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December 30

Written January 27

Dear Friends and Families,


When Gabby was here on her Christmas visit we had planned a visit to Bayreuth, a city not far from home and famous for music and musicians. That trip was cancelled due to illness (mine) but Marianne and I decided not to waste our tour research, so Bayreuth it would be.



We arrived late in the afternoon and it took us a bit of time to settle in at the hotel. Marianne had bought me a new GPS navigator for Christmas and we discovered limits to depending on that technology. It kept telling us we had arrived at our destination when we clearly had not. We have since learned that "at your destination" really means "near your destination".

By the time we had walked into town, the pale winter sun had gone away and snow had started to fall. The scenes in Bayreuth took on a wonderful glow and we enjoyed our "white Christmas", even if it was a few days late.


Here is the Bayreuth Opera House and fountain. The opera house was commissioned by the Margravine Wilhelmine and was one of the largest in Germany when it was opened in 1871. Richard Wagner chose Bayreuth to stage his epic operas because the stage was large enough to free his imagination. We hoped to tour the inside the next day.


Speaking of Wagner, "Wahnfried", the house given him by King Ludwig II, has been restored after extensive damage in World War II. It was here that he composed the Niebelungen Ring, reportedly the largest work in musical history. He finished in 1882, the year before he died.

The Nationalist Party's enthusiasm for Wagner's heroic operas (Hitler even stayed at Wahnfried on several occasions) meant that Richard Wagner's work was kept in the shadows after the war. Sixty years later, that association is largely forgotten.



Nearby is the house of Franz Liszt, Wager's friend and, eventually, father-in-law. Liszt was a child prodigy from a German speaking town in what is now Austria but was then Hungary. Here Marianne, our own German-born American-speaking Hungarian, studies his early history.

The Liszt house and museum, while much less grand than Wahnfried, seemed more authentic and it was easy to imagine the famous composer living and working here. The museum even has the couch on which Liszt died in 1886.


Our final Bayreuth tourist stop was a visit to the interior of Wilhelmine's Opera House. The ornate gilded carvings were impressive but I can imagine the impact 140 years ago was even more overwhelming.

  Our visit was quick so we saw only the tip of the tourist iceberg in Bayreuth. We have left the most famous spots, the New and Old Palaces and the Festival Theater, for a future visit. After all, it's less than an hour from our Franconia home.  

On the way back home, we took a detour to Selb, a small town the guide books said was famous for tiles and porcelain. We are always ready for shopping for house wares at real factory outlets.

On this winter day, Selb was pretty empty. We managed to see some of the "famous" tile: a wall with the village history and a blue-tiled alley. Less than overwhelming.


Our real goal was the Rosenthal porcelain factory. Here we had good or bad luck, depending on your viewpoint. The factory was colorful, the outlet shops were large, but the selection was either unattractive or far above our budget. We managed to buy nothing, a success in my book.


Walking from the Rosenthal factory to our parking place on the opposite side of town, we ran across another outdoor art display. I don't think this will put Selb on our must-see places in Germany.

Nevertheless, our two-day vacation should be considered a success. We got a taste of musical history in Bayreuth and we explored our own neighborhood a little more. We added places on our "must return" list - not all the places we visited, but some.



So, visit our neighborhood and, if you visit, we can take you to Bayreuth, there's plenty left to see. (No detour to Selb.)

John and Marianne.



General tourism: http://www.bayreuth.de

Summer Music Festival: http://bayreuther-festspiele.de/


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