Click on photographs to enlarge. The results are far superior.
Leica D-Lux 4
|The Spanish Garden at Villa Ephrussi|
|The Villa Ephrussi from the Temple of Love overlooking the fountains of the Long Water.|
|Detail of painted wood panelling by Huet in the adorable Room of Monkeys where there is also a delightful Meissen monkey orchestra|
|Place du Casino - Monte-Carlo|
|The Mediterranean Sea reminiscent of the blue Aegean from the terraces of the Villa Grecque Kerylos Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Cote d'Azur|
|Villa Grecque Kerylos Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Cote d'Azur|
|Carefully researched external details of the Villa Grecque Kerylos, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Cote d'Azur|
|Superb interiors of this recreated ancient Greek Villa Grecque Kerylos.|
The mosaic floors are magnificent copies of original designs as are all the minutiae of the internal decorative features
My return to Warsaw through Munich, Weimar, Leipzig, Halle, Worlitz and Gorlitz
I left Eze having made some priceless discoveries and what is more important wandered the landscapes and cityscapes of the Cote d'Azur frequented by my uncle in his retirement. I also made a couple of literary pilgrimages for my own benefit into 'The Back Country' to Grasse and Cabris. H.G. Wells had three houses on the fringes of the town, Henry Miller was taken with it's 'superb decrepitude', Stendhal passed through and the actor and writer Dirk Bogarde lived on the fringes. His account of the period spent restoring and living in Le Pigeonnier is recounted in his deeply moving book A Short Walk to Harrods. Grasse has been famous for perfume for centuries and the Musee International de la Parfumerie is fascinating. The painter Jean-Honore Fragonard took refuge in an elegant country house in Grasse during the Revolution, now a museum. He understood very well how to titillate the jaded aristocratic palate as can be seen in the naughty picture below which shocked even those who knew the painter well. A large perfume manufacturer has now adopted his name "Fragonard".
The perfume seller of Grasse
But the nearby tiny village of Cabris was home at some time to Andre Gide, Albert Camus, Colette, Saint-Exupery, Paul Valery - an astonishing number of Nobel Prize winners lived here for periods of their lives.
Girl with a Lap Dog ('La Gimblette') - Jean-Honore Fragonard c. 1770
Alte Pinakothek Munich
I took the coast road from Ventimiglia to Lugano along almost the entire length of the Italian Riviera. There were small pockets of great beauty and magnificent villas but in general it does not have the chic of the French Riviera. Lake Lugano was superb from the Hotel Colibri high above the town - the hotel itself an unmodernised 1970s time-warp building in a fabulous location with frightful food.
My main reason for staying overnight in Lugano was to visit Montagnola and the museum building where Herman Hesse rented an apartment at Casa Camuzzi from 1919 to 1931. I had read so many of his books during my youth and was particularly fond of the unsettling Steppenwolf and the remarkable Glass Bead Game. In the beautiful villa there were many examples of his painting of the surrounding countryside of Ticino (I did not know he was an artist) as well as his desk, typewriter, letters, family photographs, straw hat and so on. There was very little in English unfortunately and I do not have German. I saw one of the finest and most moving documentaries of any writer I have ever seen entitled Hermann Hesse's Long Summer an extraordinary film available at http://www.hessemontagnola.ch/index.php?node=27&lng=4&rif=7050bb36fcd
Casa Camuzzi was built by a master builders from Ticino who was in the service Czar Nicholas I. He also designed the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Hesse depicted the picturesque mansion in Klingsor's Last Summer. Many other works were completed or begun there: Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, as well as short stories, fairy tales, and essays.
Casa Camuzzi Montagnola Switzerland where Hermann Hesse lived from 1919 to 1931
The author Michael Moran outside the Casa Camuzzi, former home of Hermann Hesse, Montagnolo, Switzerland
From Lugano I decided to take the incredibly picturesque San Bernadino Pass (2065 metres) from Bellinzona (Ticino) and Thusis (Graubunden) - one of the most beautiful passes in the Alps. I was heading for Schwangau and a night and a day to explore Schloss Neuschwanstein folly of the ultra-neurotic Bavarian King Ludwig II. Of course it was my passion for Wagner (preferably conducted by my uncle's friend Wilhelm Furtwangler) that led me there.
