Monday, November 14, 2011

Air Weather Service Operations at Goodfellow Air Force Base in the 1960's


I was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base (AFB) in San Angelo, Texas, in the mid-1960's. Here is a look back in history by way of a short account of what went on at Goodfellow AFB then.

Goodfellow AFB had been a pilot training base during World War II. In 1958 pilot training ceased and the base assumed the mission of teaching young officers, mostly second lieutenants straight out of college, their jobs in the US Air Force. Their career field was called Security Service and their jobs were to work in, and be managers of, units that collected intelligence data by listening in on other people's communications.

Balloon Detachment

The other activity on the base was our weather detachment. It was an Air Weather Service unit, but the actual weather people were in the minority. Most of the detachment consisted of balloon riggers, aircraft maintenance people, and aircrews. The detachment's mission was to get air samples from high up in the atmosphere - 60,000 to 120,000 feet up. The way the samples were obtained was through the use of high altitude balloons. The air samples were then passed to the Atomic Energy Commission for analysis. The purpose was to determine who in the world (besides the US) was testing atomic weapons. No one advertised the fact that they were going to detonate an atomic bomb to test its effectiveness, but it was known that several countries were testing. Naturally, the US was most concerned about the Russians and the Chinese. Scientists of the Atomic Energy Commission could actually tell who was blowing stuff into the atmosphere by examining the minute particles that floated around the globe at great heights after a test.

The balloons looked like huge plastic bags, about a quarter of a mile long, that were stretched out on the runway on a carpet to protect them. Precisely the right amount of helium was pumped into the balloons to bring them to their intended altitude and to make them float there. Attached to these balloons were large electric motors that activated large fans that blew air across very fine filters. Tiny particles would be trapped by the filters. At those altitudes, the fans had to blow a lot of the thin air onto the filters to be able to get a sufficient sample of the radioactive debris. So, one of the higher altitude flights might take 10 to 12 hours. After it was determined that enough of a sample was obtained a signal from the ground initiated an electric spark that cut the connection between the balloon and the payload (motors, filters, blowers) which would then fall to earth suspended by several giant parachutes. Relieved of the weight of the payload, the balloon would rise and finally burst into a million tiny pieces that became part of the floating debris in the atmosphere.

The launching of the balloon was a spectacle in itself. First of all, it had to be done without any wind, usually at sunrise. The payload would be positioned on a large truck. The end of the balloon, which was attached to the payload, would be clamped tight unto a special clamp on the truck. As helium was pumped into the balloon, it slowly rose. This is where it had to be wind still, because now the truck maneuvered under the slowly rising balloon so that at the moment when the balloon was completely off the ground and vertically over the truck, the clamp could be released so that the payload would rise smoothly without hitting the ground. It happened now and then that a small breath of air caught the balloon, which looked like a giant sausage skin, twisting it or even sending it back to the ground and tearing it. Or the payload was released too soon and it crashed unto the ground. To prevent the latter mishap, a launch controller with a headset stood on the truck bed, strapped to the cab of the truck, giving directions to the driver because the driver had to concentrate on steering the truck and could not see the balloon once it was straight overhead.

The unit had four H-21 helicopters and a C-47 transport aircraft assigned. The four helicopters were stationed on the base, the C-47 with a special glass bubble on top was stationed at the municipal airport of San Angelo because the runway on Goodfellow AFB was used for launching the balloons. When the balloon was successfully launched, the C-47 would take off and follow it, someone in the glass dome keeping it in sight all the time. Of course, the C-47 could not go to the heights that the balloons went, therefore the balloons were kept in sight with field glasses. Two of the helicopters would leap-frog from one airport to another along the path of the balloon, which was being relayed by the C-47. When the payload landed, one of the helicopters would fly there, land in some farmer's field or on a road, retrieve the payload, and bring it back. It is not surprising that people in the Southwest occasionally thought they saw UFO's and little green men carrying away what they thought were parts of a crashed space ship. Sometimes the helicopters would have to go well into Louisiana, 400 or 500 miles from San Angelo to retrieve the payload, depending on the winds.

