Category Archives: Germany

Rizal and my Heidelberg Trip

Here’s an interesting Rizal story you don’t hear everyday.

When my former company asked me to go to Germany, I was told that I’m staying in Walldorf. Too bad I said, I wish it was Heidelberg (also in the southwestern part). Jose Rizal studied and lived here.

Heidelberg is about 20 to 30 minutes ride to Walldorf. There’s no train station that connects the two. Most employees avoid getting booked far from the headquarter. I had to rent a van for my daily commute to work.

That night I started reading Rizal’s diary entries about Germany. I had to brush up on my history. I made a list of places to visit. I thought that I had to spare a day to see Heidelberg.

I read for hours, like a mad man. Even read his poem, “a las flores de heidelberg”, for the first time!

I slept that night reading this poem.

Two days later, the travel agency called. There were no hotels available in Walldorf. The agent sounded apologetic. She said the nearest they could get is Heidelberg!

This got me really excited but I pretended to be hassled by the whole thing.

I must’ve dreamt staying in Heidelberg to reality.

There’s another coincidence I thought was interesting.

The hotel (NH) they booked, rarely used by our employees is actually Spanish owned. However, I was disappointed to discover that they don’t serve Spanish cuisine. Yes, no paella.

The day I arrived, I quickly unpacked and went to the lobby to get WIFI. I can’t connect and it was getting dark outside. I decided to just go out. I went back after about an hour. It was too cold. I only had a shirt on and a windbreaker—I was terribly underdressed!

The next morning I decided to look for a bakery. I wanted something local for breakfast.

Took this photo on a Sunday morning. Around this time locals are slow to rise. They take their time.

From the hotel drop off area, I crossed to get to the other side. I remember the street was partly elevated right in the middle. There’s a tram track. It was a busy street.

While walking something caught my eye. A dark marble marker with a familiar seal, like that of Manila, on a building wall.

The address: 20 Bergheimer Straße.

The clinic where Rizal studied opthalmology!

What were the odds?

The hotel was in the same street and less than a mile from where Rizal learned to fix eyes!

I checked Trivago and looked up hotels in Heidelberg. It came up with around 130!

I conclude that Rizal liked it when I started reading lines from his “”a las flores de heidelberg” that night. He pulled some strings from up above. For sure.

Happy 156th birthday Tio Pepe!

Related links:


The Rizal Fountain in Wilhelmsfeld

The Ullmer’s fountain shipped here to become the Rizal fountain.

In Wilhelmsfeld, away from the distractions of the busy German towns, Rizal finished his Noli. Ullmer hearing the news of a Filipino doctor that was executed in Bagumbayan contacted the German consul in Manila asking if that was the guest that stayed with them. The consul confirmed that he’s the same guy. Rizal in a note to some of the Ullmer mentioned that he’ll probably never see them again. He was right. (The copperplate dedication below the iron marker is erroneous, it says ” 155 years”, should be “150 years”)

The long and cold educational field trip in Wilhelmseld for me ironically, ended here, in Luneta, in some forgotten ground that no one bother to see except bums and underage student lovers. This fountain was in Wilhelmsfeld until the Germans thought it a good idea to bring it here in the 60’s as a gift. It was recently repaired (unveiled by no less than Noynoy Aquino) for the 150th year of Rizal’s birthday.

Although they call it Rizal fountain, it was actually the drinking fountain in Ullmer’s rectory. The guy wasn’t the only one drinking from it. Even birds drank and bathed on it. Someone from the town hall told me that “part of the house” of Ullmer was sent to the Philippines “a long time ago”. At first I thought it was really something that belongs to the house; like a window, a door or a furniture. I was surprised to hear that it was a stone drinking fountain.

These are fountains connected to aqueducts or in Wilhelmsfeld’s case, springs. At the end of 19th century these drinking fountains became purely decorative.

