The 25 members of the Orquesta Experimental de Instrumentos Nativos from La Paz, Bolivia, arrived for the first time in Rheinsberg, Germany, on March 10, with the intention of performing at the MaerzMusik festival in Berlin.
But the concert never took place. On the same day, Germany closed its borders and announced widespread restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
For two months, the musicians were crouched in the buildings of the 600-acre estate of the Rheinsberg Palace, a castle surrounded by 16th-century moats that housed generations of German royalty and aristocracy.
“We already had four or five people spending their birthday here,” said Carlos Gutiérrez, the director of the orchestra. As it happens welcome Carol Off.
“We are lucky to be able to be together. But it becomes difficult because we miss our homeland. “
Wolves and ghosts
There are, of course, worse places to get stuck, said Gutiérrez.
During the week, the group stays busy practicing. On weekends, they stroll through the wooded area, admiring the wildlife they had never encountered before – squirrels, deer and even wolves.
In fact, there are 23 confirmed wolf packs that make their home on the sprawling estate. One of the orchestra’s members, Tracy Prado, told the BBC that she had recently spotted wolves on a walk.
“I froze in fear, but they were just playing in combat and continued,” she said.
Woodland animals aren’t their only companions – if you believe the local legend, of course. It is rumored that the ghost of Frederick the Great, one of the former owners of the palace, stalks the halls of the castle.
Gutiérrez says the group has fun with the idea that they are in the shade of a haunted castle.
“We used to joke around like we listen to the piano in some rooms and some [say] “Oh, yes, that’s probably Frederick’s ghost,” said Gutiérrez. “But it was one of us who played the piano. “
Gutiérrez says he has no idea how long they will be confined to the castle grounds. Germany now allows international flights, but the borders of Bolivia remain closed.
The Bolivian embassy told the BBC it was trying to get the orchestra on a return flight in early June, but the group has already thwarted escape plans.
Meanwhile, the festival funds its accommodation at a cost of up to € 35,000 (CAN $ 53,320.58) per night.
Gutiérrez says that most of the musicians are quite young – some are still teenagers – and that their parents are concerned. In addition, some are the main breadwinners.
Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, is struggling to contain COVID-19 and the pandemic is causing political unrest.
Bolivian authorities sacked the Minister of Health on Wednesday and opened an investigation into potential corruption following allegations that officials bought ventilators at inflated prices, highlighting the global challenge of preventing transplant in the pandemic of coronavirus.
It’s a strange moment to be so far home, says Gutiérrez.
“We are privileged in the sense that we have common spaces, we can play, we can always make music,” said Gutiérrez.
“But of course we are very worried about what is going on in Bolivia. “
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview with Carlos Gutiérrez produced by Chloé Shantz-Hilkes.