It’s rather difficult to write about an outing in September today because I had such a wonderful winter experience yesterday. Unfortunately I have no photos of it (I wasn’t sure if photos were allowed), but I want to mention it nonetheless.
About 2:00 p.m. yesterday (Sunday), the matron of the family that runs the restaurant next door rang my doorbell. I can’t say we are close friends, though we are friendly and I love going to their establishment, so it was a surprise. Turns out she had bought a ticket to the Christmas concert here in our village and couldn’t use it. She asked if I wanted it.
I had wanted to go to the concert but didn’t have anyone to go with so I didn’t buy a ticket. So now I had a free one! The concert was at 5:00 p.m. so I had time to get ready but not time enough to post my travel journal, which is why I’m posting it on Monday this week.
You should know that, though it’s been really cold here, it hadn’t really snowed until yesterday. There were flurries early and then about 11:00 a.m. it began falling in earnest. Not heavily but steadily. So steadily that I could hear people on the street shoveling the sidewalks every couple of hours. By 5:00 p.m. there was about four to five inches on the ground and it was still snowing.
I donned my coat, scarf, hat, boots and gloves and set out to the concert hall. It’s only about a five-minute walk from here and I love walking in the snow, so I was looking forward to it. It’s dark here by 5:00 p.m. this time of year, but because the sky was full of snow and so was the ground, there was the impression of twilight. And snow, you know, mutes everything, so it was quiet as well. I had a grand walk down the street in the winter wonderland, with snow flocking on every branch, fence, bench and windowsill.
I have always wanted to see the inside of the building where the concert hall is located. Its name is Unteres Schloss, which means something like “Lower Castle.” There’s a good picture of it here. If me and Google translator are
any indication, the website says it was built in 1743 by Carl Maximilian Zollner von Brand, a local land baron. It has served various purposes, including an inn, over the years. Today it serves as a registry office of the town government and they hold many events in the ballroom. There’s also a very good Greek restaurant on the ground floor. I have to pass it whenever I walk to the local supermarket and many times I’ve heard music or singing emanating from the upstairs window. This day I got to see where it originated.
The upstairs concert room was small, smaller than an average American hotel ballroom area, but very beautiful. The ceiling and walls had plaster stucco motifs. I could tell it was all done by hand because they were ostensibly symmetrical designs but they weren’t quite the same on both sides. On the walls were mirrored sconces with candle-shaped lights. On the deep windowsills were small candelabra with upside down apples used as candle holders. I could see the snow still falling outside beyond the windowpanes.
Most of the room was taken up by rows of wide, upholstered wooden chairs, each with the night’s program in the seat.
At the far end of the room was a grand piano flanked by a Christmas tree and a couple of lighted music stands.
Presently a woman came to the piano and a younger one stood beside it. They performed a short Christmas song. The singer was a soprano and I recognized her voice from my walks past the place. After this song the piano woman welcomed everyone and the program began.
Later there was a man who played the violin and two children, a boy and girl about 8 and 7, respectively. They played various classical Christmas pieces together and separately. When the children dutifully churned out their parts, you could almost hear the metronome! From what I can gather from information gleaned from the program and from appearances, the pianist and violinist were married and the kids were theirs.
The soprano showed up again, too, a couple more times. Joining the program a few times was an older gentleman who played the zither. His songs were traditional German folk songs and he seemed tickled pink to bring them to us. At one point after intermission, the lights were brought down and only the Christmas tree illuminated the room. The pianist
read us a traditional German Christmas story by the light of the tree. That was nice!
I wouldn’t say the music was the best I’ve ever heard, but the program was well organized and executed and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. After the performance, they gave everyone a small ceramic angel Christmas ornament as a keepsake.
As I walked home in the still-falling snow, I thought what a lucky girl I am! Next year, you’re all invited to come with me to the concert – I promise to bring my camera this time.
So, here’s the travel journal entry I’d originally planned for this week:
Back at the beginning of September (Labor Day weekend in the USA), I was invited by my German teacher, Frank, to visit the nearby town of Schweinfurt to see some friends of his and enjoy a music festival.
I have been through Schweinfurt many times by train, but I’ve never visited its old center. I knew it probably wasn’t as pretty as my Bamberg because it was not spared the bombs in WWII. A critical ball-bearing factory was located there that the Allies destroyed, along with other parts of the city. If you’re into that kind of thing, there are some interesting WWII pictures of the destruction here.
