Caring for the Mind

There's more to do and see than we can keep up with.

Verdi's Ein Maskenball was this year's operetta.
The Vienna Philharmonic performs from under the massive stage.
We are renting the apartment used by the King--the lead role.
We haven't missed a Festspiele in over a decade now.

We've watched Russian ballet, listened to the Kosak men's choir, attended the Chinese circus (well, its culture to me), and enjoyed a Glenn Miller's Band concert. Unfortunately, we videotaped most of this stuff and can't put it on this website.

But I did manage to smuggle a camera into a Benedictine cloister and basilica that our great friend Henry Stern recommended. Ottobeuren is only forty miles or so from Bregenz, situated in bucolic southern Germany. Most examples of baroque architecture are relatively small because there is so much painstaking detail. But Henry said he liked my description of Ottobeuren as "miles of detail."

The church itself was founded in 764, and we could find nothing that was dated as late as the American Revolution.

You would think that as an analytical "physics" sort I might not enjoy beautiful architecture and historical items as much as, say, an artist or a musician. I can't say how much an artist might enjoy Ottobeuren, but places like this allow me to combine many interests. For example: There was one painting in particular--"The Vision of St. Hildegaard"--that showed a narrow beam of light coming through a fissure in a cloudy sky.  The light was reflected off a mirror held by an angel onto the bodice of a gown presumably worn by Hildegaard.  The light was again reflected from the fabric only to eventually dissipate into thin air several yards in front of her.  The angles of incidence and reflection were perfect, and the beam of light showed its energy in little "puffs" where the beam encountered glass or fabric.  It was grand!  Painted ca. mid 16th century.

I was captivated by an astronomical clock encased in a huge housing of marble that through the use of multiple hands, all originating from the center of the face like modern hour, minute and second hands, that showed the year, the month (and simultaneously the current sign of the zodiac), the week, the "intersection" of the sun and the moon (and therefore, the phases of the moon), and of course the hours and minutes of the day.  I could see no way that such a clock could be designed and built without the certain knowledge that ours is a heliocentric system.  The clock was built in 1524 and functions perfectly to this day, its massive works powering the graceful hands.

I was amazed by paintings of distinctly modern style that were painted in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Since I was alone and could get away with it--it was a weekday--I hefted the great broadswords and pikes used in battle and in dress.  I saw perspectives in wood carvings that would not appear for another 300 years in paintings.  It is clear that different artistic styles often appear much earlier than our textbooks lead us to believe,  probably because the early examples simply didn't "catch on" for awhile, so there was no "school" of that particular style and therefore no patronage of those innovative artists.

The Hall of Kings, filled with statues sculpted before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, portrayed the upper classes of the day as unbelievably effete, dissociated figures whose most important task was to examine their nails in disinterested fashion.  These guys were prancing and posing in ways that would make any gay bar hum.

This is a marvelous place to spend some time.  The tapestry of history is incredibly rich here and open to all who care to learn from it.  No ropes or rails separate the viewer from the centuries represented by the art of the day. 
What powered these great pipes?  Some of them are a foot in diameter, with openings three or more inches wide.  That takes a puff of air!  Where did it come from?  This particular organ, "The Organ of the Holy Ghost,"--I didn't make that up--was built ca. 1700, so I'm pretty sure it didn't have access to its own nuclear power plant.