Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Robber Hotzenplotz

I heard about Robber Hotzenplotz for the first time from a friend who told me about what he had read to his son the previous night. That odd name piqued my interest and when I checked out the book which was originally written in 1962 and read some excerpts about it found the story really interesting. I decided that I would buy the book for little bunny and little rabbit. Then came the perpetual question of whether I buy the original 'Der Räuber Hotzenplotz' in German or the translated editon 'The Robber Hotzenplotz'. I decided to go for the translated editon that way having to avoid doing the pre-reading and making sure I know all the meanings of all the words before reading it to the girls ;-) This was our first book of the author Otfried Preussler and right from the beginning we were addicted to it. Bed times in those weeks used to be so easy because both little bunny and me wanted to know what was going to happen next and 'Hotzenplotz' would be the code word to go upstairs to bed :-) So when I heard that the Werkraum Theater in Walldorf was going to host a childrens performance based on the story of Robber Hotzenplotz I asked little bunny if she would like to go and watch it and it was no surprise that I got a loud and resounding 'Yes Mama'.

We loved the way the characteres we knew from the book came alive on stage with their costumes and their dialouges. The characters Kasperl and Seppel and how they get their hats exchanged and get their identities switched. The magician Petrosilius Zwackelmann and the Sergeant Dimpfelmoser with his Prussian spiked helmet, riding his official bike.

The fun part was when during the performance when one of the characters was enjoying the stolen 'Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut' grilled sausage with shredded cabbage asked the children if they would like to try some and little bunny immediately raised her hand. I thought it was a joke but the children who actually went up to the stage got their own sausages from the robber!! The older children put up a very professional performance and the little children definitely had a great time. I definitely plan to read some of the other well known books of the author Otfried Preußler and keep an eye open for theater performances of his stories as well.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A short trip to Hannover and back

Work took me to the city of Hannover this week. The best part of the trip was my decision to travel by train rather than driving for about 3.5 hours to get there.
I love travelling by train especially the high speed Intercity Express travelling at around 300 km/hr is a real pleasure to travel in!!! Work kept me busy the whole day so seeing the city was only possible late in the evening. I had the chance to visit the new town hall a important landmark in Hannover, it took me a long time to register the fact that this building was a town hall and not a majestic palace.

Yes a building of its size and grand architectural style supposed to have cost the city 10 million marks when it was opened in 1913. The old part of the city or the Altstadt was also beautiful especially the old town hall or the Altes Rathaus is a building with very intricate brickwork all the way back in 1410!!

I really wished that I could also see these building during day time but that will have to wait until the next time I am in the city. Another highlight of the trip was that I got to meet with K a frined of the family who is originally from Bangalore and who is doing her MBA at the GISMA Business School in Hannover. We had a lovely dinner together and some nice conversation and we wished that we had more time. She even got me aware of the fact that the town of Hamlin was just a 40 minute drive from Hannover. Remember the Pied Piper of Hamelin that we all read when we were in school, this whole story was based in this town. Unfortunately time did not permit me to actually go visit this place as much as I would loved to. A very short trip but definitely a memorable one. The CEBIT one of the world's largest trade fairs is always hosted in Hannover and I am sure many of you plan to attend in the first week of March. So in case you are there you now know that the city has a lot more to offer than just work

Saturday, February 19, 2011's carnival time again

It's again Fasching zeit or Carnival season here in Germany. Fasching is a term derived from the word Fastnacht meaning "eve of the beginning of the fast." What I love the most about it is the masks and costumes that people wear as part of the different parades.

Especially the very traditional Alemanic carnival parades are a highlight at this time of the year. Like in the last years we were with friends in the little town of Oberkirch in the Black Forest and it was so much fun to be part of the local Fasnet parade. The carnival celebrations in the Black Forest are completely different from the carnival parades that happen in cities like Köln or Mainz. Here you can find traditional wooden masks, even for little infants with all the accessories, head gear, make-up and wigs that match.

