arcanamundi: (Optimist's Dress)
( Feb. 25th, 2009 12:38 am)
I overslept a little because I was up too late packing after working on archive stuff til also too late. I dropped my camera but it is made of win. I took a test picture just to make sure. Authentic desk chaos! By the way: that prescription bottle? Is full of my favorite salt. Because I like salt. 

I had to kind of rocket through my morning routine and downstairs to check out this morning. The young man at the desk took my credit card. I said the bill looked like too much. He said it included the three meals I’d taken in the hotel. I was still dubious - they were very modest. He said that once I paid I’d see the complete breakdown on the hotel receipt. I paid; he printed the receipt; I looked at the receipt; I’d been overcharged 20 Euros a night for the five night stay. I politely noted the discrepancy; I produced my booking confirmation and the price that had been secured by credit card. He called over a manager. She immediately started screeching at me. Man, what is it with people who work in the travel industry? FIND YOUR MIDDLE.

So then I went to the library, and I did transcription, and the watermark pedagogue came out and *very* kindly showed me how to do it properly. I can’t imagine an archive in the world is going to let me do what she said was the very best thing: a rubbing. She uses a thin piece of plexiglass behind the page and, a piece of very soft, thin paper over it to pull up the watermark with a very soft lead. I know TWO people on this planet who could probably get archives to let them do that at will: 1) Arthur Field, the former amaneuensis of Kristeller and current editor of the new edition of the Iter Italicum, my former paleography prof and mayor of Nutbergia; 2) my mother, who has curly white hair and big blue eyes and glasses and a deep dimple. Nobody can say no to my mother. She looks all sweet and white-haired and like she would make you pie if you said yes.

So then you take your rubbing and you measure it in about a kazillion different ways (depending on the watermark) and plug the measurements into Piccard. Now, those of you who are hardcore with the history of the book are probably already all up in Piccard, but all I knew how to use until today was Briquet. Mostly because until now, all my base have been parchment. I don’t like paper. Paper is for vegans. I like parchment. Give me the skin of a stillborn baby goat polished to translucent smoothness with a pumice stone, and written upon with gall ink mixed with blood and wine. Accept no substitutes.

I liked hanging out with her. I liked that we both laughed at some of the watermarks as we flipped through the books. My favorites are the ox heads with the giant wobbly petaled flowers sticking out of their nogs. Like this one but with added whimsy:

I found my passages from De Universo b1p1 in one of my manuscripts at Erfurt (massive score – it can be such a trial to pinpoint content when there’s a high degree of variation in caput incipits and so on, and these are kind of huge texts – it felt like landing on Go in Monopoly). The archivist (ever the dollface wunderdamen) let me take pictures of it in the privacy of her office, because she said it was totally against the rules as reproduction is Amploniana’s primary revenue stream at this point but if all I wanted was three pictures, ok. I did make  arrangements to buy one reel of microfilm, the De legibus. If I need the whole part I of De universo in the future, I’ll order it then.

After wrapping things up in Erfurt (and can I just say that while the university is kind of depressingly awful, the Amploniana was to date the very best archive I’ve been in with respect to it being a real pleasure to interact with the people who worked there and their equipment being really top notch and the room being pleasant and comfortable to work in. We got off a little bit on the wrong foot because I hadn’t written ahead, but it all worked out in the end – I had three cheerful ladies all yammering and futzing around with the microfilm reader while trying to get it to print a clear page by the end. I felt loved and fussed over. Bunch of real sweethearts, those ladies. And like to laugh. Big laughers. I like Germans. Except Frau McScreamy.

I took the trolley back to the Altestaadt and walked back to the hotel, then had to drag my suitcase over about half a kilometer of uneven, gappy cobblestone back to said trolley. QUAINT and CHARMING were no longer words I was using for the cobblestones by the end, more colorful terms having come into play after about 100 meters.

Now I’m on the train. Supposedly I’ll have seven minutes to get from platform 4a to platform 11 in Wurzburg, but the train in was delayed so I’m guessing that at this point I’ll have three, four if I’m lucky. More likely, I’ll end up sitting around with plenty of time to take pictures of more sad donuts and delicious coffee while waiting for the next Wurzburg-Nurnberg train because of transfer FAIL. I was under the impression we were headed south but there is a ridiculous amount of snow on the ground here – it looks like two or three feet, and it’s piled up really comically in these giant snow fortresses at the train stations, and there are snow walls between the train tracks. I’m listening to Cocteau Twins and riding along looking out at the hills and the trees and the snow and transcribing manuscript images on my laptop and managing to waste time on the internet without even being ON the internet, which is saying something.

Update: When the train got in I made it from platforms 4 to 11 in about two minutes flat. Because I have tickets to the gun show. Seriously, I had pretty strong arms to begin with and I think that if I could figure out some (SANE AND REAONABLE) way to make my awful suitcase work my triceps I would be able to totally do away with the dreaded chalkboard swing.

