Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Here it is: the last post on my trip to Germany!!! If you need to read from the beginning, look back into the archives. The trip starts in early July, and there are about fifteen installments.

Discovering my dissertation research part ?: The Final Stretch

August 10: A Day without a plan

I did not do much on Sunday. I realized that I missed a golden opportunity as the landlady had been absent on Friday and Saturday. I looked at a few of the Churches that I had not seen, most notably Gross St. Martin, which was right near the shore and appropriately large-ish. I also returned to the Wallraf-Richartz Museums in order to see their special exhibit to Cranach, although the focus was more on the collecting of his work rather than the artist himself.

August 11

I took the train and bus out to Pulheim one last time. The archivist was very friendly and helpful, and I got a lot of work done. The temperature had soared again. I was less than happy. I don't mind hot, dry weather, but the heat was not letting up. I needed some break.

At night I went back to Tilmann's bar. Herr Tilmann seemed sad that I would be leaving. He plied me with several shots of cold vodka, which mixed with the koelsch that I was drinking with the expected results. I spoke to some of the Africans who are typically drawn to the cafe—Herr Tilmann's wife comes from Congo-Zaire and attracts many of the local Francophones. He knows no French, which is comical. I also discovered that Frau Tilmann is featured in a book about foreigners in Germany: I saw her picture on a billboard advertising the book.

August 12

Another day without much happening. I went to the Cologne municipal archives and read through a ton of files. The weather was again miserable. However, it was sufficiently cool that I could return to the chocolate museum to replace what had melted in the original chocolate disaster so that I could bring it home to Karen. I also bought about 5 lbs (2 kg to be exact) of gummy bears. Karen bought tickets for us to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Hartford for the night after I got back. Gummy bears have a prominent scene in the play/movie, and the idea of a whole store dedicated to gummy products, called Baeren Land, tickled her. However, I could not buy most of the things because they derived their gelatin from pig. Pig? Well, they had some things made from plant-based thickeners that were very fruity tasting. However, the gummy strong men would have to remain in Germany. I also found an incredible mug that had a scene from the city. I can only describe it as the coolest souvenir ever made—very artsy.

I was hit with disappointment later. Uli could not take me in. He had gone crazy from the heat and had to leave Mannheim. He went to visit a friend in the Pfalz forest. I could not be too angry— Uli had come through for me many times. His timing was horrible. I had to tell the landlady that I would be staying until the Thursday morning. I would also have to find a hotel for the night in Stuttgart that was sufficiently near the train station that I could walk there in the morning. Rather than make solid arrangements, I decided to find a hotel when arrived.

August 13

The last day at the municipal archives. Hallelujah! I did not look at any files. Instead, I looked through books, compiling a list of books for a future bibliography (whether I would read them or not is still to be seen.) I also met another student, Gisela, who is working on identity in the Rhine province. I thanked the archivists who helped me. I was out by noon. I went to Sproesslings one last time.

That night I packed my stuff and cleaned up. I had collected many books over the weeks I had been in Cologne. They were not too bulky, but they were very heavy. I re-packed several times, looking for an optimal balance between the weight I would sling across my neck and would have roll behind me. I swept every place that I could reach. I thought that I did a pretty good job.

August 14: I am on the road to Stuttgart

I slept little. I finally got to sleep at 5, and I woke up later than I wanted. I told the landlady that I was ready to leave. I was anxious. She started to pull games. First the phone bill. I owed her thirty euros for two months of phone. I could not argue too much with this: on the realtors' website it said something special about the phone that I could not understand. I only objected to two months when I had been there for only a month and a half. Ok, moving on. Ten euros for staying an extra night. Excuse me! "I am leaving earlier by several days. I have all the e-mails to prove it!" She was going to charge me extra for cleaning up the room, saying that it would take her five hours. Again, I protested. The placed in the room that needed cleaning were inaccessible to me because they were piled high with her crap. I was very sorry that I could not clean a part of the windowsill that had gotten dusty, but there were six or seven large ferns in the way that I could not move. Every place that I could inhabit was spotless. She complained that I had been in the apartment too often. I was shocked. I paid to live there, not to give her money for nothing. What an incredible complaint! However, she backed down. Finally, fees for cleaning supplies and toiletries, etc. Finally, I asked her for what she would give back to me. 150 euros. Ok, I am being cheated out of 25 euros (if the phone thing is correct.) I am out of here. Goodbye, insane woman.

While I waited for the local train to take me to the main train station, I saw Rene. He asked how well I did with the deposit. He told me that I got more money back than anyone else in the past. He expected to get nothing back from the landlady. I was very happy. I felt like celebrating. Americans screw over Argentinians once more (reference to the collapse of the dollar zone.)

I bought a train ticket to Stuttgart. I specified a train that would be cheaper rather than allow them to put me on the really fast train that would cost twice as much. I made an excellent choice. The train that I took hugged the left bank of the Rhine all the way down. I saw all the old castles and vineyards, as well as the small towns and churches. I must take Karen on this train, it is too beautiful.

The beauty ended after Mainz. The direction of the train changed to go to Stuttgart. There were more hills, but nothing of interest to look at. When I got to the city, I walked right away to the tourist office to get a room for the night. 60 euros and right across the street from the station. The room was very small, more like a dorm, but it was very clean, the staff was very nice, and I had a view of the vineyards above the city.

I decided that I would give Stuttgart a chance. I have been through the city already four times. No one ever gave me any reason to see it, and I felt that it was unfriendly and uninteresting. So I walked around. Some of the government buildings were interesting, especially the baroque palaces. I went to the state history museum: the upper level had great displays on the Black Forrest, environment and the development of the cities and other settlements. However, Stuttgarters are mean people. They are pushy, bossy, rude. I felt uncomfortable.

I ate an a Vietnamese restaurant that night—curried tofu and pumpkin along with vegetable wonton soup. Excellent.

August 15: Millions of people out of power and I could not be happier

I woke up early, thanks to a phone call from Karen. It was a quick walk to the train station, which would take me right to the airport terminal. When I got there, the airline officials told me that there would be a problem. The plane that would take me to New York had not arrived at Zurich. I had heard something about the power outages over the news, but I did not think that they would affect me (I thought that JFK would be busy, nothing more.) They would have to keep me in Zurich over night if they could not reroute me. I chimed in: can you get me to Boston? All of the sudden, there were possibilities. They put me on Air France flights through Paris to Boston that would arrive by 6 EDT. What joy! Had I gone to New York, I would have had to have taken a cab to Grand Central Station and a train to New Haven before Karen would pick me up (she is afraid of driving in New York.) I could ask Karen to pick me up directly, and it would be a shorter trip home. Swiss Air gave me a voucher for a meal to fill up the extra time that I would be waiting.

The flights were uneventful. Air France was better than I expected, giving me a vegetarian meal on the fly and two small bottles of wine. I "spoke" to the guy next to me. When I was given the wine, the attendant forgot to give me a glass. He gave me his glass and ran back to get another for himself. Unfortunately, he spoke only Spanish. We communicated through whichever words we could figure out through various languages. He was going with six friends, none of whom spoke English, to New York for a vacation. Seven Spaniards in New York, watch out.

I was so happy when I saw Karen at the airport. I kissed her right away. The end.
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