Instead of singing along on Saturday mornings with Popeye, the sailor man, I sang German folksongs under the enthusiastic leadership of Freddy, our German school teacher. That’s where I first learned about the famous Bremer musicians—a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster. Based on a Grimms' fairytale, the four aging animals, worn out and rejected by their owners, become traveling musicians finding happiness through adventure and comradeship.
Last fall, I was delighted to meet those musical animals again in Riga, Latvia. It turns out that Bremen and Riga are sister cities. Bremen presented Riga with a replica of their historic bronze statue back in 1990 to celebrate Latvia's independence from the Soviet Union.
The Riga statue was re-imagined by Christa Baumgärtel and has the animals surrounded on either side by wide metal bars. This frame represents the broken iron curtain through which the animals now peek to create their music.
Here’s an image of the original 1953 statue in Bremen by artist Gerhard Marcks.
Politics aside, rubbing noses with any of the four animals is supposed to bring good luck. These famous animal bards are also depicted by sculptures in places as diverse as Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Fujikawaguchiko, Japan.
Back to Saturday morning cartoons . . . if I’d been a kid in Russia back in 1969, I could have experienced the Bremen town musicians on TV since it was a popular Soviet cartoon.
It was fun to find a connection to childhood on my Baltic adventure.
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