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May 11, 1887: Rizal and Viola’s Grand Tour of Europe

On this day in 1887, Filipino reformists Dr. Jose Rizal and Maximo Viola left Berlin by train for a one-month tour of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Along the way, they stopped at Leitmeritz, Bohemia (present day Litoměřice, Czech Republic) to visit Rizal’s esteemed friend Dr. Ferdinand Blumentritt and his family, who hosted them graciously from May 13 to 16, 1887. From there, the duo made stops in Vienna, Munich, Stuttgart and Geneva, where they parted ways on June 23, 1887.

Rizal first met Viola in Barcelona, Spain where the latter was studying medicine at the University of Barcelona. Both arrived in Spain in 1882 and were active in the Reform Movement, which led to them being acquainted.

The two would cross paths again in December 1886 in Berlin, Germany. At the time, Viola had already completed his medical degree and wanted to learn the German language, which Rizal was very fluent in. At the time, Rizal had completed the draft of his first novel Noli Me Tangere but was struggling financially to have it printed.

The wealthy Viola offered to shoulder the P300 printing cost of the novel, which Rizal initially refused as he deemed it appropriate not to inconvenience his friends by borrowing money from them. Viola insisted, telling Rizal that it’s a loan he can pay when his brother Paciano send his next allowance. They sent the manuscript to Berliner Buchdruckerei-Aktiengesellschaft and by March 1887, 2,000 initial copies of the novel have been printed.

As a tribute to his friend’s financial support, Rizal gave Viola the galley proofs and the first printed copy of the novel.

By May 1887, Rizal had received his allowance from Paciano and was able to repay Viola. He was also planning to tour Germany, Austria and Switzerland and invited Viola to accompany him. Among the cities they visited were Dresden, Leitmeritz, Prague, Vienna, Munich, Nuremberg, Ulm, Lausanne and Geneva.

In Leitmeritz, Rizal and Viola visited the home of Rizal’s esteemed friend Prof. Ferdinand Blumentritt. They stayed in the town from May 13 to 16, 1887. They were treated to Filipino dishes cooked by Blumentritt’s wife and were given a tour of the historic buildings in town. Rizal also met with the board of directors of the town’s Tourist Club, where he gave a speech in fluent German.

Upon leaving Leitmeritz, the duo continued their grand tour of Europe until June 23, 1887 when they arrived in Geneva. From there, Rizal traveled to Rome, Italy while Viola went back to Barcelona.

(Photo of Rizal and Viola from Wikimedia Commons)

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