Monthly Archives: January 2008

A Revisionist History of Footbinding

The Fall 2006 issue of China Review International (on Project Muse) contains a review of what looks to be a fascinating and comprehensive reanalysis of footbinding in China: Dorothy Ko’s Cinderella’s Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding (U. California Press, 2005). Here are some excerpts of the review (not the book itself).

Dorothy Ko’s new history of footbinding is a wonderfully imaginative, wide-ranging, and provocative study of a subject long in need of revisionism….

Both foreign missionaries and Chinese nationalists developed the antifootbinding strategy of photographing and exposing the misshapen foot whose appeal had long depended on the allure of its concealment in the inner quarters and its covering with the elegant embroidered cloth shoe. One of Ko’s most striking conclusions is that, with the exception of a few women (such as the radical Qiu Jin, beheaded by the Qing police in 1908), the Chinese abolitionists were primarily male, and their main arguments concerned not the pain of women but rather the weakness of the Chinese nation and the humiliation and embarrassment caused the nation by such a backward custom. She criticizes the antifootbinding movement as misogynist toward women with bound feet, indifferent to the pain caused by unbinding, and less successful than many have claimed. “One woman’s pride and freedom was predicated on another woman’s shame and bondage” (p. 68). Although not mentioned in her bibliography, an excellent complement to Ko’s analysis that in my view corroborates many of her insights on the complexities and ironies of the turn-of-the-century antifootbinding movement is the inventive novel by Feng Jicai, Sancun jinlian (Three-inch Golden Lotus), published in Chinese in 1986 and in a fine English translation in 1994 (trans. by David Wakefield, University of Hawai‘i Press). Set in Tianjin, Feng’s novel brilliantly reveals the power of social and political fads and fashions in a society as old, as competitive, and as fluid as China’s….

Whereas Ko believes we can never know the origins of such a complex custom with any certainty, she surveys a variety of origin discourses. The Song scholar Zhang Bangji (fl. twelfth century CE) argued that the custom began in his own time. The great Ming literatus Yang Shen (1488–1559) traced the custom back as early as the Six Dynasties (222–589). His foremost critic, Hu Yinglin (1551–1602), argued that footbinding began to spread along with the development of printing in the tenth century CE, insightfully seeing both developments as cultural institutions and material practices. Zhao Yi (1727–1814), the great bibliophile and historian, noted the prevalence of the custom throughout the empire, and he echoed Hu Yinglin in tracing footbinding’s origins to the tenth century. One of Zhao’s most striking insights was to tie the origins of footbinding with the development of household furniture; as women began to sit in chairs rather than on the floor, footbinding became ergonomically possible, and sitting in a chair with her feet dangling down provided a woman the opportunity to display her feet discreetly….

This chapter is one of Ko’s strongest and most original. It is particularly striking that none of her historians on footbinding cite the need to prevent the mobility of women as a justification for the custom, and none cite Confucianism as having any connection with it….

Patricia Ebrey argued years ago that the binding of women’s feet in Song times had less to do with the rise of neo-Confucianism and more to do with popular culture, economic developments, marriage customs, and even China’s relations with its nomadic neighbors. Ebrey pointed out that Chinese masculinity was redefined in the Song to be more refined and aesthetically sensitive, and less active, martial, and athletic than in earlier times. Such a redefinition of masculinity might well have required the parallel development of a new view of femininity that was softer, more delicate, and more effete than before. Footbinding was a way to construct femininity in this softer, weaker, more compliant vein. Ebrey also noted the Chinese reaction against the nomadic cultures on the northern and western borders as another possible factor in promoting the spread of footbinding that came to be seen as a marker of China’s unique civilization in contrast to its nomadic neighbors.

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Not the Orient Express

On our first trip to Romania in 1983, we booked our reservations with an agency who knew what they were doing—Thomas Cook, I believe it was. We took the Orient Express from Paris to Bucharest. This time we bought our Eurail passes online and booked our reservations as we went along. Being well into middle age, we bought the First Class Saver passes (for groups of two or more people) good for 15 consecutive days of travel, which we planned for the first two weeks of January.