During the negotiating of this pass a moment came upon me when I really wanted to be in a classic sports car - preferably a Jaguar XK 140. The road is billiard table smooth and sweeps through the Grisons in great climbing curves past waterfalls, rock formations and outcrops on a monumental scale. Having a convertible for this drive was bliss indeed even if only in a Peugeot 307 CC. The pass has been in use since Roman times and is closed in winter. An ultimate drive in my opinion and highly recommended for anyone of like mind to myself concerning cars. One of the most breathtaking and exciting drives of my life.
I arrived at the only hotel that has a direct view of Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Hohenschwangau called Hotel Rubezahl. Wonderful welcome despite being late as there was a traffic jam on the motorway (the Garmin GPS gave me an excellent alternative route). Dinner was a rather hurried affair as the restaurant was closing. "I will have to serve both starter and main course at the same time! We are in a hurry! Quickly! Do you mind?" I asked if the waiter preferred we leave and eat in another restaurant - a real Basil Fawlty atmosphere that night. No waiter has ever suggested such a thing to me and I found it rather amusing considering the country we were in.
I had been fascinated by Ludwig II ever since my Wagner nights whilst living on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific. I used to place large speakers on the cliffs overlooking the ocean and listen to Tristan und Isolde and of course Der fliegende Holländer having no trouble imagining the captain on his ship. When thinking of King Ludwig II of Bavaria I am always reminded of a remark made by T.E.Lawrence concerning dreamers in Seven Pillars of Wisdom:
“All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
Certainly this applied to young Ludwig II. Here was an extraordinary person who made the opposite choice to any being who thinks along conventional bourgeois parameters. He was the first person of influence to recognise the genius of the composer Richard Wagner. Without Ludwig's massive, even ruinous, financial support and profound aesthetic understanding of his music and writing, Wagner would scarcely have achieved as much. But Ludwig became obsessed with the composer and Wagner's German operas. In a fantastic paranoid flourish (or was it simply passion) he decided to realise in actual stone, bricks and mortar the opera stage sets for these chivalric extravaganzas and explorations of the human soul. This obsession, even identification with the characters, led to a castle building mania, problems with women and marriage, indifference to foreign policy in time of war, increasing psychological isolation and dislike of human company, final ejection by the cabinet from his governing role as King, incarceration as a lunatic and ultimate death by drowning in a lake (together with his psychiatrist) in very mysterious circumstances. In 1972 Luchino Visconti made a vast extravagant movie, a masterpiece, of the King's life entitled Ludwig with Helmut Berger as Ludwig, Trevor Howard as Wagner and the gorgeous Romy Schneider as the Empress Eliszabeth of Austria ('Sissi'). Ah! Movies like this are not produced today. I just had to see at least a few of these mad castles.
