In Search of the
Grand Hall of the Odeon Theater
A Birthday/Anniversary Visit
Climbing the stairs from the sparkling clean underground railway -- called a subway in America -- the view is spectacular. The steeple of a majestic church and then the church itself first appears as the stairs are ascended.
Finally at the top of the steps the view is of a splendid platz surrounded by imposing buildings. The heart begins to beat a little faster as the the beautiful surroundings add to the excitement that our first step in the birthday celebration is about to begin.
Paul and Mike have come here to find what remains of the Odeon Theater, the place where Ulrichs gave the first public speech in defense of same-sex love. That was on August 29, 1867, the day after Ulrichs' 42nd birthday. It is here in a building on a square now called Odeonsplatz that the words that would forever change the Gay rights movement were first spoken. It seems fitting that now the Munich annual Gay pride parade ends in this historic place.
A turn to the left of the subway entrance reveals a pale yellow building that is now the Interior Ministry. Wolfram, our guide, informs us that what is left of the Grand Hall of the Odeon Theater is on the inside. Near the entrance of the building are the only two street-side bill boards on the square. Appropriately they announce the right of Gays and Lesbians to marry.
We step into a small reception area where we are greeted by a woman and a police officer behind a glass partition. There is a wall with a rack of pamphlets concerning the work that is done in the ministry. One pamphlet has a short history of the Odeon Theater with a picture of how it was before World War II. We take several. We ask and are given permission to enter the courtyard...
The eyes mist over,
Smiles stretch our
Mouths -- all is silent.
Then the click, click, click
Of cameras and admonitions
To pose here or there.
All is so quiet. Not for long, as Paul bursts out, "At last, a dream come true." Mouths are stretching with smiles and everyone starts talking at once: "It's inside out;" "We're in what was once the basement;" "Where was the stage?"
Click, click, click go the cameras. Admonitions to pose here, there, together, alone are given.
The floor is made of individual red bricks (cobble stones) set in a circular pattern, with a fountain in the middle. Because the room is open to the sky (is a courtyard), beautiful green moss grows between them. Paul plucks some and puts them in a film container. He intends to take them as a birthday present to Karl in L'Aquila.
He shuffle dances across the stage. This brings the guard into the room but when he sees everyone smiling he says nothing. We can leave happily now. We have found and stood where the great man first fought for our rights.
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