München: Kunst

Above: outside the Pinakothek der Moderne.

We had half of our weekend in Munich free, with the assignment to visit several places of cultural importance on our own. I spent most of Sunday (after a mass in the beautiful Frauen Kirche) in the Museum Brandhorst, one of the many fantastic art museums in the city. The building itself is a work of art, recently opened in 2009.

And there just so happened to be a huge exhibit of Cy Twombly, possibly my very favorite modern artist.

I fell for him two summers ago, in the San Francisco MOMA–and now, in Germany, I had the chance to visit a museum with an entire floor of his work. Here were the same odd, present colors I remembered, the same blackboards covered in fine and illegible script, the same wide reference to literature, poetry, and classical antiquity above all.

The rooms were airy, lit from above, with pale wood floors. The largest, otherwise empty except for Twombly’s gigantic canvases, featured a series of rose paintings, each with scrawled verses of poetry from Shakespeare, Dickinson, Rilke, Bachmann…

…And one had the closing lines of Eliot’s Four Quartets. Powerful stuff.

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well,
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

The Lepanto room, with Twombly’s signature ships.

More amazingness.

Anyway, one must really see the works in person to get any sort of idea of the their scope, presence, and beauty. But hopefully this gives some idea. Now I want to write an essay on the Classical influences in Twombly’s work. Wouldn’t that be fascinating to investigate?


Für Anna

Hallo Meine Schwester! Since you already stalked my Youtube page this is old hat…but look what we found playing in downtown Munich, at 11:30pm! THE musical! I restrained myself from breaking out in song.

Also, here’s a few random pictures of Ballet in Munich. I bet Roberto Bolle, or whatever his name is, dances here.

Dr. G. and I, and hopefully others, are going to see PILOBOLUS in Berlin…look them up. They come to Dartmouth every year, and are apparently fantastic (modern dance).

München: Thomas Mann

As most of you probably know, after hearing innumerable impassioned expositions and rants on the topic, I am a fan of German author Thomas Mann–born 1875, died 1955, author of 1,000-page novels about syphilis-ridden composers and crazy sanatoriums in the Alps.

And guess where he lived for some 30 years of his life? Munich, of course! As I found out, Dr. C. is also rather a Thomas Mann geek (For instance, as we were eating our enormous breakfast in the hotel lobby–smoked salmon, eggs, cream cheese, meats, fresh fruit, hot bread, coffee–he leaned over and whispered, gesturing at the loud group on the other side of the room, “Isn’t this exactly like the Magic Mountain?? And check it out, there’s the bad Russian table…..”–a give-away, for sure). Anyway, he was kind enough to take me on a Thomas Mann tour of sorts. Check it out:

Mann lived with his family on the above street from 1914 until he was forced to flee to America in 1933. The surrounding area was beautiful and quiet, all tall shady trees and paths overlooking the Isar river:

Alas, his house, now a private residence, was being restored and we weren’t able to get a view of the whole thing. Here’s one shot, however:

Here are a few of the surrounding homes, to give some idea of the neighborhood. It was all completely classy and up-scale–I had forgotten how well-off Mann was at this time, after his first novel Buddenbrooks achieved best-seller status.

And one more time…..the house is in the background, on the right.

It is easy enough to guess where we went next–Nordfriedhof (North Cemetery), the place where Mann’s most famous (and most amazing) novella Death in Venice begins. Imagine!

First here are the opening paragraphs of Death in Venice, for those unfamiliar with it…..

GUSTAVE ASCHENBACH–or von Aschenbach, as he had been known officially since his fiftieth birthday–had set out alone from his house in Prince Regent Street, Munich, for an extended walk. It was a spring afternoon in that year of grace 19–, when Europe sat upon the anxious seat beneath a menace that hung over its head for months. Aschenbach had sought the open soon after tea. He was overwrought by a morning of hard, nerve-taxing work, work which had not ceased to exact his uttermost in the way of sustained concentration, conscientiousness, and tact; and after the noon meal found himself powerless to check the onward sweep of the productive mechanism within him, that motus animi continuus in which, according to Cicero, eloquence resides. He had sought but not found relaxation in sleep–though the wear and tear upon his system had come to make a daily nap more and more imperative–and now undertook a walk, in the hope that air and exercise might send him back refreshed to a good evening’s work.

May had begun, and after weeks of cold and wet a mock summer had set in. The English Gardens, though in tenderest leaf, felt as sultry as in August and were full of vehicles and pedestrians near the city. But towards Aumeister the paths were solitary and still, and Aschenbach strolled thither, stopping awhile to watch the lively crowds in the restaurant garden with its fringe of carriages and cabs. Thence he took his homeward way outside the park and across the sunset fields. By the time he reached the North Cemetery, Nordfriedhof, however, he felt tired, and a storm was brewing above Föhring; so he waited at the stopping-place for a tram to carry him back to the city.