Before Wilhemsfeld, I didn’t even know that a fountain installed in the house of the good pastor existed, later uprooted and moved to Luneta in the 60’s. I’ve visited the park, since I was a kid, countless times but for some strange reason this object has escaped my curious attention. Now there it is, the final piece that concludes the Wilhelmsfeld visit a few months ago.

The Jesuit and the Holy Spirit Church of Heidelberg…

The Holy Spirit Church (in the middle) as seen in the hills near the castle.

I have this habit of entering old churches without even knowing if its Catholic or not. Never been in trouble yet — and I don’t plan to be in one. While I was buying some stamps I asked the shopkeeper how old is the church right across their store. “Must be 6, 7 centuries”, she said. That didn’t surprised me – after all this is Heidelberg. I checked some online sources later on and she was on target. What surprised me was that the church was used by both Catholics and Protestants in the past. They were sharing it and was conducting activities simultaneously. This was made possible by a division built inside to accommodate both religion. Well, this harmonious coexistence did last for awhile but eventually the church became exclusively Protestant.

A German royalty, Rupert III, the founder of the church, was buried there in 1410. A stone sculpture made for this German king and his wife can be found inside the church. The guy comes from a long line of royalties. I tried understanding a chart about German nobility before but gave up. That was one complex family tree. What’s fascinating is that almost all of these European royalties are related. Reason why conspiracy theories flourish around how the world is ruled by these lineages of European elites.

Not far from this church is another church. The Jesuit Church (Jesuitenkirch). One of the most impressive baroque building I’ve ever seen. It was built in the 1700’s.  The church was trying to win back the townspeople they lost to Protestantism during its founding. They thought that such a monumental art piece would help the cause. I don’t know if it did but I’m glad they constructed the church anyway.

The street that leads to the Jesuit Church (the church also houses the Jesuit museum).

Such examples of architectural excellence is easily recognizable for us Filipinos because it exists in our country. Four of the UNESCO declared “world heritage” are Philippine baroque churches. But our baroque churches are unique because the Friars, learning from experience, made structural adjustments and enhancements. Since we’re often visited by earthquakes and typhoons, they focused on the foundations and structural support. This is the reason why ours is referred to as “earthquake baroque”. In some of the churches, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao, designs  were adapted to make the church a citadel in times of attacks from Moro raiders. Fascinating historical facts that are no longer mentioned in our history books these days.


Around Heidelberg

The plaque in the clinic where Rizal studied under Dr. Otto Becker

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.

The old eye clinic. Its just wonderful how these places still stands. Its nice that our Filipino representatives here installed the plaque but why in German?

A short street near this statue called Karlstrasse is where Rizal first lived

Formerly Ludwigsplatz 12, One of Rizal’s former address here in Heidelberg. The marker is placed on the second level because the first level facade is made of glass.

Some other pictures I took…

The Zum Ritter hotel – a baroque style building. One of the more popular structures here. These two gals are both Filipinas. I had the honor of being asked later on to take their picture.

The old university pharmacy – it’s still a pharmacy. A tour guide was explaining its importance to his audience. Tried to listen in but the lecture was in German!

Old buildings galore…

The bricked streets and the old architecture is admired by tourist who can’t seem to stop taking pictures. Like me.

Everywhere people are just walking. And drinking beer. Big business in Germany of course.

The streets in the old town center are pretty narrow but that’s alright, Germans are pretty good drivers.

Renovations are done under strict government rules

One thing you’ll enjoy around here is seeing these kind of architecture. Makes you feel that not much has changed.

One of the original pillars of the oldest university in Europe.

A bakeshop selling specialty breads. The people around here speaks English well. I’m not surprised that tourists feels comfortable walking around here.

A wonderful ruin to have as a background!

Heidelberg has the longest shopping street in the continent, a total of  “1.6-kilometre long pedestrianized area, which is Europe’s longest”

The shops here are a bit out of my range so I take what I can take from around here. Pictures.

