Whe comes here for the first time in the romantic valley of the Neisse in the border triangle Germany-Poland-Czech Republic, rubs his eyes in amazement. On the German side of the river, close to the border with Poland, there seems to be a fairytale castle. With domes, towers and decor in the Bohemian Baroque style.
And yet St. Marienthal is nothing less than that. Behind the magnificent facades, simplicity, obedience and renunciation prevail. Women who have dedicated their lives to God and their community live here.
EApart from the arrival and departure of three monarchs from the Orient, not much has been passed down from the first days of the later Savior. But that it was completely quiet in the hut at Bethlehem after the angels had packed their trumpets and the shepherds finished their hymn of praise is not to be expected.
God became a little man at Christmas. And little people like to scream extensively. For a variety of reasons. And even if little people actually screamed themselves tired, experience has shown that they are often reluctant to fall asleep.
Since Mary and Joseph – even if they could have read – hardly any advice literature was available (“Every child can sleep”), they will have resorted to the oldest and most natural means of calming small people: they will be Jesus in their arms or in the manger have rocked softly. And they will have sung too.
Songs in a calm rhythm. Slowly. Constructed from regularly repeating motifs. Songs in which meaningless phrases form refrains like “Lalelu” or “Lulei” or “Eia”. Christmas is not the time of triumphant song, Christmas is the time of lullabies.
In any case, as the counseling literature now knows, Mary and Joseph could not have done anything better than singing. “Quiet, quiet, quiet, because the child wants to sleep” or – the oldest of all traditional Christian Christmas lullabies – “Joseph, dear Joseph mein”, which is based on “Resonet in laudibus”, a song whose original eight-verse version is set in neumes from the middle of the 14th century in the cantionary of the Styrian monastery Seckau.
Clinical studies have shown that singing in the crib, cradle and bed leads, and if it’s only ten minutes, to a calmer pulse in children, less anxiety and less pain. The calm, even movement, the soft, warm tone create a feeling of security, a feeling of security, evoke memories of the time in the womb in the child, promote the parent-child bond.
The classic lullaby does not only serve as a minimally invasive, over-the-counter sleep aid, but also as a sedative for parents. You always sing lullabies for yourself. They are – almost all lyrics are about it – songs against the fear of the world, against forlornness, against the injustice that awaits us out there during the day (and before us saved the child of Bethlehem).
If God willing, you will be awakened again
They ask God for protection from this and for redemption, conjure up the darkness once again and as a kind of musical defense magic at the same time give consolation to parents who in earlier times must have been on the verge of nervous breakdown in the first few months. Lead you into a realm between day and dream, from which you and your children will be woken up again the next morning.
Lullabies exist in all cultures. The story of the traditional Christian lullaby began where one would normally not expect infants and the need to sing them to sleep. In the monasteries. That is when the baby cradle was invented. A liturgical Christmas play, which was first mentioned in 1162 in “De investigatione Antichristi”, a writing by Gerhoh, the cheer of the Upper Austrian Augustinian canons of Reichersberg am Inn.
As a preliminary stage to today’s nativity play, the infant cradle spread across the whole of southern Germany. Tales of the children’s dances around a figure of the Christ Child placed on the altar and his handing around in the congregation during the service have come down to us. Ornate children’s cradles, which were pulled with long silk ribbons during the service, still bear witness to this Christmas ritual like “Resonet in laudibus”.
The second (musical) career of the lullaby began at a time that was apparently particularly in need of consolation and reassurance, a time of reassurance, of retreating into one’s inner self. So many lullabies have survived from no epoch, and no other lulling piece of music was written as in the 19th century.
“Des Knaben Wunderhorn” handed down the texts of traditional children’s songs – “so that the crying child in your heart is finally silent” (Clemens Brentano). There is hardly a romantic composer who – like Brahms (“Guten Abend, gut ‘Nacht”) or Humperdinck (“In the evening I want to go to sleep”) – does not furnish a lullaby with a melody in the “folk tone” that sometimes it still does not known for what they actually are – art songs.
As lullabies without words, Chopin’s Berceuses (French for lullaby) did their part to relax the Biedermeier-romantic nerves. Traditional lullabies can also be found in Chopin’s B minor Scherzo and Tchaikovsky’s B minor Piano Concerto.
Since Heino Gaze’s “Lalelu”, the tradition of the lullaby has fallen asleep a bit – well – at least in Germany. You don’t necessarily want to sing “Lullaby” by The Cure while you are child, you just get bad dreams of it yourself. Max Raabe’s lullaby about the penguin sitting on his glacier at the South Pole and watching “whether his glacier thaws” is a real classic.
As a modern cradle, parenting guides recommend repurposed love songs. Children can be put to sleep – in their arms and in motion – but also dancing with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony (self-awareness). And with “Down by the River”, “Cortez the Killer” and heavy feedback – at least Navid Kermani tells in “Book of those killed by Neil Young” – one of the most beautiful major essays ever about rock music in general, Neil Young in particular and about Written by Children.
