By Bruce Woelfel

With good reason, Heidelberg has become one of Germany's major tourist stops. Bruce Woelfel reports on a recent visit.

This storied place, a university city, slightly greater in population than Berkeley, California, became familiar to American moviegoers when Mario Lanza sang the male lead in Hollywood's version of Sigmund Romberg's operetta, The Student Prince. (Actually Lanza was too fat for the part and did a voice-over for actor Edmund Purdom.)

Though it's been a long time since the handsome prince, masquerading as a "regular-guy" undergraduate, hung out at the town's student drinking clubs, Heidelberg remains a delightful, vital city with lots of young people, beautifully preserved old buildings and a huge pedestrian zone.

The center of the Altstadt was converted to a pedestrian-only precinct in 1978 and numerous underground garages and a bus station were constructed on the perimeter. For visitors, most of the city's life and vitality is focused within this area and along the Hauptstrasse, its mile-long walkway. This central spine is entirely free of automobile noise and pollution except in the morning before 10 a.m. when scores of delivery trucks, construction vehicles, and repair crews move in. After that the street is returned to walkers, with only an occasional horse-drawn tram for competition.

The margins of this cobblestoned former boulevard, where once carriages, then later streetcars and autos traveled, are lined with modern stores, specialty shops, restaurants, and food stores fairly overflowing with meat, cheese, wine and gourmet items of every description. The young, the old and the infirm move about their business at their own pace, sometimes briefly interrupted by a taxi or resident car slowly picking a path through the walkers.

Although not as convenient for those behind the wheel in a hurry to get somewhere, this timeshare of use seems infinitely more humane and serene than the center of most American cities. Early morning in quiet Heidelberg is a particular pleasure. One might awake to the ringing of cathedral bells echoing gently throughout the city and the occasional caw-caw of crows.

In the evening there is a magic quality to the city, broken again only by the sound of birds and the peal of church bells. Heidelberg is a city to be savored at leisure and on foot.

Hotels

Romantik Zum Ritter St. Georg

In a central location across from the Church of the Holy Ghost, which was constructed during the period 1399-1441, the Ritter was built by a Huguenot refugee cloth merchant in 1592 and was the only major structure to survive the city's destruction by the French in 1693. It takes its name from the knight St. George whose figure crowns its Renaissance façade.

This meticulously remodeled building has been a hotel for 275 years. its most recent renovation was in 1988. The hotel fronts directly on the busy Hauptstrasse and rooms facing that street have a reputation for being noisy; not from vehicular traffic - the Hauptstrasse has none - but from late night revelers and early morning delivery trucks. However, most of the small but extremely well-furnished guestrooms are quiet and many look directly to the Church. Due to the age of the building, and the wish to preserve its original design, hallways are narrow and some rooms are rather distant from the elevator.

My comfortably furnished single (Number 305), reached via a steep flight of stairs from the elevator, had large windows and a peaceful view of the city's rooftops. Number 204, a larger than average corner double with three windows looking out on adjacent buildings and courtyards, was furnished with a sofa and marble coffee table in period style and decorated in rose and blue with gold bathroom fixtures.

The Ritter's atmospheric restaurant specializes in fowl and game obtained from its own hunting grounds.

Central location and timeless charm are this hotel's principal attractions. It is, however, a bit overpriced and one should avoid rooms facing the Hauptstrasse.

• Address: Romantik Hotel Zum Ritter St Georg, Hauptstrasse 178, D-6900 Heidelberg
Phone: 20203/24272
Fax: 20203/12683
Location: Central
Rooms: 9 singles, 30 doubles
Proprietor: G. Kuchelmeister
Prices: Singles 145-225 DM ($84-$124), doubles 245-325 DM ($175-$232)
Facilities: Restaurant and bar
Credit Cards: All
Disabled: Not suitable
Closed: One week prior to Easter
Parking: Public garage five minutes walk 12 DM per night
Rating: Above Average 13/20

Gasthof Hackteufel

A small, informal and homey residenz hotel and restaurant near the Alte Brücke (old bridge). The building was first a guest house in 1590 and was reconstructed in 1836 for a Turkish Emperor. its name refers to a place in the river of rocks and narrow waters, literally a "hacking devil."

