Canada Slim and the Invention of the Clear Day

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Monday 6 July 2020

Let there be no doubt:

My souvenir book loves Porto.

 

From the top left corner clockwise: Clérigos Church and Tower; Avenida dos Aliados; Casa da Música concert hall; Ribeira district; Avenida da Boavista business hub; Luiz I bridge and Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia

Above from the top left corner clockwise: Clérigos Church and Tower; Avenida dos Aliados; Casa da Música concert hall; Ribeira district; Avenida da Boavista business hub; Luiz I bridge and Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia

 

The facades of the colourful houses line the streets, displaying their elegance in full sight of the sweet and beloved River Douro.

 

Historical part of Porto, seen from Vila Nova de Gaia, trough the Douro river

 

It is the tale of a platonic love with no end in sight and so each house adopts its own adornment with clothes on the balcony or flowerpots in the windows, impressing those who pass.

 

 

These facades, accompanied by their beloved River, the narrow lanes bearing the marks of time, the majestic Clérigos Tower and the rabelo boats are part of this unique place, captured by the lenses of tourists.

 

Torre de los Clérigos, Oporto, Portugal, 2012-05-09, DD 01.JPG

 

I know of what I speak, for I have often witnessed admiring glances being exchanged and heard flattering phrases in many languages of the world.

I myself feel special to be part of this space, belonging to mankind.

I know also that one day it will be my turn to leave and by then my duty will be done, for I will take with me a piece of this city, made of mists and smiles.

Ever since I was brought here, every single morning I am placed outside, within view of visitors.

 

 

During the night I rest in a dark shop surrounded by objects that show the city photographed, illustrated, magnetized, embroidered, carved and even spiritualized.

Whilst I repose, I think how much I will miss the authentic warmth of the population, who welcome people with smiles of gold and gruff voices.

Even so, I am prepared to be removed quite soon from the postcard display and be sent, with a message, to a distant place, where I will continue to display the facades of my colourful and aligned houses, eternally in love with a golden river.”

(Susana Fonseca)

 

 

It is true.

It is hard to hate Porto.

Yes, it is a large city, but it is also a beguiling one, with a lengthy history and a constant Catholicism, but where Coimbra is Saint Augustine, Braga the Virgin Mary and Lisbon Mary Magdelene, Porto is Martha.

 

 

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus visits the home of two sisters named Mary and Martha.

The two sisters are contrasted:

Martha was “encumbered about many things” while Jesus was their guest, while Mary had chosen “the better part“, that of listening to the master’s discourse.

 

Harold Copping Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary 400.jpg

Above: Jesus at the house of Mary and Martha, Harold Copping, 1927

 

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.

She came to Him and asked,

“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?

Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.

Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.

 

Above: Christ with Martha and Maria, by Henryk Siemiradzki, 1886

 

Perhaps it is my manual labour background, but I find myself more sympathetic towards Martha than I do towards Mary, and, by extension in this city-to-Biblical-personality analogy, more sympathetic towards Porto than Lisbon.

For me, this wee Biblical passage sums up Porto’s attitude towards the rest of Portugal.

 

Flag of Portugal

Above: Flag of Portugal

 

Porto may never feel it is properly rewarded for all the hard work it provides, because Porto is more than just another prettified tourist destination, it is a busy commercial city whose fascination lies in its riverside setting and day-to-day life.

 

 

Porto is cramped streets and ancient alleys and antiquated shops.

During our week’s sojourn in this northern Portuguese metropolis, my wife and I did all the touristy things that tourists are advised to do.

 

 

And of Porto I have described much already in this blog:

  • Canada Slim and the War of the Oranges (6 August 2018)
  • Canada Slim and the Station Sanctuary (19 January 2019)
  • Canada Slim and the Voices without Echo (3 June 2019)
  • Canada Slim and the Harry Potter Fado (11 October 2019)

 

 

As well, there is much more to be said about Porto in the months and years to come.

 

(My wife and I have already spent time on the Algarve and in Lisboa, but as these visits occurred prior to the commencement of this blog I have not described my two previous visits to Portugal – a land I love with a passion fierce.)

 

Coat of arms of Portugal

Above: Coat of arms of Portugal

 

In my last Porto post I described the sites within the city that Harry Potter fans flock to and some to where we followed the flock of Potterheads.

 

The Harry Potter logo first used for the American edition of the novel series (and some other editions worldwide), and then the film series.

 

I mention this Potter post, for the sole reason that the bookshop (Livraria Lello) that Ms. Rowling once haunted and wherein her books are perpetually offered for sale, therein I discovered a Portuguese poet’s work.

 

 

And as French author Jacques Salomé so wisely wrote:

Un livre à toujours deux auteurs: celui dui l’écrit et celui qui le lit.

(A book always has two authors: he who writes it and he who reads it.)

 

Jacques Salome.jpg

Above: Jacques Salomé

 

Fernando Pessoa (1888 – 1935) was a Portuguese poet and writer born in Lisbon, but whom I did not discover until this trip to Porto.

Pessoa is considered one of the greatest poets to have ever written in the Portuguese language and a giant of world literature.

 

Portrait of Pessoa, 1914

Above: Fernando Pessoa, 1914

 

At the age of six, Pessoa moved to Durban, South Africa where for nine years he learned to read and write English perfectly.

Of the four books he published in his lifetime, three were written in English.

 

Durban skyline.jpg

Above: Modern Durban, South Africa

 

On leaving South Africa Pessoa returned to Lisbon, wherein he spent much of the rest of his life.

 

Clockwise from top left: Avenida da Liberdade and Eduardo VII Park, view of Praça do Comércio with Alfama in the backyard ground, Lisbon Cathedral, view from São Jorge Castle, Belém Tower and Parque das Nações with Vasco da Gama Bridge

Above: Images of Lisbon

 

During his life, Pessoa worked in various places as an English and French language correspondent.

He also worked as a businessman, editor, literary critic, journalist, political commentator, translator, inventor, astrologer and advertiser while producing his works in verse and prose.

 

 

And yet, despite this, during his life, Pessoa was virtually unknown, avoiding society and the literary world.

As a poet, Pessoa was known for his multiple pseudonyms, what came to be known as “heteronyms“, which were and still are today the subject of many of the studies produced on his life and work.

 

 

On 29 November 1935, Pessoa was taken to Lisbon’s Hospital de Sao Luis, suffering from abdominal pain and a high fever.

There he wrote, in English, his last words:

I know not what tomorrow will bring.

 

 

He died the next day, 30 November 1935, around 8 pm, aged 47.

 

Above: Pessoa’s tomb in Lisbon, at the cloister of the Hieronymites Monastery since 1985.

 

In his lifetime, he published four books in English and one in Portuguese.

However, he left a lifetime of unpublished, unfinished or simply sketchy work in a domed, wooden truck (25,574 manuscript and typed pages, which have been housed in the Portuguese National Library since 1988).

 

 

To get a grasp on this unusual man, one diary entry stands out:

8 March 1914

I found myself standing before a tall chest of drawers, took up a piece of paper, began to write, remaining upright all the while since I always stand when I can.

I wrote some 30 poems in a row, all in a kind of ecstasy, the nature of which I shall never fathom.

It was the triumphant day of my life and I shall never have another like it.

I began with a title, “The Keeper of Sheep”, and what followed was the appearance of someone within me to whom I promptly assigned the name of Alberto Caeiro.

Please excuse the absurdity of what I am about to say, but there had appeared within me, then and there, my own master.

It was my immediate sensation.

So much so that, with those 30 odd poems written, I immediately took up another sheet of paper and wrote as well, in a row, the six poems that make up “Oblique Rain” by Fernando Pessoa.

Immediately and totally….

It was the return from Fernando Pessoa / Alberto Caeiro to Fernando Pessoa alone.

Or better still, it was Fernando Pessoa’s reaction to his own inexistence as Alberto Caeiro.”

 

 

In a sense this duality – (or in Pessoa’s case, multiplicity) – is something I can identify with.

Sometimes I write as purely and simply myself.

Within these blogposts I am both Canada Slim and myself, for the censor and critic that is the latter persona, the pseudonym persona liberates from myself the self-expression I need.

 

 

Just six hours from the moment I began this post (4 July 2020) I posted this on Facebook:

 

Facebook Logo (2019).svg

In preparation to write my much-interrupted, long-intervalled “Chronicles of Canada Slim”, I found again, like the passion one possesses for someone who is loved, some collected works purchased the last time I was in Portugal.
A Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa, speaks to me in sonnets that sing and poems that praise and persuade a person of the majesty of existence.
He writes:
“I have in me all the dreams of the world.”
Mensagem - Livro - WOOK
And to dream seems to be lacking within the soul of too many in Deutschschweiz and Deutschland.
Sad is he who dwells in pleasure,
Content with his abode,
Without a dream, as it ruffles a feather,
Fanning the glow of the embers
In the fire as it doth erode.
Sad is he who lives contented!
He lives because life doth endure.
Nothing in his soul ever suggested,
More than the basic truth imparted,
That of only one’s grave can one be sure.
And this it seems to be the be-all and end-all of those I have known in the lands where German (or variations thereof) is spoken.
Make one’s fortune, secure one’s comfort, do the practical and know one’s limits.
But I say with Pessoa, that I am misjudged and misunderstood in these lands (where I followed my passion for a woman far wiser in the ways of her language-linked companions than I could ever be)….
Because I am the size of what I see and not the size of my height“.
MENSAGEM - Fernando Pessoa, Organização, introdução e notas de ...
I am as I see, not as I am seen.
It saddens me that we judge one another by standards that mean so little: the size of a bank account, the coziness of one’s castle, the reputation that precedes and follows a fellow far beyond his reach, the illusion of beauty, the prejudices of one’s age.
We see only the green of our sofas not the blue of jazz in the ether.
We hear only chaos from without and fear the calm from within, for the former we comprehend, the latter is a land too quiet and thus disquieting.
The wisdom and power of words are the worlds I see and they fill a universe that defines me far beyond how I am seen.
Such is how Pessoa inspires me.
This maverick, this undefinable, undeniable spirit wrapped up in a carapace of conformity has been described by Mexican poet Octavio Paz (1914 – 1998) as a “solemn investigator of futile things“, the epitome of an empty man who, in his helplessness, creates a world in order to discover his true identity.
Paz in 1988
Above: Octavio Paz
In a sense I see myself as a funhouse mirror of Pessoa, not so much an echo of his disquiet about life and the world we occupy, but rather I see the world as an echo of myself.
The world I see in the places I describe is less a reality of what is, but rather is more a reflection of who I am.
The Funhouse Mirror: An Apt Metaphor for the Misrepresentation of ...
A regular follower of my writing responded almost immediately to the aforementioned Facebook post:
If I may be allowed to offer an uninvited opinion as a sincere reader, writing teacher, professional editor and translator, your secret mentor, and increasingly your appreciative, possibly infatuated fan girl.
You have really found your voice and your writing has become effortless, more honest and less contrived and therefore so much more relatable.
There are fewer experimental verbal arabesques and palpably more consolidated content and purified emotion.
To be or not to be giving a standing ovation? - Badarivishal ...
High praise indeed, from a woman for whom I have nothing but a universe’s worth of respect.
But praise I am uncertain of whether I am worthy to be given.
One Dozen Rose Wrapped Bouquet | kremp.com
There is still so much I have to learn.
There is still so much I have yet to say without the expertise and experience so critical for expression.
How I long to be able to capture the beating of a heart, the symphony of a soul that Pessoa so eloquently elucidates!
Oh, to write as Anthony Trollope, whom Henry James describes as:
He felt all daily and immediate things as well as saw them.
He felt them in a simple, direct salubrious way, with their sadness, their gladness, their charm, their comedy, all their obvious and measureable meanings.
Picture of Anthony Trollope.jpg
Above: Anthony Trollope (1815 – 1882)
I am reminded of another writing hero of mine, Hermann Hesse (1877 – 1962) and the manner in which he describes himself and how he is described:
He does not want to follow the path trodden by many, but to resolutely plow his own furrow. 
He is not made for the collective life.
Hermann Hesse 2.jpg
I have been, and still am, a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books. 
I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me. 
My story is not a pleasant one. 
It is neither sweet nor harmonious as invented stories are. 
It has the taste of nonsense and chaos, of madness and dreams, like the lives of all men who stop deceiving themselves.
What torments Hesse is the difficulty of being authentic – of staying true to who you really are, despite the enormous pressures of alienation and conformity.
If I search retrospectively for a common thread of meaning, then I can indeed find one.
A defense of (sometimes even a desperate plea on behalf of) human personality, the individual.
Hesse was forced to confront the entire weight of the institutions ranged against him – family, church, school, society – and to do battle with them in the name of defending his individuality.
The only way I can conceive of writing is an act of confession.
Signature of Hermann Karl Hesse
When I describe a place I am not describing what it is, but rather how I see it.
I am not describing a place, as much as I am describing how that place makes me feel.
Of who I am rather than where I am.
I am, in some ways, very Portuguese, at least when I try to write.
I am reserved.
I leave gesticulating exuberance to others.
I am mild-mannered, gentle and homely, and yet my vision seeks to encompass the world.
I seem placid and harmless and it takes much to provoke me, but much lies beneath the surface, where there is a temperament one would expect from a land of mist and bogs.
I am not one for golden descriptions of sandy beaches, but instead I possess like my Portuguese brethren an eternal saudade, a feeling of longing for what could have been, a nostalgia for what has gone, when I sit at my keyboard and try to inadequately capture a sense of what a place really is (or at least my reality through which I see it).
Above: Saudade (1899), by Almeida Júnior
Oh, to write as one born Portuguese!
To write in a manner akin to how a Portuguese farmer farms, with a knack of conjuring a harvest even from the most barren of ground.
And so I stare at my screen seeking seeds of expression from the blank face of an unsympathetic computer.
Sometimes I think I will never leave Schulstrasse here in Landschlacht, that my mind like my body remains a prisoner of the choices I have made.
Once written down, words captured for eternity, are forever frozen in paralytic prose.
Above: Landschlacht, Switzerland, as seen on a clear day from the German shore of Lake Constance
When I consider much that is travel writing….
When I consider how Pessoa viewed life….
When I consider how I have on occasion viewed life….
Above: Saudades de Nápoles (Missing Naples), 1895, by Bertha Worms
I think about “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty“.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (1939) is a short story by James Thurber.

The most famous of Thurber’s stories, it first appeared in The New Yorker on 18 March 1939, and was first collected in his book My World and Welcome to It (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1942).

It has since been reprinted in James Thurber: Writings and Drawings (The Library of America, 1996, ISBN 1-883011-22-1), is available on-line on the New Yorker website and is one of the most anthologized short stories in American literature.

The story is considered one of Thurber’s “acknowledged masterpieces“.

 

 

 

James Thurber in 1954

Above: James Thurber (1894 – 1961)

 

 

 

 

It was made into a 1947 movie of the same name, with Danny Kaye in the title role, though the movie is very different from the original story.

 

 

 

SecretLifeofwalter.jpg

 

 

 

It was also adapted into a 2013 film, which is again very different from the original.

 

 

 

A side profile of a man running with a silver briefcase in hand. Behind him a cityscape.

 

 

 

The name Walter Mitty and the derivative word “Mittyesque“have entered the English language, denoting an ineffectual person who spends more time in heroic daydreams than paying attention to the real world, or more seriously, one who intentionally attempts to mislead or convince others that he is something that he is not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The short story deals with a vague and mild-mannered man who drives into Waterbury, Connecticut, with his wife for their regular weekly shopping and his wife’s visit to the beauty parlor.

During this time he has five heroic daydream episodes.

 

 

 

 

Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (1947) by Norman Z. McLeod |Danny Kaye ...

 

 

 

 

The first is as a pilot of a US Navy flying boat in a storm, then he is a magnificent surgeon performing a one-of-a-kind surgery, then as a deadly assassin testifying in a courtroom, and then as a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a daring, secret suicide mission to bomb an ammunition dump.

As the story ends, Mitty imagines himself facing a firing squad, “inscrutable to the last.”

Each of the fantasies is inspired by some detail of Mitty’s mundane surroundings.

 

 

 

 

Ben Stiller – OUT OF ONE'S COMFORT ZONE

 

 

 

 

In a way, it is like inventing a clear day from a dark reality, a hero out of an ordinary human, a Paradise out of Purgatory.

 

 

 

 

Above: Expulsion from Paradise, painting by James Tissot (1902)

 

 

From Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet:

“The journey in my head

In the plausible intimacy of approaching evening, as I stand waiting for the stars to begin at the window of this 4th floor room that looks out on the infinite, my dreams move to the rhythm required by long journeys to countries as yet unknown, or to countries that are simply hypothetical or impossible.

 

 

Above: Pessoa’s birthplace: a large flat at São Carlos Square, just in front of Lisbon’s opera

 

 

Today, during one of those periods of daydreaming which, though devoid of either purpose or dignity, still constitute the greater part of the spiritual substance of my life, I imagined myself free forever of Rua dos Douradores, of my boss Vasques, of Moreira the bookkeeper, of all the other employees, the errand boy, the post boy, even the cat.

 

 

Above: Pessoa’s last home, from 1920 till his death, in 1935, currently the Fernando Pessoa Museum

 

 

In dreams, that freedom felt to me as if the South Seas had proferred up a gift of marvellous islands as yet undiscovered.

Freedom would mean rest, artistic achievement, the intellectual fulfillment of my being.

 

 

Hostel South Sea Island, Nadi, Fiji - Booking.com

 

But suddenly, even as I imagined this (during the brief holiday afforded by my lunch break), a feeling of displeasure erupted into the dream:

I would be sad.

Yes, I say it quite seriously:

I would be sad.

For my boss Vasques, Moreira the bookkeeper, Borges the cashier, all the lads, the cheery boy who takes the letters to the post office, the errand boy, the friendly cat….

They have all become part of my life.

I could never leave all that behind without weeping, without realizing, however displeasing the thought, that part of me would remain with them and that losing them would be akin to death.

 

 

The Office US logo.svg

 

 

Moreover, if I left them all tomorrow and discarded this Rua dos Douradores suit of clothes I wear, what else would I do?

Because I would have to do something.

And what suit would I wear?

Because I would have to wear another suit.

 

 

Rua dos Douradores | The Flâneur's Archives

 

 

We all have a Senhor Vasques.

Sometimes he is a tangible human being, sometimes not.

In my case he really is called Vasques and he is a pleasant, healthy chap, a bit brusque at times but he is no doubledealer.

He is selfish but basically fair, much fairer than many of the great geniuses and many of the human marvels of civilization on both left and right.

For many people Vasques takes the form of vanity, a desire for greater wealth, for glory or immortality….

Personally I prefer to have Vasques as my real life boss since, in times of difficulty, he is easier to deal with than any abstraction the world has to offer….

 

 

Above: Actor Steve Carell, Emmy Awards 2010, for his role as boss Michael Scott, in US series The Office

 

 

And I return to an other’s house, to the spacious office in the Rua dos Douradores, the way some return to their homes.

I approach my desk as if it were a bulwark against life.

I feel such an overwhelming sense of tenderness that my eyes fill with tears for my books that are in reality the books of other people whose accounts I keep, for the inkwell I use, for Sergio’s stooped shoulders as, not far from me, he sits writing out bills of lading.

I feel love for all of this, perhaps because I have nothing else to love or perhaps too, because even though nothing truly merits the love of any soul, if, out of sentiment, we must give it, I might just as well lavish it on the smallness of an inkwell as on the grand indifference of the stars….

 

 

viagem nunca feita.: Rua Dos Douradores - Lisboa.

 

 

With the soul’s equivalent of a wry smile, I calmly confront the prospect that my life will consist of nothing more than being shut up for ever in Rua dos Douradores, in this office, surrounded by these people.

I have enough money tp buy food and drink, I have somewhere to live and enough free time in which to dream, write – and sleep – what more can I ask of the gods or hope for from Fate?

 

 

O escritório amplo da Rua dos Douradores- Oui Go Lisbon - http ...

 

 

I had great ambitions and extravagant dreams, but so did the errand boy and the seamstress, for everyone has dreams.

The only thing that distinguishes me from them is that I can write.

Yes, that is an activity, a real fact about myseof that distinguishes me from them.

But in my soul I am just the same.

 

 

Rua dos Douradores, o centro do Desassossego | World Literary Atlas

 

 

I know that there are islands in the South and grand cosmopolitan passions and….

I am sure that even if I held the world in my hand, I would exchange it all for a tram ticket back to Rua dos Douradores.

 

 

Início | lisboa-apretoeacores

 

 

Perhaps it is my destiny to remain a bookkeeper forever and for poetry and literature to remain simply butterflies that alight on my head and merely underline my own ridiculousness by their very beauty.

 

 

The Crimson Permanent Assurance - Home | Facebook

Above: Crimson Assurance, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

 

 

Porto, Portugal, Wednesday 25 July 2018

The morning has begun, poorly.

Somehow, in all our running around the day previously, our one city-specific, Porto-focused guidebook, specially ordered for this trip, the book has vanished.

We stumble across a bookshop (Leya) that sells English language materials and we fortuitously find a copy of the lost travel guide.

The Swabian soul of my wife, as thrifty as a Scot, is displeased with this development and thus the tone of the day is set, with much of the morning lost.

 

 

Piccole librerie, porti da salvare | l'Adige.it

 

 

After a visit to the (Cathedral) we discover that though not quite all roads lead to the city centre’s Avenida dos Aliados, ours do.

 

 

 

 

At the foot of the Avenida – in the area known as Praca da Liberdade – are a couple of sidewalk cafés and an equestrian statue of Dom Pedro IV.

 

 

Photograph of a bronze statue with a man on horseback wearing a bicorn hat and military dress and who holds forth a scrolled sheaf of paper

 

 

Dom Pedro I (1798 – 1834), nicknamed “the Liberator“, was the founder and first ruler of the Empire of Brazil.

As King Dom Pedro IV, he reigned briefly over Portugal, where he also became known as “the Liberator” as well as “the Soldier King“.

 

 

Half-length painted portrait of a brown-haired man with mustache and beard, wearing a uniform with gold epaulettes and the Order of the Golden Fleece on a red ribbon around his neck and a striped sash of office across his chest

 

 

Born in Lisbon, Pedro I was the fourth child of King Dom João VI of Portugal and Queen Carlota Joaquina, and thus a member of the House of Braganza.

When the country was invaded by French troops in 1807, he and his family fled to Portugal’s largest and wealthiest colony, Brazil.

The outbreak of the Liberal Revolution of 1820 in Lisbon compelled Pedro I’s father to return to Portugal in April 1821, leaving him to rule Brazil as regent.

He had to deal with threats from revolutionaries and insubordination by Portuguese troops, all of which he subdued.

The Portuguese government’s threat to revoke the political autonomy that Brazil had enjoyed since 1808 was met with widespread discontent in Brazil.

 

 

Painted head and shoulders portrait showing a young man with curly hair and mustachios who is wearing a formal black coat, high collar and cravat with a city scene in the distant background

 

 

Pedro I chose the Brazilian side and declared Brazil’s independence from Portugal on 7 September 1822.

On 12 October, he was acclaimed Brazilian Emperor and by March 1824 had defeated all armies loyal to Portugal.

 

 

Half-length pencil or silverpoint sketch showing a young man with curly hair and long sideburns facing left who is wearing an elaborate embroidered military tunic with heavy gold epaulets, sash and medals

 

 

A few months later, Pedro I crushed the short-lived Confederation of the Equator, a failed secession attempt by provincial rebels in Brazil’s northeast.

A secessionist rebellion in the southern province of Cisplatina in early 1825, and the subsequent attempt by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata to annex it, led the Empire into the Cisplatine War.

 

 

Painted half-length portrait showing a young man with curly hair and mustachios who is wearing an elaborate embroidered military tunic with gold epaulets and medals

 

 

In March 1826, Pedro I briefly became king of Portugal before abdicating in favor of his eldest daughter, Dona Maria II (1819 – 1853).

 

 

D. Maria II Rainha.jpg

 

 

The situation worsened in 1828 when the war in the south resulted in Brazil’s loss of Cisplatina.

During the same year in Lisbon, Maria II’s throne was usurped by Prince Dom Miguel (1802 – 1866), Pedro I’s younger brother.

 

 

Infante D. Miguel de Bragança (1827), by Johann Nepomuk Ender (1793-1854).png

 

 

The Emperor’s concurrent and scandalous sexual affair with a female courtier tarnished his reputation.

Other difficulties arose in the Brazilian parliament, where a struggle over whether the government would be chosen by the monarch or by the legislature dominated political debates from 1826 to 1831.

Unable to deal with problems in both Brazil and Portugal simultaneously, on 7 April 1831 Pedro I abdicated in favor of his son Dom Pedro II, and sailed for Europe.

Pedro I invaded Portugal at the head of an army in July 1832.

Faced at first with what seemed a national civil war, he soon became involved in a wider conflict that enveloped the Iberian Peninsula in a struggle between proponents of liberalism and those seeking a return to absolutism.

Pedro I died of tuberculosis on 24 September 1834, just a few months after he and the liberals had emerged victorious.

 

 

A lithograph depicting a curtained bed on which lies a bearded man with closed eyes and a crucifix lying on his chest

 

 

He was hailed by both contemporaries and posterity as a key figure who helped spread the liberal ideals that allowed Brazil and Portugal to move from absolutist regimes to representative forms of government.

 

 

Photograph of a white stone steps leading up to a large, altar-like monument in white marble with bronze sculptural decorations that include bronze braziers at the corners, a bronze frieze in high relief at the base and bronze figures surrounding a chariot on a high, white marble plinth in the center

Above. Monument to the Independence of Brazil where Pedro I and his two wives are buried

 

I am told, by the sheer fact that a statue stands here to honour him, that we should regard Pedro as a hero, but I find myself wondering….

 

How much blood was spilled to realize his goals?

 

At the head of the Avenida dos Aliados stands another statue of another man we are meant to honour and this one is of less difficulty.

 

 

 

João Baptista da Silva Leitão de Almeida Garrett, 1st Viscount of Almeida Garrett (1799 – 1854) was a Portuguese poet, orator, playwright, novelist, journalist, politician and a peer of the realm.

A major promoter of theatre in Portugal he is considered the greatest figure of Portuguese Romanticism and a true revolutionary and humanist.

He proposed the construction of the Dona Maria II National Theatre and the creation of the Conservatory of Dramatic Art.

 

 

A lithograph of Garrett, by Pedro Augusto Guglielmi

 

 

Garrett was born in Porto, the son of António Bernardo da Silva Garrett (1739–1834), a fidalgo of the Royal Household and Knight of the Order of Christ, and his wife (they were married in 1796) Ana Augusta de Almeida Leitão (b. 1770), the daughter of an Irish father born in exile in France and an Italian mother born in Spain.

At an early age, Garrett changed his name to João Baptista da Silva Leitão, adding a name from his godfather and altering the order of his surnames.

In 1809, his family fled the second French invasion carried out by Soult’s troops, seeking refuge in Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira Island, Azores.

 

Vista sobre Angra do Heroismo (cropped).jpg

 

 

While in the Azores, Garrett was taught by his uncle, Dom Frei Alexandre da Sagrada Família (1737 – 1818), the Bishop of Angra.

 

 

Retrato de D. Frei Alexandre da Sagrada Família (escola portuguesa, séc. XVIII).png

 

 

In childhood, his mulatto Brazilian nanny Rosa de Lima taught him some traditional stories that later influenced his work.

 

In 1818, Garrett moved to Coimbra to study at the University law school.

In 1818, he published O Retrato de Vénus, a work for which was soon to be prosecuted, as it was considered “materialist, atheist and immoral“.

It was during this period that he adopted his pen name Almeida Garrett, seen as more aristocratic.

 

 

Coimbra e o rio Mondego (6167200429) (cropped).jpg

 

 

Although Garrett did not take active part in the Liberal Revolution that broke out in Porto in 1820, he contributed with two patriotic verses, the Hymno Constitucional and the Hymno Patriótico, which his friends copied and distributed in the streets of Porto.

After the “Vilafrancada“, a reactionary coup d’état led by the Infante Dom Miguel in 1823, he was forced to seek exile in England.

 

 

Above: Prince Miguel saluting soldiers on arrival at Vila Franca

 

 

Garrett had just married the beautiful Luísa Cândida Midosi who was only 12 or 13 years old at the time and was the sister of his friend Luís Frederico Midosi.

While in England, in Edgbaston, Warwickshire, he began his association with Romanticism, being subject to the first-hand influences of William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) and Walter Scott (1771 – 1832), as well as to that of Gothic aesthetics.

 

 

Above: House on Farquhar Road, typical of the Edgbaston area, demonstrating the affluence

 

 

In the beginning of 1825, Garrett left for France where he wrote Camões (1825) and Dona Branca (1826), poems that are usually considered the first Romantic works in Portuguese literature.

 

 

Amazon.com: Dona Branca (Portuguese Edition) eBook: Garrett ...

 

 

In 1826, he returned to Portugal, where he settled for two years and founded the newspapers O Portuguez and O Chronista.

In 1828, under the rule of King Miguel of Portugal, he was again forced to settle in England, publishing Adozinda and performing his tragedy Catão at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth.

 

 

Adozinda: Romances Reconstruidos (Classic Reprint) (Portuguese ...

 

 

Together with Alexandre Herculano (1810 – 1877) and Joaquim António de Aguiar (1792 – 1884), Garrett took part in the Landing of Mindelo, carried out during the Liberal Wars (1828 – 1834).

 

 

Above: Landing of the liberal forces in Porto on 8 July 1832

 

 

When a constitutional monarchy was established, he briefly served as its Consul General to Brussels.

Upon his return, he was acclaimed as one of the major orators of Liberalism, and took the initiative in the creation of a new Portuguese theatre (during the period, he wrote his historical plays Gil Vicente, Dona Filipa de Vilhena, and O Alfageme de Santarém).

 

 

Um Auto De Gil Vicente by Almeida Garrett

 

 

In 1843, Garrett published Romanceiro e Cancioneiro Geral, a collection of folklore.

 

 

Romanceiro by Almeida Garrett

 

 

Two years later, he wrote the first volume of his historical novel O Arco de Santana (fully published in 1850, it took inspiration from Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

 

 

O ARCO DE SANT'ANA by GARRETT, Almeida (1799-1854): Livrarinha ...

 

 

O Arco de Santana signified a change in Garrett’s style, leading to a more complex and subjective prose with which he experimented at length in Viagens na Minha Terra (Travels in My Homeland, 1846).

 

 

Viagens na minha terra” – Resumo da obra de Almeida Garret | Guia ...

 

 

His innovative manner was also felt in his poem collections Flores sem Fruto (Flowers without Fruit, 1844) and Folhas Caídas (Fallen Leaves, 1853).

 

 

Folhas Caídas e Flores Sem Fruto: ALMEIDA GARRETT: 9789720049711 ...

 

 

Nobled by Dona Maria II of Portugal in 1852 with the title of 1st Viscount of Almeida Garrett, he was Minister of Foreign Affairs for only a few days in the same year (in the cabinet of the Duke of Saldanha).

 

 

 

 

Almeida Garrett ended his relationship with Luísa Midosi and divorced in 1835 to join 17-year-old Adelaide Deville Pastor in 1836.

She was to remain his partner until her early death in 1839, leaving a daughter named Maria Adelaide, whose early life tragedy and illegitimacy inspired her father to write the play Frei Luís de Sousa.

 

 

Amazon.com: Frei Luís de Sousa: Peça teatral (Portuguese Edition ...

 

 

Later in his life he became the lover of Rosa de Montúfar y Infante, whom he celebrated at his last and probably best poetry book Folhas Caídas.

 

Garrett died of cancer in Lisbon at 6:30 in the afternoon of 9 December 1854.

He was buried at the Cemetery of Prazeres and, on 3 May 1903, his remains were transferred to the national pantheon in Lisbon’s Jerónimos Monastery.

 

 

 

 

I find myself more forgiving of those that write over those that rule.

 

 

Behind Garrett stands Porto’s city hall, the Câmara Municipal.

 

 

 

 

(The metropolitan area is governed by the Junta Metropolitana do Porto (JMP), headquartered in Avenida dos Aliados, in downtown Porto under the presidency of Hermínio Loureiro, also the mayor of Oliveira de Azeméis municipality, since the Municipal Elections held in 2013, when he succeeded Rui Rio, mayor of Porto.

The Assembleia Metropolitana do Porto (Porto Metropolitan Assembly) is composed of 43 MPs, the PSD (Social Democratic Party) party has 20 seats, the PS (Socialist Party) 16, the CDS (the People’s Party) three, CDU (Unitarian Democratic Coalition) three, and the BE (Left Bloc), one.

Although the government has halted the intention of creating new metropolitan areas and urban communities, it is keen to ensure greater autonomy to Porto and Lisbon metropolitan areas.

 

 

AMP logo.png

 

 

Greater Porto is the second largest metropolitan area of Portugal, with about 1.7 million people.

It groups the larger Porto Urban Area, the second largest in the country, assembled by the municipalities of Porto, Matosinhos, Vila Nova de Gaia, Gondomar, Valongo and Maia.

A smaller urban area of Póvoa de Varzim and Vila do Conde, which ranks as the six largest in continental Portugal.

The new regional spatial planning program (PROT-Norte) recognizes both urban areas and engages in their development.

 

 

Portoceu1 (cropped).jpg

 

 

There are some intentions to merge the municipalities of Porto with Gaia and Matosinhos into a single and greater municipality, and there is an ongoing civil requisition for that objective.

The government also started to discuss the merging of some municipalities due to conurbations, but gave up.

There is a similar idea for the conurbation of Póvoa de Varzim and Vila do Conde, and both municipalities have decided to work as if both are the same city, cooperating in health, education, transports and other areas.

Several municipalities of the metropolitan area also moved closer, thus becoming a cohesive group.

 

 

 

 

The urban-metropolitan agglomeration known as the Northwestern Urban-Metropolitan Agglomeration or Porto Metropolitan Arch is a regional urban system of polycentric nature that stretches far beyond the metropolitan borders, and includes circa 3 million people, which takes in other main urban areas such as Braga and Guimarães, the 3rd and 8th largest cities (as defined by urban areas) of Portugal.

One should also note that the entire region of Northwestern Portugal is, in fact, a single agglomeration, linking Porto and Braga to Vigo in Galicia, Spain.)

 

 

AMP location map.png

 

I went up towards the Town Hall.

The sky rumbled and opened onto Porto, unleashing laments that included steady rainfall.

One could barely distinguish the white pedestrian crossings under the downpour that shook my poor umbrella, already twisted by other storms.

 

 

Avenida dos Aliados: o coração do Porto | Portugal · Outro blog de ...

 

 

As soon as I reached the door of Guarany Café, I walked in on an impulse, leaving trails of water wherever I passed.

Thus I remained for a few moments, drenched and momentarily wretched.

As if by magic a cup of hot coffee eased my discomfort.

I watched the storm and the dark morning.

 

 

Fachada - Picture of Cafe Guarany, Porto - Tripadvisor

 

 

I remembered the story a friend had told me about an Englishman (John Whitehead: 1726 – 1802) who had lived at Porto (1756 – 1802) in the 18th century.

He is believed to have been responsible for supervising and executing several urban works in the city, but people also considered that he had made a pact with the devil, for he was able to attract the grey lightning-bearing clouds to his gardens.

 

 

File:John Whitehead (1726-1802), 18th century oil.png - Wikimedia ...

 

 

No doubt, today would have been a perfect day for his experiments with the lightning conductor, which certainly involved science rather than witchcraft.

 

 

Factory House - Wikipedia

 

 

What would he think of this avenue he never knew?

This avenue which welcomes the rain and the sun with the same generosity?

 

 

 

All these cars, which pass by taking people to their destinations, or these buses which carry tourists to the Palácio da Bolsa, to the Church of Sao Francisco and to the Torre dos Clérigos?

 

 

 

 

All these imposing buildings which stretch granitically upwards to the sky?

This set paving?

Would he call us witches?

Eccentrics?

 

 

Hotel Aliados, your home in the center of Porto

 

 

I looked at my watch and I let out a scream that crashed against its face.

I was late!

Outside, the sky calmed its fury, making the pedestrian crossings visible….

(Susana Fonseca)

 

 

Woman silhouette in the rain | Silhouette pictures, Woman ...

 

 

It seems on every street corner, the defeated, but undaunted, People-Animals-Nature Party (one sole MP) has young people standing with clipboard petitions that seek support to continue their battle against bullfighting, a bid beaten in Parliament on 6 July.

 

 

People–Animals–Nature logo.svg

 

 

From the Câmara to the Mercado to the Torre dos Clérigos to the Café Majestic, the morning and much of the afternoon pass quickly.

 

 

Café Majestic | www.visitportugal.com

 

 

West of the Torre we find ourselves threading our way between the faculty Buildings of the Universidade do Porto.

 

 

Logoup.jpg

 

 

Below the main University building spreads the Jardim da Cordoaria  (garden of the ropemakers), also known as the Jardim de Joao Chagas, sheltering impromptu card and chess schools beneath giant plane trees.

It is a small, historic urban park with a serene vibe featuring a variety of trees, plants & sculptures.

 

 

Cordoaria Porto.jpg

 

 

The garden was founded by the Viscount of Vilar d’Allen in 1865 and was designed by the German landscaper Émile David (1839 – 1873).

In 1941, a cyclone altered the appearance of this romantic garden.

In preparation for the celebrations of Porto as the 2001 European Capital of Culture, the garden was the target of an intervention by the architect Camilo Cortesao.

His work was highly contested by some celebrities and associations in Porto, because it implied a major change in the space in question.

 

 

 

 

In the garden space are the sculptures:

  • Rapto de Ganimedes (the rapture of Ganimedes)(1898) by Fernandes de Sá (1874 – 1959)

 

 

  • Flora (1904) by Antonio Teixeria Lopes (1866 – 1942)

 

 

  • Ramalho Ortigao (1909) by Leopoldo Almeida (1898 – 1975)

 

 

  • Antonio Nobre (1926) by Tómas Costa

 

As estátuas e árvores do Jardim João Chagas |

 

  • Thirteen to laugh at each other (2001) by Juan Munoz (1953 – 2001)

 

 

The garden’s namesake João Pinheiro Chagas (1863 – 1925) was a Portuguese journalist and politician.

 

 

 

He was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, of Portuguese parents who soon moved back to Portugal.

He was an editor at the newspapers O Primeiro de Janeiro, Correio do Norte, O Tempo and O Dia.

After becoming a republican, he also founded the República Portuguesa and was the director of O País (1898).

The monarchist government’s reaction to the British Ultimatum of January 1890 (that forced Portugal to renounce its extravagant claims to the territories that lay between Portuguese Angola and Portuguese Mozambique), made him a fierce republican and one of Portugal’s most fervent anti-monarchy journalists and propagandists.

After the proclamation of the republic, on 5 October 1910, he was appointed minister in Paris, and, the following year, after the end of the term of the provisional government, he was chosen to lead the first constitutional government of the Portuguese First Republic.

It was in power for only two months, from 4 September to 13 November 1911.

This was a sad prelude to the political instability of the First Republic.

On 17 May 1915, he was again appointed President of the Ministry (Prime Minister), but he didn’t take office.

He remained a diplomat until his retirement in 1923.

He died in Estoril, aged 60.

 

 

Above: Joao Chagas

 

 

Two of the garden’s statues are of Portuguese literature, the writer Ortigao and the poet Nobre….

 

 

If there is one art form the Portuguese are proud of, it is literature.

You cannot be Portuguese unless you have read The Lusiads, Luis de Camoes‘ (1524 – 1580) epic poem narrating Vasco da Gama’s sea voyage to India, complete with tales of sea monsters.

 

 

 

 

Portugal’s Jane Austin is Eca de Queirós (1845 – 1900), whose studied portraits of life in 19th century Lisbon are every bit as witty.

 

 

 

 

Then came Fernando Pessoa, despite a multiple personality disorder, who with his musings on the meaning of life is remembered as a Modernist genius.

 

 

The 5 Strange Truths Fernando Pessoa Brings To Business

 

 

José Saramago (1922 – 2010) carried the torch of experimentalism, writing whole books without punctuation, and one, Blindness, without naming a single character.

 

 

 

 

The current golden boy of Portuguese literature is José Luís Peixoto who writes fractured mosaics of books that are like assembling a jigsaw puzzle.

 

 

 

 

Portugal’s greatest writers are glorified wherever you go in the country.

Statues commemorate their places of birth and death.

Even the town of Barcelos’ football team is named after a writer, Gil Vicente (1465 – 1536).

 

 

Logo Gil Vicente.svg

 

 

 

The garden’s Ramalho Ortigão (1836 – 1915) spent his early years with his maternal grandmother in Porto.

 

 

Ramalho Ortigao 01.JPG

 

He studied law in the University of Coimbra, but he did not complete his studies.

 

Logo of the University of Coimbra, Portugal.png

 

After returning to his home town, he taught French at a college run by his father.

Among his students was Eça de Queiros.

 

In 1862 he dedicated himself to journalism and became a literary critic at the Diário do Porto and contributed to several literary magazines.

At this period, romanticism was the dominant trend in Portuguese literature, led by several major writers, including Camilo Castelo Branco (1825 – 1890) and António Augusto Soares de Passos (1826 – 1860), who influenced Ortigão.

 

 

Camilo Castelo Branco (1882) - União – Photographia da Casa Real-Porto.png

Above: Camilo Castelo Branco

 

 

Soares de Passos - Revista contemporanea de Portugal e Brazil (N.º 7, Out. 1860).png

Above: António Augusto Soares de Passos

 

 

In the 1870s, a group of students from Coimbra began to promote new ideas in a reaction against romanticism.

This group, eventually called the 70s Generation, was to have a major influence on Portuguese literature.

 

As a supporter of romanticism, Ortigão became involved in a struggle against them and even fought a duel with Antero de Quental (1842 – 1891).

 

 

Photograph of Antero de Quental, c. 1887

Above: Antero de Quental

 

 

In spite of this early opposition, Ortigão afterwards became friendly with some members of the group.

 

It was at this period that he wrote The Mystery of the Sintra Road and created the satirical journal As Farpas, both in collaboration with Eça de Queiros.

 

 

SintraRoadCover1.jpg

 

 

When Queiros became a diplomat, initially in Cuba, Ortigão continued As Farpas alone.

Ortigão also worked as a translator.

