Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The magic of Hundertwasser!

We are home in London again and I started back at work today.  We had an 'Inset' Day today...pupil free in Aussie language.  Today we had some training on a reading programme called SRS 'Sound Reading System'.  It is a phonetics based programme where they say the ONLY way to teach reading is phonetics - always wary of ONLY way programmes, but I will hold judgement for the moment. Anyway I promised I would get back to telling you all more about our holiday in Europe so back to Vienna we go!

As we were driving in to Vienna I spotted an amazing building with this tower. 

I snapped the photo and felt a bit dissapointed because I had missed any images of the wonderful building it was attached to and our chances of finding our way back there and of finding out about the building had to be slim...right? 

When we got to the hotel we were given a guide book and I flicked through it.  I became very excited because there was an advertisement for the Hundertwasser Village.  My friend in Australia, Coralie, teaches her Year 8 art classes about Hundertwasser and I have always really admired the work the students have produced in the school's art exhibitions.  They have invariably been my favourite part of the exhibition time and time again.  I never knew much about him, but our first day in Vienna was spent visiting the Hundertwasser House and Village and what a treat that was and what a learning experience for me!

Hundertwasser was an architect and artist.  He was inspired by Gaudi (very obvious!) and was quite out there I guess for his time!  I'll just add some images so you can make your own judgements!

 Opposite the village was this housing block

Inside the village

This staircase was gorgeous - he didn't believe in straight lines in architecture - or even floor surfaces!

A view of the shop area - yes we bought a print to bring home to Australia for our home!

A close up of one of his prints (not the one we bought) they are incredibly colourful and stunning!

Yes, you did read that sign properly!

The entry way into the loos!

Another part of the same wall!  It was a long narrow area and very hard to photograph.

...and now on to the house.  I could only take limited photos here because they allow none to be taken inside!  The outside is very striking painted in a black and white checkered pattern.  No two windows are the same and the portico is supported by incredibly colourful columns!  Big sigh!!... oh I loved it, but again very hard to photograph and we didn't have the wide angle lens with us that day!

Even the cafe was a work of art!  All the tables were individual pieces and many of them artistically beautiful pieces in their own right!

He was a man after my own heart as he believed that plants should be an integral part of the human living environment!

The table beside ours.

...and our afternoon tea...yum!  That's a rhubarb tart....mmmm!

Oh, and the tower we saw as we were driving into town was one of his works of art too!  It was and still is an incinerator!  He revamped and beautified the building!  Check out the images on google images - I just typed in 'hundertwasser vienna incinerator'.

There is still my day in the Belvedere in Vienna and then many more days of our trip!  I will add more soon!

Monday, 18 April 2011

A need to see

I promised my next blog would talk about Vienna, but I will get back to that.  We are have moved on to Krakow now and I need to write about our day yesterday.  It was one of the most difficult days I have spent in a long, long time and I am very much processing all the things I saw and felt.  We went to Auschwitz and Berchenau and my goodness how those places weigh on the soul. 

We first visited Auschwitz and were told we needed to be part of an English speaking tour group.  We found the place to buy the tickets and were told the next tour would start in 45 minutes and that we needed to collect our audio sets and then go to the movie theatre to watch a video which was starting in 15 minutes. After the video our guide would then collect us.  We were told to put a little orange sticker on our jacket and they would then be able to recognise that we were part of the English speaking group. 

After getting our tickets, dutifully putting our stickers on we then went from stall to stall trying to find the right place to collect our audio equipment.  They all said 'English speaking, over there.'  and waved vaguely in a direction to our left.  After about four or five attempts we then found the right place.  Next to find the theatre.  We moved to towards the signs and were ushered in to a theatre.  For the first ten minutes or so it was just us sitting there.  We assumed the movie would be about the events of WWII, but had no idea exactly what the video would be about or why precisely it was being shown.  At about 11:55 (the movie was to start at 12:00) more people started to arrive.  Did we need the audio sets for the the movie?  All around me people were fiddling with the sets to see if they could hear anything on it.  Trying to work out what was going on.

At 12:00 the movie started and was in English.  It was about the people who were found in these two places ar the time of liberation, both the living and the dead.  It was incredibly moving.  After the end the doors on the side of the theatre were opened, not a word was said and we all moved out to the sunshine in a paved area.  We all stood there, not knowing where to look, what to do or how to feel.  Big groups started to move off.  The rest of us were playing with our audio equipment.  I know I was wondering 'Am I in the right place?  Did they make an annoucement over this thing that I missed? '  We looked at others in the group and they seemed equally confused.

