Freaking beautiful

Freaking beautiful

We sit at a large wooden table in the middle of the room. Not a table you’d usually find in a dining room. The table is inherited from the family, is full of history and memories, telling of turbulent years, of many people who have taken their seats here and above all of the woman who is whirling in the room. Zsuzsa Bereznai is a passionate hostess, you can see that right away. She wants us to feel comfortable. In the background, three budgies try to make themselves heard loudly, but our ears are completely concentrated on Zsuzsa and her voice. The voice of a trained opera singer, soft and clear at the same time.


The musical talent was placed in her cradle. When her parents fled Budapest in 1979 with four children, she was three. They left a lot behind: friends, their house, their home, "but my brother's silver flute had to go along. That was important to my parents," recalls the now 43-year-old mother of two children. They also continue the musical tradition of the family, playing accordion, piano and drums. The 17-year-old Anton sings in the Lübeck boys' choir, a flagship that even made it to Thomas Mann's "Buddenbrooks" and is still happily engaged for representative purposes of the city. During the Christmas season, the boys' choir fills the famous St. Mary's church with its spiritual choral music and inspires more than 3,000 listeners every year during these four performances alone.

St. Mary's is a very difficult terrain for singers, Zsuzsa reveals. With up to 13 seconds of reverberation, the sounds fill the impressive interior of one of Lübeck's largest concert halls. City of seven spires – the churches shape the silhouette of the Hanseatic city like no other building and were decisive for the designation of the Old Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. How lucky a person must be to be able to call them a workplace. This is exactly what Zsuzsa thinks: "The old stones tells u so much – Lübeck's churches are simply beautiful for resting". She herself is a member of the parish of St. Gille’s, a smaller church with a "beautiful acoustics", which makes the soft sound of her lyrical coloratura soprano particularly well visible to the many knowledgeable singing lovers among Lübeck's visitors. One of her favourite composers is Johann Sebastian Bach: "I grew up with his music. She's so real and goes right into the heart.” When Zsuzsa talks about music, there is always a lot of warmth in her voice.

About flat feet, doubts and hope

Back to our wooden table. Meanwhile, coffee scent is in the air and Zsuzsa has lit a candle. How soothing it must be to arrive here, after a long journey, sometimes full of deprivation and yet with a great goal in mind. Lübeck is located on the Jutland and Baltic pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the pilgrim mecca. For five years, Zsuzsa and her family gave pilgrims a hostel, a place to breathe, a place at "our" table. It would be nice to listen to the table telling us all the stories that have been told here.

About tired feet, doubts and hope, about duty and anticipation. Conversations about God and the world – in the truest sense of the word. Luckily, there is a guestbook from this time, which gives a small insight into how much the pilgrims have loved the hours spent here in the middle of the family. Personal stories of people looking for distance, comfort, or simply after themselves. The book exudes an incredible cheerfulness. "Happiness," "Pilgrim's Paradise" – words like these repeatedly describe the gratitude of their guests from all over the world. A woman from Norway was on the road for 424 days before arriving here, while another was on her 18th stage. And we? We think three times about whether we should walk the route to the bakery or better take the car. Everything has to go fast in our time, a pilgrimage is the opposite model and for more and more people the right way to leave the proverbial rat race behind.


Zsuzsa has never been on pilgrimage. But she seeks closeness to God every day. "Praying steers our gaze away from stressful everyday life and one understands that in life we often see only fragments that upset, annoy, make us sad. Whoever loves God will be well for him". Sometimes it can be so simple. "God gives me support," Zsuzsa says, referring to the moments when she misses her husband, who died early, her "real" shoulder to lean on. So many facets in one person: opera singer and mother-of-two, coach for managers and hostel mother, strong and soft at the same time.


Together with her 11-year-old daughter Klara, the multi-talented woman shows us where the pilgrim history of the Great Gröpelgrube originated. Wall paintings from the 14th century, which have since been uncovered, bear witness to a pilgrim era that was still entirely under the sign of faith. Under the eyes of Saint Christopher and John the Baptist, up to 140 people slept on the barren benches at the same time. Another example of a historical treasure, discovered and restored in the 1970s in Lübeck’s Old Town, which on 1987 was recognized by UNESCO as a place worthy of protection.

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