Biked over today to check out the 2019 Bregenzer Festspiele stage presentation for Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. And it was pretty spectacular. Just the head of the clown alone weighs 30 tons and the helium balloon rises during the performance. Pretty impressive. The stage was designed by Philipp Strölzl and it “highlights the striking contrasts between spectacle and intimate chamber drama…” Strölzl has designed stages for other famous operas as well but made a name for himself directing music videos for the German metal band Rammstein. Kudos to Bregenz for bringing such an interesting designer’s perspective to the stage. The festival runs from July 17 -August 18th 2019 and then again from July 22-August 23, 2020 during which the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra and opera fans converge on Bregenz. The video clip is taken from ORF 2 and highlights some impressive performances!
The rushing waters of the Starzlach were tinged coffee brown from the sediment rushing down the canyon as it crashed and cascaded down the rocky falls and echoed off the canyon walls making for a roaring symphony. The power of good ole H2O gaining energy as it descended 1070 m from the Grünten and Wertacher Hörnle peaks was a sight to see. After several days of late summer rain we sought out the Starzlachklamm water gorge near Sonthofen, Germany that we had heard about from a local man after we had hitched a ride back to our car after exploring another gorge in the Allgäu called the Hausbachklamm. The gentlemen had described it as dramatic with fossilized rocks embedded in the canyon walls and even in the heat of the summer he said he had gotten cold. But the gorge lived up to his description and it was a hike well taken. A word of warning, the path is rocky and mossy and quite slippery when wet so exercise caution but this may not be the best choice for someone with limited abilities. But that said happy hiking!
The sleek black cormorant dove into the crystal clear waters of Lake Constance gliding through the pilings that had stood for three millennia and had once supported six villages dating back to the Stone Age. As I pondered these long ago people high above me the slow moving Zeppelin made its way across the sky casting shadows on the glimmering surface below. Man and machine made for an interesting juxtaposition between the past and the present. It was fitting in that I had come to seek out an ancient time at the Lake Dwelling Museum in Unteruhldlingen, Germany. The open air museum is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the oldest and largest of its kind highlighting the unique village life of its early inhabitants including its farmers, traders, fishermen as well as their cultural practices. The site consists of 23 reconstructed houses showcasing the incredible finds that have been preserved under the waters and excavated from the lake bed such as wooden boats, hats made from straw, thousand year old paintings, and miraculously even some old bread!The interactive Archaeorma offers the visitor an underwater view while outside they can participate in the special exhibitions and life sized diramas presented throughout the location. It was an afternoon well spent for this modern woman delving into a bygone era.
“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…” this iconic opening theme from the the beloved children’s show Mr Roger’s Neighborhood aptly describes my birthday spent in our Bregenz “backyard.” It was a weekend filled with art, music, delicous food, and nature’s beauty that can only be found nestled in “our neck of the Rhine Valley.” On Friday Franz and I began our weekend quest with a visit to a museum that I had long wanted to see in the Bregenzerwald called the Juppenwerkstatt in Riefensberg. The gallery holds an extraordinary collection of the traditional dress of the Bregenzerwald and highlights the involved process entailed in the making of the intricate textile and clothing as well as the culture of this fairytale region. I am now a big fan of this special little museum.
The August heat was a gift for the farmers fields of corn and hay but I slowly wilted under the suns relentless rays. We sought refuge in a nearby water gorge near Krumbach that was invitingly cool and a much welcomed respite from the rising temperatures. And what a find it was. Small and stylish. At the bottom of the ravine we were enchanted to come upon a site specific art piece that was installed using fishing line to weave patterns in and out of the tree trunks. The filtered light peeked through the overhead canopy and highlighted the repeating strands that created a magical mood. After our short jaunt we sauntered over to a gemütlich (homey)restaurant, the Krumbacher Stuba, intending to have a light salad but after eyeing the specialty of the region, a cheese Kässpätzle, we just had to have that. When in the Bregenzerwald one has to do as the locals do.