A German Town Called Wilhemsfeld

The Hill Town

I woke up around 5 in the morning, ate my usual breakfast and headed straight out to catch the earliest bus to Wilhemsfeld (pronounced ‘V’ilhemsfeld) the town where Rizal wrote the last chapters of his Noli. The importance of this town is monumental in our history. Here he found the inspiration to complete the book that changed the course of our destiny. If you’re retracing Rizal’s footsteps in Germany this town is a must visit.

The trip lasted less than an hour from Heidelberg. On my way up to the hills of what is known as Odenwald I saw countless old German houses. Before entering the forest area shrouded in mist and thick fog I saw modern houses sitting side by side with some of the oldest houses in the province. You’d think that a progressive and developed country eventually loses touch with its roots and traditional values – not the Germans. This morning was one of the coldest thus far for me. The elevation made the air much colder (I’m used to extremely hot weather so everyday here  feels colder than the last).

When Rizal moved from Heidelberg to Wilhelmsfeld there was only a mountain trail that he traversed on a regular basis to  Heidelberg. I wonder if it is this present road that is used now. How people traveled during winter must have been difficult in the old days. We’re so fortunate with the technology we have today. Traveling has become so easy. I don’t think I would last long if I’m going to walk my way up like what people did during those days – thank heavens, German’s have very good public transportation.

Around Wilhemsfeld

Finally, Wilhelmsfeld.

I reached Wilhemslfeld before 8am. During weekends you could hardly see a soul in the early hours. I noticed that Germans start their day late during the weekends. It felt like twilight zone walking around not seeing a single person. So I wandered like a cloud for some time until I found José-RizalStraße. I know not far is Pastor Ullmer’s house. Copper markers (or whatever it is called) by the Philippine consulate made it easy to locate. Interestingly, they wrote it in German. The house looks great, you wouldn’t know how old  it was just by looking. Not much has change in fact you could look at old photos of the house and you’d hardly notice any difference from what it looks like now.

Not far from the Pastor’s house is the church called Evangelische Kirche where Rizal attended services. The rolling hills in this beautiful German country is so peaceful, so wonderful (I heard that they’re actually a popular town resort). I’m not surprised that Rizal liked Wilhemsfeld. It reminded him of his hometown Calamba.

One thing that I noticed is that people seem to be more friendlier from around here. I guess they can recognize what Filipino looks like. The house gates were opened so I took the liberty and looked around. The owner, who was having her tea, went out and greeted me. She did not mind that I entered the premises without even ringing the doorbell. Never even asked what were my intentions. Realizing that I violated their space, I apologized to the owner but she said “its fine, its ok, welcome”. She was too kind and spoke very good English. She told me that I can comeback at a later time and talk to her husband (who was still sleeping at that time).  She said that they’ve seen several Filipino visitors including some leaders in the pass (I wonder who were those).

After my brief conversation with this kind lady I crossed the street and went to the red church just right across. There I met an old lady walking her handsome labrador retriever. I’ve never seen one with such a thick fur. The old lady does not speak English at all but she was telling me of a place a few blocks from where we were. I knew what she was talking about when I heard the word “platz” (which means park space or a plaza). She was giving me instructions on how to go to their Rizal Park! They really can tell what a Pinoy looks like from these parts.

Not far from the town’s ruthaus is a small park where the life size monument of Rizal can be found along with all his German friends that as we all know  greatly influenced him. A short alley (called Ullmer weg) named after his host, leads to the humble park. They drained the pond water that surrounds the statue I believe because it gets frozen. The small space is neatly kept and cared for. Surrounded by trees and memorial metal plates dedicated to Rizal and his German contemporaries. Last year, Calamba and Wilhelmsfeld forged a sisterhood pact which I thought was good between the two towns as they share a common past through their most outstanding citizens – Pastor Ullmer and Rizal.

