Friday, October 30, 2015

Two days in Wienhausen

On Friday 23 October, I took a train from Lueneburg to Wienhausen.  In Wienhausen (pronounced veen-HOW-zen), there is a fabulous medieval women's monastery-- aptly called Kloster Wienhausen.  I arrived in the evening on Friday, and went straight to the bed & breakfast where I had a reservation.  Upon arriving, I discovered that the host and her husband spoke NO English!  At first, I froze up and forgot all the German I had ever learned... But after a while, we were able to communicate more effectively.  We talked about where I was from, my family, why I was in Germany, and what I would be doing at the monastery.  She was a super sweet lady.

My Bed & Breakfast in Wienhausen
My Bed & Breakfast in Wienhausen
Saturday morning, I had an appointment with the Abbess at the monastery to view the textiles in their museum.  Unfortunately, they do not allow photographs.  So you will have to use your imagination.  The Abbess let me into the museum even though it was closed, and I spent a couple hours looking as hard and as carefully as I could at the embroideries.  Wienhausen also has a collection of items found underneath the floorboards of the nuns' choir during the 1950s.  Among the items found in the dust are eyeglasses, thimbles, needles, prints, small devotional texts and images, etc.  It is amazing to get such a glimpse into the everyday lives of the women who lived in Kloster Wienhausen hundreds of years ago!

There is also an enormous stork's nest on top of the monastery!  Storks have been nesting there since at least the 1940s, and so they built a platform to keep the nest stable.

The town of Wienhausen is a total fairy tale as well.  The sound, smell, and sight of the vibrant leaves in the woods around the monastery and town were totally inspiring-- and an experience I'm not terribly familiar with having grown up in West Texas!  I had lunch in an adorable cafe near the monastery, and practiced my German there as well.  In these smaller towns, it is not as common to find many English-speakers.  In the larger cities and at train stations, many people speak English.  But I have really enjoyed working on my German, and I can tell my comprehension of spoken German is already improving!

Friendly Wienhausen Cat
I spent the night again at the bed & breakfast-- and even watched some TV auf Deutsch!  My legs and body ached terribly after standing and walking so much for several days, and the cobblestone streets are unforgiving on one's feet.  But the B&B had a delightful bath tub, and Germans love radiators and hot water!  So I enjoyed long soaks both nights I stayed there.  On Sunday, Corine and Volker drove up from the home in Hausen to pick me up.  We drove back across the Lueneburg Heath to meet up with a group of scholars to begin our conference together in a town called Bad Bevensen.  Post to follow about the conference!

As a whole, people have been very friendly, open, and helpful!  And I am truly having the time of my life!  Love y'all!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Luneburg and Kloster Lune!

Hello again!

I arrived in Luneburg on Thursday, October 22nd in the afternoon.  I had been in contact with the monastery by email, so they were expecting me.  Upon my arrival, I was greeted by a woman named Charlotte who actually works as a translator and her English was outstanding!  I was extremely thankful for that!

Around Kloster Lune

A beautiful window at the entrance of Kloster Lune

This is the inside of that same window, just inside the kloster.
The fountain has been there since the 1500s!

Kloster Lune in all its majesty.

Kloster Lune

Kloster Lune
Charlotte gave me a tour of the entire monastery, and then showed me to the museum.  Kloster Lune was originally established in the twelfth century, but burned down and was rebuilt in the fourteenth century.

The museum was actually closed, but she let me in and I had the place all to myself!  I took hundreds of photos of all of the embroideries, using the lenses and techniques from Volker.  It was absolutely incredible, and I sat in awe for a while just thinking about the fact that I am here with all of the textiles I have studied for so long.  And I thought about the women who made them 500-600 years ago: all the hours and effort, the technique, the valuable materials, the magnitude of what they did.  Truly impossible to put into words.

Most of the embroideries at Kloster Lune are made from colored wool on linen cloth using a stitch known as "klosterstich"-- so-called because it was the stitch most commonly used in the monasteries.  It is a form of top-side couching that gives maximum coverage without wasting much thread on the backside of the cloth.  There is also another type of embroidery at Lune, called the Fastentucher or Hungertuche.  These are white-on-white embroideries used to hide the altar during Lent.  The name(s) basically mean "fasting cloth" and the idea is to deprive the senses (of color) and to hide the altar from view as sacrifical elements during Lent.  These are amazing as well, and they are a little older than the colored embroideries.

