Seeing the Ruins: Doing Some Exploring in Wiesbaden

Posted: September 16, 2015 in Living and Life, Tales from Abroad
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday was the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I had the day off, but unfortunately no one could take me to the chaplain’s house that day, and while I tried to go to the nearest synagogue, I couldn’t find it even though it should’ve been in front of me (I found out later from the chaplain that you have to walk into the building where it should’ve been to find it. Otherwise it’s hidden behind businesses. Not sure why that is, but I’ll go with it). So with the day off and nowhere else to go, I decided to do what I promised to do my first week in Germany, and go explore some more of my temporary home.

If you head down to the Marktplatz on a Tuesday afternoon, certain areas will be busy while certain areas won’t be. The main plaza was pretty empty save for some pigeons, while further back you’ll find plenty of people strolling and shopping. It was into these back alleys I went, armed with a map and a general idea of where I was going. Needless to say, I got turned around more than once.

The smaller half of the Jewish Memorial in Wiesbaden.

The smaller half of the Jewish Memorial in Wiesbaden.

The first stop I went to was the Jewish Memorial in Wiesbaden, which was a pretty moving experience. The memorial stands where the old Michelsberg synagogue, which was a magnificent building with domes and spires that was destroyed during the war, used to be and is dedicated to the German Jews from Wiesbaden who died during the Nazi era. Today a road bisects the former grounds, so the memorial is split in half as well. The smaller part is an L-shaped, two story structure made from black stone, with a white display detailing in German and in English the purpose of the memorial. A small touch screen contains more information on the Jewish community of Wiesbaden (all in German unfortunately).

The second half, on the other side of the street, is much bigger. It’s in the shape of a giant rectangle with one side missing and along the walls, there’s a band where all the names of Wiesbaden’s Jews who were murdered during that period are listed. When I crossed the street, I felt the atmosphere change.

The larger, more emotional half of the Jewish memorial in Wiesbaden.

The larger, more emotional half of the Jewish memorial in Wiesbaden.

They say that certain places can hold certain emotions. I’m not sure if that’s true in this case, or if that was just my own associations affecting me, but the moment I got to the other side of the street, I suddenly felt very melancholy and started walking around the memorial, my hand running over the many names listed there. I found myself talking to the Jews listed there—I knew they probably couldn’t hear me, even if their souls were hanging around that space—but in that moment I talked, and I felt really sad because these people had lived and then had their lives violently and tragically ended, and their stories would never be known because the Nazis had done all they could to erase them. I cried a little while I was there, and I felt like something was with me in that memorial (though not necessarily the spirits of the dead Jews…maybe the spirit of the synagogue itself, if that makes sense), and it was very pleased I’d taken the time to talk to it.

The Roman Wall, with some additions from the Germans.

The Roman Wall, with some additions from the Germans.

After that I left (and felt much better once I was outside the memorial space). I then headed to something I’d wanted to see but had totally forgotten about looking for that first week in Wiesbaden: the Roman wall, known as “die Romantor” in Deutschland. Right down the road from the Jewish memorial, the wall has been reinforced and repaired and even built upon by the Germans (hence why there’s a wooden bridge connecting two parts of the wall). Nearby there are statues and reliefs that are either relics of the Roman age or they were created to resemble Roman works of art, and behind one apartment’s driveway there is a small alcove that might’ve been a storage area. These are all that remains of what might’ve been a Roman fortress against barbarian hordes. It was actually pretty cool, and I couldn’t help but think of a friend of mine from my study abroad trip who would’ve loved to see the wall.

Possibly a storage space for weapons and supplies?

Possibly a storage space for weapons and supplies?

You know thinking about it, I should write a story or two involving the ancient Greeks or Romans. There are already plenty of horror stories involving their mythologies, but involving them? I don’t know of many, though a few Anne Rice books do take place in ancient Rome or thereabouts.

Anyway, after that I headed back to the Marktplatz, where I discovered a costume shop with all these different masks and costumes and accessories available. Apparently Oktoberfest here in Germany involves costumes like Halloween does in the States (fun fact: only a fifth of Germans practice Halloween, as the holiday was mostly discouraed up until the 1990s by the Lutheran church. It’s becoming a growing trend, but still pretty small here except among Americans). I tried on a few masks and took some photos in a full-length mirror in the shop for kicks, then left while thinking about maybe getting a mask of some sort later on.

Mother always said I was a werewolf. I guess we now have proof. Awooo!

Mother always said I was a werewolf. I guess we now have proof. Awooo!

All in all, it was a pretty interesting and fun afternoon. I got to connect with my heritage in a very personal way, as well as immerse myself pretty deep in German history and culture. And I got to see some more of the city I’ve been living in for the past three months, and which I’m going to be sad to leave. Guess that means I’ll have to come back someday, right?

Of course, my adventures in Germany are far from over. I’m trying to arrange to go to this castle with a very interesting history called Wewelsburg over the weekend, and I would like to go to Oppenheim, which is not too far away from where I live, because they have underground labyrinths you can explore (sounds a bit like the Paris catacombs). Hopefully I’ll be able to do both and have fun at Oktoberfest too while I’m at it.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

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Comments
  1. Certain places definitely can have an emotional impact, but I guess your cultural background definitely had something to do with it as well.
    Do you maybe mean “das Römertor”? because “die Romantor” doesn’t really mean anything to me.

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