All posts by VickieVictoria

Intrepid traveler. Architect and appreciator of design, art, language, opera, history, and anthropology.

Day 41-42: The GF Line

Chinese Opera Museum, Foshan

Among the hidden treasures in Foshan where we are staying in China, is the Chinese Opera Museum. I was coming to Guangzhou to do some research on Chinese opera, so I was delighted to find an entire complex devoted to my research! Below are only a few of the highlights that I poured over.

On an evening walk to dinner, we found another treasure. A huge temple complex was on the other side of our development.

Zumiao Temple, Foshan (1796)

Outside, the temple was teeming with retirees playing cards, mahjong and go under the lush green trees that provide shade and shelter for the day’s activities. A large stone turtle with a snake on its back was accompanied by a host of live turtles stacked back to back on the wooden dock of the pond.

The GF Line stands for Guangzhou-Foshan, one of the new mass transit extensions within the massive Guangzhou Pearl River Delta. Guangzhou is now a city of 13 million. Including Foshan to the west and Zhongshan to the South, Guangzhou is one of the largest conurbations on the planet.

Ling Nan Tian Di District

We are staying in Ling Nan Tian Di, a brand new development in Foshan. Our good friend, professional musician and Chinese opera performer Sherlyn Chew invited us to stay at her apartment in this burgeoning new area. Foshan is known for its Shiwan pottery, but the new development is as sophisticated as Xin Tian Di in Shanghai. High rise residential development, office towers, and a major shopping district are combined into a lively mixed use development.

Here’s a gallery of the renovated traditional village development for tourists:

The Tian Di district in Foshan is developed by Shui On, a single, large Hong Kong developer. In comparison, the San Kai village development in Zhongshan (shown in previous post) is a much more small scale, ad-hoc enterprise. Renovations are left up to each business owner-developer. The area feels more like an artsy live-work district with cafes and bars like what you would find in Oakland or Berlin’s industrial districts.

Food

Below, a somewhat repeat-performance of the dishes from Zhongshan (by choice): Steamed crystal prawns, shaved bitter melon with pork slices and gingko nuts, and roasted goose. The bowed tofu strips topped the braised pork belly underneath. I love the delicate Cantonese style of flavors, that are clean and unadulterated. If it is too salty,  it isn’t true Cantonese cooking.

Day 38-40: Village Development, Zhongshan, China

An exciting San Kai Village development in the outskirts of Shiqi caught me by surprise. The village with unknown entitlements is being developed by private investors as a restaurant and nightlife district. Old vs. new are blended together effectively, with integrated interiors and architectural detail. Lush landscaped courtyards and paths complete the environmental experience. Like most of Southern China, if you put a stick in the ground, it will sprout roots and grow. It’s the tropical world of orchids and passion fruit.

I’ll keep my comments short so you can enjoy the visual beauty of this excellent synthesis of planning, architecture, and interior design.

 

Here’s a bonus gallery of dinner specialties last night, and the roadside fruit stand:

 

Day 35-37: Salzburg and Paprika

Salzburg Museum

See photos, above, from left:

  1. A video of a musical created by Mozart when he attended the gymnasium, or high school, in Salzburg. This production provides insight to his early operatic talents
  2. Stone sculpture from ca. 300AD, found in Salzburg
  3. Mosaic tile from Roman excavation, ca. 300AD in Salzburg
  4. An intriguing painting, “the Last Cavalier” by Albert Birkle, 1925
  5. One of the first architectural designs for a festival theater proposed in Burglstein to honor Mozart (1918)
  6. Not a painting, but a drizzly view from inside the museum of the courtyard outside
  7. An excellent presentation of the National Socialist period in Salzburg and puts the city in perspective with Austrian modern history.

Salzburg International Music Festival

From the Sound of Music fame and since 1920, the Salzburg International Music Festival includes classical concerts, opera, and drama. This year we saw a modern interpretation of “Salome”  by Richard Strauss and “Pique Dame”, or “Queen of Spades” by Tchaikovsky. The photo below shows the massive open stage used for Salome. The video below that is the conductor’s curtain call for “Pique Dame” and the cast of thousands, including American star Brandon Jovanovich, in red. (Apologies for flooded out light quality).

Reflections on Budapest and Salzburg

After spending a few days back in “Western” Europe, we had  a chance to reflect on our short foray into “Eastern” Europe.

