English Park, Munich

Day 55, Saturday, October 19, 2019

Bob is doing fantastic job finding things for us to see and do and organizing our days.  I just tag along, enjoying what he has planned.  It is supposed to be warm today so we pack a picnic lunch and make our way slowly towards English Garden.

First stop is the Church of The Holy Spirit.  Bob announces that it is decorated for Halloween, but no, it is decorated for a light art video installation and these are angel wings. We see lots of people carrying home these little pots of colourful heather from the street market. There are lots of people enjoying the day, and drinking  lots of beer, even though it isn’t that warm. I quite like this gaggle of geese but they are just a bit to big to fit into my suitcase! There are many charming small fountains in Munich, like this one of Ida Shumacker, a Bavarian actress and comedian who died in 1956.

Another little fountain and more people enjoying the afternoon. These colourful flowers are artichokes.  I had no idea they looked like this when they bloom! There are lots of flower and dried flower stands.  We pop into one of Munich’s beer gardens but it is cool today so there aren’t many people. I am sure it was a different story just a few weeks ago during Oktoberfest.  We were originally going to be in Munich during Oktoberfest but quickly changed our plans when we realized that.  More than six million people descend on Munich to drink beer and party…not anyplace we want to be! This house looks like it will soon be completely covered in ivy!

The Feldherrnhalle, or Field Marshall’s Hall, is where Hitler and his supporters fought with the police in 1923 during the Beer Hall Putsch.  Putsch means coup in German and the coup march began at a beer hall. 16 of Hitlers supporters were killed along with 4 policemen, and Hitler was arrested and sent to prison.
Another church!  The Theatine Church is all intricately carved white stone.
Here is a close up of some of the carving.  Notice all the little angels on the columns. We are almost at the English Gardens, when we decide to stop and have our lunch near this pavilion instead.  We listen to the violinist and watch this couple taking their wedding photos.By the time we finish our lunch it has warmed up and the sun is peeking through the clouds.  We continue on to the English Garden.  This is an enormous park created in 1789 in the style of an English country park, hence the name.

There are 78 km of paths so we only see a bit of the southern part of the park, which stretches all the way to the edge of the city!  The trees are huge. We climb up to the Monopteros, which was added to the park, along with the hill, in 1836.  There are some views of the city from the Monopteros. People play soccer, ride bikes, jog, picnic and even horse back ride in this park.  I wish it had a few more benches!  These geese like the park too.
On our way back to the metro we stop at yet another church.  St. Ludwig is another venue for the Angels installation I mentioned earlier.  Maybe we will be able to come back one evening and see it. St. Ludwig is home to the second largest altar fresco in the world. The large fresco of the Last Judgement (1836-1840), by the German painter Peter von Cornelius, measures almost 19 metres by 11.5 metres!  There is a service taking place so we are not able to get a close up look at this enormous fresco. Just before we catch the metro home we stop to visit this library.  The poster outside looks pretty grand…but other than the grand staircase, the inside is a bit of a disappointment.  Lots of study cubicles and hardly any books!  As in the library we visited in Berlin, no coats, laptop cases, backpacks or purses are allowed into the library and anything you do take in must be in a clear plastic bag.  Seems strange to me.

Königssee Lake & Wimbachklamm Waterfall

Day 52, Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Königsee Lake is less than an hour south of Salzburg.  It is the deepest and cleanest lake in Austria.  The drive is pretty, and the clouds are low but it is supposed to clear up later in the day.  We checked out of our Airbnb this morning and we are on our way to Munich. We arrive at the lake just in time to get on the next boat departure.  Only electric boats are allowed on the lake. This is the view as we pull away from the dock. The water is crystal clear and the trees have put on their fall colours. Here we are passing another boat.  I love the reflections on the water.  The day is perfect, warm, sunny and calm. More reflections.  The boat stopped in the middle of the lake and one of the boatmen stood on the deck and played a trumpet.  The high rock walls of this fjord-like lake echoed back the song perfectly. There is a restaurant and a church about 2/3 of the way down the length of the lake.  We walk about and have our lunch.  There are lots of these rather strange fake trophys lining both walls in the entrance to the restaurant. The view down the lake back towards where we started. These benches offered great views while we had our lunch. Back near the dock this old tree is thick with moss, but it is still growing. There were lots of leaves floating on the water.  I quite like the contrast between the golden colours of the leaves and the cool blue-green lake. As we pull away from the dock we get a good view of Saint Bartholomew Church.  This small pilgrimage church, dating to 1697, is known for its wine-red onion domes. This bug joined us for the ride back. The rock face on the right side of the lake is even steeper and has fewer trees than the other side.   It is impossible to walk along the lake to St. Bartholomew Church as the rocks are too rugged. Just around this corner we see a cross, but what catches my attention is the face I see in the rock. Can you see it too? Walking back to the car Bob wonders if we should buy some new clothes!High up on one of the mountains we spot the Eagle’s Nest.  This retreat was built as a present for Hitler’s 50th birthday.   I get a few photos of some of the local cows, but what I really want is a chance to stop and draw them.  Not today, as there isn’t a safe place to park the car and we still have a ways to go before dark. Our next stop is to hike up to the Wimbachklamm Waterfall.  The hike up to the falls is a bit steep but so worth the effort. We pass a sheep farm with guard dogs for the sheep.  They are very protective and when I went up to the fence to get this photo they jumped up and came running, barking loudly.This is the beginning of the gorge walk.  The boardwalk hangs out over the water.This is the closest I will probably get to having a halo!
The water is very fast and loud… with many small waterfalls along the sides of the gorge. It isn’t a long walk, but we thoroughly enjoyed all of it. These beautiful golden trees are at the top of the gorge where we hike back down to our car.  The path continues further but it is a long hike, so not for us. Back near the parking lot we see the hugest dahlia plant ever!  It is at least eight or nine feet tall.  We are soon back on the road.  We drive the Deutsche Alpenstrasse, which is a scenic mountain road, and we arrive in Munich just before it gets dark.

 

Salzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg)

Day 50, Monday, October 14, 2019

On our way to the Salzburg Fortress we pass a Steiff Store with their famous stuffed animals.  They are expensive, the polar bear sitting in front of the big standing bear is ‘only’ 299 euros, about $440.00 Canadian! The funicular makes short work of the steep climb to the fortress. The Hohensalzburg Fortress (Salzburg Fortress) was built in the 11th century by Archbishop Gebhard and is the largest unconquered fortress in Europe. The castle is 150 meters wide and 250 meters long, and the oldest part is over 900 years old. First stop at the Fortress is the top of one of the guard towers for a great view towards the mountains… overlooking the fortress… and of the old town of Salzburg.  That big square is where the Bio Fest was held yesterday.  You can see the golden globe with the man standing on top.  Right behind the square is the Salzburg Cathedral with the big dome, where we went to hear the choir yesterday morning. There are lots of huge doors and interesting corridors in the fortress. This wheel was dropped on prisoners in order to break their bones and cause internal damage.  If it didn’t kill them they were tied to it until they died an agonizing death.
The Salzburg Steir, or Salzburg Bull is a giant mechanical organ built in 1502. It still plays twice a day and is the last example of a Gothic organ to survive. The Stier is the oldest daily played automated musical instrument in the world.  It plays melodies from Haydn and Mozart every day after the glockenspiel chimes.  St. George’s Chapel has reliefs of the Apostles, made from marble.  We find a bench and have our lunch in the courtyard by the chapel.The fortress served as a garrison for the Erzherzog Rainer Regiment in 1682.  Erzherzog Rainer had quite the moustache!
There were watercolour paintings of the regiment over the years which I quite liked, and I thought the paper twists which held a musket ball and gunpowder were interesting. War has always been brutal… Austrian painter Karl Reisenbichler painted his fellow soldiers and portrayed images of death and suffering in WWI. We have seen a lot about war and death and suffering on this trip.  I think that this cabinet is probably the best way to use rifles I have seen! This is a view of the fortress tower we climbed when we first arrived. These large fortress rooms with their huge timbered ceilings are now a museums for armour and other items used for fighting.
This kitchen was reserved for food preparation for the Archbishop.  Note the little round hole in the wall on the left that was used to throw out rubbish and drain water.Medieval furnishings and some arches uncovered during renovations in 1998.  The arches were originally in an outside wall. The fortress was renovated and added to many times over the centuries.
The Regency Rooms are spectacular.  This is the Golden Hall with its ceilings painted blue and studded with golden balls to represent the sky and stars.  It served as a ballroom and today is used for recitals.  The golden Chamber was a smaller sitting room with a small library behind the door in the corner. It has a magnificent medieval tiled stove that warmed this living space and reception room. Interestingly, the bedroom was not heated.  We also learned that during the Middle Ages people slept in a semi-sitting position with many pillows because they believed that if they lay down they could suffocate. This position allowed them to have their weapons ready and attack any nighttime intruders. The doors were also low so that anyone coming in had to bend down when entering. Behind this little door is the toilet, which was very modern for medieval times. As we leave the Fortress there is a small Marionette Museum.  I love this collection of  tiny feet and shoes, and thought that these two marionettes were the most beautiful, well crafted ones here. There is a wall of marionettes, and several dioramas… and of course, a Sound of Music scene.
I think this huge well was connected to the cistern that was built within the fortress walls.  Now it is a giant wishing well. This is the entrance to the oldest part of the fortress, adjacent to the newest addition, an elevator. As we exit the fortress beside the bell tower,  we have a view of the watch tower we climbed at the beginning of out visit.  From the top we could not look over the sides to see how high up we were. At the bottom of the funicular we take advantage of the Love Grotto to ensure our love is everlasting!We have seen these chalk markings on many houses, church doors, businesses and shops in Germany and Austria.  I wondered what they meant.  A quick search on my ‘magic library’ and I find this quote.

