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Visiting the Bavarian Sugar fairy

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The passionate cookbook author, Theresa Baumgärtner is full of inspiration. Her cake recipes and wintry decoration ideas invite us to enjoy the baking craft.

Theresa Baumgärtner’s philosophy is “Follow your heart.” And she lives her life according to this. Already during her studies of culture and business in the university, the amateur chef decided to become self-employed in relation to culinary topics. Inspired by her roots in Baden as well as numerous journeys, the lively North German conjures up refined dishes on the table, which always have a history. On her food blog „theresaskueche.de” her readers are always very close to the action of pans and pots. After a small baking book on the subject of shortbread, Theresa Baumgärtner developed her show “Theresa’s Kitchen” (in the NDR) and also determines the prop and the look of the show in loving detail. Today, the creative connoisseur lives in Luxembourg, where she transforms the products from her small garden into tasty creations.

Meet the Sugar Fairy

Theresa, who was inspired by Ludwig’s castle and Tchaikovsky’s ballet in writing one of her book, will be my guide. I’m not surprised then, when she calls me and says we should go to the castle first. Place of longing and inspiration for 150 years, the fairy tale castle, Neuschwanstein in Bavaria enchants the people of all over the world. Especially in winter, it turns into a breath-taking stage under the sugary snow hood.

-“Before making the baking stuffs and decorating the biscuits, you need to tune in. An impulse, a delightful spark that ignites your creativity. But where do we find it? The theatre is a good place for this. In Germany already at the beginning of December, some ballet productions come back to the stages. Tsackovski Swan Lake enchants and also the Nutcracker instantly takes me into a glamorous dream world.”

So Nutcracker and Swan (the latter is Ludwig’s and Wagner’s favorite) these wonderful inspirations we take with us on our journey to near Allgau. During the night, winter takes over its task as a formidable set designer. Rough-ripened snow cover the landscape with a white delicate coat. What an appearance by the castle Neuschwanstein in this winter setting! It sparkles and glitters as if it were a gigantic festival stage. Swaying frosty reeds at the Weissensee. The ice on the shore seems thin like fine crystal glass. But we won’t linger in Neuschwanstein, after taking a few pictures of the castle, we’ll be on our way to Füssen.

Füssen was already settled in Roman times, then in Late Antiquity it was the home of a part of the Legio III Italica, which was stationed there to guard the important trade route over the Alps. By now the town is known for violin manufacturing and as the closest transportation hub for the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles!

First we check the site of the “Hohes Schloss” (High Castle), the former summer residence of the prince-bishops of Augsburg. Below the Hohes Schloss is the Baroque complex of the former Benedictine monastery of St Mang, whose history goes back to the 9th century. Saint Mang or Magnus of Füssen as its patron saint. In the old buildings of Füssen, the roofs of the historic half-timbered houses nest together tightly. White dusted, they look like they are from a Fairy Tale’s book. Here we stroll through the festively decorated streets of the old town up to the courtyard of the Hochen Schloss (the High castle), step by step up the spiral staircase to the Storchenturm. Arriving at the top, icy wind gusts and a magnificent view over the snowy ones await us. Roofs of the city down stairs, so it’s time to warm up, with Theresa guidance we head for the bakery of the sugar fairy, Stefanie Perkmann’s atelier. It is a wonderful place. As we see in her pastry shop there is a lot to do in the pre-advent’s time.

“Baking is an art and expresses the imagination. Historical cake displays made of brass and special finds from the Fleamarket inspire me!”- she says cheerfully when we arrive at her place. The production of the spicy gingerbread dough, the pricking of the biscuits, the shaping and decorating of the different varieties, all this seems to be easy for her to get out of hand. “The quality of ingredients and the love of baking are the most important.”- she says. And we are sure, that’s why her spicy biscuits are considered the best in the city.

Allgau, the region of Bavaria is full of beautiful stories so that it inspires the imagination. Baking with models pays for the most beautiful Xmas traditions. The nostalgic wooden shapes are often passed down from generation to generation.

The castle of Hex and its rose garden

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After discovering the rose and herb’s garden of the remarkable castle Heks/ Hex in Belgium I decided to participate in a cook course led by Claude Pohlig. But before sharing my wonderful experience with you I’d like to introduce you to the history of the castle:

The Hex Castle is situated in the village of Heks, about halfway between Sint-Truiden and Tongeren, 3km south of Borgloon (Looz in French). It is a classical castle built for a Prince-Bishop of Liège. It is renowned for its French-style gardens and English-style park.

History

Private residence of François-Charles von Velbrück (1719-1784), Prince-Bishop of Liège between 1772 and 1784, Hex is a jewel of Rococo style almost unrivaled in Belgium.

François-Charles von Velbrück was born near Düsseldorf. In 1735 he became canon priest of the cathedral of Liège then in 1756, Archdeacon of Hesbaye. Between 1757 and 1763, he served as prime minister under Prince-Bishop Jean-Théodore of Bavaria.

As a ruler of the Principality of Liege, Velbrück was remembered as an enlightened philosopher and humanist, a nature lover, a patron of the arts, and an exponent of free education. He endowed Liège with an academy of painting, sculpture and engraving, a free school of drawing for mechanic arts, a free school of surgery, as well as free courses of mathematics and public law. All this, combined with a lasting time of peace during his whole rule made of Velbrück one of the most beloved prince-bishops of Liège in history.

