Sunday, February 28, 2016

Goslar with Sophia and Ursula!

Last weekend, I adventured to Goslar with my friends Sophia and Ursula.  Goslar is only about 20 or 30 minutes from Wolfenbüttel, so I expect we will have many more adventures there in the future!  It's a totally cute town, with a surprising amount of sights to see!!  Goslar is located at the foot of the Harz mountains, and the town was founded way back in the tenth century.

Because I can't walk past an old church without going inside, my first stop was the Marktkirche of St. Cosmas and St. Damian.  The Marktkirche was built, renovated, and re-built between 1150-1350, and still contains some totally cool thirteenth-century stained glass windows, fifteenth-century wall paintings, a sixteenth-century baptismal font and pulpit, and a seventeeth-century high altar.

Romanesque Stained Glass
Romanesque Stained Glass showing the lives of Saints Cosmas and Damian
Remains of Wall Paintings, ca. 1480
Baroque Altar, 1659
One of the main priorities for our adventure to Goslar was the Kaiserpfalz (Imperial Palace) where emperors stayed during visits to this region.  The Kaiserpfalz was originally built in the eleventh century, and has been variously renovated, partially destroyed, and then re-built a number of times since then.  However, much of what we see in the facade of the building is the eleventh-century structure.  The main attraction at the Kaiserpfalz is the elaborately painted throne room.  The enormous throne room was painted in the nineteenth-century with scenes and allegories of German political power and history.

This costumed tour guide who humored me for a photo op....
Kaiserpfalz, Throne Room
Kaiserpfalz Throne Room
Kaiserpfalz Throne Room
On the ground floor, directly beneath the throne room, is a small museum exhibition with many of the stone sculptures and remnants from various buildings around Goslar.  I really liked this exhibit, because we were able to see the architectural sculptures up close and personal, and really get a good look at the details!  They also have the rooster/eagle/griffin that used to sit atop the Kaiserpfalz in the museum now to keep him safe from the elements outside.  We couldn't decide whether he was a rooster or an eagle, and then the museum wall text claimed he was a griffin.... So then we were really undecided.

Goslar Rooster/Eagle/Griffin
"Giselbertus Me Fecit"
Just across from the Kaiserpfalz stand the remains of the eleventh-century cathedral, which was destroyed around 1820.  All that remains is the northern entry portal-- a parking lot now sits where the rest of the church once stood.  What is left, though, is still very impressive!

North Portal of the Dom
Tympanum Sculptures of the Dom Portal
The rest of the town is also very charming, with a small stream through town, tons of crooked half-timbered construction, and nice market squares!  Goslar is also famous for its silver, copper, and lead mines which were possible began as early as the third and fourth centuries!  We didn't have time to make it to the mines last weekend, but look for a post about the mines-- which were used as a filming location for the movie Monuments Men-- in the future!

Sophia with the fountain by the Rathaus
Fun Half-Timbering!
Goslar Rooster/Eagle/Griffin Replica on the Fountain
On our way home, we stopped by a monastery-turned-hotel called Wöltingerode.   During the Middle Ages, the nuns in Wöltingerode operated their own book-binding workshop.  Several of their manuscripts are currently housed in the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel!  Very little remains of the medieval monastery, but there is a cute little church and a super fifteenth-century Entombed Christ sculpture!!  What a fun way to end another adventure!!

15th Century Entombed Christ

15th Century Entombed Christ

Friday, February 12, 2016

Hildesheim Churches and Museum

Hildesheim, a city about 30 miles from Wolfenbüttel, was heavily bombed in World War II during March 1945.  Several churches and other landmarks display photos of the buildings before the bombing, as rubble in the aftermath of World War II, and after being rebuilt.  Some note which portions of the buildings and sculptures are original, and which were re-created.  The photos of the destroyed church are difficult to fully appreciate.  It is hard to imagine a bustling, modern city like Hildesheim turned to piles of busted stone.  And of course it hurts the heart of a medieval art historian to see photos of sculptures and buildings from the Middle Ages lying about broken and destroyed!

