Wordless Wednesday #103

Here’s another photo from my many #adventuresdownunder where there are so many wonderful beaches.

 

[Yet Another] Postcard from Seefeld

After a couple of days in Graz, we headed to more familiar ground, Seefeld. Over the years I have written many posts about our winter and summer holidays here, a town we first visited back in 1986! Over the years, we’ve stayed in many of the hotels and rental apartments. Surprisingly, there are still things I’ve yet to cover in the town. 

We recently spent a few days at the newly renovated 5* hotel in the centre of Seefeld, Hotel Klosterbräu & SPA. The latest generation of this family-owned establishment have made a number of key improvements in recent years: most notably, the addition of a petting zoo, a hotel dog called Moritz, an organic farm, a state of the art gym and spa, plus serving sublime apple strudel as part of a truly munificent breakfast buffet. You’ve got to love any place with those, haven’t you?

Hotel Klosterbräu***** & SPA Bilder | Bild 10

It was a truly relaxing few days with long walks after a fabulous breakfast, returning in time to wallow in the warm waters of the Spa before refuelling with Kaffee and Kuechen ahead of a splendid vegan dinner. Yes, you read that correctly. I had a four-course vegan meal every evening – heavenly. Understandably, I was reluctant to leave. So reluctant that we’re returning for a week’s holiday just before Xmas.

This time my post is all about where we stayed. As you know, if there’ s one thing I particularly love, it’s family hotels that are managed with a great deal of heart. The five-star hotel Klosterbraeu & Spa in Seefeld in Tyrol is one such hotel. The sixth generation of the Seyrling family  – innkeepers since the late 1880s – is now at its helm. A total of eight family members, not including the house dog Moritz, take wonderful care of the guests’ well-being.

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The hotel’s original building was a monastery (kloster) and a brewery (bräu). The monastery was consecrated in 14th century and in 1516  Emperor Maximilian I presented the building to the town of Seefeld to host visiting pilgrims. It has been transformed since those humble beginnings though it still produces its own beer.

The building is steeped in history and although much expanded and updated, blending the old with the new, the religious and the secular, the Seylings have been able to keep it alive and fresh for each generation of visitors. Everywhere traces of its origins remain.

Original frescos line the walls, dedicated to the Miracle of the Bread. One Sunday morning, around 1384, Sir Oswald Milser got a little too big for his lederhosen. During communion, the knight demanded a bigger than normal wafer. The moment he put it to his lips, the ground opened up and the knight was pulled straight down to you-know-where. Grabbing the altar as he struggled, his thumbprint was left there for all eternity. You can still find it in the church adjoining the hotel – I haven’t checked.

My vegan menu aside, culinary delights are definitely a priority and the hotel has a total of eight restaurant and dinner locations to offer culinary diversity, from the historic vaulted hall to the Ritter Oswald Stube to the legendary Bräukeller Grill.

Musical Monday: Elvis Costello

For the next few weeks I’m selecting tracks from artists I’ve seen in concert more than once – a select bunch!

Today’s the turn of Elvis Costello OBE (1954 – ) an English singer-songwriter who’s won multiple awards in his career, including Grammy Awards in 1999 and 2020, and has twice been nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male Artist. In 2003, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Costello number 80 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Costello began his career as part of London’s pub rock scene in the early 1970s and later became associated with the first wave of the British punk and new wave movement that emerged in the mid-to-late 1970s.His critically acclaimed debut album My Aim Is True was released in 1977. Shortly after recording it, he formed the Attractions as his backing band. His second album This Year’s Model was released in 1978, and was ranked number 11 by Rolling Stone on its list of the best albums from 1967 to 1987. His third album Armed Forces was released in 1979, and features his highest-charting single, Oliver’s Army (number 2 in the UK).

Costello wrote Oliver’s Army as a comment on the Troubles in Northern Ireland during the 1970s. He was inspired to write the song after seeing British soldiers patrolling the streets of Belfast. He stated,:

I made my first trip to Belfast in 1978 and saw mere boys walking around in battle dress with automatic weapons. They were no longer just on the evening news. These snapshot experiences exploded into visions of mercenaries and imperial armies around the world.

The song was based on the premise that they always get a working class boy to do the killing. Costello’s family had roots in the Northern Ireland conflict; as his grandfather was an Ulster Catholic and, as a child, Costello’s father I lived in an area where bigotry was rife. 