In 1874 he produced a Portuguese translation of the English satirical novel Ginx’s Baby by Edward Jenkins (1838 – 1910).

 

 

Above: “Ginx’s Baby” Jenkins as caricatured by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, August 1878

 

 

Ramalho Ortigão died in Lisbon on 27 September 1915.

 

 

File:Jazigo de Ramalho Ortigão 2017-08-26.png - Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

The second literary person honoured by a statue in the garden, António Nobre (1867 – 1900) was a member of a wealthy family.

 

 

Antonio Nobre.jpg

 

 

He was born in Porto, and spent his childhood in Trás-os-Montes and in Póvoa de Varzim.

 

 

Clockwise from top: Nova Póvoa, Rua Santos Minho, Touro, the City Park, Lagoa Beach, Senhora das Dores Church, and Praça do Almada.

Above: Images of modern Póvoa de Varzim

 

 

He studied law unsuccessfully at the University of Coimbra from 1888 to 1890 when he dropped out.

As a student in Coimbra, and according to his own words, he only felt at ease in his “tower” (referring to the Torre de Anto – Anto Tower, in upper Coimbra, where he lived) during the “sinister period” he spent studying law at the University of Coimbra.

An unknown fiancée more fictitious than concrete, his friend Alberto de Oliveira, and a brief intervention in the literary life, through some magazines, did not conciliate him with the academic city of Coimbra where this predestined poet flunked twice.

 

 

 

 

He went to Paris where he earned a degree in political science at the École Libre des Sciences Politiques.

 

 

Logo Sciences Po.svg

 

 

There, he came in contact with the French coeval poetry, where he met Paul Verlaine (1844 – 1896) and Jean Moréas (1856 – 1910), among others.

 

 

Paul Verlaine

Above: Paul Verlaine

 

 

Above: Jean Moréas

 

 

 

He also met the famous Portuguese writer Eça de Queiros in Paris, who was a Portuguese diplomat in the city.

 

 

Seine and Eiffel Tower from Tour Saint Jacques 2013-08.JPG

 

 

It was from 1890 to 1895, that Nobre studied political science in Paris, where he was influenced by the French Symbolist poets and it was there that he wrote the greater part of the only book he published.

 

 

 

 

The Paris exile, sad by his own words (poor Lusitanian, the wretched, lost in the crowd that does not know him), was not a time for happiness.

The aristocratic shutting up caused nausea or indifference.

Frustrated and always marginal experiences made him bitter.

He was far from the sweat and from all sorts of fraternity, from desire and hate, and from the wailing of the breed, a childlike, lost, instinctive and princely life, a souvenir of the sweet old landscape that memory seems to encourage.

 

 

 

 

In his tender but never rhetorical mourning Nobre manifests himself and mourns over himself as a doomed poet, with a hard soul and a maiden’s heart, which carried the sponge of gall in former processions.

His verse marked a departure from objective realism and social commitment to subjective lyricism and an aesthetic point of view, walking more towards symbolism – one of the various modernist literary currents.

 

 

Thomas Chatterton: The Myth of the Doomed Poet, BBC Four | The ...

 

 

The lack of means, aggravated by his father’s death, made him morbidly reject the present and the future, following a pessimistic romantic attitude that led him to denounce his tedium.

However excessive, this is a controlled attitude, due to a clear aesthetic mind and a real sense of ridicule.

 

Starving Artists - Starving Artists (1986, Vinyl) | Discogs

 

He learned the colloquial tone from Almeida Garrett and Júlio Dinis (1839 – 1871), and also from Jules Laforgue (1860 – 1887), but he exceeded them all in the peculiar compromise between irony and a refined puerility, a fountain of happiness because it represents a return to his happiest of times — a kingdom of his own from where he resuscitates characters and enchanted places, manipulating, as a virtuoso of nostalgia, the picturesque of popular festivals and of fishermen, the simple magic of toponyms and the language of the people.

 

 

Estatua Julio Dinis (Porto).JPG

 

Portrait by Franz Skarbina (1885)

Above: Jules Laforgue

 

 

In his prescience of pain, in his spiritual anticipation of disease and of agony, in his taste for sadness, in his unmeasured pride of isolation, António (from Torre de Anto, at the centre of old Coimbra where the poet lived an enchanted life, everywhere writing his mythical and literary name: Anto) keeps an artist’s composure, always expressing the cult of the aesthetic life and of the elegant personality.

 

 

94918-Coimbra (49022894973) (cropped).jpg

 

 

In his courtship of death (to whose imminent threat he would later answer with dignity), he takes his spiritual dandyism to extremes, like in the “Balada do Caixão” (The Coffin Ballad).

 

 

 

 

His poetry translates the lack of a total maturation, an adolescent “angelism” present in fabulous confirmations:

He is “the moon”, “the saint”, “the snake”, “the sorcerer”, “the afflicted”, “the inspired”, “the unprecedented”, “the medium”, “the bizarre”, “the fool”, “the nauseated”, “the tortured”, “D. Enguiço”, “a supernatural poet.”

 

 

Above: The Divine Comedy, Paradise, illustration by Gustave Doré

 

 

Narcissus in permanent soliloquy, whether he writes nostalgic verses to Manuel or speaks to his own pipe….

 

 

MagrittePipe.jpg

Above: “La Trahison des Images” (“The Treachery of Images”) (1928-9) or “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”) by René Magritte, 1898-1967.

 

 

António Nobre (A. N.) makes poetry out of the real.

He covers what is prosaic with a soft mantle of legend (“My neighbour is a carpenter/he is a second-hand trader of Mrs. Death”) and creates, with a rare balance between intuition and critique, his familiar “fantastic” (“When the Moon, a beautiful milkmaid / goes deliver milk at the houses of Infinity”).

 

 

Lunar eclipse and full moon to put on a sky show July 4 weekend ...

 

 

His catholic imaginary world is the same as in a fairy tale, a crib of simple words, but with an imaginative audacity in the scheming of those words that separate him from the consecrated lyrical language.

His power of “invention” comes forth in the inspired, yet conscious, use of the verbal material (“Moons of Summer! Black moons of velvet!” or “The Abbey of my past”).

 

 

 

 

Between the Garrettian and the symbolic aesthetic, the most personal and revealing feature of his vocabulary is naturally — even for his longing for the childhood aesthetical retrieval – the diminutive.

A man of sensibility rather than of reflection, he took from French symbolism, whose mystery and deep sense he could never penetrate, the repelling of oratory and of formal procedures, original imagery (“Trás-os-Montes of water”, “slaughter house of the planets”), the cult of synaesthesia, rhythmic freedom and musical research.

 

 

Above: In the slaughterhouse, Lovis Corinth, 1893

 

 

A. N. had a very thick ear.

All his poetry is rigorously written to be heard, full of parallelisms, melodic repetitions, and onomatopoeias, and is extremely malleable.

Its syllabic division depends on the rhythm that obeys feeling.

 

 

 

 

However, the images or the words of his sentences rarely have the precious touch of symbolic jewelry.

Evidently, in “Poentes de França”, the planets drink in silver chalices in the “tavern of sunset”.

 

 

The Sunset Tavern - Gulf of Carpentaria

 

 

However, his transfiguration of reality almost always obeys not a purpose of sumptuous embellishment, like in Eugénio de Castro, but an essentially affectionate eager desire of an intimism of things (“the skinny and hunchbacked poplars”).

 

 

 

 

António Nobre died of tuberculosis in Foz do Douro, Porto, on 18 March 1900, after trying to recover from the disease in Switzerland, Madeira and New York City.

 

 

Antonio Nobre - descanso eterno no Cemiterio de Leça da Palmeira ...

 

 

Other than (Paris, 1892), two other posthumous works were published: Despedidas (1st edition, 1902), with a fragment from O Desejado, and Primeiros Versos (1st edition, 1921).

António Nobre’s correspondence is compiled in several volumes:

  • Cartas Inéditas a A.N., with an introduction and notes by A. Casais Monteiro
  • Cartas e Bilhetes-Postais a Justino de Montalvão with a foreword and notes by Alberto de Serpa, Porto, 1956
  • Correspondência, with an introduction and notes by Guilherme de Castilho, Lisbon, 1967 (a compilation of 244 letters, 56 of which were unpublished).

 

 

António Nobre - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

 

 

“When he (Nobre) was born, we all were born.
The sadness that each one of us brings with him, even in the sense of his joy, still is him, and his life, never perfectly real and certainly not lived, is, after all, the summary of the life we live – fatherless and motherless, lost from God, in the middle of the forest, and weeping, weeping uselessly, with no other consolation than this, childish, knowing that it is uselessly weeping.

Fernando Pessoa, February 1915

 

 

 

 

The artist that made Nobre’s garden statue has been called “the most significant of the first generation of artists to achieve maturity in post-Franco Spain, and one of the most complex and individual artists working today.”

Juan Muñoz (1953– 2001) was a Spanish sculptor, working primarily in paper maché, resin and bronze.

He was also interested in the auditory arts and created compositions for the radio.

He was a self-described “storyteller“.

In 2000, Muñoz was awarded Spain’s major Premio Nacional de Bellas Artes in recognition of his work.

He died shortly after, in 2001.

 

 

Juan Munoz | Widewalls

 

 

His works are displayed in such galleries as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum New York, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Tate Modern in London.

 

 

Juan Muñoz: A retrospective | Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

 

 

In one unpublished radio program (Third Ear, 1992), Juan Muñoz proposed that there are two things which are impossible to represent:

The present and death.

The only way to arrive at them was by their absence.

 

 

Above: Created by Juan Munoz in 1999, this work celebrates the Tyne Salmon. The 2008 Tyne Bluetooth Salmon Trail Cubes are seen with the 22 bronze life-size figures that command a view of South Shields Harbour and the Tyne Piers.

 

 

 

The ropemakers’ garden, this garden in memory of Joao Chagas, is close to the Torre dos Clérigos, the General Hospital of Santo António and the Portuguese Centre of Photography.

 

 

 

 

The Portuguese Centre of Photography was founded in 1997.

The first exhibitions were held in December of that same year on the ground floor of the building until 2000.

The building was temporarily closed for renovation and reopened in 2001.

Following the advice of the working group established by the Minister Manuel Maria Carrilho, in 1996, the then Ministry of Culture created the Portuguese Centre of Photography.

The photographic culture began then to revive by the appearance of photography schools, festivals and galleries attracting photographers that were exiled during the Salazar regime, publishing internationally relevant work.

The exhibition rooms of the ground floor were used that year, starting in December, but the building would only be occupied entirely by the CPF in 2001.

 

 

 

 

I do not know why the Centre in 2018 (6 July – 4 November) decided to focus on her photographs, but I do know why my wife needed to visit the Centre:

My wife has always been a huge fan of Mexican artiste Frida Kahlo.

The attraction for me, besides keeping my significant other happy, is Kahlo’s ability to invent herself.

 

Frida Kahlo, by Guillermo Kahlo.jpg

 

 

Frida Kahlo (née Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón) (1907 – 1954) was a Mexican painter known for her many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico.

Inspired by the country’s popular culture, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society.

Her paintings often had strong autobiographical elements and mixed realism with fantasy.

In addition to belonging to the post-revolutionary Mexicayotl movement, which sought to define a Mexican identity, Kahlo has been described as a surrealist or magical realist.

 

 

 

 

Born to a German father and a mestiza mother, Kahlo spent most of her childhood and adult life at La Casa Azul, her family home in Coyoacán—now publicly accessible as the Frida Kahlo Museum.

 

 

 

 

Although she was disabled by polio as a child, Kahlo had been a promising student headed for medical school until she suffered a bus accident at the age of eighteen, which caused her lifelong pain and medical problems.

During her recovery she returned to her childhood hobby of art with the idea of becoming an artist.

 

 

 

Kahlo’s interests in politics and art led her to join the Mexican Communist Party in 1927, through which she met fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886 – 1957).

 

 

Logo PCM.jpg

 

 

The couple married in 1929, and spent the late 1920s and early 1930s travelling in Mexico and the United States together.

 

 

 

During this time, she developed her artistic style, drawing her main inspiration from Mexican folk culture, and painted mostly small self-portraits which mixed elements from pre-Columbian and Catholic beliefs.

 

 

 

 

Her paintings raised the interest of Surrealist artist André Breton, who arranged for Kahlo’s first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1938.

 

 

André Breton

Above: André Breton (1896 – 1966)

 

 

The exhibition was a success and was followed by another in Paris in 1939.

 

 

Louvre Museum Wikimedia Commons.jpg

 

While the French exhibition was less successful, the Louvre (pictured above) purchased a painting from Kahlo, The Frame, making her the first Mexican artist to be featured in their collection.

 

 

The Frame (Frida Kahlo painting).jpg

 

Throughout the 1940s, Kahlo participated in exhibitions in Mexico and the United States and worked as an art teacher.

She taught at the Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado “La Esmeralda” and was a founding member of the Seminario de Cultura Mexicana.

 

 

Web esmeralda raster r6 c9.gif

 

 

Kahlo’s always-fragile health began to decline in the same decade.

She had her first solo exhibition in Mexico in 1953, shortly before her death in 1954 at the age of 47.

 

 

Above: Kahlo’s death mask on her bed in La Casa Azul

 

 

Kahlo’s work as an artist remained relatively unknown until the late 1970s, when her work was rediscovered by art historians and political activists.

By the early 1990s, she had become not only a recognized figure in art history, but also regarded as an icon for Chicanos, the feminism movement and the LGBTQ+ movement.

Kahlo’s work has been celebrated internationally as emblematic of Mexican national and indigenous traditions and by feminists for what is seen as its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form.

 

 

Frieda and Diego Rivera.jpg

Above: Frieda and Diego Rivera by Frieda Khalo (1931)

 

Frida is a 2002 American biographical drama film, directed by Julie Taymor, which depicts the professional and private life of the surrealist Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

 

 

Fridaposter.jpg

 

 

(In an interview, Taynor said this about Kahlo:

She painted what she painted because she had to, because she was passionate about it.

She didn’t care at all if people bought her paintings.

As she said, she painted her reality.“)

 

 

Julie Taymor.jpg

Above: Julie Taymor

 

Frida begins just before the traumatic accident Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) suffered at the age of 18 when the wooden-bodied bus she was riding in collided with a streetcar.

 

 

Frida_AccidentScene - YouTube

 

 

She is impaled by a metal pole and the injuries she sustains plague her for the rest of her life.

To help her through convalescence, her father brings her a canvas upon which to start painting.

 

 

Strayed: Frida Kahlo : works of art and movie review (Frida 2002)

 

 

Throughout the film, a scene starts as a painting, then slowly dissolves into a live action scene with actors.

 

 

The Bus 1929 Painting By Frida Kahlo - Reproduction Gallery

 

 

Frida also details the artist’s dysfunctional relationship with the muralist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina).

When Rivera proposes to Kahlo, she tells him she expects from him loyalty if not fidelity.

Diego’s appraisal of her painting ability is one of the reasons that she continues to paint.

 

 

Latino Inspired Halloween Costumes | Frida 2002, Traje de frida ...

 

 

Throughout the marriage, Rivera has affairs with a wide array of women, while the bisexual Kahlo takes on male and female lovers, including in one case having an affair with the same woman as Rivera.

 

 

DSH Perfumes La Casa Azul (Frida Stories 1.1) Review

 

 

The two travel to New York City so that he may paint the mural Man at the Crossroads at the Rockefeller Center.

 

 

The recreated version of the painting, known as "Man, Controller of the Universe"

 

 

While in the United States, Kahlo suffers a miscarriage, and her mother dies in Mexico.

Rivera refuses to compromise his communist vision of the work to the needs of the patron, Nelson Rockefeller (Edward Norton).

 

 

Second Bananas — Real-Life U.S. Vice President Portrayals

 

 

As a result, the mural is destroyed.

The pair return to Mexico, with Rivera the more reluctant of the two.

 

 

Kahlo’s sister Cristina (Mia Maestro) moves in with the two at their San Ángel studio home to work as Rivera’s assistant.

 

 

Mía Maestro as Christina Kahlo in Frida (2002) | Mía maestro, Hair ...

 

 

Soon afterward, Kahlo discovers that Rivera and Cristina are having an affair.

She leaves him and subsequently sinks into alcoholism.

 

 

Frida Kahlo | Cinema Sips

 

 

The couple reunite when he asks her to welcome and house Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush), who has been granted political asylum in Mexico.

She and Trotsky begin an affair, which forces the married Trotsky to leave the safety of his Coyoacán home.

 

 

Frida: raises an eyebrow | Reel History | Film | The Guardian

 

 

Kahlo leaves for Paris after Diego realizes she was unfaithful to him with Trotsky.

Although Rivera had little problem with Kahlo’s other affairs, Trotsky was too important to Rivera to be intimately involved with his wife.

When she returns to Mexico, he asks for a divorce.

Soon afterwards, Trotsky is murdered in Mexico City.

Rivera is temporarily a suspect and Kahlo is incarcerated in his place when he is not found.

Rivera helps get her released.

 

 

Pin on cinematography

 

 

Kahlo has her toes removed when they become gangrenous.

Rivera asks her to remarry him and she agrees.

Her health continues to worsen, including the amputation of a leg, and she ultimately dies after finally having a solo exhibition of her paintings in Mexico.

 

 

Amazon.com: Watch Frida | Prime Video

 

Being a photography museum, the focus of the Kahlo exhibition was not so much upon her paintings as it was on photos she took or were taken of her.

(Later, across the Douro River, we would stumble across a small gallery where her art was displayed and duplicated.)

 

 

The Two Fridas.jpg

 

 

And, though Kahlo wasn’t Portuguese and possibly never set foot on Portuguese soil, her life story somehow fits into our Porto experience seamlessly.

 

 

Oporto (Portugal) (16176378817) (cropped).jpg

 

 

Art is open to individual perception, but words offer individual definition in far starker forms.

 

 

Some of what Kahlo wrote in preserved letters and diaries strikes me closer to the core of who she was far more powerfully than the visual impact of her vibrant paintings or expressive photographs.

 

 

El Diario De Frida Kahlo / The Diary of Frida Kahlo: Un intimo ...

 

 

They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t.

I never painted dreams.

I painted my own reality.

 

 

The Wounded Deer 1946.jpg

 

 

I drank because I wanted to drown my sorrows, but now the damned things have learned to swim.

 

 

 

 

I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.

 

 

 

 

His (Diego Rivera’s) supposed mythomania is in direct relation to his tremendous imagination.

That is to say, he is as much of a liar as the poets or as the children who have not yet been turned into idiots by school or mothers.

I have heard him tell all kinds of lies: from the most innocent, to the most complicated stories about people whom his imagination combined in a fantastic situation or actions, always with a great sense of humour and a marvelous critical sense.

But I have never heard him say a single stupid thing or banal lie.

Lying, or playing at lying, he unmasks many people.

He learns the interior mechanism of others who are much more ingenuously liars than he.

And the most curious thing about the supposed lies of Diego is that in the long and short of it, those who are involved in the imaginary combination become angry, not because of the lie, but because of the truth contained in the lie that always comes to the surface.

 

 

The Wounded Table.jpg

 

 

The overall message that this day taught me is the solitude of individuality.

We may be within the crowd of a famous bookstore (Livraria Lello) or walking together in the intimacy of a married couple’s strolling through a park.

And yet each of us is alone.

 

 

Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War (reprise ...

Above: René and Georgette Magritte with their dog after the war

 

 

We live alone and we die alone, for we are prisoners within our bodies and exiles within our minds.

 

 

Above: Thomas Wolfe (1900 – 1938) who in an often quoted passage stated: “The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.”

 

 

I may know my wife better than any other person in my life, and yet is there any man who can truly say that a woman cannot still continually surprise him?

My wife is convinced to her core that she knows exactly who I am, but how can she, when I am continually discovering myself as I evolve within the passages of life and time?

 

 

Michael Jackson - Man in the Mirror.png

 

 

Perception is the expression of that solitude of individuality.

 

 

The Porto I see and feel is a universe removed from the Porto that my wife sees and feels.

 

 

 

 

Though we share the same experience, we see and feel that experience through the prism of our own individual selves.

 

 

 

 

As we wind our way through some of Porto’s oldest and most atmospheric streets, ascending from the Baixa (lower town) to the Sé (cathedral) that looms high above the city like a guardian god, then down to the Ribiera (riverside) where we are magnetically drawn to the historic heart of the harbour hub….

 

 

 

 

We are together, hand-in-hand.

We are apart, mind from mind, emotions unspoken as words fail miserably to adequately express the thoughts that flood our souls unbidden.

 

 

BeeGeesWords.jpg

 

 

We descend with the setting sun, down to the chaos of hotch-potch houses that breathe in the vibrancy of cafés and restaurants replete with tired tourists and working waiters, bustling buskers and enthusiastic entertainers.

We dine beside the river on a shore between bridges.

 

 

 

 

We share a bottle of port wine, for this is what is done in the birthplace of this beverage.

The waiter defines what we are drinking as one would explain electricity to an infant.

Words like ruby and reserve, LBV and colheita fill the air and cross our consciousness, all to no avail.

We are no gourmets, no vintners nor clever connaisseurs.

 

 

 

 

We have seen so much and learned so much and felt so much, in this our first full day in Porto, and yet have understood so little.

 

 

 

 

Husband and wife share a meal and a bottle, unable or unwilling to share souls.

How can she politely express her annoyance with some of her husband’s boorish bumbling behaviours without causing a beastly reaction by expressing this?

How can I lovingly criticize her impatience while simultaneously admiring her imagination in the usurped planning of our days, without a contradiction that confuses more than it cooperates?

 

 

Main eventposter.jpg

 

 

We are together.

We are apart.

How very human.

How ironic it is that the individuality of Each binds the Every together.

We are united by our separateness.

 

 

IDIC. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Another great ...

 

 

The Douro defines the night.

A river shared by two shores, binding and blessing while dividing and differentiating.

The river rushes beside us and through us.

There is wisdom in wine and knowledge at night.

 

 

 

 

(Update: Sunday 5 July 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic in Portugal is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

 

 

Pt(covid19.png

Above: Corona Virus cases in Portugal (the darker the area, the more cases therein)

 

 

On 2 March 2020, the virus was confirmed to have reached Portugal, when it was reported that two men, a 60 year-old doctor who travelled to the north of Italy on vacation and a 33 year-old man working in Spain, tested positive for COVID-19.

 

 

Illustration of a SARS-CoV-2 virion

 

 

  • March 12: The Portuguese government declared the highest level of alert because of COVID-19 and said it would be maintained until 9 April.

Portugal entered a mitigation phase as community transmission was detected.

 

Above: São Bento Palace, Lisbon, is the seat of the Portuguese Legislature.

 

 

  • March 18: The President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, declared the entirety of the Portuguese territory in a State of Emergency for the following 15 days, with the possibility of renewal, the first since the Carnation Revolution in 1974.

 

 

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa Rio2016.png

 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa declares that a national state of emergency will take effect from the next day, with Finance Minister Mário Centeno unveiling €9.2 billion in economic assistance to households and companies.

 

2018 Finanzminister Löger bei Eurogruppe und ECOFIN (Mário Centeno).jpg

 

As of this day there have been 642 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with two deaths.

 

  • March 24: The Portuguese government admitted that the country could not contain the virus any longer.
  • March 26: The country entered the “mitigation stage”.

The health care sites dedicated to fighting the disease started.

The Bank of Portugal estimates that the economy will contract by between 3.7% and 5.7% of GDP in 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with unemployment rising to between 10.1% and 11.7%.

 

 

Banco de Portugal new logo.svg

 

 

  • April 2: Parliament approved the extension of the State of Emergency, as requested by the President.

The State of Emergency will remain until 17 April, subject to further extensions of similar duration.

Under the new regulations, for the Easter celebrations, from 9 April (Maundy Thursday) to 13 April (Easter Monday) the Portuguese government decreed special measures in restricting people movements between municipalities with very few exceptions, closing all airports to civil transportation and increased control in the national borders.

 

Above: Letter from the Portuguese President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, to the Speaker of the Assembly of the Republic, Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, requesting Parliament for authorisation under the terms of the Constitution, for a declaration of the state of emergency in the context of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

  • 4 April – Government figures indicate that more than 500,000 workers are in danger of temporarily losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after almost 32,000 businesses apply to the government to furlough employees.

The day also sees the total number of COVID-19 cases surpass 10,000, with 10,524 cases and 266 deaths reported.

 

 

 

 

  • 12 April – Reuters reports that one in eight of Portugal’s 504 deaths from COVID-19 to date have occurred in care homes, with officials concerned about the spread of the corona virus among the elderly residents.

As of this day there have been 16,585 recorded cases in the country.

 

 

 

 

  • 14 April – The International Monetary Fund forecasts an 8.0% drop in Portuguese GDP for 2020 as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, with unemployment predicted to rise to 13.9%.

The economy is forecast to recover in 2021 with unemployment falling to 8.7%.

 

 

International Monetary Fund logo.svg

 

 

  • 16 April – MPs vote to further extend the national state of emergency until the beginning of May.

The vote comes amid a declining growth in infections, prompting the Health Secretary Antonio Sales to praise the “excellent behaviour and civic-mindedness of the Portuguese people“.

 

 

António Lacerda Sales: “Desde o final de janeiro, Portugal tem ...

 

 

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date stands at 18,841 with 629 deaths.

 

  • 28 April – President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa announces that the national state of emergency in place since 18 March will begin to be lifted from 3 May.
  • April 30: The Portuguese Ministers’ Council approved a plan to start releasing the country from the COVID-19 container measures and cancelling the State of Emergency.

 

The Automóvel Club de Portugal confirms the cancellation of the 2020 Rally de Portugal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, abandoning plans to reschedule the event’s planned 21–24 May date to October.

 

 

WRC.svg

 

 

  • 1 May – The Directorate-General of Health confirms that the number of fatalities from COVID-19 in Portugal has surpassed 1,000, with eighteen deaths in the preceding 24 hours bringing the country’s total to 1,007.

As of this date there have been 25,531 recorded cases and 1,647 recoveries.

 

 

COVID-19 | Health Advice | www.visitportugal.com

 

 

  • 2 May – The State of Emergency was cancelled.
  • 3 May – The national state of emergency is lifted after six weeks, with the country downgraded to the lesser state of “calamity“.
  • 4 May – A three-phase re-opening plan for the country begins, with small retail businesses allowed to open and the Lisbon and Porto Metro systems resuming at a reduced capacity.

 

 

Metro do Porto Flexity Outlook Eurotram Trindade.jpg

 

 

The use of face masks is made compulsory for those using public transport and visiting enclosed public premises such as supermarkets.

 

 

Portugal Flag Puzzle Mouth Mask Dust Face Mask Washed Reusable ...

 

 

  • 9 May – Organisers of the Vuelta a Espana announce that the two stages of the 2020 bicycle race set to take place in Portugal will not go ahead.

 

 

La Vuelta (Spain) logo.svg

 

  • May 18: Portugal entered the second phase in easing restrictions.

Nurseries and the last two years of the secondary school reopened, along with restaurants, cafés, medium-sized street stores and some museums, all with mandatory usage of mask and distance rules.

 

 

Without social distancing, Covid-19 could cause more than 70,000 ...

 

 

  • 20 May – Data from the Institute for Employment and Vocational Training reveals that the number of people registering as unemployed across the country increased by 48,500 in April, a rise of 22% compared to April 2019.

The total number of people out of work now stands at approximately 392,000.

 

 

Centro de Formação Profissional das Indústrias da Madeira e ...

 

 

  • 1 June – The government reveals a four-fold increase to €108 million to the total funds made available to companies shifting production towards tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

Eurocoin.pt.100.gif

Above: Portuguese €1.00 coin

 

 

As of this date there have been 32,700 cases and 1,424 deaths from COVID-19 recorded in the country.

 

  • 3 June – The Primeira Liga resumes competition with all remaining matches of the 2019–20 season set to take place without spectators.

 

 

Liga NOS logo.png

 

 

  • 6 June – Thousands attend anti-racism protests in Lisbon and Porto in response to the death of George Floyd in the United States on 25 May.

 

 

Black lives matter more than our own? - Portugal Resident

 

 

As of 6 June 2020, there have been:

  • 43,156 confirmed Covid-19 cases
  • 20,475 active cases
  • 386,926 suspected cases
  • 6,500 critical cases
  • 39,500 hospitalized cases
  • 28,424 recovered cases
  • 1,598 deaths

 

 

Imagens impressionantes da luta contra a Covid-19 nos hospitais ...

 

 

  • 9 June – Finance Minister Mario Centeno announces his resignation from the government for reasons undisclosed.

Joao Leao, the current Budget Minister, is confirmed by Prime Minister António Costa as Centeno’s replacement beginning on 15 June.

 

 

Portugal quer contribuir para uma zona euro "mais solidária"

 

 

The Assembly officially recognises diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes (1885 – 1954), who in his capacity as consul to France in June 1940 issued thousands of visas to Jewish refugees in Bordeaux, allowing them to escape the advancing German army by crossing south into neutral Spain.

In recognition of his actions, a monument dedicated to him within the National Pantheon is also planned.

 

 

Aristides20I.jpg

Above: Aristides de Sousa Mendes

 

 

  • 10 June – The European Commission approves a €1.2 billion loan from the government to TAP Air, the nation’s flag carrier airline, whose debt at the end of 2019 amounted to €800 million.

 

 

TAP-Portugal-Logo.svg

 

 

  • 25 June – A rise in the recorded number of cases of COVID-19 in Lisbon prompts the government to re-impose certain restrictions in 19 of the capital’s parishes to stem transmissions.

From 1 July, measures such as restrictions on travel, an 8 pm curfew for businesses, and limiting the size of social gatherings to five people will be enforced.

 

 

Covid-19. Esta é a Lisboa (quase vazia) em tempos do novo coronavírus

 

  • 1 July – After being shut for more than three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spanish-Portuguese border is formally re-opened in a ceremony attended by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Prime Minister António Costa, King Felipe VI, and the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.)

 

 

Travel in Spain: Spain reopens border with Portugal after three ...

 

 

I find myself wondering if I will ever return to Portugal, ever return to Porto.

Perhaps I don’t need to, for in the attempt to capture what they mean to me, within me they live.

 

 

 

 

Do I contradict myself?

Very well, then I contradict myself.

I am large.

I contain multitudes.” (Walt Whitman)

 

 

Walt Whitman, 1887

 

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Susana Fonseca, Porto and Northern Portugal: Journeys and Stories / Matthew Hancock and Amanda Tomlin, Pocket Rough Guide Porto / Lonely Planet Portugal / Rough Guide Portugal / Jürgen Strohmeyer, Nordportugal (Müller Verlag) / Matthew Hancock, Xenophobe’s Guide to the Portuguese / Fernando Pessoa, Message / Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

 

 

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever | João Louro

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Lemon Mutants

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Saturday 14 March 2020

From Brescia Today, Friday 6 March 2020

There are 268 cases of corona virus infections confirmed in Italy’s Brescia Province, while deaths there have risen to 18.

Fifteen new municipalities have been added to the epidemic network, which previously had not presented any infection: Acquafredda, Borgosatollo, Castenedolo, Darfo Boario Terme, Gambara, Gottolengo, Isorella, Ospitaletto, Paratico, Pompiano, Provaglio d’Iseo, Roncadelle, San Gervasio Bresciano and Seniga.

 

Map highlighting the location of the province of Brescia in Italy

Above: Province of Brescia (in red), Italy

 

As of 13 March, over 145,000 cases have been confirmed in around 140 countries and territories, with major outbreaks in mainland China, Italy, South Korea and Iran.

More than 5,400 people have died from the disease and over 72,000 have recovered.

 

2019-nCoV-CDC-23312 without background.png

Above: Electron microscope view of the corona virus

 

The virus primarily spreads between people in a way similar to influenza, via respiratory droplets from coughing.

The time between exposure and symptom onset is typically five days, but may range from two to fourteen days.

Symptoms are most often fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath.

Complications may include pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

There is currently no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment, but research is ongoing.

Efforts are aimed at managing symptoms and supportive therapy.

Recommended preventive measures include handwashing, maintaining distance from other people (particularly those who are unwell), and monitoring and self-isolation for fourteen days for people who suspect they are infected.

Public health responses around the world have included travel restrictions, quarantines, curfews, event cancellations, and facility closures.

 

March14 cases per-capita-COVID-19.png

Above: Map of the COVID-19 outbreak as of 12 March 2020.

Be aware that since this is a rapidly evolving situation, new cases may not be immediately represented visually. 

The darker the country, the more cases of the corona virus there are therein.

Countries with cases of the corona virus:

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria 
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Belarus 
  • Belgium 
  • Bhutan
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil 
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cambodia 
  • Canada
  • Chile 
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia 
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic 
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt 
  • Estonia 
  • Finland 
  • France 
  • Georgia
  • Germany 
  • Greece 
  • Hungary
  • Iceland 
  • India 
  • Indonesia 
  • Iran 
  • Iraq 
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy 
  • Japan 
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kuwait
  • Latvia 
  • Lebanon
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg   
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Mexico 
  • Moldova
  • Monaco 
  • Mongolia
  • Nepal 
  • the Netherlands 
  • New Zealand 
  • Nigeria 
  • North Macedonia 
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palestine
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • the Philippines 
  • Poland
  • Portugal 
  • Qatar
  • Romania 
  • Russia 
  • San Marino 
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Singapore 
  • Slovakia 
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa 
  • South Korea 
  • Spain 
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden 
  • Switzerland 
  • Taiwan 
  • Thailand 
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey 
  • Ukraine 
  • the United Arab Emirates 
  • the United Kingdom 
  • the United States 
  • Vietnam 

 

These include the nationwide quarantine of Italy.

 

File:COVID-19 Outbreak Cases in Italy.svg

Above: (in red) Corona virus outbreak cases in Italy

 

On 9 March 2020, the government of Italy under Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte imposed a national quarantine, restricting the movement of the population except for necessity, work, and health circumstances, in response to the growing outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

 

Giuseppe Conte Official.jpg

Above: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte

 

Additional lockdown restrictions mandated the temporary closure of non-essential shops and businesses.

 

GP: Coronavirus: Venice Italy

 

This followed an earlier restriction announced on the previous day which affected 16 million people and included the region of Lombardy and fourteen provinces in Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Piedmont and Marche, and further back a smaller-scale lockdown of 11 municipalities in the province of Lodi that had begun in late February.

 

GP: Coronavirus Rome Italy

 

The first lockdowns began around 21 February 2020, covering 11 municipalities of the province of Lodi and affecting around 50,000 people.

 

Piazza della Vittoria

 

Above: Piazza Duomo, Lodi

 

The epicentre was the town of Codogno (pop. 16,000), with police cars blocking roads leading to the quarantined areas and barriers erected on the roads.

The old Soave Hospital in Codogno.

Above: Ospedale Soave, Codogno

 

The quarantined “red zone” (zona rossa) was initially enforced by police and carabinieri, and by 27 February it was reported that 400 policemen were enforcing it with 35 checkpoints.

The lockdown was initially meant to last until 6 March.

While residents were permitted to leave their homes and supplies such as food and medicine were allowed to enter, they were not to go to school or their workplaces, and public gatherings were prohibited.

Train services also bypassed the region.

 

Newspapers during 2020 Italy lockdown.jpg

Above: The front page of Italian newspaper La Repubblica, reading “Tutti in casa” (“Everybody stay at home“), hung in a Bologna street on 10 March 2020, the first day of the nationwide lockdown in Italy

 

Early on Sunday, 8 March 2020, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the expansion of the quarantine zone to cover much of Northern Italy, affecting over 16 million people, restricting travel from, to or within the affected areas, banning funerals and cultural events, and requiring people to keep at least one metre of distance from one another in public locations such as restaurants, churches and supermarkets.

Conte later clarified in a press conference that the decree was not an “absolute ban“, and that people would still be able to use trains and planes to and from the region for “proven work needs, emergencies, or health reasons“.

Additionally, tourists from outside were still permitted to leave the area.

 

Above: Areas quarantined on 8 March 2020

 

Restaurants and cafes were permitted to open, but operations were limited to between 06:00 and 18:00, while many other public locations such as gyms, nightclubs, museums and swimming pools were closed altogether.

Businesses were ordered to implement “smart working processes” to permit their employees to work from home.

 

GP: Coronavirus Rome Italy shutdown Precautions against coronavirus in Italy

 

The decree, in effect until 3 April, additionally cancelled any leave for medical workers, and allowed the government to impose fines or up to three months’ jail for people caught leaving or entering the affected zone without permission.

The decree also implemented restrictions on public gatherings elsewhere across Italy.

With this decree, the initial “Red Zone” was also abolished (though the municipalities were still within the quarantined area).

The lockdown measures implemented by Italy was considered the most radical measure implemented against the outbreak, outside of the lockdown measures implemented in China.

At the time of the decree, over 5,800 cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in Italy, with 233 dead.

 

GP: Coronavirus: Italy Venice Plague Doctors Procession

 

A draft of the decree had been leaked to the media late on Saturday night before it went into effect and was published by Corriere della Sera, resulting in panic within the to-be-quarantined areas and prompting reactions from politicians in the region.

 

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La Repubblica reported that hundreds of people in Milan rushed out to leave the city on the last trains on Saturday night, as a part of a rush in general to leave the red zone.

 

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However, within hours of the decree being signed, media outlets reported that relatively little had changed, with trains and planes still operating to and from the region, and restaurants and cafes operating normally.

The BBC reported that some flights to Milan continued on 8 March, though several were cancelled.

New guidelines for the corona virus had assigned the responsibility of deciding whether to suspend flights to local judiciaries.

 

GP: Italy's Tourism Sector Predicted To Lose Billions From COVID-19 Impact 201003 EU

 

On the evening of 9 March, the quarantine measures were expanded to the entire country, coming into effect the next day.

In a televised address, Conte explained that the moves would restrict travel to that necessary for work and family emergencies, and all sporting events would be cancelled.

Italy was the first country to implement a national quarantine as a result of the 2020 coronavirus outbreak.

 

Flag of Italy

Above: Flag of Italy

 

On 11 March, Conte announced the lockdown would be tightened, with all commercial and retail businesses, except those providing essential services, like grocery stores and pharmacies, closed down.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio has said that the lockdown has been necessary for Italy.

 

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Above: Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Malo

 

The Italian authorities established sanctions for those who do not obey the orders, even those who, having symptoms of the virus, expose themselves in public places, being considered a threat of intentional contagion.

 

GP: Coronavirus Rome Piazza Navona ITALY-HEALTH-VIRUS

 

Responding to the thousands of people who evacuated from Lombardy just before the 8 March quarantine was put in place, police officers and medics met passengers from Lombardy in Salerno, Campania, and the passengers were required to self-quarantine.

 

GS - Italy Faces The Coronavirus

 

Michele Emiliano, President of Apulia, required all arrivals from northern Italy to self-quarantine.

 

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Above: Michele Emiliano

 

Similarly, Jole Santelli, President of Calabria, called for Calabrians living in northern Italy not to return home during the outbreak, and for the government to “block an exodus to Calabria“.

 

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Above: Jole Santelli

 

Conte, alongside other leaders, called for Italians not to engage in “furbizia“—i.e. craftiness to circumvent rules and bureaucracy—when it comes to the lockdown.

Conte also told la Repubblica that Italy was facing its “darkest hour“.

In the initial quarantine, a special radio station (Radio Zona Rossa, or “Radio Red Zone“) was set up for residents of the Codogno quarantine area, broadcasting updates on the quarantine situation, interviews with authorities, and government information.

 

Pino Pagani, left, says elderly listeners who feel even more alone under the quarantine find the radio station comforting [Michele Lori/Al Jazeera]

 

Catholic sermons were also broadcast through the radio.

 

Following the quarantine’s expansion, the hashtag #IoRestoACasa (“I stay at home“) was shared by thousands of social media users.

 

 

In compliance with regulations on keeping one metre of distance between each other in public locations, bars and restaurants placed duct tape on floors for their customers to follow.

Rushes to supermarkets in cities such as Roma and Palermo were reported as residents engaged in panic buying following the nationwide quarantine announcement.

 

Toilet paper, canned food: What explains coronavirus panic buying

 

After the national lockdown was announced, the Vatican closed the Vatican Museums and suspended Mass liturgies.

While St. Peter’s Basilica remained open, its catacombs were closed and visitors were required to follow the Italian regulations on the one-metre separation.

Catholic Mass in Rome and the Vatican were also suspended until 3 April, and Pope Francis opted to instead live stream daily Mass.

 

GP: Coronavirus: Italy Vatican

 

Dismayed by the Vicar General’s complete closure of all churches in the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis partially reversed the closures, but tourists are still barred from visiting the churches.

 

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Above: Pope Francis

 

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom, praised Italy’s decision to implement the lockdown, stating that the Italian people and government were “making genuine sacrifices” with these “bold, courageous steps“.

 

Adhanom smiling in a suit

Above: WHO Director General Tedros Adhamon

 

Among Brescian municipalities, Limone sul Garda is not listed among those with corona virus cases.

For now.

Though the virus is on Limone’s doorstep – in Gardone Riviera, Lonata del Garda and Moniga del Garda – one case in each town – it has yet to make its dark appearance felt within Limone itself.

Perhaps, miraculously, Covina-19 will avoid Limone, for Limone is a place of miracles….

 

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Limone sul Garda, Italy, Tuesday 6 August 2018

Imagine a place where majestic mountains act as a backdrop for the infinite blue of Lake Garda.

Forget the impatience of the world for a moment and serenely choose a moment of tranquillity, to share with your loved ones.

The blue has never been as beautiful as it is now, in this natural backdrop of colours, tastes and perfumes.

 

Limone sul Garda

 

Olives, lemons, oleanders, palms and bougainvilleas flourish in an enchanting inlet, where the mountains suddenly open up, mirrored in the intense blue of the water, like in a dream.

Limone, once a small fishing village, is today one of the most highly appreciated tourist centres, with a splendid lakeside promenade and camping grounds, hotels and modern residences, equipped with every comfort.

It has well-equipped beaches, street swarming with shops, bars and restaurants for every taste.

Limone, the home of tranquillity and courtesy, is the ideal place for a vacation on the Lake, year round.

 

Limone sul Garda – Veduta

 

The vestiges of the past are splendidly blended into the backdrop, conferring even greater harmony.

Thus, we can see the pillars of the ancient lemon houses rising from the shores exposed to the sun, which sweetly slope down towards the Lake.

In the surrounding area, the silvery foliage of centuries old olive trees ripple in the wind.

