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.


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.





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!


Mittenwald 037


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.






La Crostata di Saraceno Italiano (Buckwheat cake)

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As I mentioned in my previous blog I decided to keep moving northwards in Italy, and ended up all the way in Trentino (Alto Adige), an autonomous, German-speaking region stuck right up under Austria. Needless to say, it’s gorgeous. I should go to visit these area more often and not only because of the nature but also because of the excellent food. I have to make a confession, one of my weakness is the sweet stuff so that I’ve sampled a few of the cakes and sweets on offer in the malghe from sweet omelettes with lingonberries to cherry strudel but my favorite by far became the Buckwheat cake (la Crostata di grano Saraceno). First I found it in the bakery of a local shop and it was so good it almost made me feel like I’d like to stay here forever because of the cake. It was so good that I went in search of it every day during my 10 days staying. So good that I called my Italian friend, Valentina whose husband has a restaurant in Pontremoli (Tuscan village) and she had to search for me in her Italian cookbook for the recipe so that I can recreate it at home. She told me the secret of the cake is that it’s made with the combination of buckwheat flour and almonds (ground). It’s moist and rich but not heavy at all or cloying. In true country fashion the main ingredients (butter, sugar, flour, almond meal) all weigh the same are easily thrown together. And the result you really can taste the country. It’s earthy and complex but I doubt it would scare away an even-keeled 5 years old. Valentina told me that the cake is filled with lingonberry jam, sprinkled with icing sugar and served with a big dollop of lightly whipped cream. In other word, this cake is a perfect pick-me-up during a long, romantic, high altitude walk (Monte Baldo-Mount Bald in Malcesine) or whenever you feel like going back in time! Here is Valentina’s recipe:


Serves at least 12

Ingredients:250 grams (1 1/3 cups) sugar, 250 grams (2 sticks + 2 tbl) butter, softened, 6 eggs, separated, 250 grams (2 cups) buckwheat flour, 250 grams (1 cup)almond meal (or finely ground almonds, 500 grams (one big jar) lingonberry jam (available at IKEA or substitute blackcurrant, cranberry or similar), icing sugar (for dusting) whipping cream (to serve it’s optional)

Methods: Preheat the oven to 325°F/170°C. Butter and flour a 9″ springform cake pan. This cake will stick if you don’t.

In a large bowl, use a hand held beater to cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg yolks in slowly, and beat until they are completely incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the buckwheat flour and almonds. It will be pretty heavy and sticky.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with clean beaters until it’s stiff, about 5 minutes. Gently fold the stiffened egg whites into the batter. It will be a bit tricky, but just keep folding until it’s all incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Once cool, slice the cake in half horizontally and spread the bottom half with ample lingonberry jam (or a close substitute like cranberry, blackcurrant or cloudberry). Place the top half back on top, dust with icing sugar through a sieve and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.P1150554

One day trip to Innsbruck, to the castle Ambras

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The Ambras is a Renaissance castle and palace located in the hills above Innsbruck, Austria at 587 metres above sea level. Considered one of the most popular tourist attractions of the Tyrol, Ambras Castle was built in the 16th century on the spot of an earlier 10th-century castle, which became the seat of power for the Counts of Andechs. The cultural and historical importance of the castle is closely connected with  Archduke Ferdinand II (1529–1595) and served as his residence from 1563 to 1595. Ferdinand was one of history’s most prominent collectors of art. The princely sovereign of Tyrol, son of Emperor Ferdinand I, ordered that the mediaeval fortress at Ambras be turned into a Renaissance castle as a gift for his wife  Philippine Welser. The cultured humanist from the House of Habsburg accommodated his world-famous collections in a museum built specifically for that purpose, making Castle Ambras Innsbruck the oldest museum in the world.P1140914

The Lower Castle contains armories feature masterpieces of the European armorer’s art from the time of Emperor Maximilan I to  Emperor Leopold I. As the only Renaissance Kunstkammer of its kind to have been preserved at its original location, the “Kunst- und Wunderkammer” (Chamber of Art and Curiosities) represents an unrivalled cultural monument.

Above the Lower Castle is the famous Spanish Hall (Spanische Saal), a notable example of German Renaissance architecture, which contains an intricate wood-inlay ceiling and walls adorned with 27 full-length portraits of the rulers of Tyrol. The Upper Castle contains an extensive portrait gallery featuring paintings of numerous members of the House of Habsburg.P1140938

Long before Innsbruck became a city, references to an Amras or Omras appeared in documents dating from the 10th century. This early fortification in what was then the southwest corner of Bavaria was the seat of power of the Counts of Andechs, who became  Margraves of Istria and later Dukes of the short-lived Imperial State of Merania from 1180 to 1248. This original fortification was destroyed in 1133 and no traces of it remain, although some of the material from the original structure was later used in the modern building. In 1248, the castle ruins and property passed by inheritance from the Counts of Andechs to Count Albert IV of Tyrol.

