Heidelberg has a longstanding reputation as Germany’s most romantic city. Perhaps it’s because of the poets and storytellers who went there to write during the Romantic literary age. Perhaps it’s the romantics who traveled there to appreciate its world-renowned beauty and fairytale charm. Or perhaps, the answer lies in a small but storied red-wrapped chocolate that has been capturing the hearts of locals and travelers alike for more than a century.
On a charming street in the city’s historic center, you’ll find Café Knösel, a small shop filled with beautiful chocolate displays. At first glance, the stacks of distinctive red packages stamped with black and while silhouettes may seem like just another box of confections, but the tradition behind them is a love story for the ages.
The café’s original chocolatier, Fridolin Knösel, was revered for his witty disposition and exquisite confection creations. His sugar-filled shop was an obvious draw for the female students of Heidelberg’s finishing school (which, in turn, was an obvious attraction for the male students at the nearby university). This flirty atmosphere did not escape the good-natured Knösel, who was much a marketer as a chocolate maker. However, the school’s ever-protective governesses, who were never far away, made it difficult for the young people to interact. Pained to see his patrons suffering, Knösel created a chocolate called the Student’s Kiss. This handmade token of affection was the perfect way for a student to subtly send a sweet message to his heart’s desire. If a young lady accepts the Student Kiss, it is an indication that she feels the same.
While the rules of courting have long since changed, this sweet tradition is one the café still holds dear. Now created by Knösel’s descendants, today’s kisses are still crafted by hand using his original recipe. Although the shop and café have since been separated, you can still enjoy a meal at the original Café Knösel before buying chocolates next door.
So whether you’re touring the historic cities of Germany on Majestic Rivers Of Europe: Castles, Cathedrals & Fairytales or searching for the perfect holiday treat for loved ones on Heart Of Germany, be sure to treat yourself to this sweet tradition during your time in Heidelberg. After all, what’s Valentine’s Day without a kiss?