60 Years Ago Today

Sunday, 10 August 1052:

At 6 a.m. I was up in the morning and dashed down the street before church to see the making of a big parade, which was coming off during church. A VIP was there to help open St. Lawerence or St. Lorenz Cathedral for the first time since World War II. The pictures of these events were stuck in my head all day. I hurried back just in time to catch the crew going to church.

Despite being built from a bombed out building the church was clean and pleasant. We gave our program and the congregation was receptive to us. We visited with them after church and they presented us with lots of gladiolas after the program. We caravaned to a program for the army which was on our way to Byreuth. We needed to be there by 2 p.m. for another program.

Then we were off to see King Ludwig II Festival or Fespiele House which was built for Wagnerian operas and that was designed by Wagner himself. King Ludwig II greatly admired his work. Wagner’s first performance that he conducted himself was held in 1829. Directors checked with American Express and tried to get tickets for us to Parsifal. We had written in advance but were informed it was a closed performance for the workers. However, luck was with us. We were able to get about 25 tickets at $5.00 each which were made available at the last minute.

We hurriedly tried to read about the opera before we went in. The performance started at 3 p.m. and our seats were scattered throughout the huge auditorium. My seat along with some others was quite close and a little to the side. The performance was excellent probably even more so than I realized with my meager background in Wagnerian opera. The stage was huge and seemed very deep. In some scenes it was almost as if the knights were marching in from miles away. The lighting was most effective. It lasted until 9:20 p.m. with two breaks of 30 minutes each. It was over five hours long.

During these breaks we went into the huge restaurant in the back of the Festival House for refreshment. At one sitting we had an egg caviar dish which was most delicious. Many of the people were dressed formally. It was good that we probably looked better than usual considering we had just come from church that morning. Afterwards, we were somewhat spread around again in different houses or apartment building of different local people. Our place was quite nice.

Provoan ‘Covers’ Bayreuth Music Festival for Herald

(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of letters from Mrs. Afton A. Hansen, traveling through Europe with a group of Utah college students.)

Dear Friends,
You didn’t know, did you that the Daily Herald in Provo has a special reporter, covering the Wagner Music Festival in Bayreuth, Germany? Neither did I , until I discovered that many large cities of the United States have a reporter here, so why not the Herald.

Let me first tell you about Nuremberg, the city where the war criminals were tried and hung. Time has veiled the severity of the scenes, held in the room on the third floor of the Palace of Justice, and in the small yard behind the building. But the mountains of rubble throughout this city and others is a constant reminder of those terrible years. Nature’s vines and weeds will gently cover, wind and rain will partially dissolve, but those monument to man’s stupidity will last for ages.

Memories of Carnage
As we stood on the hill near the old stone wall of the city we saw the statue of Hans Sacks standing untouched in a field of rubble. An old man near us said, “I once stood here and saw those streets below us covered with the dead and the dying.” At one time 85 per cent of the city was either killed or scattered to other parts. A younger man added his story. “I came to Nuremberg from Czechoslovakia in 1946. I came with nothing—only shirts and short pants—no shoes, no stockings. I too am an escapee.” To and fro along the same paths, men are driven by physical and mental fear, danger and cruelty. How long will they take it?

Rising above the dust and rubble of common clay is man’s supreme effort toward the good and best in his nature. The music festivals weave and bind the spirituality and emotion of the past into the artistry of today. Again we see the directors of life and civilization to and fro across the stony paths—from the low to the higher in man’s alms and desires.

Wagner Festival
This Wagner Music Festival, into which the descendants of Richard Wagner put a great deal of effort, is an auspicious occasion. Good luck came our way, through the American Express Company when they announced to us upon our arrival Sunday at Bayreuth, that perhaps we could obtain tickets at ‘workers’ rates, if we so desired, for the early performance of Parsifal given for the workers union. So we paid $5 for $8 seats, the ?pest, and went toward the Festispielhaus to join in the promenade of the fine and fair, in street clothes and opera gowns. Only Americans wore makeup.

To prepare ourselves, we read the English translation of Parsifal, a sacred festival drama written by Wagner. Material for the drama was taken from the wealth of legendary lore, which circles around the mythical chalice of the Holy Grail. In lore, it is said that when Love and pity were about to die on earth, the angels brought to his world, the crystal chalice used by the Savior at the Last Supper, and also the Sacred Spear with which his side was pierced. To house and guard these precious relics, a castle was built from which the Knights journeyed forth daily to champion the weak and suffering. The story drama brings out the healing quality, both physical and spiritual of these precious objects.

“Love-Feast” Prelude
The orchestra prelude opens with the Love Feast motive, which is the commemorative feast of the Knight after the unveiling of the Grail each year when faith has been renewed.

