In via: Abodiacum

Epfach
There’s more to Epfach, an unassuming little village along the Lech, than first meets the eye. It’s a very, very old settlement, in fact. Older, even, then most German towns — Munich, for example, was first established in the 12th century. Epfach, apparently originally a Celtic settlement, was ideally situated to serve as a station along the Via Claudia Augusta in the Roman province of Raetia. It’s Roman name was Abodiacum, (or Abodiaco, as it’s found on the Tabula Peutingeriana).
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The Tabula Peutingeriana, in fact, has two Abodiacos: they are the same village. It stands at the crossroads of two Roman roads : the Via Claudia Augusta, where it’s just after the  station ‘ad novas’ on the road out of Augusta Vindelicum/Augsburg, and the salt road that partly connected Lake Constance (Brigantium) to Salzburg (Iuvavum).
Visitors to Epfach will first see that the north-south road through town is marked as the Via Claudia. Right on this road stands the local museum, which provides information on Epfach’s Roman history, all in a space about as big as my living room. Of particular interest is an exhibit on Epfach’s first internationally renowned local homeboy, Claudius Paternus Clementianus.
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CPC was a Celt with Roman citizenship through his father, which allowed him to serve in the Roman army as an officer. His career took him to Hungary, Romania, Judea (where he served as Procurator there just 80 years after Pontius Pilate held that job, long enough afterward to have probably never heard of him), Sardinia and Northern Africa, before he came home to retire and presumably spend his golden years fishing on the Lech and downing the local wines.

Tripoli, Libya - Roman Mosaic, National Museum, Fishermen

Tripoli, Libya – Roman Mosaic, National Museum, Fishermen

He may have had the good fortune to enjoy his twilight years secure in the belief that the Empire was strong. It was another hundred years before Alemanni tribes began sacking the settlement, followed by the Romans rebuilding it, in turns. The northern frontier (Limes) remained in operation until sometime in the 5th century C.E. Then again, as a Celt, maybe he would have been happy with the eventual outcome.

While Epfach is not on the Via Raetia, there is a connection nevertheless. The Tabula Peutingeriana, a Middle-Ages copy of a late Roman roadmap of the Empire, shows neither the Via Claudia Augusta nor the Via Raetia in their entireties, but rather an amalgam of the two — the route shown follows the VCA leaving Augusta Vindelicum/Augsburg until Epfach/Abodiaco, detours east on the above-mentioned salt road and then resumes its southward way on the newer Via Raetia at Urusa/Raisting (the next stop listed is Coveliacas, near the Staffelsee). This variant may have turned out to have been shorter, the easiest to maintain (the Via Claudia Augusta, in my opinion, goes over much more precarious mountain territory than the Via Raetia), or had better stations, or better connection, or a combination of any of that.

Aside from the museum (open every day, and if it’s not you can ask for the key at the restaurant next door), you can walk to the Lorenzberg, the hill where the Roman military station was located. Epfach seems to have geared its tourism to the Via Claudia cyclists, who can take a break at the restaurant, stop into the museum, walk off lunch with a short visit to the Lorenzberg, and then continue on their way.

Posted in archaeology, art, Bavaria, Germany, history, lives of others, Roman roads, travel | Leave a comment

A Idea of Mine

I have a confession to make. Beyond all the other things I am doing right now – singing, translating, assisting in a bookselling business – I have a project in mind for the future. I want to put together a guidebook for the Via Raetia.
There are guides and books for following the Via Claudia Augusta, the first Roman-made road to cross the Alps in this region, but I have yet to find a modern tourist guide in English for it’s younger sister, the Via Raetia. The Via Claudia has an “official” route which one can follow ona bike, and much of it may accurately follow the old road. The Via Raetia does not, and here you can see why:
Wiel_Raisting_google

Clearly one can’t just go traipsing across private property, let alone tell others to do so.

Walking, cycling, sights along the way, history, archaeology, culture, on the route between Augsburg and… well, how comprehensive do I want this to be? I could keep it within Bavaria (Augsburg to Mittenwald) or publish installments (Part 2, North Tyrol from Mittenwald to the Brenner Pass, Part 3 Italy: Brennero to Verona). Even if I had no other work, this would take a few years of research, travel, exploration. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to do it. (Note to any publishing houses: I’m here, “boots on the ground”, if you are considering something along these lines from a distance.)

