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Schloss Heidelberg, also know as Heidelberg Castle (in English), resides 300 feet above the city of Heidelberg. There are a few options for getting to the castle. You can either walk, take a car, or take a funicular. I think there is also a bus but I haven’t checked on that yet. I was too cheap to spend the 6 Euros to take the funicular and don’t have a car, so I decided to walk (plus, I figured walking was the “outdoorsy” thing to do). The walk wasn’t too terrible. It was incredibly steep but only took about 15 minutes. Once at the top, the views more than made up for the walk!
The castle is a focal point of Heidelberg. The earliest castle dates to around 1214 (also known as the upper castle). Construction started on the second castle (lower castle) around 1300 but wasn’t used as a residence until Prince Elector Ruprecht III moved there from 1398-1410. In 1537, a lightening strike destroyed the upper castle and it was never rebuilt. From 1398 to 1764 the castle (most likely the lower castle) was used at the official residence of the Elector Palatine. However, in 1764 the castle was destroyed by lightening. In 1800 Count Charles de Graimberg began to preserve the castle. Up until this point, the stones of the castle were used by residents of Heidelberg to build their homes.
Throughout its 400 years as a residence of the Elector Palatine, the castle and city of Heidelberg were involved in two major wars: the Thirty Years War and Nine Years’ War. Under the Thirty Years War, the castle was taken by the Swedes in 1633. The Elector Palatine did not move back into the castle until 1649, after the signing of the Peace of Westphalia. The castle became involved in a succession war during the Nine Years’ War. Prince Elector Charles II died in 1685 and was the last in line of the House of Palatine – Simmern. Being the last in his line, the castle (and territory) was transferred to the House of Palatine – Neuburg. This also made the territory a Catholic region (it was previously a Protestant region under the House of Palatine – Simmern). However, the French claimed this area as their own because Charles II’s sister, Elizabeth Charlotte was married the King XIV’s younger brother, Philippe I. After a back-and-forth struggle for 12 years between the French and House of Palatine – Neuburg, peace was signed in 1697 and the castle (and surrounding) territory was returned to the House of Palatine – Neuburg. However, the castle needed many repairs following the war.
Even with the castle and territory returned to the House of Palatine – Neuburg, peace never really came to the region. Following the withdrawal of the French, a series of conflicts arose for the next several decades between the Protestant citizens of Heidelberg and the Catholic Elector Palatine. In 1720 the Elector Palatine moved his court and all assisting individuals to nearby Mannheim. The castle remained empty for the next 40 years. Eventually the castle was destroyed by lightening in 1764 and never restored, although the ruins have now been preserved. Famous visitors of the castle include Mark Twain, Victor Hugo, and Martin Luther.