Fantasy #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

fantasy

 

As they prepared to leave and go home – a long way away – they started fantasising… There would be an island, a secret garden, a view over the old church, new colours and space for dreaming and loving. Perhaps even a shortcut to the lake from their porch?

They would have to invent a way to travel easily to the island, and there build a shelter. But would a shelter be needed? Wasn’t their place already basking in an eternal summer?

Vista #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

vista

 

“Soon we will be back, walking those hills, and finding ourselves, again.”

It’s true, she thought, life is an eternal come back.

Simply, we change, not the hills, not the sky. Only us grow old.

Or it feels like it.

So, we will have to rewrite the story, or is it stories?

Will the nights be as silent, the vistas as inspiring?

Will we retrace our steps, or lose our way, as if in a foreign land?

How do we rewind time?

Partir?

DSC_0449

 

How to leave the city? Setting aside the why (perhaps one day?) how is the question. Maybe the correct answer is: we don’t, ever, we may be elsewhere, but our minds and hearts stay here. Maybe we’ll reminisce, as Frederick writing to Voltaire, much, much later (in fact many wars and forty years later) about Rheinsberg: I had the happiest years of my life there… It is impossible to forget anything: the tree-lined streets, deserted on Sundays, the granit monuments that remind us of the terrible events, the canals, the lakes, the sand, the Spätis opened all night, the parks, the crows… The little markets, the narrow lanes, a city from where one can travel, on an old bike, away from traffic, and lose oneself in deep forests…

We will long for the museums, the concerts, the sheer grandeur of those avenues, history always present, without fuss, without pretense. In many ways we won’t leave, even if, three months from now, there will not remain more than a shadow of our presence here, perhaps a stolen bike in some flee-market.

Guests of young Frederick of Prussia

From: the Bolivian orchestra stranded in a German Castle

Bolivian orchestra

 

“The breathing techniques required to play these instruments for a few hours put you in a kind of trance,” says Miguel Cordoba, who plays the siku flute.

But as soon as the rehearsal finishes they are all too aware of how their life has changed. Because they are not rehearsing back home in La Paz, Bolivia, but in the shadow of a German castle where they have been stranded for 73 days.

The musicians, most of whom have never left Bolivia before, were expecting to spend just over a fortnight this spring touring east Germany’s concert halls.

Instead they are holed up in the buildings and grounds of the sprawling estate of Rheinsberg Palace, a moated castle which has been home to generations of German royalty and aristocracy, an hour and a half’s drive northwest of Berlin.

Rheinsberg_2003_1

As the musicians, some of whom are as young as 17, touched down in Germany on 10 March for their tour, news broke that Berlin had become the seventh German region to impose a ban on gatherings of 1,000 people or more in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our bus broke down on the motorway. I remember joking that this was bad luck and perhaps our concerts would be cancelled,” recollects Carlos, “but never did I think it would actually happen.”

Their three planned performances were cancelled in the days that followed, and as Bolivia’s government announced it would close its borders, the orchestra scrambled to get home but failed.

Germany’s ban on mass gatherings was swiftly followed by a full lockdown, meaning the musicians are only allowed to roam as far as the forest that lines the perimeter of the estate.

So their free time is spent rehearsing in the nearly 600-year-old palace grounds and exploring the surrounding woodland, home to 23 packs of wolves.

Only on Monday did they get the chance to step inside the castle for the first time as tours for the public reopened.

“It’s very different to my home, it’s very beautiful,” says 25-year-old Miguel.

“There are worse places to be trapped. When I wake up, I watch the sun rise over the forest and the lake. Back home, I only hear the sound of traffic.”

But despite the picturesque natural surroundings, the musicians are worried they have been forgotten.

“We feel abandoned,” says Carlos, who’s spent several thankless hours on the phone to the Bolivian embassy trying to find a way to get home.

The group had only been in Germany for a week when Bolivia’s president announced the country’s border was set to close within days, and all international flights had been suspended.

Arrangements were swiftly made by the German foreign office and Bolivian embassy to reserve seats on one of the last flights out of Germany to South America, landing in Lima, Peru.

The group was initially relieved.

“When we were on the way to the airport, we were all in good spirits, laughing and chatting,” says Camed Martela, 20.

But then Carlos received a call to say the flight had been cancelled as the plane was not allowed to land in Peru.

“The mood suddenly became sombre – everyone on the bus went quiet,” he says.

From that moment, the 6,000 miles (9,656km) between Germany and Bolivia seemed further than ever.

Tracy Prado, who only joined the orchestra in December, remembers thinking about her daughter’s 11th birthday which was coming up a few weeks later.

“I had got my hopes up and it was devastating to think I would miss this important day,” she says.

The group decided the only way to cope was to put together a strict practice schedule – three hours before lunch, three hours after, experimenting with a fusion of traditional Andean music and more contemporary genres.