We learned from our trip to the Salzburg Museum how tourism developed in the city. Salzburg has been a tourist city ever since an English couple in the  early 18th century sought the living relatives of Mozart. They made a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the already famous musical genius. For over four hundred years, Salzburg has managed to hone its skills in receiving, processing, and satisfying tourists from around the world.

Accommodations, food, activities and access are all handled with utmost skill. Despite the crowds you can’t help but feel happy to be rubbing shoulders with other tourists in this picture perfect environment. That having been said, Budapest and other cities with rich histories and natural wonders can and should follow Salzburg’s model. Why wouldn’t a city promote and encourage tourists to visit its treasures?

Budapest has thermal baths, music, and a diverse cultural history, yet is appears to be uninviting and grumpy. The recent no migration policy reinforces this view. The economy is down and they seem to be stuck. There is little warmth and few smiles on the street. Granted, people have their problems to overcome.

I think about recent travels in Iran where its people rise in the face of adversity. Everyone smiles at you and they smile at each other. It’s the greatest restoration of humanity that we have witnessed anywhere. You get the feeling that they care about you, and each other. It left a profound footprint in our minds.

Even though they were once joined politically and are no longer, today there’s an even greater difference culturally between Hungary and Austria, and the cities of Budapest and Salzburg.

Onward and Out…

After a week traveling by car with friends from San Diego, California from Munich to Budapest, and back through St. Florian and Salzburg, Austria, we have sealed the Italian-American-Chinese diplomatic relations forever. We learned alot about these fascinating cities, and even more from and about each other.  Our thanks to Miki and Alberto for all their caring, love, and laughter.

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Gee Kin and I are on our way east to Guangzhou and Korea.  We are preparing for the culture shock…stay tuned.

Day 33-34: Sounds of Silence

Staying in a monastery can be a spiritual experience. The environment, weather and organ music contributed to a peaceful feeling. The lack of internet access, restrained furnishings but generously proportioned rooms, and humble yet friendly food service all remind you that you are in God’s country. The antique library shown above also spoke of the grandeur and solitude associated with knowledge and learning.

Our party of four traveled west by car for four hours from Budapest to reach Sankt Florian. An Augustinian monastery in the middle of Austria with 30 priests and 40 personnel, it gave you a sense of the world of Maria from the Sound of Music.

We arrived just in time to have lunch in the stiftskeller on the premises and attend the afternoon organ concert. The short, 30 minute program included Bach, Wagner and Bruckner with quiet tinkly stardust music to reverberations that rocked your anatomy.

A tour of the early Italian, Hapsburg rococo and coffers spanned the history of the monastery. We timed everything perfectly to gain full enjoyment of the monastic world.

To top it off, one of Austria’s famous composers, Anton Bruckner, is buried under the organ named after him. He was a choir boy here and performed in the cathedral. I never expected to visit here again, after coming three years before on my own. But everyone was thrilled to visit this hidden gem and enjoyed the music and ambience immensely.

After device detox and plenty of peaceful sleep, we were awakened at six and seven to delightful church bells appealingly pealing. We took a short walk after breakfast and explored the Hohenbrunn Hunting Lodge, a mini-castle down the road from the monastery. The animals were impressively preserved and presented en plain air.

I never expected to be able to return to both St. Florian and Hohenbrunn. My Days 31-34 in 2015 posts document in greater detail the history of the Augustinians. You can find them here:

https://travelswithmyselfandothers.com/2015/08/27/day-31-33-st-florian/

https://travelswithmyselfandothers.com/2015/08/28/day-34-st-florian-a-closer-look/

Day 29-32: Buda or Pest?

Budapest is a city split in two by the Danube. The river is the longest in Europe, discharging not into any ocean but the Black Sea. The St. Gellert’s Thermal Baths and dinner at the New York Cafe were among the highlights of our visit with friends Alberto and Miki in Budapest.

Budapest conveys a by-gone era, with once-grand buildings deteriorated, unkempt and unkept. You struggle to look for meaning and points of reference: When was it? Who did it? How did it happen? Why? Many of these questions are left unanswered. Without a local guide and more substantive conversation with locals, the history is hard to decipher.

The grand market presented some interesting finds for goose liver, paprika, and lavender. A commotion drew us to a crowd apprehending a man who had just knocked down a female tourist.

Last but not least are the finale to our 72 hours in Budapest: dinner and delightful jazz.

Day 26-28: It’s a Wrap!

