Friday, September 30, 2016

John’s pics

Every once in a while, something lands in my PO box that pretty much deserves its own video. Such is the case with a letter I received with some photos taken in Aschaffenburg in the mid-1950s, which immediately prompted a video in which I was able to compare the town as it was then with the modern town. The best thing about this video is that the historic images are ones you won’t find anywhere else — not those exact photos, in any case.

But while it was a great video (at least, I think so), it doesn’t really let you study the photos (either the old ones or the new ones) at your leisure. So here they are, in order they appear in the video (remember you can click to expand).

First, looking up Herstallstraße:

A few people commented on the video to complain about the ugly new building on the left. Bear in mind, though, that German cities did have to rebuild very extensively, and very rapidly, after the war. In the decade after, the emphasis was on building homes to deal with a massive shortage of housing stock. That said, Germany did a much better job of preserving or recreating historical buildings than, say, the UK.

Next, the Collegiate Church:

You can quite clearly see how I was unable to get the right angle. I found one photo taken from the air just after the completion of the new Town Hall, which was in 1958, and most of the buildings opposite the church simply weren’t there: it was basically a parking lot. I think that must be where John was standing when he took the photo, because try as I might I couldn’t get the whole spire in and also get the fountain where it appears on the old photo. Not without stepping backwards through a plate-glass window.

The Hotel is up next:

I like this one because at first sight it looks as if it’s hardly changed at all. And it hasn’t: it’s still run by the same family (well, at some point it passed to the in-laws, but I still count that as “in the family”), as it has been for over 100 years. It’s only when you look closely that you notice the little changes.

Finally, the castle:

What a shame that tower is under scaffolding, but the reality is that historic buildings like this require an awful lot of maintenance. I am, though, surprised that nobody picked me up on mentioning the “symbol of the six-spoked wheel” while showing images of wheels with at least eight spokes each. I probably should have watched the rough cut more closely before recording the commentary, but in fact the Mainz Wheel is supposed to have six spokes. It’s often depicted as having more, and in previous centuries people didn’t always pay attention to such fine details: nevertheless, the symbol of Mainz is supposed to have exactly six spokes.

Also notice that there are more trees (and vines, too) in the newer picture. John did take his photos in the winter (you can see a light dusting of snow in some), but still air raids and things like the lack of firewood during the war took their toll on the local tree population: this has, as you can see, since been corrected.

1 comment:

  1. I used to read a lot about medieval Aschaffenburg a while ago, and I remember there must have been a 12th-century building opposite the cathedral called "Stäblerhaus". It had been damaged by air raids and was eventually taken down altogether in 1953. The building is nowadays Pfaffengasse 5, so it might be the place where John stood back then.
    Martin (Mainz)