Throughout the drama, the orchestration seemed almost more important than the words and voices. Of course, it was sung in German, which was a barrier to some of us. The graduation of one and of light and shade was so even and so effectively placed that the actors seemed to fade on and off the stage instead of walk.

All action was slow, solemn and profound. At times the only movement on the stage, with 40 to 50 actors, was the effective nod of a head or the movement of one hand, or the sustained note of a violin. During such movements, the sound of my note taking, pencil on paper, seemed too loud.
As the Knights, forty in number, knelt at the round table, each drank from a goblet, and on each face was shown the warm glow from the illuminated Holy Grail, which was on the central round table. The symbolism of spirituality received by the Knights was most effective.

The scene of humble and repentant Kundry washing the feet of Parsifal and drying them with her hair, was beautiful in grouping, action, lighting and atmospheric music.

For six hours we were held spell-bound in the enchantment of this medieval garden, with two hour- periods between acts to promenade and eat. After the first act we ate a piece of delicious peach pie—then the clear notes of a trumpet called us back to the theater. After the second act we ate Russian eggs with caviar. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it, but it was only halved hard boiled eggs decorated with fish eggs, lettuce and mayonnaise. It all added up to a memorable occasion.

During the month of August, the world is also invited to hear Tristan and Isolde, Walker, Siegfried, Meistersingers and other operas. Having seen the first performance, the Herald reporter must move on.

Afton A. Hansen

60 Years Ago Today

Thursday, 31 July 1952:

At 6:30 a.m. I had a drip bath. Then I devoured another delicious continental breakfast. Soon after Helen and Margaret appeared in leather shorts ready to go. We got on the bus and wound down the road from Inglerhof into Innsbruck. A boy in shorts ran along beside the bus. He took a shortcut and beat us down the hill.

We passed the palace and theatre where there were two knights in silver armor in the store window. Then we traveled over a bridge above Inn River in Innsbruck where there was a sloping foot bridge. There were rows of wheat and hay drying on pointed sticks with, of course, red tile roofed houses. Little girls were out hoeing in the field, just like I used to do, with red and blue field rakes.

We drove by the sugar beet fields, corn fields, and a grey river. We passed fields of sticks with two cross boards and I guessed it was for the grain. And I spied other sticks with prongs. There were old castles along the way both high up on the hills and near the road. Another boy with leather shorts was washing in the trough by the road.

An overwhelming scent of fertilizer or manure wafted through the bus as I spotted a crucifix by the side of the road with flowers growing at its feet. Then I noticed a house with three different kinds of roofing with rocks spaced around the house on one section. As we continued to drive there were well stacked manure piles, which were square and flat on top. A man in leather shorts was mowing the field with a mower just like at home with a team of horses. There was so much scenery to look at in Austria.

After a while we reached the border to cross from Austria into Germany. Leaving Austria was as simple as Herr Rogers passport getting stamped for all of us.

Once again we crossed the Inn River and came to German customs on the other side. We waited while passports were stamped and cards were filled out for everybody. We wanted to get a picture of the customs official and border. We waited and waited till I finally had to settle for a picture of Helen and Margaret in their shorts by the border.

Then the custom officials herded us back in the bus and a customs man came out to us. Once again I was foiled with my picture taking. But I must say the German customs were really efficient and thorough.

Across the border Dick made an announcement, “It was our second month anniversary together.” He presented each of us girls with a flower which was gathered from along the border. Then we saw a road building crew as we passed what looked like a large factory of some kind. After driving awhile on one of Hitler’s big super highways, the autobahn, we traveled across another bridge over the Inn River again. Either the highway or river was circling, because we kept passing over the Inn River.

I observed benches and waste baskets by the side of the road for picnickers. They were located right in the middle of freshly cut hay fields with groves of trees behind it. Then turned off the autobahn to go to the castle. Dick was hanging out the window trying to pick an apple from each tree en route to the castle. There were summer sales in this little town, Prien, just like in Munich.

We stopped at the Hotel Bayerischen Hof Restaurant which had a long hallway with wooden booths and chairs. I noticed a green and yellow squared porcelain stove. There were snapdragons on the tables with the back of two booths with cute little dealies to hang coats on. The waitress knew only German. For some unknown reason Andre wouldn’t speak any German there.

We had delicious tomato soup with hot plates for the second course of wiener schnitzel. All of us had to be back by 20 minutes after the hour. While three of us got served first the other kids were getting worried about the time. I guess the hotel had to go out and kill another calf.

