Life has found its normal pace here in Weimar. We’ve made it through papers and midterms and other such school concerns. My surroundings have become a normal place, and I truly have to remember where I am to find the awe in it all. Over the last week and a half we have taken trips to both Eisenach and Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
We left for Eisenach on Thursday after German class for a trip to the Wartburg Castle and Bach’s House. We took a private bus for about an hour and a half to get there. We drove to the base of the small mountain/large hill where the Wartburg Castle is situated. Then we had an arduous climb up many stairs to get to the top of the castle.
It was very beautiful on the way up, and the main focus of the collective visitor group was for no rain. Our wish came, but it was accompanied by a relentless wind that made hair vertical and seemed to push me back down every stair I climbed. Once at the castle, the lack of tree cover made the wind much more present and people were being blown over.
We waited along the visitors area for the English tour to start, making sure not to get blown over the low walls down the face of the mountain. Our tour of the interior of the castle was fascinating, and combined with the fact that it was my first visit ever to a castle, made it quite magnificent.
We learned all about the long, important and tumultuous history that seems to follow the German nobles. Music also played an important role in the castle’s history, especially the Medieval Singing Duels between the most famous singers and musicians in Europe, some of whom are even remembered today and happen to be taught in Intro to Music History, which five of our group have just completed. It was really neat to make the vague nature of music history real and be able to place medieval musicians.
We also got to see the place where Martin Luther spent a year in exile translating the Bible. We then went back down the mountain, got on the bus and made our way to Bach’s house.
Immersed in Bach
This Bach’s house is the house where J.S. Bach spent his childhood. Along with the house, there is now an accompanying museum for visitors to learn more about and hear Bach’s music. The tour began with a demonstration of Baroque keyboard instruments popular in Bach’s day. This included an organ that required another person to pull straps to get the power to the organ.
During the demonstration, Katrina volunteered to pull the straps while the demonstrator played a piece. He gave her a quick and ambiguous lesson on how to work the straps, which ended in hilarity. Every time she tried to pull the straps and he tried to play, the organ would start playing, and then would lose all of its steam and all sound would slowly fade away. This happened many times in a row. She could never figure it out, and with his misguided help, the organ could never play more than a few notes before it would start to fade.
After this demonstration, we took a speedy tour of the house and then spent some time in the museum. In the museum were these awesome egg-shaped chairs (think Men in Black) suspended from the ceiling that had fancy headphones playing beautiful music. I spent quite a bit of time suspended in an egg slowly swinging to the music of Bach. It was magnificent, and I have resolved to make sure one is installed in my house in the future. (In photo: SMU student Lauren)
Night at the opera
After our Eisenach trip, we came back to Weimar and went to the Opera. They performed Don Giovanni, which is one of my more favorite operas. With my prior knowledge of the opera, the Italian singing, and the German subtitles, I could actually figure out what was going on, which is always a plus in an opera.
It was a modern rendition set in present-day Italy, with the full level of tackiness that Mozart wrote that has been lost through time. The German operas are a lot more risque, which I did not expect at all (especially with Mozart). I’m pretty sure that an American Opera Company would have to label the opera burlesque and put an age rating on it to be performed.
The next week, we went to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Having visited so many camps in such a short time, I was quite reluctant to go to another. I had the same intense, unexplainable emotions as the first camp. I took fewer pictures, but I was still compelled to document my experience.
One of the remarkable memorials on the site is an unassuming, oversized plaque that stays at a constant 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit to symbolize that all people are the same on the most basic level. In my opinion, it is an excellent way to both memorialize the events and bring awareness to all people. Something as atrocious as the Holocaust could happen to anyone, because in its most basic level it is just one group of humans hating and oppressing another group of humans.
Buchenwald is an interesting camp to study, because it was liberated by the Americans and then used as anti-Nazi propaganda. Its history has greatly influenced the knowledge and education of the Holocaust in America. I wrote my final paper on the Liberation of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp for the CF class, and I found out so many fascinating aspects of the camp and the city.
One interesting fact was that the American soldiers went to Weimar and required all of the citizens to take a tour of the city and see the heaps of dead bodies that the Nazis had left. The Americans wanted to make sure that there were German witnesses to the atrocities. Then they made some of the Weimar citizens bury the dead victims. I thought that this was incredibly symbolic and powerful.