In 1770, François-Charles started the construction of his château in Hex, on an estate where his father François-Joseph had erected a hunting pavilion. François-Charles was struck by the beauty of the Hesbaye region, in the County of Looz. Upon his death, as the castle was a personal possession, it didn’t go the the Principality of Liège but was inherited by François-Charles’ family, passed to the Marchant d’Ansembourg, and eventually to the Counts of Ursel.

Description

Completed in 1772, Hex castle was built in the middle of an exceptional natural site, covering 5 hectares (12.5 acres) of formal French-style gardens and 60 hectares (150 acres) of English-style park. The terrain is hilly, with 60 meters of difference between the highest and lowest point.

Most remarkable of all is the collection of roses, which includes a variety not found anywhere else in the world: the Rosa Velbruck Indica Centifolia, named after the original owner of the property. Let’s also note the Chinese garden and the potager (vegetable garden).

The park was inspired by the works of the celebrated English landscape-architect “Capability” Brown, and was on of the first of the kind on the continent itself. It has the status of natural reserve. The castle is U-shaped and has a front façade of 19 windows in length (on two levels). The interior of the castle was designed in opulent Louis XV and Louis XVI styles. Some rooms have Chinese decoration. There are no less than six living rooms, each of a different colour. The main dining room is decorated with magnificent wood panelling by Liège artist Tombaye.

The castle itself cannot be visited, but the gardens and park are open to the public for the Festival of plants twice a year (2nd weekend of June and 2nd weekend of September in 2020). Guided tours start every hour. Admission is 7.5 € per person (dogs are not allowed).

The rest of the year, group (max. 35 people) tours can be arranged through written request, 3 weeks prior to the visit. The tours take approximately 1h30min to 2 hours, and can be held on weekdays between 10:00 am and noon, or between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm. The individual fee is 7.5 €, with a minimum of 150 € for the whole group (so if the group is composed of only 10 people, the fee will be 15 € per person).

Cooking with Claude Pohlig:

It was a carless Sunday in Brussels, when a large part of the square in front of the royal palace was clad with grass and food and information stands about agriculture and organic food. Some bought sweets and were elegantly clad. Some stood in line to eat ice cream. Some took time to be handed information about all sorts of things, such as tap water or traffic in Brussels or different types of organic cheese. Of course there was a lot of tasting to be done. Soon I hit upon some heirloom tomatoes that looked very familiar to me. Indeed, I had hit upon Claude Pohlig’s temporary, but professionally run food court! I wandered on, to the information stand of the Brussels Slow Food movement, and next door I met Anne, from the blog Les jardins de Pomone, whom I was happy to meet in personShe and her husband know a thing or two about real food too: that’s food coming straight from a garden. Anne made me taste the leaves of the stevia plants, never had before. And Brussels was just the beginning! After I tasted the Pohlig’s dishes, I decided to take part in his training at Hex Castle! And I did it in September.

Visiting Mr Pohlig in castle Hex: The middle-aged, lean, good looking master chef himself was digging in boxes, but his assistant chef was preparing the lentil flour crêpes. As a starter I took a soup made with orange-colored tomatoes, quinoa and purple basil. Next, I chose the beef hamburger dressed with a pumpkin patty, and a mayonnaise with fresh herbs, served with a salad featuring pale yellow carrots. Taste bombs. In short Claude Pohlig, Michelin star chef does catering with what Michael Pollan calls real food! Here are two recipes of mr Pohlig:

Lavender pancake with salmon

Ingredients: 25 ml milk, 2 eggs, 100 g flour, 2 lavender twigs, 4 slices smoked salmon, 25 cl tick cream, pepper, flowers and herbs

Preparation: Make pancake dough with the flour, milk and eggs. Add the lavender flowers and leave the dough for 24 hours rest. Bake the pancakes in cleared butter or in a mixture of half butter, half oil. Place a slice of smoked salmon on each pancake and a spoonful of thick cream. Add flowers and garden herbs to your own preference. Season with some freshly ground pepper before serving. gambero-rosso-tym-k-lejeune

Rosehip cake with nuts 

Ingredients: 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) of earth balance, or other vegan butter, room temperature, 1 cup sugar, 2 ½ cups flour, ½ cup rosehips, loosely packed, with the inside seeds and hairs removed, ½ cup almonds or hazelnuts

Methods: 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper, next finely chop the rosehips and almonds and set aside.
2. Using a hand-mixer, whip the vegan butter. Add the sugar and whip until it is fully integrated and fluffy. With the mixer on a low setting, add the flour, rosehips and almonds half a cup at a time until it has all been added.
3. Scoop the batter onto the baking dish covered with parchment paper and use your hands to push into an even layer across the entire pan. Make as smooth as possible, or use a fork to add texture- the cookies will not smooth in the oven. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until it has turned more golden but not brown- they will still be fairly soft but will harden as they cool.
4. Use the edges of the wax paper to lift the cookie dough from the hot pan and place on a cutting board. While still hot, cut down to the desired size and shape and then allow to cool completely before serving.

