Heidelberg has a population of 147,000 inhabitants, over 30,000 of whom are US soldiers and their families; over 28,000 are students at Ruprecht-Karls-University, the oldest university in Germany, established in 1386. The city has attracted numerous artists, intellectuals and academics from all over Europe and has sometimes been referred to as Germany’s unofficial intellectual capital. During WWII, the city was almost completely spared allied bombings that destroyed many of Germany’s larger inner cities. As a result, Heidelberg has retained its baroque charm of narrow streets, and picturesque houses.
13th Century Heidelberg Castle The Heidelberg Castle is one of the most important renaissance structures north of the Alps. The castle has only been partially rebuilt since its demolition in the 17th and 18th centuries. Located on a hillside overlooking the old downtown, it commands a dominant part of the landscape. The earliest part of the castle was built before 1214 and later expanded into two castles around 1294. A lightning-bolt destroyed the upper castle in 1587, and the present structures had been expanded by 1650, before damage by later wars and fires. In 1764, another lightning-bolt caused a fire, which destroyed some rebuilt sections. Renovation of the Castle began in the mid-1800’s and to this day continues, although no one expects a total renovation to be accomplished.