The old part of the village, set between the earth and water, opens up to reveal an infinite number of characteristic, peaceful corners.

The deep ties with the territory are still alive in the daily life that marches on: simplicity, hospitality and untiring work are the peculiarities of Limone entrepreneurs who make every effort, every day, to ensure that guests feel at home.

Nature alone generously offers considerable opportunities to enjoy leisure time, even for the less sporty: the Lake and its beaches, the itineraries that wind their way up to the ancient citrus fruit gardens, in the shade of the houses, the trails that branch out around the village, climbing up to the summits of the mountains that surround the village, providing uniquely beautiful views – an ideal habitat for mountain lovers and experts.

The multifunctional sports centre, the sports complex and the many tennis courts complete the array of proposals capable of meeting the requirements of both professional and amateur sportsmen.

 

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Despite the presence of famous cultivations of lemons (the meaning of the city’s name in Italian), the town’s name is probably derived from the ancient lemos (elm) or limes (Latin: boundary, referring to the communes of Brescia and the Bishopric of Trento).

From 1863 to 1905 the denomination was Limone San Giovanni.

 

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The first settlements found in the surrounding area of Benaco (the ancient name of the Lake) date back to the Neolithic period.

In fact, in the nearby Valley of Ledro you can visit a museum dedicated to the pile work houses from the Bronze Age found in that area.

 

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In 600 BC, the Celtic tribes that inhabited the area were conquered by the Romans.

After this, the Lake’s historical development follows that of the rest of northern Italy: from the Longobards, to the arrival of Charlemagne, the Venetian Republic, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Italian Renaissance, the World Wars, up to the birth of the present Italian Republic.

 

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However, the most important period of the social, economic and cultural development of Limone was the domination of the Venetian Republic or “Serenissima” (the Splendid) as it was called during the first half of the 15th century.

Due to the administration of the Serenissima, Limone developed from a typical rural village based on fishing and the growing of olives to the most northerly centre for the cultivation of citrus fruits, such as lemons, oranges and citrons.

 

Flag of Venice

Above: Flag of the Republic of Venice

 

They built the world famous lemon groves called Limonaia with high walls to protect the trees from the cold northeastern winds.

The huge columns in these groves were used to support wooden rafters which during winter covered the grove transforming it into a greenhouse.

 

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However, things were not as easy as they may have seemed.

Soil had to be imported for the lemon trees from the southern part of the Lake, because the original soil was very poor as it consisted only of gravel.

The water supply for the lemon groves was a masterpiece of an irrigation system.

 

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At the beginning of September 1786, when the famous German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had just turned 37, he “slipped away“, in his words, from his duties as Privy Councillor in the Duchy of Weimar, from a long platonic affair with a court lady, and from his immense fame as the author of the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther and the stormy play Götz von Berlichingen, and took what became a licensed leave of absence.

By May 1788, he had travelled to Italy via Innsbruck and the Brenner Pass and visited Lake Garda, Verona, Vicenza, Venezia, Bologna, Roma, the Alban Hills, Napoli and Sicily.

He wrote many letters to a number of friends in Germany, which he later used as the basis for Italian Journey.

 

Goethe in 1828, by Joseph Karl Stieler

Above: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)

 

Italian Journey initially takes the form of a diary, with events and descriptions written up apparently quite soon after they were experienced.

The impression is in one sense true, since Goethe was clearly working from journals and letters he composed at the time — and by the end of the book he is openly distinguishing between his old correspondence and what he calls reporting.

But there is also a strong and indeed elegant sense of fiction about the whole, a sort of composed immediacy.

Goethe said in a letter that the work was “both entirely truthful and a graceful fairy tale“.

It had to be something of a fairy tale, since it was written between 30 and more than 40 years after the journey, from 1816 to 1828-29.

 

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Above: Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein’s Goethe in the Roman Campagna

 

The work begins with a famous Latin tag, Et in Arcadia ego.

This Latin phrase is usually imagined as spoken by Death — this is its sense, for example, in W. H. Auden’s poem called “Et in Arcadia ego” — suggesting that every paradise is afflicted by mortality.

 

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Above: Wystan Hugh Auden (1907 – 1973)

 

What Goethe says is “Even I managed to get to Paradise“, with the implication that we could all get there if we chose.

If death is universal, the possibility of paradise might be universal too.

This possibility wouldn’t preclude its loss, and might even require it, or at least require that some of us should lose it.

The book ends with a quotation from Ovid’s Tristia, regretting his expulsion from Rome.

Statue (1887) by Ettore Ferrari commemorating Ovid's exile in Tomis (present-day Constanța, Romania)

Above: Statue of Publius Ovidius Naso (aka Ovid) (43 BC – AD 18) commemorating his exile in Tomis (present-day Constanța, Romania)

 

Cum repeto noctem, Goethe writes in the middle of his own German, as well as citing a whole passage:

When I remember the night…

He is already storing up not only plentiful nostalgia and regret, but also a more complicated treasure:

The certainty that he didn’t merely imagine the land where others live happily ever after.

 

 

We are all pilgrims who seek Italy“, Goethe wrote in a poem two years after his return to Germany from his almost two-year spell in the land he had long dreamed of.

For Goethe, Italy was the warm passionate south as opposed to the dank cautious North.

The place where the classical past was still alive, although in ruins.

A sequence of landscapes, colours, trees, manners, cities, monuments he had so far seen only in his writing.

He described himself as “the mortal enemy of mere words” or what he also called “empty names“.

He needed to fill the names with meaning and, as he rather strangely put it, “to discover myself in the objects I see“, literally “to learn to know myself by or through the objects“.

He also writes of his old habit of “clinging to the objects“, which pays off in the new location.

He wanted to know that what he thought might be Paradise actually existed, even if it wasn’t entirely Paradise, and even if he didn’t in the end want to stay there.

Some journeys – Goethe’s was one – really are quests.

Italian Journey is not only a description of places, persons and things, but also a psychological document of the first importance.

— W. H. Auden, Epigraph on Italian Journey
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On 13 September 1786, Goethe passed by the village of Limone by boat and described with this words its lemon gardens:

The morning was magnificent: a bit cloudy, but calm as the sun rose.

We passed Limone, the mountain-gardens of which, laid out terrace-fashion, and planted with citron-trees, have a neat and rich appearance.

The whole garden consists of rows of square white pillars placed at some distance from each other, and rising up the mountain in steps.

On these pillars strong beams are laid, that the trees planted between them may be sheltered in the winter.

The view of these pleasant objects was favored by a slow passage, and we had already passed Malcesine when the wind suddenly changed, took the direction usual in the day-time, and blew towards the north.

(Italian Journey, Johann Wolfgang Goethe)

 

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Apart from the cultivation of citrus fruits in the 19th century during the reign of the Habsburg family, Limone also offered other products such as magnesium, paper, quicklime and silkworms due to the mild climate.

Unfortunately, during World War I all these prosperous businesses came to a sudden end because of the geopolitical and strategic location of Limone.

The whole area, which was situated on the immediate border with Austria and which was in the active combat zone between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Italian Reign was completely evacuated.

When people returned to their homes after the war there was nothing left from the former activities and they had to start again by fishing and growing olives.

Throughout this whole period the only way to reach Limone was by water or through difficult mountain paths.

Until the 1940s the city was reachable only by lake or through the mountains, with the road to Riva del Garda being built only 1932, but today Limone is one of the most renowned tourist resorts in the area.

 

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Limone’s hotel tradition has developed simultaneously with realization of the most important traffic artery of the Lake: the Gardesana Road.

Activities related to fishing and agriculture were gradually abandoned over the years, while increasing numbers of accommodation and commercial facilities have been created.

In the Seventies, many camping grounds grounds were transformed into hotels in order to meet the changing demands of the market and allowing entrepreneurs to extend the tourist season.

The expansion of the tourist season continued in the Eighties as well, as the village developed an accommodation capacity very similiar to the present day situation.

Over the last decade, collective efforts have privileged development of the quality of the offer:

This has led to important public and private works to requalify many areas, making Limone one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the European market.

 

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In order to document the socio-economic changes in Limone after the opening of the Gardesana Road the local council established a Museum of Tourism.

It was set up in the former local council building and inaugurated in 2011.

Inside the exhibition spaces display posters, calendars, holiday guides, souvenirs, etc.

 

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A large area has also been dedicated to Limone’s citizen St. Daniele Comboni and the discovery of apoli protein A1, a good gene that helps to minimize the hardening of arteries and reduce heart disease.

 

Daniele Comboni, the founder of the Institutes for Comboni Missionaries, was born in Limone.

In the neighbourhood quarter Tesöl, Comboni’s life and work can be understood at the Tesöl Centre of the Comboni Missionaries.

Comboni (1831 – 1881) was an Italian Roman Catholic bishop who served in the missions in Africa and was the founder of both the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and the Comboni Missionary Sisters.

 

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Comboni was born on 15 March 1831 at Limone sul Garda in Brescia to the poor gardeners (working for a local proprietor) Luigi Comboni and Domenica Pace as the fourth of eight children.

He was the sole child to survive into adulthood.

At that time Limone was under the jurisdiction of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

 

Austria-Hungary on the eve of World War I

Above: Austrian-Hungarian Empire before World War I

 

At the age of twelve, he was sent to school in Verona on 20 February 1843 at the Religious Institute of Verona, founded by Nicola Mazza.

It was there that he completed his studies in medicine and languages (he learnt French, English and Arabic) and prepared to become a priest.

 

A collage of Verona, clockwise from top left to right: View of Piazza Bra from Verona Arena, House of Juliet, Verona Arena, Ponte Pietra at sunset, Statue of Madonna Verona's fountain in Piazza Erbe, view of Piazza Erbe from Lamberti Tower

Above: Images of Verona

 

On 6 January 1849 he vowed that he would join the African missions, a desire he had held since 1846 after reading about the Japanese martyrs.

 

(The Martyrs of Japan were Christian missionaries and followers who were persecuted and executed, mostly during the Tokugawa shogunate period in the 17th century.

More than 400 martyrs of Japan have been recognized with beatification by the Catholic Church, and 42 have been canonized as saints.

Martyrs of Japan can be seen within the context of Christian colonialism and Christianization.)

 

Above: The 26 Martyrs of Japan at Nagasaki. (1628 engraving)

 

On 31 December 1854 in Trento he received his ordination to the priesthood from the Bishop of Trent Johann Nepomuk von Tschiderer zu Gleifheim.

 

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Above: Bishop of Trent Johann Nepomuk von Tschiderer zu Gleifheim (1777- 1860)

 

Comboni made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from 29 September to 14 October 1855.

 

(The Holy Land (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ הַקּוֹדֶשׁ Eretz HaKodesh, Latin: Terra Sancta; Arabic: الأرض المقدسة Al-Arḍ Al-Muqaddasah or الديار المقدسة Ad-Diyar Al-Muqaddasah) is an area roughly located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea that also includes the Eastern Bank of the Jordan River.

Traditionally, it is synonymous both with the biblical Land of Israel and with the region of Palestine.

The term “Holy Land” usually refers to a territory roughly corresponding to the modern State of Israel, the Palestinian territories, western Jordan, and parts of southern Lebanon and of southwestern Syria.

Jews, Christians and Muslims all regard it as holy.

Part of the significance of the land stems from the religious significance of Jerusalem (the holiest city to Judaism), as the historical region of Jesus’ ministry, and as the site of the Isra and Mi’raj event of 621 in Islam.

The holiness of the land as a destination of Christian pilgrimage contributed to launching the Crusades, as European Christians sought to win back the Holy Land from the Muslims, who had conquered it from the Christian Eastern Roman Empire in the 630s.

In the 19th century, the Holy Land became the subject of diplomatic wrangling as the Holy Places played a role in the Eastern Question which led to the Crimean War in the 1850s.

Many sites in the Holy Land have long been pilgrimage destinations for adherents of the Abrahamic religions, including Jews, Christians, Muslims and Bahá’ís.

Pilgrims visit the Holy Land to touch and see physical manifestations of their faith, to confirm their beliefs in the holy context with collective excitation, and to connect personally to the Holy Land.)

 

The map of the Holy Land by Marino Sanudo (drawn in 1320).jpg

Above: The map of the Holy Land by Marino Sanudo (drawn in 1320)

Map orientation: north pointing left.

 

In 1857 – with the blessing of his mother – Comboni left for Africa along with five other missionaries, also former students of Mazza.

His mother gave him her blessing and said to him:

Go, Daniele, and may the Lord bless you“.

 

Comboni departed on 8 September 1857 with Giovanni Beltrame, Alessandro dal Bosco, Francesco Oliboni, Angelo Melotto and Isidoro Zilli who hailed from Udine.

 

Piazza San Giacomo

Above: Piazza San Giacomo, Udine

 

Four months later, on 8 January 1858, Comboni reached Khartoum in Sudan.

His assignment was the liberation of enslaved boys and girls.

There were difficulties including an unbearable climate and sickness as well as the deaths of several of his fellow missionaries.

This, added with the poor and derelict conditions that the population faced, made the situation all the more difficult.

 

Khartoum downtown

Above: Modern Khartoum

 

Comboni had written to his parents of the conditions and the difficulties that the group faced but remained resolved.

He witnessed the death of one of his companions and instead of deterring him he remained determined to continue and wrote:

O Nigrizia o morte!” (translation: “Either Africa or death“)

 

Africa (orthographic projection).svg

 

By the end of 1859 three of the five had died and two were in Cairo as Comboni himself grew ill.

 

Above: Modern Cairo

 

Comboni was in his new surroundings from 1858 until 15 January 1859 when he was forced to return to Verona due to a bout of malaria.

He taught at Mazza’s institute from 1861 until 1864.

He soon worked out fresh strategies for the missions while back in his native land in 1864.

 

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Above: Portrait of Nicola Mazza (1790 – 1865)

 

He visited St Peter’s Tomb in Rome on 15 September 1864 and it was while reflecting before the Tomb that he came upon the idea of a “Plan for the Rebirth of Africa” which was a project with the slogan “Save Africa through Africa“.

 

Above: St. Peter’s Tomb

 

Four days later, on 19 September, he met with Pope Pius IX to discuss his project.

 

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Above: Pope Pius IX (1792 – 1878)

 

Comboni wanted the European continent and the Universal Church to be more concerned with the African continent.

He carried out appeals throughout Europe from December 1864 to June 1865 for spiritual and material aid for the African missions from people including monarchical families as well as bishops and nobles.

Travelling under an Austrian consular visa, he went to France and Spain before heading north to England and then setting off to Germany and Austria.

The humanitarian “Society of Cologne” became a main supporter of his work.

It was around this time that he launched a magazine – the first in his homeland to delve into the missions for it was designed to be an exclusive magazine for those in the missions.

 

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Above: Cologne Cathedral (Köln Dom)

 

He established a male institute on 1 June 1867 and one for women in 1872 both in Verona: the Istituto delle Missioni per la Nigrizia (since 1894 the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus) and the Istituto delle Pie Madri (later the Comboni Missionary Sisters) on 1 January 1872.

On 7 May 1867, he had an audience with Pope Pius IX and brought with him twelve African girls to meet the Pope.

In late 1867 Comboni opened two branches of the order in Cairo.

 

Comboni was the first to bring women into this form of work in Africa and he founded new missions in El Obeid and Delen amongst other Sudanese cities.

Comboni was well-versed in the Arabic language and also spoke in several African dialects (Dinka, Bari and Nubia) as well as six European languages.

 

Camels in El-Obeid (early 1960s)

 

On 2 April 1868, he was decorated with the Order of the Knight of Italy but he refused this in fidelity to Pius IX.

On 7 July 1968, he left for France where he visited the shrine of La Salette on 26 July before heading to Germany and Austria.

 

Above: La Salette

 

On 20 February 1869 he left Marseilles for Cairo where he opened a third house on 15 March.

 

Among Comboni’s early companions during his early years in Africa was Catarina Zenab, a Dinka who would go on to serve as a missionary in Khartoum later in her life.

 

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Above: Catarina Zenab (1848–1921)

 

On 9 March 1870, he left Cairo for Rome and arrived there on 15 March, where he took part in the First Vatican Council as the theologian of the Bishop of Verona Luigi di Canossa.

He formulated the “Postulatum pro Nigris Africæ Centralis” on 24 June which was a petition for the evangelization of Africa.

This received the signature of 70 bishops.

The First Vatican Council was terminated due to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War and the dissolution of the Papal States before the document could be discussed.

 

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Above: First Vatican Council (1869 – 1870)

 

In mid-1877 he was named as the Vicar Apostolic of Central Africa and received his episcopal consecration as a bishop on 12 August 1877 from Cardinal Alessandro Franchi (1819 – 1878).

 

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Comboni’s episcopal appointment was seen as a confirmation that his ideas and his activities – which some deemed to be foolish – were recognised as an effective means for the proclamation of the Gospel.

 

Above: St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Khartoum

 

In 1877, and again in 1878, there was a drought in the region of the mission while mass starvation ensued soon after.

The local population was halved and the religious personnel and their activities reduced almost to nothing.

 

 

On 27 November 1880, Comboni traveled to the missions in Sudan from Napoli (Naples) for the eighth and final time to act against the slave trade and, though ill, he managed to arrive in Khartoum on 9 August in summer and made a trip to the Nubia mountains.

 

Top: Panorama view of Mergellina Port, Mergellina, Chiaia area, over view of Mount Vesuvius, Second left: Naples Directional Center (Centro Direzionale di Napoli) and Spaccanapoli Street, Second right: Via Toledo Street, Third left: Naples Media Center, Third right: Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino), Bottom: View of Centro direzionale di Napoli, from Naples Railroad Station

Above: Images of Napoli

 

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Above: The Nuba Mountains

 

On 10 October 1881, he died in Khartoum during the cholera epidemic at 10:00 pm in the evening.

He had suffered a high fever since 5 October.

His final words were reported to be:

I am dying, but my work will not die.

 

Pope Leo XIII mourned the loss of the bishop as a “great loss“.

 

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Above: Pope Leo XIII (1810 – 1903)

 

Bishop Antonio Maria Roveggio (1850–1902) served as the order’s superior sometime after Comboni died.

 

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Above: Bishop Antonio Maria Roveggio

 

The male order received the papal decree of praise on 7 June 1895 and full papal approval from Pope Pius X on 19 February 1910.

 

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Above: Pope Pius X (1835 – 1914)

 

As of 2018, the men’s order operates in about 28 countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Brazil, Colombia and the Philippines.

The female order received the decree of praise on 22 February 1897 and papal approval on 10 June 1912, while in 2008 there were 1,529 religious in 192 houses.

That order operates in Europe – in countries such as the United Kingdom, in Africa – in nations such as Cameroon and Mozambique, in the Americas – in countries such as Costa Rica and Ecuador, and in Asia – in countries such as Israel and Jordan.

 

Above: Countries where the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus are active.

 

Above: St. Daniel Comboni Kindergarten in Eritrea

 

On 26 March 1994 the confirmation of Comboni’s life of heroic virtue enabled Pope John Paul II to title him as Venerable.

 

John Paul II in 1985

Above: Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005)

 

The miracle required for Comboni to be beatified was investigated on a diocesan level in São Mateus from 10 December 1990 until 29 June 1992 before it received validation on 30 April 1993.

The miracle was the 25 December 1970 healing of the Afro-Brazilian child Maria Giuseppa Oliveira Paixão who underwent a stomach surgical procedure for an infection that grew worse over time.

But their attention turned to Comboni’s intercession and she was healed the next morning in a case that surprised the doctor.

The seven medical experts approved that science could not explain this cure on 9 June 1994, while six theologians agreed likewise on 22 November 1994, as did the C.C.S. members on 24 January 1995.

 

View of São Mateus

Above: Sao Mateus, Brazil

 

Pope John Paul II confirmed on 6 April 1995 that this healing was indeed a miracle and beatified Comboni in Saint Peter’s Basilica on 17 March 1996.

John Paul II confirmed this miracle on 20 December 2002 and scheduled the date for Comboni’s canonization in a papal consistory held on 20 February 2003.

The pope canonized Comboni in Saint Peter’s Square on 5 October 2003.

 

Above: St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City

 

The miracle in question was the healing of the Muslim mother Lubana Abdel Aziz (b. 1965) who – on 11 November 1997 – was admitted into a Khartoum hospital for a caesarean section.

The hospital was one that the Comboni Missionary Sisters managed.

The infant was born but the mother suffered from repeated bleeding and other serious problems and was on the point of death despite a blood transfusion.

The doctors were pessimistic about her chances but the nuns began a novena to Comboni.

The woman healed, despite the odds, on 13 November and was discharged from the hospital on 18 November.

 

Above: Panorama of Khartoum

 

At the Tesöl Centre in Limone, you can visit Comboni’s birth house, the Chapel (which was later built under the birth house) and the small but interesting Museum of Curiosities.

If you want to deepen your knowledge of Comboni, there is the possibility of visiting the multimedia exhibition and a thematic exhibition.

Or you can simply relax in the special and calm atmosphere present in the park that surrounds the Centre with a marvelous view over Limone and Lake Garda.

 

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Above: Centro Comboniano Il Tesöl

 

In 1979, researchers discovered that people in Limone possess a mutant form of apolipo protein (called Apo A-1 Milano) in their blood, that induced a healthy form of high-density cholesterol, which resulted in a lowered risk of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.

The protein appears to have given residents of the village extreme longevity – a dozen of those living here are over the age of 100 (for c. 1,000 total inhabitants).

The origin of the mutation has been traced back to a couple who lived in Limone in the 17th century.

Research has been ongoing to develop pharmaceutical treatments against heart disease based on mimicking the beneficial effects of the Apolipo A-1 mutation.

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Above: Cartoon representation of the molecular structure of protein registered with 1nfn Code.

 

Apolipo proteins are proteins that bind lipids (oil-soluble substances, such as fat and cholesterol) to form lipoproteins.

They transport lipids (and fat soluble vitamins) in blood, cerebrospinal fluid and lymph.

The lipid components of lipoproteins are insoluble in water.

However, because of their detergent-like (amphipathic) properties, apolipo proteins and other amphipathic molecules (such as phospholipids) can surround the lipids, creating a lipoprotein particle that is itself water-soluble, and can thus be carried through water-based circulation (i.e., blood, lymph).

In addition to stabilizing lipoprotein structure and solubilizing the lipid component, apolipo proteins interact with lipoprotein receptors and lipid transport proteins, thereby participating in lipoprotein uptake and clearance.

They also serve as enzyme cofactors for specific enzymes involved in the metabolism of lipoproteins.

Apolipo proteins are also exploited by hepatitis C virus (HCV) to enable virus entry, assembly, and transmission.

They play a role in viral pathogenesis and viral evasion from neutralizing antibodies.

 

Apolipo protein A-1 Milano (also ETC-216 or MDCO-216) is a naturally occurring mutated variant of the apolipo protein A1 found in human HDL, the lipoprotein particle that carries cholesterol from tissues to the liver and is associated with protection against cardiovascular disease.

Apo A1 Milano was first identified by Dr. Cesare Sirtori in Milano (Milan), who also demonstrated that its presence significantly reduced cardiovascular disease, even though it caused a reduction in HDL levels and an increase in triglyceride levels.

 

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Above: Logo of the University of Milano

 

The Apo A-1 Milano mutation was found by University of Milan researchers after their 1974 investigation of a low HDL / high triglyceride phenotype exhibited by Valerio Dagnoli of Limone.

Limone had only 1,000 inhabitants at the time and when blood tests were run on the entire population of the village, the mutation was found to be present in about 3.5% of the local population.

The mutation was traced to one man, Giovanni Pomarelli, who was born in the village in 1780 and passed it on to his offspring.

 

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Above: Cartoon representation of Apo A-1

 

In the 1990s, researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center showed that injection of a synthetic version of the mutant Apo A-1 into rabbits and mice could reverse vascular plaque buildup.

 

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Above: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles

 

Apo A-I Milano has been shown to reduce atherosclerosis in animal models and in a small phase 2 human trial.

Recombinant adeno-associated virus 8 (AAV8) mediated Apo A-I Milano gene therapy in combination with low-cholesterol diet induces rapid and significant regression of atherosclerosis in mice.

 

The first examination of using the mutant Apo A-1 in humans was conducted through a three way collaboration between the University of Milan and the companies Pharmacia and Upjohn in 1996, focusing on treatment of atherosclerosis.

 

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The Apo A-1 Milano Trial, published in JAMA in 2003, was the first published placebo-controlled, two-dose level trial in humans.

This was a secondary prevention trial in that those included were individuals who presented to a participating hospital with unstable angina and agreed to consent to a rigorous trial, well beyond usual clinical practice testing and treatment, testing whether this HDL protein variant, which was so effective in animals, would also work in humans.

This trial was initiated by Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic after prompting by Roger Newton of Esperion to examine the effects of the mutant protein using intravascular ultrasound imaging.

 

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Esperion provided the protein, code named ETC-216, for the duration of the trial.

 

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Due to its potential efficacy, it was speculated that development of synthetic ApoA-1 Milano might be a key factor in eradicating coronary heart disease.

Esperion Therapeutics, a high tech venture capital start-up, demonstrated efficacy in both animals and humans, spending many millions of dollars over several years to conduct a single human trial which showed impressive and rapid efficacy by IVUS of coronary arteries.

However, over the course of the project they produced only enough Apo A-1 Milano to partially treat 30 out of the 45 people in the randomized trial, giving them one weekly dose each for five weeks.

The results of the trial were published in JAMA (5 November 2003).

 

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Hoping to develop a more effective treatment than their current product Lipitor, Pfizer purchased and internalized Esperion shortly before JAMA published the results of the Apo A-1 Milano trial.

Currently, no drugs based on Apo A-1 Milano are commercially available.

 

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Rights to Apo A-1 Milano were acquired in 2003 by Pfizer.

Clinically known as ETC-216, Pfizer did not move trials forward, probably because the complex protein is very expensive to produce and must be administered intravenously, limiting its application compared to oral medications.

 

Pfizer, after the CETP agent torcetrapib failed in a large human safety trial, decided to exit the cardiovascular market in 2008, though they continue to market Lipitor aggressively.

Esperion, divested by Pfizer in 2008, is back in business and continue to work on HDL mimetic therapies.

The company established an agreement with Trans Gen Rx as a protein source.

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Calgary-based SemBioSys Genetics Inc. was a biotechnology company that was using safflower to develop commercial quantities of Apo A-1 Milano.

On 11 October 2011, SemBioSys Genetics signed a multi-product commercialization and platform collaboration agreement with Tasly Pharmaceuticals of Tianjin (China).

In May 2012, SemBioSys terminated its operations and announced that Tasly had terminated their agreement.

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On 22 December 2009, the Medicines Company announced it had entered into an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with Pfizer Inc. for Apo A-I Milano which it then renamed MDCO-216.

On 12 July 2010, the Medicines Company signed a pharmaceutical development and manufacturing contract with OctoPlus (a Netherlands-based drug delivery and drug development company) to perform process development and clinical manufacturing of MDCO-216.

After a trial study failed to produce significant enough results compared to other drugs being tested, in 2016 the Medicines Company discontinued development of MDCO-216.

 

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Cardigant Medical is a Los Angeles-based biotech company currently working to commercialize Apo A-1 Milano to treat various vascular diseases.

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Above: Logo of Cardigant Medical

 

One man of Limone (Daniele Comboni) spread the word of God to the continent of Africa.

Another man of Limone (Giovanni Pomarelli) left a heritage of health for the entire world to benefit from.

 

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Never underestimate the power of one person to make a difference in the world.

 

The wife and I were on vacation.

She was Bond, James Bond.

 

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Above: Ian Fleming’s original sketch impression of James Bond

 

I felt as helpless as Mr. White, though not tossed into the boot (trunk) of an Aston Martin I was a front seat passenger in a Capri careening through the tunnels of the Strada della Forra, the prisoner of a wife driven by purpose, bound for Limone sul Garda.

 

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Above: Jesper Christensen as Mr. White

 

Quantum of Solace is a 2008 spy film and the 22nd in the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions.

 

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Directed by Marc Forster and written by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, it is a direct sequel to Casino Royale, and the 2nd film to star Daniel Craig as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond.

 

The poster shows Daniel Craig as James Bond, wearing a business suit with a loose tie and holding a gun. Behind him is a silhouette of a woman showing a building with a sign reading "Casino Royale" and a dark grey Aston Martin DBS below the building. At the bottom left of the image is the title "Casino Royale" – both "O"s stand above each other, and below them is a 7 with a trigger and gun barrel, forming Bond's codename: "Agent 007" – and the credits.

 

Moments after the end of Casino Royale, James Bond is driving from Lake Como to Siena, Italy, with the captured Mr. White in the boot of his Aston Martin DBS V12.

 

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Quantum of Solace was shot in six countries.

Malcesine, Limone sul Garda and Tremosine in Italy during March 2008.

Four weeks were scheduled for filming the car chase at Lake Garda and Carrara.

 

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On 19 April, an Aston Martin employee driving a DBS to the set crashed into the lake.

He survived, and was fined £400 for reckless driving.

 

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Another accident occurred on 21 April, and two days later, two stuntmen were seriously injured, with one, Greek stuntman Aris Comninos, having to be put in intensive care.

Filming of the scenes was temporarily halted so that Italian police could investigate the causes of the accidents.

 

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Above: Aris Comninos

 

Stunt co-ordinator Gary Powell said the accidents were a testament to the realism of the action.

Rumours of a “curse” spread among tabloid media, something which deeply offended Craig, who disliked that they compared Comninos’ accident to something like his minor finger injury later on the shoot (also part of the “curse“).

Comninos recovered safely from his injury.

 

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Above: Gary Powell

 

Considering the speed with which my wife likes to drive I wondered whether I would recover from mine.

 

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Where Goethe headed south from Limone to start a new life, we headed north from Limone to soon resume our old lives.

It was summer and it was hot, unbearably hot.

But on this day everything changed.

 

We arrived during a storm.

Though the winds were violent and the sky threatened I was jubliant.

I had found the days insufferable and the nights intolerable.

Being August and high season, everywhere seemed overflowing with everyone.

Even though Limone is a popular tourist destination there were fewer tourists on the streets and in the shops on this day.

 

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In a sense, the present lockdown of Limone (and the rest of Italy) is somewhat reflected in my memories of the town.

Folks huddled indoors, afraid to face the current situation.

 

 

We shopped and ate outside during breaks in the weather.

 

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Our feet found the way to the Museum of Tourism and the Castèl Lemon Grove.

 

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My memory sees white tiles in the pavement and cobblestone leading to the white pillars and walls of the limonaie facing the sun so as to catch life-sustaining, life-affirming rays of the distant star.

 

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The lemon groves stand proudly above the lake shore.

There may have been no more than 100 citrus plants lovingly assembled between stone pillars and beneath wooden frame roofs that could be covered during a storm and left bare during days of sunshine and warmth, but the visitor feels dwarfed and insignificant in an orchard that feels larger than its reality.

 

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I have no memory of whether we visited the town’s fishing museum or olive oil exhibition.

Where the former contains a typical boat with the tools used everyday for fishing by Limone’s forefathers, the latter holds an olive grove with silver leaves upon timeless trees and an ancient mill that coldly presses olives that produce an oil of very high quality.

 

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Our path following led us to the Parish Church of the Holy Benedict built in 1691 on the ruins of a former Roman basilica mentioned in Pope Urbano III’s Papal Bull in 1186.

In the past it was the duty of the church to keep records up to date and so the parish church contains the oldest known record of Limone’s social events.

Holy Services are held daily “where the three men I admire the most, the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost” smile upon this citrus coast amongst masterpieces of ecclesiastical art dating back to the 16th century.

It was here that Carboni was baptized as a boy.

We light a candle in memory of my wife’s beloved grandfather, a prayer for his eternal salvation.

 

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Above: The Parish Church of St. Benedict

 

We stumble upon the Church of St. Peter, the oldest church in Limone, dating back to the 9th century.

On the road to Tremosine on via San Pietro among olive trees, St. Peter is a simple church with a single nave and a white marble stoop.

The eyes and the spirit are drawn to the Church’s beautiful frescoes of the Last Supper and portraits of Saints Peter, Lucia and Zeno.

The simplicity of this small church evokes the essential inspiration of a community once deeply inspired by deep religious sentiment.

Until post-war years the population of Limone used St. Peter’s for penitentiary processions to implore the success of sowing and harvesting their crops, as well as to occasionally beseech immunity from natural disasters, illnesses and epidemics.

I wonder if the present lockdown allows the faithful of Limone to beseech God for deliverance from Covina-19.

The outside of the Church is powerful in its simplicity.

A small portico is inscribed with phrases bearing witness to important events that affected the town deeply, such as the plague of 1630, the defeat of Napoleon, bad olive harvests and seasons of sorrow.

Until the First World War, the portico was attached to a bell tower which was intentionally demolished because it was considered a dangerous landmark for the nearby artillery installations in Crocette.

What remains of this miniature House of God is therefore extremely precious.

St. Peter’s is an artistic, historical and religious relic, bearing truth to the town’s legacy of longevity, that Limone will endure while that which tests the resolve of the town will eventually pass.

 

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Above: The Church of St. Peter

 

Another church, the Church of St. Rocco, situated at the northern end of the town centre, was built during the 16th century by those who survived the Plague and is dedicated to the patron saint believed to have saved the settlement from extinction.

Sadly time has not been gentle to St. Rocco as the Church’s frescoes and tiny tower were seriously damaged during World War I.

Stone steps lead up to the Chapel where faith has not faltered though the Church crumbles.

 

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Above: The Church of San Rocco

 

In the historical town centre stands the former Chapel of St. Charles, built in 1905 by a Limone citizen in memory of her husband.

During WWI, the Chapel was used as a food stuffs cache for the town’s troops.

In 1930, the Chapel’s alter and sacred furnishings were removed and the premises used for civil events.

During the Second World War, the Chapel was again requisitioned for military use.

It now sits in silence, neither sacred or sublime, neither religious or secular.

 

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Above: the former Chapel of San Carlo

 

Limone believes in miracles, in the divine.

In addition to churches and chapels, frescoes and crucifixes, niches, commonly referred to as “capitèi“, testify to the profound faith that endures.

Symbols of faith, icons of hope, images of gratitude, are triumphiantly displayed upon the facades of houses, at crossroads, along the road that connects the village to the countryside and on the paths that climb up towards the mountains that scratch the heavens.

Via Capitelli is typical of this ecclesiastical expression as the population was particularly devoted to the capitèi of the Madonna del Bis on this road, St. Louis on Via Fasse, St. Marcus on Nanzéi and St. John Nepomuceno on the bridge of Via Tamas.

 

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Limone was a town in which I wish we had lingered longer, for days rather than hours.

We strolled between stalls selling nuts and candy, handbags and backpacks, lemons the size of melons on display amongst bottles of limoncello, packages of pasta and flasks of olive oil.

Our kitchen still contains a butter dish, a brightly painted memento of Limone sul Garda.

Temptations were many: caffes and gelaterias and ristorantes offering cucina italiana.

 

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From here the world feels small and I wonder, as I often do, what it would be like to be in Limone walking the early morning streets in an off-season month.

 

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When I consider Limone I think of a place that abides.

A place that awaits my return.

I only need to believe that the virus that despoils Italy will pass.

I only need to believe in miracles.

 

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Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Lonely Planet Italy / Rough Guide Italy / http://www.visitlimonesulgarda.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Humanitarian Adventure

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Tuesday 10 December 2019

There are things in Switzerland (and in our existence) that we simply take for granted:

And the thing about Swiss stereotypes is that some of them are true.

Diplomatic?

Yes.

Efficient?

Absolutely.

Boring?

Only at first glance.

Despite being one of the most visited countries in Europe, Switzerland remains one of the least understood.

It is more than simply the well-ordered land of cheese, chocolate, banks and watches.

It is more than a warm summer mountain holiday upon a cobalt blue lake, more than skiing down the slopes of some vertiginous Alp, more than postcard pristine beauty.

It is easy for the tourist to remain blissfully unaware of Swiss community spirit, that it speaks four official languages, that it possesses stark regional differences from canton to canton, that it has exubrant carnivals, culinary traditions and sophisticated urban centres.

 

Flag of Switzerland

 

With its beautiful lakeside setting, Geneva (Genève) is a cosmopolitan city whose modest size belies its wealth and importance on the world stage.

French-speaking and Calvinistic it is a dynamic centre of business with an outward-looking character tempered by a certain reserve.

Geneva’s major sights are split by the Rhône River that flows into Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) and through the city’s several distinct neighbourhoods.

On the south bank (rive gauche), mainstream shopping districts Rive and Eaux-Vives climb from the water’s edge to Plainpalais and Vieille Ville, while the north bank (rive droite) holds grungy bars and hot clubbing Pâquis, the train station area and some world organizations.

 

A view over Geneva and the lake

 

A little over 1 km north of the train station is the international area, home to dozens of international organizations that are based in Geneva –  everything from the World Council of Churches to Eurovision.

Trains and buses roll up to the Place des Nations.

Gates on the Place des Nations open to the Palais des Nations, now occupied by UNOG, the United Nations Office at Geneva, the European headquarters of the United Nations, accessible only to visitors who sign up for a tour.

The huge monolith just off the square to the west, that looks like a bent playing card on its edge, is WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization), the highrise to the south is ITU (the International Telecommunications Union), just to the east is UNHCR (the United Nations High Commission for Refugees), and so on, and so on, and so on, an infinite combination of letters of the alphabet in an infinite variety of abbreviations and acronyms.

The giant Broken Chair which looms over the square was installed in 1997 for the international conference in Ottawa (Canada’s capital) banning the use of land mines, a graphic symbol of the victims of such weapons.

 

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Geneva is also the birthplace of the International Red Cross / Crescent / Crystal Movement.

And it was the latter, along with the International Museum of the Reformation, that compelled me to visit Geneva.

 

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(For details about the Musée Internationale de la Réforme, please see Canada Slim and the Third Man in my other blog, The Chronicles of Canada Slim.)

 

Genevè, Suisse, mardi le 23 janvier 2018

Housed within the HQ of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Musée International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant Rouge chronicles the history of modern conflict and the role the Red Cross has played in providing aid to combatants and civilians caught up in war and natural disasters.

Enter through a trench in the hillside opposite the public entrance of UNOG and emerge into an enclosed glass courtyard beside a group of bound and blindfolded stone figures.

The stone gathering represents the continual worldwide violation of human rights.

 

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Inside, above the ticket desk, is a quotation in French from Dostoevsky:

Everyone is responsible to everyone else for everything.

 

Portrait by Vasili Perov, 1872

Above: Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881)

 

A free audioguide takes you through the Museum.

 

Twenty-five years ago, Laurent Marti, a former ICRC delegate, had the idea of creating the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum.

 

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Above: Laurent Marti

 

Marti won the wives of US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Gorbachev over to his cause in a bid to obtain the support of their respective countries, together with that of local and international societies and personages and of various multinational companies representing a full range of human activities.

 

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Above: Nancy Reagan (née Davis) (1921 – 2016)

 

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Above: Raisa Gorbacheva (née Titarenko) (1932 – 1999)

 

The goal of the Museum is to emanate a very powerful atmosphere where no one leaves without having been shaken and deeply moved by what they had seen.

Suffering, death, wounds and mutiliations can be followed by a time of healing, restoration, reunification and an opportunity to be happy again, a right that seemed to have been withdrawn.

Of course, the scars remain deep within the human soul, but the hope of restoration and of a return to normalcy is the message of the Museum.

 

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The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is dedicated to preventing and alleviating human suffering in warfare and in emergencies, such as earthquakes, epidemics and floods.

The Movement is composed of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the 188 individual national societies.

Each has its own legal identity and role, but they are all united by seven fundamental principles:

  •  humanity
  •  impartiality
  •  neutrality
  •  independence
  •  voluntary service
  •  unity
  •  universality

The interactive chronology covers one and a half centuries of history, starting with the creation of the Red Cross.

For each year, the events listed include:

  •  armed conflicts which caused the death of more than 10,000 people and/or affected more than one million people
  •  epidemics and disasters that caused the deaths of more than 1,000 people and/or affected more than one million people
  •  significant events in the history of the Movement
  •  cultural and scientific milestones

 

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In 1859 Henri Dunant was travelling on business through northern Italy.

 

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Above: Henri Dunant (1828 – 1910)

 

He found himself close to the Solferino battlefield just after the fighting.

The battle of Solferino was a key episode in the Italian Wars.

 

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With the support of France under Napoleon III, Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, King of Piedmont, endeavoured to unite the different Italian states.

In spring 1859 the Piedmont forces clashed with the Austrian Empire, which had control over Lombardy and Venetia.

On 24 June 1859, the Franco-Piedmontese troops defeated the Austrians at Solferino, in a battle that left more than 40,000 dead and wounded.

Overwhelmed by the sight of thousands of wounded soldiers left without medical care, Dunant organized basic relief with the assistance of the local people.

 

 

On that memorable 24th of June 1859, more than 300,000 men stood facing each other.

The fighting continued for more than 15 hours.

No quarter is given.

It is a sheer butchery, a struggle between savage beasts.

The poor wounded men that were picked up all day long were ghastly pale and exhausted.

Some, who had been the most badly hurt, had a stupified look.

How many brave soldiers, undettered by their first wounds, kept pressing on until a fresh shot brought them to earth.

Men of all nations lay side by side on the flagstone floors of the churches of Castiglione.

The shortage of assistants, orderlies and helpers was cruelly felt.

I sought to organize as best I could relief.

The women of Castiglione, seeing that I made no distinction between nationalities, followed my example.

Siamo tutti fratelli” (we are all brothers), they repeated feelingly.

 

Above: Ossuary of Solferino

 

But why have I told of all these scenes of pain and distress?

Is it not a matter of urgency to press forward to prevent or at least alleviate the horrors of war?

Would it not be possible, in time of peace and quiet, to form relief societies given to the wounded in wartime?

Societies of this kind, once formed and their permanent existence assured, would be always organized and ready for the possibility of war.

Would it not be desirable to formulate some international principle, sanctioned by a Convention inviolate in character, which, once agreed upon and ratified, might constitute the basis for societies for the relief of the wounded?

 

Above: Ossuary of Solferino

 

Back home in Geneva, Dunant wrote A Memory of Solferino.

The book was published in 1862 and was an immediate success.

