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Study like royalty – in Mannheim, a reality in the most literal sense. After all, the University and Mannheim Business School are largely based in the baroque palace in the center of the city that was built between 1720 and 1760 by Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria. With its 450 meter long façade and six hectares of enclosed space, its dimensions exceed even those of the Palace of Versailles.
Juliette Liesenfeld, Growing up in Mannheim
As one of the largest baroque palaces of the world, Mannheim Palace is not only a landmark of the region but also of the University of Mannheim and Mannheim Business School. In the former coal cellar of the palace, we opened our new Study & Conference Center in 2017. Little known is the fact that more than 60 years ago, you could actually live in the palace and there was a shower in the coal cellar.
Juliette Liesenfeld, who was born in Mannheim and has been living in the USA for many years, actually used to live in the palace with her family. In a fascinating and colorful essay, she has captured this time of her life. The excerpt tells a lot about the history of the palace and life in Germany after World War II. We thought her story so charming that we would like to share it with our friends this Christmas.
Enjoy her story and have a happy Holiday Season!
GROWING UP IN MANNHEIM
by Juliette Liesenfeld
My hometown Mannheim was founded in 1606. (…) So our addresses within the historic city center were, successively, B 6, 1, then K 4, 16, and later, Castle, Left Wing. (…)
When I was born in December of 1946, my family lived in B 6, 1, a partially damaged tenement building with two inhabitable floors, but no roof. (…)
Friday was our bath day. (…)
At some point my dad started a new job as one of four superintendents at the huge Mannheim castle. He was also responsible for part of the castle's enormous coal-fired central heating system. That changed our bath routine. Now on Friday nights the whole family would walk the one kilometer to the castle. There, in the vaulted cellar where mountains of coals were stored, my dad had access to a shower--and now so did we. A cat roaming that section of the castle liked to chase mice around and across the piles of coal. We would give it a shampoo whenever we could catch it.
Soon we moved into an apartment - with central heating - on the top floor in one of the so-called castle towers. We had a huge living room of 440 square feet, with a stucco cupid's head in one corner, two additional rooms plus a generous kitchen and finally our own full bathroom. Mom soon had the cupid's head removed, probably because it reminded her of the Catholic Church which had excommunicated my dad for marrying a Protestant. The four floor-to-ceiling living room windows, each in it's own niche, faced in two directions. Our kitchen boasted the most modern, built-in cabinets which dad, a certified carpenter, had built himself. However, our main meal at noon was rarely prepared there. Every weekday dad, with a large bag with good sized pots and the milk can for the soup, would go across the central courtyard to the cafeteria under the arcades. There, Mr. Molly, the chef, would fill up our pots and the milk can. There were always potatoes or pasta, vegetables, and meat or fish. Evenings we had leftovers, frequently roasted potatoes with onions and fried eggs.
Sometimes my dad and I would walk along the length of the left wing attic, from one tower to the next. Since that section housed the tax department, their old files were stored up there in long rows. Mice liked it there as well, and therefore, not surprisingly, another well-nourished cat roamed this attic. From there, we could reach the center of the castle and my dad had the keys to the beautiful, marbled knights' hall with its baroque furnishings, wall and ceiling paintings, and crystal chandeliers. Before stepping onto the shiny parquet floors we would respectfully slip into the felt slippers that were provided. Dad also showed me another, much smaller, version of the knights' hall, this one secret: Once inside, you could not make out where the door was. Who knows by whom and for what purpose this chamber had been used.
By climbing a ladder, we could enter the roof of our tower from our apartment. Weather permitting, we would use it for reading, relaxing, sunbathing, or as our private platform to watch distant fireworks. Another fringe benefit of living there: On Christmas Eve, for Midnight Mass in the castle's church, our parents would take us, in our pajamas, down one flight of stairs to the balconies above the gallery. From there we could listen to the church service without being seen. Never mind that we were not members of that denomination. (…)
In October 2017, our new study and conference center has been opened. It is located in the west wing of the courtyard (Ehrenhof) at Mannheim Palace and serves as an impressive calling card for the university and MBS, both architecturally and functionally. The new construction has been built in the disused boiler room and coal cellar of Mannheim Palace. But MBS participants are not learning and working in a subterranean environment isolated from campus life. On the contrary: the study and conference center with its two semicircular lecture halls, an additional flexible-use conference area, ten breakout rooms and a large foyer, faces the palace garden at the back of the west wing from behind a large glass façade. The building has been planned by the renowned Frankfurt architectural firm schneider+schumacher.
The extraordinary ambiance of Mannheim Palace and its adjacent buildings offers an ideal space for an outstanding educational experience: The facilities, such as the libraries and the IT infrastructure, meet the very highest standards. Everything is within close proximity – both on the campus itself and in the neighboring city center, with its rich variety of shopping and cultural offerings.
The University of Mannheim itself, of course, also has much to offer: the wide range of sporting activities; the university choir, orchestra and various theater groups invite participants to join in the fun; and countless initiatives and groups formed by students give participants the opportunity to get involved. And naturally, there's no shortage of nightlife: The parties at legendary Schneckenhof or in the catacombs of the palace are well-known and popular throughout the region.
Mannheim is at the heart of the German and European economy and is regarded as the birthplace of many world-changing ideas. Indeed, the first bicycle, the car and the first rocket-powered aircraft were invented in the city. 50% of the most important German companies are located within a 250-kilometer radius of Mannheim. Global leaders such as BASF and SAP are headquartered in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region, whose center is Mannheim. The financial capital of Frankfurt, like Stuttgart, the center of the German automotive industry, are just a short trip away by car or train.
The economic success of the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region is associated with an outstanding scientific environment. The University of Heidelberg, for instance, enjoys a strong global reputation in the field of medicine, and the University of Mannheim is one of the top institutions in Europe in business and economics-related fields. The quality of the 21 universities with just under 83,000 students and numerous other research institutes makes the region a leading cradle of innovation.
In addition to its dynamic economy and world-class research, the region combines a high quality of life, rich in history and culture. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the beautiful landscape as well as the cultural, culinary and sporting delights of a region rich in opportunities.
Please find further information on the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region here