Weekend Mountain Rail Blogging

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The Mittenwaldbahn meets the trail at the Seefelder Sattel. Photo shamelessly purloined from Martin Schönherr.

Tyrolean omniscient and Friend of the Blog Paschberg sends a photo of greeting from the Seefelder Sattel, a little pass over the most easily navigable part of the Karwendel Mountains, and known as a point along the alignment of the Via Raetia. What he may not remember is that I myself have a similar photo, previously posted here, from pretty much the same spot, but looking the other way — the thing is, I had indeed been looking for the Seefelder Sattel, but didn’t realize that I had been standing right on it until now.
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In a somewhat related vein: the closed railway line which ran past my recent overnight accommodations in Passau’s Innstadt.
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It turns out to be part of the former Passau-Hauzenberg Railway, now used primarily by dog walkers. (The Beau, charmingly sarcastic as ever, suggested that it had probably been left behind by the Romans.)

Rooftop Blogging: Final Edition

When I began the blog nearly 8 years ago, I wanted to do some kind of photoblogging that could be done on a regular, perhaps weekly basis with ease. A lot of people were doing “Saturday cat blogging”, which I found a little tiresome but it was something amusing to add to the big conversation going on, and I wanted to be part of that conversation by contributing to it. The mountain/city view from my terrace is beautiful and constantly changing, and seemed a good enough choice. So let’s have a last look around.

There have been so many changes to Innsbruck, architecturally speaking. While the little Altstadt retains its Medieval look, the areas just outside it have been changing in leaps and bounds. Here are the ones I can remember since 2000, when I arrived, starting with the changes observable right outside my window:

Bergisel Ski Jump
Schanze Before
The old one demolished in 2001 (I watched from my apartment), the new one, by star architect Zaha Hadid, opened in 2002.

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Sillpark Plaza and Annex
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I like the extra mall shops (and the green roof!) I don’t like the plaza (Vorplatz) for one reason: its acoustics. The shape of it triggers sound — people talking, music, drumming — to ricochet right up through our windows. It has gotten much louder here over the years. Last night a crowd of twenty-something girls were doing some kind of ritual screaming at the beach bar, over and over. They were there for hours.

Amraserstraße/Museumstraße/Brunecker Straße
An old, antiquated Post Office building stood on Brunecker Straße, and for a time I went there to pick up packages. Now the sleek, golden brown Pema Tower takes up most of that block, provides cover from sun and rain on that side of the street, and holds a few nice new businesses. The empty lot on the Amraserstraße side is currently a construction site for another tower. The bus/tram stop has been fixed up nicely too, and a pedestrian tunnel installed.

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Frachthof now

Die Sill Insel
This was a dirt parking lot, if memory serves me. There was some kind of old loading depot building which had some use in the alternative scene, and a little pink villa of sorts which I believe housed modern art. I often wondered what their original purpose was; they may have belonged to the Ferrari Palace (now a vocational school) across the street. Perhaps cargo was pulled off the Sill Canal and loaded on wagons there. The little house, I have no idea. On that site now stands a new apartment building. (It hasn’t destroyed the view, but I did have to get used to idea that other people now stand on their balconies and look over at me.)
Inntal BeforeInntal now

