Thursday, 29 July 2010

Edward Cahill - pianist. This family quest being one research phase of my next book - a biography of the brilliant but forgotten Australian concert pianist Edward Cahill (1895-1975)

 The Series I Peugeot 307 CC (2004) used on this excursion - a design classic

Click on photographs to enlarge. The results are far superior.



Leica D-Lux 4

The next part of my research after South Africa for my next book, that on 'the family genius' the Australian concert pianist 'Uncle Eddie' (Edward Cahill [1895-1975] ), took me to Eze - a 'perched village' on the Cote d'Azur.

N.B.  Refer to 'Work in Progress'  for September 2010 for the very latest material on this ongoing research.

Of my classic cars I decided to drive my metallic dark green (Manitoba) Series I Peugeot 307 CC (2004) the 6000 kms round trip from Warsaw.  Why did I choose a humble Peugeot - a car with seemingly so little cachet ? Reliability, readily available parts throughout all European countries, comfort, inexpensive to insure and it's a convertible. I have always found the first series car far more attractive in the metal than in photographs. Later models do not wear the family face well as the lines of the car are no longer cohesive and the  balance of form between front and rear is upset. The car is particularly attractive in this colour (Manitoba) and that superb metallic red (Babylon). I have read some terrible reviews of the 307 CC but have only had a couple of problems with mine mainly through lack of use.

The trouble with GT and sports cars today is an appalling lack of luggage space. How do you go away with a lady for three weeks touring the French Riviera in a modern convertible with enough luggage to cover adequately any social circumstance that may crop up? Washing and drying clothes en route in hotel rooms has never appealed to me. I prefer a convertible with a steel folding roof for security and climatic reasons in Poland as opposed to a rag top. Upon arrival at the destination one can unload the car and use it as a convertible for the rest of the holiday. Bliss on the Riviera in the cool evenings. 

The car performed perfectly over the entire trip and has now covered some 50,000kms.

1. Warsaw to the Cote d'Azur and Monaco (1900 kms)

1.1 Warsaw to Austerlitz


The battlefield of Austerlitz under a bloody sky
                                  

                  View from the balcony of the Castle of Austerlitz from which Napoleon addressed his troops after the victory

As an independent traveller the planning of this excursion was very time consuming but worth the investment of emotional energy. The first port of call on the long drive from Warsaw (some 566 kms using my beautiful new Garmin 3760T GPS) was at Slavkov u Brna (Austerlitz) in the Czech Republic south east of Prague. Two years ago I last visited the site of this great Napoleonic victory of 2 December 1805 over Austrian and Russian forces known as "The Battle of the Three Emperors" (Napoleon I of France, Alexander I of Russia and Franz I of Austria). The visit took place in the pouring rain, melting snow and fog of winter. Slogging over battlefields in those conditions was no pleasure. Le "soleil" d'Austerlitz' (The sun of Austerlitz - a defining military and poetic moment in Napoleonic history) did not break through the mist on that day.

I hoped to actually see something of the battlefield this summer. Memorial stones commemorating the important sites of headquarters and crucial skirmishes litter the plain and low hills. Each year there are re-enactments of the battle with thousands of troops in full costume. Everything is remembered it seems. "The beautiful ladies of St. Petersberg will weep!" exclaimed one exultant French general at the time. An estimated thirty thousand men died on both sides, perhaps more, if one considers the typhoid epidemic that followed.

After the battle and the Treaty of Bratislava that followed Europe took on a new shape and the great Holy Roman Empire ceased to be.  Leo Tolstoy describes the battle in unforgettable terms in the first part of War and Peace - I read this with the greatest pleasure yet again. In more modern times W.G Sebald has written a masterpiece entitled Austerlitz. Although a meditation on war it does not deal specifically with this battle but is superb and a great book indeed concerning our benighted times. One can stay in the Old Post-House where Napoleon spent the night before the engagement - a most eloquent moment for me.

On this occasion I also visited the restored Castle of Austerlitz where the capitulation to Napoleon was signed in the great ballroom beneath Bohemian crystal chandeliers. The castle, together with its 15 hectares of formal gardens, is the ancestral home of the Kounic family and a jewel of the Moravian baroque. Long before Napoleon's brief encounter with the landscape it had a distinguished history dating back to the 13th century. From the balcony of the castle overlooking the parterre Napoleon addressed his victorious troops with rousing rhetoric: "I shall bring you back to France. There, you will be the object of my most tender care. My people shall greet your return with joy, and it will be enough for you to say "I was at the Battle of Austerlitz," that the reply shall be, "Here is a hero".

On a more personal note I noticed that many young Czech women have a wonderfully lethargic manner of movement that seems luxuriously 'Bohemian' and devoted to sensual pleasures. One I watched at dinner looked as if she had just stepped down from the pedestal of a statue in the castle park. Her attitude to food was hedonistic and intense, a glow of sensual satisfaction and anticipation suffused her features as each course arrived. Later next day in the simmering heat she eased herself through the baroque rooms of the castle on the arm of her lover, Rubenesque thighs in a brief skirt, long blonde hair framing a superb profile. Rather different to the 'Polish reeds' I so admire.

The next overnight stop would be a further 500 kms to picturesque Lake Worthersee in Austria.

1.2 Austerlitz to Worthersee



Lake Worthersee, Velden, Austria
                                                                                                                                             
The removal of official border crossings in the EU is a delight for the modern traveller by car. Certainly it was a relief to be driving on Czech roads and the billiard-smooth Austrian motorways (almost free of traffic) after the scandal of Polish roads. Travellers complained in the 18th century about these roads; then in the 19th century - Balzac got stuck for weeks trying to get back to Paris from visiting his lover Mme Hanska in Ukraine and died soon after. I fail to understand the lack of political will to improve this vital infrastructure in Poland. I chose to drive out of  the country on a Sunday as there are few if any lorries on the treacherous two-lane highways with dangerous ruts. All this is quite apart from the suicidal speed and style of Polish motorists who drive in a manner reminiscent of Napoleonic cavalry. The main European route out of Wroclaw (Breslau) through the city is almost undriveable.

Lake Worthersee and Villach are beautiful, restful and stylish. Lake holidays are very different to beach breaks and one can still capture a sense of fin de siecle Austria in some of the glamorous lakeside hotels. The Relais and Chateaux Hotel Schloss Seefels is a good example - expensive but stunning. Life is short after all. I have found that Austria remains a wonderful summer destination - people are charming and civilised, everything is clean and works, the food and wine are excellent, the landscape divine and the cost moderate compared to say Germany and Switzerland. What more can one ask?

1.3  Wothersee to Sirmione, Lake Garda, Italy

The first century Roman ruins of the Grotte di Catullo at Sirmione on Lake Garda


Sirmione, Lake Garda

In the village of Sirmione, Lake Garda

Ah! The peninsula of Sirmione! Lombardy! Now this is when I love touring in a convertible.

Arrival by car in this picturesque and  ancient town is complicated. One must have a confirmed booking at an hotel on the actual peninsula to obtain entry past the ferocious guard. All claims are checked against a list and by telephone. Traffic lights and a thick metal cylinder which rises through the tarmac protect the narrow medieval bridge which leads to the castle portcullis. One must then drive to the hotel of choice through the incredibly packed narrow streets - so narrow you believe you must have taken a wrong turning - almost squashing into the walls mothers with prams, resentful tourists and aphasic elderly ladies out of touch with their environment. I had booked two nights at the modest Hotel Ideal situated at the remote end of the peninsula overlooking the lake and the first century Roman ruins of a vast villa known as the Grotte di Catullo. Catullus had a villa in Sirmione but probably not this one. They are the largest and most important villa ruins in northern Italy and extend over 2 hectares or 5 acres. From 1406 Sirmione was a Venetian possession for almost 400 years. Tremendously atmospheric summoning historical dreams. Catullus wrote of Sirmione:

