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Laurie Niles

Hurdy-Gurdy on the Freedom Trail

July 22, 2013 at 3:02 AM

This summer's travels have brought us to beautiful Boston, and so I'm going to bring you there, too!


We wanted to see the sights, but my first priority is always to find the best coffee in town. I think I did pretty well this morning, with Thinking Cup -- YUM! Good coffee (Stumptown) and made with much care, plus a stunning line-up of pastries.

Boston coffee

Being tourists, we did what tourists do in Boston: we followed the Freedom Trail through the historic parts of the city.

Freedom Trail sign

We saw all kinds of neat sights: the Mass. State House; King's Chapel; several historically significant cemeteries and the Old Corner Bookstore -- which is now actually a Chipotle! One of the many lovely historic buildings we saw was the Old State House.

Old State House

But for me, the most exciting thing I saw was right next to the Old State House: this gentleman, sitting on a bench with his dog, playing the hurdy-gurdy!


I don't think I'd ever seen a hurdy-gurdy up-close. "I had this hurdy-gurdy made for me 32 years ago, and we've been falling apart at about the same rate," he joked. He was happy to lift the lid of the instrument and let me look inside, and even take this picture for you. What a fascinating instrument! It has two strings, and the wheel, which is wound with a crank that you can see on the left side of the picture, acts as a bow. The buttons on the bottom stop the strings.


I enjoyed the music, too: one string acts as a drone and the other has more the melody. For the first song, he joked, "My dog wrote that song!" (No way!) When I told him I was a violinist, he broke into some Vivaldi "Spring" and then a bit of "La Folia" and even some Beethoven Violin Concerto. What a treat!

From Stephen Symchych
Posted on July 22, 2013 at 6:44 AM
It appears that you brought some marginally cooler weather with you!

Do drop me a line if you're running out of sights to see. I might think of something not in the guidebooks.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 22, 2013 at 11:30 AM
I think I met this same man on the bus in Cambridge a few years ago. Yep, November 2010. He often plays in the Harvard Square T station in the mornings. One thing I've noticed about a hurdy-gurdy in large open spaces is that it doesn't project as well as, say, a violin. But it is fascinating. I didn't get to see the inside of the instrument. And yesterday was a better day than the rest of last week, heat-wise!
From Laurie Niles
Posted on July 22, 2013 at 3:20 PM
We are actually back on the road today, but we had just beautiful weather in Boston! I enjoyed seeing all the tour guides dressed in colonial garb, as well as the tour buses that looked like boats on wheels!
From Laurie Niles
Posted on July 22, 2013 at 7:33 PM
I do believe, with Karen's help and a few others, we have identified our Hurdy-Gurdist! It is Donald Heller and his dog, Mackie, who are frequently seen playing in the Harvard Square area.

Here is a link to his website


Here is a link to his CD

From Jim Hastings
Posted on July 22, 2013 at 7:55 PM
Love the photos. You gave me a touch of nostalgia. I lived in this historic town for 17½ years -- not consecutively but in two stretches. Walked past Old State House many times. It's a great walking town; for all those 17½ years, I walked and biked everywhere I needed to go within the city limits.

A great town for the arts, too -- a little fast paced for my blood; but I adapted well.

From Mario Diaz de la Rosa
Posted on July 24, 2013 at 3:44 PM
Such a cool town. I was just there myself as well and visited the same places on the 21st. Did we just barely miss each other? I also saw Mr. Heller, his dog, and his Hurdy-Gurdy, which was terrific.

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