Passing Bavarian countrysideOur first mistake was buying the passes from eurail.com, which offers no help with reservations after the sale. Other rail pass vendors, like railpass.com or eurail-pass.com or raileurope.com, will book reservations for people who bought passes from them. Commercial travel agents are not very interested in Eurail pass bookings for just a fraction of the small reservation fee; and national railway systems, even within the EU, may work well with their immediate neighbors, but not with national systems farther down the line.

Romania is pretty far down the line from France. A helpful agent of the SNCF in Strasbourg booked us to Vienna (via Stuttgart and Munich), and gave us the timetable of an overnight train from Vienna to Bucharest, but could not reserve us a sleeping car. (The current Orient Express only runs between Strasbourg and Vienna.) The DB office in Munich had no problem booking us through to Bucharest. The DB certainly impressed us as the gold standard for train travel on both sides of the Atlantic, while Lufthansa similarly impressed us as the gold standard for air travel across the Atlantic, especially after they upgraded us to business class for our Xmas Day flight from Boston to Frankfurt (for no good reason, unless we looked like Herr Santa und Frau Klaus).

Original BudweisersOn the 1983 Orient Express, we stayed in the same Wagon-Lit compartment both nights (between France and Germany and between Hungary and Romania), but we noticed a degradation in quality at each change of dining car. We enjoyed an excellent German breakfast in a spotless dining car as we passed through Bavaria the first morning. That evening we enjoyed a pleasant dinner in a clean Hungarian dining car as we headed for Budapest. The dingy Romanian dining car at breakfast was full of smokers drinking ersatzkaffee and plum brandy.

Crossing the Hungarian border at Hegyeshalom around sunset the night before was memorable, but not nearly as traumatic as our wee-hour awakening at Curtici on the Romanian border, where we were asked to open our luggage and tell the officials if we had any bibles, dynamite, or typewriters—a dangerously subversive trinity. The only bright spot was that it was my first real chance to use Romanian since finishing Army language school in 1970.

This year our trauma—and long-awaited dormant language revival—began much earlier, as we tried to find car 419 in the train awaiting us across the platform when we arrived at Wien Westbahnhof. We found car 420, then backtracked to 418, then 417, then forward again, then even farther back to—lo and behold—car 419. This was but the first indication that our train was not the Orient Express, but the Dacia Express (D 345). The second, third, and fourth indications were that the car attendant spoke Romanian, that he had to evict a hopeful squatter from our 2-berth compartment, and that the car was labeled vagon de dormit as well as wagon-lit and carrozza letto.

When I went looking for a dining car after the train got underway, I noticed that several of the outside doors were chained shut, and that chains also hung at the ready from doors separating first and second class. I quickly retreated to our compartment, where the car attendant soon stopped by to explain that we should use the extra deadbolt lock to keep out the regular midnight burglars that plagued the border area between Hungary and Romania, and that we were to make sure that anyone who knocked on the door was a real border control official before opening up. Fortunately, the door had a peephole, and we had enough snacks and drinking water to last until our arrival.

Snowy Romanian countrysideThe Romanian border crossing was far more pleasant this time around, though still at an ungodly hour. When I responded in Romanian, the customs official asked where I learned it. I said I learned it in the US Army the first time around, then revived it later during a year a the University of Bucharest. He suggested that perhaps I had been a democracy activist. I protested that I had never done anything very useful with the language.

In the early hours before dawn we could see the highway from our train window. We saw a good bit of truck traffic and well-lit gas stations at regular intervals—quite a change from the Romania we remembered—but the Transylvanian countryside looked a lot bleaker after sunrise, with poorly built, poorly heated houses in silent, sleepy, snow-covered towns with many abandoned factories between the occasional clusters of plants newly built by foreign investors and fed by much more robust powerlines than we saw in the rest of the countryside. (Further observations about changes we noticed will have to wait for another blogpost.)

Doorlock with coathangerFor our return trip from Bucharest to Vienna on Saturday, we boarded the same overnight train (D 346) after stocking up on food and drink at a grocery store in the station. And we got the same lecture about securing our compartment door overnight, this time from a new car attendant with a new trick that employed a coat hanger. He also explained that the teams of burglars only infested the train between Curtici, where it stopped for Romanian customs, and Békéscsaba, the first station on the Hungarian side of the border.

