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Enjoy Jazz Festival: Days 7-10, October 26-29, 2009

Enjoy Jazz Festival: Days 7-10, October 26-29, 2009
John Kelman By

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Days 1-2 | Day 3-6 | Days 7-10 | Days 11-12
The main purpose of visiting the Heidelberg/Mannheim/Ludwigshafen region may be for the music, but during the day there's plenty to see and do. Wandering around the old part of Heidelberg, it's difficult not to be moved by the profound sense of age, especially coming from the much younger North America. Heidelberg has, to be sure, a more modern section, but Old Heidelberg manages to successfully maintain a quaint feeling in its cobblestoned roads, numerous cathedrals and modern amenities couched within the older structures. With narrow roads—often almost impossible to navigate, even on foot, with cars parked on both sides—there's a relaxed vibe, despite being populated by a community that pays great attention to detail...and punctuality.

For a city that boasts so much despite its relatively small population (under 150,000), there's a wealth of cultural activities throughout the year, with Enjoy Jazz rising rapidly over its now eleven years, to become Germany's largest jazz festival. As the festival continues towards its end on November 11, the four days following the ECM 40th anniversary were devoted to a number of prominent American musicians, ranging from guitarist Bill Frisell's 858 Quartet and pianist Brad Mehldau to Jimmy Cobb's Kind of Blue at 50 tribute band, and singer Cassandra Wilson. From the mainstream to the gently experimental, it was further evidence of the festival's exceptionally broad stylistic purview.

Chapter Index
  1. Visiting Heidelberg
  2. Bill Frisell 858 Quartet
  3. Brad Mehldau Solo
  4. Jimmy Cobb's So What Band: Kind of Blue at 50
  5. SAS Enjoys Jazz
  6. Cassandra Wilson



Visiting Heidelberg

A series of open marketplace squares act as focal points throughout old Heidelberg, with cafés, stores, markets and hotels. It's a popular tourist destination, yet there's never a feeling of overcrowding. A leisurely walk down Castle Hill, home of Heidelberg Castle, is an opportunity to relax and experience some beautiful scenery, including views of Heidelberg and beyond from various points on the 90-minute journey.

In addition to its beautiful old bridge crossing the Neckar River, the immense and impressive Heidelberg Castle is considered the greatest ruin this side of the Alps. Beginning life as a fortress and taking over 200 years to build (completed in 1619), the castle was destroyed and rebuilt three times—first in the infamous Thirty Years' War, and finally ravaged by fire in the 1700s (the interior of many parts of the castle possess solid wood ceilings in addition to floors and wall, so was highly combustible) and ultimately left to ruin.

Traveling to the castle by funicular—switching to another, 100 year-old funicular above the castle leads to the top of Castle Hill for a spectacular view of Heidelberg and beyond—a tour of the castle reveals a great deal about life in the 17th and 18th century. With an average life expectancy of 35, paintings of some of the castle's Prince Electors (a collective of seven elected Germany's king) are deceptive, as these portraits give a false impression of men in their fifties who are, in fact, in their late teens or early twenties.

Ceramic stoves in the castle's large rooms did little to keep the structure warm during the long winters, as stone walls, often meters thick, relentlessly retained the cold. What appear to be small doors in the hallways were, in fact, conduits for servants—who were not allowed in the main rooms—to surreptitiously add wood to the stoves. With unclean water a constant threat of disease, wine was the preferred drink—and a huge barrel that holds tens of thousands of liters is a reminder of just how much was consumed, though the alcohol content was much less than is common today.

Rooms filled with large wooden furniture, an old apothecary, and outside walls peppered with tremendous statues, archways and centuries-old vine, Heidelberg Castle is an experience not to be missed.

Demonstrating a commitment to reducing carbon footprint that is absolutely a case of "walking the walk," it's possible to take a trip up the Neckar River on a solar shuttle—a metal boat that can accommodate up to 110 people, powered entirely by solar panels that store energy in large batteries, allowing the boat to both run silently and in the evening.

The short trip provides an opportunity to capture the scenic beauty of Heidelberg, nestled in the Neckar Valley. Drawing attention to the Natural Sciences building of the centuries-old University of Heidelberg, the boat's narrator pointed out that the reason it was impossible to find a specific campus is because all of Heidelberg is the campus, with buildings peppered throughout the city. With over 25,000 students—responsible for a sixth of the city's population, the university has been a renowned scientific center for centuries.

Heidelberg is an idyllic destination where old and new comfortably intersect, with a pervasive sense of history and significance that's impossible to ignore.

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