I feel at home in university towns - I teach at a university and so naturally I recognize the distinct tempo of activity: busy places with wonderful energy, and yet also centres of reflection.
I attempt to catch this combination by thematizing time, and in particular the free time that students enjoy. My starting point is one of Mark Twain's comments about Heidelberg ("German university life is a very free life"), and from there the article is structured as a list of time relations:
- students reopening old dueling scars to make them seem fresh,
- serving time in the student prison,
- students' relationship with the old buildings around them,
- opening times at the local swimming pool, and
- spending hours in Tübingen's cafes.
The advantage of making the story an ideas piece is that I'm able to join towns that I visited on separate trips: I was in Heidelberg last April while the experiences in Tübingen are based on a trip nearly two years earlier, in 2010. That is, time is used as a unifying element in what might otherwise be too obviously a story of two halves.
Well, at least I hope so.