Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dilsberg and Neckargemuend

Neckargemuend is an old and picturesque village on the Neckar River. From there you can see Bergfeste Dilsberg on the hill further along the river.
Dilsberg castle has a rampart at the top with a wonderful view ...
... right up the valley to Neckargemuend.

Nature's browns

Imagine trying to make these yourself!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rissen Reetdachhaus

The Tchibo coffee shop in Hamburg-Rissen looks out over one of the prettiest buildings in the village, this thatched roof house.
Today I sat having a coffee and admiring the building across the street; tomorrow I take the train south.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coffee pots at Gino's

I have an exhibition of work at Gino's Cafe in Rissen. This is one of the watercolours I have on the wall.

A Cafe in Uetersen

This cafe in Uetersen is one of the prettiest I have seen and
...when they bring your tea, they include a small wooden timer, so you know how long to let it draw.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sketches made along the River Elbe

The Herrenhäuser (mansions) along the Elbe are like a set of large white beads set in green satin.
On the other side of the river the landscape is dominated by huge cranes with windmills in the distance.
In the Hafenstadt (harbour city) the buildings that are not built of red bricks are grey. It sounds boring but the different grey/white/black contours are varied and interesting.
This quick sketch was made while waiting for Ferry #62 at the Hafenstadt and the ones above while sitting on the deck avoiding spray as the ferry ploughed its way through the water.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hamburg Harbour on the River Elbe

The heart of the city of Hamburg is its huge working harbour. The old warehouse buildings are restored and the whole precinct is a vibrant and visually interesting place to visit.
Container ships are loaded and unloaded in the high tech container harbour across the water, but the original old warehouses are being rennovated have new life as offices and apartments.
New buildings complement the old and look out over the rows of tug boats lined up ready to guide ships along the harbour.
Yesterday I took a trip along the Elbe with ferry line 62. Ferry line 62 is free if you have a day card for city rail and travels almost exactly the same line as the tourist boats.
The most eastern stop is at the new Elbphilharmonie.


Hamburg harbour has undergone a transformation in recent years as the old warehouses are rennovated. The most spectacular building of all is the new Elbphilharmonie which is being built on top of a warehouse that used to store cocoa. From the harbour it looks like as huge ship coming towards you along the river Elbe .
When you get closer you can see the wave shaped roof (middle section is still to be built).
The windows are all indivudually formed and glisten in the sun. It is spectacular and complements the other buildings in the harbour perfectly. The building was started in 2007 and when I saw it in 2009 when it was still just cranes on the horizon. There has been a recent hitch when it was discovered the hooks enabling window cleaners  to clean all those windows were left out. A bit like the Sydney Opera House, costs keep on inflating.

Back in misty moisty Hamburg

What a difference a few degrees of latitude make. Back in Hamburg the weather is cool, trees are reflected in puddles ...
everything is green and verdant and ...
the fields are being prepared for winter.

A Music Critic on Maribor Festival

Laurence Vittes is a music critic in Los Angeleles. Here his view on the Maribor Festival.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wine and Hannots in Weisel

You know you are in a wine growing region when grape vines grow on railway tracks. This picture was taken near Rüdesheim on the Rhine River.
I drank an excellent wine at Hannot's Restaurant in Weisel which has a lovely garden at the back complete with large apple tree drooping with fruit.  The wine glasses below were drawn at Hannots.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fruit hanging from trees

All trees in the back yards from Salzburg to Frankfurt are dripping with fruit. It has been that sort of autumn.
On the Kauber Platte (the high flat hills a few km behind the Lorelei on Rhine River) apple trees are heavy with fruit and the laneways are red with rosehips hanging from the bushes.
I spent 3 days in Weisel on the Kauber Platte. When I wasn't walking among the fruit trees I was sleeping off my Maribor exhaustion - 10 hours a night every night. When I woke, this was the view out my attic window.

Leaving Maribor

I closed the painting pad …
took a last look over the Maribor roofs from the hotel window ......

then took the train to Graz (90 minutes). Graz was hot and humid and I ws too tired to explore.

