Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yungfrau - forever young and cool

Where I live, summers are very hot and humid, so I often try to escape the sticky reality by letting my imagination run freely to cool, icy places I once visited. My favourite in this category is the Yungfrau, in the Swiss Alps. The german word 'yungfrau' is translated as 'virgin'. Indeed, there's a virgin kind of beauty about this highest mountain peak in Europe; all white and impeccable as if untouched. ( Sorry for the poor color quality of the attached pictures- the snow should, of course, be white, not yellow).

When you reach the summit (by clog rail which runs inside the mountain tunnel,) you witness a stunning view: bright blue skies, white snow capped mountains, the sun shining from above (sunglasses - a must). You feel you're on the Top of the world ,not only on the top of Europe, and that's a terrific feeling. The Yungfrau range of mountains has in fact three giant peaks, but only the highest among them bears the name of Yungfrau , and it is below this peak that trains arrive from the nearby charming little town called Interlaken, a well-known resort in the area.

Yungfrau with its snow, ice, and glaciars is the perfect place to dream about in these torrid days.

Oh, dear God , please have mercy upon our souls and send us now some of that mountain blessed coolness, so that we can enjoy the outdoors , and give up air conditioning, indoors!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rural Touch

"Don't trust women and don't trust the clutch"- this piece of 'advice' was written on the back of a car in a village I visited recently in north -east Romania. Even in the 21st century, it appears there are still places where people have more confidence in horse -drawn wagons than in cars.

The guy in the first picture was waiting to 'upload' me in his rudimentary horse- drawn cart and take me to the village where I was supposed to meet with an old, confined to bed member of his family, someone who ,as a young peasant lass , used to come to the small town of my childhood, to help my mother clean the house and do the laundry.

Short after the ride started, the horse raised his tail and ...released a very bad smell in our direction. I looked at the driver; he seemed cool. Well, he's probably used to it, but I was almost asphixiated.

Anyway, after a few minutes I felt better and started to enjoy the green scenery around, the vast, open spaces with or without sheep and cows, humming to myself the only line I knew from a song that mentions horse and carriage: Frank Sinatra 's " love and marriage, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage" . I was not very comfortable. I had to hold on to the man's arm with one hand , and to the bench I was sitting on ,with the other one, but neverheless I felt great. Besides, the ride was in a gentle tempo and lasted only about twenty minutes.

vast green fields

A couple of hours later, after exchanging kisses and presents with the target woman , and eating a copious meal with incredible dishes served by her daughter-in-law , I was to go back to town with the guy's niece in an even simpler cart (the third picture), as he was in a hurry to get to a wedding in an adjacent village. Well, it was me , the big adventurer, who insisted on a full cart journey, so I had to take what came along. This time it was even funnier. Me and the niece behaved like two bad schoolgirls shouting nasty words at the poor horse (I''m so ashamed!) , laughing , and leaving to God to protect us from the poor country road.

Back at the hotel, I thought about the horse. What a hard life the poor animal has, what an exploited creature, pulling people and loads in any weather. There are probably cases of malnutrition and general maltreatment too. I hope there's an association somewhere representing horse rights as there is for human rights, only something far more efficient.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Joyful evening at the Fortress

Place - the medieval fortress 'Cetatea' (the citadel) on a high hill overlooking the city of Brasov. It has four towers, a canon, and a 81 m deep well in the courtyard, weapons hanged on walls, statues of warriors.
The occasion - dinner at the restaurant of the citadel followed by a performance of a troupe of artists from the local Opera House of the city of Brasov. The place was packed with tourists sitted at tables on both sides of a long hall.

Well, the food was delicious, the wine opened the senses widely, and we were all happily waiting
for the main dessert - the artistic performance with arias from well known operas, choreography with a pair of dancers, and fine instrumental music.

