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.

Bavarian National Museum, Munich

Day 63, Sunday, October 27, 2019

It was a beautiful sunny day and as we walked to the museum we passed the back of this church.  I don’t know its name but found the ‘composition’ of all these shapes interesting.  These old churches have been rebuilt and renovated repeatedly which results in a variety of styles.  It is only one euro admission to the Bavarian National Museum on Sundays.  The first rooms we enter have incredibly beautiful wooden sculptures, many of which still have their original painted colouring.  The sculpture of Christ is from 1200, the Apostles are from 1505, and the woman with children is from1300.  All the pieces are in amazing condition…it is hard to believe that they can be this old. These were two of my favourite pieces.  The Mary on the left is from1300 and is larger than life size, while the second Virgin Mary is from 1500.  Notice how her finger marks her place in the book she was reading when she is surprised by the angel.  She is much smaller, probably about 30 ” tall.  They were both exquisite. This dancing fellow from 1490, is exceptionally animated for such an early carving.  The detail of the hands and drapery in the group of figures was so beautifully done.  I have a heck of a time drawing drapery, and I can’t imagine how anyone can carve it so well.We don’t know what this skeleton astride the lion is about but it was interesting.  Unfortunately most of the signage is only in German,  There is a room full of armour… and another room with models of many towns.  This is Munich in 1580 and we are able to recognize some of the buildings that are still present in modern day Munich! There are enormous detailed tapestries on the wall.  We are amazed at the excellent condition of these tapestries. This small panel from the mid 1500’s is only about 6″ tall and is made with intricately inlaid wood.  It is incredibly detailed. The child’s outfit is from 1547 and the dress from 1630.  I wonder how these have survived all these years.  Their tiny hand sewn stitches are visible and there is some wear and tear but they are really very well preserved. The next room is filled with amazing cabinets.  I love boxes and cabinets with lots of drawers, and I have never seen anything like these.  The coin cabinet of Maximillian I was made for his collection of gold coins.  Each of the rows is a shallow drawer with fitted spaces for the coins.  It is made of ivory, lapis lazuli, silver and enamel, so of course it must have its own storage case!  The case on the right hinges open in the middle so the cabinet can be inserted for safe keeping.

This cabinet was built for the Electress Maria Ana. The ivory cabinet is gorgeous with lapis lazuli panels, but then I walk around to the other side and it is even more beautiful, with silver and enamelling.  This cabinet has 176 drawers and secret compartments for storing precious objects!  Wow! These huge globes were interesting..
and then we walked into the next room with these monumental wooden figures! Don’t you love the faces on these sandals? Downstairs there are several rooms that appear to be taverns.  We aren’t sure, because all the signage here is German.  I think the domed object in the corner is a stove to heat the room.Back upstairs, there is gallery of about 1,000 ivory objects and I wonder how many elephants died so these could be created?  This ivory carving was one of fifty or so.  The background sky is so thin that the light shines through it. The Rape of Proserpina on the left is carved in ivory, and the porcelain centrepiece on the right depicts Neptune being drawn by seahorse and tritons.  They were both completed in the mid 1700’s.We visit a gallery with elaborate table settings.
I thought this tapestry was particularly colourful and beautiful.  Notice the details in the close up of the pelican. Some of the musical instruments on display are rather strange.  Bob is wondering how to play the double layer of 19 strings on this one…  and check out the crazy wind instruments. There is a wonderful display of clothing from the mid 18th century.  Even the pet monkey had stylish togs. But take a look at the undergarments women wore!   I love doors and this museum has many.  The front door opens automatically when we approach.  Seems weird for such an ancient door. We walk along the river on our way to Maximillianstrasse, where all the fancy expensive shops are located. On the way, a firetruck pulls up and the firemen check behind bushes and in garbage cans, then drive away.  We wonder what they are looking for. We window shop where the wealthy people shop! The two outfits on the left are only 42,400.00 euros!   The red outfit is only 26,300 euros!  At today’s exchange rate that is over $100,00!  

The stores are closed so they only leave the ‘cheaper’ watches in the windows.  Notice the empty stands for the more expensive ones. We pass more very loud, very energetic Chilean protesters on our way 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.

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.

 

 

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.