Tag Archives: Stuttgart

Rearview Mirror on a Summer

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Long Beach, Vancouver Island

September has come, it is hers / Whose vitality leaps in the autumn…*

Except that my vitality ain’t doing too much leaping at the moment. I’m still scrambling to catch up with the long, busy, and, above all, “away” summer – you’ve seen a few of the pictures. We left home on July 9th; spent two weeks in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island; came home; then after all of two days I hopped on a plane (or rather, a series of them), and headed for Europe for a month. A few days of sightseeing in Munich; three weeks of family stuff (helping with a move, to be precise); then to cap it off, three glorious days in London.

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Marienplatz, Munich, with Mary’s Column and Old Town Hall

Six weeks, 1500 photos, a wealth of experiences and memories. My house and garden, meanwhile, went to pot. As for my writing – well, I was going to say that nothing happened on that front, either. But that would actually be quite untrue. No, I didn’t really put any words to paper (or screen, as it were). But among those 1500 photos are quite a few that I took specifically as references for my WIP (that’s short for Work In Progress, for the un-artsy of you). The whole time in Germany I was soaking up atmosphere, sounds, tastes, sights – all with a mind to how that could be put to paper. My hotel in London was a converted Regency townhouse – inspiration pure (I might just have to write a Regency novel one of these days just so I can set it in that street; it was called Burton Crescent in those days).

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Cartwright Gardens, Bloomsbury

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I want to go back…

One street over, Tavistock Square, was where both Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens lived for a while and wrote To the Lighthouse and A Tale of Two Cities, respectively. Five minutes walk up the street was the British Library – I got to see original manuscripts by (i.e. stare in awe at the notebooks of) Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Oscar Wilde; my jaw literally dropped when in one of the gorgeous glass cases I saw the Lindisfarne Gospels, and in another the Codex Sinaiticus… But I didn’t just revel in high-brow literature – I stopped in at King’s Cross Station and took a look at the Platform 9 3/4 store with its trolley stuck into the wall, too.

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The one and only portrait of Jane Austen, by her sister Cassandra. National Portrait Gallery, London.

I drank Bavarian beer in Munich, Württemberger wine in Stuttgart, and English cider in London; I ate pork roast with dumplings in the Hofbräuhaus, lentils and spätzle in the old part of Stuttgart, and beef-and-ale pie in a pub by King’s Cross. I got claustrophobic in the Bloody Tower as one of the bloody masses of tourists and sat in silence in the Stiftskirche in Stuttgart among a few other visitors stopped in to pray. I revelled in train rides and was moved to tears by world-famous paintings. And in between, I packed boxes and unpacked boxes; walked to the grocery store, walked to public transit, walked to visit people, and on Sundays went for walks by way of recreation.

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Beef pie and Symonds cider, in honest-to-goodness London pub

And now I’m back home in the land of peaches and salsa and grapes, where one has to take the car even to buy a jug of milk. I have limitless wi-fi again, so I’m catching up with what I’ve missed on the internet (which I haven’t actually missed that much – I’m considering making this a lifestyle). And I’m bound and determined to get back to writing. I have great good intentions to regularly sit down and work on my, well, work. One can always be optimistic, no? I certainly have enough inspiration to carry me along for a while.

Life, the Universe, and a Long Busy Travelling Summer. Now to process all those impressions…

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Franz Marc, “Birds”. Lenbachhaus, Munich. So beautiful it made me cry.

*opening line from a poem by Louis McNeice, Autumn Journal

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Hauff’s Grave, a Pilgrimage

I was sitting on the Lufthansa plane, tapping through the movie offerings on the little screen in the seat back in front of me, choosing the films to while away the nine hours to Frankfurt. Among the German movies, a title caught my attention: Das kalte Herz, “The Cold Heart”.

Wait a minute, I said to myself, is that the “Cold Heart”? The fairy tale? I started watching the movie. Sure enough, it was the story from Wilhelm Hauff‘s collection. But it had been years – actually, more like decades – since I read it; I only had a vague memory of it. What was the real story like? Wait another minute, I said, don’t I have Hauff’s Fairy Tales downloaded on my Kobo? I did indeed. So I paused the movie, pulled out “Das kalte Herz“, and let Hauff’s words take me away to a little charcoal burner’s hut in the Black Forest, two hundred years ago or, rather, Once Upon a Time… IMG_20170313_131721979

And so I was brought back home to the fold of my favourite fairy tale book, Hauffs Märchen. Hauff was a contemporary of the Brothers Grimm, but unlike them, he is not so much a fairy tale collector as an author; most of the tales in his book (all of them, in the edition I had as a kid) are his original composition. A few of them are traditional fairy tales; many others have the character of legends or adventure stories. Each of the three parts of the book is comprised of a framework story, much like The Canterbury Tales, in which a group of chance companions tell each other stories to pass the time; the frame stories are as interesting as the individual tales themselves. “The Cold Heart”, or as it is sometimes titled in English, “The Heart of Stone” or “The Little Glass Man“, belongs in the collection “The Inn in the Spessart”, in which a small group of travellers find themselves caught at night in an inn in the Spessart Mountains, threatened by a gang of robbers. They tell stories in order to be able to keep awake and vigilant in the face of danger. Felix, a young goldsmith, agrees to switch places with the noble lady the villains want to kidnap, and when the robbers burst into the inn…IMG_20170313_131706737

But I wasn’t going to tell you about Hauff’s tales. I might do that some other time; or better yet, you go read them for yourself. I was going to tell you how I went to visit Wilhelm Hauff himself.

