#15 Cologne Germany, Marseilles, France, Brighton, England, Tokyo, Japan

November 17, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. 

Konstanze Jarczyk

Germany: Cologne, Buttermarkt: Konstanze Jarczyk (Heinz’s daughter) invited us to her small apartment in the old section of Cologne known as the “butter market”, only steps away from the remains of the old Roman road still visible to today’s visitors. A light lunch and then a special performance: Konstanze, a professional harpist with worldwide performances to her credit, giving us an intimate concert meant only for our ears! Unforgettable. Touching.

France: Marseilles: Just one day, but bouillabaisse of course! And, a bottle of local white wine to wash it all down. Amazing to think that this town on the coast was founded by the Greeks around 600B.C.!

England: Brighton: Stopping in at a small “antique” shop, I spied a tiny metal bell, gaily painted with flowers. The owner told me it was a sheep bell (I had seen cowbells but this was the first of these I had seen) and its dainty size and hand-painted surface appealed to me. As the man wrapped it for me, he asked me why I wanted it. Noticing Cornelia nearby, I said with a smile, “Now when I want my coffee in the morning, all I have to do is tinkle this little bell.” The look I got from her warned me that I might try it once, but chances were that instead of getting coffee I’d have it tied around my own neck! Anyway, it sits on a shelf above our kitchen sink where it still appeals to me…and every so often (when no one’s around) I shake it to hear the little tinkle.

Raymond J. Steiner and Marti Kerton at Narita Airport, Tokyo

Japan: Tokyo, Narita Airport: Huge crowd of hundreds of travelers, many lines, in airport on way to Beijing. As we stand at the end of a long line, we strike up conversation with a young woman behind us. Her name: Marti Kerton, a Honolulu native. During our talk we discover that she is the daughter of Sudjana Kerton, one of the over 200 artists to send me anecdotes for my book, The Art Students League of New York: A History. Small world indeed!

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#14 Ritten, Switzerland

November 1, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. 

Switzerland: Ritten, in the Tyrolean Alps: On our way to Munich from Verona, our hosts (Gabi and Norbert Witmer) ask us if we would like to take a brief side-trip tovisit one of the small villages nestled at the top of a mountain. We of course quickly agree and soon find ourselves winding through one horseshoe curve after another as we slowly ascend. At one lookout point, we look down far below at the Italian city of Bolzano that we had passed through earlier that morning. Grapevines covered the steep sides of the mountain, each vine meticulously pruned and cared for, prompting our wonder at how the workers could work on such a precipitous slope.

Finally we reach the top and park in a small lot in front of a restaurant. The village has a handful of houses, a church abutting a cemetery. The restaurant seems to be the only visible business establishment. As our waitress brought us a light lunch (excellent soup!), I remarked on the striking likeness of the young woman with my sister Rita — or at least as she looked when she was also young. After lunch, we strolled the little village, seeking better views of the Dolomites looming through a lowering sky. At one point we stepped into the small church — it might have held thirty people — and stood silently in the rear as a sole occupant, an elderly woman, knelt at the altar. It was as we waited for the woman to leave that I began to have the feeling that I had been in this church before and, as the sense of déjà vu deepened, it began occurring to me that a good bit of the town had also seemed familiar to me. Strangely, I was convinced that I had been there — yet, I knew that I had never before traveled to this part of the world, had no connection whatsoever with this German village called Ritten. Months later, in thinking about the odd experience, I began to wonder how it connected with my studies of ancient history shortly before we left for Europe. I had recently completed the 8 volumes of The Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire by Thomas Hodgkin, a good deal of my curiosity centered on my own “barbarian”, Teutonic roots. I had come to the conclusion that my forebears came from the Allamani tribe, the very tribe that eventually settled in the Alps after they left the northern part of Europe. When I related this ‘adventure’ to Christiane Jarczyk, she immediately said, “Of Course. That is where your grandfather’s people lived!” So, had I been in tune with some lingering vibe from an ancestor who lived atop this mountain? An ancestor whose progeny included that waitress who resembled my sister? Nonsense, undoubtedly — but still?

 


#13 Prague, Bonn, Wicklow, the Loire

October 25, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. 

Czech Republic: Prague: While wandering this beautiful city — called by many the “City of Spires” — we came upon the Jewish quarter and its cemetery. Talking about it with Jacky and Jörg later in the day over coffee, both Cornelia and Jacky shared sad memories of lost relatives. It was here that we learned of Jacky’s father, a Czech, killed by his townspeople because they believed he had supported the Nazis. We are never very far from deeply hidden poignant memories.

