Barcelona and Sagrada Familia

Our Barcelona adventure continues my previous post with a visit to the Waterfront, Gothic Cathedral, Plaza de Catalunya and Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada-Familia_

Sagrada Familia

We almost missed seeing the inside of this extraordinary Basilica because we did not buy tour tickets in advance. It is the most visited monument in Spain. Luckily we were able to get one of the last tours of the day. More about the Sagrada Familia in a moment but first let me tell you how our day of seeing the sights started.

in the morning we took a short taxi trip to the Barcelona waterfront. It reminded me a little bit of Santa Monica beach, except I was surprised to see men and women sun bathing in the nude. There were families with children around but no one seemed to mind.

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The W Hotel punctuates the background of the Barcelona waterfront.

Steven and I didn’t bring our bating suits but I did wade in the water a little. It was a lovely beach day but we didn’t stay too long because we had a lot we wanted to see.

Next on our list was a stop at the Gothic, Barcelona Cathedral. The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia was constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries. The details adorning the Cathedral were dramatic.

Gothic-Barcelona-Cathedral

 

We came upon at a cute little place for lunch while we waited for our tour to the Sagrada Familia. We learned a little too late in our stay that we were hugely over tipping. Tipping is not expected in Barcelona and if you do, it’s usually only about 5 to 8 percent.

Finally the Sagrada Familia, words cannot describe this wonderful work of art.

Our tour started by the entrance of the Passion Facade. It depicts the end of Jesus’s life, with the crucification and resurrection. Architect, Antoni Gaudi meant the rows of columns at the top to looks like ribs. The slanted columns remind the viewer of Jesus’s stretched muscles.

Sagrada-Familia-Passion-Facade

 

There is so much symbolism and geometric perfection contained in every angle, window, and artistic biblical representation of this masterpiece. Gaudi also uses the forms found in nature. This interior photo reminds me of trees in a forest, reaching for the sky.

Sagrada-Familia-interior

“Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator.” – A. Gaudi

 

The blue stained glass windows on the east side of the Basilica face the sun rise.

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The west side, where the sun sets, the windows have warmer hues that turn the walls and interior structures a dazzling yellow-orange when the sun hits it.

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Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic. – A. Gaudi

Our tour ended outside the Nativity Facade. The Nativity Facade prominently features the birth of Jesus. It is also filled with other biblical representations and characters. This work of art depicts many keys to understanding the Christian religion. There is also a third important facade, the Glory Facade.

 

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Several architects contributed to the building of the Sagrada Familia, the most notable being Antoni Gaudi who constructed it combining Gothic and Art Nouveau forms. It is distinguished as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This Church of the Holy Family has been under construction since 1882. It remains unfinished and still under construction.

Our final day in Barcelona, I took a walk alone up to the other end of Las Ramblas after having a sumptuous breakfast at the Le Meridian where we were staying.

Barcelona-Las-Ramblas

The heart of Barcelona beats in Las Ramblas, a wide boulevard that leads from Plaza de Catalunya in the center of the city all the way down to the sea.

 

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A rich tapestry of human interaction characterizes Placa de Catalunya (Square of Catalonia).

 

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As I stopped to take a photo at the beautiful fountain in the plaza, an intriguing building in the background caught my eye. I went in for a closer look.

 

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My eye for interesting architecture lead me to some good shopping near the building on Las Ramblas. I wish I could have lingered longer but it was time to continue our travels on board the Royal Princess. Our first port would be Cartagena, Spain. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Happy adventures, Linda

More about Barcelona here: Barcelona and Park Guell

 

“I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” – Exodus 31:3-5

 

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Barcelona and Park Guell

The beautiful Le Meridian hotel on Las Ramblas was the perfect location to take in the sights and sounds of Barcelona. Our first night in Barcelona, we decided to walk from the hotel and explore on our own. In the small center, right outside our hotel, an acrobatic street show was going on and a cheering crowd had gathered. Their energy put us in a festive mood.

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The buildings along the way were beautifully adorned with interesting architectural details.

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Las Ramblas was packed in the early evening. The street was teeming with the overflow of people.

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PLACA REIAL

After walking about 15 minutes and turning down aside street, we came upon the coolest place, Placa Reial. It was an expansive plaza with a dozen or more restaurants circling the inside perimeter. There we saw more talented acrobats performing. The street artists entertained the crowds as they dined. I was amazed at the dare-devil tricks they did on hard cement. 