At 12:30 a lady and a man appeared with a sign saying 'English'.  A crowd of us moved towards them, expecting some more information.  They spoke quietly to each other in another language, probably Polish, and said not a word to us for 2 or 3 minutes.  We all looked on expectantly, feeling totally and utterly confused.  Did they even speak English?  No one dared to question them.  After this time the woman spoke and said we would be broken into three smaller groups and assigned to a guide and that we should stand near those we were with so as not to be separated.  This then happened, we had been sorted, as they were in the days these camps were being used for their horrific purposes.  The big difference was we were still with those we love.  Our guide then gave us a channel number for our audio unit and we were finally in the land of communication.

This first 45 minutes was a huge lesson for me.  It was not hard to imagine how the people arriving at these camps felt.  They too didn't speak the language, could get no information about what was next and were left standing and waiting expectantly relying on others to help them.  The big, big difference was that it ended very quickly for us, but not always for them.  For most (70 to 80%) this confusion would be their last life experience, for the rest there was worse yet to come.

We moved into the camp with our guide.  She was excellent and provided us with very clear and concise explanations along the way.  We saw the property stolen from the people when they arrived.  Suitcases with names and birthdates on them, including those of little children and babies.  We saw the piles of spectacles and an enormous pile of human hair, all grey now as any pigment has faded with time.  For me, one of the hardest things was the enormous pile of shoes and knowing that for every two shoes in that pile it was one person's life represented.  We saw the torture barracks where four or five people had to spend the night standing in a place one metre square and were then sent to work the next day and punished for not functioning.  We saw the wall where they were shot, the gallows they were hung from and the square they stood for hours in.  We saw the places where the horrible experiments were done in the name of science.  We had little twin boys from Japan I suspect, in the group and I couldn't help looking at them and feeling my heart sink for all the twins abused by these sadists.  We saw, and stood in, the chamber where thousands were murdered and then taken nextdoor to be burnt... I won't say cremated because for me that sounds too respectful for what happened to these people.

We heard how the camp started out for Polish political dissidents.  It was a place where doctors, artists, scientists and academics were taken to be silenced (there is us both gone) and moved on to be part of the 'final solution' for the Jewish people.  Being Jewish wasn't the only reason you were sent there: if you were a Gypsie, Jehovah's Witness, homosexual, had a disabilty or any number of other things you may have found yourself in one of these hell holes. The tears ran down my face as the horror of it all hit home.

At Berchenau we saw and walked on the platform where the people were brought into this god forsaken place.  We took the left path and walked in the footsteps that millions walked their final steps to the gas chambers.  The big difference was that I had Richard's hand to hold and all was safe now.

The gas chambers are no longer there as the nazis tried to destroy the evidence before the liberation day.  The ruins are, and a memorial, and the feeling that there are the souls of people saying 'don't let this happen again'.  The worst part is that you see it all and know that as so called intelligent beings we still haven't learnt.  Atrocities too much like this still continue to this day. 

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Prague Part 2

After our visit to the tower on Monday morning we went back into the old town area of Prague.  The daylight allowed us to get a few more photos.

This stunning building is near the powder tower (see next photos) and was on our way between the train station and the old town square.

The powder tower.  The detail on this tower is amazing!

In the old town square there is another tower that has the astronomical clocks on it.  On the hour a trumpeter stands above the clocks at the top of the tower and announces the change to a new hour.  He plays and then gives a wave on each of the four sides of the tower.

Directly below him this is what the rest of the tower looks like.  Unfortunately, the two astrological clocks were not working when we were there.

As we wandered around the square we saw all sorts of wonderful crafts, including these two guys.  The first guy was fascinating and so relaxing to watch as he worked the loom.

 ...and the blacksmith made bells and plaques...all sorts of wonderful stuff...

.... and other stalls had row upon row of handpainted eggs for easter

Then there was the food, including the ham roasting on the spit....

All sorts of wurst sizzling away on bar-be-ques


and these things which have a sugary, almondy, caramelly coating and are very similar to the damper we made wrapped around a stick with the scouts....yum!  They are roasted on a rotisserie and smell heavenly as you walk around.

OK so that is basically Monday done!  On Tuesday it was raining so we spent a large part of the the day in a Salvidore Dali Exhibition that was being held in the building with the twin towers (see Prague 1).  It was a brilliant way to spend a rainy day.  I had not seen a lot of Dali's work before and I found it absolutely fascinating.  Richard and I had a long discussion about how interesting it would be to crawl around inside his head.  Some ....well maybe most....of his work is just so out there.  There was a series about hell, purgatory and paradise that was really interesting, as were some sketch type pieces he did based on Don Quixotes.  There were also two paintings, 'Floridali 1' and 'Floridali 2' where he made characters out of flowers, fruits and leavesw.  They all held me captivated for quite some time and made me wish I had done art at school...but then maybe I wouldn't be as enthralled as I am now!

That was basically it for us and Prague.  On Wednesday, yesterday, we drove to Vienna where I am in bed writing this now, but you will need to wait for me to tell you about that..... and today's adventure .....ohh Hundertwasser!!!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Prague Part 1

We arrived in Prague two nights ago.  It is a beautiful city in many ways.  The older part has cobbled streets, there are trams and there are lots and lots of fairy tale towers.

