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.

Dornbirn near Bregenz, Austria – home of the Opernfestspiele

Dornbirn is a small town on the outskirts of Bregenz, home to the spectacular Opera Festival on Lake Constance. We had arrived a day early for “Carmen” by Georges Bizet and decided to explore our surroundings. And we found many interesting things to do following the street up the mountain:

  • the Rolls Royce Museum
  • the aerial tram up to the very top of the mountain: “Karrenseilbahn”
  • the swimming pool in the glade

The owners of the small museum offer detailed insights of the making and history of the luxury cars. Spend a delightful hour or two admiring the sleek chassis, leather seats and “Spirit of Ecstasy” figurehead.

This is the view you get when you take the aerial tram “Karren.at” to the top. Not only is there a breathtaking view, but also a nice restaurant. We had Wurstsalat with cheese and onions. Prices for the aerial tram are about 12€, up and down.

The pool is nearby, with nice meadows next to the river Dornbirner Ach. It’s a great place to cool off before dressing up for the big opera “Carmen”in Bregenz, the backdrop of which was designed by the Londoner Es Devlin.

The opera in Munich – Die Nationaloper

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!

Carmen in Bregenz

Driving down to Bregenz on the Austrian side of Lake Constance or the Bodensee as German speakers know it is definitely not far, in fact, only little more than two hours from Munich. Yet it is an entirely different landscape, especially since the theater stage is set on or even in the water. This year 2018 the stage-scape was sculpted by the Londoner Es Devlin and never have I seen a more spectacular one. Some of the playing cards or rather “fate tossed between two female hands” seems to still be flying through the air whereas others offer a kind of balcony and the lowest ones lower into the water at the dramatic end.

The cards also change colors and views of their back or colors and suit, at times even dissolving in the rain.  The three levels have three different names so the actors, dancers and singers know when to be where. The hands reach up about 20m high. The whores have especially heavy make-up, khol-black around their eyes and the dissolving cards remind one of runny mascara when crying. When Carmen is finally strangled and drowned by her unhappy lover Don José, she actually wears an oxygen tank underneath her flashy red dress. I gasped to see her struggle for so many minutes. My guess was a kind of James Bond breathing device and I guess I wasn’t too far off.

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We had a wonderful meal at the lake restaurant and a spectacular sundown. Enjoy a lovely walk around the lake.

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On the day prior to the opera by Bizet we “did” Dornbirn where our hotel was located: We first visited a very interesting Rolls-Royce Museum and a tour by the collector’s children.

a fantastic view down the mountains from the “Karren” Seilbahn or incline and a long soak in the great pools of the Waldbad, the forest pools. Whichever other negative points, like the tight legroom of the bleachers and the chaotic parking signs, yes, I’d do it again!

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!

 

 

 

 

Caipirinha y Cuba, mi amor!

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 meanwhile intangible cultural 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

a pestle for crushing the limes

ice cubes

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 ….