Blogging goes on summer hiatus until something bloggable presents itself. In the meantime, here are our new neighbors.


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Rooftop Blogging: Final Edition

When I began the blog nearly 8 years ago, I wanted to do some kind of photoblogging that could be done on a regular, perhaps weekly basis with ease. A lot of people were doing “Saturday cat blogging”, which I found a little tiresome but it was something amusing to add to the big conversation going on, and I wanted to be part of that conversation by contributing to it. The mountain/city view from my terrace is beautiful and constantly changing, and seemed a good enough choice. So let’s have a last look around.

There have been so many changes to Innsbruck, architecturally speaking. While the little Altstadt retains its Medieval look, the areas just outside it have been changing in leaps and bounds. Here are the ones I can remember since 2000, when I arrived, starting with the changes observable right outside my window:

Bergisel Ski Jump
Schanze Before
The old one demolished in 2001 (I watched from my apartment), the new one, by star architect Zaha Hadid, opened in 2002.


Sillpark Plaza and Annex
I like the extra mall shops (and the green roof!) I don’t like the plaza (Vorplatz) for one reason: its acoustics. The shape of it triggers sound — people talking, music, drumming — to ricochet right up through our windows. It has gotten much louder here over the years. Last night a crowd of twenty-something girls were doing some kind of ritual screaming at the beach bar, over and over. They were there for hours.

Amraserstraße/Museumstraße/Brunecker Straße
An old, antiquated Post Office building stood on Brunecker Straße, and for a time I went there to pick up packages. Now the sleek, golden brown Pema Tower takes up most of that block, provides cover from sun and rain on that side of the street, and holds a few nice new businesses. The empty lot on the Amraserstraße side is currently a construction site for another tower. The bus/tram stop has been fixed up nicely too, and a pedestrian tunnel installed.


Frachthof now

Die Sill Insel
This was a dirt parking lot, if memory serves me. There was some kind of old loading depot building which had some use in the alternative scene, and a little pink villa of sorts which I believe housed modern art. I often wondered what their original purpose was; they may have belonged to the Ferrari Palace (now a vocational school) across the street. Perhaps cargo was pulled off the Sill Canal and loaded on wagons there. The little house, I have no idea. On that site now stands a new apartment building. (It hasn’t destroyed the view, but I did have to get used to idea that other people now stand on their balconies and look over at me.)
Inntal BeforeInntal now

What else has changed? The Hauptbahnhof is new-ish, having reopened in 2004.
The Tiroler Landestheater opened its new annex in 2003, with rehearsal spaces, offices and workshops.
The Rathaus Passage and Kaufhaus Tyrol, both on the Maria-Theresien-Straße,  are two new urban shopping malls which, judging from the masses who go there, seem to be doing very well, despite my insistence that the latter, formerly Bauer & Schwarz, was cursed. The gods of commerce won that battle. Bauer and Schwarz would probably have approved.)
The Convention Center (Messegelände) was taken down and replaced with a newer, larger one.
The Hungerburgbahn was redesigned, with two new stations also designed by Zaha Hadid. The line was extended over to the Hofgarten, where the city tourists can reach it more easily.
The Tivoli football stadium was renovated to seat the larger crowds of the European Championship in 2008, with extensions which, by design, can be added for larger events and later removed.
The streetcars were replaced with the current red, noiseless version. I missed the old ones for a while but quickly got used to the new ones, especially since the Iglerbahn now quietly slithers through the forest, Innsbruck’s own Tatzlwurm.
A less-vaunted change was the demolition of the Bürgerbräu brewery on Ingenieur-Etzl-Straße, on which now stands a modern glass building of businesses below and apartments above. The not-unpleasant smell of hops used to waft through the air on warm summer nights. They made Kaiser Bier, and certainly there was a connection with the Kaiserstube restaurant, just around the corner on Museumstrasse. Below, both Bürgerbräu and the old streetcars.

The Stadtsäle is going to come down this summer. This postwar structure was erected after the older Stadtsäle was condemned and demolished. A rather beautiful and ornate palatial hall from 1890,
Alte Stadtsäle
it succumbed to allied bombs that fell over Innsbruck late in the Second World War. I have always thought of the current Stadtsäle as our local version of the Palast der Republik, useful, ugly, but aesthetically interesting in a “retro” way.
When it’s razed, the Landestheater’s Kammerspiel will go along with it, and a new Kammerspiel will take its place. I have many fond memories of this 200-seat theater. You can say I cut my teeth on that stage.