“On the evening before Three Kings, traditionally there were prayers, blessed dried herbs would be burnt and their aromatic smell would fill the house. Doorways would be sprinkled with holy water and the master of the house would write with chalk C + M + B and the year above the house and barn door and say: ‘Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water.’ C + M + B has traditionally been translated as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, however, according to the Church it stands for “Christus Mansionem Benedictat” (Christ bless this home).”   Now I know! On the bus home we can see the old medieval town walls. The ivy on a wall on our walk home looks like a giant red creature. 

Salzburg Cathedral and Bio Fest

Day 49, Sunday, October 13, 2019

This morning we attend a service at the Salzburg Cathedral.  There is a choir at this service and we thought it would be a nice way to see the church, and hear the choir at the same time.  The inside of the church is magnificent.  No matter how many churches we visit, we still wonder at their ornate interiors.This short video gives you look at the church while listening to the choir. I draw while we listen to the service and choir.  Of course we can’t understand any of it! I was tempted to finish this drawing of the altar from a photo but in the end decided to leave it just as it was. The cathedral was badly damaged during the Second World War. But today is beautifully restored.  The ceilings are particularly ornate, this is the ceiling of one of the small side chapels. In the basement is a crypt with a small chapel, and its very own ghostly apparition that flies around the room!  Tough to catch its likeness in a photo but there it is on the back wall.

After the service we find a Bio Fair (Organic Fair) right around the corner.  There are people everywhere enjoying the sunshine, food and drinks.  Great people watching today! We have lunch here but are too full to have one of these giant donut-like pastries, which are served either with sauerkraut or sprinkled with sugar and filled with jam.We sit for awhile to listen to a band, which sang in English, and I did a quick sketch of the bass player.

There is an area for the kids to play…I think they must be scratchy after jumping in all that hay! Nearby is St. Peter’s Cemetery.  Cemeteries in Austria are very neat and beautifully kept.We learned that plots are rented in Austria and if the rent is not paid the bones are dug up and the plot is rented out to someone else.  The remains are either moved to a mass gravesite or dug up and buried deeper in the same plot and the headstone removed so that the plot can be reused!  The headstones are on the wall of the church for exactly this reason.  The rent on the plot was not paid so the grave was reused and the headstones were placed here.  This explains the many headstones we have seen on cemetery walls and other churches.

The von Trapp family (The Sound of Music) hid in this cemetery, in one of these vaults just before they escaped from Austria.
Bob insisted we needed a photo of me hiding in the cemetery!We almost miss seeing the catacombs dating from the 12th century.  Can you see the windows high up in the cliff above the cemetery?  Pay particular attention to the little door below the windows.  This is where Saint Maximus and 50 of his followers were thrown to their death in 477AD, because of their faith.This is one of the chapels carved out of the rock high in the cliff. A view of the graveyard through one of the windows as we climbed down from the stone chapels. Bob has a few more places for us to visit.  The Church of Our Lady dates from 1221 AD.  It was very dark everywhere except for right around the altar where there are soaring pillars and arched ceilings. Next is the Horse Fountain.  This fountain has a ramp (the white area on the right side of the photo) so that horses could walk right into the fountain to cool off. This fountain is just a bit smaller! Notice the dates on these buildings…1360 on the apricot coloured one and 1258 on the brown one.  I am amazed that these houses are this old. We see a very long line up… it is people lining up for ice cream!  Soft ice cream in a cup with a choice of fresh fruit and other toppings. I see this curious ‘wand’ and wonder where it is from.This is a view of the side of the Salzburg Cathedral.
We walk back through the Bio-Fest on our way home and now I know where the wand comes from.  These look like such fun to make.Walking past this house we notice a sign saying that this is where the creator of the song “Silent Night’ was born.One more church!.. with lots of paintings and a pretty green and white ceiling.  The skull was on a plaque near the door, and the little bronze plaques were in the square outside.  They mark the location where a person was arrested and taken to a concentration camp.  We looked for these in other cities but couldn’t find any.  It has the person’s name, date of birth, date of arrest, the name of the camp and their date of death.  

This sculpture is a popular destination for Mozart fans. The horse fountain in the square near the Salzburg Cathedral glows in the late afternoon sun. I thought tying them up was a clever way to deal with unruly tall grasses. In a yard near our Airbnb I spot these little rock gardens.  I might have to make one of these in our garden at home.  I am always collecting stones! The fall colours are brilliant in the late afternoon sun as we arrive home.

Salzburg, Austria

Day 46, Thursday, October 10, 2019

Today was a quiet day.  Bob went for a walk to check out the transit system and neighbourhood and I worked on my blog, caught up on some emails and took it easy.  The big excursion for the day was going for a few groceries before dinner.

