I’ve just returned from a two-week trip to Germany and Austria, mostly to visit with family but also traveling with close family.
Illustration: “Sunset in Heidelberg,” oil on canvas by Black Elephant Blog author (2019)
This turned out to be the long-awaited time when I would return to Vienna, Austria and the international high school from which I graduated many years ago. It was so special to discover that I still recall the streetcar and bus numbers to get from the inner city to the outer district where my former school is. The weather cooperated throughout this trip, with snow flurries and cold suitable for January (but no worse). Lunch over in the neighboring wine district of Grinzing, with light snow falling outside and settling on ledges around the onion domes of a church across the street, finished off the visit to the outer district. Later it was back by the efficient streetcar system to the inner city and, from there again by streetcar, to the Belvedere Schloss to see Klimt art and other paintings. We had a hot drink in its warm gold and ochre royal cafe with the Belvedere gardens outside covered in snow and a blue-purplish early evening light seen through the windows.
In such weather, however, and in a group of travelers there is less incentive to stop and try to paint or, more likely in such weather, draw. Outside of Stephansdom, the main cathedral in central Vienna, one hardy soul was painting in oils in close-to-freezing weather. He was set up to sell them so perhaps had an incentive to paint in his fingerless gloves out in the cold, but the prospect did not hold any appeal to me.
My trip also took me to the Pfalz area for a memorable wine-tasting, to Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Heidelberg, and much smaller towns along the Rhine; my early school years were in Bonn, Germany north of where we were on this trip. One can get most anywhere at almost anytime on the dense network of streetcars, inter-city railroads, and the faster ICE, and in Austria, the OBB trains. There was almost no need for a car (except for hauling all the wine home after the wine-tasting!)
Back home now, there is some time for reflection and recreation of scenes, including the memory of a sunset over Heidelberg in Germany, as this painted scene from the castle above the town recalls. A special book in German about Heidelberg fell into my hands during the visit there, recommending itself to me through the wonderful watercolor on its cover and on plates throughout its pages. It turns out to be a book by a former director of the city’s archives, chock full of history and insights. Also in Heidelberg, we visited an amazing museum which can be found by going down a quiet drive into a palace area off of the main pedestrian street: called the Museum of the Palatinate, it has excellent displays covering the history of the many peoples (Celts, Romans, various tribes) who settled in this area. If you need to get off your feet for a while, you can take a snooze here on a cushioned Roman bench in a recreated Roman dining area; signs in German encourage you to do just that, so long as you take off your shoes! (For artists and urban sketchers, it may be of interest that the LAMY headquarters is in Heidelberg and a new flagship store full of temptations is on the main drag in the old city.) There is something about travel, and seeking to restore a rusty foreign language ability, that awakens the need to create, to remember, to connect, and to imagine…so perhaps there will be more scenes from my youth coming to this blog.