I wanted the train ride to last longer but Mannheim’s main station is only six stations away from Heidelberg’s. Train stations here needs a little getting used to. I got lost when I first tried to go around. The good thing is that Germans are good English speakers especially in the big cities. I’ve never been turned down for asking directions. I can’t understand what some people say that Germans are not polite. People here are just a little busy that’s all.
I first read about Mannheim in college. There was this phase in my life that I was so fascinated with German cars (Benz and his motorized vehicle first rolled in the streets of Mannheim). So I read everything I could get my hands on about this German industry in college. This interest grew even bigger when I found out that Rizal was a Germanophile. His history in Germany is well known. For the past few days I’ve been trying to visit the places he wrote about during his stay here in the Baden-Württemberg area. I would be less interested with Germany if it were not for Rizal. After all the time he spent in Germany and the rest of Europe – falling in love with the culture and its way of life – he still went back home – then got himself shot. He was a man on a mission. Others would’ve stayed out – not Pepe. His journey around Germany is as incredible as it is brave. Its not easy living in Germany in a time when there’s hardly any Asian communities around. The Germans opened their doors for him because he mastered their language and genuinely embraced their traditions.
No Filipino today traveled as much as Rizal’s generation. And they didn’t travel for the pure fun of it (well some of them did) because traveling then had some degree of uncertainty. Filipinos I believe adjusted faster in Europe because they had some level of awareness for European culture and sensibilities. A pure oriental visiting Europe would certainly get lost during those days – Filipinos on the other hand would fair better. Wherever you go our culture, beliefs and lifestyle would be the same with only some varying degrees of differences of course. I had this German colleague who was telling me about his Filipino friends and I felt that he was describing someone I know.
Mannheim together with Stuttgart (Mercedez Benz’s headquarters) are the biggest cities in this province. Mannheim sits on the delta of Rhine and Neckar. The land junction where the two river meets. I didn’t made it to the castle which was located down the river because it started to rain hard. I decided to go back home and try to see it another time. Around this time of the year weather is a bit unpredictable I was told. There’s plenty of sunshine but rain do come and go. Here I learned how to keep an eye on the TV weather forecast.
The train station of Mannheim is one of the nicest in the country. It is a reconstruction I was told. Rizal alighted from this same station in 1886. During those days it must have been one of the biggest structures in town. Seeing this brought to mind the train station in Paco, another example of fine architecture that must be conserve – if it’s still there (last time I saw it was three years ago). I first saw the station when I was in grade school. Our historical agencies really need to handle this better. The rest of the world is rushing to reconstruct and conserve their old world, and here we are allowing ours to be wiped out.
We’ve acquired this disposable culture mentality. We prefer the new, the modern, the latest American style (even if our culture is older than theirs). We have become ignorant of the treasures that was handed down to us. We sell our heritage rather than drawing from it onspiration and memories that evokes our true identity. Is this happening because we’re economically deprived? No, I don’t see it as the case – the grandest ancestral houses in our country are owned by descendants that are still doing well in today’s economy – these reckless destruction of our heritage is an offshoot of greed and ignorance for the most part.
The symbol of the city is the water tower - tulips, daffodils and roses abound – it’s a garden lovers delight. In the center is a wonderful water fountain, one of the biggest I’ve ever seen. Mannheim doesn’t give you any reason not to enjoy it. It has a rich historical strata that shows its visitors the old and modern – together. Progress doesn’t mean rebuilding everything – you don’t demolish your ancestral home because your doing well economically – we have so many of these people back home. Sometimes in order to move forward we have to retain things that reminds us where we started.