Barcelona-street-acrobats

 

Watch this clip of the street performers as one of them does a flip over four people selected from the crowd.

 

A lovely, large fountain accented the center of the Plaza Reial square. my husband, Steven enjoyed people watching from his position at the fountain.

Steve-fountain-Placa-Reial

Steve also loved perusing the restaurant menu’s that were prominently displayed outside of each restaurant.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the stunning sunset in the Placa Reial.

Barcelona-Placa-Reial-sunset-copyright-Linda-Eichberg

 

PARK GÜELL

Our second day in Barcelona, we met some family members who joined us on vacation. Our first stop was Gaudi’s Park Güell.

Park-Guell-entrance

 

Park Güell features lovely gardens and architectural wonders by Antoni Gaudi. 

Park-Guell-gardens

 

The buildings reminded me of gingerbread houses. I love Gaudi’s creative liberty and imaginative, ornamental creations.

 

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Gaudi put into practice a series of new structural solutions rooted in geometry. His works acquire a structural richness of forms, free of the rational rigidity or any sort of classic premises. In the design of Park Güell, Gaudí unleashed all his architectonic genius and that would become the symbol of his organic style.

Gaudi-bridge-Park-Guell

 

My nephew, David peeks his head out of the window.

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Charming, like a fairyland! Gaudi’s fantastic mosaic work was incredible. My photos couldn’t capture the amazing detail.

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We bought our “skip the line” tour tickets to the park weeks ahead of time on Viator. I recommend doing that during high tourist seasons.

Part two of our adventure continues here: Barcelona and Sagrada Familia

Gratefully yours, Linda

 

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. – Psalm 32:8

 

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European Adventure Part 4 – Hungary

BUDAPEST

Budapest at last, the final stop on our Danube river cruise. I was very excited to see the homeland of my maternal grandparents and walk the streets where my Magyar ancestors walked. My great grandfather was a judge in Budapest and I was eager to experience it’s history and culture.

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One of the most striking sights on our cruise in to Budapest was the incredible Parliament building shooting up from the bank of the Danube! The Gothic style exterior, coupled with the Renaissance Revival style of it’s dome, gave promise of the wonderful visions to come.

Our first land tour was a bus ride trough the city, a very interesting overview where we saw memorials, statues, parks, the Turkish baths, famous buildings and more. It wet my appetite to see more. I was so glad we extended our stay in Hungary. We did some shopping near our docking spot and before we knew it, it was time for dinner.

After dressing for dinner, I took in the perspective from our balcony. The Budapest University of Technology and Economics was sparkling on the water. It’s the oldest institute of technology in the world.

Budapest University of Technology and Economics

 

Our first night, we were treated to an amazing night cruise on the Danube. Budapest is stunning at night.

Liberty Bridge

 

The next morning, we said our goodbyes to the crew of the Avalon Expression and checked in to the very chic InterContinental hotel. Within walking distance of our hotel there was a lot to do and see. As I came around a corner to the sight of Saint Steven’s Basilica, I was awed by its monumental presence in the distance.

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This Neo-classical wonder drew me in like a magnet to take a closer look.

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My travel companions had no desire to see the inside of another church so I ventured inside alone. It was stunning!

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Budapest Jewish District

I enjoyed the walking tours best, especially the Budapest Jewish quarter tour. I recommend it for anybody who wants to get an insight to Jewish Budapest. During the tour, you will also discover the cool party district of Budapest and the “Ruins Bars”.

While we walk my companions and I learned about Jewish memorials, fascinating old buildings and experience the unique, special atmosphere of this multicultural district of Budapest. Especially interesting was hearing the history of the Budapest ghetto and the Hungarian holocaust from an expert in Jewish history.

I thought The Great Synagogue or Dohány Street Synagogue was spectacular. My photo only shows a small portion of the exterior so you can see the architectural detail, topped with copper onion domes. The Great Synagogue, in Moorish revival style, is one of the largest Synagogues in the world!

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The interior of the Synagogue was also very grand and impressive. It can hold nearly 3,000 people with it’s two levels of seating.

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The Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial Center

Next to the Great Synagogue is the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Here we saw Jewish religious objects and historical items like the uniforms worn by the Jews in concentration camps. It’s heartbreaking, almost 600,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered by the Nazis and Arrow Cross Party.

