Remembrance Day in Budapest

Day 78, Monday November 11, 2019

I am still behind on my blogging,  but I wanted to post this today.

We are in Budapest for Remembrance Day, a country which doesn’t celebrate November 11.  Remembering those who have died during war and conflict this year seems more important than ever.  We have seen so much of the death and destruction caused by war on this trip.

Today we walked along the Danube river to visit the Shoes on the Danube Promenade.  It is an incredibly moving memorial that moved me to tears.A quote from this article explains the history of this memorial.

“Walking along its shores, you’ll come to the end of Szechenyi Street, where you’ll find the most moving Holocaust memorial. named the Shoes on the Danube Promenade, placed in an open space and approachable for visitors. The memorial consists of iron-made, rusty shoes set into the concrete of the embankment.

These shoes stand as witnesses to one of Budapest’s most somber moments during World War II, reflecting the war history and its victims of that time. The location and the elements of the memorial offer an insight into the tragic fate of the Jews who in the winter of 1944-1945 were tied together, shot on the banks of the river, and thrown into it by the members of the Arrow Cross Party. The party publicly murdered thousands of Jews all over Budapest. They found it convenient to throw them into the Danube because the river quickly carried the bodies away. The atrocious Arrow Cross murderers usually forced the victims to remove their shoes before shooting them.

At that time of war, shoes were a valuable commodity and the murderers were quite aware of that, so they would trade the shoes on the black market or wear them themselves. The Jewish children stood terrified while the Arrow Cross pulled their shoestrings out, tying the hands of the victims before shooting them. Sometimes, the hands of two or three people were tied together, adults or children, and the atrocity went so far that only one of them would be shot so he or she would instantly pull the helpless others down in the freezing cold water. During these horrible winter days of 1944-1945, the Danube was called “the Jewish Cemetery.””

“Lest We Forget”

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Tour of Vienna

Hi, as you may have noticed, I have fallen behind on my blog posts.  We have had several busy days and I just haven’t had the energy to work on a post late in the evening. We are actually in Budapest right now, and it is raining for a day or two so I am going to try to get at least a little bit caught up.

Day 69, Saturday, November 2, 2019

Bob found another walking tour online so we are off to check out Vienna this morning.  First stop is the Naschmarkt, a local outdoor market that has been operating on this same site since the 1500’s!  There are colourful stand with fruits and vegetables, olives and antipasto appetizers…as well as all sorts of candies, dried fruits and some rather exotic looking products in the fish market section.Near the Naschmarkt we find this interesting tribute to the Orson Wells movie, The Third Man.  It is possible to tour the sewers, right under our feet, where part of the movie was filmed, but we pass on that today.

I take a photo of some wedding dresses in a shop window and a short time later we see a bride and groom.  The bride seemed annoyed and her pretty dress was getting all dirty as it dragged along the street. I wanted to tell her attendants to pick up the back of her dress!  Not my idea of a nice way to spend part of your wedding day, hiking along the streets towards a place for your photo shoot. There is a statue of Mozart, right beside a Hop On Hop Off bus station.  We sit and have our picnic lunch and watch tourists jump off the bus, snap a photo from quite a distance, and then jump back on the bus to get to the next destination.  This sure isn’t the way we do it!  We sight-see very slowly and leisurely, stopping often to look at the sights, people watch and just enjoy where we are and what we are seeing. We are very slow tourists!
This equestrian statue of Emperor Joseph II, erected in 1795  is the oldest equestrian statue in Vienna.

It stands in front of the Neue Burg (New Castle) Wing  of the Hofburg Palace.  Notice that part of the palace is still in need of cleaning.     We make our way to the Albertina Museum, which we will visit another day.  There is a Durer Exhibit I am looking forward to seeing.  This is a street view from a corner of the Albertina.

