From the Danube to Thaya River – Bratislava, Vienna and Drosendorf

 Austrian Cultural Forum Bratislava

In twenty-one years Hotel Palindrone travelled to about thirty countries (among them Malaysia, Mexico and India) – but they had never made it to Slovakia. Which is quite strange as the capital city Bratislava is more or less a stone’s throw from Vienna. Thanks to the Austrian Cultural Forum we could correct this gap in our travel agenda.

We were to present our program Tambdde Roza – from the Atlantic Sea to the Indian Ocean, which means that pianist and singer Marialena Fernandes (who had already performed in Bratislava) joined us. The ACF’s concert hall lies just oppostite the Slovak president’s residence – but the five musicians who have been working on their project Hotel Haydn for eight years did not think about actual politics when they saw Palais Grassalkovich. Their associations carried them to Joseph Haydn who had performed several times in this baroque palace built in 1760 by Antal Grassalkovich  (a Hungarian magnate and Imperial Financial Administrator in Maria Theresia’s government).

Bratislava (4)                                      IMG_2741

Let us delve a bit more into music history. Strolling from the ACF to Saint Martin’s Cathedral you will pass by locations which boast about the presence of great musicians. In 1762 six-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart enthused the audience at Palais Pálffy, in 1796 Ludwig van Beethoven showed up for some concerts (I could not find out where), in 1820 nine-year-old Franz Liszt rocked Palais de Pauli, and sixty-four years later the former wunderkind conducted his Coronation Mass in the cathedral.

The gothic church is worth visiting, above all to have a look at the statue of Saint Martin, created by the Viennese sculptor Raphael Donner. In compliance with iconographic rules the church patron is doing business as usual (horse-sword-coat-beggar), but he looks pretty militant and sportsmanlike, wearing the uniform of a Hungarian hussar. Probably Donner’s model for the most dare-devil-like Saint Martin in art history was archbishop and art sponsor Imre Esterházy.

IMG_2708                             IMG_2682                          IMG_2695

So naturally you should walk to Palais Ésterhazy where Joseph Haydn conducted the debut performance of his opera buffa La Canterina. On your way back do not forget Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s house of birth, which is now a museum with a remarkable CD-shop. Next door you will find  Vinotéka Urbana where you can taste Slovak wines.

Finally music aficionados could commemorate the Moyzes family if they find a small lane called Moyezava. Mikulas and his son Alexander, as composers and teachers, are considered the founders of Slovak music.

In any case, Bratislava has proved a forge of musical talents – shouldn’t the Palotian Five start reflecting about that?

 

Halay City Marathon & Hotel Palindrone

The next day back to Vienna – Ballsaal Palindrone at the Sargfabrik. Maybe we should call it Ballsaal Halay, because after the usual fervent opening by the Palotians (with piper Yunus Hentschel substituting Stephan Stoney Steiner) Dilan Sengül’s Turkish-Kurdish dancers and the Zurna-Davul-band Münür & Hasan added more heat, thus moving Ballsaal Palindrone geographically far to the South-East. The dancers reeled and swirled tirelessly, and freaked out when the final session with Münür, Hasan and the Palotians speeded up the audience, playing dances from Anatolia and the Bretagne.

Münür Tunc’s motto is simple: “Keep calm and play zurna” (the zurna is kind of a shawm, the davul is a big drum). This is how he describes his music: “Halay is a folklore dance which causes much joy. It unites the spirits of all people – no matter if they are short or tall, skinny or corpulent, black or white, hetero-homo-bisexual. You can dance Halay on any occasion, Halay is one of the most important dances in Anatolia and Mesopotamia.”

Ballsaal Halay (8)                                         Ballsaal Halay (9)

When talking about Halay we should also mention Richard Schuberth, the grandmaster of any kind of literary genre and mastermind of Vienna’s world-music scene. In an article titled Tanzen bis zum Umfallen – der Stereotype (hard to translate: dance until stereotypes topple over) Schuberth relates Kurdish Halay to Breton Festoú-noz, but he also discusses the “ethnitisation” of migrants and also points out in how far seemingly unpolitical issues can become political (for the whole article see Augustin, Aug 31, 2016).

“In Turkey, Halay means dancing in lines or in circles, accompanied by instruments like the zurna and the davul. The Kurds call it Govend and the Armenians call it Kochari. On the coast of the Black Sea it is named Choron (which is related to the Romanian and eastern-Jewish Hora, as well as to the Bulgarian Horo, Macedonian Oro and the Kolo of Ex-Yugoslavia). I should not forget to mention the Greek Sirtos and the Cretan Pentozalis.