I always complain about Rizal monuments back home, so many of them that I feel that it has lost its meaning but for the first time I really felt good seeing this one. Its like seeing an old friend – I’ve never been this thankful seeing a Rizal monument in my life. Germany would’ve been just another country for me if it were not for Rizal. The guy opened doors for us to be connected to world that was very different from our own. Rizal remains relevant not only because he traveled the world for us to see but also because the historical mission he thought his generation could carry out has not been completed. Somehow we have to figure out how to continue what his generation started.

Just before I went back to Heidelberg, this time an old man with a walking stick, approached me and asked if I needed help with anything. I don’t think he said it in English but I think that’s what he wanted to say. He was smiling all through out. I think people here are friendly towards someone like me because I’m Filipino. The story goes that Pastor Ullmer never hesitated to offer accommodation to Rizal and it was here that he perfected his German. The people from around here still carries with them that same generous character. They’re all Pastor Ullmer to every Filipino.

What was the yard is now the garage. This is the back side of the house. Beautifully maintained.

The house taken from a distance. The layout is different from what we Filipinos are used to. The main door is on this rightside. The backyard (now the garage) appears to be the facade but actually is not.

The actual address marker of Pasto Ullmer’s house. “Pfarramt” means rectory in English.

I can’t understand why Filipino officials here would write this in German – Well, I guess this force non speakers to learn some German. This reminds me of those NHI marker in the Visayas written in Tagalog. The marker reminds its viewer that this is the house where Rizal finished his novel.

The guy’s a rockstar. What I can say.

While the Germans wrote this one in English. These folks know who’d come here to see this sign. The marker points to the direction of Calamba which is 10361 km’s from here.

The church where Rizal heard services.

What a lovely town this Wilhemfeld is.

The signboard reads, “PARKFEST” at the Rizal Park.

Because of Wilhemsfeld’s hilly terrain, they have uneven roads that goes up and down. This is an esquinita called Ullmer Weg. A block away from the ruthaus. The street that leads to the park.

There he is! the man, the myth, the legend.

Going back to Heidelberg. This modern white building is the ruthaus, their version of a the municipio. More than a year ago, Calamba officials went here to sign a friendship pact with the town. There’s a post with a sign pointing to Calamba an how far it is from Wilhemfeld.

Heidelberg’s Arch Bridge

A bridge, a passenger boat and a castle on the hill

This long, old and narrow town along the great river Neckar is a living museum in itself. I would walk aimlessly around exploring the town without minding where I’ll end up. This time I found myself in the town’s old bridge. They call it alte brücke, the old bridge, the most beautiful of all bridges in Germany!

The bridge and its surroundings presents a lovely post cardy scene. There’s something with old bridges that makes you feel good about things. With the picturesque backdrop of the hills on the one side and the alstadt and all its baroque houses on the other, the area continues to draw flocks of tourist like ants being drawn naturally to sugar. What did Goethe, Rizal, Victor Hugo and Twain felt when they crossed this wonderful bridge for the first time? I’m sure they felt good about it.

I read that it had been destroyed around 1689 and 1693. There was war between the protestant English and Spanish forces – yes, in Germany believe it or not and the bridge had been badly damaged during this period. Early records shows the bridge being mentioned as early as 11th century. How many reconstructions it had gone under? No one’s sure. An old illustration of the bridge shows it having a wooden roof. The gates on the end of the bridge had a very interesting Moorish form but none the less it was beautifully constructed and conserved. In Tayabas the Franciscans built an arch bridge not as long and wide but as spectacular and elegant. Considering that both were built on top of a river bed and unpredictable water current in a time building technology was not as advanced and efficient is testament to an incredible engineering feat.

There are several extant examples of these bridges in our land. We definitely have more to gain preserving what remains of our heritage structures. They are monuments to what had been achieved in the past. Unfortunately, many of these structures are presented by educators as mere remnants of oppression and of the colonial phase. I’ve heard these silly arguments in my life and consider such as ignorant and empty opinions. Such assessment only serve to diminish our peoples interest in Filipino history.

