The journey from Köln to Stein was a pleasant one, though this time the train was packed to the rafters. Wondering why—since my previous train rides were sparsely populated—I learned that the day before was a national holiday: Tag der Deutsche Einheite (German Unity Day). Unity notwithstanding, new meaning was given to the expression “standing-room only.”
The train goes as far as Nürnberg so from there I took a bus that more-or-less dropped me off near Gerasmühler Straße, where the Hotel zum Rednitzgrund can be found. (Though I like to avoid commercial links on this site, I can’t help recommending this hotel.) The HzR is a “pension” hotel: something a bit more than what we’d expect of a bed-and-breakfast in America, but still much homier than a ‘regular’ hotel. Best of all it was right in the heart of (the village? the hamlet?) of Stein, and within walking-distance of Faber-Castell. Or as one local put it to me (while gesturing): “100 meters this way, yes? 100 meters that way, yes? Then 500 meters straight, yes?”
Altogether I arrived about 90 minutes later than scheduled, and to weather colder and wetter than I expected. But a great dinner with friends that evening quickly had me forgetting the previous six hours and had me looking forward to the next two days.
The Following Morning
Despite the forecast it ended up being a sunny day, which was especially good news since it was my intention to stroll around Stein for this visit as much as I could. In other words, I wanted to keep things as casual as possible. I set out from my hotel around 10:30 with plans to meet Sandra Suppa at Faber-Castell around 11:00.
Here is part of a local map for reference: Do you see where it says Alte Kirche in the lower-left quadrant? The next street southwest from there is Gerasmühler.
If you stand on the corner of Gerasmühler and Nürnberger then look northeast, this is what you see:
Here is part of that multi-colored Faber-Castell building as you pass it:
If you continue to walk in that direction (“100 meters that way, yes?”) you will come upon the Rednitz river and the Stein bridge:
Standing approximately where the black arrow is pointing on the map, and facing south, you’ll find this familiar group of apartments:
Turn around, and you’ll see an even more familiar site: the A.W. Faber-Castell lead factory, which also contains the “Old Lead Museum.”
By crossing the bridge to the first intersection, then turning around, you can still see some of the apartments:
Turning back around and continuing northeast on Nürnberger, you’ll see to your right the factory proper and the main grounds of Faber-Castell:
You’ll eventually arrive at the main gate and reception; the castle emerges on a gentle slope to the left:
Continuing on to the parking lot but keeping to the left, you’ll enter the main drive up to the castle:
The photograph above is from a familiar angle, one you often see in professional photos of the castle. If you turn around 180˚ you can see part of the factory, which is its north-eastern wing:
Sandra met me at reception and we walked back into the first-floor offices. It was great to see some familiar faces, including Antje Röder, as well as being introduced to about half a dozen employees I hadn’t previously met. Among them was Verena Kern, with whom I would be having lunch at noon. Until then I was free to stroll around the grounds to take some photos.
When I last visited Faber-Castell it was during December and there was snow on the ground, so there wasn’t much opportunity to get a better look at the buildings. Something I missed was this metal sculpture of the Faber knights:
Apart from an immediate aesthetic impression some metaphors came quickly to mind, all having to do with history and remembering—two topics which serve as subtext for a great deal of the posts on this blog. More on that later.
The company canteen is located in the castle, and the meals they offer could rival those found in some of the local restaurants. And since the weather was nice, Verena and I decided to dine al fresco.
As we sat down we were greeted by Dr. Siegfried Bloß, who was on his way to his table. Dr. Bloß is widely considered to know just about everything there is to know about the history of the company. In fact it was he who gave a guided tour of the castle during my previous visit. Just a few minutes later he returned to our table, turned to me and asked whether I had visited Faber-Castell a few years ago(!) Quite an impressive memory, especially given the countless other visitors he must have met during the intervening three years.
Verena spoke to me about the project she is working on: an expansive exhibit that will take visitors through the history of the company, including documents, photographs, and examples of historical Faber products. There already exists a similar exhibit, albeit on a small scale, on the second floor of the castle. But tours of the castle have to be pre-arranged so there is a wish to have a more comprehensive experience for tourists, students, and droppers-by alike.
Lunch finished, I still had a little time before my next meeting, which was at 2:00. Perfect time for a scouting run through the castle shop:
I didn’t buy anything at first, instead I wanted to pace myself. I had a list of things to get for some friends but I also wanted to avoid acting too much on impulse. That plan worked for about three minutes, after which I began loading-up on bleistiftbounty.
But despite being in thrall to the powerful afterglow only a well-executed stationery run can produce, the siren song of dusty catalogs and obsolete price lists was calling: Next stop, the archive.