Friday, 30 May 2014

Lederhosen Time

Allô Österreich, here we come. For the next 2 weeks I will take a blog vacation, I decided to not take my computer with me to Europe, one less thing to carry. You will have to exercise patience and wait for all the gossip and impressions of my travel for when I return.

Our traveling companion this time is Juan who is from Havana, Cuba and is related to a one arm Bartender who knew Hemingway. I do not ask questions, not polite.

Posing here with 2 must read books.

 Juan the Cuban Gnome

and our other traveling companion Otto says Auf Wiedersehen!

Salzburg Music Programme

Well on Sunday we fly to Europe. In Salzburg we will be at the Music Festival, Pfingstfestspeile this year the programme chosen by Festival Director Cecilia Bartoli is dominated by works of Gioachino Rossini. It is a bit like when we would travel from Rome to Pesaro on the Adriatic, Rossini's Birth place for the Annual August Festival of his works.

We will see the following; La Cenerentola by Rossini at the Haus für Mozart theatre.

Stabat Mater by Rossini at the Grosses Festspielhaus

Petite Messe Solennelle by Rossini at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal

Liedmatinee with Joyce DiDonato at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal, who will sing a program by various composers, Vivaldi, Fauré, Rossini, Schubert, Schumann, Head and Hahn.

and Otello by Rossini at the Grosses Festspeilhaus.

We also plan to visit the Lake district around Salzburg and maybe do a bit of shopping. Very much looking forward to this beautiful Festival.

Mozarteum Grosser Saal c. 1900

Haus für Mozart c.1960 seen from the stage area. One of the largest concert halls in Europe.

In front of the Festspeilhaus

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Munich, Bavaria

In Italian Munich is known as Monaco di Bavaria not to be confused with the other Monaco the Principality. Munich is where we will spend our first night after arriving from Canada.

A city that is fascinating and has so much to offer, we have been to Munich in summer and winter. The Christmas Market is simply great and full of food and very good street food Bavarian style.

From Munich you are almost at the border with Austria and we will take the train to Salzburg.

On this trip I decided I will not blog and will simply make notes of things I wish to blog later. Am not bringing my computer, too heavy and too cumbersome, one less thing to worry about.

Meissen, Saxony

Meissen is world renowned for its Porcelain. The famous symbol of the city, the two blue swords on a white background is synonymous with elegant table ware. To this day the Meissen trademark is a symbol of quality for collectors and investors in rare porcelain pieces.

We plan to travel from Dresden by boat down the Elba River a distance of 2 hours to Meissen to visit the city.

From the 13th century porcelain was imported from China at very great cost by Kings and Princes and it became a game of showing off elaborate and delicate vases, plates and other objects and having large collections on display. The Prince Elector of Saxony was amongst many in Europe who collected but also had alchemists working at finding out the secret of how to make fine porcelain. After 500 years of research the secret was finally revealed and the first European Porcelain manufacture was established in 1710 in the Albrechtsburg Castle in Meissen where for 300 years now fine porcelain has been produced. Once the exclusive domain of Royalty, porcelain became gradually available to the merchant class and the bourgeoisie.

Meissen Couture 1710, web site

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

up coming trip Munich, Salzburg and Dresden-Meissen

So we are counting the days for our annual trip to Europe. Yesterday I was looking at YouTube for clips on Dresden, the last time we were there was 14 years ago. Since 1989 the City which is the Capital of Saxony was in Eastern Germany and the Communists did little in terms of re-building, meaning that the city was left pretty much as it was after the fire-bombing by the British in February 1945.
The Zwinger Palace in Dresden, built 1719.  

The Dresden Semper Opera House, built in 1838 by Gottfried Semper

Dresden's 18th century panorama is well known because of the paintings of Canaletto. I am looking forward to our visit this year to see what has been completed and how the museums have been re-organised. The Zwinger Palace was still under renovation and closed in 1999, now it is re-open and has wonderful collections, the Residence Palace is also now completely re-built and it too has beautiful art work and many curiosities like the gem collection of August the Strong.