Sirmio, jewel of islands, jewel of peninsulas,

jewel of whatever is set in the bright waters
or the great sea, or either ocean,
with what joy, what pleasure I gaze at you,
scarcely believing myself free of Thynia
and the Bythinian fields, seeing you in safety.
O what freedom from care is more joyful
than when the mind lays down its burden,
and weary, back home from foreign toil,
we rest in the bed we longed for?
This one moment’s worth all the labour.
Hail, O lovely Sirmio, and rejoice as I rejoice,
and you, O lake of Lydian waters, laugh
with whatever of laughter lives here.
                                                                                 (trans. A.S Kline)

And rather more bawdily and decidedly hedonistically:

'And lying here and stuffed with food, I'm ripe for stuffing you my sweet Ipsithilla'


The battlemented walls of the 13th century castello of the Scaliger family at Sirmione

The first unfamiliar sound is the deafening ratcheting of cicadas as a heavy blanket of heat almost punches one to the ground  - we are closer now to the Mediterranean. A mysterious frontier of the soul has been crossed. Maria Callas lived in Sirmione in 1950 in an ochre villa opposite the noble gates of the dauntingly luxurious hotel Villa Cortine where one could wander in the formal aristocratic gardens forever. Ezra Pound and James Joyce met here in 1920. Yet one does not feel overwhelmed by crass modern life but curiously remote from civilisation despite the tourists. Swimming or sunbathing on the Lido delle Blonde  a few steps from the hotel leads one along many avenues of poetic thought in the cool of the evening, distracted more often than is pleasant by tourist obesity which has reached epidemic proportions. Many Italians come to Sirmione for an annual cure and to take the waters at the famous terme. In a restaurant near the castello sparrows hop fearlessly about the tablecloth fetching dropped crumbs as I twirl my fork of Spaghetti alle Vongole and lift a glass of suave and elegant Bardolino Chiaretto.

The last evening I sat on the balcony in the dusk above the ruins and the lake, fanned by a soft breeze, the dessicated leaves of the olive trees rustling in the grove.

The Grotte di Catullo from the olive grove

1.4 From Sirmione to Eze on the Cote d'Azur

Tunnels and crazy truckers dominated this part of the journey on the autostrada. Why must they pass each other at 3 kms per hour? Boredom I suppose. After Austria it was hardly enjoyable driving on such crowded roads through rural Italy but I had a purpose to fulfill on the Riviera and not endless funds to finance it. A long way from Poland.

Finally after a few wrong decisions on directions and wild arguments with the unflappable lady lodged within the GPS ("Why are you taking me here you idiot!") I arrived at the Gites de France known as Domaine Pins Paul. Hot cicadas had accompanied me all the way on this winding route, waves of rough sound flailing me as I passed them clustered in invisible groups in the olive trees.

Eze, Cap Ferrat and the Port of Villefranche from the breakfast terrace and my room at Pins Paul
A street scene in the medieval village of Eze
In medieval Eze

My French hosts could not have been more charming and civilised. I cooled off in the upper pool and baked a while in the punishing sun before scrambling down the precipitous slopes through pine and olive to the refreshing lower pool shaded among the trees, reclining there like an exhausted lizard. Later in the cool of late evening I drove the corniche with the top down to the nearby village of La Turbie high above Monaco. The revelation of French food and wine again took me hostage as I gently parted succulent lamb from the bone, the pink meat baked in thyme and drank from the carafe of  Bandol rouge. The Cafe de la Fontaine in La Turbie  is an excellent restaurant with brilliant service but reservations are essential if you wish to sit out in the cool of the evening. After the ascetic rigours of austerity in Warsaw I had moved into a genuinely blissful state as I piloted the car carefully down the precipitous driveway back to my temporary heaven.  As dusk descended goat bells tinkled among the olive trees.

