Blog Archive


We're Home!

June 08, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  It’s good to be home, and our overseas vacations usually begin to wrap up with a soul stirring “Welcome Home” by customs officials, at which point I begin to regale you with our adventures in a chronological manner, but this time is different. After our five hour wait for our twelve hour departing flight from the Zurich airport, and waiting three hours at San Francisco to catch a two hour flight to Portland, we couldn’t wait to crawl into bed and succumb to jetlag, but our adventure wasn’t over, not by a long shot.             At 2:30 a.m. Mrs. C. got up to make a bathroom pit stop. My hearing was compromised by a terrible cold that, combined with ...

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Old Friends

June 10, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
          We flew into Munich a few days before the start of our tour because I wanted to visit the Alte Pinakothek. A few of the first paintings to capture my childhood imagination hang there and I was determined to see them. Unfortunately, the museum was being refurbished and many of the masterpieces were in storage, but I did manage to see a few old friends I’d first seen and admired in art books as a child—including this portrait of Peter Paul Rubens and his wife Isabella Brant, one of the loveliest wedding portraits ever painted.         Our trip to the Pinakothek was temporarily marred when Bruce, one of our traveling companions, left his backpack in the trunk of our ...

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The Fairy Tale Castle

June 12, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Most fairy tales have a dark side, and the story of the world’s most famous fairytale castle, the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, is no exception. Neuschwanstein has a dark side that is easy to overlook in the blinding light of stunning aerial photos and postcards of this painfully beautiful building. But the day of our visit was overcast; a moody breeze was blowing down from the Alps, underscoring the unhappy fate of the man responsible for our visit.             That man was Ludwig II, the handsome and moody young king who came to the Bavarian throne at the age of eighteen. Ludwig was not close to his parents and shared a tem ...

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City of Music

June 15, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Before rolling into Salzburg, I knew only two things about this ancient city: Mozart was born here, and The Sound of Music filmed here. I was told it was a beautiful city, formerly a bishopric (ruled by a bishop) so churches and religious buildings would be plentiful, and in fact they seemed to be on every corner.             Perhaps it was the sun finally making an appearance that induced me to like Salzburg, named after the salt (Medieval white gold) mined in the area. The city sparkled and shimmered in morning light, and yes, the presence of Mozart, born here in 1756, was omnipresent. The composer’s image greeted us everywhere, like Walt Disney’s at Disneyland. ...

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Hitler's Eagle's Nest

June 17, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  What do you give someone who has everything? In 1937, high ranking Nazis were confronted with this dilemma. The Fuhrer was turning fifty soon and it was deemed necessary to give him something special. Martin Bormann (who gained enormous power as Hitler’s private secretary) came up with a curious idea.             Hitler wasn’t fond of Berlin, and the only home he ever bought (Berghof) was near Berchtesgaden in Bavaria near the Austrian border—he was Austrian after all. He had the region cleared out (dissenters included a local painter who was promptly shipped to a concentration camp) and a compound was build for him and top cronies like Hermann Goring. The wi ...

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The Protest II

June 19, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      I’m pausing from relating adventures from our vacation to fill you in on a project that will be occupying me for the rest of the summer. I’ve mentioned a few times that I was once foolish enough to spend eighteen months painting a colossal 10x15 foot painting I called The Protest. I refused to heed the advice of those who told me this painting would be too big to find a home—and they were right. For the past decade, The Protest (details can be seen on the Fine Art Paintings which can be found on the menu bar of my blog) has been rolled and stored in a corner of my garage.             It bothered me that no one was able to see something I spent ...

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Schonbrunn Palace

June 22, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace was Austria’s attempt to recreate Versailles, even though at 1441 rooms it’s smaller. The present Baroque structure was built in the 1740s, and Austrian emperors lived here until the collapse of the Habsburg dynasty at the end of World War I. The rooms are as lavishly decorated as you’d expect, and I was particularly interested in, of all things, a tapestry of a fair where peasants were queued up at a stall where, for a few coins, a monkey would pick fleas from their heads. The origin of the term flea market?     View from the back of the palace       Interiors                &nb ...

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The Elusive Knuckle

June 24, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  I don’t drink beer, and I’m not particularly fond of German food, but I was determined to try an appealing-looking dish I’d seen in a magazine, although you might be put off by the name—pork knuckle, a name that conjured an image of porcine cloven hooves. I wasn’t deterred; being Portuguese I was raised on pork, so on day one of our trip I began hunting for pork knuckles.             They weren’t hard to find, but nabbing one proved elusive. Many restaurants had rows of them on rotisseries in their front windows. I’d start salivating, but every time I bolted for the restaurant door I was herded off to a place that didn’t serve th ...

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Tito's Spoon

June 26, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  When I was a teenager, I bought art books with reproductions of famous paintings I never expected to see, and Vienna is rich with great museums filled with priceless treasures. At the Kunsthistorisches I encountered paintings I’d first seen in art books as a teenager, paintings like Brueghel’s Tower of Babel (Google for a larger reproduction and prepare to be amazed by the details) and Vermeer’s The Allegory of Painting. There are only a handful of Vermeers in existence and this painting, coveted and pirated by Hitler, is breathtaking. Unlike many museums where crowds hinder your ability to engage with art, Mrs. C. and I sat alone for half an hour, basking in the absolute stillness of this sublime masterpiece. &nb ...

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Rubbed in Innsbruck

June 29, 2015 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        Before our arrival, I didn’t know much about Innsbruck, other than two winter Olympics and many other Alpine sporting events had been held here. I learned the city’s name came from the Latin for bridge on the Inn River, and that the city, founded during the Stone Age, became important in the fifteenth century when the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1486-1519), moved his capital here. That’s Maximilian pictured above. We were not going in winter so I didn’t know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to discover a marvelous city, one that would be our second favorite on this trip.         Innsbruck Ski Jump   I don’t ski, but the thought of ...

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