More Music, this time in Graz

We’ve experienced three out of four seasons in Graz.  When we arrived, at the end of February, it was still winter.  Snow thinly blanketed our hill and road, although there was none in the city.   It was cold, and we needed every bit of the winter clothing we brought with us, including the snow boots.  Freeze and thaw brought on mud season.  Spiritually, it’s a rich time; literally, it was awful keeping the flat clean from all that mud and dirt!

 

How quickly that changed in  mid to late March, when suddenly buds starting popping and patches of green took over the space outside.  Why is it we are always so surprised by Spring’s appearance?  Buds gave way to flowers, which have stayed with us progressively as the weeks have passed.  There is always something blooming in the woods, here.  It’s one of the sensory things I will miss about Graz—the smell of these woods.  It brings back memories of those early formative years when I galloped with my chums through the deciduous, creekside woods near my childhood home.

 

Now it’s summer. The birds are still singing outside our windows, and some are on their second or third broods.   Buildings sport colorful hanging flower baskets and boxes; plaza plantings have filled out from their early tentative beginnings and it’s hot!  We won’t be here for Autumn, which we are certain will be just as glorious.  But we experienced the Four Seasons, nevertheless, in a musical performance on Tuesday, June 28.

 

Our friends, Christina and Gernot, are part of the Verein Sakrale Musik Graz-Mariatrost, a choir about 80-strong, which sings at the Bascilica several times a year and in other parishes as well.  The choir is celebrating its 25th year and for this celebration, as well as the 225th birthday of the Maria-Trost parish, they performed Haydn’s Four Seasons.  The three soloists, choir and orchestra soared! We had the German libretto to follow the lyrics, but it really wasn’t all that necessary, as the music itself is such a great ‘tone poem’ of the cycle of life.

the plaza at Mariatrost before the concert of the 4 Seasons (Haydn)

 

always a beautiful view from Maria-Trost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gernot and Christina before the concert

 

 

the choir and orchestra after the concert

 

the altos with angel! Christina Aigner-3rd row

Gernot Aigner (dark hair with beard)-top row

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the soloists

Last visit to Vienna: music in the key of life and death

Our last full day in Vienna, June 26, was a Sunday.  The Vienna Boys Choir sings Sundays at the Imperial Chapel, but one pays 10 € for hearing them at a church service, and tickets are hard to get.  Instead, we took Rick Steve’s advice (for once) and headed for the Augustinerkirche, and equally lovely church, also part of the Imperial complex, where excellent music happens.  Lucky us!  We managed to arrive in time for the Anton Bruckner Mass in E Minor, plus a whole lot more.   The service went on for 2 hours!  But fortunately we had comfortable chairs (instead of sitting in the rock hard pews or standing up) and we didn’t mind.  How could you mind when listening to music in that setting?

 

Augustinerkirche

 

After that, we walked around the Innerstadt

 

water fill up/fountain on Graben in Vienna--Mountain Water take note!

 

Donner's fountain to the rivers in Neumarkt Platz

 

 

detail of fountain

 

man digging for coins in fountain to the rivers in Neumarkt Platz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and visited the Capuchin Church, home to the crypts of the Hapsburgs.   The crypts are beautifully ornate and I find it interesting that death is actually acknowledged, personified and raised here to a level of art, rather than glossed over in a shiny casket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

detail of tomb of Elizabeth Christine

death = life veiled?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

detail from the casket of Kaiser Karl VI

 

 

We then moseyed over to the MuseumsQuartier, in hopes of finding some live music from South Africa, because we had seen a poster for a South African Festival being held there.   No music, just a lot of art and crafts, but interesting none the less.  Also a fabulous imperial looking sandcastle!

 

 

sandcastle at Museumsquartier

 

The MuseumsQuartier plaza-a lively place

The Leopold Museum is in the MuseumsQuartier and was open.  Hooray, at last!   They have a fabulous permanent collection of Egon Schiele as well as a decent grouping of the works of Gustav Klimt.  What is even better, (unlike the MUMOK), they also have very good explanatory notes in German and in English!  The current ‘exhibition’ was on photography and Ansel Adams was included there!

 

 

Egon Schiele - still life flowers

 

detail of life, from Life and Death by Gustav Klimt

 

 

Ansel Adams photos on display: left, Rocks and Limpets, 1960

We finished our day by walking back to our hotel, taking in the sights along the way.

 

 

reflection along the street in Vienna

 

Having access to all of this art and art history has been fabulous.  I think I will look at what I see in Missoula with new and expanded eyes.

Thanks for reading!

Sommer Spaziergang

We are at the height of summer now in Graz.  It’s hot in the days (high 70’s to mid-80’s), and often humid.   Colorful flowers adorn all the plazas and hang over the balconies of the buildings.  Thunderstorms appear frequently in the late afternoon or evening, sometimes accompanied by hail!  Still, most days are glorious with bright blue sky and sunshine.

 

 

We spent one day with ‘interesting skies’ (that is, looking like it might rain at any moment) walking around and seeing some of the sights of Graz we hadn’t really looked closely at yet.

 

Come along!

 

At the end of one of the downtown Graz passageways is the Landhaus.  It’s termed the ‘Renaissance Jewel’, one of the prime examples of secular high renaissance in central Europe. Created by/for the Protestant nobility, the Landhaus has a central courtyard with well.  The well is of cast bronze and dates from 1590.  The little statue is modern, although he kind of looks like Krampus‎.

