Glimpses #9: Germany, Italy, Switzerland

September 15, 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. The introduction and first two “Glimpses” are in the Blog uploaded on October 2, 2016

Germany: Cologne: While visiting a distinguished photographer at his sumptuous apartment, the walls covered with photographs of famous people and places covering who knows how many decades, we approach the elderly gentleman seated in his wheelchair as our introductory remarks are translated by a serious-faced woman, too young to be his wife, perhaps his attendant. The meeting had been arranged by the director of Amerika Haus, a cultural arm of the U.S. Government at which I had recently lectured on a book I had written about the Cologne-based etcher/painter Heinrich J. Jarczyk. The very formal introductions completed, Cornelia casually asked if we could take a photo. Astonished glances of consternation were quickly and silently exchanged between the famous photographer and his attendant. A photo? Within moments we had quickly realized the misunderstanding. Our request was interpreted as our taking one of his photographs from his walls and the agitation perhaps on deciding which one to give up to these upstart American visitors! When Cornelia held up her camera, however, smiles and sighs of relief suddenly lightened the room and the situation — ah, the joys of bumbling along in a foreign country.

Italy: Siena: Treated to the lauded Italian sense of style in the tiny, front show-window of a shoe store: a single shoe atop a piece of drapery folded just so. (There is a European saying: “The French, with their logic, should think of it; the Italians, with their style, should design it; the Germans, with their sense of order, should build It.”). Siena is a beautiful little city, full of beautiful women (I never saw so many in one place!), many with high heels and all their elegant finery zipping along on tiny Vespas.

Switzerland: Berne: Friday evening and we seek out a synagogue to see if we can attend services. Two exotic/ commonplace surprises: Cornelia had to sit in a separate location high up in a balcony at the rear, and the strange sense of familiarity as the German-speaking rabbi switched to the same ancient Hebrew prayers we hear at home.

Italy: Venice: On the way back to the train station, crossing over the Rialto Bridge with Gabi and Norbert — the setting sun off to our left just as we reached its crest. Lovely! (Note: Gaby and Norbert Witmer, friends who live in Deichelweg outside of Munich and whom we met through the Jarczyks; we took many trips with them through southern Germany and northern Italy).

 

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Glimpses #2: Belgium, Germany

October 14, 2016

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.. The introduction and first two “Glimpses” are in the Blog uploaded on October 2, 2016

rjs_at_dais

Belgium: Leuven: Walking off nervousness before I have to deliver a paper at an international conference hosted by KADOC at the Catholic University, I pass through the remnants of a gate in a stone wall on the town’s outskirts. How many walled towns does Europe contain? Was this one raised by the Franks who founded Leuven? Or, as so many seem to be, by the Romans? Why do we still feel we need walls? We’ve only replaced stone with ideologies.

The Dom in Cologne seen from the train

The Dom in Cologne seen from the train

Germany: Paris, to Cologne, Germany: We arrive at the train station at night after leaving Isabelle and Bertrand. Our first view of Cologne: The Dom lit up in bluish lights: an unforgettable, fantastic wedding cake fashioned over the years out of durable stone! And to think that during WWII we nearly bombed it into rubble! (Note: Isabelle and Bertrand Azema, a couple from France that we met in NYS while Bertrand worked at IBM and whom we visited in France).

This is a detail of the Dionysus Mosaic found at the Roman-German Museum in Cologne Germany

This is a detail of the Dionysus Mosaic found at the Roman-German Museum in Cologne Germany

This is a detail of the Dionysus Mosaic found at the Roman-German Museum in Cologne Germany

This is a detail of the Dionysus Mosaic found at the Roman-German Museum in Cologne Germany

Germany: Cologne: I discovered that this city’s name comes from the word ‘colony’ and was the northernmost settlement of the Romans on the Rhine River. A curious note: during WWII when the U.S. bombed this city, most all of it (97%) was razed, though they tried not to destroy its beautiful Dom. After cleaning up after the war, the Germans discovered that the bombs had unearthed long-buried remnants of the Roman presence: an almost wholly preserved mosaic floor, glass artifacts, chariot wheels and parts, etc. All now preserved in a Roman Museum nearby the Dom. What lies beneath Rome? And then?


