Whenever I find the time, I buy a single ticket online for the opera or a ballet. Prices are moderate, as cultural events are subsidised. The new director is Russian and has changed many dancers, at times other singers are invited, but Munich boasts a world-class level of excellence. Any travel agency or hotel can organize a booking. The Festspiele, music festival, is in July.
The opera building is imposing and beautiful, with wide stairs leading up to a portico. Inside, all is wooden parquet floors, high stucco ceilings, gold leaves and mirrors and elegance, red velvet seats and fantastic chandeliers, Bohemian and Venetian. Each seating block has its own wardrobe. Unfortunately, the fashion on display is at times a trifle too casual for my taste, but there is no real dress code. Meanwhile more and more little bars and bar tables have been installed, hardly any long lines. In one corner you can buy souvenirs, in another all manner of CDs and DVDs of singers, operas, ballets, folk songs.
The great hall on the second floor is where everybody walks around in the breaks, enjoying the view from the long sash windows or drinking prosecco. On low tables at the side walls and at each entrance you will find programs and brochures. I find myself holding my breath every time the curtain is pulled back – enjoy!
We stopped over in Ravenna on the way down to the ferry port in Piombino. It was worth every minute. I had not realized how many mosaics and works of art and lovely churches there are and many are on the UNESCO world heritage site list.
In the center of the old town there is the Piazza del Populo with restaurants, gelaterias and the town hall. We stayed at the quaint Palazzo Galletti Abbiosi, renovated from the 18th century, with tiny rooms yet a lot of ambiance and a decent breakfast. You buy a combined ticket for 5 UNESCO buildings that are worth visiting.
We enjoyed the mosaics museum as well which even offers a reduction in certain restaurants. Yet what was interesting were the examples from different areas and epochs, some modern mosaics are truly amazing.
Don’t forget to visit Dante Alighieri’s tomb. He wrote the Divina Commedia and spent his exile in Ravenna. The theater is named after him and there are many plays, as well as summer concerts in June through August.
One of the best places to sample regional food and wine is the enoteca or wine house Ca’de Vèn in the pedestrian zone, following the suggestion of the young lady in our Palazzo. They have all sorts of fancy food, but they recommend piadine, simple sandwiches with Parma ham and a soft white cheese not quite like mozzarella. The wine is very full-bodied and aromatic.
For other meals we can strongly recommend the Osteris Piatto Forte in the Via del Ariani, 10, right in the courtyard with one of the tinier UNESCO buildings that is unadorned on the walls but has a beautiful mosaic ceiling.
Okay, my Austrian girlfriend had put this tick into my ear: you ought to go to Bregenz and see the See. No, sorry, see the lake-theater (German: Seebühne) built right into the water. How cool can you get! Very!!
Yes, I can very much recommend it if you like Austria (CHECK, our backyard, unless our politicians come up with stupid ideas),
if you like operas (CHECK, especially if hubby is more into the mainstream operatic ones featuring real songs he can sing) (can he sing?),
if you don’t mind being cramped up for about 2 1/2 hours on the hard plastic seat (CHECK, don’t forget fat cushions and yoga class beforehand) (forget about breaks or walking or standing up in between),
if you had a yummy dinner (CHECK CHECK at La Scarpetta in Dornbirn and the Kleines Gasthaus am See, bliss, except fot the three screechers & wailers whose parents couldn’t care less about their offspring’s wails),
So, if you don’t mind all the above- mentioned things, then a weekend trip from Munich to Bregenz (about 2 1/2 hours cramped in a car) and lotsof extra cash is just the thing!
Our Travel Agency took out a chuck by charging our credit card the minute we booked with them.- that is a NO-NO. Normally, your card gets charged for 20% immediately as a kind of promise and the rest about a week or two ahead of the event. Our agency pretended now to know about this etiquette, but I had a long talk with them. After all, there such things as a Terminüberweisung and the bank will make sure the money is transferred right on time.
