On my way to the grocery store to buy milk for the weekend, I noticed a sign announcing a concert for this evening by a military band from Oman. A musical program in the park is not unusual—on almost every evening during the summer, some sort of concert is scheduled there: perhaps it’s the local brass band performing Bavarian music or an orchestra playing light classical melodies or Big Band music. But a band from Oman is definitely not usual and a concert, with an orchestra playing in the band shell framed with blossoms on a pleasant summer evening seemed like a perfect way to spend a few hours.
The park, in the center of Garmisch, is a local treasure, a place to relax and recoup one's spirit. Throughout the park, carefully laid-out flower beds always seem to be in full bloom and vistas of manicured green lawns are groomed to perfection. Plenty of comfortable benches and Adirondack chairs under lindens or chestnut trees provide a place to settle in for the afternoon with a book. Small fountains spout water and create gentle gurgling sounds reminiscent of mountain streams; a labyrinth offers meditative opportunities; and a barefoot path lures visitors to shed shoes and walk over pine cones, small pebbles, grass and mud. Nearby, a Kneipp foot bath leading through the ice cold mill stream helps remove the mud accumulated on the barefoot path and stimulate feet until they tingle pleasantly.
As I walked toward Richard-Strauss-Platz and the entrance to the Kurpark, the nasal whine of bagpipes (Dudelsacken--pronounced ‘doodle-zahken’ auf Deutsch) sounded through streets much more accustomed to the oom-pah-pah of brass bands. Who knew the Omanis played Scottish bagpipes? (Well, I suppose it is called O'Man, but that's would be Irish, not Scottish, wouldn't it?) As I found out later, Oman had been heavily influenced by Britain because of its strategic location on trade routes to Asia, although the country had never succumbed to colonialization.
Ten band members stood in formation around the fountain, sounding—and almost looking—like they just came in from Scotland. Like their Scottish counterparts, they wore plaid kilts, but one man was draped in a leopard skin, an animal which I am sure hadn’t seen the glens or lochs of Scotland.
I followed the bagpipers into the Kurpark and was immediately swallowed by a huge, milling crowd. Usually I trot in at the last minute, find a table at the outdoor café, and order a Milchkaffee (café au lait), and happily settle in for the duration—but not tonight. The park was jammed. All the seats in the café were occupied and the benches near the stage were packed with people. I milled around in the crowd and discovered information tables supplied with stacks of books, DVDs, and glossy pamphlets on Oman.
And food alert!! A selection of desserts was being passed out to the concert goers: small bowls of a sweet, marmalade-like dessert with walnuts and a spice, perhaps saffron, accompanied by little spoons, and two kinds of baked sweets, one very sweet and crumbly, and the other with a moister, custard-like texture. During the entire performance, local girls dressed in Dirndls walked through the crowds with trays, offering generous portions of the sweets to everyone in the park.
I eventually found a seat, which was a stroke of luck because the concert lasted an hour and a half. Three bands, all from Oman, performed. Almost all of the music was Western, and a good portion of it was American. And as always happens here, when the opening notes of “In the Mood” and “Moonlight Serenade” were played, the audience murmured its appreciation and approval. It was quite remarkable to sit in a Kurpark in Germany listening to a band from Oman, its members dressed in kilts and playing Glenn Miller’s music, music banned as "degenerate" here during the 1940s.
What occasioned all this effort? It turns out that the sultan of Oman is vacationing at his villa in Garmisch. Well, he certainly announced his presence and made himself very welcome! It was a super PR job, and a very generous gesture. What an amazing world we live in!