5. I prepared cream with Philadelphia cream cheese, adding sugar and whipped cream to it. I decorated with rosehip marmalade and ground hazelnuts.

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Claude Pohlig is a Michelin star chef, works for Cuisine potager as a caterer and gives cooking lessons in the castle of Hex etc.

Christmas program: The Swan lake

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Winter has arrived, thus the final season of the year is with us. This time of the year is often described as cold or unfriendly. The coldness brooks no argument, but unfriendly it is not! Because the first of this season’s months draws family together. Eleven months have passed with probably too few table and other occasions, however December sees the grand finale of the year, holding true spirit of festivity. Christmas itself is one of the most sociable occasions of them all, embracing families and friends. All families keep some traditions, for instance what to prepare, what to cook, to eat, to do etc. during the festive season. If not then it’s time to introduce some. We like to go to see a beautiful theater piece or a ballet show: such as The Swan lake, or the Nutcracker.Bubu & Shizuka 058

The swan is an important bird in all culture. People believed that they’re able to transform from human to swan and vice versa, those are a worldwide motif in folklore. The typical tale is of a swan maiden who is temporarily robbed of her powers and forced to marry a human man. Tchaikovsky was also inspired by an old Russian Swan tale. The result was The Swan lake ballet. P. I. Tchaikovsky composed it in 1875–76. Despite its initial failure, it is now one of the most popular of all ballets.

The scenario, initially in two acts, was fashioned from Russian and German folk tales and tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. The choreographer of the original production was Václav/Julius Reisinger). The ballet was premiered by the Bolshoi Ballet on 4 March (according to the Orthodox calendar 20 February) 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Although it is presented in many different versions, most ballet companies base their staging both choreographically and musically on the 1895 revival of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, first staged for the Imperial Ballet on 15 January 1895, at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg.

There is no evidence to prove who wrote the original libretto, or where the idea for the plot came from. Russian and German folk tales have been proposed as possible sources, including “The White Duck” and “The Stolen Veil” by  Johann Karl August Musaus but both those tales differ significantly from the ballet.

One theory is that the original choreographer, Julius Reisinger, who was a Bohemian (and therefore likely to be familiar with The Stolen Veil), created the story. Another theory is that it was written by Vladimir Petrovich Begichev, director of the Moscow Imperial Theatres at the time, possibly with Vasily Geltser,  danseur of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre (a surviving copy of the libretto bears his name). Since the first published libretto does not correspond with Tchaikovsky’s music in many places, one theory is that the first published version was written by a journalist after viewing initial rehearsals (new opera and ballet productions were always reported in the newspapers, along with their respective scenarios).

Some contemporaries of Tchaikovsky recalled the composer taking great interest in the life story of Bavarian King Ludwig II, whose life had supposedly been marked by the sign of Swan and could have been the prototype of the dreamer Prince Siegfried. However, Ludwig’s death happened 10 years after the first performance of the ballet.

Begichev commissioned the score of Swan Lake from Tchaikovsky in May 1875 for 800 rubles. Tchaikovsky worked with only a basic outline from Julius Reisinger of the requirements for each dance. However, unlike the instructions for the scores of The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, no written instruction is known to have survived.p1100800

Synopsis

Swan Lake is generally presented in either four acts, four scenes (primarily outside Russia and Eastern Europe) or three acts, four scenes (primarily in Russia and Eastern Europe). The biggest difference of productions all over the world is that the ending, originally tragic, is now sometimes altered to a happy ending.

Prologue

Some productions include a prologue that shows how Odette first meets Rothbart, who turns Odette into a swan.

Act 1

A magnificent park before a palace

[Scène: Allegro giusto] Prince Siegfried is celebrating his birthday with his tutor, friends and peasants [Waltz]. The revelries are interrupted by Siegfried’s mother, the Queen [Scène: Allegro moderato], who is concerned about her son’s carefree lifestyle. She tells him that he must choose a bride at the royal ball the following evening (some productions include the presentation of some possible candidates). Siegfried is upset that he cannot marry for love. His friend Benno and the tutor try to lift his troubled mood. As evening falls, Benno sees a flock of swans flying overhead and suggests they go on a hunt [Finale I]. Siegfried and his friends take their crossbows and set off in pursuit of the swans.

Act 2

A lakeside clearing in a forest by the ruins of a chapel. A moonlit night.

Siegfried has become separated from his friends. He arrives at the lakeside clearing, just as a flock of swans land [Scène. Moderato]. He aims his crossbow [Scène. Allegro moderato], but freezes when one of them transforms into a beautiful maiden, Odette [Scène. Moderato]. At first, she is terrified of Siegfried. When he promises not to harm her, she explains she and her companions are victims of a spell cast by the evil owl-like sorcerer Rothbart. By day they are turned into swans and only at night, by the side of the enchanted lake – created from the tears of Odette’s mother – do they return to human form. The spell can only be broken if one who has never loved before swears to love Odette forever. Rothbart suddenly appears [Scène. Allegro vivo]. Siegfried threatens to kill him but Odette intercedes – if Rothbart dies before the spell is broken, it can never be undone.

