Mannheim, City of Squares. Four words that roll off your tongue and belong together like Baden and Württemberg, Rhine and Neckar or Carl and Benz. For some, this form of urban development may seem a bit unconventional and complicated at first glance. But appearances are deceptive, because it is actually quite simple.
Geometric with four corners - the basic requirement for squares. Mannheim has precisely 144 of them. Neatly arranged between the Baroque Palace and the river Neckar, they stretch between the "Wasserturm" and the Kurt Schumacher bridge. If you've ever looked at Mannheim on a map, you will know that the totality of the squares does not make one big square - it's more like an inverted U, a sliced watermelon, or an outstretched tongue.
This unique appearance can be traced back to the beginning of the 17th century. When Elector Frederick IV of the Palatinate laid the foundation stone for the city in 1606, it was intended to fulfil all military requirements while also reflecting Renaissance ideals of beauty. At a stroke, the planned city with its chequerboard pattern was constructed, which according to legend was later to serve Manhattan as a role model.
If that all sounds a bit complicated, don't worry. The famous blue signs on the corners of the blocks ensure that you don't lose track.
If you do happen to get lost, the locals are always pleased to help. They are also sure to point out the square in which Mozart gave piano lessons to the Elector's children. Or the one in which Schiller's "Robbers" was first performed. They will probably also include a few fun facts. For example, the "J" squares are actually the "I" squares. And the C-square is the only one with exactly 8 blocks of houses. In conversation, you will quickly notice that, despite their square city, Mannheimers are anything but square heads. On the contrary, they are lateral thinkers and pragmatic too. Because strictly speaking, not all the squares are square - some are rather more rectangular others simply crooked with a few extra corners. But that's precisely what gives them their charm. In any case, life here is lived to the fullest. Or "life squared", if you prefer.