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Meine Deutsche Akkordeon Saga

Exhibit A, my vintage Italian Frontalini

I had to decide which instruments to bring to Düsseldorf, and which to leave for Summer gigs back in the U.S.; which could travel easily and which I couldn’t part with. Leaving my accordion was a no-brainer. It is delicate and expensive, not good for air travel. And Germany is the land of accordions! I can pick up a nice used one cheap here.

...or CAN I?

Once settled in our flat and we finally had internet (another saga), I set to work. Research yielded two shops in Köln, an hour and a half train ride away. But I soon found out small, light accordions like mine (exhibit A) are a comparative rarity. My emails to the proprietors of the two shops (ein Herr R. und ein Herr Z.) brought only one offer, from Herr Z., and he said it needed work. I turned it down, sight unseen – didn’t want to wait a month or more for the repairs to be done.

Strike one.

A month went by. No new leads. Contacted Herr Z. again. Too late; that one had sold. I eventually made a trip to Köln; emailed the stores first to see if they had any smaller instruments in the store at that moment. Herr Z's father got back to me: yes! But, I discovered when I got there, two trains and a tram later, he only meant new accordions. A miscommunication. He spoke no English. I spoke almost no German.

Later, Herr R. contacted me regarding a student model Hohner that came in. I expressed interest. Those are very small and light; but then I had the opportunity to play one at an open session I attended, and decided that with only 24 keys and 48 bass buttons, it wasn’t enough accordion; so I didn’t pursue it.

Strike 2. This guy doesn’t know what he wants.

More perusal of websites. (FYI Craigslist isn’t used much here, but I searched, which is similar, for local listings). Found a Hohner Arietta (exhibit B) on the other side of Düsseldorf and took the train out to see it. The right model and size, but quite a few wheezy, stuck, and out of tune notes. It will need repair… but how much?

So I sent yet another email to both Herr Z. and Herr R. assuring them I was still looking (and hinting that I am approaching desperation). I even asked their advice: would he recommend I buy this Hohner at said price and bring it in for repairs? Does that sound like a reasonable option?

Strike 3. You’re out.

This morning I received this email back from Herr Z. And I quote:

I have offered you an Arietta for 100 Euros less in October last Year already….I told you it would need repair. You were not willing to even have a look at it. Find it impolite of me but I´m not wasting any more time in writing E-Mails back and forth. I´m earning money overhauling accordions not with writing. I´m sure you will find something fitting your needs. You don´t need my help.

Ouch. Yes, it was impolite. I apologized: “Es tut mir Leid…. At that time [when I turned down the one that needed work], I thought I could find one "ready to go" without waiting for repair. I was wrong… I am truly sorry for taking your time.” And I added (he probably won’t even read it) that if I buy the instrument, I will make an appointment to have it repaired at his shop. To show him that I am actually a nice, reasonable person? Or should I go to the other shop after this?

Herr Z.'s email fits with the German stereotype: curt and cold, brooking no nonsense, and feeling duty-bound to tell you what’s what. There is truth in that, I find, but on the whole, our experience here has been that most people have been so very warm and kind–and patient–with us. Thank God; as expats, we make mistakes and are lost in one way or another much of the time.

Tomorrow I plan to go back and buy the Arietta from the guy selling out of his garage (I talked the asking price down a good bit). I will take my chances that I am not buying an instrument that needs more repair than I can afford. But where will I take it to be repaired?

Exhibit B, the German Hohner Arietta

Stay tuned for the next episode of..........ACCORDION DRAMA!

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