Update: Ask me how cute I find the seven foot tall businessman sitting in the seats next to mine. Ask me how much I like his olive green corduroy suit and his dark blond crewcut and his big sweet Germanic face.

Update: Oops. Ask me how embarrassed I am that I just now noticed the wedding ring.

There is a French guy sitting on the other side of the table from me who is sticking his fingers in his ears to block out the sound of my typing and is glaring at me like I am asshole of the world while he reads his paper. And ladies and gentlemen, I am a fairly light typer. I mean seriously. I don’t like it (in fact I absolutely hate it) when people are typing in fairly quiet public places like they’re playing the fucking piano. They get an intense thought or maybe they’re ending a paragraph with a bullet and a bang, and you can tell because suddenly they are typing like they’re fucking Liberace playing to the cheap seats, BANG BANG BANGITY BANG BANG! And that might go on for five, ten minutes. And then the maestro sinks back in their seat, pleased as fucking punch, while the rest of us archival troglodytes are peeling our nerves off the ceiling. I actually once asked a girl sitting right next to me in the archive to chillax that shit one day, but my exact words were “S’il vous plait madame, peut-etre un peu moins Beethoven et un peu plus Chopin sur le clavier” and I said it with what I thought was just the right amount of haughty French bitchtasticalness. She knew she had been banging the shit out of that thing and stopped.

He got a lot cuter when a) he decided to flirt with me to distract me from the tickety-tack-typing and b) was actually a German reading a French paper. He is on his way to southern France to swim. He is tired of being cold. Awww. Cutie.

The Nuremberg train station is freaking scary and, I think, probably pretty dangerous at night unless you go right up top and out the main entrance. With all the shops closed, the walkways and shop areas below become an underground gathering place for a bunch of real unsavory types. Mostly gutterpunks with predatory eyes, but also hookers and pimps and the usual gross African dudes. This is not a snap on race, people. This is a snap on AFRICAN DUDES WHO FOLLOW CHICKS AROUND BUGGING THEM FOR SEX. There are too many of them in Europe. I walked the first length of the station with a girl I met on the train, but the second we parted ways I had an African dude glom onto me. I refused to look at or talk to him, so he stuck himself directly in my path. GO AWAY. I said. He insisted – the usual line of gross patter – and he was just way too close to me. Way too close. I was rapidly red-lining and really missing my mace, which I couldn't bring because: carry-on only. FUCK OFF, I said, giving him my most evil glare. Usually people understand that means: I am not a delicate flower, go pick another. Not this guy. I was by now at a streetcar station, but human beings suck and nobody was helping me out. They’re all like la la la. Where is a brutally violent, racist skinhead when you need one?! Seriously. I could have run back into the station and probably found one or twenty no problem, but of course skinheads and Palestinians are always calling me anti-Semitic names even though I'm not Jewish, so who knows. It could have backfired. I pulled out my phone and said I was calling the police, and he scrammed. I kept an eye on him though, and saw him meet up with a couple of other creepy African dudes, and they confabbed. They looked at me. And that was when I decided that I’d take a taxi after all. Hell yes. Also, I am *really* glad that I pull out of Nuremberg Saturday morning and not Friday night. Holy hell. That place was a pit. A real stinker.

Nuremberg itself, on the other hand, is shockingly beautiful. I had no idea. The center of town - die altestadt - is a late medieval walled city. The walls are intact. The moat/river etc. thing too. The buildings. The castle. It's as it was, but below it is a modern city. A little sea of lights. Flying by it in the cab, all I could think of was how it looked like an urban version of Mont St. Michel.

I don't know what to tell you - it is just insanely beautiful. Go to Flickr and type in Nuremberg. I was supposed to go to Fuessen to see Neuschwanstein Castle this weekend but you know what? It is really cold and snowy out there right now and maybe I will just skip the tiny pedestrian bridge from which the best view is had and that is a kazillion feet above ground which is probably closed because of ice anyway, and stay here if I can find someplace reasonably priced. And take some pictures. Because let's face it: I am not dressed for the Alps. At all. I have until tomorrow night to decide, then I have to cancel either the Fuessen hotel or the hotel I found in the old walled city that was only $10 more through the uni's deal with - plus hey: not having to spend hours on the train on Saturday and about 80 Euros for the ticket.

Pretty sure I'm staying in Nuremberg.

You know how in America when people are being funny about how big a space is you say “It’s big enough to hold the Nuremberg Rally in here!”? My hotel room in Nuremberg is big enough to hold the Nuremberg rallies in. For real. It’s a vast whistling chasm and it’s freaking freezing in here. Just to give you  a sense of scale, that's a king sized bed. I'm pretty sure this room is bigger than our living room and I don't in particular really like it. There's something very weird about how far away my suitcase is while still actually being in the room.

I ordered another one of those inexpensive German night time meat plates. It wasn’t as good as the last one – no Braunschweiger! also those eggs are against the Geneva Convention – but I made a sandwich for dinner and a sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch.

I ran across the street to the c-store (the presence of which simples my life up big time – I bet none of the minibars in this hotel get much of a workout with the Esso open all night across the way.

