Sunday, July 20, 2003

Discovering my dissertation research Part VIII

Things have quieted down with the landlady. She is doing less nitpicking, and I feel more comfortable here.

Friday, 7/18: Clean and Pressed in the Belgische Veedel

No Dusseldorf for me today!!! I can only stand so much archive each week, and I have had enough!!! Instead, I did something more important: MY OWN LAUNDRY. Everything is so soft, and so not totally, unwearably wrinkled and crunchy. I sneaked out early with my carry-on case, which is black like the case for my laptop case, and went to a laundromat in Nippes, the part of town where I previously stayed in Cologne. A Turkish woman kept asking me how to operate the washers (I was confused myself.) While I was there I looked around the neighborhood. I could not get in contact with the man who previously rented to me. He ran a bar and owned several apartments in Nippes. I assumed that when I could not find him that times had turned badly for him and that he had to sell the business. However, Thomas Tilmann’s Café-Bar is still in operation. It was, however, closed for business (he tends to stay up late drinking and singing with the patrons, sometimes sleeping up to or beyond opening time at 4 pm.) Around the corner was the Wilhelm Platz market where I used to buy all sorts of great things: Dutch and Danish cheeses, Norwegian lox, Turkish flatbread and olives–together they made an awesome sandwich. I might have to go back there soon ...

I returned home, quickly hanging up my clothes, and talking to the landlady a little. Then I was oft again. I would just explore some part of Cologne. I bought some peaches and water to take with me.

The Belgische Veedel (the local dialect for Viertel, or quarter) is west of the old city, built just after 1919. Military fortifications once occupied the area, but they were ordered to be dismantled by the treaty of Versailles. This was good news for then-mayor Konrad Adenauer as he could use the space for his grander project of urban aggrandizement. One of the first project was the “refounding” of the university, which had been closed first by the French in the 1790s and then by the Prussians in the 1810s.

My walk started, as you might expect, at a church (very few of the old buildings would have survived the Allied bombings in WWII; churches tend to have been spared, being some of the more interesting architecture.) St. Michael was built 1902-6 in a neo-romantic style. I did not have the chance to go inside (there were no open doors.) What interested me about the church was its outer decoration–the mosaics that abutted the windows.

The neighborhood around the church was quiet; it looked as if some of the buildings had survived the bombings, but mostly there were newer apartments. There were several nice squares which were dominated by cafes, as is typical in Germany. I happened across a vegetarian restaurant-school, Five Season, where I ate several times during my previous visit.

I cam back south to Aachener Strasse (BTW, the names reflect places that are west of Cologne as these neighborhoods are west of the central city. It is a central axis for traffic. There was little that was interesting, until a came upon the Aachener Weiher, a pond surrounded by a park. The pond itself is square; the promenade comes right up to the water. I could not tell whether on not this was a man-made pond. There were several people enjoying the sun, others who were biking. To the south of the hill began the larger park; up the long hill were scores of people who were sunning themselves. Oddly, the grass was brown. It has not rained here significantly in the two and one half weeks since I arrived, but I am surprised at how dry it has been (is there a drought everywhere?). I stopped for a beer–a koelsch, but it was one of my least favorite kinds–and watched the people, and some of the birds. The sky was partially clouding, giving temporary respite. Across the pond I could see the restaurant for the Museum of East Asia Art. I didn’t go in.

After my beer I walked along the south side of the pond up to the small Lindenthaler Canal that ran for three blocks. It was nicely shaded; there were several storks on the edge of the canal. At the far end was the Christi Auferstehung (Christ’s Resurrection) Church. I was built by Gottfried Boehm in the 1960s. From the outside it looks like an unusual brick structure. There is a tower that, upon closer inspection, is also a spiral staircase. The inside was surprisingly constructed. It was a sparse space. The decorations were limited. There were stained glass windows (when I looked back at my pictures, I realized that they contained writing.) The crucifix was decentered, near the ceiling of the above the alter and to the left. There were walkways above the worship. To the side was a small memorial to Edith Stein.

I walked back past the canal, though the park, to my next destination (my guidebook suggested seeing the university next, which I have already seen and which was out of session.) I came upon the Auferstehungskirche (Church of the Restriction.) The pictures in the guidebook made it look very interesting. However, I was less than impressed when I saw it. It consists of the remaining tower of a church, its original presbytery, and a glass building designed to resemble the original church. The glass section, however, was office spaces; the church itself had been reduced to a small meeting hall.

I walked south east back into the center city down Roon Strasse. I came upon the Synagogue on Roon Street, a massive structure built 1895-9. Cologne had a large Jewish population up until the NS period, about 10,000 in the 1910s. There were several synagogues, all of which were destroyed on Kristallnacht; only this one was rebuilt. I could not go inside without a pre-arranged tour. Furthermore, it was close to five o’clock on Friday, and would not have wanted to offend anyone. It was a massive structure.

I took a quick look at the Herz-Jesu-Kirche, only because it was near an internet café.

