Saturday, July 6, 2013

Weekly Interlude 5: Passau Drama

Opera singers have a reputation for being Drama Queens, but I'm starting to think that it's actually all 3-year-olds who should claim the title.

Our time in Passau was great for Lillian because she had a playmate all week, her (fellow 3-year-old) friend, Raffi -- which shockingly made my job easier than usual. No need to constantly play one-on-one for hours on end, plus I only occasionally had to mediate meltdowns. I've discovered that kids this age are super emotional; every reaction comes from a sudden and strong emotional onset. For example, Kid wants Mama, so Kid yells up the stairs to find out where Mama is; Kid bumps head, so Kid starts crying from surprise/pain/confusion; Kid sees friend with ice cream, Kid suddenly wants an ice cream, too. Three-year-olds seem governed by their immediate impulses, which is both fascinating and immensely challenging for me to balance.

Little house built into a cliff along the Danube
Every morning, when her mom is home, Lillian summarily rejects me; I'm neither a friend nor her mom, so she gives me frowny faces and runs away. The other day, she announced loudly, "We are not friends!" and hid behind her mom's legs. Well, I'd believe that if she hated me in the afternoon, too. But the other day, she invited me to jump on the trampoline with her and Raffi (a first), which turned out to be fun. We jumped in a circle while holding hands, and I watched as they jumped, fell, giggled, jumped, fell, giggled. And then, of course, Lillian had to ask her famous question: "Should we play Mama, Papa, and Baby?" to which Raffi shouted, "NO!" So entertaining :)

Dreiflüsseeck, or the meeting point of the 3 rivers
The other great line from Lillian the other day came when she wanted to go outside in the rain without her shoes on. She looked at me very earnestly and said, "I can't put my shoes on. If I put on my shoes, then my feet will not grow!" I have NO idea where that came from, but it was adorable. I convinced her to wear her crocs, though, as the holes in the top would ensure extra growing space.

Old Town Passau
Between all the swinging, trampoline-ing, running, and kiddie-pool-swimming, I did have a morning free to go downtown with Lillian and her mom. Passau Center is beautiful, with brightly colored buildings (think Italian architecture). Passau is known as the Dreiflüssestadt, or Three Rivers City, because the Danube joins the Inn and Ilz Rivers at the tip of the Old Town peninsula. A few weeks ago, there was major flooding that destroyed buildings, swamped whole playgrounds, and reached street level; water levels rose higher this year than they did in the last Great Flood of 1462.
Some flood damage

Now, though, the city is getting back on its feet. Some businesses are still under reconstruction, but mostly everything is up and running. A beautiful gem of a theater in Old Town was severely damaged and will need significant restoration, but the city is dedicated to preserving its arts and its history.
Innstadt, the side of Passau along the Inn

The three of us took a 45-minute boat tour (on a boat called the Deggendorf) up the Danube, around the peninsula, and partway down the Inn and back. It was peaceful and picturesque, as you can see from these photos. Then we headed up to St. Stephen's Cathedral for a half-hour organ concert at noon. I'm not a big fan of the organ, but this music was very impressive. It's also the largest cathedral organ in Europe, with 17,974 pipes, 233 stops, and 4 carillons! There are actually five different parts of the organ, which can be played separately or from the main keyboard.

St. Stephen's Cathedral organ
The following day, I had the morning off and took the bus downtown again for a few hours -- and I did not get lost! I guess there really is a first time for everything. I walked around the pedestrian shopping area (Ludwigstraße) and bought some French cookies and a light summer evening scarf. I dared myself to order or buy at least one thing in German, just to get used to speaking more. I think the best moment was when I asked the bus driver how to use (validate) my ticket. It's such a thrill when you can successfully communicate something in another language.

Lillian's mom had a concert one evening in Passau, and my schedule worked out so I could go. The program consisted mostly of Mahler -- his Kindertotenlieder (songs on the death of a child) and Rückert Lieder (songs based on the poetry of Friedrich Rückert) -- and featured a pianist, soprano, cellist, and dancer. They held the concert in a church, a last-minute decision based on some foreboding clouds and wind. I think the sacred space really added to the performance, however; there was something humbling about listening to these particular selections in a small, semi-crumbling stone church. I found myself looking up at the Gothic arches every so often, thinking, "How did I get here, to this particular tiny church, with these people, to listen to these songs?" Even if the performance wasn't perfect all around (it was often very difficult to see the dancer, unfortunately), it was still thought-provoking. The last song was one of my favorite Lied of all time -- "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" (I am lost to the world) -- which you should listen to here.

Along the Danube
Meanwhile, during the day (between trying to figure out if that scream I heard outside was a scream of laughter or tears), I talked with the Passau family's nanny. She's Hungarian and super nice and taught me how to make jam! It was so nice to have company, especially with someone my age and in a similar position to me. We commiserated on how difficult it is to get our respective charges away from the TV and outside to play, to not eat sweets in the afternoons, to sit down for dinner, to get ready for bed, etc. (Kids get tons of energy when they sense they need to go to bed soon!) She and I made gooseberry and black current jam (Stachelbeeren und schwarzen Johannisbeeren) after picking the berries from bushes out in the yard. I'm now inspired to grow my own fruit (once I have my own apartment/house someday); I've always wanted a blackberry bush, but there was never enough sunlight in the yard at home.
Near Ludwigstraße

We left Passau, sadly, early yesterday morning, and now I'm back in Vienna with a whole free weekend. While I'm starting to get much more used to my life/schedule here, I'm still not a person who likes being alone. I mean, I GREATLY value my Alone Time, but I prefer living with other people. And this is why, Susan, you need to keep working on your German, so you can talk to other human beings. I can hear my sister's voice in my head... I think the time has come to communicate and not worry about speaking everything perfectly. Seriously, if I worry about every adjective ending and every case declination, then I'm not even going to be able to order a cup of coffee!
Along the Inn; the green domes are St. Stephen's Cathedral

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