Detail from the Pestsaüle showing a kneeling Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I
Our tour returned to its starting place, Vienna, on May 15, 2015 after 12 days on an Insight Vacations bus visiting major cities and key sites in Austria, Hungary, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. If you count our drive-through of Slovakia while heading north from Budapest to Kraków we visited six countries.
May 15 was our last night with the tour – and our last Vienna night in a 5-star hotel! We were happy to see our local expert from May 4, Peter, on the 15th. Peter took us to the Hofburg Palace and then inside Stephansdom, Vienna’s great 13th C. cathedral. We walked around the old parts of town, including the Jewish section and had a peek inside the simple, Romanesque St. Rupert’s Church, c. 800 A.D., with the oldest bells and stained glass windows in Vienna. Peter also showed us two things related to the plague that hit Vienna in the 7th C:
- The Pestsaüle (Plague Column), featuring Leopold I with his huge Habsburg-inbred jaw, and
- A restaurant called Der Liebe Augustin, after the famous 7th C. piper minstrel named Marx Augustin who brightened up those scary plagued times and wrote O Du Lieber Augustin, a simple, forgettable ditty that somehow is remembered still today – well… until my day anyway. The restaurant has an upward staring, yet somehow iconic, Augustin, complete with pipes, in a cellar below a barred trap door as you enter the place. He is sprinkled with hundreds of bright, copper coins.
Pestaüle, dedicated to the Holy Trinity
Restaurant Der Liebe Augustin
Beneath the grate is Augustin
Later, Kari Anne and Alex took us to a lovely farewell banquet in the Palais Auersperg that was followed by a beautiful concert in the same palace put on by the Vienna Residence Orchestra. From the first chord I realized we were in for a treat. They played, sang and danced favourites by Mozart and Johann Strauss II, with the de rigueur performance of the Radetsky March by Johann Strauss I.
Concert Tickets :))
A beautiful end to a fabulous bus tour of Central Europe. We spent four more fascinating self-planned days in Vienna. More later on those…
Some photos from may 15:
Klimt’s The Kiss welcomes us to Vienna
On May 3 we landed smoothly in Vienna at about 08:40, more or less on time, after an overnight flight with three names operated by Austrian Airlines direct from Toronto. If one must wait for one’s bags and be bombarded by marketing, let it please be four illuminated panels of The Kiss. Always. I’m very OK with that. We had selected Insight Vacations’ Highlights of Eastern Europe bus tour because it began and ended in Vienna and included Budapest and Warsaw, where we had friends-well-met on our 2013 Camino Santiago. This enabled us (well, me) to add a precious four more days of self-guided sight-seeing in amazing, once-imperial-still-magnificent, Vienna before flying home on May 20. The itinerary also included two nights in Budapest, Kraków, Warsaw, Berlin and Prague plus one night in Cesky Krumlov. As bus tours go, Insight delivers one of the best. They use excellent tour directors, more legroom on the bus and centrally located, classy hotels. We weren’t disappointed. Out of seven tour directors on as many tours with Insight since 1995, we had six who were stellar and only one selfish, mercurial, intimidating, paranoid, should-have-retired-long-ago jerk. That was on a 2011 tour of Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Say no more. We had a welcome dinner planned for that evening with our tour director, Kari Anne. Her poster asked us to meet for roll call at about 17:30. Our room was ready at 10:40 when our transfer arrived at the Hilton Hotel near the Stadtpark, on the western edge of the famous Ringstrasse, a 12-minute walk to St. Stephens Cathedral, Stephansdom.
They still like real, paper, vintage books in Vienna
Laudato Si is a great title for Pope Francis’ brave, direct encyclical on our collective human responsibility for polluting and endangering our home here on earth. Francis of Assisi was the first European environmentalist. He wrote his Canticle to the Sun back in 1223 in Italian, and this 2015 encyclical by our modern Francis, eight centuries later, is named Laudato Si after the 5th line in the Canticle. “Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature” translates as:
Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures
All “creatures” on this earth give simple, pure praise by their very existence and diversity. Canticle of the Sun is, in a way, a “Third Testament”, more evolved than the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament, in Genesis 1: 26, clearly expresses God’s wish that we be masters of all the other creatures. It is easily seen as flawed and human-centric when viewed in today’s precarious setting by all but the most closed minds. Here I offer an original song about interconnectedness. It is called Sapphire, after the iconic photo from space that helped us realize how beautiful and precious is Planet Earth. The New Testament tells Christians that God the Father sacrificed his son, Jesus, to redeem humanity from our sins.