The Gates of Violence remembers victims of all wars and violence. The statues are a montage of wartime images: clubs and WWI gas masks, a dying woman birthing a future soldier, victims of cruel medical experimentation, and chained slave laborers.  It is on the site of an apartment block that was destroyed in an air raid during the Second World War.  Hundreds of people had sheltered in the apartment basement and their bodies were never recovered from the rubble of the destroyed building. Of course there are several churches on our walk, and we visit all of them! This broad pedestrian Kärntner Strasse is packed with people and lined with shops and places to eat.  This road dates to 97AD when it was a Roman road that went from Vienna to the border of Italy and Slovenia, and eventually all the way to St. Petersberg, Russia! I thought that the Zen-Doodle like designs on the clothing in this shop were interesting.  The modern Haas House offers interesting reflections of St. Stephen’s church. The St. Stephen’s Cathedral is huge, and ornately decorated, outside…  and inside. Just behind the cathedral we see a group of people taking part in a drinking game.  The guy in the blue jeans drank his big can of beer twice as quickly as the guy dressed in brown! The Stock im Eisen is part of a tree that has hundreds of iron nails pounded into it and dates from 1440.  No one is sure why the nails were pounded in but it is thought that is was for good luck. It is located on the corner of a building and is protected behind plexiglass. The Holy Trinity Column, located on a street in the inner city of Vienna, was erected after the Great Plague epidemic in 1679.  It is one of the most well-known sculptural pieces of art in the city.
St. Peter’s Church has an oval dome and its open layout makes it feel bigger than it actually is. I thought it interesting the way the paintings on the dome extended over the sculptural trim around the round windows.The end of each pew is beautifully carved with different finials of three children’s heads.  We sat for quite a while listening to the choir practicing.  Back outside, there are interesting details everywhere I look, like these sculptures holding up balconies.I loved this building. It looks like a castle.  I wouldn’t mind living here! Back out on the Kärntner Strasse, there are lots of famous brand name shops, like Jimmy Choo…
where the customers are served champagne as they shop!  Sigh…an experience I am sure I will never have!
There are Roman ruins…  and beautiful statues on the corners of buildings.  This is the building that houses the Austrian National Library, the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, as well as the Spanish Riding School with the world famous Lipizzaner stallions.  We will visit both of these on another day,  It gets dark earlier now, at about 5;30.  The buildings look pretty all lit up. This is the other side of the Neue Burg Wing of the Hofburg Palace.  We saw the backside earlier in the day. Time to head home.  This subway station has colourful murals.  Our apartment is very well located on the U6 subway line, so it takes less than a half hour to get home.  Somehow even our ‘easy’ days end up being quite long. We left before noon and it will be after 7:00 by the time we get home.

Walking Tour of Munich

Day 57, Monday, October 21, 2019

Bob found a walking tour of Munich at bigboytravel.com that we use today.  On our way to the start of this walking tour we find a sculpture by Mauro Staccioli.  The Ring is 12 meters in diameter and weighs 14 tons. The Ring is right next to the entrance to the Old Botanical Garden where we have our lunch.  We see lots of interesting people on our travels.  The man below was ‘communing’ with a tree…he walked circles around it, with his hands out, making gestures towards the tree.  Some police driving through the park stopped to talk to him but they let him be, guess they figured he was harmless.  Nearby I spotted this lady dressed all in white.  She looks like she belongs to a different place and time. There was a small gallery in the Botanical Gardens but they were changing exhibitions and not open.  I liked both the door handle and the interesting poster, which reads, The Long Night of Munich Museums.
First stop on our tour, why don’t you come along with us?  The   Fountain Boy depicts a satyr spitting water at a young boy who shields his face.  It originally caused a problem because there was no leaf over his private parts, but it is now a favourite Munich fountain. 

Citizen’s Hall Church was heavily damaged during WWII but it has been rebuilt and looks exactly like it did in the 1700’s.  The basement contains the tomb of Rupert Mayer, a famous Jesuit priest who stood up to the Nazis occupation and died in a concentration camp.. Our walk continues down a broad pedestrian street with large trees. St Michael’s Church.  I liked the huge elaborate candle holders. The church contains The Royal Crypt which holds 40 tombs.  The most famous of these is the tomb of “Mad” King Ludwig II.  Ludwig was a big spender and built many lavish castles and palaces.  We visited the Neuschwanstein Castle on our first trip to Europe almost 40 years ago.  It is the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Snow White castle. No photos are allowed in the crypt so I did a quick sketch of King Ludwig’s tomb. No one ever seems to mind if I draw.There are a few churches on this tour!  Each of them has its own distinctive feature.  Saint Anna’s Church has had a chapel on this site since 1440.  I thought I saw people inside, behind the locked gates, but when I zoomed in with my camera, I realized it was a life size sculpture of the Last Supper.We pass this tree sculpture on the corner of a building on our way to The Asamhof Passage. Asamhof Passage is a little pedestrian street lined with restaurants, lots of flowers, and this poor fellow who needed my change more than I did! Asamkirche was built by the Asam brothers as a showpiece for their church building skills.  It is only 30 feet wide but it is so packed with over-the-top-Rococo decoration that we don’t know where to look! The entire focus of the interior leads the eye to a bright golden window meant to feel like the eye of God staring down at us. This is the exterior of the church and the brother’s house next door, which had bedroom windows looking onto the high altar in the church.There are lots of modern shops below the traditional apartments. I think I look OK with wings! The town gate, built in 1318 has two towers and is the oldest of the three city gates still standing in Munich. A view down the street from the town gate. Walking back towards Marienplatz we walk through the Victuals Market (Viktualiemarkt). This is a tough place to be when you can’t eat gluten, dairy or eggs!There are lots of flower stalls.  I particularly liked the little dog that seemed to belong to this one. This is the tallest May Pole we have ever seen! We can see the Glockenspiel Tower down a side street between two buildings.

