Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sushi Night and The Last Supper

Katja, Frederique, Sophia, Me, Alberto, Matthias, and Gundula at The Last Supper
Over the past seven months here in Wolfenbüttel, we have had countless dinner parties at Sophia and Matthias’ flat here in town.  They have a full kitchen and more space than those of us in the guest houses, so it is a great space for everyone to gather.  Sophia is an excellent cook and hostess, and I pride myself in being the best sous chef I can be!  I’ll do anything for someone else to cook for me…

On Monday May 30, it was our office-mate Julia’s turn to be in charge of the dinner party.  She has made sushi before and we all decided that would be a great group activity, and would have the added benefit of being delicious!  So Julia made the sticky sushi rice in advance, and then we compiled the rolls and such once we got to Sophia’s.  Julia also made a delicious soup and a wilted spinach salad to round out the whole affair!

Each of us trying to use chopsticks was some major entertainment, and the meal was DELICIOUS!!  As always, we enjoyed each other’s company, talked, laughed, and ate until we were miserable, before topping it all off with ice cream before the night ended!

Frederique, Sophia, Julia, Maria, Gundula, Katja, and Alberto ready to feast!
It is, unfortunately, the end of an era now.  Sophia had to move out of Matthias’ flat, and so she hosted one final Last Supper (now the first image in this post makes more sense...).

Sophia prepared salmon, which I am told was very tasty, and Matthias and Alberto made a super pasta with lemon-butter sauce.  The grand finale was a cake that Sophia invented!  Spekulatius is a type of German cookie.  Apparently it is usually associated with Christmas (involves cinnamon, cloves, etc.), but I’ll be the first to tell you it is also delicious in June!  She mixed some spekulatius spices with a vanilla bean cake, and we spread spekulaas cream in between the cake’s layers, before crumbling some spekulatius cookies on top of the vanilla bean icing!  That sucker weighed about 1,000 pounds but was AMAZINGGGG! 

The hosts with the most! Prost to Sophia and Matthias!

The Last Supper was a totally fitting way to celebrate all of the amazing evenings, meals, and memories we have shared at Matthias’ flat.  Sophia will leave us soon, but I hope someone else can fill the shoes of the hostess with the mostess (and cook dinner for me)!!!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Kloster Marienberg in Helmstedt

On Thursday, June 2, I went to Kloster Marienberg in a nearby town called Helmstedt.  I had already been to the monastery once back in April to meet the Domina Mechtild von Veltheim (similar to an abbess or prioress, she is the head of the monastery now) and Ursula Roeper, a curator planning an exhibition at the monastery.  So on this return visit, I was going to take photos in the textile treasury!

Kloster Marienberg
Kloster Marienberg in bloom
Kloster Marienberg is no longer a monastery, but houses a small textile treasury and the attached church is now Lutheran.  Marienberg was an Augustinian convent, founded in the 12th century.  Though I don’t know of any textiles actually made in Marienberg, they have acquired a super little collection since the creation of the Veltheim-Stiftung (a foundation set up by Domina Charlotte von Veltheim to collect and conserve medieval textiles) in the 19th century. 

I arrived around 10:00am, met Domina von Veltheim and a couple of the women from the restoration department for a quick coffee, and then spent the entire day in the treasury, photographing to my little heart’s content! 

They have a couple 13th-14th century embroideries showing scenes from the life of Saint Margaret. 

Life of St. Margaret, 13th Century 
Life of St. Margaret, 14th Century
Life of St. Margaret, 14th Century
I just LOVE these colorful patterns!  Life of St. Margaret, 13th Century
More super patterns!  Life of St. Margaret, 14th Century
The textile that depicts scenes from the Passion of Christ (ca. 1450) is especially cool because it sports two sets of initials, assumed to be from the embroiderers themselves.  Originally, the initials weren’t visible because they were sewn underneath the border, but later restorations revealed the hidden letters.

Passion of Christ, ca. 1450
Crucifixion, Passion of Christ, ca. 1450 
Little upside-down "GB" initials. Passion of Christ, ca. 1450
Sideways "MK" initials. Passion of Christ, ca. 1450
One of the nicest textiles they have is a Lenten cloth or antependium made in Kloster Heiningen around 1260.  Another fabulous example of white work embroidery, the quality of the silk, stitches, and its current state are all totally impressive!

