Suebia, eh ?

I realised this morning that one can hear emptiness.
All the usual sounds that can be expected in a large appartement building located in a reasonable quiet neighbourhood, with some green around – even large trees -, and parking spaces over ground, balcony door open, through a bog-normal Wednesday late morning, like water rushing through pipes for whatever use, elevator doors clunking, car doors slamming, trees rushing in a lovely breeze, the occasional toddler yelling a bit – just stand there with eyes closed & listen … the place is empty.
Of course there may be scientific explanations that involve rugs, curtains and pictures on the wall, let’s not forget the lack of ameublement, but this is not what I mean.
It is not about silly sound waves behaving different, is not something missing, it is something else, something additional I can’t name.
To step in routinely like done for ages – “ages” may mean ten years and perhaps a bit more – comes to a halt when the usual choreography of moves stops because there is no more place to put the wallet and the keys – the shoe cabinet in the Diele (it is impossible to translate the name of this little anteroom with “hallway” or “vestibule” – it is a Diele or a Flur ) is gone.
Obviously something changed.
It is easy to say “And of course I am ready to move for this job”, it is easy to plan such a move, and have a look at the different pieces of stuff that surround one. It is a bit more challenging to search for and finally find a new appartement that “fits the bill” in all – or at least all serious – points. It can be a bit of a task to fill boxes with stuff – that seemingly has a life of its own, even after years of culling ; this usually leads to some introspection – and finally “the day” arrives : All is prepared, professionals move in, and within two hours the place is cleared, engines start, and something new begins. This can be a bit upsetting, worrying even.
DOn’t get me wrong, dear reader : This is not about an ending of sorts, a drama, it is about the aftermath of a new beginning.
It is only about a middle-aged man who switches off the hoover in a large empty room, closes his eyes, and listens.

… bumblegrumble …

Ach … the clothes are in the machine which is quietly rumbling away. The room is cleared, reasonably, at least one can turn around without brushing stuff from tables – as if I had tables here – or move without raising plumes of dust. Things necessary are bought, even some unnecessary stuff, no need to go out then. Dishes washed, kitchen surfaces cleared, oh what a difference this makes ; bottles brought out.
Some things dealt with via computer, so even the desk appears to be less cramped, less paper.
Time to do something serious, like write this damn article. “… you’ll feel even better once you’ve got your article done …”, as IDV remarks absolutely aptly in the comments to the previous post, because only afterwards I can turn to the flotsam & jetsam. Good to learn btw that IDV’s blog is now reachable again, seemingly he has sorted his French troubles out.
“Write an article” – pfff, sounds a bit pompous, doesn’t it ?!
It’s just a very small scribble about a place here in the village. Promised the terrible text months ago to the friendly lady who runs this historical working group (“Arbeitskreis”) that prepares some notes about the must-see-attractions of the village. All in connection with the “Landesgartenschau” that will be held in the neighbouring “city”, and from what the adjacent villages wish to benefit in the form of visitors, tourists etc. This leads to general cleaning and brushing-up, planting of trees, revamping of garden benches, the demarcating of foot trails for avid wanderers including signs so that they don’t get lost in the Franconian wilderness. And when they stand at attractive points of interest they can point their smart phones on a sign with one of these squares that have a special name I forgot, get an internet connection and a smart voice (sometimes mine) explains what the wanderer sees – for example the “Roman Bridge“. Or tells what there is to know about the fountains – I happily got rid of this assignment – or the church, the library, you get the idea.
And I am stuck with the most unrewarding topic imaginable, even worse than the cemetery : Ein Schießplatz ! A military shooting range. Good GOd … I have a problem.
I can not think of one way to make this thing “attractive”. Especially because it is not used now for some years – the visitors will stand in front of a carefully closed metal gate decorated with a bit of rusty barbed wire – of the Nato kind with razor-blades, not the original German one.
The adjacent nice city on the banks of the river Main is today advertising itself with “Baroque” and “wine” – both things are fitting. But the city always had a military side too – remember that the most eye-catching building when you approach the town, is after all a fortress sitting on a hill over the civilian settlement. Through the nineteenth century, as Bavarian town, there was a garrison. And of course the military built-up in the 1930s did not pass the baroque beauty : New barracks, a large new military hospital, some bunkers were built in the area of the city – and a shooting range for small arms, Handfeuerwaffen (weapons you shoot while you hold them in your hands, like pistols and rifles, single action, half-automated, fully automated) was constructed on the Eastern area of this village.
On the Western side was an artillery shooting range that ignored the village’s borders. Now and then the cannoneers missed their targets and fired their grenades into the villagers’ gardens, GOd they had to learn somewhere, n’est-pas ?
The Schießplatz was used by the German Wehrmacht (“Where the fascist forces learnt their trade”- ?) until the end of the Wehrmacht. The place was put in use again by the Bundeswehr sometimes in the late fifties (I think) and at some (unknown) point taken over by the American Forces, until they relocated, reduced their forces and military bases in the whole of Germany and Middle Europe and regrouped worldwide. Then the Schießplatz was handed back via the German Federal State to the community, the village I live in – and since this day the village wonders what to do with that installation : Mountain bike fun arena ? Airsoft-blamm-splatter arena ? Just ignore and let it become a habitat for what-ever-wants-to-live-there ? No clue at all. Accepted all round is only that the public coffers are empty and that private housing is out of question.
And what do I tell the happy wanderers ? Ach …