As Rothbart disappears, the swan maidens fill the clearing [Scène: Allegro, Moderato assai quasi andante]. Siegfried breaks his crossbow, and sets about winning Odette’s trust as the two fall in love. But as dawn arrives, the evil spell draws Odette and her companions back to the lake and they are turned into swans again.

Act 3

An opulent hall in the palace

Guests arrive at the palace for a costume ball. Six princesses are presented to the prince [Entrance of the Guests and Waltz], as candidates for marriage. Rothbart arrives in disguise [Scène: Allegro, Allegro giusto] with his daughter, Odile, who is transformed to look like Odette. Though the princesses try to attract the prince with their dances [Pas de six], Siegfried has eyes only for Odile. [Scène: Allegro, Tempo di walz, Allegro vivo] Odette appears (usually at the castle window) and attempts to warn Siegfried, but he does not see her. He then proclaims to the court that he will marry “Odette” (Odile) before Rothbart shows him a magical vision of Odette. Grief-stricken and realizing his mistake, Siegfried hurries back to the lake.

Act 4

By the lakeside

Odette is distraught. The swan-maidens try to comfort her. Siegfried returns to the lake and makes a passionate apology. She forgives him, but his betrayal cannot be undone. Rather than remain a swan forever, Odette chooses to die. Siegfried chooses to die with her and they leap into the lake. This breaks Rothbart’s spell over the swan maidens, causing him to lose his power over them and he dies. In an apotheosis, the swan maidens watch as Siegfried and Odette ascend into the Heavens together, forever united in love.p1100201

 

St Leonhard and the horses

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St. Leonard was a French monk of the 5th century in Limoges, Aquitaine, and he is normally portrayed in a monastic habit. On the few paintings or tabloids he is identified by his attribute, a set of shackles or fetters, either made partly of chain or all of iron.
The Golden Legend tells of several miracles in which prisoners were set free by the intercession of St. Leonard. Some gained their freedom even while Leonard was still alive, just by invoking his name.

Portraits sometimes show the saint with not only his attribute but one or more prisoners praying to him (as in the first image at right) or being led out of prison by him.
As for narrative images, a pair of stained-glass windows in Regensburg/Germany presents fourteen vignettes from St. Leonard’s life.leonhardifahrt-bad-toelz-aufbruch-1220x550-2

Bavaria, Austria and the Saint

The Leonhardi fahrt (drive) or the Leonhardiritt (route/ride) is a procession on horseback, which is part of the tradition in Old Bavaria and Western Austria. It takes place in honor of St. Leonhard of Limoges (6th century) on his memorial day, 6th of November, or a neighboring weekend. Some villages in Bavaria also celebrate Leonhardi in the summer.

As patron saint of agricultural animals, today especially of horses, pilgrimages are made to Leonhardi with animal blessing. The motive for the blessing (often falsely also called consecration) of the animals, especially the horses, is their role, which they played as load and work animals for the rural population.

As the largest and most important Leonhardi ride, the Tölzer Leonhardifahrt was recognized as an intangible cultural heritage of Bavaria in July 2016 and in December 2016 was included in the National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage by the German UNESCO Commission.Copy-20of-20Leonhardifahrt031

Miesbach, Bad Feilnbach, Utting at Ammersee etc..

The Leonhardiritt in Leonhardspfunzen is the largest in the district of Rosenheim and has a long tradition. Records of this event can already be found in writings from 1436. The oldest ride to date, which was first mentioned in 1442, takes place in Kreuth am Tegernsee. In 1809, a state commandment was issued prohibiting religious encride. When it was repealed by King Ludwig I (Bavaria) in 1833, many Leonhardi rides and rides were so stray that they usually had to be re-introduced many years later or were completely omitted.

As a secular supporting program, the Leonhardi fest usually takes place with beer tents, fairs and dance events. In Bavarian there is no distinction between Leonhardifest and Leonhardifahrt. Both are referred to as Lehardi (sometimes also Lehards or Leachats)

In Limoges, Aquitaine, St. Leonard, Confessor. He was a disciple of blessed Bishop Remigius. Born of a noble family, he chose the solitary life and was famed for his sanctity and miracles. He is especially noted for his effectiveness in the freeing of captives. – Roman Martyrology for November 7.Copy-20of-2063341920

Watch out for the Krampus! Thrills at the Krampus run

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The tradition of the Krampus Run is once again very popular, especially among young people. In spite of the awful weather I participated on it today! It was mega hit as the German friends of mine commented the masks and dances of the Krampuses.krampuslauf-2018-6-hp

Who is that creature?

The Krampus is the scary assistant of kind Saint Nicholas. Whereas the latter likes to turn a blind eye when children are naughty, the Krampus prefers to rattle his chain in a terrifying manner, to attain the required level of respect and to reprimand his disagreeable contemporaries. The Krampus Run dates back 500 years to a tradition from the Alpine regions. As early as the 16th century, the so-called “Klabaufs” paraded around: Schoolchildren, choirmasters and school teachers of the Frauenkirche and St Peter’s church dressed up as bishops and caused so much unrest that the policed had to be summoned. 