Green pastures with languid cows grazing along the KäseStrasse (cheese street) graced the road leading back to Bregenz. Our next stop was the Vorarlberg Museum to view another exhibition that had been on my list titled Wacker im Krieg orWacker at War. Rudolf Wacker (1893-1939) was a well known local artist who documented his life in Bregenz and his experience in and after WWII. I found the show compelling and it was touching as it paralled the accounts of the war and prison camp life that I had heard from several men of that generation who had also served in the conflict. I highly recommend it.
The sailboats rocked gently as the halyards clinked against the masts and the seagrass tickled our feet. The orange orb in the sky was setting on our eventful day as we floated in the refreshing Bodensee waters in nearby Hard. Revitalized we sought out the waterside Italian restaurant of Ristorante Margarita sul Lago where we met a close friend and enjoyed a tasty tuna fish carpaccio and a favorite Truffle pasta dish. Franz, food, and a friend. A perfect ending for a perfect birthday.
“It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood, a neighborly day for a beauty, Would you be mine?…” these sweet lyrics to the beloved show Mr Roger’s Neighborhood kept coming to mind as we continued our weekend excursions in the “hood.” We woke up to another sunny Saturday and got an early start on another wooded “schlucht sucht” or gorge search. Our itinerary for the day took us across the border to Southern Germany in the Kleinwalstertal to one of the deepest water gorges in the Bavarian Alps and in Central Europe called the Breitachklamm. The magnificent gorge had been carved out by the Breitach glacier for a mere 10,000 years! It had been some time since I had last visited and I looked forward to marveling again at the wild waters that flow and swirl down the Eigenkopf rock faces sculpting the stone into elegant formations. As I took in the grandeur of mother natures work the words of the song came to me again “I have always wanted to have a neighborhood just like you, I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you…”
20th International Sand Sculpture Festival in Rorschach, Switzerland
“Let’s make the most of this beautiful day…” crooned Mr. Roger’s and that we did as we took in the beauty of Buddah on the shores of Lake Constance. Siddhārtha sat with his eyes closed and lips curved upwards bringing a wide smile to his calm face. His clasped hands gently held a sleeping cat nestled on his ample belly. The serene bodhisattva crafted by a team from Russia had taken first prize at the 20th International Sand Sculpture Festival in Rorschach, Switzerland. And what a sensitive portrayal it was. As were all the other entrants hailing from many countries of the world. The theme of the 2018 competition was “All You Need Is Love” and it was a much needed balm for our troubled times. It was a relaxing Sunday afternoon admiring the talented vision that took the unassuming medium of sand to create such superb works of art.
Our day was still not done. The evening brought both culinary and musical delights as we dined at my favorite restaurant in Bregenz, Chen’s, where we indulged in Asian fish specialities paired with a fruity Sauvignon Blanc courtesy of our lovely friend Maureen. For dessert we enjoyed an evening of opera with the Viennese Symphonic Orchestra serving up Georges Bizet’s Carmen at the Bregenzer Festspiele on Lake Constance. The opera was an extravaganza filled with “diamonds, death, and spades!” and the superlative performers and stunning floating stage were truly magnifcent. What a beautiful birthday weekend in the neighborhood!
The regal bloom arched outwards revealing delicate petals with slightly ruffled edges. Its outer florets were like white droplets laced in a lilac pattern with just a hint of yellow in its inner sanctum. This exquisite beauty was just one of the millions of Siberian Iris in an ocean of lavender blue on a recent visit to the European Sanctuary of Bangs-Matschels. The 80 hectare area is located on the Swiss/Liechtenstein border and is comprised of litter meadows, marshlands, and forests that hold rare and endangered species of plant and bird life and boasts over 1,100 species of butterflies. This heavenly spring spectacle is certainly a sight to see! https://naturvielfalt.at/schutzgebiet/bangs-matschels/
Hay, hay, hay, everywhere. In my hair, in the air, but hey who cares? For we were at the the Alberschwende Heuen Fair. What is that you might ask? I too had been curious as to what this event was and we were finally able to catch this unusual happening. So on a recent Saturday morning Franz and I headed out to the quaint village of Alberschwende in the Bregenzerwald to watch the International Hand Mowing Competition. In the local mountains where modern mowing machinery cannot reach due to the steep slopes farmers resort to scything the grass the ole’ fashioned way. And this competition grew out of this age old tradition. The scythers had a “hayday” brandishing their shining saber like blades at lightening speeds with unparalleled technique. This gathering evenbrought out the the young country folk from the ages 5 to 75 to join in the suspenseful scything. The winning time was a whopping one minute twelve seconds to cut 538 square feet! Hip hip hooray to the “heumeisters”!
