Sunday, July 13, 2003

Day 10: Ambulatory

I did so little this day that it would be painful (for the reader) if I were to detail everything. To say the least I stayed in Cologne. I did little that was nothing noteworthy. I did try a different vegetarian restaurant, Sproesslings. This restaurant, only a few blocks from the cult-vegetarian place I ate at over the weekend, was very pleasant. It was a beautiful, sunny day, not too warm, only slightly humid. The restaurant has a nice courtyard that is covered with ivy. The noises of the city were completely absent. Now and then I could hear the sounds of adults talking and singing (I think that this was a language class.) The waiter was very friendly: he explained what everything was on the menu (there were lots of different types of purees that I did not recognize readily.) I ate rice balls in a tomato-quark sauce (quark is a dairy product that is somewhere between yoghurt and sour cream, but not at sour as either) with various vegetables. I drank their “fitness-cocktail”: a combination of apple, carrot and banana juices.

At stayed at the apartment in the evening and enjoyed the last bits of peace before the landlady returned. I bought a bottle of wine, a “white burgundy” from Baden-Wuttemberg. It was light and good, not very distinct. I watched some TV (Star Trek, of course) and read over some documents.

Day 11: I can’t get to the archives quickly enough!!!

The landlady is back. Sometime in the middle of the night, I don’t know when, she returned. I heard her say hello from her room as I was readying myself in the morning. However, she had some “comments” for me. The previous night a fell asleep while reading–I was tired from reading documents–and I left the lights on. You should know that there are only four light bulbs in the entire room, and they cannot be more than 25 W each. There is no way to get enough reading light without (1) turning them all on or (2) sitting directly underneath one. I tried to tell her that I had just fallen asleep, that this is not normally something that I do. She took the opportunity to tell me how things are done differently in Germany than in the US. While I would agree that I am normally wasteful of power, THERE IS NOT ENOUGH LIGHT IN THE ROOM. I said nothing, just kept agreeing and making plans for a fast escape.

I was out of the apartment before nine. I didn’t eat breakfast. I would have to pick up something along the way. However, I got to the train station either too early or too late. Normally, there is a regional train to Dusseldorf every half an hour; these take half an hour to travel between the two cities. There are faster trains that take less time, but I cannot afford them for an entire month. There are slower “S” trains that stop everywhere along the way and take an hour, sometimes a little less. Apparently, when I arrived at the train station just after nine o’clock, the train that I would normally take is replaced by more fast trains. I had little choice but to take the “S” train.

I got to work at the archive. I started with the file that I was reading at the end of Wednesday session. I also tried to order some catalog books that were themselves forbidden to look at (usually only the files themselves are prohibited, never the books that catalog those files; I wanted to look at the catalogs that referred to the police over a one hundred year period, and one of the five volumes dealt with Nazi treatment of Gypsies–it was for that reason that the catalog book was forbidden.) The archivist in the reading room wasn’t sure why I wanted this, or what it might have to do with my research (and I did not know what was in it.) He called down Dr. Frueh, who talked to me about it. I explained that I could not be specific about which books I wanted to look at, so I ordered them all. He was very accommodating, and I asked him a few questions about specific historical issues.

I got back to work, reading my file. I found a list of members of a small political party of which I wanted a copy for reference. I took a few pictures. The reading-room archivist came down to my table saying that taking pictures was not permissible. I was confused. Apparently, I can order pictures to be taken, if I want (I don’t think it is too expensive.) So I put my camera away (got away with photographing seventy pages.) The rest of the day was less eventful. I ordered another file that was more interesting, even talking about an obscure economics professor whose name I found in the Strasbourg archives.

I left at three, a good five hours work. I did not want to explore Dusseldorf more this week–I wanted to save my energy for the weekend (to go to Aachen?), so I went up the street to see the synagogue. I took a picture of the front. It was a round building, very modern. Suddenly, a policeman started talking to me. He asked what I was doing, who I was, whether he could see my passport. (The second time my camera got me into trouble.) He took my driver’s license (I left my passport at the apartment.) He went back to his van, perhaps to check out my name (I guess after a week of reading official papers, I have created some–Robinson, the terrorist.) He let me go.

On the way to the train I stopped for (1) an Altbier, of course, and (2) a crepe filled with mozzarella and tomato slices. (There is a guy in the Dusseldorf train station (Hbf) who makes crepes all day. They are pretty good and not expensive at all.)