Air Weather Service Involvement

Whereas the balloon launchers and air crews were specialists in their fields, they were not trained weather observers or forecasters. It was the weathermen's job to determine what the weather would be like for the next day's launch, how strong the winds would be, and if there were going to be clouds. There were high level meetings almost like those for a space launch. A "go, no-go" decision was made the day before the launch based on the forecasters' prognosis because a flight plan had to be filed with the FAA well in advance and the helicopters and the C-47 had to be prepared for the time and distance that was anticipated that they would have to be underway. In addition to the calm winds at launch time there could not be more than scattered clouds along the flight path because the balloon had to be able to be kept in sight by the C-47 and by all other aircraft in the area.

Weather Station

There were two sections to the actual weather support team. One section consisted of weather observers and weather forecasters. It was the observers' job to monitor the four or five teletype machines, post the weather reports that came in over teletype, and plot maps so that the forecasters could make their forecasts. This part of the job was just like in a regular weather station. The difference was that the observers didn't take any weather observations and the forecasters only made specialized weather forecasts for the balloon launches and flights.

RAWINSONDE Operations

The other section of the weather support team was a RAWINSONDE section. A RAWINSONDE ("sonde" is French for probe) is a piece of equipment for use with weather balloons that measures various atmospheric parameters and transmits them to a fixed receiver. In those days, a RAWINSONDE measured temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure and transmitted these data via radio signal. The signal was tracked with a circular antenna similar to a radar antenna that locked on to the radio signal from the unit on the weather balloon once the antenna was manually pointed at the ascending unit (which was not always easy if the balloon took off rapidly or a cloud bank suddenly swallowed it before a good manual fix could be established). Today, with GPS and other technical innovations, RAWINSONDE operations are probably quite a bit different.

A RAWINSONDE team consisted of three to four operators. They would calibrate the sensors and the transmitter before sending them aloft. Meanwhile, another part of the team filled the balloon with the calculated amount of helium to allow it to go to the required altitude. The balloons used for RAWINSONDE were much smaller than the balloons used to collect the atmospheric samples, but they had to reach the same altitudes as the balloons with the payload to get an accurate picture of what wind speeds and directions the research balloons would encounter on their ascent and at their designated floating altitude. The weather balloon was tied to a paper parachute with about 60 feet of string which in turn was attached by another 60 feet of string to the RAWINSONDE instrument which was about the size of two shoe boxes put together. The paper parachute served the purpose of bringing the instruments back to earth slowly enough after the balloon burst so that it would not kill anyone or otherwise do serious damage. The instrument was only used one time, no effort to retrieve it was made. If, for some reason, the balloon burst before reaching the required altitude, the whole procedure had to be repeated until the correct altitude was reached, which happened occasionally.

When releasing the weather balloon it was often the case that the person holding the instrument, which was attached to the balloon by the 120 foot train, had to run quite a distance before the balloon was high enough so that he could let the instrument go. The procedure was quite similar to that followed by the launchers of the big balloons, except that it all had to be done on foot. Sometimes the wind was so strong that the balloon took off horizontally instead of vertically and the operator had to run very fast or the instrument would hit the ground and the whole procedure from calibrating the instrument to the filling and releasing of the balloon would have to start all over.

As the antenna tracked the RAWINSONDE, one person would read the azimuth angle (horizontal direction) in which the antenna was pointing and the distance of the airborne instrument from the antenna and call them out to another person who would plot them on a round board. This way the wind speed and direction could be calculated by the way the balloon was moving. At the same time another person would convert the pressure readings to altitude values and plot them and the corresponding temperature and humidity readings on a board that represented a vertical cross section of the atmosphere. When the "run" was finished the results were passed to the forecasters and transmitted for the rest of the weather community to use.

I was fortunate to have worked both in the weather station as well as a RAWINSONDE operator. Even though the work in the weather station was all done on an eight-hour day shift and the RAWINSONDE operations took place during night shifts that regularly lasted 10 to 12 hours, sometimes more depending on mission requirements, I opted to switch to the upper air operation when a shortage on that team occurred just to get the experience. It was an experience that few others in Air Weather Service can claim.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Guided Walking Tour Apps


Some time ago I announced that I had created the content for three guided walking tour apps for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod-Touch about Heidelberg, Germany for a company named GPSmyCity.com. Creating the content meant selecting the sights, determining the GPS coordinates of the sights, taking pictures of the sights, writing the text descriptions for each sight, and making audio recordings of the text for each sight. GPSmyCity.com put the whole thing together by doing the programming, providing the map which directs the user from sight to sight, and getting the apps posted on iTunes. An iTunes account is necessary to download the apps. Each tour is available as a “lite or demo” version which is free, and a full version which includes the audio descriptions and step by step directions from sight to sight. These guides work off-line, hence no Internet connection is necessary, nor do they incur the costly roaming charges when traveling to foreign cities and can be downloaded via the “Free City Maps and Walks” app at:


So far travelers from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, the Netherlands, Estonia, Romania, Great Britain, Greece, and Germany have bought copies of the apps.