The tour technically ended. I walked north up the Ring (one of the streets that replaced the medieval walls) to Ehrenstrasse, a sort of Melrose Avenue with hip stores, but without traffic. I ate again at Sproesslings, the vegetarian restaurant. I ate the South African baked vegetables; it used a mild African curry that probably made it the spiciest dish in Germany (Germans hate spiced foods.) I drank a glass of red wine from Baden. It was another enjoyable meal. It was still early, but I came back to the apartment to turn in early.
July 20: Essen

I promised that I would go away for the weekend. I did not. But I did visit Essen in the Ruhr Valley, the sixth largest city in Germany.

I woke up fairly early so that I got to Essen before 11. It is the main city of the Ruhr Gebiet, which was the main area for coal and steel production in Germany. Two of the main coal-magnate families, the Krupps and the Stinnes, made it the headquarters of their enterprises. My main interest in visiting Essen was to see sites associated with “the route to industrialization”: historic sites in the history of the development of industry in Continental Europe.

The first places I came to were, of course, buildings dedicated to worship. First was the Muenster (or Dom, depending on your usage ;<) .) It was first built in the ninth century and expanded over time. It was nice, nothing that blew my mind away. There was an interesting crypt at a lower level that was closed off to visitors.

Not far away was the Alte Synagogue. It was built in the 1910s and was miraculously left intact on Kristallnacht (although the interior was vandalized.) It was restored after WWII, but the Jewish community of Essen turned it over to the city in the 1980s after they build a newer synagogue. It was an impressive building. It was well lit inside by the sun. The city had put up several exhibits dedicated to the history of the community and to the history of NS in Essen.

I took a tram to the northern part of the city. The main reason for going to Essen in specific was to see the Zollverein, a mining facility built in the 1920s and a UNESCO site for industrial culture. It was built after a new cartel was formed, the Vereinigten Stahlwerks (United Steelworks), and was designed to reflect the spirit of confidence of the steel industry. The architects used Bauhaus principles to create a clean, aesthetic space. The engineers designed innovative machinery and production plans that are still replicated today. The Zollverein did not create any new mines; it combined several existing mines together. The coal miners entered the existing mines; the coal and iron were pulled up at the central facility, processed, and placed on trains.

The entry to the Zollverein is the Ehrenplatz, a courtyard with office buildings, center by the awesome Shaft XII Coal Elevator. The Elevator is nicknamed the “Eiffel Tower of the Ruhr.” I have seen the Eiffel Tower, and the Elevator impressed me more. It was designed to bring up only coal, in steel carts, at high speeds. It is a huge structure that looks like the Greek letter pi, made from thick steel, a powerful structure. There are four huge wheels. It was just the sort of thing that looks surreal in scope and function, explainable only through the heavy industry that dominated the twentieth century in which quantity rather than quality dominated production (especially in energy.) The buildings were designed to show clean lines and to be constructed cheaply and quickly (in fact, the cheapness of the materials has meant that the buildings have been stained due to years of production and rain.)

Behind the Ehrenplatz is the facility where the coal and steel were processed, sorted, washed, and shipped. These buildings were build high off the ground to allow trains to pass underneath; there were maybe twenty sets of tracks that ran through the plant. A long bridge, about thirty feet off the ground and a kilometer long, brought the workers to the plant from behind so that their blackened faces could not be seen from the Ehrenplatz (everything clean and bright.)

I took the tour of the inside of Shaft XII processing building. It looked like the film Metropolis–large, abstract machinery. The tour took two hours, and even with my weak German and the guides fast talking, I learned more about coal production than I would have wanted to know. The Elevator itself was operated by one man, who sat in the middle of a room in a chair, pulling levers back and forth, almost as if in a throne.

After that I rushed across to the south side of town to see the Villa Huegel, the residence of the Krupp family (keep all the filth on the other side of town!) I walked more than two miles from the tram stop to Villa, and I was sorry that I did. Not only was I in pain from the five mile-round trip, but the house itself was, on the inside, not very interesting. None of the rooms were still decorated, except with family portraits. Half of the villa was dedicated to the history of the family and steel production, which I already know well enough.

I went back to the center of town to search for my “book of local history,” something which I like to buy everywhere that I visit. I found a large history book, about two inches thick, well illustrated, for 35 euros. A little heavy, but worth it. I went to buy it. The cashier would not take my credit card unless it was an EC card (one that had a computer chip in it.) I had heard this enough, and I was tired of having my card with a magnetic strip turned down out of hand, so I walked out. I found another bookstore that had the same book. However, I found something for less that I would find more valuable to me in the future, and I bought it instead. I also looked around for a gift for Karen, who is at home taking care of the rabbits and the hamster. I haven´t found anything interesting yet ... her birthday comes up days after I get back from Germany.

I got back to Cologne later than I wanted. The trains ran behind schedule. After I cooked some dinner, I collapse–my body was too exhausted from hours of walking and standing. (Wait ... Wait ... Oh, my knees!)

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