Monday, November 29, 2010

Schallaburg's Terracotta Gallery

The Renaissance castle of Schallaburg, about an hour and a half west of Vienna, is known for its gardens, architecture, art exhibitions and its amazing terracotta arcades. Built in the 16th Century, these 1600 terracotta tiles were formed into an impressive gallery of characters.

I love the jester:

I thought you might also like to see some of the frescos in the same courtyard as the terracotta figurines. Lovely!

Vienna's Ho-Ho-Ho-tels

These are just a few of the many decorated hotels in Vienna. They happen to be on my path home as the sun was setting one recent afternoon. It's dark here by 4:30!

The Ring Hotel with its dramatic, theatrical-style draperies of light:

The famous Hotel Sacher opts for a simple but elegant assemblage of lighted trees:

The Grand Hotel in classic lighted garlands:

The Radisson with it's over-the-top cascades of light:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bow Wow

OK, so it's not exactly "Brown paper packages tied up with strings," but this big red bow on a shop by Vienna's Opera is sure to make an impression.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent Wreaths On Display

All over Vienna, Advent wreaths are on display or are for sale. Generally four candles adorn the wreath; one to be burned every Sunday between now and Christmas. Julius Meinl grocery store has a large wreath hanging in the stairwell:

Florists racks present an abundance of wreaths in a rainbow of colors:

More of the Amazing Chinese Balancer

I had to say more about this very entertaining street performer. If you are going to be in Vienna during the next few weeks, search him out. He was on the Graben yesterday. Be sure to bring some Euros. You are going to want to tip this marvelous man.

He pulled out eggs from his pocket and stacked them, one at a time, on a stick balanced on his nose.

Similarly, he balanced this Chinese pagoda of glasses, a bottle and decorations:

And then balanced a champagne bottle on a wooden spoon handle. Play the movie to see what happens next.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Suddenly in the Mood

There is a new street performer in town. I found him on Vienna's Graben this afternoon balancing a dozen or so bowls, a cup and a spoon on his head—all of which he tossed up with his foot. He then rotated two hoops on his leg and foot—in opposite directions, then started playing Jingle Bells on his trumpet and shaking his tambourine in time. This amazing man made us all smile and his tune, with a group of teenage girls spontaneously singing in the background, put me in the mood for that special Christmas goodwill. Start the movie and smile!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Into the Abyss

Macocha Abyss, created by the collapse of a large cave, is an amazing sight. Part of the Moravian Karst network of more than 1100 caverns and gorges, this abyss is the largest in the Czech Republic, in fact, the largest in Central Europe. It's 174 meters long, 76 meters wide and 138 meters deep. My little camera can't capture the entire gorge but if you click on the photo, perhaps you can get a sense of the scale. There is a person standing on the lower platform. He's still 92 meters from the bottom.

This view is a little to the right of the previous one. That's a long way down!

And this is still further to the right. You can start to see the large cavern opening.

Now looking a bit further down, those tiny whitish specks (click on the photo again) are people.

The view from the bottom is a bit deceptive. Those trees look much closer than they are.

Some of the debris from the cave-in:

It's a beautiful place.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Delightful Telč, Czech Republic

Telč, in the Czech Republic, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you enter Telč, you may pass this flower shop:

And go through an arched gate:

To a fabulous town square lined with Renaissance architecture:

I especially like this dramatic building with its sgraffito facade in which the plaster is scraped away to form a design. Click on the photo to get a better look.

Covered, colorful arcades join the buildings, providing shelter for shoppers.

This remarkable building appears not to have been recently restored. I love the soft colors, the lovely corner turret with its tiled roof as well as the momentary sense that I'm glimpsing history.

An ornate pump:

Judging from this sign, the Czech language looks remarkably similar to English...just add a 'y.'

I'm always impressed by the artistic expressions in the Czech Republic. Paper cutouts of buildings on the town square decorated this door:

And hay bales were turned into a bucolic vignette along the roadside:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Enjoyable Znojmo

I can't believe Znojmo, in the Czech Republic, is not better known. What a charming, fascinating place—with hotel and restaurant prices cheaper than in Prague, Cesky Krumlov or Karlovy Vary. Znojmo (the 'j' is pronounced like a 'y') is just across the Austrian border, about an hour and a half north of Vienna. The area has been growing grapes for wine for eleven centuries.

Znojmo's central square:

The Gothic Church of St. Nicholas dates back to around 1100:

The small chapel, Wenceslas Chantry, is unusual for its two stories; the upper chapel is named for St. Anne and St. Catherine while the lower one is named for St. Martin:

Znojmo's fairytale Gothic tower looks a bit like Prague's Tyn:

A residence with great windowboxes:

The Althansky Palace Hotel and Restaurant served good food at surprisingly low prices:

I like the angles of these rooftops:

The St. Nicholas Church and Wenceslas Chantry, which sits on the edge of a cliff have a heavenly aura in the thick fog:

The St. Catherine Rotunda is thought to have been built in the 1080s. It's frescoes are a national treasure. Unfortunately, it's closed in November.

Znojmo Castle overlooks the Dyje River and the Podyji National Park:

During the 14th and 15th Centuries, Znojmo's residents carved a four-story labyrinth of tunnels out of hard granite beneath their houses. Used to store wine and food as well as to provide refuge from attacking armies, there were no divisions between the storage areas because theft was not a problem. The ingenious citizens installed wells, an aqueduct, elevators, and ventilation shafts. They devised entrances the soldiers could find, positioning them for ambush or drowning and created firepits for warmth and cooking that vented out of the chimneys in their homes. When Swedish armies attacked, residents gathered their valuables and scurried into the miles of cellars. For weeks or months, smoke continued to rise through the chimneys giving the impression that the town was inhabited by ghosts.