 

The landhaus in Graz

 

 

love those Renaissance arches and decorations (downspout)

Walking away from the Landhaus, one soon comes to the River Mur.  Several bridges cross the river and most are bicycle-friendly.  We borrowed bikes in Graz but didn’t use them much, as it was difficult to get up and down our hill with the skinny tires and just as daunting to navigate the streetcar tracks!

 

In the middle of the Mur sits a curious feature – the Murinsel.    It’s on a floating island (but anchored), and is a restaurant accessible from either side.  It also features a performance area and playground for kids.

 

Crossing the Mur; the Murinsel

 

Here it is at night.

 

photo by: Taxiarchos228 from http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Graz_-_Murinsel1.jpg&filetimestamp=20110206172849

 

On the other side of the Mur is the Mariahilfekirche, a parish celebrating their 400th year of existence as a parish church, which places its origin at 1611!   The baroque church is also the home to the Franciscan Kloster – with a beautiful and playful courtyard and inside, the crypts of the Eggenberg family.  We often see brown-robed Franciscan brothers walking around the city.  The original Franciscans actually arrived in Graz around the 13th century.

 

crypts of the Eggenbergs, Mariahilfekirche outside, statue of St. Francis

 

Mariahilfekirche courtyard, plaza with schlossberg in the background, interior of church

Not far from Mariahilfe is Graz’ modern art museum, the Kunsthaus.  It was dedicated  in 2003, as part of the activities when Graz was the European Capital of Culture.   The Murinsel also dates from that time.  Unfortunately, we will miss the opening of the Ai Weiwei exhibition in September 2011 !

 

The Kunsthaus, and Jakominiplatz at the height of summer

 

 

Graz is a really walkable city.  We’ve trekked all over the downtown area and through the university areas, plus our around where we live.  We’re still finding out about other parts of town.  Our friends, Gernot and Christina, walked us to dinner the other night – for about an hour and a half!   We met them at Jakominiplatz (downtown), went through the city park, with its fabulous fountain, and sweet smelling trees, past the university stadium (where a sports fest was going on—it lasted until 4:30 am the next morning).  We ended up, actually, more on our side of town, at a semi-rural gasthaus known for great beer and Styrian backhandl.  Then we walked home.  I hope all this walking will counteract the food and the beer!  We don’t have much time left to enjoy it!

 

In Grazerstadtpark: fountain, trees, and monument to Kepler's planetengesetze (planetary laws); also a large tree on our trek to the restaurant (upper right)

 

Americans in France: Part 2 – L’Isle d’Abeau and Lyon

As we rode on the CVG train to Lyon and our friends, the fields of wheat, and rapeseed whizzed by, that is, when we could see them.  With high speed trains, apparently we trade scenery for rapid transit, as much of the journey was in a straight and narrow trench with only occasional glimpses of the French countryside.

 

Lyon, in the Rhône-Alpes region, is another old city, and is known for its role in silk manufacturing.   It seems all great cities have rivers that run through them, and Lyon is no exception, except there are TWO rivers (Rhône and Saône) which converge just south of Lyon and then flow toward the Mediterranean 230 Km away.  We drove on bridges over both in a little car tour of Lyon before we headed toward the town where Chantal and Andre live, about 28 Km south-east.

Enroute we paid a visit to the home of their oldest daughter for introduction to 4 month-old ‘le petit Victor’, the first grandchild.  Finally, we arrived in at their home in L’Isle d’Abeau, adjacent to a large plaza and surrounded by beautiful gardens.  Chantal was in the backyard, in her atelier, guiding students who come for pottery lessons.  After receiving, for so many years, photos of the house, the gardens, and the workshop (which Andre built), it was wonderful to see Chantal and her husband in their surroundings and in action.  Bill enjoyed chatting with the 8 and 9 year-old students, quizzing them about which singers they liked (Lady Gaga – oui!; Justin Bieber – non!) and testing if they could understand any English (they could, but were shy about using it!).

 

practicing with le petit Victor, Chantal at work in her atelier, Andre watching, la Tartiflette

 

Paris may have the renowned tourist attractions but Lyon (and environs) gets our vote for the food, and that began with our first delicious meal with our hosts at, oh, about 9 PM.   Chantal whipped up a Tartiflette, a dish from the Savoie region. It is made with potatoes, onions, reblochon cheese, cream, and lardons. So yummy, but pass the med for cholesterol name!  How do the French manage all that fat content? By walking in proportion to what they eat! After dinner, we took an hour walk up to the church and around the town! Fantastique!

 

walking to the town church, the city 'hotel' (offices), le jardin, the old town well

 

The next morning was market day, which meant simply stepping out the front door to the stands set up in that big plaza in front of their home:  more cheese, interesting meats, and fresh fruits and veggies.

 

Chantal buying the lamb, cheese everywhere!

 

Then it was off to Lyon, via the metro system leading first to the funicular up the hill of the Basilique de Notre-Dame de Fouvière (a basilica with sanctuaries on two levels and gorgeous mosaics!) and eventually down to old-town Lyon.