Before the pre-bourgeois era, dances and dance music from Ireland to China were similar, as contemporary paintings prove. The church had its reasons to agitate against the bacchanal sound of bagpipes, shawms and drums. Until the 19th century the sinister succession of notes and wild strains were not a question of Orient and Occident. In Brittany, at the so-called Festóu-noz, they still engage in line dancing – which resembles the Anatolian version not only because of the steps, but also because of an instrument called bombarde.

Vienna Halay City Marathon plays a game. It alienates dance and music from their original context, it abducts neo-Viennese subculture and places it self-confidently, in some sort of a neutralization, into the middle of society. Although they do not declare any political ideology, Viennese Halay City Marathon act politically – because it is pretty political if you don’t justify what you are doing. You do not have to call it a performative act – you are just having fun.”

In his book Taksim ist überall. Die Gezi-Bewegung und die Zukunft der Türkei (Taksim everywhere. The Gezi-movement and Turkey’s future, published in 2014) Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yüksel also refers to the ambiguity of polical awareness and seemingly unpolitical action. He writes wherever you walked through the motley and colourful criss-cross at Taksim Square you would see Kurds dancing Halay. By the way, Deniz Yüksel is still detained in a Turkish prison. His crime: Writing.

Back to Ballsaal-Palindrone-Halay-City-Marathon: Video to come soon, reprise in 2018!

 

Stronghold of jazz on the Czech border

A view over the Thaya floodplain meadows and forests to the Czech Republic, a small picturesque old town including a castle, and a music club in a vaulted cellar dating back to the 14th century: Drosendorf in Lower Austria. Usually renowned jazz muscians perform here. But this time it was Hotel-Haydn-time. Marialena Fernandes and Hotel Palindrone went on stage of the jam-packed Jazzkeller and had a great time. Video upcoming!

IMG_2853                      IMG_2025

For Drosendorf-newcomers: Gasthaus Feiler Zum Goldenen Lamm is a traditional guesthouse with genuine food and comfortable rooms. If you want to spend a night more the Polanski-vampire-style, book a room at the castle. Both places are just 300 metres from the Jazzkeller – a pretty advantageous distance after tasting Weinviertel wines in the music club’s bar.


Austria’s Celtic heritage - about missionaries, saints, soldiers, politicians and musicians

By John Morrissey

 Introduction

Today the Six Celtic Nations encompass Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales. The requirement to be member of this international confederation is the official use of a Gaelic language. It does not matter how prevalent the language is: On the Isle of Man just about 1.500 people speak Manx (2% of the population). In Wales, however, more than 600.000 use Cymraeg (20% of the Welsh), and you should add 160.000 Welsh emigrants in England and Overseas. The Celtic League, which was founded in 1961, established these strict rules which prevent even Galicia and Las Asturias from being members. This has caused a great deal of discussions among the League, but nevertheless northwest-Spanish musicians are welcome at Celtic festivals.

At first sight, Austria’s Celtic past seems to be a distant episode in history and you might not find many traces in present-day culture. Apart from impressive archeological evidence and toponyms like Linz, Bregenz, Tauern and Alpen. Anyway, references to the ancient Celts of the Hallstatt- and Laténe-Period will not be enough to be accepted in the modern Gaelic cosmos.

However, maybe Austria is no less Celtic than countries which pride themselves with an Irish, a Welsh or a Galician diaspora. They are always listed among the pan-Gaelic regions, even if these enclaves are rather small. There are supposed to be some Celts in Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Canada (in Nova Scotia, locals reportedly still speak Gaìdhlig Canadach), the USA and Australia. That is why you should not be surprised to hear that Havana is the arena of a festival called CeltFest Cuba.

So we should take a glance at Austrian history, because in the last 1.500 years Irish and Scots played an important role all over the Alpine region. As missionaries, saints, footballers, soldiers and politicians. Even many Austrians know next to nothing about that.

 

Saints and missionaries

It is amazing how often you find the name Schotten (which means Scots) in connection with Viennese topography: Schottenstift (Scots’ Abbey), Schottenbastei (Scots’ Bastion), Schottengasse (Scot’s Lane), Schottentor (Scots’ Gate), and so on. Margrave Henry II called Irish-Scottish monks to build up a monastery in his new residential town. The Westeners were considered experts on everything – from farming and building trade to education and spirituality. “Solo eligimus scottos” is written in the foundation charter of the year 1155. “We only choose Scots” – Scots was in those days a synonym for Irish as well as for Scottish people .

