Monday, 9 September 2013

Three Presidents, a Prince and a jacket

I felt bitterly disappointed that the weather was too bad to take the cable car up to the peak of the mountain that stands tall above the river Inn here in Innsbruck.  It happened in Lucerne, and it happened again in Innsbruck.

So, dressed in our raincoats, we strolled through the streets and climbed the steps of the Stadtturm.  About 60 metres above Innsbruck, we had a good 360 degree view.  While there, I noticed something in the distance.  It was a ski jump.

We walked the length of Maria-Theresien Strasse, past the triumphal arch built by Maria Theresia, and onwards along Leopoldstrasse.  We found a bell museum, and looked inside at the many bells.  After a quick lunch of bread rolls with ham, cheese etc., we got close to the ski jump and noticed that its light rail link taking passengers to the top began its ascent half way up a sizeable hill.  We decided not to bother.  We headed back towards the Altstadt, and soon settled into a cafe, taking hot chocolate and coffee.  

The next thing we knew, a large band of late middle-aged men in fancy uniforms arrived on the cobbled street just outside the cafe.  One wore a white moustache and looked like the Kaiser.  They had various musical instruments, including large, shiny, woodwind instruments, drums and cymbals.  A crowd of tourists hastily gathered to hear the band play.  I decided I would video their music, and jumped up from my cafe latte and stood waiting.  The crowd faced the band and the band faced the crowd.

We then waited for the band to play, thinking this was maybe something they do every day for tourists.  We waited and waited, and, sick of waiting, I gave up and sat back down and swallowed my coffee.  I paid the bill, and as we were leaving I asked the band member with the cymbals what time the band would play.  No idea, came the reply.  What do you mean you have no idea, was my response.  He said it depended on the three Presidents.  I said 'what three Presidents?'

The band member told me that in a nearby building there was a meeting of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, the President of Austria, the President of Switzerland, and the Prince of Liechtenstein.  They were expected to emerge at 3pm (20 minutes ago), and would come on foot to exactly where we were.  I couldn't believe it.  

And just then the action happened.  With great pomp and ceremony, the band played the national anthems of Europe's four German-speaking countries as the four Heads of State entered the street and stood between the crowd and the band, respectfully listening to the national anthems and waving to the crowd.  If I'd remained where I was earlier, I'd have had a perfect view of the three men and one woman, but, as it was, I stood upon a restaurant's flower pot and videoed and took photos.  A wasp or two buzzed around my body, but I continued watching and filming, resigning myself to maybe being stung.

I spoke to the wife of a band member.  The band was the Tiroler Kaiserjäger Musik.  I told her that since we'd been in Europe we'd seen the Pope and now four other Heads of State!  She and her son loved the Pope.  The boy asked Jean if we saw the new Pope or the old one, but Jean had to tell him she didn't speak German.

Still reeling from the unexpected shock of seeing half of Europe's leaders in the street, Jean and I went to the casino.  Like in Venice, we were told we could only enter if I wore a jacket.  'Oh really,' we said.  But unlike in Venice, we were told we could hire a jacket for free from the Garderobe.  So, I accepted a jacket, and we entered the casino.

A cloud-covered mountain prevented our ascent this morning.
Members of the Tiroler Kaiserjäger Musik await the arrival of the four Heads of State.

The four leaders are the lady in orange, the man to her right and the two men to her left.  Notice a band member is saluting.
The Heads of State of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein in the street.
Me in the Innsbruck casino, wearing 'my new' jacket

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