Category Archives: Decorative Arts

What’s Doing at the Dallas Museum of Arts?

Cats & Cocktails at the DMA

TRAVEL HERE: ARTFUL DELIGHTS AT THE DMA

So I’ve been in the process of catching up on my adventures.  We’ve been to Gruene TX for a girl’s road trip, Birmingham AL for business and Fort Worth for Monet.  All this leaves me with yet another confession.  If you missed the Devine Felines at the DMA, mea culpa.  If you miss Mexico 1900-1950, then that’s going to be your fault.

A Busy Autumn Break

My autumn disappeared in a haze of responsibility.  Global Heart Ministries had a tea, a video shoot and a fundraiser.  I also went on that trip I haven’t been able to tell you about.  So they kept me pretty busy.  I sort of disappeared out of my life until the October 22 fundraiser happened.  After all that, I was just about ready for a life and I took on a project that I could do completely at home.  I needed a break.

That’s when the invitation to the opening of the Art and Nature exhibition came along.    Bill and I put the event on our calendar and zipped downtown to take a gander.  We spent a perfectly lovely evening at the museum.  The art focused on the Middle Ages and as such pretty much everything in the exhibit was related to the Catholic faith.  There were reliquaries, crosiers , crucifixes, stained glass, etc. etc. etc.  The workmanship was exquisite and we thoroughly loved the whole thing.

Perhaps our favorite thing was the Scavenger Hunt.  Yep – a scavenger hunt.  Now many museums and such offer scavenger hunts, but they are usually for kids and they’re offered in black and white on a piece of copy paper.  Nope, that wasn’t it at all.  Instead on beautiful slick paper in the richest colors possible, we were challenged to identify 14 various images, each of which were only a small part of a larger work.  Not only was it a lot of fun, but it inspired us to take a long, deep look at things we might have just glanced at and then walked away.

After the Scavenger Hunt we checked out the offerings at the refreshment table, but didn’t see much to our liking, so we headed home.  Here’s the good news.  It will be at the museum until the 19th of this month, so please hurry in to see it.

Shaken | Stirred | Styled

A Pleasant Sunday

But the exhibit about the Middle Ages wasn’t all that was happening at the DMA, so we made another visit.  Confession!  I know it had to happen after the opening of Art & Nature, but if I was forced to testify as to when, I would be in trouble.  We walked back through Art & Nature and then strolled down to Shaken| Stirred |Styled.  This is a small exhibition in a side gallery that would be easy to miss, so if you go between now and November 12th, please be sure to ask someone where it is.

The entire exhibit is a collection of bar ware from the 19th century and it’s cool – really cool.  There are punch bowls and martini glasses, but perhaps the most fun is cocktail shakers from the Prohibition Era.  

We also took a look at Divine Felines, which is now closed.  The collection of Egyptian cat mummies and other feline related items was interesting, but not compelling to us, so I don’t feel quite so bad about allowing you to miss it.

Since our goal was to kill the afternoon, we also strolled through the South American and American galleries, enjoying old favorites.  Since this is where Bill and I met, all the art seems like friends of the family.  Truly a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in Dallas.

Don’t Miss Mexico

One final note before I go.  A new exhibition just started at the museum, Mexico 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Jose Clemente Orozco and the Avant-Garde.  I am really sorry to report that once again Global Heart Ministries has interfered with my love of art.  Last week I had to miss the exhibition’s opening party to help with the video shoot we were filming.  I love GHM, but it’s tough when I have to make decisions like that.  The good thing is that the exhibit just opened and it will be here through July.  Even with my crazy schedule I should be able to make it.

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Birmingham Museum of Art

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Birmingham Museum of Art

TRAVEL THERE: THE JEWEL OF BIRMINGHAM

When the possibility of visiting Birmingham first came up, I checked out the city online.  The city seemed to be a foodie haven with a great art museum and a nice botanical garden, but comparing their hours to our flight schedule and the hours of the thing I can’t tell you about, I wasn’t going to have time to do anything about any of that.  So, I dutifully went about my business.  Still, something in my subconscious kept clanging.  I couldn’t exactly recall why, but I knew I really wanted to see the museum.

bma-postcard02202017Perhaps, Maybe, Possibly

One day at lunch, before we took off on the Birmingham adventure, I mentioned to Hannah Beth that I regretted we weren’t going to have time to do the touristy thing.  She assured me the museum was well worth seeing and mentioned a couple of possibilities we might have for seeing it.  I assured her I had checked for evening hours, so that wouldn’t work, but skipping the final session – that would do.

