Why Heidelberg?

This question is certainly easier and has a better answer after having lived there. Before, my answer would have been something along the lines of–it’s beautiful and there’s a castle. Now, I have too many reasons to list.

  • It’s beautiful and there’s a castle. 
    • Honestly, the view of the castle shrouded by mist from across the Neckar never feels real. I’ve seen that exact image from the same spot about three times a week for months and every time I see it I’m awestruck. Maybe because castles don’t exist outside of Disney World and fairytales in the US, I’m unfalteringly impressed and fascinated by the castles in Germany. Seeing one everyday didn’t make it mundane, rather it made every day feel like a fairytale, or at least consistently reminded me that I was in a foreign land in a magical exciting way. Also Heidelberg, even without the castle is enchanting. There are so many beautiful, colorful buildings and nature everywhere. (I live in Boston so comparatively Heidelberg has way more nature.)
  • Walpurgisnacht, or Witches’ Night
    • On the first of May there’s a celebration in Heidelberg called Walpurgisnacht, when a bunch of students from the university climb up to Thingstätte, the Nazi Amphitheater in Heidelberg, holding candles to a big bonfire with fire dancers and drums. The whole thing isn’t organized officially and has the feel of a pagan ritual. It’s one of those experiences that I won’t ever forget and felt unique to living as a university student in Germany.
  • Schlossbeleutung
    • In July, Heidelberg has a Schlossbeleutung or a castle lighting, where the castle is made to look like it’s on fire with lights and smoke. After that, there’s an incredible fireworks display, where fireworks are shot off the Alte Brücke.
  • Also it’s really close to a quaint town on the Neckar called Neckarsteinach.
    • Neckarsteinach has four small castles and walking into the heart of the town will make you feel as though you’ve been transported back to the Middle Ages (as some of the houses from that era were preserved).
    • Similar to Heidelberg, they have a Vierburgenbeleuchtung in the summer, which is when they light up the castles and have a fireworks show.
  • The Mensa (Cafeteria)
    • I know this point probably seems really random but Heidelberg University is known for it’s amazing Mensa (not unlike Umass Amherst). It’s definitely comparable to Hampshire Dining Hall at Umass. This one was really important for my “quality of life” in Heidelberg. I personally can’t cook anything outside of scrambled eggs and chicken nuggets and couldn’t afford to eat out often so being able to buy super cheap delicious food at the Mensa was a lifesaver. It also saved me from only eating junk food all the time. Quite a few of my American friends at other Universities complained about German food but I loved the food at the Mensa (which served mostly traditional food). I actually miss the Mensa since moving back home.
  • The Pre-Semester Language Course
    • As I mentioned in a separate post solely on this topic, the spread of pastries and sandwiches every morning alone is reason enough to chose this University. I gained a bit of weight that first month stuffing my face.
  • English Friendly
    • If you don’t speak any German and are way more comfortable living in a place where you can just speak English, Heidelberg would still be a good fit for you. Almost everyone in the University town speaks near fluent English or at the very least could manage a basic conversation. It was really more of a struggle to get people in Heidelberg to speak German with me. A lot of times when a shopkeeper or waiter heard me speak English, they would just start speaking English to me even if I spoke German to them.
  • The size
    • I really love smaller cities, especially when I’m unfamiliar with the city. I think smaller cities tend to be easier to maneuver without getting too lost and when you do it’s less of a big deal. Also I find it easier to know which areas of smaller cities you might want to avoid late at night and easier to not accidentally wander into an unfamiliar area. In Heidelberg I felt even safer than in Boston, where I already feel safe. I also felt that in the short span of time I lived in Heidelberg, I truly got to know the city, not just a small section of it. Heidelberg was the perfect size to always have something to do (from hiking to going out to visiting the zoo), while feeling homey and small, like I almost always bumped into someone I knew just by walking to the store or going out to eat or getting on the bus.
  • The German as a Foreign Language Courses
    • During the semester I took two German as a Foreign Language Courses. In both I felt as though I learned much more than in my English classes and enjoyed my time in those classes more. I also made more friends in those classes, who I spent time with outside of class, which made the experience of taking those classes rewarding even if the topic wasn’t something I was particularly interested in. If I could choose classes again, I would’ve taken more of these classes if possible.

Below is a photo of the Nazi Amphitheater in Heidelberg.



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