Happy Easter Sunday everyone! Today, I am delighted to welcome back to the blog Nancy Jardine, to tell us about Heidelberg.
Hello, Jen. It’s lovely to pay you a return visit to add a little more to your Sunday Sojourns. Your readers will find that my chosen location for this post is the German city of Heidelberg.
I regularly sell paperback versions of my novels at Craft Fairs around my home area of Aberdeenshire and one question I’m often asked is ‘Why have you included the city of Heidelberg in your novel Topaz Eyes?’ I’m always delighted to wax lyrical.
When planning the mystery thriller, I particularly wanted to create a European ancestral/family tree structure for my character list because that meant I could include contemporary third generation cousins who presently lived in fabulous world wide locations—one of which is Heidelberg.
At the outset of the novel, my main female character Keira Drummond receives a mysterious invitation to Heidelberg to attend the private opening of a small art gallery in the centre of Heidelberg’s old town. The gallery owner is willing to pay all of her travel costs from Edinburgh, Scotland, and to put her up in one of Heidelberg’s best hotels but Keira’s only connection with Heidelberg is that she spent time there as a student. Overcoming her initial sceptical reservations, she can’t resist a free return trip though she immediately finds herself embroiled in a family quest that’s full of intrigue, danger and even death!
Why did I begin the tale in Heidelberg? And where did my ideas come from?
Anyone who knows me personally will know that my elder daughter, Fiona, spent her final university academic year at Heidelberg University. Since German was her prime language of study she was required to spend a year in Germany to fulfil her degree requirements. When discussing potential places to apply to, I had no hesitation in recommending Heidelberg which we’d visited in 1980 when she was only 9 months old. Some judicious research convinced her that Heidelberg was a brilliant choice. During her time there, I popped over for a holiday so it was natural to include Heidelberg in the treasure trail that’s at the heart of Topaz Eyes. It should come as no real surprise that in Topaz Eyes Keira also studied languages there and is a translator.
Heidelberg is the loveliest city that’s crammed full of interesting things to see and do. The food and drink is superb, geared towards a more limited student budget yet also caters for those who want fine dining. By day or night it’s an incredibly lively place to wander around in. Often named a college town, it only has a population of c. 156,000 (2015 census) who live in a geographically small area. Around a quarter of that population are transient students. Visitors and tourists, like I was, are often there because they have some sort of relationship with people studying, or working, at the university.
Heidelberg University dates back to 1386 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe. Though there are facilities and associated research buildings in the new parts of the city, it’s the Altstadt (old city) which draws most tourist attention. The baroque style of the old city means romance and nostalgia abound on every cobbled street. Cobbles are tough on the feet but, in my opinion, walking around gives you the best rewards: the architecture is striking and the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. Much of the Altstadt is pedestrianised, the Main Street a mile long which teems with unique shops and would you believe?—tiny art galleries!
Heidelberg Castle sits proudly on the hill above the Altstadt. Its mixture of architectural styles, from Gothic through to Renaissance, dominates the surrounding views. There are habitable castle areas next to parts which have been ruined for centuries: the whole structure encircled with beautiful gardens at different levels for tourists who aren’t so interested in history. There’s an impressive ‘King’s Hall’ that’s currently used for public events that was built in 1937. However, the best memory of my castle tour was of visiting the small Deutsches Apotheken Museum (Apothecaries Museum) which was crammed full of stunningly preserved objects dating from the mid 1700s. TIP: I had a personal translator but an audio guide would be useful since the signs were in German (though maybe they are also in English now). The Museum made such an impression on me that it’s included in a scene where Keira’s suspicions intensify, the disquiet that she’s being stalked becoming more of a reality.
The Alte Brucke (Karl Theodor Bridge built 1788) straddles the twinkling River Neckar in great style. Though named the old bridge there have been many bridges across it. As a Roman history enthusiast, I’m deeply sad it’s no longer possible to walk across the first known timber bridge across the Neckar that was built by the Romans in the first century AD. That timber construction was replaced in stone around the year 200 AD but after it collapsed the city of Heidelberg was without a bridge for almost 1000 years. New structures were built over the next centuries at the same location, using the original Middle Ages foundations, the Karl Theodor Bridge being the ninth. The hugely impressive Bruckentor, the bridge gate on the south end, dates from the Middle Ages. Keira loves the river views but not the fact that she can see 3 shadows as she chats to Teun Zeger, the main male character in the novel.
Now here’s a secret for blog readers – In reality the shadows in my photograph are of myself, Fiona, and my younger daughter Sheena who accompanied me on that trip.
A wander across the Alte Brucke will take you to the Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s Walk). This is a pedestrian pathway that twists and bends part way up the hillside through leafy glades. The views across to the old town of Heidelberg are stunning. Traditionally, professors and philosophers did a power of talking as they exercised there though nowadays it’s also known as a lovers’ haunt! Keira finds the Philosophenweg an exciting place to be for different reasons!
If you read Topaz Eyes you’ll find out how many typical aspects of Heidelberg are featured, though I name only a few of the multitude that are available for the tourist to take pleasure in.
In real life, I found Heidelberg a wonderfully sociable city to visit, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet been there, but for the purposes of my novel a reader will discover that Keira’s finding it less friendly than it used to be!
A final note would be that Heidelberg is only one of the wonderful cities I’ve given feature to in Topaz Eyes, each location sparked by some form of personal involvement!
Topaz Eyes is available at a *SALE* price of 99p (99c equivalent) across the Amazon network from 14th – 17th April 2017. http://getbook.at/buymehere
Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic adventures is set in 1st century northern Roman Britain whereas her contemporary romantic mysteries are set in fabulous world-wide cities, Topaz Eyes being a finalist in The People’s Book Prize 2014. All are published by Crooked Cat Books.
The Taexali Game, a time-travel adventure set in 3rd century Roman Scotland, acquired second place in the Barbara Hammond Competition for Best Self Published Book March 2017.
Her week vanishes in a blur of reading, writing, blogging, keeping up with news and politics, gardening and regular grandkid minding—anything left is for breathing and sleeping. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Federation of Writers Scotland.
You can find her at these places:
email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @nansjar
Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere