Monday, April 27, 2009
Eroica: A Stroll through Bonn
I gazed up at the parapet at Sterntor, and I felt I could hear a thousand Roman footsteps advancing on my position. It was comforting to think of a time in history when things were so black and white. Though they sacked, pillaged, and raped their way across Europe, the Romans represented the sincerest form of order: absolute power. For centuries, none could oppose the strength of Italy, and none dared even think it. Now, all that remains of so massive a force is a set of ruins here or there, or reproductions like this "Star Gate" spotting the modern cities of Europe. I guess Robert Frost was right: nothing gold can stay.
I walked for miles, lost in reveries of Rome. I remember thinking that Napoleon would have been a Roman were he born to an earlier era. He brought the spirit of Rome back to Bonn and inspired the best of men to stratospheric heights. I walked without direction as I imagined Napoleon as a legionnaire. I never once looked at a map or a road sign. I had no true sense of where I was going, but I knew I was going somewhere. It was as if I could hear the distant strains of some melody, and I ambled toward it until it became palpable. When the sounds became discernible instruments, I looked up to see the the facade of Beethovenhaus.
Beethovenhaus seemed stately and austere on its facade, but once I stepped inside, the warmth of the home, even preserved as a museum, hit my chest like a closed fist. The only sounds were the steps of our shoes on the hardwood floors, but as I wandered through this monument, I sensed the C minor of Pathetique build from a melancholy musing to a hurried jaunt.
By the time I walked back out the front door, the horn of Eroica's first movement blared in my ears. It had always reminded me of the first, unsteady steps of a new relationship. Stella and I had stumbled our way through those first few months, swept away by the novelty of each other. We listened intently to the details of each others' days, of family histories, of childhood traumas, sure that we were building something unique. But it turns out that the horn blasts were only a theme, one that would play out over and again, sometimes with variations, but always recognizable. For a time, there was comfort in the regularity. We drifted through Europe, living the carefree lives of two ex-pats with money in our pockets and romantic ideals in our heads. But somewhere along the way, our footfalls fell too easily into unison. Our playful skipping became a metered funeral march. Horn gave way to orchestra, and we couldn't hear each other through the din. She looked one day at me and turned to walk into a little patisserie in Aix. I did not follow.
After that, I traveled by train, a velo, taxen fliegen, na stopie. It was freeing to flit away the weeks, touring others' histories, ignoring my own, but, eventually, I began to crave a return to order. I needed a standard, a place to fit in, something that would never let me down or bore me, whose repetitive rhythm was not droning or commonplace. As I turned to look once more on Ludwig's birthplace, I grabbed a handful of Haribo Gold-Bears from the pocket of my backpack. The waxy, firm texture felt at home on my teeth. The gelatin squeaked on the enamel and fell apart into manageable chunks on my tongue. "Apres moi, le deluge," I thought to myself, a broad smile on my face as I skipped back to the hotel.
Posted by Ground Possum at 7:45 PM