Trying to exercise here is not easy. The weather is just too cold in the morning –its hard to get out of bed in the weekend – the cold weather makes your body ask for more rest. But somehow I did manage to get out to do some exercise today. I decided to climb the hill where the red castle of Heidelberg sits.
A walk around the old district of Heilderberg has become one of my favorite past times here. This university town has some of the most outstanding old architectural structures I’ve ever seen. Most has been around longer than one could imagine. Many of these priceless gems were converted to shops, restos and residences – wonderful examples of architectural reuse. I realized that a people with a strong understanding of their cultural identity are driven to conserve what’s left of their tangible heritage. I’ve learned to respect this about the Germans. They’ve been at the forefront of heritage conservation in Europe.
Heidelberger Schloss is considered a ruin but from a distance, especially during night time it gives out the impression that royalties still lives in its lofty rooms. I enjoy seeing this red castle especially when light starts to fade. It glows like a giant floating ember. The original builders of the castle wanted to make an imposing structure meant to display their power and influence – they’ve achieved that because up to this day Heidelberger Schloss still makes an impression that glorifies the ancient time and culture unlike any other German castle.
I was told that there’s a restaurant there somewhere – I haven’t seen it nor do I plan to try it – money is as scarce as water in the desert these days for me. This brief assignment has taught me how expensive life is in Europe.
If you’re too lazy to climb the steps leading to the hill there’s a light train service that can take you all the way to the top. I read that from base to the top is about 300 feet (I think its much less) – so I know that there wasn’t that much climbing to do. I wanted to experience its ancient steps but before I started my ascent I dropped by the train station to do an errand. This station has the only mailbox I know. Its about 1 km from where I stay – quite a long stroll just to be sending mails.
While dropping my mails I met a group of Filipino students from the Ateneo (or A-tee-ney-ooo if I heard them right) buying train tickets. They’re studying French in Paris (less than 2 hours away) and was visiting Heidelberg to see the castle. I told them that they should visit the buildings where Rizal lived and studied since their in town. I hope they did – I saw the group again after about an hour or so, this time in the castle area taking pictures. Nice and respectful group of young people. I love seeing fellow Kababayans doing well but meeting this group also reminded me of the extremely wide social gap that exists in our land. While these good kids are experiencing the world by traveling it, back home, a lot of young Filipinos could not even afford to go to school. Its sad to think that poverty has dragged a significant number of our youth into violence, drugs and crime because of our dire economic reality.
This is the fourth castle I’ve seen in this country. Its crazy to think that power resided with just a few groups of elites back in the day. Everybody was serving in favor and pleasure of these powerful people. How they perpetuated themselves in power is fascinating. Religion has a lot to do with this success. But all of these eventually must come to an end – even the Arab monarchs of today are slowly realizing this reality. Its interesting that some European state kept their royal families as figure heads while some never did. European history is as complex and fascinating as the people who populates it.
The town and its castle had been written about by many great writers in the past. One of them was the American writer Mark Twain. His novel is responsible for popularizing Heidelberg among his countrymen. I met an American couple that told me they’ve read about Heidelberg in their school literature. Some people suggest that Gen Patton spared Heidelberg because of what Twain had written about it. For the writer it was “the last possibility of the beautiful” – I don’t think Patton wanted to mess with that – just imagine if Twain’s words really did save this town – another case of the pen triumphing over the sword?