Stift Schotten (12)                             Stift Schotten & Co (4)

Thus Henry (1156 promoted Duke of Austria) continued a tradition which had its roots in the 6th century, when clergymen from the British Isles showed up in the Alps. Such as Columban the Younger and Gallus who missionized Switzerland and Vorarlberg (the most western Austrian Bundesland) or Virgil whose memory is kept high in Salzburg and Carinthia.

Furthermore, one of Austria’s most sacred martyrs was an Irishman. In the year 1012 Coloman (supposedly of royal blood) was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and had made his way through half the continent when, in Stockerau next to Vienna, people thought he was a Bohemian or Moravian spy. As Coloman could not speak German he had no chance and was lynched by a furious mob. Soon the xenophobes felt uneasy about their rage as Coloman’s corpse, unlike the two murderers hanging by his side, would not rot and no bird would have taken a bite. Two years later, as a consequence of other miraculous incidents, his grave was opened and the experts verified Coloman’s resitance to decay (buffoons might suggest the consumption of whiskey being the reason for the Irishman’s failure to decompose, but this Gaelic national drink became popular no sooner than the 15th century). Now Coloman was canonised and brought to a more dignified ambiance, to the margrave’s residence in Melk.

As a saint, Coloman immediately enjoyed five-star-status all over Austria and was given a bunch of important tasks. He is not only the patron of all who are convicted to execution by the rope, but he also protects travelers and he is supposed to fend off rodents, fire, extreme weather events and diseases. I would offer him another job, namely to protect against xenophobia and mass hysteria.

 

Soldiers and politicians

In order to make a career and money, or to escape the English discrimination against Gaelic culture, Irish soldiers left their country and joined armies all over the continent, even in Russia. Thousands of them made their way to the Habsburg Empire.

Wild Geese fighting for Austria first showed up in the Thirty-Years-War, proving real dare-devils to whom you could commit any bold or ruthless task. For example Walter Butler and Walter Deveraux who, in 1634 by order of Emperor Ferdinand II himself, assassinated Commander-in-Chief Albrecht Wenzel von Wallenstein. Fifty years later Irish officers played a decisive role in the Turkish Wars, just to mention Thaddeus O’Hussey or Count Francis Taaffe (whose descendant Eduard Taaffe, from 1867 to 1893, held several important executive positions in Emperor Franz Joseph’s administration: minister of defense, governor in Tyrol and prime minister. Despite his aversion to socialists, unions and free press Eduard Taaffe initiated several labour protection laws and his government was among the first in Europe to implement a general health insurance system).

The defeat of the Irish in the Battle of the Boyne (1690) caused another Gaelic exodus to the continent. Thousands left the Green Island and about 1.500 soldiers were given refuge in the Habsburg Empire. Again the immigrants distinguished themselves as cunning strategists and brave fighters. For example, Field Marshal Maximilian Ulysseus Browne in the Silesian Wars or Franz Moritz von Lacy in the Seven-Years-War. The latter also became famous for reforming the Austrian imperial army.

To conclude the history of Austrian Wild Geese we should present the probably most famous family, the Banfields. As a navy officer, Richard Banfield-von-Clonmel-und-Castel-Lions (what an Austro-Irish name, even better than Franz Moritz von Lacy) fought bravely in the Adriatic Sea against the Italians and he gained quite a reputation for that. His son, however, became a real star, and has kept this status until today (at least among military enthusiasts and Habsburg-nostalgia-freaks). In World War I, Gottfried von Banfield proved a bold fighter pilot and since then has often been compared to Germany’s Red Baron. He died in 1986, as the last soldier to be awarded the hoary and prestigious Maria Theresia Orden. Banfield also climbed up in the bird-ranking-list: The descendant of the Wild Geese was called Adler von Triest, Eagle of Triest.

 

Football

It might be surprising that there is a connection between a Celtic Nation and Austria in football history. At the end of the 19thcentury there was a considerable British colony in Austria: embassy staff, bankers, traders and quite a lot of gardeners. In 1894 the first official football match took place in Vienna when British gardeners (supposedly among them some Scots) kicked against the Vienna Cricket Club. Quickly football became extremely popular among the Viennese, ten-thousands watched the games every weekend (many more than today with the Austrian Bundesliga).

