As usual, somehow there’s an astounding lot of stuff going on once the summer comes to an end. Not only is the European Textile Forum coming up (November will, according to experience, arrive quicker than expected… as always), there’s also the MEDATS Study Day (for which I’ve finally managed to compress everything I want to say to the time allotted for my paper – hopefully I can keep to it at the conference), there’s a medieval fair which I’ll be going to, and the Nadelkunst fair as well.

So I will do what I always do when things come thick and fast: I take a little break off the blog. Expect me back here on October 8 – at least for a while, before I’ll take another timeout for the utterly delightful craziness that is the European Textile Forum!

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When I was at WorldCon, chatting with one customer, she answered a question on how much she knows about a specific topic with “not a sausage” – meaning “exactly nothing”. That was an expression I had never heard before, and there ensued a short but fun conversation about where it came from (she got it off someone else, but it seems to be rather rare) and that Germans use sausage in a different way in their (very common) idiom: Das ist mir Wurst (it’s sausage to me, meaning “I don’t care”).

Which reminded me of a much longer conversation that we had during one dinner at the last Textile Forum, resulting in the insight that Germans have a lot of expressions that concern food. And when I say “a lot”, I mean a huge lot.

So I thought it might be fun to go and collect some of them here, and maybe even get some input from people in other places, with other languages, if you have similar expressions – or not.

Here you go. Some German food idioms. The German phrase, the literal translation into English, and an explanation.

Das ist mir Wurst. It’s sausage to me. I don’t care.
Das ist nicht mein Bier. That’s not my beer. It’s not my problem.
eine beleidigte Leberwurst sein to be an insulted liver sausage (liver paté, or sausage with liver in it) to be easily offended, or more offended than warranted by the circumstances
seinen Senf dazugeben to add one’s mustard state one’s opinion about something (unasked and usually also not too welcome)
mit dem ist nicht gut Kirschen essen this person is not good to eat cherries with it’s hard to get along with this person
seine Brötchen verdienen earn one’s bread rolls make money for living/work
das macht das Kraut nicht fett this doesn’t make the cabbage greasy it’s not accounting for much in the overall picture
die dümmsten Bauern haben die dicksten Kartoffeln the most stupid farmer has the largest potatoes usually said when someone gets a lot of money without effort
nicht die Bohne not a bean not at all
Tomaten auf den Augen haben to have tomatoes on the eyes to be blind/not see something that should be obvious
Petersilie in den Ohren haben to have parsley in the ears the audio equivalent to the tomatoes – to not hear something
ein armes Würstchen sein to be a poor sausage poor devil/poor thing
der schaut, als hätten ihm die Hühner das Brot weggefressen that one has a look as if the chickens ate his bread to look helpless or perplexed
sich ein Ei legen lay oneself an egg to dig a hole for yourself
für’n Apfel und ein Ei for an apple and an egg for very little money
dumm wie Bohnenstroh dumb as bean straw dumb as a post
es wird nichts so heiß gegessen, wie es gekocht wird nothing is eaten as hot as it’s being cooked it won’t be as bad as it seems at first
der satten Maus schmeckt das süße Mehl bitter the satiated mouse finds the sweet flour tastes bitter things lose their appeal when you have had enough of them
wie Kraut und Rüben like cabbage and turnips completely dis-ordered
das ist nicht das Gelbe vom Ei that’s not the yolk of the egg that’s not the best situation/solution
die Rosinen aus dem Kuchen picken to pick the raisins out of the cake only take the best bits and leave the rest

Funny how many there are, right? And I have probably forgotten quite a few. Let me know if I did (and which ones) – and let me know if there’s similar food-related idioms in your (non-German) language!

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There’s a lot of wonderful colleagues in my field (and it’s a small field, so you get to know most of them after a while). One of them is Eva Andersson Strand, who has been doing textile archaeology for a very, very long time now. She’s also one of the people who feel strongly about the importance of practical work in textile research and reconstruction, and that tools and their use are a wonderful way for us to learn about the past processes in making textiles.

I’ve had a good number of discussions about spinning with her, which were always vastly interesting – even though we’re not completely in agreement in regard to a few things. But I feel that discussions like these are one of the ways that we, together, as a field of science, can progress.

And by now you’re probably wondering why I am writing this – well, Eva and her work are featured in a long and very nice article in Science News (for which I was also interviewed, about one of our favourite discussion topics – the influence of the craftsperson vs. the tool in spinning). The article is a well-deserved praise of her research efforts, on a variety of textile tools and techniques, and worth a read – I hope you’ll enjoy it!

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Here are some random links for you:

German article about dye analysis in textiles. And a second one about the same team and topic.

At the Unperfekthaus in Essen, there’s a tablet weaver meeting on November 16 – read more about it here if that sounds like you want to join in.

An early medieval whorl with inscription has been found in Poland.

The Textile Research Centre Leiden has an exhibition about socks and stockings that will run until December 19.


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There was, of course, not only paddling and looking at scenery and architecture. There was also hanging out to relax. And, importantly: There was coffee, and cake, and knitting.

Cake, coffee, and knitting socks in Torgau – not my knitting, mind you.

With 2019 being the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, and the Most Patient Husband enjoying this style of architecture (I do, too, by the way), of course we had to plan enough time for our visit to Dessau. We did a little walk around the city and then went to visit the houses, which are partly turned into an info centre and partly into a museum, so you can get an impression of how they looked when they were in use originally:

Meisterhaus in Dessau

That was a very interesting part of the journey!

