Saturday 2 January 2016


“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” - Max Lucado

The New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic (German: Das Neujahrskonzert der Wiener Philharmoniker) is a concert of classical music that takes place each year in the morning of New Year's Day in Vienna, Austria. It is broadcast live around the world to an estimated audience of 50 million in 73 countries in 2012 and 90 countries in 2015.

The music always includes pieces from the Strauss family (Johann Strauss I, Johann Strauss II, Josef Strauss and Eduard Strauss) with occasional additional music from other mainly Austrian composers, including Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr, Joseph Lanner, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Otto Nicolai (the Vienna Philharmonic’s founder), Emil von Reznicek, Franz Schubert, Franz von Suppé, and Karl Michael Ziehrer. In 2009, music by Joseph Haydn was played for the first time: The 4th movement of his “Farewell Symphony” to mark the 200th anniversary of his death.

There are traditionally about a dozen compositions played, with an interval halfway through the concert and encores at the end. They include waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, and marches. Of the encores, the first is often a fast polka. The second is Johann Strauss II's waltz The Blue Danube, whose introduction is interrupted by applause of recognition and a New Year greeting from the musicians to the audience. The last is Johann Strauss I’s Radetzky March, during which the audience claps along under the conductor’s direction. In this last piece, the tradition also calls for the conductor to start the orchestra as soon he steps onto the stage, before reaching the podium. The complete duration of the event is around two and a half hours.

The concerts have been held in the “Großer Saal” (Large Hall) of the Musikverein since 1939. The television broadcast is augmented by ballet performances in selected pieces during the second part of the programme. The dancers come from the Vienna State Opera Ballet and dance at different famous places in Austria, e.g. Schönbrunn Palace, Schloss Esterházy, the Vienna State Opera or the Wiener Musikverein itself. In 2013, the costumes were designed by Vivienne Westwood. From 1980 until 2013 the flowers that decorate the hall have been a gift from the city of Sanremo, Liguria, Italy. In 2014 the flowers has been provided by the Vienna Philharmonic itself. Since 2014 the flowers are arranged by the Wiener Stadtgärten.

Here is the 2007 Concert under the direction of Zubin Mehta:
01. Zivio!, marsch für Orchester op. 456 Johann Strauss II
02. Flatter, Walzer, Op. 62 Josef Strauss
03. Moulinet Polka, für Orchester, Op. 57 Josef Strauss
04. Elfenreigen, für Salonorchester Joseph Hellmesberger
05. Delirien Walzer für Orchester, Op. 212 Josef Strauss
06. Einzugs-Galopp, für Orchester, Op. 35 Johann Strauss
07. Waldmeister, Ouvertüre zur Operette
08. Overture Johann Strauss II
09. Irenen-Polka, Op. 113 Josef Strauss
10. Wo die Zitronen Blüh'n! Walzer für Orchester, Op. 36 Johann Strauss II
11. Ohne Bremse Polka für Orchester, Op 238 Eduard Strauß
12. Stadt und Land (Polka-Mazurka für Orchester op. 322 Johann Strauss II
13. Matrosen Polka, Op. 52 Josef Strauss
14. Geheime Anziehungskräfte (Dynamiden), Walzer, Op. 173 Josef Strauss
15. Erinnerung an Ernst oder Der Carneval in Venedig, Fantasie für Orchester op. 126 Johann Strauss II 16.
Furioso-Galopp, für Orchester  Op. 114 Johann Strauss
17. Leichtfüßig, Polka schnell Joseph Hellmesberger
18. An der schönen, blauen Donau (An der schönen, blauen Donau), Walzer op. 314 Johann Strauss II
19. Radetzky-Marsch, für Orchester, Op. 228 Johann Strauss I (Vater)

Friday 1 January 2016


“I learned from my grandmother, who grew up in devastating war times, how important it is to keep with tradition and celebrate the holidays during tough times.” - Marcus Samuelsson

It’s time to think of the Twelfth Day of Christmas and the Twelfth Night, which is the night before that. This is because you will need to be suitably prepared! January the 5th is the 11th Day of Christmas and that evening is the Twelfth Night of Christmas: Tradition has it that Christmas celebrations are to end today and decorations should be taken down on this day.  However, a sprig of holly should be retained in the house to protect the occupants against lightning.

Twelfth Night celebrations were once very popular and traditionally, this night was one of the merriest in the Christmas season.  Twelfth Night parties were held everywhere, ostensibly to celebrate the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, however, many of the traditions surrounding the Night’s celebrations were pagan in origin. What better excuse therefore to have a party after the New Year’s Eve party? Have a Twelfth Night party! To do that, you need to prepare the cake, first!

