Tag Archives: münster

Hang out the Sendschwert… there’s a fair on in Münster!

Münster has a fair three times a year. They call it the Send – which apparently is a derivation of “Synod” and originated with some rather jolly get-togethers of clerics in the 9th century.

When the Send is on, the city fathers hang out the Send Sword, or Sendschwert, on the town hall. This is a disembodied arm holding an upright sword. Apparently this is a reminder that any unruly behaviour at the fair used to be punishable by death.  So when attending the Send, I am always careful not to drop my candyfloss or park illegally. The Münster city fathers might take it personally and decide to impale me.

Sendschwert, Send Sword

A disembodied arm with sword... oh my!

The good news is that those 9th century clerics certainly knew how to party, judging by the modern day Send. Of course the risk of being impaled on the Sendschwert increases with every jug of beer…

Send Münster

Roll up! Cheap beer all week!

A German fair would not be complete without rides. And the Send specialises in the kind of rides which can only be described as absolutely freaking terrifying.  Seriously – I mean who in their right mind would go on this voluntarily? No wonder the fair is announced with the public display of severed limbs!

rollercoaster

Centrafugal stomach churner

I know you’re  thinking that after an afternoon in Bruno’s Bierdorf, it might seem like a great idea to climb onto a contraption which will spin you like an odd sock in the laundromat of life….   but the city fathers have thought of that. Readers, meet German Health and Safety.

fairground germany

Positively no drunks allowed on the ride! Or people who are short, tall, pregnant, or in possession of any other condition known to the medical profession...

Now clearly there is a disconnect here. In order to want to get on the ride you would have to be drunk to the point of near-terminal stupidity. But as soon as you are drunk, you’re not allowed on.

The fair does, however, offer plenty of less dangerous attractions which will part the stupidly drunk from their hard earned Euros. Take, for example, the mechanical grab machine where you can win one of the most psychologically disturbing cuddly toys of all time – the creepy cuddly Michael Jackson doll.

fairground grab

You could win a creepy Michael Jackson doll... the stuff of nightmares!

Suddenly being impaled by the sword-wielding disembodied long arm of the law is sounding like the most compelling attraction at the fair! Well, apart from another jug of the cheap ale, of course.

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Münster – town of bicycles

We spent yesterday in Münster, helping eldest daughter move into her new super-shiny new studio apartment.

We drove the van with all her worldly goods across town, while she rode her bicycle to her new home.

In Münster bicycles are the main form of transport. There are more bicycles than cars. I sometimes wonder whether there aren’t actually more bicycles than people. You can judge the popularity of certain locations by the number of bikes parked outside. In fact approaching certain buildings can be a bit of an obstacle course as you have to negotiate your way around bikes chained to every lamppost, tree and “Fahrräder hier nicht abstellen” sign.

, from Wikimedia Commons”]What particularly impressed me, though, in the town of bicycles was the ready availability of bike-repair equipment at all times of the day and night. An evening stroll through one of the streets adjacent to our daughter’s new place revealed a late night bike workshop and a “Schlauchomat“, a 24 hour inner-tube vending machine, catering for all the main sizes and gauges of tyre.

 

The only downside, obviously,  is that that puts paid to the most obvious excuse for missing the first lecture of the morning!

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The nest starts to empty…

It’s been an odd week.

Eldest child has started university in Münster this week.  Münster, for those who haven’t had the opportunity of visiting is basically a university with a bit of town attached. Every other building seems to be either a faculty or an administrative building or a hall of residence.And despite having been pretty much flattened in the war, much of the centre has been rebuilt to look as though the allies missed their target completely.

With a very ungermanic disregard for the practicalities, Münster has decided this year to renovate several of its student halls of residence. Of course, this is a good thing. At least in theory. In fact for Münster it’s apparently a one-off opportunity, because some of the funding for the renovation has come from the Konjunkturpaket – stimulus money from the government to keep the economy going through the banking crisis.

Of course putting the best part of a thousand student rooms out of action at the start of a new university year might not have been the most practical solution as far as the University is concerned. Eldest child is still, a week into term, desperately searching for somewhere to live. Along with many hundreds of other first year students. A lot of them are living in hotels or hostels… or like Eldest, relying on the kindness of strangers who have made their spare room available temporarily.

Not every stranger is so considerate though.

Today she had an appointment to view a student room in a shared flat 10 km outside of the city (which had been first advertised yesterday).  She cycled the 10 km only to find a note stuck on the outside of the door saying “Mitbewohner bereits gefunden” (room already let).

I hope she remembered to write an appropriate reply (either English or German vernacular would do!) on the door, before cycling the 10 km back….

 

 

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A very German botanical garden

When I was in Münster at the weekend with Eldest Daughter, we went to visit the university’s botanical gardens. In my defence, I should state that this was, in fact not the cruel act of a heartless parent… dragging a reluctant teenager around the most boring sightseeing available.  No, Eldest Daughter actually wanted to see the botanical gardens. Of her own free will. Really.