 

 

In it, Dunant made two proposals:

  • the formation of relief societies which would care for wounded soldiers
  • the establishment of an international convention to guarantee their safety

Those ideas led, the following year, to the foundation of the Red Cross, and ten months later to the first Geneva Convention.

 

 

In 1863, in response to Dunant’s appeal, Gustave Moynier persuaded the Geneva Public Welfare Society to consider the possibility of training groups of volunteer nurses to provide relief for the wounded.

A committee was set up, the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, the future ICRC, was born.

 

Above: Gustave Moynier (1826 – 1910)

 

The need to defend human dignity has been a constant concern throughout history.

From the Code of Hammurabi (1750 BC) to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), texts from all periods and cultures exist to testify to that.

Those texts were frequently written in response to incidents in which human dignity was shown no consideration – slavery, chemical weapons, civilian bombing, concentration camps, atomic bombing, sexual violence, landmines, child soldiers, prisoners with no legal status.

Throughout time mankind has determined:

  • that the strong should not suppress the weak (Code of Hammurabi – Mwaopotamia 1750 BC)

Above: Stele of the Code of Hammurabi

 

  • that peace is possible between warring nations (Treaty of Kadesh, the oldest peace treaty known to man and the first written international treaty –  Egypt 1279 BC)

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Above: Treaty of Kadesh

 

  • that we should be free to practice our own religions (Cyrus Cylinder – Persia 539 BC)

Front view of a barrel-shaped clay cylinder resting on a stand. The cylinder is covered with lines of cuneiform text

Above: Cyrus Cylinder

 

  • that we should not do unto others what we don’t wish done to ourselves (The Analects of Confucius – China 480 BC)

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Above: The Analects

  • that we should live lives of non-violence with respect towards all (The Edicts of Ashoka – India 260 BC)

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Above: The Edicts of Ashoka

 

  • that power should not be used arbitrarily nor imprisonment without just cause (The Magna Carta – England 1215)

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Above: Magna Carta

 

  • that all persons are free and that no one is a slave to another (The Manden Charter – Mali 1222)

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Above: The Manden Charter

 

  • that women and children and the insane have dignity and rights that must be respected (The Viqayet – Muslim Spain 1280)

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  • that mankind has natural and inalienable rights (freedom, equality, justice, community) (Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen – France 1789)

 

  • that the wounded need to be treated regardless of nationality, that all human beings are free and equal in dignity and in rights (Universal Declaration of Human Rights – United Nations 1948)

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The original title of the initial Geneva Convention was the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field.

It had only ten articles and one sole objective:

To limit the suffering caused by war.

Article 7 provided for the creation of the protective emblem of the red cross.

This document laid the foundations of international humanitarian law, marks the start of the humanitarian adventure.

By 2013, 194 nations are party to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949.

(See http://www.icrc.org for the complete list.)

 

The Museum explains how the Geneva Conventions developed from one man’s battlefield encounter.

After Dunant’s publication of A Memory of Solferino in November 1862, Gustave Moynier (1826 – 1910), chairman of the Geneva Public Welfare Society, in response to Dunant’s appeal, persuaded Society members the following February to consider the possibility of training groups of volunteer nurses to provide relief for the war wounded.

An ad hoc committee was set up – the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded.

The future ICRC was born.

 

Above: ICRC Headquarters, Geneva

 

Ambulances and military hospitals shall be recognized as neutral and as such protected and respected by the belligerants as long as they accommodate wounded and sick.” (Article 1)

Inhabitants of the country who bring help to the wounded shall be respected and shall remain free.” (Article 5)

Wounded or sick combatants, to whatever nation they may belong, shall be collected and cared for.” (Article 6)

A distinctive and uniform flag shall be adopted for hospitals, ambulances and evacuation parties.” (Article 7)

A red cross on a white background was adopted in 1863, followed by a red crescent, a red lion and red sun (1929) and a red crystal (2005).

Flag of the Red Cross.svg

Flag of the Red Crescent.svg

Red Lion with Sun.svgFlag of the Red Crystal.svg

 

To protect the victims of conflict, the ICRC has at its disposal several instruments defined by international humanitarian law.

“At all times, parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick.”

“The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack.”

“The parties to the conflict shall endeavour to conclude local agreements for the passage of medical personnel and medical equipment.”

“Civilian hospitals may in no circumstances be the object of attack.”

“It is prohibited to commit any acts of hostility directed against historic monuments, works of art or places of worship.”

“Works or installations containing dangerous forces, namely dams, dykes and nuclear stations shall not be made the object of attack.”

“It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensible to the survival of the civilian population.”

 

Above: The Red Cross in action, 1864

 

The Second World War (1939 – 1945) involved 61 countries in war and caused the death of around 60 million people, more than half of whom were civilians.

In 1945 more than 20 million people had been displaced.

In 1995 the ICRC publicly described its attitude to the Second World War Holocaust as a “moral failure“.

 

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Above: Images of World War II (1939 – 1945)

 

The persecution of the Jews by the Nazis began shortly after Hitler came to power in 1933 and subsequently continued to intensify, culminating in systematic extermination from 1942 onwards.

 

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Above: Auschwitz, Poland, May 1944

 

At the time, the ICRC had no legal instrument to protect civilians.

The 1929 Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War applied only to members of the armed forces.

The organization thus considered itself powerless in the face of the anti-Semitic fury of the Nazi dictatorship.

 

Flag of Germany

 

Thus in October 1942 the Committee refused, in particular, to launch a public appeal on behalf of civilians affected by the conflict.

Although the International Red Cross endeavoured to provide aid for Jewish civilians, it erred on the side of caution.

 

Above: Jewish women, occupied Paris, June 1942

 

It was not until the spring of 1944 that a change of strategy took shape.

As Germany’s war efforts collapsed, ICRC delegates belatedly managed to enter some concentration camps, becoming voluntary hostages in order to prevent the further massacre or forced evacution of the prisoners.

 

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Above: Auschwitz, May 1944

 

The harsh lesson of the Second World War had been learned.

In 1949 the Fourth Geneva Convention was adopted:

It provides protection for civilians during armed conflict.

It was complemented in 1977 by additional protocols which reinforce the protection given to victims of armed conflicts, international or domestic.

In particular, the additional protocols established the distinction between civilians and combatants.

 

In an armed conflict, the ICRC’s mandate is to ensure respect for the Geneva Conventions.

When the ICRC observes serious violations of the Conventions, it points them out to the countries concerned in confidential reports.

However, on occasion, that information has been published in the press:

  • Le Monde during the Algerian War

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Above: Images of the Algerian War (1954 – 1962)

 

  • The Wall Street Journal about Abu Ghraib Prison

Above: Lynndie England with “Gus“, Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq

 

  • The New York Review of Books / Wikileaks about Guantanamo Prison

Above: Guantanamo “Gitmo” Prison, Cuba

 

Such leaks put the ICRC in a difficult position as discretion is a necessary part of its work and its discussions with the authorities.

Its confidentialiy policy actually facilitates access to detainees, wounded people and groups of civilians.

When humanitarian diplomacy fails, the ICRC then resorts to a more open form of communication.

It then issues press releases publicly condemning serious violations of the Conventions.

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In the 1980s the United Nations Security Council set up ad hoc tribunals to judge the crimes committed in former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda.

In 1998 the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established.

It was a permanent institution with the power to open investigations, to prosecute and to try people accused of committing war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.

The ICC began its work in 2005 by opening three investigations into crimes:

  • in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • in Uganda
  • in the Sudan

The existence of a permanent international court gives the world the means of determining facts and of punishing those responsible for the crimes.

It gives victims an opportunity to have their voice heard.

 

Official logo of International Criminal Court Cour pénale internationale  (French)

Above: Logo of the International Criminal Court

 

Poverty, migration, urban violence….

All of them are present-day threats to human dignity.

All over the world, large sections of the population are living in extremely precarious hygenic conditions.

 

Economic changes are forcing more and more people to emigrate.

Those migrants, who frequently have no identity documents, are exploited and ostracized.

In some megacities, whole districts are at the mercy of armed groups which terrorize the inhabitants.

Each of those situations presents a challenge to which a response must be found.

 

Above: Syrian refugees, Ramtha, Jordan, August 2013

 

Since the First World War, the ICRC has had the right to visit prisoners of war and civilian detainees during an international armed conflict.

In other situations, the right to meet prisoners must be negotiated with the authorities.

Visiting prisons, talking to the detainees and making lists of their names are ways of preventing disappearances and ill treatment.

After each prison visit, ICRC delegates write a report.

They must have access to all places of detention and be allowed to repeat their visits as often as necessary.

The visits always follow the same procedure.

Following a meeting with those in charge of the prison, the delegates inspect the premises: cells, dormitories, toilets, the exercise yard, the kitchen and any workshops.

They draw up a list of prisoners and interview them in private without witnesses.

At the end of the visit, the delegates inform those in charge of the prison of their observations.

They then prepare a confidential report for the authorities.

 

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The visitor sees many photographs of prison visits, including those to a German POW camp in Morocco, to French POWs in a German Stalag, political detainees in Chile, detainees in Djibouti….

But it is items from these visits given by prisoners to the ICRC delegates that tell far more emotional stories.

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Some examples:

  • a model village showing ICRC activities in Rwanda
  • a doll figure of a female delegate made in an Argentinian prison
  • a pearl snake made by Ottoman prisoners
  • a necklace with a Red Cross pendant made by a lady prisoner in Lebanon
  • a ciborium (a container for Catholic mass hosts – symbols of the body of Christ) made of bread by Polish prisoners of conscience
  • a bar of soap carved into the shape of a detainee in a cell made by a Burmese artist imprisoned for suspected ties to the opposition party

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An installation in the Museum that followed seemed somewhat incongruous….

Therein the visitor can change and produce large flows of different colours by touching a wall.

The idea is that the larger the number of visitors, the richer the flow of colours, so as to provide an interactive experience that appeals to people’s senses, emotions and feelings, thus all visitors become part of a colourful celebration of human dignity.

Honestly….

This felt more like a gimmick to capture children’s hyperactive attention than an exhibit that strengthens human unity, designed more to entertain than educate.

 

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Human beings are social beings who are defined by their links with others.

When those links are broken, we lose part of our identity and our bearings.

Of the many activities the ICRC performs, the giving and receiving of news and finding one’s loved ones again are understood to be elements of stability that are critical during crisis situations.

 

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This Museum has, like the Reformation Museum in this city, as other museums in other cities and countries I have visited, its own Chamber of Witnesses – video testimonials whose lifelike likenesses are meant to invoke within the voyeur a sense of how we are not unlike those speaking with us electronically.

We see Toshihiko Suzuki, a dentist and specialist in craniofacial anatomy, tell us how he identified victims of the 2011 tsunami.

We learn of the experience of Sami El Haj, an Al Jazeera journalist held in Guantanamo from 2002 to 2008.

We consider the life of Liliose Iraguha, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide.

We marvel at the resilience of human beings by listening to Boris Cyrulnik, a French neuropsychiatrist and ethologist.

 

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During a conflict or a natural disaster, many people are cut off from their families – by capitivity, separation or disappearance.

Tracing one’s loved ones and passing on one’s news become basic needs.

 

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Originally intended for victims of war, the ICRC tracing services subsequently expanded to include persecuted civilians.

More recently, tracing activities have been extended to families who have become separated as a result of natural disasters or migration.

The International Prisoners of War Agency (1914 – 1923) was established by the ICRC, shortly after the start of the First World War – which involved 44 states and their colonies and caused the death of more than 8 million people, 20 million wounded and in the immediate post-war period of epidemics, famine and destitution another 30 million deaths.

Organised in national sections, its archives contain six million index cards that document what happened to two million people: prisoners of war, civilian internees and missing civilians from occupied areas.

The cards contain information about individual detainees. when they were taken captive, where they were held and, if relevant, when they died.

People who were without news of a loved one could present a request to the Agency, which would then send them what information it had.

Today the Agency’s documents are still used to reply to requests from families as well as to enquiries from historians.

And, as far as I could tell, the Agency is now in the Museum.

It contains:

  • 5,119 boxes with 6 million index cards
  • 2,413 files containing information provided by the belligerents
  • 600,000 pages filling 20 linear metres of general files

This location is fitting for it was in the Rath Museum in Geneva where the Agency once was.

In all, more than 3,000 volunteers, most of them women, worked there during the conflict.

During the War, the Agency dispatched 20 million messages between detainees and their families and forwarded nearly 2 million individual parcels as well as several tonnes of collective relief.

The Agency’s role was also to obtain the repatriation of prisoners who had been taken captive in breach of the Geneva Conventions: doctors, nurses, stretcher bearers and military chaplains.

It helped to ensure that the wounded were returned home or interned in neutral countries.

 

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The pacifist writer Romain Rolland was one of the Agency’s first volunteers:

Its peaceful work, its impartial knowledge of the actual facts in the belligerent countries, contribute to modify the hatred which wild stories have exasperated and to reveal what remains of humanity in the most envenomed enemy.

 

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Above: Romain Rolland (1866 – 1944)

 

It was not until the end of the Second World War that Europe realized the extent of the tragedy affecting civilians.

The International Tracing Service (ITS) was then established.

The ITS has files on more than 17 million people: civilians persecuted by the Nazis, displaced persons, children under the age of 18 who had become separated from their families, forced labourers and people held in concentration camps or labour camps.

The ITS was set up in Bad Arolsen, Germany, and has helped millions of people to trace their loved ones.

 

Above: International Tracing Services, Bad Arolsen, Germany

 

Nowadays, the need to trace missing people also extends to the victims of natural disasters and to migrants, using not only index cards, but photo tracing (used to find nearly 20,000 children missing during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda), distributions of name lists (for example, the Angola Gazette – a list of people who went missing during the Angolan Civil War from 1975 to 2002) and the Internet (for example, http://www.familylinks.icrc.org).

 

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Despite all tracing efforts, sometimes missing people do not get found, do not go home.

In that case, receiving confirmation of death puts an end to uncertainty and enables families to begin the process of mourning and to start to rebuild their lives.

The erection of memorials is one way of honouring the dead and of giving them a place of dignity in the collective memory.

 

 

For example, in 1995 the city of Srebrenica was attacked by forces under the command of General Radko Mladic.

 

 

Mladic had the women and children of this refuge of hounded Muslim civilians separated from the men and forced to leave Srebrenica.

The men were hunted down and killed.

More than 8,000 people went missing.

By 2010 only 4,500 victims had been identified and buried.

 

 

When faced with a collective tragedy and without a dead body, families are completely at a loss.

A memorial is sometimes their only means of paying tribute to the dead, of giving them a place in the collective consciousness and of recalling the events that led to those disappearances.

Examples include victims from:

  • the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima

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Above: Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbuko Dome)

 

  • the deportation of Jews from France

 

  • the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia

 

  • the Soviet gulags

Solovetsky Stone

 

  • the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine

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  • the civil war in Peru

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  • the earthquake in Sichuan, China

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  • the 9/11 attack in New York City

 

Communication is often disrupted during a conflict or a natural disaster.

In circumstances like that, receiving news from one’s family is a source of joy and relief.

There are different ways of sending news:

  • Red Cross messages (in use for more than a century)
  • Radio messages
  • Videoconferencing
  • Satellite telephones

 

A Red Cross message is a short personal missive that was first used in the Franco-Prussian War (1870 – 1871).

It is still in use today.

Each year, thousands of messages are distributed in more than 65 countries with the help of the ICRC.

To make sure that they reach the addressees, messengers sometimes travel long distances to extremely remote areas.

The messages themselves are generally very simple.

The main thing is to enable people to pass brief news on to their loved ones – their state of health, their place of shelter or detention.

 

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For example, the Museum shows messages:

  • sent by a French POW to his godmother in Switzerland
  • exchanged by a French POW in Morocco and Algeria and his family in France
  • written by aircraft passengers taken hostage in Jordan in 1970
  • illustrated by children during the Yugoslav conflict in 1994
  • by a Sudanese detainee in Guantanamo
  • from a Greek child refugee following the Cyprus conflict of 1974
  • from a mother to her son in Liberia
  • from a little girl writing to her parents in the Congo
  • written by a woman to her brother in prison in Kirghizstan

 

In Columbia, the radio programme Las voces del secuestro broadcasts family messages to people held hostage in the jungle, enabling more than 18,000 people to send news to their loved ones.

 

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In Bagram Prison in Afghanistan, no family visits are allowed, so in 2008 the ICRC and the American authorities developed a videoconferencing system to enable the detainees to communicate with their loved ones.

In the space of just a few months, 70% of the detainees were able to contact their families.

 

Above: Parwan Detention Facility, Bagram, Afghanistan

 

And finally the Restoring Family Links exhibition concludes with works by Congolese artist Chuck Ledy and Benin artist Romuald Hazouma.

 

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Humanity has progressed by refusing to accept the inevitability of the phenomena that endanger it.

In the face of natural disasters and epidemics, communities take action to prevent the worst, to save lives and to preserve resources.

Another Chamber of Witnesses:

  • Benter Aoko Odhiambo, the head of a Kenyan orphanage and the initiator of a market gardening programme
  • Abul Hasnat, a Bangladeshi school teacher and a Red Crescent volunteer
  • Madeleen Helmer, the Dutch head of the ICRC Climate Centre
  • Jiaqi Kang, a Chinese student in Switzerland

 

After all, prevention concerns us all.

Blast Theory, a group of British artists, designed the game Hurricane to test the effectiveness of natural disaster preparedness activities.

Planting mangroves, constructing high-level shelters, building up reserve stocks of food and organizing evacuation exercises are all part of the game and involve actors such as ICRC delegates, village leaders, experts and volunteers.

As the hurricane strikes, the players have to evacuate the villagers.

At the end of the game tells us how many lives were saved.

 

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Posters are key communication instruments in prevention initiatives.

The link between pictures and text makes the messages easy for everyone to understand.

The Museum’s collection of some 12,000 posters from more than 120 countries tells of the many different activities developed by the ICRC.

Nowadays, as the impact of global warming becomes clearer, the ICRC is increasingly involved in natural disaster preparedness.

 

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The ICRC was very quick to perceive the role that the cinema could play in promoting its activities.

Some films focused on prevention – hygiene, epidemics and accidents.

Others on training volunteers in first aid or life saving.

While preventing illnesses and accidents is ancient history, the management of risks associated with natural disasters is a more recent development.

A workshop at the Haute école d’art et de design (Gèneve) was given a free hand to create new montages using more than 1,000 films from the Museum’s collection.

 

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Above: Haute école d’art et de design, Genève

 

Prevention is first and foremost about saving lives.

A number of different measures can be taken to provide protection: building shelters, installing early warning systems, carrying out evacuation exercises and providing hygiene education.

All these activities mobilize the local communities and the humanitarian organizations.

They sometimes call for substantial investment.

It is easy to raise funds during disasters when emotions are running high.

It is more difficult to raise funds for longer-term work.

Nonetheless, one dollar invested in prevention is two to ten dollars saved in emergency relief and reconstruction work.

 

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All of this is brought into sharp focus by the three “théâtres optiques” (Cyclone, Tsunami and Latrines), created for the Museum by the French artist Pierrick Sorin.

 

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Above: Pierrick Sorin

 

Let’s take, for example, Bangladesh.

 

Flag of Bangladesh

Above: Flag of Bangladesh

 

In 1970, Cyclone Bhola caused one of the worst natural disasters in history.

A 10-metre high wave and winds of 220 km/hour caused the death of 500,000 people here.

A cyclone preparedness programme was then launched, which included an early warning system, the construction of shelters and the training of evacuation volunteers.

 

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In November 2007, Cyclone Sidr, one of the most powerful ever recorded, hit parts of Bengal and Bangladesh, affecting nearly 9 million people and causing vast economic damage.

1.5 million people were evacuated before the Cyclone struck.

Although 3,500 people died, this number of deaths was far below the 1970 disaster.

 

 

Or let’s consider Brazil.

 

Flag of Brazil

Above: Flag of Brazil

 

Infectious diarrhoea can affect people throughout the world.

It is most frequently caused by water that has been contaminated by faeces.

Around 2 million people die from diarrhoea every year, most of them children in developing countries.

In 2008 more than 2 billion individuals were without suitable latrines.

Almost half of them defecated in the open air.

In 1997, the authorities in Salvador de Bahia in Brazil launched a water purification programme in the city.

A university team monitored 2,000 children under the age of 3, most of whome were living in impoverished urban districts.

The results showed that water purification had a direct impact on health:

The overall number of cases of diarrhoea fell by 22% in the city and by 43% in the poorest areas.

 

From the top, clockwise: Pelourinho with the Church of the Third Order of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black People; view of the Lacerda Elevator from the Comércio neighborhood; Barra Lighthouse; the Historic Center seen from the Bay of All Saints; monument to the heroes of the battles of Independence of Bahia and panorama of Ponta de Santo Antônio and the district of Barra.

Above: Images of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

 

The Museum was never designed with the intention of casting blame or lavishing praise upon particular countries or particular individuals, but rather it shows the situations, both general and particular, in which the ICRC functions and to further a better understanding of what they do.

The ICRC aids victims, not on account of their particular nationality or their particular cause, but purely and simply because they are human beings who are suffering and are in need of help.

It strives to assuage all human distress which has no hope of effective aid from other sources.

The ICRC desires to relieve above all that suffering which is brought about by man, brought about by man’s inhumanity to man, and is more painful on that account and more difficult to relieve.

 

The most terrible form of man’s inhumanity to man is war and that is why the idea of the Red Cross was born in the field of battle.

The Red Cross is a third front above and across two belligerent fronts, a third front directed against neither of them but for the benefit of both.

The combatants in this third front are interested only in the suffering of the defenceless human being, irrespective of his nationality, his convictions or his past.

The ICRC fights wherever they can against all inhumanity, against every degradation of the human personality, against all injustice directed against the defenceless.

These neutrals on this humanitarian front are free of the prejudice and hostility which is so natural to men engaged in warfare.

The dominant idea and the essence of the Geneva Convention is equality of treatment for all sick and wounded persons whether they are friends or enemies.

 

It is the fulfilment of the cry of Solferine:

Siamo tutti fratelli.

We are all brothers.

 

 

The Museum is a living embodiment of that humanitarian adventure.

It is an edifice of humanity working for humanity.

And it is good.

 

John Lennon

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Lonely Planet Switzerland / Rough Guide to Switzerland / Red Cross Museum, The Humanitarian Adventure / The International Committee of the Red Cross, Basic Rules of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols / Dr. Marcel Junod, Warrior without Weapons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Slim and the Road to Utopia

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Tuesday 27 August 2019

Sometimes a place defines a person.

Sometimes a person defines a place.

 

 

Take the eminent Canarian author Alberto Vásquez-Figueroa as an example of the first.

 

Álberto Vázquez-Figueroa in Barcelona in 2009

 

Alberto’s grandfather was an architect.

Alberto’s father was born in Guadalajara while Alberto’s grandmother was there.

Alberto’s mother, the daughter of a local farmer, was born on Isla de Lobos, one of the Canary Islands.

 

 

Alberto himself was born on 11 October 1936 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, although he had not yet reached one year old when his family was exiled for political reasons to Spanish Africa, since his father was a Socialist Republican during the Spanish Civil War.

There Alberto spent his childhood.

His father was released, but he was admitted to hospital for several years because of tuberculosis.

While Alberto was in Africa, his mother died.

 

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Alberto’s care was picked up by his uncle, the civil administrator of the military fort in the Spanish Sahara where they lived.

His uncle provided Alberto books to read, especially beloved adventure novels, by authors such as Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness), Herman Melville (Moby Dick) and Jules Verne (Around the World in 80 Days), which would later become Alberto’s preferred genre.

Since his youth, Alberto visited the Sahara and would later describe the culture of the desert region in his writing.

 

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At 16 Alberto returned to Tenerife to study, working as a scuba instructor in the Cruz del Sur Diving School, along with Jacques Cousteau, where he would remain for two years.

Alberto worked on the rescue of bodies in Lake Sanabria after the Vega de Tera Dam burst, destroying the town of Ribadelago.

 

Monumento a las víctimas de la catástrofe de Ribadelago.

Above: Monument to the victims of Ribadelago

 

He attended the studios of the Escuela Oficial de Periodismo de Madrid in a 1962 and worked in the Destino specials.

He was a war correspondent in La Vanguardia, for TVE (Televisión Española) and for the program A toda plana with de la Cuadra Salcedo and Silva.

As a correspondent, he documented revolutionary wars in countries such as Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala.

 

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He later wrote his first novel, Arena y viento (Sand and Wind) and in 1975, he published as many as 14 to 15 novellas such as Ébano.

His other works include Tuareg and El perro as well as the sagas Cienfuegos, Bora Bora, Manaos and Piratas.

 

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Ébano was cinematized in 1979 by director Richard Fleischer and renamed Ashanti.

Ashanti (also called Ashanti, Land of No Mercy) is a 1979 action adventure film.

Despite its impressive cast and setting (on location in the Sahara and in Kenya, Israel and Sicily), it was widely panned by critics upon release.

Michael Caine was reportedly very disappointed with the project and claims it was his third worst film.

Ashanti is an action adventure film, set against the background of modern-day slave trading, with a man who determinedly takes on a perilous journey in order to find his beautiful wife, who has been kidnapped by brutal slave traders.

David and Anansa Linderby (Caine and supermodel Beverley Johnson respectively) are doctors with the World Health Organization (WHO).

On a medical mission carrying out an inoculation programme, they visit a West African village.

While David takes photographs of tribal dancers, Anansa goes swimming alone.

She is attacked and abducted by slave traders led by Suleiman (Peter Ustinov), who mistake her for an Ashanti tribeswoman.

The police can do nothing to find her and David has almost given up hope when he hears rumours that Anansa has been kidnapped by Suleiman to be sold to Arab Prince Hassan (Omar Sharif).

The African authorities deny that the slave trade even exists.

So David must find help in a shadowy world where the rescuers of slaves are just as ruthless as the traders themselves.

As David tracks her across Africa and the Sahara desert, he is helped by a member of the Anti-Slavery League (Rex Harrison), a mercenary helicopter pilot (William Holden) and Malik (Kabir Bedi) a tribesman who is seeking revenge on Suleiman.

 

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Alberto’s novel Tuareg was cinematized in 1984 by director Enzo G. Castellari.

Tuareg is a thriller novel that was his most critically and commercially successful, with global sales in excess of 5,000,000 copies.

It was adapted into a 1984 movie starring Mark Harmon, Tuareg – The Desert Warrior.

This is the first book in the Tuareg trilogy, followed by Los Ojos del Tuareg and El Último Tuareg.

 

Tuareg – The Desert Warrior.jpg

 

One day, two old men and a boy appear in Gacel Shayah’s camp in the Sahara.

He, a noble inmouchar observing the millennial tradition of the desert, shelters travelers.

But he fails to protect them.

People in dusty military uniforms violate the ancient hospitality law.

They kill the boy and take one old man away.

Gasel Shayah remembers the great commandment of the Tuareg people:

Your guest is under your protection.

Therefore, he must seek vengeance.

 

Tuareg novel - bookcover.jpg

 

Alberto’s novel Iguana was cinematized in 1988 by Monte Hellman.

Iguana is a 1988 American adventure drama/thriller film starring Everett McGill in the main role.

The movie is based on the life of a real Irish sailor called Patrick Watkins.

The movie was mainly shot on location in Lanzarote.

 

Iguana dvd cover.jpg

 

The film takes place at the beginning of the 19th century.

Oberlus (Everett McGill), a harpooner on a whaling ship, is regularly subjected to ridicule and abuse by other sailors.

The right half of his face is bizarrely disfigured and covered with hummocky outgrowths, which leads him to being nicknamed Iguana.

One night, after a brutal beating, Oberlus escapes to the uninhabited Hood Island.

He is soon discovered by a team led by Captain Gamboa (Fabio Testi).

Gamboa brutally tortures Oberlus and ties him up for further punishment, but Iguana manages to escape and hides himself in a cave.

The ship leaves the island and Gamboa orders that sailor Sebastian (Michael Madsen) be tied to a post on the coast as punishment for letting Iguana escape.

Oberlus finds Sebastian and proclaims himself “King of Hood Island” and Sebastian his first slave, forcing him to cook his food.

Declaring revenge upon the world, Oberlus enslaves two other sailors thrown ashore after the shipwreck.

He keeps his captives in a cave with a disguised entrance.

After some time, a ship holding Carmen (Maru Valdivieso) and her fiancé Diego (Fernando De Huang), is moored near the island.

Oberlus takes them prisoner.

Oberlus kills Diego and makes Carmen his concubine.

The captain of the ship, assuming Carmen and Diego to have died in the storm, does not look for them, but sails away.

One day, Oberlus notices the arrival of his former whaling ship.

At night, he climbs on board, kills two sailors on the deck, takes Gamboa prisoner, and sets the ship alight, having previously locked the hull.

Gamboa fights Oberlus, but is killed by him.

Resigned to her fate, Carmen tells Oberlus that she is pregnant with his child.

Months later, the captain of the ship Carmen and Diego arrived on, returns with a group of armed sailors.

They begin their search and Oberlus has to flee to the other end of the island with pregnant Carmen and his surviving prisoners.

Oberlus plans to sail away with Carmen on the boat.

Carmen gives birth, but Oberlus takes the child, claiming that he will allow him to suffer.

With the child in his arms, he enters the sea, intending to drown himself and the child.

 

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Alberto’s novel Garoé (the name of a sacred tree in the Canary Islands) won the 2010 Historical Novel Prize Alfonso X El Sabio, valued at €100,000.

He has also published an autobiography entitled Anaconda.

He is also a screenwriter and film director and has made such films as Oro rojo (Red Gold).

 

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Alberto currently resides between an attic apartment in the Madrid neighbourhood of Argüelles and a home on Lanzarote.

I am not sure if that home is in the village of Haría in the north of the island of Lanzarote, but I suspect it might be, for Alberto once described Haría as the most beautiful village in the world.

Although this description is a tad exaggerated, Haría really does have a pretty bucolic setting, in a palm-filled valley punctuated by splashes of brilliant colour from bougainvillea and poinsetta plants.

 

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But we were not searching for Alberto and had we passed him on the streets we would not have recognized him.

Instead we were looking for a local legend, Lanzarote’s favourite son, César Manrique.

My wife and I spent our mini-vacation tracking down buildings across the Island of Lanzarote that César designed.

We hoped to understand why this place and this man remain inseparably intertwined in the hearts and minds of those who come here and those who knew him.

César Manrique defined Lanzarote.

To understand César Manrique is to understand Lanzarote.

We came to learn.

We began in Haría where his story ends.

 

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Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain,  Monday 3 December 2018

Much like César, our first discovery of Lanzarote was Arrecife.

For us it was the international airport north of Arrecife the day previously.

 

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On this day we drove our rented car, from our hotel in Costa Teguise (See Canada Slim and the Royal Retreat of this blog.), past an aquapark and golf grounds, through the town of Tahiche (more on this town in a future post), through Nazaret and Teguise (See Canada Slim and the Pirates of Teguise of this blog.), through Los Valles and past a windpark to arrive at Haría.

 

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(Los Valles, a quiet agricultural hamlet between Teguise and Haría, is situated in a valley at the foot of the Famara Massif.

Los Valles was founded by refugees from the village of Santa Catalina, which has been destroyed during the eruptions of 1730 – 1736 of Mount Timanfaya.

 

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The pretty, white village church of Ermita de Santa Cantalina stands at the bottom of the valley on the side of the highway.

 

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Immediately after you pass the restored Casa de los Perazas, one of the oldest buildings on Lanzarote.

 

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The road begins to climb steeply passing the Mirador Los Valles.)

 

César Manrique Cabrera was born in Arrecife on 24 April 1919, the son of Francisca and Gumersindo Manrique.

César’s father was a food merchant and his grandfather a notary public.

César preceded his twin sister Ampara by just a few minutes.

He had another sister and a brother.

Gumersindo came from Fuerteventura and emigrated to Lanzarote.

The Manriques were a typical middle class family, without financial burdens.

In 1934, Gumersindo bought property in Caleta de Famara and built a house next to the ocean.

This house left a visible impression on César that lasted his lifetime.

 

 

Ute and I on our first day spent a few hours on Famara Beach and like César did we remember it with joy:

My greatest happiness is to recall a happy childhood, five-month summer vacations in Caleta and Famara Beach with its eight kilometres of clean and fine sand framed by cliffs of more than 400 metres high that reflected on the beach like a mirror.

That image has been engraved in my soul as something of extraordinary beauty that I will never forget in all of my life.

 

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César would fight in the Spanish Civil War as a volunteer on dictator Franco’s side.

His experience of the War was atrocious and he refused to talk about it.

In the summer of 1939, once the War was over, César returned to Arrecife, still wearing his military uniform.

After greeting his family, he went up on the flat roof, took off his clothes, angrily stepped over them, sprayed them with petroleum and burned them.

 

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César attended the University of La Laguna to study technical architecture, which he would abandon after two years.

In 1945 he moved to Madrid and studied art at the Academia de Bellas Artas de San Fernando where he graduated as a teacher of art.

 

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In 1953, César began painting abstracts, which in Franco’s Spain was tantamount to treason, and one year later he exhibited his works alongside those of his friends Manuel Manpaso and Luis Féito.

By the late fifties César had made a name for himself in Madrid.

There followed exhibitions in major cities of Europe, Japan and America, which gave him international renown.

 

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In the fall of 1964, following the advice of his cousin Manuel Manrique, a New York psychoanalyst and writer, César lived in New York City until 1966.

He was the guest of Waldo Diaz-Balart, a Cuban painter, who lived in the Lower East Side, at a time when this was a neighbourhood of artists, journalists and bohemians.

Through César’s cousin Manuel’s friendship with the Director of the Institute of International Education, which was sponsored by Nelson Rockefeller, a generous grant allowed César to rent his own studio and produce a number of paintings which he exhibited with success in the prestigious New York gallery of Catherine Viviano.

 

Clockwise, from top: Midtown Manhattan, Times Square, the Unisphere, the Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan with One World Trade Center, Central Park, the headquarters of the United Nations, and the Statue of Liberty

 

While in New York, he wrote his friend Pepe Dámaso:

More than ever I feel true nostalgia for the real meaning of things.

For the pureness of the people.

For the bareness of my landscape and for my friends.

My last conclusion is that Man in New York is like a rat.

Man was not created for this artificiality.

There is an imperative need to go back to the soil.

Feel it.

Smell it.

That’s what I feel.”

 

 

In his unpublished diary, César wrote of his homesickness for Lanzarote.

At the time he was still undecided as to where to set up his permanent studio.

In 1968, César travelled straight from New York City to Lanzarote, which he found exactly as he had left it in 1945.

He felt Lanzarote needed him.

He made himself the Island’s champion.

 

 

When I returned from New York, I came with the intention of turning my native island into one of the most beautiful places on the planet, due to the endless possibilities that Lanzarote had to offer.

 

 

The Canarian Island was then just beginning to develop a tourism industry, but César promoted a model of sustainability in an attempt to protect Lanzarote’s natural and cultural heritage.

This Manrique model was a determining factor in Lanzarote being declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993.

 

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In parallel with his commitment to the Island, César opened his creative work up to other forms of artistic expression.

He developed a new aesthetic ideology, dominated by art-nature / nature-art.

He began a dialogue of respect for the natural surroundings in which  values of local traditions blended harmoniously with modern designs.

Well versed in many forms of creative expression, a very real desire for integration with the surrounding natural landscape underlies César’s body of artistic work as a whole.

 

 

One of the fundamental preoccupations which has guided my artistic work has been to try to achieve harmonious integration of the forms and ideas of painting, sculpture and spaces into nature.

I believe that this way, of integrating the greatest possible number of artistic elements – colour, texture, dimension, ambience, proportion – leads to a greater aesthetic enjoyment and quality of life.

It is necessary to create and act in freedom, to break with formulae and extend the concept of art to everyday human life, to create non-hostile spaces modelled on the integration of art into nature and nature into art.

 

 

That César’s ideas were carried out on Lanzarote is all thanks to the man’s tireless energy, persistence, immense abilities and international fame.

Without César Manrique, Lanzarote would scarcely be what it is today.

It is his influence and his work that have shaped the Island.

César shaped planning policy on the whole island and his influence can be seen everywhere.

He began with a campaign to preserve traditional building methods and a ban on roadside hoardings.

He convinced the authorities to impose a universal ban on advertising and ensure that telephone and high voltage cables were laid underground.

A multifaceted artist, César turned his flair and vision to a broad range of projects, with the whole of Lanzarote becoming his canvas.

César was a painter, sculptor, architect, ecologist, monument preserver, construction advisor, urban development planner, landscape and garden designer.

 

 

César’s work is full of vitality, colour and light.

There is nothing gloomy in either his paintings or sculptures or in the buildings he designed.

 

 

Together with his friend from his youth, José Ramirez Cerdá, who was president of the Cabildo Insular (island government), César skillfully put his architectural projects into operation.

Luis Morales, an employee of the Cabildo, was a sympathetic partner in all this.

As a practical builder, Morales had the skills to execute Manrique’s plans.

 

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Above: Flag of Lanzarote

 

César encouraged the traditional cubic form of architecture.

A house is capable of growth.

The Lanzarotenos start with one or two rooms.

As a family grows, they add cubes of one or two storeys, arranged around a central courtyard and the water tank.

 

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César’s idea was harmony with nature and the continuation of natural processes.

He wanted to preserve Lanzarote tradition and achieve a landscape-related architecture in proportion to the natural surroundings.

He believed in a humane architecture where nature should be spared and not choked with buildings.

Tourism threatened to sweep away everything before it, but César’s ceaseless opposition to such unchecked urban sprawl touched a nerve with Lanzarote locals and led to the creation of an environmental group known as El Guincho, which has had some success in revealing – and at times reversing – abuses by developers.

 

 

As we drove through villages across the Island, we could see how traditional stylistic features still remain.

The standard whitewashed houses are adorned with green-painted doors, window shutters and strange onion-shaped chimney pots.

The entire Island is a testimony to César’s influence and ever-enduring spirit.

 

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The awareness of the miracle of life and its brevity have made me see clearly that we are impoverished by the tragic sentiment of our existence.

The only important reality is the great mystery of life and of man with his inexhaustible imagination and his infinite ways of acting.

We must observe and learn from the energies of life.

 

 

Those who knew César only superficially ignored the streak of puritanism that ruled his conduct.

He was a frugal man.

He didn’t drink or smoke or allow others to smoke next to him.

He regularly went to bed very early and got up at dawn and began work in his studio very early.

 

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In all César carried out seven major projects on the Island and numerous others elsewhere in the archipelago and beyond.

At the time of his death, he had several more in the works.

It was the buildings that my wife and I were determined to visit on our five-day sojourn on Lanzarote.

We wanted to see how César’s life-affirming architecture relates to the Lanzarote landscape.

We were confused by descriptions that suggested that César’s buildings were generous but at the same time deeply modest.

Guidebooks wrote that César, with great aesthetic powers and unerring taste, had created places for the muses, of contemplation, of meditation, which radiate joy and tranquillity, places endowed with humanity.

It was written that César had striven to discover the beautiful and make it visible to everyone, but not simply beauty for beauty’s sake, but a unity of truth and intrinsic originality.

We wanted to see this for ourselves.

 

180° panorama photo taken from Mirador del Río showing La Graciosa

 

To speak of harmony with nature we need to speak of the landscape of Lanzarote.

On arriving in Lanzarote one feels transported in time, whisked back to the beginnings of the world, a fresh, clean world, in which the Traveller himself is the hero of discovery.

Here are seas of lava, enchanted grottos, columns of steam seeping from the bowels of the planet, magnificent multicoloured stone walls, threatening volcanoes, waves that furiously smash upon tortured cliffs that loom like giants frozen for all time in their march to the sea and eternally punished for such audacity, lurking lagoons that appear suddenly among the rocks, pockets scooped from deadly lava where livelihood-sustaining vines thrive to produce unsurpassable wine, golden beaches of skin-caressing sands, transparent blue waters….

Another world, another time, a unique place.

Here are peaceful, flower-bedecked whitewashed villages and a heritage of hardy people who overcame, will always overcome, the desolation that civilization commits and the fury of nature defied.

From lava and ash, drops of dew defiantly defended have been clawed from nature’s clutches and cultivated.

Yet these sturdy island warriors are kind, hospitable people who shelter guests in comfort and compassion.

Civilization’s constants are also found on Lanzarote, but they blend rather than blind the visitor to the natural delights of the Island.

 

 

By far the most beautiful place in the archipelago, Haíra lies within a sea of palm trees and has the charm of a small sheltered oasis.

Haría is a place to relax, a Utopia where the locals set the tone.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, locals traditionally planted a palm tree to celebrate a birth (two for a boy, one for a girl), thus resulting in today’s tourist viewing a palm-filled valley upon a barren Island.

 

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Haría has many positive qualities: magnificent flora, an abundance of trees.

The mind can manage this place so peaceful, so tranquil, as the body sits comfortably under wide spreading canopies of leaves.

No one, except children in haste, runs in Haría.

One strolls here.

The soul quietly smiles at the serenity.

 

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The central pedestrian avenue, Plaza León y Castillo, is shaded by lush leafy laurel and eucalyptus trees and cast-iron lanterns above benches where children play and seniors meet watching tourists gorge themselves at the Plaza’s open-air restaurant.

This is also the site of a superb Satuday morning craft and produce market.

 

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From the town hall up the street about 100 metres, the Traveller comes to the municipal arts and crafts centre, the Taller de Artesania Municipal.

Handicrafts are available throughout the week at the Taller de Artesania Reinaldo Dorta Déniz (to give its full name) on Calle Barranco de Tenesia, a town hall-backed craft workshop where local artists produce macramé, silverware, ceramics, dollmaking, embroidery and some charming pieces made of palm leaves and reeds, where one can watch the crafters at work before buying.

It is open Tuesday to Sunday 1000 – 1330 and 1600 – 1900, Monday only 1000 to 1330.

 

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The Mercado Municipal de Abastos, adjacent to the arts and crafts centre, is a small market here with a health-conscious attitude, with fruit, vegetable, meat and fish counters.

There is also a food stall here where the locals are tempted with tapas.

It is open Monday to Saturday 0900 – 1400.

 

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Haría does not boast any monuments of particular historical or architectural importance, for the history of this municipality is of little relevance.

Theirs is a past marked by poverty, foreign invasions and mass emigrations.

