Sunday, January 15, 2006

Task #25: Studentenkarzer (Prison)

Find the place where this picture was taken and take a photo of yourself somewhere else in its grounds.

If you scroll all the way down the page (from the link listed above), there's a picture of "The Royal Throne" of the University of Heidelberg's Student Prison. And for that matter, check the website out a little further because this person has many pictures from quite a few historical cities in Germany--including actual pictures from the DDR in the 60's.

Back to the task at hand, however. Information I read at the prison reads:
The Karzer (student's dungeon)

"It served from 1712 to 1914 as a prison for students, over whom the university administration had legal sovereignty. Violations of public order could be punished by the judicial authorities of the town. Usual violations were disturbing the night-time peace by drunkenness, misbehavour, chasing the citizens' pigs and their squeaking piglets through the alleys, extinguishing street lamps. These were minor "crimes" punished with up to two weeks in prison. When the "Amtmann" (policeman) was teased, insulted, or resistance was offered against him it often went to four weeks (the "Amtmann" represented the State) in the course of the 18th century and up to 1914, when the prison was closed because of World War One. It impaired the honour of a student not to have been imprisoned at least once during his time of study in Heidelberg. There was no water in the prison flat, it had to be fetched from the well in the courtyard. There also was no kitchen. For the first two days the delinquents were "starved" on bread and water. Later on they were allowed to have meals sent from the outside, from restaurants, landladies or friends. Alcohol was not prohibited. They could visit each other in their "cells," receive visits from outside and even follow lectures. There was a door to university. There were five cells with hard iron beds and straw mattresses, two tables in each room and a few stools. Many prisoners engraved their names in wood. To kill hours they played cards and decorated walls and ceilings of their rooms and the staircase with the silhouettes of their fellow prisoners, the coats of arms of their fraternities, the date of their imprisonment and funny verses. In those days nearly all students were members of a fraternity. There was a big variety of fraternities, wearing different "colours" (uniforms, special hats, and ribbons across the chest). Many of them were hostile against each other and fighting duels. Unauthorized duels were sentenced with imprisonment. The black colour of the ceiling's paintings is candle soot. For the walls students used soot from their small iron stoves now protected with varnish. Other colours were brought in from outside. Some students left their photos embedded in the doors of their rooms. Cells were "baptized" with names like Sanssouci (after the Prussian palace in Potsdam), Grand Hotel, Palais Royal. The bathroom was named Royal Throne."

At least on January 13, 2006, 2,50 Euro will get you a Kombiticket to not only the Studentenkarzer, but Alte Aula, and the University Museum as well. Don't expect a three-hour visit to the student prison. Don't even necessarily expect an hour visit--the prison is essentially a 3 room flat with the stairs leading up to it serving as part of the spectacle. And since it's part of the university, the prison, university museum, and Alte Aula are on the university's schedule of holidays in addition to being closed every Monday. Nevertheless, I *do* think it is visit-worthy. Even if your German is a little shakey, it's easy to get caught up in this early form of graffiti covering every inch of the walls and ceilings. Sure German knowledge helps, but if you've ever been a student (and maybe, in particular, of a university), these "trouble-makers'" art just might charm you into an hour long visit. Pictures of the entire prison (including the obligatory shot with myself in the prison) can be found in my flickr stream.

Seeing as your visit will probably be shorter than most museum visits, you'll probably also resign yourself to seeing whatever the heck Alte Aula and the University Museum are about. I'm going to save Alte Aula for another post (updated!) because it was closed for some special event going on that night, but the University Museum can be skipped if you don't speak German because it's pretty much a bunch of texts and pictures of faculty and buildings on the walls. For those with some German ability, it's still a museum with a bunch of photocopies on the wall (and again, it's small), but there's an interesting section on the university during World Wars I and II. Imagine seeing a flyer on your campus for the guest speaker and former student, Dr. Goebbels...weird.

Ultimately I'll reiterate that the Studentenkarzer, Alte Aula, and the University Museum are worth a visit even if you fly through them. It's a good low-stress, not-so-crowded, cheap, and stimulating alternative to the redundancy of castles and cathedrals, which leaves you feeling as you've seen a lot and something unique.

University Museum info: (German) (English)

Student Prison: (German) otherwise opening times and ticket prices are the same as the University Museum's

University Collections/Museums: (English/German)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:58 AM

    Do I send you to the best places, or What/!?!?!