 

Outside/inside the bascillica Notre Dame de Fouviere

 

old town Lyon, the river, the plaza, Notre-Dame de Fourviere

 

On a street lined with restaurants (Chantal visited at least 3 before deciding which one would do) we ate salad Lyonnaise and les quenelles avec sauce aux écrevisses (crawfish), quite possibly the best food of our lives.  (the foie gras in Paris pales in comparison and I have officially eaten food I never thought I would!)

 

la rue des restaurants, Le pere Fillon aux les trois cochons (pigs), les quenelles avec sauce aux ecrevisses, salad lyonnaise, Place des Terreaux, fountain of the 4 rivers of France

 

Old Lyon is largely Renaissance with a very interesting feature:  traboules,  passageways between buildings, and sometimes between streets.  You will find passageways and courtyards in Graz, but rarely do they rise and criss-cross several stories off the ground.  Although most of the traboules lead to private residences, many city-dwellers have opted to keep the historic traboules accessible to the public.  One only has to ring a buzzer and push on the heavy wooden door to stroll through the tunnel and arrive in a light-bathed courtyard offering a photographer’s dream of wells, stairs and gargoyles.

 

les traboules!

 

We finished our day with a visit to the Lyon Cathedral with its astronomical clock, and a walk to the river.

 

The cathedral also has an astronomical clock from the 14th century.

 

The next morning was for preparing for dinner with le petit Victor and his family, plus the other grandparents (from close to Grenoble) who arrived at 11:30 AM.    On the menu:  l’oignon tarte, homemade foie gras, little breads with various tapenades, sliced terrines, fresh baby radishes, nuts, and several types of liqueurs, including orange liqueur à Chantal. This was a living tableau of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and those were just the aperitifs!

 

getting ready for Sunday dinner

 

Dinner was lamb (including the kidneys!) and vegetables en brochette, tabbouleh made with couscous, bread and wine. Following that, the cheese course.   Et en fin, dessert.  Chantal served a cherry clafouti created earlier that day, with 2 or 3 choices of ice cream, which alone seemed perfect.  But we also had visited the bakery on Sunday morning (bakeries there are open on Sunday; closed on Monday) not only for artisan baguettes, but also an insane variety of dessert pastries.

 

le boulangerie, les grandmeres, the cook!

 

the table of aperitifs, brothers in law, Olivier, family shot

 

dinner (for the dog, too), dessert, rest

 

We lounged a while in the backyard, entertaining the dog, and then it was time for …. a stroll!  This time we walked to an old amphitheater, and by an old quarry for a view of the Alps.  OK you had to squint to see them, but they were there.

 

after dinner relaxing, and then...the walk and the alps.

 

The other families departed, Clementine (daughter #2) arrived for a brief visit, and when the conversation drifted to the royal wedding, the modeling began.  Somehow French women just look better in their clothes, and their hats!

Still, the night was young, so we zipped out in the car for a look at the old chateau that was the reception site for Aurélie and Matthieu’s wedding, again with a gorgeous view.  Between the company, the food and the scenery, we felt absolutely complete!

 

views of the countryside, 3 generations love NY, our hosts, castle ruins

Clementine in her mother's hat, the grandparents adore the baby, Clementine with her parents

 

All too soon it was time to depart.

 

leaving Lyon, Chantal's orchid, a view of the alps, a view of Graz

 

If I were home this would be the point at which I would pull out my worn copy of Le Petit Prince by Lyon’s famous native son, Antoine de St. Exupéry.  When I continued my French studies in college, I wrote a paper about this brave and adventurous man who shared such wisdom in his novella.  As Chantal dropped us off at the airport which bears his name, we both had tears in our eyes:  Sadness at the parting but joy for the time we spent together. And in our hearts, delicious memories.  No words needed.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only

with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

–Antoine de St. Exupery

Saint-Exupery statue

Au revoir pour maintenant.

Americans in Paris: part 1 of our trip to France

Ah France!  The country of my dreams, thanks to a wonderful teacher in high school who instilled a love for that country.

 

Monsieur McConnell was a Frenchman, or at least a Francophile, in what appeared to be Scottish skin.  He taught all the classes of French at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia, for quite a while until joined by another colleague.  By that time, I had continued on to the higher levels and his classes were the only choice.  Lucky us!   What stands out is the last year of our classes – beyond Plus-que-parfait, Passé compose, and Imparfait verb conjugations (yes we learned those, too!).  The 4th year Français was a year of immersion in culture.  We conversed only en français, created or ate French food nearly every week, and learned about the history of the country, from Clovis to de Gaulle, who was President of France at the time.  Hugo, Voltaire, Molière, St. Exupery, all came alive in that classroom. When the holidays rolled around, we sang “Un Flambeau Jeanette Isabella” accompanied by Mr. McConnell on his autoharp.

 

Mr. McConnell’s specialty was art (well, maybe his specialty was languages and music, but he certainly knew a lot about art, too!), and everything remotely affiliated with the French “stream” – which included all the European painters and sculptors, from Romanesque to modern – came alive via slide shows, reproductions, and visits to the National Gallery of Art.  We learned about the symbolism of colors in early Gothic and Medieval art, and wove our way right through Poussin, Fragonard, David and Ingres to Manet, Monet, Guagin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Degas, Rodin, Seurat, Utrillo and Chagall.

