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.
When I kept to the dietary recommendations of the doctors I’d been talking to, I hated every minute of loosing weight (although I was happy with the result). The constant hunger made me think of food all the time, and the added sport ate into my writing time until I began to loathe it. Enter Holly Lisle, writing coach extraordinaire. She’d been battling tongue cancer and beginning diabetes successfully and recommended two books by Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist (specialist for kidneys) who had decided it would be better to battle diabetes than handling the fallout (kidney failure with dialyses).
Like all other doctors I’d consulted, he recommends weight loss to battle diabetes. However, he said that reducing fat and carbohydrates was the wrong strategy. And the reason—how surprising—is the body’s reaction to such a diet: the permanent craving of food. His solution is as simple as it is logical.
Reducing fat and carbohydrates forces the body to live on proteins, and they do not provide enough energy. Since carbohydrates are what’s causing the biggest insulin problems (I’ll talk about that next week), the amount of fat in the diet needs to go up.
When I was studying in Scotland (about x years ago), I was always pressed for time. So my main dish was bread with fried cheese and some cress or salad. Naturally the bread dripped with fat. I lost a lot of weight back then, an unforeseen but welcome effect. Unfortunately I drew the wrong conclusions thinking the weight loss a result to the stress at university, especially when it came back after returning to Germany. With Dr. Fung’s finds, I finally got the right perspective.
Dr. Fung also said that the time a person eats has a significant influence on how the body reacts to food (read the books for proof). Since that was exactly what I found when I monitored my diabetes, my initial skepticism melted away and I set out to see if his method truly worked.
Right before the summer holidays, I followed his recommendations for six weeks and lost 10kg/22lbs without feeling hungry once. During the holidays, with the kids at home, it was impossible to keep this up, but I did manage to keep my food intake to two low carbohydrate meals a day. I did not gain a singe gram over the summer (something I normally find very hard to do). Next week I’ll tell you more about the method and why it works.
Eventually we came to the reconstructed houses and the part that interested my husband a lot: the toilets (after all, he’s head of a waste water disposal facility). As we already knew from books, the Romans used toilets with more than one seat and no separations between (see photo). They often met in toilets to talk business. Below the wooden (or sometimes stone) seats, there was running water that took the feces away. The Romans used sticks with a cloth wrapped end that they dipped into the water to clean their private parts.
No one was offended by using a toilet with other people. There were toilets for men and for women but also toilets where men and women went together. As our guide said, toilets were a favorite place for whores to hang around.
Interesting enough, the proverb ‘money does not stink’ (pecunia non olet) does not come from a tax on multi-people toilets as I’d thought. It is ascribed to the Roman emperor Vespasian who put a tax on the distribution of urine from public urinals (the Roman lower classes urinated into amphorae which were emptied into cesspools). The urine collected from public urinals was sold as an ingredient for tanning, for laundry, and for cleaning and whitening woolen togas.
The Romans also knew that waste water for more than a handful of people needed to be taken care of (after all there were ca. 5,000 people living in that town). Therefore, they build a deep, covered canal (the Cloaca Maxima, see photo) with sidearms to every block of houses. Smaller canals came from the individual houses to these sidearms. The water that ran constantly through the toilets flushed the Cloaca Maxima and the feces ended up in the Rhine that took them away.
In some places there were access hatches indicating that there were people who took care that the Cloaca Maxima didn’t get clogged. Imagine the stink in the tight place there (the height of the Cloaca Maxima in Xanthen was barely 1.5 m), and you know how miserable a person had to be (or how high the pay) to take that job. 😀
Clean drinking water did not come from the Rhine (and for very good reasons, imho) but from a spring in the nearby mountains. An aqueduct brought it directly into the city where it was distributed to the houses, to the bath houses, and especially to the toilets. However, for washing and other water-consuming tasks, Romans often used rainwater collected in cisterns. In other towns there were also water supply wells but not here.
So, by the end of the first year I’d had about enough, especially of my inability to really tell how the sugar in my blood reacted throughout the day and for the different kinds of food.
Grinding my teeth at the price, I got myself a Freestyle Libre system (which isn’t paid for by German health insurance unless the diabetic is already using insulin) around Christmas 2016. It consists of a reading gadget (or an app for a mobile phone, only the most up to date kind, that they developed recently) and the pads (that’s the expensive part since each pad costs 60€ and has to be replaced every two weeks).
The gadget measures the sugar in the liquid in the subcutis tissue continuously. Setting the pad into my upper arm was easy and hurt me very little. Wearing it is no bother. However, I’ve had to learn to keep the arm on the side I’m wearing it away from door frames and other obstacles at arm height. Bumping into one can result in ripping out the pad. That doesn’t hurt much but empties your wallet pretty fast.
With the first pad put in place and activated, I began to experiment right away. I found a couple of patterns that helped me a lot in adjusting my everyday eating habits. I found that for me, eating a late breakfast (past 9am) led to less pronounced spikes of blood sugar than an early breakfast (6am) even though I ate exactly the same things. My body processes rice better than pasta. And taking Metformin after a meal helped me better than before a meal.
Of course those finds will differ from person to person, so it’s not too helpful for you. Still, it was a big improvement to be able to see how my blood sugar reacted when I ate. With the gadget I managed to keep my long term blood sugar HbA1c between 7.7% and 7.3%, but I did not lose another g/lbs of weight.
Then came chaos and stress (health issues in my whole family) and my blood sugar shot up. I was running around so much at that time that I did not gain weight again, but my long term blood sugar rose to 8.4% and my doctor wanted to put me on insulin.
I refused vehemently. Something had to change. Just monitoring the disease wasn’t enough. That was at the beginning of this year, and a book recommendation of my mentor Holly Lisle changed my life. With the preliminaries out of the way, I’ll tell you more about that next week.
Already filled to the brim with interesting facts and marvelous sights, hubby and I traveled onward to Xanthen. The medieval part of that little town is fascinating. It even has two windmills, one directly in the town, the other a bit outside. However, the crowning jewel is the archeological park with the partly reconstructed Roman buildings. Right after entering, there’s a three-dimensional map that shows the reconstructed buildings in dark grey and the areas that still need to be examined in light grey. In the Photo, I colored the Rhine in blue so you can see how close it was to the city. These days. the bank is a lot wider since the river has moved in the last 1500 years.
Xanthen was founded as a Colonia, which means it was a civilian city with a lot of privileges. It was designed by (or more likely the design was approved by) Emperor Traian. It was destroyed around 275 and abandoned. There also was a permanent military fort nearby, but that wasn’t the focus in the museum park.
Naturally the town had everything a Colonia had to have: a Colosseum, temples, bathhouses, houses for living, houses for governing, waste water disposal, fresh water pipelines and so on.
My husband and I were particularly fascinated by the partially reconstructed Colosseum. Look how symmetric the supports were. It was absolutely great to see that the original supports were still partially visible after more than 1500 years when most of the stones from the other buildings had been taken away and used for building the new town in the Middle Ages.
It wasn’t a particularly big Colosseum but there was room enough for all the people in town (roughly 1500 Romans). The sandy arena was big enough to watch wild boar and bear fights as well as Gladiator fights. It was not big enough for horse and cart races.
Although Gladiators were mostly slaves, they were often the center of a lot of admiration. Sometimes they were set free for being really good in the arena. There were strict rules as how the “game” had to be “played” with the armament dictated down to the last buckle. Also, there were rules as to who could fight whom (sorry about the quality of that photo. It was pretty dark where I took it and brightening it up dissolved the descriptions. But you can find more information about gladiators here).
They also had several display dummies arming up as Gladiators. But I think they didn’t proportion them well. Gladiators must have had a lot of muscles because their equipment was pretty heavy AND they were training and fighting on sand (have you ever run on a beach? Then you’ll know how exhausting that is). The average fight lasted only a few minutes, said our guide.
Two years ago, my doctor diagnosed me with diabetes. Like all early patients, I got metformin pills to subdue the high peaks of blood sugar, and a measuring system that forced me to prick my fingers regularly. I hated it. The metformin gave me stomach cramps and diarrhea, and the pricking made it hard to type my novels because my fingertips were too sensitive.
So I began my search for alternatives. The first step was to change the metformin pill supplier. There’s an alternate one in Germany that sells the same active ingredient but with different filler components. That helped somewhat although I still had diarrhea sometimes.
Next, I began educating myself on diabetes and what one can do about it. The general consensus at that time seemed to be: ‘Once caught you’ll never get rid of it’ and ‘you cannot avoid getting fatter as soon as you start insulin therapy so try not to get to that point.’ However, advise of how to stay away from insulin treatment was scarce. It basically amounted to ‘do not eat sugar’ and ‘lose weight.’
Well, as anyone can tell you who’s ever tried to lose weight or to avoid sugar, both is nearly impossible. Still, in the year after the diagnosis, I managed to lose 10kg (22lbs) through regular exercise and reduced food intake. I was able to keep the weight through constantly monitoring what I ate, how much I ate, and keeping up the exercise.
Let me assure you, it was a nightmare. I kept thinking about nothing but food the whole time. I had no fun doing sports and fought grumpiness most of the time. Also, my blood sugar levels did not show any sign of improving. The long term sugar was still too high and morning base sugar levels too.
Over the next weeks I’ll tell you some more about the actions I took to get to where I am now (with reasonably good blood sugar levels and another weight loss). After that I’ll share my achievements and setbacks until I am free of diabetes. I’d love to know you at my side.
About ten years ago, archeologists discovered a Roman-Germanic battle field not 20min car drive away from where I live. They kept it quiet for a long time to keep pot hunters away. Eventually they had to talk about it though because it was a sensation.
Up to the discovery of said battle filed, scientists had thought that no big Roman army ever ventured far into Germany after the disaster of Varus’ lost battle (9 aC). However, coins found in this dig dated the site to 235/236 aC. It was later discovered that a translator of an ancient Latin text had thought the claim that Maximinus Thrax took his army all the way to the Elbe as an exaggeration and adjusted the given mileage downward by a generous margin (several hundred miles less).
My husband and I became interested from the very beginning and visited many presentations, the only exhibition of the original finds so far, and (naturally) several guided tours over the Harzhorn (always worth it if you’re near). So when we were faced with the “hard” decision what too look at during our first kid-free holiday in years, “Roman culture in Germany” was a no-brainer.
By the way, you can click on the photos for full size.
We started in Haltern am See (Haltern at the lake) with the Roman museum there. It wasn’t a very big museum, but the folks running it had given a lot of thought to it. Most of the exhibits were thoughtful and interesting for all ages. There were lots of fun things to see or do for children (like the village of Asterix & Obelix), but also plenty of interesting displays for teens and adults (diorama or a full sized pottery kiln; see below).
Haltern was an important military fort, called a Kastell in German, where boats brought supplies up the Lippe river. Therefore the Roman army had fortified the place. But they were also open for trading with the locals (mainly blond hair, pelts, carvings and fresh vegetables and fruit).
The length of the army of Varus’ legions in Playmobil was impressive. There were ten donkeys carrying the tents for each Centurie. The row of little figures went all the way through the room and back and then another bit diagonally. People at the front of the train probably never realized what happened a mile behind them. That surely was part of there reason Arminius won that battle. A really interesting museum that my husband and I have visited several times already is in Kalkriese near Osnabrück, Northern Germany. Scientist are fairly certain that they’ve discovered the battle field of the so called Battle of Varus there, and the museum is quite interactive.
The tents housed six Roman soldiers when the army was on tour. When they stayed at a Kastell, they shared a barely bigger room in a barrack (we saw that the next day in Xanthen). Every day they had to set up a camp surrounded by a rampart and ditch and a wooden palisade, dig latrines, put up their tent and cook their own food. In the mornings they had to take everything apart again and fill in ditch and latrine. Each soldier carried 14kg (that’s nearly 30lbp) luggage plus just as much for protection (helmet, chain mail and so on). These guys must have had bigger muscles than the average body builder, and they were probably a lot faster and more agile too. My husband surely is no weakling, but he was glad when he could put the carrier down again (btw, did you notice the difference in luggage back then [carrier] and today [trouser pants]? :D).