Bürgerbräu photo from here.
Image of old Stadtsäle from here.
Image of current Stadtsäle from here.
All other images by the author.

Posted in Austria, current events, history, Innsbruck, Life Abroad, memory | 7 Comments

Weekend Mountain Blogging: Maria Tax – Wolfsklamm

IMG_2034 A half-day hike above Stans to the Maria Tax Chapel. Taxen  is an old regional word for Tannen, or fir tree. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary made an appearance here in 1616,  leaving behind her handprint on a stone, a picture of which was then attached to a tree for people to come and revere it. So we have here both a stone and a tree of religious importance (I was able to find neither, unless the stone is now part of the fountain behind the chapel*.) IMG_2038 In 1627 a wooden chapel was built, in 1667 a stone one. In the same year the first hermit moved into the sacristy. IMG_2043 Sacred trees were a thing with the pre-Christian inhabitants all over Europe. Christianity treated the worship of trees as idolatry and this led to their deliberate destruction. From this site I learned a little more (translation mine):

When St. Boniface took an axe to the sacred Donar’s Oak at Geismar, Germany in 724, and didn’t get struck by lightning for it, he was able to proclaim the victory of Christianity. One sacred tree after another fell, and the Teutons were forced to drop their local religion and accept Christianity. Nevertheless many may not have forgiven Boniface for this desecration; he was slain 754 by the Frisians. According to many legends, when a sacred tree is cut, it bleeds from the sacrilege. Therefore the woodcutter asks the tree for forgiveness before cutting it. And many legends report of cruel punishments for messing with sacred trees . Ultimately behind such legends is the idea of the tree as seat of the Godhead. From a fiery burning bush God speaks to Moses; to Joan of Arc from the branches of a tree. The Buddha’s enlightenment takes place under a tree. The old-rooted idea of the sanctity of trees survived within Christianity and continues in myths and legends of holy images on or in trees. Particularly frequently encountered are sightings of Mary, or her image, in a tree. Many names of pilgrimages hold the discovery of a miraculous image in trees, such as “Mary of the linden”, “Mary of the fir tree”, “Mary in the hazel”,  “Mary of the larch”…

IMG_2045 Further along on the trail, a pair of Steinmänner guard the way. IMG_2050 Thirty minutes later, the St. Georgenberg-Fiecht Abbey looms above. I’ve been here before, but it’s getting late and so I turn in the direction of home by way of the Wolfsklamm. IMG_2052 An army of Steinmänner! It’s like an Alpine version of the Terracotta Warriors, or the Kodama tree spirits in “Princess Mononoke”. How delightful and unexpected. IMG_2057 IMG_2061 The Wolfsklamm in Stans has been renovated and, apparently, re-routed, in that the path through it no longer involves the pitch-black tunnels that I recall from my previous visit. Too bad, because they were fun in a scary way (it was the the first time I ever used my old cell phone as a flashlight out of sheer necessity). It’s possible that someone complained. [Sorry, that’s the Partenachklamm! But the Wolfsklamm bridges have all been rebuilt with sturdy new boards.] But the gorge is still impressive and well worth the €4,50 “toll”.

*The Schwazer Heimatblätter suggests a different origin: that the St. Georgenberg Abbey was having an image problem with pilgrims, due to a prominent prisoner being kept there.  It’s suspected that the monks themselves started the Mary-was-here story in order to keep the pilgrimages coming — that kind of thing is profitable for monasteries, after all.

