On my way to pick up my Mom in Frankfurt, I stopped at the Alexander shop in Mainz. Alexander, of course, make the best horns in the world, and the horn room (above) where new purchasers can try out a selection before taking home their favorite (kind of like the horn pound) is, in a way, the center of my personal horn universe. Oh yeah, they have plenty of other horns lying around and hanging on walls in other rooms, too:

What a beautiful sight. Someday (maybe after my first best-selling history book), I will come back to Mainz for the sole purpose of buying a new horn (or just to get my old one repaired and aged…still have no idea just how old it is). Personally, as a hornist and gadget-lover, I like this one:

It’s a bit hard to see around the glass, but that has 7 (7!) valves! I know, most people think we’re insufferable enough with only four valves, but this descant horn (Bb/F alto) not only has switch, drop and stop valves, but it also has a on/off compensating valve, which switches the third (main) valve from 1.5 steps down to 1 step up. And even at the crappy current €/$ exchange rate, it only costs $700 per valve! What value!

Or there’s always a plain old, boring triple horn:

Helps you play high and builds up your biceps!

Of course, it’s hard to leave without a decent amount of Alex stuff, but I sort of managed it (some things below are actually useful!)

Clockwise from top right: a hose attachment that fits in an Alex leadpipe for pressure cleaning (I’m so excited to get home to my horn and basement washtub right now); Alex 103 sticker (free with purchases); CD by the Alex-playing Berlin Phil horn section, strangely NOT for sale at the Berlin Philharmonie, but available in Mainz (completely awesome); Alex magnets (no, they still won’t stick to brass…stupid ferromagnetism); Really cool vinyl-bound set of horn quartet standards (while I’m still three horns short of a quartet, it’s a nice thing to keep in the music bag); another Alex sticker; leather, horn-shaped luggage tag with Alex marque (do I put it on my horn case, or would that be too obvious with the Mainz patch that’s already there?)

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The Bundesarchiv Koblenz in the sunlight (a rare occurrence lately, as we’ve only had a couple non-rainy days this month, and there are only about 9 hours of sunlight a day this far north).

I know, I know, it’s been a while, but research at the BA Koblenz really takes it out of you. First, there’s the sheer hassle of getting there: 1 train per hour from Bad Godesburg, 40 minutes on that (and each round trip is €15.40), then you can either climb the hill (about 80 meters straight up) or pay the ridiculously expensive bus fare (€2.40 before reductions for about a km ride, 30 cents more than a subway trip ANYWHERE within the city of Berlin).

Once you get to the archive (much like NARA in College Park) you’re faced with a dishearteningly long list of relevant files, often found with the help of a nice fachreferant, that you know you don’t have nearly enough time to work through. Still, you have to start somewhere, and if you’re disciplined enough to stay in the reading room (not difficult when it’s raining and barely above freezing) you can work through several boxes of files in a day.

After Berlin, I’ve reverted to my old National Archives practices of scanning files quickly, taking whatever notes may be necessary, and requesting a lot of copies. The nice thing is, they will scan everything I request and send me a CD when I’m back in the US. Yes, there is a cost for this, but it’s already rolled into the steep copying costs of €3 per file to start, and 39 cents per page after that. At least some of it’s in English, so I could potentially use it in a class someday (if I ever teach the Berlin Wall seminar again).

One of the things that still amazes me about researching a period after the invention of mechanized (or at least easy) document copying – and this is still before the age of Xerox, mind you – is the sheer volume of identical documents out there. I have now found the same memos in three different archives (Berlin, Hannover, Koblenz), and I have no doubt that if I were to go to Wiesbaden, Düsseldorf or Munich (other state-level archives) I would find even more copies. But even that’s nothing compared to the files that have 2, 3, 4, or 20 copies of the same document. I looked at one file where about 25% was a single set of copies of a Protokoll, an account of a meeting transcribed for sharing with other departments. I’m guessing that some poor secretary ran all of these through the mimeograph, collated them, and instead of sending them around, put them somewhere safe (like a filing cabinet). Then, 20 years later, they were duly noted as important historical documents and trucked to Koblenz. Thank god the Germans seem to have relied a bit less on carbon paper than the Americans did – there’s nothing in this world worse than trying to read a document that was clearly the fourth sheet of onion skin in a stack of four.

Well, that was an eventful week, mostly because Abby and Andrea were visiting, but also because I didn’t have internet access in my apartment in Bonn until Thursday evening, and then we spent most of the past three days out of the apartment in Köln and Frankfurt. Since I know that people are anxiously awaiting my next update, here’s the condensed version of the week:

Sunday, I left Berlin…

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I packed just about everything I own (at least in a living-in-Germany sense) into the only four bags I own (again, for the purposes of this exercise, we aren’t counting the 60 boxes of books and everything else in that full-size moving van last June). Regardless, they’re pretty well stuffed…

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Then I moved across Germany to Bonn, only falling out of one railway car (hauling 50 kg of stuff can get awkward) and had barely settled into my apartment in Bad Godesberg when I had to go pick up Abby at the Frankfurt airport. Andrea arrived the next day (while I was enjoying my first day at the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz) and for the rest of the week they had a vacation, while I mixed days off with days on. Unfortunately, it rained just about every day they were here (November in Germany…what can I say).

Day off (drinking Kölsch in Köln):

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Then I dropped both of them off at Frankfurt Airport, and took the train back up the Rhine to my apartment…

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This is also the route I take every morning to Koblenz now (well, not exactly – the picture was taken south of Koblenz), but I do get a lot of Rhine views from the top level of my regional express. More on that later, since I have to get back to grading my online course (having visitors really threw off my schedule…in a good way, of course).