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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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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Big dreams from before

empirestateThe view from my hotel room window. If only zeppelins were still the fashionable way to transport through the air – then I might see the observatory in its originally designed use: a docking site for zeppelins bringing travelers in and out of Manhattan. Such a courageous space-age dream was built to come true, but never put to good use.

Instead, the Empire State Building is bombarded by dozens of lightning strikes each year.  It gets lonely and dangerous on the top of the city. But from down here, from my cozy hotel room in Midtown, I can look at the bright lights and think about those people who dreamed buildings such as this one into being, ninety years ago, when elevators changed the way buildings were planned, and decades before going to the moon was even a realistic aim.

(New York City, USA; April 2019)


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The Duomo in winter

duomoThis was my first visit to Milan without visiting the Duomo. No time, you see, as I only passed it while walking to dinner. I am not a religious person, but I quite like the ambiance of this church, especially during Sunday mass.

In summer, the square is crowded and people wait in zig-zagging lines to enter a security control. In winter there is no security control, nor masses of tourists lining up. The church is still the same. As it took the best of 600 years to complete into its current state, hopefully it will still remain the same for another 600 years to come. Unless tourists of the future only care about virtual reality representations and tours.

(Milan, Italy; January 2019)


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The Pantheon

rome-6“Pantheon” means “of all gods”. Was this really a temple of all gods? Or many gods? One would like to think it was once a site of inclusion of faiths, not exclusion. But perhaps the Romans just had so many gods they built one to serve the most important ones?

This is how Rome could have looked like still today if people had continuously found use for the buildings once erected. Even 1900 years later the Pantheon is still fully functional – and admired by throngs of visitors every single day.
rome-5(Rome, Italy; September 2018)