Get a Fix

As we all know – at least those of my venerable readers, who grew up listening to German Schlager (“hits”) -, es gibt kein Bier auf Hawaii, there’s no beer on Hawaii. XL may know better, and feel free to correct me please, but this is my level of information.
But there is (Bavarian) beer in Greece. The oldest trade mark is “Fix“. According wikipedia (Ger., Eng.) it is the greekisied version of the German name “Fuchs”. In the 1830s Johann Georg FUCHS started a small brewery in Athens, later the enterprise grew and became a de facto monopolist right through to the 1980s. The family came originally from the Bavarian (better : Franconian) Spessart.
Why Greece ? Because they followed the newly appointed Greek king OTTO (1815-1867) (Ger., Eng.), former Bavarian Prince & second son of king LUDWIG I. of Bavaria (1786-1868) (Ger., Eng.). OTTOs reign (1832-1862) was, after all, unsuccessful, and – with all due respect – I find his father the more interesting historical figure & personality.
But why would a Bavarian king put his second born, under-age son on a newly installed throne in a foreign country an der Schwelle zum Orient, at orient’s threshold ?
Because he loved Greece, or better : the idea of it.
This leads us back to Rome (where else ?) and in the Café Greco in the Via Condotti (Eng.). (Open bottle of red now.) *

LUDWIG went on his first major travel in autumn 1804. His youth had been a bit of an up-and-down, but he received a good education. He did not become a galant adventurer, a mercenary-type, or a glory-seeking condottiere (think of Friedrich II. of Prussia, who started a long war right after sitting on the throne, just because of his hunger for “Gloire” ; at least he had the insight to regret his deeds afterwards.) ; LUDWIG was a Schöngeist with a real interest in art, a serious Schwärmer, an enthusiast. Art became his escape – the politics he was thrown into were not to his liking, especially because his strong dislike of Napoleon BUONAPARTE. Sadly his father had made peace with NAPOLEON already in 1801, had formed an alliance with the destroyer of worlds, and was richly rewarded for this after the end of the old Reich – the more or less average Bavarian dukes were made kings.
The ink was not yet dry on the document when the newly made Kronprinz, crown prince, was sent to Paris in January 1806. And his sister AUGUSTA (Ger., Eng.) was married to the son-in-law of the French monster (at least it was a happy marriage). LUDWIG used the opportunity to visit the large (stolen) art collection of the self-styled “emperor”, and was impressed.
LUDWIG became a Philhellene  par excellence (Ger.,  Eng.) – WINCKELMANN had founded this new cult ; WIELAND had sung about a kind of “Rokoko-Arkadien”; HEINSE propagated an idea of Greek beauty; GOETHE (there is more to old Wolfie as just the nonsense they told us in school) projected an enlightened ideal of humanism back into the classical age ; HÖLDERLIN, well, was Hölderlin, and BYRON finally wrote travelogues & died romantically. The classical age of Greek art & civilization became a large canvas for ideals of the romantics of the day.

But it had a pretty material side too. Mr Thomas BRUCE, later Lord ELGIN (Ger., Eng.), had received a ferman (Ger., Eng.) that allowed him (or his agents) to measure classical sites, paint pictures of those sites, and make plaster casts of figures & statues in reach. Also the agents should have the chance to acquire “transportable antique works of art”. This went reasonable well at the first expedition of ELGINs people, namely under his main representative, the Neapolitan painter Don Giovanni Battista LUSIERI (Eng.). For the second expedition into the Greek wilderness ELGIN received a second Firman that basically allowed him to “help himself”. LUSIERI interpreted the term “transportable” now as “being possibly made portable” with the help of saws, levers, cranes and whatever needed. He filled some ships with the old stuff (more than thirty), the nasty French tried to capture them unsuccessfully, a commission was established. Finally they gave ELGIN thirtyfive-thousand pounds, what was not covering his expenses, and he had his place in modern art history. “Quod non fecerunt Gothi – fecerunt Scoti”, as BYRON put it. Roughly : The Goths did not dare, but the Scots.
This had happened in 1801. So when LUDWIG came to Rome in 1804 Greece was en vogue among all art enthusiasts ; 1806 he saw what NAPOLEON had brought from Egypt. Later (1807) the crown prince engaged the help of a certain Johann Martin (von) WAGNER (Ger., born in Würzburg) as agent, always asking for Greek sculptures, or at least drawings or casts.

