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questions of place & home

Posts tagged ‘My Heidelberg’

My Heidelberg: 38 Highlights from Home

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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street art, mural, Herakut, Metropolink, Heidelberg, Germany, fotoeins.com

My Heidelberg: Herakut street art for Metropolink

It’s amazing what gets discovered after going the wrong way.

I head straight for a full city-block before realizing my error, that I should’ve turned right about 5 minutes ago. I bow my head, and release a deep breath in frustration. I raise my head to the sky, when I catch sight of something out of the corner of my eye.

What’s that across the street?

I have to reach my destination which I know isn’t far.

But I am coming back here to get the shot.

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Wochenmarkt, Saturday farmers market, Neuenheimer Markt, Markplatz, Neuenheim, Heidelberg, Germany, fotoeins.com

My Heidelberg: Saturday farmers’ market in Neuenheim

In Heidelberg, the farmers’ markets are held regularly throughout the week at a number of locations throughout the city and region. One of six Saturday markets takes place across the Neckar river in Neuenheim. Most visitors in town will visit the Saturday market in Heidelberg’s Marktplatz, which leaves the other five Saturday markets pretty much “clear and free” to residents. And as I arrive at the market square in Neuenheim, it’s clear I’m in the minority, literally and figuratively. This is not criticism and it’s not a negative, as I used to come here occasionally when I lived here. I say as much to the various vendors, when I buy a cup of coffee, some cherry tomatoes, a piece of cake, and three empanadas.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, grown locally and imported from around Europe. Fresh bread and baked goods from a regional bakery. Fresh herbs, grown locally; fresh flowers, grown locally. Honey harvested from bees at a regional apiary. “Empanadas Argentinas”, by a woman from Córdoba who’s lived in Germany for over ten years. And there are fresh cuts of meat, tubs of olives, and glorious varieties of cheese from around Europe.

It’s time to stop eating and leave, when the vendors begin to pack. Another market, another day.

When I leave Heidelberg, no small measure of wistful longing remains; these are my streets, and this is one of my markets.

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Cafe Burkardt, Heidelberger Altstadt, Germany, fotoeins.com

My Heidelberg: Cafe Burkardt in the Old Town

I’m often “home” in Heidelberg to visit friends who are in the city to work for the university or one of the many institutes in town. An important component for any visit to Heidelberg is Untere Strasse in the Altstadt (Lower Street in the Old Town). The narrow cobblestone street includes cafes, pubs, and shops with a neighbourhood feel attracting not only university students for “pub crawls” but also city residents for their favourite hangout spots.

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Weihnachten, Backwaren, Cafe Gundel, Karlsplatz, Hauptstrasse 212, Heidelberg, Germany, fotoeins.com

My Heidelberg: Café Gundel’s Christmas cookies (Weihnachtsgebäck)

Short sensory list

•   Sights of the Weihnachtsmarkt: bright lights; Christmas pyramid; red and yellow stars; unveiling of the Backwaren (backed goods) made especially for the holiday season.

•   Sounds of the Christmas market: the klang of full mugs distributed and empty ones collected, shouts of laughter from conversations scattered throughout the area.

•   Smells and tastes of the Christmas market: candied almonds, cashews, and peanuts; roasted chestnuts; balls of fried dough with powdered sugar; mugs of hot mulled wine, available in several fruit flavours; grilled bratwurst; fried potato pancakes with apple sauce.

When the Christmas season brings out special baked goods, it’s time to pay attention. In Heidelberg, my favourite café in the university town doesn’t hold back as photos of the “Backwaren” (baked goods) show. There’s something for everybody at Café Gundel.

And on it goes: small lifetimes can be spent, seeing, smelling, and sampling the entire collection.

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