What I am hoping to see is the Otto Dix exhibition which highlights his work from 1914-1932. I am currently working at the exhibit of the Canadian War Museum, entitled Transformations and we have an exhibit on him and his life work from 1905 to 1969. The art work comes from various museums in Germany and Liechtenstein, one work Der Krieg (the war) we only have a photo. It is an altar piece triptych and was made in the period between 1919-1932. It was recently restored and is in the Galerie Neue Meister of the Staatlichen Kunstsammlugen in the Albertinum in Dresden.

I hope to see more of his works so to enhance my knowledge of him and get a better appreciation for the exhibit we have here in Ottawa in commemoration of the start of the Great War.

In Dresden also we will visit the FrauenKirche (church of our Lady) built in 1726 by George Bähr, a Lutheran church where Martin Luther preached, it was destroyed in the fire bombing of Dresden in 1945. Through public subscription this church measuring 93 meters in height was rebuilt between 1994 and 2005.  This church had originally been built by the people of Dresden in response and in protest to the building of a Roman Catholic Cathedral by August II the Strong who had accepted the Crown of Poland and in doing so converted from Protestantism to Catholic Faith.  

 ruins of the Frauen Kirche 1980's

 FrauenKirche re-built 2006

FrauenKirche inside view today

Friday, 23 May 2014

HAPPY in Sicilia or Italia

Lately I have been thinking of Palermo and how much I enjoyed traveling in Sicily. Then I saw this on YouTube, the song Happy in Catania that city which is built on the slope of Mount Etna an active volcano which dominates the whole area. Catania is an old city, founded by Greek settlers from the Island of Naxos 2800 years ago. The symbol of the City is the elephant named Liotru. I remember what a beautiful city it was, the wines and the food, what I would call new Sicilian cuisine just great. Well worth visiting and then how about Siracusa.

Mount Etna and Catania


Siracusa another Sicilian City founded by Greek settlers from Corinth 2700 years ago. Cicero use to say that it was the most beautiful of Greek cities. The Temple of Athena built 2400 years ago is today the Cathedral of the city. Also in Siracusa is the famous Greek theatre built 2300 years ago where every summer a festival of ancient Greek plays take place.

The ancient Greek amphitheatre of Siracusa seats 20,000 spectators.

Siracusa Piazza Maggiore

Monday, 19 May 2014

Witness (part two)

In part one I wrote about the painting exhibit called Transformations at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. It is dedicated to a comparison of two men's views, War artists, on the First World War, AY Jackson and Otto Dix.

The other exhibit running now at the Canadian War Museum is WITNESS. It is a different exhibit made up of large canvases and small sketches, all done by soldier-artists, many of the smaller works was done for family back home in Canada to illustrate often in a comic fashion life in the trenches. At the time the only means of communication with Canada was by postal service and newspapers carried the news of the day, but in rural Canada the only people who read the newspapers were the well educated, so the letters and littles sketches from the Western Front were the only means of keeping the family informed of what was going on. Soldiers were careful to not alarm their parents or siblings, so the sketches are in general amusing or show mundane aspects of life. Some are quite beautiful and they are meant as much as a memento as information on what life was like, very valuable today, 100 years later to help us understand the life of Canadians at the Front.  There is often a quiet dignity about them, values were different, maybe even sometime romantic in that early XX th century way. We have their names, Captain George Sharp, Thurston Topham, Alan Beddoe who in 1965 worked with Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson on the final design of the new Canadian Flag, and many others.

John McQueen Moyes, Cleaning up,preparing for duty, 13th Battalion, Royal Canadian Highlanders

The larger canvases some of them are giant 4 X 5 meters were first executed as small sketches by artists of the Canadian War Memorial Fund, people like Alfred Munnings, Alfred Bastien, C.W. Jefferys, David Milnes, Daniel Sherrin, S.Chatwood Burton, Arthur Lismer, Arthur Nantel, Frederick Varley and many others. Once back in London they would go on to transfer the sketches and notes to large oil canvases we see today.