The elaborately designed costumes are reordered every year and differ according to the figure portrayed. The “Perchten” who were originally used to drive away the winter, wear between 4 and 10 horns, while the Krampuses can be recognized by their two-horn mask. One costume costs between 1800 and 2500 EUR. But the Krampus outfits are not only expensive but also really heavy to wear. A mask can easily weight up to 10 kilograms – no wonder that the runners are really out of puff after the Krampus run…

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A singer without guardian angel

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Andreas Dresen, who is steadily building up a filmography of highly regarded independent films, in my opinion he is arguably the most talented and innovative director currently at work in Germany and has already picked up many prizes in a relatively short career. His directing credits include Cloud 8, Summer in Berlin, Grill point and Night Shapes. His film Stopped on Track premiered at the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Prize of Un Certain Regard. Dresen is known for his realistic style, which gives his films a semi-documentary feel. He works very team oriented and heavily uses improvisation. In 2013 he was a member of the jury at the 63th Berlin International film festival.

His new movie has just been released in August under title Gundermann. After reading his resume and some critics, reviews of his new work I became curious of his new film, especially because he promised to his fans that he didn’t have any East German “eastalgy” (nostalgy). However his film deals with the real life story of an East German singer and writer Gerhard Gundermann and his struggles with music, life as a coal miner and his dealings with the secret police (STASI) of the GDR.

The singer

Gerhard Gundermann, who generally performed as simply Gundi (February 21, 1955 – June 21, 1998), was a German singer-songwriter and rock musician. An excavator operator, his musical career began in the former East Germany, where he became known for his clever, often melancholy lyrics imbued with social commentary. After German reunification, he became especially popular among former East Germans who felt disenfranchised in the reunited country.

Born in Weimar, Gundermann moved with his family to Hoyerswerda in 1967. After completing his secondary education, he studied for a year at the military academy in  Löbau, but was expelled in 1975, after which he was forced to seek work in the coal mining area of the today’s Brandenburg. In 1976 he began night school, and was recruited by the East German secret police, the Stasi (codename “Grigori”). In 1977 he applied to join the ruling party, the SED, but was asked to leave the following year (after expressing contrary opinions), although this was reduced to a “strong rebuke” after he appealed. In 1983 he married Conny. The following year he was again expelled from the party and also from the Stasi.

Gundermann’s first appearances as a singer-songwriter came in 1986, and a year later he won the grand prize and a recording contract in the East German national song contest. His first LP Männer, Frauen und Maschinen (Men, Women, and Machines) appeared in 1988, but in contrast to his solo acoustic performances it was a rock record with a backing band, with up tempo numbers like “Halte durch” (Keep Up). It included an ode to his hometown, Hoyerswerda, “Hoy Woy.”

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gundermann ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Volkskammer in the March 1990 elections, running for the leftist alliance Aktionsbündnis Vereinigte Linke.

Gundermann lived an ascetic lifestyle, eschewing alcohol, drugs, and smoking and was a committed vegetarian. However, he was a workaholic, and slept little; besides a full recording and performing schedule, Gundermann continued to work operating a giant excavator, digging up seams of brown coal; he was worried that his music would lose its authenticity if it became his sole way of life. Perhaps because of overwork, Gundermann died of a stroke on June 21, 1998 at the age of 43 at his home in Spreetal. He left behind four children. What was shocking that after his death followed that of his friend and collaborator Tamara Danz, also 43, by less than two years.

PS: What a coincidence that Gundermann is a perennial, aromatic evergreen creeper of the mint family Lamiaceae. It is commonly known as ground-ivy, gill-over-the-ground, creeping charlie, alehoof, tunhoof, catsfoot, field balm, and run-away-robin. It is also sometimes known as creeping jenny, but that name more common.

 

 

Renaissance festival in Bavaria

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Mindelheim is one of those old towns in Bavaria that man could just fall in love with. This Swabian village (it’s just 90 kilometers far from München) has been around for the better part of several thousand years, yet is incredibly modern and an all around great place to hang out for a few days. Besides the fun festivals and astonishing Bavarian countryside, the museums here are just aces.

Let’s begin with the city tour: the town center of Mindelheim reflects the typical structure of a medieval settlement. The most important municipal buildings such as the town hall or churches are arranged around a central market square. Like many other German cities, Mindelheim’s used to be surrounded by a city wall. As in most cases, this wall is now incomplete as it was partially torn down in the 19th century to make room for modern buildings. Nevertheless, the remaining parts of the wall and some gates give a good impression of the original state.

And what medieval town is complete without a castle? Above the city the Castle Mindelburg is a striking 12th century beauty that was once used as an army hospital Sorry, there’s not too much visiting inside, because it’s now housing the offices of a book publishing company and a restaurant, but at least you can have all the “Kodak Moments” you want outside. The castle was not changed much in the last centuries. The complete annex displays the typical structure of a European fortress, including a donjon. This architectural ensemble is used to stage several festivals and markets such as the Georg Frundsberg’s festival which is held every three years.

What else you can see before participating in the festival?

The Textile Museum has a relatively new exhibit on religious garments from the Middle Ages to modern day. Another exhibit takes a look at clothing trends from the late 19th century to the early 20th; great for the fashionista in all of us.

