As many of you already know, I left Cairo this past summer to take a doctoral position at the Philipps-University of Marburg. (I'm not leaving Cairo entirely; I've drunk far too much Nile water to stay away for good.) About two weeks ago, I finally arrived in Marburg and have been settling myself into my new position and home. Now that things have quieted down a bit, I thought it was a good time to give an update and answer some of the questions that various people have been asking me. In addition, a much delayed post on my summer trips to Egypt's National Archives (Dār al-Wathā'iq) will go up later on in the week.
Since arriving in Marburg two weeks ago, my days have been a whirlwind of activity. Each day for the first week and a half was taken up, almost entirely, by some sort of bureaucratic procedure. I thought I was prepared for the amount of paperwork that I would have to complete, but found the whole process extraordinarily overwhelming. From registering my address, to applying for a residency permit, to the relatively simple tasks of opening a bank account and choosing a health insurance provider, at every step of the process, I have been completely surprised by how many signatures and photocopies are needed to begin a life here. That said, everything is now complete. I have a signed contract, an office, and a library card - life is good.
Beyond getting settled into my new routine, I've also been taking a lot of time walking about the city. Marburg is an absolutely beautiful town of about seventy thousand people. Furthermore, about a third of its residents are students and faculty. Because of this, the town is formally designated an "Universitätsstadt" (university-city). The relationship between the university and the town forms a major theme in Marburg's history. The other narrative being the close ties between the town, the landgraviate of Hesse, and the hospital community centered around the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. In more recent centuries, Marburg has been closely associated with the German Romantic movement of the early nineteenth century, with the university drawing many of the important German literary figures of that time. Among these, were the Brothers Grimm - whose fairy tales have become world famous.
The town itself sits beneath the landgraviate's castle, where Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli met for the famous Marburg Colloquy in 1529. Along the slopes leading away from the castle, is Marburg's Oberstadt (Upper Town), which is both extremely well preserved and of great historical interest. In this area are many of the city's markets, the old town hall, and the old university building. The university itself was founded in 1527 and was the world's first Protestant university. Now spread throughout the city, the university has an urban campus; our department is located next to Marburg's famous St. Elizabeth Church (Elisabethkirche).
St. Elizabeth of Hungary married into the langraviate of Thuringia in the thirteenth century. Performing charitable works throughout her life, she left the royal court to found charitable hospitals in Marburg following the death of her husband. During her life and after her death, many miracles were claimed to be associated with her personage, and she was canonized in the mid-thirteenth century. Construction on her famous church by the Teutonic Order started almost immediately afterwards. Now the church stands as one of the earliest Gothic churches outside of France, which is north of the Alps. What follows are some pictures from around the town. Later this week, I'll be posting about my summer trips to the Egyptian National Archives as well as some updates on my research project.