Postcards from Bavaria
After spending a week in Bavaria, I wanted to share some notes, photos and ideas.
I’m making some changes on my site. Since I don’t often comment on current events anymore to any depth — beyond some unintelligible Popeye-esque gibberish that one must assume is a string of disapproving obscenities — I’m returning to a more traditional blog model (to the extent that blogs can be considered “traditional.”) This site will be a public journal for updates, notes, photos and announcements. Essays and more formal writing will, for the most part, be saved for upcoming book projects and collaborations.
I visited the Marienplatz and checked out a few of the traditional Oktoberfest joints, but I’m not one for big crowds, so I skipped town before Oktoberfest got rolling, and headed to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is one of my new favorite places in the world.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is an upscale tourist destination and it feels that way in some parts — if it were in America, there would be a Whole Foods there. But there’s so much history in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and it is tucked under the alps, so the views from my hotel window in the morning looked like the MacOS Sierra wallpaper in HD. It reminded me a lot of the Pacific Northwest, only moreso. All of the buildings on the main streets of the town are painted with bright colors and elaborate murals and it is impossible to escape the delightfully idolatrous Catholicism of the place.
Here are some shots of the street in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and from a nearby hike called Partnachklamm:
At the end of the Partnachklamm, hikers find a field of Steinmännchen, or stone men, much like the stacked rocks and cairns you’d see in other parts of the world. There are hundreds of stacks there. Stacking rocks in this way is related, if not directly linked to the building of stone altars, what we call horgr, hearg, hargu or harugaz.
It has become a popular hobby with young people that I have occasionally scoffed at, but I like the idea of participating in the creation of somewhat sacred spaces that inspire a sense of wonder that compliments places of natural beauty.
So I stopped to build one myself.
Some European Operation Werewolf operatives were traveling south to moot with my brother Paul Waggener in Italy, and were able to stop in and enjoy the heart-warming spectacle of drunk Bavarians in Lederhosen singing folk songs — and two rounds of John Denver’s “Country Roads” — at the Gasthof Fraundorfer. I’ve been following these guys as they’ve developed their own tribal cultures for several years, and it was inspiring to actually meet them in person. I hope to make it to one of their European moots in the next year or so. I had made my plans before Paul finalized his trip, so I was unable to join them and it looks like I missed a good time.
I decided to go to Nuremberg because my maternal line (paternal side) emigrated from that area in the 1700s. My entire maternal line is German, and my father’s mother’s line is as well (probably also Bavarian), with my father’s paternal line being Anglo-Saxon and just a little bit Irish.
Nuremberg surprised me. It’s a lively “refurbished” Medieval city, and I was lucky enough to be in town for the Altstadt (Old Town) festival.
Another thing that surprised me was how much I enjoyed touring the old churches.
I have little patience for or interest in Christianity — although I also find evangelical atheists insufferable and cringe a bit when I see reactionary upside down crosses and so forth. Anti-Christianity, like all “anti”- oriented positions, reeks of ressentiment and tends to lack any sustaining, generative force that could produce viable alternatives.
I’m past all of that. Christ is just “someone else’s god.” I’m more interested in the process of religion and creating sacred spaces and experiences. I don’t want to argue with priests like I did as a child, now I want to learn how they do what they do, so I can do what I do better.
“Priest! Come and tell me how you do your magic!”
In the old churches, and all around Garmisch-Partenkirchen, there were elements of mystical Christianity that had a flavor of paganism or possibly animism about them.
The large, old churches had meditation spaces that seemed very modern, almost Buddhist. Maybe these were new, maybe they were old. There were places to light candles and pray. For ancestors? For the sick? For the dead? For prosperity? All of that makes sense to me.
I was raised Catholic, so I remember some version of this from American churches as a child.
All around Garmisch-Partenkirchen there were crucifixes with little roofs to protect them from the winter snow. In the museum there, I found a painting showing a young woman praying to one of them in a field. On many of the buildings, in addition to the frescoes which usually had religious themes, there were beautiful carved statues depicting Jesus or Mary or some saint. I imagine the overall effect of a city like this in more religious times would be that you couldn’t walk a block without being reminded of the sacred in some way. The sacred was woven into everyday, profane life — inescapable to the eye and the mind in a way that would conceivably bring mundane tasks into harmony with a mindset oriented around the sacred experience.