A beautiful sight indeed and some serious tradition that has been carried down since several years. Hubby and me donned our red and purple wigs, little bunny dressed up like a frog princess and little rabbit was a cute little ladybug. But there was stiff competition from the witches, devils and carnival fools who donned their scary wooden masks and paraded down the streets of Oberkirch. Over the years little bunny seemed to take on a very professional attitude to the whole candy gathering exercise which is a very important part of the whole event for kids. She would look straight into the eyes of the scary monsters and demand her candy, and as always her charm did seem to work on these creatures of the carnival.

You have to be prepared if masked witches grab your arms and legs and put you in a cart and you become part of the procession and if there is confetti poured on you, there is no getting mad at anyone, it's carnival time folks :-)

When the witches shouted 'Narro' we all shouted back in unison 'Narri'. Hopefully we did manage to drive out the evil spirits of the cold winter months.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ladenburg lädt!

Ladenburg a town a little north of Heidelberg is another charming town with cobblestone alleys where you can walk right next to ancient crumbling Roman walls. The town's Roman history actually dates back to the first century!!! But even before that, the first Celtic settlements in Ladenburg date back to 3000BC. All this history can be quite overwhelming at times.

Hubby and me have been to this town so many times but then everytime we find it so beautiful we keep going back. I remember that the very first time we visited we were quite oblivious to the great history of this place, walking around telling each other that everything looked so old and ancient.

If you are looking for a nice place to go on Sunday for brunch the Kaffehaus is quite good, especially love the little square and the surroundings where they are located. Hubby ordered the Belgian breakfast on the menu and at the end the waiter surprised him by turning up with a large crepe filled with fresh fruits.

The town is also known for its many beautiful half timbered houses dating back from the 15th to the 17th century.

Ladenburg's cuisine apparently has a lot of Onions and Potatoes as main ingredients. They even have a restaurant dedicated to potato and onion lovers namely Die Kartoffel and Gasthof Zwiwwel. We were still full from our brunch so we did not go to these restaurants this time around.

I was especially tempted when I saw this board which boasted of specialities from Grandma'S kitchen. Everything sounded yummy on the menu.

The weather was nice and dreamy a perfect Sunday morning to stroll around and take in the sights of this beautiful town.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A little bit of Java and a little bit of Ghatotkacha

Now don't even begin to think that I got busy last weekend writing some Java code if that's what you inferred from the title of my post :-) I was actually refering to some real authentic Javanese culture from Indonesia called Wayang theatre and a refresher on the life of a very important mythological character from the Mahabharata called Ghatotkacha. I did not have to travel to Indonesia or go to India to have this unique and very high quality experience but stay right here in the little town of Wiesloch.

Professor Dr. Peter Schneider and his wife Christina run a theatre in Wiesloch called the Marionetten theater. So this month they put up a  shawdow puppet performance called Wyang Kulit and the play was around the life of Ghatotkacha the son of Bheema who was the strongest of the Pandavas. The Wayang Kulit is a flat puppet with a very intricate design made with buffalo leather. They are manipulated behind a white screen with a back light, so that the audience see them as a shadow and hence the name shadow puppets.

Back in Java I understand that these plays last for the whole night, very similar to the Yakshagana performances back in India. But this show was customized to the German audience so it lasted for 2 hours which was also perfect by my standards. It was my first exposure to Wyang Kulit and I figured out as we went that to signal the beginning or the end of the performance or even a scene change the Dalang or the Puppeteer Mr. Schneider would use a puppet in the shape of a mountain called Gunungan. The evil characters were always on the right side of the screen and the good characters were on the left side of the screen.

I loved the scene where Ghatotkacha very bluntly proposes to his lady love Maurvi asking her to marry him. Dr. Schneider modulated his voice and spoke the parts for all the characters brilliantly. The shyness of a lover, the anger of a hero, the evil wickedness of a villian, the pain of a mother in parting with her son all orchestrated in perfect harmony and brought alive through the puppets and through the puppeteer's voice.

Michael Zimmermann who played the guitar was a perfect substitute for the traditional Gamelan orchestra who normally accompanies the Dalang in traditional Wayang.

At the end of the performance it was nice to see the puppets all laid out on the stage with individual name tags all set for the performance next evening.

A very exhilirating experience indeed and like I said that does not always have to be through Java programming and without having to leave the confines of your friendly neighbourhood theater!!