Some night in 1810 (open 2nd bottle of red now) the regulars in the Café Greco had the idea of a “greek expedition” : Why not go there and look for themselves ? Why not go there and search for the wonders ? So they threw their Pausanias in the Rucksack, grabbed the pistols (all those robbers !), and visited the godforsaken village in the middle of nowhere called Athens in 1810 : Baron Karl Haller von HALLERSTEIN, Otto Magnus von STACKELBERG, Jacob LINKCH (Ger.), sorry if I forgot one. The Athens of these day was dusty, ugly and far from its former classical glory. Venetians had bombed the acropolis, in the Erechtheion the Pascha’s harem was established, magnificent ruins nevertheless, perhaps a bit like Rome before the Pope came back from Avignon. They lodged in LUSIERIs house, and two Englishmen joined the group, Charles Robert COCKERELL, an architect, together with his friend John FOSTER.
In April 1811 they had measured Athens and COCKERELL, HALLER, FOSTER & LINCKH deceided to visit a small island called Aegina – there shall stand a well-preserved temple (Ger., Eng.). They dig a bit around to be able to take the correct measurements, only to stumble over some very fine sculptures : They had accidentally found the crashed down gable with its group of figures. A lot of “Bakschisch” is handed to the local Turkish commander until the sculptures are brought to Athens unscathed – and it is clear that the “Aigineten” (pics) are a European sensation. There must be a solution found, and finally it is agreed that the sculptures will be auctioned off in Zante (Italian for Zakynthos (Ger., Eng.)) under the auspices of the colourful Georg Christian GROPIUS (Ger.), consul of this and that. HALLER lets LUDWIG know what they are sitting on, who in turn sends carte blanche (Zvgmv ?) to WAGNER in Rome, and a helpful bill of exchange over seventy-thousand Gulden. While WAGNER is on his way to Athens the director of the British Museum is also on his way, sending ahead the brigg “Paulina”, her captain ready to collect those old marble-stones. The group of friends who discovered the sculptures receive some unethical offers, remarkably none accepts, they seem – as a group – to be able to survive this and safe their friendly relations amongst each other.
The sculptures are brought to Malta – the greedy French again ! – while the auction is held in Zante. WAGNER arrives just in time, looks at the plaster casts, and slams the seventy thousand on the table – good enough for GROPIUS, and that’s it. WAGNER redeems the sculptures in Malta, makes it through a terrible storm near Stromboli, and finally reaches Naples. THORWALDSEN (Ger., Eng.), one of the regulars at the Greco, and assigned by LUDWIG for the reconstruction, is besides himself. The Russians offer cool hundred-thousand Dukaten, the English have a word with COCKERELL, but he had done nothing wrong. Today the sculptures are shown in LUDWIGs Glyptothek in Munich.

All this just illustrates the role of art in those days, the worship of the idealised Greece, and gives an idea about the world of ideas of the Bavarian king LUDWIG, who has a bust of HOMER in his study and reads the gospel in the Greek urtext every evening. When “Greece” all of a sudden is not just marble past any more, but becomes bloody present reality in 1821 (Ger., Eng.), he will not retreat in his library and write some poems – he does, yes – , but he will link the Greek fight for independence against the Sultan (Ger., Eng.) with the German struggle for unity, and he will use a lot of (own) money for equipment, ransoms (to buy back prisoners of war) et cetera, and finally he will sent his son to be king of Greece.

* I use for this scribblings the enjoyable and well-written book by SEIDL, Wolf : Bayern in Griechenland. Die Geburt des griechischen Nationalstaats und die Regierung König Ottos. Erweiterte Neuauflage, München 1981 (first 1965 ?), especially chapter one (17-42), and pages 337-355.

Gimme a Kaiserkrone *

Yesterday I watched two Golfs (overrated German cars) getting it on. After the impact I carefully picked my way with the bus through the debris-field, while angry people stood in the middle of the road, shouting at each other. When I drove in opposite direction twenty minutes later, on a parallel road, we saw an ambulance standing in the middle of it. Who’d thought that early morning commuting is a kind of jungle-adventure-survival-test ?
Really missed something through all these years.
Today’s afternoon drive was very fast – I only realised the reason when on the road. I had heard in the news that a motorway roadhouse was closed by the police. They had called in the Sondereinsatzkommando – what a lovely German word.
Those policemen wear protective gear and use real weapons. The SEK is not called just for fun, but when stiff resistance is to be expected and the use of guns is realistic. They sealed off the complete roadhouse, parking area and all, right over this city. Drivers choose not to use the exit there, so the flow from the Autobahn drizzled out and we had only the local late afternoon commuting, without all the additional traffic that is caused by people using the local “Bundesstraße” as short-cut between two highways. Hence all went remarkably faster than usual.
Good so – the sun had a kind of noxious sting through the whole day, weather for headaches, I really was glad for a little less than usual traffic. There shall be some rain coming, it will be good for atmosphere, plants and soil. Two more days, than it’s a small vacancy.
Perhaps I’ll finally find my way into the cellar and dig for family documents !

* Test. 39 p. No more questions, y’er ‘onor.