Here are the latest fliers I have created to advertise the apps.

Charming Heidelberg - A Walk through the Old Part of the City

A popular German folk song is entitled Ich hab' mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren. Literally translated that means, "I've lost my heart in Heidelberg." The old part of town (Altstadt) with its many historic sights introduces the visitor to the charms of Heidelberg. Here is a short description of a tour to some of the most important sights in this charming city.

A leisurely walking tour of the Altstadt might start at the Bismarckplatz and proceed down the Hauptstrasse (a 1.6 km pedestrian zone), stopping at the statue of Robert Bunsen, inventor of the Bunsen Burner, past the Providenzkirche (Providence Church), to the Kurpfälzische Museum (Palatine Museum), to the Universitätsplatz (University Square). There the visitor will see the Old University building, the building known as the Neue Universität (New University) and around the corner the Universitätsbibliothek (University Library) and the Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church). Then on to the former student prison (Karzer), the historic Hotel Ritter, the Marktplatz (Market Square) with the Rathaus (City Hall), the Heiliggeistkirche (Holy Ghost Church), to two historic squares: Kornmarkt (Corn Market) and Karlsplatz (Charles' Square) with views of the Castle, historic buildings and the historic student pubs, Zum Sepp'l (Seppl's) and Roter Ochsen (Red Ox). On to the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge), the medieval former arsenal called Marstall, to the Stadthalle (Congress Center) and back to the Bismarckplatz .

 
This was a brief introduction to the charms of Heidelberg. There are greater details about the sights in the old part of Heidelberg provided by a two-hour guided walking tour called "Heidelberg, Charming Old Town" which is available as an iPhone, iPad and iPod-Touch App via iTunes. You can also access it at:


Scenic Heidelberg – A Walk along the Philosopher's Way

Heidelberg is well-known world-wide not only for its famous university, but also because of its scenic charm. Nestled between opposing hillsides where the Neckar River flows toward the Rhein River, Heidelberg displays a scenic beauty that has inspired many writers and artists to sing its praise in poetry, prose, and on canvas. Here is a short description of a tour that will take you to some of the venues that inspired artists to choose Heidelberg as their theme.

A tour with views of Heidelberg from surrounding heights starts at the Bismarckplatz (Bismarck Square), goes over the Theodor Heuss Bridge to Neuenheim, then up the hill to the Philosophenweg (Philosopher's Way) with its spectacular views of the old part of the city and the castle, a little further up to the Bismarckturm (Bismarck Tower), down the Schlangenweg (Snakes Path) to the Karl-Theodor Bridge at which time the tour ends and the visitor is free to enjoy downtown Heidelberg or to take part 2 of the Scenic Heidelberg tour.

This was a brief introduction to the scenic charm of Heidelberg. There are greater details about the scenic views of Heidelberg provided by a one-hour guided walking tour called “Heidelberg, Scenic Part 1” which is available as an iPhone, iPad, and iPod-Touch App via iTunes. You can also access it at:



Scenic Heidelberg – A Walk through the Heidelberg Castle Grounds

Heidelberg is well-known all over the world for its romantic charm, its old university, and its scenic beauty. Many famous poets, painters, and authors have praised Heidelberg and its charms in their texts, songs, or in their paintings. A visit to Heidelberg is incomplete without an excursion to its surroundings, notably the ancient castle which keeps watch over the city.

A tour to the Heidelberg Castle starts at the Bergbahnstation (Mountain Railway Station) Kornmarkt, goes up a romantic walkway between some stately villas, through the Elisabethentor (Elizabeth Gate) to the Stückgarten (Gun Park). Then to the Torturm (Gate Tower), which is the entrance to the castle courtyard, through the castle courtyard on to the Altan (Great Terrace), then back to the Pulverturm (Powder Tower) and the Hortus Palatinus (Castle Gardens) to the terrace known as Scheffelterrasse where the tour ends.