Next morning the nice receptionist opened the kitchen before 5am so I could quickly drink two push-button cappuchinos before catching the 05:45 train to Frankfurt. The train left in the dark.but even when the sun came up we couldn't see anything because ...

it was foggy all the way to Salzburg.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Isabella and M-Art on the Postna Ulica

During the music festival my paintings of musicians have been displayed at the Isabella Cafe in the Postna Ulica. The owners are committed to fresh, local, organic (where possible) food and the make the best soups and salads in Maribor so it has been a pleasure to eat there.
Now it is time to leave Maribor again but this time I am leaving work in a local Gallery, the M-Art Gallery opposite the Isabella Cafe. If you look out the window of the Isabella Cafe as you drink your coffee you see you see big brown doors of the buiding opposite, across the narrow and car-less (bravo!) street. Next door to those brown doors is the M-Art Gallery.  Definitely worth a visit!

Pärt, Adams, Vivaldi

Bach's Chaconne (played by Tognetti), Arvo Pärt, John Adams, Vivaldi's Gloria in D Major in the Maribor Cathedral. Brillaint choice and what a way to finish a music festival.
Yesterday's Timeline concert put modern music in context and I think it probably helped that part of the audience less familiar with music to appeciate the pieces written by Arvo Pärt and John Adams. Tognetti and the musicians got a standing ovation.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Il Giardino Armonico

One of the highlights of the festival here in Maribor has been hearing Il Giardino Armonico founded in 1985 for musicians who have specialised in playing on period instruments. Conductor was founding memeber Giovanni Antonini.What a difference it makes hearing baroque music on period instruments played by people who know what they are doing. The program included two fairly lengthy pieces by Haydn but such was the skill of the orchestra that not once did my attention leave the music.  I looked them up on the web:

"Il Giardino Armonico are as Italian as the music itself—brightly coloured, individualistic, confident, stylish, arrestingly decorated, bubbling with enthusiasm and... add your own adjectives." 
- John Duarte, Gramophone Magazine

I heard later they had come to Maribor on their way between other engagements, partly because Antonini is friends with some of the musicians playing here. The orchestra is based in Milan but what a treat to hear it here. Giovanni Sollima played the first half with the orchestra and was as brilliant as he was at his earlier concert. The Maribor audience are musicially literate and appreciated both him and the orchestra. Their reward was two encores.

Marathon Music

Tonights concert was a musical timeline with snippets from 40,000 BC to now with accompanying pictures on the screen behind: paintings, the very first photo, movie and cartoon. Gregorian chant, Marlene Dietrich, Pink Floyd, Lady Gaga.
Sketch from a back row: Timeline Concert in Maribor
The musicians had seven hours rehearsal then played the concert that lasted from 7:30 to 10:30. They have gone to the pub to celebrate. Tomorrow is another concert, but that last. It is feeling like a marathon.

An unexpected wedding

I attended a wedding today, though I don't know whose.
I had sought refuge from the heatwave that has enveloped the region and was sitting quietly drawing the stained glass windows in Maribor Cathedral when I noticed a woman in a white hat sitting with several gentlemen in the front row.
Then in strode a a priest in full regalia and a young man with a music score in his hand ran up the stairs at the back. Soon the organ started playing, the doors opened and in streamed the wedding guests followed by two little girls in pink leading a bride on the arm of her father. As they walked up the isle accompanied by thunderous music I wondered why I was suddenly fighting tears. What is it  that makes one emotional at these moments? Thoughts about the shortnes of life? About the young couples chances of enduring happiness?
As they all signed the register the organist thundered out the bridal march.
'Wait,' I thought 'this sounds like Wagner's music.'
And it was. The bridal march comes from the opera Lohengrin and the organist kept playing Lohengrin music as the register was signed and the priest and happy couple and their parents all toasted eachother with glasses of white wine (this is a wine growing region after all). This is when I should have cried, but I didn't, I just sat there thinking how lucky I was to be there to enjoy the music.
Then the music stopped, the guests left and so did the wedding party.
Outside a band played and the couple danced together to applause from the guests.
I left them lining up in the sun to have a group photo taken.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pistachio Icecream