What else has changed? The Hauptbahnhof is new-ish, having reopened in 2004.
The Tiroler Landestheater opened its new annex in 2003, with rehearsal spaces, offices and workshops.
The Rathaus Passage and Kaufhaus Tyrol, both on the Maria-Theresien-Straße,  are two new urban shopping malls which, judging from the masses who go there, seem to be doing very well, despite my insistence that the latter, formerly Bauer & Schwarz, was cursed. The gods of commerce won that battle. Bauer and Schwarz would probably have approved.)
The Convention Center (Messegelände) was taken down and replaced with a newer, larger one.
The Hungerburgbahn was redesigned, with two new stations also designed by Zaha Hadid. The line was extended over to the Hofgarten, where the city tourists can reach it more easily.
The Tivoli football stadium was renovated to seat the larger crowds of the European Championship in 2008, with extensions which, by design, can be added for larger events and later removed.
The streetcars were replaced with the current red, noiseless version. I missed the old ones for a while but quickly got used to the new ones, especially since the Iglerbahn now quietly slithers through the forest, Innsbruck’s own Tatzlwurm.
A less-vaunted change was the demolition of the Bürgerbräu brewery on Ingenieur-Etzl-Straße, on which now stands a modern glass building of businesses below and apartments above. The not-unpleasant smell of hops used to waft through the air on warm summer nights. They made Kaiser Bier, and certainly there was a connection with the Kaiserstube restaurant, just around the corner on Museumstrasse. Below, both Bürgerbräu and the old streetcars.
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The Stadtsäle is going to come down this summer. This postwar structure was erected after the older Stadtsäle was condemned and demolished. A rather beautiful and ornate palatial hall from 1890,
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it succumbed to allied bombs that fell over Innsbruck late in the Second World War. I have always thought of the current Stadtsäle as our local version of the Palast der Republik, useful, ugly, but aesthetically interesting in a “retro” way.
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When it’s razed, the Landestheater’s Kammerspiel will go along with it, and a new Kammerspiel will take its place. I have many fond memories of this 200-seat theater. You can say I cut my teeth on that stage.

Bürgerbräu photo from here.
Image of old Stadtsäle from here.
Image of current Stadtsäle from here.
All other images by the author.

Weekend Mountain Blogging: Maria Tax – Wolfsklamm

IMG_2034 A half-day hike above Stans to the Maria Tax Chapel. Taxen  is an old regional word for Tannen, or fir tree. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary made an appearance here in 1616,  leaving behind her handprint on a stone, a picture of which was then attached to a tree for people to come and revere it. So we have here both a stone and a tree of religious importance (I was able to find neither, unless the stone is now part of the fountain behind the chapel*.) IMG_2038 In 1627 a wooden chapel was built, in 1667 a stone one. In the same year the first hermit moved into the sacristy. IMG_2043 Sacred trees were a thing with the pre-Christian inhabitants all over Europe. Christianity treated the worship of trees as idolatry and this led to their deliberate destruction. From this site I learned a little more (translation mine):

When St. Boniface took an axe to the sacred Donar’s Oak at Geismar, Germany in 724, and didn’t get struck by lightning for it, he was able to proclaim the victory of Christianity. One sacred tree after another fell, and the Teutons were forced to drop their local religion and accept Christianity. Nevertheless many may not have forgiven Boniface for this desecration; he was slain 754 by the Frisians. According to many legends, when a sacred tree is cut, it bleeds from the sacrilege. Therefore the woodcutter asks the tree for forgiveness before cutting it. And many legends report of cruel punishments for messing with sacred trees . Ultimately behind such legends is the idea of the tree as seat of the Godhead. From a fiery burning bush God speaks to Moses; to Joan of Arc from the branches of a tree. The Buddha’s enlightenment takes place under a tree. The old-rooted idea of the sanctity of trees survived within Christianity and continues in myths and legends of holy images on or in trees. Particularly frequently encountered are sightings of Mary, or her image, in a tree. Many names of pilgrimages hold the discovery of a miraculous image in trees, such as “Mary of the linden”, “Mary of the fir tree”, “Mary in the hazel”,  “Mary of the larch”…

IMG_2045 Further along on the trail, a pair of Steinmänner guard the way. IMG_2050 Thirty minutes later, the St. Georgenberg-Fiecht Abbey looms above. I’ve been here before, but it’s getting late and so I turn in the direction of home by way of the Wolfsklamm. IMG_2052 An army of Steinmänner! It’s like an Alpine version of the Terracotta Warriors, or the Kodama tree spirits in “Princess Mononoke”. How delightful and unexpected. IMG_2057 IMG_2061 The Wolfsklamm in Stans has been renovated and, apparently, re-routed, in that the path through it no longer involves the pitch-black tunnels that I recall from my previous visit. Too bad, because they were fun in a scary way (it was the the first time I ever used my old cell phone as a flashlight out of sheer necessity). It’s possible that someone complained. [Sorry, that’s the Partenachklamm! But the Wolfsklamm bridges have all been rebuilt with sturdy new boards.] But the gorge is still impressive and well worth the €4,50 “toll”.

