Saturday, November 14, 2009

Twenty years after the fall of the wall

I've spent the last 2-3 weeks in Deutschland again, mostly in Munich. It's lovely to be back again! This year is colder than last, but the weather has turned a bit nicer while I've been here. Still, I'm glad I brought both umbrella and down coat.

On Nov. 9--really an accident of timing--I found myself on a train to Berlin, where it was 20 years to the day that the Berlin wall had come down. Finding a hotel room at a decent price had been challenging, but I had to be there on the 10th. So find one I did.

The atmosphere in Berlin was electric and festive. I arrived around 3, and there was a certain feeling that the day was special, even though it wasn't an official holiday and all the businesses and shops were open (As an aside, this is not the first time I've been in Berlin, although I never seem to get to spend more than a day or two there. Someday I'll actually go as a tourist and stay for at least 3 or 4 days. I really like Berlin immensely: it is like New York City in spirit, in the very best way. You can see the link from last year (http://musicandwordsontheroad.blogspot.com/2009/01/berlin.html) where I blogged a bit about it.)

Back to the present. When I took the S-Bahn to Potsdammerplatz, it was so crowded that one could barely fit on. I had thought about getting off there or perhaps Brandenburgtor, but decided there was no way. I dislike being smushed by crowds, and it was rainy and cold anyway. So I went to Friedrichstrasse and Unter den Linden. Even though it was less crowded on the S-Bahn after that first stop or so, it was still super-crowded getting off at Friedrichstrasse and going through the station. It was only a few hours before the Berlin Wall ceremony, and the S-Bahn was packed: an Englishwoman who was visiting for the festivities said she'd never seen the S-Bahn in Berlin so full.

There were college kids and tourists. There were British, Americans, and Europeans who had been in Berlin before the Wall fell. And as I said, there was an excited feeling of celebration in the air, despite the dampening mood of the weather.

They had set up an immense row of huge styrofoam planks (decorated by youths) that were lined up like dominos, all set up to fall as a symbol of the wall, of the Mauerfall. At 9 p.m., roughly, the dominos went. It was a very moving thing to watch, even though--being a prudent singer--I watched this on TV. But I'm told that people had been in place for hours. Being not just a prudent singer, but also a short one, I would never have been able to see a thing in person anyway.

On to the more mundane.

My second night in Berlin, I had raclette for dinner. How could I resist raclette (even though I'm trying to eat less cheese to help get rid of the remnants of a heavy cold that lingered and lingered)? I'd remembered the spot from the last time, when I hadn't had the opportunity. And I visited the marvelous book/ CD store, Dussmann Kulturhaus. There I arrived just too late for a concert by soprano Simone Kermes (to promote her new CD, Lava-Opera Arias). By the sounds of the thunderous applause that echoed into the bookstore from the concert area, she must have been marvelous. Will have to check out her CD when I get a chance. Ah, to have been born a dramatic coloratura and sing the Queen of the Night!...but the stratsophere is not where I live and that's that.

The counterpart to Dussmann in Munich is Hugenduebel. They have one store, which my friend C. tells me is the spot of the original, first branch, devoted to English-language books. (It's over near Salvatorplatz.) They have another branch at the Karlsplatz/ Stachaus SBahn stop, and yet another--a huge one--on the Marienplatz. This last one is great: you can go to the cafe on the 6th floor and watch the Glockenspiel through the glass windows.

Back in Munich, I feel my time here ticking away. It does look like before I go, I will get the opportunity to go into the new Jewish Synagogue in the Jakobsplatz with a friend of a friend, a wonderful Parisian woman who has lived in Munich for 8-10 years. My first Sunday here, I had gone to the Jewish Center in the Jakobsplatz, where the Synagogue and the Jewish Museum can be found. The Museum is a modern square building, with glass walls for the entire first floor. I walked around the building, reading the windows, which were covered in writing in German and English, mostly about a person coming to terms with their own Nazi heritage. Before going in, I got cold and went home, as it was a blustery day and I'd only worn my leather jacket (silly me).

They are both so different, Munich and Berlin, and I do so love them both. Just as I love San Francisco, New York, and Paris--not to mention Yosemite, San Diego, Maui, and so many other spots. The world is a wonderful place: we had best try not to ruin it for each other.

Next up: Karlsruhe. Still to come: my travails with the internet (but Vodafone still rocks.)

What I'm reading: just finished Asterix and the Golden Sickle (auf Deutsch...immer liebe ich Asterix so!), "Gwydion: Der Weg nach Camelot," a kid's book in German about the Arthurian legend (I persist in trying to improve my German reading ability, although it is sooo slow for me--I'm only to about the fifth page), and Marian Keyes' Sushi for Beginners plus her Rachel's Story. I admit to having fallen for her addictive brand of romantic chick lit. How embarassing. Never thought it would happen to me, but these light books are incredibly entertaining while traveling. Sort of like potato chips. Hard to stop with one or two pages.

What I'm listening to: Tried to get to a performance of the St. John Passion before I left for Berlin. Unfortunately I never could find the church where it was purportedly being sung. The address on the fliers...had no church. After an hour of traipsing around, I and my very sore feet--have I mentioned that my feet have been a real pain this trip?--dragged ourselves home in the drizzle. I've wanted to go to Don Giovanni, but it was ausverkauft (sold out). So really, I'm mostly listening to the music in my own head. Luckily there's a lot there.

What I'm working on: my audition arias, natch. Printed out a copy of William Ludtke's Christmas Cantata at Movimento (more on that some other time, but it's a great place, run by the kind Christian Juttendock), so that I could start working on it again. (I travel with my music for study on a USB stick. Very compact and practical for being on the go, but it's super hard to play it from the screen on my netbook.)
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