Now I had to prepare an itinerary to find the sites my uncle had frequented and the venues he had performed in on the Cote d'Azur. He came first in the glamorous 1930s when style and glamour were at their peak and then later in the 1960s until his passing in 1975 in an apartment high above the Jardin Exotique. But that would be tomorrow.


2. Trailing Mr. Cahill in Monaco and the Cote d'Azur

Breakfast on the terrace was an absolute French delight, the sublime view of  Eze and Cap Ferrat through the haze, power boats slicing in slow motion through the desperately blue Mediterranean leaving scars of white, vast Russian yachts at anchor, large even at this distance,  a scene of affluent calm which one could never tire.  Soft croissants, pain au chocolat, home-made jam in rustic containers, wonderfully smelly cheeses, raisin bread, plain bread, breads of every description and excellent coffee. Philippe et Marie Josée Ponnelle, my hosts were always talkative and charming - he a sophisticated rather debonair Frenchman who had lived in New York and spoke excellent English, she the perfectly solicitous hostess.

My first day was rather unfocused concerning the real research reason for being here. I spent much of the time wandering around the lovely town of La Turbie on the Grande Corniche. My uncle had taken me here when I last visited him in 1968. Dante dedicated verses to this medieval village in the Divine Comedy on his way into exile in Provence. Tobias Smollett wandered through in 1764 and Lord Tennyson followed later. The Madonna of Laghet is mentioned in Proust. Napoleon stayed overnight on 2 April, 1796 en route to Italy. 


The town is very picturesque and is crowned by the Roman ruins the The Trophy of Augustus. This rare survival (the only other 'Roman Trophy' ruin is in Romania) commemorates the extension of Roman rule in the Alps from 25 to 14 B.C. by the Emperor Augustus. He subjugated previously unconquered tribes who threatened communications with Gaul and Spain. The Trophee des Alpes was built from the famous local white limestone which resembles marble but was plundered before a partial restoration. The monumental nature of it is clear from a model in the excellent museum and the vast inscription in Latin on the monument itself celebrating Augustus in high-flown God-like terms ('....son of the divine Julius, Pontifex Maximus,  proclaimed Emperor for the fourteenth time...') followed by a list of the 45 tribes he subjugated.

It was so hot and humid it was almost unbearable - even for an Australian. Cooled off in the pool before an open-topped drive in the cooler evening along the Grande Corniche to another fine restaurant called the Auberge de la Croix du Pape with a vue panoramique of Eze from the terrace.

It was always a pleasure to be greeted home at Pins Paul by Fiona the lovable dog of indeterminate breed who barked a great deal at the gate but is so sweet.


La Turbie from the Grand Corniche with the Trophy of Augustus in the middle distance


A street in the medieval village of La Turbie


View of Monaco from the 'wild' landscaped path to the Trophy of Augustus by Jules Formige 
The following morning I decided to drive to Monaco and try and find Uncle Eddie's old address. I took an orange from the basket in the portico, patted Fiona and set off.
The airless warren of twisting streets of Monaco drive most GPS systems and visiting drivers crazy but I at least found the street where he lived - Avenue Hector Otto - without much drama as it was high above the city. However I spent hours finding the block of flats as of course in the intervening thirty years since I had last been there, Monaco had been completely built out by high-rise building spreading like giant mushrooms. In desperation I asked a wrinkled old lady who managed a Tabac about the apartment Le Bermuda above the Jardin Exotique . 'You will find him only the entrance after the parking station. Go up in the lift.' The concealed entrance was indeed to a block of flats clearly built long ago. I took a picture and was suddenly accosted by a Canadian who spoke first in French and then English. 'Why are you taking a picture of our decrepit entrance?' he asked in amazement. I explained all. My uncle the concert pianist had retired and lived there from 1962-75 where he died. No-one would remember. Everyone moves on in Monaco. Few exiles are buried there. He told me a great deal about the building (the second high-rise in Monaco constructed in 1960) and much more which you can read if you ever read my book. 