This was a brief introduction to the scenic charm of the Heidelberg Castle. There are greater details about the Heidelberg Castle provided by a one-hour guided walking tour called “Heidelberg, Scenic Part 2” which is available as an iPhone, iPad, and iPod-Touch App via iTunes. You can also access it at:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Uncle's Funeral


Some years ago the husband of my father's youngest sister passed away. She was the last living member of my father's side of the family and by marriage her husband was my uncle. I felt obligated to attend the funeral which was being held in a small town in the northern part of Bavaria, Germany.

The funeral took place on a January day with temperatures around the freezing point. There was slushy snow on the ground and a light but steady rain was falling which caused rivulets of slush and icy water to cascade down the village street. After the lengthy service in the unheated church the funeral procession headed to the local cemetery which was about a mile outside of town.

The lengthy service in the unheated church had caused me to be chilled to the bone already. Now the slow march through the slushy water in the street and the rain provided a soaking from below as well as from above. However, it was worth it for the experience.

The funeral procession was led by the priest and the altar boys, each wrapped in clear plastic rain skins remiscent of Saran Wrap, followed by a brass band that played the same funeral dirge over and over again. After that came the casket followed by the bereaved family.

The rain, the slush, the cold, and the whole atmosphere made me feel as if I were watching the whole thing from another level - I felt as if I were watching a movie. What came to mind was the funeral scene at the beginning of the movie Dr. Zhivago - unreal and yet deeply moving.

The procession thus went on for the better part of half an hour. The rain, the slush on the ground, the funeral dirge, and the slow pace of the procession made for a spectacle that I will never forget. The fortitude shown by the participants of this ceremony went beyond the call of duty. At the grave site we endured another interminably-seeming timespan listening to the graveside speeches, until the casket was lowered to it's final resting place.

The immediate family and some friends then retraced our route to one of the restaurants in the village for the obligatory food and drink, but at a much quicker pace. There the first thing I did was go to the men's room to take off my wet shoes and wet socks to dry them under the hand drier.

May my uncle rest in peace, I hope that I am not put into the frozen ground on a dismal day as he was.

How We Made Our Grandson Cry


A few weeks ago one of our daughters with her two sons, Troy age eight and Teddy age six, was visiting us. While watching TV I announced that I was a little hungry. The boys chimed in and proclaimed that they were hungry as well. Luckily another one of our daughters had left us two frozen pizzas in the freezer compartment. She, being health-conscious, had left us pizzas topped with vegetables, rather than with meat products.

Oma baked one of the pizzas and proudly presented the first slice to Troy. Troy took one look at it, shook his head, and turned away. His mother explained that Troy doesn't like vegetables on his pizza. Oma then passed the plate over to Teddy. Teddy took one look at it and burst into tears. He bawled as if he had just been accused of the biggest transgression that a six-year old could commit. He buried his face on his mother's shoulder and continued his heart-rending sobbing. We were aghast at the reaction that the well-meant offering of a slice of pizza produced. Finally Teddy's mother explained that Teddy doesn't like "green stuff" on his pizza.

I must confess that I am not particularly fond of vegetables, including "green stuff," on my pizza; but I think that Teddy has to work on his emotional responses to everyday disappointments.

Monday, July 11, 2011

South Sudan and the Burning of the Castle


Two events caused me to think more than usual the other day.

Early that morning I read that the southern part of Sudan had become a separate nation after years of strife between the northern part and the southern part. South Sudan, the 54th sovereign state in Africa and the world's youngest country also is one of its poorest. According to UN officials it has the world's highest mortality rate for women during child birth.

Late that evening I attended the fireworks display put on several times each summer, mainly for tourists, by the city of Heidelberg, Germany. It is a spectacular display and commemorates the burning of the castle by the French in the late 17th century. At least that is the official label given the fireworks, designed to couple the tourist trade with history. The “uhs” and “ahs” around us in several languages showed that the attraction was fulfilling its mission of attracting tourists.

I have seen the fireworks many times and each time they remind me of war. I hear booming of cannons, I see rockets streaking into the sky after some unseen enemy, and I see explosions sending shrapnel in all directions into the sky. This year for the first time I saw fireworks being fired horizontally from the Old Bridge out over the river. It looked like machine guns firing tracer ammunition which then ended up in fire-spewing fountains on the surface of the water as if some small ships had been set on fire.

