Thursday, May 27, 2010

Melk Monastery Austria

The Benedictine Monastery in Melk is a UNESCO World Heritage site about 90-km from Vienna so I wonder what has taken me so long to get there. All photos are from my flickr set Melk Monastery (lots more photos there!).

I took the train and got there at 9 am. It was an easy walk from the train station through a pedestrian district where a farmers market was just being set-up. There is a stairway from the pedestrian street which leads up the hill to the Monastery gate. You buy your tickets at the second courtyard; my ticket was for an English tour at 10:55, so I had some time. (The ticket cost 9.50 Euros.)

I went into the museum where the guard marked my ticket so that I could go in again with my scheduled tour. Even at this early hour there were many groups of visitors from Danube river tour cruise ships (Melk is located on the Danube and is a popular stopping point for river cruises). By staying in between the tour groups I had the museum rooms to myself for a few minutes. It's a very interesting exhibit of the Monastery history combined with the history of the Dominican order of monks.

At the end of the museum is the marble hall which has a beautiful trompe de oeil painting of main characters from Greek mythology on the ceiling (most of the marble is painted stucco, by the way). Leaving the marble hall you walk out on a curved walkway overlooking the church on the one side and the Danube river valley on the other.

The walkway leads to the Monastery library, a treasure house of old books and ideas. Only two of the rooms are open to the tourist public, but the other rooms are accessible to scholars. A flight of circular stairs takes you down to the ground level and the entry to the church.

The Melk Monastery is famous because the whole complex was built at the beginning of the 1700s, and is all in the Baroque style. The church is where the Baroque really lets loose. It's almost impossible to do justice to the space with a photograph. My early visit was quite nice because I was almost alone in the church (at 11:45 the church was almost full with tourists).

After leaving the church I visited the Monastery garden with its very nice garden lodge - cool frescoes - and took a walk down the garden path overlooking the Danube. Then it was time for my tour. The tour guide was excellent, he spoke very good English and knew his stuff.

After the tour I was hungry and had a nice lunch of Schweinsbraten and beer at the Monastery restaurant located just outside the main monastery buildings on the way to the parking area. The food was quite good and the service was very good (fast, friendly and efficient). My lunch cost 14 Euros.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Buffalo Architecture: H.H. Richardson's Buffalo State Hospital

H.H. Richardson: Buffalo State Hospital main building from my flickr photos.

On my recent trip to Buffalo I visited the Buffalo State Hospital grounds in an early, jet-lag induced, walk. Some of my photos are on my Buffalo flickr set tagged with H.H. Richardson: Buffalo State Hospital.

As I grew up the imposing main building (in the photo above) seemed always to be in view. We lived nearby and went to elementary school on the campus of the adjoining state college. It's a fantastic building, unfortunately it really seems to need repair.

Francis R. Kowsky, a Buffalo architectural historian, wrote a nice description of the complex and its history in 2000, it is reprinted on the web page Buffalo as an Architectural Museum:  A Towering Masterpiece: H.H. Richardson's Buffalo State Hospital.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

International Conference Calls

Telephone booths in Basel railway station (Switzerland) from my flickr photos.

GigaOM's Web Worker Daily has a nice article summarizing tips and best practices for international telephone conference calls. These would have helped me in numerous cases!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Munich update

I visited Munich last week and had a great time. I re-visited my favorite "bio" lunch stand at the Viktualienmarkt, then headed to the nearby Stadtmuseum (City Museum) for a very nice exhibit called "Typisch M√ľnchen!" ... not enough on Munich food and beer for me, but otherwise fine (here's the German description). They had the Munich medieval period city model on display in the exhibit. More on city models here.

It was a dreary rainy day, so after walking around a bit I decided to head to the Munich Film Museum, which is in the basement of the Stadt Museum. They were showing an American film called "The Lusty Men" about rodeo cowboys. It was really good, I learned a lot about rodeos and the film itself was excellent.

I had dinner at one of my favorite Munich restaurants Der Pschorr located at the edge of the Viktualienmarkt. I had Sauerbraten with a knodel and rot kraut (red sauerkraut), the food, and the draft helles beer from a wooden keg was fantastic as always.

On my return trip (I flew to the USA via Munich), I stopped for lunch at the Augustiner Keller brewery, which is about 400 meters from Munich's main train station (I was taking the train back to Vienna). I had the lunch special: hackbraten (meat loaf) with spatzle and the JW Augustiner Edelstoff beer. Also very tasty ... what is it that makes beer taste so good in Munich? Let it suffice to say that I had a relaxing trip back to Vienna!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Over Greenland

I've been doing a lot of traveling lately. Here's a photo from my trip back from the USA, we had to fly a more northern route over Greenland because of eruptions from the volcano. So, while I wasn't "sleeping in the airport cuz of you" ... as I sing on YouTube, it did delay my flight by about an hour, really nothing to complain about.There are a couple more photos on my flickr set of aerial photos.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Power Point Presentations

Here's a great article by Slate's Farhad Manjoo No More Bullet Points, No More Clip Art - PowerPoint isn't evil if you learn how to use it.

Farhad summarizes how to make presentations better and mentions several of my favorite authors and bloggers including Edward Tufte and Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen). An article well worth reading and bookmarking.