Friday, December 25, 2009

5. Luggage in our time? Perhaps.

It's the most wonderful time of the year
When the French bring your bags and the fridge is still full of Bamberger beer

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Yes, we're told that a Weihnacht miracle will occur and the second of two suitcases will arrive via courier at around 19.00. I'll believe it when I carry the weight up the stairs, but there it is.

In spite of the baggage difficulties, it has been a fine holiday.

We set off this morning at ten to stroll through the Altstadt and climb Altenburg hill to the medieval castle that affords a sweeping view of the valley and Bamberg's dizzying number of church spires. The streets were deserted on Christmas morning. Pleasingly, some food and drink businesses already were open and serving, indicating that the city is blessedly free of the archaic blue laws that exist in Indiana and prevent alcohol from being served on a purely Christian holiday.

Clouds rolled overhead, and with temperatures in the low thirties and a brisk breeze sweeping the hilltop, it was a bracing and exhilarating walk. Descending the commanding heights back to our riverside starting point, we passed the city museum in the old town hall astride the Regnitz and saw that the doors were open. Inside was a fine collection of 18th century Porcelain from Meissen, and one of 38 nativity scenes on display in and around Bamberg during the holiday season.

A reconnaissance of Ludwigstrasse's expanse revealed that Bamberg's Chinese restaurant owners are not as ambitious as metro Louisville's, with all three closed for the day. However, at the train station, the bakery and small grocery both were open, and I bought a handful of half-liter Schlenkerla Märzen lagers to accompany the evening's home cooked vegetable soup.

From the beginning, we had agreed that in the absence of truly close friends in Bamberg, it was perfectly acceptable to spend the 24th and 25th keeping ourselves loving company in our rented apartment, hence the bags of groceries and liquids procured in advance. This led to a Thursday evening with the hundreds of channels available on the telly, and a Fässla or two.

First we chanced upon the Basque network from northeastern Spain, and a public Christmas celebration, presumably in Bilbao, with crazy costumes, quasi-operatic tunes and the inexplicable, pre-historic language spoken by the world's first cod fishermen. The whole time, I kept expecting a Muse concert to break out.

Next, we viewed a 2006 performance in Salzburg of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," and while entirely unrelated to Christmas, the choreography was inspired, and the female singers displayed much cleavage. Thumbs up. This was followed by snippets of a schlocky Bavarian idyll, rather like the Osmonds meeting Lawrence Welk in lederhösen and dirndls, then a quick bout of channel surfing to Berlin and a performance by Max Raab and the Hotel Palast Orchestra. For the uninitiated, Raab and the boys do 1920's arrangements of popular music of the day. He sings in the style of the society orchestra hearthrobs, all the while cultivating a dry stage presence reminiscent of Joel Grey in "Cabaret."

Finally, the Arte network was screening "City Lights," the not-so-silent masterpiece by Charlie Chaplin. There is no dialogue, but a soundtrack as a concession to the new technology of 1931. In it, the Little Tramp falls for a blind flower girl ... and meets a drunken millionaire along the way. For the first time in years, I remembered checking out Super-8 versions of Chaplin's one-reelers ("Tillie's Punctured Romance"?) from the New Albany Public Library, taking them home, and resolving to make silent films.

I must go now to await the Nürnberg airport courier in precisely the same way as kids look for Santa. Tomorrow, the Cafe Abseits beckons, with Schlenkerla reopening Sunday. Monday is a short bus ride to Memmelsdorf and a meeting with Herr Straub at the Drei Kronen brewery (and restaurant, and hotel), and on Tuesday, I hope to locate Stephan at Mahr's for a brewery tour.

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