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Baden - Helenenthal - Cristina Heiligenstadt - Cristina Beethovengang - Cristina Gneixendorf - Cristina

Cristina Barbieri

Cristina is from Argentina. She lives in a far away part of the country. In a ski resort in the Andes Mountains.

She is a psychologist and psychoanalyst, married and mother of three, and very very very much interested in Beethoven, personally and professionally.

She loves Baden and Beethoven...

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From the beginning, it was symbolically------ an ominous place. But it HAD to be visited. I once was told that the rooms were more or less in the same way they were that last summer of Ludwig. Even the same wallpaper, it seems. Even some of the furniture. It was clear then that I HAD to go.

In Vienna, in the Tourist Information Office, they did not tell me much on Gneixendorf. They usually are not so abundant in their information on Beethoven. They still like Mozart better, or Haydn, or even Strauss!

And about Gneixendorf, it was easy to see that they did NOT approve of the visit. They told me what I already knew, that the Schloss is in private hands, since about 1867, and in the hands of the same family. The Gettinger family. That it was in a state of extreme neglect, that it was possibly closed for the season, (they did NOT know for sure, imagine!) and basically that they officially discouraged the importance of the place.


Gneixendorf - Cristina Barbieri
It is easy to imagine what those phrases provoked in me. They really convinced me of going to the place by any means possible. I promised to myself, that at least I was going to SEE the building form the outside. Taste the mood. See the surroundings. What was more than I could do with some other places in Vienna that do not exist anymore!.

So, one nice and mild day I took the subway to Heiligenstadt and from there, the train to Krems. Easy and nice, up to this point. Obviously, as you get away from Vienna, English-speaking people get scarce. But that would not stop me. In a way or the other, I could find the bus that was taking me from the station to the place itself.

In my anxious search of the place I got off the bus a bus stop earlier. And I had to walk up a hilly street. It seems that the place was in a high part, and it must have commanded a beautiful view of the surroundings.

That was Johann's argument to convince Ludwig of visiting him, that summer. And he was right regarding the view. It is also true that the surroundings look a bit like the native Bonn area.

To get to the Schloss itself, you have to walk out of the main street, and turn again. It is so interesting to note that the moment you see the chimney tops, you know you are there. And that is why I called it at the beginning: an ominous place.

Gneixendorf - Cristina Barbieri

The weather was good and even sunny, but there was certainly some kind of darkness regarding the place. A chilly spell. But I might have imagined it, of course. The building is huge, and even if the roofs have been changed somehow along the years, it stands basically the same.

When I finally arrived at the front of it, ----the place was as quiet as it could be. No closed gates, just an arcade and nothing more. As I advanced I saw a dilapidated front door, which looked as if was not opened in years. I walked around the house, in the same quiet solitude, and arrived to the back door. Which was opened. My heart felt like a stone. I could not believe the kind of impression that it made on me. And I cannot describe it still now. I clapped my hands, said hullo in a loud voice, and nothing happened.

The look of the rest of the place was more or less like an old orchard, full of so many apple trees. There were hundred of apples on the ground, that had fallen from the trees. The sweet smell of the apples was so intense and weird. There were chicken and ducks roaming free in the unkempt grounds. But not human beings at sight. I climbed the few steps, to the open door, and looked inside.

Gneixendorf - Cristina Barbieri

I could have died then, because there it was before me, ---the big bare hall, with old huge stone floors, a wide staircase going to the upper floor…. And nobody was there. It was really cold in there, I swear it.

In the doorstep, there was a pair of working boots that might have been left there a while ago. There were some German voices talking in a place sounding like the dining room, the kitchen or so.

I retired again and clapped louder. After a while an old woman came out, and -I still ignore how- we made ourselves understood. She apologized that she did not speak English, and I said that I only wanted to have a look at the rooms, please.

She looked straight into my eyes, and told me that I could go of course and that she would send her son afterwards, but that I could be there as long as I wanted.

We went up those stairs, and she opened the rooms. The principal room was exactly as the photos that I had seen previously. The crazy wallpaper was the same, it had been there since SO LONG ago. She opened the shutters of the windows, in the main room and left.

I was there alone, for more than 20 minutes.

The shutters and the floors and the doors communicating the rooms are the original. The rooms have nice proportions. There is furniture in all the three rooms; there is even a grand piano of a dubious period in the middle of the big room. All that amounted to nothing: the place looked SO empty. So silent. So quiet.

Gneixendorf - Cristina Barbieri

The first room to the left was the bedroom then, it seems. There is a big bed and drawers and things, but it is SO oppressive. It has a couple of windows, and it is very dark. It faces north too, I think. A bad direction, clearly. And the dining room also with its nice proportions and the nice furniture. But I had to remember that Ludwig took most of his meals there alone, in the late summer of 1826.

And I was there, alone, so much time-----, just lost in thought. It was also in October as now. 1826. It was such a terrible time, back then. So many terrible things had happened. He was already feeling very sick. The symptoms of his final liver failure were there already. Karl had already made his suicidal gesture. And now the boy was showing clearly that he did not care too deeply about what had happened. After all, he had got what he wanted. Just in the way he wanted it. Karl had wounded his uncle's heart profoundly. Definitely.

And yet, as we know, he could overcome even that. Spiritually he was even higher. His contact with God was solid. And, he had achieved some new knowledge by then. And that knowledge made him so free that he could write quartet 135, and the second finale of op.130 in those dark rooms. Anyway, pain, struggle, and resignation ARE also present in that place. As they were then.

Hard to take, my friend.

Gneixendorf - Cristina Barbieri

And the anticlimax was provided by the already named son of the old woman that made his appearance after all----- as coming from working in the fields to tell me about Ludwig's last months… And of his relation with his brother Johann and his nephew. But mainly Johann. The previous owner. And this man had worked up a solid identification with Johann van Beethoven that enabled him to make a funny and consistent description of facts from the apothecary's view.

He, having been assured of the lack of need in his explanation, and I, having thoroughly thanked him for his efforts, I was allowed to remain there for some more time. I wrote something in the visit's book. And left with a heavy heart.

Not all places had the Helenenthal mood, my dear friend… that is for sure.

Cristina Barbieri
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