And so it goes… last dance, Germany

Location: Baarn, Netherlands to Wilhelmshaven, Germany
Venue: Scharfen Ecke


Leaving great people in the Netherlands, the final concerts of the tour are here. Wilhelmshaven, Germany is the destination.

Trains

From Baarn, Netherlands to Wilhelmshaven, Germany it’s time for trains. It takes a few, and the train office in Amersfoort can’t seem to find the right connection or even the city of Wilhelmshaven, Germany. Maybe she doesn’t like Americans. It is understandable. You see many Americans in large cities pretending they are in Disneyworld. Money and manners are not necessarily complimentary. I get a ticket to Osnabruck, Germany. The ticket lady says ask someone there. I will need to change trains twice, then take a bus, (work on the tracks) to another train. The bus ride was a thrill. We drove little back roads which were also used by large trucks due to construction. It was a game of “chicken” I will not soon forget. As it turns out, there was a much better route by train, (through Bremen). The Amersfoort train ticket office had other plans for me. At least I wasn’t held in Bad Bentheim, not sure what Bentheim did to be bad.

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Trains in Europe

can be wonderful. It is best not to travel by train if you are carrying 100 pounds of gear, a guitar and a banjo, limited language skills and there is a conductor strike. Regardless, I learned a lot by taking trains. Sometimes when the train stops you have the “gap” and steps. Step up or step down and sometimes you have to toss the gear and jump for it. Try not to travel on the weekend, expect delays and medical emergencies. Sometimes you have to change trains in small towns and the schedule signs don’t work. Sometimes they change the departing track without notice, unless you speak the language and can understand that distant voice on the faraway speaker. Other than that, trains work pretty well.

Wilhelmshaven, Germany

Wilhelmshaven is an industrious town and everyone seems to be coming and going with a regular pace. It is clean and quiet. I remember all the WWII movies about our Air Force bombing Europe, every blackboard in every movie had the word “Wilhelmshaven” written on it. There is a monument and marker denoting the spot where the Synagogue stood before it was burned. A few buildings from the war are left unrepaired as silent memorials and reminders. The main road through downtown is wide and straight. Wolfgang told me it was made wide so the workers at the shipyards could walk through town from their houses. They did not have enough money to live in town so they lived east of town and had to make the several kilometer walk every day.

Wilhelmshaven is Germany’s only deep water port.
They are facing a challenging future. They must decide whether to further expand the port and rival Rotterdam. If they do it will become the largest deep water port in Europe. It will also dramatically change the landscape forever.

The Wolfgang

Wilhelmshaven is where I meet with two new friends. Wolfgang and Hanna-Lore Giese are exceptional people who take time out of their lives to support music.

Wolfgang Giese is a lover of music, a published music reviewer and a great person. He guided me to Wilhelmshaven with emails and many helpful suggestions. Hanne-Lore and Wolfgang meet me at the train station. I am easy to find, I’m the guy throwing luggage from the train and leaping to the landing with guitar and banjo. I am sure it was an amusing sight. I have rented a flat, a short walk from their house. This is the way to spend a few days in Germany. I am at the end of the tour, tired and ready to recharge. There is a grocery store across the street and a park just up the road. Wolfgang and Hanna-Lore invite me over for a great dinner. I decide to return the favor and invite them over for dinner later in the week. I like to cook and rarely have the chance on the road. My flat is great and shopping at a German grocery is fun. Here I get to cook my own meals and take walks in a beautiful park. Many musicians have visited Wolfgang and his family from all over the world. It is an honor to meet them and share some fun and music. After dinner we discuss what we can do to get the word out on the upcoming show and some history of Wilhelmshaven.

The Park, Stadtgartnerei Rosarium

The walk from the flat to the park is calm and orderly. There seems to be a lot of orderly in Wilhelmshaven. Wolfgang told me once the Kaiser came to the city, things got pretty symmetrical. The planning for the park design was done during beginning of the last century. Man against nature was more of the feeling then, and it made its mark on the park. The park layout is straight lines even the pond is a square.

