as i sit on the train to munich, full from a monster feed that i allowed myself in salzburg, i wish to share some moments from the past four days...
i stepped into a fresh, summers morning accompanied with the dawn birdsong at 5h on thursday. i was on my way to catch a train from bruxelles to graz for peter and andrea's wedding - i didn't yet know what we were in for, but knowing peter and andrea, i knew it would be special! the 15 hour train journey took me through numerous dreamlands: the low haze hanging just above the belgian farmlands as the sun rose; breakfast and bathroom lights flicking on as the train drifted through koln and collected work-going passengers; a croissant and a coffee in frankfurt; finishing the pre-mix work on the west cork song as we pulled into munich; the alps growing on the horizon and then coming at us from a great distance until we were among them; forrested hills giving way to bare-stone cliffs and mountain peaks; coffee and classical music in salzburg; winding pale green meltwater rivers and chalets on the rich green hills as we gained altitude on our way to evening; all the time drifting in and out of sleep, infiltrated by the landscapes we passed through; waking up properly in eveningtime graz and realising that i left all my phone numbers in bruxelles; driving with rupert and alex (who luckily found me) up the winding mountain roads to puch, with the sun setting in the rear-view mirror.
in puch, we were met by four tables full of friends and trisha planted a beer in my hand - the wedding celebrations had begun! we sat out enjoying the fresh alpine evening as couple by couple of people left for bed. in the end, verena and i found ourselves sitting at a table full of empty beer and wine glasses with orange segments laying in their bottoms, waiting on a bus carrying the last thirty-five guests. they all spilled out one-by-one on to puch's main street at 2h in high spirits after their adventure from vienna airport!
the following morning we got up at 10h and had breakfast in the hotel beside where we stayed before sitting out on the lawn in the sun playing music: wallis, ben, aoife, sarah, anna, michael, floic and i. i was honoured to have been asked to play my west cork song during the church service, and we were going to sing it all together :)
at 13h, we all met in front of the hotel where max assigned everyone to cars for the trip to peter's childhood hometown of birkfeld for the church service. some were dressed in suits, some in jeans and t-shirts, some in liederhosen, some in quirky atire, some in formal-wear, standing witness to the diversity of peter and andrea's friends and family - this weekend was going to be nothing if not interesting!
in the cafe beside the church, we assembled over a drink - there were beers, wine, coffee, water and coloured liquids that i couldn't identify!
the service was accompanied by peter's dad and michael zlanabitnic playing organ; the local town choir, led by peter's uncle singing; a full rock band; and the song that peter and andrea had asked us to play! andrea's dress was beautifully simple, white with a pearled motif around the neck, and both she and peter looked amazing.
after the service, jens climbed up a ladder and took some group photos with the austrian countryside rolling out behind us as we all stood around chatting and laughing over bread and wine.
both peter and andrea's families come from austria, they grew up at opposite ends of the country and in their adulthood went wherever their dreams took them. they lived a long distance relationship for many years before moving together to london and then to berlin. as you may imagine, their friends come from far and wide, living in a number of different countries, coming from a number of different backgrounds, with representatives from almost all walks of life and all with an important thing in common: they are all decent, hard-working and soulful people... attending, were amazing friends that i know well and a bunch that i was eager to get to know better - the day was interesting and long, continuing, for some of us, until 7h30 the following morning!
as we arrived back in puch, we were greeted with prosecco and a cool, smiling quartet of double-bass, percussion, trumpet and clarinet that arrested everyone's attention and, for a moment, conversation stopped! there were three generations of people gathered together, from babies still growing in their mother's bellies to an age higher than i can count, and here, before dinner, i got chatting to the french contingent - floic, catherine and isabelle... the band played four or five songs and then walked us into the dining room like the pied-piper! we followed obediently into the old converted wooden barn with long tables laid out for 150 guests, each place identified with an orgami crane, handmade by danni and inscribed by her father in a tasteful caligraphy handwriting, marking where each of us were to sit. peter and andrea made a speech together before the soup came out, walking from table to table introducing the guests and saying a few words about how they knew each of us in german and in english. between each course, there was a speech and when we were directed to the desert table, the band that had greeted us in the courtyard outside, began playing on the stage, beginning with a jazzy set, that flowed seamlessly into traditional austrian music, followed by a host of more popular songs, swapping instruments and playing, not as a typical wedding band, but from the soul.
philip had set up a screen-test booth in the entry hall, where people were invited to sit in front of the camera for 30 seconds to make a silent presentation of the guests - like the factory screen tests of the 1970s. aoife wandered around with a polroid camera photograping the guests for a scrap-book that we were all to write a note in the following evening. andrea's sister and brother-in-law put together a slide-show that had the whole room in ribbons of laughter. wallis passed around a handmade scrapbook to get peoples thoughts, and later on, we slipped off - constantin, maxxi, marcus, wallis, aoife, ben, anna and i to prepare four songs (the beach boys - god only knows, the carpenters - close to you, the cure - friday i'm in love and fata morgana, an old austrian pop song) on 2 melodicas, ukulele, guitar, piano, clarinet, loads of voices and small percussion instruments.
then wallis, aoife and i played perfect by fairground attraction accompanied by the band, before they took back up and continued with their final set of the evening. afterwards, as they were clearing away their instruments, myself, ben, wallis and a host of other guests (including the double-bass player from the band who had been playing all evening!) swapped instruments and got a jam going which went on until they had cleared up the room and were ready to go home, at which point peter took 5 bottles of wine and we sat around in the morning until the matchsticks holding our eyes open finally gave way and we could keep them open no more.
i missed breakfast and instead set up a picnic for the tour we were to take on the saturday afternoon. 3 tractors stopped outside the hotel, each pulling a trailor, to show us around the region. we visited a cider brewery, where every bottle is apparently blessed before it is leaves the brewery, ready for public consumption. we laughed our way around the winding mountain paths to a celtic settlement museum where a local lady told us stories of the celts of 4000 bc who had lived in the area. paul arrived and added yet another voice of dry irish wit to the trailor as we rolled on to moarpeter, a restaurant where we were to spend the rest of the day and evening. we were greeted by a traditional brass band and a glass of elderflower sekt. anna and i found a red slide and relived a bit of our youth with a bunch of others, sekt in hand!
we saw the first rain of the weekend as we sat down to lunch on a covered terrace. it cleared as we cleared our plates and we went down to sit in the sun and watch a pair of hot air balloons float off on the wind above the drying land.
a local theatre group entertained us with songs about hollywood and marraige before joining forces with the brass band, led, again, by peter's uncle to get the whole wedding dancing. he's some character!
as darkenss fell and the air cooled, i sat out with wallis' parents, liz and others, watching the mountains dissappear under the veil of night. the stars lit up the sky and there was more dancing over dinner!
at 2h, connie, ben, anna, patrick, jens, brita, catherine, michael and i jumped in a taxi for puch as people were starting to dance on the bar with glasses raised to the ceiling and the whole bar singing bon jovi along with the dj at the tops of their voices! the taxi driver coincidentally played the hollywood song from a cd - connie got him to turn it up and we sang our way to bed! apparently, the evening we left behind us continued until 6h!
as we stood around waiting for the bus to graz this morning, ben and i played guitar in the shade of the church, and we all swapped stories of our favorite memories from the weekend. we aggreed that the highlights were too numerous to mention without having another four days to talk about the four days that we just lived together... everyone offered what they could to make this weekend as special and inspirational as it was!
the four hour trip from graz to salzburg was filled with warm thoughts of friends and special moments and on leaving salzburg, a haze had formed over the river and was creeping up the land as darkenss fell.