The hotel chosen in Dornbirn was the right size and category and not too far off from the Seebühne, about 20 km along the B 190, but had definitely seen better days and did NOT have AC. Nor did it have appeal. However, it boasts a very good breakfast, albeit missing the more expensive choices, but I don’t breakfast that much anyway, and the employees are nice and offer cushions and shuttle bus and those things you didn’t know you’d need.
Our escapism took us first to the interesting Rolls-Royce museum in Gütle (8,-€ adult), then the Seilbahn/ incline up the Karren of Gütle (Oh yes, the view iS WORTH it! free overlook in plastic over the precipice) and a great lunch of Lumpensalat (a sausage – cheese – red-onion- vinegar – oil dressing kind) with good beer and even better Almdudler (what? you don’t know the famous lemonade with herbs?).
The hot afternoon was spent in the Waldbad / Gütleright next to the river or creek without much water in this drought, but interestingly full of big and small smooth rocks and pebbles. The Waldbad offers many treats for families, well run.
“Carmen” by Bizet is most certainly in all the operatic books and Wiki. The scoop was the fantastic Bühnenbild/ backdrop done by a lady from London with two gigantic hands tossing the cards of fate. At times, the cards will be lowered at ground level to go partially underwater, so the crowd gets emphatic with skirt tossing and head banging and running and splashing each other, which is just the build-up of suspense to Carmen’s tragic end (how did the singer manage that death scene???) – no, I’m not cheating, you go there yourself, please!
The photo above took me more than half an hour of patience at the Botanischer Garten in Munich.
But I do believe it was worthwhile waitingfor the butterfly to settle down. (Oh, I just noticed the alliteration and the pun : www.) The biology expert talking to the visitors explained that these butterflies have about three weeks to procreate and then settle down forever. Naturally, they are ‘flutterier’ (is that a word at all?) than other animals who have a longer average lifespan.
Patience is a prerequisite to a happy life. If any of you has ever read M. Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran (Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, 2001), you will know the quote on page 71:
« La lenteur, c’est ça le secret du bonheur »
If you look mire closely at the wings’ edges of the blue and black butterfly (oh dear, another one: bbb), you can tell that some butterflies tear their delicate wings in the netting as they frantically flutter to and fro (fff! can’t help it!).
In our everyday humdrum lives it is not always easy to do or to practice, but one should always try it with patience. Some Asian cultures have Buddha as a symbol (for complacency also?) or the lotus flower, which Yoga-lovers like imitating when they sit cross-legged on the floor. Some people enjoy cooking in their kitchenette or sailing around the world in a tiny nutshell. Some love music (farewell, Sir Simon Rattle! what a fantastic concert in Berlin last night) or love dancing, like I do. Some soft-spoken ones adore the “sound of silence”, like up on the mountain tops or diving to the ocean’s depths or even going to churches at Evensong, like St. Paul’s, London (eternal thanks to Sir Christopher Wren) silently savoring Gregorian-like chants and German hymns (I wonder which colleague of mine asked them to do us that favor?)
Our current Pope Francis, age 81 in 2018, is afanal for us Christians. If you really believe in the saying “You should practice what you preach“, then you can easily identify with his lectures and precepts. My rule of thumb is, as he says, if you don’t act according to what you profess to believe in, then you are neither trustworthy nor credible. Exactly like “The Boy who cried ‘Wolf!‘ “. A façade – phenomenon which is actually quite sad. People you cannot trust do not have many friends, that is a fact.
I am sure many of us cheered Melania on when she recently corrected her husband’s course on U.S. immigration policy and splitting up families. In this instance, Melania reminds me of Catherine Parr:
It is thought that her actions as regent, together with her strength of character and noted dignity, and later religious convictions, greatly influenced her stepdaughter Lady Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth I of England).
Catherine or ‘Katheryn the Quene KP’ (1512 – 7 September 1548) was the last of Henry VIII ‘s six wives. She was also the one who suggested he become the founder of several Colleges in his old age :
So, once again, we are remembered by our deeds, those deeds which help others get ahead, by showing patience, courage, love and generosity. Now doesn’t that remind us of another loving wife and philanthropist, Bill Gates’ Melinda? Just look at all those wonderful things they have been doing with the money accrued over his comparatively short business life. Truly amazing and inspiring. Another instance of love and patience.
