One of the shops we visited was a smithy. I was surprised by the tiny size of the fireplace (that’s the little gridiron in the middle of the red painted wall). I think in winter, it must have been quite cold for those people who didn’t have floor heating. After all, Germany was colder, wetter, and all in all less comfortable that Italy. I’m sure many of the inhabitants wished they’d stayed in Rome.

The smithy worked with silver if I remember correctly. For an iron forge, the furnace is too small. Not too far from the recreated houses were the remains of a iron forge, and it had three furnaces and ground heating. However, it hadn’t been reconstructed, so one had to use one’s imagination.

Everyone who owned a little shop worked and sold their wares from home (on the other side of the bellows, outside the picture, is the room-wide wooden counter for selling wares; the whole front of the room could be opened to the street). There was no separation between small and medium sized businesses and the owner’s living quarters. They were mostly in the same house. Only big industries (like the dockyards, farming, or stone masonry) had their work-spaces outside the city.

Romans loved luxury, and those who could afford it, wanted to celebrate like in Rome. So there were restaurants with bed-sofas. Each of the little rooms (see picture) could hold nine men (no women allowed there unless they were whores). It surprised me to learn that Romans didn’t always lie down for eating. That was only done for feasting. At home, they had wooden tables with chairs or stools. The children often stood while eating.

Romans also insisted on cleanliness. Bath houses were spread throughout the city so every citizen had access. There was a really big one for the higher classes near the town center, but the park’s owners had built the museum on top of it. Still, there were enough foundations to understand the basic layout. Also, they had reconstructed on of the bath houses.

The genders bathed in different facilities. The first room a customer entered was a cold room for undressing. The next one was already quite warm and had basins with warm and cold water. It as often used for shaving and washing before one went on to the last room. Upon one’s return it also served for cooling down slowly. It was heated extremely well and the water was as warm as it is in one of today’s bathtubs. The main point of this room was relaxation (and surely talking business as well). The big bathhouse had some smaller rooms at the side for massages or whoring or simply for resting, but the reconstructed bathhouse didn’t have those.

I was most delighted by the colorful designs of the houses. The archeologists used historical finds from other areas to recreate the rooms, and they were much more colorful than what I’d anticipated.

 

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In a nutshell, Dr. Fung recommends to eat more fat and less carbohydrates (because those are responsible for high insulin levels that trigger weight gain and diabetes) and condense the times you eat into as small a time window as you can stand. The minimum time between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day should be 16 hours or more. That is called intermittent fasting.

carbohydratesThe first time I followed Dr. Fung’s method, I ate once a day from Monday to Friday and kept carbohydrates (see picture on the left) to a minimum. On Saturday or Sunday, I allowed myself to eat bread (the one craving I had) and ate three times a day (late breakfast, normal lunch, early dinner; keep in mind that Germans usually eat a cooked lunch and bread for dinner). I did not touch any alcohol.

What surprised me most was that I did not feel tired and that I did not crave food all the time. My energy levels were up, I was alert and felt well rested even if I slept too little. My blood pressure and heart rate went down too (I kept measuring those because I also have high blood pressure). At the end of my first time (taken out of context that phrase suggests something completely different, grin), I’d lost 10kg/22lbs without a struggle and all of the health parameters I’m controlling improved.

But why? Well, the reason is insulin.

With the constant availability of food, sweetened drinks, and alcohol, people started eating more than 3 times a day and increased the average intake of sweet drinks and alcohol. That forced the body to produce insulin 24/7. The bad thing about insulin is that as long as it’s there, the body cells will get less and less receptive to it. An insulin resistance develops = Diabetes II!

fatAlso, insulin is responsible for the storage of energy. The more insulin a body produces and the longer it’s in the blood, the more energy will get stored in your fat cells: weight gain!

Therefore insulin is responsible for obesity and diabetes type II. Dr. Fung’s recommendation to eat more fat (which triggers a much lower discharge of insulin) and less often (reducing insulin levels to zero between meals) helps in both cases.

At the end of the summer, after being completely certain that his method is the solution to both of my problems, I decided to go about this a little more scientifically. I’ll tell you all about it next week.

 

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Truly spectacular was the reconstructed housing complex. The new houses were built over the foundations of the original Roman houses but with a security layer so the originals wouldn’t get harmed in any way. The whole complex was surrounded by roof covered sidewalks. The ground of the sidewalks differed from one property to the next since every home owner had their preference. They were allowed to use different sorts of paving or stamped earth.

Visiting the houses brought to life the way humans have lived so long ago. Each house had a little garden with a shed or another small building on it. The outhouses usually contained the toilet and rooms for the slaves, equipment, and provisions. In the main house the family rooms were on the first floor. The ground floor consisted mostly in a shop that was open to the paved road outside. Only a wooden counter separated the shop from the sidewalk.

The houses were built of tamped loam and decorated prettily with bright colors. The roofs were mostly tiled, only a few of the sheds were shingled. An interesting fact is that none of the houses had chimneys, even though every room had a small fire place, and the houses of the richer people had floor heating. The view from a rear window or balcony resembles those of a serial house today: long, narrow garden, walls (today it’s fences) between the properties, and grass (often with a few bushes) on the ground.

The rooms of the family on the first floor were beautifully decorated but sparsely furnished. Romans were very fond of bright colors and regular patterns. The room in the picture would have been the bedroom of a whole biological family (there was a crib in the other corner but it didn’t fit into the picture and I didn’t dare move it), most likely the home owner’s. The parents would sleep in the double bed, the children in the spare bed, and the baby in the crib. Servants slept on the same floor in rooms with less decoration. Everyone owned a trunk for their belongings.

Only the slaves did not stay in the houses over night. They had a separate platform above important equipment and/or provisions. All slaves slept on the platform in bedrolls.

I found it surprising how much comfort the Romans already had. Their lifestyle wasn’t all that different from ours. When one thinks of the Iron Age, one doesn’t expect this kind of lifestyle. The recreated houses impressed on me how much the Germans missed out on when Arminius defeated the Romans. True, they weren’t exactly easy masters, and freedom is important. However, the kind of civilization they would have brought might have changed my home country in a way that would still matter today.

 

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