Friday, November 21, 2008

Braunschweig 26.7.1998: Fledermäuse and Moses

Feeling very out of sorts today, after two nights of too little sleep, with nightmares and anxieties.

What to say? A flea market in Braunschweig yesterday with Mareile, where Steve and I bought a small painted pottery pitcher for Mareile, of the sort she collects, and one for ourselves, along with a bowl from the Tyrol. Two days before, in Braunschweig, we had bought at an antique shop an art nouveau/Jugendstil trivet with a swan on a blue and yellow background, and silver edging. Also bought a set of those lace and embroidery edgings for cupboard shelves one finds in Germany, with little sayings worked into them.

After the flea market, wurst with brötchen—clearly Mareile’s attempt to please us, since I can’t imagine her eating such food, at picnic tables surrounded by gabbling shoppers. Then back home, where we cleaned house, had a siesta, and worked in the garden.

After a dinner of leftover pizza and pasta, back into Braunschweig, where we walked a bit in a pretty park with a rather frightening black obelisk, a military monument, in its center. Very Prussian, severe, formal, earnest to a fault . . . . More walking in the city, and then we ended up in the Magniviertel where Mareile and I had glasses of a good crisp Mosel wine, and Steve a local beer. Back home for a bit more wine (red) as we sat together while full night fell, on the patio with a candle burning. A good end to a good day, as we watched bats flit overhead—Fledermaus or pippistrella, as the Italians call them, according to Mareile.

Today, Mass at the Dominican parish, an ugly concrete barn of a place from the 1950s, with bleak angular crosses and stations of the cross, and a little Marian chapel with the most hideous Madonna I’ve ever seen, all gold and bug-eyed, looking like an alien creature from a Hollywood science fiction film.

We spoke with the priest afterward. He told us he believes some blessing for gay couples will one day be sanctioned by the church. As he said, the irony now is that the church blesses everything—autos, soft drink machines, crops—but not two men or two women together.

Then a walk around the Teich of a former Cistercian abbey, Riddagshausen, outside Braunschweig. It left me cold, as the ruins of Cistercian places in Ireland don’t do. Why the difference? In part, I think, because the place is not a ruin, but a Protestant church that continues to be used, with Protestant iconography that clashes with the vestiges of monastic life—heavy gravestones of various local gentry and abbots, as the pastor continued (continues) to be called after the dissolution of the monastery. The pulpit has an ornately carved Moses, with the ten commandments, holding up the pulpit itself—almost funny in its earnestness and its intent to reduce everything to this one literal root.

Then back home, where T. and B. have arrived. Mareile told me yesterday B. descends from both Franz Josef and wife Cissy. She seems nice, unassuming and rather plain, with front teeth at odds with each other and a dent running the length of her nose.

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