Thanks to these heritage conscious Germans I could see the same town as Rizal left it. It was the same Heidelberg he fell in love with – the same town where he wrote his “Las Flores de Heidelberg”. Same place where he watched those bloody fencing duels. Same place where he studied ophthalmology. Its amazing how an old building can connect you to the past. When will we ever feel this way about our old towns? Well, as we continue to witness the relentless destruction of our heritage structures, perhaps, never. Manila for example have very little to offer in terms of historical attractions aside from Intramuros. Not that the city is lacking, actually, its teeming with historical structures but they’re left to rot and eventually taken down. There’s still much to be save but with what I saw the last two mayors did with Manila’s historical treasures, honestly, I’m beginning to feel that all hope is lost.
Whenever I’ll go to the center of Heidelberg where the shops housed in old buildings are, I’ll pass by the old clinic (20 Bergheimer Straße) where Rizal practiced ophthalmology under Dr. Otto Becker. I stay in a small inexpensive room in Bergheimer, which is on the same street. I didn’t picked the place – I landed here by accident. Two weeks before my assignment, I was informed by the company’s travel agency that this place in Bergheimer is the only place they can get for me – for some strange reason all the regular hotels were booked. This means traveling 30 – 45 minutes by car to work everyday (which I don’t mind because I love seeing the German countryside).
One morning, while making my way to buy a sandwich I saw the metal plaque written in German with Rizal’s name on it. Just imagine my surprise. The place is less than 50 meters from where I stay. That was a strange feeling – if you believe in spiritual interventions this is probably one of those things. Heidelberg alone have more than 50 hotels and I’m here. I’d like to think that Rizal probably led those people to get the place for me, or perhaps, I just got lucky.
Rizal lodged in various places here in Heidelberg. The one in Grabengasse 12 (formerly Ludwigsplatz 12) has a marker installed on the second floor of the building. Like almost all of the old buildings in the old town, this one is rented to commercial shops. The place must have been expensive even during his time because its located right in front of the old university. Not far is the town’s justice hall. The area is full of tourist and shoppers during the weekends. The streets around here feels like Divisoria. In this house he wrote his famous poem, “Las Flores de Heildelberg”.
Another nice place to visit is the Philosophers way (Philosophenweg) which is a popular path along the Neckar River. Story goes that this has been frequented by famous philosophers throughout history. I’m not sure if that really was the case but Rizal for sure regularly strolled there. In Philosophenweg he met Pastor Ullmer and his family one day. Just imagine total strangers that would one day live all together under one roof. This shows the character of Pastor Ullmer because imagine, he didn’t know the guy but he looked pass Rizal’s skin and appearance and offered him his home. The other address of Rizal in Heidelberg is 16 Karlstrasse and this one have a good view of the hills and the castle but that small space must’ve been too expensive because he left hurriedly.
Heidelberg is an expensive place today and even during Rizal’s time. There’s a Pizza Hut not far from my street and that helps me save a lot because two slices costs only a few euros. If you’re going to eat in restaurants here and you happen to have a meager budget you won’t get very far. The place where I stay serve free breakfast so that cushions the spending for me. Just by looking at the places Rizal rented, the life he lived and the education his family paid for here, even by European standards, they’re well off. I think this all the more highlights the sacrifice he made. He didn’t need to take part in reformist activities. But he did. And he died for it.
Heidelberg and Wilhemlfeld are two places he really felt in his element. He became a full pledge eye doctor in Heidelberg while in Wilhemsfeld, he mastered his German and finished his book. We all know that he traveled all over Europe. He loved Paris and felt home in Spain but Germany holds a special place in his heart. He traveled it extensively and as his letters and diaries tells us, he loves everything German.
Some other pictures I took…