Legend of Regensburg

– Fat Agnes – 

In the free city of Regensburg lived Klara, the daughter of a tinsmith, who was usually called the “Liebfrauenbildlein”; because she was exceedingly beautiful in face and figure. She grew up to be, god-fearing, devote and honourable, as it befits a fine virgin.

One Sunday, when she returned home from the early mass, it happened that a stately nobleman came in her way; he was dressed in velvet and precious finery and wore a heavy gold chain on his chest and a beret with big feathers on his head. And when he saw the lovely maiden, he stopped and looked after her, almost shocked, until she went around the corner. The next Monday, according to her habit, Klara was at mass at St. Cassian’s, and when she stepped out of the church, the nobleman stood there and greeted her. And on Tuesday he greeted her again and suddenly put a little letter into her hand. Hence the virgin blushed deeply and thought she was holding a glowing coal between her fingers. But she did not want to drop the letter in fear of the gossip. Instead she carefully hid it in her scarf, with the intention of throwing it into the fire at home. And if she had done so, she would have been spared great suffering.

But in her small chamber she thought different, because she liked the delicately folded parchment, but especially the gold embroidered ribbon with which it was wrapped. And as she was pondering and turning the little letter back and forth in her hand, suddenly a little voice, like the chirping of a cricket, said to her: “Well, you foolish thing, why do you hesitate so long? Hot off the press! Dead letters don’t bite.” But whoever spoke like this? It was a tiny, barely inch-high woman, crouching in a corner at the fireplace. At first the maiden was horrified by the spook; but because the little one seemed to be untroubled and even acted friendly, she let herself be persuaded and reached for the scissors. And at the moment the tape was cut, the woman grew one finger length higher.

On Wednesday, Klärchen did not go to mass, but locked herself in her chamber as if she were ill. In the meantime, however, she looked for the letter again and read how the nobleman had developed a fierce love for her and could never let go of her and wanted to serve her as an honourable, honest suitor. Such a thing was written in the letter with even fancy words. And while she was still reading, the woman appeared again and cried, “Listen, my daughter! Don’t you hear the sound of spurs in the alley?” And Klärchen hurried to the window and saw the nobleman walking along. He noticed her hiding behind the curtain, because the lovesick have hawk’s eyes. And he greeted up, and she greeted down. But the woman giggled up her sleeve and was growing as high as a shoe, even though it had only been finger-length before.

Thursday, during the meal, the tinsmith scolded his daughter, “You dream in broad daylight and throw more salt into the soup than my palate would like, and the cat steals the meat from the pot before your very eyes.” Towards evening, in the twilight, the woman came back and carried a box of ebony under her arm and said, “Take it. It’s a memento from your suitor.” But Klara stepped back and replied: “Go away, temptress! A virtuous virgin shall not take gifts.”

Then the woman departed grumbling; but at the door she turned around again and said, “A gift is better than a purchase. Think well and see what you despise.” With these words the little woman opened the box, and – o glory! – Inside was a magnificent necklace of vain gold and richly set with pearls and precious stones. The flickering and sparkling enchanted Klärchen and her eyes began to sparkle too. She took the box and stepped in front of the mirror and enjoyed the finery very much. The woman applauded and shouted: “Now you may carry your nose as high as the Countess Monika does.” On Friday they went so far that the nobleman climbed over the garden wall in the darkness and came into the alcove for a little chat. – The little woman was already a cubit high today. – The nobleman talked quite intimately with the tinsmith’s daughter and told her even more beautiful things than he had written in the letter. Meanwhile the woman kept watch at the entrance of the alcove, and – lo and behold! – with every word of love and every handshake it grew an inch in height and an inch in thickness.

And when the couple stepped out of the alcove on Saturday, there stood a superhuman-sized woman with the circumference of a beer barrel. Klara was frightened and screamed, “What are you doing here, you brute?”; But the giantess just laugh loud and replied: “How, my daughter, do you not know your old friend anymore? I am Fat Agnes, and you have kept me well and fed me so much that I, at first a tiny thumb, have grown so tall and fat.”