From there we made our way to the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, named after Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews. The park honored Jewish and non-Jewish alike, righteous heroes who sacrificed their lives or put their lives at risk to save victims of the Hungarian Holocaust. The memorial also reminded us of all of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish martyrs and labour-camp inmates who died unknown. It was clear that Hungarians were ashamed of their past alliance with Nazi Germany. The persecution, suffering and murdering claimed over half million Hungarian citizens. 

tree-of-life-holocaust-memorial

One of the stand-out’s in the park is a large metal sculpture, the “Tree of Life.” Also called the Weeping Willow Tree Memorial. Engraved on each individual leaf is the name of one of 5,000 victims or families. At the front of the Tree is a black double archway memorial with the words – “Is there a bigger pain than mine?”

Experiencing the Synagogue, museum and memorial park was a deeply moving experience. If it wasn’t for the uplifting stories about the many Holocaust heroes, our professional guide disclosed to us, it would have been very depressing.

Kazinczy Street

The neo-renaissance Orthodox Synagogue was another landmark we saw. It stood imposing on Kazinczy Street along with the old buildings. We ended our tour experiencing a ruin pub or ‘ruin bar’. That was fun and memorable.

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Szimpla Kert, Ruin Bar

The rickety furnishing, multi colored interiors, and hipster crowd make these ramshackle properties popular.

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The legendary Szimpla Kert is the best-known ruin pub in Budapest. It holds a mix of eclectic styles and an a vibe of urban life. The dilapidated edifice also boasts a distinct charm.

Nightlife in Budapest

The ruin pub phenomenon is a big part of Budapest’s unique nightlife. Fine dining and music is also plentiful. What I enjoyed that night was right at our hotel. We had a fantastic location on the Danube.

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Debbie, Alison and I, enjoying the night life

The InterContinental had a stylish bar and restaurant with a spectacular views of the Buda Palace and Chain Bridge.

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Peter, Steven and Joey at one of the InterContinental restaurants.

 

In the background, Castle Hill and Saint Matthias looked magical in the shadows of dusk.

 

The glow of the Buda Castle at night

 

The half day tour of the Buda Castle complex offered wonderful vistas and photo opportunities. The famous Chain Bridge spans the Danube below.

 

Castle Hill is a great place to pick up souvenirs. I bought a lovely table cloth for my mother that was embellished with colorful embroidery. The Hungarians do excellent needlework and embroidery is a popular textile art in their communities. My Hungarian grandmother use to make beautiful clothes for me and my sisters.

 

Take a closer look at the gothic details in the architecture of Saint Matthias!

 

Inside Parliament

The day before we left we took a fantastic tour of the interior of the Parliament building. The guide was filled with fascinating historical information. I enjoyed the stories about how the Hungarian crown jewels were lost or stolen a number of times. For a while they were held in the U.S. at Fort Knox.

The National Assembly of Hungary was not in session so we had the unique opportunity to see their legislative chambers.

Assembly hall of the House of Magnates

 

The council chambers were gilded with gold so was the Main Hall and it was magnificent!

Steve and I standing at the Main Staircase of the Parliament building.

 

Across from Parliament is the Budapest Museum of Ethnography. It was a beauty with astounding artistic and architectural appointments!

 

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at the Shoes on the Danube Memorial on the Pest side of the Danube Promenade.

Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial

It was a stark and sickening reminder of the cruelty of the Arrow Cross terror where 3,500 people, 800 of them Jews, who were shot into the Danube River during the dark winter of 1944 -1945 at the end of World War II. That winter the Danube was known as the Jewish cemetery. ¹

“…what I saw was worse than anything I had ever seen before, worse than the most frightening accounts I had ever witnessed. Two Arrow Cross men were standing on the embankment of the river, aiming at and shooting a group of men, women and children into the Danube – one after the other, on their coats the Yellow Star. I looked at the Danube. It was neither blue nor gray but red. With a throbbing heart, I ran back to the room in the middle of the apartment and sat on the floor, gasping for air.” ²

This trip unveiled so much of man’s inhumanity to man during World War II but also the courage of the many brave hero’s who overcame the evil. There was an abundance rich history, local color, art and beauty. I highly recommend this European river cruise down the Danube from Prague to Hungary. Avalon Waterways was marvelous!