We survived the border crossing unmolested, but also unmoved. We arrived about 2 a.m. and spent most of 3 hours at a standstill, far more than the time required for the Romanian and Hungarian passport control. We finally got underway about the time we should have been arriving at Budapest Keleti, where we had missed the train that was supposed to pull our cars to Vienna. Instead of pulling in to the platform, we spent two hours waiting at a siding, periodically trundling to and fro in front of Budapest’s new Arena Plaza.

Phantasy Schmuck, Vienna, AustriaOur car attendant hibernated while the Keleti station loudspeaker blared forth long announcements, only in Hungarian, to otherwise empty platforms. I couldn’t find a Hungarian speaker among the Romanian passengers to translate. So I finally walked up the tracks to the engine and asked the driver if he spoke Romanian, German, or English. He spoke just enough German to tell me that we would not be leaving until after 9 a.m., about the time we had been scheduled to arrive at Vienna and make our connection back to Strasbourg. The engine had had some kind of trouble.

We finally made it into Wien Westbahnhof around noon on a sleepy Sunday. When we informed the solitary, unsympathetic clerk at the ÖBB travel desk that our train from Bucharest had missed its connection, she was not at all surprised. She said we would have to contact the DB, which sold us the reservations, to get any refund, and she gave us the choice of spending the next 20 hours changing trains and waiting in various German stations at ungodly hours, or boarding the real Orient Express for another overnight trip into Strasbourg. We chose the latter.

How many people would resent having to spend 8 hours in Vienna on a Sunday? Well, we did. Almost every shop and restaurant on Mariahilfer Straße was closed. We wanted to treat ourselves to a nice long lunch, but nothing was open. The Russian Vladimir restaurant was closed until five, but we finally found a Greek restaurant, Mythos, run by an Egyptian couple with a cute 2-year-old boy who came around to our table to play with his retractable tape measure, whose housing functioned as a self-propelled vehicle. Thank goodness, once again, for the Mediterranean work ethic in Northern climes.

Te iubesc, Nicu. M.N.The rest of the way back was uneventful. Service on the Orient Express was excellent, door locks were unnecessary, and our couchette mate was an Algerian man who spoke no German, but decent English and much better French than I did. It was nice to get back to Strasbourg, even though we had a rather long wait in Karlsruhe, to be unhooked from the cars headed for Amsterdam, and again in Kehl, to be hauled across the Rhine from Germany to France.

I would love to make another trip to Romania, but not by overnight train.

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How Best to Reharvest a Ruined Past

From History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s, by Timothy Garton Ash (Vintage, 1999), pp. 276-277:

There is probably no such thing as a good purge, even if it is politely called lustration. The Czechoslovak lustration was prompt and crudely effective but deeply flawed by procedural injustice. The German “gaucking” has been procedurally more just: careful, individual, appealable. But it has sometimes been perverted by media abuse, and it has suffered from elephantiasis. Did postmen and train drivers really need to be gaucked? Again we come back to the question of who is doing it, for would the West Germans ever have done this to themselves?

Yet Poland has shown the price of not purging. The Hungarians, with their nice habit of taking the German model and then improving on it, came up with a defensible refinement: It applied careful individual scrutiny only to those seeking senior positions in public life. But this was seven years late. Now Poland has finally followed suit, with a law that is probably the most scrupulous of them all.

I believe the third path—that of history lessons—has been the most promising in Central Europe. Much of the comparative literature comes to a similar conclusion for other countries: What is somewhat biblically called “truth-telling” is both the most desirable and the most feasible way to grapple with a difficult past. This is what West Germany did best in relation to Nazism, at least from the 1960s on. What united Germany has done in this regard since 1990 has been exemplary: the parliamentary commission, the open archives, the unique opportunity for a very personal history lesson given by access to the Stasi files.

To advocate the third path does, of course, assign a very special place to contemporary historians. In fact, I do think that if you ask “Who is best equipped to do justice to the past?” the answer is, or at least should be, historians. But this is also a heavy responsibility. Truth is a big word, so often abused in Central Europe during the short, rotten twentieth century that people there have grown wary of it. Studying the legacy of a dictatorship, one is vividly reminded how difficult it is to establish any historical truth. In particular, across such a change of regime, you discover how deeply unreliable is any retrospective testimony.