*The Schwazer Heimatblätter suggests a different origin: that the St. Georgenberg Abbey was having an image problem with pilgrims, due to a prominent prisoner being kept there.  It’s suspected that the monks themselves started the Mary-was-here story in order to keep the pilgrimages coming — that kind of thing is profitable for monasteries, after all.

Weekend Mountain Blogging: Mittenwald, Scharnitz, Seefeld

IMG_1999I needed to go to Mittenwald because of something I’d promised to do, and since I had the day free it seemed like a good idea to get some hiking in along with some sights.
As there’s only so much ground one can cover in an afternoon, I broke up the journey with short train rides. First, to Mittenwald.

IMG_1992Every so often, a sign that I’m on the old original Roman road. In tracing the route over the Alps one has the advantages and disadvantages of the landscape. Humans are practical above everything: the first mule paths made by the more ancient inhabitants followed the easiest ways over. The Romans built mainly on these existing paths because they were there (once they got onto more open land they had more options). After the Roman retreat in the 4th century CE, the roads remained and continued to be used for trade, later providing for much of the route of the Via Imperii during the years of the Holy Roman Empire. And so on, through the ages, until that ancient road over the mountains is now mostly (not completely) under the B2.

IMG_1995From Mittenwald I walked parallel to the B2 on a quieter trail, to get a sense of what Goethe may have felt when he came through here for the first time, in 1786.

Left Mittelwald at 6, clear sky, a keen wind blowing, and the kind of cold only allowed in February. The near slopes dark and covered in spruce, the grey limestone cliffs, the highest white peaks against the beautiful blue of the sky made exquisite, constantly changing pictures. Near Scharnitz you get into the Tyrol and the border is closed with a rampart that seals off the valley and joins up with the mountains. It looks very fine. One one side the cliff is fortified, on the other it just goes steeply up.

IMG_1996The fortification to which Goethe refers is the Porta Claudia, built in the 17th century and named for Claudia di Medici.
Back on the train, next stop Seefeld in Tirol.

IMG_1998“Bee Hotel”

I had seen this path many times from the window of the train, and often wondered what the signs said. Were they historical markers?  No, the trail is all about bees and honey!

This bee-themed nature trail ended at Reith bei Seefeld. From there a late-afternoon train brought me back to Innsbruck.

In Memory Of A Girl

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In memory of Ilse Brüll
Born 28 April 1925 Died 3(?) September 1942
and in memory of all those children of Innsbruck who were victims of this time

Ilse Brüll, a Jewish girl, attended school here in Wilten from September 15, 1935. She met her death in September 1942 at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

From Ilse’s last letter to her family, August 30, 1942: “Please tell my parents and relatives of this letter and that they are not worry…”

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The story of Ilse Brüll is one of the saddest in Innsbruck’s Third Reich history. She grew up in an assimilated Jewish family in Anichstrasse in the center of town, her father Rudolf Brüll had a furniture and upholstery business. After the November 1938 pogrom (Kristallnacht) the family looked for ways to leave the country and emigrate to America, but without success.

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Ilse Brüll and her cousin Inge Brüll were sent with the Quaker Kindertransports to the Netherlands, expecting to meet up later with their parents. At first brought to a refugee camp there, they sometimes entertained fellow refugees at events, by donning traditional Tyrolean clothing and singing duets. They were brought later to a convent with other children, and learned Dutch.

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The Kindertransports brought Jewish children out of harm’s way to he Netherlands and Great Britain. When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1942 they immediately began rounding up Jews, and demanded that the convent hand over any unbaptized Jewish children. It seems that Ilse had had the opportunity to be baptized but refused (Inge’s mother was Roman Catholic, and Inge had been baptized as a baby.)