I have not heard of an Egyptian complain about the pyramids because it was built by brutal labor but I know the Talibans did dynamited to pieces the world heritage giant standing Buddha’s of Bamiyan. Their rational is as mad as those that declare Spanish era structures historically useless and irrelevant.

Our actions towards heritage conservation define the level of our historical understanding and appreciation. Right now, we’re lagging behind in heritage conservation. Even communist Vietnam is doing better than us with their drive to preserve the colonial buildings left behind by the French. Those who do well as a country are those who protects their historical structures and continuously promote history, culture and arts. While those who thrash theirs are clearly headed down.

April 2012

Taken on a different day. A sunnier day!

Young men paddling along the river Neckar

What a wonderful day it was.

The gate bridge of Heidelberg

Around Mannheim

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.

Rizal clicked the thumbs up icon during his time when he arrived here, he liked this station

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.

A monument to Bismarck. The Germans was as interested in the Philippines as the Americans. Very few people know there was tension between the US and the German battleship in Manila Bay. The Germans had five warships and if they had wanted, could’ve crushed Dewey’s fleet. Dewey was so furious about the Germans presence that he challenged them to battle.

A wonderful terra cota colored building

Asian resto near the water tower. I find it interesting that when I climbed the water tower, I noticed right in front of it is Burger King and Starbucks.

The iconic Mannheim water tower along with the Mannheim castle represents the old Mannheim

Tulips at the background the Wasserturm

Water works at the Friedrichplatz

Nanay would’ve pick some of these Tulips up if she was with me

A replica of Karl Benz’s first motorized vehicle located opposite the garden of the park. This genius was born in Karlsruhe but had his first mechanical workshop here in Mannheim. The first motorized cars first appeared in this town. Bertha, Karl’s wife,made the first trip by automobile from Mannheim to Pforzheim

Rows of building along one of the main road in the center of Mannheim

In the early mornings, especially during the weekends, you can walk around the streets and see no one – first time I experience this, I was like, “wow, twilight zone”

Heilig Geist Church. This is a Catholic church. It appeared to me more like a castle with its features.

A Gymnasium that doesn’t appear to be one

May 2012

Speyer and its Cathedral

The imperial Cathedral Speyer

Along the Rhine river, south of Frankfurt and about 18 km from Heidelberg is the city of Speyer. I wanted to see  its historic cathedral for myself, one of the biggest, and for some the most important church in the land. When I heard the title, “the imperial Cathedral”, I didn’t quiet understood why it is referred to with much pride. A local explained to me why, “In the church’s crypt lies eight  holy Roman emperors, kings and religious leaders”. To this day some German leaders are brought to Speyer’s cathedral as a symbolic practice before burial. The church’s foundation follows that of a cross. According to the towns official website the church was “built by the emperors…as their last resting place and as a symbol of their power”.

There’s another attraction in town called the Speyer Technik Museum. If you like, or you’re as mad about planes like I am, this one is a must visit. I was only made aware of the Speyer Technik Museum when I saw it there. Its quite an impressive museum. They have an impressive collection of planes from Russian MIG’s to a Boeing jumbo. The museum have an imax  and a sizable parking space (and a hotel nearby) for what they call caravan camping. Another attraction for aviation enthusiast is the PFW, a local company that once supplied fighter aircrafts for Germany, now it builds structural parts, equipments and components for airbus.

One of the landmarks of Speyer is the old gate which was part of the town’s ancient fortification. This structure was constructed in the 1200’s. It’s amazing to see something built in the same century when the Mongol’s overran most of the known world and when William Wallace was shouting freedom for his Scotland. But the town is older than its tower, imagine a community founded around 100 BC. Possession of Speyer changed from one ruler to another – even became French at some point. In 1529, Martin Luther went against one of the imperial diets that was held in here. This act was the beginnings of the Protestant movement.

