Wednesday, July 25, 2012


So much to note, so little time. The days and nights are full to overflowing.

Fo the time being, I need to get things down and a list is the best I can manage.

The Munich stay was two weeks with a three day trip to Lake Como, and a one day trip to Salzburg.

In Munich there was

1. The Ring Cycle. I've yet to get my thoughts on the whole cycle down, but can say the Gotterdammerung was especially memorable for Nina Stemme's magnificent Brunnhilde. Zachary Wolfe's (NYT) assessment is here. I don't agree so much with him, but he is a thoughtful and progressive commentator. More later with pics.

2. Two good concerts with the Munich Phil at Gasteid, the 1980s functional concert hall (built on the site of the beer hall where the Hitler putsch took place) the locals love to dislaike, but which works, has a clear bright acoustic, and a good orchestra. Giergev was restained, for Giergev, but very effective in the Shostakovich 11 and 15, two of my favs. The other was the lovely Julia Fischer in Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto coupled with Rach 3 symphony conducted really well by tall dark and handsome.
More later with pics.

3. Tales of Hoffman with Villazon whose voice was scarey shot to pieces, sad really, but he received good support from the crowd. Diana Damrau now with advanced pregnancy was replaced by three sopranos, and the Nicklausse of Angela Brown was the best performance of the night, she is just a gorgeous performer with lovely lovely voice very well produced. More later with pics.

3. The Greek sculpture and pottery museums are gob-smacking. The Barberini Faun. More later with pics.

4. Villa Stuck on a Sunday morning. More later with pics.

Now in Nuremberg.

This is a compelling and beautiful and proud medieval city, walls not breached till the Americans came in '45, restored and looking wonderful, a rich and royal city.

1. The Hitler rally fields and the presentations with them are staggering, and moving beyond the beyond. The German capacity to look at the past is unequalled as far as I can see. More later with pics.

2. There is a stunning Dürer, Franconia's favorite son, retrospective, booked out with long queues. We were whisked through with guide. More later with pics.

2. A Gluck Opera summer festival is underway. Last night's Ezio was in the car park basement of the opera house, an edgy mix of main stream actors doing the spoken word, with a good vocal team singing, with the likes of the fabulous Heidi Meier. Mad Max comes to baroque in a thrilling exciting brilliant performance also well sold out. More later.

3. Elektra tonight.

Transferring to Bayreuth today.

We've had our security clearance (our seats were not purchased in our name hence a special request - full details of who is sitting in those seats - carry passports) to the operas, because we are sitting pretty close to someone called Angela. Much more later

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


The slow boat to Bellagio, on the tip of the point that forks Lake Como into its two arms, takes two hours. Two hours gliding past the rich and famous (Clooney), past history, old money and new, steep slopes and rugged peaks, clusters of houses and dots of remote ones, hotels and holiday spots, oleandas and geraniums and balsam and begonias, pines and olives, and then you are there.

Waiting for the ferry on a sultry summer morning

just intoxicated by this

till along it comes

 and here we go.

We took the hydrofoil back. 

And straight to the pool; campari soda please.


We made it over the Alps and stayed at Lake Como for two nights. The hotel was serious glam and not our usual fare but then we were really beholden to others for whom we were essentially giving a lift down as a thank you for favours bestowed our way.

And this is just the annexe, with the floating pool on the right.


Schloss Nymphenburg on the outskirts of Munich is a schloss is a schloss is a schloss like a we-can-do-French kind of schloss. There is also the royal porcelain collection and a fantastic array of carriages and sleighs with all the extra horsey bits.

The present count lives in this wing, so my Ring Cycle friend-of-count-I'm-an-eye-doctor-and live-on-the-edge-of-Nymphenberg seat neighbour told me.

The gardens have a splendid parterre

but the walk through the acres of woods to the outlying pavilions was the most interesting. It a big park and a long walk, and someone was heard to say 'if I'm not careful I'll start losing weight',

discovering amongst many things a Chinoiserie retreat (that link will lead to the others), grottos, a chapel of studded shells and stones, and this modest summer house in silver and blue.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


We went for the day, two hours each way through the damp green countryside fat with brown and white cows, and soft wispy clouds around the hilltops as we arrived. Second class fares return for two totalled 28 euro - 7 euro each way per person. A (Munich) pensioner can pay 60 euro a year to cover all transport up to 50 Km from Munich. As our (pensioner) friend said, referring mainly to the beauty of these places and the free music available, we (Germans) may pay a lot of tax, but we get a lot for it. Including the angst of the Greeks.