I liked it all, the music, the voices, the dances - except for one thing - the way the three male opera singers looked. They were out of shape (the belly stood out) and dressed in a sort of depressive outfit. The younger among them
was dressed adequately for his love duets with the soprano, but the size of the tuxedo was big on him so he looked lost in it, and his shoes had ridiculously long, sharp tips (The three didn't know I'll be in the audience LOL..) .

the senior singer

the middle-aged singer

the junior singer, in a duet with the soprano

Apart from that, everything was just fine, considering the fact that the performers (for whom it was a way of earning some extra money) didn't have here the optimal stage conditions available at the Opera House in town.

the red-head mezzosoprano

the dancers

The programme ended with the orchestra playing some dance music to allow the guests of the restaurant to engage in dancing. Medieval walls or not, the happening within these walls was modern and lively.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The nuns' silent neighbouress

Ashes, dust, will remain of you
As this has always been the rule
Nothing brings you into this world
Nothing takes you away from it
Nothing of you will remain behind

Veronica Micle
4.v111 1889

(free translation from romanian - june 2009)

On one of the hottest days of last June, facing the tombstone of the young beautiful poetess Veronica Micle, I felt a deep sadness penetrating my soul. What a loss of talent and beauty ! I think the words, engraved on her stone, refer to the physical aspect of things . She herself left behind two daughters, poems, prose , admirers.- that's certainly no Nothing.

Veronica committed suicide two months after her lover (the great romanian poet Mihai
Eminescu) died. She was burried in a tiny garden at the Varatec Monastery. This all women's monastery (with about six hundred nuns), surrounded by meadows and forests , housing fine paintings and furniture, always attracted writers, poets and scholars who found here the proper atmosphere for rest and creative work - and in Veronica's case, final peace.

Veronica and Eminescu, whom she lovingly called Emin, first met at her house where she hosted a literary salon. After the death of her husband (thirty years her senior), the two came close to each other planning to marry but , for some reason , it didn't happen. They both died in their late thirties.

There's some new material (letters) recently released by descendants of the Micle family, and it will probably serve as the basis of a great literary, romantic movie.


view of Veronica Micle's grave -( june 2009)

the main entrance to the monastery (hidden by the van)

nun selling products of the monastrey's own bakery (2009)

people visiting the convent - (june 2009 )

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Greetings from Vlad Dracul (Dracula)

Dracula - portrait

Bran Castle on top, souvenir market at the bottom

Dracula as a 'sex symbol' (postcard)

Vlad Dracul, who inspired the Dracula vampire movies, was a real figure in romanian history of the 15th century. As prince of Wallachia he had his headquarters at Bran Castle on the top of a high rock overlooking the charming city of Brasov.

At the foot of this rock , there's now a souvenir market based on the images of Dracula and the castle. His face is printed on almost any imaginable and unimaginable item: T-shirts, cups, magnets, postcards, paintings, sculptures, keychains, dolls, wooden-boxes, tableware pieces, masks, etc...

I knew from history lessons that Vlad Dracul the third was considered a brave soldier who fought against the Turk and German invaders , as well as a just and efficient ruler. Nevertheless, on my recent visit in the area I was rather surprised by the affection people have for his personality and by the enthusiasm with which they talk about him. Surprised , because after all , Vlad Dracul ('dracul' meaning 'the devil' in romanian) was a cruel , ruthless man.

His post-mortem name Tepes (pronounced:Tzepesh) originated in his favorite weapon
- the stake. Impalement was his preferred method of torture and execution of opponents and of people disobeying the rules, hence the name of Dracula the Impaler. They say he was concerned quite a lot with woman chastity. Adulterous wives and maidens who lost their virginity were punished by his famous method of impalement. Brrrrrrrrrrr!

The romanians acknowledge all that, and present horror shows from his activities. Yet they do try hard to soften this side of his character by claiming that it was impossible to maintain order without heavy punishment of the bad guys , and that the Germans who hated Vlad, were those who invented and promoted his image as a blood thirsty prince and vampire.

Anyway, while there, I bought some souvenirs asking the vendor to pack them carefully as they were for presents. 'And what's for you' , he asked . 'Nothing' I said . 'I took some pictures of the castle, and as for Dracula, I could think of some nicer men with friendlier faces to look at' . 'He could be revengeful, you know, visit you in your dreams', warned me the vendor.