A Twelfth Night cake was baked and a single bean was hidden in it.  The person who found it in his piece became the Bean King for the Night.  This tradition hails back to the Roman Saturnalia where a King was chosen by lot.  The bean was a sacred seed in ancient times.  A pea was sometimes baked in a cake in order to choose a Twelfth Night Queen, also.  These cakes have now merged with the tradition of the Christmas Cake and the Christmas Pudding (the latter which may contain the silver sixpence to determine the lucky one amongst its consumers: Compare this with the Vasilopitta the Greek New Year’s cake that contains the lucky coin).

At the Twelfth Night party, it was customary to draw cards, on which were represented certain stock pantomime-like characters, exemplifying humorous national traits, for example, Farmer Mangelwurzel, François Parlez-Vous and Patrick O’Tater.  People had to act out the part of their chosen character and also submit to the humorous “commands” of the Bean King. Much laughter, good humour, fine food and drink were expended on these occasions.

Ingredients (may be halved)
2          pounds butter (≈ 900 g)
2          pounds loaf sugar (≈ 900 g)
1          large nutmeg, grated
1/4     ounce (≈ 7 g) each of ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger, mace & coriander seed
18        eggs
1          gill (142 mL) brandy
2          pounds sifted flour (≈ 900 g)
4          pounds currants (1.8 kg)
1/2       pound chopped blanched almonds (≈ 225 g)
1/2       pound candied orange/lemon peel (≈ 225 g)
1/2       pound candied citron peel (≈ 225 g)
1/4       pound candied cherries, chopped (≈ 120 g)
1          bean (whole) and 1 pea (whole)
            Nuts, candied cherries to decorate


Put the butter in a warm pan and work it to a cream with your hand. Add the sugar and beat well to dissolve it, then add the spices finely ground. Break in the eggs one by one, beating well for at least twenty minutes. Stir in the brandy, the flour and work it in a little. Next add the fruit and nuts, mixing well. Put the mixture in a baking tin and put in the bean and pea in separate places. Bake in a slow oven for four hours and then ice it or decorate it according to your fancy.  The man who chances upon the slice with the bean would be the King of the Bean for the Twelfth Night, while the woman who chanced on the pea would be the Queen of the Pea. If a man found the pea, he could chose the queen, and vice versa for the woman who chanced upon the bean.

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Thursday 31 December 2015


As the old year goes out and the New Year comes in, here are some thoughts and wishes for you!

“In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship, never in want.” - Irish toast.

“Resolve to make at least one person happy every day, and then in ten years you may have made three thousand, six hundred and fifty persons happy, or brightened a small town by your contribution to the fund of general enjoyment.” - Sydney Smith.

“The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul.” - G. K. Chesterton

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” - T. S. Eliot.

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.” - Benjamin Franklin

May what you see in the mirror delight you, and what others see in you delight them. May someone love you enough to forgive your faults, be blind to your blemishes, and tell the world about your virtues.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday 30 December 2015


“A person will be called to account on Judgment Day for every permissible thing he might have enjoyed but did not.” – Talmud

As the year is drawing to a close, I thought to compile the “Alphabet of My Year in Review”. This seems to be a good way to summarise all that has transpired this year and something to ready me for the New Year ahead:

A year of achievement,
Borne of, at times, backbreaking labour;
Consistently challenging,
Diligently decisive in my dealings.
Effervescent and evanescent was my year,
Friends old and newly-made, fun-sharing,
Gifts of beauty, both given and received.
Homely and hearth-loving,
I was thankful in the intimacy it gave me.
Jolly and jaunty, often joyous,
Keeping the best till the last few weeks,
Leaving with lustrous, lingering luminance.
Made of macaroons and marzipan,
Nougat and noodles,
Oodles of oranges and oysters.
Perhaps a little paranoid, somewhat philosophical, a touch poetic;
Quixotic, quizzical, quickwitted…
Rushing round, trying to rationalise,
Seeking success, searching for stability.
Trying to exist responsibly, travelling lightly,
Universally accepting, understanding all.
Vigorous, vivacious, very venturesome
Waggish and wistful,
Youthful, though mature;

Zealous, zany, zesty – What a year, the year that was!

Tuesday 29 December 2015


“You can’t go home again. Your childhood is lost. The friends of your youth are gone. Your present is slipping away from you. Nothing is ever the same.” ― Heraclitus of Ephesus

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest us! Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Please link your entry using the Linky tool below:

Ephesus (Greek: Ἔφεσος Ephesos; Turkish: Efes; ultimately from Hittite Apasa) was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometres southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists.

During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. According to estimates, Ephesus had a population of 33,600 to 56,000 people in the Roman period, making it the third largest city of Roman Asia Minor after Sardis and Alexandria Troas.

The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In 268 AD, the Temple was destroyed or damaged in a raid by the Goths. It may have been rebuilt or repaired but this is uncertain, as its later history is not clear. Emperor Constantine the Great rebuilt much of the city and erected new public baths. Following the Edict of Thessalonica from Emperor Theodosius I, what remained of the temple was destroyed in 401 AD by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom.

