Tuesday, October 28, 2008

At Home Again

At Home Again:

Wien, den 4. Dezember

My dearest Constanze,
Gruess Gott, meine liebe Schwester (sister)!
I do hope that your taking the cure in Baden-Baden will fully restore you ere long to vibrancy and full health. Wolfgang is come this day to call upon us, and is just this moment departed our apartment on the Petersplatz. He and little Karl Thomas are well, dear sister, and embrace you most lovingly. Wolfgang can scarce wait until your return. Mama and I hope that our longed for reunion will soon take place, and we can embrace you and indulge in giggles and sisterly gossip. Sister, I ran at full gallop up to my bedchamber and desk, as I could not contain myself from writing you one moment longer! Oh Constanze, what a grand adventure we had! I look out now at our bustling, familiar square, and it seems like only yesterday that we departed, but so much has happened in--how long has it been since we left?--five months. So much. Let me sort it out in my head, dear sister. Where do I begin?
Ach, let me first begin with this morning, the first again in my own bedchamber, my own bed.
I awoke this day to the sun streaming down upon my face and Mama's voice from the hallway. "Come along, Sophie! Rise and shine! The day is wasting!", Mama cried out to me. There I was, again in my own dear room. I needed time to become adjusted, to fully recover from the long journey. Loewchen and Tammy were both there upon my bed. Their acquaintanceship and adjustment had been fast. Constanze, our return is come none too soon. Our sister, Josefa, was fit to be tied. The work of running our boarding house had up to now not been strenuous, but Herr Schickaneder has just offered her a new role in a Singspiel. She must study the role of the heroine's best friend and be ready when rehearsals commence in one week's time. Her husband, Franz, likewise has of late neglected his duties with the Court Orchestra, as the season is now again fully underway.
Ach, I had not known that our journey would be so long and drawn-out. I am so very happy and joyed to be home again! And so, I might add, are our canines Fawn, Tammy, and Paddy overjoyed to welcome us home. Dear Constanze, I told you of our farewells to our Musiker family in Munich, how sad we were to leave the busom of our old family of musicians. I was also sad to leave our old and dear friend, Josef Haydn, and hope to meet with him here in Vienna before long. Wolfgang's cousin, Marianne Mozartin, who was with our party in Munich, decided after all to stop in her native Augsburg en route to her home in Bayreuth. She was accompanied by her daughter, Josepha, and her son-in-law, Herr Streitel. As we were also traveling in that general direction, as was my special friend, Herr Meinke-Haibl, we all took the coach together. Herr Meike-Haibl has a sister residing with her family in Augsburg, so he was quartered in her domicile. Marianne and her family lodged with her kinfolk, and Mama and I found lodgings in a small inn up the street from a magnificent, large inn called "Die Drei Mohren" ("The Three Moors"). We were beautifully situated, since the impressive Fugger Palace is right next door to "Die Drei Mohren Gasthaus" (inn).
Oh, Constanze, Augsburg is a walker's paradise. And our precious little Loewchen was beside himself to be led so frequently about town on his leash. My legs became strong walking up and down the hilly streets roundabout, though the town is not generally hilly. Augsburg imparts to me a feeling of warmth and serenity. The natives as well were very welcoming to us travelers. Marianne, Josepha, and Herr Streitel took Mama and me on a tour of Augsburg. We promenaded along the long Jesuitengasse, and Marianne pointed out to us the house where your father-in-law, Leopold Mozart, was born. Leopold’s father was a bookbinder by trade and also had a workshop within the house. We went to Mass in the magnificent cathedral and also visited the beautiful Holy Cross Monastery. Marianne, together with Herr Meinke-Haibl and myself, visited her father’s old bookbinding shop, which is now under the leadership of Marianne’s cousin, Herr Michael Mozart. He invited us all to his home for supper that night, which was capped off by each of us offering a musical composition on the pianoforte and ending in singing and joviality. Dear Constanze, I grow sad when I think upon our next happening, for it was then that Herr Meinke-Haibl and I were forced to make our adieus, to part for the time being while he returned to Frankfurt an der Oder to get his affairs in order before his move to Vienna.
Constanze, the terrible flooding along the Danube in much of the Habsburg Empire and in Prussia this summer last greatly extended our journey, as you know full well.
Never had we expected to be away from our home for so many months.
We were forced to wait out the duration of the deluge in Murnau, and so our time in Mannheim would be drastically cut short. Praise God the affected regions were thereafter restored to normalcy.
And we were too aware of the urgency of being safely back in Vienna before the harshness and bitter cold of winter set in.