He found the neighbourhood quite empty. Not a wagon in sight, either on the paved Ungererstrasse, with its gleaming tramlines stretching off towards Schwabing, nor on the Föhring highway. Nothing stirred behind the hedge in the stone-mason’s yard, where crosses, monuments, and commemorative tablets made a supernumerary and untenanted graveyard opposite the real one. The mortuary chapel, a structure in Byzantine style, stood facing it, silent in the gleam of the ebbing day. Its façade was adorned with Greek crosses and tinted hieratic designs, and displayed a symmetrically arranged selection of scriptural texts in gilded letters, all of them with a bearing upon the future life,such as: “They are entering into the House of the Lord” and “May the Light Everlasting shine upon them.” Aschenbach beguiled some minutes of his waiting with reading these formulas and letting his mind’s eye lose itself in their mystical meaning. He was brought back to reality by the sight of a man standing in the portico, above the two apocalyptic beasts that guarded the staircase, and something not quite usual in this man’s appearance gave his thoughts a fresh turn.

We were in the English Gardens the previous evening, which are absolutely gorgeous. But check out the pictures below. The stone carver across the street:

The Byzantine Mortuary Chapel:

The door of the chapel facing the street:

The carved quotations Aschenbach reads:

…And the mysterious stranger Aschenbach sees leaning against it, who prompts his whole infamous journey to Venice!

Alas, I do not have red hair, and had forgotten my sun hat. Dr. C. and I both decided, however, that if we did see a shifty red-haired man with bad teeth, we were going to run.

And finally, a few pictures of the surrounding area and graveyard itself, which is just the sort of place I would want to walk if I was a disenchanted and over-worked genius author.

So yes, it was quite an afternoon. And the great, beautiful Mythos that is German art and literature became that much more real.

München: Musik

Most important things first, right? München (Munich), exponentially larger and more overwhelming than Würzburg, is truly a city of music.

We made a quick tour of the downtown area after our arrival Friday afternoon–and what do we pass first, right around the corner from the bus stop? Joseph Calleja himself (one of my favorite tenors…), rehearsing O Soave Fanciulla (my favorite Puccini duet…) for a concert Sunday night, in the beautiful outdoor Odeonsplatz. Wow.


Odeonsplatz below.

The poster for the concert.

…And now note the poster above, for the City Opera summer Ring Cycle….Siegfried opened Friday night, but was utterly sold out, alas.

More Wagner, and the opera house itself.

Look who else you can see…

A. and I walked back to Odeonsplatz Saturday night, to hear the München Philharmonic in another outdoor concert of Russian music. We were too poor to buy tickets, so we sat on a window-ledge on a side street and read our German homework and listened for free–along with a couple dozen other assorted students and young couples, who brought picnic blankets and wine to make a night of it.

The city was also full of street musicians, many of whom were absolutely fantastic. Like this group, for instance, who played some sort of crazy Vivaldi mash-up as if they were possessed by devils (in the words of Prof. G.!):


Up next: Cathedrals, Thomas Mann, and Cy Twombly!

Festung Marienberg, Würzburg

A couple more Würzburg posts before I get to München….

The whole city here is overlooked by the Festung Marienberg, high above the river and surrounded by wine farmers. The history of the castle dates all the way back to the 700s AD, when a church was built on the sight of an ancient Celtic fortification. It eventually served as the residence of Würzburg’s Fürstbischof until 1719, when it was ditched for the much-more-classy Residenz in the main city.

View of the castle from downtown Würzburg.

The entrance, under the outer wall. Once inside, past two walls, moat, and drawbridge, one had the feeling of complete security. Anna, the whole place was definitely reminiscent of something out of Lord of the Rings…

The moat, now dry, as seen from the bridge.

The main gate.

Before the bridge.

The water cisterns.

Inside the chapel.

The innermost keep, most likely the last place of defense if the castle fell.

The views over the walls of the city were breathtaking and entirely un-transferrable to cheap digital camera.

Deutsches Essen I

Würzburg is full of tiny food shops that open onto the street, from bakeries and butchers to gelati and tea. Most popular, however, seem to be Döner, which ironically are not actually German, but Turkish. The main item is a sort of very large sandwich, which is composed of lamb, veal, cacik sauce (yoghurt base with garlic, mint, dill, and cucumber), tomato, onion, lettuce, spices, and optional chili sauce. Pretty amazing, actually, and not even three Euros!



Aber was mir am wichtigsten ist…

Check it out. Der Meister selbst.

Wagner’s house was literally the first thing pointed out to us when we stepped off the bus into downtown Würzburg the first night. And then I knew I was in the right place, for sure! I had forgotten that he lived here for a short time while composing his first opera, Die Feen. Here’s the whole building:

We walk past it every morning on our way to our classroom.

There’s also another building with his name on it that we pass in the bus every time we leave the apartments…

Also eine wunderschöne Stadt, oder?

Anreise und erster Tag

Hallo hallo! Viele schöne Grüße von Deutschland! I apologize for the delay–internet is hard to come by here. K.H. and I arrived in Frankfurt at 9am Germany time, which felt like 3am. We found the rest of the group and traveled with the highspeed train (first class!) to Würzburg, in a weird mixture of exhaustion, exhilaration, and overstimulation.

The city is gorgeous. It is surrounded by wine farmers and lies on the banks of the Main river. The downtown area sits across the river from the Marienberg, a fortress built in the Middle Ages. Here is a picture of the view from the train, coming in:

And here is the place where we dined (and wined!) the first night, previously an old brewery. The restaurant was on the bottom floor, with high-backed chairs and low ceilings. One could quite easily imaging Goethe there, drinking beer and writing Faust…

Note the date the place was built on the above photo….

…And unfortunately my computer is out of battery. Much more later!  Tschüs!