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!

The Residenz garden with the Diana temple

Most people may only have seen the stone facade of the Residence on the side of the Max Joseph Platz with the adjacent buildings of the Residenztheater and the Opera, opposite the former red post office buildings and the little restaurants and boutiques on the fourth side, all surrounding the seated bronze statue of Prince Max I Joseph. Max I Joseph’s son, however, Ludwig, preferred the other side showing east to the Renaissance Court Gardens with English elements, and had his rooms furnished there.

The Diana Temple (photo supra) is said to have been erected in 1615 by Heinrich Schön the Elder. On fair days a grand piano is rolled inside and a pianist plays the lovely tunes of Chopin and Schumann to passers-by. To the southwest, the Residenz and the Herkulessaal, to the east the Theatinerkirche (Church of St. Cajetan) built by the Elector as a sign of gratitude for the birth of his heir, Prince Max Emanuel.

Around the Diana temple there are four fountains, to the north the Garden arcades with the Theater Museum, and to the south the Bayrische Staatskanzlei (Bavarian State Chancellery) which was destroyed in part during the Second World War and rebuilt in the mode of Italian High Renaissance.

The Court Gardens are a sunny and peaceful place for a stroll. In the summer dances take place, musicians play their instruments, early-birds practise yoga, people chat and eat and sit on the benches. The white roses exhale their sweet perfume and you can almost forget you are in the city.

Carnival in Munich

While people in Mainz and Cologne claim that Carnival is not as fun in Bavaria as in their cities, there are still lots of fun events to go to, like the Gaudi-Wurm (parade) of a Sunday. There are many balls in different locations, either in formal dress or in costumes. For the ladies there are special ladies-only dances on the Thursday before Mardi Gras, “Altweiberfasching”, and the women may also cut off the men’s cravats and ties (no, don’t try to imagine anything further).

The above photos were taken on Mardi Gras, where the Carnival Club Narrhalla performed several fairy tale scenes, among others, Cinderella, Snow White and Mary Poppins. The young men kicked their legs high like Can-can girls in another scene. And finally all the sales and farmer ladies from the Viktualienmarkt danced as well. The mayor pronounced a short speech, offering his mayor job as job-sharing with the Carnival Manager!

The four hungry monkeys at the ATM are my favorite, though I doubt they could eat the bills like bananas… Noteworthy was having the President visit us here, and without security guards!

Buenos Aires – beautiful air

We spent a few days in Buenos Aires and then all the way to Tierra del Fuego and Cabo de Horno. Altogether it was a very interesting trip, even though I had imagined some things differently.20181223_111054

One thing you should definitely try are the steaks. We went to the Gran Parrilla near the center of town, a former butcher’s shop transformed into a restaurant with a black and white tiled floor.20181222_112351.jpg

We were surprised to see the price of this bottle of water. A bit later we found out the dollar sign is also used for the Argentinian peso, so this bottle costs about €5,50.

An unfortunate occurrence was our first outing in direction of the Casa Rosada (presidential palace). We suddenly felt wet splashes on our clothes and neck with a young man shouting “Senora!” at the top of his lungs. Although he looked trustworthy, we first looked around to see where the muddy and acid-smelling stains had come from. We talked quietly to each other and continued taking pictures. After a few minutes four or so men walked off, looking back at us. We decided to wash our shirts immediately at the hotel and change clothes. To our complete surprise, I noticed a sign on the concierge’s desk saying that these men are professional pickpockets. They will rush up to “help” and walk away with the booty! So it seems our calmness irritated them.

In the Museo Nacional del Cabildo
Buenos Aires from the docks
The owner and the dancers
In the ranch owner’s mansion
Buenos Aires - gauchos - museum - Japanese garden
The patio of the estancia

What a pity I can’t show any photos of the fantastic tango show we saw, near the Casa Rosada, because it was not allowed. But our ride out to the gaucho ranch was superb: They rode their horses and danced and offered juicy dishes and cold drinks. We had a gorgeous sunny day.

Naturally everybody wants to see the Casa Rosada, the park in front, the Cathedral and the Cabildo museum opposite.

We also greatly enjoyed seeing the Japanese garden, lovingly sculpted with skyscrapers towering in the background. Some employees taught “instant Ikebana” classes in the shade of tents and the café sells ice cream and refreshments. There is also a program of events.

Getting around by underground or bus is fairly easy, but some places still demand a brisk walk. It was a great experience, albeit too short.


Total ticketing tourist tricksters

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 lots of 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!





Guts Over Fear – eminently

Most of  you will know this song title by Eminem and Sia (Album Shady XV, 2014). While I greatly admire Eminem for being and eminent WHITE rapper, I must admit I am not much into rap.

As to Sia, I loved the voice but didn’t know a thing about her until I looked her up and found out why: she is eminently shy! Not that I can see any reason for that, her voice is great and I just loved (most of) the lyrics:

Afraid I will never find a way out, out, out,

So here I am and I will not run
Guts over fear (the time is here)     (…)

It is a truth that holds true time and time again. Sometimes you must just overcome that innate fear. You must pull yourself up, proud and tall, and assert your right to your own life, not necessarily against all odds, but against taller, louder, more assertive people who have no qualms howsoever at quashing any kind of resistance or creative thinking, especially when it comes to women:

An angry man’s power will shut you up

Which reminds me of Thumper, the cute bunny friend in Bambi, whose momma commented on what is the best way to react in such a situation of extreme pressure :

“If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

It definitely pays to be patient and consider your next move, somewhat like on a chessboard. In many cases, it is wiser to remain silent and gather up your courage for the next confrontation.

My heroines are – mostly – courageous women who have stood up for their beliefs. One of them, Maija Plissezkaya (1925-2015), lived in Munich in the Theresienstraße for many years. Russian prima ballerina assoluta. Courage, thy name is woman. Try reading her two books “Ich, Maija” (1996 I, Maija) and “Haltung bewahren” (2009  Retain your Composure/ Posture, a pun on the meaning of Haltung). Both books moved me to tears, as there is a lot of Russian history background, Stalinism among other scenarios, against which this brave female had to battle. For many, many years the men in power refused to let her leave her country and dance elsewhere.

I was reading the first tome sitting in the underground train / subway with the cover photo turned up –  and the two ladies who sat down across from me gasped. As it turned out, mother and daughter were Russians and were delighted to see their brilliant ‘star’ shining in Germany as well. Later, I wrote a note to her editor to tell her how fascinated I was by her life story and I even received a pleasant thank you note in return, shortly before she passed away in Schwabing in the summer of 2015 at the age of 89. She appeared on stage at the age of 70 even. The usual age to stop one’s dancing career is about 40.

My second heroine is Lucia Lacarra. A Spanish Basque, Lacarra saw her first ballet at the age of 14 – which is terribly late for a ballerina – and made it all the way up. When I heard that the Munich National Theater was dismissing her “for being too old” (sic!), I hooted and swore I’d head up to Dortmund some day to see her and her fantastic husband Marlon Dino again. At least Dortmund’s director Xin Peng Wang had the sense to ‘sweep her off her feet’ and invite her to his theater. Lucky him/ Dortmunders.

IMG-20160104-be the girl on right

My third role model doesn’t even realize that she has helped me in my darkest hours with her determination and elegance and pluckiness. She has danced in Tokyo and Salzburg and has taught me how to stand proud and tall. I get to go to her classes on Saturdays and now that I have improved, I really look forward to every class.

Guts Over Fear, Haltung bewahren, stand TALL.  Like a dancer.  “Such stuff as dreams are made on”  says Shakespeare in The Tempest). Ah, dream ….

CC = cross cultural

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.