I don't normally eat much icecream but it is hot and the green icecream looked so inviting that I said to the waiter (in mime-language) 'I'll have what she is having please'.
I thus discovered that pistachio icecream ais addictive.  We are having a heat wave and 31C is predicted tomorrow when it should be 10C cooler.. Some visitors to the Maribor Music Festival are going on a walking tour in the Dolomites on Monday and they say it is 29C there. Those walking boots will feel heavy.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Wine on the River Drava

The music and painting schedule has been hectic and today I ran out of puff. So I took a break and wandered down to the Vinotek on the River Drava.
Maribor is in the middle of a wine growing area and the Vinotek is a place where you can try local wines (delicious!)  I wondered about mosquitos as dusk fell but although the river looks placid it is quite fast flowing. I sat contemplating the sun setting over the bridge that unites the two halves of Maribor. It was very therapeutic and I couldn't resist getting out my paint box.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Tonight I heard John Cage's work 4'33" for the first time since I heard about it in art school in Dunedin. It is odd that all musicians and artists know this work but most of the general public don't (and that included me until I went to art school).

This is from the Wikipedia entry on on John Cage:
Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″, the three movements of which are performed without a single note being played. The content of the composition is meant to be perceived as the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed,[8] rather than merely as four minutes and 33 seconds of silence,[9] and the piece became one of the most controversial compositions of the 20th century .

Well, it is still controversial. A man sitting near me hissed the pianist when he left the stage and some people left soon after. On the other hand, a Slovenian artist told me after the concert that she had come to this particular concert just to hear this work. Her son said there is a cover band who filmed themselves playing 4'33" and put it on YouTube. They played it fast so it only lasted half the time!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Cellos on Steriods

Italian Giovanni Sollima writes and conducts and plays cello as you have never seen it played before. He lead a group of eight cellists last night in a series including his own unforgetable work. After the inteval they were joined by the Slovenian String orchestra.  The audience gave them a standing ovation. As an encore Sollima and Monika Leskovar played one cello together, he crouching behind her. Amazing!
Giovanni Sollima
Monika Leskovar

Marino Formenti

Marino Formenti is a classical pianist, but at the late night concert last night in a local wine cellar he played a selection of jazz, including pieces by his favorite pianist Thelonius Monk.
There are lots of bikes in Maribor and cars are banned from the city center.
In Munich (below) there are more bikes than cars in the early morning on their way to work..
Why can't Australia get its act together and promote bicyling?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Christian and his Double Bass

Christian Braica plays double bass. Clearly he loves it. He tells me he is from Romania originally but now plays with the Frankfurt radio orchestra.

Violin Competition Finalists

This is the winner of the local violin competiton playing in the small but beautiful Kazina Hall during the 5pm concert.

Then at 7:30 in the Town Hall a combined orchestra played Sculthorpe, Ligeti (with Richard Tognetti soloist) and Bartok, conducted by local conductor Marko Letonja. Great stuff and the audiences loved it all.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Musical interiors

I intended to upload another image of Maribor but I discovered that in the four days I have been here I have only taken one. All my photos are taken in the concert hall.
I have just come back from the first concert of the Maribor Festival. A nostalgic piece called Nostalgia (!) by Takemitsu (written originally for Yehudi Menuhin) lead into Beethoven which lead into a piece by Janacek that blew the socks off the audience and must have been heard several miles away. Then a piece by Lutoslavski, a Polish composer that no one had heard of. It turned out to be a perfect follow on from Janacek.

That is the point about this festival I think. The programming is outstanding, as well as the musicians.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


As I walked the block or two into Maribor from the station I felt a rush of Endorphine, the happy-hormone. How nice to be back. Back among the folk who lead unhurried lives, sitting in outdoor cafes having a coffee, beer or glass of water or wandering the streeets eating enormous icecreams.
Perhaps it is holiday time here at the moment and life gets more serious in winter, but from a tourist's viewpoint Maribor feels idyllic, one of the worlds nicest places to live.