One of the more unique museums you’ll find in all of Germany is the Swabian Tower Clock Museum. Housed in the old Silvester kirche (Silvester Church) are some of the oldest watches and other instruments of time telling, the oldest dates to the 16th century. However Mindelheim’s Local History Museum is filled with other displays of cultural life, including traditional Bavarian costumes, and art.

The South Swabian Archaeological Museum has exhibits on life here in the Alb during the days of the last Ice Age, when the Romans traveled the area, and daily life of the early Middle Ages.P1160068

And what medieval town is complete without a medieval procession?

The Frundsberg Festring Mindelheim which is celebrated every three years was founded on July 19, in 1977 by initiative of seven inhabitants of Mindelheim as a public, incorporated association listed in the register of associations without any confessional or political motivation whatsoever. The Frundsberg Festring is committed to the maintenance and continual further development of the Frundsberg Festival, the reenactment of the medieval times in tradition, music and all sorts of performances as well as the preservation of Mindelheim living carnival tradition. For these purposes, the association pursues the foundation and promotion of historical and musical groups, the planning, organization and performance of the triennially Frundsberg Festival and engages in permanent quality-improvement activities. Besides, the Frundsberg Festring acts as a holding organization for several different historical and two carnival departments as well as numerous sections. People of Mindelheim celebrate the Frundsberg Festival a whole row of medieval shops, medieval craftsmen at work, and the great parade is the medieval procession.

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In sticking with Mindelheim’s medieval feeling, the Frundsbergfest was a big fun way of looking at medieval life (fun now, but life was hard back then) and a celebration to Knight and Field Captain Landsknecht of George von Frundsberg (who was a German military leader in the 16th century in the service of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and the Imperial house of Habsburg). There were plenty of historical costumes, good hearty local food (wild bore), concerts, and all out revelry for a few days around the town.

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An other miracle in Bavaria: the Facade painting

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Traditional Bavarian frescoes (artistic facade painting or open air art ) are dotted all over Alpenwelt Karlwendel. Nowhere else in Upper Bavaria will you see so many frescoes dating from the 18th Century as in Mittenwald, Krün and Wallgau. Today, artists still turn facades into “lively picture books”, as J. W. Goethe, the great German poet called them. The themes, fairy tales, religious scenes or architectural trompe-l’œils found on many homes and buildings.

Lüftlmalerei or trompe-l’œils

Outdoor mural, or fresco’s -Lüftlmalerei in German, or trompe l’oeil in French-technic originates in the Baroque period, when it refers to perspectival illusionism. But trompe-l’œil dates much further back. It was (and is) often employed in murals. Instances from Greek and Roman times are known, for instance in Pompeii. How can I explain: a typical trompe-l’œil mural might depict a window, door, or hallway, intended to suggest a larger room. A version of an oft-told ancient Greek story concerns a contest between two renowned painters. Zeuxis (born around 464 BC) produced a still life painting so convincing that birds flew down to peck at the painted grapes. A rival,  Parrhausis, asked Zeuxis to judge one of his paintings that was behind a pair of tattered curtains in his study. Parrhasius asked Zeuxis to pull back the curtains, but when Zeuxis tried, he could not, as the curtains were included in Parrhasius’s painting—making Parrhasius the winner.

Later on the art of painting frescoes became a folk-based variation of the Baroque trompe l’œil phenomenon. The images are painted onto the fresh lime render on the house wall using fresco techniques. In a chemical reaction, the colors “silicify” with the plaster, which makes the pictures waterproof and durable.

Bavaria and Tirol, specially Oberammergau, Mittenwald are all famous for their “Lüftlmalerei-s (the name Lüftlmalerei may be derived from an Oberammergau house, called Zum Lüftl, which was the home of a facade painter, Franz Seraph Zwinck (1748–1792). In the past in some villages it’s traditional to hire-a facade painter to decorate the front mural of the house. They tell stories of traditional life and the deeply rooted beliefs of the inhabitants: Woodworkers and raftsmen go about their hard labours, St. Christopher carries the Baby Jesus over the river and a great celebration is underway in a merry inn scene.

In Mittenwald in the Werdenfelser region at the foot of the Karlwendel you will notice immediately that pictures adorn the walls of the old houses. The colorful works often tell stories from the Bible, such as of The Resurrection and The Agony in the Garden, or depict fires and floods but also popular the Sun-dial theme.

And also in the neighboring villages, many paintings have endured to this day, a lot of them are more facade art. For instance the facade of the Hotel Rheinischer Hof in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in which two mountaineers from different eras are climbing a mountain together. “Traditional fresco painting used mineral pigments and tended to represent rural and religious scenes, as was common in the 18th century”.Mittenwald 032

Mural paintings also in Switzerland

Stein am Rhein (at Constance lake) is widely regarded as Switzerland’s best preserved medieval small town. The immense cultural heritage of this city is a major source of pride to the citizens of Stein am Rhein. As children, they learn about the colorful stories told by the painted facades of historic buildings. These paintings, some biblical or historical in nature depict tales of wine, vineyards, crafts, festivals and a full range of human conditions.  Themes vary from history or mythology, commerce or warfare to morality.  Originally, the wealthy residents of these decidedly upscale dwellings had these frescoes applied as highly visible testimony to their affluence. These wonderfully frescoed buildings are windows that offer an amazing clarity on The Middle Ages. Go and see how vibrant the colors still are even after more than 200 years!

