What A Week
March 18, 2000
We arrived in Münster after an 8-hour bus ride exhausted. I planned to go up to my room to take a nap until I looked out my fifth-floor window at the spires of the city rising just across the old moat. So I threw on my coat for a quick walking tour of the old city, which is remarkably beautiful. First, of course is the münster itself, a huge Romanesque structure rising in the center of the city, with its twin towers visible from most of the town. Just inside the main entrance is the statue of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, rather appropriate for us all, I thought. Also inside is an intricate astronomical clock, which shows the position of the sun, moon, planets and catholic holy days through 2071...If one could figure out how to read it. Also of interest were the photographs of the munster after the war, where almost the entire church was reduced to rubble and then rebuilt again after.
Münster has a small stream, the Aa, running though its center. The banks of the stream have been reserved for pedestrians only, and is lined with beautiful trees and bushes and statuary, a welcome place for a stroll. The main street of the town runs in a half circle around the Munster, and is lined with very attractive Baroque guild houses, now home to modern day merchants such as Bennetton and Body Shop. There were also a number of (I presume) students from the large university playing instruments for change, and one gentlemen kept himself busy with chalk drawings on the cobblestones, not even looking up when change was dropped in his cups.
After this mad-dash through the town, I made it back to the bus just in time, and we left for the theater. This would have been the last show for both Mayumi and Chris, but Mayumi had hurt her knee, so Kim, her replacement, went on for her instead. Kim did a wonderful job onstage, and she and Mayumi (who had grown to like each other) said goodbye after the show - both Mayumi and Chris were flying out of Düsseldorf the next day, not traveling on the bus. Back at the hotel, the departing cast members invited the cast to accompany them to the steakhouse near the hotel, but I declined, fearing I might fall asleep at the table.
The next day was a lost day: over ten hours on the bus traveling south to the resort town of Garmish-Partenkirchen. Lots of reading, lots of sleeping and lots of fidgeting. Betty Ann had Marty pick her up at a rest stop near his Army base to spend the day with. The rest of us arrived after dark, but fortunately found another branch of our favorite Mexican restaurant Sausalito (Christmas Day dinner in Bielefeld) only a block from the hotel. About two thirds of the cast went at various times during the night, although we all resembled zombies more than humans after that long trip. (I can tell that the tour is getting to me because I don't remember the long drives bothering me as much at the beginning. I'm really dreading the three-day trip to Spain).
Garmish-Partenkirchen is a resort town at the base of the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany, and is ringed by 4 different ski resorts. The 1938 winter Olympics were held here, and it is still used frequently for international winter sport events. Before bed I checked with the young man attending the front desk of the hotel about going snowboarding the next day. He had the look of a ski-bum, and sure enough, he instantly knew which mountain I should go to and where I could rent a board for the day. Just below the peak of the Zugspitze is an open bowl where glacier creeps down the mountain, and on this glacier is the ski resort. A cog wheel train leaves from the town of Garmish, and slowly creeps up the mountain, spending the last 3 miles tunneling through the mountain to emerge in the center of the ski resort. Cable cars also make their way from the town and from the bowl to the Zugspitze peak, which itself is unskiiable. At the top, I rented a board and was on the mountain by ten, with perfect weather (just below the freezing point to keep the snow from slushing and Icing up but with little wind and a warm sun beating down) and I made run after run through the morning. The slopes were wide and well groomed, and above the tree-line there was plenty of off-piste powder in all directions. (For those who don't know, I learned to ski over here in the Alps as a child, and when my family moved back to New Hampshire I took up snowboarding after a few seasons of anti-climactic skiing on the mountains of the northeast, and have continued snowboarding nearly every season for the last 11 years). Just about the time that the change in Altitude (we had been at sea level in Denmark for nearly 2 weeks) was exhausting me, it was time to meet some of the other actors at the peak for lunch -- they had come up just for the view.
Well, the view only whet their appetites, soon Christine, Jamie, Angela, Michael, Lydia, Erik, Randi & Kim all had skis on (some of them for the first time) and we stayed until the last train back down the mountain just after four o'clock. Even though the clouds blew in for the last hour and the winds picked up, we didn't really care. At the show that night, the dancers were all a little sore, but still managed to kick their legs just as high as they usually do. All of us are now scanning the schedule to see if any more skiing will be possible before the end of the tour...likely possibilities include Villach, Austria and Zurich, Switzerland.
