I'd decided to spend a week visiting my German friends, Hedi (yes, I know, Bavaria, the Alps, the Sound of Music...it's tempting.. but it's not Heidi as her full name is Hedwig - hence Hedi for short) and Franz, who I had previously met on my recent cycle trip through Europe. On the last evening, after much debate, we decided to go for broke, break the piggy bank and set off for the premier of Umberto Giordano's, opera, Andre Chenier, on the magnificent Lake Constance (the Bodensee to the Germans) at Bregenz in Austria. And what an opera! A truly spectacular setting and one of the highlights of my recent travels.
Exploring the set a few days before the premierMy travels so far have been themed on art and artists and so I was particularly pleased that the opera used the famous Jaques-Lois David painting of the French revolutionary, Marat, as the stage setting. A brief background to the painting: Marat was a severely harsh revolutionary, often sending the aristocratic French prisoners to the guillotine. But one prominent woman of the elite, Charlotte Corday, who passionately disliked Marat and his ideals, stabbed him while in his bath. Jaques-Lois David, the painter also knew Marat and hence the famous painting. The artistic director of the opera, creatively using the Bodensee itself, as Marat's bathtub. But the opera was about Andre Chenier, a French poet and writer of the time, who, although loved by the aristocracy for his fine poetry was at first, an enthusiastic supporter of the revolution, but was appalled by the excesses of the tyrannical Jacobin regime and along with his lover, was persecuted and sent to the guilliotine.
The set for Andre Chenier opera on the Bodensee, Bregenz, Austria
A wonderful evening and possibly the most spectacular event I've been to - so far. It's the first time a historical painting has served as the basis for a Bregenz stage set, which towers 24 metres high above Lake Constance. In fact it is so good that I might make it a yearly pilgrimage - next year it's Mozart's Magic Flute.
poster at the site)
Well, that was the incredible finale to the trip but while in Bavaria we managed to see and do a lot, including a visit to another Lake Constance town, this time on the German side, the red roofed and delightful Lindau, with its famous lion statue and lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour.
As with all my travels, and in Germany too, there was kindness around every corner. Everyone was so helpful, polite and extremely kind and especially patient while I struggled with my very limited German! One kind 'guardian angel' was evident when waiting for my train on my return to Munich. A German, elderly lady was asking me about the ticket booth and when she realised I was English, we began the usual chat about my journey. She then suddenly produced a white plastic cross on a beaded plastic chain (a bit kitsch and awful really) and not being at all religious, at first, I didn't feel at ease receiving it from her. But then I realised what a precious gift this was. It was something obviously treasured by her and she gave willingly to keep me safe on my journey. I will remember Bridget and that act of kindness on that deserted train station for the rest of my life. I will take that gift with me on all my future travels.
I've been to Berlin and Hamburg before but never to the south of Germany. The scenery was fantastic and my friends Hedi and Franz are very lucky to live so near to the foothills of the Bavarian, Swiss and Austrian Alps.
with the Bodensee (Lake Constance) in the background
A bedraggled Franz and me on the way down from the Alpengasthof
Of course during the week, I met all the relatives. Hedi and Franz have a large family with their children and grandchildren, brothers etc not only living in the same village but literally in the houses next door! There were lots of social gatherings where I met their friends and sampled the many varieties of delicious food and beer. And what food! I sampled the traditional Leberkaesa- a wedge of pork/liver style meat eaten with a pretzel, mustard and of course a German beer. I also tried the wonderful, Kesspatzle, a cheesy noodle pasta sprinkled with fried onions in flour and of course a German beer, and a huge meal one evening of Schwanbenteller, a mixture of salad, meat, Kesspatzle, and a few other ingredients, along with a German beer. The Germans know how to eat!
I struggled to speak as much German as I could muster. And just when I was feeling proud of myself for managing a long sentence with one or two of those famous long German words that are hard to get your tongue around, I wondered why they were laughing at me with that look of maternal sympathy that mothers always give you when you are trying really hard but failing miserably. Then, I suddenly realised that it had translated into ..something like.. I am travelling home by tomato! or some such. But with a lot of miming, punctuated with the little German that I do know, but especially due to the fact that a lot of Germans were willing to speak English - we had some great conversations and happy, alcoholic evenings.
Of course being a photographer by trade, I was asked and enjoy (I never have to be asked twice!!) taking photos of all the family. I don't normally 'do' babies, but little Anna was so cute - how could I resist! And then of course I had to take photos of Maximilliana, Hedi's first grandchild. Definitely likes the camera this one!
Maximlliana - a natural in front of the camera!
And of course, all the family were generous with their presents. I came home loaded down with gifts - returning with far more than I went out with.
But the scenery, the people, the whole week, made me often want to don a nuns habit, gather it up around my ankles, exposing my little white ankle socks and sensible flat shoes and run through the rolling landscape singing .. 'the hills are alive'.. But I didn't; It would have scared the cows.
and what would a trip be without a few funnies....
on the back of a bicycle
street art in Lindau
zum vole Hedi and Franz (I've probably spelt this wrong but it's - cheers)
(all text and photographs in this blog are the copyright of Deborah Anne Brady(C): all rights reserved)