Witness as the name implies is a live archival record of the war done by eye-witnesses, participants in those battles. The art is more poignant because some of the soldier-artists did not make it back, others were gravely wounded. This is their legacy as Canadians.

Gyrth Russell, White Chateau, Liévin 

Canadian soldiers repairing railway tracks surrounded by the corpses of dead German soldiers.
by Innes Meo 

Our visitors to both exhibits have been numerous, many are families, some veterans, students or adults. There is a lot of interests and questions, unfortunately I find that the Second World War (1939-1945) often overshadows the First World War. People have better memories of more recent events and the Great War is passing into history with no one alive to speak about it. Context has to be given, history explained, 100 years is far away for too many people and their knowledge of history is sketchy at best. Though many leave far better informed afterwards with a better appreciation for the events. Some visitors had a great uncle who participated and they recall stories told. With the average age of Veterans of the Second World War around 90 years of age now, it won't be long before that conflict also pass into distant memory. Luckily we still have some volunteers at the CWM who served in that conflict and they are our eyewitness. They are often useful because they remember family members talking to them about events of the Great War and can relate stories. 

The War Art Program continues today and is now under the hospices of the Government of Canada, we no longer have the spontaneous sketching and painting we saw with the Canadian War Memorial Fund of 1914-1918.  The Government now wants purpose driven art serving a political aim, it can be a little stale and no criticism can be implied or suggested as was the case in the past when artists painted what they saw, despite the fact that the government of Sir Robert Borden tried to suppress it afterwards.  If you have a chance to come and visit the CWM in Ottawa this summer please do, the shows run until 21 September.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Transformations 1914-2014

I started a few weeks ago to work at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Capitale, as an interpreter for the exhibit of paintings of the Canadian War Memorial Fund of Max Aitken Lord Beaverbrook.

Lord Beaverbrook who was the first Press Baron in London was immensely wealthy, a Canadian from New Brunswick, he moved to London and was elected to Parliament and became a Minister in the British Government. Canadians could do that then, since we were British Subjects and part of the Empire.

When the Great War started in August 1914, Canada was automatically at war and 10% of our population went to war some 650,000 men. We also produced the ammunition for Britain and for ourselves and supplied Britain with millions of tons of food to avoid famine in the British Isles.

Canadian Soldier called a Tommy, on his shoulder a red patch and a blue half moon, insignia indicating he was a Canadian Army soldier 14th Battalion, also on his sleeve a yellow bar indicating he was wounded in action. This poster was designed by Gunner Ross Wiggs of Montreal. In 1969 Wiggs described this cartoon as the humorous side of the Great War.

This enormous Canadian contribution needed to be remembered and so Lord Beaverbrook took it upon himself to set up a group of 116 artists who would be on the battlefields of the Western Front (Belgium-French border) to document the Canadian soldiers at war. Some 400 paintings were produced and they are now today at the National Gallery of Canada and at the Canadian War Museum. It is worth noting that the Government of Sir Robert Borden was not at all interested in documenting what Canadians were doing in Europe.

My job is to help visitors to the exhibit understand what they are looking at, explain who the painters were and how they got involved with the program, I also have to explain the different schools of painting and the evolution painters went through as part of their experience of the horrors of the Front. Something difficult for us to understand one hundred years later.

One exhibit (the other is called Witness, I will write about it later) Transformations features two artists of very different character and origins, one is Alexander Young Jackson better known as AY Jackson of the Group of Seven Fame, the other is the famous German Artist of the XXth Century Otto Dix. The two men were very different, Jackson was from Montreal and spent his life painting, at first he went to Europe, France and Italy to study the European style of painting and many of his landscapes were then in the Impressionist style favoured by Claude Monet.

Otto Dix was from Gera a small town near Dresden in Saxony. Born in a poor worker family, Dix loved the countryside and was troubled by the rapid changes brought upon by industrialisation. He was fascinated by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, he was also influenced by modern artist like Klimt, Van Gogh. By 1913 he was following the Futurist and Expressionist movements in painting, Ludwig Meidner with his dramatic apocalyptic paintings was a source of inspiration.

