Unknown to many, Dr. Jose Rizal celebrated his 25th birthday with a Lutheran minister, Karl Ulmer, and his family on June 19, 1886, in Wilhelmsfeld, an idyllic and quaint suburban district 15 miles from Heidelberg town. In commemoration of that occasion, the Ulmer family honored the “young Filipino eye doctor with a party in their house where strawberry punch was served,” as recounted by Fritz, one of Pastor Ulmer’s sons. The Germans have a deep attachment and devotion to Rizal, and today he is still revered as one of their own in two places in Germany: Heidelberg and Wilhelmsfeld. Old-timers and German Rizalistas of Heidelberg pay respect to our national hero with appropriate ceremonies during his birthday every year. They still share fond memories of our hero’s memorable six-month sojourn in Heidelberg and Wilhelmsfeld, which they reminisce with particular devotion and veneration. Retracing Rizal’s footsteps
Heidelberg, a city in southern Germany, is famous for its ancient university, romantic surroundings, old churches, majestic castles and cobblestone streets redolent of a bygone era. Heidelberg is the best-known place and destination for Filipino tourists and Rizalistas bound for the historic German city because of Rizal’s poem “To the Flowers of Heidelberg,” and the three-story Baroque building, the Alte Universitat. It is Germany’s oldest university, founded in 1386. The young Rizal arrived in Heidelberg on Feb. 3, 1886, from Paris and immediately fell in love with the beautiful city. In October 1998, or 112 years after Rizal’s arrival in Heidelberg, I traveled to Germany for a one-month “centennial tour” (1998 being the 100th anniversary of the declaration of Philippine independence) to retrace Rizal’s footsteps in Germany’s oldest university town, where our hero stayed for six months. I was enamored with Heidelberg’s romantic surroundings and picturesque scenery. The ruins of the magnificent castle perched on a steep bank of Neckar River, overlooking...
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