Global Warming – what else

I switched the world on at 19:45 – no pun intended, pure contingency. It glows now for three hours and is still pretty cool, except for the top spot, as may be expected. When you look at it, Siberia is on top and actually the hottest place. But it’s far from hot, just warm to the touch. You can’t see it, but my world is a bit shattered, repaired & re-glued, but I assume that is a common experience, to have it shattered once or twice through lifetime.

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Die Welt

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I think such a globe could be found in any Western boy’s room through the late Sixties / early Seventies. And now that it’s de-dusted & cleaned I can switch it on again without having to fear burning dust. The colours are similar to those on the maps in the Atlas I got in school, and was allowed to keep when it was due to be given back, because it was falling apart. Now and then I turn my world a bit around, so that any part of it has a chance to become warm and cool off again.
I did not crawl into the cellar trying to locate family papers today, it was much too cold and böh. Instead I attempted to write something about the fountains of the village, but found it hard to get into the flow – lack of a dead-line perhaps … I do not remember whether I mentioned it here, it’s a group of volunteer historians, who produce small audio-pieces about historical points of interest, the Roman bridge (here) was my first contribution. At one point these soundbits will be accessible via wwweb, in connection with a presentation of the village and its neighbours on occasion of a local Gartenschau, still some years away ; but it needs a lot of preparation, because large areas that were former used by the USArmy are part of the whole package, and these areas are bordering the village. The university has a hand into the mud too.
But of course we want to look good, don’t we all ? Therefore Mago pieces together the history of the Fontane di Villaggio, and tries to fit the lack of history into an amusing three-minute-feature. I have to put on my thinking cap – there is always the village historian, a force to be reckoned with, as my old friend Duke Nukem (logo) once put it.
I turned the world a bit farther, Siberia was becoming notably warmer, not bad after four hours ; now it’s Alaska’s turn.

The Roman Bridge

Photos finally added, sorry for the tardiness.

Die Römerbrücke – die natürlich keine ist. It is not a “Roman” bridge, simply because the Romans did not come to this area, at least they did not build something here. The very end of the Roman Empire, the limes Germanicus (Ger., Eng., there’s a map), consisted of the river Moenus from Seligenstadt to Miltenberg, then left the river and went South over land. Some scholars of the 19th century nursed the idea that the fortress here would be based on a Roman military installation, but there is no proof for this claim and modern archaeology dismisses this idea.

Roughly one kilometer from the centre of my village in North-Eastern direction the Römerbrücke stands. Here once run a trading road from Würzburg to Bamberg ; it was a part of the larger connection between the free, important & rich cities of the Reich Frankfurt am Main and Nürnberg, on a larger scale of the route from Paris to Prague. The road came up from the valley of the river Main & the city of  Würzburg and crossed the valley of a small creek called Haslach ; it climbed up from the muddy valley via the Roßsteige (horses’ steep) and then went over land to the Steigerwald, generally in Eastern direction.
This gradient was pretty steep, additional horses needed to be harnessed to the coaches, it must have been a drag.
The 18th century brought us new roads, standardised in a way, the new chaussee. The Herzog happily embraced this idea and built new roads in his dukedom : Adam Friedrich von Seinsheim (1708-1779) (Ger., Eng.) commissioned the bridge in 1764. In fact it is not a single bridge that was built, but a 220 meter long earthen dam (causeway ?) that includes a bridge construction spanning the Haslach and thus “flattens” the gradient of the commercially important trading route. It simply makes the whole thing more viable. The dam is up to eight meters high, the bridge itself nearly 19 meters broad, the road is four to five meters wide.
The German description is “einfeldrige Bruchsteinbogenbrücke” – sorry, I can not translate this.
The importance of these new chaussees, in German Kunststrassen, artificial roads, can not be rated highly enough. In fact it is the first time since the Romans that a kind of standardised road system is built on a European scale. These roads allow fast and reliable traffic for goods, persons, mail, and of course for the movement of troops. They demand and cause standardisation, because the “Chauseeordnung” describes what format and what weight cars and coaches can have that finally travel on them. These roads demand a lot of investment, not only in building and construction as in our bridge here, but also in maintainance – in regular distances Chaussehäuser were erected where the Chaussewärter, the keeper, was stationed. He had to take care of a certain stretch of the road, and sometimes had to collect the road-tax too.
The bridge, the whole construction, was finished after three years and was open for traffic in 1766. It was used only for three years : In 1769 the building was closed for traffic because the foundations settled in the muddy subfloor, the Haslach simply did not like that thing. Cracks opened & it was deemed to dangerous to have heavy coaches rolling over it.
The planning went on and in the following year the whole road was relocated & shifted from this place to the North (on the other bank of the Haslach-creek), it finally run through the next village – avoiding the steep gradient & the marshy area altogether. The bridge was not repaired, but in contrary used as stone quarry to build the new road. It became finally obsolete for long distant travel when in the middle of the 19th century the railway was built – to this day the line goes in some hundred meters distance. The coaches had finally served its times.
The bridge was of course still used locally, only in 1960 it was closed for pedestrians. There was a bit of argument over the decades between the local community and the Bavarian state. The village was always poor & in debts and did not want to carry the Baulast, the public easement (and the responsibility) for the disused construction. Finally the whole ensemble was put on the Denkmalliste, the list of landmarks, and today the community has to take care for maintainance & safety.
And why is it called a “Roman” bridge ? Two explanations are given in literature : One says it’s because the road finally leads up to the Römer (Ger., Eng.) in Frankfurt – ah bah, who cares for Frankfurt here anyway ? The other says that the whole thing looks so nice and romantic-ruinous in the moonlight, ach – so Roman, simply … ; …

