Posts tagged ‘Heidelberg’

First time sweetness at Heidelberg’s Café Gundel

Moving to Germany

In 2001, I moved across the big Atlantic pond from Canada to Germany. Knowing only “bitte” (please) and “danke” (thank you), I flew sight unseen to Frankfurt am Main, followed by a shuttle-bus to the German university town of Heidelberg. I would live and work in Heidelberg for two years, and I couldn’t have known the experience would change my life.

Heidelberg is one of my favourite “hometowns” in Germany, my adopted country.

1st Time in DE, 1st Time in HD

An early memory is a stroll down Heidelberg’s Hauptstrasse (“main street”). I spend a long afternoon up and down streets, through small cobbled alleys, learning locations of stores and services, and getting an immediate lay of the town.

At the eastern end of the Altstadt (Old Town), I step into an attractive and brightly lit Café Gundel and sit down at one of the tables. My eyes are bigger than my stomach. I decide to do the sensible thing, and order the first reasonable thing that comes to mind: Apfelstrudel and a latté macchiato.

It’s relatively quiet in the café, and I’m quickly served “coffee and cake”. The strudel has large chunks of apples, surrounded by very light flaky pastry and topped with a fine dusting of powdered sugar. The cake isn’t too tart or sweet, and there’s a generous mouthful of cinnamon and nutmeg. Did I also mention there’s fresh whipping cream (Schlagsahne) on the side? That’s not spray-on stuff from a can, which, as I learned later, is sacrilege of the highest order.

I walk up to the counter to pay and I express my gratitude. With hand gestures and attempted English, I ask to buy an additional selection of cookies, small cakes, and sweets. I’m sure the lady behind the counter thinks I’ve completely lost my mind. In broken English, she tells me there’ll be more tomorrow, and plenty more the day after that.

This memory has served as an introduction to both Heidelberg and Germany, and has stayed with me over the years. I’ve returned many times to Heidelberg since leaving in 2003, but I’ve returned to Gundel only twice.

Guess it’s time to go back “home”, back to Gundel, and make some new memories …

Cafe Gundel, Hauptstrasse (Karlsplatz), Heidelberg, Germany

Café Gundel

Cafe Gundel, Hauptstrasse (Karlsplatz), Heidelberg, Germany

Do I have room for these? Why yes; yes, I do …

If you’re in Heidelberg, walk to the eastern end of Hauptstrasse to Café Gundel. Press your nose up against the window, and look, drool at the sweets on display. When you’ve worked up an appetite, head inside, relax, and enjoy your “Kaffee und Kuchen” (cake and coffee).

Café Gundel is both Konditorei (pastry shop) and Bäckerei (bake shop), making a wide assortment of sweet pastries and hearty breads. The main and larger Gundel is located at the eastern end of the Hauptstrasse at Karlsplatz (Charles Square). The smaller version, der kleine Gundel, is located at Universitätsplatz (University Square).

You can easily walk the mile-long Hauptstrasse. Alternatively, you can take a bus or tram from the train station to Bismarckplatz, and transfer onto bus 31, 32, or 33 into the Altstadt.

This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at

Heidelberg: carousing at the Christmas Markets

Kristallnacht: heinous omen of the Holocaust

It happens every time without fail.

My spirit breaks a little more every time I see a memorial, another example of the depths to which our species have plumbed.

Does feeling this way make me weak? Or am I resembling a human being after all?

Broken Glass

On 9-10 November 1938, Kristallnacht (“the night of broken glass”) was a well-organized “pogrom”, a series of violent attacks by Nazis against Jews and their property in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslavakia’s Sudetenland. The word “Kristallnacht” is literally “the night of crystal”, referring to broken glass as windows to synagogues, homes, and stores owned by Jews were shattered.

The numbers were appalling: at least 90 dead, 30000 arrested and detained in camps, over 200 synagogues burned, and over 7000 Jewish businesses damaged or destroyed. The outbreak of coordinated actions against Jews marked the beginning of state-sanctioned violence. With Kristallnacht, the state opened the door to undisguised escalation of savagery: a turning point leading to the Holocaust.

