Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mother Tongue Kick Off

Dear friends,

Thanks to many of you I kicked off the production of Mother Tongue two days ago. I arrived in Donaueschingen, Germany on Thursday, July 18 and was fortunate to find a great hotel and a bike shop within a half an hour.  I rented a bike in order to explore the town with the intention of finding the source of the Danube, but it seems this act thrust me into the middle of a controversy as to where the Danube actually begins.

There is the storied memorial of the Donauquelle – the spring of the Danube, (currently under reconstruction) that is situated in the gardens of the palace of the Furstenberg’s (local aristocrats) and lays claims to pilgrimage by the Roman Emperor Tiberius in 15 BCE and the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian in 1499 along with many other celebrities. The Furstenberg’s elevated the story of the Donauquelle as the true source to the status of legend and representatives of many nations on the Danube have placed reverential plaques on this site.

Donauquelle under reconstruction and sans the statue and plaques
The construction sign at Donauquelle

Legends aside, the more moderate cartographers have placed the source of the Danube at the confluence of the Breg and Brigach rivers about a mile away.  Here I found two tipsy locals drinking Furstenberg beer (since 1283) on a bench by a statue of a woman and child.  The woman represents the Barr – the local landscape that gave birth to the Danube and the Child of course is the fledgling river. 
The tipsy guys were happy to be interviewed and spoke haltingly in German about the river.  My disadvantage is a lack of fluency in German, so I will need to translate the interview in post- production.

Beer at the Breg, Brigach and Danube
The mother - Barr, and child - Donau

I find the people extremely friendly and have had success getting answers to my questions.  I ask people to respond in their mother tongue to Key Words that I present to them.

The words are:
1. Danube
2. Usually these words are the names of the two countries above and below the Danube of the country I am in.  In Germany, at the source of the river it is only one word: Austria.
In Austria the words will be Germany and Slovakia.
3. Borders
4. The possibility of no borders

I met a group of guys playing beach volleyball and one of them, Peter, took me in his car about 20 miles to the Black Forest where yet another contender for the source of the Danube resides at the small town of Furtwangen at the source of the river Breg. Here at an altitude of about 1000 meters above sea level in the beautiful Black Forest you will find multiple plaques at the spring of the Breg claiming the spot as the beginning of the Danube. Near the spring is also the dividing line between the watershed of the Danube and the Rhine.

Peter at the source of the Breg

The confluence of Breg and Brigach with Danube on bottom right
These murky beginnings point to how the landscape is washed in our wishes.

I’m taking a 3 day bike ride to the city of Ulm (about 150 kilometers north east) tomorrow morning as the Danube is not navigable at this point.

I will continue to blog every several days as I acquire material.


Note: Much of the historic background I am getting from Andrew Beattie's The Danube - A cultural History, a worthy read.