See also:

European Adventure Part 1 – Czech Republic  

European Adventure Part 2 – Germany and Cesky Krumlov

European Adventure Part 3 – Austria

 

Many blessings, Linda

 

“I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord for He has been good to me.” – Psalm 13: 5-6

 

References:

1. T. Zane Reeves, Ph.D., Shoes Along the Danube: Based on a True Story (Durham: Strategic Book Group, 2011)
2. Zsuzsanna Ozsváth, “From Country to Country: My Search for Home” in Alvin Rosenfeld, ed., The Writer Uprooted: Contemporary Jewish Exile Literature (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008)

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European Adventure Part 3 – Austria

I have been feeling the travel bug lately. Europe is calling and inspiring me to finish blogging about my last trip to Europe, a wonderful riverboat cruise down the Danube. In part one of our European adventure we explored Prague and the Czech Republic. Part two of our cruise took us to Germany and beyond.

AUSTRIA

Our first stop in Austria was Linz, home of the delicious Linzer Torte.

linz-downtown

The town was very charming with beautiful restored buildings and electric trolleys.

 

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Hauptplatz, Linz, In the back ground is the famous Dreifaltigkeitssaule statue of 1723. It commemorates Linz’s delivery from war, fire and plague.

 

We only had time for a quick visit to downtown for our half day visit. Before we knew it we were on our way to Melk.

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Melk Abbey is one of Europe’s archetectural treasures. The inside of the Abbey contained many Christian artifacts and it was even more stunning than the palatial Baroque exterior.

 

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Melk Abbey Church

 

The grounds and gardens of the Abbey were lovely, lush with plants and flowers. What started out as a cloudy morning, turned into a perfect July day.

melk-abbey-gardens

 

It was on to the Wachau Valley and then Vienna. We were just past the halfway point of the river cruise portion of our vacation.

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Several small castles and ruins of castles graced the shores of Wachau.

wachau-valley

 

We arrived in Vienna and docked in front of the striking sight of the Franz of Assisi Church, also called Kaiser Jubilee Church.

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Next we had a quick drive through the city where my eyes were bathed with the most beautiful sites and architecture.

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I was captivated by the Imperial Hofburg Palace Complex.

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The green and gold of copper dome was stunning!

 

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Albertina Museum fountain

 

The buildings were displays of art, adorned with statuaries and gold.

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National Library and Equestrian statue of Joseph II, Josefsplatz

 

Excited by what we saw, walked the rest of the way through the city. There were many outdoor cafes to choose from. We rested our feet for a while and enjoyed lunch and people watching outside on a lovely day.

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Steven standing in front of The Holy Trinity Column

The Pestsäule (English: Plague Column) or Dreifaltigkeitssäule (English: Trinity Column) is  located in the inner city of Vienna. Erected after the Great Plague epidemic in 1679, the Baroque memorial is one of the most well-known and prominent sculptural pieces of art in the city.

My husband Steven and I both agreed, Vienna was a cultural and architectural delight!

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The tall Romanesque and Gothic form of the Saint Stephen’s Cathedral punctuated the city landscape. I was enchanted by the colorful tile roof. We were hoping to see works of the great Viennese artists, like Gustav Klimt, at Belvedere Museum but the day was so full as it was and we had to get ready for our night at the opera.

 

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The evening festivities were highlighted by a tasty dinner and night of music, opera and dance at one of Vienna’s concert halls, Wiener Konzerthaus in Vienna’s City Centre. “Salute to Vienna” was a heavenly experience of Waltzes and the music of famous Austria classical composers, brought to life by a talented orchestra and cast.

Vienna is art; you see it around every corner. Many of the greatest artists and composers spent their professional careers in Vienna. I would have liked to have spent a few more days in Vienna but I was also looking forward to the wonders of Hungary. Hope to share that experience with you soon.

Gratefully yours, Linda

 

“‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.'” – Numbers 6: 24-26

 

See also:

European Adventure Part 1 – Czech Republic 

European Adventure Part 2 – Germany and Cesky Krumlov

European Adventure Part 4 – Hungary

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Creating the Warrior Spirit

We-Are-His-Workmanship-Created-In-Christ-Jesus_dreamstime_s_39734135

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

I am continually amazed at the gifts God gives us, the variety and the beauty! Some are subtle, almost unseen but still so necessary; while others are obvious, prominently displayed in the forefront. All receive equal honor because the Master’s hand created them.

God – The Giver of All Gifts

When I work in my job as a yoga and Pilates teacher, I remember my faith and that God can use me for healing and health-giving purposes. Since I am very flexible, I have to keep in mind that I can push my students too far. It’s a delicate balance between healing and harming.

