Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Europe 2010

I just got back from a 10 day tour of Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic as part of a Catholic pilgrimage with my partners family. I'm not religious, so much of the church artwork and symbolism was lost on me, but I still found it interesting, and surprisingly macabre. Nice trip overall. I was feeling a little in a rut artistically, and traveling always revitalizes my creativity.

There are many, many more pictures that I still need to get from Jerome's family, but for now this is what I have.

First stop was Munich. We went to a brewery from like 1500-something called Hofbrauhaus for a touristy cafeteria buffet. It was complete with traditional lederhosen wearing musicians, German slap dancing, and whip music, which is basically like hearing a pistol being fired, right next to you, twice a second, with polka in the background. The food was not great, and served slightly warm, but I was amused by the cartoonishly huge steins of beer, and the hammered Chinese business men.


A mural in the Hofbrauhaus.


I think this is the first Church we saw in Munich, "Church of our Lady" but I'm not sure. I didn't get an international plan for my phone, so I couldn't use geo-tagging or anything. That would have been really helpful.


Pretty sweet painting. The story it's telling is mysterious to me, but I kinda like it that way. Looks like something you might see in Spectrum. I guess it's a knight seeing a holy deer in the forest?


I saw this around a couple times. Seems to be Jesus nailed to a va-jay? No idea. Endless weirdness.


Another puzzler. Statue of a guy who skinned people? Nobody seemed to know the story. This is going in a drawing for sure.


A lot of churches had mummies in them, on display. This dude was bones wrapped in cheese-cloth, covered in jewels, in an elaborate vivarium. He had ceramic eyes over his eyes. One of the creepiest things I've ever seen. You can't see it, but in the box above him there's a jeweled skull, I couldn't get a good picture. There was also a real skull painted gold incorporated into a picture frame. This whole church was full of dead people, and it kinda smelled like it I have to say. We had a mass here as well, so this crazy place ended up being the first time I ever went to church.


Then we were off to Oberammergau for this passion of the Christ play. The village was in a picturesque mountain setting, and many of the houses had murals and decorative painting work that was surprisingly excellent.







The play had these "living pictures" segments where they staged bible, umm, stuff, with real people and props, all staying perfectly still. We weren't allowed to take pictures though. There was like flaming swords, skulls, snakes, lions, and angels, but I really have no idea what any of it means. Looked sweet though.

On to a stop in Altoetting, we saw a little church with "the black Madonna" in it. It was a sculpture of Mary that was unpolished bronze or something so it looked black. Not nearly as metal as it sounds. The room was filled with silver and covered in small paintings. Like walls, ceilings, inside and out, covered. It was obsessive looking. No pictures allowed though.



Mermaid angel child spitting water? I guess.




I took a lot of pictures of sculptures.

Onward to Salzburg Austria, which translates to "Salt Castle." I like that.

The salt castle, I think it's called Hohensalzburg.


I was drawn to sculptures on this trip. I think I like them so much because they remind me of Mike Mignola's work, as well as the statue in Conan the Destroyer that turns into the monster when they put the horn in place. A childhood favorite.














This Baroque church was amazing.







Again, the macabre is everywhere. I don't even know how many skulls are in here. There was like 4 of these, and 2 of them had skulls with pope hats on. I guess I didn't get a picture.


Then we went to Melk, this crazy monastery/school/museum in Austria.








Early treasure chest lock. Nutso.





This library was right out of Harry Potter. I don't think you were allowed to take pictures, but I guess Jerome took a couple.




One of the (chapels?) inside.


Another priest mummy shrine.




I took a few pictures of these murals. They reminded me of some of James Jean's work on Fables. I think it's the palette and rosy shadows.




Terrible shot. I was trying to get this one head, but I didn't zoom in or anything because I'm not camera savvy. Any good shots you're seeing are probably Jerome's.




On to Vienna, on the way we stopped in a little town called Mariazell and saw their basilica.

The town.



On the way to the bathroom I found the remnants of a human skull placed randomly in the ground, of course! There was a plaque talking about it, but it was in German. I assume it said something like "we found this dude's skull in the ground when we were fixing our septic system, and we didn't know what the fuck to do with it, so here you go!"

Ok. God damn this is taking forever. Vienna. By this time we were all physically sick from German and Austrian food, which is basically meat and potatoes covered heavily in clarified butter and salt. We are not used to such rich food and it was quite a shock to our systems. "The young ones" meaning Jerome, Joe (Jerome's brother), Saskia (Jerome's brother's girlfriend), and myself, so called because we were the only people of the 27 on the tour who were under 50, broke away from the scheduled tourist trap dinner and found a nearby Sushi restaurant. Joe and I tried to split this sushi boat for 2, but didn't get too far. The sushi was excellent though. Tora Lee (or Toka Lee?), Vienna.


Meat flower....uh, yep.




Always love stuff like this.



We went inside this Gothic cathedral, but it was way to dark and dirty to see anything.



Cool sun dial.





Alright, On to Prague. What an amazing city! It's half Dracula, half Art Nouveau. What could be better?

Saskia, Joe, Pepe (Jerome's Dad), and myself.


Art Nouveau train station. A lot of masonry work, it was in disrepair though.







The seal of Prague is awesome. I love the knight's arm with the sword popping out of the door like "Gotcha!"











Last thing I saw in Prague was the Mucha museum. Man, what a treat that was. I didn't realize his posters were so big! Many were probably more than 6 feet tall, and actually they were pretty loose. In almost all of them, the head was at least palm sized. You see them in a book and they look almost mechanically tight. He was more than capable of drawing small and tight though, which I also saw. You would have thought he was using a .3 mechanical pencil, but I guess he just kept his pencils super sharp! Nothing like seeing it in person, floored me!

Couldn't take pictures in there, obviously, but Jerome got some pictures of this stained glass window we also saw. It really made my trip. stunning.