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New Year and a (Small) New Trip

December 31 - January 4
Written January 4-7

Dear Friends and Families,
It is a new year and we are starting pretty much as we finished; quiet life at home, a few friends, and some travel.
For New Year's Eve, Marianne worked hard on a nice meal, as she most often does.  Pretty elegant.  Our plan was to stay awake until the year changed, but, as usual, we only made it to midnight-in Moscow, two hours early.

The other side of early-to-bed is that we get to see the moon before it even sets.
NY Dinner and Our First 2013 moon set
On the second, Marianne's cousin Klara visited with her husband Gabor and her brother Gyury.  They were on their way from England to Budapest and found a bit of time for a stop, something we very much appreciate.  Klara and Gabor are the traveling-est people we know (see www.omniplan.hu) even though Gabor's work takes him to a different country almost every week (Saudi Arabia on Friday!).  I don't know how they keep up!
Gyury, M., Klara, and Gabor
d130104_70_map.jpgWe also decided to take a quick visit "somewhere" and the town of Goslar in Thuringia won our vote (history, tourism).  It is a UNESCO World Heritage town and we had passed through years before and said "we need to come back here again!"  So we did.

We stayed at the Hotel Kaiserhof, a medium-sized hotel where we were met with friendly staff, a good-sized room, and as-expected, German cleanliness.  All we need.
Hotel Kaiserhof
Our first stop, Friday afternoon, was the Mönchehaus-Museum of modern art.  The museum is normally housed in a castle or palace nearby, but that building was being renovated until early March, so some of the art had been moved to the old city services building, still a nice display building.  The featured artist was John Baldessari, a Santa Monica, California, artist who is apparently well-known in the modern art scene.  Some of his pieces we liked, but all caused conversation. Mönchehaus-Museum
After our quick culture stop, we just wandered around town.  While it was still daylight, I complained that the dull, gray light was completely uninteresting and did nothing to properly show off all the old buildings.  Maybe tomorrow or Sunday.

Evening was cold and  damp, but nice for walking and better for at least a few pictures.  The bronze model of the town, shown bottom-right in the picture frame, illustrated the original medieval layout of Goslar and most of the buildings still seem to be here.  A treasure for us old-German-building fans.
Afternoon and Evening Walk

Saturday  - As planned Friday, we did indeed do the standard tour: church, castle, and square, but first we just wandered around town.  Goslar has over 1700 half-timbered buildings, many more than 500-years old.  At least on the outside, most have been restored, perhaps as part of the funding for reunification of Germany.  Marianne stopped at a few shops in her search for the perfect Hartz Mountains witch.  Years ago, we visited the area and found locally-made dolls, but nowadays that art has died and everything is imported from Poland or China.
Our church visit was to the Church of Saints Cosmos and Damien, on the market square.  The church dates from the 12th Century and the bronze baptismal font was made  from local material in 1573.  The wooden pulpit was particularly colorful.
Next came a castle, and this was a real palace, the Kaiserpfalz Imperial Palace.  The original was built in the mid 11th Century, although it fell into disrepair in the 1500's.  It was subject to complete restoration in the 18th Century, when it became fashionable to glorify the old Middle Ages.  The top floor of the main building is a giant hall, with colorful paintings depicting the glories of the old days, from the Sleeping Beauty story to the conquest of the Islamic invaders by Frederick Barbarossa. 

In a separate tower off to the side was a sarcophagus of Henry III, reputedly holding a golden box with his heart stored safely inside.  Good story anyway.

Below the main hall are six or seven vaulted rooms that were the only heated rooms in the old castle.  The Kaiser's bronze throne, cast in 1065, was on display.  Because the German kaisers moved continuously, the throne could be broken into three panels and transported to the castle of royal choice. 

d130105_30_toSquare.jpgTo get in a "square", we walked along an old canal/stream down to the square that sits between the Tin Museum and the Goslar (history) Museum (Website is in German, but the pictures are OK).

The Tin Museum was a hit.  While it is housed in an old mill building, the museum itself is only 15 or 20 years old.  Historically, tin figures had been a local industry, starting with the locally-mined tin.  The Museum was created to re-introduce the craft of making the flat figures that had been part of every child's toy box, and every general's battle models.

The dioramas were interesting, particularly if one looked carefully at the details.  Everything was displayed in thin tin figures, from the imagined glories of the Kaisers' conquests, to the mining, dancing, and drinking of daily Goslar life and to the brutal realities of royal conquest.
Glories of Henry Barbarossa and followers

The scenes of rape and pillage by invading soldiers were particularly graphic, and probably true.

The scenes from a reconstructed mine were also realistic, albeit a bit less graphic.

Town life in Goslar: dancing, parties, and punishment.

Our "square" stop also included the Goslar Museum, where we could see artifacts of local churches and homes.  As for the historical artifacts, I think I am so saturated with shards, old wooden statues, and re-created kitchen hearths that I will need no more for quite awhile.  The best part of the Goslar Museum was a display of Uli Stein photographs, HDR-style, of the Rammelsberg Mine and other Goslar landmarks. These encouraged me to keep working on photos, even if it also reminded me that the "HDR" style can be overdone!
On Sunday, Marianne was a bit under the weather, so I took the trip to the Rammelsberg Mine by myself.  I am glad I did, because, for a "plant engineer", walking through the old bones of a huge, engineered facility was pretty fascinating.  I am not sure my spouse would have shared my enthusiasm.
The Rammelsberg mine is over 1,000 years old and served to make the area rich, particularly in the Middle Ages.  The legend is that Rammel, one of the Kaiser's knights, discovered the rich ore when his horse kicked the dirt off some shiny mountain rocks.  He was then given the honor of naming the nearby village after his wife "Gosla".  For the next millennium, the mountain provided riches for the Kaiser and for the merchants of Goslar, who had the right to trade the silver, copper, tin, and zinc that came out of the mountain.