I saw some buildings built in baroque architecture (or neo-baroque as they call it). This of course is very familiar because such architecture exist back home. How I wish I have know more of this country’s history. I have very limited knowledge of German history but is somehow connected to it. Or at least in stories that was told to me. It is said by some family, although not verified, that our great, great grandfather was a German who migrated to Spain. Its a nice story really but my low tolerance and allergy with beers tells me the story is probably a legend.

There’s this statue called Jakobsweg in front of the Lutheran Trinity Church (Dreifaltigkeitskirche) that marks the town’s place in St. James journey that ended in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. This became a popular pilgrim for many European Catholics. I thought that it was such pilgrims that brought people to different kingdoms then. Who knows, maybe my ancestor made such a pilgrim and found life better in Iberia.

Crossing the river Rhine. This river starts from the Swiss alps and drains out to the seas of Netherlands

The cathedral is wonderfully surrounded by lush greens and wide pathwalks

One the biggest building in town

A fine example of European architecture. Beside this nice looking building is a beer garden (Domhof Hausbrauerei) where meals and of course big beers can also be ordered.

Don’t  walk back to Heidelberg its too far, is what this sign confirms.

All the way to the Cathedral.

These kind of houses are rare. I think they build it using straw and some form of mud that solidifies after some time.

The trinity church with an architectural style that reminded me of some of our old churches back in the PI

Single digit temperature can be painful at times for a traveler. I forgot what they call their version of esquinitas. This is one of them in Speyer.

If what I was told is accurate, this is the oldest structure in Speyer. This is part of the original wall and layout.

Absolutely fascinating architecture from small houses to buildings.

May 2012

Brief Stop at Schwetzingen

West of Heidelberg is a wonderful town called Schwetzingen. I passed by Eppelheim and Plankstadt before arriving in this town located in what is known as the Rhine-Neckar triangle. I was told that this is a good time to visit the town because its Spargel (Asparagus) season. There’s a route they call Baden Asparagus (which starts in Schwetzingen) that passes through asparagus producing town in the province of Baden-Württemberg.Unlike the asparagus we know, the ones  they harvest, and enjoy the most, is oddly white.

A spargel farm

Out of curiosity I ordered a steak meal with spargel at Brauhaus xum Ritter (not far from the castle and ruthaus, their town hall). The spargel takes center stage  – the steak became the sahog. It was served with some white sauce and butter. The restaurant had the feel of a cabin house. I observed some German families had plastic bags of fresh asparagus on the floor while dining. They just love their spargel. I had a mug of schwarzbier, their version of cerveza negra, only stronger. Beers are the beverage of choice around here – of course. Coming from a place where beers are reserved for occasions, its fascinating to see people casually consuming beers as part of their meals.

The  town still carries with it the old rural atmosphere. Too bad for me the town’s famous castle (they call it schloss) was under going some conservation work. I had to ask for the guard to allow me to walk around the garden. This castle with its spacious garden was the summer residence of some princes and counts (both German and French descendants). Interestingly, there’s an old mosque not far from the main castle. I’m not sure if it really is but it appears to be one. Most of the houses in the historic town center has been converted into shops. Its amazing what they’ve accomplished here. Just like almost all the German towns I visited Schwetzingen employ much effort in retaining their heritage buildings. They understand that their identity is represented by the old architecture and the town’s historical layout.

The castle’s gate

Unfortunately, the town’s schloss is close because of renovation work.

As far as your eyes can see. The garden here is enormous.

Monument to the asparagus vendors (and their pet) of the old.

Spargel anyone?

A spargel meal with a steak for “sahog”.

German Cerveza Negra

Cobbled streets, old houses and German cars

Like old Manila, allroads leads to the church

A church tower near the center of the town

The markers around the church – too bad I can’t read German and Latin

Carved in Marble

April 2012

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