Visiting Heidelberg, the German City of Science

NOVEMBER 24, 2009

Wahyuni Kamah

In the second week of October, about 90 alumni of the International Journalisten Program convened in Heidelberg, Germany, for a conference on the impact of biotechnology on society.

Heidelberg, a city of 145,000 people in the Rhein-Neckar Triangle in Baden Wurttemberg, is one of Germany’s leading biotechnology clusters, speakers at the conference said.

Heidelberg is home to the German Cancer Research Center, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and four Max Planck institutes.

The Heidelberg Technology Park covers an area of 50,000 square meters, with 70 biotech companies and research centers and about 1,300 employees.

In addition, the University of Heidelberg, established in 1386, is the oldest university in Germany and nine of its scientists have won Nobel Prizes.

The city is indeed an excellent place to study. It is quiet and clean, with historical attractions and, like most German cities, extremely modern.

As a student city, there are many young faces on the streets. Heidelberg is connected by many bicycle paths, so it is easy to pedal around. “In Heidelberg, the biker is king,” said Raquel, an Argentinean woman on her second visit to the city.

The Neckar River, which crosses the city, adds to its beauty, especially at night when the lights from houses, cafes and restaurants by the river are reflected on the surface.

The best way to enjoy Heidelberg is by walking through the cobblestoned streets of its Old Town. Watching street artists, such as singers, painters and pantomime artists, shopping in artistically decorated souvenir shops or sipping coffee at sidewalk cafes are all fine experiences available in the Old Town.

Visitors who do not speak German needn’t worry about a language barrier, as most shop attendants in the tourist city speak English.

Germany is a country that appreciates its history and most places that relate to history are well documented. As my friends and I walked through the Old Town, we saw a sign on a two-story building reading, “Robert Schumann’s house.” The classical music composer lived there while he studied at Heidelberg University. The social science and humanities campus is situated in the Old Town and many students live there, among the many restaurants or bars.

In Markplatz (Market Square) of the Old Town, I saw many booths selling souvenirs from Heidelberg and Germany. Just in front of Town Hall is a square where people like to eat and drink when the weather is good. Also in Markplatz is the Church of the Holy Spirit, which was built in 1344.

The beauty of Heidelberg is also obvious in the stone Old Town Bridge over Neckar River, which is a favorite spot for tourist photographs, with green valley on one side and the Old Town on the other.

Other landmark attraction of Heidelberg is the ruins of Heidelberg Castle, which sit on the hill overlooking Neckar River. The castle was built by Emperor Ruprecht III in the 13th century and is considered one of the remarkable examples of Renaissance architecture in Germany.

Getting to and from Heidelberg is easy as it is strategically situated. Traveling by car or train from Frankfurt International Airport takes about one hour and Heidelberg Main Station is connected to all of Germany and major European cities.

The city’s public transportation also offers attractive tariffs for those who want to explore the city on a one-day or three-day pass and can be a cheap and fund way to view the attractions.

My short stay in Heidelberg revealed a modern and historical city, ideal for tourists.

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