Sunday, August 10, 2003

I must apologize for not posting more frequently. I tried to post every two days when I first arrived; I think that I was successful for several weeks. It has become more difficult for me to take the time to compose these entries for a few reasons. One, avoiding the landlady takes time out of my day. I must eat out at least once; I usually do so after I have visited the archives for the day, just when I would have started writing. But I also tend to stay away from the apartment more often, talking walks at night, spending more time at the internet café reading the posts from my friends’ blogs (I spend too much time explaining diplomacy and European politics), and visiting Herr Tilmann’s bar. Second, I have more work to do. The archives in Cologne have a wealth of useful information for me. I feel more comfortable spending more time there. And because I can take pictures of documents, I feel the need to sift through more. I have also started to visit another archive, that for the Landschaftsverband (an institution for self-government.) Third, it has been too hot. After sitting in front of my computer for five to seven hours, I don’t feel like typing for another hour. The machine has produced enough heat itself. Fourth, I have been too long without my wife. I think that a month is about as long as I can go and still maintain my sanity. Luckily, I will see her in about one week.

August 4: A new place to start

I woke up early. I had to get to Brauweiler, a town just at the outskirts of Cologne. I would visit the archives of the Landschaftsverband, a curious and unique institution. It started out, in the early in the nineteenth century, as the assembly for the nascent Rhine Province. When Prussia set it up as part of a promise to give the residents more control over their affairs, but they never gave it any political powers. Representatives met, discussed political issues, maybe approved a budget, and that was it. It had no legislative competencies. Over time and by its own efforts, it developed competencies in various social services, becoming a strong administrative organization. When Germany united, the assembly lost its ability to discuss politics, but it could not be eliminated as an administrative organization.

Brauweiler is a way out from Cologne, as least from the view of public transportation. I caught a train that got me to my bus stop quickly, and from there I waited. I must have waited for forty-five minutes for the bus to arrive. It wove its way through narrow streets. It dropped me off in front of an old abbey. I was confused. This was supposed to be where the archives are located. I expected to see something that looked like a German government building; this looked like a Catholic school. I went up to the office. Yes, I was at the right place, but I would have to walk to the other end of this campus (whatever it was) to find the archive.

I met with on of the archivist. He gave me the typical German-academic speech, at the least the one the meant “prove yourself” rather than “you’re full of it.” Specifically, he was not convinced that I could prove my project without making reference to identity. The specific things that I was researching, namely all the efforts at changing the relations between periphery and state, intrigued him, and he gave me lots to look at that had to do with self-government. I budget three days to visit this archive–it became clear very quickly that I would have to use that time to the fullest.

That night I went to Five Seasons, a vegetarian restaurant attached to a culinary school. I ordered buckwheat crepes with avocado vegetables and drank a bottle of wine. It attempted to do very little otherwise. I bought several bottles of water and hid from the heat as best as possible.

August 5: More Zzzzzzz

I spent the day at the Cologne archives. I did not do very much otherwise. Again, the temperature was too constricting. The apartment itself has become warmer. It has not been very humid, but the length of the heat spell has eliminated much of the cool spots in the shade. I ordered a pizza and tried to do little.

August 6: How much koelsch?

More Cologne, more work. I stayed longer at the archives in order to get more done. I poured over files from Adenauer, many of them which were enlightening, some of which were amusing. I especially laughed at one hundred pages concerning a home that Adenauer wanted the government to buy for him. Adenauer was not simply the mayor, but also the presidents of the provincial parliament’s upper house, the state parliament’s upper house, and the state’s federal commission (as well as on the board of numerous commissions and private organizations–he was everywhere.) In this latter position, as the president of the Staatesrat, he argued that this position needed to have a state financed home in Mainz where the commission met. The letters concerned the location, the style of decoration, the fabric colors, etc. Was this an early “While you were out”? For lunch a took the tram out to Sproesslings for lunch.

I went back to the apartment to drop off my laptop. The landlady had washed all my clothes. They had an extra-special stiffness that was also sticky. For the previous two days I could not shave because there was a problem with the wash basin. I was not happy. I took the tram up to Nippes to hang out at Herr Tillmann’s. I drank a bunch, but it was mixed koelsch with coke, something which felt more appropriate for the heat. I also ate something. I spoke with several people at the bar. One man was curious about why an American would be so interested in Germany. I spoke to another man from Niger who married a German and is making his life as a musician. I spoke to him in French, which was a relief to me, but which also amused the other patrons (I come to this German bar to speak English and French.) Frau Tillmann came down briefly with their daughter, who had just had her third birthday.

August 7: You think this will become more interesting?

Another day in which I overworked myself and avoided the landlady but not the heat. I did not eat a proper meal. I had a bagel at one point. I picked up a book that I ordered. I read a book. Sorry.