I just happen to be one of those people who believe God is personally involved in my life.  I also believe that if I’m willing to put Him first, He does everything he can to fulfill Psalms 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desire of your heart.”  In fact, He’s proved it to me too many time to deny it.

So, while we were keeping an ear to the ground to find out how significant the final session would be, God was arranging to keep things ahead of schedule so that we could get out in plenty of time to make it to the museum.  You may call that a coincidence.  I don’t believe in coincidences.

My Wedgewood-esque Fireplace

My Wedgewood-esque Fireplace

An Embarrassment of Wedgwood

If you’ve been hanging around this blog for very long, then you know the Decorative Arts Wing of any museum is my prime objective when I make a visit.  I love Decorative Arts better than anything else produced from the artistic mind.  I can spend an entire day in a Porcelain gallery – a passion I learned from my mother.

What’s more, Wedgwood,especially their Jasperware, (matte porcelain with relief decorations) is among my most favorite porcelains. Don’t believe me?  Take a gander at the photo of the fireplace my husband and I designed for our home.  You don’t have one of these unless you love Wedgwood.  It was inspired by two I’d seen in Mount Vernon.

Along with representative Wedgwood pieces gracing the mantle piece, there are various Wedgwood and Jasperware pieces spread throughout the house.  For good measure, my everyday china is Wedgwood.  Not Jasperware but Wedgwood.  So imagine my delight when I glanced over the map of the Birmingham Museum and saw three galleries designated by the word “Wedgwood”.

The Dwight and Lucille Beeson Wedgwood Collection

If you love Wedgwood the way I love Wedgwood, then go ahead and book the flight.  I’ve been in a lot of museums and so far, I’ve never seen one with so much Wedgwood.  I haven’t been to The Wedgwood Museum at Stokes-on-Trent yet, but that’s only because it didn’t exist decades ago when I visited the city.  I can assure you, this is the most Wedgwood you are going to see anywhere outside of Britain.

The galleries contain mostly Jasperware in a rainbow of hues, but they have samples of other forms of Wedgwood collected by the couple.  I swear I could have visited the museum every day for a week and been perfectly happy studying the exhibits in the three galleries.  Here are some samples.

 

That blue and yellow vase on the jade pedestal would be great in my yellow and blue French decor but the dark blue wine cooler with the white flowers must be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  I’d leave it in the museum for others to share.

Giving the Rest of the Art Its Due

Even if you don’t like Wedgwood, the Birmingham Museum of Art is still a good thing to see.  Porcelains from other places are prevalent throughout the museum, but there are also paintings and statues and other things to enjoy.  I did run through the balance of the galleries at a high speed and then rushed back to gander at the Wedgwood a little more.  However, I did get these two postcards to prove the museum has variety.

 

ww-book02202017Buying the Book

In this digital age, when you can find almost any piece of art you’d like to see by searching it online, art books might not seem a good investment to some people.  Maybe other people spend their time cruising museums online, but I’ll confess, I want to be there and see it in person.  Seeing it online is better than not seeing it at all, but it’s not even on the same continent as first hand observation.

By the same token, while I have broken my habit of buying a book in every museum I go to, sometimes I just have to take a catalog home.  This was one of those times.  In fact, I anticipated facing down the fury of my husband if the only thing available was some $160 hardback number.

I guess God was doing me another favor, because there was a reasonably priced soft cover edition of the catalog – only it had a large sticker designating it as the display copy.  I chatted up the clerk, who was a volunteer.  She looked in the stockroom – nothing.  She offered to have someone take a gander in the warehouse in the next day or so and call me if they had anymore.  I just stood there clasping the display edition as if my life depended on it.  “I’m leaving town this afternoon,” I all but wailed.  “Oh we can ship it to you,” she assured me.

I put off replying to her suggestion by telling her about my fireplace.  Then I mused as to what in the world I would do if there were no more of the books in the warehouse.  She decided to sell me the display copy at a discounted price.  BINGO!  I’m getting a whole lot better at this negotiating thing than I used to be.  I’d have paid full price just to have it, but I’m sure the fireplace story did the trick!

The flight home was not as trouble free as my flight to Birmingham.  The flight was delayed for hours and as a result I know more about the food vendors at the Birmingham airport than I should.  I’d been on a diet, which had been seriously threatened by the fast food offerings served to us at that thing I can’t tell you about, but what damage had not already been done got done.  So much for dieting.  And so much for Birmingham.  Come back next week and see what I’m up to.

