This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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The Two Towers

bologna-1Bologna was once a Roman city. It is easy to see this from above: all streets lead to the central square (and one presumably to Rome). But Bologna is older than Rome: it was originally the home town of many Etruscans. bologna-3Each city has a local flavor of oddity. Bologna’s flavor is a penchant for building towers. Up to 100 towers in the late medieval ages, historians have concluded. Why? Who knows, but certainly one ruler would not have budgeted for all those towers so there must have been quite a few builders. Perhaps it was fashionable to have a tower in one’s backyard, ensuring that the family was viewed as having sufficient importance?

Today there are about a dozen smaller towers left and only two distinct, tall ones, aptly named the Due Torri or Two Towers. Yes, like the Tolkien book. I discovered that it is possible to stand near them and still not find them, thanks to the maze of Bolognese streets and Google Maps having the wrong coordinates for the location.

It is also possible to wear one’s lungs and muscles out before reaching the top. We passed quite a few tourists having a huffy and puffy pitstop on the winding wooden staircase inside the Asinelli tower. After all, an ascent of 97 meters and nearly 300 stairs is a decent workout.bologna-2(Bologna, Italy; July 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)


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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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Sightseeing at the cemetery

cphcemetery-2As with everything in society, there are cemeteries that are more trendy than others. Cemeteries that are elite and attract many notable people, and celebrities wishing to be notable. In the case of such cemeteries, to be cool one unfortunately has to be dead and buried. This is how it is at Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen: the list of poets, philosophers, American jazz musicians (?!) and scientists buried here is long. cphcemetery-1If you are into grave-sightseeing (really!), two notable graves on your list should be Hans Christian Andersen, the man behind the fairytales The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes; and Soren Kierkegaard, the man behind existentialism. cphcemetery-4If you are just into strolling and picnics, a basket of delicious goodies and lots of time is recommended. And no, it is not morbid to have a picnic here – people do it all the time. When the cemetery was first built, 250 years ago, it was so far from the city center that people probably made a picnic out of the trip anyway.
cphcemetery-3(Assistens Cemetery, Copenhagen, Denmark; June 2019)