Le Bermuda in Monaco overlooking the sea and Jardin Exotique where Cahill lived from 1961-75




















Space is at a premium in Monaco and now the only place to expand is underground. The Monagasques are building more and more road tunnels through the rocks. My GPS simply lost satellite reception in the middle and left me stranded in the underground labyrinth. Monaco is an incredibly daunting place to drive - like navigating the cave of the Nibelung Alberich. Parking however is brilliant with underground stations everywhere. A hot climb to the pretty toy-town Royal Palace of Monaco through the scattered buildings of the Monaco-Ville (Old Town).

Monaco as it used to be

As the airless, still heat and humidity became unbearable I gave up looking at the monstrous yachts moored in the harbour. I decided to visit the air-conditioned Private Collection of Antique Cars of H.S.H. Prince Rainier III. A marvellous collection of 100 important cars including the Bugatti 35B that won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in 1929 driven by William Grover-Williams. I believe it was painted British Racing Green at that time but is now the famous Bugatti Blue.




The Bugatti Type 35B that won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in 1929


                                                                                                                                                                      
             
The circuitous narrow climb back to La Turbie and Pins Paul made me feel I was in my own Grand Prix. Local French drivers on the Cote d'Azur drive fast and push you mercilessly from behind even if you are a visitor. If you come close to the wall on the right when ascending you run the risk of opening up the side of your car on the sharp rocks like a tin of baked beans. Descending there are the kerbs and the sheer drops. I accustomed myself to it after a while and then actually came to love these drives that really push your skills to the limit. Then there are the ubiquitous motor scooters which either terrify or delight with their sexy pillion riders, smooth tanned legs in short shorts clinging onto the lucky man for dear life. A refreshing swim. Cicadas pulsate in the heat. At dusk goat bells and bleating nearby.


To Villefranche-sur-Mer for a fish dinner at the glamorous and excellent L'Oursin Bleu where the waiters are required to dart between the traffic with your food if you dine on the absolute waterfront. Wealthy punters aboard their yachts are collected by restaurant water taxi for their meals. Millionaires dressed in all enveloping white (the fashion this year for shady people in a sunny place - to paraphrase Somerset Maugham). Crepe de Chine shirts stretch to bursting over tanned hairy obese stomachs, the flowing grey locks of manifest financial success are swept back in gestures of omnipotence. Their women with bleached hair, insect sunglasses and micro-skirts totter along the cobbles on  high Louboutin heels. Restaurant managers fawn shamelessly. Authentic glamour and taste seems to have departed the Riviera forever.

Menton

Edward Cahill played in some of the great villas on the French and Italian Riviera of the glamorous 1930s and I decided to try and find at least one of them.  Menton (or Mentone in Italian) is now part of the French Department of the Alpes-Maritimes but this was not always so. The colourful past is reflected in its coveted border location as it swung like a pendulum between rule by the Grimaldi family of Monaco and the French. In the 19th century it was popular with English aristocrats as a sanatorium for tuberculosis sufferers. Together with the Russians, they built many luxurious palaces and villas in the elegant area of Garavan. In the early 1920s the novelist Katherine Mansfield lived in the Villa Isola Bella. Before her, Dante passed through in the 12th century. In fact a prodigious number of European writers, painters and and musicians wintered or died here from their bronchial ailments. From de Maupassant to Nietzsche, R. L. Stevenson to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Aubrey Beardsley spent the last two years of his life here. Vladimir Nabokov was 38 when he first visited Menton after finishing The Gift in Cannes in 1937, attracted by the profusion of butterflies. Constricted pebble beaches are far too hot and uncomfortable for me accustomed as I am to the soft sand of the glorious Pacific.