A 1587 account of the neighbourhood mentions a fountain and 100 people, a time when it was the only village on the Island besides the capital of Teguise.

In 1590, there were no more than 1,000 people on the Island, of which 250 were military, as well as 40 horses.

Population scarcity was due to three raids carried out for 16 years by Moorish and Turkish pirates.

One of the most devasting pirate attacks was that of the troops of Morato Arráez, who, in August 1586, burned down all the palm trees.

Fortunately they grew back again.

 

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What is immediately outstanding is the good taste of the town’s buildings and the way they blend into the landscape.

Some stately Andalusian-style houses date back to the 19th century when Haría at times played an important role in island politics.

 

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At the far end of the Plaza Leon y Castillo stands the modern parish church of Our Lady of the Incarnation.

The church was built in 1619 although it has suffered numerous setbacks over time.

The most significant was the storm of 1956, which left only the tower standing.

Inside the church five fine lovingly-carved arches support the ceiling.

 

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In front of the church is the La Tegala Cultural Centre, a more than 100-year-old house which has already served as a barracks, a shop and a workshop.

 

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A visit to the Diocese of the Canaries’ Museum of Popular Sacred Art in Plaza León y Castillo is recommended for the abundance of wonderful works springing from the imagination of the people of Lanzarote.

 

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At the Plaza de la Constitución, the small square next to the Plaza Leon y Castillo, stands the classical town hall also containing the local police station.

 

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Around the corner is the beautiful city library with its rich selection of Canarian historical and cultural materials.

 

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On the square there is a small rest area with benches, above the large cistern Aljibe which has been converted into a meeting and exhibition hall.

 

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Since the advent of tourism in the early 1980s Haría has flourished, but the tourists come not  only for the celebrated beauty of the town or for the Sacred Art Museum or for the handicraft workshops, but they come to see the Casa Museo César Manrique on Calle Elvira Sanchez.

 

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But before we remember the dead, let us honour the living while we can.

 

Behind the Museum one can, if lucky, witness an artist at work in a garage.

That craftsman is Don Eulogio Concepción Perdomo, signposted as “Cesteria“.

This man, the only and last basket weaver on the Island, is now over 80.

In patient manual labour Perdomo makes, from the strong fronds of Canarian date palms, stable baskets of various sizes and the famous Lanzarote conical-shaped hats.

We witness him making a small fruit basket, which takes more than an hour to produce, costs about €20.

I call his name and shake his hand.

Does he know of his fame?

Does he understand just how important he is?

 

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A palm-fringed property was the final home of Lanzarote’s favourite son and has been opened as a shrine to his memory.

This is a house frozen in time, complete with César’s clothes in the closet and personal art collection adorning the walls.

It is an intimate and personal view of César in his domestic surroundings.

It is a strikingly beautiful home situated in a lush palm grove in a charming village that is itself a showcase of Lanzarote’s traditional lifestyle.

This relatively new attraction of Haría, César’s last home, was opened in the summer of 2013.

 

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Surrounded by date palms and tucked away and back from the street, César’s home is a pleasure to stroll through.

The entrance fee is steep but the Museum is well laid out.

Rarely does one experience such harmonious living space with such a feel-good factor.

Within this spacious property, within the context of the comfortable and tasteful decor are many personal items, including painting items and incomplete works.

 

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The living room with a large fireplace and heavy wooden ceiling, the light-flooded dining room, the bedroom with high panelled ceiling, and, as always with César, an extravagant bathroom that opens with glass fronts to the outside, César designed his home with much love, a house that was far from completion when he died.

The Casa Museo César Manrique is open every day from 1030 to 1800 (last entry 1730).

 

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It is in Haría where César was lain to rest, when at the age of 73, still in good health and full of vitality and the joy of living, he was killed in an automobile accident on 25 September 1992, next to the present site of his Fundacion.

The irony of fate that he would meet his death in a car accident is rich as he loathed the massive amount of vehicles.

 

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Above: Painted BMW from 1990 Art Basel exhibition, Casa Museo César Manrique, Haría, Lanzarote

 

César’s final resting place in Haría’s cemetery is located at the exit to Arrieta atop a low hill.

His simple grave is located on the left in front of the small chapel.

César’s differs fundamentally from the other graves which are made of stone slabs and crosses.

His is a flat oval bordered by lava stones under a palm tree and adorned with succulents and cacti.

The carving “C. Manrique 1919 – 92” testifies that here lies Lanzarote’s loyal son.

From the forecourt of the cemetery there is a beautiful view of the valley below.

 

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In retracing his life in reverse chronology, I am reminded of a text he wrote to describe himself and his view of life:

I have never followed the signs indicating the road to Utopia.

Utopia, I do presently believe, is an inner path.

My enthusiasm, in any case, is the sole force that can guide me approximately.

 

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Starting from César’s endpoint is appropriate.

For it is in Haría we view not the celebrity César, not the artist César, but the man César, a man as common as we all are, mortal and preoccupied with all the minutae that comprise a life lived daily.

 

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To fully appreciate César’s impact on the Island one must journey out of Haría, away from a traditional Lanzarote, to a Lanzarote of the future built upon five volcanic bubbles of a lava flow 6km north of Arrecife, César’s birthplace.

The Taro de Tahíche is a dormant remnant of the 1730 eruption of the volcano Timanfaya on the northwest corner of the Island, and it is upon this that the Fundación César Manrique sits.

 

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Image result for fundacion cesar manrique

 

From the Fundación and the overview of all that César Manrique was and did, the Traveller is encouraged to explore Lanzarote through César’s eyes and creations:

  • the Jameos del Agua

  • the Monumento al Campesino

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  • the Restaurante El Diablo

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  • the Mirador del Río

  • the Castillo San José

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  • the Jardín de Cactus

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It is at the Fundación and at the aforementioned half-dozen Manrique creations that the Traveller senses how César’s life-affirming architecture relates to the Lanzarote landscape:

Generous and yet deeply modest.

With great aesthic imagination and impeccable taste César created monuments for muses, cathedrals of contemplation, monoliths of meditation, jubilees of joy, temples of tranquillity, havens of humanity.

He sought what was beautiful and brought to this beauty his strength of purpose and crystalline originality.

In Lanzarote posts to come his creations and the Island that inspired them will be patiently revealed.

I hope that you will enjoy learning of them as I shall enjoy the experience of sharing them with you.

 

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Above: Undiscovered Planets, César Manrique

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Fernando Gómez Aguilera, César Manrique in His Own Words / Wolfgang Borsich, Lanzarote and César Manrique: Seven Buildings / Lucy Corne and Josephine Quintero, Lonely Planet Canary Islands / Jorge Echenique and Andrés Murillo, Lanzarote / Eberhard Fohrer, Müller Lanzarote / Raimundo Rodriguez, Lanzarote

 

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Canada Slim and the Italian Twilight

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Tuesday 23 July 2019

There are advantages and disadvantages to everything.

 

In less than a fortnight I shall board a train to Romanshorn, followed by a ferry across the Lake of Constance (Bodensee) to Friedrichshafen then a train to Lindau, another to Kaufbeuren, another to Füssen and finally a bus to Schwangau to join my wife for a long weekend break.

 

Skyline of Schwangau

Above: Schwangau

 

This entails taking the second earliest departing train at 05:55 from our local station and a journey of five and a half hours to be reunited with the wife on holiday for her birthday at a spa resort in the Allgäu region of Bavaria.

I do not enjoy spas, wellness centres, health farms, but I do enjoy my wife’s companionship.

 

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The things we do for love.

 

It is this romantic compulsion, this sweet surrender of one’s will for the beautiful harmony found with another person that makes me recall some compromises I have made for my better half on some journeys we have made together.

Unlike my wife whose ambition is fixed once she has determined to do something, I rarely kick when her female perogative decides that what I planned will now not happen.

I have wanted to climb the Tour Eiffel in Paris, drive to Roscommon in Ireland, and stop more often en route from Freiburg im Breisgau to Bretagne, but her jaw was set, her foot was put down, her nerve defiant.

Ultimately life somehow went on without the tower ascent, the Irish detour or the frequent French stops, but my childish petulence of wishes denied is still remembered.

Such pettiness a husband can harbour!

 

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There was another such moment last year on our northern Italian vacation….

 

Highway 45 between Gardone Riviera and Limone sul Garda, 6 August 2018

Barely 3 km east of Gardone, the road passes through the twin comune of Toscolano-Maderno, which straddles the delta of the Toscolano River.

Toscolano is predominantly an industrial centre while Maderno is exclusively a tourist centre, stretching in a picturesque gulf with a wonderful promenade among villas and gardens and a decent beach.

 

Above: Toscolano – Maderno

 

According to a legend, the ancient, mysterious town of Benaco, sunk into Lake Garda owing to an earthquake in 243, was built near Toscolano.

A memorial tablet on the bell tower of Chiesa San Andrea (St. Andrew’s Church) in Maderno bears a dedication of the Benacensi to Marcus Aurelius.

 

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The Orto Botanico “G.E. Ghirardi” is a botanical garden operated by the University of Milan, and located on via Religione, Toscolano-Maderno.

The garden was established in 1964 as the Stazione Agricola Sperimentale Mimosa under the direction of Professor Giordano Emilio Ghirardi.

In 1991 it became part of the University of Milan, and today primarily cultivates plants of interest for medicine and pharmaceutics, but also supports research in transgenic plants, rice, etc.

Collections include Camptotheca acuminata, Eschscholzia, Nicotiana, Nigella, Scutellaria, and Solanaceae.

 

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A car ferry crosses from here to Torri del Benaco on the eastern shore of Lake Garda.

 

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The valley behind the comune has a tradition of paper-making dating from the 4th century.

Following the riverside road up into this beautiful, wooded valley brings the traveller past many disused paper mills to the Fondazione Valle delle Cartierie, with a well-presented museum offering an insight into the processes and importance of the industry.

 

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Toscolano-Maderno is a Shangri-la for shady walks or sumptious picnics, but this day we have no time for a stroll nor food in the car for a sit-down meal.

We are on the way to Riva del Garda, our next night’s stop, the weather is sweltering and all we dream about is the AC promised at the Hotel ahead.

We left this morning after two nights in Sirmione, spent much of the day exploring Gardone Riviera and still had some distance to travel.

I was complacent, quiet and uncomplaining.

 

 

We arrived at Gargnano, said to be the prettiest village on Lake Garda.

Traffic ran above and inland from the town, leaving old Gargnano mostly noise-free.

The narrow difficult road north of town means tour buses don’t bother trying to reach Gargnano.

It is more workman’s base than tourist resort.

 

Skyline of Gargnano

Above: Gargnano

 

Nonetheless Gargnano has a few claims to fame:

 

The naval operations on Lake Garda in 1866 during the Third Italian War of Independence (20 June – 12 August 1866) consisted of a series of clashes between flotillas of the Kingdom of Italy and the Austrian Empire between 25 June and 25 July that year, as they attempted to secure dominance of the lake.

The Austrian fleet, based on the eastern bank of the lake, was larger, more modern and better-armed than their Italian counterpart, and successfully maintained control of the waters, hindering the movement of Italian troops.

 

Above: The Austrian Steamer Hess

 

At the outset of the war, the border between Austria and Italy ran down the middle of the lake.

The Brescia region to the west lay within Italy while Verona and the lands east of the lake were Austrian.

 

 

Austria controlled Riva del Garda at the northern tip of the lake, as well as the important fortress of Peschiera del Garda on the west bank of the River Mincio at its southern end.

Peschiera was part of the so-called ‘Quadrilateral‘ of strong core Austrian defences, leaving the exposed eastern shore of Lake Garda an area of potential weakness, vulnerable to Italian infiltration.

This might have involved a strike from the north end of the Lake up the valley of the Chiese River to threaten Trento and cut off the supply lines of the Austrian forces in the Veneto.

It might also have involved a landing of forces behind Peschiera to threaten Verona.

 

Above: Peschiera

 

On the Italian side, the buildup of Austrian naval strength caused concerns about a possible Austrian attack across the lake towards Brescia.

At the start of hostilities of 25 June, the Austrians immediately sailed out to threaten Salò and prevent any movement of Italian troops.

On 30 June, the Austrian ships bombarded the railway station at Desenzano, a supply and communications point for the Italian Volunteer Corps of Giuseppe Garibaldi, but caused only minor damage.

 

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Above: Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807 – 1882)

 

More substantial action took place on 2 July, at 5 am, when four Austrian gunboats, including the Hess and Franz Joseph, bombarded the centre of Gargnano, where there was a strong concentration of Garibaldi’s forces.

The bombardment caused extensive damage to homes, one dead and eight wounded among the defending volunteers of the 2nd Regiment.

 

 

The Austrian flotilla was eventually compelled to withdraw under fire from an Italian battery commanded by Captain Achille Afan de Rivera.

 

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Above: Captain Rivera (1842 – 1904)

 

Other skirmishes took place on the lake every few days.

On 6 July, Italian volunteers forces, equipped with nine long-range guns borrowed from a coastal battery at Maderno, ambushed the Austrian gunboat Wildfang at Gargagno.

The gunboat was hit twice, for no losses for Garibaldi’s army.

 

At the same time, the Italian flotilla sailed out from Salo to chase the armoured gunboat Wespe, on patrol off Maderno.

The Austrian vessel managed to disangage after receiving support from Speiteufel and Scharfschütze.

Italian sources claim that the Wespe was forced to seek shelter at Malcesine.

 

Skyline of Malcesine

Above: Malcesine

 

The next significant combat occurred on 19 July when the Italian paddle steamer Benaco head out from Salo for Gargnano towing the sailboat Poeta, both ships carrying reinforcement troops and loaded with supplies for the volunteers in the mountains of Valvestino and Tremosine.

The Benaco was suddenly attacked by two Austrian gunboats, the Wildfang and Schwarzschűtze, which forced it in to shore near Gargnano, where most of the crew, troops and supplies were landed during the night.

 

The next morning Austrian whalerboats were able to capture the abandoned Benaco, still with a small gun and some rifle ammunition in her holds, and tow it away as a prize to Peschiera.

One of the whalerboats capsized under Italian fire, but was eventually recovered by the Austrian flotilla.

Three Austrian sailors were wounded, while heavy shelling on Gargnano killed two Italian volunteers.

The Poeta managed to sail away, only to sink shortly after off San Carlo.

 

A second convoy from Salo, consisting in another sailboat escorted by the Italian flotilla, was forced back two days later by the Austrian gunboats Speiteufel, Uskoke and Wespe.

The Benaco was handed back to the Italian government at the end of the hostilities.

 

Flag of Italy

Above: Flag of the Kingdom of Italy (1861 – 1946)

 

The final action of the war took place at the north end of the Lake.

After skirmishes on the Lake on 24 July, Manfroni learned that the Austrian army had abandoned Riva del Garda, which was one of his key supply points.

To prevent the town falling to Garibaldi, he steamed north and occupied the fortifications in the town with his marines, and on 25 July his forces were able to hold off Garibaldi’s volunteers until nightfall.

 

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Above: Moritz Manfroni von Montfort (1832 – 1889)

 

At 10 p.m. the Hess arrived with a telegram confirming that a ceasefire had been declared between Austria and Italy.

 

Flag of Austria

Above: Flag of the Austrian (Habsburg) Empire (1804 – 1867)

 

Giovanni Beatrice known as Zanzanù (1576 – 1617) was an Italian bandit of the Republic of Venice .

He was one of the most heinous bandits of the Serenissima responsible, with his band, between 1602 and 1617, of about 200 murders, according to the testimony of the bandit and assassin Alessandro Remer of Malcesine , who was hired in 1609 by a group of merchants from Desenzano del Garda to exterminate the Zannoni band.

From the 22 sentences of bans pronounced by the Venetian magistrates against Beatrice, from 1605 to 1616, the murders clearly attributed to him did not reach 10 and those that were committed in the years 1605 – 1609 were against those who had killed his father.

This is the image that emerges from the judicial sources that testify both the numerous sentences imposed against him, and the activity of the ruthless bounty hunters aiming to obtain prizes and benefits offered by the Republic of Venice in exchange for his killing.

 

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Above: Giovanni Beatrice (aka Zanzanù)

 

In fact, a more accurate examination of the same sources allows us to outline the figure of a man who became an outlaw to defend his honor and that of his family.

A bandit who soon became legendary for the abuses and injustices that were committed against him.

The vicissitudes of the life of this man and the extreme complexity of the social relations within which they took place are emblematic of the transformations that affected Europe, determining the figure of the traditional bandit and of the conflicting dynamics that animated it, in that the outlaw was considered a dangerous enemy of social tranquility.

 

Giovanni Beatrice (or Beatrici), nicknamed by the locals “Zanzanù” or “Zuan Zanone” (Giovanni Zanone), was born in Gargnano in 1576, to Giovanni Maria Beatrice of the “Zanon” family and his wife, Anastasia.

His wife Caterina had numerous children: Anastasia born in 1598, Margherita in 1599, Pietro Antonio in 1601, Anastasia in 1602, Elisabetta Antonia in 1604, Giovan Maria in 1608.

 

He acted with a band of accomplices, known as the “degli Zannoni“, and a dense network of connivances, even high positions, in the Riviera di Salò, territory of the Republic of Venice , and in the Upper Garda of the episcopal principality of Trento, killing, stealing and extorting anyone.

In a short time with his criminal enterprises Zanzanù became the terror of the population and the concern of the Veneto supervisors.

 

Repubblica di Venezia – Bandiera

Above: Flag of the Republic of Venice (697 – 1797)

 

The first news of Beatrice dates back to 24 March 1602, when in Bogliaco, during a military parade of the “cernide“, the Venetian popular militia, of which he was a part, wounded by stabbing – with the complicity of his uncle Giovanni Francesco Beatrice called “Lima” – Francesco Sette of Maderno, the son of Riccobono, a bitter rival of his family and killed a friend of the Seven who had intervened in defense.

The two fugitive assassins were subsequently banished from all the territories of the Serenissima, but despite this they enjoyed high protection as guests of Giovanni Gaudenzio Madruzzo, captain of the Rocca of Riva del Garda and related to the prince bishop of Trento, Carlo Gaudenzio Madruzzo.

 

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Above: Bogliaco

 

This first and convulsive period was marked by the killing of his father Giovan Maria, which took place in 1605 by some of his enemies.

A period that he would remember for the rest of his life:

The father of I, Giovanni Zannoni of the Riviera of Salò, the ordinary son of those who descend to the lake, and from whom he derived the food of all his poor family, while he lived quietly, founded a solemn peace with a signed oath, over the sacrament of the altar, was wickedly slain by someone of the Riviera.

For this so inhumane and barbarous act, being sure of the cruelty of men, induced by desperation, I resolved to avenge such a serious offense and to secure my own life, having taken the path of arms, I avenged with the deaths of the enemy the loss of the father and the privation of the way of supporting my family, for which operations I was banished and persecution continued, I  responded with new vendettas.

 

The whole affair, which had as its decisive and ruthless protagonist the young Zanzanù, is in fact understandable only in the light of a harsh conflict in the years 1602 – 1605 between the Beatrice di Gargnano and the Sette families of Monte Maderno.

A conflict that most likely originated from a rivalry, for reasons of honor, between the sons of Giovan Maria Beatrice and those of Riccobon Sette, a wealthy landowner of Vigole in Monte Maderno.

However the wounding of Francesco Sette by Giovanni Beatrice did not constitute itself as the triggering element of the struggle without quarter which in the following years would see the two families facing each other.

 

In 1603 both Riccobon and Francesco Sette suffered the repercussions carried out by the administrator of Salò and the Venetian magistrates against their respective son and brother Giacomo.

For the protection and aid granted to Giacomo, Riccobon Sette ended up in prison in Salò, while his brother Francesco was in turn forced to leave the State.

 

Above: Salò

 

The situation precipitated at the beginning of the spring of 1603, when Giacomo Sette was killed in Armo on 14 April by his accomplice, Eliseo Baruffaldo di Val Vestino, who took his head to Salò for the ritual recognition.

These were perhaps the events that led Riccobon Sette to restore peace with the Beatrice of Gargnano.

The peace act was stipulated in August 1603 in the monastery of San Francesco di Gargnano, by Fra Tiziano Degli Antoni, a common friend of both parties.

The Beatrice were represented by Giovan Maria himself, while the archpriest of Gargnano, Bernardino Bardelli, brother-in-law of Riccobon Sette, was engaged for the opposing faction.

Riccobon Sette, in fact, was still in prison, while his son Francesco was banished.

However, the killing of the latter by some bounty hunters precipitated the situation.

 

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Above: Monastery of San Francesco di Gargnano

 

On 16 June 1604 Riccobon Sette, still in prison in Salò , addressed the representatives of the Magnifica Patria, lamenting the loss of his two children and the difficult situation in which he found himself.

Upon leaving prison the opposition between the two families was rekindled.

The murder of Giovan Maria Beatrice by assassins sent by the archpriest of Gargnano pushed the conflict to extremes.

 

In the years 1605 – 1607 Beatrice in fact carried out several coups against his adversaries and enemies, always managing to escape the numerous ambushes by the bounty hunters on his trail.

It was not so for two of his companions, Eliseo Baruffaldo and Giovan Pietro Sette. known as Pellizzaro, who in November 1606 were killed by some bounty hunters and some enemies of the Beatrice whom the Provveditore General in the Mainland, in all secrecy, had sent on their trail.

The two were killed on 11 November 1606 in a night ambush stretched over the mountains of Gargnano, and their severed heads displayed in the square of Salò.

 

The spiral of violence that followed the feud between the two families helped to define the image of Zanzanù, especially starting from the years 1608 -09, when he was now unable to defend himself by resorting to the ordinary ways of justice.

He was thus credited with many crimes of which he was certainly not responsible (such as robberies and thefts).

 

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He remembered, in 1616 in a plea directed to the Council of Ten:

“I confess to being guilty of many notices, but all for private crimes and none for the slightest of public and state affairs, nor with conditions excluded from the present I am not even entitled to compensate anyone, but let me be quite right in saying that, since many excesses have been committed by others under my name, of those who are out of hope of being able to free me, I have never cared to get rid of them.”

 

On 13 February 1609 in Tremosine, Zanzanù attacked, robbed and injured the doctor Oliviero, killed Gabriele Leonesio and stole an arquebus in a house.

Escaping to Limone sul Garda, on the night of February 13, he fell in an ambush at the port of Riva del Garda, where the band led by his uncle Giovanni Francesco “Lima” was targeted by the bandit Alessandro Remer of Malcesine who intended to claim the bounty.

Giovanni Beatrice was saved by jumping into the lake and swimming, while his brother Michele Zanon, Bernardo and Giovanni Battista Pace, known as “Parolotto“, of Salò were killed.

Giovanni Francesco “Lima“, although wounded in the thigh, managed to take refuge in Limone sul Garda, where he was, the next day, shot and then barbarously beheaded.

 

Limone sul Garda

Above: Limone sul Garda

 

The most striking action of Giovanni Beatrice took place on 29 May 1610, when he was involved, according to the accusations of the Venetian magistracy, in the murder in the Cathedral of Salò of the Brescia magistrate Bernardino Ganassoni, podestà of the place, who was attending the solemn mass in honor of Saint Herculaneum.

The murder was carried out by Antonio Bonfadino who shot point-blank, and despite the presence of the escort soldiers he managed to escape.

 

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Above: Salò Cathedral

 

In the following days Beatrice tried to approach the Brescian representatives who came to Salò during the process.

To them the bandit reported that, in exchange for a pardon, he would reveal the main culprits of the killing of Ganassoni.

 

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Giovanni Beatrice’s involvement in the murder of the podestà Bernardino Ganassoni was in reality the work of the convergence of interests of administrator Giovan Battista Loredan, merchant Alberghino Alberghini and inquisitor Oltre Mincio Leonardo Mocenigo.

Loredan was worried that the motives that led to the murder of the podestà would emerge, so the involvement of the feared bandit would in fact make the procedural position of Martin Previdale and the other defendants definitively unrecoverable with him and with the same mayor.

The merchant Alberghino Alberghini, present in Salò in early June 1610 , together with the band of bounty hunters led by Alessandro Remer, pursued the same goal, aiming in turn to involve the two brothers Bonifacio and Ambrogio Ceruti.

 

Arriving on the Riviera in the first days of October 1610, Leonardo Mocenigo promptly endorsed the work of Loredan condemning to the scaffold one of the false witnesses involved in the trial.

 

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Among the mountain shelters, in the cave called “Cùel Zanzanù“, in the locality of Martelletto, near Droane, in Val Vestino, they killed and plundered, according to the report by administrator Lunardo Valier of 15 April 1606 and sent to the Senate of Venice, on 29 September 1611, the wealthy Stefano Protasio of Toscolano with ten accomplices.

 

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Despite the harsh repression carried out by Antonio Mocenigo, captain of Brescia, against banditry prevailing in the Riviera of Salò, through executions, the confiscation of property and banning from the Serenissima, Beatrice continued undaunted in his criminal exploits.

Between 1602 and 1609 the band “Zanoni” robbed the “cavallari” (travellers on the public road), assaulted boats on Lake Garda laden with goods, tyrannized the rural population, robbed the “mountains of mercy” of Manerba del Garda and Portese taking away 6,000 scudi and killed, according to estimates by bandit Alessandro Remer of Malcesine, about 200 people.

 

Above: Manerba del Garda

 

Hunted by the administrator Giovanni Barbaro, Zanzanù contacted the duchy of Parma, offering himself as a mercenary for Ranuccio I Farnese with the rank of lieutenant of infantry, then moved to the Cremonese until 1614 .

Returning to the Riviera in 1615, Zanzanù resumed his criminal activities.

 

Flag of Parma

Above: Duchy of Parma flag (1545 – 1731)

 

On 24 June 1615 the administrator and Captain of Salò, Marco Barbarigo, informed the Senate that Zanzanù was sheltered in Val Vestino, the jurisdiction of the lords of Lodrone, with two priests of that valley who he had made his prisoners.

 

On 27 June, in the municipality of Capovalle, the Beatrice gang clashed with a department of cappelletti.

After furious gunplay they wounded the governor’s lieutenant Vucocrutt.

 

Capovalle – Veduta

Above: Capovalle

 

The repressive activity carried out against Beatrice in this period is attested by the sentences pronounced by, the Provveditore and Capitano of the Riviera, Marco Barbarigo, in June and July 1615.

The administrator turned to the numerous supporters of the bandit, who did not disdain to help him and to host him, despite the severe penalties, threatening them on several occasions.

In particular, two women of Gargnano were condemned who, regardless of the grave consequences, were banished because, as the sentence said, they were “so bold and fearless as to leave their homes and rejoice with said Zanone, touching their hands and making them different welcome.”

 

The following year, Beatrice proposed the payment of a substantial sum of ducats to the municipalities of Tremosine and Maderno in exchange for his enlistment in the service of the Republic of Venice engaged in the Gradisca war against Austria.

The community of Gargnano, in June 1616, presented a petition from Beatrice to have it forwarded to the Heads of the Council of Ten.

In it the famous bandit, seizing the opportunity of the ongoing war with the Archdukes, offered himself, together with some of his companions, “to come and serve where your Serenity will appeal to me .

Even if the proposal was not accepted it however reveals the desire of the feared bandit to return to the places where he had lived serenely his youth.

 

Diachronic map of the Republic and the Venetian Empire.

Above: Greatest extent of the Venetian Empire

 

On 17 August 1617, following the attempted kidnapping of the wealthy Giovanni Cavalieri di Tignale, Zanzanù was chased by armed youths from the village to the Valle del Gianech, and after a furious gunfight that caused four deaths among the bandits and six among the Tignalese, Beatrice fell at last.

His body was taken to Salò on the 19th.

Hanging from the gallows his body was exposed to the public until consummation, while the head was delivered to the authorities in Brescia.

 

Above: Brescia Castle

 

A large part of the adult population of the six villages that made up the Tignale community took part in the battle.

Among the five who fell during the bloody battle there were also some of the older and wealthy men of the community, who were more motivated to settle accounts with the famous outlaw.

Zanzanù was almost certainly killed by Antonio Bertolaso ​​of Aer who, along with Maderno’s cousin Girolamo Gasperini and the group of soldiers who accompanied them, joined the bandits who were attempting their last escape.

Zanzanù and his two companions, survivors of the previous clashes, faced with the arrival of Gargnano’s men, had in fact been forced to retreat and find a last and improvised refuge in the valley of the Monible.

 

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In reality the provincial of Salò was not satisfied.

Suspicious of the number of deaths among the six villages that made up the Tignale community, he ordered an investigation to see if there had been any complicity or aid from some sectors of the local population towards the killed bandit.

Even if this suspicion was not ascertained, the investigation reveals the inherent mistrust of the authorities towards the obvious support and aid that a small part of the most humble people of the Riviera del Garda had for some time offered to Beatrice.

 

The controversial and legendary figure of Giovanni Beatrice is still remembered today by the people of the area of Alto Garda and Val Vestino.

Here, in fact, children born out of wedlock are still called fiöi del Zanzanù (sons of Zanzanù).

If some people have no hesitation in pointing it out the terrible bandit was the author of many murders and heinous actions, others believe that his figure enjoyed a certain sympathy and consensus among the people.

The latter believe that it was not the common people who hunted the brigand, but were instigated or hired by those lords (nobles, landowners, wealthy merchants) against whom Zanzanù was raging.

 

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Pietro Bellotti (1625–1700) was an Italian painter active in the Baroque period.

 

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Above: Self portrait of Pietro Bellotti

 

Born in Volciano di Salò in 1625, he gained fame as a painter of portraits and heads of characters.

He worked for Cardinal Mazzarino, Cardinal Ottoboni (the future Pope Alexander VIII), the Elector of Bavaria and others.

He was patronized by Pope Alexander VIII and by the Duke of Uceda.

In Mantova he was “superintendent of the city and villa galleries” for Gorizaga.

After wandering from court to court he returned to Lake Garda and died in poverty in Gargnano in 1700.

His principal works are:

  • La Parca Lachesi (1654) at the Museum of Stuttgart
  • The Parcae Lachesis, private collection, Brescia
  • Self-Portrait (1658) at the Uffizi Gallery, where he is depicted with a cup in his hand and a scroll with the inscription: “Hinc Hilaritas
  • Two Peasants’ Heads at the Pinacoteca di Bologna;
  • Philosopher in the Pinacoteca di Feltre;
  • Old Head at the Correr Museum;
  • Medea at the Accademia dei Concordi in Rovigo;
  • Maiden with a Turban in the Braunschweig Museum

 

Above: The Old Pilgrim, Pietro Bellotti

 

Enrica Bianchi Colombatto is an Italian actress, usually known by her stagename of Erika Blanc.

Her most notable role was as the first fictional character Emmanuelle in Io, Emmanuelle (A Man for Emmanuelle)(1969).

 

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Blanc starred in several cult European horror films, including:

  • The Third Eye (Il Terzo Occhio)(1966)
  • Kill, Baby, Kill (Operazione Paura)(1966)

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  • So Sweet… So Perverse (Cosi’ Dolce… Cosi’ Perversa)(1969)
  • The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (La Notte Che Evelyn Usci’ Dalla Tomba)(1971)
  • The Devil’s Nightmare (La terrificante notte del demonico)(1971)

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  • The Red Headed Corpse (La rossa dalla pelle che scotta)(1972)

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  • Mark of the Devil, Part II (1973).

Her other film credits include roles in:

  • Django Shoots First (Django spara per primo)(1966)
  • Target Goldseven (Tecnica di una spia)(1966)
  • Blood at Sundown (La più grande capina del West)(1966)
  • Halleluja for Django (1967)
  • The Longest Hunt (Spara, Gringo, spara)(1968)
  • Seven Times Seven (7 volte 7)(1968)
  • Hell in Normandy (Brigada suicida)(1968)
  • Long Arm of the Godfather (La mano lunga del padrino)(1972)

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  • Tony Arzenta (1973)

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  • The Stranger and the Gunfighter (La dove non batte il sole)(1974)
  • Il domestico (The Domestic)(1974)
  • I figli di nessuno (Nobody’s Children)(1974)
  • Eye of the Cat (Attenti al buffone)(1976)
  • La portiera nuda (The Naked Doorwoman)(1976)
  • Dream of a Summer Night (Sogno di una notte d’estate)(1983)

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She recently returned to films with small but intense roles under the direction of Turkish-born director Ferzan Özpetek, acting as Antonia’s mother in Le fate ignoranti (The Ignorant Fairies)(2001) and as the sensitive, alcohol-addicted Maria Clara in Cuore Sacro (Sacred Heart)(2005).

In 2003 she starred as the grandmother in Adored (Poco più di un anno), directed by Marco Filiberti.

 

In 1943 Gargnano hosted Mussolini who arrived there on 10 October, where he occupied, in the San Giacomo area, Villa Feltrinelli (now a luxury hotel).

The Duce, who had recently established the Italian Social Republic, lived in the villa with his wife, Donna Rachele, and children Romano and Anna Maria.

 

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Above: Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945)

 

Diodato “Uto” Ughi is an Italian violinist and conductor.

He is considered one of Italy’s greatest living violinists and is also active in the promotion of classical music in today’s culture.

When he was young he started to play the violin and he made his debut at 7 years old, at the Teatro Lirico di Milano.

At 12 years he was considered a mature artist.

Ughi involves himself in many activities to promote music culture.

He is the founder of several music festivals, namely “Omaggio a Venezia“, “Omaggio a Roma” and “Uto Ughi per Roma“.

In tandem with Bruno Tosi, Uto Ughi instituted the musical prize “Una vita per la Musica“. (“A life for music“)

On 4 September 1997, Ughi was commissioned Cavaliere della Gran Croce by the Italian President and in 2002 he received a degree honoris causa in Communication studies.

He has won various awards, the most prestigious “Una vita per la musica – Leonard Bernstein” (23/6/1997), “Galileo 2000” prize (5/7/2003) and the international prize “Ostia Mare” (8/8/2003).

 

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Above: Uto Ughi

 

Oscar Alberto Ghiglia (born 13 August 1938) is an Italian classical guitarist.

Born in Livorno to an artistic family – his father and grandfather were both famed painters, his mother an accomplished pianist – Oscar Ghiglia had to choose between a path strewn with brushes and colours and a world cut into harmony and melody.

Though his early choice produced a few hundred water colours and a number of oil paintings, he soon realized music was his way.

For this decision he thanks his father, who one day made him pose for a painting showing a guitarist.

For this he had to hold his father’s guitar, a companion to his artistic musings in front of his forming works.

This painting was the start to a lifetime of disciplined dedication to music.

Oscar Ghiglia graduated from the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome and soon began study with Andrés Segovia, who was his major influence and inspiration during his formative years.

Later Oscar Ghiglia “inherited” Segovia’s class in Siena’s Accademia Chigiana and spread his own teaching around the five continents in a sister vocation to his concerts.

Oscar Ghiglia founded the Guitar Department at the Aspen Music Festival, as well as the Festival de Musique des Arcs and the “Incontri Chitarristici di Gargnano“, was artist in residence or visiting professor in such centres as the Cincinnati and San Francisco conservatories, the Juilliard School, the Hartt School and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

In all these centres and elsewhere Ghiglia has been nurturing talents and forming or perfecting young artists’ musical outlook and interpretation.

He has been teaching at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana since 1976.

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Besides touring as a solo performer, Oscar Ghiglia has played and recorded with such names as:

  • Victoria de Los Angeles
  • Jan de Gaetani
  • Gerald English
  • John McCollum
  • Jean-Pierre Rampal
  • Julius Baker
  • the Juilliard String Quartet
  • the Emerson String Quartet
  • the Cleveland String Quartet
  • the Quartetto d’archi di Venezia
  • the Tokyo String Quartet
  • Giuliano Carmignola
  • Franco Gulli
  • Salvatore Accardo
  • Régis Pasquier
  • Adam Krzeszowiec
  • Albert Roman
  • Laszlo Varga
  • Eliot Fisk
  • Shin-Ichi Fukuda
  • Letizia Guerra
  • Antigoni Goni
  • Elena Papandreou.

Oscar Ghiglia was a founding member of the International Classic Guitar Quartet.

After his CD Manuel Ponce Guitar music, a new set of recording projects was under way and his teaching continued, year long, in Basel, where he held the professorship in guitar at the Musik-Akademie der Stadt Basel from 1983 to 2004.

Founder of the International Guitar Competition of Gargnano, Ghiglia boasts a very high number of first prize winners among his students, in competitions around the world.

In 2006, after retiring from the Basel Musik-Akademie, he moved to Greece, following his marriage to colleague and former pupil Elena Papandreou, now guitar professor in the University of Makedonia in Thessaloniki.

 

Above: Basel Music Academy

 

Following his CD  J.S. Bach Lute Works, and a DVD of his favourite repertoire, he continued giving concerts across the oceans, has residencies at the universities of Cincinnati and Evanston, Illinois, and does as well summer teaching at the Accademia Chigiana of Siena and his “Incontri Chitarristici di Gargnano“.

 

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Certainly Gargnano as home to a bandit, a painter, an actress, a dictator and two world-class musicians is extremely interesting.

But it was the presence of a famous English writer in Gargnano that left me feeling frustrated at our failing to stop there in our haste to reach Riva del Garda before nightfall.

For there is much in his story that fascinates me, much that I can relate to.

 

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Above: Gargnano

 

When someone visits a place for a day and decides to stay for six months you know they must have discovered something quite special.

 

It was 1912 and David Herbert (D.H.) Lawrence (1885 – 1930) was having an affair with Frieda von Richthofen (1879 – 1956), the wife of his university professor.

 

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Above: D. H. Lawrence

 

Wanting to escape from both her husband and the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution in full swing in England, the pair decided to set off on their travels to discover new people, cultures and a more relaxing lifestyle.

Their first destination was Frieda’s homeland of Germany, but soon they wanted to travel further south, so, after a short stay in the Tyrol, they set off, with their knapsacks on their backs, on a long trek over the Dolomites, via Bolzano and Trento.

 

 

By September 1912 they reached the northern end of Lake Garda and the town of Riva del Garda.

Like so many authors, Lawrence fell in love with the Lake and the endless inspiration it could provide a creative mind, but Riva proved too expensive for them to set up a permanent residence.

 

Above: Riva del Garda

 

On Wednesday 18 September 1912, David and Frieda left Villa Leonardi di Riva del Garda and decided to go on a boat trip to the smaller town of Gargnano and heard by chance about a flat that was available to rent within their budget.

It became their home from 18 September 1912 until 30 March 1913.

 

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Above: David and Frieda

 

Even though a century has passed since Lawrence and Frieda arrived in Gargnano, little has changed in the town, apart from a few essential roads now winding their way through the centre and more houses popping up to extend the town’s boundaries.

Gargnano has essentially escaped the tourist trappings of many of the Lake’s most popular locations, and so it is still possible to walk around the area and follow Lawrence’s footsteps to recreate a few of his experiences.

Lawrence and Frieda’s Lake Garda flat was located on the second floor of a large yellow-painted building at via Colletta 44 called Villa Igea, which now wears a discreet white marble plaque revealing its most famous resident.

 

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Above: Villa Igea, Villa, Gargnano

 

VILLA IGEA

DIMORA DI D.H. LAWRENCE

DAL SETTEMBRE 1912 ALL’ APRILE 1913

 

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No explanation of Lawrence’s identity is given.

 

Situated in San Gaudenzio di Muslone (known today as simply Villa), a small village on the outskirts of Gargnano, the rent was cheap but the flat still benefited from stunning views of the Lake.

The house became, for the two lovers, a refuge from which to observe the daily life of the country, the changes of nature with the arrival of spring, the spectacular scenery and local traditions.

Lawrence transcribed all of his impressions of this long exploration in numerous letters sent to England to family, friends, fellow writers and editors.

Lawrence often commented on how he would lie in bed of a morning and watch the sun rise over the mountains, eventually filling the room with light.

To him, this was paradise.

 

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Gargnano was an escape from the culture of money and machinery that he so deeply detested, and the people of Gargnano the keepers of an ancient and impassive world that remains unruffled by and resistant to the upheaval of tumultuous modernity.

Lawrence used the most beautiful and fascinating words to capture daily moments and images of a landscape and nature that managed to soothe the pains of the young writer.

 

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Though not everything Lawrence wrote was so pleasant:

When at night the moon shines full on this pale facade, the theatre is far outdone in staginess.

Now everything is theatrical.

 

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Like living on a set where everything demanded literary criticism.

 

He wrote that the theatrical performances that he witnessed in Castellani Hall did not leave a very positive impression and he did not write an overly complimentary account of the teacher Feltrelline from whom they received lessons in French, German and Italian.

 

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The sunshine and climate were actually the main motivations for Lawrence and Frieda to stay on Lake Garda.

Lawrence was suffering from tuberculosis and the sun was thought to offer a vital source of energy to help battle the disease.

 

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But it provided him with inspiration too, and far from being a holiday or time for convalescence, Lawrence wrote many of his best works while staying in Villa Igea.

He finished Sons and Lovers, started work on The Lost Girl which would later be called The Rainbow and The Sisters which became Women In Love, plus penned his first travel book Twilight In Italy.

 

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(Catherine Brown attended the 13th International D.H. Lawrence Conference held in Gargnano in 2014:

One evening we saw a performance, by local actors (plus John Worthen) of The Fight for Barbara.

Written by Lawrence during his stay in Gargnano, this play thought through the difficulties and possibilities (including disastrous ones) of his elopement with Frieda.

Yet the play is of questionable comprehensibility to Italians.

The husband threatens Barbara with his own suicide.

An Italian husband of Lawrence’s period would have killed her or her lover, or abducted her, or at least threatened some such thing.

Certainly not talked about suicide.

Barbara’s father reminds the lover that married women are out of bounds.

An Italian man of Lawrence’s period would have seen a married woman as a particular prize, and certainly not have lectured another man to the contrary.”)

 

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It was not an easy time for the two young lovers.

They lived in a precarious position, with Lawrence trying to support them both with his writing, hoping not to be forced to look for a job as a teacher, a profession he hated.

Frieda lived with the hope of seeing her children as soon as possible, having left them to escape with Lawrence, pending the conclusion of her divorce from her husband Ernest Weekley.

 

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Above: Frieda and D.H.

 

It is in Twilight In Italy that we discover most about Lawrence’s time on Lake Garda, as he takes us with him on his day-to-day encounters with the locals and explores his surroundings.

One such encounter involved visiting his landlord, who he refers to as the padrone.