“Indigenous music is all about the principle of community – everybody can take something from what they are and offer it to the group,” says Carlos.

“You feel the same as your ancestors felt when playing these traditional instruments, which is a beautiful thing,” adds Miguel, whose roots stretch back to Bolivia’s Kallawaya people known for their musical healing ceremonies.

Some members of the orchestra speak to their families in Bolivia. For others, communication is near impossible as internet and telephone signals are patchy outside Bolivia’s main cities.

Many of the musicians play a major role in providing for their families financially, and being unable to do this at the moment is exacerbating their anxiety.

In an interview with Bolivia’s flagship station Radio Panamericana, foreign minister Karen Longaric was asked for her response to the orchestra’s case after a distraught mother of one of the musicians called in.

Longaric suggested the orchestra left knowing the borders were set to soon close, although Bolivia had not recorded a single coronavirus case on the day they left.

She also said the government’s priorities were elsewhere – repatriating “the most vulnerable – women, children, sick people and the elderly”.

Carlos says there seems to be little sympathy for the orchestra back in Bolivia.

“People back home think we’re in a fairytale land,” he says, rolling his eyes. “I’ve had hundreds of messages telling me to stop complaining, and that I’m living like a princess in a German castle.”

Camed is disappointed they have not been able to perform as planned.

“We’d been preparing since January so I became quite depressed as I watched everything we’d prepared for get taken away like this.

“The orchestra helped me get back on track after the death of my dad. My family were so proud of me when they heard I was flying to Europe to perform my country’s music.”

The town of just over 8,000 people, also called Rheinsberg, has largely been welcoming towards the Bolivian visitors, if a little bemused by their presence.

“When I leave the hostel alone, I do feel a little self-conscious,” Camed says. “Sometimes I get strange looks and people stop and stare.”

Some go further than a raised eyebrow, perhaps confused by the fact that the musicians appear to be flouting Germany’s social distancing rules, as it may not be immediately obvious that they have been allowed to classify themselves as a family unit.

He says on one of the occasions the Bolivians played a game of football on the meadow directly in front of the castle. They soon found themselves surrounded by six police officers “in full riot gear, just short of a helmet”, says Timo Kreuser, one of three German musicians who helped facilitate the tour and are staying with them.

“They came from from left and right and started to encircle us and things got a little tense,” recalls Miguel.

“In the end, they just told us that we couldn’t congregate in such a large group, but it wasn’t too serious.”

“The police are used to it now, so they just phone me and it’s always resolved,” says Timo.

Timo has been keen to help the musicians, partly to repay the favour of their own hospitality when he was with them in La Paz in October. Violent protests led to the resignation of the president and Carlos and the orchestra helped Timo evacuate to Peru.

Generosity and offers of help have been in plentiful supply from most people.

The kitchen staff at the guest house the musicians are living in come in to work wearing masks and maintain a distance from their Bolivian guests.

“We are so grateful for the food and the roofs over our heads,” says Tracy, who speculates she’s one of only a few in the group who enjoy the local delicacies.

And, of course, they have the woodland to explore. Tracy says she spotted three wolves while out walking recently

“I froze in fear but they were just play fighting and moved on.”

It is not just wolves they look out for.

One of the palace’s former inhabitants was Frederick the Great, who was given ownership of the estate by his father in 1736 before he ascended to the throne, and described his time at Rheinsberg as his “happiest years”.

A close friend of Frederick, reflecting on his impressions of Rheinsberg, wrote “the evenings are dedicated to music. The prince has concerts in his salon, where no-one is admitted unless called”. One of those who performed was reportedly JC Bach.

“We all joke that Frederick’s ghost is following us and trying to trip us up,” says Camed. “I don’t usually believe in such things but it does feel as if there are ghosts on the grounds.”

As the seasons shifted from early spring to summer, the musicians’ heavy clothes packed in anticipation of colder weather were too warm for their long walks around the estate.

But a concerned Bolivian expat in Hamburg has helped out on this front.

“She collected mountains of clothes and sent them to us. We have seven big boxes so far – perhaps too many, we may need to return some or pass them onto someone else in need,” says Carlos.

But despite the generosity and good will, the orchestra worries that its stay cannot be bankrolled forever.

“Accommodation costs are mounting to more than €35,000 ($38,400) a month alone,” says Berno Odo Polzer, the director of MaerzMusik, the festival at which the orchestra were set to perform. It is one of several publicly funded arts programmes which has supported the orchestra’s longer than expected stay.

Germany is allowing international flights again but Bolivia’s borders remain shut for the foreseeable future.

The Bolivian embassy told the BBC it is trying to get the orchestra on a flight to Bolivia in early June out of Madrid.

But Carlos is worried about how things will be once they return too.

“Covid is getting very political back home,” says Carlos.