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Cruise Afterglow

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Cruising the Wachau Valley

TRAVEL THERE: VIKING’S DANUBE WALTZ – WHAT A TRIP!

As I sit in my office on an October Saturday afternoon in Heath TX, listening to the fountain that dances in my pond and writing a post you will read in December, I have nothing but kudos for my  April cruise on Viking Cruise Lines.  My travel agent, Sandra Rubio at CTC set up everything perfectly for us and Viking Cruise Lines is amazing – simply amazing!

What I Liked Best

  • 20160421_210026Wonderful new friends!  Deb & Mike Radcliffe and Gwenne & John Penkert were the best cruise buddies you can imagine – and they live in Oregon, which gives me an excuse to return to one of my favorite places.
  • The inadequately named “Silver Collection,” a part of the Imperial Apartment Museum in the Hofburg in Vienna.  Decorative Arts overload! I will never forget it.
  • Pretty much everything I ate and drank on the Viking Tor, but especially the bottomless wine glass at dinner.
  • Budapest – yep, the whole thing.  Can’t wait to go back someday.  And Rick Steve’s is right about the Baths.
  • Lunch in Cesky Krumlov
  • A sunny afternoon stroll in Passau

What I Liked Least

  • 2b-castle-tor-7

    The Faux Castle

    The non-stop Lufthansa flight from DFW to Frankfurt.  Worst flight EVER!!

  • Not having more time in Budapest.
  • Bratislava, Slovakia – didn’t feel good, didn’t get the shore excursion I wanted, the guide was iffy.  Other than that it was a great stop (tee hee.)
  • Being in Vienna in the rain on a Monday, which is when the Lipizzaners don’t perform and some of the museums are closed.  Loved Vienna, but after three visits there, I have yet to see the Lippizzaners and I could have done without the rain.
  • Anything to do with Empress Elizabeth, otherwise known as Sissie.
  • The guide in Passau.

On Our Way Home

Viking got us home as smoothly as they did everything else.  While we were at breakfast, our bags were whisked away.  We boarded a bus and after a pleasant drive were at the Munich airport.

While not awful enough to include in my “least liked” list, German airports didn’t rate very highly with me.  They get high marks for cleanliness, but they were confusing.  We roamed in befuddled circles in Frankfurt and repeated the exercise in Munich.

Security was on high alert, because we got there just as some international dignitaries were strutting through the airport.  I think there had been some sort conference, but the airport was full of people who looked as if they were used to getting preferential treatment and security was tight.

Thankfully, the Delta flight to Chicago was much more pleasant than the Lufthansa non-stop torture chamber.  However, because customs dumped us outside the secured area, we had to go back through the TSA screening and that was a nightmare.  They were so backed-up, we had pity on some people who were about to miss their flight and gave them our spot.  What else were we going to do with our time?  Go shopping?

Finally, Dallas!  As much as I love traveling, I do love getting home.  As if to welcome us home, a full moon hung low in the sky over our pond.  It was the first trip I’d returned from without having my beloved Shih Tzu, Precious, to greet me.  I miss that white ball of fur.

I’ll give you one more look at our overview video and then I hope you’ll come back next week to see what else I’ve been up to.

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Pretty Little Passau

5p-ooo-6TRAVEL THERE: THE FINAL SHORE EXCURSION

Waking up in Passau was bittersweet.  During the night we’d passed from Austria into Germany and docked at Passau, but my research had not mined up any nuggets for my “must-see” list, in this town at the confluence of three rivers.  The overwhelming emotion was regret.  I was going to have to leave this cozy boat where they took me from destination to destination, fulfilling my every need and desire along the way. 

The Morning Rush Hour

In Viking River Cruise land, mornings were busy.  We had to get up and get breakfast before the tour started.  There were no lazy days at sea. It might have been nice to intersperse all these activities with some down time, but Mr. Bill is not a two week vacation kind of guy and on an 8 day river cruise you are engaged every single day, all day long.

Passau was no different.  The walking tour began at nine.  After a delicious breakfast we disembarked and found our guide.  We did not get the pick of the litter.

The Walking Torture

So what date do you think this is?

So what date do you think this is?

He was a Frenchman, resettled into Germany and I’ll just say it, he was rude.  He was quite knowledgeable, but so unpleasant.  He was obviously unaware that we were on a walking tour, not taking an oral exam for a PhD.  He’d pepper us with questions and then ridicule our answers.  If we dared ask him a question, he’d belittle us.  I’m not exactly ignorant of history, but the one question I asked him about a date painted on a castle, resulted in my most uncomfortable moment of the cruise.