I found it by far the most attractive town on the Cote d'Azur. It retains much of the intimacy and picturesque local colour of the past despite the influx tourists. Eddie stayed in the famous Villa Maria-Serena at Menton-Garavan as a guest of Mr. Henri Konig who was also one of his close friends and patrons. This important villa is uninhabited today but botanical tours are still taken once a week of the magnificent gardens. As I wandered about this superb domain I could not help but reflect that 'Uncle Eddie' certainly operated at the highest social level on the Cote d'Azur of the glamorous 1930s - his charming, elegant and somewhat decadent day - the setting of the Scott Fitzgerald novel Tender is the Night.





 Villa Maria-Serena Menton

Menton from the entrance portico of the Villa Maria-Serena


The luxuriant gardens of the Villa Maria-Serena

Finding the Teatrum Romanum  at the former Roman town of Albintimilii (now absorbed into Ventimiglia) where Eddie gave an historic performance  in 1947 (he was awarded a medal by the Italian government for it) was particularly difficult. There were no signs whatsoever to this important Roman ruin. He gave the first performance of any sort for 2,000 years as one of the premier gestures of rapprochement between Italy and Britain after WW II.  Eva Peron attended this concert and many other notables. I have an astonishing small clip of 16mm film of the event.


The pianist Edward Cahill at the Teatrum Romanum Ventimiglia 1947
The author Michael Moran at the Teatrum Romanum Ventimiglia 2010

The Teatrum Romanum Albintimilii Ventimiglia 2010
The next day on an impulse I decided to try and find  Eddie's grave as he died and was buried in Monaco in 1975. Most expatriates are repatriated for burial. I hoped it would not take me six months of tortuous bureaucracy. I descended yet again the dangerous circuitous corniche to Monte-Carlo and the car only bottomed out twice on hidden kerbs avoiding manic drivers with no major damage. Searching for a grave in the still, humid and scorching summer heat in the Monaco cemetery was less than pleasant.

The  Cemetery at Monaco
I had almost given up when I spied a small, bijou cottage in one corner with stained glass windows, white linen cushions lying on white wrought-iron chairs, a tiny conservatory with plants - in short a general air of habitation and life. A fine-boned rather dark Monagasque woman approached me from the cemetery steps, barefoot in jeans wearing a pale blue chiffon blouse printed with dolphins. A large silver cross hung about her neck and some other silver ornaments. Her slightly crinkly hair was held back with a clip and she had a general air of slight spiritual or physical intoxication.

'Can I 'elp you Monsieur?' she asked in heavily accented English. She had been chatting to a gardener.

'Well, perhaps you can.' I replied without the slightest confidence. I told her briefly of Uncle Eddie's history of fifteen years residence in Monaco.

'Ah! 'E was your uncle. A relative of you! We must find 'im. C'est tres important! Can you tell me the year 'e dead ?'

'He died in 1975 but I don't know the exact date.'

'If you can tell me plus or minus five years will be alright! I look in the books.' she answered brightly.

I was astounded as she went to a small cupboard in the cottage and brought out a couple of battered leather-bound ledgers. She ruffled the page of the 1975 volume. 

'What 'is name you say? I am forgetting pronunciation English names quickly.'

'Edward Cahill' and I wrote it on a piece of paper even less optimistically and handed it to her. 

Within two minutes the entry was found.

'Come out and take ze picture but near some green!' she said.

I asked her name.

'Joy!' she exclaimed.

'How ever did you come to be working here?'

'I was owning a boutique in Monaco and the Mayor of Monaco 'e asked me to 'elp 'im to work one day. I am now 'ere ten years!'

'How did your friends feel about it?'

'I 'ave no friends. These are my friends. All my friends are 'ere!' she said warmly gesturing to the tiers of graves in a grand sweeping movement of her arm.

