Thursday, May 5, 2016

Twain and Heidelberg

One of the sites that I made a point in visiting was the Hotel Hirschgasse, on the north side of the river and near the old bridge.

There are two hotels in Heidelberg that Twain visited in 1878.  The original stay was at what today is referred as the Crown Plaza....about ten minutes walking from the train station.  In 1878, it was the Hotel Schrieder....a three-story hotel rated as four stars and had an enticing garden in the front with a water fountain.

The Hotel Schrieder, at least in those days, had a great view of the castle, and was noted in some travel journals as having a great kitchen (something that Americans seem drawn to when on trips).

As most historians and journalists tell the story of Twain's visit to was supposed to have been for a night or two, and this was connected to the trip where he was working through a writers block and doing research for other writings (newspaper and essay-type).

Something clicked, and the short stay in Heidelberg turned from a few days to three months.  My guess is that the cost factor of the Hotel Schrieder played into this, and he made some decision to move over to a gasthaus/tavern on the other side of the river....the Hotel Hirschgasse.

Why the attraction to stay?  There's not a lot written by Twain himself.  Most historians think he seemed to connect to the city by the river, it's university students, and the cozy atmosphere of Heidelberg.

When you go back and examine the thousands of quotes attributed to reach a point where you start to think that he sat and listened to enough comments by the soon-to-be-intellectual crowd there and picked up some witty sayings.

Some examples:

"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."

"The two most important days in your life are the day that you are born, and the day that you find out why."

"A man who lives prepared to die at any time."

"The secret of getting getting started."

"I never let my schooling interfere with my education."

"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."

My guess is that Twain found himself in the middle of some human laboratory of sorts.....where wit and wisdom were being discussed on a hour-by-hour basis by the Heidelberg University students that he socialized around.....with a serving of beer to help avoid thirst.....and the charm of the river in the background.  These one-liners that were dropped onto him.....probably written down in his notebook and were part of his research material.

In 1876, Twain wrapped up Tom Sawyer, and was at a pivotal point in his life.  Rarely do most writers who write a five-star piece at age forty-one.....then come back to write anything that measures up to the original five-star wonder.

It's after this 1878 trip that Twain does return to America, and settles back to write various books and essays which match and maybe even exceed Tom Sawyer.

So if you happen to be around Heidelberg one afternoon, you might want to yourself into Twain's shoes and see what happens.

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