Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Loose Ends

So I guess I have just lost puff. The holiday has ended but the blog unfinished. There are still several days not covered. I can't be bothered with photos so you will have to imagine.

I can't remember where in Vienna I left off. Laurie and I did not achieve maximum touristing efficiency there anyway. We had a little of the not-another-grand-building syndrome. Walk ten seconds in pretty much any direction anywhere in the old city in Vienna and you see some grand building. It is very much "look at us we are the capital of a massive empire at the turn of the 20th century" (or is it 19th - I mean around 1900 in case of confusion). Unfortunately almost every site has some part they are either restoring or cleaning. There is scaffolding with pictures of the building behind on top everywhere. I don't think anyone has seen the entirety of St Stephan's at the same time for many years.

Laurie and I went to the Belvedere which is a grand residence. It also is an art gallery - we reckoned we would only manage one site and here we could kill birds with one stone as the saying goes. There were also gardens here (though not very extensive). These gardens were of the manicured, pebble path variety with plants forming patterns. Laurie reaffirmed he would not make a good 19th gardener by remarks such as "I hate pebbles, even dead grass is better". We both prefered the grounds at Nymphemburg - something more woody which you could even get lost in.

We then went to London. Here we stayed with Julian which was great. He took us on a walking tour of the city center one day and the next we all went up to Cambridge (where he was for a year).

I really like the center of London. It has a mix of old and new. Dynamic and alive and at the same time filled with a rich history. I prefer this to have an old city and then the business side separate.

Going the Cambridge was fun. The main activity was punting along the Cam river. Being England it was raining alot but we were prepared and sheltered under bridges and ate a picnic in the boat. Although the individual parts are very pretty I actually prefer Chicago - I like a main quad.

Anyway that is a rushed conclusion to our Europe trip.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vienna - assorted photos and monday

Laurie mentioned our quest for washing. We were very smelly- or at least our clothes were. Here is a photo of the green washing machine place with huuuge dryers.

On Monday we met up with Andy who was the singing teacher at Zell. We met at Demel with is a Konditorei which once provided sweet baked goods to the emperor. They claim to still e using the same recipes. Inside you can see parts of the kitchen area. We saw...
After cake (which was indulgent and good) we all went to the chapel for the old townhall. It has two alters as displayed in the photo below. One is anglican and the other old catholic (a sect that splintered off the catholic church in response to the pope saying he was infallible about a century ago. It was originally two separate chapels - one for the town hall and one of some guy who lived next door but then the town hall bought his place and tore down the wall between. The organ here is own of the oldest in the city. Andy was singing in a concert here and waned us to see the place and attend some of a rehearsal as we left for London before the concert occurred.
Laurie mentioned horses - I think. There are a lot here. The smell of poo can sometimes be overpowering. I enjoyed this scene though.
The horse drawn carriages as a symptom of the important and omnipresence of tourism stuff. Another are the Mozart concerts with the corresponding dudes dressed up trying to sell you tickets - in particular outside Stephan's Dom. Most have the same red coat and wig. In the back of this photo you can also see a souvenir shop which seems appropriate.
Shall post more on Vienna soon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Arrived in Vienna

It is now Monday morning and we are posting from a Starbucks in the heart of the Hofburg (Imperial Palace) in Vienna. There are horses and carriages everywhere. After a ridiculously long final concert at Zell (we broke for an interval after a 2h 40min first half, starting at 8pm) we were kindly given a lift by a guitarist (and computational physicist!) at the Seminar who lives on the outskirts of Vienna. This saved us a train ride. We spent about half an hour at his place (next to corn and sunflower farms, very picturesque) as he told us what to do in Vienna and while we waited for his harpsichord, spinet and seven guitars to arrive back in the van which was coming from Zell. Once those arrived safely, he gave us a lift to the edge of the underground network, from which it was a short ride to our hotel (next to the historic part of town). It was urgent that we wash clothes so we rushed to one of the few laundromats we could find by Google (further hindered by it being Sunday and everything being closed). Green & Clean was very bright and efficient, and had extremely large dryers---photos to come---although the purely German signage was very frustrating to one American tourist we found pacing around waiting for his clothes to finish. In the mean time we had ice cream at a little Italian gelateria and 1 Euro pizza at a local turkish-kebab place; clearly we were not in the touristy part of town. By the time we got back to our hotel it was lateish and rainy, so we didn't set out again that night, although perhaps we didn't have enough to eat as I woke up at 6 am hungry. Nothing is open in Europe at 6am --- perhaps reasonably --- although after some searching I found a bakery, ate a croissant and a coffee, and went back to sleep for a bit. Now it is 10 am and sunny, so we will ascend the Stephansdom! We will be meeting Andy (the singing teacher) for lunch and to hear part of a rehearsal for a concert of his in an apparently antique and curious church with a very unusual organ. More news to come. Oh also while Kate was sleeping I looked up Australian politics and was pleased to see the shine come off Tony Abbott a few notches. Byee!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


"About time" I hear you say. And you are right but forgive us as we have been very busy rehearsing and it amazing how tiring making music can be.