Of the two painters I find Dix far more complex than Jackson. There is a certain maturity in his paintings and his thinking totally lacking in Jackson who was painting, charming pictures to use his own words on his work of the period between 1882-1914.

Dix sought to depict the transformation of society through the violence done to the Earth and the countryside around him and equated this to the violence done to women. Mother Earth, women, regeneration, life death cycle is present in his paintings and sketches. Did Otto Dix oppose the war or the motives of going to war, that is not clear, he did say that he joined the German Army to experience death at a close range. Dix at age 22 was put in charge of a machine gun which at the time was a brand new weapon and could with its spray of bullets kill hundreds of men in a few minutes.

From 1914 onwards we see how his battlefield experience has affected-transformed him. He wants to believe in regeneration of life. Whereas Jackson who joined the Canadian Army will fight on the Front but is injured in 1915 convalescing in London he meets with Lord Beaverbrook who offers him the opportunity of returning to the Front not as a soldier but as an artist. Jackson will also meet with Paul Nash and will change gradually his style of painting to a more Surrealist and Symbolist Style leaving behind the earlier Impressionist style he followed. However Jackson made clear that he would not paint like Lismer or Varley depicting the horrors of war. He preferred to do landscapes trying to convey a message of desolation and emptiness created by the bombardment and battles.

Jackson presents a reflection on violence and on societies at war with each other, a more subtle approach to how he viewed the Great War. The landscapes shows trees like a chorus of Greek mourners, there is something terribly disturbing about the skeletons of trees where you should see green fields covered in flowers with great leafy trees, you see emptiness thus accurately portraying the violence of this first industrial war. In a sense I prefer the work of Canadian artist Frederick Varley 1881-1969 or Arthur Lismer 1885-1969 who have no such reticence to show things as they were and ask through their paintings direct often aggressive questions of the viewer. They also reflect as the years wore on the anger in Canada of Canadians who by 1918 wanted to know what this war was all about. Canada had 66,000 war dead and 175,000 gravely wounded, a very high social cost for a country with a population of only 7 million people at the time. In fact Canada had more war dead than the USA who joined the war in early 1918.

After the war both Jackson and Dix return home. AY Jackson is now an established artists and will help create the Group of Seven which will be active in Canada from 1919 to 1935, the McMichael Collection in Kleinburg north of Toronto is the repository of their collective work. In this sense Canada owes Lord Beaverbrook an immense debt, because of his idea to finance and promote Canadian artists, he helped Canadian painters and other artists to come of age and gain valuable experience which propelled forward Canadian art scene.

Dix not so lucky returns to a broken country, the German Empire has collapsed, the Kaiser left for exile in Holland, the economy is gripped by hipper inflation, millions of veterans are without money or work, many are horribly disfigured and maimed. On the German Art scene a new movement DaDaist or painting of the absurd is all the rage, Germans are searching for a way out in a climate of near Civil War. This is where the National Socialist Ideology will take root gradually, promising work, a stable economy, industrial development and to make Germany a great country again. The promise of work and social reform is seductive and crafted carefully by Hitler and the men around him. He promises the reform of Socialism without the excesses of Communism now all too apparent in Russia. Dix like many German artists will resist the Siren call of the Nazi Party. He becomes a professor at the Art Academy of Dresden a post he will occupy until 1933. As he becomes more and more famous he is setting himself up as a known opponent of Nazism and the ideology which sought to impose on German society one artistic style and one school of thought on Culture, Education, etc.

Otto Dix, Shell burst in battle,  

Things are not much better in Canada in 1919, socialist causes and Trade Unions are now everywhere, there is lack of work and inflation. Veterans are often left to fend for themselves or families are asked to care for them. The Borden Government is unable to answer the social demands  to rapidly changing country, also transformed by the Great War. The great Winnipeg General Strike will happen in May 1919. The Government of Sir Robert Borden panics fearing Bolchevism and orders the RCMP to shoot on the strikers. Canadians are asking what was this war all about and general dissatisfaction grips the Country. Borden a man of another age is completely overwhelmed by this new Canada, the old order he knew of the ruling class who dominated national discourse was gone.

