Mark Twain and Heidelberg

Because I traveled to and through Germany with an iPad, I was able, when the opportunity for an unplanned trip to Heidelberg (hosted by wonderful new friends we had made at the conference at which I spoke), I was able to download and read portions of Mark Twain's, A Tramp Abroad, in which he describes his 1878 visit to the venerable old city.

Twain marveled at the romantic ruins of the huge eight-hundred-year-old Gothic and Baroque Castle (above), which the lovely Robin and I visited the next day! He described the castle memorably (as he described nearly everything):
A ruin must be rightly situated, to be effective. This one could not have been better placed. It stands upon a commanding elevation, it is buried in green woods, there is no level ground about it, but, on the contrary, there are wooded terraces upon terraces, and one looks down through shining leaves into profound chasms and abysses where twilight reigns and the sun cannot intrude.
Twain also mentioned "the great Heidelberg Tun...a wine-cask as big as a cottage" which, although empty, "holds eighteen hundred thousand bottles" or more than 58,000 gallons. I had no idea we would actually see this giant barrel, but we did. It is still on display in the castle:

Here is what he wrote about this marvel:
Everybody has heard of the great Heidelberg Tun, and most people have seen it, no doubt. It is a wine-cask as big as a cottage, and some traditions say it holds eighteen hundred thousand bottles, and other traditions say it holds eighteen hundred million barrels. I think it likely that one of these statements is a mistake, and the other is a lie. However, the mere matter of capacity is a thing of no sort of consequence, since the cask is empty, and indeed has always been empty, history says. An empty cask the size of a cathedral could excite but little emotion in me. I do not see any wisdom in building a monster cask to hoard up emptiness in, when you can get a better quality, outside, any day, free of expense.
He also described the River Nekar, by which he arrived in Heidelberg, and (of course) we saw that, too.

It added another layer of enjoyment to an already memorable visit, to be able to consciously walk in the footsteps of one of my favorite authors during our time in Heidelberg.

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