This embroidery (from ca. 1500) would have hung above one of the choir stalls-- See the Nativity, Resurrection, and Christ in Judgement 
Detail of the Resurrection

Detail of Christ in Judgement

Here is one of the Fastentuch (ca. 1300-1325)-- White on white embroidery used during Lent.
Christ in Judgement in the top register, and the Crucifixion in the bottom register.

Detail of the Crucifixion (with the Virgin Mary and St. John)

Detail of Christ in Judgement (the four animals around him are the four Evangelist in their heavenly form)
Matthew is the man, John is the eagle, Mark is the lion, and Luke is the ox.
And so after spending hours in the museum, I stayed the night in the monastery.  My room was wonderful, and outfitted with all modern necessities (electricity and a shower!).  In the morning, Charlotte introduced me to the two conservators at the monastery.  I was already familiar with both of their books, so they were basically celebrities to me!  Charlotte helped translate so I could talk to them about my research, and explain that I would be living nearby for the next year.  Wiebke (prononced VEEB-kuh) and Tanja (TAHN-yuh), the conservators, were extremely helpful and welcomed me back anytime I am in Lueneburg!  They even showed me some of the medieval textiles they are currently restoring!!  Such a lucky day!

For the afternoon, I left the monastery and went to old-town Lueneburg.  The old town is famous and there are two beautiful medieval churches there!  First, I visited Johanniskirche (St. John's Church).  The organs there are very famous, and they play them all day so visitors can hear the church filled with the sounds of the organ!  It was overwhelming in the best way possible!  The architecture was absolutely incredible.  I even talked to the man who was working the gift shop, who couldn't wait to tell me he had taken some English classes in the evening at the community center in town!  Very cool!
Johanniskirche, Lueneburg

Johanniskirche, Lueneburg

Johanniskirche, Lueneburg-- Altarpiece ca. 1430-1485

Johanniskirche, Lueneburg-- Side aisle altar, ca. 1507/508
Johanniskirche, Lueneburg-- Candle-holder, ca. 1490

Johanniskirche, Lueneburg
Johanniskirche, Lueneburg

Johanniskirche, Lueneburg-- 19th-century stained glass windows
Next, I visited St. Nikolais.  Also an amazing feat of architecture!  I almost skipped on Nikolai because I had to catch a train, but I am so glad I squeezed it in!  It is a beautiful building, and again I spoke to the woman at the gift shop.  We were actually able to have a full (albeit simple) conversation!

St. Nikolai, Lueneburg

St. Nikolai, Lueneburg
St. Nikolai, Lueneburg
St. Nikolai, Lueneburg
St. Nikolai, Lueneburg
St. Nikolai, Lueneburg
St. Nikolai, Lueneburg
St. Nikolai, Lueneburg
After wandering around Lueneburg for a bit, it was time to catch my train to Wienhausen!  I will write about Wienhausen next.  I can't wait to share all my adventures!  Thanks for reading along and looking at my pictures!

First post from Deutschland!

Hey everyone!  I wrote this post shortly after landing, but am just now getting around to posting it!  Will do a new post soon with lots of updates!!!
Guten Tag!  My flight to Germany passed somewhat uneventfully, and Corine and I were picked up from the airport by Volker. We spent the first couple days at Corine's house in Waldbrunn. Important things I have learned so far: they sell pretzels from vending machines at the local Aldi discount retailers, and they only cost ,29€.

We adventured to several sites right around Corine's house, including some twelfth-century church ruins, a large castle on the Lahn River,  and Dietkirche, a large parish church nearby. All were beautiful, and I took tons of photos, which Volker will help me edit so they are the highest quality possible. But for now, I share some of the originals with y'all!

Runkel Castle on the Lahn River

St. Lubentius, Dietkirche 

St Lubentius, Dietkirche

We went to a birthday party in Corine's neighborhood, and ate delicious kucheln (cakes) made by the birthday girl's Oma (grandma). I got to listen to LOTS of German conversations, and I enjoyed testing how much I could understand. The neighbors were all very nice, and after a few more birthday parties, I should be very good at German! Hah!

Today I am leaving the comfort of Corine's home, and Corine and Volker's guidance as I travel up north to Kloster Lüne (Kloster just means monastery or cloister) in Lüneburg. I am currently on a high-speed train zipping from Frankfurt to Hamburg, where I will transfer to another train to Lüneburg, and finally a bus to the monastery. And you wouldn't believe it if I told you,  but there are two nuns in my cart right now!

I'm so excited to visit Lüne and all the textiles there, because many of them are very well-known in small circles such as mine. But textiles are not always photographed or published online because they are so fragile. I will be allowed to take my own photos for my research, so I'm really looking forward to that! I will also be staying in a room at the monastery, so I hope to pretend I am a medieval nun!!

