Wanderung 5

Happy Haus for Holt’s in Hamburg.

February - April 2004

March 20 - Easter Fair in Reinbek

We typically listened to a Hamburg radio station each morning during breakfast. Besides having the news and commentary in Plattdeutsch, which I enjoyed, the music was great. About 1/3 of the songs were English or American oldies from the 50s and 60s. Some of the rest were German translations of English hits, but at least half of the songs were genuine German Schlagers (hits), but I’m not sure from what era since they do not typically report the singer or date of any of the songs. In general, the German songs seemed more melodic and more rhythmic than popular songs from the U.S. musical tradition. The background beat and rhythm of the German songs also struck me as much more uniform in character that I would expect from a similar set of songs in the U.S. I really wished Laurie and Brad were there with us so I could get some truly expert, professional appraisals of what the differences in these musical traditions really are. For instance, I think the German songs were mostly in 4/4 (march) time with some in ¾ (waltz) time, and they all had a back beat that resembled an oompah band, but that is just my crude way of characterizing what I heard. It strikes me that to understand all facets of a culture would require either an extraordinarily multi-faceted person or a team of experts on art, literature, music, politics, mechanics, education, social life, economics, etc. As the cross-cultural psychologist Harry C. Triandis said, understanding the subjective culture of other folks is a big undertaking!

If you do come to Germany, however, don’t forget to listen to the radio to sample the music; it’s one window on the culture, after all. The themes of the songs I heard were strongly dominated by romantic love, both requited and unrequited, and some of the lyrical love songs were pretty beyond words. A great example of that tradition of lyrical love songs that I would recommend anyone to hear is “Dat du meen Levsten bis” (You are my beloved) in Plattdeutsch. But other themes like humor or satire were also represented. I tremendously enjoyed the funny songs like “Life begins at 66” and “The Wild West Starts at Hamburg”, which concerned the cowboy wannabes of Germany. I enjoyed some of the songs just because they were so cheerful and upbeat, like “Guten Morgen Sonnenschein” (Good Morning Sunshine). All in all, it was quite pleasant to listen to most German radio stations, whereas in the U.S. we usually listen only to “oldies” or “fogies” stations.

I worked on the journal and Monika worked on the house until lunchtime, after which we went to a arts and crafts exhibition at Schloss Reinbek, an restored palace about a block beyond the Reinbek train station on the main street. It had some beautiful tapestry hangings.

The theme of the exhibition was Easter and I have never seen so many varieties of painted eggs in one place! There were also, however, Easter Bunnies carved out of wood, hats, leather goods, and even stained glass panels and melted glass artwork. One vendor was a husband and wife team from the Netherlands who were selling an artistic version of Delftware, by which I mean delicately painted designs in blue on white ceramic tiles or eggs. The wife was actually working on painting on the glazing compound while the man handled sales, and it was wonderful to watch her work. She used an extremely fine brush and could just draw anything freehand. I was watching her make a set of repeating circles in one part of the pattern, and each one just came out perfect in form and position, which was good because it’s really hard (impossible?) to erase mistakes in that kind of work. But that steadiness of hand and precision of control is something most of us (especially me) simply cannot do. Maybe because I can’t do it, watching an artist create something right before my eyes just fascinates me in a way few other things do. I could just sit there and watch all day except that it isn’t polite to stare like that. The Dutch lady had done some large, multi-tile works featuring beautiful women with fantastically curled hair and flowing gowns that we both liked very much, but the cheapest one of those was a composition of 4-tiles about a foot square for 175 Euro—ouch! Monika pointed out that some of the “eggs” also had nice portraits painted on them and were much more affordable (read “cheaper”). She chose one that I also liked for 30 Euro and we bought that to take home.

We walked back along the main street (Schoenningstedter Strasse) uphill to Goetheallee (Goethe avenue) where we were living, stopping off to pick up 4 liters of skimmed milk at the Mini Mall on the way. It’s funny how I shifted my preference in drinking milk versus fruit juices while in Germany, and I figured there were two very different possible reasons that I was drinking far less milk and far more fruit juice. One possible reason was that the fruit juices in Germany have a high percentage of real juice in them—the cherry juice I was drinking had 50% juice and the apple juice was 100% juice. Also, I had tried mixing the carbonated mineral water that was sold in plastic bottles with the juices and really liked the resulting slightly carbonated but tart, juice-flavored mixtures. However, it was also true that I had to carry every liter of the skimmed milk from the Mini Mall that was about a kilometer away, but the juice cartons we could buy at Aldi and that was only one block away! So was the shift in beverage preference due to taste or due to laziness? I was really never sure myself.

After a light Abendessen (evening meal) we relaxed in front of the fire while the wind rustled the trees outside and the rain pattered against the windows—very cozy. After the daily news program we watched a folks music program called “Deutschland Singt” (Germany Sings), which was a very elaborate, 2-hour production of choirs and small ensembles singing German folk songs. I can’t even imagine a show like that being done in prime time on a major U.S. television channel and says something about the role of folk music in the German culture. But this was the second example I saw on German TV; the previous show was “Music Staedl” from Bavaria that I previously mentioned was also an elaborate 2-hour production.

Also typical for German TV, they turned the “Deutschland Singt” program partly into a contest among the German states. The idea was that people from all over Germany would call in and sing their favorite folk tune over the phone. The state with the highest percentage of people calling in would “win”. What astonished me was that the state that won, Nordrhein-Westfallen, had 14.8% of its population calling in and singing folk songs. Are you kidding me? Can you imagine 15% of people in an American state calling in for anything, much less calling in and singing a folk song? Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, altho physically located just to the east of Nordrhein-Westfallen, had the lowest percentages of their population calling in, but they didn’t report the exact percentage. As it turned out, listening to folk music was a very pleasant prelude to going to bed.

Copyright 2004 by R. W. Holt and E. M. Holt
Prolog Map Epilog

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