Greiz is a town of 22,548 people (down four thousand since my visit) in the Elster Valley 33 kilometers south of Gera. (My lead photo shows Greiz at 7:00 a.m.)
When I was asked to conduct a teachers’ workshop in Greiz I first had to look at the map to see where it was (it sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it), and then just to make sure I sent an e-mail back asking if they really meant Greiz and not Zeitz, which is about the same distance to the north of Gera.
They really did mean Greiz, which turned out to be an attractive but very quiet little town. On a Friday evening the only open restaurant we could find was a Greek place on the second floor of a sterile new shopping center. My colleague thought she remembered a nice little restaurant in the Old Town, but when we finally found it there was a sign in the window saying “Restaurant for Rent.”
At my workshop the next morning I was surprised to see a number of familiar faces. It turned out they were teachers who had been to previous workshops of mine in Gera, Leipzig, Reichenbach or Dresden. I thought it was really nice of them to come all that way to Greiz (sorry Greizers, please don’t take it personally but any trip to Greiz is bound to be “all that way”) just to attend my workshop.
Greiz’s claim to fame
Greiz in former times was the seat of an extremely minor duchy, and as such it developed the reputation of being the ultimate provincial backwater of the German speaking countries. To this day it has never quite been able to shake this backwater image, even though the last of the local dukes abdicated in 1918.
Both the town and the duchy were immortalized, so to speak, by the composer Johann Strauss, Jr. (1825-1899) in his operetta Wiener Blut. Two of the main (silliest) characters in this operetta are the ambassador and prime minister, respectively, of the duchy of “Reuß-Schleiz-Greiz” and most of the laughs, such as they are (I’m sure it must have seemed hilarious at the time), are about these two clods making fools of themselves in sophisticated Vienna. At the end the ambassador’s wife and mistress join forces to teach him a lesson, and they all (presumably) live happily ever after.
21st century Greiz, scene 1
If somebody wanted to write a silly operetta about Greiz in the 21st century, they should be sure to include a couple of short scenes in the Schlossberg Hotel, which is on the third, fourth and fifth floors of the above-mentioned sterile new shopping center at Marienstraße 1-5.
The first scene would show a suave and dashingly handsome hotel guest (this would be the lead tenor role) trying to find his way into the hotel. This should be good for a couple of laughs because there is no entrance as such. The door marked “Hotel” is locked, and nobody answers the bell, so he has to find his way up through the nearly deserted shopping center (fortunately the escalators are still running) until he finally finds a corridor on the third floor with a sign saying “Hotel” and an arrow pointing down the hall.
21st century Greiz, scene 2
The next scene would show our suave and dashingly handsome hotel guest being greeted, not by a human receptionist but by this lovely Hotelomat machine. After poking around at the touch-screen for a while (this will give the composer a good opportunity to write a buffo aria with several silly verses), he is finally rewarded with a large clunk as his room key drops down into a tray at the bottom of the machine.
Then there would have to be some spooky music as the guest unlocks the deserted hotel, makes his way through the deserted lobby and past the deserted reception desk, up a deserted elevator, through another deserted corridor and finally arrives at a perfectly ordinary hotel room.
21st century Greiz, scene 3
The third scene would show our suave and dashingly handsome hotel guest eating breakfast the next morning in the hotel, while gazing out at the scenic roof of this picturesque 21st century shopping center. (I don’t know what kind of music would fit this scene, but that’s what we have a composer for. I’m sure he or she will be able to come up with something appropriate.)
My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2018.
See also: A Viennese operetta in Magdeburg.