arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 1st, 2009 10:34 am)

Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of food, your closet full of clothes - with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That's not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating." --Mark Twain.

First, an older video clip I made by sticking my camera up against a train window:

Definitely one of my least favorite things about traveling in Germany in the off-season is that the train announcer will come on and say things, and I have NO idea what he's saying. I recognize the names of towns. He could be saying "DUE TO A ZOMBIE ATTACK IN MAGDEBURG WE ARE DIVERTING TO FRANKFURT" and I wouldn't know. More rationally, he could be saying that the train was be rerouted for mundane reasons, or that it's going to be hours late as a result, and again: I wouldn't have the slightest idea. It requires a certain amount of "Whatever. It's probably not important or people would be groaning/screaming/panicking." I look around. If nobody is reacting badly, I proceed to the assumption that the dude is just announcing the location of the restaurant car on the train, the weather, or other trivialities. So far so good.

There was a transportation strike in Nuremberg on Friday (and bless the sweet lady who told me that I was wasting my time waiting for the streetcar, as I had no idea), so I walked to the archive - about 2 miles in, and 2 miles back.

Even though it was cold and sleeting I enjoyed my walks both ways and felt good after, though I was narcoleptically tired around 11 this morning. It was the same way when I was going to the gym early in the morning back in Bloomington - asleep on my feet by noon, and feeling like a little kid who is too tired to take a nap for the rest of the day. Still, it was a productive enough day. One of my mss is not viewable because it's in bad condition and has also never been microfilmed. Bad news. I was unable to convince the archivist to allow me to take digital pictures without a flash. She asked someone in the library, and said they'd do it for me, at a cost of 5 Euro per snap, and would get one page on each. What?! That's 10 Euros per folio. Unbelievable. I protested. She agreed to at least get both pages in each snap. God only knows how good the quality will be. My camera is fantastic on this sort of thing. I feel really vexed by the attitude in some archives. If Richelieu will permit flashless photography, who the hell are you to refuse it? SERIOUSLY. Compare to the Amploniana, which only wanted 15 Euros per manuscript up to 50 ff, with .30 eurocents for each folio after. Very reasonable. Or Richelieu, which permits photography. Or Brunswick, which also permits photography. Grrr. Nuremberg is way too big for its tiny, stinky lesesaal britches.

This is the library entrance. The library was built in the 14th century:

Closer to the tower door:

I went to the grocery store to mail some postcards and discovered that they have Easter eggs ALL THE TIME. Technically they are for little kids. These are the eggs at the bakery, but they also come in regular egg boxes but with the kind of bright designs and fonts that appeal to small children. And me.

Germans like soft-boiled eggs in egg cups. The felt tulips you see here? Are egg warmers. They keep your soft-boiled egg warm until you crack it and take off the top and scoop the rest out with a teaspoon. A process I completely failed at the first time I tried. What a mess I made!

I bought some groceries and mailed some postcards. Blood-orange juice, wine, studentenfutter (trail mix = student food), whipped yogurt with tropical fruit, chocolate milk, raspberry yogurt with chocolate wheat puffs, beer. You know. Essentials.

This "Welcome to Nuremberg" sign was at the strassebahn stop that I stopped at this morning. And waited at. Until some extraordinarily kind woman fluent in English came out of a shop to tell me that there was a strike. My guess is that passing the time taking pictures of strassebahn stop posters gave me away as a tourist.

I see a Frenchman in a beret. I see a Sikh in a turban. I see a geisha and I see a European idea of a Mexican in a serape. I see a woman in a burkha. I see a Bavarian dude with a moustache. I see a shitload of albinos. And I see a fucking polar bear. What. Polar bear?

Also, that little old lady in the grey bun is wearing a pin with a face on it. And the face? That's pretty much Hitler. Looking surprised. WTF HITLER. Seriously. WHAT THE FUCK, HITLER FACE?! I was under the impression Germany wasn't exactly all about celebrating or venerating or repping that dude. Brrrr. Am I missing something? Is there some kind of widespread reconciliation of modern Germans with their Nazi past thing going on? Because this button isn't on a scary skinhead. It's on a sweet lace-collar ruffled silver bun wearing grammykins!

