The Princesses in Barcelona (Part I)

Every other year we meet up with the princesses - now 6, 8, and 10 - in some European country for a family vacation. This year, we met with them in Barcelona, and took WiseKid and WiseKidGirlfriend along.

WKG was very anxious about this - she would have to speak English all week. But a week of sun in Spain together with WK was very, very promising, so she came along as well.

We had a lovely house with lots of room (and 4 bathrooms!) in the north of Barcelona, easily reachable by train. Unfortunately, that train seemed to run through the living room - the track ran just by the house, and there was a train approximately every 5 minutes...

We thought we'd take a taxi, and we did, but he lost his way (despite TomTom!) and then he couldn't find the street. We had him dump us at the station (and I haggled with him about the price, not wanting to pay for the way from one highway exit to the next and back when he got back his orientation), and then we were lost.

We finally found someone who spoke a bit of English and showed up the correct house. The princesses were sooooooo happy when we walked in the door! They immediately showed us the pool - a small, 2x10m dealy - and jumped in.

PrincessPapa had a rental car, so we went off to load up on some food. We had to first go south through a tunnel, then back through this tunnel and the next to get to a large food store. Did I say large? Huge! We picked up a lot of stuff and then headed back for dinner. While the teenagers joined the princesses in the pool, we put together plates of this and that as is the custom in Spain. And opened a bottle or three of cava. Very good stuff, the local bubbly.

The princesses are getting so big - Princess 1 is heading into fifth grade, Princess 2 for third grade, and Princess 3 will start big girl school in the fall. But luckily, we still get hugs and kisses at bedtime!


A Day in Leipzig

We got a monthly train pass in order to see the Women's World Cup games (that blog post is still missing....). It still has a few days left on it, so we decided to take a day trip today. Leipzig is only an hour away by high-speed train, and I've never been there. WiseMan was there once before the wall came down and once just after it came down, but that was 20 years ago, so it really was time.

We got up, had breakfast, and drove to the train station - lots of free parking on the street on a Saturday. We hopped a train - they run every hour - and even scored table seats. We just barely had the newspapers read when we pulled into the Leipzig train station.

Grand Central Station is puny compared to this station! Not only are there a gazillion tracks and gorgeous open spaces, it is also a megamall. We wanted to check out the times for the trains back, it seemed to take forever to find the travel center.

We then headed over the tram tracks to the downtown area for a planless day. Leipzig was and is a trading center. The downtown area is mostly a pedestrian area and is quite similar to Prague in that it has lots of roofed over shopping passages.

Ceiling of the St. Nicholaus Church, Leipzig
We first stopped off at the St. Nicholas Church. This is where the "Swords to Plowshares" (Schwerter zu Pflugscharen) movement started, and where the Monday demonstrations grew out of the Monday evening prayer group. Johann Sebastian Bach also played here (the registration of the organ is on the German page). We browsed the bookshop and listened to a choir singing before going on.
Swords to Plowshares, the original poster

WiseMan was hungry and decided we would have ice cream for lunch - but there didn't seem to be any ice cream shops around. We finally found one - and discovered after ordering that the scoops in Leipzig only cost half of what the cost in Berlin, but are twice as large! That was a meal and a half!

The streets seemed to be full of tourists, beggars, and musicians. It was nice, strolling in the sun and hearing all the nice music, although the begging was a bit much.

We did some window shopping (and got some presents for the Princesses, whom we will be meeting next week!) and then headed on to the St. Thomas Church. THE St. Thomas Church, the one of Bach and Boy's Choir fame. There's a a large statue of him outside the church with a little organ behind him.

The gift shop was open, and you could have pretty much anything you wanted with Bach on it: chocolate, key rings, flashlights, T-Shirts, schnapps. I got an outrageously priced CD with the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes (Leipziger Choräle) on it, performed by the current Master organist of the church.

And they were selling tickets to an organ concert to begin in an hour and a half. We got two tickets - when do you have a chance like this?