Germany (Musicians): Visited Beethoven’s home in Bonn (his ear trumpet a persistent memory); Mendelssohn’s home in Leipzig (his watercolors, lovely, sensitive, a surprise!) and a nearby church where Bach once taught; Mozart’s home in Salzburg and his father’s, Leopold, in Augsburg. Always an aura seems to hover in and around the places where genius once resided — a similar feeling while visiting the tavern near Leipzig’s rathaus square where Goethe wrote.

Ireland: Wicklow: Found a lovely waterfall (Powerscourt) on our way through Wicklow (south of Dublin)…had paints with me but had already run out of canvases capturing hills and hedgerows along our way…soooo, used my palette (which is now hanging in my study) and painted waterfall! Nice souvenir from our trip with a rented car through Ireland.

France: Loire Valley: Visited a stone-age tomb that, for the size of its stone slabs alone, boggles the mind as to how these primitives built it. Stepped inside the room-size space; cool, dampish. Cornelia had strong sense of not “belonging” there, could not wait to get outside its stony embrace. (Odd, that she did not have the same sensation when we visited Newgrange in Ireland, another ancient tomb).


Blog # 12 Rome, Beijing, Cologne, Swindon Wiltshire – England

October 18, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. 

Italy: Rome: Standing in the center of St. Peter’s, I have, perhaps for the first time, an inkling of eternity.

China: Beijing, Tianlun Dynasty Hotel, 50 Wangfujing Ave.: From my room in this luxurious hotel, I look down many floors below to where construction on the street is taking place. Workmen in what appear to be dress black suits, sockless and in tennis shoes, handling jackhammers, shoveling dirt. I am told that every day many thousands come from the provinces to work in the city. Where are the hard hats? The work boots? From the same window, I look down into a nearby hu tong. A different world! Hard to reconcile my hotel room with such squalor and cramped living quarters. I am told that many of these community compounds have been destroyed to make way for new prosperity. A way of life perhaps best gone. But how do they feel?

img_8321Germany: Cologne: During dinner at the Jarczyk’s, Heinz asked me if I liked opera. He was amazed when I told him that I had never been to one. He immediately rose from the table and went to the phone; I understood enough German to know he was asking about what was on and getting tickets for the four of us. That weekend, I saw Carmen at the Köln Opera Haus: a story about a Spanish woman written by a Frenchman with German “sub-titles” moving across the bottom of the stage. (At one point I had to smile at the running translation when, at the point Carmen is ridiculing Don Carlos for attending to duty rather than running into the mountains with her, it incongruously read “Don Carlos, du bist ein Dummkopf!”). At intermission, sharing champagne, I said to Heinz that I was still trying to get it together that here I was, a kid from Brooklyn, attending an opera in such plush surroundings. When we returned to our seats, he handed me the playbill with his finger indicating where I should look. There I read that the actor playing Don Carlos was from Brooklyn, and that the second female role was played by a young woman from Staten Island!

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England: Swindon Wiltshire: Came upon a “round-about” (traffic circle) that was a maze of entries and exits, so many that we circumnavigated it several times before we finally got off — of course, it was the wrong one. Told later that Swindon was the town where the roundabout inventor was born! I wonder if they ran him off!


Blog 11 Lechlade – England, Basel – Switzerland, Paris – France

October 11, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. 

5106179_1ed4fb43England: Lechlade: Visited “Shelley’s Walk”, a tree-lined path that skirts a weathered church. Story goes that it was on one of Percy Shelley’s perambulations here that he composed one of his poems (the name of which I cannot recall!).

Switzerland: Basel: I visit the town hall to see if I can find out anything about my grandfather whom I’ve never known, Jacob Steiner, who came from this city to New York sometime in the late 1800s. My German is faltering; the bureaucrat impatient. “Steiner?” he says with a snort. He points to several volumes. “Steiners!” he says. Without knowing which canton my grandfather came from, apparently it was like asking for “Smith” in New York City! All I had was my grandfather’s name, so I left knowing as little as I did when I came.