At that point I remembered South Sudan. For this tourist attraction, city streets were closed to traffic by police, all public transportation in the viewing area was halted, emergency vehicles and personnel were stationed at strategic locations. I cannot estimate the cost of these ancillary preparations. Then, of course, there is the cost of the fireworks display itself. Again, I cannot estimate it, but I have a feeling that one could build a modest hospital in South Sudan or at least provide medicines or other useful services for what it costs to put up such a fireworks display. I for one would gladly forgo one or two of the annual “burnings of the castle.”

When E-Mail Was Young.


As I was writing the previous blog entry (church newsletters) I was reminded of my first encounter with e-mail. It was in 1996 and I had just gotten a new job after an almost two year break in formal employment. I was given a desk in a large room which was subdivided by partitions into cubicles that contained three to five desks each. It took a few days for the network administrator to set up an e-mail account for me, but being new to e-mail (a lot had changed in the time that I was not working in an office, including the way to communicate) this didn't concern me.

One day during my “e-mail-less” time, my cubicle and, as I found out later, all the other cubicles, mysteriously emptied out and I was the only one diligently bent over my desk, probably trying to learn what my job was all about. I didn't notice that I was all alone and I didn't take notice when the desks in my cubicle were occupied again. It was when one of my cubicle-mates asked me why I didn't go to the farewell party (with coffee and cake ) for a departing coworker, which had taken place in the conference room, that I realized that I had missed something. It turned out that the invitation to the party had been sent by e-mail, which I didn't have yet. That is when I learned something about the new way to communicate: It is all done by e-mail and not by word-of-mouth anymore.

I wonder now what other, maybe important, meetings I missed because I didn't get the word (the e-mail).

P.S.: Whenever a funny e-mail, such as the church newsletter extracts, circulated among the offices, snickering and downright laughter could be heard up and down the large room, that is when we all knew who had gotten the same e-mail.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Church Newsletters


I was rummaging around some old collector's items and found this summarizaton of actual messages taken from church newsletters.  I recall that when I read them the first time, tears rolled down my cheeks from laughter.  Reading them again had the same result.  I don't know where this collection of extracts from church newsletters came from, they were one of the humorous items passed around the office when e-mail first became the way to communicate in and among offices.  Enjoy!

The outreach committee has enlisted 25 visitors to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church.

The Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.

Evening massage - 6 pm.

The Pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.

The audience is asked to remain seated until the end of the recession.

Low self-esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 to 8:30 pm.  Please use the back door.

ANNOINTING OF THE SICK: If you are going to be hospitalized for an operation, contact the pastor. Special prayer also for those who are seriously sick by request.

Usher will eat latecomers.

The third verse of Blessed Assurance will be sung without musical accomplishment.

The sermon this morning: WOMEN IN THE CHURCH.  The closing song: RISE UP, O MEN OF GOD.

The sermon this morning: GOSSIP - THE SPEAKING OF EVIL  The closing song: I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY.

The sermon this morning: CONTEMPORARY ISSUES #3 – EUTHANASIA.  The closing song: TAKE MY LIFE.

The sermon this morning: PREDESTINATION - WHAT ABOUT HELL?  The closing song: I'LL GO WHERE YOU WANT ME TO GO.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Curious Publicity


It is amazing to me what some people publicize about themselves. If you watch the Today Show on NBC, for instance, you can see some curious and sometimes bizarre signs that people who gather outside the studio in New York City hold up. There are the birthday, wedding, and engagement signs, the signs that announce where the person holding the sign is from, the birth announcement signs, the greetings to friends and relatives, etc. The other day a child in the front row held up a sign that said “I broke my collar bone.” Now that is something we all need to know and we should be grateful to a nationally televised program to bring it to us.

That incident reminded me of the time my family and I and some friends were taking a walk through a residential neighborhood in State College, Pennsylvania. The neatly groomed lawns in front of the upper-middle class houses were terminated by a sidewalk that traversed across successive driveways. In one of the driveways a boy of perhaps four or five years of age was riding his tricycle up and down and in circles. As he saw us approach his driveway he wheeled about sharply and headed in our direction, his face aglow with joy and excitement. As he was peddling furiously toward our little group of strollers he shouted with obvious glee: “I've got diarrhea!” We didn't know whether to pity him, congratulate him or just ignore him; we did the latter. I wonder if his parents ever took him to Rockefeller Plaza to watch the making of the Today Show – with a sign.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Technology – Blessing or Curse?


