On Thurs day, early in the ddm*, I fired up the mighty engine of mago-mobile and thundered through the mist … well, sort of. Not too much thundering with a Hyundai Atos.
I had to make a delivery first and then found my way over a Bundesstraße to the Autobahn. A Bundesstraße is a two lane federal main road, normally well kept. Dry wheather, no snow here – it is the warmer part of Franconia – normal early morning commuting traffic. I found my Autobahn, even the right direction and after 20 minutes on it all of a sudden I was alone: No trucks, no cars, just sky and white fields, some wind. Driving North, the terrain continously rising, I realized on some hill that the blue line I was headed to is the Thuringian Forrest. In the middle of nowhere one of the brown signs that give note of remarkable sights: It showed a stylised wall with a watch-tower and Ehemalige Innerdeutsche Grenze written under it: Former inner-German border; on the left side of the highway I saw one remaining tower. Next came a sign informing the traveler that one is entering Thüringen – das grüne Herz Deutschlands, Thuringia – Germany’s Green Heart. Now.
I had looked on google maps to get an idea where I had to go to and, just to be sure, I had a printed description. It went all very smooth and I found my way even through the wilderness of one-way-lanes in an housing area right before the place where the archive should be. In Thuringia the roads are narrow and because we are now in the middle of the forrest area it is remarkably colder than in sunny Franconia. They have really impressing heaps of rotting snow there, they even have snow still on the sidewalks.
I parked the car and walked in the direction where the archive should be and than I recognized the building from a photograph I had seen on a web-page: It was the depandance or annex, the storing unit for files (Aktenlager). The picture was good, because it avoided to show the grey crumbling walls, the iron gate, barbed wire and floodlights of the old Stasi jail. This is not my imagination, but is written on the badge besides the entrance gate.
I stood in front of the rolling shudder gate and looked for the camera – ninety degrees to the right, two meters up on a metal pole inside the wall, pretty modern and I am sure still working – and studied the instructions how to make contact with the inmates. Pretty complicated, it was the original communication unit, they simply clinged it on a telephonline inside. One had to push some buttons and to dial a number. I spoke with a friendly female who came down and gave me directions on how to find my way to the main archive.
So I drove over land follwing a nice little river through the Thuringian Forrest. I came through villages that looked partly deserted, and saw a lot of ruined houses, next to brand new and to seemingly well restored historical ones. What amazed me was the number of industrial remains, ruins that is, mostly 19th century buildings in various states of decay – many of them remembered me of views and sights I encountered in Hungary, but there many of these things are still used, or at least were still in use, until the stately financial crisis and bancerott cut it all down.
Finally I found my Landesarchiv. A very friendly lady in the reading room was all excited that I showed up, we had telephoned and as you remember I should have visited the place two weeks earlier. She told me that I should in any case visit a very fine bakery just the second cross street to the right, and maybe I would like to stay a little here? I was friendly.
The reason I visited this place was a treaty that was mentioned in the literature about the monastery. The authors say that the monastery on one side and people from a certain village on the other side made this contract in re sheep drive over a lot of acres and fields near a deserted village belonging to the monastery. I am not interested in the names of these pieces of land, but want to know who makes this contract for the monastery? And it starts with “We Konrad XXX administrator of the monastery …” It is dated, hope I remember it right, 1565. I am too lazy to go and look it up now.
I do not know whether I mentioned it here before, but I found a notice in the writings of a Hennebergian historian of 18th century that the bishop of Würzburg took the monastery by violence in the beginning of the 1560s. The historian mentions that at this time there was only one inhabitant of the monastery left, Susanna was her name I guess.
I had the chance to talk with the head of the archive and he told me that the counts of Henneberg finally had to divide their land, they simply went bancerott and had to try to come out of depths. That partly explains why the Fürstbischof could take the area by force – the counts simply had not the means to defend themselves or their possessions, they could not afford to take action or to pay soldiers. And they adhered themselves to the new religion, Lutherism that is, what gave additional stimulus to the catholic re-vitalization of the second half of the 16th century.
The Franconians took the monastery without any feeling of guilt and let the monastical life end – after Susanna there are no more nuns. The economical organization survived and an administrator is installed who does business. With sheep. From 1580s onwards the proceeds of the monastery are used for the funding of the university, which means at this time first of all buildings, payment for any kind of personal and stuff, housing, materials. Like books.
When I drove home the newly built Autobahn was not that empty as in the morning, but it was a relaxed drive, one just has to watch out for them Audis and BMWs bolting by. Finally I made it home and only later in the evening I realized how tired I was. I slept for nearly twelve hours and Frayday was pretty done. Today I was tired the whole day and did not get half of the things fixed I had to do. I swear – tomorrow morning I will sit at my desk and work, no procrastination no more, no no no …
* “darkdamnmorning” courtesy of Savannah.