The modern Ambras Castle was built by Archduke Ferdinand II (1529–1595), the second son of Emperor Ferdinand I. When he was made provincial sovereign of Tyrol in 1563, Ferdinand II ordered two Italian architects to turn the existing medieval fortress into a Renaissance castle for his untitled wife Philippine Welser (1527–1580), whom he had married in secret. Ferdinand II prepared his residence in the Upper Castle, beneath which he constructed one of the most artistically important halls of the late Renaissance—known as the Spanish Hall since the nineteenth century. In 1589, he added an additional building west of the Lower Castle for the purpose of housing his collection of weaponry. Ambras Castle was used as the official residence of Philippine as well as a place for Ferdinand II to house his collection of weapons, suits of armor, portraits, natural objects, as well as rarities and precious objects.

Philippine became a popular and beloved figure through her charity and willingness to help others, particularly the common people of Tyrol. Even the nobility brought their petitions to the former commoner. As signs of affection, people addressed their written petitions to “Merciful Miss” or “serene Princess Mrs. Philippine of Austria”. After Ferdinand’s death in 1595, the second son of Ferdinand and Philippine,  Margrave Charles of Burgau, inherited Ambras Castle. With little interest in the castle, and never having used it as a residence, Charles sold it in 1606 to Emperor Rudolf II.

In the following years, Ambras Castle no longer had the status of an official residence and was seldom lived in. Inadequate preservation measures led to the loss of valuable books, manuscripts, and hand sketches, and soon the palace fell largely into disrepair. In the seventeenth century, Emperor Leopold I (1640–1705) had some of the most valuable holdings of the Ambras collections—mostly books and manuscripts—moved to Vienna, where they can still be seen at the  Austrian National Library. In 1805, the remaining Ambras collections were threatened by the defeat of Austria by the French Empire. Fortunately, after recognized the private-law character of the Ambras collection, Napoleon(1769–1821) had it brought to safety in Vienna.

In 1855, Archduke Karl Ludwig, then governor of Tyrol, had the palace remodeled to use as a summer residence. Significant changes were made during this time to the palace and the surrounding park. The Outer Bailey (Vorschloss) was constructed with an ivy-clad entrance ramp for carriages. The park was redesigned as an English garden. Following Archduke Karl Ludwig’s renouncement of his succession rights in 1889. the palace fell once again into ruinous condition. In 1880, it was converted into a museum and subsequently renovated.

In 1919, following the dissolution of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Ambras Castle became the property of the Republic of Austria. In 1950, the History and Art Museum took over the administration of the castle and its collections. Throughout the 1970s, a comprehensive restoration took place of the Spanish Hall, the Upper Castle residential quarters, and the inner courtyard. In 1974, the Chamber of Art and Curiosities was completed. In 1976, the Portrait Gallery covering the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries was completed. In 1981, the Armory was reopened in the Lower Castle.

Ferdinand II was one of the most important patrons of the Habsburg family. He founded the notable collections of Ambras and had a museum built for them in the rooms of the “Lower Castle”, which was constructed according to the most advanced ideas of his time. The three armories and the chamber of art and curiosities were designed and used as a museum from the beginning.

The Spanish Hall, built between 1569 and 1572, is one of the most important freestanding halls of the Renaissance. The picturesque lay-out of the 43-metre (141 ft) long hall is dominated by the 27 full-length portraits of the princely rulers of the Tyrol. Today rather famous classical concerts take place in this hall.

The Chamber of Art and Curiosities of Archduke Ferdinand II is the only one which can still be seen in its original place. Others had been plundered like the ones in Munich, Prague or Stuttgart, or their character had been changed like in Dresden or Kassel.

In the chamber of art and curiosities at Ambras Castle wonders as well as precious objects, scientific items or toys are to be seen. In contents the natural and artistic objects represent the programme of the late Renaissance encyclopedic collections. The special thing about the Ambras-collections is, that they are still where they were meant to be seen. Still you can find corals arranged in cabinet-boxes, turnery made of wood or ivory, glass figures, or porcelain and silk paintings which belong to the oldest European collections of Asian art.