Day 47, Friday, October 11, 2019

Walking to the bus I notice many houses have very attractive front entries. We can see Hohensalzburg Fortress high on the hill above Salzburg.  Tour guide Bob informs me we will visit there on Tuesday. We can see beautiful green alpine meadows in the hills above Salzburg. We pass dairy cows right in town just a couple blocks from the train and bus station.  The advertisement above the cows gave me a chuckle.  We pop into a downtown church when we get off the bus.  It looks like a community church from the outside, with big cheery murals on either side of the door.  The inside is much less ornate than many of the churches we have visited and there is lots of information on community programs and events.  Nice to see. We stop at some  food stands selling wine and beer, and have a bit to eat.  These giant doughnuts look interesting but we pass.  They are as big as small plates! The gardens around the Mirabell Palace are beautiful.  In the movie ‘The Sound of Music’ Maria and the children dance around this Pegasus fountain and sing ‘Do Re Mi’. The grass contains elaborate knot patterns decorated with flowers.  These are freshly planted pansies, hundred of dozens of them! The Zwergerigarten is a surprise.  It is the oldest ‘Dwarf Garden’ in Europe and was built in 1695.  Yes, a Dwarf Garden!  We had no idea there was such a thing.    This fellow insisted on trying on Bob’s baseball cap! The collection of 28 marble dwarf sculptures was sold at auction in 1811.  17 of the sculptures have been recovered and put back into the park in their original positions.   Here are some of these curious sculptures. We have tea and cookies in the garden and then I draw for a while. I used a new brush pen that I got just before we left for holidays.  I think it is going to take a while to get used to.  I used a water brush to create value with the water based ink in the pen.

I sketched the mountain this morning waiting for the bus.  Drawing these dwarves I was starting to get a feel for how to use this pen.  A water brush and white crayon were used to add some value.Walking through the garden there are some more knot designs created with flowers in the grass. There is a small Orangerie…with some goldfish, a turtle and a few birds. Looking back towards the Mirabelle Palace. The two towers in the background belong to the church we visited earlier. These young girls were enjoying the Pegasus Fountain, and I enjoyed watching them. There seems to be several unicorns here in Salzburg. I have time for a quick sketch of a beautiful enormous tree while waiting for Bob. There are a lot of big trees here. We have never seen a giraffe quite like this before! We walk along the river heading towards the Old Town. The Old Town and the Castle on the hill make a striking view.
People are out enjoying the warm weather. This is the house that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived in with his family until he moved to Vienna in 1781. His family occupied the entire top floor.  We were looking for a free film and somehow ended up in the museum instead, so we had a quick look around. This street was the inspiration for the song ‘Silent Night’.  It is a long street so no idea exactly where this inspiration transpired.
This door had interesting marks scratched on it that looks very old.Here is the entrance to the “Silent Night’ street.
As we explore some of the side streets, we pass this ‘House of Pleasure’, and yes, it seems to be that kind of pleasure! We also see some graffiti that I quite like.  Note how the little ledge is incorporated into the image.  Very clever!This little sidewalk fountain had red roses stuck in small holes in the paving.  I wonder why? We check out the Marionette Theatre, but unfortunately there are no performances while we are here. While we wait for the bus home I notice an empty store front where someone has written on the glass windows with a black felt pen.  It is an interesting different sort of graffiti.

St. Florian Monastery, Austria

Day 45, Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Time to move on to our next destination.  I took this picture because I know my mom will recognize the pot with blue designs beside the flowers.  She has one just like it.