The great Canadian War Memorial collection of Lord Beaverbrook is a burden for the Borden government who does not know what to do with 400 paintings depicting Canadians at war. Borden does not like them and tells his wife in a letter. They are put in the care of the National Gallery in a storage facility where they will remain for 90 years. The Museum to house them will never be built despite Lord Beaverbrook providing plans and drawings.

Despite this important artistic legacy Canadians will not know about their experience and officially we are told of the British, French and American contribution as if ours was not that important. Transformations the exhibit wants to set the tone and correct perceptions so that the Canadian public can see what our ancestors did and how the Great War forever changed Canada from a social point of view from rural to urban, women by the thousands joining the workforce giving them a new role and a new voice politically with the introduction of the vote in 1917 and for Canada political independence as a country.

This citation from Paul Nash who influenced the work of AY Jackson is appropriate for the Exhibit Transformations.
He wrote in a letter to his wife in November 1917; I am no longer an artist interested and curious, I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls.

A.Y. Jackson,  A Copse, evening 1918.  Beaverbrook Canadian War Art Collection.  

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Canada is a Constitutional Democracy since 1982.

MONTREAL — Recent comments by the Harper government concerning the Supreme Court of Canada have garnered much criticism. The Council of Canadian Law Deans has decried the government's "impugning the integrity of the Chief Justice and the independence of the Supreme Court," while 11 former Canadian Bar Association presidents have denounced "disrespect by the executive branch for the judicial branch of our constitutional democracy."
While the specifics of l'affaire Nadon add up to a veritable judicial-appointments whodunit, perhaps it is worthwhile to appreciate the real issue in Harper vs. the Court.
The government has thus far maligned Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, casting aspersions that she made an "inappropriate and inadvisable" phone call. And it has openly criticized court rulings, even impugning the court's timing. The prime minister has called the Senate reference "a decision that the vast majority of Canadians will be very disappointed with," while Justice Minister Peter MacKay has charged that "it was not this government that decided to table (the Marc Nadon reference) in the middle of the Quebec election."
In disparaging the high court, the Conservatives ignore three inconvenient truths. First, the prime minister appointed the majority of current Supreme Court justices. Secondly, the Conservative government itself asked the court to pronounce in the Senate and Nadon references. Thirdly, and most importantly, Canadian law and policy — and the roles of the courts and Parliament — have changed in the last 30 years, and dramatically so, with the advent of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Under the Charter, Canada has moved from being a parliamentary democracy to being a constitutional democracy. Courts have moved from being the arbiters of legal federalism — whether the matter is federal or provincial — to being guardians of our constitutional rights, not because the courts usurped Parliament's authority but because Parliament, on behalf of the Canadian people, gave them that power in 1982. Individuals, meanwhile, have moved from being the objects of rights to being subjects of rights, with rights and remedies that were unavailable in pre-Charter law.
This is not to suggest there were no rights in Canada prior to the Charter's enactment. Indeed, the rule of law, common law, statutory protections and the like did exist. Yet, pre-Charter life and law often tell a disturbing narrative of discrimination against, and marginalization of, vulnerable groups, including discrimination against women, aboriginal people, the disabled, immigrants and refugees, racial and religious minorities, gays and lesbians and others.
Enshrining our rights in the Charter provided an additional check on the authority of Parliament, thereby limiting its actions. Our courts ensure that acts of Parliament respect these fundamental rights and freedoms.
A healthy democracy has disagreement; and indeed freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Charter. Yet, critique of the court as an institution — or maligning its members — not only runs the risk of bringing the court into disrepute, which may in fact be the objective, but ends up bringing critics into disrepute as well, and harming us all.
When I asked the minister of justice, "Why malign the chief justice?" and "Why consult the nation's highest jurist if the government did not value her counsel and advice?", the response was: "Mr. Speaker, I would not be surprised at all if there were times on occasion when the member, as a former justice minister himself, did not agree with what a judgment might have been."
There is a difference between disagreeing with and disparaging the judiciary — between seeing one's role as minister of justice as having responsibility for the promotion and protection of the independence and integrity of the Supreme Court and the judiciary, and being injurious to its role and reputation.
Regrettably, attacking unfavourable court decisions and those who make them is becoming modus operandi for the Conservative government. Instead of focusing on who or what made a decision, the government should look to why these decisions are being made. Invariably, the answer is found in the Constitution or Charter.
The solution, simply enough, is to accept and welcome these legal instruments — and accordingly respect and defend them to the fullest extent.
Irwin Cotler is the Liberal member of Parliament for Mount Royal riding, and a former federal justice minister and attorney general. He is an emeritus professor of law at McGill University.