Heidelberg’s Old Synagogue

In the university town of Heidelberg, the earliest recorded presence of Jews dates back to the 13th-century. Jews gathered in what is now the Old Town and converted the building they were using into a synagogue in the early 18th-century; the community built a new synagogue at the same site in the late 19th-century.

The synagogue did not escape violence on Kristallnacht and was burned to the ground. Alter Synagogenplatz (Old Synagogue Square) is all that remains today with memorial plaques; the names of people arrested, deported, and killed; the outline of the synagogue’s walls in white marble; the entrance and windows marked in grey granite; and twelve sandstone cubes representing pews and the twelve tribes of Israel.

Alter Synagogenplatz, Heidelberg, Germany

Alter Synagogenplatz, Heidelberg, Germany

A memorial at the square is dedicated to the Jewish community who once thrived in Heidelberg’s Old Town. Information at the “Site of the Heidelberg synagogue, 1714-1938″ provided by the City of Heidelberg reads:

Jews have lived in Heidelberg since the 13th century, in spite of having been subject to oppression and persecution time and again. In 1714, the “Blue Lily” house situated on this site was converted to a synagogue. In 1878, the community built a new synagogue in contemporary style.

On the night of 9-10 November 1938, Nazi storm troopers set fire to the synagogue. In 1939, the Jewish community was ordered to pay for the demolition of its ruined synagogue.

On 22 October 1940, the Jews of Baden and the Palatinate were deported to Gurs camp in Southern France. Only few of them survived the Shoah. Between 1941 and 1945, more Jews from the area were deported straight to the death camps.

After the end of the war in April 1945, a Jewish community was re-established in Heidelberg. The present-day synagogue is situated in the Weststadt city district, at 10-12 Häusserstrasse. It was inaugruated in 1994.

During the renovation of this square in 2001, white marble cobbles were used to mark the outline of the synagogue. The memorial stone marks the location of the Ark.

A new Jewish community centre and synagogue were inaugurated in Heidelberg’s Weststadt in 1994. There are now brass “Stolpersteine” or “stumbling stones” with names acknowledging Jews who once lived in Heidelberg.

Alter Synagogenplatz, Heidelberg, Germany

“Here on 10 November 1938 the Heidelberg synagogue was destroyed by criminal hands.”

I made the photos above on 26 November 2006 with a Canon Powershot A510. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at


* A number of German historians set up the website,, to highlight events before, during, and after the pogroms of 9-10 November 1938; the website is in German.

* Thanks to Enchanted Seashells for their post.

* 2013 marked the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, and BBC News posed the question of whether anti-Semitism was on the rise in Europe. Holocaust survivor Margot Friedlander recently returned to her hometown of Berlin, where she has her own “Stolperstein”; she spoke to NPR about remembering Kristallnacht.

Herbst (fall) in Heidelberg

Christmas in July (7 of 14), Heidelberg

Heidelberg, Germany – 9pm CET, 20 December 2010.

Many would claim (and agree!) that the Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg can be very busy, and at many times overrun by tourists. We used to complain that there were just too many tourists on shopping Saturday – that I would be one of those very same tourists after leaving the city in 2003 would become amusing, if not a little appalling.

Another wast-east street is Plöck which runs not only parallel to the Hauptstrasse, but runs almost as long. This is like an open secret among knowing residents and University students, for all who traverse the width of the Altstadt along the much narrower Plöck will find very interesting shops. Behind the Kaufhof department store at Bismarckplatz, I made the following photo at the western end of Plöck (at Sofienstraße).

Ploeck, Heidelberg

I had spent a couple of hours on this evening wandering through the city I had once lived between 2001 and 2003. Memories continued to surface as I walked along the Hauptstrasse; near the eastern end is Kornmarkt. Kornmarkt (“Grain Market”) was used as a central point to exchange a variety of agricultural goods. Today, Kornmarkt marks the start of the pedestrian path up to the Heidelberg Castle, and is also the end- or city-terminus of the Bergbahn (Mountain Railway). At the centre of the square stands the Mary statue which was built in 1718 by the Jesuits to try and convince the citizens at the time to convert to Catholicism.

Kornmarkt, Heidelberg

I made the photos above in Heidelberg on 20 December 2010. This post is published originally on Fotoeins Fotopress (


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