It has become customary that after a Lumières event, a report is expected from me. Here it is.
The event started on Friday, 24th June 2005, with the arrival of the guests between 3 and 6 in the afternoon. That is... most of the guests. Some arrived as late as midnight. We checked into our rooms, dressed and soon joined the others on the garden-side terrace of the castle. News were exchanged, the castle inspected, and the heat complained about. It must have been above 30°C all week-end. Under such conditions, the mere act of dressing causes floods of perspiration. Fans were much used, even by some gentlemen.
Dinner was served in the garden salon around 7 p.m. I cannot tell for certain since few of us wore a pocket watch. Unfortunately, the household was experiencing a shortage of servants so that the guests had to serve themselves. At least the cook had stayed! After dinner, the pary withdrew to the belle étage to listen to a recital. The music was bautifully performed by a soprano and a piano player, but apart from an aria or two by Maestro Händel, it was futuristic and had far too many notes in it. Composed by an Austrian baby named Wolfagang Amadeus, I was told, although how a baby could compose music, let alone write the notes, I was unable to learn.
After the recital there were card games - Faro, to be exact. It is said that some people have lost a great amount of money. The ones who preferred to chat instead should consider themselves fortunate! The first guests excused themselves around midnight, while others enjoyed the cooler evening air on the terrace until a thunderstorm blew them away just as the church bell struck three.
The thunderstorm grumbled all night but hardly managed to drive the heat away. The next morning was already as hot as the day before! As soon as beakfast was finished, the coach and horses arrived for the first outing. Jana and Marcus accompanied the coach on horseback. Meanwhile, the others spent the morning chatting (again!), walking in the park or simply idling. The coach came back after almost two hours, just in time for lunch. However, yet another thundestorm had drawn near and decided to unload its wet cargo just as we were supposed to betake ourselves to the pavillion in the park where lunch was to be served. After a while, many a seat had become slightly wet.
In the afternoon, the dances for the evening were tried. I cannot tell you about it since the heat and a week's lack of sleep had caught up with me and forced me to repair to my room for some hours. When I awoke, still not feeling adequately refreshed, it was already time to dress for diner. My maid being absent, and the air hot and humid after a succession of thunderstorms, I decided not to fuss with my silk robe but rather wear the new calico gown again.
Dusk was approaching when we sat down to dine. The flower bouquets on the table were illuminated by a multitude of candles. Fortunately, there were enough servants this time to serve all. The food was delicious: A starter of fish on a salad bed, followed by soup with Maultaschen - as specialty of the region -, lime sherbet, meat with tiny Knödel and mushroom sauce, and a pear with white chocolate sauce as dessert. The cheese was served much later because the musicians were already waiting upstairs to accompany the dance.
Dancing was slightly hampered by the inadequate size of the room and the stuffy heat upstairs. Apparently the windows could not be opened without the use of more force than anyone dared to apply. More and more of the guests drifted outside where the night air was refreshingly cool. Again, it was late - nay, early in the morning! - when the last ones retired.
The next morning was lamentably rushed: Kristina had organised a guided tour of the new costume museum in Ludwigsburg with a promise of being admitted to the sanctuarium - the depot. But Kudwigsburg is a good two hours' drive away, and we were supposed to be there by 1 p.m. That left half an hour for breakfast and packing. It turned out that the guide had for some reason awaited os at 12 noon, but fortunately she waited until 1:30, when the first of us arrived. We all but rushed through the exhibition - most of us had seen it before, anyway - and only paused to ask questions that no plaque or audio guide would ever answer. It was an education. And then...
We were admitted into the inner sanctum! *gasp* A dream come true! The guide opened three boxes for us: One with corsets, one with a 1770s (?) robe, and one with a 1720s suit. We were allowed to touch the items, partially lift them out of their paper nests, and take pictures. I hope we made a well-behaved impression so that we may be allowed to come back one day. The guide specifically requested that none of the pictures be published on the internet, so I can't list any pictures.
As always, I'd like to attach a few more personal remarks.
First of all, the organisers did a splendid job in finding the venue, hiring the servants, horses and coach, setting up the lunch pavillion and hiding its modern structure etc. I was particularly impressed by the fact that except for the wine bottles, the table setting was completely authentic: Correct porcelain, glassware, cutlery, water carafes and candle holders. Mind you, all that was not property of the castle, but organised especially for the event - even the breakfast tableware! Attention to such details is what makes such an event classy.
On the other hand, there ware many too modern things, most notably the garden and terrace furniture, including a striped sunshade. I'm still not sure why I didn't mind as much as I should have. Maybe it was because it came in handy: Without the sunshade, the heat would have been unbearable. Halfway authentic furniture would never have survived the many showers, etc. And then there was this very inauthentic vice... smoking. At first, the tobacco users withdrew to the side entrance, out of sight, to indulge. But then it was the organisers themselves who put an ashtray onto the terrace table and smoked there. From that point on, the terrace became the smokers' lounge. Since I am subject to the vice myself, I am all for a comfy smoking space out of the wind and rain, and I always prefer to be in the middle of things, chat and drink and smoke rather than nipping outside for a quickie, but nevertheless I would rather submit to my vice out of sight than have the atmosphere ruined by public smoking. I had even brought a tin tobacco box and clay pipe so that I could smoke in public. But when everyone else put their cig packs onto the table, well, there seemed to be no point...
Another disappointment was the singer. Not musically - in that respect she was average. There had been test fittings and phone calls, Lilo had called back a pair of pocket hoops from a borrower, and I had dug out and brought some corsets and a robe to make sure she was dressed in style. But the singer refused to wear anything but the robe itself - although the corsets should have been relatively loose-fitting -, not even pocket hoops and a cap. Without the proper undergarments, the robe hung on her like a sack. The breakfast ladies refused period dress altogether, but since that was off-site, I didn't mind much.
Still, the event was, overall, a success. The schedule was not too full and left enough room for chatting, a nap, changing clothes, a walk etc. More than anything, time for conversation was quite necessary since many of us meet only once or twice a year, if it is that often. The company was, by and large, agreeable and not too much plastic in sight. The programme booklet was nicely done, quite necessary and makes for a good souvenir. The venue is wonderful, far away from any city and as free of cars and planes overhead as can be hoped for in a country as densely populated as Germany. I hope that the organisers can be persuaded to do it again. It should all be much easier the second time around, right? ;)
Roughly half of the pictures are by yours truly, the rest are by Michael Lang.