In the morning, we traveled across the border to Wels, Austria, and as it has been for all of our Austrian visits so far, the weather has been miserable and non-condusive to sight-seeing. Betty Ann and I had lunch at a wonderful steak restaurant next-door to the hotel, and she told me about her visit with Marty. She told me,"No man has ever stopped in the middle of dinner to look at me and tell me that I'm beautiful." I'm very happy for her; she more than anyone I know at this point deserves to have the right person come into her life.
The weather cleared as soon as we crossed the border back into Germany, and when we entered Regensburg the sun was sparkling on the Danube (right in front of our hotel). Shortly after we checked in, Brad, Betty Ann, Kim, Rob and I went into town in search of lunch. My guide book listed two beer-halls in particular, one the popular tourist trap on the river, and the other a more local place with supposedly much better food. When we arrived at the latter, we had to walk past the brew tanks, down a little alley and into an unmarked door to enter the beer hall. My book was right - the best Saurbraten (Roast beef marinated in a vinegar sauce for three days, then cooked and served in a brown sauce) I have had yet. The local bock beer was a perfect accompaniment to the meal, and our waitress was so warm that despite our language barrier, we stayed and talked with her for a while after we had paid. Walking into the town, BA and Rob split off to do some banking, while Kim, Brad and I went in search of dessert.
We found a little cafe with large plate glass windows overlooking a small garden in the back. Almost as soon as we sat down, the cafe filled up with toddlers and their attendant mothers - and it was amusing to watch one mother pick up another's child when he strayed too far, or stop someone else's child from banging a piece of wood on the wall: A successful experiment in collective mothering - small town life seems to be the same everywhere you go. We had an excellent Lemon Mousse and large coffees for dessert before heading out to walk through the center of town. Regensburg is another town that escaped the bombing raids, and it's old town is truly charming -- the streets twist and turn, and in some places are only about four feet wide. The gothic Dom is gorgeous, and newly sandblasted back to its original cream and green limestone, but is specially known for it's stained glass windows. Right around the corner from the Dom is the house of Oskar Schindler, which has recently been turned into a museum, but when we left the cathedral, we had to walk back across the river (and its several islands) to our hotel to be in time for the show.
After the show, Brad and I went back into the old city for a drink at a bar that he knew of. When we arrived our coats were checked by a witch with a large green nose. We turned into the bar itself, and we were the only ones without Carnival Costumes. The bar itself had expanded since Brad's last stay in this city (4 years ago), and had added a disco on the second floor. We knew we had found the right thing to do for the evening, and had a great time watching the parade of costumes go by. The clientele was very mixed, but all there to have a good time and enjoy each other's costume creativity. Devils, Angels, Drag Queens, Harlequins and Harlequinettes (?) were everywhere we turned, and the effort put into each of the costumes was evident.
The next day was another drive day with no show for us, back up to the north of Germany. Since I had stayed out late the night before, I was able to sleep most of the bus ride up to Uelzen (if you sound like you're gagging, you're pronouncing it right.) As soon as we pulled in, it was obvious that there was nothing to do at all there and with the night off, Brad, Rob and I jumped onto a train for the 45 minute ride into Hamburg. This reaffirmed my opinion that Hamburg is one of the most beautiful and interesting of the German cities -- we had dinner at a small cafe and then a few drinks in various neighborhood bars. Along the way, we ran into Peter and Randi who had come into town the night before on the crew bus (Randi had lost her passport, and had come in early to get a replacement at the embassy).
