Thursday, August 3, 2017

Drachenstadt! Im Bavaria!

Somewhere is the lovely countryside of Bavarian Germany, there is a story afoot.  It's highly medieval, and it's become a lot of fun.  The reformation sent Germany reeling against the Holy Roman Emperor, or Pope.  When they decided that they should follow the word of the Bible in the vernacular, and quit following the elaborate worship celebrated throughout the Catholic realm; many wars broke out.  At one point, a huge army was sent to attack the people of the forest.  The simple country village, Furth Im Wald suffered from these battles.  But, in the middle of it all, a legend was born; a legend of the dragon.

Bavaria was ground zero for the religious wars of the 1400's and 1500's.  Some of the worst fighting was in this region.  The Bohemians, did not wish to be told what to do by Rome.  They were done.  They weren't alone.  A lot of Europe decided that they would rather worship in their native tongues.  And while today, religion is settled, the legend of the dragon lives on.

The dragon is an integral part of Furth Im Wald.  He even has his own museum. The legend goes that the dragon wreaked havoc on the village and the only two people who could rid the village of the vicious beast were the young lady of the Castle Furth and a fearless Knight, Udo.  How did they fulfill the prophecy and slay the dragon?  Well, if you want to find out, you must come and see.

Every August is the festival where they spear the dragon.  The people of the village reenact the invasion of the Dragon and how they took care of the problem.  Being a Bavarian and slightly medieval looking town just adds to the mystique and the fun of the entertainment.  While in town, you will enjoy many of the other great cultural and performing entertainments.  You can see traditional arts and industry in the town like metal working and such. There are live performances of what we in America would call fables.  There's food and of course, bier.  Bavaria is known for it's beer.

Furth Im Wald is a fabulous Bavarian village located along the Czech border between Nuremburg, Munich and Prague.  It's a great country getaway.  It's a lot of fun during the more visited time of Oktoberfest, but in August; this place is fabulous.  It's set up for tourists, so you will find it on guided tour lists.  You will also find a good variety of accommodations and restaurants.  The people are friendly, the arts traditional, the drinks plentiful, and the dragon amazing.

While the dragon has been slayed every August for over 500 years, these days he is a technical wonder.  The dragon is one of the largest robots in the world.  Several agencies came together to create this enormous mythical monster.  He is now not only the scourge of Furth Im Wald; he is also the pride of the village.  They love to share their lore and traditions with people so come on out to Furth Im Wald in August and enjoy a one of a kind festival in the wonderful region of Bavaria.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Come and Visit the Ghetto in Rome

There are so many things to see when in Rome, Italy; that it's hard to believe that there could be anything that is missed on a regular tour.  Surprise!  The Jewish Ghetto is highly overlooked by the tour companies that are always vying for our attention.  I reality, the old Jewish Ghetto is a fabulous up and coming neighborhood with great food and modern accommodations and art.  There is still a lot of history in the neighborhood to look at as well, and that makes this a great find that flies under the radar of the masses.

Rome is an ancient city, and the ruins of ancient Rome are everywhere.  Taking time out to see the Ghetto and Travestere won't keep you from seeing ruins.  The Jewish Ghetto of Rome is the oldest Jewish neighborhood in Europe and dates back before the time of Christ.  The Jews and Christians lived peacefully in the area for centuries.  The neighborhood has gone through all kinds of times from times of flourishing, like now; to times of great turmoil, for instance, during WWII.  It still stands strong today and is reinventing itself again with great restaurants and high end housing.  What you don't find a lot of here is tourists.  That's why it's a great place to visit.

If you like architecture, this area has something for you.  The Ponte Fabricius, the oldest bridge in Rome leads to Tiberina Island where the Ghetto is along the Tiber River.  One of the gates to the ancient area still stands. 

From ancient towers to an enormous square with an artistic Italian fountain; the Ghetto has a lot for anyone who loves architecture.  The area has museums both historical and art, where you can see things that you don't see in the museums in the rest of Rome.  There is something completely unique about this neighborhood.  There are pedestrian streets and old buildings.  It's a very historical neighborhood.  And, did I mention, it's far more quiet than most of the rest of Rome.  It's a little known section for tourists.  Most of the people you see while in the Ghetto are locals.  So, strike up a conversation, because they have some great history and culture to share with you.  I promise.

The synagogue is one of the largest from the ancient world, with a dome that at one point was the largest anywhere.  It still falls in the top 20 or so.  It was completed in the early 1900's as it stands today, but the temple itself has been there in one form or another much longer.