Bob closes the door as we leave.  It is hard to see, but the picture on the wall is of the two old aunties who used to live here. I was going to take a close up of it and somehow forgot.
On the way to say goodbye to my friends the sheep I snapped a few more photos of the farm buildings.  There were certainly lots of interesting things to see here. Only the young fellow destined for the table came up to see me today.  The other two were playing shy. This shows how long the front of the house is.  The attic full of stuff ran almost the whole length of it.  On the far end was the smaller attic above the two bedrooms in the auntie’s house. Part of the route to St. Florian Monastery, which is our next stop, is a very narrow road through some woods.
The monastery is very large.  The stretch of red roof from the church to the front corner is 200 metres long.  It covers a corridor that runs its length. This is the fountain in the middle of the large courtyard. I am so excited…we actually get to go into a library.  This library has 150,000 books, 35,000 of which are in this one room. They are mainly books on Religion and History. You can see the bookcase door that opens to another room.  The spiral staircase to the second floor is in that room.  There are many more rooms full of books but we only get to visit this one.  We are told that this library is available for the public to use.  Wish I lived closer! I love the library ‘ladders’ used ot reach books on high shelves.  Heck, I pretty much love everything about this library! Later on during the tour we see this photo of Adolph Hiltler standing in the same place we had just stood.  It is a strange thought…that we were someplace that he was.Of course this library also has a magnificent ceiling.
Next we visit the Marble Ballroom which represents the colours of the Habsburg Monarchy, red, white and yellow. This is why I end up with a sore neck after sightseeing! Our guide pointed out some of the many fossils that are in the marble on the floors and walls.  I never thought of marble as being a stone the came from ancient oceans. The big ammonite was on the fireplace hearth, notice the toe of a shoe in the corner for scale. One of the many very ornate carved wooden doors in the monastery. The Monastery church is grand.  Lots of carved white stone and dark carved woodwork. The altar is decorated with bouquets of sunflowers. We have never seen drapery carved in stone in a church before.  Everything in this church looks so very well preserved, there are no broken or dirty bits.  In fact everywhere in this monastery is very well taken care of.  We wonder where the money to maintain a place this large comes from.  The church organ was built in 1774 and it is one of the largest working organs in Austria.  It is known as the Bruckner Organ as it was played by composer and organist Anton Bruckner. He had been a choir boy at the monastery, and he was the church organist, between 1848 and 1855. I do not know much about classical music so did not know anything about Anton Bruckner. He was a famous Austrian composer, organist, and music theorist best known for his symphonies and masses. On the floor directly below the organ is a memorial plaque and …in the crypt directly below this plaque is his sarcophagus.  His wish was to be buried here at St. Florian Monastery even though he lived and died in Vienna. Yes, those are bones behind the sarcophagus, the bones of over 6,000 people, dating back to the 4th century.  It is thought that the bones of St. Florian could possibly be in here.  A few more pictures of the 700 year old crypt which is still used today as a burial place for the monastery monks. The windows open to outside, there is no glass.  I wonder if this was so decomposing bodies were ventilated?We visit twelve guest rooms in the monastery.  These rooms have not been used since the mid 18th century and have been preserved as a museum.  These elaborately decorated rooms were reserved for royalty who might visit the monastery.  These doorways connect all the rooms. The red bedroom was reserved for Pope Pius VI, although he only spent one night here. The walls and chairs in this room are covered in matching tapestries.  There is a big masonry stove in each of these rooms.Each room is lavishly decorated.  The last two rooms are a shrine to Anton Bruckner. The photo shows him in his bed in his Vienna apartment.  He died in this bed, which is now on display here along with his other furniture.Remember those big masonry stoves in the royal apartments?  These metal doors in the hallway open to the inside of the stoves.  This is how the fires in the stoves were cared for by servants without bothering the apartment occupants. There are thirty monks at this monastery.  Only thirteen live here full time, the rest live in neighbouring parishes.  Over the last 950 years the monastery had 108 monks at its peak and only three at its lowest.  I am told that thirty monks is quite good ‘these days’.  There is one young monk, several in their fifties and sixties and the rest are older.  We see this monk as we are leaving and assume he is the one young one. The cemetery beside the church is the prettiest, most well cared for one we have ever visited. As we drive towards Salzburg we pass several huge piles of sugar beets in the fields.  Austria grows more than 3 million tonnes of sugar beets every year. Finally we find a safe place to pull off the road so I can get a photo of one of the fields of pumpkins we have seen along the way. We make a quick stop at Kremsmunster Monastery but it can only be visited by guided tours and we don’t have time.  The church is open and it is the only one we have seen that has tapestries wrapped around its pillars.Back on the road, from a distance, I thought this was another field of pumpkins or maybe squash, but they are sunflowers. Good thing the sun wasn’t shining or I would have wanted to stay much longer and take many more photos.  What a beautiful sight it was to see so many gorgeous sunflowers.

 

 

Schwechet, Austria to Bratislava, Slovakia

Day 39, Thursday, October 3, 2019

Our new bnb is in Schwechet, which is a suburb of Vienna. Today we are going to Bratislava, which is in Slovakia, to pick up our car rental.  Doing this saves us over 400 euros, renting the exact same car from the same company.  This is certainly worth a few hours of our time. The train we take to the Vienna airport from Schwechet isn’t very busy. We pass refineries that stretch for more than a kilometre. We find our Flixbus at the airport easily and it is just on hour ride to the airport. After stopping in the town centre of Bratislava we are the only ones left on the bus. We asked the driver to make sure we were on the right bus…it seemed strange that no one else was going to the airport. Our first view of the Danube River. When we get to the airport there were maybe a dozen other people there! The place feels almost abandoned, but we do find an English Time magazine with Justin Trudeau on the cover, so we can catch up on the news. We discover why there are so few people here.  There is only one flight every hour or so departing from here. We pick up our car rental, a nice blue Škoda Octavia, and we take a side road back to Austria.  We see several hilltop castles but no time to stop and explore today. This route takes us through many small towns.  We were hoping to see the Danube as we are driving right along side it, but there just isn’t any place we can find to get down to the riverside. Guess that will have to wait for another day. The road narrows to one lane to go through this town gate.  We stop for groceries on the way home and  find a place to park our car on a side street near our apartment.