The  “Oliver” in the title refers to English Parliamentarian leader Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658), who personally led the English forces which subjugated Ireland in 1649. In addition to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the song references other “imperialist” conflicts. However, Costello later explained that the song was not intended to be a comprehensive political piece; it was pop music.

 

Costello and the Attractions toured and recorded together for the better part of a decade, though differences between them caused a split by 1986. Much of Costello’s work since has been as a solo artist, though reunions with members of the Attractions have been credited to the group over the years. Costello’s lyrics employ a wide vocabulary and frequent wordplay. His music has drawn on many diverse genres; one critic described him as a “pop encyclopaedia”, able to “reinvent the past in his own image”. Since 2002, his touring band (featuring a rotating cast of musicians) has been known as The Imposters.

Over the years, Costello has worked with numerous artists including Paul McCartney, Madness, Tony Bennett, Burt Bacharach, Allen Toussaint, T Bone Burnett, Lucinda Williams, Johnny Cash, Kid Rock, Lee Konitz, Brian Eno and Rubén Blades.

Costello, in print, often champions the works of others. He has written several pieces for the magazine Vanity Fair, including a summary of what a perfect weekend of music would be. He has contributed to two Grateful Dead tribute albums and covered Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter tunes “Ship of Fools”, “Friend of the Devil”, “It Must Have Been the Roses”, “Ripple” and “Tennessee Jed” in concert. His collaboration with Bacharach honoured Bacharach’s place in pop music history.

Costello has appeared in documentaries about singers Dusty Springfield, Brian Wilson, Wanda Jackson, Ron Sexsmith and Memphis, Tennessee-based Stax Records. He has interviewed one of his own influences, Joni Mitchell, and appeared on the release A Tribute to Joni Mitchell performing “Edith and the Kingpin”. He performed the title track of the Charles Mingus tribute collection, Weird Nightmare. He appeared on the Nick Lowe tribute album Labour of Love, performing the Lowe song “Egypt” and the Gram Parsons tribute album The Return of the Grievous Angel, performing the Parsons song “Sleepless Nights”. He was instrumental in bringing Sexsmith to a wider audience in 1995 by championing his debut album in Mojo magazine, even appearing on the cover with Sexsmith’s debut album.

In 2012, Costello was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life that he most admires, to mark his 80th birthday. On being chosen, Costello, a life-long supporter of Liverpool FC, remarked:

I always dreamed that I might one day stand in the boots of Albert Stubbins [the Liverpool footballer who appeared in the original artwork].

French Fancies: La Compagnie du Kraft

You might very well be reading this post on your iPhone, iPad, or some other portable piece of technology. Sure, that’s the world we live in, where we can receive and record information with the touch of a screen. However, if you’re anything like me, perhaps you still occasionally relish the tactility of textured paper, bound in covers of something equally as practical as it is creative? When I’m next in Paris, I’ll be popping into one of my favourite shops, La Compagnie du Kraft, to stock up.

La Compaignie du Kraft has been making robust handmade notebooks since 1930 in its Parisian workshop. It produces timeless objects for the more classic note-taker; think traditional paper merchant meets lumberjack, meets tannery.

Stationery stores in Paris like La Compagnie du Kraft, does rustic-looking handmade leather-bound notebooks like these ones laid out neatly on a wooden work bench.

General card-bound notebooks are also available, however the material of choice is natural French leather. Hides dyed in varying tones of burgundy and red, browns, and deep blues enclose sheets of lined, or unlined, vellum with generously tactile fibers. Of course a standard “A-size” notebook would be a welcome addition to anyone’s bag or case, or you could take a courageous leap and replace your technological best friend with a notebook measuring exactly the same size as an iPad or iPhone. No charger or risk of breakage involved!

The notebooks are refillable, the leather cover is made using a tanning process that does not use any chemically produced chrome. It’s durable and made from the toughest leather which does a great job at protecting the pages. It is held together with strong lightweight rivets that are easily removed to replace the paper of choice. The interior pages are made of 100% undyed paper from the pulp of virgin fibres of maritime pine. This paper is not made from recycled paper but the discarded material from mills and tree trimmings. White paper is also available which is produced without any heavy CO2 emissions. Since the kraft paper is produced without any chemicals, and made from pulp, it is 100% biodegradable so you can use as much as you want.

Stationery stores in Paris like the Compagnie du Kraft which we love for their leather-bound handmade customizable notebooks.