We had one jam packed day of touristing in Salzburg. (I don't know why this is blue and underlined - blogger is sometimes a little mysterious.)

In the morning we went up to the large fortress on the hill which was constructed over many centuries but certainly has a medieval feel. We walked up instead of the almost vertical railway (which we took back down). Besides being of interest in of itself. From the fortress there are great views of Salzburg below. Here is one of the few Kate AND Laurie photos. We learnt on the audio tour that Salzburg was named after the salt deposits nearby, that were fundamental in the success of the fortress (never successfully sieged - it was only once surrendered and that was to Napoleon) as salt (Salz) was the major preservative.

A comment on the audio tour. In order have tours in several languages simultaneously they had head sets which could be programmed to different languages and even a kids orientated version, and then forty people would go to the same rooms at the same time and hear their version. I am undecided in whether I think this is very smart and practical or saddened by the technologising of it all. People should perhaps just cope with the german (they are in Austria after all).

These photos are out of order so later you will see an organ which is in the fortress. It has no keyboard. Initially it could only play an F major chord and then later they added the barrel which allows premade tunes.

Below is a picture taken at the end of our day. We saw a free filming of La Traviato, filmed at the Salzburg festival in 2005. It was very good. Unfortunately very little of the italian was translated to german so the plot made little sense. Wikipedia helped us out there. That organ I promised you:
One of the places we saw was a lovely little cemetery. Laurie likes fonts as probably you are aware. The following photo was taken because of the font.
Wandering the streets is an important touristing activity, especially since we were a little sick of museums and the like. There are very strict rules in the Old Town for signs and shop fronts. Even McDonalds must uphold them. Overall Salzburg is a nice place but a little too touristy for its own good. It is hard to escape to souvenir and mozart kugel shops. That said we also experienced some gems - like the coffee house in the style of Viennese coffee houses that was frequented by Constanze (Mozarts wife) after his death when she lived in Salzburg with her second husband. It is still around and, I think, very much as it was then. Also the high hills on the edge of the city center are effectively free of development. We enjoyed walking through paths, seeing woods, cows and older houses. We did see some of the locations for sound of music. It didn't interest me much, I am glad we didn't do a tour.

Very quick Zell update

Very quick blog as I'm late for a rehearsal. Here is me at the (first of four, rest to come) final concert playing cembalo in a passacaglia by Schmeltzer.

We visited Schaerding on the free afternoon on Weds, a baroque town on the river Inn (the border between Germany and Austria). Here you can see Germany:

Here is us in the town square, with Christophorus:

Here is the mighty Pram:
and here is the Schloss:
Must dash

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Zell 1

I promise I will go back and fill in the blog gaps some time soon. Salzburg with photos will come. However for the moment I will just say a few words about the music seminar in Zell an dem Pram. It is very free-form. Laurie and I had be told this before otherwise it might have been a shock. You get one lesson a day and the rest of the time you need to organise small projects with other participants. I am singing in a 5-person a capella group for some Italian song and Laurie is also included for a 6-person song, this one in English. One of the guitar players organised a guitar, two sops and one alto piece - he even typed up the parts on a computer music program from the facsimile so it would be (much) easier to read. My sight singing is not quite at the level of others but everyone is very patience and helpful. I am trying to learn stuff in my free time.

Solo singing wise I am doing a few songs with transverse flute, all Bach of course. Two of them I had prepared though not as much a I should have before coming. The third is new to me. I am currently listening to it on repeat via youtube for fast track learning. Laurie and I will also do a Bach duet from the wedding cantata o organ accompaniment (I hope - this is still in process of organising).

Laurie is playing not just with me but is in demand - there are only 3 piano/harpsicord/organ students. There is also a lady here who is a wiz at accompanying and is doing that exclusively I think. She is often helping at the singing lessons. I will let Laurie talk about his program later for himself.

The place itself is great. It is designated as a learning centre I think and more specifically for music. It has many practise rooms as well as a big hall with stage. Photos will come I promise.My only complaint is the the church next door ring bells every 15 minutes. A higher pitched ring for each 15 past the hour (4 of them on the hour) and I slightly lower pitch from how many hours in 24 hour time. This runs throughout the night. I know this because the first night our window was open and I guess I must not have been very tired as I heard them at 12 (when we went to bed), 1, 3, 5, and 6. At 6 everyone is woken up as there is an extended playing. Clearly they believe in early mornings here.

Anyway I should go practise.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thursday & Friday 2

Thursday was relatively uneventful, so it gets put together with Friday in our preparations to leave Munich for Salzburg. On the way home we went via the Johann-Nepomuk-Kirche, a tiny church on Sendlinger Strasse right near the language school. It had a strange rock motif on the outside as if at the sea, and was covered with golden decorations on the inside, including the following scary statue of Fate, and above it a statue of an angel holding a framed painting at a precarious angle, as if to drop it on visitors; very odd.

