Friday, 28 December 2012

A tense beginning in Heidelberg

When planning Topaz Eyes I decided the initial location had to be a European city with tremendous visual impact, though I also wanted somewhere that would have a small and quaint old-city centre. Heidelberg was a perfect choice since it has a population of around 150, 000 people, a tight historic city centre, and a transient student population which fitted in exceedingly well in my plot.

Keira Drummond loved living in Heidelberg as a twenty-one year old student and finds she's still familiar with the old town areas of the Aldstadt when she responds to a mysterious invitation to revisit at twenty-seven. Her enjoyment of the city itself hasn’t changed, but her new situation is so different from before. There's too much of the 'cloak and dagger' surrounding the invitation she receives out of the blue for her to feel comfortable about it, but she can't resist going back when given the all-expenses-paid trip.

Finding herself involved in a family quest for long scattered emeralds isn’t what she expected, but being an excellent tourist guide in Heidelberg is no hardship when she meets Teun Zeger, an American she pairs up with during the search.

What tourist spots will Keira show Teun?

On arrival at the Aldstadt –the old city- the sense of medieval history hits Teun immediately. The cobbled streets and the glorious old buildings are fabulous viewing since he's never been to mainland Europe before.The antiquity of it really appeals to him.

The Renaissance style Alte Brucke (old Bridge) with its distinctive bridge gates – the Brukentor – is only one of many bridges straddling the River Neckar near Heidelberg. Keira points out that the black tower tops of the Brukentor remind her of the Pickelhaube helmets worn by Prussian soldiers during the nineteenth century and the white towers guarding the city are as imposing as the soldiers who would once have stood sentinel at the gates.

Teun finds the views up and down the River Neckar from the old bridge are spectacular, the steep banks opposite the city clothed in dense foliage, dotted at the lower reaches with white walls and red roofs. He'd love to spend ages just looking…and admiring, but his tourist time is limited to one day so Keira drags him on to other old haunts she thinks he'll appreciate.

In the old city itself a couple of hours walk-about gives Teun a taster of the main attractions. The pedestrianised streets around Bismarckplatz and Hauptstrasse are full of beautiful architecture and distinctive and exciting shops. The Baroque-style University buildings are particularly interesting to him and a visit to the former students' prison at Jesuit's Church (Jesuitenkiche) is a highlight Keira thinks he shouldn't miss – a tourist trap popular with students when family pay them a visit.
Heidelberg Castle

They could have made a short trek up the hillside but since time is neat Keira takes Teun on the Bergbahn – funicular railway - to Heidelberg Castle. A mish-mash of buildings from different architectural periods there are only a few areas that have inside viewing- much having been destroyed by fire centuries ago. However, they manage to squeeze in a quick visit to the small apothecaries’ museum.

After a quick and satisfying lunch at one of Keira's old pub haunts Teun decides a nice hike up to the Philosophenweg – The Philosopher’s Walk – will be a great way to spend the rest of the afternoon. They cross the Alte Brucke and begin the climb. The vistas from various outlook levels are fantastic as they climb higher and higher. 
There are many more attractions in Heidelberg that you can find as you wander. I hope this taster will temp you to try. It's a city I would love to return to any time.


A peculiar invitation to Heidelberg embroils Keira Drummond in the search for a mysterious collection of extraordinary jewels once owned by a Mughal Emperor; a hoard that was last known to be in the possession of Amsterdam resident, Geertje Hoogeveen, in 1910.

Who among the progeny of Geertje – hitherto unfamiliar third cousins brought together for the quest – can Keira rely on? Distrust and suspicion among them is rife.

Which one is greedy, and determined enough, to hire thugs to tail her… and worse… as she travels to Vienna and Minnesota?  Can Keira even trust Teun Zeger - a Californian she is becoming very drawn to – as they pair up to unearth the jewellery?

As they follow a trail of clues, will they uncover the full collection before the hired gun kills them? Details remain furtive and undisclosed until danger and death forces their exposure. And who harbours the ultimate mystery item that is even more precious than the Mughal jewels?

Greed, suspicion and murder are balanced by growing family loyalty, trust, and love.

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