Schloss Neuschwanstein (lt.) and Schloss Hohenschwangau (Rt.) from the small garden attached to my room at Hotel Rubezahl, Schwangau, Bavaria
Schloss Hohenschwangau was the summer residence of Maximilian II of Bavaria, Ludwig's predecessor as king. A neo-Gothic structure of little charm. The interior, now faded and worn, has been gazed upon and fingered by vast numbers of tourists. Ludwig II liked it very much. There is an impressive chivalric fresco of the 'swan knight' on one interior wall inspired by Wagner's opera Lohengrin. Wagner was a guest of Ludwig in this castle from 11-18 November 1865
I decided to climb the forest path to Neuschwanstein from Hohenschwangau rather than take the bus. It accommodated many of the obese Americans I saw heaving their vast bulks on tourist trails all over Germany and elsewhere in Europe. One had his swollen legs bandaged, another lady gasped 'I don't think I'm gonna make it!' I did not think so either. Others on the festive trail were skipping teenagers, German lady hikers with Nordic walking sticks giving them the appearance of a praying mantis on the march, dogs, children in horse-drawn carriages and babies at the breast. This castle is the most visited tourist site in Germany (Ludwig has paid back a thousandfold and more the money he spent on Wagner and his own castles). Such popularity means you are only permitted about half an hour on a rushed guided tour - hardly time to imbibe the megalomania fully. Suffice to say it is a staggering piece of unrestricted narcissism and appalling taste - a paranoid feminine sensibility - the absolute antithesis of artistic criteria today. The exuberance of madness. But I adored the extremism of its statement in much the same way as I enjoy the vast operas of Wagner. Ludwig wanted to recall the dream of the tradition of past German chivalry. He was inspired in this poetic excess by the Wagner operas Lohengrin, Tannhauser and Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Envigoratingly extreme I thought. It had begun to rain.
This remarkable 'Wagnerian' early photograph of Schloss Neuschwanstein was taken from the inaccessible 'Schnapfling' Rock Spur by the gifted photographer Bruno Arnold (1884-1933). The Album von Fussen und Hohenschwangau from which this photograph was taken was only discovered in 2002. A limited edtion of 1000 copies was published by Pagma Verlag of Nuremburg in November 2007
Schloss Neuschwanstein where Ludwig II only managed to live for a week
Wagnerian view from the Singer's Hall which occupies the entire 4th floor of the castle and is a copy of the Minstrels Hall of Wartburg Castle where Wagner set the opera Tannhauser. The photograph is pregnant with menace and the ultimately tragic fate of Ludwig II.
On the next leg of this journey of discovery, I decided to stay in the charming small spa town of Bad Reichenhall which is rather near to the larger and more touristy Berchtesgaden. As a route for the 200kms or so I chose the Deutsche Alpenstrasse which was an unforgettable experience. Many of the small villages seem not to have changed for hundreds of years. I wanted to visit Ludwig's Linderhof but I got caught in a huge traffic jam on part of this route (an accident) and pressure of time forced me to press on. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a famous winter sports resort but I can recommend its magnificence in the summer too and plan to return for a hiking holiday. Although a 'beach person' I am no longer interested in frying like a packed sardine on the European beaches in July and August. It is significantly cooler in the mountains and the air fresh with the scent of pine. The Alpenstrasse deserves a complete holiday in itself.
Berchtesgaden in the Obersalzberg is superbly located near the exquisitley picturesque but incredibly busy Lake Koenigsee (extraordinarily romantic boat trips are available on this lake which lies at the heart of Berchtesgaden National Park). It is a tragedy that this area and even the name itself has been stained by associations with Hitler and the Nazi High Command. He appropriated a large area and made it his southern headquarters. He had been coming to the Obersalzberg for much of his life for holidays long before he assumed power and the views of the Bavarian Alps from where he had his residence, the Berghof, are sublime. The mountainous landscape and various lakes and small spa towns are among the most picturesque in Europe. The Hotel Neu-Meran in charming Bad Reichenhall where I stayed (out of the main tourist area) is an old established family-run place, quiet and has superb alpine views, excellent wine and food.
Eddie played at the Villa Bechstein with his lover the Austrian violinist Sabine Adler in the early 1930s when Berchtesgaden was a holiday and health resort with no particular Nazi associations. At the time he was engaged on a concert tour of Germany and Austria and studying in Berlin and Vienna (with Frau Leonie Gombrich, mother of the great art historian Sir Ernst Gombrich. This eminent teacher and pianist had been a pupil of Bruckner, turned the pages for Brahms and was personal assistant to the great Polish pedagogue Theodor Leschetizky. The Jewish Gombrich family fled Vienna to England from the Nazis in 1938. Ernst Gombrich realised their recent conversion to Protestantism would not have saved his parents). Of course some members of the English aristocracy were sympathetic to the rise of the Nazis and Eddie may well have heard some chatter. The Ishiguro novel Remains of the Day was centred around this type of activity. Eddie was an aquaintance of the controversial conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler but this was after the war in Switzerland.
