Heidelberg: Meeting a bridge monkey and enjoying a Heidelberg Kiss

The famous Heidelberg Student Kiss was created in the 1800s.
The famous Heidelberg Student Kiss was created in the 1800s.

ABOARD THE AmaCERTO — Love will find a way. On today’s shore excursion from the AmaCerto cruise, I learned about the famous Heidelberg Student Kiss and even got to enjoy one.

I also saw a monkey and two mice on the Old Heidelberg Bridge. Never know what you are going to discover on a shore excursion.

As for that kiss, the story goes that the Heidelberg Student Kiss is both a confection and a bit of fascinating history from the 1800s.

The Heidelberg Student Kiss is still made from the same 1800s recipe.
The Heidelberg Student Kiss is still made from the same 1800s recipe.

“Because of the big Heidelberg University, there were a lot of young men studying in the city. Young women went to finishing school here, too,” says AmaCerto cruise manager Réka Piros. “But parents didn’t welcome the attention from these young men to their daughters.”

In fact, sharp-eyed chaperones were usually on hand to discourage any flirtations between the two. “The young men and women had to content themselves with side glances and secret smiles,” Réka says.

However, one pastry chef at a popular café remembred what it was like to be a young man in love. A hopeless romantic, chef Fridolin Knösel at Café Knösel soon developed a chocolate delicacy called the Heidelberg Student Kiss. The sweet was a delicious chocolate praline nougat and thin wafers covered with a layer of chocolate.

The monkey on the Old Heidelberg Bridge carries a mirror to admire himself.
The monkey on the Old Heidelberg Bridge carries a mirror to admire himself.

“The young men could give the young women who caught their attention a delicious kiss, even if it was a candy one,” Réka says.

Given as a present, the Student Kiss was such a sweet token of affection that even stern-faced chaperones could not object. At last, the students and the young ladies had a discreet way to send a sweet message.

Although courting standards have changed since 1863, the Heidelberg Student Kiss is still make by descendants of Fridolin Knösel according to his original hand-crafted recipe. Café Knösel still exists and the chocolate shop at Haspelgasse 16 is just a short walk from the bridge.

MONKEY AND MICE

The hollowed-out monkey head is a popular spot to pose for photos.
The hollowed-out monkey head is a popular spot to pose for photos.

That is why I was down by the Old Bridge and why I saw the monkey and two mice. I was taking pictures of the river and bridge and noticed the unusual sculptures. I wasn’t with a tour guide so didn’t know the story of the strange critters but was lucky enough to be on the edge of a tour group where the leader was explaining in English.

The story she told is that the monkey holding a mirror in his left hand is meant to remind people not to get too full of themselves. No one is better than anyone else, the guide said, and no one is safe from making themselves a monkey’s rear if they aren’t careful. The monkey actually has his behind turned toward the river and the bridge, all the better to moon approaching visitors.

The bronze sculpture was installed in 1979 by Professor Gernot Rumpf. But there had been a bridge monkey in Heidelberg as far back as the 15th century, according to historic records.

A plaque next to the statue read, the guide said, something along the lines of “As you look at me, don’t laugh because if you were to look at other human beings or even into a mirror, you might just see something equally funny.” Good lesson.

Sculptures of two mice are nestled near the Bridge Monkey.
Sculptures of two mice are nestled near the Bridge Monkey.

The sculpture was created with a big empty space in the monkey’s head. That way peoople can stick their heads inside the monkey’s head, making it quite a popular photo spot.

According to legend, if you touch the fingers of the Bridge Monkey, it will ensure your return to Heidelberg. If you touch the mirror, you will have money in your future. If you touch the mice, that is a guarantee of fertility. I think I touched all of them so who knows what my future holds. Returning to Heidelberg aboard the AmaCerto would be my hope.

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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