Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Our visit to the Heidegger cabin (Heidegger's hut)

PHOTO: Niemoczynski, 2017.
Arriving to the top of Todtnauberg

A few days ago Na and I had the pleasure of visiting Martin Heidegger's cabin located in the mountains of the Black Forest region of southern Germany. Built in 1922, the small three room cabin (often referred to as "die Hütte" or "the hut") was where Heidegger wrote many of his most famous books, including Being and Time (written in 1927).

Plans showing the evolution of the C.S. Peirce house
My impression of the cabin and surrounding area was one of awe and wonder. Like when visiting the house of C.S. Peirce in Milford, Pennsylvania a few years ago, I was able to see how the contours of a philosophy can be very much the product of where that philosophy was created.  For example, Peirce's home was a project of continual re-construction and addition with Peirce adding new levels and rooms to the home frequently.  The home itself was ordered in its design and its layout block-like in orientation; lean yet ornate at the edges at the same time.  Peirce's philosophy was much the same: systematic yet speculative and exploratory at the edges; subject to continual revision and re-construction in such a way that the old was always incorporated into the new.  In a way, one can see the ideas of a speculative evolutionary philosophy, a cosmological metaphysics of morphe', present in the continual expansion and change of the design and building of the Peirce home.

Heidegger's cabin is simple yet quite romantic in its austerity; connected to the surrounding rustic, idyllic valley of fields and forests in a way that is quite indescribable.  Even Na remarked how the surrounding Black Forest had a magnetism to it; a certain charm of magic and air of mystery which draws one closer wondering what lies ahead in those dark woods.  The valley itself is quaint with its rolling hills, green pastures, and a rural village which abuts the forests.  I could see Heidegger's ideas spelled out in this landscape, especially essays like "Why I Stay in the Provinces" written in 1934 or "Conversations Along a Country Path" written in 1944. I can see how many have taken up Heidegger's thoughts on place and space, dwelling and thinking, mortals and gods, while looking at how his writings may have been affected by writing in the cabin.

Directions to the Heidegger hut or Heidegger cabin are quite simple although it is generally off limits to visitors to see up close due to its location on private property.  Na and I were granted access just by chance however as we ran into an immediate family member who happened to be there during a German holiday (I imagine that if you do find someone who owns the property or someone who knows a family member that they'd let you see it up close as long as you ask).  So in that respect we were extremely lucky to see it up close as we were expecting only to see it from a distance along the path.

The cabin is located in Todtnauberg with the path leading to it (the "Heidegger Rundweg") beginning at the center of the village.  The path in its entirety takes about 90 minutes to walk although the cabin itself is visible from the path after about ten or so minutes of walking.  Many locals come to the path (which is owned by the town, only its adjoining fields are privately owned) to walk and enjoy the scenery.

We traveled by train from Heidelberg which took about four hours, stopping to change trains in Rastatt, then Offenburg, and then taking a bus from Kirchzarten (a very nice small village itself) to Todtnauberg.  Our bus took us up several steep forested mountainsides where there are a few resorts and ski places, a nature center, and then fewer and fewer remote mountain villages. Once on top of the mountain Todtnauberg appears (on a map part of "Todtnau") which is very, very small and consists mainly of farm houses and a few small hotels.

PHOTO: Niemoczynski, 2017.
Sign for the Heidegger Rundweg, town center
There are signs pointing to the path and one walks uphill to its beginning which takes about fifteen minutes from the center of town. From there the path goes uphill slightly until after another ten to fifteen minutes of walking you'll see the cabin on top of a hill to your left.

The hill to the cabin is quite steep so be sure to wear sturdy shoes or have a friend that can help you climb up. During our visit the field grass was thick and it was extremely muggy out making the climb somewhat difficult. We ascended along side a stream whose water helped keep us cool on such a hot day. After a few minutes of climbing the hill we finally reached our destination which was awe-inspiring to see up close after having read and written about Heidegger for so many years.

 As you can see in the photos I will post below, it is quite beautiful.  The views from the front of the cabin are stunning - and a little ways from the cabin toward the front at a crest there is a wooden bench where you can sit and take in the scenery.

It is certainly a trip that has changed the way I see Heidegger's writings.  A very powerful experience for sure, I'd recommend it to anyone who currently or has in the past taken interest in Heidegger's philosophy and would like to see where some of his most profound ideas were generated.

Click on photos to see larger image. (All photos were taken by Niemoczynski June 2017.)

Heidegger Rundweg, looking back to beginning of path

Panoramic shot of valley

View of cabin from the bottom of the path

About ten to fifteen minute walk along the path, base of hill to cabin

View of the cabin at hill summit

Front of cabin

View from the front steps of the cabin

Front view

Right side view

Water pump about 20-30' from cabin side

Side of cabin, cut wood is stacked along its side

View of valley from the top of the hill

View of valley to the left

Another small path leads from the cabin side to the paved path below

Cabin atop the hill, stream runs in cut shown in middle of photo

Another view of cabin, top

Building maintained by family member, to the left, base of hill

Valley view exiting path back to town