Tomorrow afternoon, I will catch another train/bus combo to Kloster Wienhausen in Wienhausen, not far from Lüneburg. Wienhausen was another powerhouse monastery in the Middle Ages, and they also have many awesome textiles. In Wienhausen I will stay two nights in an adorable bed & breakfast.

Both of these monasteries are in a region known as the Lüneburger Heide (the Lüneburg Heath),  and the group of monasteries is called the Heideklöster (or Heath convents). The Heath was once known for its Heideschnucken (Heath sheep!), so maybe I will get to see some of those too!!


As I said, this post was written on my way to Lueneburg.  I have been in a whirlwind of Deutschland magic since then!! I can't wait to write a new post and share it with y'all!!!

Until then!

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Details

(I just love this image of Germany, but the cities are actually in the geographically
correct location and the size of the text indicates the size of the city!)

So the time has come!  I will board a flight in Denver at 2:00pm MST today, Monday 19 October.  After a brief layover in Detroit, I will continue to Frankfurt, where I will arrive at 10:30am (German time).  

This post is dedicated to those of you who want to know more details about my trip.  First, it is important to give thanks for all the funding I've received!  For the conference, which I'll describe briefly, we received a large grant to fund the participants' travel, room, and board.  Then, I was awarded a travel grant by the International Center of Medieval Art to travel around Europe for a month to do dissertation research, so the month of November is brought to you by the ICMA.  I earned a 10-month fellowship from the Herzog August Bibliothek (HAB) in Wolfenbuettel to conduct dissertation research using their library and resources.  Lastly, the American Friends of the HAB contributed some funds for travel to-, from-, and around- Wolfenbuettel.

This map may help you visualize the major cities, German states, and their capitols. 

I will arrive in Frankfurt on the same flight as my dissertation advisor, Corine.  Her research partner, Volker, will pick us both up from the airport-- convenient, right?  I will go to Corine's house in a very small village near Hausen, somewhere between Frankfurt and Cologne and stay there for a couple nights to try and get my feet under me.

October 22-23 will be spent at Kloster Luene in Lueneburg, a town in the state of Lower Saxony in northern Germany.  During the middle ages, this was a women's monastery that produced TONS of embroideries.  The monastery is still standing, and the adjoining museum still houses a number of their medieval textiles.

October 23-24 will be spent at Kloster Wienhausen, not far from Lueneburg.  Like Luene, Wienhausen was (and actually still is) a women's monastery.  They also have an adjoining museum with a collection of the textiles made by nuns there during the Middle Ages.

October 25-30: During this week, I will participate in a conference with Corine, Volker, and a number of other scholars.  The goal of the conference (called "Extreme Sensescapes") is to share our ideas about the sensory environments of Birgittine monasteries during the Middle Ages.  Eventually, there will be a website dedicated to explaining this project and the people involved-- I will share that once it is available.  As part of the conference, we will begin in northern Germany and take a bus tour across the country, visiting several monasteries and collections along the way.  Road trip!

November 1-10*ish: Corine, Volker, and I will stay at Volker's family's house in a town called Bubenreuth, near Nuremberg (southern Germany, aka "Bavaria").  From "The Reuth," as it is called, I will visit Nuremberg to see their enormous museum and a number of their famous churches (namely St. Lorenz and St. Sebald), Munich to visit the Alte Pinakotech Museum and the Stadtmuseum, and Bamburg to see what they know.  [Rick Steves on Munich]

November 12*ish-20*ish: At this point, I will fly into Stockholm to spend some time in Sweden.  I will visit the Vadstena Convent Museum, the Linkoping Cathedral Museum, the Stockholm History Museum, and the Uppsala Cathedral and Treasury.  The main reason to visit Sweden is that many German women's monasteries during the late Middle Ages were Birgittine, that is, founded by Saint Birgitta of Sweden (one of my many medieval heroes).

November 20*ish-30: The end of November will be spent using Corine's house in Hausen as a home base.  From Hausen, I will make day trips to Cologne to visit the Museum of Applied Arts, the Schnutgen Museum, the Diocesan Museum, the Institute for Historical Textiles, and the Institute of Conservation Sciences.  [Rick Steves on Cologne]

Starting on December 1, I will be living in a dorm in Wolfenbuettel (northern Germany, near Hanover and Hamburg) for the 10-month fellowship I was awarded by the Herzog August Bibliothek.  Once I arrive in Wolfenbuettel (AKA "WB"), I will mostly stay put.  I do have some plans for weekend trips near WB, but the dorm and HAB will definitely be "home base" for the rest of my German adventures.  My fellowship will end on September 30, 2016.