Entry in the cemetery ledger of the death of Edward Cahill at Monaco in 1975
We walked in the blistering heat to the grave itself, now empty. Prince Rainier allocated a special part of the cemetery called Jacaranda for the poor residents of Monaco who could not afford the expensive funerals of the Principality.  Eddie had lain there for five years before being cremated and his ashes placed in a common grave in the area of the cemetery called Le Jardin de Souvenir.

The author contemplating his grand-uncle's final resting place in Monaco cemetery

Our family could have rented a grave for another 30 years but the cost was exorbitant. There were actually many notices on the 30 year graves advising relatives that if a further arrangement was not made the deceased would be cremated and placed in the common grave for ash remains. 

Cap Ferrat had always fascinated me because of its literary associations. Friedrich Nietzsche  called it 'an ideal spot for calm and reflection'. He liked to climb to the medieval village of Eze along a path where he solved some of the creative problems associated with Zarathustra. David Niven and Charlie Chaplin both lived on the Cap. Although it had no particular connection with my uncle I spent a morning there searching for Somerset Maugham's villa La Mauresque where he lived for almost forty years. What stories the walls could tell of that abode of talent! This is not the place to go into the decadent antics of the incumbents in detail but I can recommend a recent new biography of Maugham by Selina Hastings entitled The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham (John Murray 2009). How I would love to live on Cap Ferrat - it seems to have scarcely changed from the 1920s and exudes an air of tremendous wealth, ease and privilege.


The Moorish device used by Somerset Maugham to ward off the evil eye. La Mauresque, Cap Ferrat.

The entry phone was all one could really see of the villa except a gate and parapet. If I owned the villa, I too would completely exclude the prying public! The author Michael Moran is the reflected subject busy with his Leica.

The author Michael Moran at the gates of Somerset Maugham's villa La Mauresque,  Cap Ferrat, Cote d'Azur 2010


All that can be seen today of the mythical villa La Mauresque from the Boulevard Somerset Maugham, Cap Ferrat.
How Willie would have cynically loved this naming of a street after him.
A luxury hotel somewhere between Cannes and St. Tropez has stolen the name of his villa to misleadingly attract clients in our commodity obsessed age. 

I also wandered down to see Jean Cocteau's house nearby called Santo-Sospir but there was only a huge thicket fence and a snuffling dog behind a bolted door. Wandering past the fabulous Grand Hotel du Cap I reflected it was the birthplace of the idea for the play by Murray Burnett called Everybody Comes to Rick's. This eventually became the immortal film Casablanca. 

I can recommend without reservation a book for the literary sleuths among us -  The French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers by Ted Jones (London 2009). The book accompanied me all the time I was exploring the Cote'd'Azur and gave endless pleasure, listed quite obscure places to visit  and much esoteric detail.

Despite the 37C heat I courageously pressed on to visit the fabulous Neo-Renaissance Italian Villa Ephrussi created by Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild. It is surrounded by nine gardens with different 'themes' spread over more than ten acres. Born in Paris in 1864, at 19 she married a 34 year old Russian banker, Maurice Ephrussi. It was not a happy marriage as it was rumoured that 'she liked the ladies' according to the winking  tour guide of the collections. She first came to Cap Ferrat in 1905 (she already owned four villas in Monaco) and  was seduced by the beauty of the peninsula. This Palazzino  took five years to construct and she personally designed the layout. Her favourite colour was pink and she often dressed as Marie Antoinette to receive guests. She was a great collector of antiques and her tastes were influenced by other Rothschild family members at the Wallace Collection in London and Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire in England. She possessed one of the finest collection of Sevres porcelain, eighteenth century wooden panelling from the Hotel de Crillon, a ceiling by Tiepolo and other priceless objects. She died in 1934 in Davos in Switzerland and bequeathed the property and some five and a half thousand works of art to the Academie des Beaux-Arts de l'Institute de France.

Villa Ephrussi  Cap Ferrat
The Spanish Garden at Villa Ephrussi
The Villa Ephrussi from the Temple of Love overlooking the fountains of the Long Water.