Hildesheim Cathedral after Bombing on March 22, 1945
But the city has rebounded and been rebuilt, and these photos display the tumultuous history that the city has endured.  It is always interesting for me to compare the pre-WWII photos, the photos of the destruction, and the present-day building in which I am standing.  You are really in the trenches of history!

Last Saturday, February 6, was the first sunny day we've had here in a very long time, so I went to Hildesheim to explore the many churches and the cathedral museum.  The train from Braunschweig to Hildesheim only takes about 25 minutes, so it was a quick ride!  While walking from the train station to find the first church on my list, I stumble upon the Marktplatz (market place) which is lined with INCREDIBLE half-timbered buildings!  Both of these buildings I photographed were originally built in the 16th century, destroyed during WWII, and then rebuilt in the 1950's and 1960's.  Totally to die for!  I stared at these lovely bits of eye candy for a bit before heading along on my route.

I first visited St. Andreas, originally built during the 12th and 13th centuries.  It is a pretty church with fun 1960's stained glass windows.

Stained glass windows in St. Andreas, 1966
St. Andreas in 2016
St. Andreas before WWII

Next on the agenda was St. Michael's.  What a treat!  St. Michael's was a Benedictine monastery, built in the 11th and 12th centuries.  The 13th-century painted wooden ceiling was absolutely incredible!  I must have had a crick in my neck for days after wandering around staring up for so long!!  The tomb of Bishop Bernward and the crypts under the altar were also totally cool.

St. Michael's
Note Bishop Bernward in the foreground and the painted ceiling above the central aisle
Detail of small reliquary capsule on the sculpture of Bishop Bernward
13th-Century Painted Wooden Ceilings
Then I adventured on to the main attraction, the Dom St. Maria Himmelfahrt (Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin).  One of the main reasons for my trip to Hildesheim was to find the medieval bronze doors of the cathedral-- They are in every art history textbook, and I wanted to pay my respects!  Called the Bernwardtür (doors of Bernward- the same Bishop referenced at St. Michael's), the enormous bronze doors were cast in the 11th century in Hildesheim.  They show common typological imagery, pairing related Old Testament and New Testament events (such as the Fall of Adam and Eve with the Crucifixion).  The doors alone were worth the trip to Hildesheim!

11th-Century Bronze Doors, Hildesheim Cathedral
I included my hand in this to show the scale of these massive doors.
For scale... A little old lady by the doors
Labors of Adam and Eve-- Adam sows the field while Eve nurses Cain or Abel
There is another fun tourist attraction at the cathedral, and that is the Tausendjährige Rosenstock (thousand-year rose bush).  The legend says that this rose bush survived the destruction of the cathedral during the Second World War, and inspired the war-torn city with its new blooms afterward.  I don't know if it's a thousand years old, but that thing sure is huge!  I can't wait to go back in the summer when it is blooming!

"Thousand-Year Rose Bush"
Attached to the cathedral is the Dommuseum (Cathedral Museum), which has been newly renovated. Tons of cool medieval stuff to see there!  I was even surprised to find a few textiles I didn't know they had!  I sent an email to the director today to see if I can come back and photograph the textiles with my tripod and whole pro-photographer set-up.  

Dommuseum, Hildesheim
Head-Shaped Reliquary, ca. 1450-1500
Embroidery with Kings and Prophets, ca. 1400
Bishop's Shoes (LOL), ca. 1150

Embroidery with Life of St. Margaret of Antioch, ca. 1400
Before leaving Hildesheim, a little restaurant caught my eye so I decided to stop in for dinner.  The Antik Cafe had my name all over it!  I had a Pfannkuchen with mixed vegetables and mozzarella.  Pfannkuchen is kind of a pancake-meets-funnel cake type of thing... And then it has various toppings, either sweet or savory.  The place was covered in various knick-knacks and vintage decor, so it was a totally perfect way to end an adventurous day!

Antik Cafe & Pfannkuchenhaus
Pfannkuchen with Mixed Veggies and Mozzarella

Antik Cafe
Antik Cafe

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Embracing "Lost-ness" and Riddagshausen Abbey

I have learned a ton over the past three and a half months in Germany.  In that time, I have especially learned a lot about myself, my strengths, weaknesses, fears, and perhaps most of all, my resilience.  While traveling to new and different places, I have been on the verge of lost-ness several times.  And one thing I have learned is that the fear of being or getting lost is far more troublesome than actually not knowing where you are.  I find that this most often happens in unfamiliar places when I have to switch to a new or unfamiliar bus route.   An example of this scenario happened last weekend, which is when I decided I should write a blog about it.

