Heidelberg is a picturesque, hilly university town in Germany, nestled in the Rhine valley, cozily settled on the banks of the river Neckar. An old world charm awaits you at every corner even if people are driving by in their swanky cars and carrying the latest gadgets!
You will find loads of information about it on wikipedia, tripadvisor, lonely planet and tons of other websites.
But I know an interesting piece that you won’t get to know from too many places. So I am not going to tell you about what everyone knows. I will tell you the story of “Heidelberger Studentenkuss”.
Intrigued? Then read on..
First – how I got to know about it.
I was one evening accompanied by a colleague and friend U on the main pedestrian street (Hauptstrasse) in Heidelberg in search of coffee. We found one nice cafe in a by-lane..away from the bustle of the main street. After coffee, U suddenly had a brainwave and she asked me if I knew about this special chocolate in Heidelberg. When I said no, she asked me to come with her to another one of the numerous by-lanes of the Hauptstrasse. We entered a cozy chocolaterie and an old lady came to greet us at the counter. U talked with her in German and the lady nodded her head and gave me a small box of chocolate. It was expensive, compared to the mass produced chocolate bars you get at the supermarkets but then – it is hand-crafted and is part of around 150 years of tradition. I thanked U and the lady and bought it. Having just had coffee, I didn’t open it (and that’s not a usual thing for me to do – chocolate and I can’t stay apart for too long). Then I forgot about it and returned to India.
One fine day, I found it peeking from one of my bags, while I was looking for something else. Now my curiosity got the better of me and I opened the pack, took out the chocolate and one bite of it sent me to heaven! It was absolutely divine. Not that I have any experience of heaven or divinity, but I imagine that’s how it would feel if it exists and if I ever get there!
Now the story.
So in circa 1863, there was a confectioner named Fridolin Knoesel. He opened a shop called Chocolaterie Knoesel, which quickly became popular among the students as well as the residents. Now, as there was a university (then probably only for boys) and a finishing school (for the young ladies), you can imagine sparks flying here and there all the time. However, as per the trend of those days, the ladies were always chaperoned by their strict governesses.
Now how would the boys meet the girls if there was no pretext? Fridolin understood the predicament of his young clients and so one day, he created a delicious chocolate delight and in a stroke of genius, named it the Student’s Kiss! When it was given as a present, it seemed like such an innocent, charming and exquisite token of affection, that nobody felt like raising any objections, not even the governesses! So now, the young ladies and the young men, found a way to express their feelings and send sweet (literally and figuratively) messages to each other.
Circa 2015, the cozy shop is still there in Haspelgasse. The young men don’t flock there anymore because the young ladies have now other places to be and are unchaperoned. But the tradition of making this lovely chocolate still continues. You can now find the chocolate also on the shelves of other shops, for it is now part of the tradition. And student or not, it doesn’t fail to impress anyone who takes one bite of it and the memory of it stays with you forever….