Lenten cloth or antependium, ca. 1260, Kloster Heiningen
Christ in Majesty. Lenten cloth or antependium, ca. 1260, Kloster Heiningen
Virgin Mary. Lenten cloth or antependium, ca. 1260, Kloster Heiningen
Some super-detailed patterns!  Lenten cloth or antependium, ca. 1260, Kloster Heiningen
They also have a couple interesting examples of embroideries produced on black cloth, instead of the more common white/natural background.  

"Anna Selbdritt" (Saint Anne, with Mary and Christ child in her lap)
And last, but certainly not least, they are the proud owners of a couple large-scale klosterstich embroideries in wool.  These are very similar to the textiles made and kept in Kloster Wienhausen (here) and Kloster Luene (here and here).  Because these are not behind glass, I was able to use my microscope attachment to get a closer look at the fibers of one of these!!

Large klosterstich embroidery, Scenes from the Life of St. Elizabeth
These little yellow boxes indicate the location of the following micro details.
Microscope lens on bellows.  Detail of red and green wool stitching.
Microscope lens on bellows.  Detail of gray wool-- I love how you can see so many different colors up close!
Kloster Marienberg in Helmstedt is a really super institution.  It is small enough that you can speak to real people who are interested in helping you, while it also has the resources to undertake impressive restoration and conservation endeavors, while also maintaining, displaying, and even loaning out a nice collection of medieval textiles!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Wolfenbüttel Summer Festivals!

You may have noticed that nearly every weekend there is something exciting happening here!!  I’d like to take this opportunity to catch you up on two very important annual events in Wolfenbüttel —Entenrennen (Duck Race) and Buspulling (You guessed it! Bus pulling).  

On Saturday May 31, we experienced the joy of the Entenrennen.  We all met up at the so-called “duck pond” in town to see the festivities, and were impressed by the amount fan-fare involved!  We all bought a rubber duckie for 2 Euro to participate in the race.  The duckies are modeled after Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, the namesake of the Wolfenbüttel theater I mentioned in an earlier post (here).  They sport his fashionable white wig, and carry a book under one wing and a horse (the symbol of Lower Saxony) in the other.

Sophia buying her duckie!  The anticipation is building!
You can see the resemblance, right?
All of the rubber duckies are taken up onto a bridge over the Oker River and dumped in at the sound of the buzzer!  They sort of dawdle down the small, slow-moving river for about 100 yards before being funneled into a basket from which they will choose the winners.  The first duckie to finish won their human a helicopter ride over Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel—Needless to say, I was relieved to not be the winner of such a “special” prize.  They drew from the rest of the duckies to pass out smaller, more children-oriented prizes later in the afternoon.  Once the race was finished, you could purchase a duckie to keep for another 2 Euro.  Of course we all did.  All of the proceeds benefit a childrens hospital in Wolfenbüttel.

The crowd on the bridge...
The release!!!!

Some real duckies were also involved...
I like to imagine that black cat is the referee.
After the race, we had a good time showing our Lessing ducks around town!

The Entenrennen Crew: Anita, Matthias, Julia, and Sophia

Since I can't get up on this statue, my duckie had to do it for me!
The very next weekend, June 5, it was time for the Annual Bus Pulling Tournament!  This is apparently quite the tradition here in Wolfenbüttel…  Fans come from all over to cheer on their favorite 5-person bus-pulling teams! And by “all over,” I mostly mean within a ten-mile radius.  Nevertheless, they enjoy calling it the “International World Tournament.”  It is my understanding that it began with mostly firefighters pulling fire trucks, and that most of the proceeds still go to support regional fire departments.

Just a normal day in Wolfenbuettel...
This was the first passenger bus used in Wolfenbuettel! (That's what I'm saying and pointing out to Alberto, who took this picture...)
This Australian TV duo does a pretty good job introducing us to the principals and excitement of the whole deal:

There were several rounds, with the best teams advancing each time, until a winner was finally declared at the end of the day.  There was even a women’s bracket!  The teams consisted of six people, but only five pull the bus.  The sixth person just follows the pullers and yells in their faces to go faster… I would like that position on the team.  The team must pull the bus 30 meters, and the sum of the teams two fastest rounds are added together.  The fastest team wins.

Girl Power!
My favorite team of the day was the Wolfenbüttel Volunteer Fire Department, because they showed up in their fire truck and pulled the bus in full bunker gear.  Their times were not competitive, but they showed the most pizzazz!

Good work, guys!  Thanks, Alberto, for capturing this special moment!

At the end of the day, the Almdudlers took home the prize, and bragging rights across the globe!  And we all loved Wolfenbüttel even more.