Riddagshausen Abbey

Exhibit A: Going to Riddagshausen Abbey near Braunschweig via Unfamiliar Bus Route

I decided to go visit an old Cistercian monastery church called Riddagshausen [rid-DOGS-HOW-zen] which is located in the country-side just outside of Braunschweig.  I have been to Braunschweig several times.  It is the next town over from Wolfenbüttel, and easily accessible via train or bus. So I went to the bus stop in Wolfenbüttel that takes the 420 bus to Braunschweig-- I know which one it is now and how often it departs because I have done it many times.

Bus stops often have generic names based on the streets or monuments they are near, so I exited the 420 bus at the Rathaus stop in Braunschweig.  The problem with this naming system for bus stops is that they are often not helpful in discerning exactly where the stop is located.  For example, the Rathaus in Braunschweig is enormous, surrounded on all sides by major roads and multiple bus stops.   Bus stops, unlike train stations for example, are not usually included in maps, nor are they easily google-able.  So I exited the 420 bus at the Rathaus, and was supposed to catch the 315 bus from the Rathaus to Riddagshausen.  But the 315 bus didn't leave from the same stop I exited-- so I started walking around the Rathaus, reading the bus stop signs, looking for the 315.  I found one 315 bus stop, but it was for the bus running the opposite direction on that route.  Lo and behold, I walked all the way around the Rathaus and never found the bus stop I needed to take the bus I wanted.  Back to the drawing board.

PAUSE: This does not sound like a profound problem, or even something worth panicking over.  The problem is that when you have about four minutes between buses, you have this sense of urgency that you must find the stop fast or else you get left behind.  This fear of missing the bus you intended to catch, the fear that you will be left behind and not make it to your destination, and the fear that you are in an area that you are not familiar with can be overwhelming.  That is the fear of lost-ness.

During this moment of lost-ness, I always have a moment of panic where I think, "I should just go home now, before I get any more lost."  That is the little red flag that usually signals to me that it is time to SLOW DOWN.  In that moment, I often find a place to order a cup of coffee.  This is when I embrace lost-ness.  I concede that I did not make it to the bus I intended to take, but with a level head I look for the next opportunity.  I ask someone in the cafe or I look it up on my phone, or I find a different bus from a different stop that I am more familiar with.

So after missing my 315 bus from the Rathaus, I noticed the 315 bus also runs from a stop outside a department store that is much less overwhelming.  So I went to that bus stop, confirmed with the driver that this was, in fact, the bus I wanted to take to get to Riddagshausen Abbey, and I hopped on board!  Often the relief of finally being on the right bus is euphoric.  "Ahhh.  I made it.  I'm going the right way now.  Relax."  I find few things more satisfying than being on the brink of lost-ness (or even flat out totally lost), and then finding your way.  So as my hard-found bus arrived at Riddagshausen, I was ready to soak the place in, and explore the location I had gotten so lost trying to find.

The Rewards of Conquering the Fear of Lost-ness:

The view of Riddagshausen Abbey from the bus stop

I often find that if I arrive at a destination after battling the fear of lost-ness, it is even more profound.  It was an icky, rainy, windy, cold day, but Riddagshausen was radiant.  The Abbey was built from 1216-1275 as a Cistercian monastery, and much of the medieval architecture still stands.  Riddagshausen has been a Lutheran church since 1568 after the Reformation.

Various building phases are evident when looking at the outside of the church

A rare glimpse at a red, furry-eared, German squirrel!

Beautiful wooden screen separating the high altar space

Moses supporting the pulpit, by Zacharias Koenig, 1622

Baptismal font in the foreground and the high altar visible over the screen in the background

View of the high altar through the screen

Fuzzy little algae on the stone wall around the abbey

After my long, adventurous day, I returned home to Wolfenbüttel (not missing any of my buses this time) and was thankful for the little things.  Like dry socks, warm blankets, and knowing where you are.