Salzburg was much lovelier than I ever expected, a real place, the day after the festival had opened. Later the skies cleared and the sun shafted all those postcard kodak places everyone has seen. Not too many cliché shots from me, but a few little reminders of this and that for later. I'll probably add more later.

We had lunch at the Blaue Ganz (Blue Goose) - porcini soup, crumbed chicken breast whose fame is well justified, with sauv-blanc from Graz. The loo was as smart and understated as much else. One could imagine piped music I suppose, but this was story reading in a soft gentle male voice coming from unseen speakers, and I heard two words that were especially suggestive - Tadzio und Maman.

Der Goldener Hirsch was a walk through and an unexpected chat with a waiter (blame the sauv-blanc), and Cafe Tomaselli had pungent coffee and disappointing cake.

The Mirabell Gardens were in full bloom.

The old St Francis church was a calm retreat.

The main cathedral was standing room only for a free concert - brass quartet; small male choir; small female choir; soprano and organ. There are four separate organs. It's all intensely Catholic.

Outside in the  Cathedral square is the temporary seating for the annual opener - Jedermann - Hofmannsthal's version of Everyman. You know the ending.

Friday, July 20, 2012


In the Munich Kunstareal, on the other corner of the block with Pinakothek der Moderne is the Brandhorst Museum. The Brandhorsts had amassed a vast collection of edgy contemporary paintings, sculpture and installations and the story goes they offered it to whichever city could/would build a museum for it. Munich got it together. As it does.

Inside a eye-catching modest sized 2009 building of blocks of vertical strips whose colours wax and wane with lighting and aspect, are yet more glorious exhibition spaces over three floors gently connected by soft gliding stairs all beautifully finished in soft inviting curved timbers.

All you need to know is here.

Significant in impacting on me:

Andy Warhols, including his one massive wall (monochrome faces of Christ) from his Last Supper series, and his last supper too;

Damien Hirst with a giant installation of meticulously placed pills, reduced to lolly like insignificance on rows, and rows, and rows, of chrome shelving, exploring the doomed quest for survival;

Cy Twombly, best known for not being known, with explosive violent abstractions on war and the sea; huge sensual erotic rose swirls in staged pubescence;

Eric Fischl exploring the pyschosexual tensions in domesticity ....

This is a rich city this Munich.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


We popped down to Cernobbio for a couple of nights.

It takes five hours - zipping through Switzerland (and maybe a nick of Austria, I'm not sure) - but the drive from Munich to Como over the Alps is fantastic, the fast autobahns of Deutschland tapering into narrower roads, tunnels and underpasses, zigzagging across bridges, picture postcard scenery at every turn, waterfalls, chalets, fast flowing streams, fields of wildflowers, summer grasses, slashes of red geraniums under windows, and the increasing brilliance of the blue sky of northern Italy and Lake Como, close by Milan, the jewel they (rightly) claim of the Italian lake district.

BMW beats elephants.


Munich is looking wonderful. And prosperous. And a city of high cultural values, no news there, but you feel it immediately.

The weather is stormy.

Young people are a strong (and handsome) presence wherever you go. Bicycles, bicycles, bicycles. Easy riding in the flat open city, there's no need for (or question of) helmets here - the chance of contact with a hard surface looks very remote. A mother with her child in a rear drawn bike carriage is a common sight. Dedicated lanes are respected and where they aren't, traffic sharing is civil and generous. Public transport is multilayered (bus, tram, U-bahn, S-bahn) and well integrated. Tickets to the opera include travel all all public transport.

The grand 'strassen' in the Zentrum, lined with the saved, preserved and restored, are magnificent.


Everyone is friendly and gracious. The service ethic is faultless.

We are in Schwabing, staying close by friends.

The hotel is functional clean and slick modern. A delight really, tucked in a suburban street in this northern Munich district between Hohenzollernplatz and Kurfürsenplatz. There's not many prewar buildings (art noveaux-ish on the left next to postwar)

but enough to echo the past.

The main roads are wide and busy and the tram / bus services enviable.

A few blocks away is the park built on the mounded rubble of the ruined city with the telecommunication tower in the Olympiapark peeking in from the west. The morning are often cool and showery and this is the loveliest calm space to start the day, with the occasional jogger, dog walkers, and herded school children ...