Much has been written about the friendship between Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero, and Ferdinand Blumentritt, an Austrian schoolteacher interested in the ethno-linguistic background of the Filipinos despite not having visited the country.
More recently, efforts have been done by the Philippine Embassy in Czech Republic and the Czech Embassy in the Philippines to commemorate this special friendship and to establish Rizal’s trail in Leitmeritz (now called Litomerice) when he visited Blumentritt from May 13 to 16, 1887.
Numerous online resources made it easy for me to track down notable spots in the little town, save for one — Blumentritt’s house in Dlouha Street. (If I based it on the illustrated map, then it must be the yellow house on the leftmost photo.)
Dlouha Street where Blumentritt lived
So after a half-day visit to the dreary town of Terezin Memorial which served as a concentration camp, I took a local bus that brought me to this pretty Bohemian town called Litomerice. During Blumentritt’s time, it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, hence the German name – Leitmeritz.
Following the timeline I found online, here are Rizal’s stops when he met for the first and last time Blumentritt with whom he had exchanged correspondence with for quite some time after learning about the scholar’s interest in the Philippines.
May 13, 1887
From Germany, Rizal arrived together with his friend Maximo Viola at Leitmeritz at 1:30 PM. Blumentritt welcomed them at the station (Litomerice Mesto) and brought them to the Krebs Hotel, which is now a shopping center.
The former Krebs Hotel
May 14, 1887
Rizal and Viola attended the session of the Board of Directors of the Tourist Club in Leitmeritz thru the invitation of Blumentritt who was the club secretary. They were cordially received by the President of the Club, Jose Krombholz. Rizal delivered an extemporaneous speech in German, which was very much applauded by the audience for his fluency.
While looking for what used to be Hotel Krebs, I stumbled upon this pretty building called Grand Hotel Slava and upon closer inspection, I was surprised to see Jose Rizal’s bust. The writing was in Czech, so I searched for the hotel’s website and thankfully, they have a page of notable guests, including Rizal and Blumentritt:
The house was visited by another very significant, although until lately rather unknown personality, namely in 1887. Philippine physician, patriot and writer José Rizal was staying here from May 13 to May 16. He came to visit his friend, Professor Ferdinand Blumentritt, who was a principal of the grammar school/high school in Litoměřice. Rizal, who came accompanied by his good friend Máximo Viola, was accommodated in the hotel “Krebs”, which no longer exists, but he was meeting professor Blumentritt, his family and many of their friends in the “U černého orla” restaurant.
Grand Hotel Slava, formerly the “U černého orla” restaurant
May 15, 1887
With Prof. Blumentritt as their guide, Rizal and Viola visited the churches , the residence of the Bishop and other important buildings of the city. They also visited the special friend of Prof. Blumentritt, Dr. Carlos Czepelak, who wanted very much to see Rizal personally.
The building where Blumentritt taught and in front of it, a plaque in his honor
Former Jesuit residence and college
May 16, 1887
Professor Roberto Klutschak invited Rizal, Viola, and Prof Blumentritt to dine in his house , and in the evening in return, Rizal and Viola invited them in Krebs Hotel. At 9:45 that same evening Rizal And Viola , accompanied by the whole family of Prof. Blumentritt and Prof. Kluschk, left Leitmeritz for Prague.
Old train relic and view of Labe riverbank
My favorite part of the trip was the Jose Rizal Park. It had a pretty view of the town and it provided quite a refreshing stop. Luckily, there were two girls near the bust of Jose Rizal and I asked them if they could kindly take my photo. They curiously asked where I was from so I told them I’m from the Philippines and the guy is our national hero who visited his friend in Litomerice. His friend has a bust on the other side of town, the one in front of the green school or technical college. I probably didn’t make any sense to them but I’m glad they were around to take my photo.
Parkany Jose Rizala
It was a really lovely trip despite the dreary weather. I wish I had more time so I could walk a bit further and pay respect to Blumentritt by visiting his grave. Maybe next time?
Still so happy despite the short time I spent in Litomerice walking the same roads my favorite writer/hero/playboy/rockstar walked along to. Who knew a little town so far away from home can hold so little, but still so much? 💕
Blumentritt and Rizal’s Bastion
“…my heart was full, and I asked myself: What have I done to deserve the friendship and sympathy of such kind souls….I will also bear in mind my good friends in Leitmeritz and I will say… ‘You are not alone, Rizal; there in a little corner of Bohemia, there are good, noble souls and friends who appreciate you; think of them; consider them as if they were with you, as if they were seeing you; they will gladden at your joys and they will weep for your sorrows (Rizal writes to Blumentritt, 19 May 1887)