You see, as of October, she will be studying biosciences there and her course will involve her making the acquaintance of plant life for the first time.

Like most teenagers, Eldest Daughter’s knowledge of plants to date has been pretty much limited to a life-long mission to avoid broccoli or sprouts. So the Münster University Botanical Gardens will have its work cut out to fill in all the gaps.

The entire park is laid out like a massive pop-up botanical textbook. The plants are lovingly labelled and huge notices provide more information than you could ever wish to know.

Parts of the gardens focus on particular families of plants and particular habitats….such as the moorland section or the sand dunes. These areas are actually laid out to look like natural heathland or scrubland. There are no tidy flowerbeds, just swathes of moor, with heathers and sedges… or rolling sand dunes with tufts of scrubby grass or spiky plants clinging to the sheltered side of each hillock.

There are also swamps…

…meadows…

…and wooded streams.. to name but a few.

Then there is the medical section. This includes extensive information on the medicinal uses of plants – grouped according to the ailments which they cure… here, for instance, an exhibition of plants used to cure sex-specific diseases.

Each plant is carefully labelled, not just with its name and basic botanical data, but also a set of symbols outlining how it is used. I can see that students will never again need to visit a doctor or pharmacy… they can just pop down to the botanical gardens and find out which flowers or leaves to steep into a healing potion!

I was very excited to see that courgettes (of which I still have several billion growing in my garden) have significant uses in the cure of ailments relating to the prostate.

I shall make a note to renew my efforts at offloading them on my elderly male neighbours. Citizens of Meerbusch…I come to heal your prostates…

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Dancing horses and worshipful chefs

Do you ever sneak up on a town unannounced… you know, just to find out what people get up to when they don’t know you’re coming?

Yesterday I paid an unannounced visit to Münster. I went there with Eldest Daughter, because she has just been awarded a place at its university, and she wanted to get an impression of the town.

Despite the unannounced nature of our visit, I’m convinced that they’d found out we were coming. Someone must have been tracking the car, and the minute we turned onto the A43, the phonelines must have been buzzing with the news: “Achtung Münster! Middle-aged British comedy writer approaching…”

When we got there, even before we’d parked the car, we were held up by what appeared to be a procession of people dressed as chefs, waving banners and being afforded police protection to allow them to pass.

I already saw this as a bad omen. You turn up at a city and all the chefs have taken to the streets. A protest at being asked to cater to British tastes perhaps? What if they are actually on strike? Whatever will we do about lunch?

Pushing these worries to the back of our mind, we parked the car and set out to explore the city. Münster, we learned, is a scenic place with a dark side to its history. Take the pretty St. Lamberti church with it’s lacy spire. Closer inspection of the area above the clock reveals three iron cages which once held the tortured bodies of some anabaptists who the city fathers had taken a dislike to. Clearly not a town council one should annoy. From this point on, we were very careful not to drop litter.

The town itself was packed. Not only was it market day… but, we soon learned, the entire city was full of horses. And not just any old nags… no, we’d inadvertently landed in the middle of Germany’s horsing event of the year. The Deutsche Meisterschaft for show jumping and dressage.

The horses, it seemed, were camping in their hundreds. In supersized special horse-tents. A sort of equestrian refugee camp slap bang in front of the Schloss. From the smell of the place, it wouldn’t surprise me if some ponies found themselves dangling in irons on the church spire for fouling the pavements before the weekend’s out!

Show jumping is a sport I can sort of understand. But dressage is just weird. It seems to be a form of Strictly Come Dancing done by horses. I assumed this was all part of the City of Münster’s plot to make a comedy writer feel at home, by picking the least appropriate animal available to try and waltz to the Blue Danube.

Moving back into the city, we tried to visit the cathedral. This was tricky, first because the world’s largest market appeared to have sprung up around the building itself, so we had to battle through crowds lugging baskets of vegetables and wielding salamis and cheeses to get there. Once inside, the entirety of the cathedral turned out to be occupied by the striking chefs.

It turns out that they weren’t on strike at all. In fact, there were around 800 of them in Münster for some kind of annual competitive Bake-Off. We’d caught them in a moment of solemn contemplation, following which they would be wielding their cleavers and meat tenderisers in anger, each trying to out-cook their rivals.

Now, call me a conspiracy theorist, but I see more than just a casual coincidence here. First, the town is filled with hundreds of large farm animals, all herded together into what on the surface seemed to be a camp site for horses, but could equally serve as a canvas abbatoir. Second, several hundred chefs with their pots, pans and kitchen knives gather only a hundred metres away for a cookery contest.While I confess I didn’t see a written menu anywhere for the huge feast which was to be held at the Rathausinnenhof that evening…. I rather suspect Kebab de Cheval might be on the menu…

Kebab de Cheval anyone?

Can I have fries with that?

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