After the meal Alice paid her bill and then the waitress gave me my bill. We had the same meal but our totals were different. Alice thought she had been cheated because she had paid 3.79 schillings. Actually it was added as 3.17 pfennig and mine was added at 3.30 pfennig. I had been overcharged 10 pfennig and the waitress gave me back 10 pfennig. Alice tried to explain that she still had been overcharged.

In short it was quite an interesting experience as the other kids caught up with us. Five of us used the WC for 20 pfennig. Then we hurried back to the bus via the pastry shop with only a minute to spare.

Our next adventure involved a trip off to Chiemsee on a boat similar to the one on Lake Geneva. There were first and second class rates and it provided a good chance to sunbathe. I had my ever present shorts under my skirt which came in handy. There were sailboats around us as I took pictures of the kids on the boat. We had smooth sailing and nobody got sick. A big crowd waited on the shore to greet us. Then we had a long stroll down the road to a castle.

After we bought a ticket to the museum, we wandered inside with paintings and statues of King Ludwig. Also I observed sketches of the crown jewels, costumes, inlaid ivory carved pipes, and a jeweled bible. There were medals and coins of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. I viewed a baby dress along with pictures of the baby wearing the dress and his family too.

There was a section that was dedicated to Richard Wagner, a German composer and conductor. I discovered music by Wagner, programs of opera by Wagner, scenes from operas, letters from King Ludwig to Wagner, and letters from Wagner to the King Ludwig. Then in another area I viewed sketches of furniture, Miessen porcelain, paintings of royal carriages, and a portrait of King Ludwig in a statue.

As we continued on the tour we saw: a throne, pictures of gowns, costumes of royalty, small model of Munich Opera House, costumes from opera, model of Falkenstein Castle, drawings and plans for other castles, and small model of a honeymoon carriage which we saw in the Deutche Museum in Munich. Other paintings I looked at included Walkure, Meistersinger, Lohengrin, and Tannhauser, and Tristan and Isolde. Upon exiting the museum I noticed the heavy thick woods that surrounded the castle.

Afterwards we headed back to the boats and then to the bus. We retraced the road to the autobahn past a little village with a tall, tall pole with peculiar looking things all the way down the pole. I was too far away to see what it was.

Next we came across a bombed out bridge and detoured to the river bottom and back up. We cut off the road before we reached Salzburg in search of our hotel. We knew the hotel was out of the town so there was no use in going in town and back out again. We traveled through a little town with lots of shops, chalets, and a church.

Oh, Oh! Guess what? We got lost! We got on the wrong road or something. Dr. Watkins ran down a road to get some dope on the situation. He came back riding on a truck and told us we had missed the road back a ways. We went back, found the turn, and hit the border “Toute siste.” We pulled out our passports and had community singing while we waited.

A German customs officers came to the door of the bus and was amazed to see so many “schon madchens.” We left our passports at the border since it took up to 30 minutes to process them. So we’ll pick up the passports later. By the Linden tree we turned and traveled up the little road. Here it was! The Sonnhof Hotel in Austria looks quite pretty and new.

Oh! Oh! Consternation, because this hotel was full. There was a group of 28 students who had come over on the Grodte Beer. Three of the students who went back with us gave us some clues about England. They informed us that there was no sugar and hardly any food in the country. Dr. Rogers made some phone calls to someone at the hotel. The manager said that the hotel had turned down American Express a month ago concerning our reservations.

I strolled down the road with Margaret as we followed Dr. Watkins, Dick and Henry. We ended up at the border to pick up all of the passports. A man took us to a hotel near the border where maybe they could take care of us. It looked nice but if American Express had another spot for us they wouldn’t want to pay a lot of money for this hotel.

As we hurried back to the bus the other kids had been watching a soccer game down the hill. Apparently we got more hotel names so we were off in search of a place to stay. On our search I spotted a cow trail. I wondered if it went back to the autobahn. It was an exploration for me. Yep! It did, so off we went. It was getting late and we were getting hungrier. We started singing to take our minds off of it.

I don’t know how we found the hotel but we did. Actually we decided on two hotels to stay. One hotel was the Drachenloch Hotel in the little town of St. Leonhard at the foot of the hills and another hotel. Drachenloch Hotel had been expecting us since 6 p.m. and had dinner waiting for us. In the light of the moon it looked like Hotel Todtmauer. But when I got to my room that I was sharing with Betty Lou and Alice, it was entirely different. It was nice and clean with cold running water in our rooms. As we took our bags down from the bus for two different hotels it caused great confusion amongst us.

Finally, we ate dinner. It was delicious even though it had been ready for several hours. The manager wore lederhosen, which were breeches made of leather. The hotel had rustic halls, dining room, and wonderful service.