The padrone lived in a grand house called Villa De Paoli set just behind Lawrence’s flat.

It has now been transformed into offices and a car park, but next to the building you will find a garden shaded by beautiful olive trees and featuring a pergola under which Lawrence liked to sit and watch the daily comings and goings of the boats on the Lake.

 

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It was in the grounds of Villa De Paoli that Lawrence had his first experience of Lake Garda’s iconic lemon houses.

Unlike anything he had ever seen before, in Twilight in Italy he described them as looking like naked pillars, rising out of the green foliage like ruins of temples.

While the fruit was growing and the sun shining on the leaves Lawrence thought the houses were beautiful, but as soon as winter arrived he regarded them as sordid and ugly because of the big wooden shutters that were put up to protect the trees from the inclement weather.

Before he knew the purpose of the wooden greenhouses he was confused by the sight of men climbing up ladders and leaping from one small ledge to the next, in order to lay the large wooden panels across the pillars and hammering loudly as they did so.

Having just left behind an industrial England, it was also odd for him to see everything being done by hand.

Despite hating the machines, Lawrence saw the Italian way of doing things as backwards, as if they were living in the past.

 

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Today the only sign of Villa De Paoli’s lemon house is the presence of a few pillars hidden behind the car park.

A sad reminder of a once majestic past.

As you walk along the main road from Villa to Gargnano you will however come across La Molora, a private lemon house that the owner is working hard to restore to its prime.

Here you can see for yourself the imposing pillars and lemon trees working their way up the hill, in the way that Lawrence was so intrigued and perplexed.

 

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From his flat, Lawrence could see a church set on a slight hill overlooking the village, that he often glanced at but never thought to visit.

One day when he heard the gentle ringing of the church bells he decided to try and find out more about it.

There was no obvious path to the church, so Lawrence went out the back door of his house and made his way through the narrow side streets,  unsure of quite where he was going.

It was while walking these side streets of Villa that Lawrence felt the most alien and alone during his time on Lake Garda.

 

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Above: San Tommaso, Villa, Gargnano

 

In Twilight in Italy he describes how odd it was walking through the narrow passageways, which were dark and shady compared to the brightly-lit paths by the lakeside.

He could see the town’s inhabitants staring at him suspiciously through their windows, wondering who this stranger was.

Gargnano wasn’t often visited by tourists and so Lawrence felt that his pale skin shone out even more here, and feared that it turned him into something of a spectacle.

 

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Lawrence writes about the church and cloister of San Francesco on via Roma in Gargnano.

He put the simple Romanesque church of San Francesco (built in 1289) in the category of churches of the dove, which he defined as “shy and hidden“.

They nestle among trees or they are gathered into silence of their own, in the very midst of the town so that one passes them by without observing them.”

He says of San Francisco:

I passed it several times in the dark, silent little square, without knowing it was a church.

(The road has since been widened so the square is no longer discernible.)

 

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Lawrence was captivated by the cloister, which became a citrus fruit warehouse at the end of the 19th century, with “its beautiful and original carvings of leaves and fruits upon the pillars“.

 

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After several unsuccessful attempts to reach the San Tomasso church, Lawrence eventually discovered a long broken stairway that led him to the courtyard of San Tommaso, or one of the churches of the eagles – which “stand high, with their heads to the skies, as if they challenged the world below” –  which still provides access to the building today.

 

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He “came out suddenly, as by a miracle, clean on the platform of my San Tommaso, in the tremendous sunshine.

It was another world, a world of fierce abstraction.

The thin old church standing above the light, as if perched on the house roofs.

Its thin grey neck was held up stiffly.

Beyond was a vision of dark foliage and high hillside.

 

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When you reach the summit you will be greeted by a similar sight as Lawrence’s.

Countless red-slated roofs spread out beneath you, giving way to the seemingly never-ending water of the lake.

It’s hardly surprising that Lawrence described this platform as suspended above the village like the lowest step of heaven or Jacob’s ladder.

The terrace of San Tommaso is let down from heaven and does not touch the Earth.

 

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Everywhere Lawrence went in Villa and Gargnano seemed to provide him with the new experiences and inspiration he had been searching for when he first embarked on his travels.

San Tommaso certainly found a special place in his heart.

 

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As you wander the streets of Villa and Gargnano,  stopping briefly at the pretty little harbour where Lawrence first arrived in the town and passing by the theatre which remains as it would have looked to Lawrence on the outside, you can see why he chose to stay here so long.

Italy and Lake Garda are familiar destinations for us today, but for Lawrence there was still so much to explore and understand, so much that was alien and intimidating and yet at the same time captivating and exciting.

He couldn’t help but be drawn to the unique character of the town, the intriguing local people and the beauty of the lake itself.

 

 

The Hotel Gardenia al Lago is a hotel in Villa, a romantic little village administered by Gargnano, the largest and most distinctive municipality on the “lemon Riviera”.

It stands, proud and elegant, with its Mitteleuropean architecture, right on the shores of Lake Garda, with the mountain peaks of the Parco Alto Garda Bresciano nature reserve as its backdrop.

The waters of the Lake lap the edges of the magnificent garden and surround the panoramic lookout point in the dining room, and on the opposite shore stands the majestic Monte Baldo mountain range, which generously lays on the most unforgettable displays of light and colour at both sunrise and sunset.

Hotel Gardenia al Lago has a particular charm and aura, not due to the opulence and richness of its décor, but to its harmonious setting, the elegance of its rooms, furnished with pieces from the old house dating back to 1925, and to the warm welcome given by the Arosio family, who have owned and run the hotel personally for three generations.

 

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Inside the Hotel, on the 4th floor, guests will find an exhibition dedicated to Lawrence, organized in 2012 by the Historic Gargnano Committee, on the centennial of the writer’s residence.

Through the descriptive panels and photographs, you can trace the life of the writer, famous for having written Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Sons and Lovers.

 

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I longed to visit Villa.

I longed to relax in a waterfront café by the port of Gargnano.

 

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I wished to wander around the abandoned olive factory, the lakefront villas with their boathouses, the Palazzo Comunale with the two cannonballs wedged in the walls from the aforementioned naval bombings.

 

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I longed to stroll along the road which leads out of Gargnano from the harbour for 3 km past the beach and through olive and lemon groves, past the Villa Feltrinelli – the grand lakeside house / world-class hotel with tastefully furnished rooms (€1,380 per night) where Mussolini once ruled….

 

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To the tiny 11th century Chapel of San Giacomo di Calino.

I wanted to look, on the side facing the lake, under the portico where fishermen keep their equipment, at the 13th century fresco of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers.

 

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But we were not travellers.

 

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We were tourists, and tourists by their very nature value the destination far more than the journey.

We do not linger in Toscolano-Maderno.

We do not stroll through Gargnano.

We do not detour down the road to Lake Idro through the hills of Valvestino.

 

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We are on a mission.

We will not procrastinate.

We do not see the green of olive trees or the blue of the sky and the Lake.

 

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I love my wife, so practical and pragmatic.

A better wife than I will ever deserve.

 

 

But a quiet voice within me weeps.

It longs to one day find a place and on that day spontaneously decide to linger there for six months or for a lifetime.

 

I say nothing as we zoom past Toscolano-Maderno.

I am silent as we speed past Gargnano.

 

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My mind’s eye sees sailboats afloat on turquoise waters, orchards of olives and groves of lemons, huge stone walls and tall pillars, testaments of memory.

 

 

The Buddha is rumoured to have said that the greatest folly of men is that we believe that we have more time to live than we are actually granted.

 

 

Nonetheless I find myself thinking about retracing the routes followed and described in Lawrence’s Twilight in Italy.

To walk from Innsbruck to Riva del Garda or from Schaffhausen to Milan, time and money be damned….

That would be amazing.

 

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But as the years zoom by at breathtaking speed I find myself entering a state of obscurity, of ambiguity, a general decline.

 

It is twilight when we reach Riva.

 

The soft gleaming glow of the sky is light clinging to a descending sun disappearing below the horizon, a semi-darkness, the gloom of a dying day.

So much to see, so much to do, so little time before night falls.

 

Such is twilight in Italy.

And everywhere else.

 

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Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Sally Fitzgerald, “D.H. Lawrence’s Lake Garda”, http://www.travelandlife.com / http://www.lakefrontboutiquehotels.com / http://www.gargnanosulgarda.com  / Gaby Logan, “Gargnano Celebrates D.H. Lawrence Centennial“, http://www.italymagazine.com / D.H. Lawrence, Twilight in Italy

 

Canada Slim and the Pirates of Teguise

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Sunday 5 May 2019

Imagine the perfect holiday.

Perhaps it is an active one spent hiking and windsurfing.

Perhaps you are a culture vulture mesmerized by museums and attracted to artefacts of days gone by.

Or perhaps you long for a lengthy siesta where your hardest decision is how much sunscreen to wear today.

 

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The Canary Islands have what you want, however you want it, but being all things to all people means this is a place of contradictions.

 

The Islands lie off the coast of Africa yet they are European.

 

The Canary Islands form a Spanish archipelago and the southernmost autonomous community of Spain located in the Atlantic Ocean, 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of Morocco at the closest point.

The Canary Islands, which are also known informally as the Canaries, are among the outermost regions (OMR) of the European Union proper.

It is also one of the eight regions with special consideration of historical nationality recognized as such by the Spanish Government.

The Canary Islands belong to the African Plate, like the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the African mainland.

 

Location of the Canary Islands within Spain

 

The seven main islands are (from largest to smallest in area) Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro.

The archipelago includes much smaller islands and islets: La Graciosa, Alegranza, Isla de Lobos, Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este.

It also includes a series of adjacent roques (those of Salmor, Fasnia, Bonanza, Garachico and Anaga).

 

In ancient times, the island chain was often referred to as “the Fortunate Isles“.

But delving into Canarian history the casual observer has to ponder the question:

Fortunate for whom?

 

Historically, the Canary Islands have been considered a bridge between four continents: Africa, North America, South America and Europe.

And it has been their strategic location that has been both a blessing and a curse to those who have chosen to make the Islands their home.

 

Flag of Canary Islands

Above: Flag of the Canary Islands

 

The archipelago’s beaches, climate and important natural attractions, especially Maspalomas in Gran Canaria and Teide National Park and Mount Teide (a World Heritage Site) in Tenerife (the third tallest volcano in the world measured from its base on the ocean floor), make it a major tourist destination with over 12 million visitors per year, especially Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

 

 

Imagine living on an island where more people around you are tourists than residents.

 

Tourists are, by their very nature, selfish in that the pleasure principle dominates their every thought.

Most care nothing about those who reside there except in how the locals cater to their needs.

 

There is nothing new under the sun.

 

 

The islands have a subtropical climate, with long hot summers and moderately warm winters.

The precipitation levels and the level of maritime moderation vary depending on location and elevation.

Green areas as well as desert exist on the archipelago.

Rain seems rare and snow something never seen.

 

Due to their location above the temperature inversion layer, the high mountains of these islands are ideal for astronomical observation.

For this reason, two professional observatories, Teide Observatory on the island of Tenerife and Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, have been built on the islands.

 

The day sky is cloudless.

The night sky stretches to infinity and beyond.

The horizon beckons with promise.

 

 

So it may be reasonable to assume that piracy has existed for as long as the oceans were plied for commerce.

 

Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat-borne attackers upon another ship or a coastal area, typically with the goal of stealing cargo and other valuable items or properties.

Those who engage in acts of piracy are called pirates.

Privateering uses similar methods to piracy, but the captain acts under orders of the state authorizing the capture of merchant ships belonging to an enemy nation, making it a legitimate form of war-like activity by non-state actors.

 

 

Due to the strategic situation of this Spanish archipelago as a crossroads of maritime routes and commercial bridge between Europe, Africa and America, this was one of the places on the planet with the greatest pirate presence.

In the Canary Islands, the following stand out:

  • The attacks and continuous looting of Berber, English, French and Dutch corsairs
  • The presence of pirates from this archipelago who made their incursions into the Caribbean.
  • Pirates and corsairs, such as François Le Clerc, Jacques de Sores, Francis Drake, Pieter van der Does, Murat Reis and Horacio Nelson, attacked the islands.
  • Among those born in the archipelago who stands out above all is Amaro Pargo, whom the monarch Felipe V of Spain frequently benefited from his commercial incursions.

 

During the time of the Spanish Empire, the Canaries were the main stopover for Spanish galleons – galleons seeking to be laiden with treasure – on their way to the Americas, which came south to catch the prevailing northeasterly trade winds.

 

 

Sailing off the coast of Africa the closest of the Canaries to be reached is the Island of Lanzerote and thus it became the first Canary Island to be settled.

 

Lanzerote is the northernmost and easternmost of the autonomous Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is located approximately only 125 kilometres (78 miles) off the north coast of Africa and 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) from the Iberian Peninsula.

Covering 845.94 square kilometres (326.62 square miles), Lanzarote is the fourth largest of the islands in the archipelago.

With 149,183 inhabitants, it is the third most populous Canary Island, after Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

Located in the centre-west of the island is Timanfaya National Park, one of its main attractions.

The island was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1993.

The island’s capital is Arrecife.

 

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The Phoenicians may have visited or settled there, though no material evidence survives.

The first known record came from Roman author Pliny the Elder in the encyclopaedia Naturalis Historia on an expedition to the Canary Islands.

The names of the islands (then called Insulae Fortunatae or the “Fortunate Isles“) were recorded as Junonia (Fuerteventura), Canaria (Gran Canaria), Ninguaria (Tenerife), Junonia Major (La Palma), Pluvialia (El Hierro), and Capraria (La Gomera).

Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the two easternmost Canary Islands, were only mentioned as the archipelago of the “purple islands“.

The Roman poet Lucan and the Greek astronomer and geographer Ptolemy gave their precise locations.

 

 

Several archaeological expeditions have uncovered the prehistoric settlement at the archaeologic site of El Bebedero in the village of Teguise.

In one of those expeditions, by a team from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and a team from the University of Zaragoza, yielded about 100 Roman potsherds, nine pieces of metal, and one piece of glass.

The artefacts were found in strata dated between the 1st and 4th centuries.

They show that Romans did trade with the Canarians, though there is no evidence of settlements.

Lanzarote was previously settled by the Majos tribe of the Guanches, though the Romans did not mention them.

 

 

Guanches were the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands.

In 2017, the first genome-wide data from the Guanches confirmed a North African origin and that they were genetically most similar to modern North African Berber peoples of the nearby North African mainland.

It is believed that they migrated to the archipelago around 1000 BC or perhaps earlier.

The Guanches were the only native people known to have lived in the  region before the arrival of Europeans, as there is no evidence that the other archipelagos (Azores, Cape Verde, Madeira) were inhabited before Europeans arrived.

After the Spanish conquest of the Canaries they were ethnically and culturally absorbed by Spanish settlers, although elements of their culture survive to this day, intermixed within Canarian customs and traditions such as Silbo (the whistled language of La Gomera Island).

 

 

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Canary Islands were ignored until 999, when the Arabs arrived at the island which they dubbed al-Djezir al-Khalida (among other names).

An account of the Guanche population may have been made around AD 1150 by the Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi in the Nuzhatul Mushtaq, a book he wrote for King Roger II of Sicily, in which al-Idrisi reports a journey in the Atlantic Ocean made by the Mugharrarin (“the adventurers“), a family of Andalusian seafarers from Lisbon.

The only surviving version of this book, kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and first translated by Pierre Amédée Jaubert, reports that, after having reached an area of “sticky and stinking waters“, the Mugharrarin moved back and first reached an uninhabited island (Madeira or Hierro), where they found “a huge quantity of sheep, which its meat was bitter and inedible” and, then, “continued southward” and reached another island where they were soon surrounded by barks and brought to “a village whose inhabitants were often fair haired with long and flaxen hair and the women of a rare beauty“.

Among the villagers, one did speak Arabic and asked them where they came from.

Then the king of the village ordered them to bring them back to the continent where they were surprised to be welcomed by Berbers.

Apart from the marvelous and fanciful content of this history, this account would suggest that Guanches had sporadic contacts with populations from the mainland.

Al-Idrisi also described the Guanche men as tall and of a reddish-brown complexion.

During the 14th century, the Guanches are presumed to have had other contacts with Balearic seafarers from Spain, suggested by the presence of Balearic artifacts found on several of the Canary Islands.

 

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Above: (in red) The Balearic Islands

 

In 1336, a ship arrived from Lisbon under the guidance of Genoese navigator Lancelotto Malocello, who used the alias “Lanzarote da Framqua“.

A fort was later built in the area of Montaña de Guanapay near today’s Teguise.

 

 

Castilian slaving expeditions in 1385 and 1393 seized hundreds of Guanches and sold them in Spain, initiating the slave trade in the islands.

 

Where there is profit to be found on the open seas there will be those who will seek to claim it.

Slavery and piracy differ only in that the plunder of the former is the lives of human beings.

The violence used by both is indistinguishable from the other.

 

French explorer Jean de Béthencourt arrived in 1402, heading a private expedition under Castilian auspices.

Bethencourt first visited the south of Lanzarote at Playa de Papagayo, and the French overran the island within a matter of months.

 

Above: Jean de Béthencourt (1362 – 1425)

 

The island lacked mountains and gorges to serve as hideouts for the remaining Guanche population and so many Guanches were taken away as slaves.

Only 300 Guanche men were said to have remained.

 

The Castilian conquest of the Canary Islands began in 1402, with the expedition of Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle (1340 – 1415) to the island of Lanzarote.

Gadifer would invade Lanzarote and Fuerteventura with ease since many of the aboriginals, faced with issues of starvation and poor agriculture, would surrender to Spanish rule.

 

 

At the southern end of the Yaiza municipality, the first European settlement in the Canary Islands appeared in 1402 in the area known as El Rubicón, where the conquest of the Archipelago began.

In this place, the Cathedral of Saint Martial of Limoges was built.

The cathedral was destroyed by English pirates in the 16th century.

The diocese was moved in 1483 to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Roman Catholic Diocese of Canarias).

 

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In 1404, the Castilians (with the support of the King of Castile) came and fought the local Guanches who were further decimated.

The islands of Fuerteventura and El Hierro were later similarly conquered.

 

In 1477, a decision by the royal council of Castile confirmed a grant of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, with the smaller islands of Ferro and Gomera to the Castilian nobles Herrera, who held their fief until the end of the 18th century.

In 1585, the Ottoman admiral Murat Reis temporarily seized Lanzarote.

In the 17th century, pirates raided the island and took 1,000 inhabitants into slavery in Cueva de los Verdes.

 

From 1730 to 1736, the island was hit by a series of volcanic eruptions, producing 32 new volcanoes in a stretch of 18 kilometres (11 miles).

The priest of Yaiza, Don Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo, documented the eruption in detail until 1731.

Lava covered a quarter of the island’s surface, including the most fertile soil and 11 villages.

100 smaller volcanoes were located in the area called Montañas del Fuego, the “Mountains of Fire“.

 

 

In 1768, drought affected the deforested island and winter rains did not fall.

Much of the population was forced to emigrate to Cuba and the Americas, including a group which formed a significant addition to the Spanish settlers in Texas at San Antonio de Bexar in 1731.

 

 

Another volcanic eruption occurred within the range of Tiagua in 1824, which was less violent than the major eruption between 1730 and 1736.

Thus the island has become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve protected site.

 

According to a report in the Financial Times, this status was endangered by a local corruption scandal.

Since May 2009, police have arrested the former president of Lanzarote, the former mayor of Arrecife and more than 20 politicians and businessmen in connection with illegal building permits along Lanzarote’s coastline.

UNESCO has threatened to revoke Lanzarote’s Biosphere Reserve status, “if the developments are not respecting local needs and are impacting on the environment“.

The President of the Cabildo of Lanzarote denied “any threat to Lanzarote’s UNESCO status“.

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Piracy upon the open sea beside the shores of Lanzarote may be a thing of the past but greed remains eternal.

 

 

Teguise, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Sunday 2 December 2018

As described in a previous post of this blog, my wife and I arrived on the island and drove from the airport near the island capital of Arrecife to the resort town of Costa Teguise where we overnighted for the entirety of our stay on Lanzarote.

(Please see Canada Slim and the Royal Retreat of this blog.)

 

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Above: Lanzarote Airport

 

Our previous research gleaned that Sunday was market day in Teguise so soon after we checked into our hotel we quickly headed here.

 

Teguise, also known as La Villa de Teguise, is a village in the Municipality of Teguise in the north central part of the Island, 12 km north of Arrecife.

Here North Africa meets Spanish pueblo.

Like no other place on Lanzarote, it has preserved its historic appearance to this day.

It is an intriguing mini-oasis of low buildings set around a central plaza and surrounded by the bare plains of central Lanzarote.

The small old town forms a compact whole that impresses in its uniformity.

The Andalusian style of southern Spain sets the tone.

 

Plaza Mayor

 

The outwardly simple, white houses have high, carved wooden portals and large shutters in front of the windows.

The former capital was built in the 15th century for fear of pirate raids in the middle of the island, right at the foot of the striking Montana de Guanapay.

Built in the Spanish colonial style, it presents a magnificent ensemble of stylish churches and monasteries, harmonious squares, magnificent old houses and quiet streets.

Old town Teguise has been a listed heritage site for over twenty years and is the jewel of Lanzarote.

It is considered one of the best preserved settlement centers of the Canaries.

As of 1 January 2018 the village’s population was 1,776.

 

The town was founded in 1418 and served as the capital of the Kingdom of the Canary Islands from 1425 to 1448 and as capital of Lanzarote until the capital was moved to Arrecife in 1852.

Teguise is said to have been founded by Maciot – the successor of the aforementioned Jean de Béthencourt – who is rumoured to have lived here with Princess Teguise, the daughter of the Guanche King Guadarfia.

 

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Various convents were founded and the town prospered.

But with prosperity came other problems, including pirates who plundered the town several times.

 

Although the strategic location of the city was favorable – protected to the north by the Famara reef, in addition to the Castillo de Santa Bárbara enthroned above the city, a broad overview in all directions, the following centuries were marked by numerous bloody pirate attacks, undoubtedly reactions to the brutal raids of Teguise’s feudal lords, who had previously deported thousands of Berbers to slavery on the African coasts.

Teguise went through hard times and was said to be no more than a miserable village with thatched huts.

 

In 1586, Algerian pirates stormed the city under their infamous leader Morato Arráez and put down everything that stood in their way.

The Callejon de Sangre (Blood Alley) behind the parish church recalls this terrible tragedy.

 

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In 1618, plundering Berber hordes burnt down the city completely, enslaving much of the island’s population.

As a result, Teguise’s historic buildings were increasingly economically unattractive for most of the late 17th and 18th centuries.

 

And this is why, in 1852, the up-and-coming port city of Arrecife was named the new capital of the island, while Teguise evolved into the open-air museum that it still represents today.

 

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Firmly on the tourist trail, there are several shops here selling flowing garments and handmade jewellery, plus restaurants, bars and a handful of monuments testifying to the fact that the town once was the capital.

This is a town of spacious squares and well-kept cobblestone streets lined with beautifully restored houses that testify to Teguise’s former glory.

For a stroll, however, you should choose a really sunny day, because Teguise is located in a relatively uncomfortable island corner, namely on a cold and draughty plateau.

During the week, Teguise is a quiet place, ideal for a leisurely stroll through the streets.

 

Sunday is all about the huge folksy market that takes place here every week.

It is a day of flourishing handicrafts in the market with throngs of tourists shopping and gorging themselves into a satiated stupor and locals lounging beneath a gentle breeze and a warm sun.

Throughout the entire old town, stands are close to one other, in between streams of visitors from the whole island crowded here for this one moment in time, the bars and restaurants bursting in an exuberant mood.

A day for dancing, if being leisurely was not so tempting.

 

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What strikes the visitor to Teguise Market the most is the foreign feel of the artists, the arts and crafts, the ecological and esoteric scene.

Various shops around the two central squares offer natural products, jewelery, antiques and so on – certainly not only because Teguise is so “beautiful“, but above all for tangible commercial reasons, because during the big Sunday market, the city is always very well attended.

 

But as well Canarian culture has a focus in Teguise.

Thus, the former capital of the island is considered the place of origin of the timples, the traditional guitar-like string instruments of Canarios, of which an exhibition in the Palacio Spinola proudly praises in the central square of Teguise.

 

 

The timple is a traditional 5-string plucked string instrument of the Canary Islands.

On La Palma Island and in the north of the island of Tenerife, many timple players omit the fifth (D) string, in order to play the timple as a four-string ukulele, though this is considered less traditional by players and advocates of the five-string version.

The players of the four-string style, in return, say that they are simply playing the timple in the old-fashioned way from before the time when a fifth string was introduced in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

Timple players (timplistas) of note are Benito Cabrera from Lanzarote, José Antonio Ramos, Totoyo Millares, and Germán López from Gran Canaria, and Pedro Izquierdo from Tenerife.

 

Antonio Lemes Hernández, at Calle Flores 8, is one of the last to build the famous Canarian guitars.

He also supplies many music groups in other Canary Islands.

Various sizes are produced, from the mini-model to the contratimple.

The Cabildo de Lanzarote, through its Departments of Culture and Industry, has recognized Antonio Lemes Hernández for his involvement of more than half a century in the production of timples.

Lemes, a craftsman from Teguise, has been building timples since he was very small.

He himself recognizes that:

“I have not done anything else, all my life making timples.
I made them out of cardboard as a child.

We brushed them and made them from that material, but of course, I made them and broke them, I did not have a teacher.” 

So he perfected his technique.

And to transform the wood….
I used to make them from polisandro, moral, mahogany, and the lid, which is always made of pine.

The important thing is that it is good wood so that they can tune well.

 

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Sixty years after his first contact with the timple, Antonio’s hands continue to mold, giving life to the sound camel .

To play what is the treasure of Lanzerote music.

 

Antonio Lemes Hernández, popularly known as Lolo, was born in the stately Villa de Teguise.

As a child he learned the technique of woodworking in the School of Crafts of Teguise, although it was his carpenter companion, Antonio de León Bonilla, who had some knowledge of the timple, who taught him to shape the sound camel.

Little by little, Antonio became fond of this instrument, so today his works are highly valued and requested, some to make sound alone or at parties and others are conservative and wish to possess a timble like a real jewel in private storage.

 

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Antonio Lemes has always been linked to the world of music.

In his youth he was part of the famous orchestra of Teguise known as Lira and Lido and he was also a part of cultural institutions such as Rancho de Pascuas de Teguise.

 

At present, Antonio Lemes enjoys his retirement, although as he can not stand idly by, so every day he goes to his workshop located on Flores Street, where he continues to practice the work that made him fall in love as a child, the construction of the timple.

 

In 2016, the Guagime Folkloric Association of Tahíche showed him public recognition by giving him their highest award, the ‘Silver Insignia‘, for his dedication to the development of the timple.

 

 

The eclectic church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe skulks in the town square.

Constructed in the mid-15th century, it has been rebuilt many times that it feels like the divine is in a perpetual state of confusion

Inside neo-Gothic furnishings surround a statue of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, but it was afternoon when we arrived in Teguise, so we were forced to imagine the scene rather than witness it for ourselves.

 

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On the opposite side of the square stands the Palacio Spinola.

The light of God facing the darkness of man.

 

The Palacio, completed after half a century in 1780, is beautiful with a small patio and a well.

It now doubles as both a museum and the official residence of the Canary Islands government.

It too was closed by the time we decided we wanted to visit it.

 

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This impressive edifice is host to the Casa del Timple – a museum dedicated to the small guitar like instrument which plays a big role in local folklore and tradtional music.

 

The building was renovated during the 1970´s by the ubiquitous César Manrique- and provides the perfect opportunity to step back in time and sample the lifestyle of an affluent nobleman in 18th century Lanzarote, whilst also learning more about the role of the timple in island life.

 

César Manrique

Above: César Manrique (1919 – 1992)

(“For me, Lanzarote was the most beautiful place on Earth, so I made it a point to show Lanzarote to the world.“)

(More on this amazing man in a future post….)

 

Today, echoes of the glorious past still resonate through Teguise´s cobbled streets – which are home to some fantastic old buildings and a wealth of colonial architecture that cannot be found anywhere else on Lanzarote.

Making La Villa, as it is known locally, one of the best-preserved historic centers in the whole of the Canary Islands.

Many of these buildings are now private residences and are therefore hidden away from public gaze behind green wooden shutters.

But the house-museum at the Palacio Spinola is open to the public.

 

The Palacio Spinola is located in the heart of Teguise in the Plaza de San Miguel – also known locally as the Plaza de Leones because of the two statues of lions that stand guard opposite the entrance to the Palace.

Construction on the building started in 1730 – the same year that the south of the island was subjected to a six-year volcanic eruption that forged the national park at Timanfaya.

These eruptions obviously disrupted life on Lanzarote and the building of the Palacio took another fifty years to complete.

The Palacio was originally known as the Inquisitors House – as it was once the HQ of the Holy Inquisition.

From the middle of the 18th Century it became home to the Feo Peraza family, the best known of whom was the policitican Jose Feo Armas.

But by 1895 the Palacio had passed into the hands of the wealthy Spinola family.

The impressive frontage of the building with its six huge windows enclosed by intricately carved wooden shutters is a clear indication of the prosperity of the original owners.

 

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You needed serious money to afford this sort of opulence in the early 18th century.

 

Visitors walk through a formal entrance way, tiled with volcanic stone – where a small admission charge of €3 is made (free for children under 12 years) – and they are then free to explore the passageways and patios of the Palacio with the help of a basic printed guide which outlines the function of each room.

Amongst the most fascinating of these are the kitchens, with a chimney arrangement that is open to the elements in order to carry away cooking smoke, a latticed viewing gallery that overlooks the two main salons, or living rooms, a massive dining room with seating for thirty two guests and a small private family chapel, featuring an intricately carved wooden altar.

Throughout the Palacio, modern paintings by local artists, such as Aguilar, are juxtaposed with antique and reproduction furniture.

The exterior of the building is equally impressive, as long passageways lead visitors out into a delightful courtyard area that houses two stately old Canarian palm trees as well as a variety of flowering plants such as hibiscus and strelitza as well as an array of colourful succulents.

Here, visitors can observe the giant wooden door guarding the entranceway – built to a height that would allow both a horse and rider to enter unhindered.

 

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The Palacio Spinola isn’t huge – comprising eleven rooms in total, so it will probably only occupy an hour or so of your time at best, but it is an extremely well preserved example of 18th century architecture.

And who knows – you might even bump into a modern day grandee.

As the Palacio Spinola is also now the official residence of the President of the Canary Islands when he is visiting Lanzarote.

 

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Above: Fernando Clavijo Batlle, current President of the Canary Islands

 

 

Towering over the town is the Castillo de Santa Bárbara, built in the early 16th century on top of the 452-metre (1,480 foot) high Guanapay Peak and provides a view almost over the entire island.

Visible from afar, the fortress Santa Bárbara perches on a bare crater ridge above Teguise.

A real mini “knight’s castle” with massive masonry, drawbridge and small round towers awaits the visitor.

Inside, a pirate museum has been housed here for several years.

 

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The Museo de la Pirateria (Pirate Museum) has an exhibition that deals with an almost existential theme for Teguise and is also good for children.

With cartoon figures, picture stories, dioramas, historical signs and museum relics, the city’s hard times come to life again.

Excerpts from pirate films with six galleys from 1586 under Morato Arráez who conquers the castle and leaves Teguise with 200 prisoners, including the wife and daughter of the city commander Marquis Agustin Herrera y Rojas, for which Arráez finally receives 20,000 ducats for their ransom.

 

For me, Teguise, and most especially the Pirate Museum of Castle Bárbara, struck me as incongruous and felt somehow wrong.

 

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Teguise had made a fortune from the slave trade until it was punished by Africans from whose populations these slaves had come.

The mercantile nature of the town, exhibited on a Christian day that is supposed to be free of commerce and labour, though less barbaric than former times, still resonates in the overpriced restaurants with substandard food and at the overvalued merchandise stalls where the buyer need be aware of deals done deceptively.

 

The Pirate Museum bothers me intensely, for it seems inherently callous to make profit from all the pain and violence committed by these bandits of the sea, celebrated and packaged glamourously for children’s consumption.

Pirates have always been and shall always be bloodthirsty bastards unable and unwilling to earn a honest day’s labour for the bread on the table.

How many hardworking families lost all that they had, including their lives, at the gory bloody hands of murderous, torturing and raping pirates?

And yet we have given pirates a mythical mystique of free men thirsting for liberty outside the confines of society.

We have made legends out of murderers, rapists and thievies and have given them colourful sobriquets like Blackbeard and Calico Jack.

 

Above: Pirate Cemetery, Île Sainte Marie, Madagascar

 

Beginning with Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, piracy has become a celebrated cause since 1724.

 

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Since then we have had Long John Silver of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Captain Hook as Peter Pan‘s aristocratic villain of J.M. Barrie’s play, and the sea stories of Rafael Sabatini.

These have led to films like Captain Blood, The Black Swan, and, of course, the immensely popular Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

 

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Somehow we have brainwashed ourselves with glamourous images of men walking the plank, being marooned, buried treasure, wooden legs and black eye patches, Jolly Roger flags and parrots squawking “pieces of eight, pieces of eight“.

Somehow we have come to warmly embrace and bring to life a seagoing world, befuddled twixt fact and fantasy, favouring felons of murderous, greedy, untrustworthy character, addicted to violence, crime committed casually, consciousness lacking conscience.

Somehow we don’t see unarmed fathers and sons viciously attacked, but instead we see elegant choreographed duels and sword fights, and not the bloody encounters where merciless men hack innocents down with axe and cutlass.

Real pirates bore little resemblance to Errol Flynn or Johnny Depp.

 

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Above: Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

 

And women aboard ship were rarer than chocolate truffles at a homeless shelter despite what Hollywood would have you believe with their lovely heroines playing a key role in the outcomes of their films.

 

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Pirates are a frequent topic in fiction and, in their Caribbean incarnation, are associated with certain stereotypical manners of speaking and dress, most of them wholly fictional:

Nearly all our notions of their behavior come from the golden age of fictional piracy, which reached its zenith in 1881 with the appearance of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

 

 

Hugely influential in shaping the popular conception of pirates, Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pirates, published in London in 1724, is the prime source for the biographies of many well known pirates of the Golden Age.

The book gives a mythical status to pirates, with naval historian David Cordingly writing:

It has been said, and there seems no reason to question this, that Captain Johnson created the modern conception of pirates.

Such as a person costumed like the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp’s lead role in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series.

 

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Some inventions of pirate culture such as “walking the plank“–in which a bound captive is forced to walk off a board extending over the sea–were popularized by J. M. Barrie’s novel, Peter Pan, where the fictional pirate Captain Hook and his crew helped define the fictional pirate archetype.

 

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English actor Robert Newton’s portrayal of Long John Silver in Disney’s 1950 film adaptation of Treasure Island also helped define the modern rendition of a pirate, including the stereotypical West Country “pirate accent“.

 

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Other influences include Sinbad the Sailor and the recent Pirates of the Caribbean films have helped rekindle modern interest in piracy and have performed well at the box office.

 

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The video game Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag also revolves around pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy.

 

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The classic Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Pirates of Penzance focuses on The Pirate King and his hapless band of pirates.

 

 

Many sports teams use “pirate” or a related term such as “raider” or “buccaneer” as their nickname, based on these popular stereotypes of pirates.

 

Such teams include the Pittsburgh Pirates, who acquired their nickname in 1891 after “pirating” a player from another team.

 

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The Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both in the National Football League, also use pirate-related nicknames.

 

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers logo

 

In the early 21st century, seaborne piracy against transport vessels remains a significant issue (with estimated worldwide losses of US$16 billion per year in 2004), particularly in the waters between the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, off the Somali coast, and also in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore.

 

Today, pirates armed with automatic weapons, such as assault rifles, and machine guns, grenades and rocket propelled grenades use small motorboats to attack and board ships, a tactic that takes advantage of the small number of crew members on modern cargo vessels and transport ships.

They also use larger vessels, known as “mother ships“, to supply the smaller motorboats.

 

Above: Somalian pirates

 

The international community is facing many challenges in bringing modern pirates to justice, as these attacks often occur in international waters.

Some nations have used their naval forces to protect private ships from pirate attacks and to pursue pirates, and some private vessels use armed security guards, high-pressure water cannons, or sound cannons to repel boarders, and use radar to avoid potential threats.

 

Piracy in the 21st century has taken place in a number of waters around the world, including the Gulf of Guinea, Strait of Malacca, Indian Ocean, and Falcon Lake.

 

Due to the crisis in Venezuela, issues of piracy returned to the Caribbean in the 2010s, with the increase of pirates being compared to piracy off the coast of Somalia due to the similar socioeconomic origins.

In 2016, former fishermen became pirates, appearing in the state of Sucre, with attacks happening almost daily and multiple killings occurring.

By 2018 as Venezuelans became more desperate, fears arose that Venezuelan pirates would spread throughout Caribbean waters.

 

Above: Gasoline smugglers, Limon River, Zulia State, Venezuela

 

Piracy on Falcon Lake involves crime at the border between the United States and Mexico on Falcon Lake.

The lake is a 100-kilometre-long (60 mi) reservoir constructed in 1954 and is a known drug smuggling route.

A turf war between rival drug cartels for control of the lake began in March 2010 and has led to a series of armed robberies and shooting incidents.

All of the attacks were credited to the Los Zetas cartel and occurred primarily on the Mexican side of the reservoir but within sight of the Texas coast.

The so-called pirates operate “fleets” of small boats designed to seize fishermen and smuggle drugs.

While the events have been referred to colloquially as piracy, all the waters of Falcon Lake are considered either US or Mexican territorial waters and therefore are not technically piracy under Article 101 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

 

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Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea affects a number of countries in West Africa as well as the wider international community.

By 2011, it had become an issue of global concern.

Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are often part of heavily armed criminal enterprises, who employ violent methods to steal oil cargo.

In 2012, the International Maritime Bureau, Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program reported that the number of vessels attacks by West African pirates had reached a world high, with 966 seafarers attacked during the year.

 

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has evolved over the first decade of the century.

For some time, smaller ships shuttling employees and materials belonging to the oil companies with any involvement in oil exploration had been at risk in Nigeria.

Over time, pirates became more aggressive and better armed.

 

Above: The Gulf of Guinea

 

As of 2014, pirate attacks in West Africa mainly occur in territorial waters, terminals and harbours rather than in the high seas.

This incident pattern has hindered intervention by international naval forces.

 

Pirates in the region operate a well-funded criminal industry, which includes established supply networks.

They are often part of heavily armed and sophisticated criminal enterprises, who increasingly use motherships to launch their attacks.

The local pirates’ overall aim is to steal oil cargo.

As such, they do not attach much importance to holding crew members and non-oil cargo and vessels for ransom.

 

Additionally, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are especially noted for their violent modus operandi, which frequently involves the kidnapping, torture and shooting of crewmen.

The increasingly violent methods used by these groups is believed to be part of a conscious “business model” adopted by them, in which violence and intimidation plays a major role.

 

By 2010, 45, and, by 2011, 64 incidents were reported to the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (UN – IMO).

 

However, many events go unreported.

 

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Piracy acts interfere with the legitimate trading interests of the affected countries that include Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As an example, trade of Benin’s major port, the Port of Cotonou, was reported in 2012 to have dropped by 70%.

The cost of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea due to stolen goods, security, and insurance has been estimated to be about $2 billion.

According to the Control Risks Group, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea had by mid-November 2013 maintained a steady level of around 100 attempted hijackings in the year, a close second behind Southeast Asia.

 

Piracy in the Indian Ocean has been a threat to international shipping since the second phase of the civil war in Somalia in the early 21st century.

Since 2005, many international organizations have expressed concern over the rise in acts of piracy.

Piracy impeded the delivery of shipments and increased shipping expenses, costing an estimated $6.6 to $6.9 billion a year in global trade according to Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP).

 

 

According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), a veritable industry of profiteers also arose around the piracy.

Insurance companies significantly increased their profits from the pirate attacks as insurance companies hiked rate premiums in response.

 

Combined Task Force 150, a multinational coalition task force, took on the role of fighting the piracy by establishing a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) within the Gulf of Aden and Guardafui Channel.

By September 2012, the heyday of piracy in the Indian Ocean was reportedly over.

 

 

According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirate attacks had by October 2012 dropped to a six-year low, with only one ship attacked in the third quarter compared to thirty-six during the same period in 2011

 

By December 2013, the US Office of Naval Intelligence reported that only 9 vessels had been attacked during the year by the pirates, with zero successful hijackings.

 

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Control Risks attributed this 90% decline in pirate activity from the corresponding period in 2012 to the adoption of best management practices by vessel owners and crews, armed private security onboard ships, a significant naval presence and the development of onshore security forces.

 

Pirates in the Strait of Malacca near Indonesia are normally armed with guns, knives, or machetes.

Many reports on attacks could have gone unreported because the companies are scared of the pirates attacking them more often because the company told the authorities.

The pirates in this area also attack ships during the night.

If vessels sound an alarm, the pirates usually leave without confronting the crew.

Pirates in the Singapore Straits attack at night, while ships are underway or anchored.

 

 

According to the Control Risks Group, pirate attacks in the Strait of Malacca had by mid-November 2013 reached a world high, surpassing those in the Gulf of Guinea.

 

 

I am all for generating income to feed a family and I realize that Teguise is highly dependent on tourism to feed theirs.

But a community that claims to be Christian should not be making a market day out of a day of rest and religious reflection.

 

I am all for having a museum that portrays reality historically accurate, but I find it objectionable to package criminal barbarity as a fun day out with the kids.

Piracy in all of its horror is not something that should be forgotten, but neither should it be glamorized nor sanitizied as entertainment for children.

 

Perhaps being a tourist is all about ignoring the realities of life, escaping from life.

But nothing is learned from life or travel if all we choose to see is only pleasureable.

 

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Teguise is a beautiful town worth visiting but it has forgotten what value truly is.

Heritage is not a commodity to be sold at the expense of faith.

Heritage is not a commodity to be sold at the expense of truth.

 

When houses of worship are ignored on a day of faith to increase a merchant’s profits….

When violent crime is packaged to sell tickets to children….

Then a community has sold its soul for filthy lucre.

 

I liked the streets of the town and the warm sunshine after the cold and damp of Switzerland, but I longed for real people uninterested in garnering money or attention from visitors.

Real folks content with living life on their own terms rather than that dictated by others.