We  put up with him for a while, but it was finally so unpleasant that we wandered off and found our own way back to the boat.  However, Passau is a lovely little town, in spite of the rude guide, so I’ll show you some of it.

Pretty Little Passau

If you’ve been following me along on this cruise, then you know the operative word for the predominant architectural style along the Danube is Baroque.  We got a taste of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Cesky Krumlov, but pretty much everything else has been Baroque-on-steroids.  Passau was no different.  The architectural highlights are the Prelate’s Palace and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, but the whole town is lovely.  For some reason, the Rathaus has murals painted all over it which are reminiscent of the Middle Ages, but they are merely modern interpretations of that era.  Architecture aside, the three rivers are the real stars of the show.

Enjoy this gallery of shots from our walking torture.  I can’t tell you much more about them, because the only way I was able to avoid killing my guide was to ignore him.  We finally abandoned him and made our own way back to the boat.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about the rest of the day, which was a lot more fun.

 

 

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A Quick Stroll through Cesky Krumlov Castle

Castle Courtyard

Castle Courtyard

TRAVEL THERE: TAKE MORE TIME HERE THAN WE DID

Cesky Krumlov Castle is a treasure trove of history, architecture and decorative arts.  Let’s start with the history.

The Medieval Lords of Krumlov

There’s not much left from the Middle Ages, but this has been a castle since the 13th century.  The one remaining tidbit is the castle tower, left over from the days when the castle’s first job was defense.  According to Rick Steves, if you go up its 162 steps you’ll get a find view of the Czech countryside, but I wouldn’t know.

Moving on to the Renaissance

4ck-castle-30While the tower is Medieval, it’s decoration is not.  That’s all Renaissance, so let’s move up a few years.  When the Krumlovs died out, their cousins, the Rozmberks, moved in.  (Rozmberk is often rendered as Rosenberg, but let’s be Czech about this.)

The Krumlovs had been your basic local gentry, but their cousins were a whole different animal.  The Rosmberks went on a serious building campaign, but don’t let the pictures fool you.  Those walls in the courtyard are just plaster.  All the fancy stonework is merely painted on.  They weren’t being cheap, it was just the style.  In fact, they probably could have gotten the stonework cheaper than the painting, but they were all about the show.

Everything had to look modern and up-to-date for the Rozmberks.  They turned that practical, defensive tower into a folly of astrological signs and symbols.  I’m not sure who came up with the idea of a pastel yellow and baby pink as an acceptable color combination, but I would like to complain about it.  Pink and beige were often used together throughout this region, too.  Both color themes make me a little nauseous, but they were all the rage apparently, based on the frequency of their use.

While I didn’t approve of their color schemes, I have to admit they did do a great job out in the gardens.  The glorious Renaissance gardens in the French style, with a magnificent central fountain, were something to see.  It was a little early in the season for floral displays.

They symbol of the Rosenberg family can be found all over the castle.

They symbol of the Rozmberk family can be found all over the castle.

Visions of Grandeur

It wasn’t enough for the Rozmberks to have the best castle around, they wanted to climb even higher on the social ladder. So they decided they wanted to be kin to the the Orsinis, who were ruling the roost over in Italy.

Now there are a number of stories about their claim to Orsinism.  Some say they just added a fake limb to their family tree and were powerful enough to pull it off with aplomb.  Others claim they actually did have a legitimate claim.  My favorite story is they expressed their desire to be Orsinis to that family and for X amount of money, the Orsini’s adopted them.  That sounds about right from what I know of the Orsinis.

The Crest of the Orsini-Rosenbergs

The Crest of the Orsini-Rozmberks

Whichever story is true, the Rozmberks celebrated their promotion in a couple of ways.  They altered their family crest and added a bear to their moat, because as we all know, Orsini comes from the Italian word for bear.

When I titled this post as “a quick stroll” I’m referring to the way I saw the castle – almost at a dead run!  We were in and out of the castle environs almost before I could get out the camera for a few photos.  (Confession, we did not take the bear picture.  It’s off the Viking memory stick we purchased.  The bear hid from us during our quick stroll.)

cesky-krumlov-58What’s more, the tour was only outside and we didn’t get so much as a peek inside.  Museum Girl was about to have a fit.  Here she had a well-furnished Czech palace to check out and we’re ripping through the courtyards at a fast pace.  One of the reasons the castle is well-furnished is because once a Hapsburg-related family gained control of the place it fell out of favor and became a sort of over-sized attic.