Posted in Austria, culture, language, Mountains, nature, travel

Innsbruck, I’m Movin’ Out

My regular readers know that I tend to not to get too personal in my posts, even though the rare times when I do so seem to generate the largest direct responses (on social media, at least). But I need to tell you that a change is coming — the “location” of this blog, its epicentre, if you will, is about to shift approximately 130 kilometers/80 miles north, over an international border and out of the Alps (although, I’m happy to say, they are still clearly visible in the distance at my future home.) / Meine regelmäßigen Leser wissen, dass ich dazu neige, in meinen Beiträgen nicht zu persönlich zu werden, obwohl ich in diesen seltenen Fällen die meisten Reaktionen bekomme (zumindest auf Social Media).  Aber ich muss Ihnen sagen, dass eine Veränderung ansteht: Die “Ort” dieses Blogs, das Epizentrum, wenn man so will, ist im Begriff, sich etwa 130 Kilometer / 80 Meilen nördlich über eine internationale Grenze und weg von den Alpen zu verschieben (auch wenn ich froh bin dass sie immer noch in der Ferne von meinem zukünftigen Zuhause deutlich sichtbar sind.)

My regular readers also know that I have already spent a lot of time at the new location, and have blogged there often — perhaps more often than the old location. It’s not that I have any less affection for Tyrol! Other activities — rehearsals, teaching, packing up the apartment, socializing, some work-related projects — have taken precedence over hiking and blogging for a while. / Meine regelmäßigen Leser wissen auch, dass ich  am neuen Standort bereits eine Menge Zeit verbrachte und ich habe von dort auch oft gebloggt – vielleicht öfter, als vom alten Standort. Es ist nicht, dass ich nun weniger Zuneigung zu Tirol empfände! Andere Aktivitäten – Proben, Unterricht, Umzug, Geselligkeit, und einige Arbeits-Projekte – haben für eine Weile Vorrang vor den Wandern und Bloggen bekommen.

I won’t yet be gone from Tyrol completely, I have some irregular work to do here at least until the end of the year (perhaps longer), friends to see, etc. Nevertheless, sooner of later, I’ll be singing this song… /
Ich werde Tirol noch nicht ganz verlassen, ich habe noch einige unregelmäßige Arbeiten zu tun, zumindest bis zum Ende des Jahres (vielleicht länger). Freunde zu sehen, usw. Dennoch früher oder später, werde ich dieses Lied singen …

Just looking at those photos makes me a little weepy! But look at those cool 1960s* city buses on the Maria-Theresien-Straße, about 40 seconds in. / Ein kurzer Blick auf die Fotos macht mich ein wenig wehmütig!
Schauen Sie sich  bloß diese coolen Stadtbusse aus den Sechzigern* auf der Maria-Theresien-Straße an, im Video nach etwa 40 Sekunden.

Of course there have been plenty of moments where this song has seemed more fitting… / Natürlich gab es viele Momente, in denen dieses Lied passender schien …

*Paschberg says/sagt 1970s.

Posted in assimilation, Austria, current events, Innsbruck, music, singing, travel | 6 Comments

Weekend Mountain Blogging: Mittenwald, Scharnitz, Seefeld

IMG_1999I needed to go to Mittenwald because of something I’d promised to do, and since I had the day free it seemed like a good idea to get some hiking in along with some sights.
As there’s only so much ground one can cover in an afternoon, I broke up the journey with short train rides. First, to Mittenwald.

IMG_1992Every so often, a sign that I’m on the old original Roman road. In tracing the route over the Alps one has the advantages and disadvantages of the landscape. Humans are practical above everything: the first mule paths made by the more ancient inhabitants followed the easiest ways over. The Romans built mainly on these existing paths because they were there (once they got onto more open land they had more options). After the Roman retreat in the 4th century CE, the roads remained and continued to be used for trade, later providing for much of the route of the Via Imperii during the years of the Holy Roman Empire. And so on, through the ages, until that ancient road over the mountains is now mostly (not completely) under the B2.

IMG_1995From Mittenwald I walked parallel to the B2 on a quieter trail, to get a sense of what Goethe may have felt when he came through here for the first time, in 1786.

Left Mittelwald at 6, clear sky, a keen wind blowing, and the kind of cold only allowed in February. The near slopes dark and covered in spruce, the grey limestone cliffs, the highest white peaks against the beautiful blue of the sky made exquisite, constantly changing pictures. Near Scharnitz you get into the Tyrol and the border is closed with a rampart that seals off the valley and joins up with the mountains. It looks very fine. One one side the cliff is fortified, on the other it just goes steeply up.

IMG_1996The fortification to which Goethe refers is the Porta Claudia, built in the 17th century and named for Claudia di Medici.
Back on the train, next stop Seefeld in Tirol.

