Summer notebook 1. Heidelbergs

In Heidelberg, over the old bridge over the Neckar, a cable car leads you up to the foot of the large castle, and then continues further up to the Königstuhl, which is a hill close with conifers and oak trees. From the belvedere you can see downstream the river that flows between the town houses and arches along the plain.

The view from the top experiences a secluded location that includes towers and houses, wooded spots and buildings from different eras. And at the same time the view swings between two fields of attention: on the one hand the events that pass in the sky – the clouds, the changing colors of the hour, the flight of birds, the furrow in a plane – and on the other the contraction of city life in an inert drawing, in a postcard, which only the imagination can draw from the fiction. A nature trail opens up into the forest: light, in the shade of spruce trees and inhabited here and there by sculptural presentations along the edge of ferns and raspberries: some artists have used wood material to model animal bodies.

Not the use of wood for “civilizing” enterprises – the unpolluted forests that the Romantics already saw violated and bent for industrial purposes – but the passage of wood, by an artist’s hand, against form, against gratuity and the grace of art. Here lies a green lizard on a tree trunk, so a marmot looking out from a cliff, a large bird that with the opening of its wings acts as a backrest for a bench ready to welcome the traveler, here is still a long trunk of a fallen tree that in the shape of a snake bends and lifts its head over the bushes, and eventually many other sculptural animals accompany it on the journey.

At one point, in an open space, there is a majestic xylophone, with all its pieces of wood swinging slightly in the wind, along with a lithophone with side-by-side plates: wooden and rocky instruments that invite the passer-by to improvise a musical motif, using special logs. Small quotes from a nature that is also “civilized”, but in a playful and musical direction.

The contrast between the forest hill and the castle modulates a clear opposite: beyond a nature which, though removed from the immaculate, shows its own discretion, so to speak harmoniously, on this side the architecture which the powerful desire, as gone between kl. wars, conquests, raids, they tore down and rebuilt, made styles uninhibited and added arches and columns and statues, erected pillars and superimposed bastions. It is the pursuit of a sovereignty that from a distance appears burlesque and pompous, while masking the ruins of history with the coats of arms of the powers that be.

Along the Neckar, beyond the banks, hilly shores with a very dense green rise, in the middle of which reddish castles with thin towers appear from time to time. And yet, whether you are traveling along stretches of river with a boat, or driving on the roads here from the shore, stopping at a village square in the shade of plane trees, only a great exercise can find something in the mind that vaguely resembles that feeling of the living, all-living, which gives form and sound to the verses which Hölderlin dedicated to this river.


Which was his river, the river of birth and childhood in Lauffen, the river of loneliness in the tower of Tübingen, the river on whose banks the poet evokes the light of another time, and lost: a luminous connection unites for the poet the banks of the Neckar with Ionia’s temples.

But the landscape that takes shape and presence and sounds in poetry is different from the real landscape. Its beauty and integrity belong only to the land of poetry. From time to time, there seems to be a certain correspondence between Hölderlin’s verse and the blinking of the scales in the water: a hint of the unity – of the visible with the invisible, of the moment with the past – that we today feel alien to our own. same imagine.

And yet words come from the verses that can accompany the gaze of the city – on the Heidelberg defined by the poet “Ländlichschönste”, rural and beautiful at the same time – or they can superimpose the lightness of the rustle that comes from the friendly forests (“freundliche”). Forests / roar over the castle “).

As I look away from the river, the images of many of my other passages and stays in Germany swarm in disarray: voices, friends’ profiles, walks, meetings, public readings. But it is a youth monument that unnamed imposes itself among other things: the passage by hitchhiking on the Rhine to reach from Freiburg to a village on the Bas-Rhine in Alsace at the foot of the Vosges. An aunt of mine lived there who emigrated with her family from Salento (she stayed there for seven years before returning to her country).

It is the forests of the Vosges that now overlap the forests that rise from the banks of the Neckar. In one of the first footbridges in the Vosges, at a path turn, I met one afternoon a deer drinking in a stream: for a few moments it remained motionless and lifted its gaze towards me, lightly, solemnly, before jumping towards it darkness.

Then Neckar, the river sacred to the poet, returns before his eyes, returning with “the sweet meadows and the arrows on the water,” closing a lyric dedicated to him.

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