This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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One still night

salzburg-14One night in Salzburg there was a little train that took us aboard and climbed up the hill, all the way to the top. Strong fortress walls welcomed us (or perhaps rather said “keep out, strangers to the city!”). There was a simple Austrian dinner in a simple wooden restaurant with a view. There was a waitress who was happy it was her last shift as she confused the orders and languages needed (her job cannot be easy on her mind).

And there was a magnificent wooden state hall, simple but tastefully decorated (and probably awfully cold in the winter!). With views over the city. And finally, there were violins and a cello; Strauss and Mozart.

As the joyful music drifted out from the open window over the city below, just like it has done for centuries, I thought of the castle lords’ best rewards: after months of chilly days and nights with no heating, after years of worry about defences and politics and threats for the safety of one’s head, disregarding the lice and cockroaches; a couple of soft, warm summer nights with good food and music must be very soothing for the soul.salzburg-13(Salzburg, Austria; July 2019)


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Underneath it all: a Roman floor

salzburg-10Deep under the cathedral of Salzburg, one lucky team of archeologists discovered old Roman street pavings and house floors. What a thrilling sight it must have been, to slowly brush away dirt and debris from what once was the surface of the city.

How marvelous it was to walk on stones that carried Roman feet, two thousand years ago. As I stood observing the intricate mosaique floors of a wealthy Roman citizen’s house, how marvelous it was to imagine that someone, living all those thousand years ago, had been commissioned to first draw it and then sit on the floor for days, meticulously laying one little stone cube after another one, to form all the colorful diamonds and flowers and woven rope patterns. Perhaps that person did not consider the possibility that two thousand years later someone would dig up his beautiful floor and show it off as a piece of art for future generations.salzburg-11(Salzburg, Austria; July 2019)


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All the bells

salzburg-9I stepped into another of the magnificent European cathedrals, this time in Salzburg. Just like in so many other places, a church has stood here since the 8th century AD. Since then, the church has been rebuilt two times: once after a fire and once because of other severe damage. This is the story of most magnificent European cathedrals: the church we see today is often not even the church of the medieval townspeople. And even if it is, we would hardly recognize the version that served the townspeople 1000 years ago, with so many alterations and additions. salzburg-7In the 1960, the lovely people of Salzburg added 5 new bells to the 2 surviving, 17th century bells. One of the bells is named Barbara, which certainly is an odd name for a bell. She joins the other lady bell Maria, along with the gentlemen bells, to form the total set of seven bells. Sometimes bells are needed in the war, you see. Not because of their beautiful form and peal, but because they can be melted to aid the death of people. What a change of profession for a church bell indeed. salzburg-8(Salzburg, Austria; July 2019)


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Berries

salzburg-6Himbeeren, Blaubeeren, Brombeeren. The best you can get in the summer, if strawberries are not available. Or perhaps, even if they were available.

I’d like to think these berries are picked by rosy-cheeked Austrians in the nearby forests and brambles, but most likely these come from Poland. Or Serbia. And definitely not forests or brambles.  Unfortunately. Not that there is anything wrong with berries from Poland or Serbia (except for the kilometers between me and the food). This is food business in Europe today.

(Salzburg, Austria; July 2019)


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In Salzburg

salzburg-5Today I am in San Sebastián, writing about Salzburg. The photo above is a déjà vu of a scene in San Sebastián old town (mental note: go get a similar shot) but let us focus on Salzburg and its Salzburg Foundation project of designing and erecting new art every year fod a decade. Because it turned out to be funny, you see.

For a period of ten years, Salzburg Foundation invited an Austrian artist to design a prominent piece, which would then be erected somewhere in town on a prominent place. And each year, apparently, the debate ran hot: whether the artist was acceptable to design a prominent piece, and most certainly whether the piece itself was acceptable. Most of the times it was not – at least until the next piece came along.

But what better way to pepper a city with interesting objects for constant discussion? Like the Sphaera: a golden globe on the main cathedral square, with a man perched on top of it. What is its meaning? Nobody knows because the artist chose not to tell. What was going on in the artist’s head when he conjured up his first image of this sculpture? Nobody knows, because he won’t tell.

Is it a brilliant way to force adults to use their muscle for imagination? Or is it simply the arrogance of an artist who wanted to make sure he would be remembered? salzburg-12(Salzburg, Austria; July 2019)


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The pink castle Mirabell

salzburg-1If one is an archbishop with ailing health, why not just have a palace built next to the center of the city one shepherds? This was how the Schloss Mirabell was born – although the archbishop and his wife would not have recognized their beloved home as little as a hundred years later, when it was rebuilt into its current shape.

The gardens were said to be beautiful already in the 17th century – although the splendor that was created during the rebuilding is probably quite something else.

Schloss Mirabell is also the site where the children of von Trapp skipped around learning Do Re Mi, the true “sound” of music. In the movie of course. Today the only people skipping around are Japanese tourists donned in colorful raincoats and hats. And me, running around trying to find an angle that excludes all colorful Japanese rainwear.salzburg-2(Salzburg, Austria; July 2019)


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The Jackson Five (Two) of the 18th century

salzburg-4Today I learned that Mozart’s father was a tour manager for his two young child prodigies Wolfgang Amadeus and Nannerl. No school, no normal life, and years of touring around playing concerts in European courts. Wolfgang Amadeus was five years old when they started. I mentioned this to a friend who immediately retorted, “just like Michael Jackson’s father managing the Jackson Five.” Indeed, Mozart’s family was a Jackson Five of the 18th century. salzburg-3Perhaps father Leopold was a parent prodigy, too? How else do you have unwavering faith in your four-year-old to even think of teaching him minuets, and the basics of composing sheet music. Surely there must be potential in any child who is able to scrabble a composition down in scrawny hand with ink blobs galore at the age of five, when most children still learn how to write single letters. And surely there were hundreds of hours spent at the piano and with ink quill in hand, as even child prodigies need practice.

But what did little Wolfgang think of kids his own age who, growing up in a household with certain means, surely had time to play? What was it like to tour European courts and have to become popular with kids of royalty and servants, over and over again? How long and strange would little Wolfgang’s Facebook friends list have been, had he had one? The Cook’s son from a summer castle in Tuscany; the youngest prince of France, with lots of likes from his jealous friends who didn’t get to do a concert tour of three years before the age of ten.
salzburg-15(Salzburg, Austria; July 2019)