For over two months, a Bolivian orchestra has been stranded in the German castle at Rheinsberg. The estate is said to be haunted by the ghost of Frederick the Great and is also surrounded by “23 packs of wolves,” according to the BBC.
Since arriving in Germany on March 10th, the Orquesta Experimental de Instrumentos Nativos has remained confined to the palatial estate as the world continues to combat COVID-19.
The orchestra came to Germany in early March to perform three concerts throughout the region and do some sight-seeing. All in all, the journey was supposed to last two weeks. As their plane landed, the orchestra members were informed that Berlin had banned mass gatherings and that the fate of their concerts was in peril. There was more band news on the horizon, still, said one orchestra member identified as Carlos.
“Our bus broke down on the motorway,” he said. “I remember joking that this was bad luck and perhaps our concerts would be cancelled, but never did I think it would actually happen.”
After the shows had been canceled, the orchestra found itself with just under 30 minutes scrambled to find a way back home. Unfortunately, the Bolivian government soon closed its borders before any of the performers, many of whom had never before left their home country, could find safe travel back. The situation worsened as Germany went into pandemic lockdown and the ensemble was confined to its hostel in the estate of Rheinsberg Schloss, about 90 minutes northwest of Berlin.
The castle was originally built in the 1560s and was passed down a long line of aristocrats before being given to Frederick II, or Frederick the Great, when he was still a prince. After four years in the castle, Frederick II assumed the throne and during those years he threw lavish parties at the estate. The castle played host to many of the day’s finest musicians, including Johan Christian Bach, son of Johan Sebastian Bach. It is because of this time in the castle, what historians refer to as Frederick’s “happiest years,” that many believe he haunts the castle. So, it’s not as much of a Scooby Doo haunting, but more like Beetlejuice, where the ghosts are having fun, too.
The haunting has even become a point of humor for the orchestra, according to member Camed Martela. “We all joke that Frederick’s ghost is following us and trying to trip us up,” she said. “I don’t usually believe in such things but it does feel as if there are ghosts on the grounds.”
As the members of the Bolivian orchestra attempt to get home, the pandemic has become increasingly politicized in their home country. Bolivia’s presidential election, set for May, has been delayed by interim president Jeanine Áñez. Additionally, unsuccessful attempts have been made to crack down on free speech as citizens criticize the government’s response to the virus. Carlos, who has spent hours on the phone with the Bolivian embassy, was told that the orchestra is a low priority for the government as it is attempting to rescue women, children, and the elderly first.
“We feel abandoned,” Carlos said.