1/25/15

Heidelberg, Germany...

Our travel plans for Saturday, January 24th included an early morning departure to visit Heidelberg, Germany. We left at 8:14 AM and arrived in Heidelberg around 10:30. We boarded the bus and headed to the famous Heidelberg Schloss, took the Bergbahn up the hill to the Schloss, bought tickets for the guided tour and were underway with the tour at 12:15 PM.

A few pictures to capture the experience. In the snow, cold, and conditions with taking pictures with gloves on and my iPhone - you get what you get. For anyone interested in seeing more touristic and professional photography, just click on THIS to see the beauty of Heidelberg.

Looking down from the Schloss to the Aldstadt portion of Heidelberg...

Untitled

Looking down on the Neckar River from the Schloss...



Of the three largest wine barrels in the world that existed, one remains, in the Schloss that held 220,000 liters of wine. Water was not consumed back in the day due to potential death from contaminated water, so a lower alcohol content wine was the daily drink by man, woman, and child. Here is the remaining huge wine barrel...



After the guided tour, we ate at a restaurant in the Schloss which in retrospect was not a good choice as it took more than an hour for our food to arrive. I had hoped to allow 1 - 2 hours of free time in the Aldstadt for the students, but the slow service for lunch took away most of that.

While we were having lunch, as had been forecast, the snow started to fall. By the time we made our way down the mountain to the Neckar River and turned around to look back up at the Schloss, the scene had changed to this...

HeidelbergSchloss

Upon our descent, we immediately went to our second scheduled visit for the day at a very unique museum: Dokementations - und Kulturzentrum Deutscher Sinti und Roma. It is the only museum in the world that is dedicated to the 500,000 Sinti and Roma (or the politically incorrect term we often use and hear in the US: gypsies) that perished during WWII's genocide known as the Holocaust. I had a special interest to see this museum because, even though things have become better in historical documents, accounts, and literature about the Holocaust in the past 20 years to include more mention of the Sinti and Roma, it still pales in comparison with other groups that are focused on in the study of that period. Our latest edition of the textbook we are studying does a better job of mentioning the Sinti and Roma, but doesn't go deep enough. I felt going to the one and only dedicated museum in the world for it was going to be quite an experience for me - and the students.

And it was!

After our tour of the museum, the man who had greeted us and issued us the audio guides said there was someone he wanted to introduce to me. The man introduced himself and asked who I was, where we were from, and what we were doing. So I told him we were from Simpson College in Iowa, why were in Germany, and what we were studying. He wrote all of this down on a sheet of paper. He started to explain to me that his grandfather and great uncle were survivors of the war, and that is father was born one year after the war was over, but that 13 family members had been murdered in Auschwitz, Ravensbrück, and Natzweiler camps. His father has 6 children of which he was one of, and the father - Romani Rose - became a civil rights activist and is the Chairman of the Central German Sinti and Roma. He explained that is why this unique museum was located in Heidelberg, and not Berlin for example. He asked why I was teaching a class about the genocide. I explained that my mother-in-law and her siblings were survivors and we talked, and shared stories. Then he said he had a present for me and went into another room, only to return with a 200 page book edited by his father entitled "The Nazi Genocide of the Sinti and Roma".  It is filled with German documents, stories, and pictures solely devoted to telling the story of the Sinti and Roma. Much of what we saw in the museum is in this book, so I feel like I was inheriting quite a special document.

Regardless, we visited a little more and he invited us to come back for a subsequent visit, with lectures, and even to meet some more people if we were interested. The museum has no entrance fee, and upon his gift to me of his father's edited book - I asked if he would accept a donation. He refused and would not accept it. I was moved by his passion, his stories, the way he looked into my eyes and shook my hand. It was an experience and moment that I find hard to describe, but suffice it to say there was almost a pleading, a suffering, and a request to tell the story; share the history; and be a link in the chain. He didn't even have to say that to me, it was if we both understood looking into each other's eyes, and the handshake that this was the responsibility. Or the gift.

Needless to say, I left the museum perhaps on a different level than the students, but certainly emotionally moved as I headed down by myself to view the Neckar River, the Aldstadt and try to absorb it all in the time we had left before catching the bus back to the train station.

The old bridge in Heidelberg that crosses the Neckar River...

Untitled

The entrance to the bridge on the Aldstadt side has a famous sculpture of a monkey, The myth is, if you rub his coin you will have good forture, if you rub his hand you will one day return to Heidelberg...



I felt guilty touching the coin as I felt the experience I had encountered an hour prior in the German Sinti and Roma museum that my fortune had already been found, touched, blessed, enriched by meeting and hearing all about the Rose family. So I placed my hand on the coin more in a move of thanks for the day's adventure, and chance meeting.

1 comment:

Iowagriz said...

Great stories Bruce, keep them coming. So nice to see the sights through your eyes.