When we left home with a plan to see the Blue Grotto of Capri, little did we realize what an adventure it would turn out to be. Our trip down through Italy in the summer of 2009 went over Rovereto to Pisa to Napoli, where we left our car (thanks again guys, ah me with my 10 words of Italian + noleggio!) for the week on car-less Capri (not yet car free, but thanks to all the microbus drivers!) , then up the steep Vesuvio (in open sandals! never again) and down to Pompei and Ercolano (Herculaneum) and other volcanic sites, leaving via Roma’s periphery, up though Perugia and back home. In other words, in one line down from North to South and then about the same way up till Roma, and then switching to the East side going home.
Then again, the trip itself is not worth commenting much on: the food was always semper buonísimo, the people gentle and pleasant, the sights and the leaning Tower of Pisa and the shoe shops (was that in the right order of importance?) were marvelous, I simply adored the big museum in Napoli, where the guide went out of his way to explain the sunlight beaming in the one corner of the large palace and to move according to the lines on the floor and tell the time and season. Our car park with the noleggio worked out wonderfully for the week on Capri, too.
No, the real story started in Napoli. We drove along the outskirts on a road parallel to the coastline, where we saw many day laborers, mostly black Africans, awaiting their turn to board trucks taking them to farms to do seasonal jobs like picking fruit. All along the road, the Napoletani had placed their garbage in plastic bags outdoors at the edge of their property, hoping the communal garbage collectors would at some time pick them up. Yes, they were smelly and yes, no one came and yes again, in the heat of the day they would begin to emanate a sort of white nebulous fume, like wisps of smoke, making the bit of wind there rather pestilent. Of course we wondered why the garbage was not being picked up, of course we thought “the communal workers are on strike for better pay.” No, we did not think of the Mafiosi.
When we finally arrived at our pre-booked destination, there were countless men and boys bordering the long winding driveway to the hotel at the top of the hill. AND they started shouting in excited voices, only then they saw the Münchner Kennzeichen/ the Munich license plate and an Audi to boot, with great disappointment in their faces they turned their backs on us to wait some more.
Well? well! the national Soccer Team has their home base in said hotel with their own kickoff grounds and were regular guests. So when one of said soccer guys walked into the dining area as if he were the King of Kreation, one Italian lady sent her reluctant daughter to get an item of clothing for an autograph. We, naturally, did not recognize said King; boy, did he look mad for a moment! Another soccer player tried to sneak in, dine, and sneak out again, I actually felt sorry for those who do not seek stardom.
Two days later we arrived by ferry on Capri, a lovely, yet really tiny islet. My husband was reverse-daunted by such a teeny-weeny place, but I suggested the Blue Grotto / La Grotta Azzurra first thing the next morning, and he felt a little better. And wonderful it was! As blue as it gets and a very nice gondoliere to explain things.
Only the next morning, i.e. Tuesday, all the gondolieri and the Guardia costale and the Carabinieri and just about everybody regarded with dismay all the garbage floating in the water around and within the Grotta. Since I couldn’t quite comprehend the newspaper articles, I asked around till I found a nice person to explain to me in not quite perfect English (but I could piece together the missing parts), that the Mafia was actually blackmailing the communal representatives to give them the job of “cleaning up”. It took the poor people exactly that one week of our stay to clean up, when we left, the very first tourists were being rowed over to the Grotta again.
The way we felt about this occurrence cannot be put into words. How unutterably sad.
Ah Cuba! My old love… no longer the same after Fidel’s death, still not up to par due to the U.S. embargo, still imbued with morbid magnificence and awesome Oldsmobiles.
Never shall I forget what Cuba was like in the late fifties, when my daddy visited the place ante quem or in 2004 when we embarked on one of our most adventurous trips through La Habana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos.
Our guide was a mathematics teacher forced to do tourist jobs for US $$$ to buy goods at the ‘black market’.
Our midday musicians: four men with the most beautiful son selling their DIY – CDs for the ridiculaour amount of € 10,- while walking past the tables and serenading the foreign-born guests. Btw, recording is for free and after that they are on their own. If you can still find a copy of these old CDs, please write.
