Two years back, we undertook our first mega trip as a family. My daughter was 5, son just 4. Celebrating, our children’s growing out of “toddlerhood” , we chalked out an ambitious trip involving 5 cities in five countries of Europe. It was a crazy whirlwind affair. Most of the time was spent on the roads (we drove through). Every city we went, we took the walking tours. Though undoubtedly the best way to see European cities and soak in their culture, they were very demanding on the kids. Hours of walking and the unaccustomed cold sometimes left them irritable and tired. Mostly, Music rescued us!
I distinctly remember our Berlin experience. We had walked over the land where Hitler’s bunkers lay buried, through the humbling “holocaust memorial”, on to the remnants of the Berlin wall. The children were tired, the wind was chilly and just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, it had started to rain. The husband and me decided to quit the tour at the next sight and return to the warmth of our car. Just as our “walking tour” reached the Pariser Platz. A haunting melody filled the air. Three men in Red Indian Costume, played beautiful music. It was sad, solemn, and soul-stirring. It seemed to speak of the earth and the sand. Of trees and heavens. Of people long gone and forgotten. Of battles fought and lost. And yet it also spoke of hop. Of the magic of life. The secrets of the Earth passed on from one generation to the next. Of continuity and the promise of tomorrow. The kids responded to it instantly. Their irritability vanished. They were enthralled! We decided to part from the group and just spent the next hour enjoying the music and the splendid views around us. It was a perfect moment and to this day the music, whenever it plays (we bought a CD) transports me back to the magical afternoon in Berlin! Berlin is supposed to be remembered for its beer and no speed limits but to me its the city of the haunting music
Another similar day in Paris.It was our third day in the city of fashion. We met our walking tour guide at the metro Blanche station. Saw the famed Moulin Rouge. Walked the narrow cobbled streets of historic Montmarte, taking in Van Gogh’s house, Picasso’s “one time” studio, the windmills (reminding us of the “village” tag of this now bustling area). Got lost in the buzzing area crammed with hundreds of artists sitting beside their easels busily sketching and painting. Keeping the crest of the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur in sight we climbed steadily uphill , passing by quaint cafes publicizing names of artists who once patronized them. By the time we reached the stairs of the Sacre Cour, we were dog tired. There was a large crowd, sitting with their backs to the imposing facade. They instead faced a lone singer. Microphone in hand, the young man belted out popular songs in French, German and English. Getting the crowds to join in. He shouted questions, cracked jokes, got people to make waves to the tunes, left pauses in the songs for the crowds to fill. The crowds were engaged and the combined energy was palpable. Then he sang “500 miles”. The familiar song about being away from home, that struck a chord with my two children and they jumped in with full gusto! Half an hour later, after singing 20 other favorites and telling the crowd that they were from “India” , Husband and I had to drag the kids away from their “newly found friends” with the promise of the largest ice cream sundae we could find!
To date when asked what they remember of Paris? Along with Disneyland comes also the church where we met the “singer friend”.
Everywhere, we went in Europe we found people playing on the streets. Young men and women (fewer!) with a guitar or a violin oblivious to the world lost in the music they created. Like this young man here in Salzburg, the city of ‘Mozart’
“The history of a people is found in its songs.” – George Jellinek.
What better way than music to feel the pulse of a new city? To break the barrier created by strange attires, accents and names?
To forget one’s solitude, tiredness and soak in the moment! Music truly is the universal language of the world!