For artists and designers, La Compagnie du Kraft also offers a range of beautiful craft paper reams. Produced in Gascony from 100% pure virgin fibres, machine-glazed on one side and matte on the other, these sheets can be used for a wide range of printed and hand-written projects – wholly delicious.

The logbook is the latest addition to the company’s product range. Initially designed for an array of uses – from a personal diary to a more structured notebook – to complement digital tools with a more direct, spontaneous approach to writing. However, many of its loyal clients asked us the company also adapt the logbook into a diary.

The company claims on its website that La Compagnie du Kraft is probably the most unproductive notebook workshop in the world. Its handful of skilled workers produces around 25,000 pieces per annum. This is all part of its charm and products are part of a popular culture – made for foresters from the French Landes (south-west) who made notes about cutting down trees.

The company still prepares all its notebooks using the same traditional methods in its small Parisian workshop. Even the equipment is serviced in house, as the spare parts are difficult to find.

The current owner Nicolas Recoing acquired the workshop in 2008, reviving it with notion that “we are what we are“, that marketing is about being sincere, and that even the coarsest products can have panache.

Nicolas' thoughts

The company believes that like an antique perfume, highly prized collector’s item or treasured heirloom, your writing is precious and embodies who you are.

Verba volant, scripta manent, spoken words fly away, written words remain.

The company’s  raison d’être is to provide customers with a special place to store their writing that’s easy to use and resists the passage of time. In these notebooks, you will only find what is essential – your thoughts, inner words, the print of your hands on the cover……..the traces of you.

Who wouldn’t want one of their products to record and preserve things we hold dear?

All images courtesy of La Compagnie du Kraft

Silent Sunday #83

Another one of my many photographs of France.

The Musette: Salzburger Nockerl

In Austria a dessert is referred to as “Mehlspeis” – the dish with flour. I think very highly of Austrian desserts and pastries but the most notable and “piece de resistance” is the famed Salzburger Nockerl, a light, baked soufflé. It is typically served with a fresh berry compote, a fruit coulis or baked on a berry gelee enriched cream.

The origins of the Salzburger Nockerl are unclear though they were first made in the early 17th century. According to some, Napoleon brought this sweet, egg-based dessert to Austria from France. Another says that the long-term mistress of Salzburg’s Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau and the mother of his 15 children invented the delicious dessert – when did find time? The Salzburger Nockerl perfectly symbolise the baroque love of life which prevailed during the time of the industrious prince as well as also the snowy peaks surrounding the city of Salzburg: the Mönchs, Kapuziner and Gaisberg mountains

I like to serve Salzburger Nockerl as a finale to an Austrian style meal when I have friends round. I can finish and cook the dish while everyone’s chatting after the cheese course. In addition, they “stand” a little longer that regular soufflés and can easily be served “family” style in a big oval (or rectangular) baking dish.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 150 ml ( 1/3 cup) double (heavy) cream
  • 1 vanilla pod, scrapped of seeds
  • squeeze fresh lemon juice
  • 7 egg whites, fridge-cold
  • pinch of salt
  • 80 g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest from an organic lemon
  • 2 tbs plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tbs cornstarch
  • Icing sugar for dusting
  • jam for base

Method

How to Make Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière Recipe)

1.Heat the cream to simmering point with the cut-open vanilla pod, its seeds and lemon juice. Remove from the stove and leave to stand and infuse. Lightly butter an oval-shaped, ovenproof dish. Pre-heat oven to 200C./180C fan/(400F)/gas mark 6.

2. Line the base of the dish with a layer of your chosen jam. It’s best to use a strongly flavoured jam, preferably one made with something red; raspberry, strawberry, red currant rhubarb, etc. would be my preference, to contrast with the sweetness of the meringue. I typically use an entire pot of home-made raspberry jam.

3. Fish the vanilla pod out of the cooled cream mixture which is then poured over the jam in the base of the dish. (Note: wash and keep the pod to make vanilla syrup or paste).

The Secret to Better Brownies is in the Eggs | Epicurious

4. Whip the egg yolks with 1 tbsp sugar and the vanilla extract until light and foamy. In another bowl, using a mixer, beat the egg whites and salt to a hard peak and slowly add the remaining sugar little by little until all the sugar is well incorporated and the mixture is very stiff and glossy.

