Friday, November 1, 2013

German ruminations

One of the many typical Bavarian churches, this one in Rudolfing
Since my long weekend in Prague, I have been whiling away my time in various parts of Germany. First, there was a week in Freising, punctuated by mostly beautiful weather and a few cultural happenings. Since Sabine had to work for most of that week, I was on my own to pedal around the lovely landscape surrounding this old university town. On one particularly gorgeous day I rode something like 55 miles, through a bucolic fall landscape that could not have been much more scenic. The colors—all those reds and yellows of the leaves combined with the deep blue of the sky and the saturated greens of fields with winter forage—were picture perfect. But what place does not look spectacular in sunlight?
Fall cycling at its best
For our cultural fill we spent an evening at Munich's Künstlerhaus, listening to a concert that had been billed as a fusion of  "classical virtuosity and jazz improvisation," or something of that nature. True, the four musicians were technically brilliant, but somewhere the spark was missing and the improvisation—hallmark of jazz—never materialized. We left somewhat disappointed, even if the venue was spectacular and the music pleasant. Quite different was our visit to the amateur theater in Freising, which celebrated its 25th anniversary (and the 125th anniversary of the town's volunteer fire department) with a performance of the local-dialect comedy Das Wunder des Heiligen Florian. If I understood 75% of the heavy Bavarian dialogue, it was a lot; even Sabine admitted that after living in Bavaria for most of her life she still didn't get it all. But the performance was tremendously enjoyable, the actors did a fabulous job, the theater was so Old World, and the mayor's address after the performance was so heartfelt that I didn't mind the 25% that I missed. Now, that was really local flavor, especially since all the local glitterati and movers-and-shakers showed up in their finest traditional dress (no, not Lederhosen—fancy Loden suits and tastefully embroidered long dresses were the norm).
Lederhosen were worn only on stage

A few days ago I left Bavaria and headed for Jena, the place that is world-renowned for its Carl Zeiss factory and its glass factories. Two years ago I had stopped over here to see my old mentor and friend, Dr. Dennis deLoof, whose classes I had taken during my university days back in Trier. We spent an enjoyable afternoon/evening catching up with each others' lives, and there was much to chat about. Dennis had arranged for my room at the Steigenberger Esplanade, from where I looked upon the dome of the Zeiss astronomical observatory. Jena is certainly not the most exciting town for a tourist visit, but that was not the purpose of my trip anyhow. It sure was good to see you, Dennis!
A room with a view in Jena: The old Carl Zeiss observatory center right
On Tuesday I took the ICE to Berlin, a short three-hour trip from Jena that was extended by 25 minutes when a new train crew was delayed because of a major storm in norther Germany that had paralyzed most train connections overnight. It didn't matter—the train was comfy and I had no time schedule.
A fellow ICE passing us, inch by inch, while both are barreling along at 100 mph
Since arriving in Berlin I have been spending time with my dad, whom I hadn't seen since early May. He still smokes and coughs, he's getting around just a little slower, and he still loves political satire and talk shows, so the current NSA brouhaha provides just the right kind of material to poke fun at the inability of the politicos to keep their own spies in check. The news are continually revolving around the scandal that really broke loose after it was revealed that Chancellor Merkel's private cell phone has been tapped for a decade or more. It's quite a show.
Two giant pugilists in the river Spree, with red-hot lofts and the TV tower in the back
Since I keep a single-speed bike (my first, steel Ritchey) here in Berlin I have been able to go for a few rides. Even if they were fairly short (because of the low temperatures as well as the heavy traffic), they nevertheless give me a chance to exercise at least a little bit. The part of Berlin where my dad lives is certainly not the most scenic, but it is interesting to occasionally stop by for a dose of reality. And, let's not forget it, I'm not here for the sightseeing but to spend some time with my dad, even if that means countless hours in front of  the TV set. Who knows how many such visits are left for us, as dad is pushing hard toward his 82nd birthday.
The view from my dad's balcony: the 24-hr beer stop and the tattoo place next door
A few more days, and I'll finally return to the US and my own life. Obviously I enjoy these trips to Europe, but they also help me realize time and again that my home is somewhere else, even if I do enjoy running away from it maybe a bit more often than most of the people I know. It sure is a privilege to be able to do all of these things, and I am not taking any of them for granted.


No comments:

Post a Comment