Friday, July 16, 2004

From Bad Mergentheim I took the train four hours north to the town of Detmold, located on the southern edge of the vast (by European standards) Teutoburg Forest. As people here love to point out, Detmold, eine wunderschone Stadt (Detmold, it’s a wonderful town). First time visitors might wonder what all the fuss is about, but it does have a nice pedestrianized main drag chockfull of sidewalk cafes (excellent coffee) and picturesque side streets lined with big, sturdy, meticulously maintained half-timbered houses and imposing nineteenth century stone mansions. Right in the middle of town is the Residenzschloss, the former crib of the Princes of Lipp, who once ruled the area.

The Residenzschloss

Among the numerous attractions in the nearby Teutoburg Forest is the Hermannsdenkal, an immense statue dedicated to proto-Germanic hero Arminius (a.k.a. Hermann), who as all you students of Germano-Roman history will remember trounced the invading Roman legions near here in the year 9 ad. After this the Romans more-or-less gave up their attempt to conquer northern Germany. German nationalists in the nineteenth century hauled out Arminius and idealized him as the first German to envision a united Germany. Whether he actually ever had any such idea is less clear, but hey, it was long ago and who’s keeping track?

The statue was built between 1838 and 1875 by the monomaniacal Ernst von Bandel, who lived on the site and apparently never did anything else.

From base to the tip of the sword the statue stands 173 feet high; the copper statue itself weights 169,456 pounds.

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