[Ed note: Folks, I apologize if the blog lately has seemed flaky or not often updated. There has been some trouble with my image hosting company who decided to do one of their famous "upgrades"/service changes and all hell broke loose. So, the point is, I am currently unable to upload images reliably or even reliably view what I did upload in the past, so if the movies/image links in previous posts have not been working, this is why. So, think twice about going to Streamload/Mediamax for your file storage and hosting needs, folks. I promise I will update the posts with the missing images as soon as (that is if) things get to normal with them, so please check back through from the August 1st posts onwards in a few days when you have the chance. My sincerest apologies. Anyway, continuing with the usual program, minus the images....]
So. Remember what I said about the Germans and their rules? No, I'm not paranoid, it wasn't just a first impression or a case of simply misunderstanding the language or local customs.
This morning, in extending my stay at the hostel, I paid my extension with a 20 Euro bill. It was a rather newish bill, but had been a bit crumpled up in a tight stay in my small zippered wallet (which also holds all my coins, thus explaining the crumpling). When I extended the bill to the receptionist, she pointedly looked at me and said: "Ooops!"
I of course had no idea what had just happened so I scrutinized her face for clues to figure out what exactly she was "oopsing" about.
She then showed me the bill, and made a point of uncrumpling it and straightening out the corners on the table, a production that lasted a full (I kid you not!) two minutes before she put the bill away in the register, while the other receptionist (a guy) "tsk tsk tsk"ed at me and made ironing motion mimics and sounds with raised eyebrows.
So, kids, learn your lesson: It is improper to crumple up your 20 Euro bills.
Anyway, visited the pretty town of Quedlinburg, with its Fachwerkshäuser Altstadt and the Castle and Church of St. Servatius. The Church, of course, like all important churches, is custody to a small treasure, carefully detailed item by item in the visitor's guide you receive with your church entrance ticket.
The treasure, unfortunately, is incomplete, for not unlike many other such treasures, some pieces went missing throughout the years, but especially after the 2nd World War, and this (the missing artwork) has apparently made the "Quedlinburgians" a little bit upset. Here's the textual, word-for-word quote from the English visitor's guide:
"Economic and financial difficulties from the 16th century forced the community [of Quedlinburg] to sell individual pieces from the treasury. In 1812 King Jerome of Westphalia ordered the treasure to be taken to Kassel. It was only returned to its original location in 1820 thanks to the perseverance of Superintendent Fritsch.
Most of the [Church treasure] losses occured at the end of the 2nd World War. The treasure was stored in 16 chests in bombproof caves near Quedlinburg until the American troops occupied Quedlinburg in April 1945.
When the treasure was returned weeks later the chests had been opened and ransacked. Twelve pieces were missing, including 2 valuable gospel books, the relic-box and ornamental comb of Henry I, six rock crystal flacons, a small cross-shaped reliquary, and an Agnus Dei capsule. They were considered lost for more than 40 years.
The American lieutenant Joe Meador had stolen them and sent them to his hometown Witewright (Texas) by military mail. The art theft was only discovered after lengthy investigations when his heirs tried to sell the Samuhel Gospel.
According to Texan law this crime had expired by prescription [E's note: statute of limitations?]. A judicial settlement with the Meador family resulted in the return of 10 of the stolen works to Germany in the spring of 1992. A small cross and rock crystal flacon are still lost in the U.S. and remain on the list of stolen artworks."
I have no comment on this one.
Let me tell you a little more about this King Henry I, though. Henry I (a.k.a. Henry the fowler) was the duke of Saxony (back in around 912 or so), and is considered the first king of medieval Germany, for he unified several of the then existing duchies, some by inheritance, and some by military campaigns. He also successfully defended this German confederation against several Magyar invasions and annexed onto his kingdom a section which used back then to belong to Denmark. In Quedlinburg he is particularly well liked, not just because the town was donated by him but also because it was there where his wife founded the famous "Frauenstift", a type of women's college or school where they could go learn all sorts of useful medieval skills like weaving and the like. No wonder, then, that both he and his wife are buried in the castle cathedral.
But what is really interesting is how this well liked and popular historical figure was used for nationalistic propaganda starting with the (in)famous "Heinrichsfeier" of 1939, where in impassioned speeches adressed to a chapelfull of SS soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder celebrating the 1000th anniversary of his death, King Henry I was touted as an example of German courage and strength and how people should look up to him and how we should build a nation like his and blah blah blah.
[And if you don't mind reading in German, you can find the transcription of the original 1939 speeches here.]