Whether it be the museums, the synagogue, the shopping, the architecture or the food; the Jewish Ghetto of Rome has something for you.  It opens your world to a culture that may be a little foreign to you.  You may learn that now is not the first time that people of different cultures lived side by side in Rome.  You might discover what I've always known; that the off the beaten path style is a great way to travel.  If you want a little space from the crowds, and want to see something unique.  Come and spend some time in the Jewish Ghetto of Rome and enjoy!,1301821780765558,kwd-81363867607840&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=NEW-BING-Italy&utm_term=top%20italy%20tours&utm_content=italy%20tours%20(broad)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Olana and the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and Why They Are Inseperable

Welcome to the land of Rip Van Winkle; that's what the sign says.  This is that land.  You may remember the story of the man who went to sleep and woke up 100 years later.  This is the land that claims to have spawned the legend created by Washington Irving, and the locals are very proud of that .  There is a statue of Rip Van Winkle not far from the bridge of Rip Van Winkle in the center of historic downtown Catskill, New York.  But where do the legends stop and the real world take over?  Right about at that bridge.  It's an impressive sucker.  Between the beautiful steel structure and the open connecting part of the bridge, it's just a few feet shy of a mile long.  It's more than 150 feet over the water too.  It's a beautiful old steel bridge built in the 1930's as part of the work program during the depression.  Eventually, it became a toll bridge as have all the New York Bridges crossing the Hudson River.  You can always go west, but it will cost you to come back east.  The Rip Van Winkle Bridge costs $1.50 to cross. 

The best part about this bridge?  Along one side is a sidewalk, so you can walk this bridge and enjoy all the amazing views that it provides.  There are some interesting signs along the way, and I agree that life is worth living.  There are also suicide prevention phones along the way just in case you are not of good mind to be walking on a high bridge over the Hudson River.  Most Hudson River bridges have suicide buttons and phones, just in case.

The Hudson River Valley is loaded with beautiful sights.  One of the best things about walking any bridge is the view.  The Rip Van Winkle is a great old bridge on Route 23 in Catskill, New York.  It's a passageway to the Catskill Mountains and the resorts there for skiing and festivals.  There are a thousand things to do in the Catskills.  The bridge is just the beginning.  Walking a bridge is something that I've always enjoyed.  The views are something that you just can't get any other way.  From the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, one of the things that you can see is the Olana Mansion.  That's where we are headed next.

Olana Mansion was the home of Frederic Church and his wife.  Church was a premiere landscape artist of the mid 1800's and founded a style that is still used today in landscape paintings.  His work became so well known that other artists started to follow his lead.  The movement became known as the Hudson River School and the artists were its members. 

Church is an artist that is still studied today, and unlike a lot of artists, he was famous during his lifetime.  He was fascinated with light and perspective.  He loved Niagara Falls, South America and the Andes, and the Middle East.  His works were enormous and cannot be kept in the house.  The small copies of his paintings that you see in the house are called studies of the originals.  Most of them were painted by Church.  Today there is a modern collection at any given time intertwined with Church's work in the upstairs of the mansion.  Other than that, the house remains virtually the same as when Church lived in it during his life.  It is one of the best preserved historic residences in the world. 

When you first see the mansion, you know that the Church's loved the Middle East.  The building was largely designed by Church himself and the designs remind me of Morocco everywhere I look.  The arches, the painting, the windows and everything are Moroccan in likeness and Middle Eastern as a secondary style.  It's one of the most unusual mansions adorning the Hudson River Valley.

One of the main reasons that this mansion was built in this location was for the view.  Church loved this view of the river.  He loved it so much that he and his wife bought land down the hill and built a small house on it in 1860.  Today it's called the Cozy Cottage. Once the property was available at the top of the hill in 1870 he bought it and started work on the mansion that we see today.  I've always believed that the view is important anywhere you go.  I think that Church agreed, and the views are amazing.

For years, the Church's called this home The Farm.  They finally settled on calling it Olana.  Olana was similar to a term the Persians used for treasures storehouse.  A place to store your treasures.  And store them he did.  Church was an avid collector and traveler.  Everywhere he went, he brought home treasures and kept everything he ever acquired pretty much.  The house is filled with all kinds of things.  There are some things that look like they were found in a tomb, there's weapons, china, tapestries, statues and all kinds of things.  Not to mention, the house itself was a treasure; hand painted on the outside and inside and carved stairways and other things.  The house is beautiful.  The paintings are beautiful.  It's an amazing place.

My favorite part about Olana, however, was the view from the porch.  You can see for miles.  You can see the modern art on the grounds.  You can see up and down the Hudson River.  You can see the Catskills.  You also get a  great look at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.

So, my journey ends here for now.  Olana Mansion in Hudson, New York.  Rip Van Winkle Bridge between Hudson and Catskill, New York.  You can't beat the views.  You can't beat the art.  You can't beat the history.  I will visit here again, as I have visited many times before.  But you can't find a nicer way to spend the afternoon than walking a great old bridge and looking at a great old mansion with a view that's to die for.  Enjoy!