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Warrior 1 opens the heart with hands reaching towards heaven and feet grounded on a firm foundation.

I don’t always get it right, but looking up to God, the giver of all gifts, I have hope and motivation because I know I am His craftsmanship he is not finished with me yet. He is still carving, shaping and polishing to create something special for His grand design and His plan for my life.

“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8

I am grateful for God’s patience and guidance. I know He will take me exactly where I need to be. Wherever I am, I have the opportunity at all times, to do good works and reflect God’s love.

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Warrior 3 (or Balancing Stick pose) requires balance, strength, grace and mental focus. 

 

Warrior of the Lord

This week I had the chance to see a very unusual and remarkable creation, a God breathed sculpture carved from a 2,000-year-old redwood stump.

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The “Warrior of the Lord” is a dramatic 7-foot-tall carving and has an impressive 9 foot wing-span. With his wings spread and his cloak is flowing. The majestic archangel stands ready to take on his fight against evil.

warrior-of-the-Lord-SafonovThis beautiful piece of art carved by Alexandre Safonov, stands in front of an antique store in mountains of Agoura Hills. The artist’s creation was inspired by the Holy Spirit. “I feel the Holy Spirit”, Safonov said. “I put the energy of God into this piece.” ¹ Alexandre prayed every time he started work on his masterpiece.

“This is a warrior; he represents God and the word of God.” – Alexandre Safonov

His eyes seem to be looking up in adoration to God.

The Armor of God

When I saw the statue, I immediately thought of several scriptures, particularly Ephesians 6:10-18, about spiritual warfare and putting on the ‘Armor of God’. ²

alexandre-safonov-warrior-of-the-lordThe archangel’s “Sword of the Spirit” carries a ‘B’ to represent the Bible, the word of God. His “Belt of Truth” bares the cross of Jesus and his massive “Shield of Faith” is emblazoned with the initials of Jesus Christ, ‘JC’.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. – Ephesians 6: 10-12

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Warrior Fathers – Men of Honor

Happy Fathers Day to all the men who are warriors for their families and especially to my husband, Steven, who is an amazing and supportive dad to our daughter and devoted to his family. He is a warrior for our family each and every day. We are blessed and I continually thank God.

Many blessings,

Linda

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Footnotes:

1. http://www.theacorn.com/news/2015-06-11/Community/Woodcarver_uses_faith_talent_in_work_of_a_lifetime.html

2. Ephesians 6:10-18 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+6%3A+10-18&version=NIV

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Woman In Gold – The Untold Story

I cried more than once. The movie, “Woman In Gold” is powerful and emotional. It’s a true story about holocaust survivor, Maria Altmann, played by Helen Mirren. The story follows her journey to recover a world-famous Klimt painting of her Aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer. This film draws much of its strength from Mirren’s spirited performance. Ryan Reynolds effectively plays the attorney, Randy Schoenberg, who helps Ms. Altmann recover the works of art looted from her family by the Nazis. Reynolds’ lively rapport with Mirren gives momentum and life to the movie.

Woman-In-Gold-Adele-Bloch-Bauer

Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) by Gustav Klimpt, sold for a record $135 million in 2006.

In part, this movie is about loss and the atrocities of the holocaust but it is also about an exceptional family who loved music and art. Maria had a close bond with her Aunt Adele. Their affection and love for one another was well depicted in the movie.

Remember The Good

My family was invited to see the movie with Jim Altmann, one of Maria Altmann’s sons. I could tell it meant a lot to Jim to be able to share the moment with a big group of his family and friends. I asked him, “what was the predominate impression you took away from the movie?” Jim answered, “Good question; Every time I see it, something different stands out. Seeing it this time I’d say, remember the good memories.” Like Jim, I also felt that message resonated in the movie. The movie also carried the message of courage and the importance of remembering your ancestors.

One of the Great Battles in Art History

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Steven Eichberg at the theater with a reproduction of Klimpt’s portrait of Adele, the original resides in Neue Galerie, New York.