How Fragile Egg-White Foams Are Transformed into Firm, Airy Meringues - How-To - FineCooking

5. Add the egg yolks, lemon zest, flour and cornstarch to the egg white mixture. Fold carefully with a spatula to incorporate the two mixtures. Using a very large spoon, make 4 pyramid-shaped nockerl, placing them next to one another in the baking dish. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

salzburger nockerl

6. Dust with icing sugar and serve triumphantly at the table.

A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust: My love affair with Austrian desserts

One from the Vaults: Postcard from Manhattan I

In previous years, including last year, we have generally headed to New York in November. Not the best month for a spot of sightseeing but it’s rather dictated by my beloved’s need to attend a major dental meeting. This post is from way back in 2010. 

It’s incredibly cold here. So cold, in fact, that it reminds me more of Chicago, the Windy City. Fortunately, I have plenty of layers, I just didn’t expect to have to wear them all at the same time. It is, however, sunny and so I’ve been roaming around those districts, such as The Meat Packing District, where there are fewer high rises thereby allowing me to enjoy the warmth of the sun.

Meatpacking District : le quartier branché et très en vogue de New York

Whenever I hit New York my first port of call is always the book stores. I like to check out all the new releases, particularly in the Cookery Section. This helps me decide how and on what to spend my Amazon Gift Vouchers. I can happily while away days in both Borders and Barnes & Noble.

Barnes & Noble - New York City, New York

I spent Saturday with my beloved but he was off to work on Sunday at the Greater New York Dental Meeting, leaving me to my own devices during the day. I have a packed programme planned which mixes Museum and Gallery visits with Xmas shopping and a cycling tour of New York. Yes, New York, a bit like London, has been sprouting bicycle lanes and so I decided to try them out.

Central Park - NewYorkCity.fr

It’s fair to say that cycling in New York is not for the faint-hearted. New Yorkers are not renowned for their patience and tolerance towards those on two wheels. However, by avoiding periods of peak congestion, I found it was a great way to enjoy the city and its parks.

Over the week end I was a woman on a mission. I’d decided what to buy to wear for my sister’s wedding in February, I just had to find one in my size, and I did. I can now order my bespoke hat from Jane at The Hat House and I’m good to go, as they say over here.

Hôtels Times Square New York | Quartier des théâtres de Broadway

 

Elevators

I suffer badly from vertigo and the hotel we’re staying in has everything I dislike: glass lift shafts, courtyard hotel rooms, glass barriers, wall to wall views. I’ve not been able to use any of the equipment in the gym which is wall to wall glass, with views into the abyss. My beloved, of course, finds this mildly amusing as I cringe in the corner of the lift and edge along the corridors. To make matters worse, we’re on 31st floor. I normally never like being above 7th. But then I didn’t pick the hotel, our client did!

Thursday doors #135

This week I’ve been talking about our visit to Graz so here’s a few Central European doors from my archives.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Dan’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Wordless Wednesday #102

And, I’m back to posting photos from my many #adventuresdownunder. In my book you can never have too many photos of koalas.

 

Postcard from Graz

On our recent trip to Budapest, we returned by way of Austria, making a maiden visit to Graz. We had no real expectations but were delighted with what we found.

Graz is situated on both sides of the Mur river in southeast Austria. About 150 km (93 miles) southwest of Austria’s capital Vienna, it’s the capital of Styria, the second-largest city in Austria and is perhaps best known as a university town, home to more than 60,000 students.

More importantly, its historic centre is one of the best-preserved city centres in Central Europe. Consequently, it’s a UNESCO list of World Heritage Site. Furthermore,  it was the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2003 and became a City of Culinary Delights in 2008.

Large Graz Maps for Free Download and Print | High-Resolution and Detailed Maps

We spent two days here, staying in a delightful art hotel at the foot of the Schlossberg near the river and old town centre, soaking up its historical and gastronomic delights.

History of Graz

The oldest settlement on the ground of the modern city of Graz dates back to the Copper Age. However, no historical continuity exists of a settlement before the Middle Ages.

During 12th century, dukes under Babenberg rule made the town into an important commercial centre. Later, Graz came under the rule of the Habsburgs and, in 1281, gained special privileges from King Rudolph I.

In 14th century, Graz became the city of residence of the Inner Austrian line of the Habsburgs who lived in the Schlossberg castle and from there ruled Styria, Carinthia, most of today’s Slovenia, plus parts of Italy (Carniola, Gorizia and Gradisca, Trieste).

The city’s design and planning in 16th century were primarily controlled by Italian Renaissance architects and artists. One of the most famous buildings representative of this style is the Landhaus, designed by Domenico dell’Allio, and used by the local rulers as a governmental headquarters.

The University of Graz was founded by Archduke Karl II in 1585, it’s the city’s oldest university. For most of its existence, it was controlled by the Catholic church, and was closed in 1782 by Joseph II in an attempt to gain state control over educational institutions. Joseph II transformed it into a lyceum where civil servants and medical personnel were trained. In 1827 it was re-established as a university by Emperor Franz I, and was named ‘Karl-Franzens Universität’. More than 30,000 students are currently enrolled at this university.

Graz is centrally located within Styria, or Steiermark in German. Mark is an old German word indicating a large area of land used as a defensive border, in which the peasantry is taught how to organise and fight in the case of an invasion. With a strategic location at the head of the open and fertile Mur valley, Graz was historically a target of invaders, such as the Hungarians under Matthias Corvinus in 1481, and the Ottoman Turks in 1529 and 1532. Apart from the Riegersburg Castle, the Schlossberg was the only fortification in the region that never fell to the Ottoman Turks. Graz is home to the region’s provincial armory, which is the world’s largest historical collection of late medieval and Renaissance weaponry. It has been preserved since 1551, and displays over 30,000 items, including one of only seven fully preserved horse armours in the world.

From the earlier part of 15th century, Graz was the residence of the younger branch of the Habsburgs, which succeeded to the imperial throne in 1619 in the person of Emperor Ferdinand II, who moved the capital to Vienna. New fortifications were built on the Schlossberg at the end of the 16th century. Napoleon’s army  – he got everywhere – occupied Graz in 1797. In 1809, the city withstood another assault by the French army. During this attack, the commanding officer in the fortress was ordered to defend it with about 900 men against Napoleon’s army of about 3,000. He successfully defended the Schlossberg against eight attacks, but they were forced to give up after the Grande Armée occupied Vienna and the Emperor ordered to surrender.

Following the defeat of Austria by Napoleonic forces at the Battle of Wagram in 1809, the fortifications were demolished using explosives, as stipulated in the Peace of Schönbrunn of the same year. The bell tower and the civic clock tower atop the Schlossberg were spared after the citizens of Graz paid a ransom for their preservation.

Archduke Karl II of Inner Austria had 20,000 Protestant books burned in the square of what is now a mental hospital, and succeeded in returning Styria to the authority of the Holy See. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was born in Graz in what is now the Stadtmuseum (city museum).

In April 1945, while the heaviest Allied bomb raid of Graz occurred, the Gestapo and Waffen-SS committed a massacre against resistance fighters, Hungarian-Jewish forced labourers, and POWs at the SS barracks at Graz-Wetzelsdorf.

For the year that Graz was Cultural Capital of Europe (2003), new structures were erected. The Graz Museum of Contemporary Art (German: Kunsthaus) was designed by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier and is situated next to the Mur river. The Island in the Mur is a floating platform made of steel uniting both sides of the river. It was designed by American architect Vito Acconci and contains a café, an open-air theatre and a playground.

Historical Heritage

Our daily rambles took us over both sides of the river. On the one side are narrow alleyways with small shops, sun-drenched squares animated by street cafes. The other side hosts the future of Graz with its resolutely modern Kunsthaus nestled between ancient housing – a real dichotomy.

We easily walked well over 10,000 steps every day up, down and round the old town starting in Herrengasse, pretty much the focal point of public life in Graz which is lined with many beautiful buildings, including the Landhaus. Its arcaded inner courtyard ranks among the Italian Renaissance masterpieces.Indeed, Graz is famed for its romantic inner courtyards which often have magnificent doors, and you all know how much I love doors!

We enjoyed a magnificent bird’s eye view of the town’s red-tiled roof scape and the distant hills and mountains, by walking up the Schlossberg to see the Bell and Clock Towers, the Fortress, the Hackher Lion, the delightful gardens and much more besides.

With the unerring accuracy of a truffle hound, I found the best restaurant in town just 300 metres from our hotel and we ate there both nights. On both occasions a booking was necessary. I bought the chef-owner’s cook book and enjoyed a visual tour of his open kitchen.

We’ll be more than happy to return here, particularly as it’s close to where the Austrian MotoGP is held!