Well, I don't want him in my dreams, do I. So, to be on the safe side, I decided to have a round magnet with Dracula's face on it . I think I'll stick it on the front door of the fridge hoping his face will keep me away from opening it too often , and thus help me with the diet I need after eating the terrific food in Dracula's kingdom.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

...get that out of the way

I'll be away for a little while, somewhere in east Europe, on a sort of small 'roots trip' . It will start with locating the graves of my grandparents, cleaning their tombstones, litting candles, saying prayers...I'll sure miss your fabulous blogs from which I learn so much. In the meantime, I leave you to read and enjoy Woody Allen's brilliant tiny piece of writing (enlarge the picture).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stars gone out at the Herodeion

The Herodeion , on the south slope of the Acropolis of Athens in Greece, is a stone theatre that has hosted many musical concerts and famous artists throughout the years. Here's one of the most intriguing musical events: George Dalaras , the popular greek singer ,and Emma Shaplin, the young french Diva, in a....surprising duet with "Spente le Stelle" ("The stars are gone out").

(I must confess, I take seriously any performance of this particular song as I have very deep, traumatic feelings for it.. I was in the middle of listening to this song , when I got the news of the untimely sudden death of my brother. Later on, I 'stole' its music for a poem I wrote in his memory and I worked very hard on my voice (in the shower) to be able to sing it, at the memorial ceremony. I didn't do it in the end as it would have been a Fiasco.).

Orchestra. The guy with the bandanna should have definitely changed his outfit into something more appropriate to the nature and atmosphere of the 'Spente le Stelle". The drummer is cute and energetic, but that's not the kind of drum beat that usually comes with this kind of song. I'm interested in the Choir which is of utmost importance here ,echoing the events like in an ancient tragedy. We are, however, not offered a decent close-up of the choir, and that's a pity.

Dalaras opens. Oh ,my God, he looks and sounds distracted. Maybe he's had a glass of ouzo before the concert. I then take a look at Emma. I don't believe it! She's smiling, that's pure blasphemy! The song is a tragic one, it's about a betrayed, broken heart, bitter tears, despair, hopeless dreams, empty night, crying love... Perhaps she also had a glass of ouzo. Two orchestra players sitting right behind the singing couple, are engaged in intensive chatting. How dare they ?in the middle of the concert? They should be fired ! What instruments are they playing anyway, I see no instruments. Ah,well I remember now the two faces from another concert, they're bouzouki players, and there's probably no part for bouzouki in this piece, so they are jobless and feel free to chat.

The two guys seem to do more than just chatting, they are gossiping. Since I like a bit of gossip myself, I follow their glances . Oh, oh , I see... Emma and George are now holding hands. That explains it all; the distraction, the smiling, the loving eyes. Emma, poor Emma, He's got a reputation, He''ll break her heart. I must admit, however, they look lovely together and their kiss when leaving the stage made me forget all about the weeping song.

Oh well, I wish the diva, Good Luck with the charming greek prince, and forgive her for not delivering the song (which brought her big fame some ten years ago ) in a proper manner. I can understand.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Ben Bernanke (the chairman of the Fed) is printing dollars like there's no tomorrow.

Stanley Fischer (the Governor of Bank 0f Israel) is buying dollars like there's no tomorrow.

OK - Could be there's no tomorrow. With the intensive spread of nuclear power and the global warming which brings about natural disasters - the end of the world seems pretty real. Add to this, the major fact that God is very angry with us people, for violating the order and rules of this universe with migration ,pollution ,and globality - and you get the whole picture.

But what if there is a tomorrow ? Well, in this case, it won't have anything to do with the dollar. Let's face it, America is a superpower of debts.
The World Bank is quietly looking for a substitute to the old green bill, just in case...

So why are these two respectable economy professors playing the game of printing and purchasing dollars? It's my humble opinion that they won't tell us why because they have no idea why. They're both stuck in some old theory regarding the Depression of 1929-1933 and their every second word is "growth" -whatever that means.

Bernanke was Fischer's doctoral student. Israel got the teacher, America got the student ,and the world got a big monetary and economic Headache.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dear BEE, Why ME?

Once in a while, I get stung by a bee. When it happens, the pain is agonizing and I unwillingly produce a loud , high -pitched scream. Luckily, I'm a non-allergic victim as the pain and swelling occur locally only. Quick removal of the stinger and a cold water compress on the affected spot are of great help.

