Posts Tagged ‘ Austria ’

Stift Melk

We recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary by cycling along the Donauradweg (Danube Cycle Path) between Passau, Germany and Vienna, Austria.  At the end of our fourth day on the road, we arrived in Melk after getting a late start in Grein where we had replaced the hard narrow saddles on our rental bikes with wide cushy saddles from a small bike shop located on the Kreuznerstrasse.  The new saddles enabled us to cycle comfortably for long stretches of time and helped cushion the blow of us losing our way in the dark while we were en route to Melk.  We realized that we had taken a wrong turn when the well-maintained bike path gave way to gravel and grass.  Our unintentional detour added a couple of kilometers (about a mile) to our journey.   Thanks to my new bike seat, I cycled this extra distance without complaint – it was worth every penny to me and Scott!  Most cyclists hit the Donauradweg at dawn so that they may arrive at their destinations by mid-afternoon.  Thus, getting lost while pedaling along the Danube River during the day is nearly impossible as the route is well-marked.  Getting lost in the dark is still rather difficult, but we managed to do so.

We were standing on a bridge when I took this photo of the Stift Melk (Melk Abbey).  It was raining, and I was tired after a long day of cycling.  Nearby, a campground full of teenagers partied on despite the rain.  As Scott consulted Google Maps to confirm the route that we would take to our hotel, I did my best to keep my camera dry as I took photos of the abbey.  The Stift Melk was founded in 1089, when Leopold II, Margrave of Austria donated a castle (which was later destroyed by fire) to Benedictine monks.  The abbey’s architecture “went for Baroque” between 1701 and 1736.

We toured the abbey before we cycled from Melk to Traismauer the next day.  The abbey’s Marble Hall, Library, and Church are wonderfully ornate.

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Dance On

I recently lent a Sarah Harmer CD to an Austrian colleague named Harmer.  My colleague claims his last name isn’t very common, so I think it would be neat if he and Sarah Harmer were related to each other.

Sarah Harmer’s music is delicious, like a slice of Canadiana served warm with maple syrup.

Her songs have become a soundtrack to my life. My favourites are stored in my iCloud, so she occasionally rides shotgun on my daily commute. Her voice rises over the hum of the dishwasher when I want to pair some good tunes with my good housekeeping; and I dance with Scott in the kitchen whenever we hear her streaming on CBC Radio.

Two years ago tonight, I took this photo of Sarah Harmer performing at Spaceland in Silver Lake. After Sarah’s set, we lingered by the stage door until she came over to greet us. Scott took a photo of me and Sarah as we chatted. When I told her that her music inspires impromptu dance parties chez nous, she wrote “Helsa & Scott – Dance On ♥ Sarah Harmer” as she autographed our copy of Oh Little Fire. We will, thanks to her!

The Jewelry District

Last week, I had commented on Facebook that I’ve lost all perspective since moving to downtown L.A. My Thursday night commute was rainy, so I was worried about driving 40 miles along a wet and slippery 101. Once I exited the freeway, I dreaded the nightly obstacle course of hipsters and homeless who jay-walk across the street that leads to our loft. But the street was empty – in place of pedestrians, I found police barricades blocking access to our street. I detoured around several one-way streets before pulling into our parking lot. Too tired after a long day to muster up any concern or curiosity, all I felt was mild annoyance when Lino, our parking attendant, grimly informed me that a manhunt was underway after a robbery, stabbing, and shooting down the block in the Jewelry District. Lino chided me for living in such a dangerous neighbourhood (he lives in Burbank) as he gallantly escorted me into my building.

On Saturday afternoon, I shopped in the Jewelry District with Maria, my Swedish friend who lives in Pasadena. She and her Peruvian fiancé Orison are traveling to Sweden in a couple of weeks to visit her family so she wanted to buy some presents for her mother. In St. Vincent’s Jewelry Center, I introduced Maria to the proprietors of Easigo Gem and Jewelry Exporters; they sell $5 strands of gemstone beads which are fun to string into necklaces. Maria bought herself a lovely string of garnets.

Last May, I took this photo of Easigo’s counter piled high with necklaces-to-be as my Austrian friends Eleonore and Monika weighed down their purses with bags of the colourful stones. That day, I bought myself some garnets. They’re red and juicy-looking, like the pomergranate seeds which garnish the hummus and tabbouleh served in cafés outside St. Vincent’s Jewelry Center.

Bronson Caves a.k.a. The Bat Cave

The Bronson Caves in Griffith Park are best known as the Bat Cave where Batman and Robin parked the Batmobile in the 1960s when they weren’t busy saving the day in Gotham City.  The Caves were once part of a quarry which produced crushed rock used to pave streets in nearby Hollywood a century ago.  If you drive north on N. Bronson Avenue into Griffith Park, the road will lead you to a parking lot near the Caves.  If you drive south on N. Bronson Avenue to Melrose Avenue, it will lead you to the Bronson Gate of Paramount Pictures.  In 1954, an actor named Charles Buchinsky took his stage name from this Gate.  You might know and love him as “classic tough guy” Charles Bronson, star of “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), “The Great Escape” (1963), and “The Dirty Dozen” (1967).      

Last weekend, we explored the Bronson Caves with our Austrian friends Eleonore and Florian.  We found ourselves in the middle of an indie Sci-Fi Fantasy film set.  Cars parked on the dirt road leading up to the Caves displayed dashboard permits with the word “Hirokin” on them, so watch out for “Hirokin“:  it’s coming soon to a theatre near you.  We walked into a cave and found a giant plaster obelisk, fake boulders, and a member of the crew moving lights and cables around in the dark.  Beyond this cave, there was a tent village.  Actors dressed in linen tunics walked past a green screen to buy lunch at a snack truck parked in a makeshift lot.  On Mt. Lee a mile (1.6 km) away, the Hollywood Sign shone like a beacon over the set, a silent reminder to those toiling in the heat of what dreams may come:  fame, fortune, a percentage of the box-office…

Canada Day

Today, Canada celebrates its 143rd birthday.  Tonight, we will offer a toast to our homeland with Eleonore and Florian, friends from Austria via Stanford!

Million Dollar Theater

Last week, I looked up as I walked past the Million Dollar Theater at 307 S. Broadway in downtown L.A.  Although I was rushing towards the Bradbury Building, where my Austrian friends Eleonore and Monika were waiting for me, I slowed down long enough to shoot the Theater’s 3rd St. facade.  It is absolutely stunning.   

In 1918, Sid Grauman built his first movie house, which became known as the Million Dollar Theater due to its lavish construction budget.  A century ago, Broadway was the center of L.A.’s nightlife, before subsequent Grauman properties such as the landmark Chinese Theater shifted the city’s entertainment district north to Hollywood.  The once-glamorous movie palaces that still stand along Broadway resemble a chorus line of showgirls past their prime, their expressions vacant yet expectant.  Efforts to revive the district are ongoing, yet the local arbiters of nostalgic fauxhemia seem stuck in the 1980’s:  acid-washed denim is ripe for a revival if window displays in neighbourhood vintage clothing shops are bellwethers of the fashion industry (and they are).

Once a year, the L.A. Conservancy hosts “Last Remaining Seats“, a classic film festival that draws audiences into these neglected cinemas.  It is an opportunity for us to appreciate downtown L.A.’s historical significance and support the conservation of these architectural gems.

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