Did I ever tell you guys about the friend of mine in Lille who took me home to her village to show an American to her family and her grandmother turned out to be an anti-American Vichy? A Nazi sympathizer who was STILL BITTER that Hitler LOST and had a living room full of Nazi crap and also a full collection of John Wayne movies on VHS? Because she thought John Wayne was French on account of how he speaks French in her movies, which is because they are DUBBED but seriously: try explaining that to Nazi Grandma. I did. It didn't go well. That was one hell of a trip. Highlights included: everyone in the village coming out to gawp at me; seeing an adult man with Down's syndrome tied to a table like a dog "for his own good" (this was earnestly explained to me when I freaked out about it), and Mari's aunt's apartment. She collected porcelain masks. They covered almost every inch of her walls. It was absolutely terrifying. Also, having her father ask me for money, tell me I lived in a McDonald's, and putting on a big show of demonstrating a vacuum cleaner to me, as I'd never seen one on account of how rich I was. Horrifying people. Absolutely horrifying. Riding back to Lille in Mari's car listening to Richard Marx with the windows open, I was about as happy as I'd ever been in my life: just because I was leaving that place and knew I'd never be back.

At lunchtime on Friday I wandered around the corner to a place that served breakfast all day. I was deliriously happy with my milchkaffe (kind of like a latte) and orange juice and my copy of the Herald Tribune (ahhhhhh, something to read in English!) My mistake was thinking I'd ordered a fry-up with eggs and cheese and sausage and veg. of course what came out were cold cuts, a soft-boiled egg, a wedge of tomato, a few slices of cheese, and a wedge of red pepper and a basket of bread. Oh well. I ate some of it. Mostly the cheese and bread. I am sick to death of cold cuts. It's like the national food. There was also a delicious marmalade made with apple and ginger.

I spent the afternoon looking at a couple of 15th century first editions of William's work in incunabula. It confused me. I'm still confused. I should probably ignore the incunabula. Technically I don't suppose they're that important for my purposes, but I found aspects of one of them particularly weird and intriguing and curious vis-a-vis the manuscript tradition, such as my understanding of it is at this early date, and if I ever do a formal stemma (let me tell you how freaking unlikely this is) I guess I'll come back to it.

I left the old city out of a northern gate and walked west to get to Bucherstrasse, seeing about a kilometer of city wall in the process.

See that scaly grey stuff on the wall closest to the lens? Here's a macro shot of it:

Photo of the hotel I decided not to stay at. THANK GOD. For an extra $15, I got a *much* better deal.

Something about this made me feel vaguely sad.

My bad German read this as "I thank you for letting YOUR DOG shitting in YOUR [wahnzimmer - somethingroom... Outhouse? Bathroom?] Thank you!" How close did I get?

On Saturday I did laundry in the morning after a lie-in and packing up.

At least it didn't cost me an arm and a leg. Why would it be four times more expensive in Paris?

Then I headed to my weekend hotel room in the altestaadt, which I got to by about 2:30. I took a wrong turn down the street parallel to the one my hotel is on and discovered the Nuremberg red light district, homeless shelter, and methadone clinic. Oops. Nobody bugged me, but I wasn't looking anyone in the eye, either. I should have checked wikitravel, not just wikipedia, which offers the useful tip: "Between Färbertor and Spittlertor (Plärrer) you should avoid the inner side of the wall, as it runs along Nuremberg's red light district." At least the room was pretty nice for $60 a night:

I find my ability to end up staying in or near to red light districts a source of frequent dismay. I know that it's the direct and inevitable result of only booking cheap hotel rooms, not some personal knack, but still. I'm sure they're not generally dangerous, they're just uncomfortable places to end up as a solitary female traveler. Walking out of it for dinner was a mess, and I ended up choosing a direction and loping without looking to either side until I was clear of the hood. At first I stopped in a takeout place that had frikadelle, but my attempts to communicate with the guy behind the counter weren't good, and then this gum-popping teenaged hooker came in yammering about ketchup and I got really light-headed from just the general weirdness of the whole situation. I apologized and bailed, eventually finding an organic grocery store up Farberstrasse, and picking up a few things for dinner.

Red wine. Bread. cheese. Some people food. That's what I think of the ubiquitous cans of vegan pate-a-tartiner/pasten/?spread? that you see in the organic grocery stores here. They come in cans just like cat food, and they come in kazillions of flavors. They remind me of Little Edie feeding Big Edie cat food and calling it pate in Grey Gardens. I've never actually bought any before, but my recent discovery of Braunschweiger emboldened me to give it a whirl. And you know what? Really not bad. Actually pretty good. I bought mushroom. I wish I hadn't fed the ingredients into Babelfish. "Moderate bread upstroke on yeast basis with mushrooms prima basic! Added: Water, vegetable fat, feeding yeast, mushrooms, (10%), potato flour, garlic, fennel, wheat germ, sea salt, spices, herbs, garlic." Gross. But seriously, it was pretty tasty. It didn't taste like yeast goo.

