Above/featured: From Philosophenweg: across the Neckar, over the Altstadt, and up to Königstuhl – 21 May 2016 (HL).
Heidelberg is “eine adoptierte Heimatstadt” (an adopted hometown). Some have called this place “scenic, natural, and spectacular”; some call it “boring, provincial, and extortionate”. I could be referring to Vancouver, but that’s a subject for another time.
I’ve long struggled with questions of place: what defines “home”? Can those definitions and qualities change with time? Do people have choice(s) and do they apply their choices in their search? Can people find meaning with “home”? Must “home” be restricted to only one place, or can different needs be met from different places?
Images can provide access to memories of having lived in a new country, experiencing the shock of the new, and settling into the mundane. I remember advice someone once gave me which became constant companion and reminder: that I was inhabiting a place at the same latitude as my birthplace, 8000 km in distance and 9 time zones apart on the other side of the planet, a place that’s seen its compact share of activity with flair and impact.
Most recall is naturally connected to sight. Occasionally, it’s a rush of the senses: the quick breeze on the skin, the ankle-spraining undulations of the cobblestone, how fog clings like a cold clammy cloak, the sing-song of birds among tall trees in the forest on the hill, the smell of grilled sausages in town by day, and the satisfying late-night noms of a spicy Dürüm Döner with a cool Ayran. And other times, human history leaps out and buries its claws, when the unthinkable must be acknowledged and understood in a synapsis of memory and senses.
In the autumn of 2001, I moved to Germany and Heidelberg: both sight unseen and without having learned any of the language. I stayed in town for a little under two years. What’s astonishing is I have no pictorial record of my time in Heidelberg, Germany, and Europe: I had no camera before the dawn of the smart-phone.
I have some great memories, even if time is casting long shadows. What I lost (no, gave away) was some part of me that actually has little to do with the “Schlager” hit song “Ich hab mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren“. It might be a piece of the heart, a part of the soul, or simply a scrap of good sense; but what it is precisely still remains undefined and shapeless. Finding solid answers about what I’ve surrendered might take years. And so, for the sake of clarity, I’ve returned many times since leaving town in 2003. A sharper focus comes through the post-departure blur whenever I step off the train in town.
I couldn’t have possibly known the experience of moving to and living in Heidelberg would be life-changing. Time so far has been kind, because it didn’t take long for me to adopt Heidelberg as “home”.
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