top-floorFrance: Paris: At the second landing of the Eiffel Tower, I cannot find the way to the elevator that takes you to the top. Walking up to two uniformed men, I hesitatingly ask (since I did not know the word for “elevator”), “Ou et le sommet?” Both men look at me for a moment and, with a smile, simultaneously raise their index fingers to indicate “up”. Properly embarrassed, I revert to English and ask how I might get there. Again, in unison, they then point to the elevator. (An odd thing for me was that when I reached the top, I could not bring myself to step over to the rail and look out. It was the first time ((but not the last — the fear reoccurred when I climbed to the top of St. Peter’s Dome with Piero Breccia in Rome a few weeks later)) that I discovered I had somehow acquired vertigo — a new thing for me!) Another time my meager French let me down (I can read the language fairly well, having taken the subject in college) was in St. Germain en Laye, taking a bus from the home of Isabelle and Bertrand to spend the day sightseeing in Paris. When the bus stopped at our corner, I stepped on the first step and firmly said, “Trois.” The driver looked at me and said, “Trois?” “Oui,” I answered confidently. He looked pointedly at Cornelia and me and said again, “Trois?” Annoyed, I again said, “Oui!” Once again: “Trois?” Before I could really make a fool of myself by insisting on “three” a kindly old man in a front seat leaned over, held up two fingers and said, “Deux”, pointing at the two of us. For some reason “trois” and “three” were synonymous to me (or at least sounded so) and who knows for how long the driver and I would have been “trois-ing” each other while the busload waited for me to be enlightened? Interesting that, by and large, my poor language skills were never an issue in any of the other countries we visited. Almost to a person, when people saw us in difficulty — in Spain, in Germany, in Holland, in Italy, in Belgium, in Beijing, Shanghai — wherever — they were quick to step in, help out and lead us onto the correct path.


Raymond J. Steiner owns up

October 7, 2017

ALTHOUGH IN RECENT issues of ART TIMES I’ve not contributed much in the way of profiles, reviews, or critiques on the current art scene, “art” is seldom far from my thoughts and interests in what’s ‘going on’ out there. I see the announcements, daily receive press releases and, though I avoid the telephone, my Publisher and Partner Cornelia Seckel keeps me apprised of the more than many phone calls from galleries and art-reps who advise me “you gotta see this show!” Truth is, I frankly don’t see or hear about many exhibits that I oughtta see. It’s true that my health and stamina are on the decline and I rarely travel other than to present myself to the growing list of MDs that I oughtta see, the market — and I emphasize the work market—rarely entices me to take up my time to travel there to browse their wares. Too many modern ‘isms’, trends, ‘hot’ exhibits, and such on the present art-scene leave me aesthetically, intellectually and spiritually cold and totally uninterested at the core. Don’t get me wrong—I know there are good artists out there (I know many of them and try to keep in touch), but the hyper-bloviating successfully keeps them in the dark and drowning in the deafening noise of ‘what’s new!” Those of you who’ve followed me through our 30+ years of publishing know my feelings about the deluge of political-based, gender-based, race-based, self-expressionist-based—the whole range of “ism”-based—‘art’ that has overwhelmed plain, old art-based art. I have always believed that art ought to be life-enhancing and not a mere political tool. Artwriters no longer dare to even define what ‘art’ is. Pundits such as Danto have already pro-claimed that ‘art’ is dead. So my dear artist-friends who still attempt to put heart, spirit, and meaning into your work, don’t stop fighting the good fight. History moves on…it always does…and genuine appreciation of culture will come back, and maybe I can’t travel much anymore and you’ve been left in the dark, but if not you than your work will see the future.

 

By Raymond J. Steiner


Blog #10 Munich, Rome, Beijing, Deichelweg Germany

September 20, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. 

Germany: Munich: Waiting in the Marienplatz to hear the glockenspiel, we hear loud shouting off to one side. “Raus Auslander! Heil Hitler” resounds off the enclosing walls. This, almost fifty years after the war! Police quickly close in on a man who is obviously drunk. A prank? A deep-seated resentment? Who knows the mystery of the human heart? Where were the police during the 1930’s?

Roman ForumItaly: Rome: Standing in the middle of the Forum early one morning, I see Cornelia looking into her guidebook. Perplexed. Why would someone look into a book when the actual thing is there in front of you? “I want to know what I’m looking at,” she said. Still perplexed.

China: Beijing: Passover Seder at a hotel “party room”: Once inside, we could not believe we were in China. Familiar prayers, complaints, kibitzing, food, kids running around unsupervised. Who taught the Chinese cooks to make gefiltefish?

Germany: Deichelweg: Visiting with Gabi and Norbert Wittmer, sharing supper at their home, we congratulated Gabi on a fine meal. “Thank you,” she said modestly. Norbert then reached out his arm and patted her on the back: “Ja! Our best horse,” he said. Taken a bit back at first, we laughed when we saw the twinkle in his eye. Apparently this was a favorite “joke” of his when guests complimented his wife. It was not Gabi’s! I’ve attempted to use the line a couple of times myself back home at our dinner table, but it usually falls flat. It’s not Cornelia’s favorite, either. Apropos the joys of translating idioms into another language, during the meal Cornelia asked if they wanted us to “knock off” the last of the salad. “Knock off?” they asked, puzzled. When we explained its meaning they laughed and enjoyed learning this new phrase. During breakfast the next morning, Norbert pointed at the platter of wursts and cheeses and proudly announced, “Let’s knock it out!” Our turn to chuckle — and another round of explanations. Oh, the idiocy of idioms in translation!