Another reason you can enjoy the castle in its former furnished glory is because Czech curators share better than Americans.  They actually try to get the various bits and pieces they find to the appropriate castles.  Because Cesky Krumlov Castle spent so many years as a warehouse of out-of-fashion and damaged furnishings, there are still huge areas of the castle that are still cleaned out and cataloged.  When they find a piece that seems to belong to another castle, they send it along with their regards and curators at other castles do the same.  American curators seem to share a penchant for hoarding.  The bowels of their institutions hold tons of items the public never gets to see, because the museums hold on to every bit they get for dear life.  I liked the Czechs even better for this little tid-bit.

4ck-castle-24Once we’d checked out the bear pits we had a choice to make.  We could either head to the ticket office and go on one of the interior castle tours or we could head out to the picturesque town. The town is charming and I had a wonderful time with our cruise buddies, but Museum Girl was about to go into melt-down.

I’ll share a treat with you.  While I didn’t go through the castle, someone on the Viking crew did and they got some marvelous pictures, which I’ll include at the end along with more of my pictures of the exterior, but there’s one more bit of history you need to know about Cesky Krumlov.

The Baroque Theater

I chose to get a degree in Performance instead of Literature and I’m glad, because to get the degree you have to have a smattering of all the arts, including the performance arts.  One of my classes was the history of theater and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  (The professor was somewhat of a kook, but welcome to the university!)

We studied all the old playwrights and reviewed the various venues.  I reveled in the Renaissance era when cathedrals used to fly children through the air on wires as cherubs.  (No child labor laws to contend with.)  However, the Baroque period was also something.  Every castle worth its appellation had its own theater and each theater proprietor tried to outdo the other on special effects – only there was no digital CGI.  They used actual flames and fireworks to get their effects.  And that’s exactly why there are only two of them left in the world.  Cesky Krumlov is one of them!

It killed me to forego the pleasure of touring the theater.  If I ever get back to the Czech Republic, wild horses won’t keep me away from taking every tour offered in Cesky Krumlov.  Now enjoy the pictures and come back next week for a tour of the town.

 

 

 

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Going to the Chapel (and the Buffet)

3m-44TRAVEL THERE: THE CHAPEL AT MELK ABBEY

Pretty amazing, huh? Last week I told you about my recent visit to Melk Abbey and compared it to a unique experience I’d enjoyed during a previous visit.  While the rest of the abbey suffered from the absence of my original guide, you really don’t need a guide in the chapel.  Anywhere your eye lands is remarkable.

The Chapel of Baroqueness

Though I’d spent much of the previous day gawking at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, when it comes to over-the-top Baroqueness, the palace didn’t hold a candle to the Melk Abbey Chapel.  I could wax eloquent over the charms of the chapel, but I’ll just let a few photographs do the talking.

Back to the Boat

With all of our senses beaten to a bloody pulp of Baroque over-stimulation, we had a choice to make when we left the chapel.  We could either grab a bus back to the boat or stroll to the dock through the small town of Melk.  For once, Mr. Bill was the more adventurous.  I still hadn’t thawed out from our wait in the courtyard, so subjecting myself to more punishment seemed foolish.  I hot-footed it to the buses with the other elderly and handicapped people, because I was feeling very elderly and quite handicapped.

The first order of business was a very long, very hot shower.  Cocktail hour was approaching.  Bill strolled in just about the moment I was strolling out.  The cocktail hour was preceded by a presentation about other Viking cruises available.  Bill had no desire to be enticed into booking our next cruise, so I went and wished on my own.

taste-of-austria-9A Taste of Austria

As far as the crew was concerned, this was a big night.  Instead of our usual leisurely dinner, we were having an enormous buffet of Austrian treats.  Each table was tricked out with checkered tablecloths and racks of huge pretzels.   The chic sophistication of the dining room was subjected to an oom-pah-pah polka band, while our wait staff donned dirndls and lederhosen.

I can’t say I was a fan.  While most of the food was good, the pretzels were a disappointment (much too tough by my American standards) and brats are not my favorite things.  However, what they missed in culinary quality they made up in gourmand quantity.  I will give them these accolades, the effort at entertainment was remarkable and the local wines they served were outstanding.

Time for Bed

After dinner we were offered a dose of Mozart in the lounge, but the foodfest was such an ordeal that I can’t even remember whether we made it to the presentation or not.  If we did, I didn’t gain any new insights into the eccentric genius.  I do remember crawling into bed in utter exhaustion.

