Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mozart and the chocolate connection

Mozart's square which hosts Mozart's Memorial & Birth Place

Two weeks ago, I was given a box of Mozart chocolate balls
( Mozartkugeln) for the holidays. The original manufacture of this kind of chocolate balls named after the divinely gifted composer , was in Salzburg, Austria. And so, holding the sweet gift in my hands, my thoughts fled for a few minutes to other 'goodies' : Salzburg, Mozart, and The Sound of Music.

Salzburg (literally meaning salt castle) is a lovely city on the banks of the Salznach river. It has green hills, romantic gardens and charming alleys. Its old city , the Altstadt, with towers and churches in baroque architecture style was nominated World Heritage Site.
The city hosts the Salzburg Festival which is an annual outstanding event of music and drama held each summer during July and August. (It's quite hard to find tickets to this world wide reputable festival).

Salzburg is closely associated with the name of its famous son, composer Wolfang Amadeus Mozart (What a prolific composer! He wrote symphonies, sonatas, operas, marches, serenades, concertos, minuets, quartets..). His birthplace, his residence, his family's graves, the Mosarteum university - all are 'hot' tourist attractions. Getreidegasse, the street where Mozart was born (at nr.9) , one of the oldest in Salzburg, is a fashionable shopping street, crowded with lots of tourists.

"The Sound of Music" starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Palmer was filmed in Salzburg and its surroundings. The plot of the movie is based on a true story of Maria , a nun from a Salzburg nearby abbey who was sent to the house of a widowed retired naval officer, von Trapp, to take care of his seven children. The widower and Maria ultimately fell in love and got married.

Salzburg - on the banks of the Salznach river

Now, what about the ball chocolates, the Mozartkugeln? Well, I allowed myself to be completely seduced by this chocolate delicacy. Yummy, yummy!

from Intellicaviar

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"To sin is human To forgive is divine"

synagogue, shofar blowing , men with prayer shawls(talit) , kapparot

I'm not religious, but there are certain religious customs that I respect and observe. Such is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) , the holiest and most solemn day of the year for those who belong to the Jewish Faith, the day when we atone for our sins .

On this day I stop all activities, I fast, I open the Book of Prayers and pray for Divine forgiveness, honor the memory of the deceased in my family, beg for a good decree for the coming year. Candles are lit in the house before sunset. During the week prior to this day I engage in giving charity .

So, on this Sunday (27.09) from 5 o'clock in the evening until Monday(28.09) 6 o'clock in the evening I 'll be in a totally spiritual world where I don't relate to my bodily needs; I abstain from eating, drinking and other neccessities or pleasures. washing is minimum, and I don' t wear leather shoes , as it reminds of the body skin . I do nothing except reading prayers , meditating , or taking a nap... I might go to the synagogue for part of the service conducted there, to hear the cantor singing favorite passages like "All Wows" (Kol Nidrei). I emerge from this holy day feeling confident that God has heard and accepted my heartfelt prayers.

I've always thought there are two basic categories of sins: sins towards God, and sins towards Man. Recently I came upon an article by Nina Amir in the "Jewish Magazine" that mentions a third category: sins towards ourselves. Pity she doesn't elaborate. I'm very curious to know what these sins are. For instance, if I want or need something but I make no real efforts to get it, could that be sinning towards myself? I wonder.

My favorite Yom Kippur song is Avinu Malkenu - Our Father Our King ( Barbara Streissand made it worldwide famous) . I know of two main musical versions, both are beautiful. This in the video below is the more modern one ; the video opens with the rehearsal.

'Our Father Our King
Hear our voice
Our Father Our King
We have sinned before you
Our Father Our King
Bring us back to you in full repentance
Our Father Our King
Forgive and pardon all our misdeeds'

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shall We Can-Can, Girls?

Moulin Rouge - in Montmartre , center of Paris' night life

Well then, skirts up, legs up (revealing the underwear ), high kicking, provocative movements of the body , black stockings, hats with feathers - following the music of Offenbach's Gallop Infernal from 'Orpheus in the Underworld' - that's can-can.

The legendary Moulin-Rouge Cabaret, marked by a red mill on its roof , located in Paris-Montmartre ,was inaugurated in October 1889 offering, to this day, extravagant shows mixing circus, dance, theater, music-hall. The basic concept of the show is based on fabulous settings, original music and ...beautiful girls. This cabaret has played host to many celebrities: Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzerald, Elton John, Liza Minelli etc.. By the way, one is not allowed entrance to the show if dressed in casual garments.

Moulin-Rouge ( French for red windmill) became the most famous cabaret in the world , to a great extent, due to the 'can-can' dance
performed on its stage in chorus line style . The can-can was viewed, especially in its very beginnings, as vulgar, indecent, scandalous, decadent and erotic, meant to sexually arouse the male audience.
(It should be mentioned that this dance was the basis for the 1960 musical film "Can-Can" starring Frank Sinatra and Shirley McLaine).