Yet studying this subject also strengthens one’s allergy to some of the bottomless, ludic frivolities of postmodernist historiography. For this is too serious a business. Carelessly used, the records of a state that worked by organized lying—and especially the poisonous, intrusive files of a secret police—can ruin lives. To interpret them properly tests the critical skills that historians apply routinely to a medieval charter or an eighteenth-century pamphlet. But, having worked intensively with such records and read much else based on them, I know that it can be done. It is not true, as is often claimed, that this material is so corrupted that one cannot write reliable history on the basis of it. The evidence has to be weighed with very special care. The text must be put in the historical context. Interpretation needs both intellectual distance and the essential imaginative sympathy with all the men and women involved—even the oppressors. But, with these old familiar disciplines, there is a truth that can be found. Not a single, absolute Truth with a capital T but still a real and important one.

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How the Caged Historian Wrote

From The Unfree French: Life Under the Occupation, by Richard Vinen (Yale U. Press, 2006), p. 205:

Books were written in captivity. Fernand Braudel’s thesis on The Mediterranean in the Age of Philip II (which was to revolutionize historiography when it was published) was written in Oflag XIIB in Mayence and then at Oflag XC at Lübeck. Braudel sent chapters, handwritten in school exercise books, to his supervisor Lucien Febvre in Paris. It is interesting to speculate on how captivity marked this work. Was Braudel’s approach influenced by the access to German history books, brought to him from the town library by a sympathetic German guard? Was it the chance to escape from academic routines that turned Braudel away from what had previously been orthodox historical writing? Was Braudel’s determinism and emphasis on the longue durée characteristic of one who was leading a life of enforced passivity controlled by inscrutable forces? Does the vividness with which the material richness of the Mediterranean is evoked owe something to the deprivations of a German winter?

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Prague, 1994: Fractured Intelligentsia

From History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s, by Timothy Garton Ash (Vintage, 1999), p. 141:

The intelligentsia—one of the characteristic phenomena of modern Central and East European history—is now everywhere engulfed in sweeping change. This world of “circles of friends,” of milieux, where artists, philosophers, writers, economists, journalists all felt themselves to belong to the same group and to be committed to a certain common ethos (albeit often honored in the breach), was something anachronistic in late-twentieth-century Europe—but also something rich and fine. Its extraordinary character was summed up for me in a phrase that Ivan Klíma used in describing how he and his fellow writers had set out to revive the dormant Czech PEN club in 1989. “I was,” he said, “authorized by my circle of friends.” The peculiar world of the intelligentsia under communism was one in which you sought authorization from your circle of friends.

Freedom has changed all that. With remarkable speed, the intelligentsia has fragmented into separate professions, as in the West: journalists, publishers, academics, actors, not to mention those who have become officials, lawyers, diplomats. The milieux have faded, the “circles of friends” have dispersed or lost their special significance. Those who have remained in purely “intellectual” professions—above all, academics—have found themselves impoverished. Moreover, it is the businessmen and entrepreneurs who are the tone-setting heroes of this time. Thus, from having an abnormal importance before 1989, independent intellectuals have plummeted to abnormal unimportance.

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Faking Flemish to Freedom, 1941

From The Unfree French: Life Under the Occupation, by Richard Vinen (Yale U. Press, 2006), pp. 192-193:

The complexity of the mechanisms by which men were released [from German captivity], and the extent to which those mechanisms could be manipulated, was illustrated by the release of Flamands in February 1941. In extending the definition of Flamands to those from northern France who spoke Flemish, the Germans created a new category that did not bear any relation to prisoners’ existing bureaucratic status. Men had to prove that they spoke Flemish by appearing in front of a ‘linguistic commission’, which contained a Belgian civilian (presumably one who was politically sympathetic to the Germans) and a German officer. This opened opportunities for enterprising prisoners. Jean Legros, a French speaker from Belgium, was able to learn enough Flemish to pass the test. His brother, who spoke no Flemish, came into the room immediately after him and Legros got his release simply by saying, ‘That is my brother.’ Legros also gave language lessons to prisoners from northern France who hoped to secure their release in the same way. At the other extreme was a Flemish-speaking prisoner from northern France in a work Kommando of Stalag XVIIB in Austria. The prisoner in question was illiterate and spoke poor French. It is easy to see why he had not been repatriated. Isolated in a work Kommando and unable to read circulars or to understand much of what his comrades said, he probably had no means of knowing about the possibility of repatriation.

