08 November 2008

Nördlingen and Such

Sometime in the week after my last post several employees of the university and I met with representatives of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. That college is considering starting a partnership with the KUE, and the representatives wanted to speak with an American to hear his perspective on the university and Eichstätt. I was as positive as I could be.

On Halloween, I celebrated the day by carving pumpkins with Anna, a friend of my tutor’s. As the holiday is mostly American, she had never participated in this tradition. My two-faced pumpkin is on the left of the following two photos, and Anna’s is to the right.

One reason that Halloween has not caught on much in Germany, in spite of the efforts of some national retailers, is because that the two following days are observed religious holidays, All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day. For many Germans it is simply too hypocritical to celebrate a holiday that traditionally honors ghouls, goblins, and mischief on one night, and then head to church the following morning.

Dylan came to Eichstätt for a visit on Saturday. We decided to take a day trip to a near-by town, but first went to Kloster Walburga, a convent in Eichstätt for Benedictine nuns, in order to investigate the phenomenon known as Walburga Oil. Saint Walburga, sister to Saint Willibald, the first bishop of Eichstätt, lived in the latter half of the 9th century. Her physical remains were laid to rest in what became the convent and soon turned into a destination for pilgrims. Every year from the middle of October to late February, for centuries, pure water has dripped from Walburga’s tomb into a collecting dish placed by the nuns. The convent’s sisters then dilute the Walburga Oil, as they call it, and give it out to pilgrims.

Votives cover the walls of the chapel that contains Walburga’s tomb, thank you gifts offered by those who believe that Saint Walburga has answered their prayers over the centuries. Most of the votives date from several centuries ago, while others are from as recently as the 1990’s. The view below shows the back wall of the chapel. The actual tomb is recessed into the wall, the consequence of a number of renovations and reconstructions of the cloister since its founding in 1035.

The next picture shows a case located on another wall contained in which are wax figures, fragments of bone, and teeth, presumably other offerings from individuals of a time long past.

This last photograph from the convent is of the chapel’s altar, behind which is the tomb. The square gold and silver door above the large painting accesses the opening where the nuns place the collection dish for the water. Unfortunately, it remained closed during our visit.

Dylan and I then rode the trains to the town of Nördlingen. The community is home to about 20,000 and lies about 25 miles southwest of Eichstätt. The town sits in the center of the Ries Crater, formed by the impact of a meteorite more than 15 million years ago. American astronauts conducted part of their training for the Apollo moon missions in Nördlingen because of the well-preserved conditions of the crater. The best way to take in the view of the landscape and town is by ascending the tower of Saint George’s Church in the middle of the historical city center, as seen below.

Creaking wooden steps twisted up through the stone tower, growing narrower and steeper along the way.

Several minutes later we stepped out onto a skinny walkway and into the open air.

We returned to Eichstätt and spent the rest of the night eating dinner and relaxing with a couple other friends. The first picture below is of my meal, oven roasted pork shoulder with potato dumplings.

On Sunday morning Dylan returned to Salzburg.

Tuesday night I stayed up until dawn on Wednesday in order to watch the live results of the election in America. As the bakers of Eichstätt were probably pulling their first batches for the day from their ovens and the rest of the town slept, I lay in my bed when the networks announced the next President of the United States.

The election was a major issue in Germany as well, and was the primary topic for most of my classes during the week. Some Germans, like other Europeans, lament that they cannot vote in the election because the results matter so much for them as well. Barack Obama was, of course, the candidate of choice for most of Germany. On the following day some individuals congratulated me on the selection of America’s newest President.

The week before the election one of my students asked if I would be willing to participate in a poll for her as an assignment for one of her classes. I agreed, and she asked me questions regarding my thoughts on the election and which candidate I preferred. Close to the end of her questions I felt that something wasn’t right, and asked her to explain again what this assignment was. I had mistranslated. She wasn’t conducting a poll for one of her classes; she was conducting an interview for the regional newspaper.

As I have tried until now to remain neutral in my classes when discussing American politics, I immediately asked her if I could remain anonymous. She said no, and requested to take a photograph of me as well. Our compromise was that she could use my name and answers as long as she took no photograph and left out the information on my age and occupation. She comforted me by saying that the university students rarely read the local newspaper.

On Thursday, in U.S. Current Affairs, five minutes into the class, I was speaking privately with a student who was preparing a presentation on the American election. He told me that he would try to be neutral, especially after reading the article in which I gave my thoughts on the election. I wanted to turn to the student who had interviewed me and give her an angry glare.

Incidentally, on Election Day a television station from Ingolstadt wanted to interview me as well. I declined.

Last night I attended a special event with Franzi. The university and the town was hosting a discussion between the Archbishop of Munich-Freising, a top executive from Audi, and two Bavarian state politicians on the topic of Christianity’s role in the workplace and economy of the 21st century. The discussion attracted a large audience and filled the ballroom to standing-room-only capacity. Several television stations from Munich and Bavaria were on hand to film the event. Unfortunately, the discussion often reached such a high philosophical level that I could barely follow along. Nevertheless, what I did understand was interesting to hear.

For the rest of today I might take a trip to another town near Eichstätt, but you’ll read about that in the next post.


Nick O. said...

Vati-O: I don't know how well authentic German food would be received at home. I think once people tried it, they would like it and a returning customer base would form, but it's that trying part that I don't feel confident about.

As for the TV interview, my reasons for not wanting to do it where the same as the ones I wrote about in the post for my desire to remain anonymous with the newspaper article.

Anonymous said...

Hey what happen to my post / I see you answered it / but it's no longer posted???