Today we awoke relatively early because we need to get to Hamburg and return the car before 5PM, but we want to go see the Wagner Bayreuth Festspielhaus, first. So we had breakfast in the dining room (same place as last night). It was the typical German breakfast buffet but also included Americanisms like scrambled eggs and sausage. The hotel is decorated in Wagneriana — pictures of the composer and references to the festival and to Franz Liszt who is also buried in Bayreuth. The pictures in our room last night were various camera angles of the Festspielhaus.
Somehow the “girls” who are now running the festival — who aren’t direct descendants of Wagner (but in-laws, I think) seem to have convinced Bayreuth that it is in their interest to support and promote the festival — which brings more outside revenue to the city than anything that happens during the year. So there is much more of a Wagner presence this trip than either of the other two trips I have made to this festival city.
After breakfast we packed up, paid our parking, and were off to the Festspielhaus — which is only a couple of miles away — north of the city center. When we arrived there were 25 or 30 cars parked in the lot behind the building — people rehearsing for the upcoming festival, we presume. The first thing I noticed was that the grounds were much more trimmed, planted, and cared for than I can remember ever before. We walked the grounds and took pictures of the building and statues of Wagner and Cosima (his 2nd wife). She outlived him by many years and the survival of the festival is really her accomplishment. She passed it to their son, Siegfried, who passed it to his sons, Wieland and Wolfgang — so it was very much a family affair until the current administration. The grounds were beautiful and the air was fresh and cool from the rain the night before.
We left town to get on the Autobahn to Hamburg by about 9AM. We hope that one day we can return for the festival, itself. But that has become a very expensive proposition compared to the $25 tickets for Lohengrin we got in 1968. Tickets, these days, would be at least 10 times that much, so one dreams — and watches the DVDs instead 🙂
The drive to Hamburg was uneventful. We have stopped more than a few times at the McDonalds on the Autobahn. These places are much more up to Ray Krocs standards than their corresponding stores in the USA. The food is fresher and tastes better. The restaurants themselves are German modern and very nice. AND one doesn’t have to pay to use the restroom — even though they are large, clean, and well cared for. There is an adjoining McDonalds Cafe with many of them that serve German pastries — sorta like German Conditorei. We didn’t partake of these because we were afraid we might get to like them — too much.
So the drive to Hamburg was about the Autobahn. There were new routes through what was East Germany; there were hundreds of wind turbines; there were plenty of rest stops; and, like yesterday, there was lots of GREEN.
We arrived in Hamburg around 4:30. It took twice around a circuitous block to recognize the hotel — which wasn’t very well identified with signage — but I dropped Sylvia off with the luggage in the care of an African bellman who was very helpful, and then dashed back to Europcar to get the car returned by the 5:00PM curfew. I think I punched in at 4:52 after filling the machine with diesel fuel for the last time. I’m glad we were fortunate to get a diesel car rental, otherwise our fuel bill might have been about 50% more — at already very high (normal) European prices.
I hailed a cab at a nearby hotel and was driven to OUR hotel (Sofitel Hamburg) by an African cab driver listening to a CD of Louis Armstrong at high volumes — 3 selections — he sang; I sang. He seemed very upbeat that I was a “cool fare” — I gave him a good tip and sent him on his way — singing 🙂 The world is a smaller place than we realize.