Villa Bechstein was the summer home of that great piano manufacturing family. Helene Bechstein was a passionate supporter of Hitler both emotionally (she hoped her daughter Lotte would marry him - 'I wish he were my son' she said, according to Hitler's biographer Konrad Heiden) but also financially (she bought Hitler his first red Mercedes). The company suffered greatly after the war because of this malignant association. The factories had been bombed destroying priceless soundboards and the Berlin Wall erected. C. Bechstein lost out to Steinway & Sons in the concert hall. Many famous pianists and composers had been closely associated with the Bechstein piano (Backhaus, Kempff, Lipatti, Schnabel, Scriabin and Liszt). The instrument had a sound palette and action quite different to a Steinway. Even I owned and played a Bechstein 'Concert Upright' during the period of my early youth living on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific. I loved the sound of this instrument and palyed a great deal of Beethoven on it. But Eddie himself loved and preferred the tone and touch of the Grotrian-Steinweg piano. An outburst of vitriolic correspondence erupted in the Australian newspapers when he imported one of these dastardly 'German' instruments to Australia for a concert tour.
If you would like to hear the actual sound of Liszt's 1862 Bechstein piano:
Bad Reichenhall from the balcony of my room in the Hotel Neu-Meran
The Bechstein grand piano in the Berghof. Note the bust of Wagner on the centre of the cupboard in front of the tapestry.
I am at present reading a most fascinating book entitled Hitler's Piano Player: The Rise and fall of Ernst ('Putzi') Hanfstaengel by Peter Conradi (London 2006).
The controversial 1930s figure of Viscount Rothermere with Hitler and Goebbels January 1937. The proprietor of the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror newspapers was a pioneer of popular journalism. A headline in the Daily Mail of 8 July 1934 shouted "Hurrah for the Blackshirts" and accompanied a piece on Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists.
The author Ian Kershaw wrote an interesting book entitled Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry and the Roots of Appeasement (London 2004) which chronicles the ambivalent attitudes to Hitler within some areas the British aristocracy.
This second research journey concerning my grand-uncle ended at Berchtesgaden. The next destinations (probably next year) will be Montreux in Switzerland where he spent the period of the Second World War war giving hundreds of concerts to interned troops of many Allied nations and organising the distribution of much-needed supplies. Also to Paris where he gave a number of recitals for the French aristocracy under the patronage of the beautiful Lady Diana Cooper and often played for the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor at 24 Boulevard Suchet. His experience of them goes quite against the accepted view and I have a number of letters from her to him in her hand. Then modern Beenleigh in Queensland, Australia.
I have not yet decided whether to explore the venues of his early Asian concert tour (1919-1921) with the tenor George Brooke - the largest classical music tour of Asia ever attempted up to that time. It included India, Java, the Philippines, Borneo, Sumatra, Kashmir, Burma, China, Manchuria and Japan. An extraordinary business in those days travelling everywhere by steamer, train or camel. The tour lasted 2 years! In 1920 Eddie had given the first recitals of Chopin in India for the Maharajah of Benares and even a concert in the British Fort at the head of the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan.
N.B. Refer to 'Work in Progress' for September 2010 for the very latest material on this ongoing research.
I had to return to Warsaw by road of course and planned rather a 'musical' return itinerary. I had decided to spend a few nights in Munich as I could scarcely remember the Bavarian capital from my childhood visit. I also wanted to follow up my increasing fascination with Ludwig II (his extremism and unique personality does tend to take one over) and en route to Munich visit Schloss Herrenchiemsee.
There are two islands in Chiemsee (the 'Bavarian Sea'). Herreninsel (Gentleman's Isle) and Fraueninsel (Ladies' Isle). The Royal Palace is on the Gentleman's Isle togeher with an historic Augustinian Monastery. One takes a short boat ride on a paddle steamer from the mainland.