Strahov Monastery, Prague

Day 37, Tuesday, October 1, 2019

On the way to the Strahov Monastery we pass this memorial to the victims fo Communism.  It is dedicated to those who were executed and those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism.  This sculpture makes us smile.  It appears to have a dog drinking dish at its bottom. Peering into a church courtyard we see this crucifix right beside a gift shop.  It seems strange to have an upscale gift shop in a church courtyard. Bob leads us down several little side streets to the John Lennon Wall.  Since the 1980s it has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti, pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs, and other designs relating to local and global causes.We stop for a picnic lunch in this little park beside St. Charles Bridge… and sit on a dragon bench.
The streets in Prague are busy no matter where we go.  We wonder what they must be like during the summer months? It showers on and off as we arrive at the monastery.  Note the cobbled road.  All these uneven cobbled surfaces are quite hard on our feet and ankles. The Strahov Monastery was founded in 1143 and has many buildings and extensive gardens. First stop is the Strahov Library and I am delighted to find that there is an exhibit of Cabinets of Curiosities!  I love these cabinets and have several drawers at home with my own curiosities.  Perhaps I need to make my own Cabinet of Curiosities? Some of the contents are rather strange. We are told that this ‘might’ be a young dodo bird! These books are very unusual. This is a 68 volume Dendrological Library.  Dendrology is the science and study of wooded plants.  The covers of each volume are made of the wood of a particular tree, the spine has its name in Latin and German, and inside each volume are pieces of the roots, branches and twigs, as well as leaves, blossoms, fruit, and sometimes even insect pests.  As a paper artist and bookmaker, I find these unusual volumes fascinating and inspiring. Along the hallway between two magnificent libraries are display cases with very old volumes.  This 1632 woodcut first appeared in a compilation of English Alchemical texts.  This piece was printed by hand on Japanese hand made paper and the pass-partout, or mat, is covered in handmade marbled paper.   The John of Šellmberk’s Bible preserves the oldest translation of the Bible into the Czech language and dates from the 1400’s.  Notice how thick the volume is! This exquisite miniature book from the 15th century is only about 3″ x 4″ and would have belonged to a private citizen. A page from the Missale of Louka, 1483, illuminations from the Strahov Evangeliary, 860-865 AD and on the bottom right, a book for private use from the 15th century. The Theological Hall was built in the 1600’s and holds over 20,000 volumes. One whole wall is filled with various editions of the Bible, or its parts, in various languages. The ceiling depicts the life of the librarian.The Gothic wooden statue of St. John the Evangelist is holding a girdle book. Because the girdle book was a travel volume very few have survived.
There are several globes, both terrestrial and astronomical, in the centre of the room and the interesting device on the left is a book wheel from 1678 for the study and compilation of books.  The gear inside enabled the shelves to remain at the same angle when they are turned so that the books would not slide off the shelves. As magnificent as the Theological Hall is I think that the Philosophical Hall is even more impressive. This library, finished in 1794, is 32 metres long, 10 metres wide and 14 metres in height.  The ceiling painting, ‘The Spiritual Development of Mankind’, was created by a Viennese artist, and one assistant in just six months! The shelves of books in the gallery are only accessible from hidden spiral staircases in both corners, masked by false book spines.
The books are shelved two deep. At one time tourists were allowed to walk through the library but this caused too much humidity and put the paintings and volumes at risk.  Now we have to contend ourselves with peering in from the doorway.  Too bad but it is still wonderful to see these incredible libraries.The Philosophical Hall contains more than 50,000 volumes on Philosophy, all the sciences, history, law, and natural sciences. Next we visit the Convent Building which has galleries on two floors around this cloister with its unusual trapezoid pool.There is an exhibit of large restored paintings depicting the life of St. Norbert but they were difficult to see.  My neck got sore from looking up all the time. The ‘procession’ at the end of the room holds a reliquary with what appears to be part of St. Norbert’s skull. Another room has exhibits of beautifully embroidered church vestments and other liturgical objects including heavily jewelled monstrances. It does make me wonder just how much money the Catholic Church has? The second floor has a gallery around three sides of the cloister.   There were a few paintings I liked but most of them didn’t really impress either of us all that much. Bob notices another ornate old lock. As we leave the monastery grounds on our way to the Prague Funicular, we pass the 63.5 metre high Petrin Tower, which is reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower.  This tower was built in 1891, and is used as an observation tower as well as a transmission tower. The 383 metre long funicular takes us back down to Prague city streets. I didn’t get much of a view because some young people kindly jumped up to give me a seat, so instead of standing where I could see I sat all the way down!  The hazards of having grey hair! It has been a full day and we are happy to be home.  I had planned on going to life drawing again tonight, but we need to clean and pack for our trip to Vienna tomorrow so I decide not to go.

Prague Castle

Day 36, Monday, September 30, 2019

Prague is filled with many beautiful buildings.  We pass this one on our way to the Prague Castle. We had a good laugh.  Bob thought that the two guards in the guard-boxes were wax mannequins.  They were so motionless!

St. Vitus Cathedral is the first place we visit inside the castle grounds.  Our eyes are immediately drawn to the beautiful stained glass windows, and then to the hordes of people!

This sculpture is about a third of the way down this very large cathedral. Everyone has entrance to the cathedral with their entrance ticket to the Castle but they are only allowed into about the entrance of the nave.  We bought the next level ticket so we could walk around the whole cathedral and see all the side chapels and the altar up close.

The stained glass windows, created by 20th century Czech artists, are some of the most beautiful we have seen.  Each window is unique and their intense colours flood the interior of this Gothic Cathedral. 