Each guestroom is different and individually furnished. Number three at 190 to 200 DM ($136-$143) per night, depending on the season, is a large room and private terrace with dining table and chairs. The room has a spacious bathroom with the usual fixtures plus - and this is rather strange - a refrigerator. Number 11 at 160 to 180 DM ($123-$138) is a spacious single decorated in blue with wood accents and a view of the castle. The Hackteufel's best room is Number 12, an extremely attractive attic room with sloping beamed ceiling and castle view. The large bath has a tub and, yes, a refrigerator. It rents for 230 DM ($164) double.

The Hackteufel's informal, rustic restaurant, has long been a Gemütlichkeit favorite.

• Address: Hackteufel Steingasse 7, D-6900 Heidelberg
Phone: 06221/27162
Fax: 06221/165379
Location: Central, near the Alte Brücke
Rooms: 8 singles, 12 doubles
Proprietor: Heinrich Scholl
Prices: Singles 100-130 DM ($71-$93), doubles 160-250 DM ($114-$179) \
Facilities: Restaurant and bar
Credit Cards: All
Disabled: Not suitable
Closed: Three days at Christmas
Parking: Outdoor spaces five minutes walk for 15 DM per night
Rating: Above average 12/20

Schnookeloch

This small inn, conveniently located in the heart of the Altstadt and renowned as Heidelberg's oldest student tavern, also rents 11 guestrooms. The best of which is Number 14, a most pleasant double with windows on two sides and a large balcony furnished with table and chairs. It rents for from 200 to 220 DM ($143-$157), depending on the season. Number 22 is considerably smaller, with twin beds and two windows looking out on the narrow street, and goes for from 170-190 DM ($121-$136).

The restaurant serves good, reasonably-priced meals and there are even a few traditionally garbed students mixed in with the tavern's tourist clientèle.

• Address: Schnookeloch Haspelgasse 8, D-6900 Heidelberg
Phone: 06221/22733
Fax: 06221/22377
Location: Central, near Alte Brücke
Rooms: 2 singles, 9 doubles
Proprietor: Herr Diederich
Prices: Singles 130 DM ($100), doubles 170-220 DM ($121-$157)
Facilities: Restaurant and bar
Credit Cards: All
Disabled: Yes
Closed: Never
Parking: Public garage two minutes walk from hotel, 15 DM per night
Rating: Above average 12/20

Hollander Hof

The Hollander Hof occupies a fine corner site and has an inviting outdoor terrace with views of the Neckar. The building, originally constructed in 1750, was renovated in 1994.

Rooms are modern with contemporary furnishings. Number 123, a larger-than-average double with both tub and shower which rents for 235 DM ($168), offers a view of the Alte Brücke and river through its two wide windows. Another double, Number 343, is smaller but has a river view and rents for 195 DM ($139). Number 346 is a large street-side single for 155 DM ($111).

The attractive restaurant offers regional specialties at moderate to expensive prices.

• Address: Hotel Hollander Hof Neckarstaden 66, D-6900 Heidelberg
Phone: 06221/1209193
Fax: 06221/22085
Location: Central, facing the river
Rooms: 8 singles, 31 doubles
Proprietor: Heidrun and Georg Kuchelmeister
Prices: Singles 120-220 DM ($160-$208), doubles 180-285 DM ($256-$304)
Facilities: Outdoor terrace
Credit Cards: All
Disabled: One room especially equipped
Closed: Never
Parking: Public garage five minutes from hotel, 12 DM per night
Rating: Average 11/20

Vier Jahreszeiten

Ideally situated with a view of the Alte Brücke, the Vier Jahreszeiten was rebuilt in 1710 after a fire destroyed the original structure. It served for a time as a toll gate for horse-drawn traffic crossing the river. Following World War II it was officers' quarters for the U. S. Army.

Room Number one, an average-sized double with attractive bath and shower, overlooks the bridge and the river and rents for 205 DM ($146). There is moderate traffic noise. Number 4, which has a shower but no tub, goes for 195 DM ($150). It, too, has a bridge and river view.

Unfortunately, the restaurant serves Chinese food. Location is this modest hotel's main attraction.

