This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Where to generally lie-in

Southbank-1In London there once was a General Lying-In Hospital. Sounds like heaven for busy workers. Or those with coronavirus. Yet, Google tells me that “lying-in” actually once meant childbirth. Was the actual mental image of childbirth so sensitive that it had to be referred to indirectly?

Turns out that the actual “lying-in” was the period of two weeks to two months after childbirth that a new mother had to stay in the hospital. For the first few weeks she was not even allowed to get up. Sunday lie-ins turned to days and months. Childbirth was dangerous business.

(London, United Kingdom; February 2020)


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In the middle of nowhere, a monastery (part II)

galicia-3In the middle of the forest lies yet another over thousand years old monastery. Galicia is practically littered with these cute resting places for body and soul.

The Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil was first annexed to the Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil monastery (now a fabulous Parador). Later, when the Spanish government carried out a lengthy confiscation and resale of various religious assets around the country (for varying reasons, during nearly two centuries), both monasteries ceased their spiritual operations.

In a way it is unfortunate, as I am sure the Benedictine monks (and perhaps a limited amount of lucky visitors) would have continued to feel contented in this charming little monastery, for another thousand years.
galicia-4(Galicia, Spain; September 2019)


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At the university

galicia-34Born in 1495, the university of Santiago de Compostela is one of the oldest still functioning universities in the world. Initially it was the local archbishop Fonseca who thought that knowledge should be properly cultivated in his local hoods. And so he opened his swanky family palace to serve students and education. That was obviously not good enough as he ended up founding an entire university. The Fonseca college is still functional today – and a charming place to visit.

(Santiago de Compostela, Spain; September 2019)


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In the middle of nowhere, a monastery

galicia-30In the middle of the forest there was a crystal clear river, straddled by an old stone bridge. There was river water welling up through a small fountain in the stone wall. And an ancient, weather-blackened monastery. Absolutely in the middle of nowhere. I hear it is more than a thousand years old.

Galicia is full of small and sometimes surprisingly large monasteries scattered about the forests and mountainsides. galicia-32As I stood on the tiny inner courtyard overlooking the Eume river valley I could not help but wonder how and why sites for monasteries were once chosen. Was it the result of a spiritual experience of the founder, on-site? Or simply strategic, to keep an eye on the locals? In any case it must have been incredibly difficult to start from scratch, and not just carry up and install the granite bricks, but to create an infrastructure with water and food delivery to uphold survival of sometimes dozens of monks.galicia-31(San Xoán de Caaveiro, Fragas do Eume, Spain; September 2019)


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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)