I watched the Franconian version of MTV. It involved a lot of traditional folk rolk songs, all of which had videos that featured the singer(s) frolicking in snow while wearing outerwear. I watched it for a long time. It was almost as hypnotizing as FashionTV. Which none of my hotel rooms have had so far.

I wasn't in much of a hurry to do anything on Sunday because it was grey and raining again. I took a shower and tidied the room and went downstairs for breakfast and was treated to a long, uncomfortable round of "Let's stare at the foreigner and talk about her and her country and that she doesn't speak any German." Since they don't know any English, they don't realize that it's a lot easier for me to understand them than it is to speak to them. It's not like Amerikanische and USA and Anglisch are all that hard to catch, and it was pretty clear from what I could catch involving familiar verbs like kannst and sprechen and how they were smirking and laughing what was going on - also, two of them became pretty pissed off when another American woman came into the breakfast room and we started speaking in English to each other, and that chick started yelling at us in German while her friends laughed. The bad news is that these? Were hotel employees. I don't expect everyone to speak English, but I do expect hotel workers to not be actively xenophobic! And you know what? Maybe they should know a little English in urban hotels. It is pretty much the international lingua franca at this point, not German. You can't expect glamorous world travelers to learn the language of every single country they're visiting. THREE times I've been asked by a German why I would come here without speaking the language. Provincial much? If the Allies hadn't pwned Germany in WWII maybe things would be different, but now they need to just suck it up.

Yes, I am getting cranky. The nice thing about this crazy archive tour is that I'm never anywhere annoying for very long. I leave for Munich in the morning. I'm staying at the "arthotel" there. I'm hoping to be in Munich by 10 or so, check in and drop off my luggage and get to the archive.

Does anyone know if Austria is more English-knowing than Germany is? Like Switzerland? Oh god please.

4 weeks left til I'm on the France/Belgium/UK leg of the trip.

I walked for two and a half hours this morning. I stopped for a few minutes a few times just to be still, but mostly I walked. And Nuremberg was like this:

I TOOK THIS PICTURE AT NOON. I felt like I was starring in a sequel of Night of the Comet.

I came around a corner and this thing was right in front of me, two feet off and larger than life, and I said: "Holy shit." Because I am very articulate when I'm surprised.

This is the "end" of a sculpture in the round, the title of which loosely translates to "Carousel of Marriage" - it depicts marriage as beginning with indolent young sensuality, graduating to the futile attempt of the married man to control his wife, the wife living large while he slowly dies of deprivation, the wife as mother feeding her children in a swan boat (the swan is plucking its own heart out with its beak), and finally, the skeletalized couple depicting old age, in which the elderly wife chokes her husband to death while her wrinkled dugs hang in his face.

I think it's probably the most misogynistic, ugly, pessimistic, disturbing piece of art I've ever seen. So I took a bunch of pictures of it.

The naked newlyweds are singing to each other:

The realization that the wife cannot be controlled, even if she's technically bound. She's depicted as pregnant, loud, and obnoxious, hands on hips, this pugnacious chin and mouth open in a willful rant you can practically HEAR while he's recoiling and yanking on her chain at the same time. He is still naked, but she has on a housedress.

Soon she has taken over everything, and is depicted as a voracious all-consumer and he a withered, starved shell:

Note that she is eating HIS piece of cake and drinking HIS coffee. Again, she is clothed and ornamented, and he's naked.

Detail of the above. This one freaks me out a little because I know a woman who has this EXACT SAME FACE. *Spooky.*

Contrasted with the self-sacrificing mother:

Different angle of same:

Old age:

Also seen:

This was on a church fountain. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. OR ELSE.

An outside observer of these public works of art visible to any and all passing children might conclude that Germans are seriously fucked up, that it is at least in part the fault of public art and that it's not exactly the biggest surprise in the world that psychology and psychoanalysis were basically born here, nor a surprise that they are all so crazy about brightly colored clown shoes and whimsical eggwarmers. Poor little liebchens. Whistling in the dark.

A couple of pretty pictures from the Lorenzkirche to wash away the horror:

It was so dark and cold in that church - much colder than it was outside. I watched my breath puffing out little clouds of vapor in the shadow light of the candles and thought about how much I hadn't cared for going to church at sunny, heated First Christian Church of Manhattan, Kansas. Wow. Try going here on Sundays, kid-I-was, and then show me your whine and cheese platter!

No idea what's for dinner tonight - since Nuremberg is evidently quite entirely closed for the day, I suspect that it is minibar peanuts and what's left of the vegan pate (I'm going to have to be pretty hungry before that tastes good again) and crackers. I may go out for a bit of a wander though. Am hoping that the hookers don't work on Sundays.

Bis spater!


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