 

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Tutzing, the fishing village with the castle

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Tutzing is a municipality in the district of Starnberg in Bavaria, Germany, on the west bank of the Lake Starnberg. Just 40 km south-west of Munich and with good views of the Alps, the town was traditionally a favorite vacation spot for those living in the city. The town of 7,000 is home to many commuters to Munich, as well as to retirees.  Tutzing station is both a terminus of Munich’s S -Bahn rail network and a regional train hub serving Innsbruck, Mittenwald, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Reutte, Kochel and Oberammergau.

Tutzing is equipped with a regional hospital and various clinics. It hosts the conference centre Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, founded in 1947. Tourists and cyclists continue to visit, often while circling the lake or starting or ending a hike. Horseback riding is possible from a number of nearby farms.

The history of Tutzing

The fishing village of Tutzing was first mentioned in a chronicle of the monastery of Benediktbeuren in the 11th century. In this chronicle a place called “Dutcingun” was mentioned in connection with donations to the monastery. The castle comprised a farm, a mill and six half farms in those days. Around the year 1480 the Munich patrician family called Dichtl purchased the village of Tutzing. In 1519 Bernhard Dichtl, the senior, obtained jurisdiction of the county and was thus entitled to raise taxes from his people and to enforce law and order. The county existed for more than three centuries until the year of the revolution 1848 and was ruled by its authorities living in the castle.

The Hallberger period

The ingenious publisher Eduard von Hallberger (1822- 1880), deriving from an old Swabian-Franconian line of priests, was owner of the Tutzing castle from 1869 to 1880. The founder of the Deutsche Verlagsanstalt publishing company, Stuttgart rebuilt this property and turned it into a luxurious meeting facility for the world of literature and upper class society. Southern flair was given to the property by Eduard Hallberger in 1878. The publisher ordered the building of a lake terrace and the pergola of columns by the shore in 1878. Palm trees, cherubs, vases and fountains added an interesting variety to the newly designed park. Coloured engraving by Julius Lange (1874).

In 1873 Johannes Brahms spent four summer months in Tutzing, completing his String Quartets Opus 51 and writing the Haydn Variations. A small lakeside park is dedicated to him, and a plaque stands near the large house where he lived and worked.19575188_1912858708962275_2373205786108314369_o

Tutzing castle-a place of arts
The heirs of Eduard Hallberger were not able to keep the property. Therefore it was sold in the year 1921. Marczell von Nemes (born as Moses Klein), son of a Jewish choirmaster with Hungarian roots, bought the Tutzing castle and park to have a location in order to present his extensive collection of art pieces originating from various parts of Europe to an interested public. Nemes is considered to have rediscovered El Greco which is why he became well-known in the history of art. Most pieces attracting the attention of art enthusiasts in the castle and park found their places here during the Nemes era. Marczell of Nemes died in 1930.
During the period of the Third Reich the castle was property of the Hackelsberger family. A memorial plaque reminds of the industrial and catholic politician Albert Hackelsberger in the inner court yard. He lost his life in a prison of the German Gestapo in 1940. During the Nazi period, Trutskirch-Tutzing (Dornier), a forced-labor factory for the Dornier-Werke GmbH aircraft concern, was a sub-camp of Dachau Concentration Camp. The town was also a stop on the “trail of tears” of inmates forcibly marched south in 1945; a plaque at the town hall commemorates them.19620573_1912859552295524_8415665676496435158_o

The Evangelische Akademie Tutzing
In the 1940-ies Tutzing castle was owned by the Kaselowsky family and Rudolf Oetker, who was a baking powder producer from Bielefeld. However, the two owners soon left it to the Innere Mission (i.e. a German charity organisation) as a recovery facility for soldiers who had returned from war until bishop Hans Meiser purchased the property for the Protestant-Lutheran church in Bavaria in 1947. Since then the traditional castle of Tutzing has served as a conference location to the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing. The Evangelische Akademie Tutzing offers you the premises of the Tutzing castle for events during the week from Monday to Friday.

The Tutzing castle has its own restaurant with a capacity of 110 seats available as well as additional rooms for banquets, buffets, concerts and other festive events. Moreover you will find a number of local restaurants offering Bavarian and international cuisine in the vicinity of the castle. The best ice cream parlor is the Eiscafé Corallo where my favorite ice cream is the watermelon and almost all of what the Italian profi makes.

The most famous festival is the Fishmonger’s Wedding, it’s a historical event organized every four years by the city Tutzing.