The Bolivian government delayed the presidential election that was due in March and later tried and failed to force through a decree limiting freedom of expression and criticisms over the handling of the coronavirus crisis.

“I’m dreaming of the day I will be at my bed in Bolivia and say, ‘OK, this is over’ but I also know that on that day I will start missing what is happening here,” admits Carlos.

Rehearsing

Source: BBC News https://www.bbc.com/news/the-reporters-52760380

Picture of Rheinsberg Castle: By Amodorrado – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3362268

Reaching #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

twilight

 

“So we are back”, you said in a tone of voice void of emotions. But I knew better: “back” meant we had failed, together, to adapt to a different life, to create the new, to be reborn. Yet this was our home, the naked ground where we belonged. Even the barren trees were part of us, a befitting reminder of the winter of our souls.

“We’ll find a ruin somewhere, do it up, settle down…” I added, hopeful.

“I love those clouds, and then I am here, still, with you!” You replied with a smile, “I thought we should never regret a failure, the important thing, was to have tried.”

“I knew you would understand,” I said, fixing you, as you were reaching for my hand, “Together we are strong, as strong as ever.”

Of a broken box and a small town

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In the past two weeks my writing output (I did not want to say “literary”) was badly affected by the collapse of my old Mac, bought in 2009. This was the tool for my writing before and after a first (disk) failure, back in 2018. I was then lucky enough to find a local expert (in Gesundbrunnen) to fix it, without loss of anything. So its life was extended by about a year. Ha! the anxiety, those precious manuscripts! I have now bitten the bullet, and got a so-called refurbished recent version of the same, so that I can now, for a while, avoid the usual trap of “too old to be updated etc.” Hence new MacOs and new virus protection. Even an updated version of Scrivener. Sigh… The “migration”, although assisted courtesy Apple™, was an experience… It’s all there as far as I have been able to ascertain, so far. I am now full of enthusiasm, and I am even considering a major reconstruction of my first novel, still languishing on the Cloud (more about this for another post).

In the meantime, on a beautiful and cool Sonntag we have discovered another treasure of Brandenburg, the town of Eberswalde. Treasure because of the location (slightly north-east of the city of Bernau by Berlin, and easily accessible with the regional train, well designed for carrying lots of bicycles), along two beautiful canals, the Finowkanal and the main Oder to Havel canal. Superb riding country, much loved by cycling enthusiasts all year round. The Finowkanal is on its length the site of magnificent industrial buildings in ruins, notably a paper mill dating back to the XVIIth century (and still working in 1991 when the vultures came in), and an electricity generation plant. This inspired me to write about it, and seek its history.

Now let’s go back to work!

Image: old paper mill in Eberswalde, source: Technikdenkmal in Eberswalde

Eberswalde bei Wikipedia.de

Rooted #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

x-ray-207

 

“We have been here before today, haven’t we?” The question was directed to me, yet I wondered who the “we” included. I guessed perhaps not me, or not just me. For I never was here, on my own or alone with her, but it might have been in a group, in the days “we” were travelling as a bunch of “tree-huggers”, as my son put it once.

Indeed I love trees, and cannot conceive life without them nearby. Trees are sensitive beings, they have their language, their signs, they love, suffer, and die, or rather they are killed. Like us.

I could not recall having been here with the lady, but it did not seem to bother her anyway. We talked about the strange way those trees seem to want to move higher, above the ground, to reach up, maybe for something we could not see. Their roots appear to be gliding, a little off the soil, still keeping contact, as if preparing to float. I had  a vision of this part of the forest, resting on clouds, slowly moving, pushed by the wind…

“That would be something to see!” My companion must have had similar thoughts. Tolkien had written about slow moving trees. I looked again at the intricate pattern of roots, then at the magnificent crown of the trees.

We looked at each other, there was still time to explore deeper into those woods. I knew we were close to where fairies, and maybe even ancient dwarves, lived.

 

Bright #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

bright

 

Often we walked in those woods, you and me, when the bluebells shone, and the sky reminded us that Easter was close by. Today, the air is clear, the ground soft to our feet, as it was then.

“What is the difference?” we could ask. But we don’t. We both know. Our bodies have no shadows, we meet no-one, or rather, no-one meets us. We are invisible, though we still love these woods, the valley below, the old Roman villa nearby, the memories of our lives.

We hear voices too, far, far away: are they people we once knew? Or are they the dreams  of ancient ghosts, like us?

Onward #writephoto

Onward

p1460213-2

 

We stop at the top of the small hill, and look down at the road meandering away from us. The bikes lie on the short grass, next to tall poles that remind us that, here, the snow can erase everything, and level the landscape, but we are too early for it. The air is cold, the pale rays of the winter sun lit the distant crags. Soon the night will fall. We set the tent not far from here, and lit a fire. Tomorrow is another day.