The formal French Garden at Villa Ephrussi. Beatrice laid it out to resemble the deck of the ship Ile de France on which she had once enjoyed a cruise. The sea enclosed either side of the peninsula giving the illusion of ship sailing on a voyage. The ship itself was ultra modern for the glamorous 1920s with stunning Art Deco interiors. Ponds, fountains and waterfalls are an integral part of the formality of this French garden with a Temple of Love at the prow. She dressed her many gardeners in sailor suits with striped shirts and berets with red pom-poms and equipped them with whistles for communication.

Detail of painted wood panelling by Huet in the adorable  Room of Monkeys where there is also a delightful  Meissen monkey orchestra
Towards the end of the stay I decided to spend the evening at the Monte-Carlo Casino. It was something like thirty years since I had last been to the Salle Garnier  to a concert with my uncle where I believe I cut la bella figura in my nineteenth-century coachman's coat. I was somewhat of a dandy in those days.

There were more spectators at the casino than punters - people watching people watching people. On my long drive down to the Cote d'Azur I had been  passed by only a couple of supercars - a Porsche and a Ferrari - in 1600 kms of Eurobox heaven. Here in the tiny Place du Casino I estimated some 20 million pounds worth of Rolls-Royce New Phantom Convertibles, Bugatti Veyrons, Lamborghini Murcielagos, Ferrari Enzos.......all circulating at about 10km/hour and capable of 200km/hour. These cars are baubles, seldom used as they are designed to be used in so-called  'continental touring'.  It has ever been with the nouveau riche. I did not recognise the shopping area near the casino there has been so much redevelopment. The possibility of civilised tea in the English tea rooms, lethargic window shopping on palm-fringed avenues, a quiet stroll on a cool uncluttered evening has finished forever. This was the not the Monte-Carlo I remembered all those years ago when I rejoiced in my uncle's scintillating company. The days of wine and roses cannot be recaptured.

 Place du Casino -  Monte-Carlo

Eddie, the great aesthete, often recommended I visit  the Villa Grecque Kerylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer.  The town is quite fashionable and sheltered from winds which makes it one of the warmest places on the Riviera. Kerylos is an academically faithful recreation of a Greek villa of the ancients conceived by the archeologist Theodore Reinach in 1902 and bequeathed to the Institute de France in 1928. The site is reminiscent of the Aegean and overlooks the sea, the villa surrounded by lush gardens. It certainly was welcoming and cool.
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





3. Following Mr. Cahill from the Cote d'Azur through the Bavarian Alps to Berchtesgaden and the site of Villa Bechstein where he performed in 1934 with his lover the Austrian violinist Sabine Adler.


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 1931I 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.                                                                                                           


                          Lake Lugano from the balcony of my room at Hotel Colibri





 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.


                                                 The San Bernadino Pass in Switzerland

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 Nymphenburg in Munich where King Ludwig II of Bavaria was born in 1845

                                                            

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvW8NrtR52Y



Bad Reichenhall from the balcony of my room in the Hotel Neu-Meran



            Villa Bechstein (centre forground) Berchtesgaden, Obersalzberg around 1934 (Walden Archive)




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]


Francois Boucher  Reclining girl  (1752)
The girl is probably Louise O'Murphy at the age of fifteen. She was a model for Boucher's titillations and then mistress to Louis XV after he saw her in a minitaure in 1753. Playful sexuality indeed....
[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.


Roof at the entrance to the Olympic Stadium. These structures are timeless in their modernist essence and engineering flair. They remain deeply impressive and expressive of our times. The lack of maintenence except the Olympic pool seems tragically to neglect their aesthetic significance which is on a par with many lovingly restored structures in the Altstadt (Old Town)

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.


Schloss Nymphenburg Munich

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.


Jane Elizabeth Digby, Lady Ellenborough (1807 – 1881)
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.