Inge recounted in a taped interview that the convent felt it had no choice — if they had disobeyed the order, the entire colony of 200 children would have been disbanded. Ilse was taken to Westerbork Camp in August 1942 (Anne Frank’s family was just settling into the hidden apartment in Amsterdam, but would also pass through here 2 years later) before “most likely” continuing on to Auschwitz to be gassed. She was 17.

Ilse’s parents, Rudolf and Julie Brüll, were interned in Theresienstadt but survived, and returned to Innsbruck after their liberation. Rudolf Brüll fought for and eventually reclaimed his furniture shop, and was president of the Jewish Community in Innsbruck until his death in 1957.  Ingeborg Brüll died in 2011, also in Innsbruck.

Information in German here images 2, 3 and 4 from here. Image 1 by the author.

Teriolis ≠ Tirol

Continuing in the looking-up-one-thing-and-finding-the-tip-of-the-iceberg vein, I recently began looking into an assumption I had made a while back — that the name Tirol was derived from the Roman fortress Teriolis (from which the village of Zirl takes its name). It turns out that this is completely unsubstantiated, and that the name Tirol came to these lands by being ruled by the Earls of Tirol, who in turn took their name from their home, the castle Schloss Tirol, by around 1141.
Whence the castle got its name remains a mystery. Wikipedia mentions that tir meant territory or land in both Latin and Old Irish (Celtic), and that earlier written versions of the name include de Tirale and de Tyrols.

Ah, that mysterious “y” which one finds in the name when written in English! I had always wondered about that.

Then, poking around for anything on the internet concerning the origin of the name, I came across this interesting treatise (de). (I am not sure what to make of it, exactly — it reads a bit like Tolkien’s backstory in the appendices of “The Lord of the Rings”. It also shares some word-for-word passages with this.) The author (if he is the author) postulates that the rocky hill on which the castle sits had been taken in the early middle ages by conquering Germanic tribes, who named it in honor of the Germanic god Tyr (en) (aka Ziu*, both connected in turn to Zeus deus, deva, and our Tuesday). He adds that before the castle there had been an early Christian church on the site, and it is known that those early Christian churches often were built right atop pre-Christian holy sites. So it’s possible that the name Tirol (or Tyrol) is a very old, pre-Christian one.

The first Earls of Tirol were apparently Bavarian (Bavaria was running the place at the time) but they adopted the name of their castle rather than their family name, which lends a little credibility to the theory that the place name had some ancient meaning. Which nobody would have remembered by the 12th century.

The author also mentions a very curious book called Das erfundene Mittelalter (“the invented middle ages”) by a “chronology critic”, who claims that all the years between 614 and 911 didn’t exist, that everything purported to have happened in that time, didn’t, because of some sort of massive calendar jump. Scientists and archaeologists have debunked this theory.

And, completely unrelated to these places: the name Tauern, given to the Alpine mountain region of Salzburg and Carinthia, is evidently connected to the name of its earlier inhabitants, the Taurisci. After the Battle of Telamon in 225 B.C.E., the beaten Taurisci were allowed to resettle further southwest at what is now called – wait for it — Torino, or in English, Turin.

*Ziu and Zirl sound suspiciously alike. Is it not possible that, the Romans perhaps having latinized an already-given Raetian name for that hill there (now the Martinsbühel), the two names might indeed be related, by way of Ziu? The Roman name for Wilten, Veldidena, is thought to have come from a pre-existing name. Did the Raetians share any linguistic origins with their northern neighbors? One might assume yes, as Germanic and Celtic were both Indo-European. And gods are completely transferable, as history shows us.

The Odd (and Beautiful) Nikolauskirche in Hall // Die seltsame (und schöne) Nikolauskirche in Hall