I’ll leave you with a summary video of our day in the Wachau Valley.  Come back next week and we’ll visit our next stop along the Danube.

 

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Marvelous Melk Abbey

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A peek at the Wachau Valley from inside the Abbey walls

TRAVEL THERE: THE GLORIES OF BAROQUE IN SPADES

A Return to Marvelous Melk Abbey

Of all the places I’ve traveled to over the years, Melk Abbey qualifies as one of the most remarkable.  All they need in the dictionary, to define the word Baroque, is a picture of the chapel’s interior.  But that dictionary doesn’t have enough words in it to adequately describe the wonders you will see inside the abbey.

Melk Abbey has become somewhat of a tourist trap in the days since my last visit, 3-4 decades ago.  I remember parking on the street, strolling over to the abbey and having a private tour with my small busload of tourists.  This time I disembarked along a riverside crowded with cruise boats and hordes of people heading toward the abbey.  Do not be dismayed or discouraged.  Just line up and go with it.  The abbey is worth your time and the hassle of dealing with tourists and guides.

The weather was miserably cold and damp, while my gear was sadly inadequate.  What was intended to be a pleasant stroll through a garden and a chance to visit a small outdoor cafe, was instead an overlong huddle in the abbey’s courtyard.

Eventually the ubiquitous Viking guides, with their red jackets and numbered signs, showed up to talk us through the experience.  Since my last visit, the abbey has had some renovations and remodeling, adding several exhibit rooms displaying a wonderful array of abbey treasures.  While the exhibits are truly extraordinary, I would have easily traded them in on the opportunity to see my first guide just one more time.

bps10032016_0001The Charming Abbot Emeritus of Melk

And here’s the reason I enjoyed my first visit to Melk ever so much more than I did my return.  The sweet little man in this photo had been the abbot of this remarkable place for many years and he loved it almost as much as he did God.  He’d been retired from running the place for only a little while and had been assigned the joy of sharing it with others.  During the tour he’d come to a closed door and look around surreptitiously to see if anyone was watching.  If the coast was clear, he’d wrench open the door and say, “I’m not supposed to show you this, but I didn’t want you to miss it.”  Then he’d go on to tell us a marvelous story about something that happened in the room or a tidbit about the artist who decorated it.

I loved him so much that I wanted to bundle him up and take him home with me.  My admiration for the place was obvious and he begged me to come back some time and visit him.  He confided that when there wasn’t such a crowd, he could show me other places in the abbey.

That small busload of travelers would have been lost in the horde of  tourists on my latest visit.  I wonder what my friend would have thought about the abbey’s popularity.  The guides did a great job of sharing architectural highlights, but they were completely devoid of the affection the Abbot Emeritus displayed. I’ve always wished I could have returned for the promised private tour, but life changed for me after that trip and it was a long time before I crossed the ocean again.  Too long of a time for the Abbot Emeritus to give me a tour.

Trompe-l'œil tricks the eye into thinking there's a dome above the stairwell.

Trompe-l’œil tricks the eye into thinking there’s a dome above the stairwell.

Gorgeous Melk

Even without the Abbot Emeritus to show us around, the wonders of the abbey are apparent.  This guide was quite good about rolling off pertinent dates of the abbey’s history, but she was not as insistent about keeping our eyes focused upwards.  In every room the Abbot Emeritus told us to look up, as he described in detail the story of the ceiling frescoes.  The average tourist probably misses the wonder of contemplating the effects of  trompel’œil.

Sure the ceilings are beautiful, but gazing up your eyes are tricked into thinking you are looking up at arched ceilings and domes.  It’s all an optical illusion, because the ceilings of the abbey are flat.  There is one stairwell where the tour highlights the painted effects, but they are ignored in the rest of the abbey.

This is not a dome!

This is not a dome either!

The guide also didn’t tell us any of the enchanting tales of the artist, tales of which I’ve long forgotten the details, but I had hoped to be reminded of during this visit.  Nor did she explain in detail the meaning behind the elaborate frescoes.  She was pedantic about the many ways the features of the abbey were Baroque in nature, but I was more interested in being reminded why they were unique.  

Eventually, I gave up and quit listening to her.  Instead I recalled the chuckles of glee my first guide shared with me and I wandered about mouth agape.  I tried to jog my memory for the details of the frescoes and their painter, but they’d gotten lost somewhere along the way.  More than once I stumbled into a fellow tourist because my eyes were glued above my head, rather than at my immediate surroundings.

I’ve saved the best for last, but in the meantime ran out of words for today.  Come back next week and we’ll visit the chapel.

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