The mine tour started through the gates that workers had entered for centuries.  The mine stopped working in June 1988 and many of the buildings look as if the workers just badged-out yesterday.

The large building across from the entrance (center of pan shot) was one of several ore-processing facilities.  Mine entrances were both above the facility and in tunnels to the left and right. 

My tour included these above-ground facilities and mines of two different eras in Rammelsberg's history.
The first stop was the building with ore separation equipment, basically huge mixers that would create chemical soups from which the valuable metals would be extracted.  The mixing vats are now open to factory strollers.   Other halls contained dryers and pumps and motors, many of which looked ready for the miner ghosts to restart them.  There was also a wall showing off the various types of rock pulled out of the mountain over the years.
Next to the separation building was the power plant.  Since power plants are my business, I had to take a look.  Inside were a half-dozen smallish steam turbine-generators as well as two ore cars with special meaning.  One was the last ore car brought out of the Rammelsberg mines, on June 20, 1988.  The other ore cart had been wrapped by Christo, the most famous of all wrappers and is reportedly the only Christo work whose covering has been allowed to remain in place.  Now, however, all the "Aus" buttons have been pushed.

The best parts of my mine experience were underground. There are two underground tours offered, "Roederstollen" and "Grubenbahn".  I took them both.
Grubenbahn, meaning mining train, started in the large hall where workers would retrieve their work clothes from ceiling hooks where they would be have been hung overnight to dry.  After collecting safety and lighting equipment, workers would climb into the yellow train that is still in tourist service. 
Our tourist ride was about a half-kilometer, from where we started our walk through reasonably large tunnels.  Inside, our guide explained the mine workings to his captive audience.  He threatened to send the kids down the cage-elevator, but had no volunteers.  Instead we walked through smaller and smaller tunnels, past the breakfast room where workers could spend a few minutes away from their grueling and noisy work.
The mine-face work tools on this tour represented those from the late 19th Century up through the mid-20th.  Hard rock, and Rammelsberg has some of the hardest rock in the world, was first drilled by air hammers and then blasted by dynamite.  The tour guide started up one air hammer to show just how noisy the workplace was.  He did not light any explosives, but he did ask us to imagine working around several hammers, for eight hours a day, for 40 years if one was so lucky.  It was not a life I personally could imagine.

d130106_45_out.jpgd130106_49_shower.jpgOn the walk back, we passed through the large tunnel and got into the yellow train again.  I imagined how a worker might feel on this return trip and sensed just a bit of the exhaustion they must have felt.  Their day would have ended, finally, in the shower room, where a day's worth of dirt and grime could be washed away.  But the exhaustion?  What could be worse?

The Roederstollen tour demonstrated a worse life. 

d130106_51_OldEntrance.jpgd130106_53_walkway.jpgThis mine tour covered life underground before electricity and even before dynamite.  The mine had been carved by hand, by hammers and chisels and fire.  The old entrance seemed large enough, considering that people were smaller "back then", but the guide explained that this tunnel originally was constructed in two parts, a lower part where water ran and, above a wooden floor, the worker passageway.  It could not have been much more than a crawl space.
Deep inside, the tunnel opened up into a large room that held the key technology to mining Rammelsberg before electricity: waterwheels.  The wheels powered everything, from ore lifts to water pumps and air blowers.  The largest of them was even reversible, so it could both lift and lower ore and waste.  Rammelsberg had a practice of refilling the worked-out shafts in order to prevent collapse, but this meant the added work of returning waste material underground. 
We continued to descend steel staircases, below the biggest waterwheels, past somewhat smaller ones, down to the old tunnels.  Very spooky places. 
d130106_65_FireWood.jpgd130106_68_ladderOut.jpgAt the very lowest level was a display of the earliest mining technique: fire.  Miners would set fires below the rock in oder to heat it enough so that it would expand and crack.  For centuries, this was the only way to harvest the hardest ore. The rock was harder than the available metal spikes and was simply impossible to chip off the walls.

By now, we were 65 meters (200 feet) below where we had started and we had to get back up.  We used the same shaft workers had used centuries before. and Burdened with camera equipment, and 65 years of aging, it was not an easy hike, but looking over at the ancient steel ladder used in past centuries, one could only imagine the misery of the medieval miners.

After four hours of mine touring, I went back to see how Marianne was doing and she was doing well enough that we continued our walk-around exploration of Goslar.  We passed the Siemenshaus, the original home of the extended family whose dynasty continues today.  We also worked in one church visit to St. Steven's, and, of course dinner.

About dinner.  We returned to the Lohmühle, a very pleasant restaurant that we had used the day before and, while Marianne stuck with trout, I opted for a local treat: "cheese salad".  Marianne's fish was very good, but my cheese was ... different, too different.  Imagine a pound of cheese chunks fried in oil, with onions and a few tomatoes.  Plus a pretzel.  It was a zillion-calories meal fit for hard-working miners, but I had not anywhere near worked hard enough.

That's it.  On Monday we had an uneventful four-hour drive home.  It was nice to be home, but our Goslar visit had been what we had looked for:  some history and an exposure to a different part of Germany.  But, no more travel for a couple weeks at least.  Until Hamburg, but that's another story.


John and Marianne


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