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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Before the Big Festival

Since 1393, that is 624 years ago, the town of Bleiburg has been celebrating its economic health with the annual "Festival on the Meadow"  (Wiesenmarkt.)
It was then, that the ruling Monarch gave his permission for the town to have this party on "his" meadow. 
If my math is correct, this first festival took place fully 99 years before the discovery of America in 1492.
Two weeks prior to the commencement of the Wiesenmarkt, the so-called "Freyung" is prominently displayed on the Main Square and the town's dignitaries come to have a glass of "Met" (honey-wine)
as produced for this special occasion by Bleiburg's Sugarbaker, Mr. Gottfried Stöckl.






Cheers !


Gottfried Stöckl.
Proud Sugarbaker and Producer of 
the best Met (Honey-wine) in the country.

Their Signature Tune was Frank Sinatra's

"The Lady is a Tramp".

As the band became more and more popular, they travelled further and further afield.
Concerts in Alabama one night and in Kalamazoo the next, took their toll not only on the members of the band, but also on the instruments.
In order to preserve their music making gadgetry,  they asked a talented carpenter to build sturdy wooden containers. These they marked with the first letter of the instrument they contained:
A particularly long box held the Alpenhorn and was therefore marked with an "A".
Another box, marked with a "B" contained the "Bass Fiddle". A little thin box, marked with a "C" contained, you guessed it, the Clarinet.
The "E" box contained the most important English Horn which gave the band its wonderful sound.

The Big Day..... Carnegie Hall.... excitement all around...
The Band, coming from a concert in Los Angeles, arrived at JFK airport and waited for their instruments.  They came down the luggage ramp. The "A" Box, the "B",  then came the "Z" box with the Zither, all the "D" boxes came with the Drum set,  and then the little "C".
The important "E", however, was a no-show.
The Band members became concerned, then worried, then panic struck.
No "E", no English Horn, no wonderful distinctive sound .... no concert at Carnegie Hall, probably the end of their carrier.
After having frantically consulted with Airport staff, you cannot imagine their collective sigh of relief, when they heard over the P.A. system:
"Attention... Attention... "Delayed "E" is at ramp."

Friday, August 18, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Creation of the Animals


The Greeks did it,  so did the Romans, the Aztecs, the Mayas, and I could go on recounting the peoples who believed in more than one God. I could even argue that today's Christians, who profess to believe in "God the Father", "God the Son" and "God the Holy Ghost" are not Monotheistic.

I am here to propose the existence of a Family of Gods: 
The Father, called "Fa"
The Mother, called "Mo"
Their Twin kids, Chas, the son and Marg, the daughter.

They had just finished creating the Universe, where "Fa", of course, made all the biggies. 
"Mo" made a half hearted attempt  to fashion some mid sized ones and the twins, Chas and Marg created some Asteroids and smaller planets, such as the one, they later called "Earth."

Being Gods, these lifeless creations did not satisfy them for long and they decided to populate one of the smaller ones. They chose "Earth".
So, "Fa" created a very very big creature, with a tail, a long long nose, two vicious looking tusks and two floppy ears.
After some deliberation they accepted Chas' suggestion and called this creature "Elephant."



"Mo" thought that this Elephant was much too large and its tusks and floppy ears were threatening.
So, as a counterbalance, she went to her sewing room and fashioned a little light brown animal without any tusks or floppy ears.
Since this creature joyfully jumped from rock to rock, they called it "Klipspringer."


"Fa", like all Gods was an arrogant male and did not like to be bested by his wife.
So, he went about creating another being, not as large as the Elephant, without those threatening tusks, but, being an aggressive male God he could not help himself and gave this creation two large, twisted horns, and Captain's stripes down its flanks.
He called this creation: "Kudu" (don't ask me, why?)



"Mo" being a competitive female, said: "This is much better, but they are a bit drab,  don't you think ?
She took the original mould of this Kudu, got out her painting set and made a "Nyala"
And how she decorated this animal! Her imagination knew no bounds:
Black hoofs, tan, knee-length stockings, and, just above the knees, white/black/white hosiery.
Dark grey body, with a hint of parallel stripes, long fringe of belly hair. 
Blond set of hair along the back. A white bow tie, white upper and lower lips, a white band between alert eyes, light brown, always listening ears, and, as a sop to her husband, Fa, a pair of horns, elegantly curved with a white tip atop both.
And, while she was at it, being an efficient woman, she made three of them. 


"Fa" then got a bit angry, (Gods seemingly often do that when they are embarrased)
and he created Eagles and Vultures so they might kill and eat from the dead bodies.
It is truly astounding to what depth Gods may sink.


Two Vultures waiting for the next kill.


This one, as all vultures, has no feathers on his neck, so he may dig deep into the dead body.
(Gods really think of everything.)


High in the sky and another one sitting on top of a tree
a fish eagle looks for a victim.


Faced with this wanton mayhem, "Mo" made a little biddy birdy,
beautifully coloured.
It's such a little thing, "Marg" complained. What will it eat?
Do not worry, said "Chas" I created flies and mosquitos. 
There will be enough to eat for this 
"purple breasted roller"


Now, however, "Fa", who considered himself "The Almighty"
got really into it. Without telling "Mo" or the kids, 
he made the most aggressive animal with vicious horns and a very short temper.
Buffalo, he called it and smiled because he honestly thought 
that this was a splendid animal every other animal would fear.
( and "Fear" is what Gods are best at)



When "Fa" rested from this strenuous labour, "Mo" took the Buffalo mould, removed those , in her opinion, stupid horns, trimmed the animal down a lot and got out her "paint by numbers" set.
Unfortunately ( or fortunately) she had used most of her colours for the Nyala and the Scarlet Breasted Roller and had only enough black and white colour left.
At first Mo intended to paint the back half of this reconstructed Buffalo black and the front half white. But then she changed her mind (Goddesses are permitted to change their minds)
and she painted a white stripe and then a black one and a white one and a black one. a.s.o.
and thus, Mo created the Zebra.



Many more animals this family of Gods created and they had a good deal of fun doing this.
But one day, when everybody was sound asleep, stupid Fa ( the Chief God ) got up and made the biggest blunder of his career as a Creator.
He created Man!
And Mo wasn't there to stop him.

Bertstravels
could go on and on with this tale.



Costumes of Carinthia

Here, in Austria, each community, each valley, almost every town has its own colourful costume, called "Trachten."
Nowadays they are preserved only in "Trachten Clubs." No-one wears them on other than very special occasions.
The other day, the "Trachten Club" from the town of Villach visited us here in Bleiburg and, as usual, I snapped a few pictures.
It always helps, of course, if such a costume is worn by a pretty woman:


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Finally: "CARMEN"


Prior to the start of the performance.
Just a little more than half the seating capacity of the 'sold-out'  "Bregenz Seebühne"


The stage: Two hands and tumbling playing cards.

The faces of the playing cards are projected, and change frequently.
The size of this backdrop can be estimated by the size of the actors on the stage.
As usual, music is provided by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
and some of Europe's greatest voices sing Bizet's stunning melodies.
 's

Unfortunately, one hour into the performance, 
rain came pouring down in such torrents
that the Opera had to be stopped.
It poured all night long and most of the next day.
We drove all the way home through a curtain of falling rain, 
along mountain passes with untold hairpin turns,
completing the approximately 600 km
trip in one go.

Onward and upward to 'Carmen'