Some pictures will follow tomorrow.

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It’s the day after tomorrow – I think übermorgen is a wonderful word. So I am writing from the future …
Here are some pictures of the featured building. The first gives an impression of the whole thing. We stand on the Southern side of the dam and look in Eastern direction.

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Standing on the Southern side of the dam looking in Eastern direction
Standing on the Southern side of the dam looking in Eastern direction

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Turning around and going in Western direction there is finally a possibility to walk on the dam if only for a short stretch. Then they have planted a lot of dense & thorny bushes, small trees and high grass hinder the careless trespasser.

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Standing on the dam looking in Easter direction. This is a second, smaller arch that is closed for any kind of traffic
Standing on the dam looking in Easter direction. This is a second, smaller arch that is closed for any kind of traffic

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Looking from the Northern side in Easter direction. The whole construction was cut free from woods and brushes lately ; I have read in the local that some preservation measures are necessary.

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Standing on the North side looking East
Standing on the North side looking East

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And finally we are under the bridge.

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Under the bridge. No Stonemason's mark, no coat of arms, no graffiti, no nothing - just stones. Very nice.
Under the bridge. No Stonemason’s mark, no coat of arms, no graffiti, no nothing – just stones. Very nice.

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And one last view : This friendly little apple tree is a gift from the French twin village in the Calvados. It’s still a long way until we’ll have Franconian Calva.

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Roman bridge and the promise of Franconian Calvados
Roman bridge and the promise of Franconian Calvados

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Daht’s all.

Cuthswyth

I’m still a bit … emotional. I spent the better part of this afternoon in very peculiar company, with Cuthswyth and Kylian, Hieronymus and Duns, from Scotland. We will not come together in this form, in this lifetime again, that is for sure. If I weren’t too shy (and had my white gloves with me) I could even have touched them !

Cuthswyth abbatissa was the abbess of a nunnery, possibly Inkberrow (Eng.) near Worcester (Ger., Eng.). She lived between 650 and 700 and can be found in two contemporary documents. She possessed a book from Italy, the comment of St. Hieronymus (Ger., Eng.) about the book of Ecclesiastes (Ger., Eng.) – not the newest edition, it is written about 500 p.Chr.n. For reasons unknown she felt the need to write her name into this book. In fact she wrote “Cuthsuuithae boec thaerae abbatissan”, and repeated the “abbatissan” again in the line below. See for yourself here. Who says that in the early missionary time scribes were only males ? There is evidence for female scribes, see this article by Dr. J. A. KOSTER – who mentions of course Cuthswyth. And if all this “dating” is nearly correct it would make this humble piece of paper one of the oldest existing evidence or proof for written “English”. Beowulf was written down circa 975, but eventually composed in the 8th century.

Kylian’s book is a bit larger, it’s an Evangeliar dating from the 9th century. They showed us M.p.th.f.66, not M.p.th.f.65.