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Credits for German Reunification

From History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s, by Timothy Garton Ash (Vintage, 1999), pp. 57-59:

For all the discontinuities of West German policy since 1949, one can but admire the grand continuity in which all chancellors from Adenauer to Kohl, all foreign ministers, all federal governments over forty years, now this way, now that, now in the West, now in the East, pursued the cause of German liberation.

Historians will argue whether Adenauer’s integration into the West or Brandt’s Ostpolitik contributed more to the success of the past year. There is much to be said for the claim that the East Central European year of wonders, 1989, was a late triumph of Adenauer’s “magnet theory”—the idea that the attraction of a free and prosperous West Germany embedded in a free and prosperous Western Europe would sooner or later draw the unfree and impoverished East Germany irresistibly toward it. But could the magnet have exerted its full attractive force if the blocking Iron Curtain had not first been drawn back by the Ostpolitik, which Willy Brandt launched in the late 1960s? And it was not Bonn’s Western but rather its Eastern ties—above all, those to Moscow—that directly permitted the transformation of an East German movement for freedom into an all-German state of unity.

Yet this East German rising for freedom was not contemplated in Bonn’s policy toward East Germany. Those in the GDR who contributed most to Germany’s peaceful October revolution—the tiny minority of human- and civil-rights campaigners—had benefited least from the Federal Republic’s governmental policy toward the GDR. Bonn politicians now ritually celebrate the “peaceful revolution.” Two years ago [= 1988], most of those same politicians would have described it as “dangerous destabilization.” Yes, it was a “dangerous destabilization” that made German unification possible. Without the brave minority that faced down armed police on the streets of Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin, the ultimate goal of Bonn’s policy would never have been achieved—Gorbachev or no Gorbachev….

The pioneers of social emancipation and democratization in the GDR were then overtaken rapidly by those who wanted to have done with the GDR altogether. By this time, the two parallel sets of negotiations for unification—the “internal” ones, between the two German states (“1+1”), and the “external” ones, between the two German states and the four post-1945 occupying powers (“2+4”)—were already underway.

To describe these seven hectic months of intricate negotiation would require not an essay but a compendium. The 31 August treaty on unification between the two German states is a book in itself—243 pages of small print in the official government bulletin. Formally, they were “1+1” and “2+4” negotiations. In practice, they were “1+1/4” and “1+1+1” negotiations. The first and last freely elected East Berlin government was not an equal partner in the German–German talks. The Bonn government basically set the terms of the internal unification, its officials drafting treaties that bore a remarkable resemblance to the finished product. Many East German politicians and intellectuals in both halves of Germany were understandably miffed by this procedure. “Anschluss,” said some. Yet was it not for this that the majority of the people had voted in March? And, despite widespread economic distress, the majority expressed its basic satisfaction with the result, on 14 October [1990], in the first elections for the five reconstituted Lander of the former GDR. Chancellor Kohl’s CDU was the overall winner everywhere except in Brandenburg (where the Social Democrats’ leader is a prominent Protestant churchman} and secured more than 45 percent of the vote in Saxony and Thuringia.

The external negotiation was basically between the Federal Republic, the Soviet Union, and the United States, in that order. The Bonn government makes no secret of the fact that it was the United States, rather than France or Britain, that was its crucial Western supporter in the whole process. Washington was not just self-evidently more important in talks with Moscow but also more unreservedly supportive than London or Paris—a fact that has done some damage to the Franco-German “axis.” Yet the central negotiation was that between Bonn and Moscow. In Moscow in February, Chancellor Kohl secured Gorbachev’s assent to unification in one state. In Stavropol in July, he secured Gorbachev’s assent to the full sovereignty of the united state, including its membership in NATO—although a NATO redefined by the “London Declaration” a few days before. Soviet troops would leave Germany by 1994.

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East Germany, 1990: “No experiments!”