Triskel - Isle of Man - Fahne                                      Triskel- First Vienna Football Club - Wappen

In 1912, Jimmy Hogan was appointed manager of the Austrian national team. He was a Northern Englishman of Irish origin, and (in opposition to the English long-pass kick-and-rush) a radical advocate of the short-pass concept which had been developed in Scotland.

Hogan combined Scottish passing skills to Austrian ball artistry, and it worked. “Austria warmed to Hogan and Hogan warmed to Austria. Their soccer was like a waltz, light and easy”.[1]Thus the word ball or ball artistry was given a beautiful double-connotation, as Vienna was (and still is) considered the world’s capital of ballroom events. Where else should football be interpreted as a dance performance?

In 1915, Hogan went to Hungary where, with the club MTK Budapest, he successfully implemented the Austro-Scottish concept of the game. Danubian Football was born and it was to enchant and even dominate European football for the next decades.

Some years after Hogan’s return to England, his Austrian friend Hugo Meisl perfectionized the system by laying even more emphasis on ball skills, imagination, change of positions and short-pass. This concept was called Scheiberln, and soon the Austrians (led by genius Matthias Sindelar) were considered the best European squad, enthusiastically celebrated by fans and the press as the Wunderteam.

After World War II the Danubian School proved successful again (Hungary second and Austria third in the 1954 World Cup) and it influenced football in the Netherlands, where omnipresent Jimmy Hogan had paved the way for British Ajax-Amsterdam-manager Jack Reynolds who also preferred the Scottish style. Consequently, years later manager Rinus Michels and playmaker Johan Cruyff developed a radical version of Scheiberln called Totaalvoetball. When Michels and Cruyff joined CF Barcelona it was just a question of time that this concept, combined with Spanish ball artistry, became tiqui-taca à la Iniesta and Xavi.

Sounds amazing. From Scottish passing and Viennese Scheiberln to Dutch Totalvoetball and Spanish tiqui-taca? If you cannot believe that, just read Jonathan Wilson’s fascinating Inverting the Pyramid.

 

Music

I am not going to track down genuine Celtic marks in traditional Austrian music (as so many continental folk musicians and Celtomaniacs do, who also love embracing trees and drinking homemade mead). It would be fun to speculate about our musical Irishness, but I am sorry to say that the fascinating Schleunige and Schützentänze from the Salzkammergut (hotspot of the Hallstatt- and Laténe-Period) do not contain any ancient Celtic features. These tunes can be traced back to the 18thcentury and sometimes they might remind you of Irish or Breton music: drone sound, syncopated melodies, counter-rhythm, wooden flutes which sound like tin whistles, and drums. Moreover, the new Austrian folk movement (influenced by Planxty, Bothy Band, Lunasa, Alain Stivell and Malicorne) added the hurdy-gurdy, the bagpipe, the guitar, and the bouzouki. This caused the Celtic sound of some Austrian Volxmusik-bands. But adding the hurdy-gurdy and the bagpipe just means going back to the roots, as both instruments were popular in Central Europe until the late 18th century.

If we want to prove a veritable musical Celticity in Austria, we must talk about Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Ignaz Joseph Pleyel, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Leopold Antonin Kozeluch. Evidently no Folkies or Celts, but heroes of classical and romantic music. They all worked for Scottish music collectors and publishers: William Napier, William Whyte and George Thomson, who commissioned the Austrian composers to edit or to adapt hundreds of Scottish songs. For the lyrics quality-conscious Thomson cooperated with Joanna Baillie, Anne Grant, Walter Scott and Robert Burns.

Between 1792 and 1804 Joseph Haydn arranged for Thomson more than four-hundred songs – not only from Scotland, but also from Wales and Ireland. Haydn evidently enjoyed the job, because in a letter to the publisher (with whom the master corresponded in Italian) he wrote: “Mi vanto questo lavoro” – “I vaunt this work”.[2]

Haydn’s cooperation with William Napier resulted in about hundred-and-fifty song arrangements. A real godsend for the Scotsman who had gone bankrupt and was on the brink of being jailed, although he had twelve children to feed. Haydn’s biographer Georg August Griesinger wrote about that in 1810: “Haydn arranged for him a full hundred Scottish songs in modern style, being accompanied by the bass and the violin. Those songs sold so well that Napier got rid of his pecuniary embarrassment.”[3] Joseph Haydn as the savior of a manifold Scottish father being menaced by imprisonment! This alone should be enough to incorporate Austria as an associated member of the Celtic Nations.

