Today, we are bound for Munich. The weather forecast predicts a dramatic fall in temperature and according to the Internet, which I checked before arriving in Germany, it should start snowing. Accordingly, I am wearing a long, hooded coat and boots and am carrying an umbrella.
Arriving in Munich, we head for the Marienplatz and the Neue Rathaus, where there is a famous glockenspiel to be seen in the clock tower. On the way, we are particularly struck by the many statues of lions, scattered all around the city, each one decorated differently. They remind me of the painted lion statues which graced the streets of Jerusalem a few years ago, placed on street corners, the entrances to buildings, places where one would hardly expect to see statuary and suddenly, there they were.
The Carillon Tower at the Neue Rathaus proves to be impressive indeed. Clearly, the large crowd of tourists waiting in the square, cameras at the ready, agrees with me…
Afterwards, we wander around in small groups, without any fixed programme, simply soaking up the atmosphere. We look in on the Residenz, where we are to perform this evening, and are tickled pink to see a huge poster in the courtyard, advertising our concert. To my utter consternation, my camera appears to be on strike. First, I can’t open it. Then, I can’t close it. As a result, my pictures of Munich are few and far between.
Our hosts have invited us to lunch at a traditional Bavarian restaurant. We arrive in twos and threes. I am pleased with the decor, the heavy wooden furniture, the waiters and waitresses in traditional Bavarian dress. I am less pleased by the remark of one of the staff (translated for me by a member of our choir who happens to speak German) when, on arrival, we ask the way to the toilets. "They’ve taken over the bathrooms already." Am I being over-sensitive or do I detect a tinge of antisemitism?
Lunch is filling, but hardly exciting. If this is Bavarian cuisine, it’s nothing to write home about.
From the restaurant, we are taken to our hotel. Since, by now, we are a group of over 200, including the German choir and the orchestra, room allocation takes what seems like an eternity. There is barely time for a quick shower, before it is time to leave for the Herculessaal at the Residenz, where we are to have a rehearsal before the concert.
The rehearsal starts with a surprise we have been planning for Maestro Ronen. Today is his birthday. As he raises his baton to begin the rehearsal, choir and orchestra break into "Happy Birthday To You." I’m not sure whether or not he expected it. He says he thought we might do something of the kind, but not so late in the day.
Well, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it? 😉
The Herculessaal is much smaller than the Beethovensaal in which we performed yesterday, with room for an audience of only 800 or so. Still, the hall is full this evening and the concert is a success. At one point, I feel an irresistible urge to cough. The effort to refrain almost chokes me and brings tears to my eyes. I don’t think, however, that anyone has noticed. How fortunate that I am not a soloist!
Upon leaving the hall at the end of the evening, one of our drivers tells us that it was snowing earlier on in the evening. It is certainly very, very cold – but I see no sign of snow now. I go to bed, still snowless.
I awaken the following day, November 1st, to a white world. It has been snowing all night and a light layer of snow has covered the ground. It is still snowing, but not very heavily. It is sufficient, however, to make the loading of our suitcases rather an unpleasant task, as we are forced to drag them down snowy paths to the buses.
Today, we are going to see Regensburg and Nuremberg. By the time we reach the former, the snow has stopped and the sun is shining. There is no snow to be seen in the university town of Regensburg, but it is bitterly cold. My friend, Carmiya, is wearing her "Santa Claus" hat and we are all of us bundled up as warmly as possible against the biting wind.
Regensburg is on the Danube. It doesn’t appear very blue to me – at any rate, I am sure my extremities are bluer, due to the cold. My camera continues to make problems, but I manage, nevertheless, to take plenty of pictures of this very pretty, typically German town.
Shortly after leaving Regensburg, the snow starts again. By the time we reach Nuremberg, with its loaded history, it is coming down quite heavily. In Nuremberg, we have no guide and we are left to our own devices. Quite a few of our number opt for the nearest restaurant, but others, myself included, feel that since we are here, it would be a pity to spend the little time at our disposal gorging ourselves.
Thus it is that find myself exploring the old part of town in a snow blizzard. In fact, there is plenty to see. There is, for example, a church, severely damaged in the last war, rebuilt by the congregation, which now houses an exhibition, whose declared motive is to see that history doesn’t repeat itself. There is a Citadel, to which we battle our way against the weather. Having made it this far, however, we decide to forego the visit inside and make do with a few photos taken from outside its walls. Then there is the market-place. Amazingly, there are quite a few stalls open. Some of us just can’t resist. I can. However, towering over the market-place is the Frauenkirke, built in the 13th century on the site of a synagogue which had been burnt down in a pogrom just a few months before. The Germans wasted no time. As I said, Nuremberg has a loaded history as far as the Jewish People is concerned – and it goes back a lot further than the Nazi era.
It is now time for something to eat. Even the most dedicated tourist can’t carry on indefinitely on an empty (and grumbling) stomach. We find a lovely, warm, typical German restaurant, with heavy timbered beams and waiters and waitresses, once again, in traditional dress. A delicious, filling bowl of hot potato soup, with as much bread as you want, comes to a mere 2.90 Euros. There couldn’t be a better choice for this type of weather…
Our next destination is Dresden. We were supposed to be spending the night in Leipzig, where we are due to perform tomorrow, but there was no hotel that could accommodate so many of us and so Dresden it is. It is a very long drive. My neighbour on the bus now is a violinist from the German orchestra, one of the buses having broken down and all its passengers having transferred to the remaining three buses. As we drive into the rapidly descending darkness, she tells me of how her newly-found Christian faith saw her through a terrible crisis in her life, illness, the breakup of her marriage. Somewhere along the way, she stops to point out the lights of Beyreuth, somewhere off to our left. I can see nothing and wonder how she can, but she has been there before, many times, has even performed there and, possibly by instinct, possibly by some homing device possessed by musicians who are drawn, irresistibly, to the shrines of that art, is able to show me where the famous Festspielhaus lies, up on the hill.
It is late by the time we reach Dresden. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, for we are to perform at the world-famous Gewandhaus in Leipzig. I fall asleep almost as soon as my head touches the pillow.
To be continued…