Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Green Man

Goethe in the Italian Countryside.
Note the Oak Leaves.

A few weeks back I was in Germany. I spent five weeks there, and came back and saw Canada for the first time. Actually, I saw it there.

I chased Napoleon across the country. I kept off the freeways and followed the old roads he marched on, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, whew.It often seemed like he was over the next hill.

And I kept running into Goethe! He was, like, everywhere. Seems the young rich kid went to Italy in 1786 and fell in love with Italian landscapes. He did the usual thing that writers and painters do: wrote a diary, filled it full of sketches, and published it. It's still being done today. (Like this blog.)

If Goethe Were Alive Today He'd Write a Cookbook

Goethe did something really different, though. He had an Italian landscape built in Weimar, full of lovely old ruins. It was like standing inside his sketchbook.

A Page From Goethe's Sketchbook

Think of it as the first Disneyland. Really. No more did you have to stand in a gallery and look at a painting. Now you could be the painter, and experience what he saw himself. You could be there. I was. I wasn't just following Napoleon. I was on the trail of the Green Man.

The Green Man in Leipzig

Who's the Green Man? Why, he's Parzival, from the Grail legend. I found him in downtown Leipzig, and I found him at the Volkerschlacht Monument, which is, like, this huge stone bell sitting on an old battlefield in the southern part of the city to commemorate all the poor buggers who died there to defeat Napoleon. The bell doesn't make a sound, but look what's happening to it!

The Dead are Sprouting Dandelions
A Victory for Floral Arrangers!

And he kept showing up. Here he is a few hours further East in the old Slavic fishing town of Großenhain, looking, again, more like Pan than Parzival. Um, hint: don't look for fish. It had a Luftwaffe base in a war a while back. I think the pilots fried all the fish on their days' off.

The Sign Says: Don't Drink the Water!

Here he is again, in Riesa. He's lost the Pan get-up and is looking like himself at last. Or like something from Disneyland, maybe.

Notice the Oak Leaves.
It's a coat of arms, sure, but so's that picture of Goethe we started with. The Green Man is What German Nationalism Was Before Goethe Introduced Them to Pizza

Oh, and in Radebeul. Radebeul's on the Elbe River. It's also the former home of the German writer of Arabian adventure stories and Wild West stories, too: Karl May. The East German government put up a campground in the trees just outside of Radebeul, so Germans could have a place to dress up as North American Indians, because that was important to the East German government. Funny thing, though: the Indians at the Karl May Museum look like East Germans.Funnier: the museum claims to be one of the most important museums of Indian artifacts in the world. It ain't. But it is one of the most important museums of tourist artifacts.

The Green Man Dressing Up As a Concrete Indian
The Concrete Totem Pole is Also Not to Be Missed!

And in Görlitz, on the Polish border, the Green Man was still with me.

If My Beard Was Made of Leaves, Maybe I'd Look a Lot Like This

Let's see.


And Canada?

Well, this is all Canada.