16 days to go.

Well in just 2 weeks we are flying to Frankfurt and then by train to Salzburg via Munich. On the return leg we will visit Dresden, we were in the capital of Saxony some 14 years ago.

Looking forward to the Music Festival in Salzburg an intensive 5 days of music.

The theme of this year's Festival Ball is Cenerentola (Cendrillon). Hoping for good weather.

On our return we will visit Dresden which is completing a re-construction program started in the 1990's. Dresden was the Royal Capital of the Kingdom of Saxony until 1918. The city was destroyed in one night of aerial fire bombing by the British on 14 February 1945.

This evening I was listening to RTBF (Belgian radio 3) from Brussels and they had a fascinating program on J.S. Bach which reminded that we had visited that other city in Saxony, Liepzig some 15 years ago. Liepzig is a university town since the Renaissance and many famous German musicians and philosophers are associated with the city, Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Gottfried Liebniz, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Clara Schumann, Richard Wagner, J.S. Bach to name a few. There is also the famous Gewandhaus Orchstra and the Choir of St-Thomas Church. Today it is known as the most hip city in Germany.

Liepzig had been in Imperial times the seat of the great Court House of the German Empire, this role was lost after 1945 when Germany was divided in two and Liepzig fell into the Soviet sphere. In 2000 once again Liepzig became the seat of the High Federal Court of the German Republic.

The highlight of our visit was the St-Thomas Church where J.S.Bach worked most of his life, composing every week for the Sunday service a piece of music to accompany the liturgy.

He is buried in the Church in front of the main Altar and the organ he played is still in working order. We heard it that day as the Church organist was practising.

The tomb of J.S.Bach in the choir of St-Thomas Church

Bach composed weekly not only for St-Thomas but for other churches in the City like St-Nicholas.
He also composed music commissioned for a special day, a wedding, a feast, or some other important function. All this to say he was a busy man and despite all the work during his lifetime he was seen as a master composer but nothing else. His fame will come much later after his death.

Not all of his works survived, but we do have a large body of his work for our appreciation. In total to this day we know of 1128 musical works of all kinds. The latest to be discovered in 2008 was Cantata Bwv 1128- Wo Gott der Herr inch bei uns hält.

Also in Liepzig the famous tavern Auerbach's Keller where Dr. Faust met the Devil at the entrance a bronze statue of the characters stands. 

This is the site of the story written by Goethe and the first place Mephistopheles and Faust will visit in their travels. The Auerbach's Keller has been a restaurant and beer hall since 1438 making it one of the oldest restaurant in Liepzig. It was popular with students and maybe this is where Goethe got his inspiration the devil's work is often the result of excessive drink, something students often experience.

The original owner was Dr. Heinrich Stromer, Rector of the University of Liepzig and personal physician of the Prince-Elector of Saxony received the permission from his patron to establish this drinking hall. His students called him Dr. Auerbach after his birthplace Auerbach in the Upper Palatinate region of Germany. 

Liepzig is also famous for the battle of the Nations which took place in 1813 around Liepzig when all the Princes of Europe gathered their armies half a million men in all, in a Confederation against Napoleon who was seen as a scourge. 

