We thought something was burning in the house, but it was just the Backhaus up the road, where the women gather to bake bread and gossip in the fall and burn clippings from the grape vines.
We journeyed to Stuttgart to the Schweine Museum, the world’s largest museum of pigs, and thought it sounded curious and didn’t really know what to expect.
But upon arrival, there was a weirdness we all detected and like an odd dream you can’t quite explain, it left us feeling off the balance of the day. “Good blog fodder.”
After a long time it seemed, tapping the glass screen at the Bahnhof and almost getting in a fight about it, Dawn figured out how to purchase a family rate train ticket for cheap, to our final destination, Schlachthof (which translates to slaughterhouse and sounds like that if you say it right, and spit), requiring us to change at the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof for an S-bahn five stops outside the main station.
They had the nerve it seems, or the humour, or the practicality, to transport a pig museum from nearby Bad Wimpfen to Stuttgart, roughly an hour away, to the former spot of a slaughterhouse, which seems fitting and makes it easier to find the museum, provided you know what Schlachthof means, auf Deutsch.
There are 29 rooms in 800 square metres dedicated to various themed pig collections, of glass pigs, beach pigs, sex pigs, a Chinese Year of the Pig exhibit, and so on. I’d say you have to see it, but I wouldn’t say that. I think most importantly for us, we had a glimpse of our culture (Americans) compared to Germans, which is a dangerous over-simplification but I’m going there, so hold on: it seems they are unapologetic about the seeming paradox of personifying pigs on one hand, and eating them with the other. Which is more honest, perhaps. Our frail American psyches just felt distressed by it, nervous, unsettled, like we shouldn’t be here.
As you travel between the exhibits you can smell pork being cooked from the kitchen below, from a restaurant adjoined to the museum where they feature “grilled succulent pork, a crisp knuckle of pork or a variety of traditional Swabian delicacies.” And there’s a picture of a pig holding a cleaver over a piece of sausage, cutting it crosswise.
When our friend Miriam asked how it was and we said strange, I think she acted defensive, like why?
And our friend Heike said the English will be glad to hear we have the world’s largest pig museum because that’s what they think of us, that’s what they call us, pigs.
I don’t know. It’s not the kind of thing you would see if you were only here for a week or two, and that’s just the kind of thing we want to see, to better understand the people here. There’s more to this, in our attitudes about what we eat and what’s convenient or frightful to us, and I think, whether or not you agree with it, it’s more honest, and there’s a lot to that.
We learned that pigs can have orgasms lasting up to 30 minutes it’s estimated, and there’s about 28 million of them eaten in Germany each year, but a carefully organised chart displays the volume of consumption in other countries, and I’ll admit, I really like eating pork myself. I wouldn’t have the guts to kill one myself, nor cut the head off a chicken.
I’ve sometimes felt my vegetarian friends are more evolved than I, and partially resented them for it, like friends of mine who are patient with their kids and don’t drink too much, they kind of irritate me.
On the train ride out I wrote a poem for fall, and the girls have taken up knitting now that they’ve updated the seasonal end caps at the grocery store and gotten out the knitting tools and yarn.
I’m reading a book by a mapmaker who’s scoured out the bogs and peaks of Connemara on the northwest coast of Ireland, and mom’s doing apple crisps, soft-boiled eggs — the bakeries are featuring onion cakes and bread with pumpkin seeds.
They’re setting up the stands in our town for the wine fest that starts tomorrow, only once every two years, and once is enough: men with power tools unraveling chords, slapping each other on the back and having some wine to ease into things, the calm before the storm, schlechtes Wetter.