Friday, June 20, 2008

Ludwigshafen: The Celebrations Just Keep On Comin'.

Judy and I met for breakfast in the hotel, where a Chinese man sitting by himself at an adjacent table was reading a red-covered book. Soon Judy and I became distracted by his twitching, which became increasingly dramatic. Finally he began hitting himself in the head with his book. We're not doctors (though we play them on TV), but our expert diagnosis was Tourette's Syndrome.

In the continuing Ludwigshafen sister cities celebration, about 200 people gathered at the headquarters of the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie (German Philharmonic Orchestra) for a formal commemoration and reaffirmation of this city's "twinning" relationships.

Dr. Lohse wore her official "ceremonial mayor's chain" (her description when I asked her), a traditional here in Europe.

My new goal is to create a ceremonial chain for Mayor Bogaard. All creative concepts will be gratefully accepted and carefully considered!

A woodwinds ensemble from Musikschule Ludwigshafen am Rhein (City of Ludwigshafen Music School). . .

. . .and a saxophone quartet from a music school in Dessau entertained us.

Don't let their age fool you -- these kids are world-class musicians.

Then Dr. Lohse introduced each of the mayors, who presented brief remarks about their respective cities' relationships with Ludwigshafen.

Mayor Bogaard's remarks included the following:

"A relationship of 60 years is a wonderful accomplishment! Everyone realizes, I am sure, that the support that was offered by Pasadena in 1948 took place several years before President Eisenhower announced the Sister Cities program. The contact resulted from the friendly thoughts of persons in Pasadena that efforts should be made at the local level to overcome the damage of World War II. I am proud to say that first gesture has led to a wonderful relationship involving generations of persons in the two cities.. . .We look forward to continuing this relationship and involving more persons in both Ludwigshafen and Pasadena in the cultural, educational and social excahnges that are involved. On this 60th anniversary, it is appropriate not only for us to look to what has taken place, but what is possible in the future."

Of course, I had to tease Mayor Bogaard afterward about his prolific use of the word "persons" during his speech. One of the rules in Aaron Proctor's City Council Drinking Game requires that somebody must take a drink every time Bogaard utters that word. People (persons?) all over Pasadena were falling down drunk in the streets at that very moment.

There was a luncheon on a lower floor of the Staatphilharmonie, but Mayor Bogaard, Judy and I decided to pass on it and head instead to a Lutheran catheral a couple of blocks away that was nearly completely destroyed during the war. The only thing left standing is the clock tower, spire and part of the facade.

It is now the site of a little restaurant and bar with plenty of outside seating. We decided it is the absolutely best and most practical example of adaptive reuse in the entire universe!

On our way out, we passed this Pasadena banner, another opportunity to milk this Star-News photo thing for everything it's worth. (Note to Larry: I'll email all the JPGs to you after we get home. God knows how many other opportunities we'll come across, and I certainly don't want to jump the gun!!)

Then we packed ourselves like sardines onto two waiting buses that took us to the bank of the Rhine, where we got on a boat for what was a beautiful river tour. (This time it was Mayor Bogaard's turn to play hookey and he returned to the hotel for a little shut-eye.)

This Russian Orthodox church is on the Mannheim side of the river.

There are three levels on this boat, and Judy and I quickly discovered where the bar and the band were located -- lower level.

Some people liked the band, others not so much. I liked it.

We stayed downstairs for some time because the sky was so dark it looked like it might rain. But eventually the sun came out and we headed up to the top level.

Here's the Mannheim car ferry making its way across.

After the boat returned, Judy and I headed to a beer garden (are you beginning to detect a theme here?) where Dr. Lohse hosted dinner for the mayors and their immediate staffs. Mayor Bogaard woke up from his nap just in time to join us! We had great fun, and it was a good opportunity to get to know the other mayors and their entourages. Mayor Bogaard, Judy and I sat next to the group from Lorient.

We feasted on bratwurst, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, beer and wine, all brought by servers in appropriate beer-garden costumes.

Marcel joined us! What a nice surprise. He had been running around all day, preparing all the details for the opening night of a major annual street festival. He told us he had to eat quickly, apologizing that he couldn't chat it up with us. Of course, Judy and I seized the opportunity to create idle gossip about him. "What? He didn't! He wouldn't! Not the Marcel I know!" Poor guy struggled to keep his composure and remain completely professional. . .

. . .but we finally broke him up.

By the way, Marcel lives a few miles outside of Ludwigshafen, in a house that his family has owned for nearly 200 years.

We headed to the opening concert of the annual Ludwigshafener Stadtfest, a big outdoor festival that takes place in the streets of this city over the period of several nights. This opening event was in a large plaza where hundreds and hundreds of locals gathered. Thankfully we had VIP seating up front.

The Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Phalz (the regional state orchestra based in Ludwigshafen) performed a program of operatic overtures, and a guest soprano and bass performed arias and duets. Stunning.

But before the performance began, Dr. Lohse opened the program with an introduction of the mayors onstage. The crowd went wild!!!

After the concert ended, Mayor Lohse led the VIPs on a quick walk through several blocks to a BASF-sponsored champagne celebration (the orchestra conductor joined the party as well). The entertainment was an American group that performed country western music! We joked repeatedly (alcohol had nothing to do with the repetition) that we came all the way from the U.S. to hear cowboy music!

BASF is the largest chemical corporation in the world, and it is based in Ludwigshafen. Ever wonder what makes your Levi's blue? Some kind of dye with chemicals manufactured by BASF. From plastics to laundry detergent, BASF has a hand in the chemical makeup. The Rhine River used to be among the most polluted in Europe, but BASF stepped up to the plate several years ago, imposing strict environmental controls on itself. Now the Rhine is blue and clean again, and the fish are back. End of sponsored commercial.

Judy and I struck up a conversation with the worldwide facilities director for BASF. Nice guy. Judy asked him how many people report to him directly. I don't recall the exact response, but it was in the thousands.

Then we were introduced to Doris Barnett, member of the German Bundestage (parliament) who chairs the Committee on Economic Affairs and Technology. She lives in Berlin with her husband, who is an American from San Diego! They both have dual German/U.S. citizenship. He and I spent a long time sharing stories about our hometown. Marcel took a photo, which I'll include in my eventual wrap-up (don't forget to send me that CD, Marcel!)

Back at our hotel, I settled in for the night only to be awakened an hour or so later by what sounded like riots in the street. I couldn't figure out what was happening -- horns honking, people yelling, firecrackers going off, etc. I kept waiting for the sound of sirens that would signal the arrival of police to break up the madness, but that never happened. It continued all night long. This morning at 5 a.m., when I came downstairs to use this computer, I asked the night desk clerk what all the hubbub was about. Turns out Turkey won a soccer game last night. The revelry continued to the nightclub next door, where until just a few minutes ago the music was deafening in that Euro/Techno-style. Lots of tour buses are lined up outside right now, presumably to take the drunken revelers outta here.

OK, I'm heading upstairs to get ready for a train trip to Heidelburg.

Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Aaron Proctor said...

Finally, my website has gone international. I don't think anyone has mentioned my name in another country before.

- AP