 

These are lessons that have stayed with me right up to this day and, when the synapses are all firing (if you don’t use it you lose it), I can manage une petite conversation, as well.  So, imagine my happiness when we learned we would mount a visit to our friends who live near Lyon, with a short trip to Paris beforehand.  Oui!  It was my first.

 

We had only 2 ½ days in Paris, and saw everything on our ‘short list’: The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Musée d’Orsay, Les Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, Champs Élysées, l’Arc du triomphe, La Sainte-Chapelle, Notre Dame, Musée de Moyen Age, the Latin Quarter, Rodin Musée, L’Orangerie,  Montmartre, Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, and a boat ride on the Seine.  We met some great people from Paris, Norway, the Czech Republic, and even Cleveland, Ohio!  We walked much of it, even the entire length of the Champs Élysées and up all the steps of  l’Arc du triomphe. We lingered over late dinners and enjoyed leisurely lunches.  We had only un petit incident with a pickpocket without any luck on his part.  Yes, we spent only 2 hours in the Louvre but saw all that was possible at each of the other museums we visited. (And frankly 2 hours at a museum as big as the Louvre was enough.) Once again, staying in a non-tourist area (the 10th arrondissement) allowed a glimpse of ‘real’ Paris, if such a thing exists!  A wonderful experience at the B and B, with a charming, helpful and articulate host who prepared breakfasts that should be framed, (they were so artistic) simply capped it off.

 

Back then, I am not sure if any of us had any idea of the extra work and time Mr. McConnell put into his teaching so that we could experience ‘France’ with as much reality as American teenagers in the 1960’s could. Remember, this is before the internet and easily accessed information.  Whatever Mr. McConnell presented, he had to do the research first.  By hand.   But I am quite certain of this:  his words ‘stuck’ and his love of teaching (so entertaining) shone through.  He was, frankly, brilliant.   I am a teacher and my daughter-in-law is a teacher, so I have some idea now of just how much of himself this man brought to his fortunate students.  But then I didn’t.  It’s time to say, ‘thanks’.   So les chapeaux off to you, Monsieur Adair McConnell.   Merci, merci!

 

les petites déjeuners artistiques; our host, Jozsef; courtyard of B and B

 

Day One

scenes from le Louvre

 

 

at the Eiffel Tower

 

 

Pont Neuf, Les Tuileries, Pont des Arts, The Musée d'Orsay

 

The Musee d”Orsay was being renovated, but most of the upper galleries, with all the impressionism, had been moved down. There was also a top-notch (and very popular) exhibit of the works of Édouard Manet, who is often confused with Monet.  As my father would say, “Not the same animal, at all.”

 

Up the Champs Elysées - transport, woman begging, l'arc, view to La Defence, King Tut

 

Day Two

the amazing Sainte-Chapelle! (favorite church ever!)

 

orchid from our b&b; palais du justice, l'arc in our 'hood, Notre Dame

 

While Notre Dame was lovely also (we stayed through part of the Mass for the Ascension of Christ),  with some amazing relics and carvings (not to mention the rosette windows), we so enjoyed the Musée du Moyen Age, housed in the former l’hôtel de Cluny.  This is not a hotel, but the headquarters/residences of the abbots from the Cluny Abbey (Burgundy) when they were in Paris.

 

les fruits de mers; Cluny Museum (of the middle ages) - Latin Qtr.

 

 

Lady & the Unicorn (Sixth 'sense' part) tapestry, Dürer stamp, The Annunication

 

By afternoon, we were at The Rodin Museum with verdant gardens – a nice respite from the sun.  Rodin’s work is so powerful and evocative.

 

Hôtel Biron at the Rodin Museum, The Kiss, detail from one of groupings

We finished with l’Orangerie, a tribute to Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, but also a home for other great art from Picasso, Renoir, Rousseau….really, is there anywhere in Paris that great art is not?

 

details of Water Lilies, Picasso The Adolescents, a young artist

 

We were not completely finished with the day, however.  After this, we climbed on one of Les Bateaux Mouches for a ride down the Seine, with approximately 1000 998 other people.  And then topped it off with dinner at Chez Francis while we waited for the Eiffel Tower to begin twinkling.  Chez Francis wasn’t the top of the food chain, gastronomically speaking, but it has an unimpeded view of the Tower….location, location, location!

Bridges, Twinkling Tower, Bateau, St. Genevieve, from the back on Pont de la Tournelle

Bridges, Twinkling Tower, Bateau, St. Genevieve, from the back on Pont de la Tournelle

 

Day 3

 

We finished our stay in Paris with a morning trip to Montmartre, that hilly part of Paris that was (is) home to artists, Sacré Couer Bascillica, windmills, great food, and, now many tourists!   We found tasty boulangeries and creperies, interesting art, a movie shoot, and some unexpected sights!   Parisian writer Marcel Aymé lived in Montmartre, and is immortalized with a bit of artwork not far from his former home.   He wrote  Le Passe-Murailles, which roughly translates as “the walker through walls,” a short story about a man who discovers in mid-life that he can pass through walls.   The windmills were part of the culture of the hill, which housed many bakeries that needed, well, flour to create the small brown bread of the same name (galette) sold with a glass of milk.