Maria Callas footsteps in Italy

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Italy was where Maria Callas began her career, lived in many cities, fell in love, and sang

The “La Divina” arrived in Verona from the U.S. New York in 1947 because she had to meet Giovanni Zenatello, impressario of the Arena Opera Festival who engaged her for La Gioconda, the opera to be performed that season. On June 27th Maria Callas had already been in Verona, she’s staying at the modest hotel Accademia, (today a luxury hotel). For dinner she went to Pedavena restaurant in Bra square, almost in front of the Roman amphitheater (today in the beautiful building where Pedavena was, there’s a restaurant). There she met Giovanni Battista Meneghini, a wealthy industrialist, with a passion for the opera who soon began courting her. In August Maria Callas song in the Arena directed by Tullio Serafin.
Reviews were good but success didn’t come yet. In 1947 she song in Florence and in many other Italian cities. Two years later in 1949, unable to find a replacement for Carosio, Maestro Serafin asked Callas to sing Elvira in I Puritani at La Fenice in Venice. It’s an enormous success, it was the turning point in Maria Callas career.
In 1950 she debuted at the Scala theater in Milan and it’s the beginning of a long period of success in which both the audience and critics loved her.

The Wedding at Filippini Church

In the meantime, after a long courtship, Maria Callas accepted to marry Giovanni Battista Meneghini. The wedding was celebrated in a side room of the church of Filippini in Verona. Maria’s a Greek orthodox Christian, and she didn’t want to convert to Catholicism so that the wedding couldn’t be performed as an official rite. Meneghini left the management of his factory and became the manager of his wife.

Maria Callas in Zevio

When she’s not on a tour, Maria Callas lived with her husband in his villa in Zevio, in the countryside south of Verona. Her years in Zevio were quiet and serene. She practiced in the beautiful park of the villa. People of the village climbed on the wall surrounding the building to hear her singing.
When she’s not too busy she enjoyed cooking, she prepared typical dishes of Veronese cuisine: pearà, risotto al tastasal, pastissada.
She liked the bar Sport on Santa Toscana square and bar Commercio on Marconi square and she visited them quite often with her husband.
Now, the town of Zevio, together with the Maria Callas Foundation has undergone an important project to celebrate the presence of the “Divina” in the Veronese countryside.
In the old town hall a museum was created in which the collection of Maria Callas memorabilias are displayed collected in more than 40 years by one of Maria Callas greatest fan, Giancarlo Tanzi. It’s a collection of thousands of pictures, old records, magazines, dresses of the great singer. The museum has been operating for December 2007 and it’s followed by a concert hall hosting operas and international events.P1150616

Maria Callas in Sirmione

Maria Callas and Giovanni Battista Meneghini spent few weeks in their villa in the heart of  Sirmione at Lake Garda, away from the crowd. Maria Callas arrived at Sirmione for the first time in 1952 and spent 7 summer holidays there (until their bitter divorce). Today, in the heart of Sirmione peninsula, people still admire the beautiful and elegant villa in which Maria Callas spent the best years of her life. Local people still remember her as a simple and friendly lady. She often stopped for an aperitivo at Caffé Grand Italia.
But in 1959 Maria Callas met Aristotele Onassis and left her husband. It’s the beginning of that tragic relationship that would lead her to downfall and she never came back to Sirmione, but she always missed Lake Garda and its atmosphere.

The transformation

Callas’s international career began in 1947 when opera singers were expected to be overweight. But at 108 kg Callas felt miserable and regarded herself ugly and unlovable. When the director Luchino Visconti told her to lose 30 kg before he would work with her, she dropped 40 kg. She then went on to lose another 8 kg. When she lost that incredible 40 kilograms in one year she transformed herself from fat and dowdy opera singer into svelte and elegant diva. But the pressure to stay thin was tremendous for the food-lover soprano, whose newly published personal papers show how she tried to comfort herself during her tormented battles with her weight.

According to legend, Callas’s enormous weight loss came about because she deliberately swallowed a tapeworm. Bruno Tosi, president of the International Maria Callas Association, said she did have to have treatment for worms, possibly because of her fondness for raw steak, but she dropped the weight by following a diet based on consuming iodine.

“It was a dangerous treatment because it affected the central nervous system and changed her metabolism, but she turned into a beautiful swan”- said Tosi.

Callas began a habit of meticulous recipe collecting, scribbling down instructions for her favorite dishes as she traveled the world. She would ‘steal’ recipes from famous cooks in hotels, writing them on scraps of paper and stuffing them into her handbag. But they were for food she herself would never eat. “She loved food, especially cakes and puddings, but lived mostly on steak and salad”- said Callas expert Bruno Tosi, who was allowed the handwritten recipes to publish for the first time in Italy. “Writing down these recipes was a vicarious pleasure because she rarely allowed herself to taste any of them.”

Callas never ate pasta and favored meals of rare beef or steak tartare. However all the time -and during her love affair with the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis – she collected recipes: tomato omelettes, veal l’oriental, bechamel sauce with capers, mustard sauce, golden pound cake, chocolate beignets and a cake she called ‘my cake’ which was heavy and laden with sugar. The recipes were sent back to her personal cook, who served them at Callas’s dinner parties. While her guests tucked in, Callas ate only a few morsels. She rarely drank wine, but liked champagne because it was less calorific. She was like many women, struggling her entire life with her weight,’ said Tosi.

In spite of her diet Callas died at age of 53, in Paris in 1977, still heartbroken at Onassis leaving her to marry Jackie Kennedy. But in Italy, 41 years after her death, Italians still love her. In Venice the Ponte della Fenice bridge was renamed Ponte (Bridge) Maria Callas after 100,000 signatures were gathered by the Maria Callas International Association. In Sirmione, park, restaurant, streets are called after her.