But all this will have to wait another year at least, because for professional reasons I am going to be spending a considerable amount of time at the other end of Bavaria, namely closer to the Czech border.

Image from Google maps.

Posted in archaeology, culture, Germany, history, Italy, Life Abroad, literature, memory, travel | 5 Comments

From the Translation Desk*: Sütterlin

Version 2

There are many subjects I avoid if I can. Most technical texts, for example, or medical ones. There are also certain types of formats I avoid, like excel files (they just don’t come up right on my little Mac screen). But one thing I can do, with some help from the Beau**, is old handwriting like the sample image above. This is called Sütterlin script and it’s indecipherable to most people today. When I first look at a text written with Sütterlin, it makes about much sense as Georgian, or Tolkien runes. Nothing but squiggly lines. But as one sits and studies the characters, their meanings begin to emerge.
Es gibt viele Themen, die ich wenn möglich meide. Zum Beispiel die meisten technischen oder medizinischen Texte. Es gibt auch bestimmte Arten von Formaten, denen ich aus dem Weg gehe, wie Excel-Dateien (sie werden auf meinem kleinen Mac-Bildschirm nicht richtig dargestellt). Aber eine Sache, mit der ich, mit etwas Hilfe vom Beau **, umgehen kann, ist alte Handschrift, wie im Beispielbild oben. Diese nennt sich Sütterlin-Schrift und ist für die meisten Menschen heute nicht mehr zu entziffern. Wenn ich einen Text in Sütterlin betrachte, erscheint er mir zuerst, wie Georgisch oder wie die Runen Tolkiens. Lediglich verschnörkelten Linien. Aber wenn man sich damit länger auseinandersetzt und die Zeichen analysiert, erkennt man ihre Bedeutungen.

*I actually work from the couch, as my desk and surroundings have been subsumed into service for the Antiquariat. Ich arbeite eigentlich auf der der Couch, da mein Schreibtisch das Drumherum für die Arbeit des Antiquariats verwendet wurden.
** He and a friend taught themselves this writing in school, in order to pass notes in class. Er und ein Freund haben sich diese Schrift in der Schule beigebracht, um Nachrichten in während des Unterrichts in der Klasse zu übermitteln.

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Reserving the Right to Change My Mind

Does anybody still read this blog?

Six somewhat positively turbulent  months have gone by while I’ve taken the time to figure out where I’m headed and what I want to do with the rest of my life. I took on a new profession (translation) only to get nervous that nobody would take me seriously, after reading a few jabs about actors who translate on the side. In a fit of pique I deleted my singer homepage, figuring no one was visiting anyway, and made it into a translation calling card-type of site – only to find, too late, that no one had been visiting because I had set it to private some weeks before.

Now, a couple of months later, things have settled down, and I’m now of the opinion that I should maintain two different professional sites, but the translation site can easily hold a blog, and so instead of starting something completely new, I’m going to try to move it over here and mix up blogging and translation. I don’t think this will pose any problems at all,  but I’m not 100% what I want it to look like as far as organization and content. Things might move around a little from time to time. Bear with me here.

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Images Collected from Here and There

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That acronym means “ace” in German, so it’s perfectly normal in a German-speaking country. It still brings out the smirking adolescent in this American, however.

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Happy Easter

IMG_2429Seen on Easter Saturday: Jesus is indeed down off the cross (but just for renovations by the Innsbruck Beautification Association.)

Posted in Austria, current events, holidays, Innsbruck, travel | 1 Comment

Happy New Year

Ah, and what a New Year it has turned out to be. I may have mentioned that I had been doing more translation work during the fall. Well, all that hard work is beginning to pay off,  and so it’s time for a few changes. I’ve restructured my professional website to reflect the new reality, and decided that this place needed a facelift too.

 

 

 

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Kaltenbrunn Bahnhof

IMG_2305Kaltenbrunn Station, a charming little ruin on the rail line between Mittenwald and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Trains haven’t stopped there since 1984.  When we pass it I am often reminded of the one in the movie The Station Agent.

753827720_CTSeo-LIn the movie, loner and train-enthusiast Fin McBride (Peter Dinklage) inherits this property from his boss and only friend, and thus his life begins anew.

(2nd image from here.)

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We’re Doomed

Sure, the refugee situation is grabbing all the headlines, but what are we going to do about the Giant Ant Infestation currently spreading over Tyrol? They’ve already reached Hochzirl!

