City events: Nymphenburg and Kocherlball, Munich

This week I went to a wonderful concert in the Johannissaal in the Nymphenburger Schloss (castle). It was one of a series of “Liedkunst – Kunstlied” (The art of singing) featuring Angelika Huber (soprano) and Stephan Lin (tenorio), accompanied on the piano by Tung-Hsing Tsai. The room with very high ceilings has room for about 100 listeners, the adjoining concert room Hubertussaal is much larger, for about 220 people. Both grand rooms belong to the oldest part of the castle, the “Brunnturm” from the 18th century, which even today houses one of the oldest mechanical fountain pumps for the large central fountain outside. It was also the home of the elector’s well-servant (kurfürstlicher Brunnknecht) who checked the pump regularly. Both rooms can be booked for events, many good concerts are given on a regular basis.

The castle itself is worth visiting, there are guided tours for visitors. In another wing of the castle you will find the entrance to a great museum “Mensch und Natur”, all about evolution, dinosaurs and animals, birds and human beings all around the world. Entrance is 3,50 for adults, you can book a birthday party or special group tours for kids with specialized Museumspädagogen (educational personnel). There is a fun shop at the entrance with minerals, books, mugs. etc. Downstairs is a large room for school classes with lock-up boxes for their bags and jackets.

If you don’t feel like being indoors, the expansive park behind the castle is great for a nice brisk walk along the canals. In the fall there are the golden leaves, in the winter you may go skating on the canals (safety depth permitting). Some smaller pavilions are tucked into the corners of the park. The Palmengarten Café is not far off.

Around the corner you can enter the Botanical Garden with its lovely café and terrace. Try to be there in February/ March for the butterfly show!

On Sunday July 21, if you are an early bird, you can try out the “Kocherlball” (Cook’s Ball) in the Englischer Garten at 6.00 in the morning. This is a tradition going back to the 19th century when the cooks, gardeners and maids had to get back to the mansion when the rich masters arrived from morning mass. So they organized their ball plein air very early around the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) in the English Garden. Naturally, you will want to wear your best Lederhosen and Dirndl dresses to fit in while whirling around. And if you don’t know how to dance, the Hofbräuhaus organizes free dance lessons to learn all the important local dances. Join the 10,000 others having a ball!

City trip: Füssen, Allgäu – near Neuschwanstein

We took the regional train, a two-hour ride from Munich, on a fine morning to Füssen. Passing the ticket window for tickets to Neuschwanstein, it is only a 4 minute walk to the center. Our group met in front of the Tourist Info Point at the Kaiser-Maximilian Platz. In front of the Info Point there are seven steles or columns with a loose basalt stone on top that dances in circles when the water is turned on. From there we walked to the old part of the town center. There are many lovely little colorful shops. Unfortunately, city planners have evidently not found any solution to keep the loud rumbling through traffic out of the center of town.

Our first stop with the guide was at the town wall built of river gravel from the Lech and wooden beams, of which several parts are still standing. Then we proceeded to the city church St. Mang (Magnus) who slew a dragon (= the evil) as shown on all images and frescoes. St. Mang ostensibly came from Kempten together with St. Gallus. It is legend that his corpse was found in a perfect state of preservation. In Rosshaupten they still have many traditions with horses, where he passed through.

The church is painted white on the inside, with many lovely frescoes and niches depicting saints and Biblical scenes. It was built by Johann Jakob Herkomer after he had been to Rome and Venice in 1717. The stucco was was done by Dominik Zimmermann and the altar by Josef Obermüller where you can see twin portraits on either side of bishops.

In the center you will walk past many enticing shops with beer, wine, clothes, ice cream, bakery goods, market halls, everything. Check out the wheat and baker’s fountain with the bronze flour sacks to sit on.

The name Füssen probably does not originate from Füße (feet) but from fons (lat: fountain) or fauces (lat: gorge). The fountain shown below is the symbol of Füssen. The tourists staying overnight are about 1.3 million whereas the city’s population is about 13 000.

The Sebastiankirche ( St Sebastian’s church) was originally a plague church and built close to the town wall with the Old Cemetary on one side, where you can read interesting epitaphs.

The Holy-Ghost-Hospital Church was built in the 15th century in Gothic style, but burned down in the 18th c. It was later rebuilt in the Rococo style with colorful frescoes of the Holy Trinity. The tripartite window was an idea of J.J. Herkomer and his assistant Zimmermann. The frescoes on the inside show the seven Christian sacraments, in the four corners of the ceiling yoou can find the four (in those days) continents: Africa, Asia, America and Europe. You will also see the seven virtues such as Wisdom and Piety. Holy St. Catherine is the patron saint of the rafters.

