Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kirchen, Kornelimünster, and the Fleischwolf

Upon our (wet and cold) return to Aachen from Greece, Sara and I were both a little in the post-vacation-in-one-of-the-most-beautiful-places-in-the-world doldrums. However, our city of Aachen was quick to lift our spirits and remind us that we really do like living in Germany. First was the Nacht der Offenen Kirchen--the Night of the Open Churches. Many of the churches in the city opened their doors to all visitors from about 6 pm until midnight with free tours, concerts, and people explaining more about church. I think that's a pretty clever idea for such a secular society. It was pretty cool because Sara sang in her first choir concert since she left the San Francisco Symphony Chorus in June. Figuralchor Aachen, Sara's new vocal ensemble here, is a group of about 20 people that sing a cappella music, and that quite well. Their concert was about 40 minutes long and included works by Byrd, Kodály, and Holst, among others. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to catch any video of the singing as I was in the center of the church right in front of others, and I didn't want to obstruct their view. However, the music was good and the evening was enjoyable, if a little (and, at times, a lot) rainy.

After the concert, Sara and I took advantage of the open church night to check out the Dom, the central cathedral in Aachen. (We'd been there once before, as you may recall.) It was far more spectacular this time. They had completed (or at least temporarily suspended for the exhibition) the renovations on the second floor. That meant that, while we couldn't go to the second floor, we could see all of the mosaics and murals above us, together with the organ. It was gorgeous and quite sparkly--so much gold tiling! Again, no pictures (we weren't sure if they were allowed or not), but we'll do a real tour soon and then you'll see it up close and personal! Speaking of up close, we also got to see the chests/arks/things in which Charlemagne's remains are kept. There were phenomenally ornate and quite beautiful--and they looked heavy! Also, the weirdest thing we saw was a podium or lectern cast in metal with three lions making the support on the ground, a large eagle facing an audience, and, attached to the eagle's back and making the place where the book would be placed for the reader, a large bat. Again, you'll need to see the pictures to understand, but it was crazy. And pretty cool. Like Aachen.

The day after the Nacht der Offenen Kirchen, Aachen hosted another festival: the Kunst und Kulinaria (Art and Culinary) festival in the piece of Aachen known as Kornelimünster, about 45 minutes by bus from us, and just a few minutes by the same bus from our church. The festival itself was nice--a little pricey, but full of cute crafts and delicious food. (Notable foods include the Zwiebelkuchen--an onion tart--with onions, egg, rosemary, and some apple slices that was really good, and some fancy jams. Fancy as in Raspberry-Rhubarb and Blackberry-Apple-Cinnamon. So good.) Perhaps more notable than the festival was the town itself. Take a look!




After looking around, I remarked to Sara, "I think we just found the Marin County of Aachen!"

Also in Kornelimünster, we noticed an advertisement for an event the previous night (thus, one in conflict with Sara's concert) that was some live rock music performed, apparently, by Charlemagne:
We're pretty bummed we missed that one.

One more crazy thing we discovered in Kornelimünster: pay toilets. Now, we've seen these before, but we hadn't yet used them. Since we were pretty tired still from the lack of sleep on Thursday night and the long day of travel on Friday, Tyler had consumed about 2 liters of Cucasaft (our word for Coke--taken from a spin on "Coke juice"), leading to his need to pay 50 cents to use the bathroom. It was 50 cents so well spent that Sara did it too. Here's the bathroom itself:

You pay your money (no change provided, though), and the door slides open automatically. The toilet itself doesn't have a drain, as shown here:

So what you do is, well, what one normally does in a bathroom. Then, when you leave, the toilet tips into the wall floor (after careful review, the geometry indicated that tipping into the wall is impossible), dumping the contents in a sanitary and environmentally-friendly place, and the whole bathroom is cleaned and sanitized (desinfiziert, they say). It's even left a little wet after the cleaning, so you know it was done right. So crazy! An outhouse that is sanitized after every use! Of course, Sara and I are most perplexed by how they keep the toilet paper dry during cleaning. Hmm....

One more tidbit. As part of Tyler's continual quest to find crazy German words, a new entry from the weekly advertisements has come through. In German, das Fleisch is meat and der Wolf is, naturally, wolf. So, what would one expect from combining the two into der Fleischwolf? The meat-eating wolf? A wolf sculpted from meat? No no, it's much more simple:
Der Fleischwolf is a meat grinder! Who knew. Pigs that save and wolves that grind your beef. What's not to love about German?

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