It is to be known, however, that the fat Agnes was a hellish ghost, which was roaming the city at the time. Initially in the form of a thumb-length woman, it lured people from the right path by those idom and common phrases that guilty pleasure uses to gloss over its actions. And where it was not banned by prayer and devoutness, it stayed like a vampire and sucked itself full and prospered and grew to a ghastly monster.

Klärchen, poor Klärchen: After the nobleman had had his amusement with her for some time, he left her, not bothered by her reproaches and tears, and married the daughter of a rich family. Same things happened to other virgins who had been involved with Agnes, and some of them fell so low that their names were later found in the register of the Reichstag, who, as is well known, was entrusted with the care of the travelling prostitutes.

As far as the menfolk were concerned, the ghost especially seduced young people, who had untold amounts of money in their fingers. It whispered in their ear: “A few pennies will not harm your Lord – he does not feel it. A penny ain’t a silver coin!” Several of these bewitched journeymen started just with a grab into the cash register and ended up as highwaymen.

Such moral corruption made the wise council of Regensburg very much concerned, and they seriously thought about how to master the spook. Physical weapons, however, did not work on him, and so the venerable Minorite Monks were approached for aiding and abetting. According to the legend, they did not easily banish the ghost into the deep cellar of a desolate house at Bäckenspreng. It could still be heard whimpering and groaning for many years afterwards, to the horror of everyone passing by, in the time between the sounds of prayer and the crow of the rooster.

Bamberg – a secret diamond in the heart of Bavaria

For our first stop during our travels we visited Bamberg which is a small town in Bavaria. A lot of cultural and architectural sights are found there including world heritage. Especially the old town with its medieval and baroque buildings are worth a visit. You can stroll through the streets and around every corner are new, lovely and spectacular things to discover. When you walk through Bambergs old town you should look out for the little streets and alleys. A lot of wonderful small architectural details are to be found.

The world heritage center in Bamberg is a must-see. In its exhibition Bambergs’ material and immaterial cultural heritage are explained. Futhermore the exhibition is designed very interactive and with easy to understand information for young and old. Also two young women who take a voluntary year gave us a guided tour around Bamberg and showed us its most beautiful spots and sights. We visited the cathedrale which was founded by emperor Henry II. and his wife and empress Kunigunde. We not only saw the material world heritage but we also learned that Bamberg has immaterial culture such as smoked beer or liquorice which was a very important commodity for many centuries. Altogether Bamberg has 1340 monuments which is a variety of churchs, palaces or other architectural sights. Besides the cathedral we also visited the Rosegarden or the Obere Pfarre. The Obere Pfarre is a very beautiful catholic church which is firstly namend in an document in 1140.

During our visit we not only saw the old town and the sights but we also went to a lot of Museums Bamberg has to offer. Our Highlight was the Gärtner- und Heckermuseum which is a very small museum but its exhibition is made with love and care and is resident in an old house form the 18. Century which belonged to gardener family. Today it tells the story of living and working as such a family. In the backyard is a very gorgeous garden filled with flowers, herbs and vegetables. We can recommend a visit there.

All in all Bamberg is a very beautiful town with a great variety of cultural sights and immaterial culture and is definitely worth a visit.

Quebec City: Part 1

What makes Quebec City Quebec City? It is the combination of the castle, the maple leaves, hundreds of years of European history over 450 square kilometers of land. But for someone who was born and raised here, it’s the food, the outskirt of town, the épiceries around street corner, the experience of interacting with tourists from all over the world (well, aka, us).

I am never a fan of sugary things: the guilt and the thought of having to do a 10-minute workout to burn all the calories off keep me away from cakes, pies, and candies. However, when I came to Quebec City, everything changed. I can’t move my feet when it comes to pastry shops. One bite down the croissant, I immediately have the biggest smile on my face. The warmth of indoors and the long-forgotten joy from sugar make me want to just stay in this moment forever.

For some Quebecois, this moment of sweetness is part of their daily routine — midday break, head off to coffee shop right next door, get a block of sugar (yes, something like 200 calories of nothing but pure sugar), the spend the rest of the afternoon at a park with a copy of daily news.

I love taking picture of couples here. (No wonder “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” was shot here). The romantic atmosphere overtakes me as I stroll along the street – just look at people going in and out of the Christmas shops. This is the city where Christmas starts in October and do not end until late January. It is a sugary winter wonderland.