From History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s, by Timothy Garton Ash (Vintage, 1999), p. 16:

In [East Germany] at large, it seems to me, the real motto of the campaign—though no one, to my knowledge, actually used it—was Adenauer’s slogan from the 1950s: “No Experiments!” They had experienced enough experiments to last several lifetimes: Hitler’s experiments, Stalin’s experiments, Ulbricht’s and Honecker’s. They’d had quite enough of being guinea pigs. There were certainly aspects of West German life and attitudes about which they had reservations. But so far as the economic, political, and legal system was concerned, West Germany’s was the best one going. Arguably, it was the best system Germany had ever had. Now they wanted to have it as fast as possible: first the deutsche mark of course, but not just the deutsche mark, also the free press, the rule of law, local self-government, and federal democracy. In many ways, their priorities also recalled those of the 1950s in West Germany—starting with the passionate drive to rebuild for private happiness from the ruins. Understandably, the enthusiasm was greatest among the young, while the middle-aged were more worried about their abilities to adapt, and the old were concerned about the conversion rate and the values of their pensions. Indeed, the old might remark wearily, like the grandmother in Edgar Reitz’s film Heimat, “Yet another new era!”

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The Vichy Milice

From The Unfree French: Life Under the Occupation, by Richard Vinen (Yale U. Press, 2006), pp. 124-125:

Vichy was a neutral government and, except for some confrontations in Algeria, Madagascar and Syria, regular members of the French army did not fight against the Allies during the Second World War. However, some at Vichy did sponsor new agencies, the members of which came to fight alongside the Germans. Some at Vichy also sponsored increasingly vigorous forms of policing, directed especially against the Resistance….

In January 1943 Laval entrusted Darnand with the creation of another body, the Milice. The most important elements of the Milice were the militarized francs gardes, some of which were paid professionals. The Milice marked yet another step away from the Légion, in which Darnand had originated. The Milice, unlike the Legion, explicitly excluded Jews from membership and its members were younger than the legionnaires, having an average age of thirty against the Legion’s average age of fifty. The Milice also drew its recruits from cities to a greater extent than the Legion—the countryside was becoming a dangerous place for anyone likely to be a Resistance target.

The Milice became more and more closely associated with the Germans. Darnand himself was commissioned into the SS in August 1943, and in November of that year the Germans began to give the Milice weapons. This association, however, never meant that Darnand entirely abandoned his anti-German nationalism, and even just before joining the SS he seems to have talked about the possibility of supporting the Free French.

There were about 35,000 miliciens by the liberation, of whom around a quarter were in the francs gardes. Some miliciens, such as Henry Charbonneau or Christian de la Maziere, were upper-class young men driven by anti-Communism and the search for adventure. Increasingly, however, recruits to the Milice had more obviously material motives. Many were young, urban and poor. Some wished to secure exemption from labour service in Germany. Others were attracted by the relatively high salaries paid to full-time miliciens (a member of the francs gardes could earn 2,500 francs per month, at a time when a factory worker earned 1,300 francs) or by the opportunities for pillage. Quite large numbers of miliciens were regarded as suffering from mental instability.

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Pfalzgrafenweiler, Ancestral Truckstop

On the last Sunday in 2007, the Outliers made a pilgrimage desultory excursion to Pfalzgrafenweiler, in Baden-Württemberg, whence Mrs. Outlier’s paternal ancestors emigrated via Odessa to Russia (now Ukraine) around 1800, then later to the Dakotas around 1890. This devoutly religious and devoutly rural line can be traced back to Pfalzgrafenweiler from as early as the 1500s.

Roadsign, Pfalzgrafenweiler, GermanyPfalzgrafenweiler itself goes back at least to Count Palatine (= Pfalzgraf) Hugo II of Tübingen, whose Pfalzgrafenburg there was stormed and razed by a Welf (= Guelph) Duke (= Herzog) of Bavaria in the 12th century. There is also a Herzogweiler within the Weiler Wald portion of the Schwarzwald (Black Forest), which is now a getaway spot for the lumpen as well as the grafen.

Weiler can nowadays be translated ‘hamlet’, something smaller than a Dorf ‘village’, and there are many such placenames stretching far out along both sides of the Rhine, from Basel to Cologne. The equivalent in Alsace and Lorraine is usually spelled -willer (as in Bischwiller, Dettwiller, Ingwiller) or -viller (as in Abreschviller, Guntzviller, Hartzviller). The Alemannisch equivalent is -wiiler. Although related to villa, ville, and village, the term is an early Germanic borrowing from Romance wilare or villare, indicating farmsteads attached to a villa, not the villa itself.

