Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, September 24, 2009

J.S Bach and Koethen Anhalt

We arrived in Koethen on Monday a little after 4 pm and like it usually happens to me, the castle is closed. The visiting hours are posted; we have to wait until tomorrow at 10 am to see the exhibition of Johann Sebastian Bach who worked at this castle from 1717 to 1723. This is the place where JSB composed the Brandenburg Concertos as a gift for Frederick the Great, at the time Emperor of Germany; whom JSB met during a visit to Berlin.

Frederick the Great was an avid flute player so JSB wrote some concertos for him and presented them to the emperor as a gift. Well, old Fritz tried to play them, found them to be too difficult for his abilities so filed them in the royal archives. These notes were found years and years later by Mendelssohn Bartholdi and brought back to life. Amazing music written by a genius nobody recognized at his time.

All this happened before TV, radio or even electricity. If you wanted music for a party, a celebration or a special occasion you had to hire a musician or even an orchestra. Music before JSB was rather simple and was mostly played on single instruments. JSB changed that and wrote complicated music for a whole orchestra. Each instrument adjusted to play alongside, in connection with or above all the other instruments. It was a new thing at the time.

Religion was the main guideline of life during the 17th century and it shows in the writings and words used to accompany JSB’s music. JSB was a very religious, very bourgeois man. Yet his music is genius. I wanted to visit the place where he worked, where he wrote music that gives me goose-bumps.

So now we have to find a place to stay for the night. I ask folks in the street for the nearest hotel. A lady, who does not shut up and keeps talking about her 9 years old grandchild, who takes piano lessons at the school, etc, etc. tells me that the only worthwhile hotel is Hotel A.

So we follow her advice but find the price of 80 Euro too high. Besides, I did not like the attitude of the receptionist. Sure enough, after we left the building, she comes running after us and says 70 is the lowest she can go but even saying it the way she said it makes me want to sleep on a park bench, rather than give her the money.

So we ride around and we see a Pension that looks neat and comes recommended by people nearby as having great food. Problem is they only open at 6 pm or you must call a phone number to reserve a room. Sorry, I don’t have a phone, nor do I intent to wait until 6 pm to hear ‘sorry, all sold out’.

So now we are down to the only other place near the train station. It looks old and big and not well taken care of. I ask 2 other people about this place and surprise, they say Hotel Koethen is actually the best place to stay. After we find the entrance to this hotel and walk in we find an old but clean place with a lot of charm and character. Built in 1824 it needs outside work but it runs well on the inside. Like on a motorcycle, don’t judge the inside by the outside, Hans. I was pleasantly surprised by the price of 62 Euros incl. breakfast. We had a great dinner there, too.

The next morning we visited the small exhibition inside the castle and after all our travels and all the waiting, there is not that much to see. it was a pleasant surprise, this small town of Koethen. I learned again not to judge something from the outside; a lesson I need to remember.

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