IMG_1998“Bee Hotel”

I had seen this path many times from the window of the train, and often wondered what the signs said. Were they historical markers?  No, the trail is all about bees and honey!

This bee-themed nature trail ended at Reith bei Seefeld. From there a late-afternoon train brought me back to Innsbruck.

Posted in Austria, culture, environment, Germany, history, literature, Mountains, nature, travel | 2 Comments

Pending Moderation

I took the website back down for a very good reason — we want the blessing of our lawyer first, and he hasn’t looked at it yet.  In Germany there is the possibility that someone can send you an Abmahnung, which is a letter telling you that you’ve done something wrong, broken some consumer protection law, and this allows him or her to basically demand money. Wikipedia explains:

In most cases, the law allows the party sending the letter to demand payment of legal costs associated with the sending of the letter. In theory, this allows anybody that observes a violation of a law that may be covered by an Abmahnung to hire an attorney, have a letter sent, and be reimbursed for the attorney’s fees. In practice, a lawyer may do this without having been hired by a client who has been wronged, in essence searching for violators of covered laws and demanding payment from them for having found them. Since the enormous proliferation of web sites, this abuse of the law has led to the so-called Abmahnwelle (-wave), as lawyers and copyright holders are trawling the internet searching for even minor and usually unintended violations of e.g. copyright law, with some law firms sending thousands of letter per year demanding payment.

This is absolutely true, and we’ve fallen victim to these sharks already in the past, for example when a merchant software inexplicibly dropped the price of a book below the legally allowed price according to the Fixed Book Price Agreement. German websites and even German blogs(!)*, are required to include an Impressum, and there are strict laws about where it goes and what must be in it.

No need to put ourselves through that again! So, the site is temporarily down but will be up again as soon as we get a professional OK.

*this may explain why there are far fewer personal blogs in Germany. The laws are different in Austria, as far as I know, but since I’ll be blogging from across the border soon enough, I put one in as well.

Posted in Germany, language, Life Abroad, media

Gounod “Funeral March of a Marionette”

I haven’t vanished in an alpine crevasse, I’ve simply been busy singing! The business has been part rehearsals, part teaching, and part working on some things for the future.

The rehearsals have led me to a small musical discovery, in fact. We have been working up Gounod’s Faust, and as I hung about on the side of the stage waiting for an entrance, I heard some very familiar music in the Walpurgisnacht scene. What was that? It sounded like the theme music to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, his successful 1950s television series.

Well, to make a long story short, it was. Or rather, it was a fragment of music which Gounod later expanded into a piano work called Marche funèbre d’une marionette. It’s this version which was then used on the television show.

Oddly, however, I haven’t found a version of the opera online which uses this music. There are other versions of the Walpurgisnacht scene, with a solo for Mephistopheles and/or long ballet music (those French operas all had extended ballets which are cut these days. It saves money in avoiding orchestra overtime and not having to hire dancers.) The version we are doing contains a section of men’s chorus which begins with “Un, deux et trois”, and that’s where the pertinant music is found.


Posted in culture, media, music, opera, theater

What Bravery Looks Like

More power to you, Mo Asumang. Those neo-nazis, shown at the beginning of this video, were clearly too terrified to speak with you.

Posted in America, assimilation, current events, Germany, lives of others | 1 Comment

Oedenburg Castle, Bavaria

Not far from the Ammersee in southern Bavaria lies a hill upon which the ruins of Oedenburg Castle are found. It was a small hilltop fortress, mostly a tower judging from the size of the hill. I have been looking at the region by way of the Bayerischer Denkmal Atlas which shows the exact locations of all sorts of historical landmarks in Bavaria. (Special thanks to fellow blogger Zeitspringer for bringing this online atlas to our attention.) // Nicht weit vom Ammersee in Südbayern liegt ein Hügel, auf dem man die Ruinen von Ödenburg Castle vorfindet. Es war eine kleine Festung vorwiegend aus einem Turm bestehend – wie aus der Größe des Hügels zu schließen ist. Ich habe mir das Gebiet im Bayerischen Denkmal Atlas angesehen, der die genauen Standorte von allerlei historischen Sehenswürdigkeiten in Bayern zeigt. (Vielen Dank an den Kollegen und Blogger Zeitspringer der uns auf diesen Online-Atlas aufmerksam machte.)
Above, how it may have looked (image found here)… // So mag die Burg einst ausgesehen haben …

IMG_1957…and how it looks today. // …und so sieht sie heute aus.

