Heidelberg to the Black Forest

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Heidelberg to the Black Forest

Karlsruhe  Lying south of Heidelberg, this city has an instructive name: Karl's Rest. The city is a piece of "fallout" from Louis XIV's invasion of Heidelberg. Louis destroyed other towns nearby, including the castle of Prince Karl Wilhelm, who ruled Baden. Karl was sick of war and destruction, and wanted rest. So he built a new residence in the middle of his favorite hunting grounds. Thus: Karl's Rest. The city grew, and today is a manufacturing and oil-refining center. Supreme Courts of West Germany are located here. Nuclear Research Center outside the town. Physicist Heinrich Hertz (whose name is unit of wave frequency — familiar term to stereo buffs), discovered electromagnetic waves in 1894, while working at the technological Institute in Karlsruhe.

Black Forest  Autobahn runs along fringes of Schwarzwald. Popularized by romantic writers: dwarfs, sprites, dragons, goblins, etc., lurk in deep underbrush. (Actually, there's little underbrush; forests look neatly manicured and lawn-like below the evergreens.) Baden-Baden, passed by the Autobahn, is a world famous health resort. It maintains tradition of 19th-century elegance. Money and hypochondria blend in the town. The Romans started it all when they discovered natural thermal springs. Today, casinos add to the glamor. Mud baths, soaking chambers, steam baths — all the health money can buy.

Freiburg im Breisgau  Down the road from Baden-Baden. It is the largest city in the Black Forest — its cultural and commercial crossroads. Attractive, rural-looking, but with a large population: 170,000. Freiburg lies at the beginning of the mountainous portion of the Black Forest, the foothills inching into the town. The city's university is a distinguished landmark, founded in 1457. Counts among its professors and graduates the luminaries of modern German intellectual history. E.g., geographer Waldseemuller put the word "America" on maps of the New World for the first time, naming it after Amerigo Vespucci of Florence. Philosopher Martin Heidegger founded influential Existentialist School of Philosophy in the 1920's. Heidegger's way of life was typical of other Freiburg professors. During vacations, Heidegger retreats to mountain ski hut to meditate and read poems of Holderlin. Brooding, melancholy spirit of these remote forests around Freiburg has made its way into European intellectual mainstream, thanks to influence of Heidegger's Existentialism.

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