Here is a close up of some non-traditional stained glass windows. Perhaps my favourite is the window designed by Alphonse Mucha.  You may remember we saw his design drawing for this window at the Mucha Museum yesterday. The beautiful rose window on the entrance wall of the cathedral was completed in 1925 and took two years to complete.  The inscriptions on the stained glass tell the story of Creation as told in the Bible. This wooden panel from 1630 shows the St. Charles Bridge, built in 1403, that we visited on Saturday. The city doesn’t really look all that different, does it? St. Vitus is portrayed with a rooster by his side, because he was boiled to death in a pot with a rooster!  These saints all seem to have had horrible tortuous deaths.  St. Vitus never actually even visited this cathedral, but a relic, or pieces of his body, was brought here and the Cathedral was built to honour him. St John of Nepomuk’s tomb is an elaborate baroque silver tomb with angels supporting a draped canopy.  It is said to contain two tonnes of silver.  St. John is the patron saint of the Czechs.  In hte latter part of hte 14th century, King Wenseslas tortured John with fire and then gagged him, put him in a goatskin and had him thrown into the Vltava River! He later declared him a martyr.  So much for ‘Good’ King Wenceslas!  There are so many people visiting this cathedral that I had to take this photo looking back towards the tomb to get a decent shot. 

This interesting fellow perched up high lighting the way is on the corner of a balcony that leads to the King’s private chambers.  The King was able visit the church whenever he wants without being seen by others. This is the chapel dedicated to St. Wenceslas, the king and patron saint of all the Czech lands. The lower part of the walls are decorated with more than 1300 gems and the joints between them are covered with gold.  The walls are covered in frescoes and the relics of St. Wenceslas are kept in the red draped case.   As we are leaving, the sun comes out for a bit and shines through the stained glass windows casting coloured light into the cathedral.  Note the lady posing behind Bob.  We seem to see her everywhere we go today and she is always posing ‘just so’ for a photo.  I’m not sure her and her husband are even looking at the cathedral as anything but a backdrop for her photographs. As beautiful as this cathedral is, I still love some of the simpler details that are easy to overlook with all the grandeur surrounding us. A view of the Cathedral.  This front entrance isn’t used by tourists, we entered on the end of the cathedral behind the building with orange panels.since the 16th century, the Vladislav Hall in the Old Royal Place, was used for coronation festivities and banquets, knights’ tournaments and markets for luxurious goods.  The Vladislav Hall still is used for state functions.  It is an enormous room. The Old Palace contained the Land Rolls, where all matters regarding property rights and criminal law were recorded.  An interesting door handle. One room had chairs which are almost the same as the ones my Swiss  grandfather used to make, only he put more carving and decoration on his.The present day appearance of St. George’s Basilica dates to the reconstruction after a devastating fire in 1142.  Now it is used for short-term art exhibitions.

We visit St. Georges 12th century crypt and see this rather bizarre sculpture.  I did some research and discovered that it is “a Late Gothic Statue of Brigita, representing a dead and decaying girl´s body.  It is a symbol of impermanence.  A legend says that it was made by a sculptor, who killed his girlfriend and wanted to create her statue before he was executed.  However, he was only able to make it as a dead body, because of his despair.” ~.www.prague.cz On the way out we see this collection of relics, but have no idea who they are.  These relics seem a bit bizarre.   Not only was the poor person usually tortured and killed but then their bones were carted off, often to several different locations and  put on display.  Hmmm. This is the Golden Lane.  This lane of tiny houses was built against the northern wall of the castle. These tiny houses were occupied until World War II and have been preserved so that the character of this lane has not changed.  From 1916 to 1917 house No. 22 was inhabited by the writer Franz Kafka. The name of the Lane is derived from goldsmiths who used to live there.  I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who told me that he and his father were both goldsmiths and that the tools have not changed at all. He also said his father died young and that he quit because some of the processes involved are very toxic. The houses are tiny and have tiny doors. This was a fortune teller’s house whose predictions about the early fall of the Third Reich resulted in her being arrested and tortured to death by the Gestapo. An amateur historian who saved many copies of old films that were intended for disposal during the Second World War lived here.  We watch one film that showed scenes of Prague and this Golden Lane.  It looks much like it does today.We almost missed seeing a huge display of old armaments and armour.  It was quite interesting.  Some the swords have pistols built into them, or axes attached! And then there is the torture chamber.  These places give me the creeps.  It is just so hard ot think of people subjecting each other to such pain and terror.  Bob is standing beside an Iron Maiden, which has spikes inside just long enough to pierce the body and make sure that the person inside dies a slow painful death.  There are two spikes placed so that they will pierce the eyes of whoever is placed inside, and take a look at that chair!  It is enough to give me nightmares.After the torture chamber we see some great views of Prague… can you spot our TV Tower?  It is hard to miss.
As we leave the castle the changing of the guards marches past.  A couple of the guards have their hats blown off by the wind but they just keep marching, although they did smile!  It was crazy windy today and a bit cold so it was a good day to be inside.Walking past the Cathedral towards the exit I thought to look up, and yes, there were gargoyles!  I love gargoyles, in case you didn’t know. This shrub was near the exit.  I have no idea what it is and wonder if anyone else might know?