Is sugar something that is deep rooted in QC? Well, we have the next few days to find out.

 

 

(to be continued… )

 

Warsaw destruction and The National Museum

On our three days in Warsaw, we visited the Museum of Warsaw and the Heritage Interpretation Centre. We learned that the city of Warsaw was destroyed in 1944,  85% of the city was bombed by the Germans in retaliation of the 1944 Warsaw uprising.

Efforts from several architects and the state after the war created a plan of reconstruction. From 1945-51 the old town place was reconstructed, however not exactly as it was before, creating a more spacious city centre. Our lovely guide Marta took us around and showed us the history of the reconstruction and the UNESCO recognition.

Later we went to the Warsaw Museum at the old town place where we learned more about Warsaw’s history and population. We walked around through the old town and enjoyed the nice weather.

The next day we went to see the National Museum of Warsaw were our lovely guide Mr. Glowacki, who works at the curatorial department told us about the history of the museum at the time of the war. We found that the museum was almost completely looted by the Nazis, with paintings such as a Young Man by Rafael never returning. We also saw efforts from the Ministry of Culture of Poland to track paintings lost during that time which we were able to see at the museum.

Lastly, a nice story about a important symbolic painting for the Polish people. A massive war painting by recognised artist Jan Matejko. The great scale art work was dismounted by the staff and hidden, first in Warsaw and later buried in Lublin. The staff wanted to avoid the Nazis burning the painting as the topic of the work was the defeat of the German army to the Polish army in the 1500.

We found Warsaw lovely, filled with life and great food! We will be back once more! This is the end of our journey so thank you readers and to the next adventure!

 

 

Hidden Gem: Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting and Their Turrell Skyspace

For someone who has lived in Pennsylvania, United States for two years, the only Philly-authentic thing I’ve familiarized myself with is their Philly Cheesesteaks and Wawa, our beloved local minimart chain. The one thing I have been curious about ever since I saw Penn’s mascot, the Quaker, is exactly that: Philly’s Quaker community.

Quakerism emerged from the English Civil War in the mid 1600s as a sect of Christianity and, ever since the 1800s, Philadelphia has become a home for many Quakers and their Religious Society of Friends. For Quakers, their core belief is that a piece of God is present in every person and that that “Inner Light” can speak to them directly.

One historic meeting place, the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting, is located twenty minutes outside of Philadelphia. Once a week on Sunday mornings, the members of this community come together for one hour of silent worship in a meditative and beautifully designed space.

Although it might not look like your typical cathedral, the design of the space is impeccably well thought out. The interior is a serene palette of white walls, wooden floors and furniture, and aquamarine accents.

The generous sprinkle of windows that line the room allow natural light to flood the space and not only that, it welcomes the chirp of the cicadas and the children’s laughter to echo the room.

A gentle breeze occasionally enters, and the space is decidedly the perfect meditation haven. The coolest part yet is the “skyspace” located on the ceiling:

After asking what inspired the beautiful light piece, I was told that it was in fact done by the renowned contemporary artist, James Turrell (whose work you might recognize from Drake’s Hotline Bling music video, but trust me, he’s much more important than just that). The small square of light is projected unto a false ceiling, which opens up to the sky.

The Skyspace actually welcomes visitors, and you can sign up for a tour of it online. It’s on my bucket list to go back there at least once to really enjoy it in its full glory.

I could go on for a long time about its architecture. Did I mention its beautiful local Philadelphia field stone-covered facade?

On that note, I should probably also mention that I’m an Architecture student, hence the geeky perception towards the building’s smallest details. Having been a student in Philadelphia for over two years now, though, I’ve always been curious about the state’s Quaker roots. I’m really glad that I’ve finally cracked that mystery and can now appreciate a new way to pursue religion.

Can I offer you a friendly tip? If you’re curious about something, bring a friend along and explore – you’ll never know unless you try it.

Special thanks to Sarah for being the absolute best guide, and Vian and Nelson!

– Gaby

 

The address to Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting is: 20 E Mermaid Ln, Philadelphia, PA 19118. They hold worships every Sunday at 10:30 – 11:30AM.