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Posted in art, Austria, current events, travel | 3 Comments

Nazi Bedtime Stories

The next estate dissolution in which we took part involved the sale of a rather large piece of land in the middle of Munich. A rich textile-industry dynasty family had a villa there with a spacious guest house, and basement garage for classic autos (with a car elevator), and the entire property had been sold. The owner’s mother came from Prussian nobility. Many of the thousand-plus books were from assorted family collections, brought together and stored out of sight and forgotten. One could get a vague sense of family life from one child’s horse book collection, or the 1930s German law publications pointing to a lawyer in the family, right next to a shelf with German resistance memoirs. The art books were in the living room, the romance novels upstairs.

It was in this large, scattered accumulation that I first held in my hand an actual Nazi children’s book.

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Fünf Wiegen und noch eine” (Five Cradles and One More) is an odd little work. Author Henrik Herse was an SS-Obersturmführer and “Fünf Wiegen” contains perhaps autobiographical musings, although it’s hard to say (the narrator is a somewhat impoverished writer with five children and a sixth on the way. The author was a senior officer in the SS, and I don’t know how many kids he actually had). I called it an odd little work but it  was probably typical of many war-time children’s books, no matter the era or location. What it seeks to do is to “familiarize children within the SS Family of their roots and culture”* through children’s rhymes, prose and symbols of Nordic and Germanic origin. [All quoted passages translated by the blog author.]

The goal — it would be impudent to think one knows it. Much more important than what lies in the distance is the way there. We must bring it to its conclusion in a way that does not shame us.

(IOW: it’s not important for you to know where this Reich is heading but you’d better be on board.)

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There are sweet stories of family life in a big house in the country, interspersed with nursery rhymes. Stories of simple meals laid out on the big oaken table, of birthday rituals, of hunger and poverty born with pride, of Christmas trees. The narrator speaks of living a quiet and taciturn life, of the next child being accepted into “our circle”, into which “we don’t let everyone”. I began to wonder what kind of effect stories like this had on the children waiting restlessly in bomb shelters all over Germany. They would begin to dream of being a part of this happy family in the country, of being the “next child”. It would have planted a seed in their impressionable minds, of some rare and holy place where only the best and bravest little Nazis could go. Or was it an exclusive book, only for the children of the elite SS?

At times it reads like a journal or a personal blog. Halfway through the tone gets a bit darker and more urgent. Words like “enemy” and “battle” start appearing in the prose. And always, the idea of Keeping the Faith. His thoughts go here:

It is not so easy to live this life of ours on to its end. It is not always a song which one wants to sing. There are cares upon cares, and they are greedy and want to eat you through and through.
And some men have thrown it all away, and have fled as cowards. To their deaths, or to another side.
That is the most wretched form of desertion, and death should first come to them.
Is love then eternal? many ask. Is that happiness?
Yes!! But only if you are strong enough to win and keep it! The greatest victories are in the battles for our lives.

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None too obscure and none too small,
none to die senselessly and alone,
because the holy torch I was given
I will pass on as the flame of eternal life.

What can I say? Some people have reality TV shows, some people have religious movements. It has the same ring as some early Christian writings. Probably not a coincidence.

What is difficult, is to have courage. To have so much courage that the blows don’t matter in the least. To hold your head up against the blows! The head and ribs can withstand much, when the heart inside beats in resistance.

Those poor victimized fascists.

The poems are now no longer about babies and Mother, but of iron-man strength, of battle, of swords, of blood and of German soil and imminent beatings!  And then, suddenly, we’re back to cradles again, and stories of his children’s births.

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The NSDAP was definitely onto something when they began starting them young. Research suggests that our 14-yr-old brains are “imprinted” with the music and literature which will stay important to us throughout our lives. While the nursery rhymes in “Fünf Wiegen” are for small children, the prose passages are not. These, rather, would have been noticed by them, but understood by 12-14 year olds. What a set up. All those kids, just dying to be chosen for the special circle of fellowship and purpose. It’s almost like a “Lord of the Rings” primer from the side of the Orcs, or Hogwarts fanfic about Slytherin children (which is indeed a thing as well).

One last, important thing: this book is nothing special, there are cheap copies to be had over the Internet. It may have been everyone’s grandmother’s favorite book as a child, the one she sensibly kept hidden from her grandchildren but liked too much to throw out. These are the books that come to light after someone dies.

*I lifted that phrase from here because it is perfect. I couldn’t have said it better.

Posted in culture, Germany, history, language, literature | 2 Comments