On Saturday, we had made a trip across the Rhine to the Deutsche Bahn (DB) travel desk in Kehl to find out how to get there and buy tickets. (We had not yet initiated our 15-day Eurail Passes.) Despite being just over the border from Strasbourg, France, the DB rep forced his customers to deal with him only in German or English. I chose English after watching the poor Francophone ahead of me struggle along in German no better than mine.

Pfalzgrafenweiler is a bit off the trunklines of public transport. We had to make four transfers to get there. We took the Strasbourg city tram from Langstross/Grand’Rue to the southwest terminus at Aristide Briand, then the old city bus across the river to Kehl. There we caught a tiny Ortenau S-Bahn (OSB) shuttle south over flat farmland to Offenburg, where we caught another tiny OSB shuttle up the scenic hillsides of the Schwarzwald to Freudenstadt, where we hopped a shuttle bus to our final destination. (The DB ticket was good for the bus, too.)

The Kehl to Offenburg leg reminded us a bit of the JR Ryomo line we used to take between Oyama and Ashikaga along the foothills north of Tokyo, while the Offenburg to Freudenstadt leg reminded us more of the scenic Keikoku line running up the upper Watarase River gorge from Kiryu toward Nikko.

Along the way to Freudenstadt (‘Happyville’), the train passed a number of stations whose names ended in -ach (not -bach ‘brook’, but related), meaning ‘watercourse’ and ultimately cognate with Latin acqua: Biberach ‘Beaver Run’, Steinach ‘Stone Run’, Haslach ‘Hare Run’, Hausach ‘House Run’, Wolfach ‘Wolf Run’, Schiltach ‘Shield Run’—but, alas, no Bullach. In the local Alemannisch dialects, the final consonant is lost and the vowel reduced, thus: Biebere, Steine, Hasle, Huuse, Wolfe.

The even more common placenames suffixed with -heim (in High German) suffer a similar fate in Ortenau Alemannisch, where Griesheim = Griese, Meißenheim = Mißne, Ringsheim = Ringse/Rinse; and in Alsatian, where Blotzheim = Blotza, Merxheim = Märxa, Sentheim = Santa. You can see why Baden-Württembergers claim Wir können alles. Außer Hochdeutsch. ‘We can handle everything. Except High German.’

Santa's bathtub, Pfalzgrafenweiler

Freudenstadt is roughly comparable in size to Aberdeen, SD, but is even sleepier on a Sunday. The tiny railway station is on the edge of town and lacks even a public toilet. When I followed the arrows on a wall map, I ended up at a port-a-potty in an isolated (and unheated) area nearly 100m from the station. (At least I didn’t have it as bad as Santa did in Pfalzgrafenweiler, where he had to bathe outdoors.) To its credit, Freudenstadt station had a gift shop full of snacks, souvenirs, magazines, travel info about far corners of the globe, and a very impressive collection of cigars for sale in a specially humidified room.

Traube Pizza + KebaphausWe had left my brother’s house in Strasbourg a little before 9 a.m. The bus dropped us at the Pfalzgrafenweiler Rathaus at 2 p.m., just as the town went into its deepest Sunday siesta. The local pizza delivery shop had finished its last run. Even the local kebap shop had closed.

JakobskircheWe walked the silent, empty streets meandering uphill toward the highway, where we found EverRast, a combination truck stop, restaurant, and internet café that was just about the only happening place in town on a Sunday afternoon. We ordered German-style salad plates and sampled the local Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu. The friendly waitress looked African American and switched easily between English and German.

Seniorenstift, PfalzgrafenweilerIt was already getting dark by 4 p.m. as we meandered back toward the bus stop for the 5 p.m. bus. We had just enough time to snap a few more photos, then stop in at Thome’s Schwanen hotel and restaurant, which was just opening for the Sunday dinner crowd. We asked the gracious hostess for a telephone book and snapped a photo of the handful of listings for Mrs. Outlier’s family name. Most of the telephone numbers had only 4 digits.

It was too dark to enjoy the beautiful scenery on the way back, but we had just enough layover time in Offenburg to explore a few of its cold, empty streets. The only warm, bright spot near the station was the Turkish-run Imbiss Stube. Thank goodness for the Mediterranean work ethic. We ordered hot lentil soups and hot spiked teas. The menu offered not just kebap, pizza, and pide, but also Seele (calzone), which (misleadingly or not) belatedly made the connection for me between Italian calzone and Romanian încălţăminte ‘footwear’.

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