I was always taught at school that Herostratus (Greek: Ἡρόστρατος), who was a 4th-century BC Greek arsonist, was the one who burned the temple. Herostratus sought notoriety by destroying one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. His name has become a metonym for someone who commits a criminal act in order to become famous. As far as his punishment is concerned, the Ephesian authorities not only executed him, but attempted to condemn him to a legacy of obscurity by forbidding mention of his name under penalty of death. However, this did not stop Herostratus from achieving his goal, because the ancient historian Theopompus recorded the event and its perpetrator in his Hellenics.

The town was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD. The city’s importance as a commercial centre declined as the harbour was slowly silted up by the Küçükmenderes River. Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John may have been written here. The city was the site of several 5th century Christian Councils (see Council of Ephesus). It is also the site of a large gladiators’ graveyard. The ruins of Ephesus are a favourite international and local tourist attraction, partly owing to their easy access from Adnan Menderes Airport.

More of my photos of Ephesus can be seen here. The whole archaeological site is quite magnificent and one needs at least a week to visit it and explore it fully!

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme.

Monday 28 December 2015


“Even today we raise our hand against our brother... We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.” - Pope Francis

Over the Christmas period we watched several films on DVD, given the festivities, time off work and the general indolence of the period. One of the films was the ‘Dick Flick’ from 2014 directed by Chad Stahelski, “John Wick”, starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe and Adrianne Palicki. As one expects from a Hollywood Action Thriller, this was a slick production with all the requisite basics fulfilled, such as competent actors, good costumes and sets, special effects, music, editing, etc… And it was a typical action thriller with lots of action and lots of gratuitous violence – quite a huge amount of violence!

The plot centres on John Wick (Reeves), who is a mob hit man who, upon falling in love, quits and gets married. Five years later, his wife dies of cancer and to make sure he’s not alone in the immediate period after her death, she has arranged for a puppy to be brought to him after her funeral. A few days later, some thugs wanting to steal his car break into his house, beat him up and kill his dog. When he recovers, he sets to revenge himself on the ones who killed his dog. He learns that the leader of the thugs is the son of his former employer, Viggo Tarasov (Nyqvist). Undeterred, John Wick sets about to kill the thugs. Viggo, wanting to protect his son, tries to have Wick killed and this is the premise for a whole lot of action involving lots of violence, bloody altercations, gunfire, chases, more violence and lots of blood and gore.

There was nothing subtle about this movie and it was squarely aimed at the audience that equate good movies with lots of blood, gore and violence. Although we watched it to the end, we used the fast forward button quite liberally. It could have been a better movie, had it been more restrained. However, the IMDB score of 7.2/10 from 212,620 users really says something about the box office success of movies like this. We live in a violent society and movies such as this pander to the tastes of the viewers who thirst for such entertainments. Such was the case in Ancient Rome with the gladiatorial contests, I guess. Watch at your own risk…

Sunday 27 December 2015


“Painting is by nature a luminous language.” - Robert Delaunay

Armand Guillaumin (February 16, 1841 – June 26, 1927) was a French impressionist painter and lithographer. Born Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin in Paris, he worked at his uncle’s lingerie shop while attending evening drawing lessons. He also worked for a French government railway before studying at the Académie Suisse in 1861. There, he met Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro with whom he maintained lifelong friendships. While he never achieved the stature of these two, his influence on their work was significant. Cézanne attempted his first etching based on Guillaumin paintings of barges on the River Seine.

Guillaumin exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in 1863. He participated in six of the eight Impressionist exhibitions: 1874, 1877, 1880, 1881, 1882 and 1886. In 1886 he became a friend of Vincent van Gogh whose brother, Theo sold some of his works. He was finally able to quit his government job and concentrate on painting full-time in 1891, when he won 100,000 francs in the state lottery.

Noted for their intense colours, Guillaumin’s paintings are represented in major museums around the world. He is best remembered for his landscapes of Paris, the Creuse département, and the area around Les Adrets-de-l’Estérel near the Mediterranean coast in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France.

Guillaumin was called the leader of the École de Crozant, a diverse group of painters who came to depict the landscape in the region of the Creuse around the village of Crozant. One of these depictions, titled Landscape in Crozant, is housed in the Chicago Institute of Arts. His bust is in the square near the village church. Armand Guillaumin died in 1927 in Orly, Val-de-Marne just south of Paris.

The painting above is the 'Quai St Bernard, Paris' (1888) and shows a typical scene beloved of impressionists. Passers-by promenading in a Parisian landmark. The golden light and brilliant colour are typical of Guillaumin, although some of his paintings have even more intense colour, verging on the fauve palette.