At the reception following the movie, I inquired if Jim felt the film told the story factually. He said, “yes, it did do a good job of revealing most of the facts.” He loved the movie overall and felt the description of some of the events surrounding Maria’s  journey to reclaim her family’s property were well done. But exactly how hard and for how long Maria fought, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, was not quite accurately described. Jim Altmann continues, “my mother was in her 90’s and Helen is in her 70’s. The process was very long, drawn out and exhausting, much more so than what was shown in the movie.” I can imagine how much more difficult the burden would have been on a woman in her 90’s. The trips to Vienna and the constant rejection and deception would have been a lot for anyone.

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Memories of Maria Altmann lovingly displayed at the reception

 

A Quest For Truth and Justice

“Woman in Gold” was supremely entertaining, masterfully directed and brilliantly acted! One the most touching parts of the film was when Ms. Altmann shared a story about a woman, her friend, shown in another portrait. This woman was flesh and blood to her, part of her life. She was not a ghost from the past on a lifeless piece of art. So many families of good people were decimated during the Nazi reign. So much beauty was lost. This was the truth she wanted the world to know. Legal battles to win the return of art confiscated by the Nazi’s continues, with an estimated 100,000 works of art still at issue.

Maria-Altmann-with-Adele

Maria Altmann

This Generation of Altmann’s

The movie did not go very deeply into Maria Altmann’s family life during the time of the trials. Ms. Altmann’s son, Jim, lives in our area. He own’s a successful Southern California construction firm. His daughter, Alana, grew up with my daughter, Lindsay, and is one of her best friends. My husband Steven and I spent a lot of time with Alana and love her like a daughter. Alana and her mom have taken my Yoga/Pilates classes.

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Alana and Maria Altmann

Lindsay has also shared quite a few special moments with the Altmann family. Lindsay enjoyed playing Scrabble with Maria and hearing her stories.  She gives accolades to Helen Mirren for the way she captured the spirit and essence of Maria Altmann in her portrayal.

Lindsay and Alana have helped each other grow into well-rounded, intelligent, hard-working woman who are comfortable in their own skin. They have nurtured close friendships and each of them is successful in their respective careers. I am so grateful to God for that.

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Seeing these two grow to become the wonderful woman they are now has been my joy!

 

The Importance of Family

During the court battle for the art, Alana would come to our home and tell us bits and pieces about her grandmother and the long arduous legal proceedings. The movie reignited the emotion and anguish of that process. In contrast to that, I remember so well our happiness the day Alana told us, “We won!”

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To Maria Altmann, it wasn’t about the money. The portrait of her aunt, displayed as Austria’s ‘Mona Lisa,’ was so much more than an expensive piece of art; it was the essence of her family’s memories and legacy. When their art was stolen by the Nazi’s, so were pieces of their history, the love and beauty they once shared together. It is essential to keep your family memories and legacy alive. 

I can say, because I know, Maria Altmann’s granddaughter, Alana, is shining her light and love in this world in marvelous ways.

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Alana and Lindsay during the wedding reception of Alana and Blaine Bisquera

Alana, and Maria’s other grandchildren are living legacies to her growing family and the story continues…

With hope and gratitude,

Linda Eichberg

 

“I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” – Job 42:2

 

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European Adventure Part 2 – Germany and Cesky Krumlov

GERMANY

Our adventure in the Czech Republic moved on to Germany. We joined the rest of our river boat cruise group and boarded luxury buses to Nuremberg where we embarked the new MS Avalon Expression. It would be our home base for the next ten days as we traveled down the Danube.

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Nuremberg

In the morning, we saw the site of the Nuremberg Trials and visited the Nazi rally grounds where Hitler gave some of his most infamous speeches. My traveling companions and I then moved on to the Documentation Centre Museum where we saw news footage of Hitler delivering propaganda speeches from the rally grounds we had just visited.

Along with news clips of the misleading Nazi publicity campaign, there were heartbreaking photos of the concentration camps and the notorious Auschwitz. It was difficult to process the immense tragedy of what we saw. It was an overcast, rainy day which added to the gloom of revisiting the horrors the holocaust. The German guides were apologetic about their country’s past, and many Germans feel stigmatized by it. One of our German tour guides said she was glad she spoke Austrian so she could pass herself off as an Austrian. It’s paradoxical that the tactics used by the Gestapo to build up their people into a ‘super race’, in fact, became their shame.

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On the way back to the MS Expression we drove through the “old city” of Nuremberg. It is surrounded by fairly intact, thick city walls. Built like a fortress, a moat surrounds a good portion of it.

