with a university as prestigious as that of Heidelberg, a large proportion of the population are students. This gives the city a lively feel and ensures ample social and cultural offerings for visitors and locals to enjoy.
10. The German Pharmacy Museum is housed in Heidelberg Castle. It displays a large collection of old equipment and medicines used in a pharmacy in past centuries.
As I stood barefoot at the entrance to the Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Temple, a labyrinthine Hindu shrine in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala that is forbidden to nonworshipers, a man studied me.
Wrapped in a blue silk sari, I was an anomaly in the crowds of worshipers and wedding guests sweeping past. My pecan-brown skin had been tanned by the sun, my tightly coiled hair was cut in a close crop, and I spoke a foreigner’s English. There was no one like me there except my then-boyfriend, who was standing next to me with his modest Afro as we waited for my college roommate’s wedding party.
“What are you? South African?” the man finally said. When I told him we were American, he asked again, “South African?”
I can’t wait to see how much money American tourism loses because on the new extreme vetting. Or how much money farmers will lose when they don’t have the people picking their crops. Or how the right bends over backwards defending it. And I can’t wait to see how Pelo De Elote manages to blame the loss of millions in revenue on Obama.
When I go on a road trip I always bring a guitar. But not one of my expensive ones…that would just be dumb. If it got stolen or damaged or broken I would be very unhappy. Instead, I went out and bought this 2014 Epiphone Casino Coupe last year for 500 bucks (Canadian) and it has made the perfect inexpensive travel guitar. light as all get out (fully hollow), and 339-sized, it is easy to carry around on the road. It also plays and sounds surprisingly well considering how cheap it was. And if it I lose it or it gets broken on the road, no biggie!
Here are various shots of it on the road during my trip to Nazareth and Gettysburg Pennsylvania. PS: the big apple is in Canada…they sell (you guessed it…) apple pies!