One of the most memorable events during Michael’s visit here, and of my entire Fulbright experience overall, was a delightful invitation to dinner and a musicalischer Stammtisch in Krems-Stein, in the Wachau wine region outside Vienna along the Donau. The Fulbright Alumni host home dinners for current American Fulbrighters in Austria, and I definitely got the luck of the draw!! Our host was Prof. Rudolf (“Rudi”) Pietsch, who teaches ethnomusicology in the Institut für Volksmusikforschung und Ethnomusikologie at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien. He invited us to dinner at his wife Margit’s fabulous restaurant, “SALZSTADL” – a medieval Gasthaus right on the river in Stein. On first Fridays the Gasthaus hosts a musicalischer Stammtisch (a musical gathering table) where local folk musicians come together for a jam session of Niederösterreichischen Musik! On this particular occasion we had Rudi and a local musician on violin along with another violinist from Germany, as well as a fabulous “contrabass” player (a guitar with an additional neck with bass strings) and his very adept recorder playing daughter – who also sang. The contrabass player, who is an engineer by profession, has an amazing repertoire of hilarious traditional Wiener folk songs, sung in echt traditional style. As both the music and the wine flowed, I played recorder for a few moments (see photo from Rudi above), and we all got into singing and even learning an Austrian yodeling song! (No, I don’t play violin – we all swapped instruments to make a silly picture!)
Michael and I called it a night around 1 a.m., but we heard the following day that the gathering was still going strong until around 3 a.m.! The fog was rolling in off the Danube, and we made our way next door into the medieval house where the Pietsch’s very kindly hosted us to stay overnight in a simple but spacious room with ancient wide floorboards and wonderfully rumply stucco walls.