Munich Nights Chapter 60: “Some Purchased Gifts And A Fine Carved Elephant”

Munich Nights Chapter 60: “Some Purchased Gifts And A Fine Carved Elephant”

For Karen and the nurse, the town had exposed some hidden delights to them in their first exploration of walking and talking together in and through the quaint little lanes and terraces and parks.

Previously whilst walking with Carin she had frequently paused and waited for her dear friend to keep abreast with her. Now both women could keep pace with one other and enjoy what they could see and admire before and all around them. 

The weather was favourable. Being neither too hot nor too cold creating a comfortable ambience for them both.

They then made their way back towards the main square. And once again Karen was awed by these admirable authentic buildings that looked down upon them, timeless monuments of the past. To her, they seemed almost frozen in time and always a delight to see. And to have survived so many senseless wars, deaths and destruction that had arrived in the town in past decades. This really was, she thought, a feat of endurance by the people and their traditions.

She marvelled at their continued survival under so many advancing armies as well. The ravages of time had somehow been defied in claiming them for posterity. And today they stood proud and erect looking down on the people of Bamberg.

Then nurse Hoffman noticed by chance, a small double-fronted bow window shop situated in the “Karolinenstr”. They, it proclaimed, specialised in fine glass figurines and other fragile ornaments. And apparently created delicate figurines on the premises that could be purchased by the buyer at a reasonable price.

Visitors were welcome to stay and observe the shop technician at work on their purchase. Shaping with skill, the heated glass into amazing shapes and designs. Such as skull goblets, vases, and long-stemmed glasses some skillfully fluted. Dragons, pretty sea horses, and other creatures of the deep etched onto bowls and plates.

What also captured both women’s attention displayed on the lighted bevelled fixed glass shelves, were delightful depictions of coloured butterflies and of graceful swans and presentation boxes of coloured marbles. And noticing so many different tropical birds on careful display in a smaller cabinet. And delicately designed hand-painted images of tasty exotic fruits that looked so real and almost delicious to taste. The artist’s skill was amazing thought Karen with admiration as she and the nurse watched him working intently and oblivious to all around him.

Once inside and with the hot atmosphere now being heavy, was almost stifling. She then noticed an elderly man seated behind another cluttered workbench with a fired bunsen burner secured before him. As well as all the other important tools of his trade such as assorted-sized tweezers, scissors and some used jacks. 

He wore a pair of heavy smoke-tinted glasses for obvious retinal protection. Hunched over a new, unknown creation of his choice. And later carefully balanced when being finished, onto his heavy padded gloves as he examined it to his satisfaction after it was completed.

He made it all look so simple, thought nurse Hoffman.

Then on a bevelled glass shelf behind him, both women could also see such famous finished gleaming landmarks for sale. Such as the Eiffel Tower of Paris, Big Ben in London, and Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

When he was finished he happily paused and then extinguished the blue flame. Then began chatting to them revealing some of his trade secrets. Such as adding white vinegar into the assorted small crushed coloured glass granules that he used to melt their colours for moulding into finished various glass patterns with clever whirls and shapes.

Karen then asked politely: “Will your wonderful skills be handed down to the next generation to continue?“ she enquired quietly. There was a moment’s awkward pause before he answered slowly whilst mopping his perspiring brow with a large handkerchief.

“Sadly, no madam, I’m afraid” he replied with a heavy sigh as he looked down at the floor saying sadly. 

“Unfortunately I am the last in the town to practise this dying art. And because I have no family the skills of this business will die with me”.

She was aware he didn’t want to pursue this matter any further as it caused him some pain. And she saw the emotion it caused him.

They then purchased from behind him, some of his marvellous creations.  One was a smiling panda that she would purchase for Carin. And surprisingly a rabbit for nurse Hoffman’s young blind brother.

She wondered how the nurse would describe it to him when she handed it to him when she returned home.

Then Karen noticed a large glass cabinet, with several realistic sculptures finished in metal of assorted animals. Her eyes and curiosity were certainly captured by a striking figure of an elephant which was cleverly detailed and realistically finished.

She knew straight away she must possess it. She then asked if she could look and examine its surface. And he carefully fetched it down and offered it to her for examination. On receiving it the beast was far heavier than she thought. Holding it very tightly with both hands as she admired the carved details and the unusual realistic pointed tusks.

“It’s beautiful, did you craft it yourself?” she asked. 

He proudly confirmed this. Then adding that he was fortunate to have another working kiln in a workshop in the garden behind the shop. And when time allowed, he was able to fire up more exotic depictions of his favoured animals in various materials, this being one of his own favourites from his own private collection. 

“In fact, this creation is the only one I have ever finished for myself and probably I suppose it will be the last I will fashion” he now said rather sadly.

“It’s the arthritis in my fingers you know. So my glass-blowing days will soon be over forever as well.”

He shook his head sadly at this painful admission and to a total stranger at that.

She kindly commiserated with him then enquired about the asking price and nearly collapsed when he informed her of its value. But it was so good she had decided she had to own it. They then agreed on a sum of money acceptable to them both. Because it was far too heavy and awkward to walk around the town with, Karen asked if they could arrange to collect it later after they had finished some other errands in the town. He happily agreed and placed it carefully to one side into a small case inscribed. 

She then prepared to pay for all the other purchased shop items and including nurse Hoffman’s special gift for her blind brother. Although the nurse quickly protested at this unexpected generous gesture from her employer, Karen had silenced her simply with a sincere smile and holding up her gloved hand saying as a simple matter of fact, “That’s alright nurse, it’s my treat today.”

Then she reached for her purse and carefully counted out the calculated currency.

They then settled the bill and arranged to collect the elephant statue later. Then she wished the kindly proprietor goodbye and wished him well. Then both departed to explore the town’s famous Cathedral situated on the “Domplatz”.

(Some years later this elephant statue was offered for sale on eBay can you believe it? It was being offered by a private collector in Singapore. And surprisingly Karen’s name and the date on which she purchased it were still seen clearly written underneath the heavy base. I was very fortunate to place an early and rather excessive bid and much to my surprise when the bidding ended, I was successful in winning this possession that had been an important part of Karen’s life in 1931 in Munich. Today it stands for pride of place in our family home.

To be continued…….

G. Patrick Battell

May 2023

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