Behringer_-_Wilhelm_Hauff_1826You see, Hauff is not only my favourite fairy tale author, he is a Swabian, born and buried in the very city I was travelling to, Stuttgart. And when I looked him up on Google,  it turned out that the cemetery where he lies is just around the corner from a place I was going to anyway, just one stop further on the bus line.IMG_20170227_120110611

And so I went on a pilgrimage to the Hoppenlau Cemetery. It’s the oldest still existing cemetery in Stuttgart, first established in 1626, the last burial having taken place in 1882. It’s a curious place, this old cemetery. Because it has been so long since the last person was buried there, all that is left of the graves, for the most part, are the ancient tombstones, their sandstone crumbling, overrun with moss and lichen. The fallen leaves from last autumn surround them in a deep, rustling brown carpet; clumps of snowdrops, crocuses and buttercups push their way through, turning their cheery little faces to the sun, which shone brightly on this late February day.

IMG_20170227_150424The cemetery isn’t being left to just crumble into oblivion. The city of Stuttgart is in the middle of a costly restoration project – whole sections of the cemetery are fenced off while the tombstones are being cleaned and repaired and the worst of the leafy and mossy intruders removed. Oh dear, I thought as I walked along the solid white fence, heading for the back left corner of the cemetery, they didn’t lock me away from Hauff’s grave, did they? I steeled myself for disappointment – but no, the fence ended, and there was a stone plaque in the ground with an arrow: “This way to the grave of the poet Wilhelm Hauff”.

IMG_20170227_114337542And there it was: Hauff’s last resting place. A large, jagged boulder set into an ivy-covered bed, an iron plaque mounted on its front: “Wilhelm Hauff, born 29 Nov. 1802, died 18 Nov. 1827”. And below, the names of his daughter Wilhelmine and his wife (and cousin) Luise. “They only rest for a while,” it says at the bottom.IMG_20170227_114128318

I sat down on the bench that faces the stone, next to a tall lime tree that was planted in his honour on the 150th anniversary of his death, and let the early spring sun shine on my face. I closed my eyes, and slowly the 21st century disappeared. The modern city sounds of cars and buses faded away, to be replaced by the clip-clop of hooves and the rattling of carts over cobblestones; the square-towering highrises surrounding the cemetery shrank down to just a few stories high, their parapets taking on the graceful curves of 18th-century architecture. A young woman in deepest black, her bonnet veiled, her wide skirts brushing the ground, came down the path between the tombstones, a small girl by the hand. “Don’t forget your Papa, Minle,” she said softly, as the little girl laid a bouquet of violets on the grave…IMG_20170223_135713524

He won’t ever be forgotten, this man who died so very young. He left behind a beautiful legacy of tales that even after 200 years have as much power as they did when they were first written.

I finished reading “The Cold Heart” on the rest of the flight to Germany; then I went right back and started reading the tales of “The Inn in the Spessart” from the beginning. Then those of “The Caravan”. And then “The Sheik of Alessandria and His Slaves”, and now that I’m back in Canada I’m still finding treasures in it that I had long forgotten, if I had ever understood them.

IMG_20170227_114409596Stuttgart people walk through the Hoppenlau Cemetery on their way to work, or sit on its benches in their lunch hour, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Perhaps Hauff did, too, when he lived in Stuttgart, nearly 200 years ago. And maybe he even thought up some of his stories there. “Dwarf Nose”, perhaps, or even “The Cold Heart”?

I’m glad I rediscovered Hauff. He rests in the Hoppenlau Cemetery – but as long as we have his tales, he is not gone.

 

 

 

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Stuttgart: a Brief Photo Collage

I just spent another couple of weeks in Germany on a short family visit. Just to catch you up, here’s a few pictures of Stuttgart in February (mouse over the photos for captions, or click on one for a slide show):

 

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#WordlessWednesday: Schiller Feeling Pensive

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8 March 2017 · 08:00

#WordlessWednesday: Snowdrops in a Cemetery

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1 March 2017 · 00:52

Jet Lag, Horse Stairs, Ulrich and Eberhard

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Inner Courtyard, Altes Schloss, Stuttgart

It’s 4:00 AM, and I’m sitting in the living room catching up on my emails. Well, blog posts written by my bloggy friends, rather, while I was in the Fatherland with not-as-much time and internet access as I usually have. So here I am, making my way through about forty mails that accumulated over the last few days. Hello, jet lag, my old friend… (If my comment or “Like” on your blog post arrived kind of late, that’s why.)

I mostly went for a family visit this time round, but I did get in a day of shopping (had to bring home a few goodies, no?), and while I was in Stuttgart popped into the Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church) and the Württembergisches Landesmuseum in the Alte Schloss (Old Castle) in the middle of town, for a nice dose of history.

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The church has a lovely high relief of life-sized sandstone statues of the Counts (Grafen) of Württemberg running down the side of the choir. It’s from about 1580 or so, and shows eleven of the guys, from the 13th century onwards. What cracks me up each time I see it is their names: there’s Ulrich, Ulrich, Eberhard, Ulrich, Eberhard, Eberhard, Ulrich… Except for the last one, who’s a Heinrich. He must have felt a bit left out (maybe that’s why his successor commissioned the sculptures, to prove that he was one of the gang, even though he’s no Uli).

IMG_20160301_133037The Alte Schloss next door to the church is another Renaissance building (it’s the Old Castle, as opposed to the New one a little further over, which was only built in the 18th century). One of the things that’s cool about the Old Castle is its horse staircase. That’s right, horse. Large four-footed critter with hoofs, that people use for transportation. See how shallow those treads are? The staircase is designed so that the nobs could ride their chargers all the way up to the third floor of the castle, right into the banqueting hall. The Renaissance version of a drive-in.

Well, I guess I’ll try to go to sleep for another couple of hours, so I’ll sign off for now.

Life, the Universe, Horse Stairs, Eberhard and Ulrich. Should be over this jet lag thing in a day or two.

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