Mucha Museum, Fred and Ginger and St. Nicholas Church, Prague

Day 35, Sunday, September 29, 2019

Prague’s combination of old and new buildings is interesting.  Sometimes the new buildings offer great reflections of the older buildings.
This knitted sculpture ‘Carmen’ is the creation of Eva Blahová, an artist and scenic designer living in Prague. 33 knitters from all over the Czech Republic were involved in this project and they knit over 50 meters of red ruffles to dress an existing sculpture.  It is pretty impressive. Walking towards the “Dancing House’ we pass beautiful Art Nouveau buildings with very grand entrances.
These entrances are on this block of buildings. Although Prague was bombed in World War II it did not suffer the catastrophic damages of Berlin and Dresden.  There are so many beautiful buildings with lots of carved decorations here. The Dancing House, or Fred and Ginger, as it is nicknamed, was built in place of a building that was destroyed during the war.  We think we know which is Fred and which is Ginger.  What do you think? We crossed this bridge and had our picnic lunch in a little park with this view.  Prague has lots of trees and parks. Here ae some more pastel coloured buildings we see on our walk along the river. These statues holding up a balcony are quite wonderful.   I think Bob might have been a locksmith in another life.  He is always noticing interesting locks. We arrive at the most famous Baroque church in Prague, St. Nicholas Church, at Old Town Square. The dome has a diameter of 20 m, with a  height of over 49 m, making it the highest interior in Prague. The church was completed in 1735, replacing a parish church dating back to 1273.  There is so much history everywhere we visit.  Canada is such a young country in comparison.
The ceiling fresco is over 1500 square metres in size and is one of the largest in Europe. We climb to the second floor balcony for some great views of the church.There are interesting things to see everywhere if you keep your eyes open, especially down the side streets.
These painted blocks are a fundraising project for disabled people.  You pay for a brick and then get to paint it.  We didn’t have time today but I see that someone from Canada contributed a brick.
At the Mucha Museum I learn the Alphonse Mucha’s name is pronounced mooka, not moosha as I thought.  We see many of his lithograph works that I am familiar with.  The Four Flowers.. Evening Reverie…
and the Four Arts, which celebrate Dance, Painting, Poetry and Music. I particularly loved being able to get close up to some of Mucha’s drawings.  Woman on a Bear Skin is drawn with a pencil and a white crayon on a brown ground.  It is amazing.  A photo does not even begin to do it justice.  It was also behind non-glare glass which does not photograph the best. Winter Night, or Siberia, may have been Mucha’s response to the terrible suffering of the Russian people after the Bolshevik Revolution.  There was a famine that killed millions of people. It is difficult to see, but in the upper left of the painting there is a pack of wolves.  The peasant woman seems to have resigned herself to her fate.  I was not aware of Mucha’s large oil paintings.  He completed a series of very large canvases called the Slav Epic, a series of 20 enormous canvases that show the ethnic roots of the Czech people.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to visit the Czech National Gallery of Modern Art  to see these paintings as it was under renovation. This short video shows the Mucha Museum and the Slav Epic. This collection of photographs was interesting.  It showed some of Mucha’s models, and the bottom two middle photos are Mucha in his studio and Gaugin playing the piano…without any trousers! Pages of his sketchbooks are on display.  I love seeing artist’s sketchbooks.  It is a way of understanding how they think about their art. Not all the sketches are detailed drawings.  There are some quick gestural studies as well.Another study using pencil and white crayon on brown paper.  Just gorgeous! This is a study for the stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral. Mucha was skilled in many areas of artistic expression. Mucha created this famous poster for the ballet named Princess Hyacinth.  I was happily snapping photos when near the end of our visit a docent told me that photos were not allowed.  I was surprised as we have been able to take photos, without a flash, every where else we have been.  I am very happy she didn’t see me until near the end of our visit! One of many flower stands in the city.  I often see both men and women carrying bouquets of flowers. We saw a toy store so took a peek inside. OMG! it was huge, very noisy and had a full size carousel! This made us think of the Hotel Europa we stayed at in Egypt a few years ago.  It certainly was not grand  and it wasn’t a pleasant experience at all! Walking back along Wenceslas Square I notice that someone has knocked over the horse sculptures we saw earlier.  I like this statue, all covered in sewn leather, with his hands sewn to his head and groin.  Not sure what it is supposed to represent but it does make viewers pause and contemplate.I keep trying to get a photo that shows how strange people look on these long metro escalators. There is an optical illusion that happens and everyone appears to be either leaning forward or backwards, depending they are going up or down the escalators.  Somehow it just doesn’t show that well in a photo.  The camera doesn’t see things the same way as our brain does.  It is very curious and I comment every time we ride these crazy, long, steep fast escalators.This church is in the park right beside the metro stop near our apartment.  We were curious to see inside but it is under renovation and the doors are locked.  We sat and had tea in this park the day after our flight into Prague over a month ago.I wanted to get a photo or two showing how people drink alcohol walking down the street, in the parks, and even on the metro (although they aren’t really supposed to drink on public transit).  We see that in Prague and it was especially prevalent in Berlin.  People walked around with their bottle of beer everywhere.  Not what we are used to seeing at home.