Heidelberg is one of my favorite cities in Germany. It's along the Castle Road and does indeed have the romantic ruins of a castle looking down upon the university town in the German state of Baden Wurttemberg. Conserve, not restore, has been the motto that kept the castle in its ruined state.
"the sandstone ruins at the foot of Königstuhl hill in Heidelberg still look as battered as they did when the French blew them up more than 300 years ago."
The French are to blame. The castle was a victim of the Nine Years' War in 1693.
How did they destroy the castle? Well, fire and mines. In fact, you can see castle reconstructed to be made into ruins in a quite faithful recreation.
"For an exhibition entitled "Die Wittelsbacher am Rhein" ("The Wittelsbachs on the Rhine") the Reiss Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim appointed its curator, historian Schubert, to virtually reconstruct Heidelberg Castle before and during the devastation wrought by the troops of the Sun King"
See the video and get the rest of the story: Virtual Destruction: Film Recreates Siege of Heidelberg Castle.
Guidebooks. Does anyone lug them around any more? Apparently the publishers think they do, as the presses crank them out year after year. The ones that cover European travel destinations are monsters, often nearly 1000 pages long, better for pre-vacation study than for taking on your trip on those stingy, pay for your luggage by the pound airlines. So, if you're looking to see what Europe has to offer the traveler, here are our updated picks for the best European Guidebooks.
Leiden is a University town with a traditionally high tolerance for immigrants. The city is, in fact, known as the City of Refugees. Immigrants grew the city from 20,000 to 70,000 in a short space of time in the 17th century, exploding the oft repeated lie that immigrants steal local jobs and contribute to the demise of a city. Leiden flourished in the 16th and 17th century, and is still a fine place to visit today.
The 17th century was the time the pilgrims came to Leiden to find religious freedom from England's state-authorized Anglican Church.
Robinson and his flock bought a piece of land near St. Peter's Church, called the Groene Poort (Green Alley). They built 21 little houses, so that people also called it the Engelse poort (English Alley). Later the houses were demolished and the Jean Pesijn almshouses were built in the same spot (1683). ~ (Pilgrim's) Stay in Leiden
What they found in Leiden was a bit too much freedom; their children were becoming increasingly enamored with the free ways of the local Dutch and the elders worried about their religious future. So the Pilgrims decided to throw caution to the wind and head for America, leaving from the Rotterdam port of Delfshaven, first on the ill-fated and not-quite seaworthy Speedwell, then later (and successfully) on the Mayflower.
The Pilgrim's lives in Leiden are captured in its excellent Pilgrim Museum. Reader Kathy Love reminds us that the museum is less about religious philosophy than it is about life at the time of the Pilgrim's migration--and it's perfect for children:
Rather unexpectedly, the museum can be fascinating for kids, because it is a very down-to-earth place. One of my sons asked why the bed was so small; the answer was, because people slept sitting up in those days. An instantly intriguing fact for a child. He was also absolutely thrilled to be allowed to hold real bullets, and learned how they were made by dropping molten lead through a colander. Suddenly it was very real. And this tactile availability is equally fascinating to adult: (curator) Jeremy asked me if I had ever sat in a chair from the thirteenth century, and when I said I definitely had not had that privilege, he invited me to sit down in one!
Leiden's influence upon the Pilgrims was profound, according to Robert Marquand
Those years of exile in Leiden, where the Pilgrims worked, worshipped, and debated - amid hefty clashes of civilizations and belief in Europe - profoundly influenced their sensibilities in ways that have not been widely recognized.
The Pilgrims - unlike British Puritans who wanted to turn Massachusetts into a theocracy - sharply advocated church-state separation. They heretically believed that women should be allowed to speak in church. They were far more tolerant of other faiths and open to the idea that their theology, like all human dogma, might contain errors.
Jeremy Bangs, currator of the museum and webmaster of the site The Pilgrims' Leiden has published a history of the Pilgrim's experience called "Strangers And Pilgrims, Travellers And Sojourners: Leiden And The Foundations Of Plymouth Plantation." It's a highly rated book that might interest the history buff interested in the migration of the Pilgrims, and would make a fine and very unusual Christmas present.
Jeremy's site offers a very nice overview of the Pilgrims in Leiden as well as a virtual tour of the Leiden the Pilgrims knew and worked in.
So, for those of you wanting a unique experience, planning a trip to Leiden might be a radical experience for the whole family. You might go at Christmas, which is celebrated a bit differently than it is in England or the US, according to theleidener:
In Leiden, things are far more civilised. There is a huge illuminated Christmas tree and all the trees along the canals are bedecked with little white lights. But what makes this especially lovely is the reflection of these lights in the canals. That is what makes Christmas magical here.
And that's not all, there's the gluewine, not to mention the ice rink outside the Einstein café and the price to glide upon it--"six euros including skates for an unlimited period of time!"
More: Leiden Travel Guide | Leiden Pictures
Ever imagine yourself as a swashbuckling archeologist? Well, get out your fedora, because the application process for 2014 summer excavations at Ostia Antica is now open through April.
The excavation is in an interesting spot, which we observed this summer. It's the suburbs of Ostia, outside the current excavations in the shadow of the Castle (shown above). It's never been excavated before, so who knows what's under all that dirt?
You can watch a video and see the area and hear from volunteers: 2014 AIRC Summer Archaeological Field School at Ostia Antica.
To find out more about visiting, see our Ostia Antica Guide.