blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The ubiquitous Piper

A live Pied Piper
Piper outside the post office
Hameln an der Weser is the setting of the legend of The Pied Piper––the Rattenfänger (German can sound more aggressive than other languages), meaning rat catcher. In Bad Pyrmont we were only a quarter of an hour's ride away from Hameln, so we took a train through the countryside and went to find out what was there.

It's interesting to speculate where the story came from and how it has developed over the centuries. In 21st century Hameln, they make the most of it. Statues of pipers and rats are everywhere to be seen, even before you leave the station; whole sections of the bookshops are dedicated to it, dozens of Pied Piper postcards can be bought and a real live Pied Piper gives guided tours of the old town, pipe in hand, compelling the tourists to follow him.

A model Pied Piper
It was another picturesquely cobbled, traffic free city centre, full of people enjoying the fresh air. Outside the museum on the market square Chris and I ordered ices and spent a while people-watching: a group of students at a long outdoor table had obviously already consumed a good deal of beer and two young men stumbled over to the doorway to the museum where a life sized model of the Pied Piper stood, very colourful, with a long feather in his cap, wearing tights and a little tunic. I saw one of the young men lift the tunic to find out what was underneath, miming shock and horror as he did so and then crossing himself––that made me laugh!

It struck me that the next time I travel abroad I ought to bring a recording device along to take sound shots as well as pictures: the birdsong as we hiked on the Bromberg above Bad Pyrmont that morning, the bells of the Hameln Hochzeithaus ringing in the afternoon, the dressed-up tour guide's jokes, the trains pulling in and out of the stations.

Talking of locals who dress up, I was at Bad Pyrmont for the start of their Spargelfest (Asparagus Festival) and in the market caught sight of their Spargel-Königin––a young girl in a green costume, admiring some of the produce, whose picture will appear in all the local papers. That was entertaining enough, but what amused me most was the old lady who started complaining to me in the Ladies' of a Bad Pyrmont restaurant: "Ich hab' schon 85 Jahre hinter mir und da weiß man einiges. Stellen Sie sich mal vor, die Spargel-Königin heißt Ginza. Ginza! Was ist das für ein Name? Hört sich an wie eine Spargelsorte!" Free translation: I'm 85 years old now, and when you get to my age you know a thing or two. Just imagine, the Asparagus Queen is called Ginza. Ginza! I ask you, what kind of name is that? Anyone would think it was a sort of asparagus!

In Hameln's Hochzeithaus we also saw a great little exhibition about Leonardo da Vinci's engineering inventions, with models we could manipulate. We walked past rows of 16th century houses, not standing up straight, and saw the banks of the River Weser where the rats came from, and the high water marks from historic floods.

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