I 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. In 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, Austria; July 2019)
Today 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, Austria; July 2019)
If 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, Austria; July 2019)
As 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. If 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. If 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.
(Assistens Cemetery, Copenhagen, Denmark; June 2019)
When learning about a foreign city, one can go to history museums. Or art museums. Or the more random museums, like the New York transport museum, hosted in an old unused subway station. And learn how, long ago, subway trains had nearly stylish rattan imitation seats.
Or how, even longer ago, before there were subway trains there were streetcars, jam-packed with gentlemen in hot sweaty suits and ladies with two-meter circumference of crinoline squeezing together like sardines in a can. In rush hour surely the streetcar spilled over with skirt hoops and lace and top hats. The most interesting detail of the Transport Museum is the advertising on the walls of old train cars. Much of it is from WWII, and the strangest references were made to the war. It is also a reminder of how the government raised its own citizens’ money to fight a war outside of US turf by issuing war bonds yielding less than the market rate of other reasonable investments.
Some lovely soul has also been fixated with turnstiles. Yes, turnstiles. There is a collection of probably every single model of turnstile used in the history of the NYC subway. And that is surprisingly many – we just do not pay attention. Someone more attentive did – and collected them all. 🙂(NYC Transport Museum, Brooklyn, NYC, USA; April 2019)
There are photos of the Brooklyn bridge. And then there are photos of people taking photos of the Brooklyn bridge. Same goes for DUMBO beach and the Manhattan skyline. Some heavy cropping was required to weed out tourists in red and orange jackets, absolutely not suitable for being in the frame.
Photography is always reality enhanced. But the fabulous, urban views from DUMBO are real. And so is the lovely restaurant by the waterfront across the beach, with a glass of cool wine if you prefer.(Brooklyn, USA; April 2019)
Poor Edward II. He just wanted to love and play king, while his ”allies” ran the country into the ground.
And in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse I finally understood how one can create sufficient light to brighten up an entire theater stage or castle dining hall. In the time of LED lightbulbs we forget how much light just one candle can give.
(London, United Kingdom; February 2019)
Freezing cold Helsinki is quite different from spring in Denmark. But it is a pretty place in sunlight! On top the Bank of Finland and the Cathedral; below the House of the Estates.(Helsinki, Finland; March 2019)
This 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)
“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, Italy; September 2018)