Travel photography in Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg. Photo by Robert Mullan

Heidelberg, Germany

If you loved Cambridge or were beguiled by Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’, then you shouldn’t miss Heidelberg, Germany. This medieval university city, halfway between Stuttgart and Frankfurt, could pass for the long lost twin of Oxbridge. The similarities abound, summer streets crammed with tourists, students bicycling their way around narrow laneways.

A year or two back I spent a couple of days shooting for one of the photo libraries I supply. Despite ‘bagging’ the usual establishing shots, like the Cathedral and the famous Heidelberger Schloss, (the red brick castle ruins synonymous with the place), the shot I’ve posted is my firm favourite. Heidelberg was almost completely spared allied bombings during WW II and as a result, the city can boast a seductive Old Town with half-timbered and Baroque houses lining cobblestone streets. It has everything for the visitor. If people watching is your thing, head for the Kornmarkt, just off Hauptstrasse (Main Street) or the cafe-lined Marktplatz. Explore the city’s Alstadt (Old Town) or cross the Alte Brucke and walk the banks of River Neckar, all easily accomplished in an afternoon. You can see some of my shots of the city as well as lots of my other travel pictures on Getty Images,  here

The Carousel Piano Bar, French Quarter, New Orleans

The Carousel Piano Bar

The Carousel Piano Bar in Hotel Monteleone, part of the  French Quarter of New Orleans, was a favourite of writers pretty much since it opened in 1949. Hemingway, Faulkner, Capote, Tennessee Williams numbered amongst its regulars.

This opulent, rotating, carousel-themed, bar in the centre of the room makes it a ‘must see’ for visitors to the Louisiana capital. It performs four complete, gentle revolution per hour. Now it felt quicker when Liz and I tried it last year, but there are also booths and tables for those who would rather not spin.

Hotel Monteleone is a literary landmark in its own right. It crops up in the works of Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty to name a few. Truman Capote once even claimed he was born there (not true). The hotel still family-owned opened in 1886. It has stubbornly hung on to its unique charm and character for over 100 years. It took several shots (photographic and NOT alcoholic), at different shutter speeds, to get the right degree of blur in my picture.

Cafe Hawelka, Vienna

Cafe Hawelka, photo Robert Mullan

The city of Vienna has forever been associated with creatives: Freud, Mozart and Beethoven to name just three. These and other like-minded souls from the arts, music and science met their peers in what was to become a city institution: the Vienna coffee house. Laterally, during the 1960s artists like Hundertwasser, Werner and von Doderer regularly hung out in these. One can only guess at what was exchanged during their late-night, wine-infused encounters.

Yet the Cafes weren’t just for the gregarious, it provided the more solitary with the ultimate private experience: there they enjoyed the comfort of their own space while surrounded by others. These ’public living rooms’ were open to all, you just had to buy a coffee or a glass of wine or beer and stay as long as you wanted. The concept of a Viennese Cafe has been tried in other cities without success. City and Cafe proved inseparable.

The picture I posted here was taken in Cafe Hawelka, more a city institution than a cafe. It has an unprepossessing exterior, lurking shyly in Dorotheergasse, a side street off the fashionable Steffanplatz, a ‘stone’s throw’ from Am Graben, the most expensive and elegant shopping street in Central Europe. Started by Leopold Hawelka and his wife Josefine in 1939; this proved bad timing, military service beckoned and Leopold was called up. The café had to be closed with the outbreak of WWII. When hostilities ended in 1945, with the building largely intact, he and Josefine lost no time in opening its doors again.

The following years saw Café Hawelka becoming a meeting place for writers, painters and actors. Indeed, writers often considered it their office. Waiters never pressured customers to buy another drink. For the price of a coffee or beer, customers could browse the free papers, read (or write) a novel or just contemplate. All under the watchful eye of proprietor Leopold!

In the wake of visitors like Bill Clinton, Václav Havel, Peter Ustinov and Andy Warhol the small cafe became infested with tourists. Despite this, Leopold stubbornly resisted modernisation. The interior is largely as it was in the 50s, his only concession to modernity: an espresso machine!

When I first visited the cafe almost twenty years ago to do some pictures for Alamy I briefly met the famous host. Then in his nineties, sharp-eyed as ever, watching over his tables while seated near the entrance. When I pointed my Nikon is his direction I got not a picture but a dismissive wave of his hand. But ever the charmer, it was followed by a mischievous smile. To mark his hundredth birthday, in 2011, a postage stamp was issued in his honour. Leopold, son of a Bohemian shoemaker from the village of Kautendorf in Austria’s wine region, died in 2011.