This palace was left almost unfinished at Ludwig's death when he drowned in Lake Starnberg together with his psychiatrist on the night of 13 June 1886.
At Herrenchiemsee he had been inspired by Louis XIV's Palace at Versailles but was not slavish in his recreation of that conception. He probably intended it as a monument to Bavarian Kingship and Statehood rather than a residence. The gardens take into sensitive consideration the island setting.
The 'State' Staircase was modelled on the Escalier des Ambassadeurs at Versailles but has a glass roof which dramatically changed the impact of this much imitated feature. Ludwig's State Bedchamber must be the absolute apex of ornate gold Bavarian decoration - actually anybody's decoration. It truly is indescribably opulent and in analgous to the nausea of forcing down vast quanities of fois gras eaten off golden plates. The chandelier in the bedchamber holds 220 candles and the bed itself took eight years to carve, decorate and build. Georg Dollmann designed most of these stage-set rooms. The most stunning is the Great Hall of Mirrors which is a very close copy of that in Versailles. The 33 glass chandeliers hold 1,188 candles and the 44 huge gilt-bronze 'candlesticks' another 660 candles. Ludwig used to like to have the thousands of candles throughout the palace lit at night and then wander in gardens gazing at the glittering windows imagining, dreaming of what I wonder - 'Sissi' dancing perhaps, his great unrequited love.
The curious thing about Ludwig was that he wanted to admire all this opulence perfectly alone. One amusing device in the basement below the dining-room is a mechanism for raising a fully laid dining table 'magically' through the floor to the waiting diner or much more rarely, diners. He had these mechanically advanced devices in a number of his palaces and castles. There is a fascinating King Ludwig II Museum attached to this complex with many personal effects, models of the sets for Wagner operas in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus as well as plans for numerous other buildings he envisaged but failed to implement - Oriental palaces inspired by those in Peking, Byzantine palaces, more German chivalric castles, Moorish and Turkish pavilions.... I have still not fathomed his psychological obsessions but he was never a boring or dull king!
The garden facade of Herrenchiemsee
The Latona Fountain in the gardens
The Greek goddess Leto's (Latinised to 'Latona') introduction into Lycia (Anatolia on the southern coat of Turkey) was met with resistance. According to Ovid's Metamorphoses, when Latona was wandering the earth after giving birth to Apollo and Artemis, she attempted to drink water from a pond in Lycia. The local peasant farmers refused to allow her to do so by stirring the mud at the bottom of a pond. Latona turned them into frogs for their inhospitality, forever doomed to swim in the murky waters of ponds and rivers. This scene is also represented in the central fountain, the Bassin de Latone, in the garden terrace at Versailles.
And so I pressed on to Munich where I had booked into the excellent Hotel Laimer Hof close to the Schloss Nymphenburg and the famous and picturesque beer garden Hirschgarten. The welcome one receives at this intimate and charming establishment hotel is overwhelmingly friendly. Its position in an upmarket part of Munich but out of the hectic centre is served by excellent public transport connections (do not attempt to drive a private car to tourist destinations in Munich). I spent my first day in the magnificent Alte Pinakothek art gallery,one of the greatest in the world. All of the great schools of European painting are represented by the finest examples assembled by the House of Wittelsbach (the family of Ludwig II).
|Claude Le Lorraine Harbour at Dawn (1674)|
My absolute favourite landscape painter creates an enchanting atmosphere with his virtuoso handling of light.
[Alte Pinakothek Munich]
I spent the evening in the Beergarden known as the Hirschgarten. The heatwave in Europe continued the following day so I decided to hire a bicycle and explore the Olympiapark (the old Olympic Village and grounds) and go for a swim in the Olympic Pool. The paths through the forests and along the canals were deliciously cool. The landscape gardening of the Olympic complex is still impressive after all these years (the Games were in 1972) but the buildings are clearly in desperate need of refurbishment. The large lake was stagnant and smelt dreadful of some ghastly pollution I expect. The indoor pool however has been well maintained and it was a fantastic experience and very exciting to swim in. I remember Mark Spitz and his seven gold medals at the 1972 games.