We arrived in Prague late on Sunday night after a resonably long drive from Cologne.  It sounds ridiculous but one of the hightlights on the way here was the fancy loos at one of our roadside stops.  The loos were in a service station and it cost 70 Euro cents!  It seems you have to pay at most of the loos at the roadside service stations!  When you got into the toilet the seat had a funny looking block on the back of the seat with a button beside...well what would you do?  I pushed it and the seat started turning around passing under the block.  It was a seat cleaner that meant the seat came out clean and dry.  I had to have another go ...just to make sure, you understand!  Anyway it turns out I didn't need to even do this in the first place because when I pushed the button when I had finished there was a repeat performance.  Then when I had washed my hands the paper towel was delivered precisely measured I am sure, at the push of a button too!  Richard wondered why I came out of the loo giggling!  The benefits of being a girl!!

Our first night in town, we caught a tram into the centre of the city. We wandered around not really knowing where we were going or what we were doing. We found Wencelslas Square, but I have to say thought at first it was just a wide street! Then wandered a bit further and saw the following alley way.

We decided to walk down it and see where it led.  The shop windows were all a glitter with the glass displays.

It led into the old town square which is really pretty.  There is this tower with the astronomical clock (not working and more photos later)

and this fairy tale double tower...

This band were putting on a free concert in the square

..and then we went to this Jazz and Blues Club for dinner....

 ...and listened to these guys play a heap of Ray Charles' music.  They were great and the guy on the saxophone could really, really play!

Yesterday we started the day by visiting a memorial to the victims of communism 'not only those who were jailed or executed but also those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism'.

We then went up the funicular to Petrin Park

and while we were there we visited the Petrin Tower.  

Harvey got this view from the top of the tower

.....and on the way to the funicular we saw this little guy...

We then went back down the funicular and caught a tram into the city.  We decided to go back into the square and get some photos of the market area. 

(I seem to be having problems downloading photos so I will publish this as is now and come back to add more later.  I still have lots more to add for Prague!!)

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Seven Years Ago!

Seven years ago today I nervously walked into the the park at Southbank in Brisbane to meet the man who would become my darling husband just seventeen short months later.  I have to say, it was one of the days that I now look back on, and know is a pivotal moment in my life.  Never did I guess that day, how much my life could and would change!

This morning we set off from London, bright and sparky at 8:00am.  We drove down to the Eurostar Train Tunnel at Folkstone.  As we were driving down to the platform I looked up and saw this on the side of the hill....

There are a quite a few hillside decorations like this around the UK.  Not sure what this one is about, but I did like him!

Anyway, off we went down on to Platform 4

...and eventually we all disappeared into the middle of the train!
 ...it's hard to take a photo when the car is moving and the light's not great....but I do think this looks cool anyway!
On the Eurostar you sit in your car for the whole journey.  Nothing to see so I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Committment'.  I have to say I thought it was great.  It was all about marriage and the history of marriage.  It was really very thought provoking.  I really want Richard to read it so we can talk about it.

Anyway the drive from the Eurostar to Cologne was all on motorways.  We drove straight through and it only took us just over four hours to get here.  We found our hotel very easily thanks to our sat nav, Portia.  She coped well with the roads here as there were no tunnels once we left Calais, and no roundabouts.

Once we settled in our room we walked up the road a short way and jumped on a tram.  Sorry forgot to get a photo, as a Melbourne girl it didn't even dawn on me until after it was too dark!  We went into the middle of Cologne.  It was quite busy and the shops were still open until about 8:00pm on a Saturday night.  We didn't really look in too many (just a couple of shoe shops!).  We walked around and saw this tower:

 There was a heap of construction going on around it so I couldn't find out what it was, but I just loved the detail which doesn't show up brilliantly in this photo!

A bit further around we came upon the Cologne Cathedral.  It is absolutely huge and stunningly intricate!
These first two photos are a parts of one side and still are not the whole thing!  Check out the size of the people in front of it and it will give you some idea of the scale of it!

 This next photo is the front of it and just one of the spires (your can see a small part of the second one on the left of the photo).  I only had my little point and shoot camera with me and without the wide angle lens that was all I was able to get a decent photo of!  This photo was in fact taken part of the way down the street opposite so that I could get the height of that spire in, but the other spire was then obscured by the buildings in the street.

We have been fortunate today with the weather.  It has been a glorious Spring day, sun shining and high teens.  I think tonight is going to get cold because there is no cloud cover.  Tomorrow were are off to Prague where we are staying three nights.  Here's hoping the weather stays as it is for a while.  We may have a challenge on our hands finding our way around....Portia does not cover Prague, but Richard has worked out the route to the hotel with his phone.  Keep your fingers crossed that we don't get too lost!!