The strangest 'stinging incident' occurred to me years ago in a glass shop on the tiny Murano island near Venice. This island is a ten minutes ride by waterbus (vaporetto) from Venice and is based on glass industry. It has glass factories, glass showrooms, glass souvenir shops, glass-blowing demonstrations by professional glass blowers, glass museum, glass, glass, glass in various colors, shapes and qualities.
Quite a ...glass place with character.

Vivarini furnace, Vivarini bridge - Murano

Well, we were several people in the souvenir shop, and I was the one who got the sting !! I was "the chosen one". There was nothing about me to attract bees or humans. I was in simple plain clothes, no bright colors, no jewelery, no perfume, no scents, no flowers or sweets in my hands, bag, or around me . Nothing of all those things that are said to attract or irritate bees. As I recall, I was standing under a chandelier with fiery colors, maybe that was it.

When I delivered my 'operaic' scream, something on a shelf near me fell and got broken. The shop owner was in complete shock (broken glass is an ominous sign in many cultures and apparently he had seen nothing like this before), but he composed himself and behaved very gently towards me. He fetched me cold water compresses for the swollen spot until I felt less pain , and tried to cheer me up as only italians know how. Before leaving, I offered to pay for the broken item. The shop owner refused to take any money from me , even for the two items I chose to buy prior to the incident. He said he wanted me to leave with no hostile feelings for the place where I had experienced pain and misery.

The last time I got stung by a bee was two weeks ago in Jerusalem. I had to be at an office to get a certain document stamped & signed. I was very happy that the procedure took only 5 minutes , but my happiness was of short duration. As I left the building- oops! sting and scream. ( It was a cool, cloudy day and they say bees are angry on such a day).

In Jerusalem, if a scream like that is heard, security people automatically start looking for terrorists. When they learnt it was false alarm , the look on their face said something like that: "Shame on you , to make such a fuss over a bee sting, when we are struggling against Terror".
(Sorry, Fellows).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

20 years old

Someone has recently emailed me the above video and I can' t help watching it again and again.. This video is an irresistible combination of dramatic song, great performer, and smart staging.

The song is well-known both in its original french form ("Hier encore , j'avais vingt ans") and in the english version ("Yesterday, when I was young") and deeply touches every listener that was once 20 years old.

The 85 years old singer, Charles Aznavour, dressed in black - sharp contrast to his white hair - mourns the foolish waste of his young years. Helping him with this are two tall beauties on high heels and in mini dresses who, I guess, are a symbol of youth with all its vanity and carelessness . The stage background looks vivid and cheerful as opposed to the sad words of the song . The moist eyes of the two boys in the audience, and the... moaning of Aznavour make it all very emotional. The bottom line of the song is "Je gache ma vie" meaning I wasted my life. (Aznavour, BTW did very well in his life).

Here are a few 'pearls" from the song (free translation) :

"I played with my life as one plays with Love", " The projects I planned were built on air",' "My eyes were looking for the sky, but my heart missed the earth", "Every conversation concerned itself with me, not beyond that","I wasted my time on follies that left me with nothing but a few wrinkles and fear of boredom", "My loves were dead even before they existed, my friends are gone and will not return", "I've created a void around me", ' I wasted my life and my young years".

"Where are they now my twenty years?"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A smile on your face (e-mail sent by a friend)

Can't eat pork
Swine flu...

Can't eat chicken,

Bird Flu..

Can't eat beef
Mad cow..

Can't eat eggs

Can't eat fish
Heavy metal poisons in the water

Can't eat fruits and veggies,
Insecticides and herbicides.


I believe that leaves Chocolate and Ice -cream !!!

Remember....'STRESSED' spelled backwards is 'DESSERTS'

(Send this to four people and you will loose 2 pounds. Delete it and you will gain 10 pounds immediately!)

That's why I had to pass this on... didn't want to risk it...
And I wanted to put a smile on your face."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The leaning Tower , the ailing Economy

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), the famous physicist, astronomer, mathematician, philosopher - was born in Pisa, Italy.