Earliest found mention of the castle in written records dates back to the 11th century and allegedly belonging to a Count von Abenstein. When the nobles died out, robber barons used the castle for its excellent views on all sides. (Two main Roman roads crossed here at Raisting, and they may well have been used into the High Middle Ages as trade routes.) By the 16th century it was already a ruin. The trees took over sometime after 1960 (we met a man on the hill who could remember, as a youth, sledding down the bare slope in winter.) // Die älteste vorgefundene Erwähnung der Burg in schriftlichen Aufzeichnungen stammt aus dem 11. Jahrhundert, in der sie angeblich einem Grafen von Abenstein gehörte. Als die Adligen ausgestorben ware, verwendeten Raubritter die Burg wegen ihrer hervorragenden Aussicht in alle Himmelsrichtungen. (Zwei wichtige Römerstraßen kreuzten sich hier bei Raisting, und sie sind wohl auch im Hochmittelalter als Handelswege benutzt worden) Im 16. Jahrhundert war die Anlage schon verfallen. Bäume überwucherten irgendwann nach 1960 den Platz (ein Mann den wir auf dem Hügel trafen, erinnerte sich, das er noch als Jugendlicher, dort auf dem damals freien Abhang im Winter Rodeln ging).

An article about the fortress in the Augsburger Allgemeine mentions an old local legend, similar to other old legends about other old fortresses around these parts: the castle was later occupied by robber barons who, one night, celebrated a recent conquest with revelry. The folks down in the village heard shouting and clanging through the evening right up until the stroke of midnight, at which point all was suddenly still. The next morning, their curiosity took them up the hill, where they found that the entire castle and its inhabitants had been swallowed up by the earth overnight. // Ein Artikel über die Festung in der Augsburger Allgemeinen erwähnt eine alte Legende, die jenen über anderen alten Burgen in dieser Gegend ähnelt: Das Schloss wurde später von Raubrittern, die eines Nachts, den kürzliche Raubzug mit einem Gelage feierten. Die Leute unten im Dorf hörten Geschrei und Klirren durch den Abend bis um Mitternacht, dann war alles plötzlich still. Am nächsten Morgen führte sie ihre Neugier auf den Hügel, wo sie feststellten, dass das gesamte Schloss und seine Bewohner über Nacht von der Erde verschlungen worden waren.

IMG_1954All that remains today is this round wall of earth, circling what is said to have been the tower’s dungeon. That probably gets the attention of the schoolchildren who are brought here on field trips. // Alles was davon heute übrige ist, ist dieser runde Erdwall, der den Platz umgibt von dem man sagte, es hätten sich dort Turm und Kerker befunden. Das wird wohl die Aufmerksamkeit der Schüler, die auf Exkursionen hierher gebracht werden, auf sich ziehen.