I once joined a can-can workout course (the other options were folk dancing and belly dancing). Can-Can does wonders to the body; the dance is very demanding and exhausting physically , but the fun is great and it's an excellent way of keeping fit.

The workout took place in a vast hall, doors closed, and yet people from outside this hall managed somehow to peep into what was going on inside.
One day, after workout, I entered the cafeteria and a guy addressed me with : 'I thought you were supposed to wear white panties not beige ones'. Cheeky. I was furious, but I kept calm and said to him in a very cool voice: 'The beige you saw, was the colour of the skin; to your information we were wearing no panties at all'- and left him speechless; ha, ha , ha.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg is a charming little medieval town above the river Tauber in Bavaria, Germany. It has remained unchanged for centuries, with red roof houses overlooking the river, encircled by walls and towers which offer great views of the city, cobbled lanes, churches, historical buildings, a medieval Crime Museum (displaying devices of torture and execution) . The market place (Marktplatz} is the center of the town, and its most famous building is the Town Hall (Rathaus).

Christmas is not so far away, so it 's a proper time to mention the fact that this town has the reputation of being "town of eternal Christmas"; it specializes in Christmas gifts and souvenirs, local shops selling them all year round. In December its center becomes a big Christmas market. There's also a Christmas Museum exhibiting traditions of Christmas decorations , ornaments and figures.

I had a rather unpleasant incident while in pleasant Rothenburg. At that time, I started collecting tiny mechanical wrist watches as a hobby. I saw some nice models in a store in the center of the city, so while there, I opened a small pad to write down prices and features of the several displayed watches , in order to make a buying decision.

A saleswoman seeing me look at the watch items and scribbling in my pad started to yell at me; she thought I was some kind of spy for another store. I tried to explain to her in my very broken german what I was doing, but she kept on yelling. Judging by her accent she was hungarian, not german , which is a different mentality. Anyway, I decided to give up my purchase plan , and to avoid further embarrassment I left the store.

I then entered a nearby coffee shop and ordered a slice of 'black forest' cake and an esspresso. Suddenly, as from nowhere, the 'hungarian' appeared at my table asking for forgiveness and trying to drag me back to the shop, promising a big discount. It appeared that someone who had witnessed the incident reported it to the manager and she was in trouble. With my mouth full of the delicious cake I told her zu spat, that is, too late. I've just decided to give up my costly hobby. and I'm celebrating my decision over the german traditional black forest cake.

Would she care to join me? ( After all, I felt a bit guilty about the whole thing; maybe I should have asked permission prior to my writing down the info about the watches). 'To Hell with work', she said, and accepted my invitation. aLL's wELL tHAT eNDS wELL.

town wall encircling the historic center

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Lesson in Kindness

Horse Memorial Statue

Seldom does one see such display of compassion and tenderness for an animal , in a work of art, as that in the Horse Memorial bronze statue in Port Elizabeth, South Africa - known to be one of only three memorials in the world dedicated to horses.

In the main city squares of Europe and also in other parts of the world, there's always some statue of a man ( king or national hero) sitting on a horse in a domineering posture . Here it's the opposite. The man, a soldier, is knealing to allow the horse to quench its thirst from the bucket held in his hands. The soldier shows both kindness and responsability towards the loyal animal placed under his charge.

The Horse Memorial in the lovely city of Port Elizabeth commemorates all those horses that fell serving their masters during the Anglo-Boer war; The inscription on the base reads:"The greatest of a nation depends not so much upon the numbers of its people or its territory as in the extent and justice of its compassion." The base of the statue incorporates a drinking trough.

The story has it that a lady by the name of Harriet Mayer was the president of a commitee for collecting money to erect this statue. When unveiling the statue, The Mayor of the city thanked Mrs. Mayer and insisted in using a figure of speech about her: "she had worked like a horse" he said. I would say, she had probably eaten a lot of roughage too, to get the money.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Wailing Wall & the 'CNN interview'

the 'women's only' section

I haven't been there for quite a while. I keep away from crowds, and there's always a crowd at the Wailing Wall, the remaining wall of the Temple of God, in the old city of Jerusalem. People are coming here from all over the country and from abroad to feel the presence of God, touch and kiss the sacred wall stones, pray for divine mercy, weep, insert a wish note (tzetel) into the cracks of the wall and between the stones.

The types of wishes on those notes are endless: health, success, finding a spouse, procreation
, guidance from God in personal problems, long life etc...
Nowadays, people can send their prayers and wishes by e-mail, by fax and even by Tweeter (Some see all this as sacrilegious, I haven't got an opinion yet on this matter).

Anyway , as far as I know, the slips of paper are collected twice a year and burried on Mount Olive ( the place from which, so it is believed, God will begin to redeem the dead at the end of the days).

There's this famous joke (Oh God, please forgive me!), about a CNN journalist who interviewed an old jewish man who had been going to the Wailing Wall to pray every day for a long time:

- Sir, how long have you been coming to the Wall and praying?
- For about 60 years.
-What do you pray for?
- I pray for Peace between Jews and Arabs.
-How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?
- Like I'm talking to a wall.