Granma lying in the shade of a building not far from the Best Ballet Theater by far built on the model of European buildings. Trucks falling apart on the pot-hole-ridden streets (?!?) until they are reassembled and repaired by ripping apart another old Soviet truck. Men and women rolling the precious and aromatic tobacco leaves so very carefully, all the while listening to the lectora de tabaquería, considered meanwhileintangiblecultural heritage. Boy do I love those cigars. I am not even a smoker, never have been.
Museum guards that ask visitors for a simple bar of soap or shampoo – however, we were forced to leave our bags in a safe at the front desk. Postcards that cost $2,- and even more for postage – I sent them in August and they arrived on St. Nicholas, December 6 (!).
Our gardeners at the hotel on Varadero who were former civil engineers,who knew no English nor German. Our waiter who whispered about tons of food, like the French butter and the Spanish ketchup packs being thrown away, because Castrismo at that time meant ‘All for one and not much for all‘. The ration cards for beans, sugar and rice allotted to each family dealt out in tiny, hardly noticeable shops at the corner. The first ‘Bed & Breakfast places’, clandestinos.
And in the evening the cabaret show at Tropicana, which probably has not changed much since the day of the Bahía de los cochinos: long, lascivious women’s legs, fat odorous tan puros, dimmed lights, sensually swaying hips, lavish costumes (at least on the top of their heads, not so much around the middle, ouh là là!), finally, ron de Bacardí, humidity, hot kisses …
Ah qué sueño más feliz!
La vida es sueño, y los sueños, sueños son...
(Calderón de la Barca, 1600-1681, contemporary of Shakespeare)
Caipirinha – Put together:
some fresh limes
a teaspoon or so of brown cane sugar
Bacardí rum (or Pitú) – do not be too generous! – drink responsibly
According to popular belief, I had always believed that if you grew up in different cultural circles and could easily feel at home in many places, but didn’t really belong, then you were a kind of mongrel. I said as much the other day to a friend and was rather surprised when she replied: “Ah! but no, that is considered cross-cultural. Something entirely different!” That brought an article to my mind titled something like “It is cool to be mixed“, referring to people such as Tiger Woods (I’d much rather talk about Yul Brynner, ouh là!) who are of mixed racial descent, in fact, a combination of so many races as to make such people stand out from the crowd.
But no, my blood lineage is pretty straightforward Western European. I just happen to have been born and raised in another country. Being forcefully repatriated during junior high, told to learn my second late-beginning mother tongue in lightning rapidity in order to be able to keep up with the stiff standards of a Bavarian Gymnasium (junior and senior high school with a sort of college degree after 13th grade), I pluckily did my best.
As a result, my German is nearly as good as my English and vice versa and my family – an added boon for finding a good job – is 99% bilingual (allowing for 1% of hilarious internal Denglish that only we can understand). Naturally, we fit in everywhere, yet never really belong. That aspect never bothers us much, it is usually the others that point it out. Reactions vary from “How interesting!” to “You’re putting on a show” to being downright hostile “I’ versteh’ di ned (viz. I can’t understand your pronunciation) – “Warum red’st du ned Deutsch med dei’m Bub’n?” (Why don’t you speak German with your boy), certain natives who are wary of anybody who speaks Hochdeutsch, standard German, and more so of users of foreign languages.
Perhaps that is why I tend to seek out interesting people who have a similar background and lifestyle. Perhaps that is my reason for sympathizing with anyone who has experienced racially influenced diffidence or cold-heartedness, be that person from Taiwan or Bosnia or Belgium or Colombia or France or Togo. One thing I am sure of is the fact that I feel most at home with creative people, like musicians, dancers, art-lovers, culturally educated men and women, because in our cultural heritage we can find a common language that speaks from the heart, not from some chauvinistic notion of “my nation first”.
Pineapple cakes – a gift from Taiwan – are not just a delicious snack, I was told that one entire pineapple goes into two miniature cakes, so they have a heart of gold. Just like my friends.