MEMORIES of a visit: My several visits to Hamburg where a friend couple lived, brought me once to Heidelberg to spend a whole day there. But we came from Frankfurt, having gone there the day before. Considering the several other interesting places to visit, including the oldest and world-known library of Heidelberg University, that whole summer day in July, was a fleeting visit. There was Heidelberg University and its well-known institutes and Heidelberg Schloss (castle). Heidelberg has been made famous to us Filipinos by our national hero, Jose Rizal. As we commemorate our hero’s martyrdom, I would rather dwell not on his dying for our country which we and students very well know, but on how well he lived and loved living in Heidelberg, punctuated by homesickness. There are less known trivia on Rizal—such as his being a curious, naughty and smart boy doodling caricatures on a children’s Spanish book, watching the moth around the lamp instead of attending to his reading lessons, dropping the second half of his pair of slippers in the lake where the other dropped so the finder could complete the pair, longing as well for friends, loving beauty in young ladies as reflected in his poetry. http://www.filipiknow.s//. Knowing Rizal in a more personal way, our young could model his full use of time and talent.
More on Heidelberg. Heidelberg over the years may be said to be the warmest place in Germany, nurturing the lush blooms of its many gardens and lawns, visibly glorious as my couple friends drove me that summer to the inner town. Like many European cities or towns nestled in academia, Heidelberg is a college town in Baden-Württemberg situated on the river Neckar in southwest Germany. It is well known for its institutions of higher education; Heidelberg University, founded in 1386, is the oldest and most famous. In fact, “Heidelberg is the oldest university town of today’s Germany.” Its main library is the University Library. There are 83 other special libraries for its faculties and institutes. One such library is the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. “Numerous visiting scholars from all over the world do their research relating to basic issues and current developments in the areas of public international law, European Union law. . .” In its fields, Heidelberg University library “is the largest in Europe and one of the most comprehensive in the world.”<http://www.mpil.de/en/pub/news.cfm>. Another landmark of Heidelberg is the breathtaking Heidelberg Schloss nestled 300 feet above the city of Heidelberg. “The castle is a combination of several buildings surrounding an inner courtyard, put together with a haphazard look.” American author Mark Twain, described the Heidelberg Castle in A Tramp Abroad (1980) as “a ruin rightly situated to be effective.” Twain described the castle in ruins as “lacking of drapery” but that Nature “robed (the ruins with) the rugged mass in flowers and verdure, and made it a charm to the eye.” “There is no level ground about it, but, on the contrary, there are wooded terraces upon terraces, and one looks down through shining leaves into profound chasms and abysses where twilight reigns and the sun cannot intrude.”<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeidelbergCastle>. Having read Mark Twain and taught A Survey of American Literature years before, I did remember that description, never imagining that two decades or so later, I would not only personally view the legendary schloss but walk through some part of its ruins.
Rizal in Heidelberg. Rizal traveled extensively in Germany. The places he visited included Wilhelmsfeld (where a statue was built in his honor), Koblenz, Cologne, Bonn and Leipzig. <m.manila.diplo.de/Vertretung/manila/en/01/…/rizal_20in_20germany__seite.html>. Jose Rizal’s stay in Heidelberg is remembered most for several episodes. He was only 25 years old when he first arrived in Heidelberg. While there, he is reported “to have completed his ophthalmology studies at the University Eye Clinic Heidelberg.” <inquirerdotnet on Facebook> “At around that time, the opthalmoscope, the instrument eye specialists use to evaluate the inner structure of the eyes, had just been invented by the famous Professor Helmoholtz. Young doctors from all over the world, including Rizal, took an interest in becoming eye specialists. Rizal practiced opthalmology from February until August 1886 under Prof. Otto Necker, the director of the university eye clinic.” Later, “he operated on his own mother for her eye problem… A plaque marks the building in Heidelberg where he trained with Professor Becker.” <ufreytag.michel-media.de/page15.html>.One other usually reported fact of Rizal’s stay in Heidelberg was his deep appreciation of nature’s abundant beauty. His fondness of Heidelberg’s springtime blooms http://knightsofrizal.org/?p=333 inspired him to write one of his best poems, A las flores de Heidelberg (To the Flowers of Heidelberg), “evoking intense emotions of longing for his homeland.” The house he stayed in, where he supposedly wrote the poem, is now said to be a bookstore. <news.abs-cbn.com › Lifestyle>
Rizal in Wilhemsfeld. History says that Rizal left Heidelberg and moved to Wilhelmsfeld. He would regularly commute to and from Heidelberg on a 12-kilometer stretch of road. Though it took him several hours to reach Heidelberg from Wilhelmsfeld, he loved walking along “the marvelously beautiful forest to attend his studies at the university.” As it was summer and the day longer, my couple friends drove us half an hour away to reach Wilhemsfeld. There I lingered a while in the town’s small version of Rizal Park with Rizal’s bronze statue as centerpiece. I had a photo taken near that statue and as I remember there was a street named after him—Jose Rizal Strasse.