Po’ Ramblin’ Boys get a taste of Germany

Here’s the fourth report from C.J. Lewandowski on the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys‘ 2016 European tour. Full tour details can be found online.

Po' Ramblin' Boys on the Kiel Canal ferry during the 2016 Back To The Mountains EuroTourFrom Johan’s home in Sweden, we loaded up, on the 24th, and crossed that big ol’ bridge for Copenhagen. Once we hit Denmark land, due south was the direction we headed. All the way to the southern tip is where we caught a ferry the size of a small cruise ship across the deep blue waters of the Kiel Canal. The man made canal joins The North and Baltic Seas. It may have cost a little money to cross, but it saved us almost 5 hours driving time and a few hundred kilometers on the rental. Plus, it was one of the prettiest days in Europe that we had seen yet. A perfect day for cruising on the water made the hour and a half trip very relaxing and pleasant. Almost a mini vacation, and a brilliant view of the German coast line as we were pulling in.

After we hit German soil, he had about four hours to the massive city of Berlin where we all decided to spend our two very needed days off. Since we had such a fun experience at The Generator in Copenhagen, I booked two rooms at the Berlin Mitte location, the center of Berlin. We arrived just in time for naps, and then dinner at a true Indian restaurant, where the food was hotter than the Fourth of July at Sally Mountain. It was delicious though.

The purported oldest tap in Berlin, discovered by the Po' Ramblin' Boys during their 2016 Back to the Mountains EuroTourA few of us decided to venture out into the city, so we walked a little ways and found a pub advertising “The Oldest Tap in Berlin.” We wouldn’t know the difference if it was true or not, so we had us a draft to say we drank from the oldest tap. I guess we can check that off the bucket list, ha!

The Generator in Berlin was a place for us to relax, reenergize, and take a break. So, we caught up on plenty of sleep, and had a late breakfast in the cafe on the 25th. During breakfast, I noticed a sign for free tours of Berlin with one at 2:00 p.m., so Jasper, Adam, and I signed up for it. What an experience. I’m one of the typical American kids who doesn’t pay attention to World History in school, so I didn’t realize how important Berlin was to the world as a whole. Some of the darkest times in world history happened here, some of the most prolific writers, scientists, and artists in all aspects came from this place. Old and new blend here. An ancient city (compared to American cities) that is at the top of trends and technology, but doesn’t forget it’s past.

Holocaust Memorial in BerlinThe walking tour took us to all these phases of the city of Berlin, truly a great experience. We saw a Holocaust memorial situated across from a lovely park where all the sculptures were riddled with bullet holes from one of the world’s darkest moments. Standing in a parking lot that didn’t seem like much until the guide revealed that Adolf Hitler’s underground bunker was just a few meters below our feet. The place were the war ended with his suicide. The city is thriving, but the past is buried far beneath with a “let us never forget and learn from our past” attitude in every resident’s eyes.

On a brighter note, the architecture and history is rich and living in Berlin. The Museumsinsel is proof of that. An island in the middle of the city filled with fifteen hundred years of civilization in a series of museums. The only thing I didn’t like was that we didn’t have time to visit these places. You need about a week to see what Berlin really has to offer. What a beautiful tour of a truly beautiful city, ending at a grand cathedral.

The two days off was truly needed, as far as reenergizing for the shows, and Berlin was the city to spend it in. It made us realize how lucky we were to be in the continent where most all of us derived from. Our roots run deep, just have to dig around a little bit and find your own. It was quite an experience to be in a city of such diversity and history. Extremely eye opening.

The 26th of October marked our first show in Germany for this tour. About 6 hours south of Berlin was the Kino METROPOL, a quaint little movie theatre in Kusterdingen, Germany. Dieter and Brigit Stohl hosted us for the second time in two years. We arrived in time for a sound check and snack. Before long, the sold out theatre was filling up.

Po' Ramblin' Boys at the Kino METROPOL in Berlin during their 2016 Back to the Mountains EuroTourThe Kino is a barn built in 1773 in the center of town. It’s a neat little place with a wall made from woven branches and cow manure… Yes, cow manure. In a petrified state now, so it doesn’t stink. Hopefully, we didn’t sound like what the wall is made from. Anyhow, Dieter and Brigit opened up the show with a German/English ballad, and it was our turn. Two forty-five minute shows later, it was confirmed that our two days off was a good thing. We were back to our old selves after straining a little bit in Sweden. It was really comforting to go back to a place where we had previously been, and have such a warm welcome back.