The architecture of glass and steel of the village appears timelessly futuristic and the nearby BMW Museum satisfies all ones preconceptions about the technical superiority of Germany and the Germans. Well, they single task (rather than multi-task so beloved in the Mediterranean), work with enormous concentration, are inventive and highly intelligent. They insist on the highest standards of acceptability and quality both in the workplace and product. My respect for the nation is boundless apart from the entirely aberrant and uncharacteristic behaviour of Nazi Germany. Modern Europeans seem unable or unwilling through envy to see Germany as one of the greatest of European nations both culturally, industrially and scientifically. Where would the EU be without them? I should scarcely feel compelled to write this.
|The Swimmhalle at the Olympic Pool Munich. The Schwimmhalle is unique for its roof construction which is a lightweight stressed-skin structure. |
|Telecommunications Tower Munich from the Olympic Village. Built in 1956 it is 101.6m high. It must have been tremendously impressive in those days|
I spent the entire day at Schloss Nymphenburg despite the opressive heat. Situated on the western outskirts of the city, it was the summer residence of Bavaria's electors and kings. I found that using a bicycle was an increasingly excellent idea in Munich, although my hotel was close by the palace. I arrived on 'children's day' and vast groups of school children were being taken around by their teachers. Proceeding through the palace rooms was rather slow as a result and accompanied by giggling from the teenage girls and 'buddy fisticuffs' from the lads. The groups of five-year olds in matching yellow caps were perfectly behaved in the rooms and on their pic-nics.
This building was considered a masterpiece of court architecture throughout Europe and the extensive gardens contain exquisite pavilions. The gardens were designed by Charles Carbonet, a pupil of le Notre, the great garden architect to Louis XIV. The extensive park is quite wonderful. It is a mystery to me why the fine German landscape gardens are not better appreciated in England. Horace Walpole patronisingly referred to the 'little German princes' doing 'a few fine things' with gardens.
The name 'Nymphenburg' is closely associated with the Wittelsbach family, some of whom still live in a wing of palace. Ludwig II known as the 'Dream King' was born here in 1845 and spent much of his youth playing in these sumptuous surroundings. The voluptuous exuberance of the Bavarian Rococo evident in the rooms is certainly an aquired taste for any reticent and understated Anglo-Saxon.
One remarkable room, unique in European palaces in my experience, is the Gallery of Beauties. Here King Ludwig I displayed some 76 portaits of the most beautiful women of the age in Europe, commissioned by him from the artist Joseph Stieler for the Munich Residenz. Executed between 1827 and 1850 they represent Ludwig's ideal of beauty rather than their social rank and range from Royal princesses to cobbler's daughters. It is an astonishing conception and many are truly breathtakingly beautiful and often dressed in opulent costume. Many led extraordinarily exotic lives.
This notorious English aristocrat led a scarcely believable scandalous life of extraordinary promiscuity and adventure, ruled as she was by her passions and an insatiable taste for the exotic. She had four husbands (her first husband was Edward Law, 2nd Baron Ellenborough) many lovers (one of whom was Ludwig I of Bavaria, another a Greek count, also an Albanian brigand general beside whom she rode on raids). She died in Damascus in the arms of her Bedouin chieftan Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab, a man twenty years her junior. This extraordinary being spoke Arabic and eight other languages. Lola Montez (Maria Dolores Elisa Gilbert) is also among this gallery of lovelies but my favourite is the elegant and sexually alluring portrait of Amalie von Schintling who tragically died at the age of 19 before her wedding to Fritz von Schintling.
|Amalie von Schintling|
The delightful gardens in the formal French manner around the palace were designed around 1715 by Dominique Girard and Joseph Effner. The park contains a number of small palaces rather than what one might term 'pavilions'. Cascades, long waters statues of Greek gods and vases abound.