In opera lingo, it’s a wrap! After a month, my German class came to a close this week. The intermediate level class was populated by a variety of students from France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Estonia, Mexico, Ukraine, Russia, and Argentina. There was only one other lonely student from the U.S., which suited me fine. I used probably more German this time as my vocabulary has improved.

In comparison to prior Goethe Institut classes in Dusseldorf, Berlin, Schwäbisch Hall, and Dresden, this class was better focused and productive. And Munich was a well endowed city, ready to accept newcomers and newly acquired German language speakers. It was fantastisch!

Hubby Gee Kin arrived on Thursday to help me complete my tour of Munich over the weekend. A festival carnival at the Marienkirche entertained us with local charm and what families would enjoy on a summer weekend.

 

A first and foremost visit to the Nationalistische Sozialismus Museum gave us an overall history of Munich since WWI and the setting that led to the rise and fall of the Nazi Party. We gained perspective on Munich and its complex history from the excellent audio tapes at each display.

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We had just enough time to meet our guide, Dr. Christoph Engels, who helped us to visualize the power of Hitler‘s propaganda. We ended up at the Haus fur Kunst, where Hitler promoted his knowledge of art and culture.

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I couldn’t resist another trip to the Isar River where the surfers mesmerized us with their talents. Everyone was taking advantage of the summer heat and made the time to dip their feet into the cool fast flowing waters of the river.

Here was a brave young woman attempting  the surf:

The next day, we visited the Schwabing and Maxvorstadt district, visited the Vctuals Market,and attended a performance of harp and flute in the Residenz.

We are on our way to Budapest by car with friends Miki and Alberto, so stay tuned for our next adventure.

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Day 23-25: Last Days at Marienplatz

Sadly, as my month in Munich draws to an end, I feel that I barely scratched the surface of this vibrant city. The Munchers love their city, its efficiency, and justifiably, its character. It certainly feels more unique and stands out above the other German cities. The Bavarian charm, cheeriness or cheesiness, whichever end of the spectrum you pick, is definitely present.

Unfortunately a heat wave has struck my ability and everyone else’s to move about the city. No AC in the place where I am staying reminds me of my first summer in NYC. Pregnant and jobless, I had to strategize how to get through an entire day of heat. The setting sun was always a welcome relief as the temperature subsided accordingly.

My NYC jungle skills were put to use. Despite my first free day from German classes, I devote my afternoon to the Kaufhof, one of Munich’s foremost department stores. It was a good choice, as I ended up spending six hours there. I probably haven’t spent six hours in any dept store in the States in the last six years put together, so you may be wondering: what makes a department store in Munich so special?

The answer: not much. It has air conditioning.

I entertained myself in the afternoon by starting out in the food hall with a mineral water, cherry torte and expresso. Then I shopped slowly for an all-weather jacket, remembering how good German outdoorwear products are. Then I bought two coveted goose down duvets and the “bedwash” as they call sheets. A couple of trips to the global services claim center, a conversation with my German partner via Facetime, and dinner at the Hofbrauhaus again (this time, fries, roast pork and Pro Secco), and there goes the neighborhood and six hours! Whew!

While being house-bound in the Kaufhof, I decided to take a few shots of the local environment and what’s different (and for those of you, like me, who no longer shop in department stores) (photos are below, left to right):

1. Kids playing with real toys, not computers!

2. A fond reminder of having kids, and buying coveted Playmobil toys;

3. Titanium poles for “Wandering”;

4. Scooters hit the mainstream;

5. Food Court, German style;

6. Escalators, up-down on both sides!!

*shown above: Entrance to the Kaufhof from the Subway Station, a sports car made of Legos

AUSTIN CITY FOLLOW-UP: In case you were wondering what daughter Melissa was doing in Austin (when I tagged along): go to the following link from Instagram on Chef’s Feed:

https://www.chefsfeed.com/videos/1409-one-day-in-austin-ep-3

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Day 21-22: Nymphs and Nymphenburg

Another good friend Vladimir, whom I met the first summer at the Dresden Goethe Institute, came to visit me in Munich. His friend recommended Nymphenburg Palace, so we checked it out on Google Maps. Unlike Neuschwanstein, it was 20 minutes and only a few stops away from the center of town.

As the summer home of Bavarian royalty, the palace was on the usual grand scale with gardens so extensive that we could only cover half of it in a morning. King Ludwig II was born there in 1845, and his great-grandfather Max I Joseph died there in 1825. The palace was developed over time since the late 17th Century. You can read more about it here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nymphenburg_Palace

The rococo palace contained many restrained elements of grandeur (as restrained as palaces designed with pomp and circumstance could restrain themselves) with well proportioned rooms and plenty of decorated memorabilia. A miniature Petit Trianon was tucked on the side just for the fun of it. I was a little disappointed to not find any deer heads like the ones on display at Moritzburg, though.

