We reached Heidelberg early afternoon and went directly into the Haupstrasse area. In case you’re unfamiliar with Germany, most towns have a Haupstrasse area. Generally, around the oldest section of the town’s center. Heidelberg’s has multiple narrow, pedestrian only, cobblestoned streets lined with shops, boutiques, pubs and restaurants. Mark Twain spent time there in 1878. In his book, A Tramp Abroad, he shared a fictional story of a raft trip down the Neckar River said to be the inspiration for Huck Finn’s famed float. Heidelberg gets its name from heidelberre, a berry similar to a blueberry that’s grows there. The heidelberre is also similar to the American huckleberry. Maybe Mr. Twain was on to something.
In most old German cities, the town itself is centered around the Church.
We wandered the Haupstrasse snapping pictures then made our way to the old bridge across the Neckar. A beautiful sky provided the background for the bridge gate.
Photos of Heidelberg are incomplete unless in the background they include Schloss Heidelberg (Heidelberg Castle). I picked these of many. A thorn amongst roses.
Revisiting the Heidelberg Haupstrasse the first time since 1994 or thereabouts was like stepping back in time. Germans are quite careful about preserving their old town centers. Except for differing shops and restaurants, there’s probably little change since the days of Mark Twain.
We moved on to the real purpose of our trip to Heidelberg. Visiting the old U.S. Army facilities and housing area where we spent nearly a decade of our lives.
Spending a lifetime in the Army, one loses the sense of hometown. I can assure you, however, if it’s a place where you watched your son and family grow up and there were significant career events, it will hold special meaning for you.
We drove from the Haupstrasse to the area of once Campbell Barracks. It’s where I served from 1984 to 1987 at Headquarters, US Army Europe and 7th Army, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. Campbell Barracks is a historic installation and was a NAZI Headquarters during the WWII era. The pictures we were able to get were of the drive-by variety.
The left photo shows one side of the gate. You see the German eagle with a blank circular area beneath. In that circle was once a NAZI Swastika. All of the buildings on Campbell Barracks have historical significance for the Germans. The website taken from the sign below appears to provide the German vision for the former Campbell Barracks area and surroundings.
Practically surrounding Campbell Barracks was an Army family housing area named Mark Twain Village. The area my family and I lived in is completely gone. There are significant blocks of housing remaining. Some of it’s clearly inhabited while others appear under renovation.
We were quite surprised to see this banner hanging on the fence surrounding portions of the old US Army Housing area.
Seems the Germans are interested in preserving some remnants of our history too.
Also in Mark Twain Village is the old Heidelberg Elementary and Heidelberg High School. The schools appear renovated and have a new German name above the entrance way. We were pleasantly surprised and my son was grinning ear to ear to find some of his important childhood landmarks remained:
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