Johann Jakob Herkomer was a master artisan of marble, especially the red kind. Marble is basically limestone, which was a long chapter of the town’s history, as can be seen in the old limestone factory with the gigantic smokestack amid all the cultural ‘pearls’. In 1861 the factory produced hemp and rope and twine, now called “Mechanische Seilerwarenfabrik Füssen” using the water power of the river Lech.

Within the Benedictine monastery there are beautiful library / refectory rooms, many lovely statues, a tower with a view and many great exhibits of building lutes and violins. Only the oldest son was permitted to become a lutist.

Our last stop was the castle with its painting galleries and tower with many steps. Take time to stop in the courtyard to look at the painted windows and turrets. If you need a refreshment, there are several great ice cream parlors with gelato e caffè!

Paphos, Republic of Cyprus: Archaeological Park

We flew down to Cyprus at the beginning of November and had a very enjoyable week with lots of sun. It was hot enough to go swimming, but cool enough to go on day trips. The ocean was unfortunately too turbulent to go in without crashing into the pier, due to the heavy storms over Europe, but the swimming pool was fine. From most hotels you can easily catch a bus at a nearby stop and travel to the city center for a very low fare. Near the bus station you will find the entrance to the mosaics in the Archaeological Park (the reason why we chose to stay in Paphos). These mosaics stand on the list of World Heritage Sites of the UNESCO.

It is advisable to carry along some water, as the area of the mosaics in ‘NeaPaphos is quite extensive. The mosaics, some in the open, some under excavation and some in the four very large Roman villas (House of Dionysus, Aion, Theseus and Orpheus), are very well preserved. The villas are usually built around an atrium with a proclinium in the front.

Other constructions have also been uncovered, an agora, the basilica of Panagia Limeniotissa – “Our Lady of the Harbor”, a Hellenistic-Roman theatre, the Saranta Kolones (40 columns) fortress, an asklipieion and a necropolis. If you are lucky, you can watch the archaeologists working. The opening times are from 8.30 am to 7.30 pm. Currently the entrance fee is €4,50.

Open-air farm museum in Großgmain, Salzburg

We boarded the bus early to drive south-east to Salzburg in Austria where we were planning to take a tour around the open-air museum of beautiful old farm houses and sheds from different centuries of five regions: Pongau, Pinzgau, Tennengau, Flachgau and Lungau.

The tour with one of the family Fuchs lasts about one and a half hours and the walk can be extended to seven kilometers around the farm houses and up the hill to the Alm houses. You can also board the little train that chugs all around the terrain and has several stops, free of extra charge (currently 11,-€).

In the entrance area and in the General Goods Shop you can buy all sorts of books, guides, souvenirs and local produce such as walnut liqueur, old-fashioned sweets, household appliances, postcards and the like.

a lovely 17th century house
a Hanichl fence: dried fir branches cut to measure
a balcony is a Hausgang here – note the wooden shingles on the walls
thriving plants like fennel, lettuce, beetroot, onions, carrots, herbs like parsley, sage and thyme and flowers like aquilegia, phlox, sunflowers, lilies, tagetes, zinnias, lemon balm/ melissa, forget-me-nots, also currants and boxtree
the hole in the box-seat is for chickens to get inside in the winter
nails were too expensive to forge to save the split shingles from a storm, so long poles and heavy stones would keep them in place
this stone wall is gaily decorated with swirls and “trees” made with black stones on white

Our treat after alle the walking and trying to remember all the construction details was heading back to Ruhpolding to the Windbeutelgräfin and ordering from a long list of cakes and Windbeutel – puff pastries full of whipped cream / ice cream / fruit / eggnog. Each was decorated as a Lohengrin swan and absolutely gigantic. There are tables indoors and out, display cases with doll houses, Mozart busts and flower stencils all around, quite picturesque and worth a stop!

Hongkong

Hongkong was the last stop of the three week trip in the group and we added on another day before we flew the 13 hours back home. It is a fascinating city of old and new, hi-tech and traditional. We first had a harbor cruise and afterwards drove up to Victoria Peak for the best views. One can pay to get into the platform, but opposite there is a shopping mall with good windows too. We also visited the largest museum with exhibits of crafts, boats, city model and art.

Naturally, we went to visit a temple with buddha statues, puppet figures and many other buildings of interest. My husband bought a nice cell phone downtown, it just needs a different plug for charging. Many Chinese speak quite good English and are always helpful. We sometimes took the underground subway train, cheap and fast.