 

Sculpture, artist, pâtisserie, Le Moulin de la Galette, Sacre Coeur

We left Paris but not before we took a few more photos of the environs.

 

metro station, crepe maker, le Moulin rouge, fire fighters in our neighborhood of Paris

On the way to Lyon

We left by the Gare de Lyon to Lyon, on the French high speed train (CVG):  two hours nonstop!  (oh, how I wish the US would get ‘on board’ with rail travel!)  The Gare had a great little ‘refreshment’ stand, sponsored by the water companies we are sure, to encourage people to rehydrate.  We were only too happy to oblige!

 

Gare de Lyon, place de la bastille monument, rehydration station

 

Et bientôt, Lyon!

Beautiful Budapest – Part 2

So, if you are ever in Budapest, you must take a ride on the Danube at night.  I know, it’s a touristy thing to do, but it is one of the major highlights of our visit to this magical city.    Our friends had purchased a Hop-On, Hop-off ticket which included the boat ride at night and they invited us along.  Thank you, Mary and Charles!  Not only did we learn a little more history of the city and locate particular landmarks, we also were thrilled with the views.  Unfortunately this is point and shoot digital photography at night, so this is the best I could do.

 

 

Matthias Church at night

glass concert on the way to the docks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buda palaces at night

 

 

Chain Bridge

 

 

Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church at night

Liberty statue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parliament Building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we used our guidebook to find the highly recommended Gerloczy Cafe.  We were not disappointed.  From the menu to the food, the experience was sublime and a great way to start the day!

 

Breakfast at Gerloczy Cafe (the best)

 

 

If ever I open a restaurant, I want to have a menu like this.  I tried to figure out how I could stick one into my already packed handbag, but, in the end, decided to photograph some of the choice pages.

No  one was bothered, or emotional, but the quiche (Hungarian style with spicy sausage) was most definitely all right!  How more wonderful can a place be that features Irish Harp?

Bill with Irish Harp behind

 

The Gerloczy Cafe from the outside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside there is a statue of the united city’s first mayor (Budapest was only united in 1873).

 

From the cafe, we went to the Great Synagogue.  The synagogue, also known as Dohány Street Synagogue (Nagy Zsinagóga or Dohány utcai Zsinagóga),  is located in downtown Budapest.  It is the largest synagogue in Eurasia and the second largest in the world, after the Temple Emanu-El.  What is interesting about this synagogue, built between 1854 and 1859 is its Moorish Revival style and elements (rosette window, organ)  that make it seem almost like a church.  (Franz Liszt and Camille Saint-Saëns played the original 5,000 tube organ built in 1859.)   Our tour guide told us that was the idea at the time, to ‘fit in’ with the dominant culture.

 

The Great Synagogue - Budapest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The synagogue was impressive [has a capacity of 2,964 seats (1,492 for men and 1,472 in the women’s galleries)] but even more so was the Museum, with articles from Judaica all over the world.  The third part of the visit brought us to the sobering Holocaust remembrance.

Our guide called this The Tree of Life, but it is also known as the Weeping Willow, with names of those lost in the Holocaust inscribed on the leaves.  This sculpture is part of Raoul Wallenberg Park, which sits in back of the synagogue.

The words on the structure at the front read:  “Whoever saves a soul for mankind, saves the entire world.”

Both Jewish victims of the Holocaust and ‘righteous gentiles’ are memorialized here.  Some of the ‘righteous gentiles’  include priests and ministers who buried torahs from various synagogues in their church cemeteries to hide them from the Nazis.

 

 

Memorial to Raoul Wallenberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the stained glass memorial

