Some adventures aren’t planned ahead of time. During my time in Darmstadt, Germany, a childhood friend of my mother’s with whom I was staying recommended that I spend the day in Heidelberg, one of the few traditionally preserved towns in Germany. The reason, she explained, dates back to Heidelberg’s ancient roots as an academic city. Industry and manufacturing were not as common in Heidelberg, thus they remained an untouched bubble during the second world war. Many parts of Heidelberg maintain their original construction, but as an unfortunate consequence quickly tumbled into tourist trapdom.
The library is a part of Heidelberg University, and is the world’s oldest university library (dating back to 1386). Thus, there is constant hustle and bustle inside the library. Students make up the majority of roamers within the stone walls of this icon of learning. The rest walk much slower and, like myself, are too busy looking up at the ceiling, engrossed, than down stuck in a book.
Without a doubt, the Heidelberg university library does not compare to the grandeur, modernity, or prestige of other libraries on this trip, but this is not an analytical or comparative exposé. Its role in the community, shaping brilliant young generations of scholars and thinkers, is a marked contribution and, in fact, the true reason why I chose to part on this exploration. I wanted to find where learning happened—formally, informally, orally, loudly, discretely, secretly, spontaneously, controversially, and organically.
Heidelberg University Library | Heidelberg, Germany