Brother Sun and Sister Moon… What I call the “Third Testament” was perceived back in 1223 by the revolutionary genius and sensitivity of Francis of Assisi and by indigenous peoples many millennia ago. In Canticle of the Sun Francis personifies even the inanimate to show the intimacy of every thing in our universe. Here, Francis celebrates not the triumphant division of creation into masters and chattels, but the oneness and interdependence of all living and non-living things on earth. What the “Third Testament” tells us, if we are truly listening, is that we must now struggle in extreme haste to see creation as one. We must see our “enemies,” in love and vulnerability, as partners in our urgent struggle.
We humans must, in fact, redeem ourselves.
Bob’s Bumblebee Base – Clay Flowerpot, Tile Roof, Tube Subway Entrance
Common bumblebees had set up house in a stack of firewood produced by removing a diseased ash tree and a couple of storm-damaged crab-apples. The wood, next to the house in our back yard, had been covered by a tarp to protect it as it aged. When I removed the tarp this June I noticed the nest and disturbed it. It ended up as a small, rounded pile of fuzzy, fibrous plant material on the patio stones surrounded by a bunch of scattered fireplace logs. I spread out the pieces with an eight-foot 1 x 2 to isolate the nest, and watched the bees work hard to keep it intact. The bee population is plummeting in Ontario and around the world. It was worth trying to save this little community and set them up somewhere on our long-time pesticide free property.
Scattered wood and patio after moving the nest.
It had to be moved to a safer place far from the house and our small woodpile. I got my honey’s permission to move it, if possible, to the back border garden. Anita is allergic to stings, but these little guys seem relatively calm-tempered. Time to learn about bees. The British Bumblebee Conservation Trust website was very helpful. It showed how to build a shelter to encourage new bumblebees to inhabit your garden, and how to move a nest safely to another location. My solution, hopefully, was to combine and adapt these ideas to our situation… Continue reading
Another great Kennedy speech remembered in the Berlin Marriott Hotel, where we stayed for two nights this May. This one was made in Berlin on June 26, 1963, 16 days after his Peace Speech.
This article honours Jack Kennedy for his brave initiative to seek common human ground with Russia. Going against the powers that preferred war got him killed. It is written by a former CIA agent, Ray McGovern. It laments, by comparison, where we are today. It quotes key parts of Kennedy’s surprise Peace Speech of June 10, 1963. It is beautifully written and valuable also for the links that thoughtful commentators have provided.
What Is Disaster Capitalism?
In her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein pointed out that the world is being privatized at an alarming rate in a decades long process driven by capitalism in overdrive. Every disaster or world crisis is used to scare the population into accepting the need for yet one more transfer of wealth and power to the Very Very Few (my term). The neocons behind Disaster Capitalism will frequently create a crisis of which they can take advantage. The so-called War on Terror is the most devastating example of what has come out of this opportunistic policy, whose neocon proponents must have been quite content when 911 facilitated their continued, decades long, onslaught on our freedoms.
My point today: Recent events in Ukraine have highlighted for me that the Ukraine Crisis, which became acute with a February 22, 2014, US-engineered, coup d’état, is a classic example of Disaster Capitalism. By this summer the Ukraine will have been aggressively and widely privatized (farmland, mining, natural gas, etc) to an extent and at a rate that would not be tolerated even in the increasingly docile “democratic” West. It will be “justified” by using the intimidating excuse that it will be better than the rampant corruption that now exists. This devastating crisis was created on purpose. The US, over several years, manipulated Kiev into a desperate position and then engineered a coup d’état. An American is now the Finance Minister of the Ukraine and both its President and Prime Minister are mere puppets selected in advance of the coup by the US State Department.
The shoot-down of MH17 over the Ukraine has been used to demonize Russia and magnify the crisis. The shoot-down has been used opportunistically and, perhaps, even committed deliberately. It may well be a false flag operation perpetrated by the Ukraine Army with US help and control. False flag operations have been an unfortunate part of US political strategy for years.
A quote from Naomi Klein on Iraq:
Like Russia’s gangsterism and Bush’s cronyism, contemporary Iraq is a creation of the fifty-year crusade to privatize the world. Rather than being disowned by its creators, it deserves to be seen as the purest incarnation yet of the ideology that gave it birth.
More quotes from The Shock Doctrine can be found here.