 

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The aforementioned timple maker Antonio Lemes Hernandez is one.

Don Pillimpo is another.

 

On the access road from Mozaga, diagonally across from the petrol station, there is a house with a garden full of original sculptures, everyday and art objects, children’s toys, teddy bears and dolls.

 

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Pillimpo, who is actually known as José Garcia Martin, is constantly expanding and changing his unusual collection, the children of Teguise bring him their discarded toys, new color paintings enliven the large sculptures, unusual compositions call out for the viewer to notice.

 

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This strange collection of statues frequently stops passers by in their tracks.

Cars pause in the road whilst their passengers stare.

Pedestrians stop to browse the chaotic display of figurines.

The colour of the statues change frequently, shades of grey, green and pale pink.

 

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The house is referred to as the Casa Museo Mara Mao after the statue holding this name up.

The front door is generally open, although it is said the artist is shy about being photographed and doesn’t like people entering his garden.

Rogue dolls’ heads daubed with paint and teddy bears chained to the tree  have been embraced into this artist’s eclectic display.

In his 60’s Don Pillimpo is free to use his quirky imagination for everyone to wonder at.

Thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, pass the Pillimpo figurine park every year, but few people know the name of this artist.

 

Speechlessness, astonishment, amusement and helplessness is felt by those who pass by Pillimpos’s garden, as well as rejection, a sad shaking of the head, indifference, even fear.

But if you ask someone about these characters, who makes them, if they have any meaning, why Pillimpo dresses them in new colors over and over again, you only hear shrugs.

Maybe because it is not easy to approach the creator of this chaotic world?

 

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Because the God of this Garden, of these saint sculptures, dolls, teddy bears, plush moose, Santa Clauses and action toy monsters with names like “Cloverfield” or “Zombie Spawn” does not show his world to the audience?

Pillimpo does not want to explain his world.

This world is dominated by larger than life figures of sand and cement, and the iconography reminds all those who grew up in the Christian context of saints that in the midst of society children have become disposable victims.

 

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I never saw a greater balance between order and chaos, kitsch and authenticity.“, wrote a Spanish admirer of Pillimpos art on his blog.

Horrible.  I do not like it.  It’s just too heavy for me.“, an island-renowned German artist described his feelings about Pillimpo’s work.

Another artist looks at Pillimpos’s work from his own perspective of usual order and harmony:

So if my garden should look like this then you can instruct me!

 

So, is this art?

 

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Art is a human cultural product, the result of a creative process.

The artwork is usually at the end of this process, but can also be the process itself.

Admiration, as such, is essential to art, but this does not have to be immediate in time and can only be the result of gaining knowledge.” is one definition of art according to Wikipedia.

 

Perception, imagination and intuition are some of the requirements for the artistic process.

Pillimpo’s creativity and imagination are innate to him, he says.

A gift from God that he believes in, for which he is grateful.

He emphasizes this again and again.

He knows his art is not universally loved.

In their opinion, I disturb the cityscape.“, says Pillimpo.

 

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But they can not easily get rid of the man.

Thank God.

 

The land is his property.

The house in which he lives, and which is also inhabited by his creatures inside him, belongs to him.

He built it with his own hands.

No problem for the skilled bricklayer, who was born over half a century ago in his grandfather’s house near Teguise.

 

A hard time was the time of his youth, he recalls, and speaks of his mother, who gave birth to five more children, three girls and two boys.

Even as a young boy, Pillimpo had a thriving imagination.

Every morning, as he gazed at the sunbeams that filtered through the holes and cracks in the meagerly plastered walls, he was fascinated by the play of light and shadow and the forms his imagination accepted.

Too high reaching dreams for a boy from poverty, on Lanzarote, where at times, water was valuable, food scarce and schooling almost impossible.

Although little José could go to school, it was not fun for him.

When you come into the world, God has already given you all the skills you should have.

He gave me imagination.

 

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Pillimpo leaves the subject quickly behind, almost as fast as the questions – about the meaning of his characters, whether he gives them names, why he always wraps them in new colors and how often he does that, where do the toys come from and why does his art matter – come flying at him.

It’s as if he does not hear these questions right.

He mentions that he gets the toys from local children.

He is happy when they look into his garden as they hold their parents’ hands and proudly point to their old teddy bear.

A special meaning?

Do his characters have names?

Names?  What names ?  No, they have no names.

As for the colours, I change, because I just enjoy it.

I love colors and I love all these things.“, says Pillimpo.

 

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And, with that, the explanation is done for him.

Pillimpo goes into the house.

When he comes back, he has a magazine in his hand.

He leafs a bit until he finds what he’s looking for and then proudly shows an article about himself with many photos of his sculpture park and a poem.

He reads it aloud.

The interviewers are silent.

They go home but their thoughts remain in this other world for a long time.

In Pillimpos’s world.

 

In Pillimpos’s world, toys cast out of children’s rooms find a new home, new appreciation and attention.

A new place where they are admired or pitied.

Here, childlike feelings return to the adult.

No viewer can escape the power of this mixture of chaos and order, kitsch and originality.

 

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Who is this man and why does he do what he does?

It is futile to ask others.

Nobody really knows anything about him.

There are only stories, rumours, now and then a grin.

 

Pillimpo began to scrape drawings in the sand with a stick and form figures out of loam, sand and water.

He often sits for hours, giving free rein to his imagination.

 

Not everyone likes that, but his mother had understood.

She had protected him, even defended his “quirks” from others, and did not laugh when he started to make music and dreamed of becoming an actor.

 

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Pillimpo speaks of his dreams only to those able to exchange views with a true philosopher.

I would like to speak with a great thinker, so maybe I can know if I’m right in my views or if I’m a bit of a fool.“, he says seriously.

 

I cannot help but compare and contrast the Pirate Museum with the garden of Don Pillimpo.

 

The former forms the fantastic from facts best forgotten in the frentic thirst for profits.

The latter at no cost leaves a legacy of nostalgia for the children we once were.

 

The Museum claims to be history but it is not.

The garden makes no claims about being art but it is.

 

Teguise, for me, will never be about El Mercadillo (the name of this Sunday market) or the Castillo Santa Bárbara, despite how both dominate the attention.

Teguise is instead quiet humble pride whispered from a timple workshop and an eclectic sculpture garden.

 

And this is something no pirate could ever take from me.

 

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Lonely Planet Canary Islands / DK Eyewitness Canary Islands / Eberhard Fohrer, Lanzarote / http://www.lanzarote37.net / https://lanzaroteinfomration.co.uk

Canada Slim and the Legacy of Left Boy

Landschlacht, Switzerland (Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera)

Thursday 24 April 2019

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She is susceptible.
He is impossible.
They have their cross to share.
Three of a perfect pair.
He has his contradicting views.
She has her cyclothymic moods.
They make a study in despair.
Three of a perfect pair.

One, one too many
Schizophrenic tendencies
Keeps it complicated
Keeps it aggravated
And full of this hopelessness.
What a perfect mess.

 

It has been said that there are two true tests of a relationship:

  • Assembling IKEA furniture together
  • Travelling together

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Though we are not much good at the former, we are not too bad at the latter.

 

I have previously written about our visit to Gardone Riviera by the Lago di Garda in northern Italy.

 

Panorama of Gardone Riviera

 

I described with much detail the life of Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio and the Il Vittoriale degli Italiani where he spent his last days in this town.

 

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Above: Gabriele d’Annunzio (1863 – 1938)

 

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Above: Il Vittoriale degli Italiani, Gardone Riviera

 

(Please see Canada Slim and the Shrine of Italian Victories of this blog.)

 

We discovered that there is more in this town of 3,000 than just a Fascist rabblerouser’s monument to ego.

 

Gardone Riviera, Italy, Sunday 6 August 2018

In the sweltering summer heat we discover that the town has two other claims to fame….

 

On 21 June 2000, the English band King Crimson recorded in its auditorium the songs “Three of a Perfect Pair” and “Blastic Rhino” for the album Heavy ConstruKction.

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Above: L’Ampiteatro, Il Vittoriale degli Italiani, Gardone Riviera

 

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King Crimson are an English progressive rock band formed in London in 1968.

They have been influential both on the early 1970s progressive rock movement and numerous contemporary artists.

The band has undergone numerous formations throughout its history, in the course of which 22 musicians have been members.

Since October 2017 it has consisted of Robert Fripp, Jakko Jakszyk, Tony Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, Jeremy Stacey and Bill Rieflin.

Fripp is the only consistent member of the group and is considered the band’s leader and driving force.

The band has earned a large cult following.

They were ranked No. 87 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.

Although considered to be a seminal progressive rock band (a genre characterised by extended instrumental sections and complex song structures), they have often distanced themselves from the genre.

As well as influencing several generations of progressive and psychedelic rock bands, they have also been an influence on subsequent alternative metal, hardcore and experimental/noise musicians.

 

Heavy ConstruKction is a live album (3-CD set), incorporating video footage, by the band King Crimson, released by Discipline Global Mobile records in 2000.

The album features recordings from King Crimson’s European tour of May to July 2000, taken from DAT recordings of the front-of-house mixing desk.

King Crimson’s 2000 European tour was conducted to promote the Studio album The Construkction of Light.

 

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The band members at the time of the tour were Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto.

Bill Bruford had previously left the group, and Tony Levin was not included in this particular King Crimson project due to prior commitments.

The third disc features band improvisations from different shows, which are often spliced together in the same track.

The liner notes describe the disc as “a cohesive presentation out of a series of incoherent events“.

Which also accurates describes the band itself.

 

We’re so different from each other that one night someone in the band will play something that the rest of us have never heard before and you just have to listen for a second.
Then you react to his statement, usually in a different way than they would expect.
It’s the improvisation that makes the group amazing for me.
You know, taking chances.
There is no format really in which we fall into.
We discover things while improvising and if they’re really basically good ideas we try and work them in as new numbers, all the while keeping the improvisation thing alive and continually expanding.

(King Crimson violinist David Cross on the band’s approach to improvisation)

 

Above: David Cross

 

Gardone Riviera’s second claim to fame….

 

The Giardino Botanico Fondazione André Heller (2 acres), also known as the Giardino Botanico Arturo Hruska, is a botanical garden located on the grounds of the André Heller Foundation above Lake Garda, in via Roma, Gardone Riviera.

It is open daily in the warmer months.

 

 

The Garden was established c. 1901 by Arturo Hruska (1889 – 1971), who, from 1910-1971, collected many species on the grounds of his villa, organized as a dense forest of bamboo, Japanese ponds, streams, and waterfalls, as well as alpine plants in ravines.

 

 

The Giardino Botanico Fondazione André Heller is a few minutes below the Vittoriale.

Gardone’s heyday was due in part to its mild climate, something which benefits the exotic blooms that fill the Austrian artist’s sculpture garden.

Designed by the Austrian dentist and botanist Arturo Hruska at the beginning of the 20th century, thousands of tropical, subtropical and alpine plants grow here, between streams and wild limestone, is where one meets orchids and a whole bamboo forest.

 

 

Laid out in 1912, the Garden is divided into pocket-sized climate zones, with tiny paths winding from central American plains to African savannah, via swathes of tulips and bamboo.

There are more than 500 species, including cactus, edelweiss, ferns including Osmunda regalis, magnolias, orchids, water lilies and trees.

Within 10,000 square metres there are botanical species from all over the world, from the Alps to the Himalayas, from Mato Grosso to New Zealand, from Japan to Australia, from Canada to Africa.

 

 

Around 1901, Arturo Hruska, originally from Czechoslovakia, graduated in Monaco, dentist to the Czar, the Italian Royal Family, Popes Pius XII and Johannes XXIII, and King Albert of Belgium, naturalist and botanist, moved from Austria to Gardone Riviera.

The moment the beauty and the light of the Lake struck the dentist he was spurred to acquire land on the slopes of Mount Lavino.

Lake Garda with its typical Mediterranean greenery, the brilliant and magnificent peacock-blue of its waters, is numbered along with the most beautiful landscapes of Central Europe.

 

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The garden town of Gardone Riviera extends from the foothills of the Alps down to the Po Valley.

Gardone Riviera is made of two parts: the group of houses by the water and the other located on the slope by the church.

The locals call them Gardone Sopra (Upper Gardone) and Gardone Sotto (Lower Gardone).

Gardone Sotto is the elegant part:

  • The Grand Hotel, immortalized in the literary novel “Untergang eines Herzens“(Beware of Pity) by Stefan Zweig
  • the cocktail bar where Winston Churchill rested after painting

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Above: Stefan Zweig (1881 – 1942)

 

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Above: Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965)

 

  • the park of the Savoy Hotel, that in the early 1900s would offer every night a great ball with an orchestra to the noble guests from Russia, Sweden and other cold lands.

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Gardone Sopra is more rustic, scents of olives and dry grappa, and occasionally, within the tortuous alleys, pious women still carry the Virgin Mary in procession.

 

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Probably their grandfathers worked as errand boys for the devious Gabriele D’Annunzio, whose luxurious residence, extending for nine hectares and located next to Gardone, is a token of magnificent outlandishness, celebrating war victims and cruel sacrifices that were so important for Mussolini but are repugnant to me.

 

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Above: Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945)

 

Gardone Sotto and Gardone Sopra combine to create a place of magic and sensuality.

 

The Botanical Garden, a collection of Continental stature, where Africa, South America, Asia, Europe and Australia are interwoven.

Edelweiss among orchid meadows, meter tall ferns next to splendid pomegranates.

Creeks and falls, ponds with koi carps, trouts and reflections of flying dragonflies, stone hills next to cacti and ivy towers.

Indian and Moroccan sculptures in harmony with art works from Roy Lichtenstein, Susanne Schmoegner and Keith Haring.

 

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I am among this paradise, that never stops amazing me and filling me with joy, since 1988.

The dentist to the last Tsar, Dr. Arturo Hruska, funded this fortune, which also hosts a Venetian villa, that is now my beautiful home.

When I watch from one of the balconies the majesty of Lake Garda or one of my bamboo woods, it is always difficult for me to believe that this park wanted me as its custodian and ally, and I thank it, as much as I can, with love.

André Heller

 

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With a panoramic view over the Gulf of Salò and the wide, soft hilly landscape of the southern shores of Lago Garda, Gardone Sotto and Gardone Sopra reconcile between themselves a highland landscape covered in woods and dominated by cypresses, palms and evergreen magnolias.

 

The owner of this Garden of Eden since 1988 has been the Viennese artist André Heller.

The playful touches Heller has hidden among the greenery include 30 pieces of contemporary sculpture.

Look out for the jagged red figure by Keith Haring near the entrance, Rudolf Hirt’s Gandi-esque Ioanes, God of Water and Roy Lichtenstein’s polka-dot take on the Pyramids.

 

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The botanical garden acquired by André Heller, to be transformed into a centre for environmental awareness, hosts several works of art either donated or commissioned by the Austrian artist.

From the enigmatic snakes and symbols of day and night welcoming us at the entry gate, the whole environment indicates that this is not a common botanical garden.

The ticket office is decorated by Susanne Smoegner, displaying colours and shapes that connect adult world with memories of childhood, like Ferdinand’s House built and decorated by Edgar Tezak, water plays and distant sounds.

 

Giardini Heller. Heller Garden. Heller Garten. Un paradiso nel paradiso. A paradise in paradise. #hellergarden #giardiniheller #hellergarten #paradise #arte #art #artecontemporanea #contemporaryart #contemporary #garden #gardens #brescia #lombardia #lombardy #italy #Italia #italya

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Several elements connect with multiple traditions and spiritualties: Buddhist and Tibetan symbols, Hindu statues such as the Great Ganesh by Rudolph Hirt, elephant-god of luck and wisdom, protector of education, coexist with symbols of metropolitan culture and modernity.

 

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Monstrous elements recur by the Bridge of Monsters, where the intolerance of contemporary man transfigures into two monstrous heads on pikes that spit at each other.

 

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Then through a Chinese red door, Torii, you reach a purifying and cathartic path, which includes the water play Shishi-Odoshi: a sort of water clock that marks the fleeting time.

 

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Beside a walkway several large bamboo canes invite you to tickle them: striking one against the other they play like a xylophone. 

 

The link with this modern and cosmopolitan humanity is underlined by the works of Keith Haring, metropolitan artist, friend of Heller, founder of the Pop Shop.

His characters walk, hug, dance, like the Red Man next to the tree/umbrella.

Another important work by Haring is the Stele which recalls a cross, but the characters moving on it carry sexual references.

 

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Haring gifted us with his peculiar and precious interpretation of the garden with a drawing that is represented on the tickets.

 

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Other artists employed the tools that Nature and the Garden offer:

Novak built boardwalks, walls and pavements, with the 28 different species of bamboo present in the garden that provide colors and effect that no other material can grant and used a large stone suspended by rope to deviate the water flow.

 

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These interventions blend harmoniously in the surrounding environment like the great wooden Praying Mantis that crops up between tufts of grass: so well hidden that is almost unseen:

Of all arts, seeing is the hardest to learn“.

 

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The union of Art and Nature is fully celebrated within the great figure of the Genius Loci, created by André Heller.

The great anthropomorphic bust with open arms, emerges from the grass and erects himself as protector and spirit guide. 

The structure completely covered by ivy encloses the constant change of nature,

Every day leaves grow and are blown by the wind, but the great blue eyes, the nose and mouth are human interventions, added value that comes from the artist.

 

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Arturo Hruska was a student of his father Josef and was already engaged in his youth with dental alloys and metal prostheses.

He completed his training in Belgium, Ireland, Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland and the USA.

He received his doctorate in 1906 in Munich and completed his studies in 1913 in Padua.

He was a surgeon and traumatologist, as well as a biologist, anthropologist and essayist.

 

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Hruska dealt with the aetiology and therapy of periodontal disease.

He described it as “a disease that leads to tissue and enzyme changes through environmental influences and mutations” describing it as a characteristic disease of the civilized and consumerist world.

He was also the first to describe the therapy.

 

 

In 1901 he was called to the court in Petersburg.

The Czar allowed him to practice his profession throughout Russia.

 

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Above: Czar Nicholas II of Russia (1868 – 1918)

 

Hruska, however, preferred to return to Italy.

In 1903 he bought some property in Gardone Riviera and started to transform the abandoned vineyard into a garden with streams, ponds and paths.

Hruska built various small lakes with water from the nearby springs which he created as naturally as possible.

The water kept the Garden damp and cool while the trees protected it from wind and cold.

 

 

On 30 September 1903, Hruska married Dutchwoman Cornelia (Corry) Anna Lelsz (1874 – 1917).

They had four children.

Like all Austrians, the Hruska family suddenly had to leave Italy during the First World War.

They hid their valuables in the caves and under the waterfall in the garden and fled with a boat.

They later settled in Bressanone (Brixen).

The Hruska family received Italian citizenship.

 

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Arthur Hruska continued his medical work in plastic surgery and operated on maxillofacial injuries.

After the end of the First World War, the house and garden in Gardone Riviera were restored.

 

 

Hruska traveled the world, including the Pyrenees, Himalayas, Tenerife and China.

He studied mountain formations, collected plants and crossed Lapland on foot.

He then built an alpinum, a rock massif, to allow the plants to thrive in their natural environment.

His children called the Garden “Elephant Cemetery“.

The Garden is lush and green, shaded by tall exotic trees: conifers, palm trees, camphor trees, banana trees, bamboo grass, ferns, agaves, lilies and shrubs in the landscaped jungle, water plants blooming along the streams and around the ponds.

 

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Franz André Heller is an Austrian artist, author, poet, singer, songwriter and actor.

 

 

Heller was born in Vienna into a wealthy Jewish family of sweets manufacturers, Gustav & Wilhelm Heller.

He visited Café Hawelka almost daily.

It was in this coffeehouse that he met many men of letters including Friedrich Torberg, H. C. Artmann, and occasionally Elias Canetti, as well as Hans Weigel, and Helmut Qualtinger, with whom he later on collaborated and performed.

 

 

Heller took acting classes from Hans Weigel and his cohabitee Elfriede Ott.

Heller has been writing prose, poetry and songs since 1964.

He left school shortly before obtaining the Matura.

He went to a Jesuit boarding school.

From 1965 to 1967, he was a moderately successful actor at various Viennese avant-garde theatres.

In 1967, Heller co-founded Hitradio Ö3, the ORF’s then progressive pop music station, where he was one of the hosts of the daily Musicbox programme.

 

Ö3 logo

 

That same year, he recorded his first LP record with the title Nr1 that was released in 1970.

His second LP Platte was released in 1971, and, subsequently, his first play premiered entitled, King-Kong-King-Mayer-Mayer-Ling at the Vienna Festival in 1972.

As a poet-songwriter, his work spans across a period of more than 15 years selecting diverse topics and writing for a German-speaking audience.

He has worked with not only international names, such as Ástor Piazzolla, Dino Saluzzi and Freddie Hubbard, but also with Austrian artists, such as Toni Stricker, Wolfgang Ambros and Helmut Qualtinger.

Heller’s own poetry has been set to music.

He has also sung texts by other authors.

For instance, “Catherine“, from 1970, was set to one of the first hits of Heller.

The text came from the then still largely unknown Reinhard Mey, and the music from the Austro-Canadian Jack Grunsky.

With Werner Schneyder, he created Viennese German songs that are translated from Jacques Brel, such as “Franz” (after the Brel title “Jef“).

Using intimate memories of traumatic childhood experiences, and insights into his life, as well as his Catholic-Jewish origin, he created songs with the title “Angstlied” (Verwunschen, 1980).

Titles like “Miruna, die Riesin von Göteborg” (Verwunschen, 1980) are, in turn, influenced by the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism.

Das Lied vom idealen Park” (Narrenlieder 1985), or, as a duet with Wolfgang Ambros, he also introduced the Bob Dylan cover, “Für immer jung” (Stimmenhören, 1983) are now titles that are part of the Austro-pop cannon.

In 1983, he appeared on Stimmenhören with the song “Erhebet euch Geliebte“, a song at the time of the peace movement in the early 1980s.

Since the early 1980s, he turned increasingly to large public productions, installations and performances, until 1982, where his concert career came to a close.

In 1985, the album, Narrenlieder, was released.

Between 1967 and 1985, he published a total of fourteen LPs, twelve of those were gold records, and earned him seven times platinum.

In 1991, he wrote, looking back on this period:

I started in 1967, to put my poems together using my voice on record and in recitals before millions of people.

This was following the example of Bob Dylan’s first meaningful and self-published poetry.

1982 was certainly the zenith of that career, where I had to stop my concerts. I realized at this point, it was spoiled for me, because at 8pm, I had to act gifted in front of a few thousand listeners, just because they had paid for admission.

(Heller in the liner notes of Kritische Gesamtausgabe, published in 1991)

However, on his 60th birthday, Heller gave a concert in April 2007 at the Viennese Radiokulturhaus, after twenty-five years of absence from the stage in a recital entitled, Konzert für mich (Concert for me).

Between 1968 and 1983, Heller recorded 15 albums as a singer of his own texts, and in part of his own compositions.

He was on the road with 9 international concert tours and was the host and entertainer in 12 evening TV shows.

In 2006, thanks to the initiative of Chris Gelbmann, he released his last album called, Ruf und Echo.

The 3-CD compendium is the first release in the past 20 years, containing new songs, and interpretations of old hits by artists like Brian Eno, Xavier Naidoo, Thomas D, and The Walkabouts.

 

 

Heller was appointed as an Artistic Director of the Artistic and Cultural Programme that ran parallel to the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

His company, Artevent, was also responsible for the presentation of the Germany bid for the 2006 FIFA World Cup project.

He designed the final presentation in 2000 for the successful German application, and, in 2003, designed a “Fußball-Globus“, an architectural project consisting of a huge lit-up football globe that toured through Germany standing in public places such as Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Heller invented the motto for the football World Cup, Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden (A time to make friends).

For the World Cup, Heller planned an opening gala in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, where Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel would be involved.

On 13 January 2006, it was cancelled by FIFA.

The reason cited was that the turf, which would have been re-installed after the end of the gala, would not be in perfect condition for the first game there.

 

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Since 2003, Robert Hofferer is his manager and leads the firm Artevent, with headquarters in Vienna.

From 1976 until 1981, Heller played major roles in various international movies.

In the late 1960s, Heller joined as a financier in the film, Moos auf den Steinen (Moss on the Stones), with Erika Pluhar in one of the main roles, for which he claims to have used up his inheritance.

It was not long before he was in front the camera as an actor:

Heller played the leading roles in Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s Hitler: A Film from Germany, in Fürchte dich nicht, Jakob! by Radu Gabrea, in Doktor Faustus by Franz Seitz, and in Peter Schamoni’s Frühlingssinfonie (Spring Symphony), a supporting role in Maximilian Schell’s 1979 film, Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald (Tales from the Vienna Woods), which is based on Ödön von Horváth’s play.

In 1969, Heller participated in a televised version of Arthur Schnitzler’s tragicomedy, Das weite Land (The Wide Land), directed by Peter Beauvais.

 

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In 1989, he also worked as a stamp artist.

On behalf of the United Nations Postal Administration, he designed a stamp to commemorate UN Vienna’s tenth anniversary.

 

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Heller has received numerous international awards.

He has to date written 14 printed publications, among them are collections of stories Die Ernte der Schlaflosigkeit in Wien, Auf und Davon, Schlamassel, and Als ich ein Hund war, the novel Schattentaucher, and the collection of poems Sitzt ana und glaubt, er is zwa(with Helmut Qualtinger), as well as two picture books Jagmandir – Traum und Wirklichkeit, and Die Zaubergärten des André Heller.

 

21 TV documentaries have been produced about Heller’s projects, productions, and plans.

These were done by the likes of Werner Herzog, H. J. Syberberg, and Elsa Klensch, among others.

Heller was married from 1970 to 1984 to the actress, singer, and author Erika Pluhar.

 

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Above: Erika Pluhar, 2018

 

For some years, he lived in the 1970s with the actress Gertraud Jesserer, and much later, with the actress Andrea Eckert.

 

Above: Andrea Eckert, 2016

 

Heller was romantically involved for short periods in the mid-1980s with Anke Kesselaar, Rudi Carrell′s former wife.

 

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The artist lives in an apartment in the Palais Windisch-Graetz in Vienna’s Innere Stadt quarter that is owned by the Augustinian monastery of Klosterneuburg.

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In 2000, Heller received there German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

 

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Above: Gerhard Schröder, German Chancellor (1988 – 2005)

 

Among Heller’s works is “Blind Spot – Hitler’s Secretary” (2001): a documentary interview presented at the 52nd Berlin Film Show.

 

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Heller also became a famous visionary artist, displaying fantastic ideas, artistic creations, multimedia shows and later realized several shows with active participation from the public, managing to create a world in opposition to the daily rational one based on technology.

In 1987 he opened the avant-garde fun fair “Luna Luna” in Hamburg – a travelling territory of modern art – in 1992 the monumental sculpture “Bambus Man” in Hong Kong.

 

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Heller’s works include art for gardens, Wunderkammern, parades, millions of LPs sold as a singer-songwriter, concerts and conferences across Europe, Asia and North America, large flying and floating sculptures, movies, fireworks and labyrinths, renewal of circuses and variety shows, as well as theatrical plays and shows for the public from Broadway to the Burgtheatre in Vienna, in India and in China, in South America and in Africa, designer of museums among which the Swarovski Crystal World, Meteorit, the art direction of the Germany World Cup in 2006, and the fantastic AFRIKA-AFRIKA circus. 

 

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Heller lives part-time in the Giardino Botanico Hruska in Gardone Riviera.

He currently lives with the former model Albina Schmid in Vienna and travels the world.

 

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Heller has one son, Ferdinand, who goes under the stage name “Left Boy” for his music.

 

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Ferdinand Sarnitz, known by his stage name Left Boy, is an Austrian DJ, singer and producer from Vienna.

Sarnitz was born in Vienna in 1988 to Austrian musician André Heller and Sabina Sarnitz.

He attended the American International School of Vienna and graduated in 2007.

In his free time at school Sarnitz spent most of his time rapping.

At the age of 18, Sarnitz went to New York City to study audio engineering at the Institute of Audio Research for a year.

After living in his hometown Vienna for a short while, he decided to move to Brooklyn to live in a shared apartment with two directors, a producer and a photographer.

In December 2010, Sarnitz released his first mixtape The Second Coming for free download.

In mid-2011, he started making music videos for all of the songs.

Sarnitz often uses samples for his English songs, which haven’t been released for usability, which is why an official sound carrier couldn’t be released.

Even though he hadn’t been signed to a record label, he was able to perform at festivals in 2012, including “Sea of Love” and “HipHop Open“.

Live, he is accompanied by the dance group “Urban Movement“.

Ruan Roets is a big fan, describing the Left Boy sound as “poes goed“.

Sarnitz has a son, Yves-Louis.

He cites Wu-Tang Clan, Oxmo Puccino, De La Soul, Atmosphere, Ugly Duckling, Daft Punk, Édith Piaf, Nina Simone, Oumou Sangaré and Gipsy Kings as his inspirations.

In 2015, he rapped in the official theme tune “Building Bridges” for the Eurovision Song Contest.

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I wonder if Left Boy truly appreciates his father’s garden.

I wonder if anyone truly appreciates what came before to make what is possible today.

 

I think of Austria – Italy relations.

 

Map indicating locations of Austria and Italy

 

Austria (Österreich) has an embassy in Roma (Rome / Rom), a general consulate in Milano (Milan / Mailand) and 10 honorary consulates in Bari, Bologna, Firenze (Florence / Florenz), Genoa, Napoli (Naples), Palermo, Trieste, Torino (Turin), Venezia (Venice / Venedig) and Verona.

 

Above: Austrian Consulate, Milan

 

Italy (Italia) has an embassy in Wien (Vienna), a consulate in Innsbruck (Isprucco) and four honorary consulates in Graz, Klagenfurt (Clanforte), Linz and Salzburg (Salisburgo).

 

Above: Italian Embassy, Vienna

 

Since the Middle Ages, Austria has had a great influence over the Italian states, especially in the north of the country, but as well Italy has also influenced Austrian culture, architecture and cuisine.

 

Above: Antonio Salieri (1750 – 1825), Italian composer who worked mainly in Austria

 

Above: Nicolò Pacassi (1716 – 1790), Austrian architect of Italian descent

 

Many Italian artists and architects, like Santino Solari, Martino Altomonte, Giovanni Zucalli, Vincenzo Scamozzi, worked and contributed to the Baroque in Austria, most notably in Salzburg.

 

After the Congress of Vienna, Austrian control of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, with its key cities of Venice and Milan, created the conditions in which Italian nationalism and Austrian interests clashed in the three Wars of Italian Independence between 1848 and 1866 ultimately leading to Italian victory.

Tensions remained throughout the 1870s as continued Austrian rule over Italian inhabited lands such as in Trentino and Istria, inflamed Italian nationalism which in turn threatened Austrian integrity.

As a result the Austrians built further fortifications along the Italian border.

 

In 1876, the Austrian Archduke Albrecht advocated a preventive war against Italy.

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Above: Archduke Albrecht (1817 – 1895)

 

Despite entering into the Triple Alliance of 1882 (along with Germany), areas of clashing interest remained.

Italy’s improving relations with France, Italian interests in the Balkans, and continuing nationalism amongst Italians within Austria-Hungary concerned leaders in Vienna.

Italy’s adherence to the Triple Alliance in the event of war was doubted and from 1903 plans for a possible war against Rome were again maintained by the Austrian general staff.

Mutual suspicions led to reinforcement of the frontier and speculation in the press about a war between the two countries in the first decade of the 20th century.

 

As late as 1911 Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, chief of the Austrian general staff, was advocating a military strike against Austria’s supposed Italian allies.

 

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Above: Conrad von Hötzendorf (1852 – 1925)

 

During World War I, Italy fought against Austria–Hungary despite their defensive alliance signed some decades earlier.

By World War I’s end, Italy emerged victorious and gained new territories from Austria and border agreements were secured.

 

Today both countries are full members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and of the European Union.

The countries share 430 km of common borders.

 

 

Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl said on 5 June 2018 that Italy is a strong ally of Austria.

 

And here’s the point….

 

Old enemies can lay down their swords and beat them into ploughshares.

And the result, such as a botanical garden and sculpture park, can be remarkably beautiful.

 

 

This is the legacy bequeathed to Left Boy, bequeathed to those of us who reside in Europe.

 

Certainly individuals and nations have their unique talents and opportunities, but when we sacrifice unity in pursuit of selfish gain that beauty, so difficultly obtained, so delicately fragile, can be lost.

We live in an age where popularism and nationalism has nations in nervous anxiety and dangerous xenophobic paranoia with all those who are different than we are.

 

But Italian baroque in Vienna and Austrian artistry by the shores of Lago di Garda show that, rather than divide nations, differences can enhance them.

 

A world-renowned dentist, a multi-media multi-talented superstar, and a rising musical phenomenon, Hruska, Heller and Left Boy have shown Austrians that one can find purpose outside Austria and have shown Italians that the acceptance within Italy of strangers whose ancestors had once been mortal enemies can make Italy flourish.

Father Heller and son Left Boy have travelled and will continue to travel the world, but they were never kicked out of their Garden of Eden that their fortunes nestled and nurtured in Gardone Riviera.

 

Their Garden is waiting for them, and us, to return to.

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / King Crimson, "Three of a Pair" /Giardino Botanico Fondazione André Heller, www.hellergarden.com

Canada Slim and the Museum of Innocence

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 19 August 2018

It has been ages since I have written about Turkey, but those who know me are aware that there are both many things I adore about this bridge between Asia and Europe and many things I abhor.

Flag of Turkey

Of the little exploration I have done in this great republic (the Turquoise Coast with Alanya and Antalya, Kas and Kale, Egirdir and Pamukkale, and the great city of Istanbul)….

I fell immediately and forever in love with Istanbul.

I spent only three days there.

I would have loved to have spent three decades there.

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I have written a wee bit about this amazing and ancient metropolis.

(See: Canada Slip and the Lamp Ladies, The sorrow of Batman, The fashionable dead, Take Me Back to Constantinople, Fireworks in the Fog, and Silence and Gold, of this blog.)

 

Of the little I know and understand about Turkey I find myself more and more disliking the present leader of Turkey and former mayor of Istanbul, Recep Erdogan, and so I have written a wee bit about him as well.

(See:  Bullets and Ballots and The rise of Recep of this blog.)

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Above: His Excellency President Recep Erdogan

 

There is so much to see and do in Istanbul that it is difficult to know what to recommend.

Does one go to the district of Sultanahmet and visit Aya Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern?

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Does one look for souvenirs in the historic Arasta Bazaar?

Does one watch whirling dervishes whirl or wind down at a nargile café?

Is life a bazaar and should one explore the labyrinthine lanes and hidden caravanserais of the world-famous Grand Bazaar, or is it better to follow the steady stream of local shoppers making their way to the Spice Bazaar?

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Can a person remain the same after visiting that most magnificent of all Ottoman mosques, the Süleymaniye or after watching the sunset as one walks across the Galata Bridge?

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Is it wrong to envy the lifestyles of sultans at Topkapi Palace or to indulge sultan-like in the steamy luxury of a hamam (Turkish bath)?

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Can one forget the Bosphorus or be unimpressed by the Istanbul Modern Museum?

 

How did one live before Istanbul?

How can one live afterwards?

 

How does one discover Istanbul through literature?

It depends on what kind of Istanbul you seek.

 

Rose Macauley’s The Towers of Trebizond is a largely auotbiographical novel that focuses on a group of lively and eccentric travellers on the way from Istanbul to Trebizond (Trabzon on the Black Sea coast of northeast Turkey).

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Read this and you will soon find yourself on a boat between these cities.

 

Then there is The Prophet Murders by Mehmet Murat Somer:

Most tourists come and visit the historical sights of Istanbul, but we have very modern parts and life is completely different there….

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The reader is transplanted into a subculture of the city, the transvestite club scene.

 

As Venice has Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti and Edinburgh has Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus, Istanbul has Barbara Nadel’s Inspector Ikmen crime series.

The first of the series, Belshazzar’s Daughter, finds the Ikmen examining the torture and murder of an elderly Jewish man, a crime that sends shock waves through Istanbul.

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Elia Shafak’s highly acclaimed The Flea Palace focuses on the residents of the Bonbon Palace, a once Grand residency built by a Russian émigré at the end of the Tsarist period, but now a sadly rundown block of flats.

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Think A Thousand and One Nights in modern Istanbul.

 

Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk is one of Turkey’s most celebrated authors and much of what he has written is essentially a love letter to his city of Istanbul.

Orhan Pamuk in 2009

Above: Orhan Pamuk

Pamuk shows through both his Istanbul: Memories and the City and his novels  – (at least those I have found and read) –  The Red-Haired Woman, A Strangeness in My Mind, The White Castle and The Museum of Innocence  – sides to Istanbul that most tourists never see nor will ever see.

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To savour Istanbul’s backstreets, to appreciate the vines and trees that endow its ruins with accidental grace, you must, first and foremost, be a stranger to them.

 

From Lonely Planet’s Istanbul:

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“His status as a Nobel laureate deserves respect, but we feel obliged to say that we think Orhan Pamuk is a bit cheeky to charge a whopping 25 liras for entrance to his Museum of Innocence.

That said, this long-anticipated piece of conceptual art is worth a visit, particularly if you have read and admired the novel it celebrates.

The Museum is set in a 19th-century house and seeks to re-create and evoke aspects of Pamuk’s 1988 novel The Museum of Innocence by displaying found objects in traditional museum-style glass cases.

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The Museum also includes strangely beautiful installations, such as a wall displaying the 4,213 cigarette butts supposedly smoked by the narrator’s lover Füsun.

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The exhibits seek to evoke what Pamuk as described as “the melancholy of the period” in which he grew up and in which the novel is set.”

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The narrative and the Museum offer a glimpse into upper-class Istanbul life from the 1970s to the early 2000s.

The novel details the story of Kemal, a wealthy Istanbulite who falls in love with his poorer cousin, and the Museum displays the artefacts of their love story.

Kemal, of the wealthy Nisantasi family, is due to marry Sibel, a girl from his own social class, when he falls in love with his distant relative Füsun, who works as a sales assistant in a shop.

Kemal and Füsun begin to meet in dusty rooms filled with old furniture and memories.

After Füsun marries someone else, Kemal spends eight years visiting her.

After every visit, he takes away with him an object that reminds him of her.

These objects form the collection of the Museum of Innocence.

According to the Museum website, the collection, which includes more than a thousand objects, presents what the novel’s characters “used, wore, heard, saw, collected and dreamed of, all meticulously arranged in boxes and display cabinets.

The Museum of Innocence is based on the assumption that objects used for different purposes and evocative of the most disparate memories can, when placed side by side, bring forth unprecedented thoughts and emotions.

 

On the floor at the entrance of the Museum, the Spiral of Time can be seen from every floor.

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If Aristotle thought of time as a line joining moments worth remembering, Pamuk sees time as a line joining objects.

 

“The idea for my museum came to me when I met His Imperial Highness Prince Ali Vâsib for the first time in 1982 at a family reunion in Istanbul….

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Above: Ali Vâsib (1903 – 1983)

My curiosity at the family table prompted the elderly Prince to share some stories.

Among them was King Farouk’s kleptomania.

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Above: King Farouk I of Egypt (1920 – 1965)

During a visit to the Antoniadis Palace and Museum, Farouk had, unbeknowst to anyone, opened a cabinet and taken away an antique plate he had set his sights on for his own palace in Cairo.

Above: Antoniadis Palace, Alexandria, Egypt

Prince Ali was looking for a job that would provide him with an income and enable him to settle down in Turkey permanently after 50 years in exile.

During his exile (1924 – 1982), the Prince, for many years, made a living by working as a ticket taker and then as director of Antoniadis Palace and Museum in Alexandria, Egypt.

Someone at Pamuk’s table suggested that the Prince might find employment as a museum guide at Ihlamur Palace, where he had spent so much time as a child.

Above: Ihlamur Palace, Istanbul

Upon this suggestion, the Prince and all those at the table began to imagine, in complete seriousness and without a trace of irony, how Ali might show visitors around the rooms where he had rested and studied as a child.

I remember that I later built on these imaginings with the zeal of a young novelist looking for new perspectives:

And here, sirs, is where I sat 70 years ago studying mathematics with my aide-de-camp.

He would walk away from the ticket-toting crowd, step over the line that visitors are not allowed to cross – marked by those old-style velvet cords that hangs between brass stands – and sit once again at the desk he used in his youth….

I imagined the joy of being a guide to a museum and one of the museum’s artifacts at the same time, and the thrill of explaining to visitors a life, with all its paraphenalia, many years after it was lived.”

(Orhan Pamuk, The Innocence of Objects: The Museum of Innocence, Istanbul)

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“I had not said:

This trip to Paris is not on business, Mother.

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For if she had asked my reason, I could not have offered her a proper answer, having concealed the purpose even from myself….

I felt such consolation, the same deep understanding, as I wandered idly around museums.

I do not mean the Louvre or the Beaubourg or the other crowded, ostentatious ones of that ilk.

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Above: The Louvre, Paris

I am speaking now of the many empty museums I found in Paris, the collections that no one ever visits.

There was the Musée Édith Piaf, founded by a great admirer, where by appointment I viewed hairbrushes, combs and teddy bears….

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Above: French singer Édith Piaf (1915 – 1963)

 

And the Musée de la Préfecture de Police, where I spent an entire day….

And the Musée Jacquemart-André, where other objects were arranged alongside paintings in a most original way.

 

I saw empty chairs, chandeliers and haunting unfurnished spaces there.

Whenever wandering alone through museums like this, I felt myself uplifted….

I would dream happily of a museum where I could display my life, where I could tell my story through the things left behind, as lesson to us all.

 

On visiting the Musée Nissim de Camondo,  I was emboldened to believe that the Keskins’ set of plates, forks, knives, and my seven-year collection of salt shakers, I too could have something worthy of proud display.

Above: Béatrice (sister) and Nissim de Cumondo (1892 – 1917)

 

The notion set me free.

 

The Musée de la Poste made me realize I could display letters….

And the Micromusée du Service des Objets Trouvés legitimated the inclusion of a wide range of things, as long as they reminded me….

 

It took me an hour in a taxi to reach the Musée Maurice Ravel, formerly the famous composer’s house, and when I saw his toothbrush, coffee cups, china figurines, various dolls, toys and an iron cage….

slender, middle-aged man, clean-shaven with full head of hair, seen in profile

Above: French composer Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)

 

I very nearly wept.