• Address: Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten An der Alten Brücke, D-6900 Heidelberg
Phone: 24164/27619
Fax: 24164/163110
Location: Looking out on Alte Brücke and the Neckar River
Rooms: 8 singles, 16 doubles
Proprietor: Familie Weil-Kasper
Prices: Singles 135-155 DM ($96-$111), doubles 185-205 DM ($132-$146)
Facilities: Restaurant and bar
Credit Cards: All
Disabled: Poor access
Closed: Never
Parking: Hotel garage 15 DM/night
Rating: Average 10/20

Perkeo

Small, modern lodgings midway along the length of Hauptstrasse with a very attractive restaurant and outdoor terrace.

The hotel's name comes from the dwarf court jester, Perkeo, who was able to down an amazing amount of wine from Heidelberg Castle's gigantic (221,726 liters) wine cask, the Grosses Fass.

Built in 1891, Perkeo has been continually renovated and now has thoroughly updated public and guest rooms.

Some of the moderately-priced rooms are on a narrow side street. A few are without private facilities. Number 18, which opens on to a quiet courtyard, is of average size, with dark wood furniture, shower, French-style double bed and rents for 160 DM ($114) double. Room Number 10, on the Hauptstrasse, has no private toilet or shower and is 125 DM ($89).

• Address: Perkeo Hotel-Restaurant, Hauptstrasse 75, D-6900 Heidelberg
Phone: 06221/14130
Fax: None
Location: Central, on main pedestrian street
Rooms: 25 doubles
Proprietor: Klaus Müller
Prices: singles 125-140 DM ($89-$100), doubles 170-190 DM ($121-$136)
Facilities: Outdoor beer garden
Credit Cards: All
Disabled: Not suitable
Closed: Two weeks at Christmas
Parking: Public garage 5 minutes walk, 10 DM per night
Rating: Average 10/20

Here are previously reviewed Heidelberg hotel options

• Holiday Inn currently offers a special price of $99 per night at many of its European hotels. Heidelberg's Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza is located west of the Altstadt near the Gaisberg Tunnel. At $99 its a great price but this is still a typical Holiday Inn. You'll think you're back home.
Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Kurfürstenanlage 1, D-69115, phone 06221/9170, fax 06221/21007. U.S. reservations, phone 1-800-465-4329.
* Rating: Above Average 13/20

• The historic, 20-room Hotel Hirschgasse, an easy walk over the Neckar via the Alte Brücke, is one of Germany's most atmospheric small hotels. And one of its most expensive. Room rates range from a low of 270 DM ($193) single to 694 DM ($496) double. The restaurant is very good. We remember staying here in the early 80s for less than $60 double.
Hotel Hirschgasse Hirschgasse 3, D-69120, phone 06221/4540, fax 06221/454111.
* Rating: Excellent 17/20 G

• Heidelberg's lone five-star hotel, the 135-room Der Europische Hof- Hotel Europa, is on the west edge of the Altstadt, about three blocks from the Hauptstrasse. Don't miss the hotel's marvelous Kurfürsten-Stube-Grill. This is a clubby, old-world marvel of glossy carved wood ceiling, inlaid paneling and copper serving hoods. A "grand" hotel with prices to match.
Der Europische Hof - Hotel Europa Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage 1, D-69117 Heidelberg, phone 06221/5150, fax 06221/515555. Rating: Excellent 17/20.

Food

Kurpflzisches

(Editor's Choice)

For a taste of the good life go for a splurge lunch at the delightful Kurpflzisches-Museum Garden Café. Located about the midpoint of the Hauptstrasse, it provided my most enjoyable meal in Heidelberg, a city of many good restaurants.

A brick walk leads through a colonnaded entrance to a lovely garden with green lawns, tall pines and a fountain. There, on the brick terrace with the smell of fresh-cut grass, amid blue, yellow and red roses and peonies, I sipped a dry Riesling (91 Ensentzler Betschgrabler, 1/4 liter 7.40 DM or $5.30) and listened to trickling water, birds chirping, and the quiet conversation of other diners.