Regensburg

Overnight we had cruised to the German town of Regensburg. While the rest of the group relaxed on the ship, my sister-in-law, Alison and I took an early morning excursion boat trip through the Danube Gorge and the Weltenburg Abbey. The weather that day was perfect and the ride through the small gorge was picturesque and peaceful.

Danube-Gorge-Weltenburg-AbbeyOur short trip ended at the Benedictine abbey of Weltenburg nestled in the northern slopes of the Arzberg mountain. The oldest monastery in Bavaria, it was founded around 600 AD. by the monks of St. Columbanus, Weltenburg.

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The Abbey is known for brewing excellent world-class beer and it is said to be the oldest monastery brewery in the world, having been in operation since 1050.

As part of the tour, we were provided with a sample the Abbey’s beer and pretzels in the courtyard beer garden; it was dark and good. 

We were then led to the abbey church. I  was never given a beer and then sent to church before but that’s the way they do it in Germany.

The Weltenburg abbey church is a spectacular Baroque church dedicated to St. George. Gilded angels adorn the dome above the sanctuary.

 

Weltenburg-Abbey-Church

 

We returned to the boat in the afternoon and after lunch I ventured into Regensburg town.regensburg-ruins

Regensburg is absolutely beautiful and boasts of having approximately 1,300 listed building of historical interest. In 2nd century AD, this town was part of the Roman Empire. Some of the walls from those days remain partially intact within the city.

I loved walking the many interesting passageways and cobblestone alleys.

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The architecture, cafes, shops, and flowers, window boxes filled with flowers, were astonishing!

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The streets meandered in many different directions. It would have been easy to get lost.

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In the distance I could see the top of the Regensburg Cathedral. I headed in that direction to get a better look of the Gothic, Dom St.Peter built in the 1300’s. Fantastic!

Regensburg-Cathedral

 

Passau 

The following day we woke up in Passau, Germany. The City of Three Rivers was very quaint. I would have liked to have spent more time in the city but we had booked another tour for that morning. Most of the land tours were at an extra charge. There were three great tours to choose from that day. My husband and I, along with the two couples we were traveling with, chose to see the enchanting town of Cesky Krumlov. On the way there, we drove through Passau and stopped to see the view of the city in the early morning mist.

Passau in the morning mist

 

Cesky Krumlov

We passed smoothly through the German boarder without having to stop for a border check and made our way to the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic near the Austria border. This land tour to Cesky Krumlov was one of the best. When it was founded in the early-mid 13th Century, this mostly Renaissance town was primarily Gothic. In the second half of the 16th century the castle acquired the form of a splendid Renaissance residence. Throughout out the years the finest Italian architects and painters added their talents to create the beauty and charm of Cesky Krumlov, today.

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Overlooking the town, the tower of Krumlov Castle punctuates the background. I was enamored with the Little Castle tower and the bright pastel colors of it’s painted facade.

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Despite a short deluge, we dried off and had a wonderful afternoon in Cesky Krumlov. There were some nice boutiques, restaurants, chocolate and gingerbread shops.

A lovely river flowed through the town and we were surprised to see that quite a few people were swimming and river rafting.

While we were enjoying our tour, the boat cruised to Linz, Austria. Our tour bus would meet the boat there.

What an amazing few days. So grateful! But still to come, the wonders of Austria! I will share some of them with you on a future blog!

 

Be sure to check out – European Adventure Part 1 – Czech Republic  

European Adventure Part 3 – Austria

European Adventure Part 4 – Hungary

 

Enjoy the journey! ~ Linda Eichberg

 

“For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.” – Psalm 47:7

 

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European Adventure Part 1 – Czech Republic

This summer I had the opportunity of a lifetime to vacation in Europe with family and friends. We visited many amazing sites, but overall, I was most enthralled by the beauty of the architecture. In the U. S., it is very rare to see this wide array of Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, Neo-Classical and Art Deco buildings that mark Europe’s ancient historical roots.

CZECH REPUBLIC

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View of the Vltava river, driving into Prague.

 

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Baroque beauty, St. Nicholas (Old Town)

PRAGUE – Old Town

Our tour started in Prague. We had three and a half, wonderful days in that city. Discovering the secrets of Old Town filled up most of those days.

The first day, some of us spent time in the Jewish Quarter. The tour of the Jewish Museum and the Old Jewish Cemetery, from the 15th century was fascinating.