memorial to the victims of the Holocaust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent a long time at the synagogue, and after that, took  a long walk to process all that we had seen.  We know of this inhumanity but there is nothing quite like hearing about it from children and grandchildren of those who experienced it, and nothing quite like seeing the reminders of it on the soil where it occurred.  Never forget.

~~~~~~~

 

Budapest is known for its thermal baths.  You would think that Bill, of all people, would be most interested in checking these hydrogeologic features out first hand.  We even packed swimming suits!  Alas, we ran out of time to do anything but make a quick trip out to the Szechenyi Baths, not to get in but to at least see them.

 

To get there, you take Line 1 of the oldest metro system on the continent (London’s is older but it’s not on the continent!).  The trains look very old and the stations even older, but classic in a sort of  late 1890’s way.

 

Line 1

one of the stations along Line 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The baths are located in a beautiful park.

 

Once there, you have a choice of bathing au naturale with people of the same gender or sharing space together with mixed genders, hopefully with some clothing on.  Next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We zipped back to our apartment to change for the Opera and go out to dinner.  The feel of Budapest is very liberating; even the restaurants reflect this style.

 

if it rained, we were all set!

 

Budapest’s Opera House is large and about as ornate as Vienna’s which seems less ornate than the one in Graz!  The acoustics were superb and the opera itself very well sung:  Otello, another Verdi opera and we knew the story so trying to read the HUNGARIAN text across the top of the stage didn’t matter. (my next language is going to be Italian, however!)

 

 

Hungarian State Opera House

 

 

Opera goes enjoying refeshments and break on terrace in Budapest

while computer work gets done on the steps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the stage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the boxes

the dome - ok it IS more ornate than Vienna's!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iago tkaing a bow

Otehello and Desdemona after Act 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a very long opera.  By the time we found our coats, pulled out the umbrellas (no they did NOT come from the restaurant), and walked to a nearby bar/bakery, we found it was closing in 10 minutes.   There was no time to eat in, so we did what all good Americans do…we asked for take out pastry.  I thought the maitre de was going to fall over, but he obliged and even put our desserts to go on a little (cardboard) gold tray!

 

dessert after the Opera - our 'to go' tray

I don’t remember the name of any of these but it didn’t matter – they were delicious!

We’ll be back, beautiful Budapest.

 

Vienna Walk-About

The great thing about many European cities is that they are immensely walkable.  When we’ve stayed in Vienna for a few days (mostly due to Bill’s professional meetings) I’ve had the time for and pleasure of walking around.  Sometimes there is a small trip via the well-positioned and timely U-bahn but mostly it’s step by step.  It’s my favorite way to explore a city.    Maybe you don’t get to all the tourist destinations but you see so much more that way.

Quite near our favorite pension just off the Grauben, there are two lovely but quite different churches and then a little further away, the amazing and in-the-throes-of-reconstruction Karlskirche.  Vienna is primarily a city that exudes Baroque/Rococo and Neo-classicism.  Aside from Stephansdom, in its Gothic splendor, many of the churches and Important Buildings reflect the embellishment, massiveness and, to modern eyes, sometimes-over-the-top gilding of the late 17th century to early 19th century architectural styles, inside and out.  Ruprechtskirche, a Romanesque church, and the Secession building, offer refreshing oasis in the midst of all this opulence.

Here are a few glimpses of some of the sites and impressions in my walk about Vienna.

On the way to Karlsplatz, one finds the lovely museum, the Secession, an icon of the Secessionist movement in Vienna. From Wikipedia: “Unlike other movements, there is not one style that unites the work of all artists who were part of the Vienna Secession. The Secession building could be considered the icon of the movement. Above its entrance was carved the phrase “to every age its art and to art its freedom”. Secession artists were concerned, above all else, with exploring the possibilities of art outside the confines of academic tradition.”  The building is commemorated on the Austrian € 0,50 piece.

a bit of whimsy! Love it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across the street was a surprise, however!  The Nashmarkt – hello Missoula Farmer’s Market X 100 !  Asparagus in 3 varieties: white, green and wild, cheese whose smell knocks one over, fish, meat, flowers, prepared food from any culture you can name!  Too bad it was only 10:00 AM and not time to eat or drink!

 

 

As one heads from the Nashmarkt to Karlsplatz, you find the unexpected:  The  Vienna University of Technology with some pretty interesting ornamentation, the old Karlsplatz stadtbahn station (another icon of The Secessionist movement), a park with children, ducks on/people by the reflecting pool in front of the Karlskirche, and someone setting up for maybe an outdoor concert.

 

And then, right there, is Karlskirche, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI’s tribute to his saint namesake (Charles Borromeo), in gratitude for the end of the plague (1712).

 

 

It’s huge.

Inside it’s as baroque as they come,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but the outside is perhaps more famous, with the huge dome and the two towers of bas-relief.  They are working on Karlskirche, restoring the frescos and other elements.  You can take a ride almost all the way up to the very top, and then walk up the rest of the way, so I did.  (You know, in the US, they would never permit people to do this!)  I doubt I will ever be as close to a ceiling fresco again.  It’s amazing how UN-detailed the painting is close up!

 

 

view from through a high window, ceiling fresco closeup, money=prayers, the way up

 

Rick Steves says not to bother with the museum that is also part of Karlskirche but I bothered anyway.  Aside from a wonderful exhibit of modern photos of the church, there was an exhibit of various depictions of Christ.  Amid the drawings and sculptures by school children,  there was this, by artist Oskar Kokoschka whose work I had also seen in the Belvedere a few days before!

 

Later that day, I wandered into the Peterskirche, another baroque church, and just in time for a horn and organ concert.  If I had been on some kind of timetable, I would have missed it altogether!  This clip is actually from the rehearsal, just prior to the concert.

 

 

