Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Trip to Staufen

The little town of Staufen 20 kilometers south of Freiburg is well known to many of my American friends. The following photo dates back to June 2004 and shows a group in front of the town hall.

In the background Staufen's town hall before its renovation
Last Saturday Red Baron took the train to join a guided tour to Staufen's secular places of interest organized by the local historical society. I was early with only few visitors present but when we left the train station starting the tour our group comprised at least 60 persons in spite of the cold and rainy weather.

The first thing I learned was that the name Staufen has nothing to do with the famous Hohenstaufen nobility for their mountain and castle are located in the Swabian Jura.

The Hohenstaufen in Swabia (©Kreuzschnabel/Wikipedia)
Still the form of the mountain top of the Hohenstaufen is similar to that of Staufen's castle hill. The two peaks look like a turned over stauf, an old German word for goblet.

Staufen's Schlossberg as seen from the train station

The first place our group visited was the Fark'sche* Werkstatt of 1892 with some old machine tools dating back to the 19th century.
*Note the Deppenapostroph

Entrance to the Fark workshop
In Staufen they take pride in this preserved workshop and keep lathes and drilling machines operational.

Manfred Kiefer is proud of "his" machines explaining them to a full house.
A picture of the original water wheel is shown in the back.
In 1892 one water wheel coupled to the main transmission by a sophisticated belt system with clutches drove all the machines.

A labyrinth of wheels and transmission belts
Standing drilling machine: a museum piece still working

An old lathe in operation
An even older lathe
Later a steam engine replaced the water power until in the 1920s one small electric motor took all the load.

The small electric motor

The next stop on our tour was in front of the Gasthaus Krone.

The painting on the wall shows a scene from the revolutionary year of 1948 when the landlord of the Crown Inn involved in the local uprising told soldiers fetching him under martial law: Ich dulde nicht, daß ich erschossen werde! (I will not tolerate to be shot!). Red Baron learned the true story. The commanding general of the government troops Friedrich Hoffmann had not yet received a necessary written authorization for executions under martial law. And indeed, the landlord of the Crown Inn was spared while other freedom fighters not knowing about the missing paper had already been shot.

Note the little cannon ball marked 1848 high on the left
A passageway near the Gasthaus Krone carries the name of Gustav Struve, the leader of the revolutionaries. They had occupied Staufen but were rapidly defeated by government troops. Struve was arrested, brought to justice at Freiburg's Basler Hof, incarcerated in Fort Rastatt, and liberated by revolutionaries in 1849. Although having emigrated to America only in 1851 he is counted among the most influential Forty-Eighters in the States.

With respect to a well preserved cannon ball Freiburg does better than Staufen. Our cannon ball stuck in the wall of the Loretto Chapel is bigger and more than hundred years older.

Cannon ball from the French siege of Freiburg in 1744
stuck in the wall of the chapel on Lorettoberg

On our way to the town hall along Hauptstraße (Main Street) our guide showed us the spot from where to take the best shot of Staufen even when the weather is bad.

Bächle (narrow water channels) in Staufen's Main Street
Next we stopped at the Gasthaus zum Löwen (Lion's Inn) the place where Dr. Faustus had lived during four years before he died a violent death in 1540 or 1541. The legend goes that Mephistopheles broke Faust's neck during one night after their twenty-four-year-contract had expired. Having heard a big bang worried citizens entered the Lion's Inn. When their noses were irritated by a sulfurous smell they were convinced that the devil had killed the learned Doctor whose body was in a grässlich deformiertem Zustand (horridly deformed state).

Note the red sticker glued over cracks plastered in a makeshift way:
Staufen darf nicht zerbrechen (Staufen must not break)
The true story about Faust' death is less magical. The count of Staufen was bankrupt. Looking for money he came to Freiburg in 1535 where he met Erasmus of Rotterdam who was indignant sitting on his suit- and book-cases waiting for his move to Basel. To get rid of his visitor the great savant told the count that Doctor Faustus was on the brink of making gold. So the count invited Faust to Staufen paying food and bed for him at the Lion's Inn during five long years. When one day he met the Doctor in the street the count set a deadline: I shall give you another three days to make gold. After that you will go with a bang. Desperately Faust started new experiments but apparently in the following night he used too much sulfur. The resulting big bang killed him.

Staufen's redecorated town hall showing many cracks.
One is pasted over by the red sticker (©joergens.mi/Wikipedia)
Eventually our group moved to the Rathaus. At the old council chamber located on the first floor of the town hall we were entertained with Apfelschorle (apple spritzer) and Nusszopf (plaited nut loaf).

Rathaus square-facing Renaissance window with Staufen's coat of arms
showing three golden staufen (goblets). To the right the Austrian colors
and the double-headed eagle stand for 437 years of  Habsburg rule.
The upper floors of the Rathaus serve as a museum that is full of memories of the 1848 Revolution. Here, taken during an earlier visit, is a photo of a rifle bullet that passed through the window, wounded the town clerk and then got stuck in a book. Luckily Albert Gysler survived the shooting and died in 1904 at an age of 81 peacefully in his bed.

Bullet in a book
We were then informed about the disaster that actually is striking Staufen. In 2006 - the town councillors had just beautifully redecorated their Rathaus - they decided on a drilling operation to be conducted in the spring of 2007 providing geothermal heating to the town hall. We read in Wikipedia: The drilling perforated an anhydrite layer and caused high-pressure groundwater to come into contact with the anhydrite, which then began to expand. The geochemical process called anhydrite swelling has been confirmed as the cause of these uplifts. This is a transformation of the mineral anhydrite (anhydrous calcium sulphate) into gypsum (hydrous calcium sulphate). A pre-condition for this transformation is that the anhydrite is in contact with water, which is then stored in its crystalline structure. In July 2013, no end to the rising process was in sight. By 2010, some sections of town had risen by 30 cm causing cracks in the buildings of the old town center. In the meantime relief drillings have reduced the water pressure and subsequently monthly uplifts from 11 to 2 mm.

Vestigia Mephistophelis
At the end of the visit everybody wanted to see Mephistopheles's footprint in the staircase on the third floor of the town hall. Was the bad drilling in 2007 the devil's late curse upon Staufen?

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