Today I accompanied my seventh grade daughter's German class on a fieldtrip to Schloss Freudenberg, near the town of Wiesbaden. After an hour and a half of riding, everyone tumbled off the bus and we entered the gates of the Schloss. This place has an intriguing history--by turns, it has served as "a private home, a hotel, a Nazi home for unmarried mothers, an American soldiers' recreation center (legend has it that Elvis once played in the center's Jazz Club), and as the headquarters of the International Pentecostal Church." Now, the building houses the Nature and Art Society.
I found it interesting, especially the many interactive stations designed to help us "unfurl the mind and senses" -- the kids loved clashing numerous plate-size cymbals, mounted on two sides of the music room, and each of us stood in line several times to rub wet palms on either side of a smooth brass bowl, filled with water -- as we vigorously rubbed, the bowl gave off a high pitched musical hum and the water surface ruffled on the edges from static electricity.
Most unusual? The "Dunkel Cafe," or "Dark Cafe." We entered through heavy curtains, into a room of complete darkness. Everyone felt around for a seat at the bar, then the waitress came to take our orders. We ordered drinks or cake, for 2 euro apiece. Our entire snacktime was utterly without light, and I could tell the three boys in the group felt most awkward at first, commenting, "hey, J., get your hand off me!" and so on. It's strange to think we never even saw our waitress' face the entire visit. When it came time to pay, the girls panicked at first, "oh no, how can I tell if this is a ten euro or twenty euro bill? Oops, I dropped my coins on the floor and can't find them!" We found out later the waitress is almost totally blind, which explains her comfort in the Dark Cafe. It was nothing new for her, but for us, it was a brief (and memorable!) experience, functioning without our usually taken-for-granted sense of sight.
The weather was near freezing outside, but our group braved the cold, walking on the "barefoot path" through the woods to feel paving textures of smooth pebbles, bricks, stones, wood, and other materials. I only regretted that we never found the Aeolian harp (named after the Greek god of wind) which is played as wind blows between the strings. But, overall, quite a worthwhile day!