The Frauenkirche has beautiful chandeliers illuminating its interior.

I’ve mentioned the beautiful window boxes before.  This is a department store and just look at its gorgeous window boxes! The New Town Hall’s main attraction is the Glockenspiel. This chiming clock was added to the tower in 1907.  At 11am, midday, and 5pm the Munich Glockenspiel recounts a royal wedding, a jousting tournament and a traditional dance with  32 life-sized animated figures in its 260 foot tower.     The show lasts about ten minutes, followed by the ringing of church bells. Bob remembered the Beck Department store from our first visit to Munich almost 40 years ago!  He said it was right next to the Glockenspiel and sure enough it was! Metro drawings from today.  People kept getting off the metro before I was finished!

 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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?

Sanssoucci Palace and Gardens, Potsdam, Germany

Day 27, Saturday September 21, 2019

We take the metro to Potsdam to visit the Sanssouci Palace and gardens, which was the summer residence of King Frederick the Great. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We did not pre-book tickets, the number of visitors to the palace are limited, but we only had to wait 90 minutes to see the palace. There was lots to see in the meantime.  This great historical windmill stands at the entrance to the Palace Park. The grounds in front of the palace.  We have our picnic lunch and then visit the Bildergalerie.The Bildergalerie was originally an orangerie but it was converted to an art gallery for Frederick’s private collection.  The yellow marble used throughout is from old Roman ruins and is very rare and expensive. There are two long galleries…
connected by a round room with a vaulted gold ceiling. At the far end there is a room for small paintings. The last photo is taken looking out from this room.  There are a lot of beautiful paintings but they were a bit hard to see because of the glare from the windows on the opposite wall.  I am surprised that they allow the much sunlight to enter the gallery, but it did make the space bright and very attractive.We still had a bit of time before our palace visit so we walked down to the gardens.  The layout here is reminiscent of Versailles in France, only on a smaller scale.  All the terraces have these nooks with glass doors that can close when cold to protect the plants.  Frederich loved to garden and grow fruit trees and grapes. We enter the palace and take this selfie in the first  room.  It contains artwork and is an entrance hallway, not very wide at all. The palace only contains twelve rooms. They are all connected by doors in a straight line that lead from one room to another. The room below is panelled in wood with inlaid botanical designs. They are very intricate.We walk through the rooms, each seeming to be a bit more elaborate than the next.
The green room above was Frederick’s study.  He suffered from asthma, gout and other ailments and he often slept in the green chair below as it was too difficult to lie in a bed.  He died in this chair when he was 74. Frederick loved nature and the palace was decorated with botanical themes.  The palace was his refuge and he lived there from April to October.  Sanssouci is from the French “sans soucci”, which means “without worry”.  Frederick was married but lived separately from his wife.  He only married because his father threatened him with imprisonment if he did not comply.  His father was very strict and made his Frederick’s life miserable.  He had a miserable childhood as his father thought him effeminate and tried to change him.  Frederick was gay and surrounded himself with male friends and companions at Sanssouci.  Women were not welcome there.  The yellow room below has raised carved decorations, and a sleeping nook for the bed, as did all the bedrooms.  Notice the spiders on the ceiling decoration.Frederick was unable to travel to Rome and Venice but his palace had many paintings of these cities, which he greatly admired. I think how lucky we have been to visit these cities. As we exit the palace there is a huge painting of Frederick the Great by Andy Warhol.  It is quite a dramatic change from the other artwork we have seen here. We climb the interior of the windmill and step outside to check out the huge blades. This is still a working windmill. We are amazed at the size of the wooden wheels and cogs. We walk through the park with its gardens and fountains towards the Orangerie. Wow!  We have never seen an orangerie this large.  It is enormous!  This photo shows one wing and the entrance behind me.  There is another wing just as long on the other side of that entrance.  This Orangerie was built by Frederich William IV in 1851-1864.  It is 300 meters long. Looking inside one of the wings of this huge orangerie.  This is where all the potted plants that would not survive winter temperatures are kept.  Like the potted plants in the photo above,
Some of the plants are huge. These large potted palms definitely need a fork lift to be moved.  No idea how they ever transplant them when needed?  The pots are almost as tall as I am!We are surprised to find more furnished rooms and another art gallery in the Orangerie.  The Raphael Hall has over 50 copies of Renaissance paintings. We saw the original of this painting in Italy at the Vatican. 