Constanze, Wolfgang’s cousin Marianne and her family again offered Mama and me their hospitality in Bayreuth, so we journeyed there upon departing from Augsburg.
One memorable stop along the route was at a charming medieval town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
I felt within those city gates lost in time, transported back to the medieval era. How I delight in Fachwerkhaeuser (half-timbered houses), which are in abundance in these environs.
Mama and I gave Loewchen thorough constitutionals as we promenaded with him each day along the very long stretch of enclosed bridge within the town.
The fog then crept into Rothenburg, together with a nip in the air, reminding us that this is indeed autumn, so we were happily forced to spend one week in this pristine and fairytale-like town.
Constanze, at last we arrived in the stately and regal town of Bayreuth.
I was so impressed with its dignified and proud baroque buildings and beautiful parks and areas to go about on foot and, as they say here, see and be seen—haha! The ordered English gardens are still green, as rain this past season has been plentiful, and harsh winter storms as yet unknown.
So Mama and I delighted in exploring Bayreuth on foot, which was fairly easy, as everything was in close proximity to our inn.
Sister, it pleased me much on our walks about town to happen upon street musicians and singers playing and singing arias from Wolfgang’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro”. I was equally delighted to hear snatches of song from “Figaro” hummed by burghers on park benches and by town folk in the shops.
We frequently supped with Marianne, Josepha, and Herr Streitel at their comfy home, and Marianne often went out sight-seeing with us.
All too soon, it was time to bid our adieus from my dear friend, Marianne, and her lovely daughter and son-in-law.
I do hope that Providence will see fit that we shall meet again, but I fortunately can correspond with Marianne, as she has become a bosom friend.
Well now, dear sister, now comes the part of our travels which was altogether the reason and inspiration for our journey.
At last, we were en route to our girlhood home of Mannheim!
I must say that the Almighty must have been looking down favorably upon us, for how can one explain such unusually mild weather so far into autumn. The coach ride was fairly tolerable, and as luck would have it, business this time of year being slow, Mama, Loewchen, and I were usually the only passengers aboard—the only exceptions were twice when a local needed a short transport to a neighboring village.
The coachman was so obliging as to drive us directly to Mama’s sister, Aunt Juliana’s and Uncle Rudolf’s Bauernhof (farm) in Mannheim.
Mama was overjoyed to be reunited with her kin and so was I. I suddenly felt myself again a tiny child in the bosom of my family.
Well, Constanze, Mama and I spent a fortnight with Aunt and Uncle on the farm. Our cousins, their children, were all there, of course, and cousin Rudolf Junior and his spouse, Janine, now have a son, their first-born, little Lukas, aged three years. The farm life was busy and bustling, and there was abundant good cheer all around.
Mama and I readily fell into the rhythm of country life, and Mama spent most of her time in the kitchen with Aunt or playing whist and pinochle. Uncle and Aunt and all the family are well. Uncle does, however, complain of gout, but looks hearty and healthy enough.
Cousin Hanne instructed me in the fine art of milking the cows, so I spent a goodly amount of my time engaged in this endeavor. I rather fancied it and—pardon the pun—pretty easily got the hang of it too.
Uncle sheered some sheep which Aunt then spooled, and then insisted on using the loom to weave Mama and me each a warm woolen coat for the approaching winter.
Ach Du lieber Himmel—how sweet of Aunt!
Sister, how I wish you could have been beside me as one day, I ventured to our old house in the town! Impulsively, I gingerly knocked on the door, and Frau Zimmerlein, the new lodger (together with her family), bade me enter and take a tour of our old abode. Dear sister, practically everything remains as it ever was--even our old bedchamber. Again, I was instantly transformed into that child and adolescent I once was who had called these four walls home. At the close of my tour of the house, dear sister, Frau Zimmerlein cheerily called me into the kitchen, where she poured me a cup of hot tea and served me broetchen, sweet butter, and orange marmalade.
Constanze, here on the wide open spaces, I could indulge again in my love of riding horses, as they needed to be exercised, and I was an eager helper.
I rode over to our magnificent Schloss Mannheim. What an impressively situated, splendid and enormous Baroque palace! I love how the huge fountain and pond at the entrance is so perfectly centered and bubbles with lifegiving bursts of water. Upon first catching sight of Schloss Mannheim, one’s breath is taken away. We Mannheimers can justly be proud of this jewel within our town! And yes—once a Mannheimer, always a Mannheimer!