The next morning, I strolled past Peterskirche, and over toward the Danau Canal, and Ruprechtskirche, quite possibly my favorite church of all I’ve seen in Vienna.

Although there is currently some debate whether the Ruprechtskirche is truly the oldest church in Vienna (possibly founded between 796 and 829), it is simple in design and felt  like an oasis to me.   It is dedicated to Saint Rupert of Salzburg, patron saint of the salt merchants of Vienna and is located in one of the oldest parts of the city, the section of the Roman Vindobona. It’s not a parish church today but used for religious meetings…maybe even meditation?  I had a little conversation (auf Deutsch) with the caretaker who was present about the age of glass (~700 years old).  The one you see in the center below is  Romanesque.

 


Ruprechtskirche was notable for the absence of tourists – only two other people and myself were there that morning to enjoy the stille.  But we were the lucky ones.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Taking it slowly

Barbara Brown Taylor, in An Altar in the World,  has quite a lot to say about walking as a spiritual practice. ( I really commend the entire book to you.)  Recently, something she wrote resonated with me: “Jesus walked a lot, and not only during the last week of his life.  If Jesus had driven a car, instead, it is difficult to imagine how that might have changed his impact.  Surely someone could have loaned him a fast horse.  Instead, he walked everywhere he went.  This gave him time to see things….If he had been moving more quickly—even to reach more people—these things might have become a blur to him.  Because he was moving slowly, they came into focus for him, just as he came into focus for them.

As we have settled into Graz, and settled into the Lenten season, we have been walking everywhere.  Sometimes we take the tram, but even to get to the tram or from the tram’s stopping point to our destination, we must walk. Nonetheless, even though we walk we are usually heading somewhere – to find a store, a concert, to work.    Last week, I decided to slow it down even more by spending the morning walking in a specific area of Graz, not only letting my feet wander but also moving slowly along the way, and observing what came into focus.

I boarded the tram #1 heading in the opposite direction from our usual route, that is,  towards the end of the line, where the bascillica of Mariatrost (Mary of Consolation) stands watch.  (This is the same large church we can see from our walking path near our flat.) There weren’t so many of us onboard, and even the tram moved slowly through the tiny clusters of houses, apartment buildings and parks.  There is one section where the road disappears entirely, and there is only grass on each side of the one-tram-at-a-time track.  Riding with me were a mother and her preschool age child, an older couple, a young woman with magenta streaks through her hair,  a man who might have been developmentally delayed and a few others.  Going slowly, you have time to consider the marvelous and diverse weave of humanity’s fabric.

Mariatrost lies at the very end of Line 1, where the tram turns around to head back into ‘downtown’ Graz.  Getting off, I could see the church in the distance but first there was a path, so the feet followed that.

the turnaround for Line 1

As I rounded the station house, a small collection of shops came into view and invited me on.

a hair salon

a first & second-hand store for children's items

Believe it or not, these were all things I had been wondering about since we arrived in Graz – where to get a hair cut, where I might find some baby items, where there might be a reliable butcher!  Who knew these very shops would be waiting?

Going into the Schlecker, I discovered two items we had been seeking – a squeegie for the shower walls and anti-tick spray!  The clerk  understood my request for the latter and helped me find it.

a 'schlecker' or what we would call a drug store in the US (no pharmacy)

 

a butcher's shop

 

With no other buildings in view, I turned toward the Purberg (literally “pure mountain”) that holds Mariatrost.   I passed a house that appeared to be a day-center of some kind.  (Later I learned it was Mariatrost Haus, a nursing care facility and day-center for people who have mental illness and/or mental disability.)  The man who was riding the tram with me earlier was there!

The way to Mariatrost is all uphill, and it is said that climbing the 213 steps themselves represent a sort of pilgrimage.

eine kleine Wallfahrt

I took my time (the steps are arranged in groups of 10 and are easily managed), pausing with each decade of steps to reverently consider specific situations in the world and in my life.  These are some ‘thoughts’ I observed along the way.

statue honoring Joseph - how do we 'honor' the elderly and children today?

some of the first wildflowers of the season - where do we see beauty?

snail on the steps - ah! another slow mover! What triggers my impatience?

 

"the hand of the angel points the way into the heart of the world"

die Engel. Who points the way for you?

 

shadows - where we all must go if we are to appreciate the light

old stones - if they spoke, would we listen?

 

old wall with grotto - what are the walls we erect?

 

an open door at the Mariatrost - (with post office box in case the usual forms of communication don't work? 🙂

I think the post office box is actually a sign of how huge a destination Mariatrost must be.  Today, though, there was no one else around.

the plaza - Mariatrostplatz with shops (closed for now)-w.w.j.say?

 

view from the top - looking West

"Here is my place" - one of the few places dogs are not invited in!

waterfountain with bowl for dogs Mariatrost - but they are cared for!

detail of fountain

Water is Life! Indeed.

 

Mariatrost is a baroque building (begun in 1714 and finished over a 10 year period) but like so many in Graz, has Gothic roots.  There was once both a Pauline Monastery and a Franciscan order  here.  The latter left in the 1990’s.  The church is celebrating their 225th year of being a parish!  It is the second most important Marian shrine in Styria, after the Mariazell Basilica.

Compared to the very simple way up the steps, the inside of the church is either a tribute to or a riot of baroque, depending on how you view it.  Still, a peacefulness was present.  Here are some photos of the inside.

entering Mariatrost

light streams in

detail of ceiling fresco - Mariatrost

Hauptaltar Mariatrost - the Madonna statue is Gothic

side altar Mariatrost - the stone work on the pillars is luminous!

 

the organ loft and entrance to Mariatrost

sacred bones

detail of pulpit Mariatrost

The word of God…choose a scripture from the basket and read it

I appreciated this interactive part of the church.  My scripture was John 3:18.

painting of St. Francis

 

