Everyone knows the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, in which the German town was plagued by rats and hired the Pied Piper to take them all away. The Pied Piper led them into the nearby river and drowned them, and then demanded his fee. The city government decided not to pay him, citing budget cuts and the need to curb deficit spending. The piper then piped all the children away. This was a big relief for the city government because they could eliminate the education budget.
Now the city of Hamelin is facing a new plague of rats. Local officials say they’re attracted to the food left out by tourists for the birds. One rat apparently didn’t get his share and instead chewed through a cable powering one of the town’s fountains.
There’s no word if the city will hire another Pied Piper.
Hamelin is a popular tourist attraction and holds re-enactments of the famous story during the summer. It also has a well-preserved Old Town with many elegant buildings dating as far back as the 16th century. The surrounding Weser Mountains Region offers hiking, biking and sights such as the Hämelschenburg Castle.
[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]
William S. Burroughs is most famous for his experimental novels about heroin and gay sex, yet he was active in many arts. Now a new exhibition at the Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany, is focusing on his lesser-known artistic output.
The exhibition, “the name is BURROUGHS — Expanded Media,” highlights the author’s film, photography, collage and audio experiments. Much of this work reflects the style of his writing. Burroughs developed what he called the “CUT-UP method” in which he wrote a text, cut the pages into pieces and rearranged them. What’s interesting about this technique is that the sense, style and tone still come through. Try it on a political speech and you’ll see what I mean.
The CUT-UP method is especially evident in his film work, which looks like it was edited with a paper shredder. Like his books, much of Burroughs’ art is more emotionally experienced than intellectually understood. His photography is often more straightforward and includes some interesting self-portraits from various periods of his life.
The exhibition runs from March 23 and does not yet have a scheduled end date.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
The Museum of European Cultures has reopened after a two-year renovation.
Located in Berlin, this museum focuses on the life of the common people of old Europe. While most museums focus on the famous accomplishments of the elite, this one looks at the everyday lives and traditions of regular people so often forgotten by the history books. Folklore museums can be found all over Europe and make for fascinating visits. With a collection of some 27,000 objects, the Museum of European Cultures is one of the largest.
The latest temporary exhibition is of the paintings of Wilhelm Kiesewetter, who traveled across Europe 150 years ago to paint the traditional costumes and lives of various ethnic groups. There’s also a study collection of old toys.
While many of the costumes and artifacts on display are now only museum pieces, some traditions have survived. One of the stranger ones takes place in the Alps over the Christmas season-the Perchten processions. Perchta is an old pagan goddess who was never quite suppressed by Christianity. She can appear as a beautiful maiden or an old crone and has single huge swan’s foot. She roams the countryside during the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany, checking to see if children and servants had been good and done their work. The good ones are rewarded with a silver coin in their shoe, while the bad ones get gutted and stuffed with straw.
Her entourage, called Perchten, includes glittering animal figures that bring luck and ugly critters like this one to scare away evil spirits.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
A new military museum has opened in Dresden, Germany.
The Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr opened today and is sure to court controversy. With the shadow of the Third Reich always looming over the German historical consciousness, the design of the displays was a delicate matter. The museum’s director says that the focus is on individuals, both as perpetrators and victims, as well as the many who stood aside and did nothing.
The museum covers the entire history of armed conflict, not just World War Two, and features many graphic images of death. German war atrocities are shown with an unflinching eye. Other countries don’t get off lightly either. The American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed more than 185,000 people (mostly civilians), are memorialized with an artwork showing the victims’ shadows left by the bombs’ blasts.
[Photo courtesy Bundesarchiv]