Constanze, I frequently rode over to Schloss Mannheim. I also could not resist the urge to explore the magnificent grounds now that our Elector and all the court, including Papa’s old court orchestra, have moved to Munich.
What has become of the Palace? Who now resides within its austere walls?
One day, I dismounted and tied the horse to a hitching post so that I could take a look around. Curious, I poked my nose around here and there, and discovered that a school is now housed within the palace, but not only that; within its elegant walls is also a court of justice and apartments that house magistrates.
My dear sister, at the close of those two weeks, I was mightily sad to take leave of Uncle and Aunt and all our cousins.
I hope with all my heart that they shall find their way to Vienna, and I can also once again return to my girlhood home.
Ja--where have I heard that before?—You can take the man (or woman) out of Mannheim, but you can never take Mannheim out of the man (or woman).
So I shall always carry a part of Mannheim within me--in my heart and, certainly, in my accent.
Constanze, I am this moment dabbing my eyes with a handkerchief and you might too, dear sister, for in this next part of the journey, you shall undoubtedly think of dear Papa. I miss him so.
You know, his close friend, Herr Josef Wolf, originally from Freiburg im Breisgau where Papa lived in his youth, now is the schoolmaster in Guenzburg an der Donau, and luckily, Guenzburg lay directly on our route homeward-bound.
We had written to Herr and Frau Wolf from Mannheim, and so they both were at the coach stop to meet and embrace Mama and me upon our arrival in Guenzburg. That day, it was raining buckets, and we all made haste to their abode—fortunately not far removed from the coach stop.
Remember, dear sister, how Papa always talked of Josef, how proud he was that Josef and all his family were fortunate to live in the whole upper story of the schoolhouse. This fact strikes me a bit strange but wondrous.
One leaves one’s home, is not yet outside, walks down a flight of stairs, and is smack dab in the corridors of a busy school, animated and noisy students and scholars going every which way. Yet then the schoolbell peels, students scurry to their classes, and all is quiet again in the corridors.
Josef’s spouse, Kaethe, is a kindly woman and of good cheer. The Wolfs now have three children, Christof, Jane, and Stefan. Mama and I (and even Loewchen) were very soon a part of their
immediate family, and we lodged with them in their apartment for one week. During this time, Mama and I were very much occupied in assisting Kaethe, as she had us call her name, with general housekeeping and in preparing the meals.
You know, Guenzburg is a market town, and my favorite thing within its venerable gray walls was to go to market to procure goods and foodstuffs for the Wolf household and there also to banter with the friendly townfolk.
The Marktplatz in Guenzburg recalls to me the Jesuitengasse in Augsburg.
Their prospects are nearly identical, save that the Jesuitengasse is a much longer street. Dear Josef is an addicted wanderer. In his off-hours, free from toil with the unruly urchins and serious scholars directly below us, Josef freely indulges his love of wandering for hours over the heath and heather, going wherever he fancies, just walking and walking.
He told me that his work sometimes troubles him, and his long walks afford him respite and relief from his heavy heart and troubled thoughts.
Josef twice requested of me that I join him in these rambling wanderings, and I readily acquiesced. I delighted also in the aimlessness and peace of the open fields, and the freedom of losing ourselves in nature for an unaccountable and fully disposable amount of time. No, time is a redundant word here—for it is the very absence of time that is important and relevant.
Josef is very progressive, I find, as he adamantly believes in “sparing the rod and spoiling the child.” Well, not that the absence of a belt over the backside will result in a bratty child!
We once more embraced dear Josef and Kaethe at the coach stop, and were now engaged in a tight race with winter to see who would be the first to reach Vienna. We won, dear sister! We won! And here we are again!
Mama, Loewchen, and I revisited the same inns in reverse order—save Murnau, which had clearly been a detour, but seems to me in retrospect but a dream, a garden of Eden, an oasis of flowering fields, a fairyland.
I believe that part of this acute feeling was that I was so much in the company of my dear Meinke-Haibl.
And, Constanze, the inn was so much more a home than an inn!
I felt mostly as if I were sleeping in my own sweet bed. Ascending and descending the oaken staircase with Loewchen in my arms, bidding Frau and Herr Posaunenblaser good night--was akin to being within my own four walls, homey and safe.
Dear Constanze, Mama and I are most anxious to be reunited with you once again.
Until then, I kiss your hand and remain
Your devoted sister,
Constanze, nee Weber

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