- A Fachwerkhaus in Windsbach, Bavaria
I had the opportunity to sit down with Kareen recently and have a conversation with her about some of the artwork I have seen hanging on the walls of her various houses for decades. This is the first of what will be a series of articles that explore the art pieces, and what they mean to her.
I hope you enjoy this sit down conversation I had with Kareen. It gives you a bit of a glimpse into the very private life of a young German girl, before she became an internationally known yogini. Afterwards I will provide some history about this Fachwerkhaus—the traditional style of house built in German-speaking countries.
Location: Kolbenstraße 52, Windsbach
Medium: Oil on canvas
Artist: Unknown. Cannot make it out.
History of the painting: Purchased by Kareen’s father when he saw the artist painting it.
Kareen: This is the house I was born in. You can see the room depicted in this painting. I was born on the second floor, in the room at the far end of this house, by the gate.
The house is located in an ancient, little walled city called Windsbach. When minstrels travelled throughout Germany [during the Middle Ages] I have been told Windsbach was one of the places that they would frequent.
PA 4 K: Does this house still exist?
Kareen: Oh yes. My father was visiting an old friend who owned a famous old hotel and restaurant 4kms away, where the minstrels used to go. He saw a man painting and said: Oh my god, that’s my daughter’s birth house. He bought the painting from the man right then and there.
The backstory & current status of Kolbenstraße 52, Windsbach
When Kareen told me the story of this house I was intrigued, and curious to see if I could find out what it currently looks like through Google. I never expected to find out what I did. This information also came as a complete surprise to Kareen.
When I first Googled Windsbach, I almost immediately came across some photos of a house on Wikimedia that looked identical to this painting. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I did some more digging, and quickly came across a photo that showed the other side of the house as well, complete with a link to a map of where it was located in the town.
It turns out that this simple Fachwerkhaus is a Bavarian Baudenkmal (cultrual heritage monument).
Finding out this information sent me down a rabbit hole of research. Hours later I came out the other side with all kinds of facts and figures about everything from medieval life to Bavarian tourism in 2023. In brief, what I found out about Kareen’s birth house can be summarized as follows:
- It is estimated to have been built sometime either in the 17th or 18th century.1
- It is described as a two-story, gable-roofed building, located on a corner lot.
- The house has a half-timbered upper story.
- It is by the upper gate of the old city wall.
- It is associated with the city wall that once encircled the town.
- In the 1700s, the house served as a synagogue and Jewish bath, when Moses Neumark offered his prayer room on the upper floor of the house to foreign Jews who stayed there.2
The map noted above identifies the tower you see in the background of the painting, and in the first photo, as the Oberes Tor (upper gate) Windsbach. The map also shows that a piece of the historic wall that once surrounded the town is still attached to this upper gate.
Why cities had walls
If you’re like me and your history classes were more than one high school reunion ago 😉 , you might have forgotten the reasons that cities and towns in the Middle Ages had walls. Walls during the medieval period served a multitude of purposes including:
- They kept the citizenry safe from attacks and invasions.
- They helped protect its citizens from plagues.
- They also prevented criminals from escaping.
Although many are long gone, these days many of these medieval walls are still maintained in some cities and towns. Although their original fortifications are long gone, these walls now provide cities and their residents a strong connection to their past, and are great for the tourist economy.
Windsbach’s wall no longer encircles the city. This little snippet from a German tourist website explains its history:
Die 800 m lange Stadtmauer mit dem Oberen Tor und dem Unteren Tor muss Ende des 13. Jahrhunderts entstanden sein. Urkunden über den Bau wurden nicht gefunden. Die Stadtmauer hatte einen Graben mit aufgeschütteten Wall und vier Türmen. Einer dieser Türme, der Henkersturm, stand am südöstlichen Ring, wo heute das Anwesen “Huber” steht. Hier bekamen die zum Tode verurteilten ihre letze Mahlzeit.
1818 wurde die Mauerr [sic] an die innen angrenzenden Grundstücksbesitzer verkauft. Ansässige Weber hatten sie schon zuvor als “Bleiche” für ihre bis zu 70 m langen Leinenstoffbahnen benutzt. Über die Jahre verfielen die Mauern. Heute sind manche Privatleute und die Stadt bemüht, Teile der Nauer [sic] sowie daran angebaute Fachwerkhäuser zu restaurieren und zu erhalten, deshalb hat der Stadtrat 1985 den Grundsatzbeschluss gefasst, alle Teile der Stadtmauer, die angeboten werden anzukaufen, um den Erhalt sicher zu stellen.
Since many readers don’t read/speak German, I did the translation for you:
The 800 m city wall with its upper and lower gateways must have been built around the end of the 13th century. Documents about the building process have not been found. The city wall had a trench with a heaped up rampart, and four towers. One of these towers, the Henker tower, stood at the most south easternly ring road, where today the property belonging to “Huber” is located. This is where those sentenced to death received their last meal.
In 1818 the wall was sold to the landowners who adjoined it on the inside. Resident weavers had already used it to “bleach” their linen cloth weaves that stretched up to 70 m. Over the years the wall fell into disrepair. Today some private individuals and the city are endeavoring to restore sections of the wall, as well the timber-framed houses that are attached to it. That’s why in 1985, the city council decided in principle to purchase all parts of the city wall that are offered, in order to ensure preservation.
For more information about Windsbach, you might wish to check the following sources as well: