A Personal Christmas Message 2020

Dear Community,

In the beginning of this year, when there was still enough freedom to travel, I met some Bedouins in a canyon. Some of them invited me for tea and we talked or simply enjoyed the silence which can make moments so golden and valuable. Despite growing up in a seemingly barren land, the Bedouins venerate their origins, their surroundings and the spirit of nature. They sleep under the starry sky and know every rock formation and every secret cavern we could imagine. It seems that they have been living through the tides of all ages and civilizations...

Many, many centuries ago the Nabateans, an amazing culture, began to preserve water with irrigation systems running through the rocky vaults. The Nabateans were conquered and finally disappeared – either through extinction or acculturation. However, their ancient lore and traditions of preserving water have survived.

What can we learn from the present global crisis? Instead of asking the high price we are forced to pay, instead of counting its victims day by day, instead of living in permanent fear – what can we learn? What really matters to us in life? How connected are we with our surroundings? What can we share with the dear people we love, even if we have lost them? What have they been teaching us? What can we give them – what can WE preserve? Love, light and inspiration have always persisted and survived like a beautiful flower that survives a tempest or a flood.

In many ways this crisis is an eye-opener. It reveals some ugly things we have been blind to. It also reveals how fragile and precious values like liberty, solidarity, community and a creative spirit are. Things we may have been taking for granted for so long. Things that may be at stake at the moment. Things we can preserve by focusing on them and enforcing them with our deepest emotions. Liberty starts with free thinking, solidarity begins with respecting others (as well as other opinions), and creativity is an expression or an idea coming from our soul.

As every year, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all my followers, readers, friends and visitors on this blog for your curiosity, your interest and your support.

May you all, wherever you are, have

Annual Christmas Message all around the world - peace, harmony, prosperity and health.
Winter Scenery in Lappland (Photo by Author)

A MERRY, HEALTHY AND PEACEFUL CHRISTMAS

AND A POSITIVE AND FULFILLING NEW YEAR

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Autumn colors

Don’t ask for tomorrow

so beautiful is today.

Into the valley throw your sorrow,

let the wind blow it away!

Frag doch nicht nach morgen,

das Heute ist so wunderschön.

Ins Tal verstreu die Sorgen

und lass sie vom Wind verweh’n.

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Plum tarte and soft piano sounds at Café Central

Are you in the mood to escape the cold and rainy autumn weather in downtown Vienna? Don’t hesitate! Take the chance and enjoy Vienna’s chic and stylish Café Central.

This fin-de-siècle coffee house was a “must-see” in every tourist guide and for every cosmopolitan. No wonder the queues in front were very long. I remember people from all around the world waiting for hours to enjoy some coffee and cake at what is considered to be a “typically Viennese” institution, flanked by the Fiakers (horse carriages) passing by every once in a while. Well, all this seems like water under the bridge at the moment. Which isn’t that bad at all: no queues, more attentive waiters serving you, a more relaxed atmosphere and the sound of the Viennese waltzes and operettas, which a pianist tickles on the ivories, is still the same.

There you go: A plum tarte. Both juicy and natural, thanks to the plum jelly on top, with a nice but very sweet chocolate bottom. Of course, don’t forget the Viennese mélange (café au lait) or Verlängerter (caffè lungo/Americano).

Du bist gerade in der Stimmung, dem kalten regnerischen Herbstwetter im historischen Wien zu entkommen? Dann los! Nütze die Chance und genieß die Zeit im chicen und eleganten Café Central.

Dieses Kaffeehaus aus der Zeit der Jahrhundertwende ist ein Muss in jedem Fremdenführer und für jeden Weltenbummler. Kein Wunder also, dass die Schlangen davor immer sehr lang waren. Ich erinnere mich, wie Leute aus aller Welt noch stundenlang davor warten mussten, um ihren Kaffee und Kuchen in dieser echt Wienerischen Institution genießen zu können, während die Fiaker immer wieder an ihnen vorbeizogen. Naja, das Alles scheint im Moment schon sehr lang her zu sein. Was nicht unbedingt schlecht ist: kein In-der-Schlange-Stehen, aufmerksamere Kellner, eine entspanntere Atmosphäre, und doch ist der Klang der Wiener Walzer und Operetten, die ein Klavierspieler zum Besten gibt, noch immer derselbe.

Und die Spezialität: ein Pflaumen-Törtchen. Saftig und natürlich durch sein Pflaumen-Gelée mit einem cremigen und sehr süßen Schokoladen-Fond. Dazu natürlich die Wiener Mélange oder ein Verlängerter.

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Imperial mountain hideout: Bad Gastein

Bad Gastein’s Grand Hotel in the evening mist

Once only a village with three huts by a hidden waterfall, centuries later the imperial hideaway of European royalty and aristocracy, nowadays a calm and often eerily quiet town with an uncertain future – Bad Gastein – nostalgic, romantic, healing and yet forgotten.

Vor langer Zeit nur ein Dorf mit drei Hütten an einem versteckten Wasserfall, Jahrhunderte später imperialer Rückzugsort der europäischen Dynastien und Adeligen, heute eine beschauliche und oft unheimlich ruhige Stadt mit einer ungewissen Zukunft – Bad Gastein – nostalgisch, romantisch, heilend und doch vergessen.

Historic center: Where Jugendstil blends with lush forests and breathtaking mountains

The waterfall and the thermal waters have been promising cure for many sores until today. Little surprising that the Alpine spa resort and the hot mineral waters began to attract visitors in the mid-19th century already. Renowned Italian architects built the prestigious palace-like hotels, Swiss-style chalets and a Grand Hotel with a Casino we now admire in the gorge of Gastein.

Der Wasserfall und das Thermalwasser versprechen noch heute Linderung für viele Leiden. Kein Zufall also, dass das Alpenwildbad und die heißen Mineralquellen Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts bereits jede Menge Besucher anzogen. Bekannte Architekten aus Italien schufen die prunkvollen Palais-artigen Hotels, Schweizer Chalets und ein Grand Hotel mit einem Kasino, die wir heute in der Gasteiner Schlucht so bewundern.

One of the most frequent royal visitors were German Emperor Wilhelm I, who resided at the Badeschloss, and Austrian Empress Elisabeth (Sisi), who used to stay at the Hotel Helenenburg at the bottom of Mount Graukogel.

Zu den häufigsten königlichen Gästen zählten der deutsche Kaiser Wilhelm I., der im Badeschloss residierte, und die österreichische Kaiserin Elisabeth (Sisi), die im Hotel Helenburg am Fuße des Graukogel logiert hat.

Unfortunately, many of the formerly exquisite hotels have become abandoned and are waiting for restauration. The picturesque town can be eerily deserted in winter and summer – so maybe this blog can contribute to find an aesthetic spirit and donor to awake it from a Cinderella’s sleep?

Leider stehen heute viele der einst noblen Hotels verlassen da und warten darauf, renoviert zu werden. Im Winter wie auch im Sommer kann das malerische Städtchen einen unheimlich leeren Eindruck machen – vielleicht trägt dieser Blog dazu bei, einen Schöngeist und Förderer zu finden, der es aus seinem Dornröschenschlaf erweckt?

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Hidden oasis in Vienna: Setagaya Park

The Setagaya Park, Vienna’s secret hideaway, located in the 19th district, is a little jewel of its own. A green gem amidst the busy city traffic. The Japanese Garden was established to strengthen the bonds of friendship between Austria and Japan.

Der Setagayapark, ein Geheimtipp im 19. Wiener Gemeindebezirk, ist ein kleines Juwel für sich. Ein grünes Schmuckstück mitten im regen Straßenverkehr. Der japanische Garten ist Ausdruck der Freundschaft zwischen Österreich und Japan.

The garden may be small, yet it contains the most typical elements of Japanese garden art – such as the pagoda and the waterfall.

Der Garten mag zwar klein sein, trotzdem findet man darin die meisten Merkmale der japanischen Gartenkunst – wie etwa die Pagode und den Wasserfall.

There are two pavillions – one on the north end, the other on the south of the gold fish pond. The southern pavillion is used for tea ceremonies on special occasions.

Es gibt zwei Pavillions – einen auf der Nordseite, den anderen im Süden des Goldfischteichs. Der südliche Pavillion wird zu besonderen Anlässen auch für Teezeremonien genutzt.

Is there a better place in spring or summer to immerse yourself into a book?

Gibt es im Frühling und Sommer einen schöneren Ort, um sich in ein Buch zu vertiefen?

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Corona Travel Restriction Index Europe – Where to travel?

Ever wondered about where in Europe tourists and travelers could face most Corona restrictions?

The RESTRICTION LEVEL SCALE from 1 (least/BLUE) to 10 (most/RED ZONE) tells us which countries have implemented most restrictions and may therefore face dwindling tourist numbers this summer.

Austria (restriction level 7) is one of them – and the only country with “entrance tests” for restaurants, even outdoors!

Other factors that may turn off travelers are obligatory mask-wearing outdoors (even on beaches), curfews and quarantines.

Let’s hope the scale may change soon!

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On traveling (George Sand)

“Quiconque n’est pas absorbé par le travail ou engourdi par la paresse est incapable, je le soutiens, de rester longtemps à la même place sans souffrir et sans désirer le changement. Si quelqu’un est heureux (il faut être très grand ou très lâche pour cela aujourd’hui), il s’imagine ajouter quelque chose à son bonheur en voyageant…”

(George Sand)

“Whoever isn’t absorbed by work or numb with laziness is unable, I stress, to stay at the same place for some longer time without suffering or without the desire for change. If somebody is happy (and one has to be very grand or very unmoved for this today), they imagine adding something to their luck by traveling…”

(George Sand)

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Xavier Paoli – The Sherlock Holmes of Kings and Queens

TOP ROYAL AND IMPERIAL OBSERVATION in the fin-de-siècle: Xavier Paoli was called the “guardian of kings and emperors”. Queen Victoria, Edward VII, Empress Sisi, Shah Muzzar ed-Din or the Romanovs – he met them all on their holidays in France, followed and protected them from anarchist and terrorist attacks around 1900. I wrote about him in a brandnew article.

His family came from Corsica and he was meant to work for their olive oil estate, but saw no future in this business. Therefore, Xavier Paoli decided to become a police officer. Who would have guessed that he’d end up protecting Kings and Queens, Emperors and Empresses on their holidays in France?

Paoli met them all – he admired the kindness but feared the eccentricities of legendary Sisi, the Empress of Austria, who felt “terrorized” by security measures. He was surprised to discover that the Romanovs weren’t all that bad and that autocracy has a certain “charm”. He was shocked by the shopping addiction of the Shah of Persia. And he was annoyed by the noise of the entourage of Sisowath, the cheerful ruler of Cambodia. However, his job wasn’t always that easy. Paoli had to stalk his VIPs and protect them from all kinds of terrorist and anarchist threats.

My recent German article recounts the story of his life, which he published in his book “Their Majesties as I knew them”.
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Quote of the month: Our freedom, our values

Not being free is when people have given up asking questions.

(my own quotation)

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Unfreiheit ist, wenn Menschen aufgehört haben, Fragen zu stellen.

(eigenes Zitat)

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Glimmers of light

Dear Community,

In this challenging time we all know that a lot seems hopeless and a lot is at stake.  That’s why I’ve decided to share with you some glimmers of light – impressions from my own little hideaway, and I’m really hoping you have found your own hideaway as well, a place where you can feel healthy, safe, secure, happy, and positive.

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Let us not forget that traveling is a human right. Since the creation of mankind human-beings have been nomads and curious to discover new realms and territories. This is a cosmopolitan blog that lives from your passions and travels.

Let us not allow that this human right will be only granted to a few or granted in exchange for surveillance and permanent monitoring. Let us not allow that tourists will be considered with suspicion, as if they were a walking virus. This is not what this Earth is meant to be! Instead, we have to grow together for a strong revival to make this planet an even better place.

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Apple blossom in springtime
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