Schweinfurt, whose name translates literally as “pig ford” or a place where the pigs cross the river, dates in some form from about 740 A.D. Because it’s on the river, it has been fought over many times and destroyed more than once.
Today, Schweinfurt is still industrial and is locally famous for its new shopping mall (2009). It is home to an American army installation as well, although it was slated for closure by 2011. It has yet to happen. There is an army post in Bamberg, too, that has been designated for closure in about two years.
Anyway, Frank drove us in his Opel station wagon to the old town center one balmy Saturday to meet his friends. I’d met some of them before at his birthday party last year. No one seemed to know where we were meeting, but that’s why God made cell phones, right? We managed a parking spot and walked toward the general area where we thought the group might be.
On the way I saw this magnificent building, whose name or purpose I haven’t been able to determine. I just like the copper clock tower:
As we were walking toward what we thought was the right place (wasn’t), I spotted a fountain that had metal lines embedded into the pavement around it and radiating outward:
On the metal bands were words, in German, of course. Frank began translating some of them for me and he recognized the text as famous German poems and literature. One excerpt was from William Tell:
We thought we were headed in the direction of the Old Town, but ended up at the new shopping mall instead. As do so many cities, Schweinfurt has installations of giant fiberglass animals that stand for the city and that have been decorated by artists. Schweinfurt, of course, chose the pig as its mascot. Here’s one at the mall entrance:
Once we turned around and headed in the right direction, we encountered street musicians entertaining the sparse crowd of passersby. They were of all ages, persuasions and musical genres:
These guys were playing that most annoying song, “Knock Knock Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” It’s played TO DEATH in Europe I think because it’s so easy to remember the words and the grammar isn’t complicated. When I announced I hated the song, the musicians overheard me! Yikes! They were good-natured about it, though. (Great, now I got THAT song in my head from writing this!)
We reached the old square and I was fascinated by the town hall and its architecture:
As the friends hadn’t shown up yet, we had lunch at a traditional German place across the square from the town hall. First the beer, then Frank’s fish dish and my schnitzel:
Finally, the group showed up. Tino is a wonderfully fun and charming guy. Here’s a shot of him that captures his spirit. He is welcoming me to Schweinfurt, where he has never lived.
Tino and Frank are big buddies from childhood. Here is a shot of them both clowning for my lens:
The group consisted of Tino, his wife Ines (these are the two I’d met before – they live in Wurzburg), and two other women whose names I don’t remember. One of them lives near Tino and Ines in Wurzburg and the other lives in Schweinfurt.
The local girl invited us to her house for coffee and cake – it was that time of the afternoon and they planned to
come back to see the musicians later when things really got going. So we all piled back into cars and headed to her house. On the way, I saw this classic car. The Germans use the English word “oldtimer” to refer to classic automobiles. They think it’s funny we use the word for people!
And what a lovely house this woman had! She lived there with her two almost-grown children, apparently divorced. They told me she had bought the house, which was in rather bad condition, two years ago. It was part of a single building that was divided into about six separate domiciles, a common design in this country. Like an extended duplex. You share walls and backyard fences with your neighbors.
But what a job she’d done with this place! We entered through the backyard, which was green and lush and laden with
ripening fruit and vegetables in every square foot. It was like walking through the Garden of Eden!
We had a tour of this small two-story, freshly painted with new bathroom and floor tiles, etc. What work she’d done! A woman after my own heart. We sat on the patio and had decent coffee with delicious homemade German pastries. We also played a somewhat interesting matching game. Here is Ines contemplating her next move:
Ines is wonderful – she is such a hippy-type person. She runs a business that provides life-coaching and yoga classes, aromatherapy, and lots of New Agey stuff. She’s very relaxed and laid back – definitely fits the part with her sweet spirit.
At the end of the visit, the homeowner gave all the girls a potted plant. Mine’s doing fine!
After that pleasant afternoon, Frank and I headed back to Bamberg. The rest were going back downtown to see the musicians. Turns out that the ones that overheard me hating on their song were friends of Ines! Glad I avoided that one! Anyway, it was getting really chilly and we were tired. But it was a nice way to pass a changeable Saturday afternoon in Europe.
Photo for No Apparent Reason: