Monday, December 17, 2007


On Friday afternoon, we motored to Heidelberg, where we stayed at the Goldener Hecht just opposite the old bridge. I've wanted to go to Heidelberg since I was 10, when my history teacher, Mrs Langmaid, told me it was the most beautiful town in Germany. It certainly is gorgeous, made of a red stone with a partly ruined schloss lowering above the city like a Moghul fort. It contains the largest barrel I have ever seen of which they seem inordinately proud, but much more interesting was the German Apothecary Museum, housed in one of the habitable sections. It was an excellent exhibition and had a good section for children where they could smell and look at simples and mixes of herbs and spices with medicinal properties. Another feature of a visit to the schloss is that you take the Heidelberger Bergbahn, and if you follow it up to the top of the Königstuhl you will discover that there is actually a Heidelberger Bergbahn Staff Song, the lyrics of which can be seen in a small museum at the top, but which unfortunately we did not hear performed.

What we DID hear performed was a production of La Bohème at the theatre. It seems that Heidelberg is a bit of a permanent Fringe venue, and a young company had put on a technically faultless production of this much-loved opera. What threw me a bit was the staging. In the first act, Colline entered dressed as a giant chicken, and Schaunard stripped to his boxers and began sticking 5€ notes to his chest with his own spit. At this point we knew we were in for something different.

In the second act, the street market was transformed to the madness of Christmas shopping, with extras rushing about the scene dropping Gucci and Prada shopping bags. Parpignol the toy seller, bearing a great resemblance to the child catcher of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, handed out Kalashnikovs and Berettas, and the children pulled on balaclavas and pretended to be terrorists. At the end of the act, instead of approaching soldiers, the shoppers returned, but as zombies. Act three. Mimi looks for Rodolfo at a nightclub filled with giant orange balls. Everyone is in fancy dress and badly hungover. Act four. Schaunard and Colline turn up in the worst outfits I have ever seen, and this is Germany we are talking about. All I can say is that I'll certainly remember this production of La Boheme. And from what we could tell from the pamphlets readily available around the city, fringe arts are available all year round. Go and see, do.

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