The long anticipated weekend had arrived. A group of fuddy-duddies converged, one by one, toward the epicenter of the town of Tübingen, the Market Square. I walked from my hotel toward the square through a steep cobblestone lane, carefully negotiating the wide steps of Wienergasse. From there I turned right and approached our designated meeting place, a café opposite the Rathaus, the town hall with its famous painted facade, currently shrouded for restoration. We were instructed to meet at a window table on the second floor, yet as I walked toward the restaurant, I discovered several reunion entities already amicably clustered around an outdoor table. The program was not unfolding according to the script! Which has always been par for the course for this bunch of friends who graduated from Eberhard Karls Universität more or less four decades ago.
For the next couple of days, we discovered some of the changes that had occurred within ourselves, the town of Tübingen and our alma mater during the last lamented 40 years of our lives. We began the celebration of our reunion with an exploratory walk through the narrow streets of the old town,
recognizing and identifying a variety of buildings of significance to our collective past. I had not been to Tübingen in roughly twenty years, so it took a while to get acclimated. We eventually continued to the Wurstküche for our first communal dinner.
Friday dawned rather wet and stayed that way, which naturally didn’t discourage these intrepid former students of nature to roam the Botanical Garden. Not the Old Botanical Garden, a municipal park in town now, but the new(er) one, a green jewel stretching between the buildings for the different science faculties of the university, situated on a hill above the town center called ‘Morgenstelle’. We were pretty much the first generation of science students to learn and work there when this high rise complex was barely finished. Since then the Morgenstelle campus has grown considerably, both in the diversity of the plant population in the botanical garden and its greenhouses, as well as in student population density.
Despite the rain, the garden was a beautiful sight. It covers an area with many hillocks, mounds, and depressions, allowing the eye to meander over an ever-changing landscape – besides one can always hide in a greenhouse for a while. The Canary Island House was my favorite, what an incredible range of plants, like the beach ‘Daisy’ below. And, to dry out and warm up after such a wet excursion, one should enjoy a Maultaschensüppchen* in the Marquardtei, one of the old haunts of our earlier days in this town. Sitting together over the still inexpensive and satisfying food evoked vivid memories for us.
[*a ravioli in broth. Maul=maw; Tasche=bag; Süppchen=small amount of soup]
Friday afternoon we spent in personal pursuits, in my case visiting my auntie Eva. Tübingen isn’t only where I went to school, I was born there as my dad was also a student at proud old Eberhard Karls Universität, founded by Eberhard im Bart* in 1477, at which time, I’m sorry to say, he also expelled all Jews from Tübingen.
[*E. im Bart=bearded; Count Eberhard V, later Eberhard I Duke of Württemberg]
In a more positive aside, I’d like to mention that the first woman ever to receive a Nobel Prize for medicine/physiology was a professor in Tübingen, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard.
Our big day of joint activities was Saturday. The day began foggy and chilly, turned warm and sunny and concluded with the promise of future meetings and enduring friendship. I got up early for a solitary excursion to Schloss Hohentübingen. The castle started life around 1037 as a wooden fortification, eventually growing into a splendid renaissance palace. Today it houses the faculties of cultural sciences for the university and also operates as a museum of Classical Antiquities & Egyptology. One semester I took a genetics lab at the castle, taught by a researcher for tropical diseases, highly entertaining.
By then it was high time to return to the hotel for breakfast, before meeting the rest of the gang for an expedition to the French District of Tübingen. When we were students, the French District was still populated by actual Frenchies, members of the French occupational forces and their families. We used to go watch French movies and fraternize with the enemy. When the French forces finally left Tübingen around 1990 (!), the district was converted into an innovative residential community based on sustainable urban living principles, in part utilizing the former barracks, tank and heavy artillery facilities, schools and canteens and officer’s housing. This “French District” PDF gives a fairly comprehensive explanation in English for interested parties. As we were walking around the Quartier, we all took a bunch of pictures. I’m curious to see what my compadres snapped.
Here are some of my impressions:
And then there was the curious case of the disappearing purple child.
These are five sequential shots in two short bursts. She darted through my field of vision just as I depressed the shutter release 🙂
Before leaving the französische Viertel, we came across a poster for ‘Die Jüdin von Toledo’ an opera after a novel by Feuchtwanger, in which one of us had a part. We’re very proud of you, Volker!
Our afternoon program began with a more athletic undertaking than this leisurely morning walk, for some of us at least. We were aiming to congregate at the Schwärzlocher Hof, a farm about 3 Km outside of town, for Fleischkäs und Mostbowle im Biergarten*, as we’ve done numerous times before. While the others set out to hike to Schwärzloch, I hiked up the Stiftskirche church tower to enjoy the view and then drove to Schwärzloch like the lazy bum I am.
[*Fleischkäs or Leberkäse (liver cheese) is a traditional southern German/Austrian/Swiss meat dish containing neither liver nor cheese. Mostbowle is an alcoholic concoction of fermented apple juice, sugar, lemon juice and mineral water. Both are consumed at long tables on a dirt floor terrace, the beer garden.]
On my way to the church, I encountered some typical sights.
Tübingen has one fairly wide river,
many fairly narrow lanes and crooked streets,
with lots of half-timbered houses.
Up there, above the blue clock face you can see the balcony where I was headed.
First you climb some pretty worn out stairs,
then you cross above the nave to the opposite corner of the church,
where you climb plenty more stairs past an assortment of curiosities before reaching the widow’s walk.
Descending with creaky knees, it was time to return to my hotel to get ready for our Schwärzloch adventure. Hurry, hurry, don’t waste time unlocking the phone again and again for yet another snapshot along the way …
we proceeded to the home of our two ‘locals’, the only ones among us, who never left Tübingen. Alright, so they eventually moved away – to a town 11 Km/6.8 m distant. For our reunion weekend, they acted as our hosts and tour guides culminating in a magnificent white asparagus feast for us. We celebrated till two in the morning, having a ball. Thank you, Guys!
For me, this lovely weekend had yet another highlight. For two hours, I was invited to play with Heteroptera and their larvae under a digital microscope. The darn thing can even create a visual 3D model through stacking images taken in increments through the focal ranch. Such fun!!!