Corine will be fulfilling a fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin for the spring 2016 semester, so I will be able to visit her by train to explore Berlin!  Other explorations, yet to be fully planned, are Braunschweig (Brunswick), Halberstadt, and Hamburg.  

So there you have it!  That is my flexible itinerary for the year ahead!!  I will be best reached via Facebook, email (, or Skype (k.bevin.b).  Can't wait to share my adventures with you!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How does a person go from hardly being able to spend the night with her best friend to deciding she should move to another country for an entire year?  Some of you know my journey through anxiety, fear, and panic attacks, but many of you probably don't.  I think it is appropriate to begin my next major adventure by explaining how I came to this point in my life.

I  began having panic attacks at age 8.  This resulted in a childhood in which I had great difficulty spending the night with friends, really until well into junior high school.  I did successfully stay all night at some friends' houses and birthday slumber parties, but I also often called my parents in the middle of the night to come pick me up because I "didn't feel good."  I have never been a consistent sleeper, and once the fun was over and it was time for bed, I panicked.

One major breakthrough occurred in 6th grade, after my best friend Sam moved to Abilene.  I went to stay with her in Abilene for a week.  The first night there, after everyone else went to sleep, the panic set in.  I called my mother, who politely explained that she could not come pick me up because I was three hours away.  I woke up Sam and her mom, Amy, and we waited through the night until the panic passed and I slept.  After that, I realized you can sit with the panic and fear, breathe deeply, and get through it without bailing out or running away.

After several successful church camps and trips away from home, I decided to move away for college.  I went to University of North Texas in Denton, about 5 hours from home in Lubbock.  I think close friends and family were somewhat surprised by this seemingly daring decision...  It was scary and I did struggle.  I even called my mom a few times in the middle of the night, just so she could sit with me in silence on the phone while I had a panic attack.  But like that night in Abilene, you work through it, survive, and move on.

During the summer of 2009, the summer before the final year of my undergraduate at UNT, I found myself signing up for a study abroad trip.  My college roommate, RachelGaddie, encouraged me to go to the informational meeting and then to put down our deposits.  She was confident and certain, so I figured I could be too!  The morning of our flight, I woke up in total panic.  I lie there, cold and sweaty, paralyzed with fear, trying to decide if it was too late to call it all off?  How mad would my parents be if all the money we had paid were wasted?  I would be so embarrassed to tell everyone I panicked at the last second.  I knew I would regret it if I didn't go.  I sternly told myself to SHUT UP, get in the shower, and start getting dressed for the day.  It's time, and you're ready, and you're doing it.

Of course it was the best time of my life, and also of course I had a lot of anxiety and fear while we were there.  I'd learned by this point that fulfillment, joy, and fear were not mutually exclusive.  My friends, RachelGaddie and Dave, were patient and helpful, taking cabs when I couldn't get on the metro because it was too loud and too fast, and holding my clammy hands to guide me across scary sky bridges.  I returned home in awe of the fact that I had accomplished such a feat.  

All these years later, I've moved from Texas to Arizona to Georgia to Colorado.  All without fear or trepidation.  I do still struggle with panic attacks and anxiety, but I've learned to feel it and then let go of it.  And so when the opportunity to apply for a 10-month fellowship in Germany, as well as other travel grant opportunities, presented itself, I did.  Did I panic when I put the application in the mail?  Absolutely.  Do I sometimes think I've lost my mind when I think about what is to come? Of course.  But I'm also certain it's the right thing to do.  And I'm confident that I can do it.  And I know that I will love it.

In my wedding vows, I told Jeremy that he made me feel confident and calm in situations I had not always.  Through many moves, new jobs, and different opportunities, that has always been true.  He has such an unwavering confidence in us, our lives together, and in me.  My whole family has jumped on board, signing up for Skype, looking up facts about Germany, asking questions about what I will do there, and listening to my plans.  My dissertation adviser, Corine, and her research partner, Volker, have invested their time and energy to help me organize and prepare myself for the trip, making contacts for my research, helping me navigate transportation options, and being available around the clock to answer my questions.  So- on Monday October 19 I will fly to Germany, where I will do dissertation research and live life until September 30, 2016.  

That is how someone who used to be afraid of spending the night at a friend's house down the street comes to believe she can live abroad for a year.