For William Whyte’s A collection of Scottish Airs. By Joseph Haydn Mus. Dot. the composer edited some sixty tunes. With this work Haydn airily neglected George Thomson who called Whyte an “obscure music seller”[4]. Was the remuneration so good or was it Haydn’s well-known sense of justice that, despite Thomson’s objection, he accepted the obscurantist’s mandate? Just think about the great master’s intervention in order to improve the working conditions of his musicians at the court of Count Eszterházy. As words did not help, he used another language and composed the Farewell Symphony which is maybe the most elegant musical protest in history.

In the last years musicologists discussed a lot the Scottishness of Haydn’s tunes. “Critics and defenders alike of Haydn’s song arrangements have long focused on whether the composer captured the ‘authentic’ identity of Scottish music. In line with recent discourse on folk culture, he is better seen as having contributed to the invention of Scottish music, a project that involved not only collecting and preserving songs but also altering and arranging them (and even writing new examples) to suit contemporary tastes. Clothing Scottish melodies in what we would call ‘art music’ style, Haydn furthered the aims of song collectors to reach the literate classes of Scotland and England.”[5]

As mentioned before also other Austrian composers worked for Thomson. I just want to highlight Ignaz Joseph Pleyel. His catalogue-raisonné lists thirty-two Scottish songs. For example, I’ll never leave thee, Sweet Annie from the sea-beach came or The banks of Banna. Pleyel’s oeuvre has always been over-shadowed by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. So let me seize the opportunity to tell you that his compositions are worth listening to. And you might not know that Pleyel (while staying in Strasbourg) supposedly composed one of the most famous songs in the world, the Marseillaise.

Finally let me answer the question why Austrian musicians should perform at Celtic music festivals. This is the moment for Hotel Palindrone to enter the scene. For years, either as a quartet or with the pianist and singer Marialena Fernandes, they have been playing dance music composed by Scarlatti, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (an Ecossaisse) and Bártok.

In 2016, at Joseph Haydn’s house of birth, Hotel Palindrone and Marialena Fernandes played some of his Scottish songs, a veritable rarity even to Austrian classic aficionados. For instance, the musicians combined Haydn’s Soldier’s Dream Captain Kaine and John Anderson my Jo with Haydn’s Strathspey composed by Duncan McIntyre and an Air by Haydn (which is actually a jig from Symphony Nr.100, The Military).

 

Conclusion

Missionaries, saints, soldiers, politicians, footballers and musicians from Ireland and Scotland influencing Austria’s history for over 1.500 years. Joseph Haydn inventing the Scottish song and saving a Scottish father’s bacon. Isn’t this enough to consider Austria a worthy member of the Celtic World?

 

Thanks to Stephan Stoney Steiner for his advice

 

[1] Jonathan Wilson: Inverting the Pyramid. The History of Soccer Tactics (Nation Books/New York 2013), p.26

[2] Quoted in: www.triovanbeethoven.at/Projekte/Volksliedbearbeitungen-von-Haydn-und-Beethoven (19-01-2017)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Richard Will: Haydn invents Scotland. In: Mary Hunter/Richard Will (Editors): Engaging Haydn. Culture,  context, criticism (Cambridge University Press 2012), p.74


Ballroom Nights in Vienna and Prague - Sargfabrik and Divadlo Ponec

And: Palotian medal for Christian Reich & Why Folkies are hard stuff for the Yellow Press & Reflections on tourism  & Donald Trump’s new ambassador in Vienna

The Ballsaal Palindrone at Sargfabrik was a Palotian homematch: Full house, incited dancers and great guest musicians from France – Duo Parasol. An event worthy of a city which prides itself as the world’s capital of carnival ballrooms (just think of the Wiener Opernball).

Next morning we were on our way to Prague. For the first time in Palotian history – which is actually quite amazing as the band has toured so many countries in and out of Europe, and had never made it to this neighboring country (it is just 400 kilometers from Vienna to Prague).