A gigantic monument mausoleum stands outside the city in the middle of what was the battlefield in memory of the 100,000 dead from the battle which created the condition for the first downfall of Napoleon and his exile to the Isle of Elba. This monument was built through public subscription between 1898 and 1913. The architect was Bruno Schmitz and Clemens Thieme oversaw the project the gigantic sculptures outside and inside of soldiers in mourning was the work of Christian Behrens and Franz Metzner.  It is said that the acoustics of the Crypt are excellent and annual concerts are held inside. 

Finally Liepzig is the city of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and choirs whose reputation is well known, located on Augustusplatz.

The earliest roots of the orchestra can be traced back to 1479. Through the ages the Gewandhaus orchestra highlighted great musicians and their compositions but also was the gathering place where 
local music could be performed.  Many great musicians and composers came to Liepzig, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Wagner  and Brahms often premiering new pieces they had composed.  Other great conductors took the baton of the Gewandhaus Orchestra like Furthwangler, Bruno Walter, others conducted their own works, Richard Strauss, Anton Bruckner, Edvard Grieg.

During the Second World War the Gewandhaus was totally destroyed and we will have to wait until 1981 to see Kurt Masur mastermind a project to have a New Gewandhaus built. Today the program continues to be symphonic, operatic and sacred repertoire, since 2005 the Musical Director is Riccardo Chailly.

Liepzig might not be on the usual map itinerary of a tour in Europe but it is well worth a visit, so rich it is in culture and beautiful sights to see. 


Sunday, 11 May 2014

Tulips and gardens

This is the first weekend of the Tulip Festival in Ottawa a tradition which was started many decades ago when the Queen of the Netherlands, Juliana in recognition for the protection given to her and the Royal Family during the Second World War gave a generous gift of Tulip bulbs to the Capital.

HRH Alexander Lord Athlone, Governor General of Canada

Her family lived in Ottawa at Stornoway in Rockcliffe Park. They arrived by boat at Montreal and then took the train to Montebello where HRH the Governor General Sir Alexander Frederick Augustus Prince of Teck, Lord Athlone met them to escort them to Ottawa. Princess Magriet of the Netherlands was born in Ottawa in 1943 at the Civic Hospital. So this Tulip Festival is forever tied to Holland and Canada and the Royal Dutch Family.

HRH Princess Magriet of the Netherlands, she is known as Canada's Princess.

The tulip displays around the Capital are impressive, Dow's Lake, the gardens behind the Chateau Laurier,  along the Rideau Canal on Queen Elizabeth Drive and along commercial streets like Bank street, all very colourful. 

 This year we have these miniature Turkish Sultan Tulips by the thousands on the banks of the Rideau Canal in front of our house.

 They are quite small, about the size of an index finger 

 Other beds of tulips along the Canal by our house.
A riot of colours.

Now more photos but from Dow's Lake, an artificial lake created 180 years ago when the Royal engineers flooded what was a gigantic swamp below Hog's back Falls.

 The park around the lake is quite beautiful in all Seasons

 The real Estate is also beautiful, stately homes with prices to match, there is a whole neighbourhood around Dow's Lake which stretches down for kilometres on the Queen Elizabeth Drive.

On the other side of the Lake is the Arboretum which rare trees, it is part of the larger Experimental Farm which is an enormous area in the centre of the city.

 There are several giant topiary at Dow's Lake

 Daffodil's compliment the grounds

 Also dozens of papier maché tulips hand painted by various artists on a theme of their choosing

Well worth a visit to see so many beautiful flowers 

So today it was our turn to do our little garden, on our balcony. We went to Ritchie Feed and Seed a venerable company in Ottawa for I do not know how many decades with a solid reputation for all things garden, plants, flowers and seeds on Windmill Road at Cyrville Road.

We looked around and found some Regal Geranium a type of geranium I had never seen before quite different. We also got German Ivy and Colius and a hanging basket but I cannot remember the name of the plant though the flower is a lovely red. There is also another type of ivy with a beautiful small white flower. 

The regal geranium some are a dark blood red and the other plants are a white pink and violet colour. The leaf is large and flat. 

We also put up a white trellis, so we are ready to entertain.

Regal geranium 

On one of the first warm days of the Spring-Summer 2014