On Sunday I went to Salzburg, and it was one of the highlights of my life. I've never seen such a beautiful city - it's enough to make one's heart ache for the joy of it. I walked probably 12 miles while I was there, and one of the best moments was eating lunch (Spätzle noodles with mushrooms and this sauce consisting of a mixture of tomatoes and ambrosia) in Salzburg's mountain castle while looking out over the city. Words fail me.
I've been trying to think about how one would describe Salzburg, and it just doesn't work. I love the place; go there. Done.
What I can say, though, is that all of you have a new goal in life, and it should be at the top of your lists: watching Europeans bowling. Seriously. On Monday evening the Goethe Institut had an evening at the lanes, and I've never seen anything like it. In America it's reasonably common for people to know what bowling is supposed to look like. For europeans, I have discovered that this is not the case*. The sheer breadth in (shoddy) techniques demonstrated was alone worth the price of admission. One girl would stand still at the beginning of the lane, swing her arm (and the ball) at least half a dozen times before letting go. Another guy would walk slowly towards the lane while holding the ball to his side with both hands, then rotate his whole torso as he sort of set the ball down into the lane. Another girl would put the ball on the ground then push really hard to get it rolling. It was wonderful, and now I understand why curling must be such a great spectator sport - because it's absolutely and utterly preposterous watching people do things this way. I *loved* it.
This evening we went to a jazz club that's rated in the top 50 in the world. It was in the cellar of this old building in Munich, and it had this awesome ambiance that made you think Jack Kerouac was just around the corner, putting something interesting in his blood so he'd be ready for another four-page-long sentence. There was a Steinway grand on stage, and off to the side the bar had just the right mixture of old-world character mixed with modern german efficiency. And that's not even the music.
My hat's off to the pianist. His name was Matthias, and that guy could do incredible things with a piano. Everything from interesting chord progressions to perfectly-timed hemiolas you didn't even see coming to some arpeggios he threw in at the end that were possibly the highlight of the show. The percussionist was excellent, the bass player very good, the saxophonist (and leader of the band) was passable, but the singer --- she was amazing.
I've often wondered what it would have been like to experience some of the jazz greats - Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Al Hirt, Red Garland. Well, after hearing the singer tonight I now think I can understand what it would be like to hear the great Ella Fitzgerald singing. With a head cold. And swimmer's ear. Having learned English from cartoon reruns on Nickelodeon and from karaoke bars in Asia. Inebriated. And singing about 4 times closer to the mic than could ever sound good. Like I said, the singer was astonishing. (The rest of the band really was great, though. That pianist. Wow.)
My studies at the institute seem to be going well. Today we were talking about the similarities between Subjunctive 1 and 2 when discussing past events before my brain finally gave out, but that means I lasted most of the day. I'm finding that I still need at least nine hours of sleep a night here, and I'm sure on Friday night I'll again sleep more than 12 - I don't know what it is, just so much about the language that I'm systematically experiencing. I love it.
It's nearly one in the morning and I need to be off to sleep. I didn't even touch on some of the great experiences I've had in the institute; those will need to wait 'til later. Bis dann!
*I love making sweeping generalizations like that. Of course there were a few excellent players; they were just the vanishing minority.