(The term 'physicist' BTW makes me sometimes smile . There's a young physicist in our family and people always ask his mother the same old question. Why not doctor or lawyer, why did he 'waste' his talents on this stuff, physics? His mother fights back trying to justify her son's choice of profession by telling those people that her son the physicist is... A b o v e doctors and lawyers, he's a S c i e n t i s t and their question is a stupid, primitive question...,OH, WELL).

entrance to the Tower

Pisa. This town became worldwide known not through Galileo Galilei, not even through the young, blind lyrical tenor Andrea Bocelli who was born in the region and studied Law and Music in Pisa, but through its leaning Tower. The Tower is a major tourist attraction, and rightlly so.. Once you got to the top of it, you're rewarded with a splendid panoramic view of Pisa and its surroundings (weather depending of course).

the leaning Tower of Pisa

When I look now at the tower in the picture, I see... the american Economy ( no offence intended. After all, we are all in the same boat) . There's much talk about 'crisis', 'slow down', 'recession'. Well, I think none of these terms is correct. The correct term, I believe, should be Decline. It's a natural Decline occurring after long decades of living much ,much beyond means. Next phase (if nothing is done about Decline), could be, God Forbid, Collapse.

at the top of the Tower

In 2001, something was done to prevent the further leaning of the Tower of Pisa and, as far as I know, it ended up quite successfully. There's only one thing that can be done to prevent further decline of America's economy - and that's a process of re-education of the nation in the spirit of' 'live within your means'. But, unfortunately, this is something almost impossible for any government to carry out. So, our american friends shoud better adopt the attitude of those living under the active Vesuvium volcano. The people in those flourishing villages & towns under the volcano, know that it could errupt any moment and bring about Collapse of the whole region, and yet they believe, this moment will never come. It is this Belief that helps them carry on quite well with their lives.
Think positive.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"La Dolce Vita" with David, Mona.. & Anita

Anita Ekberg in the 'Trevi Fountain' scene

I've recently come across some online jokes with the following title: 'King David after a stay in America' , 'MonaLisa after a year in USA'. The joke shows the 'before' and 'after' pictures, and that makes us smile for a second. King David (Michelangelo's superb marble statue) with his youthful manly body is transformed into an obese person. MonaLisa (Da Vinci's painting) in her 'after' picture, has the looks of a definitely non-classy woman with dyed blonde hair, a very deep decoltee putting her feminine assets on display. And her original angelic smile? after being in America for a year or so, the smile takes the shape of a twisted grin.
Well, those openly blamed for the 'dolce vita' (the good, sweet life) of Michelangelo's and Da Vinci's creations in America, are the Mc Donald, KFC, Burger chains, and other goodies' providers.

These jokes are not intended to make fun of the italian masterpieces but rather to laugh at certain aspects of the american way of life such as sedentarism and overeating.

In fact, people all over the world have great admiration , love and respect for Michelangelo's works of art as well as for many other works that have to do with ancient Rome. Year after year, Rome is packed with tourists who would not miss the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum (that huge theatre were masses of citizens were entertained and distracted from the woes of life). the ruins of the Foro Romano (the center of ancient Rome's public life), the city-state of the Vatican with its art galleries, St. Peter's cathedral , the Castel of San Angelo (mausoleum, fortress, and now museum) , the well-preserved Pantheon where kings were burried, the Trevi Fountain, surrounded by crowds taking photos and throwing coins into the waters to ensure return to the city of Rome..and many , many other hisorical and artistic gems.

If you have a pair of good, sturdy legs, than it's a real "dolce vita", a life of of sheer pleasure and enjoyment to go visit the above landmarks with all their visible and hidden beauties.. That's how I felt at the time.

The Colosseum

Castel of San Angelo along the Tiber river

The Basilica of San Pietro

stairs leading to the entrance of the Basilica

Fontana di Trevi

"La Dolce Vita" ( The Sweet Life) is the name of a classic movie directed by the italian Federico Fellini. depicting a life of corruption and decadence. Its female star, the blonde Anita Ekberg ,made the Fontana di Trevi famous all over the world by plunging ,during one of the scenes, in its waters , wearing ...a strapless black dress. A young journalist played by Marcello Mastroiani joined her in the dip. By the way, it was in this famous movie that the notorious concept of "paparrazzi' made its way to public awareness.