The next day was a very long drive to Munich with no show that night. Christine Negherbon had traveled immediately following the show in Hannover to meet her family, and we arranged to meet them all in the Hofbrauhaus at nine-thirty. Brad, Rob and I left our hotel earlier and went to the Augustiner brewery, a more upscale restaurant, and had excellent Bavarian food with all kinds of Fasching (Carnival) revelry going on around us. We made our way through the confetti-littered streets to the Hofbrau haus, where we were the first to arrive. We ran into Laura there, and took the only table that was open. Soon, two backpackers from Canada and Australia sat down with us. Laura is also Canadian and we ended up talking to them for quite some time before the rest of our group started arriving in stages. We ended up taking over several tables (Christine's family of Eight took up one on its own) and stayed for quite a while. While there, BA, Rob, Kim and myself made plans to go to Dachau in the morning, and Kyle, the Canadian asked if he might join us for the day - he wanted to go as well, and thought it might be preferable not to go alone. We agreed, and the next morning at 10, he met us in the lobby of our hotel and we set out.
Dachau was a numbing experience. The first of Hitler's concentration camps, it is located in a sleepy suburb of Munich, easily accessible by the commuter rail. The camp was turned into a museum in the mid-1960s. The dormitories themselves were destroyed, but two have been rebuilt, and the rest of the camp still stands in its original form. The main work building has been turned into a museum with photographs and documents tracing how the Nazi party rose to power, how the camps came into being, how their function changed for the more nightmarish over the years up through the liberation of the camps by the allied forces. There is very little narrative, nor is it needed. The official Nazi party documents (with their translations) and photographs alone tell the story more completely and chillingly than words could ever do.
After leaving the museum, we walked out onto the roll-call yard. On the main gate to the camp is inscribed the words "Work make you Free". In the center of the roll-call yard stands a bleak sculpture dedicated to all those who never became free again. Only the two barracks have been rebuilt, the rest have just been left as foundations filled with gravel...seeing the vast expanse of foundations stretching out across the yard is daunting. On the far end stands the gas 'shower' (which was never used at Dachau - those destined for extermination were sent to Auschwitz in Poland or Linz in Austria - no records explain why) and the two crematoriums (The second built in 1942 because the older one could not keep up with demand). All in all, over thirty-one thousand people were murdered or worked to death at Dachau, with an unknown number of additional Russian prisoners executed upon arrival.
Overlooking the whole place, no more than 15 feet from the barb-wire wall stands a row of brand new , cheerful looking condominiums, with gracious balconies overlooking the execution yard. I'm not sure how these were allowed to be built here, or who could ever live in them. This was an experience I will never forget - I felt very ill at times, and was brought to tears by a uniform - the only artifact actually hanging in the museum, with a photo of the person previously wearing it nearby.
I took the train back into Munich afterwards to find dinner before the show - The hour trip was welcome to calm down and relax a little. Arriving in the central square, Chaos had broken loose: Tuesday of Carnival - a week's build up of small parties to a big blowout in the town square, in front of the gothic Rathaus. All around us were thousands of people, nearly all in costumes, dancing and having a wonderful time -- although it was a little much for us at that point. BA had gone back to the hotel, and Kyle had left to go back to the hostel that he was staying at, so Laura, Rob and I fought our way across the main square to get to the Paulaner Brewery, where Erwin, our bus driver had taken us when we were in Munich a few months ago. Our waitress appeared, in her best "I Dream of Genie" drag. Rob and I were getting our fill of the Bavarian food that we had learned to love along the way, since we were nearing the end of our time in Germany. After the lunch, we walked out to the street to try to watch the Glockenspiel on the tower which we had missed on our previous stay in Munich, and this time we did catch it, however the Glockenspiel music was drowned out completely by the thudding techno music coming from the stage in front of the building. After that, we caught the subway across the river to the theater where we were playing that night. The Prinzregententheater is without a doubt the most spectacular theater we have played on this entire tour -- the Operahouse had just recently been restored to all it's baroque grandeur on the inside, and unlike the Rococo theater we played in Schwetzingen, it was large enough to fit our entire set on the stage. The show was also sold out, and the audience extremely receptive.
