I’m putting on my linguist’s hat again, because tomorrow I’m off to Halle on Saale for the North German linguistic colloquium at the Martin Luther University, which happens to be one of the oldest universities in Germany. I’ll be presenting a paper on name portmanteaus (Brangelina and the like), which will eventually be available online in the conference proceedings.
I visited Halle quite frequently as a kid and teenager in the pre- and immediate post-unification era, because my great-aunt used to live in near-by Schkeuditz about halfway between Halle and Leipzig and we visited her every year. The Other Side of the Curtain was inspired by those trips, though I don’t actually mention Halle, though I do mention Leipzig, Schkeuditz and Bernburg.
My great-aunt died a few years after the unification, so I haven’t actually been in Halle for a long time now (I passed through once or twice). My memories of Halle in the 1980s are of a grim and dark city with crumbling Victorian buildings and rumbling trams that always looked as if they were about to jump out off their tracks any minute. I also remember brownish-grey fog wavering through the streets (My reaction was, “Oh my God, the air is so polluted that you can actually see it”). I remember the display window of a florist’s shop with fairly unremarkable plants and a little sign that read, “Plants are for decoration only”. I remember the market square with a big dark tower and a big church (We always visited in winter, so it was always dark) and something that billed itself as a children’s department store, a multi-storey department store devoted only to children’s products, that still managed to have very little of interest on offer.
I will certainly be interesting to see how much the city has changed in the meantime and whether I recognize anything at all. Though it’s a pity that I’ll be there at the same time as the bookfair in neighbouring Leipzig and still won’t find the time to go. Or that I won’t get to see the sky disc of Nebra, a famous bronze age artefact, which is on display in a museum in Halle and which I couldn’t see back in the 1980s, because it was only found in 1999.
There won’t be a lot of blogging, while I’m gone, though I should have internet access at the hotel and the university, though there will be some photos, when I get back.