Marcello Mastroiani & Anita Ekberg at the fountain

Not far from the Trevi fountain, one can buy the best ice cream in Rome. The aromatic ice-cream at the nearby 'gelateria' gives one a taste of real 'dolce vita'.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Daniel and Juliano

At the time of my brief visit in Naples, I noticed flattering posters of the musical conductor of the city's 'San Carlo' theater, Daniel Oren. D.O. was born in Jaffa, Israel, son to an arab father and a jewish mother. He was lucky. He had great talent for music (both vocal & instrumental) and a very ambitious mother who had decided to invest a lot in her dream of having her son become a top musician.

At a certain stage, Daniel Oren went abroad to perfect his musical studies, away from an hostile environment that called people like him "stinking arab" and "dirty Jew". He developed an international brilliant career as a musical conductor, with Italy being the country that opened all possible doors for him.

As for his identity, it appeared he didn't have any dilemma about that. He chose his mother's orthodox jewish one (he wears a skullcap, as all jewish male observants do).

Maestro Daniel Oren

At the other end, is the story of Juliano (name sounds italian , but he's not) . Juliano Mer Hamis, a gifted, charismatic actor was born in Nazareth, Israel ,also to an arab father and a jewish mother. He grew up in a heavy political atmosphere, his parents being prominent members of the arab-israeli communist party.

Music has beneficial influence: it conveys messages of peace and tolerance, it calms , soothes and unites the spirits. Politics, on the other hand, stirs up negative emotions, feeds conflicts and frustrations. arouses violence.

From the newspapers I learnt that Juliano, the actor, gave his employers a hard time. Once , he slapped the face of a young actress, on another occasion he peed in the office of his boss, the director of the theater where he performed. At a certain point, he started to give interviews in which he claimed openly he feels alien in the jewish society. His parallel /next step was to join his mother in her political and human rights activity for palestinians . He directed some films on these issues . fully identifying himself with his palestinian movie heroes.

Actor and political activist Juliano Mer Hamis

Daniel, and Juliano - two people with one similar complex background - that of parents belonging to a different religion and ethnicity, in a region of interminable wars and conflicts. Their talents and their dominant jewish mothers helped shape the thorny path into something that ,more or less, suited their personal character and vocation.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Capri, c'est fini

The Marina Grande (the big harbour)

"Capri c'est fini
Et dire que c'etait la ville
De mon premier amour
Capri c'est fini
Je ne crois pas
Que j'y returna un jour"

The above is the refrain of a famous lovely french song which refers to Capri , the city of the singer's first love , to where, he believes, he won't return anymore. This city is the main center of the Capri island which lies in the south of Italy, a short sail from Naples.

[ The song is a sweet, quiet song, but there are also some 'disco' versions of it heard at weddings, and dancing halls. I've recently been to a wedding, and when this music was on, a young girl approached her grandfather who was sitting next to me, and asked him to come dance with her, as she knew it was one of his favorites. I watched the two of them , they were dancing like there was no tommorrow. I looked at the grandmother, she seemed rather worried. I told her I was impressed with her husband's dancing performance, considering his age. His age, she said, and what about his pacemaker (device for regulating heartbeats)? ]

I like to visit islands like any other tourist does, but I don't think I could live on one for long. There are , however, people like artists or scientists that find great inspiration for their work on these islands, and make their home on the island of their choice for long periods of time.

Such was the swedish physician and writer Axel Munthe who built the splendid 'villa San Michele' on the Capri island. at the turn of the 20th century. It is a 'museum-home' with magnificient gardens and adorned with many works of art . Big tourist attraction.

Apart from the villa San Michelle, people take great pleasure in visiting the Marina Grande (big harbor), the Marina Piccola (small harbor), the Annacapri commune high on the hills with its mountain Solaro, many caves ( the Blue Grotte being the most famous of them), the 'Faraglioni' (three sea rocks that stand out of the sea) and more..

The Faraglioni

"Capri c'est fini"