Tag 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!

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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.

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.

One Morning in Heidelberg Castle

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.

Not sure if this the main entrance. The castle can be reached by several passages. This one is popular among the tourist. Not far is the tourism office where souvenirs can be bought.

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?

The castle from a distance. It rained a bit but it did not last for long. The weather was almost perfect by German standards!

This spot is quite popular for wedding pictorials. The ruins have this romantic feel to it (the people in this photo are doing some rehearsals I think). Today I probably heard six languages spoken around. This castle is certainly Heidelberg’s tourist draw.

The houses around the hills of Heilderberg looks like scenes I saw in that old movie Sound of Music .

I saw what appears to be dungeons below this area. Not sure if they were. I guess those things are real. Even Rizal tried to figure out what the place was, “At times a small door opens on one side of the corridor into a dark and humid room… sometimes it is a little spiral stairway that gets lost above among the ruins and below in the shadows of the underground.”.

Castles around here had produced some of the most beautiful sculptures, arts and memorials. All of these reminds visitors of the towns great past and its place in German history.

Palatial courtyards I guess are never complete without fountains. I wonder how old is this one. This is part of the legendary Hortus Palatinos, the famed garden known around Europe.

Some people that manage to reach the castle utilizing the moss covered steps. The reward was seeing the less seen side of the castle. The castle appeared to be a fort around here.

I’ll never get used to several layers of clothing but there’s no choice under this cold German weather. I miss just wearing camisetas and sando (or just boxers when sleeping!)

Some sheep herded near the castles walls.

A beautiful vista of the Altstadt seen from the castle.

May 2012

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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