After the show, Jasper and I went to Dieter and Brigit’s for fellowship and good conversation, and the rest of the boys stayed in a cozy Airbnb spot. Once again, Airbnb gets another thumbs up from PRB. Now, Brigit is a potter, so we brought home a few handmade trinkets from her shop. We love little treasures from people that we’ve met and know. Grandma Ski is gonna love her wind chimes from Germany. Jasper even picked up a coffee cup set that Sofia placed an order for last year. Nice little set, for sure. We want to thank Dieter and Brigit Stohl for their hospitality and hard work in bringing The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys to Kusterdingen. Truly fine people, with a love for good bluegrass music. Check out their duo, Horse Mountain.

On to the 27th… this was a freshly booked show in Selb, Germany where we had no idea what to expect. We had no clue what the venue even was. The address that we punched in the GPS led us a to a strip mall. Confusing to us, we went in the porcelain shop asking for Andi. Andi wasn’t in there, but the cashier would lead us to him. Where are we playing in a mall? The Christmas store, the linen shop, possibly the lingerie shop? The woman brought us in the back corner of the mall to a wine store that would somehow house 100 people tonight, but we couldn’t see how.

Po' Ramblin' Boys sit down for a German feast in Selb during their 2016 Back To The Mountains EuroTour Andi greeted us with open arms and a huge smile, and immediately set us down at the big table for wine, freshly sliced meats, and cheeses. We were pretty hungry, and Andi kept the food coming. He even had quite a bit of wine, believe it or not. We hung out at Factoria until our rooms were ready at the nearby inn, a stereotypical German building with rooms above the bar in the center of town. All of us had our own room, so we stretched out pretty well until show time came.

I don’t know how Andi did it, but when we arrived back at Factoria, there was a stage, and stools, along with chairs and all kinds of people. To convert this little shop into a concert hall in two hours was extremely impressive. Andi is an old time fiddle player, and we really didn’t know it until he stepped on stage with his band. Complete with bagpipes, and drop thumb banjer, Andi laid down some good music before we came on stage.

Show poster for The Po' Ramblin' Boys at Factoria in Selg, Germany during their 2016 Back To The Mountains EuroTourWe sure had a blast at Factoria. After 2 hours of music, we decided to call it quits, but the audience wouldn’t have it. Three encores later, we could pack up. Just before the third, Andi pulled out a bottle of champagne and a small sword, which scared us a bit. He then proceeded to tell the audience that my McClanahan mandolin, Orch as I call it, would be six months old the following day. He chopped the cork off the bottle and poured us all a glass in honor of my finding an instrument that fits me like a glove six months ago, the day Jonathan McClanahan strung up #730 for the first time. Thanks for that Andi. That was extra special to me and I’ll never forget it.

So, after the show, we hung around a bit and then decided to walk to the hotel just a quarter mile away…mistake. It’s dark in Selb at this hour. We’ve never been in this city before. All the buildings look the same to us, and we can’t read German. Not a good decision on our part. Luckily, we found our way back to the mall, where we were then driven back to the hotel.

After a good night’s rest, and a great breakfast at the inn, it’s off to Switzerland. Two more days of the tour and we are headed back home to good ole Tennessee. Thanks to Dieter and Brigit, once again, along with Andi for a great two shows in Germany.

Now, let’s head even farther south to the land of cowbells, The Alps, and Ricola.

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About the Author

C J Lewandowski

A native Missouri boy, CJ Lewandowski grew up under the wing of the 1st generation Missouri Bluegrass musicians. Learning from men 50 years his senior, he developed a passion and love for Traditional Bluegrass in its rawest forms. CJ has traveled and play with The Warrior River Boys, Karl Shiflett, James King and now heads up Randm Record Recording Artists, The Po' Ramblin' Boys. CJ proudly endorses Pointer Brand Work wear of Bristol TN and makes his home in Hopeless Holler TN. He is becoming well known for his traditional based "Ozark Mandolin Style" and his preservation of the old music.