In no way do I consider myself “technology-impaired.” In our household there are several TV sets, two computers, four cell phones, an iPad, an MP3 player, a GPS navigator, and of course, a video recorder, a DVD player, and several CD players. I have written three apps for the iPhone (I didn't do the programming) and I have written numerous computer programs throughout the years. I maintain a blog, a web site, and I connect to the internet multiple times per day. I think I'm pretty well up to date.

So what's the problem? Well, I have the feeling that I am struggling to keep up with the newest developments in technology. I know that one can find restaurants and all kinds of other places using the smartphone, and the other day I heard that at Starbuck's you can pay for your Latte with a smartphone, and now they are working on the ability to pay for all kinds of other products and services with that device. No wonder that this is the trend: on TV the other day, a college student in an interview said that she often leaves home without her wallet, but never without her iPhone!

Isn't all this great? Yes it is. But, I wonder if in the future anybody will have to know or remember anything at all, all they will have to be able to do is to know how to use their smartphone or its successor. Think of it: multiplication tables, historical dates, Presidents' names, the Gettysburg Address, the Constitution, etc., all at your fingertips! Future generations won't even have to know that such a thing as the Gettysburg Address exists, they will be automatically linked to it from some other piece of information. For instance, the other day I was listening to Mark Knoepfler and James Taylor singing “Sailing to Philadelphia,” a song about two Englishmen with the names Mason and Dixon. Of course I had heard of the “Mason-Dixon Line,” but when I “googled” the names Mason and Dixon I learned something about American history which I hadn't known before because I was linked ever further into the depths of the reasons for the two gentlemen's endeavor.

All the knowledge of the world soon will be in the palms of our hands by way of smartphones or whatever even smaller and more intelligent devices technology will bestow upon us. That is the blessing. But, I wonder if there isn't a downside: will we stop carrying things in our heads, such as a tune to hum or the image of some pleasant scene from the past? Will we have to check our smartphone or its equivalent to be able to come up with the proper etiquette or behavior in various situations? Will we read a person's bar code to be able to call them by their name? I hope it won't come to this. For the time being, the new technologies seem to be a blessing, yet I wonder about the future. Formal education in the future may consist solely of learning how to use our electronic devices.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Charming Heidelberg - A Synopsis


Heidelberg, Germany, is well-known world-wide. It is nestled between opposing hillsides where the Neckar River flows into the Rhein Valley. Artists and poets have been inspired by its beauty, songs have paid tribute to its charm. Many noteworthy scholars are connected with Heidelberg where they enriched the world with their intellects at Germany's oldest university. This article will take you on a tour to some of the most important sights in this charming city.

We start our tour at the square known as the Bismarckplatz, which is Heidelberg's most important transportation hub. From here one can reach every part of the city by bus, streetcar or Taxi. We then enter the Hauptstrasse, the main street in the old part of the city. With its 1.6 kilometers length it is the longest pedestrian zone in Germany. When going down the Hauptstrasse, one can take a look down the various side streets and into some of the hidden courtyards to get the flavor of Heidelberg. Along the way we will also find plaques that remind us of famous people who lived there in the past.

A short distance along the Hauptstrasse, we find a bronze statue of Robert Wilhelm Bunsen who lived from 1811 to 1899 and who, among other discoveries, perfected the Bunsen burner, a common piece of laboratory equipment that is still used in laboratories around the world. Behind the statue is the building in which Bunsen caused one or the other small explosion with his many experiments.

Further on we come to the Providenzkirche (Church of Providence) which was built from 1659 to 1661 on a lot where a house had been destroyed during the 30 Years War. After the destruction of Heidelberg by the French in 1693 the church was re-erected at the same location. Its name is derived from the ruling Prince Elector's motto: "God will provide."

A little further, the Kurpfälzische Museum (Palatine Museum) is situated in the building that is known as Palais Morass, built around the year 1710 by Johann Phillip Morass, a professor of law and high official at court. In 1906, a collection of so-called antiquities was put on display in the Palais Morass, thus founding the Palatine Museum. Here the visitor can find paintings and copperplate engravings showing the castle and its electors as well as, among other things, a plaster cast of the lower jawbone of Homo Heidelbergensis, the oldest find relating to prehistoric man in Europe.

