Just another medieval house

We wandered about Prinzipalmarkt in Muenster looking at the pretty buildings. Muenster had been a German army headquarters during the 1940s, and was heavily bombed by the US Air Force in 1943. So most of what we saw was rebuilt. The style is of the gabled houses common in this region from the 15th century CE onwards.

The ridge line of the gables is perpendicular to the street, and the end that faces the street is built up over the roof into a high decorative front. We stopped at the building which you see in the photo above. The upper three stories are clearly post-war reconstruction, but below that was the exuberance of a town flush with Hanseatic trade. Look at the lion heads at hip-height, supporting the front columns! The featured photo is a close-up of the columns: a mermaid and a merman, over whose heads hang carved flowers and fruits.

The heads which decorate the lintel above the tall windows on the ground floor are also very interesting. They probably show how well-off people of that time dressed. Interestingly they follow a convention which you can see on TV news shows even today. When a man and a woman appear together, conventionally the man looks out at the world, whereas the woman looks at the man. How hard it is to evolve out of that convention.

Written in the blood

Fanciful analogies between cities and animals often talk of roads as the arteries of a city. The metaphor is deep enough that if I wrote about an arterial road, you would read on without pausing. So, when I see a plaque set into a path in the center of Dortmund, I could think of it as what’s in the blood of the city. And clearly, as you can see in the featured photo, Dortmund has football in its blood. No matter which records get broken, Timo Koneitzka’s achievement will remain unmatched, because, as the plaque says, he scored the first goal ever in the Bundesliga.

We were in Dortmund on a Saturday to meet The Family’s family and friends. The moment we set foot there, we realized by the number of people in yellow jerseys and high spirits, that the other thing which is in the blood of Dortmund (or, at least, of Dortmunders) is beer. It was the day of a Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund, Timo Konietzka’s club, and Bayern Muenchen. Munich is, of course, the giant amongst German clubs, as you can see if you look at the records of the Bundesliga. But Dortmund is no pushover. It is reputed to be just behind Munich in terms of the money it raises, and is one of the most successful clubs in the Liga.

Hopeful vendors stood around selling scarves of the two clubs. While Achim explained the Bundesliga standings (Dortmund’s eternal rival, Schalke 04, stands well above in this year’s league tables) to The Family, I wondered whether there are reversible scarves. No. Club loyalties are too deep. In a little open square with a fair, I found the Dortmund supporters clustered around tables in a pub (photo above). Across the square, another pub was awash in the red of Munich supporters. There is no fraternizing.

Other information is also carried in the blood. A few days before, we’d met someone who went to university in Luebeck. While talking to her about the city, we’d also talked a little bit about the Hanseatic League. My memory of the Hansa was that it included trading towns along the south coast of the Baltic sea: Luebeck, Rostock, Bremen, Hamburg, Gdansk. I didn’t think of Dortmund, Cologne and Osnabrueck as part of the Hansa. When I looked it up later I was flabbergasted by the reach of this medieval trading alliance, both in time (from the 12th century to the 17th) and in geography (from the Baltic inland to Cologne and Berlin). Dortmund turned out to play an important role as a regional capital of the League in the 15th century. Plaques set in roads and pavements are nice ways of reminding people of the history of a city.