 

 

 

Town Square 

We made several trips to the Town Square. The square was alive with tourists, street performers and food vendors. It had a wonderful vibe! The Gothic, Church of Our Lady was a remarkable site. We discovered many interesting side streets with buildings that were works of art.

 

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Church of Our Lady

 

Prague Castle

Loved this excursion. The Prague Castle complex rests above the city with great views of Prague.

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Entering the Prague Castle complex

 

One of the dominant building within the complex is Saint Vitus Cathedral. The stunning Gothic exterior of St. Vitus is equaled by it’s stately interior.

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Inside Saint Vitus Cathedral

A touring choir from the U. S. was singing the day we visited. Our group was blessed to hear the harmonies of their worship music echoing throughout the cathedral, as we took in it’s majesty.

Terezin – Theresienstadt Concentration Camp

Our trip to Terezin concentration camp was a very sobering experience. After Germany invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia, on June 10, 1940, the Gestapo took control of Terezín and set up a prison in the “Small Fortress.” At first, the prisoners were predominantly Czech, anti-Fascist resistance fighters, partisans and guerrilla fighters who were captured during the war.

Eventually, it was established by the SS as a concentration camp. The world was told, Terezin was a city built to protect the Jews. A propaganda film was made to show this myth. It was staged to show the Jews gardening and enjoying sports and entertainment. This ruse worked for a very long time.

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Nearly two hundred thousand men, women and children passed through the gates of Terezin as a way station to the east and probable death. Of the vast majority of Czech Jews who were taken to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, 97,297 died among whom were 15,000 children.

Terezin could not compare to the horrors at Auschwitz-Birkenau or Treblinka but starvation and disease were rampant. Terezin-sleep-pallet-by-Linda-EichbergAt the height of World War II, this Ghetto/Concentration Camp held over 55,000 Jews. Thousands died of malnutrition and exposure. Their bodies were cremated at the small crematorium with its four gas ovens. People from other nationalities and religions were also imprisoned and died there. That is why the cemetery displays both the Jewish Star and the Christian Cross.

 

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Melník Chateau Melnik-Castle

Not far from Prague City, there is the small town of Melník with a lovely Renaissance castle.

After 1989 it became the property of the noble Lobkowicz family and most of halls have been refurbished.

I admired ornate furniture and large collections of paintings but the picturesque view of the countryside from the chateau (or castle) was a highlight for me.

 

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After the tour of the residence, there was a tasting of the local wines in the cellar. I wasn’t crazy about their wines but there was one white variety that my husband, Steve, and I liked.

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During the bus ride on the way home, our guide entertained us with stories of the latest Czech government scandals and played us orchestral music by famous Czech composers like Janacek, and Dvorak. She was a delight and so was the music. The Czech people are very friendly, and for the most part, fluent in English.

 

Prague Restaurants

Dinner on the first night of our Prague adventure was at a marvelous restaurant near the entrance of Old Town called the Imperial Café. The meals were moderately priced and five out of six dinners were great. The restaurant is a must see, for it’s elaborate Art Deco style interior.

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The Imperial Cafe’s unique Art Deco mosaic columns punctuate the background of this photo.

Prague dinner Imperial Cafe

The traveling six: Peter, Alison, Debbie, Joey, Linda and Steven at the Imperial Cafe in Prague

 

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St. Nicholas in Lesser Town

The second night we dined at Coda in the Aria Hotel. The food and the rooftop views were spectacular.  We had a few minutes before dinner so we decided to explore a few blocks in the Lesser Town (Mala Strada) area.

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During our walk, we came across this John Lennon Wall. Most of the wall was graffiti but still pretty cool.

Our last dinner in Prague was also a winner. Kampa Park restaurant was first class in taste and ambiance. Ask for a river front table. We dinned on the Vltava river next to the Saint Charles bridge.

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The Saint Charles Bridge on the Vltava

 

As the evening progressed, the skies quickly darkened and nature added a little excitement with a thunder storm! (For us, who live in Southern California, it was a rare treat!)

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View from Kampa Park Restaurant

 

After the storm, seemingly out of nowhere dozens of white swans appeared and paraded across the river. It was God’s grand finale to our stay in Prague.

 

Part two of our European adventure picks up in Germany. Click on the link and enjoy the adventure!

European Adventure Part 2 – Germany and Cesky Krumlov

European Adventure Part 3 – Austria

European Adventure Part 4 – Hungary

 

With gratitude, Linda Eichberg

 

“What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me”? – Psalm 116:12

 

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