Early in the summer of 2002, I received a phone call from the orchestra manager for the AIMS festival in Graz, Austria. AIMS stands for American Institute of Musical Studies which is a 6-week intensive program for opera singers and pianists. The orchestra members range from seasoned professionals to college students, some choosing to return year after year. One of the returning horn players that year unexpectedly could not attend due to having won a spot with the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C.
Besides playing lots of great music, we had a little time to travel on free days/weekends. A fabulous advantage the European countries have for easy travel is found in their extensive train system. Some of the popular destinations for the orchestra musicians were Vienna, Salzburg, Budapest, Prague, and Venice. A couple of guys even hopped on a plane and flew to Dublin for the weekend once, thanks to Ryanair.
My first trip out of town was to Vienna, Austria. Home of the former Hapsburg Monarchy in addition to generations of famous musicians. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Czerny, Schubert, Johann Strauss I & II, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Ligeti, and others.
While in Vienna, two other girls from the orchestra and I wanted to visit Zentralfriedhof, the second largest cemetery in Europe, where a number of these famous composers are buried. Using high school Deutschgesprachen skills, I searched for Beethoven's gravesite.
Können Sie mir helfen? Weißen Sie wo Beethoven ist? Danke.
After encountering some women who were tending to the gardens throughout the cemetery, we finally found the Musiker. If we had only walked straight down the central lane towards Karl Lueger Kirche, we would have found the Musician's Corner on the left.
On another long weekend, we traveled to Prague where a bit more walking was required. This particular weekend it became apparent that I had become a nuisance for my travel companions. It seemed that at every opportunity I needed to rest on a bench.
Even the pregnant percussionist who was 5-months along had more energy than I did. Sometimes it took a great amount of effort just to keep up. My calves were knotted and my legs felt slow and heavy. I chaulked it up to being a little out of shape and having developed stiff, swollen ankles.
Although walking became difficult, I was very glad to have taken part of a tour of the Jewish Museum in Prague.
"Founded in 1906, the original intent of the Jewish Museum was to preserve artifacts from the synagogues of Prague that were being liquidated at the turn of the century due to reconstruction of the Jewish town. The museum was closed to the public after Nazi occupation in 1939. The Nazis decided not to destroy the Museum, but instead use it as a "Museum of an Extinct Race"; the Germans hired Dr. Stein, historian and founder of the Museum, to catalogue tens of thousands of confiscated items from more than 153 destroyed Jewish communities throughout Bohemia and Moravia."We left Prague on August 11th just a day and a half before low-lying areas of the city were evacuated in anticipation of tremendous flooding. We were fortunate to have left a day early due to the rain as this was determined to be the worst flood to hit the capital city in 200 years.
After returning to the States and during a routine doctor's appointment (gyn), I mentioned the experience I had with swollen, stiff (and painful) ankles and the heaviness of my legs during my travels. She flippantly stated that the swelling was due to lack of muscle tone which was due to being out of shape.
What I didn't know at the time is that the lymph system relies upon muscle relaxation/contraction to help move lymphatic fluid out of our limbs and toward the heart. But if your muscles fail to relax sufficiently, then fluid gets trapped in your extremities. Too bad I didn't know enough to perform the appropriate yoga poses to maximize lymph drainage and induce muscle relaxation. I've learned a lot since then.
Next: Watch It, Smartie Pants