The carriage house, or Marstall Museum, contained an unusual collection of horse-down carriages and sleighs. You could see how automobiles were just around the corner by the level of detail implemented for lighting, wind protection, speed, efficiency, and overall human comfort.

On the afternoon of the same day, a leisurely stroll from Rosenheimer Platz along the Isar River to the English Gardens took about an hour. We were in search of the surfers on the river, and finally found them near the Chinese Pagoda. The Garden is one of the largest urban parks in the world (bigger than Hyde Park or Central Park) and provides plenty of leisurely activities and bathing on hot summer days along the rivers.

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The surfers who surfed along the part of the river were amazingly talented and mesmerizing. You can see how calm they are despite what seems impossible to handle. There was plenty of free entertainment where surfers could show off their calisthenic skills and daring. This is probably something you will never forget once you’ve seen it.

Day 20 (b): Maxvorstadt, Munich

Enough opera for everyone?!? Well, here’s a bit of welcome relief.

The Goethe Institute gave a tour of the Ludwig-Maximilians University Quarter that started with some historical elements of WWII. This is the university attended by Sophie Scholl, who protested the dealings of the Nazi Party. She attended the university (known as the University of Munich at the time) and was a Philosophy major there.

In 1943, she, her brother, and their friend Christoph Probst were found guilty of treason and beheaded in February 1943. The White Rose represented their movement and live roses are still posted in memoriam at sites at the entrance to the University and inside the main lobby. It gave me goose bumps after walking through the spaces she inhabited. You can read more about her here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Scholl

Shops around the University area provided delightful finds, that included antiquarian bookshops; quirky gourmet ice cream cafes like Verruckt, which means Crazy in German, features beer flavored ice cream and breakfast ice cream; a storefront cooking school allows you to peek in and see all the action and after-effects of food being consumed; and a specialty bike shop that has custom colors for hand made bike frames.

Many of the Altbaus, or old buildings, were built during the 18th and 19th Centuries.  Inner courtyards or “hofs” hide renovated or jazzy new buildings and green areas with retail spaces are tucked into the ground floor. Craftsman-quality cabinet shops and made-to-order items are plentiful and enough to delight the eye and microwave the credit card.

And from the poetry shop:

There’s more of Munich to come…

Day 16-20(a): Ring, Ring!!

My weeks have been filled with German classes and opera. Classes begin at 1:15pm and go until 5:30pm. Homework assignments keep me busy in the morning and I haven’t ventured out much, except to the local neighborhood hangout in Rosenheimer Platz near the S-bahn station.

On the opera end, you will all be relieved to hear that the call has been answered. Tonite was the finale of the Ring Cycle. Götterdämmerung, or the “Twilight of the Gods” completed the saga of the search for wealth, love and happiness with the destruction of the world.

Earlier in the week, the third opera, “Siegfried”, began the story of Wotan’s grandson.The featured photo shows the curtain call after the first act. Siegfried was raised by one of the dwarfs who held and coveted the ring. Without his real parents, he was brash, confident, and belittled his adopted parent. It isn’t until he goes through life and discovers setbacks, challenges and love, that he becomes a real man.

I was discreetly placed in the King’s Box for the last two performances, after asking the concierge if I could change seats in order to see the English translation. Up until that time, my view was obstructed from seeing the English supertitles and I was relying on the German text. Seeing both gave me the maximum benefit.

The  third opera started at 5:00pm, and I wasn’t out of there until 10:35pm! The last two operas are the same duration, so if you are contemplating going to the Ring, be prepared.

Here’s the curtain call for the final performance of Götterdämmerung, with thunderous applause for magnificent singing by superstar Nina Stemme. As Brunhilde, she sang for half of the performance in a strong, powerful, perfect voice!  Notice the empty orchestra seats. Everyone heading home after performing six hours?!?

And most of the credit for the entire Ring Cycle at the Munich Opera Festival this year goes to Krill Petrenko, musical director of the Bayerische Staats Opera. His orchestra justifiably joined the stage and relished the kudos from the audience for the final curtain call. It takes a generation to cultivate these performers. You will be hearing more about this amazing conductor as he emerges into the world class arena.

And yes, it was worth it all. Time, place, and money.