Our Czech premiere took place at the Divadlo Ponec which is considered one of the most important theaters for contemporary and experimental dance. Apart from countless local and international events presenting motion art the Ponec regularly organizes “interactive dance nights”, such as the Prague Balfolk Weekend. This year on stage: Bal Lab (CZ), ba.fnu (CZ), Zlabaya (FR), Parasol (FR), Stefano Baldan (IT), Herrmann Fritz (AUT) and Hotel Palindrone.

Dance aficionados from all over Central Europe showed up in Prague. Among them a friend who has enchanted Palotian ballrooms with his charm and elegance – just as a dancer or  sometimes as a dancing master: Christian Reich, to whom we hereby award the Prix d’Honneur Palotique. It was our intention to celebrate this international prize at the Prague Balfolk, but due to the crowded ballroom and to quick stage management we had to postpone the ceremony to our next Ballsaal in Vienna.

Praha Divadlo Ponec I (17)   Foto S. Ohlelova

Regular readers of Palotica might know that we do not focus so much on concert reports or insider news displaying the glamourous world of folk. There would not be much to write about because musicians in our scene are pretty normal people. No stuff for the yellow press. Just “Carlos Nuñes chills out with a glass of Albariño“, “Andy Irvine prefers German sausages to English bangers“, “Gabriel Yakoub’s Citroen 2CV broke down” or “Hotel Palindrone troubled by bagpipe-phobia?”. Sorry for being that boring.

So we thought about offering you something else. Touring all over Europe and sometimes Overseas we experience a lot and we think some of our impressions are worth sharing, as we very often travel to outstanding places which are (fortunately) ignored by mass tourism.

This is not the case with Prague. So, what should we write about the “Golden City”? Should we complain that its beauty is its curse? About the crowds rolling through the streets? Telling our readers that travelling connoisseurs are right to sniff at mass tourists invading Prague or Venice?

Before slagging the wrong-doers and boasting with our refined art of travelling we should consider that many of those tourists (very often Chinese and Japanese) realize a life-long dream: Rome, Venice, Vienna, Rothenburg, Heidelberg, Paris. In two weeks, as the usual Asian holiday entitlement does not concede more time. Possibly they will never ever afford another transcontinental voyage. But when they return home, such a European tour means a great deal of social prestige, which explains the “Japanese photomania” (which also makes me laugh or feel annoyed – you see, how quickly we can be snobs) because they have to prove their journey was worth the effort.

Of course this kind of travelling causes lots of damage, ecologically and culturally – I don’t have to go into details about that (living next to Vienna I could tell you stories). But should we close attractive cities and landscapes for mass tourists? Who will be allowed to visit Florence, Crete or Normandy? Should we insist on traveller-licenses (after attending twenty hours of a Cultural Science Seminar) or entry fees? What about European holiday-makers? Are they supposed to stay in Frosinone, Blény-sur-Plume, Unterbüxlbaxlboxlhausen or Krostinovac?

By the way – Austria contributed a lot to Asian Europeamania. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna Choir Boys serve as efficient testimonials throughout Far East which is also an attractive market for Mozartkugeln (round chocolate pralines whose name cannot be translated into English or Italian without offering the chance to crack a dirty joke). Not to forget the Herminator’s (for non-Austrians our skiing star Hermann Maier) crash and his following victory some days later at the Olympic Games in Japan. Due to the Herminator and to Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger many Asians think Austrian men are rather tough and sturdy. Obviously they have never seen a Hotel-Palindrone-photo.

We should not forget the film Sound of Music which over decades has influenced the Americans’ image of Austria. Unfortunately it still works and is going to have some impact on Austro-American foreign policy. Donald Trump appointed Patrick Park as the new ambassador in Vienna. According to an interview in the Palm Beach Daily News Mr Park thinks he is well-prepared for the job: “I have seen Sound of Music seventy-five times. I know every word and song by heart.” I guess it would be rather difficult to find more than thousand Austrians who have ever seen the film, and there will be none who could quote even one word. But now we know what job in the US we can offer Austrians who have seen the same Chuck-Norris-film at least twenty-five times.

Back to Prague, a piece of advice for all who need to take a rest. Next to the usually over-crowded Karluv Most (Charles’Bridge) look for Misenska Road. There you will find a little tavern called Vinograf that is popular with native people and foreigners. As an alternative to the omnipresent beer this fine snug offers great Czech wines. Above all Veltliner, Riesling and Blaufränkisch from Mikulov on the Moravian-Austrian border.

There you could reflect on the future of travelling. Or on Donald Trump’s choice for the US-Embassy in Prague and what the qualification of that guy looks like. Gulping down seventy-five gallons of Czech beer?