Wilhelmshaven is quiet and beautiful. Open air markets set up on the weekend and you can get fresh vegetables, meat and cheese from the locals. Jever is a local beer, and it goes down smooth. Wolfgang and Hanne-Lore kindly show me around Wilhelmshaven. Next we go live on Radio Jade.

karsten tom jade radio 2

Radio Jade

Wolfgang brings me to Radio Jade. Radio Jade provides music and commentary to the Ihre region. Karsten Hoeft welcomes Wolfgang and I to the show. He is able to interview and translate quickly, very impressive. We discuss songwriting and talk about the role content plays in music today. “Mama’s Goin’ Out’” leads in from the album while we get settled. I perform “Better Than Good” to liven things up. Songs about something and how music effects people are discussed. Next, “Forgotten Memories” on banjo and its story about environmental concerns. Karsten asks me what well known song I thought had a message, I replied “Mean” by Taylor Swift.

“Oddly enough, I will say Taylor Swift’s “Mean”. It really covers the subject well and is on point.” Our discussion leads into “Davey’s Cornet” a song I wrote with Janet Goodman. Taken from a poem by Janet, “Davey’s Cornet” is the true story of her grandfather. His story is the story of thousands of Veterans who served in battle and returned to “normal” life. His unique way of dealing with the horrors of war and its potential long term effects, are a great tool for understanding the impact PTSD has on our military. “Davey’s Cornet” is an homage to one soldier who found an answer to, “what did you do in the War?”

promo scharfen ecke

Scharfen Ecke

The final date of the tour will be in Sande, Germany. Just outside Wilhelmshaven, Sande is located on the Jade Bight. I am performing at Scharfen Ecke in Sande. This club has a tradition of live music and good times. It is a fun place with high energy so the house will be a rockin’ tonite. Scharfen Ecke is a club inhabited by a lot of friendly people. Between Wolfgang and Radio Jade the media coverage is great and there is a packed house. Wolfgang and I talk a few minutes outside the club and then head in to set up. Wolfgang asked about a set list. I won’t be able to put one together tonite. It depends on the crowd. When you play to a packed house any lull can be a problem. The energy level must meet the expectations of the audience. Since I don’t know how well my English is understood, it is a play by feel night. The audience is great and we sing a few songs, new and old. The finale goes well and the evening finishes on a high note. I look forward to my return to this part of Germany.

Rail Strike

Wolfgang and Hanne-Lore give me a ride in the morning to the train station. It is the weekend, I reserved a seat to make sure I would be able to go on the scheduled train. What I did not know is there is a conductor strike, so anyone can ride for free (no conductor). Leaving Wilhelmshaven is easy. Changing trains in Bremen, not so good. Now there are hundreds of people taking their “free” train ride. A guy with instruments and luggage doesn’t stand a chance. I manage to squeeze onto the right car, but don’t have a chance to find my seat. I stand for two hours, next to the doors, holding onto luggage and instruments as we head toward Dusseldorf. It is quite a show. There is a “preacher?” ranting endlessly as she is squeezing by attempting to save us all, local tourists returning from Caribbean cruise and a women who dangerously stands over the car coupling between cars for hours. Lots of students on holiday and not one inch of space. Most are heading to Berlin, I bale at Dusseldorf and take a cab to my hotel. Tomorrow, the airport and one more time across the pond to home.

Airlines

The airlines and musical instruments have had a bad relationship over the years. I know, I have had instruments destroyed by the airlines. The laws are changing and some airlines are trying to do better. I traveled by Delta because of their statements on instrument care.
greeland 1
Everything worked coming over, now let’s see how it goes on return. I learned long ago to show respect and consider the situation of others. This attitude worked well with airline personnel. I found the people at the gate very resistive and the people on the plane very friendly. If you are flying you need to do your homework, get there early and have a plan “B”.
I arrived home after a great circle route which included a Greenland flyover. Now back in Florida, USA, I am already thinking about the return tour and all the great people I met. Touring is a unique way to meet people. You are a stranger in a new place. You need the help of strangers to succeed. When you are finished, you have friendships and an experience like no other. All the best.

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