 

To stroll through these Paris museums was to be released from the shame of my collection….

No longer an oddball embarrassed by the things he had hoarded, I was gradually awakening to the pride of a collector.

 

One evening while drinking alone in the bar of the Hôtel du Nord, gazing at the strangers around me, I caught myself asking the questions that occur to every Turk who goes abroad (if he has some education and a bit of money):

Image result for hotel du nord paris photos

 

What did these Europeans think about me?

What did they think about us all?

 

Eventually I thought about how I might describe what Füsun meant to me to someone who knew nothing about Istanbul….

 

I was coming to see myself as someone who had travelled to distant countries and remained there for many years:

Say, an anthropologist who had fallen in love with an native girl while living among the indigenous folk of New Zealand, to study and catalog their habits and rituals, how they worked and relaxed, and had fun….

My observations and the love I had lived had become intertwined.

Now the only way I could ever hope tp make sense of those years was to display all that I had gathered together – the pots and pans, the trinkets, the clothes and the paintings – just as an anthropologist might have done.

 

During my last days in Paris, with….a bit of time to kill, I went to the Musée Gustave Moreau, because Proust had held this painter in such high esteem.

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Above: French painter Gustave Moreau (1826 – 1898)

I couldn’t bring myself to like Moreau’s classical, mannered historical paintings, but I liked the Museum.

In his final years, the painter Moreau had set about changing the family house where he had spent most of his life into a place where his thousands of paintings might be displayed after his death.

This house in due course became a museum….

Once converted, the house became a house of memories, a “sentimental museum“, in which every object shimmered with meaning.

As I walked through empty rooms, across creaking parquet floors and past dozing guards, I was seized by a passion that I might almost call religious….

 

My visit to Paris served as the model for my subsequent travels.

 

On arriving in a new city I would move into the old but comfortable and centrally located hotel that I had booked from Istanbul, and armed with the knowledge acquired from the books and guides read in advance, I would begin my rounds of the city’s most noteworthy museums, never rushing, never skipping a single one, like a student meticulously completing an assignment.

And then I would scan the flea markets, the shops selling trinkets and knickknacks, a few antique dealers.

If I happened on a salt shaker, an ashtray or a bottle opener identical to one I had seen in the Keskin household, or if anything else struck my fancy, I would buy it.

No matter where I was – Rio de Janeiro, Hamburg, Baku, Kyoto or Lisbon.

At suppertime I would take a long walk through the back streets and far-flung neighbourhoods.

Peering through the windows, I would search out rooms with families eating in front of the television, mothers cooking in kitchens that also served as dining rooms, children and fathers, young women with their disappointing husbands, and even the rich distant relations secretly in love with the girl in the house.

In the morning, after a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, I would kill time on the avenues and in the cafés until the little museums had opened.

I would write postcards to my mother and aunt, peruse the local papers, trying to figure out what had happened in Istanbul and the world, and at 11 o’clock I would pick up my notebook and set out hopefully on the day’s program.”

(Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence)

 

Pamuk goes on to relate his experiences in other museums around the world:

  • Helsinki City Museum
  • Museum of Cazelles, France
  • State Museum of Württemberg in Stuttgart
  • Musée International de la Parfumerie, Grasse
  • Alte Pinakothek, Munich
  • Musée de la Vie Romantique, Paris
  • Historiska Museum, Göteborg, Sweden
  • Brevik Town Museum, Norway
  • Civico Museo del Mare, Trieste, Italy
  • Museum of Insects and Butterflies, La Ceiba, Honduras
  • Museum of Chinese Medicine, Hangzhou
  • Musée du Tabac, Paris
  • Musée de l’Atelier de Paul Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence
  • Rockox House, Antwerp, Belgium
  • Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna
  • Museum of London
  • Florence Nightingale Museum, London
  • Musée de Temps, Besancon, France
  • Teylers Museum, Haarlem, the Netherlands
  • Fort St. George Museum, Madras, India
  • Castelvecchio Museum, Verona
  • Museum der Dinge (Museum of Things), Berlin
  • Uffizi Museum, Florence
  • Sir John Soane’s Museum, London
  • Museu Frederic Marès, Barcelona
  • Glove Museum, New York City
  • Museum of Jurassic Technology, Culver City, California
  • Ava Gardner Museum, Smithfield, North Carolina
  • Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising, Nashville
  • Tragedy in US History Museum, Saint Augustine, Florida
  • Stalin Museum, Gori, Georgia, Russia
  • Museum of the Romantic Era, Porto, Portugal

(In darker font are the places your humble blogger has also visited….)

 

So many museums, so many places, so many memories….

 

But for Kemal Bey each museum was appreciated (or not) more for its connection to Füsan and emotions evoked, rather than for the virtues of the museum itself.

Helsinki had familiar medicine bottles, Cazelles – hats his parents wore, Stuttgart convinced him that possessions deserved display in splendour, Grasse had him trying to remember Füsan’s scent, Munich’s Pinakothek’s stairs would serve as a model for the Museum of Innocence while Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Sacrifice of Abraham reminded him of having told Füsan this story and of the moral of giving up the thing most precious to us and expecting nothing in return.

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And so on.

 

And what does Pamuk / Kemal want from the Museum?

 

“Do you know who it was that taught me the central place of pride in a museum?….

The museum guards, of course.

No matter where I went in the world, the guards would answer my every question with passion and pride….

If someone asks a question at our Museum, the guards must describe the history of the collection, the love I feel for Füsan, and the meanings invested in her possessions, with the same dignified air….

The guards’ job is not, as is commonly thought, to hush noisy visitors, protect the objects on display (though of course everything connected to Füsan must be preserved for eternity!) and issue warnings to kissing couples and people chewing gum.

Their job is to make visitors feel that they are in a place of worship that, like a mosque, should awaken in them feelings of humility, respect and reverence.

The guards at the Museum of Innocence are to wear velvet business suits the colour of dark wood – this being in keeping with the collection’s ambience and also Füsan’s spirit – with light pink shirts and special Museum ties embroidered with images of Füsan’s earrings.

They should leave gum chewers and kissing couples to their own devices.

The Museum of Innocence will be forever open to lovers who can’t find other place to kiss in Istanbul….

Never forget that the logic of my museum must be that wherever one stands in it, it should be possible to see the entire collection, all the display cases and everything else.

Because all the objects in my museum – and with them, my entire story – can be seen at the same time from any perspective, visitors will lose all sense of time.

This is the greatest consolation in life.

In poetically well-built museums, formed from the heart’s compulsions, we are consoled not by finding in them old objects that we love, but by losing all sense of time….

And let those who have read the book enjoy free admission to the Museum when they visit for the first time.

This is best accomplished by placing a ticket in every copy.

The Museum of Innocence will have a special stamp and when visitors present their copy of the book, the guard at the door will stamp this ticket before ushering them in.”

(Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence)

 

And, sure enough, at the bottom of page 713 (invalid if torn from the book), the reader finds a free ticket for a single admission to the Museum.

The butterfly stamp is reminiscient of the Museum’s Spiral of Time.

 

The Museum of Innocence, both the novel and the building, offers a glimpse into upper class Istanbul life from the 1970s to the early years of the Second Millennium.

The collection includes more than a thousand objects and presents what the novel’s characters used, wore, heard, saw, collected and dreamed of, all meticulously arranged in boxes and cabinets.

 

In the Museum’s catalogue, The Innocence of Objects, Pamuk lays out a manifesto for museums.

Pamuk calls for exchanging large national museums, such as the Louvre and the Hermitage, for smaller, more individualistic and cheaper museums, that tell stories in the place of histories.

“A museum should work in its capacity to reveal the humanity of individuals.”

 

To get to the Museum took some effort on my part as a first-time solo visitor.

My Istanbul accommodation was in the southeast district of Cagaloglu on the European side of the Bosphorus Strait.

The Museum is also on the European side but required crossing the Golden Horn via the Galata Bridge, which demanded either half the afternoon to walk that distance or at least an hour using public transport.

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It was warm, at least by this Canadian’s standards, so I opted for public transport – tram and bus.

 

And as Pamuk writes in Istanbul: Memories and the City, “there was more to my world than I could see“.

 

I had, before Istanbul, many books I wished to read and Pamuk’s books remain on my list after Istanbul, but reading his works and visiting his museum I began to understand why his writing has sold over 13 million books in 63 languages making him Turkey’s best selling author.

 

Pamuk has tried to highlight issues relating to freedom of speech at a time when his President is trying to destroy it.

He is among a group of authors tried for writing essays that criticized (and rightly so) Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds.

In 2005, after Pamuk made a statement regarding the Armenian Genocide and mass killings of Kurds, a criminal case was opened against the author based on a complaint filed by ultra-nationalist lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz.

The criminal charges against Pamuk resulted from remarks he made during an interview in February 2005 with the Swiss publication Das Magazin, a weekly supplement to a number of Swiss newspapers: the Tages-Anzeiger, the Basler Zeitung and the Solothuner Tagblatt, to name but a few.

Flag of Switzerland

In this interview, Pamuk stated:

Thirty thousand Kurds have been killed here and a million Armenians. 

And nobody dares to mention that. 

So I do.

He was consequently subjected to a hate campaign that forced him to flee the country.

(I am uncertain whether he lives in Istanbul again or not.)

In an 2005 interview with BBC News, Pamuk said that he wanted to defend freedom of speech, which was Turkey’s only hope for coming to terms with its history:

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What happened to the Ottoman Armenians in 1915 was a major thing that was hidden from the Turkish nation.

It was a taboo.

But we have to be able to talk about the past.

In Bilecik, Pamuk’s books were burnt in a nationalist rally.

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Above: Bilecik, Turkey

Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code states:

A person who publicly insults the Republic or the Turkish Grand Assembly, shall be punishable by imprisonment of six months to three years.

The charges against Pamuk caused an international outcry and led to questions about Turkey’s then-desired entry into the European Union.

Amnesty International released a statement calling for Article 301 to be repealed and for Pamuk and six other people awaiting trial under the Article be set free.

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Above: Logo for Amnesty International

PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists and all other writers) also denounced the charges against Pamuk:

PEN finds it extraordinary that a state that has ratified both the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, both of which see freedom of expression as central, should have a Penal Code that includes a clause that is so clearly contrary to these very same principles.

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Eight world-renowned authors (José Saramango, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Günter Grass, Umberto Eco, Carlos Fuentes, Juan Goytisolo, John Updike and Mario Vargas Llosa) issued a joint statement supporting Pamuk and decrying the charges against him as a violation of human rights.

On 27 March 2011, Pamuk was found guilty and was ordered to pay 6,000 liras in total compensation to five people for having insulted their honour.

 

I strongly feel that the art of the novel is based on the human capacity, though it is a limited capacity, to be able to identify with ‘the other’.

Only human beings can do this.

It requires imagination, a sort of morality, a self-imposed goal of understanding this person who is different from us, which is a rarity.

(Orhan Pamuk, Carol Becker interview, The Brooklyn Rail, February 2008)

 

What literature needs most to tell and investigate are humanity’s basic fears: the fears of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears, the collective humiliations, vulnerabilities, slights, grievances, sensitivities and imagined insults, and the nationalist boasts and inflations that are their next of kin.

Whenever I am confronted by such sentiments and by the irrational overstated language in which they are usually expressed, I know they touch on a darkness inside me.

We have often witnessed peoples, societies and nations outside the Western world – and I can identify with them easily – succumbing to fears that sometimes lead them to commit stupidities, all because of their fears of humiliation and their sensitivities.

I also know that in the West – a world which I can identify with the same ease – nations and peoples taking an excessive pride in their wealth, and in their having brought us the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and modernism, have, from time to time, succumbed to a self-satisfaction that is almost as stupid.”

(Orhan Pamuk, Nobel lecture, 7 December 2006)

 

The Museum of Innocence is five levels of emotional complexity, much like Pamuk’s writing.

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On the ground floor is where the visitor can buy tickets (if his novel isn’t available), pick up an audio guide, read the acknowledgements wall, watch a movie and videos and see Box #68 with the aforementioned 4,213 cigarette stubs (more than the Musée du Tabac).

 

On the first floor, we witness Kemal’s happiest moment of his life, the Sanzelize Boutique, photographs of distant relations, love at the office, matchbooks from fuaye restaurants, Füsun’s tears collected in a yellow jug, the Merhamet Apartments, Turkey’s first fruit soda (Meltem), the F box, city lights and happiness, the feast of the sacrifice, photos to be kissed on the lips, and how love, courage and modernity are represented by the night, the stars and other people’s lives.

The eyes through photographs wander down Istanbul’s streets, across bridges, over hills and into squares.

I discover a few unpalatable anthropological truths about Turkish culture:

  • If a man tried to wriggle out of marrying the girl he slept with and the girl in Question was under the age of 18, an angry father might take the philanderer to court to force him to marry.
  • These cases attracted press attention, so it was customary for newspapers to run photographs of the “violated” girls (not the “violating” men) with black bands over the ladies’ eyes to spare their being identified in this shameful situation. (No names were published, but it does seem odd that photos needed to be printed at all if the avoidance of shame truly was the goal.)
  • The press used the same black eyeband in photographs of adultresses (“…and here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson“), rape victims and prostitutes (“Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light.“) so often that reading a Turkish newspaper was like wandering through a masquerade ball.
  • Turkish newspapers ran very few photographs of Turkish women without black bands unless they were singers, actresses or Beauty contestants.
  • These were presumed to be of easy virtue anyway.Image result for museum of innocence istanbul photos

I witness Ahmet Isikci’s enigmatic art, how one’s whole life depends on the taxis of Istanbul.

I learn the story of Belki, the sorrow of funerals, a father’s gift of earrings to his mistress, the hand of Rahmi Efendi that almost pats the dog (“Take this longing from my tongue and all the guilty things these hands have done.“), the spell that (“the sound of“) silence casts, and an engagement party at the Istanbul Hilton.

Oh, the agony of waiting can be relieved if you carefully study an anatomical chart of love pains!

And, remember, don’t lean back that way or you might fall.

Pamuk wants his visitor to take consolation in objects and how they can remind a person of those they love.

By now there was hardly a moment when I wasn’t thinking about her.

I would awake to the same pain, as if a black lamp were burning eternally inside me, radiating darkness.

Sadly, Füsun doesn’t live here anymore, though there are streets that remind me of her and shadows and ghosts I mistake for her, life has left me with nothing but vulgar distractions.

I am an unnamed dog sent into outer space.

A dog which dares not entertain even a small hope that might allay his heartache.

Life is an empty house, an end-of-summer party without guests.

I make my confession to the Bosphorous and seek consolation in a yali.

Soon I am swimming on my back between Istanbul’s ships.

The melancholy of autumn leads to cold and lonely November days spent wandering the neighbourhood between the Fatih Hotel and the Golden Horn.

Maybe I need a holiday on Uludag.

I wonder:

Is it normal to leave your fiancée in the lurch?

I mourn my father’s death, realizing that the most important thing in life is to be happy.

I was going to ask her to marry me, because happiness means being close to the one you love, that’s all.

 

On the second floor, I learn that a film about life and agony should be sincere and that an indignant and broken heart is of no use to anyone.

I contemplate the spiral of time and I ask that you come again tomorrow and we can sit together again.

These are lemon films I watch but I am unable to stand up and leave.

A game of tombula should get past the censors as we share evenings on the Bosphorus at the Huzur Restaurant.

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We make the gossip column.

We are our own fire on the Bosphorus.

Dogs are everywhere and the air reeks of cologne.

 

So climb up to the top floor to Kemal’s room.

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Then down to the basement for a complimentary Turkish coffee.

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Such is the Museum of Innocence.

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Lonely Planet Istanbul / Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence / Orhan Pamuk, The Innocence of Objects / Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul: Memories and the City

 

 

Canada Slim and the Island of Anywhere

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 14 January 2018

“This could be Rotterdam or anywhere, Liverpool or Rome. 

´Cause Rotterdam is anywhere. 

Anywhere alone.  Anywhere alone.”

(The Beautiful South, “Rotterdam (or Anywhere)”, Blue is the Colour)

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There are a couple of songs that I enjoy listening to from this group:

“Don´t Marry Her” – purely for its shock value.

“Rotterdam (or Anywhere)” – for the feelings its lyrics inevitably generate within me.

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Above: Rotterdam

My wife recently bought me a new computer whose kinks and quirks I have yet to comprehend and overcome.

But these First World problems could have happened to anyone anywhere in the First World.

The sadness and annoyance at yet another piece of technology in my possession suddenly becoming obsolete, the frustration of having to master yet another new machine, I believe, are common emotions of someone of my generation trying to cope with the tools of a more modern time that make us sometimes feel obsolete as well.

During a break between completed errands in town and waiting for a train to take me to my only teaching job (at present) I spontaneously decided to visit the public library across the square from the Bahnhof (Train Station) St. Gallen.

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Above: Bahnhof St. Gallen

To the library´s credit they do possess more English language books than I do in my own personal library (though my wife doesn´t believe this to be true).

Spontaneously I grab the works of three authors whose writing I have hesitated to read for various irrational reasons: Jonathan Ames (because he has struck me as being elitist), Maya Angelou (too urban with themes common to the USA but almost unrecognizable to white Canadians) and Margaret Atwood (out of pure and simple jealousy for her success rather than any logical premise at all).

I need to grow beyond myself and try to read authors for the value and power of their words rather than reject them without reading their works because of stupid preconceptions.

I begin with Ames´  Wake Up, Sir! for the simplest reason of all: his name takes precedence alphabetically.

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My attempts to dispel my prejudices about Ames do not begin well….

In Chapter One, the damned hero of the book has a valet!

But I must admit that the opening situation of the book is one with which I can relate to….

Alan Blair, the protagonist of the novel, is awoken by his valet and informed that – Horror of Horrors! – his uncle is already up and about.

“It was only under these alarming circumstances that Jeeves would interrupt my eight hours of needed unconsciousness.

He knew that the happiness of my morning was dependent on having as little contact with said uncle as possible.”

I love my wife, but, like Blair´s uncle, she does not see how important solitude is to producing literature (or in my case, semblances of literature).

Like Uncle Irwin, my wife (being the well-organized German woman she is) has schedules that she adheres to, with a discipline well-trained soldiers would appreciate.

So, when she alters her schedule, I find myself suddenly in a funk and am uncertain as to how to recapture my muse with the alarming alteration of her presence demanding attention to herself rather than any attempts of creation I might be fostering.

Art is more akin to spontaneous ejaculations of expression and emotion, but even I realize that some amount of order and self-control are required to produce something worthy to be published.

Much like Uncle Irwin, my wife views sitting down and producing words on a computer (dead laptop or recently acquired mystery machine notwithstanding) akin to a kind of laziness.

For surely there are better things I could be doing with my time, such as household duties (husbands are, after all, unpaid valets), finding more employment as a teacher or requesting more hours at my “temporary” job as a barista.

She feels, and rightly so, that the inequality of our incomes puts an unjust burden upon her, but, in my defence, I argue that her education should leave her with a larger income than me and that money, as pleasant as it can be, is not the only criteria when it comes to devoting 80% of our lives to a job.

When work presents itself I do not shirk my responsibilities, but by the same token I do not want my life to be nothing more than living to pay bills.

I have more leisure time than she does as a doctor, but I would be lying if I said that I am not glad that I do.

I like having mornings to myself when I can write, or evenings when she has gone to bed exhausted and I am writing my electronic journal.

I like working weekends when the Café closes earlier than weekdays, leaving me free during the week – when I am not teaching – to go hiking or travelling while average people are chained to their workplaces.

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It is a fine thing to go hiking on a Sunday, but nature is truly a wonderland on a Wednesday when most everyone is working leaving the wilderness to myself alone.

That having been said, my ability to travel would not be possible (at least in the same manner I have grown accustomed to since we got married) were it not for her superior income.

And, understandably, she wants to have leisure time to travel as well, though her desire for solitude is rarer for her than mine is.

So, except for conferences, when she travels I usually accompany her.

And, it must be said, as too swift as our travelling together can be, travelling alone can, on occasion, make a place feel like Rotterdam or anywhere.

I can appreciate a sunset alone, but sharing that same sunset does lend the dying day a certain poignancy that solitude does not.

There is an Island that we both visited this past summer that listening to “Rotterdam (or Anywhere)” always brings to mind, for had I not been with her not only might I not have seen the Island, I might not have appreciated it without her by my side.

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Monte Isola, Italy, 4 August 2018

Traffic-free Monte Isola, Italy´s largest lake island, at over 3 km long and 600 metres / 1,969 feet high, at the south of the Lago d´Iseo, is defined by Italian legislation as an “area of particular importance from the natural and environmental point of view”.

Monte Isola (vom Westufer des Iseosees)

Above: Monte Isola

(Bureaucrats should never write travel literature.)

Accessible by hourly ferries from the lakeside ports of Iseo and Sulzano, Monte Isola is a magnet for daytrippers in summers and at weekends, so the Island then is unlikely to provide much solitude.

Still, mid-season or out of season, the Island is well worth a visit, to walk or cycle around the edge of the Island and for great views of the lake.

The population of the Island (1,800 inhabitants) is spread over 11 villages and hamlets.

There are several churches built between the 15th and the 17th centuries with frescoes, statues and altars in vernacular art.

With a total area of 12.8 square kilometres / 4.9 square miles, Monte Isola ranks as the largest lake island not only in Italy, but also in Central and South Europe.

Monte Isola within Lake Iseo

(The world´s largest lake island is Canadian: Manitoulin Island.)

The Island is served and reached by two main ports: Carzano to the north and Peschera Maraglio to the south.

There are indications of a Roman settlement, but the Island is first mentioned in a written document in 905 when it was listed among the properties of the monastery of San Salvatore in Brescia.

The family Oldofredi, rulers of Iseo, built two strongholds on the Island in the 11th to the 19th centuries.

One of these, on the lower promontory of the Island, covered by olive tree and wine cultivation, is the Rocca Oldofredi-Martinego, built in the 14th century as a strategic and defense point and then turned into a residence by the Martinegos during the Italian Renaissance.

Members of the powerful Visconti family came to the Island to hunt in 1400.

In 1497 Francesco Sforza, the Duke of Milan, gave the islanders some fishing rights and reduced their taxes.

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Above: Francesco Sforza (1401 – 1466)

In the same year, Caterina Cornaro, Queen and last monarch of Cyprus, resided a while on the Island.

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Above: Caterina Cornaro (1454 – 1510)

During the 19th century the main industry on the Island was the construction of boats and the manufacturing of fishing nets.

In 2016, Monte Isola was the site of the Floating Piers by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Above: The Floating Piers

In Peschiera Maraglio is the single-nave Church of San Michele Arcangelo.

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Consecrated in 1648, this baroque church is notable for the many frescoes on the walls and ceiling and for its wooden carvings.

Climb the mountain from the small village of Cure in the middle of the Island.

The peak offers the most panoramic site of the Lago and from here it is possible to admire all the villages of both lakeshores, the natural reserve of Torbiere del Sebino and a large part of the mainland.

At the top, amongst walnut woods and ancient dolomite rocks stands the Shrine of the Madonna della Ceriola.

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This 13th century church was the first parish church on the Island and the Madonna, the protectress not only of the inhabitants of Monte Isola but the entirety of Lago Iseo, is represented by a 12th century seated wooded sculpture carved from the trunk of a turkey oak.

Wander the Island and feel soothed by the barely tamed bushy copse woods containing oak, bay, hornbeam, ash and fruit chestnut trees.

Brown kites fly above, while wild ducks and great crested grebes swim below.

Agriculture, once an island mainstay, is nowadays practised more as a hobby, yet, nonetheless, it is the maintenance of this ancient art that still plays a crucial role in the preservation of the landscape heritage, preventing the Island being overdeveloped as a Tourist resort similar to other major northern Italian lakes such as Garda and Como.

The 1,800 inhabitants of this lake oasis move about by motorcycle or mini-buses which connect all hamlets and the two main ports.

All connections to and from the mainland run between Peschiera Maraglio and mainland Sulzano (the route we took) or between Carzano and mainland Sale Marasino.

This ferry service, operated by Navigazione Lago d´Iseo, runs every 15 to 20 minutes from 0500 to midnight and every 40 minutes between midnight and 5 a.m.

On Monte Isola cars are banned and the only cars allowed are the ones used for community services (ambulance, doctor, police, priest and taxi).

Motorcycles are for the exclusive use of permanent Monte Isola residents.

Bicycles can be rented in Peschiera Maraglio and Carzano.

It takes about an hour to circumnavigate the Island by bike.

But it is recommended to walk.

Stroll down the old mule tracks….

(The tracks are old.

Not sure about the mules.)

And the paths leading from the Lago to the top of the Island and to the Shrine.

This is an extremely interesting site, both from a natural and an artistic point of view.

The island´s littlest church contains contemplative quiet beauty and is both the oldest and the highest point on Monte Isola.

The rest of the Island itself is worth a look and a linger.

Artistic churches surrounded by tiny squares and large pale stone houses, sunny arcades, companionable courtyards, lovely landscapes, a rough and simple people  –  some still using ancient wooden farm tools – set in a solid and certain architecture and proud heritage.

Siviano, the most populated hamlet, is the central core of the community.

Above: Siviano

Here, here, is the town hall, the Kindergarten, the Primary School and the Secondary School, the post office, the bank, the two supermarkets.

Peschiera Maraglio, the main harbour of Monte Isola, has a tourist office, another bank, a chemist´s, another Kindergarten, many restaurants, hotels and shops.

Here we gather at the water and cast our nets.

Above: Peschiera Maraglio

Carzano was also a fishermen´s village, also all about the fish and fish preservation.

Here, every five years, the fishing folk decorate all the streets of the village with handmade paper flowers to celebrate the religious feast of the Holy Cross, drawing more than 10,000 visitors to watch the spectacle.

Here on Monte Isola it is possible to sleep in small silent hotels and to savour the endless ways to eat a fish.

Here the olive oil is extra virgin…

(Not sure about the girls…)

The lake sardines are salted, dried and bottled in oil….

(Much like the tourists…)

And salami flavoured in unique Monte Isola ways….

(Similar to the local ladies?)

The wife and I strolled from Peschiera´s docks, occasionally popping into shops and then settled ourselves down by the shore to watch children splash joyfully in the water.

Ute swam for hours while I read some forgettable tome important only at that and for that moment.

Day Five of our vacation and this day we had driven (or to be precise she drove us) from Bregamo to Sulzano, via Crespi d´Adda and Clusone.

We parked the car near the ferry port in Sulzano and waited for the boat to arrive.

A man in an ambulance gurney is taken off the boat, an ambulance waiting to take him to an emergency room in some nearby town with a hospital.

Was he a resident?  A tourist?

Neither our Italian nor our courage was up to the task of enquiring as to the patient´s identity or circumstances.

On the Island while my wife waded amongst the crowd of mer-children the chilly recollection of the gurney man remained with me but not in a sad or morbid way.

I love my wife, but I won´t deny that my brain wanders off and wonders what it would be like to go somewhere, anywhere, and retreat to an “isolated” spot and devote myself solely to my writing.

(Of course, this is with the assumption that I have the financial means to do this, which, sadly, I do not.)

I fantasize about finding some remote village like Ezra Pound´s Rapallo, or some tranquil wilderness vista like Henry David Thoreau´s Walden Pond, or some artistic alcove like Ernest Hemingway´s in Paris, and devote myself purely to doing nothing but creation.

In my mind´s eye I see myself typing some novel or a magazine article in the early hours before dawn, strolling through the just-waking village to watch the sunrise and smell the baker´s first bread and rolls being prepared for sale, more writing in my small den until lunchtime, lounging in some intimate café soaking the afternoon sun into my bones like some self-indulgent cat, strolling to the harbour to see what cast of characters the lake has spawned this day, more writing just before sunset, down to the beach to watch the sun dissolve into dream tides of amnesiac waters, then walk with purpose and anticipation to my favourite restaurant and slowly sip glass after glass of some local wine until fatigue quietly whispers to me to return back to my bed.

I am not quite certain exactly where my writer´s retreat would be or whether it even could be.

My mind has had this writer´s retreat in Paris, in Ticino and Graubünden, in Lisbon, in Istanbul, and now on Monte Isola.

It wouldn´t have to be in Monte Isola or Istanbul, Lisbon or Paris, or in some remote hamlet in southern Switzerland or northern Italy.

It could be here.

It could be anywhere.

Wherever I go, there I am.

I think about the story of Caterina Cornaro (1454 – 1510), the last Queen of Cyprus (1474 – 1510), how she came to be a temporary resident here on Monte Isola after her husband died and Venice claimed control over Cyprus.

What must it have been like to be an exiled and deposed queen and living in isolation in an old fortress on an Island which has always been barely recognized by anyone?

Did she see her future as nothing more than a destiny of disillusioned despair and diminishment?

Does one need to be defeated, disillusioned and diminished before escaping to a retreat?

(Similar to Colin Firth´s character Jamie, in the film Love…Actually, retreating to a French cottage after he discovers his girlfriend having an affair with his brother.)

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I hope not.

Though my time on Monte Isola was short, decidedly too short –  time (and my wife) waits for no one and we had booked accommodation down the road some distance in Sirmione by Lago di Garda – I am still left with the desire to return some day to Monte Isola.

As good a place as anywhere.

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Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Jonathan Ames, Wake Up, Sir! / The Rough Guide to Italy / http://www.comune.monteisola.it

 

 

Canada Slim and the Dance Macabre

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 24 December 2017

Tomorrow is Christmas and I have yet to feel that Yuletide spirit.

Part of the problem is that I never seem to see the oft-promised peace on Earth and good will towards man.

Trump and his cronies have passed a tax bill that will hurt the most vulnerable members of American society.

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Indonesia is arresting gays for the crime of not being straight.

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Above: Flag of Indonesia

The war in Yemen continues causing untold amount of disease, devastation and famine.

Flag of Yemen

Above: Flag of Yemen

Music is morbid, traumatized and defensive.

Lack of progress in holding bishops accountable for covering up sex abuse in the Church continues.

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Above: Flag of Vatican City

Alarming cases of child malnutrition are reported in Venezuela.

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Above: Flag of Venezuela

And these are just a few events being reported by the New York Times.

As I watched shoppers madly scramble to get Christmas gifts for their loved ones, the cynic in me wondered whether the gift giving is truly heartfelt or whether this generosity is an attempt to buy affection that had not been reciprocated the rest of the year.

Ignore friends and family all year, but hope that presents will redeem you in their eyes once again.

Above: Christmas gift-Bringers in Western Europe

As for those without friends or family….

They are invisible.

The homeless will still lack shelter, the unemployed will still lack a job, the lonely will still lack love this Christmas.

The Beatles once sang that “money can´t buy me love”, but is that true?

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Money can buy friends, love, power, prestige, respect, happiness, can´t it?

So we are taught to believe.

And perversely we will sacrifice happiness, respect, prestige, power and love in pursuit of profit.

There was once a time when we believed that we could buy ourselves a stairway to Heaven or a get out of Purgatory free card.

Above: Purgatorio by Ludovico Carracci

And yet my cynicism disappears whenever I think about life beyond the headlines and outside of administrative offices.

For even in the wealthiest of nations there still exists places where money remains simply a means to an end rather than an end itself.

Take Switzerland, for example.

Flag of Switzerland

This is truly a land where profits predominate people, but step inside a religious institution and feel the faith and love.

Hop on a local transit bus or a Postbus and see everyday people living ordinary lives.

Visit a local museum and quietly marvel at the time and attention to detail put into every exhibit whether or not the museum is frequently visited or not.

Stroll through a Christmas market, and though those who run the stalls wish to make money for their efforts, the visitors to the market seem more relaxed than they would in an ordinary place of purchase.

The Christmas market visitor strolls rather than strides, observes rather than ignores what he/she isn´t looking for, converses rather than simply communicates only what is needed to be said.

Even in our wee Starbucks in Marktgasse there are two perspectives.

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Management will bring pressure to bear on the baristas to sell, sell, sell.

But the wise barista knows that the hard sell only works a small percentage of the time, because the customers come to Starbucks to enjoy themselves in a coffeehouse.

As American a firm that this chain is, it is in old Europe.

Here folks want to sit in a Café and linger.

Above: Café Terrace at Night, Vincent van Gogh (1888)

They want to find a comfortable corner, a cozy niche, and quietly read a book, or study for their exams, or enjoy each other´s company.

Outside the winds of change toss and turn their lives, but inside a Café the visitor hopes to find an oasis of calm, a harbour of welcome.

The further removed from the day-to-day experience of a Café that management is, the less I feel connected to management.

Money is made from repeat business, the desire to return.

Repeat business is generated from the welcome the guest feels when he/she comes to my store, not from special offers or promotions.

The more management pressures staff to sell, the more pressure the customer feels from the staff that serve them.

The customer is reduced to being an entry on a balance sheet, rather than being the royal entity of the moment.

We are pressured by management if there is a line-up of people forced to wait for service to suddenly rush through our processes and yet somehow still sell, sell, sell the same amounts that normally require more effort on the part of the salesperson.

Yet compassionate friendly attention paid to each individual customer, with an occasional reassuring word to the folks waiting to be served that they are also important and that their patience is appreciated, goes further to keeping customers happy than a quick stressful promptness and dismissiveness to “keep the line moving” ever does.

Management only partially gets this.

The higher up the ladder, the less management understands this.

Management´s destination is the coffers of the company.

But the destination is only possible if the journey is successfully accomplished, if the customer looks forward to coming back to a place where they truly felt welcome.

This malaise felt in our wee Starbucks is a microcosm of what life is in Switzerland.

The Swiss, as a general rule, seem so focused on making money that they have forgotten that money may buy things, but things only distract – they don´t diminish unhappiness felt in a life offering nothing more than a fuller bank account.

The richer the country, the more miserable the people seem to be.

Yet beyond the banks and past the profits is a land of amazing vistas and panoramas so breathtakingly beautiful as to inspire poetry from a pauper and music from the mute.

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It is easy to forget that outside the pellmell of the pursuit of profit that life, wonderful life, is waiting to be discovered in all of its subtle and savoury awesomeness.

Money cannot buy happiness nor guarantee salvation.

This message came crystal clear to my wife and I in an unexpected corner of the richest part of Italy this summer…..

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Above: Flag of Italy

 

Clusone, Italy, 4 August 2017

Lombardy is Italy´s richest and most developed region.

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Above: Lombardy (in red)

It has always been and still remains a commercial crossroads.

It has been coveted and controlled by the French and the Austrians and takes its name from the Lombards who invaded the region and took it from the Romans.

As a border region, accessible through numerous mountainous passes, Lombardy has always been vulnerable to invasion.

It has long been viewed by northern Europeans as the true capital of Italy.

Emperors from Charlemagne to Napoleon came to Lombardy to be crowned and northern European business magnates take Milan more seriously than Rome (much like they take New York more seriously than Washington, Toronto more seriously than Ottawa, or Zürich more seriously than Bern).

Lombardy´s landscape has paid the price for economic success.

Industry chokes the air, sprawls across the plains and spreads tentacles in all directions that it can.

Nonetheless the casual traveller can still find oases of calm and harbingers of welcome.

The upper reaches of Lombardy´s valleys remain unspoilt.

Even the most sophisticated and ultra modern towns and cities retain their serendipitous medieval cores boasting amazing art and architecture.

The stunning scenery and lush landscapes of Lombardian lakes subtly seduce the unsuspecting visitor.

Much like the Swiss, the Lombardians don´t have much time for life, being too busy making a living.

Milan is a workaholic factory of fashion and innovation, forever focused on the future, impatient with the present, dismissive of the past.

Clockwise from top: Porta Nuova, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, La Scala, Sforza Castle, CityLife project, Arch of Peace, and Milan Cathedral

Above: Pictures of Milan (clockwise from top): Porta Nuova, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, La Scala, Sforza Castle, City Life Project, Arch of Peace, Milan Cathedral

The provincial towns are filled with folks focused on security and luxury and privilege.

These urban and urbane northern Italians are dismissive of the south and for them Rome is nothing more than a tragic complexity of errors.

The late 20th century has even seen the rise of a separatist political Party, the Lega Nord, demanding independence from Rome with rheotric suggesting that the North sustains the inefficient lazy South.

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Industrial development has done a dastardly thorough job of ruining the landscape around Bergamo, but if the traveller pushes up the valleys things vastly improve.

To the northwest, the Val Brembana is fringed by a garland of mountains that have borne the tread of generations of caravans of mules bringing minerals from the rocks to the cities of the plains.

Here one can take the waters of San Pellegrino Terme, Lombardy´s most fashionable spa since the start of the 20th century, sleep in a grand hotel and play games inside the casino.

Above: Grand Hotel, San Pellegrino Terme

To the northeast, through and past the Val Cavellina ruined by small factories and characterless housing, the Valle Seriana is also overly developed and overcrowded with apartments appropriating forests and rivers reduced to streams by hydroelectric eyesores.

But in the upper reaches of the Seriana are still untouched stretches of unspoilt pastoral and wild paradise.

Clusone is the main stop, perhaps the only stop, worth making in the entirety of the Valle Seriana.

Panorama of the town in winter

Above: Clusone in winter

It is a picturesque hilltop town well worth a wander.

This is a stroller´s town.

Visit the Church of St. Luigi, the Church of St. Anna, the Church of Paradise, the Church of St. Defendente, the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Church of St. Lucio and the Church of St. Mary Magdalene and St. Rocco.

Above: The Church of San Defendente

Linger in the Palazzo Comunale or the Palazzo Fogaccia or the Palazzo Marinoni Barca, the Palazzo Bonicelli della Vite, or the Palazzo Carrara Spinelli Maffei.

Above: Palazzo Fogaccia

With steep curving streets and shops selling sausage and cheese, Clusone is the kind of quiet town that invites lingering, where a person is encouraged to linger for hours over lunch and coffee, a place of peaceful contemplation.

In this town where time doesn´t matter, time is nonetheless carefully calculated and measured.

The Piazza dell´ Orologio is named for the fiendishly complicated 16th century clock on the tower of the Palazzo Communale.

Above: Piazza dell´ Orologio

If you have the time and the patience, you can work out the date, the sign of the zodiac, the duration of the night and the phase of the moon from the mechanical movements of the clock.

It takes time to understand time.

Then as you take time to contemplate time, climb upwards to the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta with its Oratorio dei Disciplini (the Oratory of the Disciples) that draws visitors from all over.

Above: Oratorio dei Disciplini

There is little of interest within the walls of the church, but the two 15th century frescoes on the church exterior more than compensate the weary walker for his trek up the hill.

The frescoes were painted by Giacomo Borlone de Buschis in 1485.

The upper fresco, The Triumph of Death, concentrates on the attitude of the wealthy towards death, with three noblemen returning from the hunt, discovering an open tomb containing the worm-infested corpses of the Pope and the Emperor, surrounded by snakes, frogs and scorpions.

A huge skeleton clothed in cloak and crown, larger than life, representing triumphant Death, balances on the edge of the tomb, while other skeletons take aim at people gathered around the tomb.

Death stands on a sepulchre around which the figures of a cardinal, a bishop, a king and a philosopher are offering her gifts.

These onlookers are incorruptible figures, uninterested in the bribes being offered them.

“Everyone dies and leaves the world, those who offend God leave bitterly.”

“For the love of God, don´t have fear to come to the Dance, but joyfully come and be happy.”

The lower fresco, The Dance of Death, continues the tale of morality and mortality, contrasting the corrupt upper classes with a procession of contented commoners, each dancing his way towards death quite happily unconcerned.

I am reminded of an old song I learned back in my high school days:

“Dance, dance, whomever you may be

I am the Lord of the Dance”, said the He.

“And I´ll lead you all whomever you may be

For I am the Lord of the Dance”, said the He.

But this is not only a place of Death, Clusone has been the birthplace of artists and athletes:

  • Domenico Carpinoni (1566 – 1658), painter
  • Cosimo Fanzago (1591 – 1678), architect / sculptor
  • Antonio Cifrondi (1656 – 1730), painter
  • Bartolomeo Nazari (1699 – 1758), painter
  • Antonio Percassi, chairman of the Percassi Holding Company
  • Attilio Rota, cyclist
  • Paolo Savoldelli, cyclist
  • Kevin Ceccon, race car driver

Domenico, Cosimo, Antonio C. and Bartolomeo are united in death, despite their accomplishments.

Antonio P., Attilio, Paolo and Kevin probably won´t live forever, regardless of what they do or don´t do.

We all do the Danse Macabre, no matter one´s station in life.

Above: The Dance of Death by Michael Wolgemut (1493)

Whether Pope, peasant or Emperor, King or kid, lazy or labourer, each day is a memento mori, a reminder of the fragility of our lives and of how vain and pointless are the glories of earthly life.

It is this equality in which I take comfort in.

I am destined to die one day, so I won´t have to endure living eternally while others die around me.

And, so far, man has yet to create a dystopian future where people stop aging but have clocks in their arms that determine how long they have to live.

I don´t want to know how much time remains on my life clock, for this uncertainty makes me appreciate every present moment as if it were my last.

At present, the rich cannot buy additional time, additional life.

Imagine if you can how truly horrific the scenario in the movie In Time would be if it ever became our reality instead of just simply entertaining science fiction.

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A hell where time has become the universal currency, where the rich hoard time for themselves to live forever while constantly increasing the cost of living to ensure the poor die.

It is the miracle of birth that Christians celebrate this Christmas season, yet places like Clusone remind me that death, as painful as it is for those left behind to mourn the loss of the deceased, is in its own way also a miracle of sorts.

Without death, life loses its precious value.

Without death, pain is eternal and suffering endless.

Without death, a place cannot sustain a population that constantly increases without limits.

I don´t want to die, but I don´t want to live forever.

It is said by Christians that Christ came so that all who believe in Him might enjoy eternal life.

A depiction of Jesus on the cross

We fear death because we fear the nothingness of non-existence.

We tell ourselves tales, wrapped in religious impulse, that there is something somewhere somehow beyond life.

This idea of something beyond life reassures us that the inadequacies of life can somehow be recompensed in some alternate realm of being.

I for one will never discourage those from believing in what helps them cope with life and its eventual ending.

Perhaps this is what I can take away from Christmas this year….

In this celebration of new life and the promise of life eternal, let us appreciate this moment of life we are living now.

Then perhaps everyday will be a Christmas worth celebrating.

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Above: Wikipedia / The Rough Guide to Italy