The footpath had collapsed. What was left of the hiking trail was hanging off the steep face before plunging into the crevasse. Very carefully we navigated the challenging rockslide. The sun penetrated the vertical walls highlighting the moss covered faces as the Frutz River beckoned us further into the Üble Schlucht Canyon in Laterns, Austria. The name means “bad” in reference to the danger of navigating the terrain before modern paths were built. Despite what its name suggests the canyon is “bad” but only in American slang which translates to “cool.”
The warm spring made it possible to hike into the Üble Schlucht early this year. We had some friends visiting from California and wanted to show them one of our favorite places that requires some effort to get down into. The gorge is located in the Laternsertal and the starting point is in the small village of Laterns. One must be in decent physical shape because the descent is steep and the ascent back up is long and can be a bit precarious with slippery and uneven paths. The start of the trail is about 923 meters and for a moderate hiker it should take approximately 2 1/2 hours to get down to the city of Rankweil. But the energy exerted was well worth it especially to share this alpine wonder with good friends. We sure had a “bad” time!
Strolling along the River Douro on a balmy September evening one could almost inhale the feeling of Porto, Portugal. The royal blue sky framed the darkened slopes that met at the water’s edge. The star of the scene was the silhouette of the Dom Luis Bridge with its sparkling lights glimmering off the midnight blue water. This moment in time could not have gotten any better. Then it did. Because the real star, or satellite, of the show made its dramatic entrance. The gleaming full moon in all its lunar glory rose over the architecture and illuminated the landscape below. One could not helped being enthralled by the magnificence of the heavens as man has been since the beginning of time. This is the image of Porto that I have perched so elegantly on the banks of the Douro.
The evening began as stellar as it had ended. We started out on a dinner quest by hailing a river taxi to the opposite bank in the Afurada neighborhood that just oozed Portguese authenticity. Children played in the streets while the old people watched from the sidewalks and friends called out greetings to each other making for a vibrant street life. We found our restaurant destination the Casa do FC Porto na Afurada that came highly recommended by our host. The eatery is a local’s spot and known for serving up some of the best grilled fish and it’s also the choice for the avid soccer club fans of FC Porto. And do these fans eat well. The fresh seafood was prepared on the barbecue right in front of the restaurant and the combination of the old Porto vibe and succulent food made for a most memorable meal. https://www.facebook.com/Casa-Fcporto-Dragoes-Da-Afurada-333141153503209/?rf=213989482092479
The nature of the city is expressed in its humble fishing and working boats that possess great character despite their peeling paint and are moored by frayed lines strewn with brown kelp along the river estuary. The worn watercraft lean beached among the algae rocks and lobster cages when the tidal action lays bare the debris from the working harbor. And the pungent air reeks of decaying fish and the natural smells of the ocean. Birds of all kinds forage in the shallow waters where it flows out to the Atlantic Ocean . The aging fleet is as colorful as the people who work at the water’s edge whose lives revolve around the harvesting of the oceans bounty and the transportation of the all important Port wine. The most recognizable of the watercraft is the traditional Portuguese wooden Rabelo boat. This elegant yet durable boat was used for centuries to transport people and goods along the Duoro River. But by far its most precious cargo was the product of what this city was named for its delicious Port wine.