We leave the Hauptstrasse for a short excursion to the Universitätsplatz (University Square). The oldest city wall and a gate were located where the street that runs along the Universitätsplatz now is found. The oldest part of the city starts here, and extends in the direction of the castle. Behind the Löwenbrunnen (Lion's Well) stands the baroque building that is known as the Alte Universität (Old University). It was built from 1712 to 1735. The University Administration and the University Museum are located inside along with the principal lecture hall which is still used for special occasions. On the south side of the square is a rather plain looking building which was built in the years 1930-31 with money collected by American friends of Heidelberg. The driving force behind the fund drive was US Ambassador to Germany then, Jacob Gould Schurman, after whom the building is named.

Around the corner is the Universitätsbibliothek (University Library), the central library of the University of Heidelberg. It holds special collections in literature concerning the Palatinate and Baden, Egyptology, Archeology, the histories of art and South Asia. Opposite the library is the Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church). Its predecessor at this spot was mentioned in official records in 1316 and although it lay outside the city wall nevertheless was Heidelberg's parish church. The building we see today goes back to the 15th century. In the small cemetery and in the inner and outer walls of the church there are monuments to the memory of professors and prominent citizens dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries, among them that of the first woman university professor in Europe who died in 1555.

At the back of the Old University is the student prison called the Karzer. For a small entrance fee one can look around this historical place of student confinement. The walls are adorned with graffiti with which the incarcerated students commemorated their stay there. It was used from 1712 until 1914, during which time the University administration had a legal right to detain students. Students could generally be confined to these quarters for up to 14 days for such offenses as drunkenness, playing practical jokes or disturbing the peace, especially at night. After two to three days on a diet of bread and water, inmates of the jail were allowed to accept food from the outside. They could attend lectures and also be visited by other prisoners.

Back on the Hauptstrasse, the building that today is the Hotel Ritter was built in 1592 as a private home by a wealthy cloth merchant. The location, size and rich ornamentation were a sign of his wealth. He lived in the house until his death in 1618. It is the only private house that survived the devastating fires of 1635, 1689 and 1693 because it was built of stone. From 1693 until 1703 it was used as city hall after which it became a hotel, what it has remained without interruption until this day. The splendid Renaissance facade is regarded as one of the best in Germany. A knight's bust (Ritter means knight) which crowns the facade is responsible for the name of the building.

Next to the Hotel Ritter, the Marktplatz (Market Square) as the name implies, was and still is used for market activity. In the 15th century, the burning of witches and heretics also took place on this site. On one end of the Market Square is the Rathaus (Town Hall) which dates back to about 1700. The other end of the Marktplatz is dominated by the Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Ghost). The foundation stone for the church was laid in 1400. In the course of its history, the church was used by both Catholics and Protestants, even simultaneously. Starting in 1706, a partition was erected so that both congregations could hold their services without any mutual disturbance. In 1936 the separating wall was removed and the church is now exclusively Protestant.

A short distance from the Marktplatz, down by the river, the bridge that is known by everyone as Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) is officially called Karl-Theodor Bridge. Up to the year 1784 the river was spanned by a covered bridge supported by stone pillars. Drifting ice, high water and war made it necessary to repeatedly rebuild the bridge until it was built entirely of stone. The inner part of the two picturesque towers forming the bridge gate is actually part of the city's medieval fortification and goes back to the 13th century. Next to the western tower squats the bronze statue of the Brückenaffe (Bridge Monkey). The Brückenaffe holds a golden mirror in the face of visitors and greets them with the words (loosely translated): "What are you looking at? Have you never seen the old monkey of Heidelberg? Look around and you'll find many more!"

This was a brief introduction to the charms of Heidelberg. There are more sights and greater details about the history of Heidelberg provided by a two-hour guided walking tour called "Charming Heidelberg" upon which this article is based and which is available as an iPhone App via iTunes. You can see it on iTunes at: http://itunes.apple.com/app/charming-heidelberg-tour/id406468337?mt=8

Sources: City of Heidelberg; Heidelberg, City Guide in Colour, Edmund von König-Verlag, Heidelberg, 1993; Heidelberg, Günter Heinemann, Prestel-Verlag, München, 1983; Marco Polo, Heidelberg, Reiseführer mit Insider Tips, Mairs Geographischer Verlag,1994; Wikipedia