Fotoeins Fotografie

questions of place & home

Posts tagged ‘Kurfuerstentum Pfalz’

Worms’ Holy Sand: Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish cemetery

I’m looking for a “thousand-year history” in the city of Worms located in southwest Germany. This has nothing to do helminthology or nematology, as the town’s name is derived from “Warmaisa”, the former Jewish name of the city. This is about an important part of Jewish-German history and peaceful coexistence of the Judeo-Christian communities within Europe. The town’s fame and reputation is also partly derived from Martin Luther; I’ve already visited the site where Luther was on trial to answer charges of heresy, as well as the world’s largest Reformation monument.

This part of the Rhein river area is considered the “cradle of European Jewry”, known also as “little Jerusalem on the Rhine.” In medieval times, flourishing Jewish communities in the cathedral cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz facilitated the creation of a common Jewish league with the name ShUM (SchUM), spelled out by the first letters of the Hebrew names for the three cities. To emphasize the influence of Jewish heritage in Europe and to continue the ongoing process of preservation and education, the recent application by Germany for the ShUM cities to be inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site is at present in the Tentative list (2019).

On a breezy late-autumn afternoon, light fades quick, casting solemn shadows on this ground. In the town’s old Jewish cemetery, I’m the only person present, and I’ve placed a small stone on top of a number of gravestones. I’m surrounded by apparitions over an millennium’s age and by the remaining physical traces in various shapes, stones, and size.

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My Heidelberg: Highlights from Home

Above/featured: From Philosophenweg: across the Neckar, over the Altstadt, and up to Königstuhl – 21 May 2016 (HL).

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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Schloss Heidelberg, Alte Bruecke, Neckar River, Heidelberger Altstadt, Altstadt, Heidelberg, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany, fotoeins.com, myRTW

Fotoeins Friday: Heidelberg at night, with the Old Bridge & Old Town

22 November 2012.

I’m in Heidelberg, Germany again during the final stage of my year-long RTW, and while my adopted home looks pretty under sun at the best of times, the city also doesn’t look half-bad under night lights. In the final week of November, the city’s Christmas markets are in full swing after sundown, and I’ve escaped the crowds by walking across the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) to the north side of the Neckar river. The location provides a well-known vantage point south for this familiar look back (south) at the Castle ruins (left), the Old Bridge (centre), and the rest of the Old Town, including the Heiligeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit) at right. At upper-left are the towers on the summit of Königstuhl hill, and at upper-centre are the lights from Schlosshotel Molkenkur.

During my year-long RTW, I made this photo on 22 November 2012 with the Canon 450D, 18-55 kit-lens, and the following settings: 0.3-sec, f/3.5, ISO800, and 18mm focal length (29mm full-frame equivalent). This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-ahH.

Worms: world’s largest Reformation Monument

Arriving by German rail or on Rhine river cruises, visitors to the city of Worms (pronounced ‘VOHRmz’) will likely sample the crisp wine from the surrounding Rheinhessen region; learn about the 5th-century Nibelung saga; see important religious symbols including the “crown” that is St. Peter’s Cathedral, and remaining structures from the once-thriving Jewish community which along with Speyer and Mainz formed a medieval league of Jewish communities. Many will retrace Martin Luther’s steps in the city.

In April 1521, Luther was ordered to appear at the Diet (Imperial Parliament) convening in Worms. In the presence of Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fifth, Luther held firm against charges of heresy and refused to recant. What’s amazing is that Luther survived the triumphant journey from Wittenberg to Worms and, with his subsequent status as “outlaw” from the imperial edict following the Diet, Luther survived departure from Worms because his benefactor, Friedrich III, secretly arranged for Luther to be “kidnapped” and brought to safety at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach.

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Hauptstrasse, Altstadt, Schloss Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: Home is where the Altstadt is (Heidelberg)

In mid-afternoon light from the grounds of the castle ruins, Heidelberg’s Hauptstrasse (Main Street) winds its way through the buildings of the city’s Altstadt (Old Town). The street is well-known to visitors and to present- and past-residents (like me) who know very well the path of the cobblestones. Known also as the “royal mile”, the stretch really does run for about a mile (over 1.5 kilometres) from Karlsplatz to Bismarckplatz. For all its commercial hustle and the bustle of crowds, the Hauptstrasse is one of the reasons I gave my heart to the city: “da dort wo ich mein Herz verloren habe.”


I made the photos above on 14 March 2017 with the Canon EOS6D, 70-300 zoom-lens, and the following settings: 1/800s, f/16, ISO1000, and 130mm focal length. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-9wz.

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