When an illuminated castle brightens the summer at Heidelberg


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High above the German city of Heidelberg realms world’s most popular ruin. Is there any place more beautiful in this world than between the historic walls of the castle beneath the shining stars during a warm summer night? For sure, there is! Just this place, but filled with music and dramatic or funny works of literature. Every year this castle is the site for two of most dramatic events- the Castle Festival and the Castle Illuminations.

Illuminated castle.

The legendary Castle Illuminations every year capture the imagination of thousands of people – hardly any other city offers such magical nights every year. Castle illuminations commemorate the destruction of Heidelberg Castle by the French General Melac in the years 1689 and 1693 during the War of Palatinate Succession. Its origin however was of a romantic nature. In order to welcome his freshly-betrothed bride Elizabeth Stuart as custom demanded, Elector Frederick V (1596-1632) ordained great fireworks, thereby instituting a tradition which has endured to the present day. The illumination of the beautiful facade of the Castle is complemented today by a brilliant fireworks display, which bathes all the Old Town in an awe-inspiring light. One can also enjoy the spectacle from the water on a fireworks boat trip. This years the first of the illumination was on June 2nd. But you have two more chances to witness this on July 14th and September 1st, 2018.

Bengali Flares. Photo credit: Jan Becke

Bengali flares slowly bathe the Heidelberg Castle in a mysterious red firelight, as if the ruins were on fire once again in their long history. As the last times in 1689 and 1693, when the troops of the Sun King Louis XIV burnt down the castle, leaving behind the world-famous ruins. When the glowing Castle slowly dies down, the second part of the spectacle begins – the brilliant fireworks over the Neckar. 

Illuminated castle. Photo credit: Tobias Schwerdt

The Elector Friedrich V first had the fireworks staged in 1613, in order to provide a fitting welcome for his newly-betrothed wife Elizabeth Stuart. These fireworks laid the cornerstone for the later festivals of light held in the night sky over Heidelberg – celebrating its 400th Jubilee in the year 2013. The banks of the Neckar and the Philosophers’ Walk around 10 o’clock are the best locations to admire the Castle Illuminations.

Fireworks at Heidelberg. Photo credit: Robin Schimko

Heidelberger Schlossfestspiele or the Castle Festival has already started on 7th June and it will run upto 29th July. Come, visit this summer festival, and experience theatre and music art in the most beautiful way: having a view over Heidelberg. And, so great is the aura and the settings, that I am sure, you will feel it as an experience of lifetime.

Fireworks in Heidelberg. View from Nepomuk Terrasse.

This year’s performances include the famous Germans story of the young orphaned girl Heidi who joins her grandfather’s house up the mountain in the Suisse Alps. It will be presented as a play for children (6 years and older) and their families. A fascinating story about friendship and the warm and charming personality of a child.

Fireworks in Heidelberg. View from Philosopher’s walk.

Besides, “If I Were a Rich Man” is what imagines the milkman Tevye in the musical Anatevka. Would he stay in Heidelberg forever if he were rich? Maybe. The popular musical will be presented in German language. The public can expect Russian and Jewish melodies within the beautiful setting of the historic walls.

Castle festival.

A further highlight of this year’s program, also in the big yard, are Carlo Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters, directed by theatre director Holger Schultze. A servant hires in two positions at a time and is facing a lot of trouble. How is solves this pell-mell in the end can be seen this summer in Heidelberg. Moreover, the philharmonic orchestra will present exclusive concerts with international top-class artists and young upcoming stars.

Theatre performance during castle festival.

Heidelberg is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. The picturesque ensemble of the castle, the Old Town, and the river Neckar surrounded by hills, which inspired the poets and artists of romanticism, still fascinates millions of visitors from all over the world. First mentioned in 1196, Heidelberg was planned and built, together with the castle, in the 13th century. Heidelberg’s heyday as the capital of the Electoral Palatinate began not least with the foundation of the university – today the oldest in Germany – in 1386. Heidelberg was one of the few major German cities to be largely spared the destruction of the World War II. Today Heidelberg Castle is said to be one of the most favourite destinations for international travellers in Germany. So, no doubt that every year more than 11.9 million visitors come to the city.

Heidelberg in autumn. Photo credit: Jan Becke

But besides rich history and ever blooming romanticism, modern Heidelberg is also an educational hub, known to students world over for its universities. It is home to Germany’s oldest university, as well as to numerous others, and to a host of internationally renowned research institutes and research-based companies. Another aspect of Heidelberg’s creativity is its literature. In Heidelberg, literature is omnipresent. Taking a walk through the city, one finds publishing houses, bookshops and libraries around every corner. Taking a look at the vibrant scene of writers, translators and theatre life, one discovers a high level of literary productiveness. No day without literary event, no summer without literary festival, no year without literary award winners. Literature is literally everywhere. Since December 1st 2014 the city is UNESCO City of Literature within UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.

Photo Credit : Thomas Kunert

Heidelberg is just 78 kms south of Frankfurt. Thus Frankfurt Airport is best for air connectivity to Heidelberg. From Frankfurt, there are various means to reach to Heidelberg including Airport shuttles, buses and trains.

Have you ever been to Heidelberg? Have you seen the Castle Illumination there? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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