We had a coffee at the little Cafe Gloria next to the church and did some more shopping around. Then we saw the Maggi shop. One needs to know that WiseMan preferred Maggi cubes (boullion) to chocolate as a child. If we had been there by car, we probably would have taken one of everything they had. As it was, we just got some modern soups and then he had some soup while hurried to the church to get good seats.

New Bach Organ

Old Bach Organ
The concert was the first one of a summer series of women organists. Johanna Lennartz (Dresden) played a number of pieces (including one by Bach) and the Australian Chamber Choir Melbourne sang some beautiful old chorales and a horrible Australian one by Philip John Nunn that sounded like a bunch of bush animals fighting over a meal.

The music director joked during the introduction that this summer they would be investigating if you can hear the difference between a woman and a man at the organ console: You can't see who is playing, just feel the music creeping up on you and at times filling the church to the rafters. J. S. Bach looks down from his stained glass window and seems to be happy that people are still playing his music - no matter if a woman or a man. The director did note, however, that her husband was also an organist that that he would be "pulling her registers" for her. Seemed a bit off-color, the joke.

The seats in the church are not the most comfortable, but they rewarded us afterwards by serving everyone who presented a ticket with a glass of champagne outside in the courtyard. Not a plastic cup - a real champagne glass, with Rotkäppchen, the DDR champagne in it.

We meandered on through town and discovered that we were really tired. We had a table booked at the Champion's Sports Bar in the Marriott in order to watch the Sweden-France soccer game for third place in the Woman's Soccer World Cup. So we headed to the Marriott - and the place wasn't opened yet. We chilled on some leather chairs and read a newspaper until they finally opened, just before kickoff. We had the best seat in the house, best view of the largest screen. There was one other couple, another one came at halftime, and a few people drifted in and out for a beer.

It was more like private viewing with room service than public viewing, but at least the couple that came at halftime was half Swedish and had a Swedish flag along. It was a nail-biting game, and Sweden managed to squeak through on a bad call that gave Sweden a corner - and a goal.

But since there was no overtime, we got a train back to Berlin quite early and had time for a Krimi.

I wish the Bahn had monthly tickets like this all the time - we had one once as students and really enjoyed traveling throughout the republic.


Ringo Starr

Oh dear. Has it really been a month since I last wrote? Women's World Cup, WiseKid moved out, VroniPlag - I've barely had time to sleep, let alone blog. And I don't answer all my emails any more.

But I had this post in my head the whole way home, so I need to get it written NOW!

WiseMan picked up the notice a while back that Ringo Starr was going to be touring Europe with a new All Starr Band. And he was going to be in Berlin.

Now, you need to know that WiseMan is a BBF - a Big Beatles Fan. His favorite Beatle is John Lennon, but he has all the records (LP and CD), he has posters and books and stickers and DVDs and who knows what. Did I mention he seems to have all the books ever published? Well, maybe not every one. We went to the Beatles' museum in Prague and he drooled over all the Czech stuff they had there ;)

Anyway - I said: sure, get us tickets, and he managed to get two seats booked in the Tempodrome for this past Tuesday! 

The 'drome was sold out, some were begging for tickets all the way up from the S-Train station. There was a standing room part in front of the stage, and seats for us old people up and around. I think the average age was about 65 - not bad, since Ringo Starr is 71 himself.

And I want to be able to jump around like Ringo Starr when I'm 71. Goodness, I'm sure he works hard at it, but coming down the steps he was like a gangling teenager. He doesn't really have a great singing voice, but he sang some stuff from his own albums and ones he wrote for "my other band".

And each of the other musicians sang two of their own hits. These were all ones we knew, so it was rather a "sing along" evening. Ringo played the drums for the other's hits. His drumset was the focal point, to his left was another drummer, a bit lower, who kept absolutely synchronous time with him, was a great feat!

The music was lovely, stirred up so many memories. And imagine, after all these years, seeing a Beatle live on stage! I mean, I even think I remember the Ed Sullivan Show they were on, we used to watch it every week. But of course, I've seen it so many times since then, I might just be thinking I saw it.