Here is our little apartment in Munich on Thursday morning, just after Kate's expert cleaning job. She constantly surprises me with her packing prowess; we still fit all our stuff into two carry-on sized suitcases (plus a backpack) despite buying in Munich: jeans and a jumper (for me), a jumper and two umbrellas (for Kate), a pillow, four thick German textbooks (from the language school), and various knickknacks.

Our last day of German school was a little sad as there were several of us leaving, but we all had fun. Particularly good was a discussion about attitudes to work and careers. A young Japanese woman in our class was explaining how she worked as a paralegal from 8am to 9pm, usually six days a week, with only an hour (or actually half hour) break, and only two weeks (actually one) of annual leave. This prompted the young Italian in our class to exclaim loudly "Mamma mia, questa non e una vita", followed by much head-shaking as to how such a work schedule was even possible. He admitted that Italians worked till eight in the evening or so, but only after a four hour siesta. We ended with a game of Tabu (like Pictionary except you describe the word verbally without using a few specified other words) where we did distinctly better than we had in the first week.

After a leisurely lunchtime (leaving it a little late to set off for the train station) we rushed to the Hauptbahnhof for the 3.27 train. We arrived at 3.15 but there were long ticket queues, so we went to the automatic ticket machine. We were going to buy the standard Munich-Salzburg ticket except that the nice Deutsche Bahn man at the machine advised us instead to get the "Bayern Ticket", which allows you travel as a pair to anywhere in Bavaria for only 27 euros together, including Salzburg (counted as on the border). We then rushed to the platform and got on the train with two minutes to spare. Unfortunately when the conductor lady got to us, it transpired that the Bavaria Ticket was not valid for the express train we had taken, so the DB man had been truthful but misleading. She was very nice though and let us just make up the difference. Before we knew it (about an hour and a quarter) we were in Salzburg and it was raining, just as we thought we had escaped the Munich rain. We got the bus to our hostel (actually very new and flash), which is right near the old part of town. You can see here the medieval Festung (fortress) Hohensalzburg) from our hostel, just on top of a beautiful construction site.

Not wanting to waste a moment, we set out and visited the Mozart Wohnung, apparently the best of the several Mozart themed museums in Salzburg. It is in the quite fancy apartment where the Mozart family moved once Mozart was 20 or so and had experienced considerable success overseas. I was most surprised in the museum's exhibitions by how Mozart's temperament differed from his father's --- Wolfgang happy-go-lucky and brilliant but inattentive, Leopold strict and pushy but supportive to a fault, ultimately getting into extreme debt through Wolfgang's lifestyle and frequent trips. It was a little sad to discover that Leopold is thought to have been buried in an unmarked spot in the general Salzburg cemetery. Perhaps it is the curse of child stars everywhere to never fully grow up. (I believe the split infinitive is accepted correct practice nowadays, and the available alternatives for this sentence were significantly worse. Here is Mozartplatz in the old city (only erected about 50 years after his death; Mozart and Salzburg never really loved each other while he was alive).

As you may have read, finding good food in Munich had been a bit of a challenge if we didn't eat at home, but no such trouble in Salzburg (possibly because of the number of tourists). In the north of the historic district we found Spicy Spices, a charming little vegetarian/vegan eatery full of Bio (organic) hippy produce that you can buy and take home with you. (It seems very common in Germany and Austria to have eateries with randomly mixed German/English in their titles and menus; hence "Weine, Biere und Hot Drinks", "Smoothies --- 100% Pure Frucht", "Kaffee To Go" and so on; also a travel agent with "Oesterreichs einziges echtes Last Minute" or some such). I spent much of the time puzzling what "Gewuerze" were on some of the many hippy writings on the wall, but I felt very silly to learn later that it meant "Spices".

Wednesday 2

We went to Schloss Nymphenburg - the summer palace of the house of Wittelsbach (rulers of Bavaria).

It was outside the city - or at least on the outskirts when it was first built but is now well inside - about a 10 minute tram ride from the central station.

The castle is filled with elaborately decorated rooms and the like. More important are the extensive grounds filled with winding paths and pretty little bridges. After taking the audio-guided tour of the 20 or so rooms open to the public inside the castle we wandered the grounds. It was very peaceful and atmospheric. Spotted around the grounds were 4 small "mini-castles" which are large house in size. These were used for entertaining I believe. One of them had a room filled with mirrors. There also was a fad for Chinese style decoration in many places. Interestingly although some of the wall furnishings were imported from the Orient, it was supplemented by dutch tiles made to look Chinese.

Now for some photos:

The ceiling in the main auditorium. Such magnificent ceilings have inspired Laurie and me to get some nice big poster and put it on our ceiling at home. Below is a picture of the castle from far down the main canal thing. Most of it is hidden behind the trees.
We have many photos of our wanderings through the woods. Below is one which we thought was particularly picturesque.
Finally this slightly silly one. Only one of the mini-castles had a kitchen. It had decorations in the Chinese style but for whatever reason the tiles were not perfectly laid. Quite postmodern really.