After the show, I was just about to get on the bus to go home, when Patrick, Jamie, Angela and Laura grabbed me and insisted that I put on a costume and go out for Carnival. Never passing up a chance to make a public fool out of myself, I agreed, and Johnne, our costume master dug out a dress for me to wear...a pale blue sequined number, complete with matching feather boa and wide-brimmed feather hat.(Fortunately, there are no photographs of me in THAT ensemble). Jamie, Angela and Patrick had pseudo-Indian style elephant hats, and did some complementary face painting, and Laura had on a blue kimono. After what I had seen on the street that day, I knew that we would all fit right in. We got into the center of the city, and set out to find an appropriate party. After walking for a few minutes, we heard music thumping out of a warehouse, and saw a colorful array of costumed revelers streaming in and out of the door. We went in and it was just what we were looking for...a whole floor of people having a great time, all wearing costumes. We got a beer, and made our way to the dance floor, when suddenly, the lights came on and the music stopped....midnight. Lent had begun. We, however had just arrived, since we didn't get out of work until 11, and we looked around for other people who didn't look like they were going home either. Right next to us on the dance floor had been two women dressed as dominatrixes, and with a drag queen as a friend...I asked them if there was another party to go to, and they told us to follow them. The drag queen had obviously not thought about her mode of transportation that night, because she was unable to ride her bicycle with the dress she had chosen, so we walked for about 5 minutes to another club. Closed. The next, Closed as well. We finally found a bar that was open, and went inside, had a drink to wind down for the night, and then said good bye to our hosts, and caught cabs back to our hotel.
The next city was Bamberg, and our good weather had run out. An attractive city located on two islands and between the river and another canal, and in the center of the Franconian Wine region, the city was unimportant enough to be spared bombing. However, because of the persistent rain, all we did was go into the town to eat, and return to the hotel. We did, however, walk directly through the center of the historic district, and saw the impressive Rathaus on an island in the center of the river, with colorful frescos decorating its walls. Also, Marty came to visit BA again, and they joined Rob and I for a lunch at one of the famous breweries there. Bamberg is known especially for its smoked red beer, which we ordered with our regional lunch fare (Onions stuffed with mincemeat and served with a sweet sauerkraut). The beer certainly did have a rich smoky flavor which I liked but Rob thought would be more appropriate in a Ham. I got a haircut at the train station on the way back to the hotel (which went unnoticed by everyone except the costume master...who grudgingly approved), and we did the show with little fanfare that night.
In the morning, we traveled to Nuremberg, our last stop in Germany for a month, and possibly forever. Our hotel was way outside of the center of the city, so many of us took the 45 minute train ride directly from Bamberg into the city center. BA also skipped the bus, and she traveled with Marty in his truck. Again, today I traveled with Laura, Patrick and Jamie. We arrived just after noon right outside of the old city. The city is surrounded by thick 14th Century fortress walls, which once built had never been breached until the Allied forces took the city in 1945. Because of the symbolic importance of Nuremberg to the Nazi party, (the first laws taking away citizen rights of the Jews were enacted here), the city was completely destroyed by bombing in the spring of 1945. However, unlike many other cities in Germany, Nuremberg rebuilt itself exactly as it had been before the war, using as much of the original stone as possible. The result is a city that looks untouched by the war, and is very attractive, with its old brown stone structures and crooked streets. (On a tangent, we also saw a huge banner for Roman Polanski's musical VAMPIRE, which Jonathan Tilly was cast in about a week after he left our tour, which will debut in Stuttgart this spring.) Inside one of the cathedrals are photos of the church surrounded by Nazi flags in the late '30s, completely destroyed in 1945, and the long slow rebuilding process afterwards. After walking through the town and running our errands, we found a restaurant for lunch. The dining room is built out in an old building over the river, and our seats inside provided us with a perfect view of the bridges in the town.
Nuremberg and Regensburg have a rivalry over sausages, so of course, we had to try the local sausages to compare to those we had eaten in Regensburg -- I would be hard pressed to choose which I liked better. For dessert, we skipped the usual pastries, and went straight for the Cuban cigars. A perfect ending to a long leisurely lunch. On the way out to the theater, we stopped at the huge complex built by Hitler to hold the Nazi rallies. We only had time to walk to the smaller of the three buildings, a huge building obviously based on the Roman Coliseum..we tried to imagine the complex as it once was, filled with party members, but the size was so huge, it was nearly impossible. A fitting closing to our time in Germany. We all had a long travel day in the morning to go to the south of Austria (on the Italy/Slovenia border)and BA went back with Marty to Wurtzburg, and would take the train in to Villach just in time for the show the following day.
Next: Vacation Time in the Alps and Barcelona