August 8: Back to Brauweiler

I spent my day at the other archive, working as hard as I could. I spoke a lot with the archivist; I also spoke to a man who was collecting old travel pamphlets for his own interests (someone going to the archives for fun!). I was particularly hot–I would learn later that it would reach 105 F. Germans don’t use a lot of air conditioning, preferring other methods to regulate temperature. It is usually not too bad, but it had been too hot too long. I was very uncomfortable. My crunchy clothes made me feel worse as I sweated into them. I ate an ice cream before catching the bus back to Cologne. Fed up with the state of my wardrobe, I grabbed up everything, especially that which the landlady had cleaned, and I went to the laundromat. I drank some beer while I waited. At night, I wanted to do very little again. The sweat was all over me. I had several bottles of water. I wanted to cook at the apartment, to use up the remaining food that I had left. I started to smell something funny as I was boiling water. I became concerned, not for the operation of the stove but because of the landlady’s attitude. Would she blame me for whatever is wrong with the stove? I cleaned up in order to make it look as if I had touched nothing. I went out to Osho’s to eat. I bought a beer on the way back.

August 9: I finally went somewhere

The previous day the archivist recommended that I get out of Cologne after I told him with all my troubles with the landlady (“the tribulations of research,” he said.) I told him of my plan to visit Maastricht, which he recommended enthusiastically. I woke up early and got to the train station. I bought my ticket that day. The path that they put me on would take me north into Netherlands and than south to Maastricht. I did not think that this would have been the most direct path–going thought Aachen should have been quicker. I took the ticket. By the schedule it would take two and a half hours to get there. There were four minutes between stops. I was not happy, but I did not feel like arguing.

When I got to Maastricht I went to the office to get a different travel itinerary on the way back. They claimed that I had to take the same path back because specific changing points were mentioned on the ticket. The woman printed out a schedule for me. It would take three hours to get back! If I missed just one train, it could take another hour. I was not happy, I would have to leave by 6:30.

Maastricht is, conveniently, on the Maas River. It is in the southern tip of the Netherlands in Limbourg, an area that was split between Belgium and Netherlands (Liege is the big city in the Belgian part). It is growing more closely to Aachen, sharing an airport with the German city.

It was cooler in Maastricht than it had been in Cologne. In fact, at one of the change points I could smell what I thought was salt–was I close to the sea? (Probably not.) I walked over the Maas River to the old city. The city has a very old look but is still in very good shape (it needs a little color is all). I could not find the tourist office right away, but the street signs marked the way to the interesting sites. I could see several large churches just slightly up the hill. The first, Sint Jan, is the main Reformed Church in the town. I believe that the building was started as a Catholic church; the orientation of the church was change to put to pulpit in the center. Next door was Sint Servaas, the main Catholic church. This was much more interesting. The style of Flemish art took me aback–I am more accustomed to seeing medieval churches. This was very airy. The artwork was more colorful and brighter.

I walked down the hill to the town center. I had no idea where I was going. I found the town hall, which was not terribly interesting. I stopped to eat some french fries. I walked a little farther. Down one street was the most interesting building, very tall and very slender. It was one of the tallest buildings (non religious) that I had ever seen of its age. I stopped to take a picture. Through the viewfinder I could see a big T–ah, tourist information. I rushed down to buy a small guide and a map. I stopped at an outdoor café for a beer while I looked over the map. I circled several things on the map that I wanted to see. I made out an ordered in which I wanted to see them. I forgot that things would close at five–an museums would be closed as well. The things that I planned to see first were outside and more easily accessible in the early evening. I went to the southern part of the town to see the old walls, several levels of them that were built as the city expanded and as military technology improved. The walls were in good shape. Surrounding them were parklands. There were plenty of water fowl. Streams flowed through to the Maas. There were lots of interesting small buildings. I was very content wandering around while I photographed things. Looking at the old battlements took some time. I stopped once for anther beer–it was getting hotter, but not as bad as Cologne.

I went to a book store and bought two books, one that used the death of D’Artagnan while attacking the city as a means to talk about the wars with France, another about the split of Limbourg. It was 4.30. I was not certain how I could use my remaining time well. I thought about getting something to eat, but I could not find a restaurant that interested me immediately. Language gave me a scare. I can read some Dutch if it pertains to history or if it resembles German in some way. I don’t know the words for food, and I was concerned about not eating something of which I would disapprove. Furthermore, I resent eating the only vegetarian dish at an otherwise meat-loving restaurant. I had already decided that I would have to come back some day, preferably with Karen. So I gave up. I took the train back to Cologne. There was an half hour stop in Venlo, and I looked around a little.

Back in Cologne by 9, I went to Sproesslings again for dinner–bulgur balls in a gratin with vegetables and a big pitcher of mineral water. I was exhausted.

On a sad note, I learned that some friends of mine were robbed in Taos, New Mexico. There car was broken into and their computer stolen.
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