The Festspielhaus in 1909Some months ago in Florida I ate at a favorite German restaurant named the Bavarian Inn and I ordered a beer called Weihenstephan. It was delicious and nutritious. It turned out that it was brewed in Bayreuth. And it came to pass that while the Flying Dutchman was playing on the Green Hill I took a seat outdoors on the sidewalk in Banhofstrasse and ordered a beer while perusing the menu. This restaurant, the Hotel Weihenstephan, was the source of the eponymous beer.

P13 and I were soon joined by two stellar friends from America, in town on business, and our orders were taken while we relaxed and watched the world go by. There is nothing I enjoy more than dining outdoors. The meal lasted two hours and might have gone on forever had we not had to return to the Festspielhaus to meet Carol after the Dutchman.

Despite the sauerbraten and red cabbage we were now carrying, and the sloshing sound of a gallon of beer in my stomach, we made it back up the hill in time. On the street beside the exit doors sat a row of BMWs and Mercedes ready to remove patrons at high speed. It is interesting to note that once a Bayreuth performance begins, the police block the road to the theatre with a barrier so that traffic noise does not interfere with the performance, and only taxis get to drive up after the show. This means that lines for taxis are short and brief as the cabs are unimpeded by other traffic. The taxis are BMWs and Mercedes in beige, with advertising for local businesses on the side and are in showroom condition, something not often seen in the USA.

We browsed at the store across from the theatre, next to the Festspiel post office, where one can buy postcards, CDs, and Wagner books. Then the side doors opened and we could hear the roar of the crowd within who were stamping their feet on the wooden floor as the singers took their curtain calls.

Carol came from amidst the swell of smiling faces, her eyes sparkling as she excitedly gushed out details of the performance. It takes perhaps 20 minutes for the traffic to clear at which time we walked to the car and drove out down the hill. The Bayreuth police stand at key junctions and give priority to cars coming from the theatre so within 10 minutes we were back at the hotel and in the restaurant there to relax and hear all Carol's news over wine and dessert.

Perhaps she can "review" the Dutchman on these pages at some time. I had yet to set foot in the theatre but the clock was ticking and the next day, Tuesday July 27th, I would attend Parsifal. Neither P13 or myself had wanted to attend Dutchman. He had seen it the previous year, and for me 4 Wagner operas in one week was intense enough, and I needed some "nights off" to relax and enjoy the experience of once again being in my beloved Germany.

Long before I knew Wagner through his music I had forged a bond with southern Germany. My first ever trip away from Ireland took me to Germany when I was 13, and 7 years later I lived briefly in Nuremburg, and recall Bayreuth as just another place on a road sign.

Now older and wiser, I had a reason to be in Bayreuth. Even if there had been no opera, no Festspielhaus, I was happy. I was on the road, travelling abroad with my best friends. I was wearing my sunglasses. I was holding the keys to a Mercedes with a full tank of gas. I had a pocket full of Marks and a carton of duty-free cigarettes...I didn't have to get up and go to work in the morning!  Festspielhaus at night.

And I thought...can it get any better than this??! It could......

As I undressed for bed something on the dresser caught my eye....it was a square blue card bearing my name...a ticket for Parsifal, July 27 1999 at 4 pm. Before I turned off the light I went to the window and looked to my left. There on the Green Hill stood the theatre, floodlit....waiting for me.

I slept like a baby.....without wetting the bed.

To be continued......

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