confessional - this one was 'staffed' by a Benedictine, or so the sign said.

grotto of Lourdes at Mariatrost

This was a well used replica of the Grotto of Lourdes.   A lovely place to pray.

The fruit of stillness is prayer....

 

I sat for quite a while in the sanctuary of the church.  So long that the noon bells started to ring.  Maybe you would like to hear them, too!

Bells

With that, it felt like it was time to wander home again.  Out the door to gaze once more on the beautiful hills and countryside.

 

farm fields - what is our daily bread?

 

And back once again to the tram station, where ‘relics’ of transportation are displayed in the Museum.

the Tram Museum at the end of the line

 

It was one of the first days I’d experienced with absolutely no planned agenda:  no forms to fill out to take to an agency,  no shopping or laundry to do, no monument or other attraction to view, no meetings or concerts, no place I had to be.   How beautiful is the gift of spaciousness!  I’m grateful.

A little bit of musical heaven, definitely not singin’ the blues

I didn’t think it was possible to experience more musical delights in one week, but we did!

Late last week (the week of March 7) we finally connected with the folks we had met on the trail (see this post) a few weeks back.  Christina had been trying to reach me via phone but because we hadn’t really learned these new phones yet, we were a) unaware we had received calls and b)couldn’t retrieve a voice mail message at all.  So, after taking ourselves back to the phone store and finding the same clerk who helped us before, we managed to install a system for voice mail.  I hope that after the rapidGermanthatIcannotunderstand finishes, I can just enter my pin and listen!  Texting (or SMSing here in Europe) is infinitely more reliable, once you figure out how to do it! (my adult children can stop rolling their eyes, now!)

Christina and Gernot invited us to a concert in, she said, “the church near the school where I teach.”   She said some of her students and former students would be performing.  We were thinking, ‘kids’ choir concert’ but we were so wrong and completely blown away by what we encountered! (side note:  Concerts happen in churches all the time here in Europe.  When we were in Prague in the mid-90’s, there were at least 2 or 3 different concerts a day in various churches — all open to the public usually for a small fee. Here, they tend to be more formal and people dress up!)

They picked us up near the corner market (how to tell someone where we live?) and we drove about 20 km east of Graz on winding, narrow back roads to the charming town of Nestelbach bei Graz.

 

location of Nestelbach bei Graz (‘by Graz’)–purple pin is Nestelbach

It was apparent right from the start that this was no small ‘kids concert’ because right away, even though we had arrived 1/2 hour early, there was NO PLACE to park!  (note:  in Austria, there are very few parking lots; you have to find a place on the street, usually, and in big cities like Graz, you must put two of the wheels up onto the sidewalk if you don’t want your car to get clipped by a tram!)  And as we walked into the church, there was also NO PLACE to sit.  Ahh, but Christina’s friend (a mom of a student) had, without being asked, saved us seats.  What seats they were!  We were about 3 rows back from the front and we felt like we were sitting IN the orchestra.  Yes, full orchestra!  Behind them, after the beginning instrumental piece, the choral group – about 30 singers, mostly adults but some youth and one little girl (10 years old) – filed in.

 

the church in Nestelbach bei Graz - built 1678 ('neu' by Austrian standards!)

What proceeded, after the Allegro in G by Vivaldi, was an amazing concert of alterations of readings from the Bible (creation through the passion, resurrection and ascension of Christ) and choral (satb) or instrumental works.  The very first choral piece was the Gloria from Vivaldi (yes! another point of familiarity!).  These people were not professionals:  mostly it was the church choir and church members, with some students from the university community.  14 pieces in all, mostly choral but the orchestra played on every one.  Absolutely impressive and sung and performed from the heart.    The Austrian audience very respectfully did not clap until the end, but when the last note was sung in the Benedictus, there was uproarious applause, so much so that the groups performed 3 encores!

 

the orchestra standing at the end; Mag. Hubert Stoppacher, Chorleiter, on the left (glasses).

The choir leader has had no ‘formal’ training as a conductor.  He reads music and he put together the entire program, re-arranging some of the pieces for his groups, and published a 9-page glossy program with photos to accompany the text of the songs. It’s title was “es werde Licht!” or “Let there be Light!”  The groups had been working on this for about 5 months, and it is something they do each year, especially during Lent.  This was the second of two performances this weekend.   Is there something in the leitungswasser (tap water) that leads to such musical talent in this small country? If so, it is time to drink up!

 

 

more orchestra

 

the choir

 

these folks had the BEST seats! (actually I think they stood for most of it!)

Afterward, there was a reception in the parish hall, with beer, wine, water, Pfirsich-Nektar (peach nectar, right from the orchard up the street), sandwiches and some kind of sweet bread shaped like a treble clef.  Am I in music heaven or what?  Bill and Gernot chatted (we found out he is some kind of sound engineer working with the Austrian highway department — you know those walls you often see separating the interstates from residential areas?  That’s what he designs!)  and I went with Christina as she met all the other people in the room, or so it seemed.  I tried a little German and they tried a lot of English!  We laughed and smiled, and it was just a ‘super’ time!  It was clear she is a much beloved teacher and the feeling between her, her students or former students, and their families is mutual.

At the Fulbright Orientation in Vienna, the program’s director mentioned that Austrians tend to appear outwardly ‘gruff’ but once you got to know them, they are delightfully warm and hospitable.  As we’ve walked around Graz, we have noticed that.  Most people do not look you in the eye or if they do, they rarely smile or speak even if you speak to them.    Bill is sure that is just ‘big city’ culture but this Montana girl was starting to feel a little discouraged, after so many smiles and Grüss gott’s were not returned.

After our visit to Nestelbach bei Graz, it was like the world had changed!  We felt such joy at being with the people there!  In the program notes, the director wrote about this time of Lent being thought of as morose and shadowy.  While he wanted to present a contemplative program, he did not want to ‘sing the blues’.  And after that night, we couldn’t agree more!