Monday, July 23, 2012

Travelogue – German bell heaven

Friday, July 20

Breakfast promptly at 7:30, out of my Florence hotel at 7:55, to walk to the train station to get the bus to the airport. After the fiasco with the double-booked rooms I had the worrying feeling that something wasn't going to go right. But I was at the train station by 8:10. The bus to the airport was only 5 minutes late and the Italian on the front of the bus was obvious and the bus kept following the signs to the airport.

The airport in Florence is small. Only 9 gates and maybe 3 flights an hour. One goes through the gate and directly onto the back of a bus (yes, the rear of the bus opens wide) that will take us to the plane.

I had over an hour in Zurich and needed to get lunch. The clerk at the sandwich stand made it clear I could pay in Euros but change would be in Swiss Francs. I got a sandwich, strawberries, and mineral water and paid 16 francs by credit card. Then I noticed across the way the exchange rate was about one franc for one dollar. In Zurich I again took a bus from and to the plane.

In Hanover my driver, Dagmar, (one of the local participants in the handbell workshop) immediately recognized me because she had done an internet search and found my personal web page with my photo. She drove me to my host family. She usually drove me either in the morning or evening every day. My hosts drove the other times.

I had a quiet afternoon with my host family. They have a nice house with a small yard they've turned into a garden. They have a harpsichord, so I spent time reviewing my workshop and symposium music.

It is much cooler in Hanover. I need a jacket or sweatshirt to be outside.

I'm in Hanover to be one of the leaders in a handbell workshop. The local handbell choir knew how starved German bell groups are for information about proper technique and what can be done with bells. So they organized this workshop. About six weeks ago one of the leaders had to back out due to medical problems. Since I would already be in Europe I said I could fill in. I was the only one to respond. I spent much of June preparing handouts and lesson plans for the workshops I would teach and working out the schedule with Michele, the other leader, and the organizers.

At about 5:30 I got to the church hosting the event. I looked over the setup, met organizers and other participants, had supper, and conducted my first rehearsal – it was fun! Even if I didn't understand a lot that was said.

Saturday, July 21

Breakfast included joosberries from the garden, a little bit tart for my taste.

The day was spent teaching and rehearsing. Weather was cold and overcast, threatening to rain. I had the beginners most of the day. Two women in my group were dressed similar to nuns. They said they were not Catholic, but Methodist deacons.

I had time after lunch to walk and found a flea market in the nearby square. Nothing I wanted. Didn't stay long due to cold weather and the feeling I should conserve energy for teaching.

My host family gave me a key to their house. They were out for the evening when I got back.

Sunday, July 22

I rehearsed the beginners in the morning. They needed the extra work. At mid-morning we performed a “concert” of the music we had been working on. Our audience was a few member of the church who came early. It went well, though I suspect a few of my beginners got left behind in the dust. One section of the piece I conducted was supposed to be fast. We hadn't rehearsed it enough to even attempt to do it at the proper speed.

I did one final workshop in the separate building where I had rehearsed beginners while the church held its morning service.

After the service we were back in the church. Michele did a solo concert (something she is well known for). The audience, including members of the church, demanded an encore. She had nothing else prepared, so repeated one of her earlier pieces.

There was a director's meeting after lunch. I sat in on it, though it was all in German. One participant told me what topic was being discussed (where to find tables so import tariffs don't have to be paid) and translated the funny comments. One director lamented that he worked with school students and some of them left at the end of the year. Another responded, “At least you can schedule that. My group is all seniors and they usually don't schedule their deaths.”

Dagmar took me and a couple guys on a walking tour of downtown Hanover. The weather was sunny and warm enough to not need a jacket. These guys were ringers who were also friends and would be driving on to Stuttgart yet that night. We saw the 19th Century city hall (quite an imposing building). Inside were four models of the city – 1689, 1939, 1945, and today. Yes, the model from 1945 shows the destruction of most of the city.

This photo is of the 1689 model.

From there we walked over to a church that was bombed in the war. Though several other churches were also bombed (including the one hosting our workshop), they were rebuilt. Not this one. The walls are standing, but the roof is gone. It serves as a memorial of the war.

We walked around more of downtown before heading to an Afghanistan restaurant for supper. There were eight of us around the table – The four of us who had just been walking, Michele, one of the organizers, and a couple from Switzerland. The food was good – I had turkey curry. It was an enjoyable three hours.

Everyone thought the workshop was a great success. My teaching and work with beginners was much appreciated. Participants talked about how much they had learned. Michele was asked whether she would come back. By the end of the event she had 7 groups wishing to host her. She has family in the Netherlands so would welcome the chance to visit them again and have an opportunity to defray some of the expenses. I asked her, “Do you need a sidekick?”

I got back to the house well after my host family went to bed. I had a wonderful time this weekend.

Monday, July 23

Yet another driver, this one to take me to the airport. The flight to Munich a bit turbulent, though fine views of the German countryside. The flight to Venice was on a puddle jumper – seats for 80, only 33 on board. I got some beautiful shots of the Dolomite section of the Alps. There were clear views of Venice as we landed – on the other side of the plane.

So, yes, I'm in Venice now. The bus dropped me off in the depot just over the bridge from the mainland. The rest of the city is one big walking district, no cars, no buses, no scooters. I stopped at the nearby train station to ask the tourist information center to verify where my hotel is. Venice addresses are weird (I think they are numbered by district, not street) and I had doubts Orbitz had located it accurately. Alas, I waited in line for an hour.

The city isn't all that big. I figured I could walk to the hotel dragging my suitcase. But the city isn't handicapped (or rolling suitcase) friendly. There are lots of canals and while there are many bridges over them each bridge has steps to make sure there is room for gondolas to go underneath. Few of those bridges have ramps, and those are just as steep as the steps. Alas, my suitcase is seriously falling apart (and it wasn't just because of today's walk).

The hotel is nice, but the room is small. I really don't have a good place to open my suitcase.

I spent the rest of the late afternoon and early evening walking around Venice. Many streets are quite narrow and a detailed map is essential. Even with a map there were times when I wasn't quite sure where I was. But I'm tired, so after dinner I came back to the hotel, even though it was not yet 8:30.

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