The reason behind all this is that the Dombibliothek is finally digitized and available via the web (list here – enjoy ! ). The work will continue, but it is a milestone for the whole project.
And what we were allowed to see – in this form not again in my lifetime, it is more or less unrepeatable – were some of the cimelia. Access to the books is now possible via the web, the digital representations are state of the art (if your screen is calibrated the colours are true ; it is possible to take measures that are correct – the wizardry behind all this is impressive ; and yes, they made some backups, four to be precise) – and now they are allowed to rest. This evening they will be put back into the safe place and they will stay there. This public show was the last for years to come.
It was a bit emotional for me, when I slowly realised what I was seeing. They had no vitrine. It took place in the manuscript reading room, a place I visit since the early eighties. The books were placed on some higher tables on blue velvet. The head of the departement showed very carefully but full of pride some rare illuminations around – like a priest showing the sanctissimum, a monstranz … I had no idea what I was to see when I went there, so Cuthswyth was a bit of surprise.

Liederabend

The Liederabend is a bourgeois form of socializing developed in the 19th century. As the name implies people gather in the evening to listen to songs / Lieder, performed by a solo vocalist accompanied by a pianist, mostly. It was considered a private event, “songs” were not deemed worthy for a public concert, I think that changed only through the first half of the 20th century.
Generally Kunstlieder (Ger., Eng.) were performed, as opposed to Volkslieder (Ger., Eng.). The idea behind it is that the “art song” as a creation of one composer following the rules of  the art, is meant to be interpreted by a trained, more or less professional singer, while the Volkslied was understood to be an anonymous creation that in its Schlichtheit / unsophisticatedness can be sung basically by anybody. It is amazing to learn that for example Brahms left behind more than 300 Lieder – as a form it was taken serious by the heavies of the trade. But Schubert in his lifetime did not hear his Lieder in a public concert.
Wednesday evening we went to a Liederabend, songs by Strauss (150th birthday this year) were combined with works of Russian composers, a bit unusual perhaps. I skipped the tie, we had over thirty degrees C the whole day, and I assumed the worst for the hall. It is a representative location in the Residenz, windows to the Southern gardens, high ceiling  but still intimate, of course no air condition. We sat in the first row (stretch your legs) and sweated. It was astoundingly well attended, full house, more than hundred heated bodies. The program doubled as fan, a lady had brought an impressive large black one.
What can I say about the performance ? Far be it from me to be a captious critic – I could never do such a thing and sing in front of hundred people. In fact it is my serious opinion that everybody who has the guts to climb on a stage and perform earns respect.
But I found two things a bit disturbing. For one I did not understand the singer. I am sure that there are rules of pronunciation for a vocalist, simply how to form the vocals etc. (JON – ?), and when I listen to videos of Thomas Quasthoff f.e., or Schreier, or Prey, I can understand the text – here I understood nothing. Interestingly when the singer performed a very short English piece I could distinguish the words, but a basically simple poem by Brentano was, sorry, crucified.
The other thing that startled me a bit came out later, after the show. We followed the whole group to the next saloon to down a (very expensive) beer, when the singer was asked by a student about a particular figure of speech in a song. In a short poem a tumbler for wine made from amethyst is mentioned. The vocalist admitted freely to have not the shadow of an idea. My first thought was that it could be a reference to the grail, but as I learned now the grail(s)* kept in collections are made from Achat / agate stone.
But a simple look into Wikipedia gave an explanation for the amethyst (Ger., Eng.) mug: The ancient Greek and Romans used to carve drinking vessels from the stone and nursed the superstition that wine drunk out of these would not lead to drunkenness, possibly because the colour of the usually watered down red was similar to the amethyst’s – it is even in the name: “a-” is a negative prefix, “methystos” means as much as “intoxicated”, “a-methystos” equals sober, not drunk.
So the reveller holds up the “Amethistenbecher”, far from his love, to ease the pain in his heart, but he does not blank himself out lost in a drunken stupor, he keeps his senses sharp and is fully aware and conscious about his own feelings – he expresses thankfulness towards the distant love, the “teure Seele”, for the exquisite pain.
This gives a nice twist to a finely chased poem of only twelve lines.
I have no clue whether knowing this would have made a difference in the performance, but find it a bit, well, unprofessional not to check such things out. It’s not only my personal curiosity I hope ; imho if I want to perform a piece of art I should have understood it, be it a character, a song, a feeling.
These words are not beliebig, randomly chosen – if they were, one could replace it with la la la.
Apart from this trail of thoughts it was a nice evening. And the pianist was great.

* One in Valencia, one in Leon, one on Genoa – I read somewhere that roughly two hundred vessels in Europe are claimed to be the holy grail. Phantastic thing, even the Nazis searched for it in Southern France and the Pyrenees.