I bought a big bottle of water after trying the tap and finding it really gross. Also some exotic potato chips. I am totally committed to my goal of trying as many weird international potato chip flavors as possible. So far (since October, and Paris) I’ve had Roast Chicken and Thyme, Ham, Paprika, Balsamic Vinegar, Bolognese (GROSS), an English chip that claimed “Strong Cheese and Onion” but totally failed to deliver. I suspect that I will be doing most of my weird chip tasting in England, where they will be crisps.

I turned on the television and had one of those swoony "Oh hell, I died and woke up in David Lynch's head" moments. Remember that statue that I thought was some kind of bubonic plague thing? This guy:

The second I snapped on the television I saw:

Seriously: I think I'm still awake because my inner child is still freaked out and I'm going to have nightmares.


Suspect it is German equivalent of Squarepanted Spongy cartoon thing.

I watched Paris Hilton’s My New Best Friend or whatever, and it sucked. Predictably. It is a really poor substitute for The Simple Life. I rearranged the bed linens, which were all weird. If my mother had been the sort who made kids make their beds I'm sure I would have done it like this at some point just to be a total smartass.

Then I watched some WWF because it was the only thing in English, but actually the only part that was in English was the preliminary exposition, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I’ve never had any kind of beef with WWF, at least not since I saw Beyond the Mat. I’m not sure I’d watch a whole lot of it. But I liked the fifteen minutes I saw. I felt genuine appreciation for the dramatic arts involved and I am totally not shitting you. Of course, as many of you know, I am a very big fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and have seen every single one of his movies and most of them more than once.

Bis spater!

I’m tired as hell at the end of a long day after a short night’s sleep, but I really like Nuremberg. I had no idea that it was so cool. It’s beautiful here, at least the parts I’ve seen in the altestaadt (old part of the city, most of which is 16th century buildings) and new buildings built into old frames that still show their original bone structure. Getting myself squared away with the strassebahn was kind of confusing and involved yet another conversation with a random German in which language wasn’t much help, but I found a very jolly little old man and he seemed pleased as punch to give me a hand, so that all worked out.


And this sundial worked! More or less. And there were colors.

The further south I go in Germany, the happier I get. Also – here in Nuremberg it seems that practically everyone does in fact speak really good English, which relieves a lot of stress. This is the first place I’ve landed that I’ve been really, really, really happy to be in. Braunschweig and Erfurt are not lovely or interesting at all, though Erfut had a few good pictures in it. And I just kind of blew through Paris and Berlin on my way to archives. But I like it here. I walked the two miles home and took a zillion pictures as I went, and I’m really happy with some of them! Until today I only had two pictures that I really liked so far and I was feeling a little discouraged about that. But it's gorgeous here, and sunny, and everything looks better with a little light and shadow. Especially metal and stone.




During my lunchtime wander, I happened on the hauptmarkt.

I admired the spring flowers, and bought a huge bunch of incredibly delicious grapes – I’ve never had red grapes so delicious. They’re large and oblong, crisp as possible, sweet, but no starchiness in the flesh or bitter tannins in the skin. They’re just incredible. I also bought a little paper cone of dried strawberies  and a couple of apples. I bought a small wedge of Fourme d’Alembert cheese and a wedge of some other, unknown cheese that is soft and chewy and has a stripe of ash down the middle and a slightly orange rind. It’s nummy. I ate fruit and cheese on a bench in front of the church for lunch and then found a Starbucks (grande latte FTW!) and walked back to the library. It’s open from 10-12:30 and 1:30-4:00. Terrible working hours, really, but I think I’m getting by. I don’t like having to work so fast.

When I said in a prior post that Nuremberg reminds me of Mont Saint Michel (and if you saw the old illustration of it I put in that post you’ll know why!) I wasn’t kidding. Not a lot of flat surfaces here – you’re always going uphill or downhill.

And the archive is in no way handicap accessible. It’s up a hill that makes you really feel like you're fighting gravity for every inch of ground, for one.

Then three flights of stairs, the up and then around a corner and up another little narrow flight and down a little hall and you start thinking: I must not have understood those signs. And then you open an unmarked door and find yourself finally in a tiny room with big windows. Nice at first, but the other occupants were two Euro men of the old school re: hygiene and by the end of the day it reeked. It’s not necessarily a BO smell, it’s really just a kind of sickeningly strong animal smell. Like ferrets. I felt a little lightheaded and icky for the last hour or so – you kind of get used to the horrible smell and tune it out consciously,  but on some other level I ended up with a sore throat from the constant struggle not to throw up in my mouth pretty much full time.  And felt really dizzy. Euro stank!  Hopefully less of that tomorrow!

Nuremberg loves me so much more than Erfurt or Braunschweig. Right on my hotel block - a grocery store AND a laundromat.

Why is it 4x more expensive to do laundry in Paris? This isn't bad at all. Friday night plans, hoo-raw!

More pictures of beautiful Nuremberg:

And even more on my photostream! With captions.

Bis spater!



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