Last week, I decided to be adventurous and climb to the top of Heiligenberg in Heidelberg. Honestly, it is probably a large hill but because the Germans call it a mountain, I’m going to call it a mountain (berg = mountain in German).
I’ve been wanting to hike to the top of this mountain because of the gorgeous views of the city (from the top) and the amazing history! There are a few different ways to reach the top of this mountain. In front of the mountain is the Neckar River and on each side of the mountain is a bridge. I had planned to meet up with two other guys from my Master’s program who started hiking from the other bridge. However, I somehow made up my own shortcut (thanks google maps?) and ended up at the top while they were still at the bottom. Furthermore, my phone ended up dying at the top of the mountain and I was never able to catch up with the guys. All is well, we met up for a beer later that night!
The hike up the mountain takes about 30 minutes to an hour and it is definitely strenuous (or the shortcut I made was quite strenuous!) It was pretty much a 45 degree incline, if not more. However, once I reached the top, it was absolutely magnificent. There was a cute little restaurant that serves Kaffee and Kuchen (coffee and cake). Yummy! It was definitely my incentive to make it to the top!
The first place I visited was “Thingstätte.” This amphitheater was built in 1935 as a gathering place for Nazi festivals, speeches, and rallies. Initially, it was planned to build 1,200 of these amphitheaters around Germany as part of the “Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil)” ideology. However, the Nazi Party only built 40 of these structures before abandoning the ideology in 1936 due to the rise of the radio. Interestingly, Joseph Goebbels was the keynote speaker at the opening of the amphitheater in Heidelberg, which was attended by over 20,000 people. To see old pictures of Thingstätte during the Nazi Era, click here.
Two things that initially struck my attention was the remoteness of this amphitheater and the vastness. Also, it was interesting to observe how this structure is used today. I ended up just sitting on the steps and relaxing because it was a sunny, warm, beautiful day. However, this was a really popular spot for young families, couples, students, etc. It was pretty busy with little kids running around, people enjoying picnics, and others relaxing. There was quite a contrast between its original purpose and its modern-day use! The city also uses this amphitheater for performances, festivals, and concerts. It was quite an extraordinary place to visit!
St. Michael’s Monastery
After going to Thingstätte, I headed to the summit of the mountain which is home to an old monastery called St. Michael’s Monastery. It is believed that this monastery was initially built around 870 AD. However, the ruins that are seen today date to around 1023 AD. Although this monastery is around 1,200 years old, it is believed that a Celtic fortress was built at the top of this mountain around 500 BC. Around 2,000 years ago, the Romans built a settlement in Heidelberg and had a temple where the monastery is now located. After the Romans were driven out of Heidelberg, the monastery was built. The University of Heidelberg decided to tear down the monastery in 1589. What remains of the monastery today are ruins.
St. Stephen’s Monastery
My last stop on Heiligenberg was St. Stephen’s Monastery. Not much even remains in terms of ruins. The monastery was built in the 11th century. Sometime in the 19th century, the remaining stones from the monastery were used to build a tower, which provides wonderful views of the city of Heidelberg, the Altstadt, and the Neckar River!
The walk up and down Heiligenberg is absolutely gorgeous! A famous pathway that is incorporated into the mountain is Philosophenweg. Many of my photos are from different points along this pathway. Philosophenweg is famous because many university scholars and students would walk and talk along this pathway!