Also important works of European artists, like the carved “little death” made of wood by Hans Leinberger can be found, as well as typical “chamber of art and curiosity – objects” like hand stones, goblets made of rhinoceros horn, coconut or rock crystal, animals made of bronze, music- and measuring instruments, automats and clocks. A very important part of the collection were portraits of curious persons like the hairy people, Vlad Dracula and the Hungarian noble man Mark Gregor Baksa, whose head was hit by a Turkish soldier at the 1598 siege. According to the story, in this battle, a Turkish soldier roared into his skull with a cop, shaking his right eye in his head. The tip of the gun on his neck, or some sources claim that it went through his left ear. The soldier, however, managed to survive his injury and even later he participated in the further battles of the fifteen-year war (from 1515-). According to the chronicles, he had survived his injury for one more year. His wounding and persistence became known throughout Europe, so that numerous copper engravings were made from his skull and recorded in several verses the history of his wounding.P1140925



Maya the bee and a gorgeous villa at the Lake Starnberg

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Last weekend we went for a walk around the Lake Starnberg in Bavaria/Germany (near München). Meanwhile we enjoyed the great view to the Alps I discovered an interesting villa near Münsing. It had a remarkable gate. My husband immediately recognized it saying: it’s a typical Szekely/Transylvanian gate. When we got closer we’d found out that the famous Hungarian painter, Gyula Benczúr used to live here until 1883. When he retired and moved back to Hungary, the German writer Waldemar Bonsels bought it and lived there until his death. But who was Mr Bonsels? I had to admit that I have never heard of him but according to a memorial tablet at the entrance door he was the author of The Maya the bee book! This comic was one of my favorite in my childhood! -I exclaimed so-Let’s get in!-I suggested to my hubby but it turned out that it could be possible to visit (the house and the grave of the writer, because he’s buried in the garden of the villa under a mossy tombstone) only after making an appointment with the Waldemar Bonsels Foundation. Okay then we will come back in the near future.

More about the adventures of Maya the bee

Waldemar Bonsels most famous children’s book was the Maya the Bee, (Die Biene Maja). According to the Wikipedia this short novel served the basis for a Japanese animated television series named Maya the honey bee in the mid-1970s, as well as a Croatian opera for children written by Bruno Bjielinsky, making Bonsels work known to even a great audience. The Opera was staged in 2008 in Villach, Austria at the Carinthian Summer Music Festival. And what a coincidence a new version of Maya the bee will be released next week in the German cinemas!

The Bee is the main character in The Adventures of Maya the Bee, a comic book series and animated television series, first written by Waldemar Bonsels and was published in 1912. Bonsels original book contains fewer that 200 pages. It was a great success so later on the book has been published in many other languages.

The stories revolve around a little bee, Maya and her friends Willy the bee, Flip the grasshopper (referred to as “Maja”, “Willi” and “Philip” respectively in some versions), Mrs. Cassandra (Maya’s teacher), and many other insects and other creatures. The book depicts Maya’s development from an adventurous youngster to a responsible adult member of bee society.

Maya is a bee born in a bee hive during internal unrest: the hive is dividing itself into two new colonies. Maya is raised by her teacher, Mrs. Cassandra. Despite Mrs. Cassandra’s warnings, Maya wants to explore the wide world and commits the unforgivable crime of leaving the hive. During her adventures, Maya, now in exile, befriends other insects and braves dangers with them. In the climax of the book, Maya is taken prisoner by hornets, the bees’ sworn enemies. Prisoner of the hornets, Maya learns of a hornet plan to attack her native hive. Maya is faced with the decision to either return to hive and suffer her due punishment, saving the hive, or leaving the plan unannounced, saving herself but destroying the hive. As May(a) bee expected, Maya, after severe pondering, makes the decision to return. In the hive, she announces the coming attack and is, totally unexpectedly, pardoned. The forewarned bees triumph over the hornet attack force. Maya, now a heroine of the hive, becomes a teacher, like Mrs. Cassandra and shares her experiences and wisdom with the future generation.

According to a new study the book may have carried a political message, analogous to La Fointaine’s work. The view says that Maya represents the ideal citizen, and the beehive represents a well-organised militarist society. It has also elements of nationalism and speciesism. Maya gets angry in two instances. First, a grasshopper fails to distinguish between bees and wasps. Maya’s verbal response includes calling the wasps “a useless gang of bandits” that have no “home or faith”. Second, a fly calls Maya an idiot, which prompts Maya to shout that she’s going to teach “respect for bees” and to threaten the fly with her stinger. The critic interprets this to mean that respect is based on the threat of violence. Collectivism versus individualism is also a theme. Maya’s independence and departure from the beehive is seen as reproachable, but it is atoned by her warning of the hornets’ attack. This show of loyalty restores her position in the society. In the hornet attack part of the story, the bees’ will to defend and the heroic deaths of bee officers are glorified, often in overtly militarist tones. In the post-WWII adaptations, the militarist element was toned down considerably, the hornets’ role reduced, and the character of Willy, a lazy and quite un-warlike drone bee, was introduced (he does not appear in the novel). In the cartoon series, the briskly marching, but ridiculously incompetent ant armies provide a  parody of militarism.

This theory seems very plausible since Bonsels was an outspoken anti-Semite and expressed his approval of Nazi politics against Jews in 1933, calling the Jew a deadly enemy whos was poisoning the European culture.

I was inspired by the book and prepared a Maya the bee cupcake (with honey and lemon cream)!


maya the bee