Saturday, January 06, 2007

20+C+M+B+07

Today is a holiday in predominantly-Catholic southern Germany, the Heilige Drei Könige, the feastday of the three kings who visited the infant Jesus in the stable in Bethlehem; this corresponds to Epiphany. I had forgotten that, and so was surprised on my way downtown first by how little traffic there was, and secondly that every shop was closed. It was a pleasant day, about 12°C and light cloud, so I continued walking anyway, and treated myself to a cappuccino on the terrace of the Kunstmuseum. There were very few passersby (obviously, since everything but the café and the artificial ice rink in the Schlossplatz was closed. I sat alone at first, then a few brave souls joined me.

It occurred to me as I sat there, how seldom I actually look at the city, so I did. I must say, Stuttgart has its pleasant parts, and the Schlossplatz ranks very high in this list (I'll try to find some photos on Flickr later). As I sat there, looking at the rich folks' houses up on the wooded hillside, and through the gap between Schloss and Kunstgalerie towards the opera house, I thought to myself: "This is like being in a nice European city." And then had to laugh: where exactly did I think I was, if not in Europe?

But it's true, I am often unaware of how and where I live. This isn't the same Europe that I lusted after as a teenager at the movies, it's very often just a place called "Life." What makes Europe real for me is the connectedness of it all: to sit on a café terrace and hear conversations in five languages, to see Rome and Warsaw as destinations on the indicator board in the train station. Europe is tiny to a North American: I can be in Paris in six hours by train, or Amsterdam in five, or Vienna in seven-and-a-half; even Milan is only eight hours away. I am amused by the idea of going to Milan for a proper Italian meal, then taking a sleeper train home and going work the next morning as though I'd been in the local pizzeria.

(The title is a common piece of self-applied graffiti in Stuttgart which I'll try to photograph tomorrow. People scribble it in chalk above the entrances to their cafés and houses on this day each year. C, M and B are the three kings: every good German knows that their names are Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar; 20+07 is obviously the year. I am amused by this habit, and also comforted in a way that I find hard to define: although I don't partake in this belief, I am pleased to see that there are those who do. Not having a street door, I've graffiti'd my blog.)

Well, I never knew that! Today is Twelfth Night. Dec. 25 + 12 = Jan. 6. To think that I studied Shakesper without anyone ever telling us what the significance of the title was.

Labels:

6 Comments:

Blogger Jenni said...

It is interesting to hear you comment about being able to be in hugely different cities in a matter of hours. When I talk with someone from the northeast US, for example, they are often astounded that I'll get in the car and drive three hours for a weekend. Or that just to get to the farthest point in my own great state of Texas is 10-12 hours by car. In that time, they will have gone through 3 or 4 states and back home!

I do so enjoy that connectedness as you call it in europe - the easy travel to so many different places. Which is why I love to visit!!

January 6, 2007 at 11:18:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

One of the things that I noticed in Portugal was the advertisements for plane tickets to other countries and how cheap it was.

I miss that "nice European town" feel.

January 7, 2007 at 2:20:00 AM GMT+1  
Anonymous antonia said...

really like this aspect of your blog that I always see these nice german things here, like Drano und Nikolaeuse und Weihenstephan und Dinner for One and now 20+C+M+B+07. Even tho I remember this abbreviation somewhat different, but maybe the protestants in the north figured out their own witchcraftsymbol...I guess it was more like 2+0+C+M+B+0+7 but not really sure...

January 7, 2007 at 7:37:00 AM GMT+1  
Anonymous arevik said...

hi udge! did you had a nice big part from the kings'cake (i don't know whether it is a german custom custom too)?

January 7, 2007 at 1:07:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger brooksba said...

In high school, I knew a young boy whose birthday was/is January 6. He used to share the meaning behind the 12 days of Christmas each year with our group of friends. Thanks for the reminder.

It is a wonderful feeling to be so connected to so many cultures, amazing places, and people. Europe is a different feel than North America - preferrable. I enjoy it when you write about the culture and express the views of living in Europe.

January 7, 2007 at 1:11:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Udge said...

Thanks for the comments!

Antonia: I've seen it written both ways but 2+0+C+M+B+0+7 is more common.

Arevik: I didn't know the custom of the kings' cake until I looked up CMB on wikipedia. Probably a generational thing, few of my acquaintances do any baking.

January 8, 2007 at 12:35:00 PM GMT+1  

Post a Comment

<< Home