On the next day, we came back onto known territory: last year, we ran out of Saale before we’d run out of holiday time, so we continued down the Elbe to the outskirts of Magdeburg. This time around, though, we knew about the Pretziener Wehr before having paddled past it – and we took a little turn off the river into a flood canal to visit this very impressive weir.

We got stopped by the water levels, though – even for our canoe, it was too shallow for proper paddling. So we left our trusty Serenity and had a little walk.

Which was absolutely worth it. This weir was built in the early 1870s, and it is still in use, having been refurbished (somewhere between conserved and reconstructed) between 2003 and 2010.

Pretziener Tafelwehr

You can read more about the weir (in German only, unfortunately) on the Wikipedia page – and you can watch a video of it being opened during a flood in 2011 here.

Just like last year, we ended our trip in Magdeburg (though this time, we paddled to the other end of the city before stopping). We had a bit of a tour around, especially looking at the Otto von Guericke memorial spots:

Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg hemispheres.

Since we were there, and it was on, we also visited a pottery market on the plaza in front of the cathedral. There may have been some buying of pottery (very restrained, though, knowing you have to carry it all home yourself makes restraint rather easy)

… and then our tour was over, and we cleaned and dried and folded and packed everything again.

Ready for the trip home… all packed up.

This time, we did a better job packing than the trips before (you learn as you go…) and getting through the train aisles was not a problem anymore. It’s still a lot of luggage to handle, and you still need luck to have enough free space to put it, but that we did have and our ride back home went smoothly enough.

It’s about 80 kg of stuff taken all together, by the way, with most of the weight being carried on the trolley thing – the boat, the paddles, the tent, and the kitchen equipment including some food. That makes the bulk of our stuff; the two backpacks are at about 15 kg each, and the stray blue IKEA bag contains our personal flotation devices plus some lighter-weight odds and ends, plus things that we need to have handy during the trip.

Our complete tour: a bit more than 330 km in 11.5 days of paddling.

It was a wonderful tour, and I loved being able to just pack up everything, hop onto the train and go home – no annoying fetching of a car from the start point of the trip. Which would have been another day, almost, as well: Going back by train all the way to Schmilka and then by car all the way to Magdeburg, and then home. It was definitely one of our better ideas to get a folding canoe!

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Before the summer is all over, and the holiday pics get buried in the digital stack that is ever growing, here is how our paddling trip went.

We started out on the Elbe river close to the Czech border, in Schmilka, and got to enjoy the spectacular scenery there:

From Königstein to Pillnitz – Bastei near Rathen

We had very, very sunny weather, and it was really dry the weeks and months before, so just like last year on our Saale trip, water levels were very low. Which means that we had the river mostly to ourselves, no commercial vessels at all – as the water in the river was too low for them.

That made for very relaxed paddling wherever we wanted on the river, which was nice for us. The sunny weather also meant applying sunscreen generously, trying to get an early start for the longer days, and wearing sunglasses and hats as protection. So this is me, “hard” at work paddling:

Just taking out the paddle after steering…

We worked our way down the river, enjoying every bit of it. On some days, we really worked our way down – there was a headwind quite often. One time we stopped paddling for a short break and stayed completely in place… on a river that was technically flowing. (Not as fast as it would have been with higher levels, but still.) The wind was strong enough to sort of anchor us in place that day…

Wine grows here. As do beautiful buildings.

There was a lot of beautiful buildings as well – usually in scenic places on the higher places, right on the shoulder of the river valley. Wine grows in this area, and we often saw vinyards and wineries.

We made a lot of sightseeing stops along the way, of course – many interesting places with a lot of history are strung along the Elbe. One of them is Meissen (where we did not visit the porcelain manufacture, though, even though I come from a porcelain town – too far out from the river, and too many other things to see). While we had these very low water levels, we also saw marks from past high levels during floods. 2013 was a bad flood year, but in Meissen, we also found this mark from 1501, which was at about the same height:

High water mark at a building in Meißen – dating to 1501, when one of the bad floods of the Elbe occurred.

Another place where we stopped was Torgau, which was also well worth visiting, for the spectacular staircase in the castle alone – called “Großer Wendelstein”:

Wendelstein in Torgau

One of the fairy tale film productions that the former GDR was famous for was filmed here: Sleeping Beauty. The actress is in one scene shown walking down these stairs…

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Sorry for the blog silence yesterday – I spent most of the day off and on in a chat with Microsoft support, trying to solve a mildly annoying computer problem that I’ve now had for a while. It’s several different smaller things (update is not working, and I get an erroneous “you need to activate your windows” popup thingie, and the troubleshooter cannot start because it feels so troubled). None of them really keep me from working, but taken all together, it just adds together until it did not feel so comfortable anymore.

So I finally called the support hotline, and things happened with the first of the issues which I then thought resolved, but it turns out it isn’t – and now, after a good while of trying all kinds of different things, it does seem as if the trouble is somewhere deeper, and as if I’d need to do a more or less clean new install of the system, and that is something that I frankly don’t want to bother with right now.

Which means I’ll be clicking away popups periodically, and maybe try one or two other things that might or might not help with my update issue. Sigh. First things first, though – there is a stack of stuff that should have been done and dealt with yesterday, among them  some Forum organisation (and I’m getting all excited about that, there will be so many interesting things!), so I’m sitting here, fortified with a cup of coffee, helped by a purring cat curled up between my forearms and the laptop, and ready to go…

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