Wednesday, 7 May 2014

kurhessen oder gloria, viktoria, the doctor is in

In the northern German state of Lower Saxony (Nieder- sachsen), there is an ancient village where the rivers Fulda, Weser and Werra come together and at the confluence, there is a little island and on that little island we set up camp while exploring the area. The town is called Hannoversch Münden, for its historic ties to the city and kingdom and mostly abbreviated as Hann. Münden to distinguish it from the neighbouring Minden (the site of a pivotal battle of the Sever Years' War and names-sake of the HMS Minden where Francis Scott Key was held prisoner when he was inspired to compose the US national anthem), which refers to the mouths of the two rivers coming together; the city of Koblenz further west where the Rhine and Moselle converge is a corruption of the Latin ad...confluentes.
We saw some pretty neat sites in the region, including the Bergpark at Wilhelms- höhe—more to come on that soon, whose palace was temporarily renamed Napoleonshöhe in honour of the conquering emperor’s family when his brother Jérôme was created King of Westphalia (and a defeated Napoleon III was later imprisoned there after the Franco-Prussian War), but the half-timbered homes and wall of the village on the banks of these important waterways was especially enchanting. There was certainly an abundance of culture and history besides associated with Hann. Münden, but one of its more infamous sons really came across as a curiosity: Doctor Johann Andreas Eisenbarth, an itinerant snake-oil salesman who ingratiated himself amongst the ruling families. This quack from Baroque times, however—with no formal accreditation and probably peddled more harmful elixir than helped, did demonstrate a singular talent with self-promotion and advertising, setting the industry-standard for wonder tonics and giving pharmaceuticals memorably made-up names.
The village has embraced Dr. Eisenbarth, ridiculed for his outrageous claims and confidence in folk-songs (who could make the blind to walk and the lame to see—Gloria, Viktoria, widewidewitt juchheirassa!), with quite a few monuments and even consulting hours during the summer for those tourists who might benefit from procedures a step above leeches.