On Sunday evening, I drove with Don and Per (principal trumpet) to Flensburg, Germany, about 45 minutes away from where we live. Back in The Olden Days, the Danish-German borders had been pushed and pulled like taffy all over the place, and the goddammit-we're-NOT-changing-it-again-so-GET-IT-RIGHT-THIS-TIME-PEOPLE vote was put to the population after WWII -- where, exactly, should the border be? And so it was decided, although some areas that voted for Danish citizenship wound up German, and some diehard Germans actually had to be Danes. Flensburg, however officially German, has major Danish influence. Most shops take kroner, some signs are in both German and Danish, the Danish bus system can take you there, and Don's orchestra performs there a few times per month.
This was my first view of the town after exiting the car. Not entirely spectacular, and yet enjoyably utilitarian.
As I walked, despite the grayest of half-hearted drizzle, it got better. It's Jule (YOO-luh) time here in northern Europe, and people go batty for it. EVERYTHING is Jule, Jule, Jule: Street decor, shop windows, McDonald's cups, garbage cans, buses, liquor stores...
(I am seriously coveting that giant silver champagne dish, Santa. Work it out.)
It seems that Flensburg, a harbor town, has a history with rum. It took me a while to figure it out, as in Danish, the word "rum" means "room," so I thought all these tiny shops with "rum" on the windows was some kind of trendy way of calling it a little boutique or something.
It's a very fortunate thing that this was a Sunday, and all of the rum rooms were closed (though I could have helped Germany's economy out a bit).
The concert was with the Flensburg Bach Choir, which was celebrating its 100th birthday in 2006. You know, lots of singing, etc. It was quite fantastic. Unbeknownst to us, the concert was sold out, standing room only in the balcony, and somehow a ticket appeared for the American fraulein, specially acquired from the conductor's secret stash of a few extras. (Tysen tak, Per!) But what started to slowly blow my mind into many, many pieces was the venue. The Deutsch Halle was built by the Nazi Party during WWII, a showcase for music in northern Germany. Apparently, this hall has top acoustics, as Hitler's love for music ran deep and he insisted on an excellent auditorium for concerts given for members of the Nazi Party...
As I sat in Row 24, Seat 14, I could not help but turn this place's history over and over in my mind. I was sitting in the same hall which had hosted Hitler many times. He tapped his feet on this very floor. He walked through the same foyer, totally unchanged from the late 1930s, that I did. There were probably microscopic cells that he and other Nazi officials breathed out of their lungs that were still affixed to the ceiling tiles. I noticed a woman sitting in the row ahead of me, a couple of seats over, who was probably in her 80s. She sat there and nodded to the music and clapped for the choir. I watched the wispy white coil of hair on top of her head and I figured she must have been around for everything, she must have seen some wild stuff. She may have even caused some terrible stuff. Who knows. If so, I'm sure she's already confessed on her own blog by now.
The history here... How many times I catch myself saying that.