Day 12: Charlemagne’s City

I promised myself that I would see more of the area on the weekends, and I did. I decided that I would go to Aachen (usually known as Aix-le-Chapelle), the capitol of Charlemagne’s empire. By train it was only one hour from Cologne, someplace that I could easily see in one day.

I woke up late for some reason and had to run. The landlady and the other sub-letter were talking in a not-so-civil manner , although they were not quite arguing, about how long he would be staying. I was amused by the use of the English word “sorry,” which, like other direct borrowings into German, carried a slightly different meaning. Rather than conveying either sorrow or an apology, it was used to describe a fixed decision that would not be changed. I ran out of the apartment quickly.

I arrived in Aachen just after 11 am. The city is situated among several hills in a mildly forested area. I took a longer way of getting to the city center, west from the train station to one of the old city portals, and then north from the portal up to the cathedral. The city center maintains all its narrow streets. The foot traffic was dense (it was Saturday and, furthermore, the city was hosting a special shopping day for residents of local communities in Belgium and Netherlands.) The cathedral could be seen peaking out above the buildings as I approached. When I got there I found that the building was in the state that all European cathedrals seem to be in: renovation, covered with tarp and scaffolding. I could not go inside immediately–there were services in progress.

I climbed up the hill farther to the old Rathaus (city hall.) The building imitated the style of the church, although with more of a box-like structure (similar to the Rathuas in Munich, although on a smaller scale.) The Rathaus serves as an exhibition space. Along with other museums in the area, it hosted an exhibition called “Ex-oriente”: a look at three different crossroads of knowledge and culture in the early Middle Ages–Aachen, Bagdad, and Jerusalem. (Most of the pieces were on loan from European museums, which I found odd.) The exhibit, mostly from the Bagdad part, was housed in the great room at the top level. Along the way there were huge windows at which one could get scenic glimpses of the cathedral at just the perfect height. The great room itself would have been interesting to see itself as it was covered with paintings of old Burgers and city officials. However, the exhibit covered up most of the space, and the lights were fixed as to only shine on the exhibit pieces. The pieces themselves were equally exquisite and exotic. Lots of illuminate books, in Arabic, Hebrew, and Roman scripts; maps and other representations of the world; translations of holy works into different languages; some jewelry; mosaics and pieces thereof. Most interesting were those things that related to Islamic science and mathematic from the era. My favorite piece was a cloth chessboard.

The plaza in front of the Rathaus had become much busier. There were many cafes that were brimming with patrons. I could feel that many more people were going to come.

I went back to the cathedral. This was the famous church commissioned by Charlemagne to serve as the center of Christianity as well the capital of his empire. From what I understand, the cathedral has been extended several times since it was originally built. I am not certain which part was built first. The main worship space is a cylindrical building that is several stories high and has a domed ceiling. The throne sits on the supper level, looking down over the worship space. An arm extends outwardly from this cylinder, and this is the place for those involved in the performance of the service (clergy, choir, etc.) Considering how diminutive the lay space is to the clergy space, I would assume that this latter part was the newer addition (but still quite old.) The walls were decorated, but because of the low light I could not examine them in any detail.

I went around the corner to the cathedral “treasury.” The permanent exhibit contained examples of the library that Charlemagne assembled and his reliquaries (you could see what looked like the bone from a forearm.) The treasury contained the rest of the Exoriente exhibit, the Aachen and Jerusalem parts.

Thereafter I went to the Couven Museum, a Baroque house made by the Couven brothers and that is decorated with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century furnishings. This was more like what I expected at Jaegerhoff. There were several rooms tiled in porcelain. There were also some hallways that were completely painted with country scenes.

Afterward, I needed to sit–the knee again. I sat down to drink a beer (of course)–a Bitburger, from the town that Reagan made famous. I sat for a while and read in the main plaza. I considered going to another museum, one dedicated to local medieval religious art, but I did not feel like standing for that long. So I ate–spaetlze with cheese. I walked around a little more, bought some books (including a history of Carnival celebrations in the area), and went back to Cologne on the train. In my car were a bunch of older Germans who were partying. They circulated food as the train went.

I have a few pictures up, but they are not very good. Aachen was just not that friendly to my camera.
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