Friday, August 01, 2003

Discovering my dissertation research part 12

I have decided to avoid any activities that will get the landlady going. Specifically, I no longer cook anything complex. I eat out as much as I can.

July 29: Research at HAStK

I started my research at the Cologne Municipal Archives (HAStK.) I was very happy that I would not have to take the train for at least one hour today, and that I could sleep in late. The landlady left earlier. I would not have to see her until later, thank G-d.

I arrived at HAStK around 10. I was not sure what I should expect. I wrote to the archives several months ago. I realized that the historian responded was under the impression that I was interested in the era of the French Revolution, which I am not. Over the past two weeks I wrote several times trying to correct this impression, but I received no further responses. In fact, I had delayed coming to the archive because I wanted to straighten the matter out–I would have to be assigned another “Ansprachspartner” (an archivist who acts as a liason as well as an advisor) for the modern era. There was no problem. The original Ansprachspartner passed me off to another write away. He and I talked about my research (perhaps one of the most productive conversations I have ever had in German.) He and his colleague received my ideas with great enthusiasm. They brainstormed several creative approaches that I might take. I think that they enjoyed themselves. They gave me a whole stack of catalogs to look at (it might take me the rest of my trip to look through them all.) They also said that I could photograph documents with impunity; they even have a room with a camera mount to photograph vertically. Well, thank G-d again. I went straight to work. I was excited. Everyone was so nice and helpful.

I stopped on the way home at a falafel place near Neumarkt. I have decided that the best way to survive the next several weeks is to not use anything–at least not anything in the kitchen. I returned to the apartment, watched a little TV, got some work done. I fell asleep early.

July 30: Second Verse same as the first

Much of my day was just like the day before. I went to the archive. I read catalogs. I ordered some documents. I took lots of photos–about 160. Not all of it was important. One file was a discussion about whether it was more appropriate to spell the city’s name “Coeln” or “Koeln” (the former held until after WWI; it changed, as did many other cities in Germany, from C to K, and as did the names of many historical figures (Charlemagne changed from Carl der grosse to Karl der grosse.) One document was precious. It was a letter from a society for proper writing that said excessive use of C was inappropriate, that it should be pronounced like Z (which is like an English S), and that it was very “welsh” (which is how Rhinelanders used to refer to the French.) It produced a wonderful, quotealbe phrase (when translated): “Cologne is so un-German.” I also found a bunch of letters form Nazis that talked about why they hated Adenauer so much:

To Lord Mayor Adenauer in Cologne on the occasion of his refusal to dissolve the “public enemy” Prussian Parliament:

Thief, Traitor, Separatist, and anything else that you are. You have sold German power to Rome, you scoundrel. Now the German People will be stained; to the lamppost with you, you Schweinehund.

(The last sentence refers to the manner in which unpopular officials were executed for “treason”. Schweinehund is literally “pig dog”; it is usually translated as bastard (which makes no sense), but no English words can approach the vulgarity of this word for Germans.)

I stayed at the archives until after five. I walked around a little, not doing much really. In the evening I dropped in on Herr Tilmann to have a few koelsches and to have a bite to eat. He asked me about the progress of my research. I took a few pictures.

July 31: Last day in D’dorf

I had to go to Dusseldorf one last time. I had some photocopies to fetch, I had to say goodbye to the people who had helped me there, I had to use my train pass on the last day that it would be valid.

I was very quick at the archives. I tried to order some files, but found nothing interesting. One file was in such bad shape that they would not give it to me. The other was just off-topic. I talked to the historian who was helping me there. I asked him why there was such a poverty of documents for the period of the Second Empire. One possible explanation: the Nazis removed many documents to their own building, classified them, and they were consequentially destroyed in Allied bombings.

I was out by noon. I had a big day planned. What would I see? Anything. Everything. I started with the city museum, which is part history and part fine arts. It was near to the river by one of the ponds (Dusseldorf has such beautiful parks.) The Stadmuseum is large. The first floor is devoted to history: urban growth, the various houses that have ruled over Juelich-Berg-Cleve (the right side of the Rhine); archaelogy, lots of models that showed the urban layout and the architecture, portraits of rulers, their furniture and insignias, etc. The second floor finished up the theme, ending somewhere in the nineteenth century. Most of the second floor contained more modern stuff, namely “Junge Rheinland”, and arts movement from the nineteen twenties and thirties. The artwork was excellent; I was surprised that I had never heard of many of these painters and sculptors. Then it hit me–my camera. I ran down to the lowest levels to the lockers to get my camera. On the way up I heard the bad news–my knees. I knew that I would have problems if I were to stand too long. I decided that I would go through this one museum (I was discovering so many important things) and I would call it quits. I took all the photos I wanted; many were blurry as I could not use a flash or hold the camera steady for so long. I was happy with what came out. The last section of the museum was a combination of contemporary art and history. Dusseldorf appears to have had a active arts community over the past fifty years.

I grabbed to quick Altbiers before heading to the train station. Before I got on the train, I visited the guy at the creperie one last time. The train was late and crowded. At least I had a seat. I stayed in the rest of the night looking over my notes.

Plans for the weekend

So am I going somewhere interesting this weekend. No. I am only going to Bonn, which is so close to Cologne that two tram lines run between them. Bonn is hosting a free musical festival. Bratsh, a Roma band from France, will be playing.
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