Do you recognize the tondo by Raphael that we saw at the Gemäldegalerie earlier this week?  Interesting how copying famous artworks was such a common accepted practice.  Today I think it would be called forgery. Another room in the Orangerie Palace. And another selfie reflection in a very ornate mirror.  Notice our big slippers! These are some of the stairs we climb to the top of the Orangerie.  And more stairs… to get this view. There is the East wing of this enormous building. That dome way in the distance is another palace. The New Palace, built by King Frederick, is the largest and most impressive complex at Sansoucci, but it is way too far of a walk for us today and the park is closing soon. In front of the Orangerie. Every path here has a view at the end of it…something to entice you to walk and explore. We find the Chinese House which Frederick had built to enhance his flower and vegetable gardens and we can imagine elaborate picnics here in the summer.  We make our way to the main gate just as Sanssouci is closing and catch the metro home.   We had a beautiful warm day for our time here.  A perfect day really.

The Gemäldegalerie, the Kunstgewerbe Museum and Life Drawing.

Day 25, Thursday, September 19, 2019

As we walked to the metro this morning, the interior of this car caught my eye! These workers are laying paving bricks for a huge plaza.  We have not seen poured cement sidewalks or plazas here, they are all made with paving stones.  It seems very labour intensive. The Gemäldegalerie is our first stop today.  This museum is near the Berlin Zoo and has one of the world’s leading collections of European paintings from the 13th to the 18th century. The quality of the artwork here is amazing.  This is the first painting we see, part of an altar from 1437 telling the story of Jesus on the left, and Mary on the right. The white ‘baseboard’ in the photo comes almost mid-thigh on me, to give you an idea of the scale of the works. The corner of one painting from 1444 shows two pregnant women, notice the babies depicted on their stomachs. I had never seen this symbolism before. We both liked the Fountain of Youth by Lucas Cranach, 1546. This is not the style of his work that I am familiar with… this is!  I have always wondered at this artist’s creativity. Wow!! This painting by Rogier van Der Weyen from 1440 is my absolute favourite of everything we have seen so far this trip. I absolutely love it and wish that the photo was able to convey the impact it has in person. I would have bought a print but it was almost $100 and I worried about getting it home safely. This is a painting I could live with forever.

There are so many interesting portraits here that I have never seen before.  Can you tell that I am drawn to portraiture?These two tomb figures, 510, were very endearing.
I am fond of Frans Hals portraits and there was a whole room of them. This artist must like them too.  What a tough way to work though, on a little stool, holding such a large drawing board.  I assume the museum does not allow easels. I am excited to see this Vermeer from across the room, but then.. I notice The Girl with the Pearl Earring.  I had no idea the this painting was in this museum. What a lovely surprise. Anna Dorothea Therbusch, 1721-1782, is one of the few women artists who actually made a living as an artist. This is a self portrait. There are Caravaggio’s here…and Georges de la Tours…
and Botticellis,
including this Botticellis Venus.And there are Rembrandts, including these two famous self portraits. I finally get to see these two tondos in person, the one on the left by Raffael (34″ diameter) and the one on the right by Botticelli (54″ diameter).  I particularly like the Botticelli, his Madonnas are always so beautiful. This was fun!  I am so glad we visited the Gemäldegalerie, it was quite amazing.After a picnic lunch we check out the Kunstgwerbe Museum nearby.  I would love to have this beautiful geometry set from the 16th century. This museum has lots of porcelain, furniture and church treasures, but we walk by all these. It is just too much to absorb. A few items did catch our eye though. This is an elaborate portable kitchen from 1807, maybe used for camping? All the info is in German, so not sure. These glazed porcelain figurines were part of a group of 15 that were awarded a gold medal at the 1900 International Exhibition in Paris.  There was also an exhibit on Afro Hair, with some very different displays. And finally, an interesting walk through women fashions through the ages.

Across the street we stop to see the Berlin Library.  It is enormous!  Probably the biggest I have ever visited. It was tough to get in though. Without a library card I had to get a special pass, and no one is allowed to carry a purse or backpack or other bag.  So everyone puts their stuff in clear plastic bags!  I don’t see the point of that all. So different from home. Oh and do you notice the card catalogues in the bottom photo?  I was surprised to see them. Whew! and we aren’t finished yet. We catch a bus back across town to visit the oldest church in Berlin but the interior has been updated so much.  It wasn’t what we were expecting, but still interesting. For some reason there was a rooster crowing inside the church?  No idea what that was about.We split up, Bob heads to the Bode Museum and I catch the metro to go life drawing.  I pass this post with just a few posters wrapped around it on my way to drawing.

Here are my drawings from tonight.  The first page is two minute poses and the times of the other poses are written on the pages.  This was a pretty full day!