Sunday, April 28, 2019

Shattered Rules & Shattered Dreams

SUNDAY, 4/28:

I don't know that you've really lived until you've stood on a German street corner listening to a pianist and a flugelhorn player doing “Bohemian Rhapsody” with the crowd singing along.

So I guess I lived a little today.

Greetings again from Leipzig, where this was the day we didn't have much on the schedule, it being the day after the soccer match and the day before Loraine may be the subject of a German press conference. About the only thing we really wanted to do was to attend an open practice for RB Leipzig, to see some of the players up close & personal, but because this was such a momentous week for the team (not only did they qualify for the Champions League, but they also made the finals of the DFB Pokal, the German national club championship) they were given the day off and the practice was canceled.

Or so we found out after standing outside the practice field for an hour and a half. But what are you gonna do, right?  Then, after we got back to our hotel Loraine found a Facebook message the team sent her yesterday morning, hoping that we would have a good time at the game.  We were stunned.  I mean, how many pro sports teams would send a personal message to a fan, even one coming to watch a game from a different country? 

It was a very cool thing for them to do.

Since we couldn't visit the practice today, after we took care of a few things Loraine got caught up on a bunch of stuff while I took my camera out and went exploring, which was where I heard the Leipzig street karaoke version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. As I mentioned yesterday, the city has a long & storied history of street musicians, and they also played a huge part in the protests that started here and eventually brought down the East German government and the Berlin Wall. In 1989 it was actually illegal for anyone to perform music in public places without a permit, which was almost impossible to get, so in protest one June day a bunch of musicians started to play in this little park--

Where the public then gathered to experience the rather rare treat. The Stasi (the East German secret police) got wind of the fact that people were actually enjoying themselves and started to violently break up the crowd, chasing the musicians away and arresting them in this nearby church courtyard--

Ironically, by the way, handcuffing the musicians right underneath the statue of Johann Sebastian Bach. Word of the brutal arrests spread throughout the area, and in combination with other factors, including rigged elections a few months earlier and a token effort by the authorities of allowing people to leave the county, led to the weekly Monday night protests in the courtyard of the church across the street from where I'm typing this.

Not only do they have boards and self-guided walking tours throughout the city that tell the whole story of the protests-

But I also downloaded an amazing app that has all kinds of pictures and video to go along with it, called “Leipzig 89” (available in English in the iTunes store and Google Play, should you be so curious as to download it yourself). I know I'm a history geek (in case you haven't figured it out yet), but that particular moment in the city's history seems to fascinate me to no end. I'm not quite sure why, but it has, so if I babble a little too much about it feel free to mentally zone out and return when you see a weird picture. You know, like a picture of a statue of a woman riding a ram using what appears to be a snake as a bridle. Not that you would ever see a picture like that, though.


My journey exploring the intertwining of music & protests led me to the nearby Johannapark, which is one of the main parks in a city that, admittedly, has a lot of them--

This is one of those places where people go to walk, run, ride bikes, and do all the other stuff one does in a nice park, including playing a guitar--

Looking at duck-type creatures with red bills (an homage, perhaps, to the local Bundesliga team?--

And falling in love under lilac trees--

The park also has a rather famous footbridge that spans the little lake in the middle of it--

And it seems the bridge is the one place where everyone stands to take pictures, to gaze at the city skyline, or to just gaze in each other's eyes. Loraine and I both follow a couple of local photographers on Facebook, and they often use the bridge as the center of their beauty shots. It just seems to attract people that way, I guess.

Now I realize over the past few days I've made Leipzig sound like a perfect place, what with all the history and all the street music and all the winning by the local soccer team. But like all bigger places (Leipzig's home to about 400,000 people) it has its problems. Parts of it have still not been totally reconstructed in the nearly three decades since German reunification, and it does seem to have a large homeless population, especially around the train station, which is not far from our hotel and a focal point of our travels. You wouldn't think in a country with a good social safety net like Germany that homelessness even exists, but it does. I know a small chunk are Syrian refugees who haven't yet been fully integrated into the country's system following the 2015 mass migration into Europe. But it seems like the vast majority of the homeless are like this guy--

Germans who have either just given up or who just never tried. Some just sit on a bench drinking all day; others stand outside of the train station or on a corner with a cup at their feet asking for money. I should say, though, as someone visiting the city you don't feel threatened by them; instead, you feel sad that in a place that's so filled with wondrous people and wondrous music there are people out there who are just left out.

It's just a bummer.

Okay. Enough depressing stuff for now. How about this for a palette cleanser, courtesy of three of those street musicians I has mentioned earlier? Then may I present to you Mr Clarinet, Bassoon Dude, and Flute Woman with their version of the Cantina Band theme from “Star Wars”!

Yes, I know I'm a geek. What's your point? If I wasn't a geek, do you think I'd give you a totally gratuitous shot featuring both lilacs AND an Ampelmann?

Or a totally gratuitous shot of wisdom posted in a local storefront?

Or a totally gratuitous shot of, uhm, whatever the heck this piece of art is trying to get across?

Ah, Leipzig. You never know what you'll see or hear.

Tomorrow, we take a short train ride so Loraine can answer questions from German newspaper reporters. Because that's what everyone does with part of their vacation, right?

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