I was most impressed by the tiny glass fragments. I had known that Romans already knew how to produce glass (I mean that alone is incredible. After all, it was still only the Early Iron Age). However, I wasn’t aware how colorful their glasses could be. From the bits that I’d seen so far, I’d concluded (prematurely) that their glasses were dull-ish and normally colorless or grey or brown-ish. That isn’t true. Just marvel at the brightness of the shards… Romans seemed to like bright colors (we saw more proof for that later).
But the highlight of the museum stood on a separate field just a few minutes away by foot. They had reconstructed the wall of the military fort the Romans used to have there. Well, that was impressive. Although it was only a small part of the wood-earth-wall that used to surround the whole fort, it made me feel insignificant and small. To imagine being a historical German farmer, used to living in a small village of 3-6 houses and low fences (e.g. to keep animals out of gardens) who took provisions to the Roman army the first time, spawned a whole string of new stories. The fort must have been awe inspiring for the locals (although they’d probably rather died that admitted it).
Since the birth of my grandson, I’m having problems to keep my blog up to date. I know you don’t mind (much). However, it’s not only his fault. I couldn’t think of anything beside “buy my books” (naturally you may do that but I don’t want to be reduced to that). So I came up with two themes that have been on my mind recently and decided I’ll post about them.
First, there’s all this cool and weird stuff I do for research. I discover so many interesting facts that it’d be a shame not to share. I’ll start with the Romans, because hubby and I were lucky enough to be able to go on a journey through parts of Germany. During that trip we visited many historical sites with remains from the Romans (you see, immigration happened 2000 ago too). I’l try to post these regularly on Mondays from the beginning of October on (I need to build up a buffer).
Closer to the end of a week, maybe on Fridays, I’ll talk about my path toward a cure or at least a betterment of my Diabetes Type II. In a first step I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing the last three years since diagnosis and what helped. After that, I’ll post a fortnight worth of data collected from a healthy person (I couldn’t find those on the Internet, and hubby graciously agreed to be my guinea pig) and then, I’ll post my progress. Maybe that way I can help people with similar problems.
If there’s still time (or just in between), I’ll point out new releases like my Upper Middle Grade or Lower Young Adult book “Beasthunter”. It can be pre-ordered as an eBook already and will be delivered on October 21.st, the day the paperback will be available on Amazon too.
Here are the blurb and the cover:
To turn his ghostly sister back into a human, twelve-year-old fraidy-cat Tom must fight the Beast, a century old demon stealing kid’s souls.
Tom is afraid of his own shadow. What if it turns into a monster and attacks? Luckily his older sister, Sally, protects him from everything that scares him: classmates, teachers, shadows…
One night during a heavy thunderstorm, a real monster attacks Tom in his very own bed. At the last moment, their new neighbor’s dog saves him from the Beast. But even the Beasthunter and his not so doggish dog can’t stop the creature from turning Sally into a ghost.
Will Tom find the courage to confront the Beast to find out if he can rescue his beloved sister? He has no effective weapons. All he can count on are his ability to see through the Beast’s disguises and the imagination that has given him scares for all his life.
Naturally we didn’t throw him, that’d be a bad idea. 😀
Niklas is my first ever grandchild, and my daughter didn’t even know she was pregnant (or didn’t want to know). Tuesday morning we went to see a doctor to find out why she’d gained so much weight, and 6 1/2 hours later, my daughter was slender as a young birch and our grandson Niklas greeted us with his screams.
We’re absolutely delighted, turning like mad to get everything we’ll need before the two leave the hospital, and slowly adjusting to the idea of grandparenthood. Of course that does add an additional challenge to my goal of 52 short stories incl. translations, but I won’t give up so easily. We’ll see how it goes. For now, I’ll enjoy having a baby in the house once again.
I sent in one of my fairy tale retellings (an adaption of Cinderella) to the Writer’s of The Future Award, one of the best known competitions in the US where hundreds of aspiring authors present their manuscripts every quarter. Naturally I had hoped for the best, but I didn’t count on it, being a non-native speaker/writer. And now this (self-explanatory):
I’m bursting with pride and had to tell you right way. Go on, celebrate with me. Here’s sparkly wine (German naturally, but I’ll have still water please) and chocolate (yummy). 😀