Downtown Hongkong is a busy, bustling place. There is so much to see and to admire that it is difficult to describe it all. It is rather a shame that the British influence has lessened, but it is wonderful to visit. We can strongly recommend the Maritime Museum down at the water’s edge.

City trip: Passau in Bavaria

Passau is a small town in Lower Bavaria, well-known for its geographical situation at the confluence of three different rivers in three different colors : the Danube (Donau) which sometimes reflects the blue sky, the black peat swirled in by the (schwarze) Ilz and the green Inn. As you can tell in the photos, we visited just when it had rained a lot and many roads and passageways were flooded, so the river water had more of a muddy hue.

The buttresses (arc-boutants) over the narrow alleyways between the buildings actually support the walls on either side. Older walls have flowers growing out from between stones and some wooden doors show elaborate carvings. The alleys lead up from the waterside to the higher areas of the town. The colorful cobblestones are part of an art project leading to different ateliers; just recently the Passauer had their first Art Event. Passau boasts a Modern Art Museum, the Cathedral Museum, a Roman Museum and a wonderful Glass Museum near the Rathaus.

The Gothic facade of the Rathaus (Town hall) is a kind of trompe-l’oeil: behind it eight smaller buildings are hidden. Formerly lovebirds had to climb up and down stairs trying to find the Justice of the Peace. Nowadays lovers can find his door much more easily in the adjacent new building on the right of the plaza.

The Cathedral /Dom St. Stephen is the original of the diocese St. Stephen in Vienna. Burned down in 1622, it was rebuilt by the baroque architect Carlo Lurago , the stucco by G.B. Carlone and the frescoes by C. Tencalla. Visitors can walk into the courtyard and buy a ticket for €5 for the 11.00 or 12.00 concerts. The magnificent music is played by one of the eight organists on the largest organ in the world. It consists of five different sized organs in the choir loft, the fifth is ensconced in the vault. From the bottom you can only see some small holes in the ceiling. All of the 17,974 pipes and 233 stops have meanwhile been coordinated into the central console. So one organist can play any one organ from his bench up in the choir.

For very good lunch with a great view we drove up the hill to the Brauerei Hacklberg (brewery). Mine was pork filet with noodles and a crème bavaroise with raspberry fluff for dessert. They have many rooms, a large beer garden, a shop and brewery tours.

After lunch we headed down again and walked around building due to the fact that the walkways were flooded to the boat dock. Seeing Passau from the water with a cup of coffee is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

Our last stop was the fortress Veste Oberhaus. Unfortunately our bus chose the wrong road and in the first especially steep and winding curve we got stuck with white smoke billowing out of the motor vent. Our driver carefully inched back down close to the precipice and we all started breathing again when he backed into a forest road and turned to go find a regular street leading up the hill.

At the top of the hill there are a youth hostel, football fields and other buildings. One group was doing a drama course with a “freeze” game. The fortress has a tower to climb (or take an elevator) and a large, sunny terrace café with a birds-eye view of Passau and its confluence of three rivers.

A walk along lake Starnberg : from Tutzing to Seeshaupt

We set out with about 40 participants to walk approx. 12 km (7.5 miles) around Lake Starnberg near the German Alps. The reason there are so many lakes at the foot of the Alps is because the glaciers moved down and ground out many depressions and moraines which gradually filled up with water, rocks and pebbles. (Anecdote: when Napoleon and Montgelas came to Munich, they would have liked to clear the pebbles out of the river Isar, only they couldn’t, as they continually wash down from the Alps.)

Our walk started in Tutzing, down to the swimming areas, on a path winding past houses and through high hedges, sometimes along the main road. The famous Buchheim Museum is here at the water’s edge, with interesting modern art and sculptures.

Most often we walked through lovely parks like the Bernrieder Park with blooming meadows, very old oak trees, a babbling brook, at times a wooden bench near a path leading down to the water.

Wilhelmina Busch-Woods, an heiress of a brewery (Anheuser) in St. Louis, Mississippi, bought large parts of Baron von Wendland’s property near Bernried. She and her first husband owned two large farms with horses, she had her own ship and finally furnished a small castle with antiques in Höhenried. Oh, not to forget, she accumulated three husbands as well. She later created a Foundation to allow the general public to walk through her Bernrieder park after her death in 1952.

When we finally reached Seeshaupt at the south end after three hours of walking, we were quite happy to enter the restaurant for a very good lunch. I had a look at the small church nearby with its light yellow and white hues.

We then drove on to Gut Kerschlach, a very large farm with many horses, dog training, horse carriage rides, meadows, gardens, an empty specialty shop, sausage production, a bakery and a large café. As we were tired from our long walk, we were especially glad of the coffee and cakes on offer!