Sunday, July 13, 2008

July 10th: I didn't realize that Epcot was in Germany

Early in the morning on July 10th, we departed Mainz and headed towards the German wine town of Ruddesheim (sorry if the spelling is off, I am writing these blogs rather quickly). We traveled along the Rhine river-- and even ferried across the river in our very large bus-- It felt very much like a level on Oregon Trail: would you care to caulk and float or ford the river?? Our decision was a good one. Not only did we make it across the river, we had an opportunity to look out on the Rhine and take some pictures. A point of historical interest: There are many castles peppering the shores of the Rhine-- we saw at least 10. Apparently it was common practice to build some sort of a gate house in the middle of the river and collect tolls from passing boats-- The Rhine must have been a gauntlet of tolls-- worse than traveling down any Texas toll road (which always make me appreciate Connecticut and its toll-less roads).
As soon as we reached the other side of the river, I was transported into stereotypical "old Germany." The streets are very narrow-- they are all cobblestone and built more like alleys-- perhaps I shouldn't call them streets at all. Every building in this town is very traditional (minus the few that sit directly on the River adjacent the freight train tracks): they are white stucco with large wooden beams-- many have ivy growing up the facades. There are several building that are taller with spires, clocks, traditional trim, green shutters, even some with arches that cross the street. Very pretty!
We arrived at our hotel: the Lindenwirt and scrambled to prepare for our concert-- it was to take place on the outdoor patio in the wine garden. You have to imagine: this was a very small courtyard where people were sitting and enjoying a drink or dinner. I don't think they were quite prepared for the One O'Clock:
1. The issue of stands came up, again. This time, we only had about 6 of them at the hotel. The advantage to being the One O'Clock is that we have many contacts and alumni all over the world. My friend and ex UNT trombonist Phil Blienberger saved the day. I think i mentioned in an earlier post that he is a musician in the army stationed here in Germany. Phil drove his little car packed with 20 music and his wife about an hour to deliver stands to us! A small group played the first set while we awaited the delivery.
2. Once again we have the issue of the piano-- you are at the mercy of the venue when you are a pianist-- this piano was really out of tune-- and seeing as how i watched them drag it down a set of stairs after the set was finished, I'm not particularly surprised.
3. On a really positive note. Aside from Phil, there were several other UNT alumni in attendance. My friend Meredith Healy (Ex UNT euphonium and fellow Connecticution) is also stationed nearby in the Air force. Ex One O'Clock trombonist Hans Bettinger stopped by to watch the band-- and when I say stop by, I mean drove 300 miles!
All in all the performance was a good opportunity to polish our music before we hit North Sea.
The evening was spent exploring the town of Ruddesheim: although I am sure it is an authentic town something struck me as strange-- maybe it is the fact that the median age of the town is over 70, or maybe it is the fact that you can purchase a cuckoo clock, beer stein, or snow globe in every store-- maybe it was the bad American music from the 80's blaring out of every wine garden. ( and i really did feel like i was in Disney world) Ruddesheim is definitely a busy tourist destination. I'm glad that the One O'clock made a stop there because we were able to make it an evening of hanging out on the balcony of the hotel (that overlooked many of these outdoor wine gardens)-- a pretty cool location!
Tomorrow we drive to Rotterdam!

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