American travel writer Rick Steves visits Hamburg, Germany‘s second-largest city, and locations in which Protestant reformer Marting Luther lived and worked.

25 minutes, in English.


Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game) is the last full-length novel of the German author Hermann Hesse. It was begun in 1931 and published in Switzerland in 1943. In 1946, Hesse won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The novel takes place at an unspecified date centuries into the future. Hesse said he imagined the book’s narrator writing around the start of the 25th century. The setting is a fictional province of central Europe called Castalia, which was reserved by political decision for the life of the mind; technology and economic life are kept to a strict minimum. Castalia is home to an austere order of intellectuals with a twofold mission: to run boarding schools for boys, and to cultivate and play the Glass Bead Game, whose exact nature remains elusive and whose devotees occupy a special school known as Waldzell. The rules of the game are only alluded to—they are so sophisticated that they are not easy to imagine. Playing the game well requires years of hard study of music, math, and cultural history. The game is essentially an abstract synthesis of all the arts and sciences. It proceeds by players making deep connections between seemingly unrelated topics. The novel is an example of a Bildungsroman (educational novel).


Das Rheingold is the first of the 4 music dramas that constitute famoum German composer’s Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). It was performed as an opera at the National Theatre Munich in 1869, and received its first performance as part of the Ring cycle at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in 1876.

Wagner wrote the Ring librettos in reverse order, so that Das Rheingold was the last of the texts to be written; it was, however, the first to be set to music. The score was completed in 1854, but Wagner was unwilling to sanction its performance until the whole cycle was complete; he worked intermittently on it until 1874. The 1869 Munich premiere was staged much against his wishes, on the orders of his patron, King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Following its 1876 Bayreuth premiere, the Ring cycle was introduced into worldwide repertory, with performances in all the main opera houses, in which it has remained a regular popular fixture since.

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