Hotel Hadyn Volume 2! Haydn's House and the Harrach Gallery

Rohrau in Lower Austria, next to  Burgenland, Hungary and Slovakia – the place where  Joseph Haydn was born. For the second time within a  year Marialena Fernandes and Hotel Palindrone performed at this place of pilgrimage for all classic afficionados.

How to describe the feeling when you appear  next to the great master’s statue? Next to the rooms and in the court of the Pannonian house  where he grew up and developed his talent? We felt his eyes on us and it looked like he was twinkling, approving to what he heard.

His Masters Eyes                       haydnhaus-3

If you visit the Haydnhaus, you should definitely walk over to Rohrau Castle housing the Harrach Gallery. A collection of world-wide distinction and yet unknown to many travellers (and Austrians as well). A magic world full of master pieces. For example,  “Three ladies playing music” by the Master of Female Knee-Length Portraits (Meister der weiblichen Halbfiguren), Luca Giordano’s “Paris’ judgement” and Antonio Grassi’s “Joseph Haydn’s bust”.

Furthermore Rohrau is located next to the vineyards of Petronell-Carnuntum (also renowned for its Ancient-Rome-archeology-park) where you can taste elegant Grüner Veltliner and aromatic Blaufränkische. At taverns run by the wine-makers themselves, the Heuriger or Buschenschänke.

 


Rhythm of the Sea: Festival Les Traversées Tatihou in Normandy

The Bayeux Tapestry, Mont-St-Michel, the Cathedral of Caen or the Disembarkment Beaches of the Allied Forces in World War II  are considered the most remarkable sights in Normandy. After visiting these outstanding landmarks foreign travellers usually move westwards to Brittany, ignoring the Cotentin Peninsula which is really worth a stay: Milelong white beaches, undulating and nested hedgerow-fields, the busy port of Cherbourg or the fishing towns of Barfleur (here William the Conqueror set sails towards England – which is impressively   depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry) and Saint-Vaast-la-Hogue. And, last but not least, the Traversées Tatihou.

img_6375                  img_6596

This festival takes place in numerous locations in the Saire Valley, above all in Saint-Vaast: On the town’s quay and on the island of Tatihou with its formidable fortress built by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban. When there is low tide you can walk over to the isle on a path  with vast oyster beds on both sides. Usually an amphibian vehicle  commutes from the port to the island – but this year, just a few days before the festival, the gear drive powering the enormous wheels of the boat conked out  and resisted to any fixing. However, the ship’s propeller worked and with high tide the Tatihou II perfectly did her job.

 img_6434                  img_6420

On foot, by ferry or by horse coach – some thousand music fans made their way to the island every day. Which is part of Traversées’ concept and charm. According to artistic consultant Gérard Vielle (also well-known  as a writer for Trad’Mag) the festival’s motto is ambiguous: To attend a concert you must cross the tideland and, on the other hand, the musical program stands for traversing  cultural frontiers. This year’s cross-border commuters: Vox Bigerri (F), Wör (B), Solas (Irl-USA), Zachary Richard (USA), Sébastien Bertrand (F), Duo Bottasso (IT), Lucilla Galeazzi & Elena Ledda & Ginevra di Marco & Ricardo Tesi (IT), Galand Galanaina (PT), Melisande (CND), Monster Ceilidh Band (UK) and Hotel Palindrone.

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For the first time in Traversées’ history there was a ball night – due to the tide between seven o’clock in the evening and four o’clock in the morning. In fact, the audience was confined for hours  by the sea. Hotel Palindrone was the last band to appear,  accompanied by  tireless dancers who would not let the band walk off the stage without some encores although the tidelands were calling.

In the end we would like to inform you of our favorite places. Taverns and inns: Café de France in Barfleur, Le Goéland in Réville/Jonville, La Bisquine and  La Criée du Tomahawk in Saint-Vaast. Accomodation: Manoir du Cabourg and Hotel La Gervaiserie in Réville. Shopping: Farmers’ market  in Saint-Vaast (Saturday), Boucherie Villeneuve, Librairie La Chaloupe and the Episserie Gosselin.

And here is a piece of advice by the locals, if you intend to walk happy-go-lucky  through the tidelands: „Respectez bien les horaires, la mer n’attends pas“ – “Mind the schedule, the sea will not wait.“

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