mercoledì 30 settembre 2015

Heidelberg, the oldest university in Germany

When I arrived in Heidelberg, I knew that this town was ( and still is) known for its university. It is the  oldest in whole Germany and one of the most prestigious too. Studying in Heidelberg is an adding point on one's CV. Actually, many foreign students, in particular American and Japanese, live here their university experience. So, it is evident how important this institution is here. As its importance, there is the possibility to visit it and it has even a museum about its own history and, obviously, I did not let it get away.

You can reach the university, which has been founded in 1386 (I told you it is the oldest) passing across the pedestrian centre and arriving in Universität Platz.   Being a very central place, it often happens to find stands or little tables for some fairs. In the middle of the square, a lion stands out on a fountain and  seems that it has lose that proud and severe glaze that in the past characterized it and intimidated students. The Baroque-styled building behind it is the Alte Universität, or Old University, and is open to visitors.  Here there are basically four things you must absolutely see:

# Aula Magna

Over the great staircase on the left of the main entrance, you can see the Aula Magna, a jewel in which colours gold and red patronise.  If you are lucky, you also can find a guide with a group of tourists, from whom you can steal some information and curiosities about the university.  The ceiling enchanted me with its paintings of the four originals majors of the university: theology, law, medicine and philosophy. No need to say that in the past you would have seen exclusively a male audience. Yes, women were not allowed at the university.

# The Museum of the University
Back on the ground floor, you can visit the museum. Besides the history of the university, there are the prototypes of the inventions made here, in particular in the field of medicine and technology.  It is clear the particular attention of German people for scientific and technical subjects, to the detriment of liberal arts, at least here in Baden-Wüttemberg.

# Karzer (students's jail)

But what I absolutely wanted to see were the rooms of the Karzer, the jail of the students. To go there you must go out the building of the university and go round it. The entrance is exactly on the opposite side of the building . Now, do not worry at the idea of a jail for those poor helpless boys, who, not only had to break their back on books, but to risk the jail too. Actually, it was an institution to punish those students who let themselves go in exuberant deeds a little bit too much during the night. Among those also there was resistance to functionaries (punished with four weeks of detention).  According to the "crime", the duration of the detention changed. It consisted of bread and water for the first two days, then the detained could go out of the Karzer for their lessons, could receive meals from outside and visit the other detained. So, it does not seem something so scaring. Actually, the very students started to consider the experience in the jail as a fundamental phase of their course of study and of university life. The peculiarity of this place? The walls. They are completely decorated with the "works of art" of students, who painted themselves on the walls as cutout.  The thing was so exuberant that some "cells" were named "Grand Hotel" and "Sanssouci". If you are or have been students at the university, this is a stop to be done, at least because you can understand entirely the spirit that hover these rooms.

A "cell"
Yes, it is exactly what you think :)

# University Library

Little far from Universität Platz there is the Library, the symbol of University of Heidelberg. This is more recent than the Old University, but it is worth to be visited not just for its beauty outside, but inside too. In the corridors, besides priceless manuscripts, you can find an exposition about the materials and techniques used to realize them.

Walking in the corridors

The price for the visit of the complex is quite derisory. Buying the ticket at the Karzer, you can visit all the locations, paying just 3 Euro. On the contrary, the visit of the Library is completely free. 


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