Visiting Germany — a short Overview

June 12, 2010

June, 2010

By RAYMOND J. STEINER

ALTHOUGH MORE WILL be coming later — reviews of two shows (Max Lazarus in Trier and Heinrich J. Jarczyk in Konigswinter) — I feel I ought to unload some of the images and memories of my trip before they are forever lost to a memory that grows more unreliable every day. Our flight from JFK to Düsseldorf by Air Berlin was uneventful, the journey a bit cramped for the seven or so hours of travel but the attendants pleasant and accommodating. At Düsseldorf, we were met by Heinrich Jarczyk and his wife Christiane who immediately whisked us away to their home just outside of Cologne in Bergisch Gladbach. There we freshened up, caught up on new and old news, enjoying a cold beer on their terrace overlooking a “homey” view of the neighboring backyards, all sporting well-kept lawns and gardens already in full bloom with spring flowers.

Jörg Iwan, Jacky Sparkowsky, Cornelia Seckel, Raymond J. Steiner on the terrace of Castle Reichsburg in Cochem, Germany

Jörg Iwan, Jacky Sparkowsky, Cornelia Seckel, Raymond J. Steiner on the terrace of Castle Reichsburg in Cochem, Germany

During our stay with the Jarczyk’s, Heinz and I went into Cologne — always a fascinating city for me, my many visits always seeming to be too brief, the intervals too far apart. We went to the Wallraf-Richartz Museum where we saw a show of landscapes by Max Lieberman, Max Slevogt and Lovis Corinth. It is always an informative session to visit a museum with Jarczyk — who is well-versed in both history and art. During our viewing of the landscape paintings, we could discuss our favorites, point out our likes and dislikes, in the end often in full agreement as to the best work of each of the artists. We also learned from a wall-placard that Corinth, a follower of the post-impressionist artists, declared “realist” painters “Shtümpers” — i.e. “bunglers”. As we read, we looked at each other and almost said simultaneously, “So, now I know what kind of painter I am!” A good laugh and then on to an outdoor café, which was on a street facing the Cathedral. I still recall my first glimpse of the “Dom”, bathed in light when we arrived in the evening by train from Paris, now over twenty years ago. Largely untouched by our bombers during WWII, the Cathedral stands as an enduring testament to mankind’s almost super-human efforts to please the Creator…it is, in brief, a very beautiful structure. I was a bit saddened to see, however, that the large, paved area in front of the imposing front steps and façade is now filled not only with tourists but also by a noisy bunch of skate-boarders, whose antics threaten passers-by with bodily injury as well as several mimes begging attention and whatever coins might be dropped in a nearby box — at least the mimes were silent!

Our next adventure began when our friends and oft-time fellow-travelers Jacky Sparkowsky and Jörg Iwan of Berlin came to pick us up for a five-day exploratory trip of the Mosel River. Famous for its vineyards that border the river — and its Riesling grape — we had hours of wine-drinking, sight-seeing, and conversation over our meals. We split up our time between two hotels — one in Cochem, the second in Bernkastel — from which we made forays both up and down the river, visiting small towns nestled into hillsides, almost completely overtaken by vineyards that were just beginning to fruit. Our main purpose was to seek out cozy restaurants, friendly “weinstuben” (wine-bars) and interesting sites — which, of course, included castles, historic places, and Roman ruins. Our final destination was Trier — believed to be the oldest city in Germany — home of Constantine (eventual founder of Constantinople and largely known as the disseminator of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire) and site of the remnants of Celtic, Roman and, naturally, of early German civilizations. Though generally thought to be owed to the Romans, the existence of the grapevine in the region may have been already brought to the Mosel banks by the Celts — in any event, the grape and its products dominate the region, very nearly every square foot of every possible hillside that could be cleared given over to its cultivation.

Thus far our travels, and now we are returned to Bergisch Gladbach, taking a small breather before we go to Konigswinter on Sunday to see Jarczyk’s exhibition at Haus Schlesien.

More later….