After relaxing for a while, I ordered a salad of fresh vegetables in a light vinaigrette dressing. Then came pork tenderloin with homemade, slightly chewy, noodles in a creamy, rich pepper sauce. This was accompanied by a light, somewhat fruity wine with a slightly stronger bite (Neuenberger Stiftsberg Riesling, Winzekeller Wiesloch, 1/4 liter 6.80 DM or $4.86). Lunch was $30, not including wine.

Kurpflzisches Museum Garden Café, Hauptstrasse 97. Phone 06221/24050. Moderate to expensive.

Zum Ritter St Georg

For dinner in a Renaissance setting, a good choice is the restaurant of the Hotel Zum Ritter St Georg. It has been exquisitely remodeled and refurbished, with furnishings consistent with the hotels Renaissance ancestry.

For large appetites, there was a six-course, fixed-price menu (85 DM or $61) that included asparagus with vinaigrette sauce and Parma ham, wild boar and flaming orange crêpes. We opted for the smaller menu at 38 DM ($27) which featured a rich mushroom soup, a kind of Schnitzel with cream gravy, a variety of fresh vegetables, potato croquettes and fresh pineapple with whipped cream and cookies. A romantic setting and an excellent meal though rather expensive and even the more abbreviated menu turned out to be a lot of food.

Romantik Hotel and Restaurant Zum Ritter St. Georg Hauptstrasse 178, D-6900 Heidelberg, phone 06221/24272. Moderate to Expensive.

Gasthof Hackteufel

For more reasonably priced meals we recommend the area near the Alte Brücke where there is a choice of several restaurants, some offering alfresco dining. Hackteufel, an inn with 20 guestrooms (see page 3), is a longtime Gemütlichkeit favorite whose cozy restaurant serves plentiful and traditional meals. You won't go wrong here.

Hackteufel Hotel Altstadtgasthaus, Steingasse 7, D-6900 Heidelberg. Phone 06221/27162. Inexpensive to moderate.

Heidelberg Facts

Population 135,000, including 28,000 university students

Tourist Information & Room Reservations Pavillon am Hauptbahnhof, D-69115 Heidelberg

* Phone 06221/21341
* fax 06221/167318

Travel Time to other Cities by Train

* Frankfurt - 2 hrs (change Mannheim)
* Munich - 3 hrs
* Cologne - 3 hrs (change Mannheim)
* Zürich - 4 hrs (change Mannheim)
* Hamburg - 4.5 hrs
* Berlin - 6.5 hrs (change Mannheim)
* Vienna - 7 hrs (change Würzburg)
* Paris - 8 hrs (change Cologne)
* London via Eurostar - 11 hrs (change Brussels & Cologne)
* Budapest - 11 hrs (change Würzburg)

Rail Connections

To make rail connections at Mannheim for points beyond, catch a tram at Bismarckplatz - 30 to 40 minutes including stops - or a train from the Bahnhof which takes only 10 minutes. Both accept Eurailpass. Consult the Abfahrt board in the station for track number, then at the track use the train diagram to find where to stand on the platform. Connections can also be made at Karlsruhe but for those who haven't reserved a seat the selection will be better in Mannheim.

Boat Rides

Two companies operate river craft: Rhein-Neckar-Fahrgastschiffahrt. Phone 06221/20181. Personenschiffahrt Hornung. Phone 06221/480064.

Principal Sights

The Schloss

One of the world's great castles. Begun as a residence in the 13th century, the Castle was enlarged by Friedrich V in the late 16th century before being devastated in 1622 during the Thirty Years War, and almost completely destroyed in 1693 along with most of the city. Although never fully rebuilt, its ruins are a worthy sight for those interested in Gothic and Renaissance life. Guided tours 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m.. Phone 06221/20070.

Alte Brücke

The fifth bridge in this spot since medieval times, it was constructed by Elector Karl Theodor in 1786-88 after an earlier one collapsed from the weight of ice. It has statues of Theodor and one of Athena. Cross to the north side for a classic view of the bridge, the town and the castle.

Heidelberg University

Germany's oldest, founded in 1386, celebrated its 600th anniversary in 1986. Has educated a number of Nobel scientists. Current enrollment is about 28,000 students. its exhibitions and lectures are open to visitors.

July 1995