Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Class of 1386...

On this day...The University of Heidelburg was officially opened in 1386. The oldest univeristy in Germany, and only the third established in the Holy Roman Empire, Heidelburg has many things to boast of. Not least is its alumni, whose numbers include 30 Nobel Laureates, German Chancellors, and even a Pope. However, for those of a literary persuasion, there are also several notable associations. Perhaps the most decorated is Nobel Laureate Carl Spittler who was rewarded 'in special appreciation of his epic, "Olympian Spring"'.

Yet despite his success amongst critics and academics, Spittler is by no means the best known inhabitant of the medieval walls. Mark Twain, who visited the univeristy as part of his European tour in 1878, detailed his impression in the travelogue 'A Tramp Abroad', humorously depicting a student body of aristocratic dandies. Such was the popularity of the American writer, that a US Army base in the city now bears his name. The university also plays fictional host to W. Somerset Maugham's Philip Carey in his novel 'Of Human Bondage' and, perhaps more famously, appears on screen in the Oscar winning adaptation of Bernard Schlink's 'The Reader'.

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