So far it has not been possible to establish that a renaissance of the lullaby is looming in the supposedly fearful present, which should actually arm itself to the teeth with consolation with musical defensive charms and lulling songs. But maybe someone is currently working on new songs for us sleeping sheep.
Mith around 30 million tourists annually, Greece is one of the 15 most popular travel destinations in the world – that was true before the outbreak of the corona pandemic and will certainly not be any different afterwards. It is all the more astonishing that there are still such untouristic regions in the country as the Agrafa massif, which is traded as an insider tip among outdoor activists. After all, 15 peaks are over 2000 meters high here, the highest, the Tymfristos, reaches 2312 meters.
Agrafa is located in western Thessaly and is the largest of the nine Greek regions in terms of area. Enclosed by high mountains, there are two wide, fertile plains with Tríkala and Lárissa as urban centers – Thessaly is also Greece’s granary. It is not boring for tourists here: Even the ancient Greeks were diligent in agriculture and animal breeding – which makes Thessaly a treasure trove for educated citizens on the trail of antiquity and its mythology.
Another advantage of visiting the area is that it is, with the Metéora monasteries, Mount Olympus and “Mamma Mia!”, A world cultural heritage site, seat of gods and the location of a cult film. And from Volos, the largest Thessalonian port, it is only a stone’s throw over to the Pelion Peninsula, a hiking paradise with shady oak forests and picturesque bays – without any tourist crowds.
Monks built monasteries on pinnacles
For almost 400 years they were fortresses of the Christian faith in the Islamic Ottoman Empire – the Metéora monasteries in Thessaly, enthroned on pinnacles. Around a hundred stone solitaires, remnants of a sandstone mountain, rise up to 600 meters near Kalambaka.
In Byzantine times, a few hermits from the monastic republic of Athos built airy outbuildings here, but after the Turkish invasion in the 15th century, every third rock was occupied by monks – and only accessible via rope ladders.
Six monasteries are still inhabited today, they now have stair access and can be visited. The remaining “rock nests” were gradually abandoned after the liberation of Thessaly in 1881; ruins are clearly visible on two dozen sandstone towers.
Beaches and bays as a film set
Thessaly not only includes miles of beaches along the Olympic Riviera, but also cinematic bays. The blockbuster “Mamma Mia!” Was filmed there in 2007, on the Northern Sporades, part of Thessaly.
According to the script, the Abba musical is set on a fictional Greek island, and the camera team chose Skopelos as the location for the beach scenes: with its 80 percent forested hinterland, the Sporades isle is considered the greenest island in the Aegean – and with its 66 kilometers of turquoise coast The sea is also a bathing paradise. If a tree-lined bay comes into the picture in the film, it should be Kastani Beach.
Hiking in the Agrafa Mountains
It is considered the most remote mountain range in Greece – Agrafa in western Thessaly. Not even the Ottoman tax collectors penetrated the difficult-to-access area, which saved many residents from taxes. The landscape is still archaic today. If you want to experience it: The European long-distance hiking trail E4 touches 14 ancient mountain villages.
Music in honor of the gods
Zeus on Mount Olympus, Apollon in the Témbi Valley, the Centaurs in the Pelion Mountains: what had rank and name in the ancient world of gods cavorted in Thessaly. The gods loved music, and in their honor it was played at every opportunity.
Water-powered organs, called hydraulis, which are among the oldest keyboard instruments in the world, were also used. In 1992 a specimen was found at the foot of Mount Olympus.
A mountain railway in “Switzerland of Greece”
The Greeks praise the Pelion peninsula in the south of Thessaly as “Switzerland of Greece”. The fact that a narrow-gauge railway from 1895 trundles through the rugged mountains, passing two tunnels and nine viaducts, fits in well with the Swiss cliché.
The Pelion Railway takes 90 minutes for the 15 kilometers from Ano Lechonia on the Pagasitic Gulf to the mountain village of Milies. Before it goes back three hours later, the locomotive is turned manually on a disk; Travelers are allowed to help.
The marathon leads over the summit massif of Olympus
The Faethon marathon participants have to conquer 3200 meters of altitude. The 43.4-kilometer circuit leads from Kokkinopilos in Thessaly over the Olympus summit (2918 meters) back to 1250 meters. Ten hours are set for the route.
Alongside the Olympus Mythical Trail, the Olympus Ultra and the Almira-X Triathlon, the Faethon Marathon is the most demanding of eleven running events that have been established on Olympus since 2004.
“I have a horse like you’ve never seen it before”
Philonikos, a 4th century B.C. Horse breeder living in Thessaly, rightly praised his animal: under the name Bucephalus it would later write world history, because it carried Alexander the great through all battles.
Thessaly’s warhorses had already proven themselves against the Persians. Alexander even founded a city in honor of his horse, Alexandreia Bukephalus, now Jhelam in Pakistan. There are no longer any purebred Thessalians, but the tough Pindos pony can probably be traced back to them.
Quirky, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.
This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We are happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.