I did not know where the city of Heidelberg was until I reached there.
I knew it was somewhere. As I was growing up, I read a poem by Allama Iqbal that he had written on the banks of the river Neckar in Heidelberg, where he stayed for some time for his studies. Perhaps it was the first time I came to know about the city. Then years went by, and my association with the city grew even more. Through Iqbal and Osip Mandelstam, Hegel and Hanna Arendt, Du Bios and FW Murnau and Jose Rizal – the city kept coming as I journeyed through my studies, readings and interests. It could map my interests in different things, but I hadn’t mapped it. Yet.
When early this year a friend from London asked me to come to Heidelberg where she was going to give a talk, it was not a difficult decision to make. We had not met in last four years, and last time when we said goodbyes at the Shanghai airport, we did not know it will be so many years in between. During these years we made many plans, for Reykjavik, for Accra, for Vienna, but I could not go.
This time there were not many reasons for not to travel. It was in the country where I live. It was only five hours away by train. And it was Heidelberg, afterall.
When I packed my stuff in that sleepy night when I was going to take the train, I was disappointed to know that it is going to rain or be cloudy all the time during my stay. But I did not want to miss taking photos there. I had heard about the beauty of the area, and though I had not seen many photos, a few that I saw, looked fascinating. I packed my film camera and Fomapan 400 for the cloudy days.
It was not for the first time when I was travelling since I took up film photography again. I had taken my Canonet Giii QL17 during my previous travels, but I took only a few film photos during all those trips. This time I thought it will be nice to take photos mainly on the film.
It was a sunny late morning of when I reached the train station surrounded by the green hills. There were no clouds. No rain. And there was a very little mist, that only added to the beauty. I stood on the platform and let that place sink into my heart.
The sign on the platform said Heidelberg. And I opened the map to see where in Germany this place was located. At last.
Edit: this entry was edited to correct the spelling of the Neckar river.
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