Dear Reader, I did this little trip to Hall in Tirol more for me than for you, as I knew I needed to get out of the house. Three straight months of rehearsals for three different productions, plus teaching private lessons, left very little time for blog-related excursions (and I was off to Germany any time I had two consecutive days free). Now that I have a little more time, I’ve got to make myself get back outside.
I have been to the St. Nikolaus Parish Church before, once just to look inside, once to sing a mass. But Paschberg recently brought to my attention the existence of its Waldauf Chapel, which we’ll get to in a bit…
Liebe Leser, ich habe diesen kleinen Ausflug nach Hall in Tirol mehr für mich als für sie gemacht, da ich merkte, ich brauche was um rauszukommen.
Drei harte Monate des Probens für drei verschiedene Produktionen sowie das Halten von Privatunterricht, ließ sehr wenig Zeit für blogbezogene Ausflüge übrig (und ich war jedes Mal, an dem ich zwei aufeinanderfolgenden Tagen frei hatte, in Deutschland). Jetzt, wo ich wieder ein wenig mehr Zeit, habe ich mir diese auch genommen um ins Freie zu kommen.
Ich bin schon früher in der Pfarrkirche St. Nikolaus gewesen, einmal einen Blick ins Innere zu werfen, einmal um eine Messe singen. Aber Paschberg hat mich vor kurzem auf die Existenz seiner Waldauf Kapelle aufmerksam gemacht, die wir uns nun ansehen werden…

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From the entrance the visitor can see that the chancel is not aligned with the rest of the building. The chancel is actually part of the earlier incarnation of the building, which by the early 15th century was too small for the growing local population. A wider, longer nave was built but could not be extended out directly in line with the chancel, and so the church has this odd “kink” in its interior.
Vom Eingang kann der Besucher sehen, dass der Chor nicht mit dem Rest des Gebäudes ausgerichtet ist. Der Chor ist eigentlich ein älterer Teil des Gebäudes, das Anfang des 15. Jahrhunderts für die wachsende Bevölkerung zu klein wurde. Ein breiteres, längeres Langhaus wurde gebaut, aber nicht in direkter Übereinstimmung mit der Flucht des Altarraums, so dass die Kirche diesen seltsame “Knick” in ihrem Inneren bekam.

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On the north wall, an apparently complete skeleton, dressed in Baroque finery, over an alter to St. Catherine (Katharinenaltar), but I don’t who this would be behind the glass. S/he is flanked by alleged relics of Ss. Constantine and Agapitus, ensconced in their own wall niches.
An der Nordwand, findet man ein scheinbar vollständiges Skelett, im Barockornat gekleidet, auf einem Altar der Hl. Katharina (Katharinenaltar), aber ich weiß nicht, wir hinter dem Glas ist. Er / sie wird von angeblichen Reliquien der Hln. Konstantin und Agapitus flankiert, in eigene Wandnischen eingesetzt.

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Further along in the north transept one enters the Waldaufkapelle, named after one Florian von Waldauf, the 15th-century knight who had the chapel built and who donated his massive collection of holy relics, picked up here and there during his extensive travels.
Im weiteren Verlauf in des nördlichen Querschiffs betritt man die Waldaufkapelle, nach einem Herrn Florian von Waldauf benannt, Ritter aus dem 15. Jahrhundert, der die Kapelle gebaut hatte und der seine riesige Sammlung von heiligen Reliquien gespendet hatte, die er hie und da während seiner zahlreichen Reisen erstand.

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Among the dozens of adult skulls (and some long bones) sits a very small child’s skull with the word  S Innocentibus* embroidered on its pillow. Who all these saints really were, I don’t know. The Niklauskirche is being renovated but its doors are open to visitors.
Unter den Dutzenden von Erwachsenenschädeln (und einigen langen Knochen) sitzt ein sehr kleiner Kinderschädel mit dem Wort S Innocentibus * auf sein Kissen gestickt. Wer all diese Heiligen wirklich waren, weiß ich nicht. Die Niklauskirche wird renoviert, aber ihre Pforten für Besucher geöffnet sind.

* Reader Joe informs me that this name signifies one of the Holy Innocents, the children killed by Herod shortly after the birth of Jesus. The church’s official guide booklet states that the relics come predominantly from the Roman catacombs.// Reader Joe teilt mir mit, dass dieser Name für eines der unschuldigen Kinder steht, die Herodes kurz nach der Geburt Jesu töten ließ. Im offiziellen Faltblatt der Kirche steht, dass die Reliquien vorwiegend aus den römischen Katakomben kommen.