Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Queen of the Hanseatic League

Guten Tag,
For the last eight days or so, my illustrator and I have been in the Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck. I am still in the course of writing and thinking about this place as we will soon be making our way to Berlin.

Anchored on the Trave
Lübeck is a city of memories, and one could almost say lost glory, but that finds several different means of manifestation. In it's day it was one of the most important trading cities on earth, and from what I've learned, at it's Zenith it had an imbalance of wealth distribution that Seattle would find admirable.

But it's a changeable city, as all are because there are at least thousands of stories. Some are physical and become metaphorical, some are linguistic and become masonry.

The Buddenbrookshaus is an excellent example. Thomas Mann and I have had a special relationship since the day I was born, since he and I share a birthday. He was also, arguably, the most important German writer of the 20th Century. (And there would be a lot of argument). He drew on this city for his first novel Buddenbrooks which is about the decadent decline and fall of an old merchant family. I won’t go into any more of that here. It (and the much better Zauberberg) won him the Nobel Prize in literature.

No what interests me is the fact that the Buddenbrookshaus, which was formerly the site of the Mann family Heimat is actually younger than many of the places I lived in Seattle, much less my current base of operations in Bremerton. Why? The RAF flattened most of this city in WWII. The Haus itself was rebuilt starting in the 50's.

But the acts of restoration are amazing, if you ever come here. Perhaps to a trained eye it’s obvious where wholesale recreation has occurred versus careful restoration.

Cafe Colestreet
David and I found a favorite café: Colestreet Café on Beckergrube Straße. It's independent, woman-owned, with an eclectic array of chairs and lighting, great coffee, and service. We spent several hours in there every day, writing, reading and drawing. What most intrigued me was the fact that it felt like a café from when I was new to Seattle: before the ludicrous real-estate market inflation and influx of new money made cafés like Colestreet impossible to exist. So I felt homesick in two ways: one for the NW, but it was the NW I had already lost and can never come home to—a potent warning against the allure of Nostos.

It’s why I like this image David took looking at the City from the Holstentor (that’s St. Petri Kirke). It almost looks like a Braque, doesn’t it? But it’s through a restored window since the Holstentor has been renovated several times itself.

But aren’t we like that? I have said before, we slip away in travel. Take that phrase in any number of ways, but when we stop and think, perhaps on the train to Berlin, we realize that we are always falling through what Rilke called die gedeutete Welt: The Interpreted World.