Posted in archaeology, Germany, history, nature, theater | 1 Comment

Note to self: find more cheerful subjects for blog…

Over two weeks have passed since that Germanwings pilot deliberately crashed Flight 9525 into the French Alps, taking 149 passengers and crew with him. The news cycle is mostly done with the speculation over the pilot’s illness, motives, personality disorder, but the story is still brewing in my thoughts, due to one particular passenger, Maria Radner. She was one of two opera singers on the plane, having just closed a production of Siegfried at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, flying home to Düsseldorf with her husband and their young son.
I didn’t know her. Never met her, until now had never heard her sing. But the opera world is small, and only 1 or 2 degrees of separation stand between most of us singers, so I learned after the fact that we had a handful of mutual friends. // Mehr als zwei Wochen ist es her, dass der Germanwings Pilot absichtlich den Flug 9525 in der Französisch Alpen zum Asbturz brachte, wobei 149 Passagiere und Besatzungsmitglieder mit ihm umkamen. Des Nachrichten mit Spekulationen über den Piloten, Krankheit, Motive, Persönlichkeitsstörung sind nun großteils erörtert, aber die Geschichte geht mir persönlich noch immer durch den Kopf, wegen eines bestimmten Passagiers, Maria Radner. Sie war eine von zwei Opernsängern im Flugzeug, die gerade eine Aufführung von Siegfried im Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona abgeschlossen hatten. Sie flog zurück nach Hause, nach Düsseldorf, gemeinsam mit ihrem Mann und ihrem kleinen Sohn.
Ich kannte sie nicht. Ich traf sie nie und bis jetzt hatte ich sie nie singen gehört. Aber der Opernwelt ist klein, und nur über maximal ein oder zwei Bekannte kennen sich die meisten von uns Sängern. So erfuhr ich, dass wir eine Handvoll gemeinsame Freunde hatten.
I don’t want this post to be about me, and so I will try to keep it as universally pertinent as possible — if any wisdom can be gleaned from this tragedy after the fact, maybe it’s this:
It’s not easy to eschew competition as a singer, it being a naturally competitive field. We jockey for position, we judge each other (sometimes kindly, sometimes mercilessly), we make sacrifices in order to “stay in the running”, because the career demands them. Many singers are single, or divorced. Men seem to have it a little easier, but “having it all” as a successfully employed opera singer with a marriage and family or otherwise steady relationship occurs only when both partners are prepared to give a lot, and even then it’s a crap shoot.  How do you know you are making the right life decisions? You don’t. You never do. Even in hindsight, many of us surely wonder, as I do, if we may have done something differently in our pasts. // Ich kannte sie nicht. Ich traf sie nie und bis jetzt hatte ich sie nie singen gehört. Aber der Opernwelt ist klein, und nur über maximal ein oder zwei Bekannte kennen sich die meisten von uns Sängern. So erfuhr ich, dass wir eine Handvoll gemeinsame Freunde hatten.
Diese Beitrag soll sich nicht mit mir befassen, und so werde ich versuchen, es so universell relevant wie möglich zu halten – und wenn man irgendein Erkenntnis aus dieser Tragödie ziehen kann ist es vielleicht dies:
Es ist nicht leicht, den Wettbewerb mit anderen Sängern zu meiden, es ist von natur aus eines sehr Wettbewerbsorientiertes Genre. Wir rittern um unsere Positionen, bewerten uns gegenseitig (manchmal freundlich, manchmal gnadenlos) machen Opfer, um ” im Rennen  zu bleiben “, weil die Karriere das verlangt. Viele Sänger sind Singles oder geschieden. Männer scheinen es ein wenig leichter zu haben, aber “alles zu bekommen” als erfolgreiche Opernsängerin mit einer Ehe und Familie oder anderweitig festen Beziehung funktioniert nur, wenn beide Partner bereit sind, viel zu geben, und selbst ist es noch reinen Glückssache. Wie erkennt man ob man die richtigen Entscheidungen im Leben trifft? Es geht nicht. Niemals. Auch im Nachhinein fragen sich sicherlich viele, wie ich, was in der Vergangenheit anders gemacht hätte werden sollen.
And so, here was Maria Radner, who seemingly did “have it all”. She’d already had her Metropolitan Opera debut, in 2012, at age 30. An international career followed, the Bayreuth debut scheduled for this summer. Husband, first child, spectacular career in bloom.
To those of us who will never experience that kind of glory, it falls to us to simply look around. You may be never see your dreams fulfilled, but you are alive. Would you trade? Of course not. So look around at what you have, and make every day count. You can never know when, or how,  the journey will end. // Und hier war nun Maria Radner, die anscheinend “alles bekam”. Sie hatte bereits ihre Metropolitan Opera Debüt im Jahr 2012, mit 30. Eine internationale Karriere folgte, das Bayreuth-Debüt war für diesen Sommer geplant. Ehemann, erstes Kind, spektakuläre Karriere in voller Blüte.
Für diejenigen unter uns, die nie diese Art von Ruhm erleben werden, bleibt nur uns einfach umzusehen. Mag sein, daß wir nie die Erfüllung unserer Träume sehen, aber wir leben. Möchten Sie das tauschen? Natürlich nicht. Also freuen wir sich an dem, was wir haben, und nutzen wir jeden Tag. Man kann nie wissen, wann oder wie die Reise endet.

Posted in current events, Germany, lives of others, opera, singing | 2 Comments