Saturday 20 May 2017


“Music, ultimately, is one of the great ways that we as humans have for coding internal life. It’s glue that joins people together.” – Yo-Yo Ma 

Antonio Caldara (1670 – 28 December 1736) was an Italian Baroque composer. Caldara was born in Venice (exact date unknown), the son of a violinist. He became a chorister at St Mark’s in Venice, where he learned several instruments, probably under the instruction of Giovanni Legrenzi. In 1699 he relocated to Mantua, where he became maestro di cappella to the inept Charles IV, Duke of Mantua, a pensionary of France with a French wife, who took the French side in the War of the Spanish Succession.

Caldara left Mantua in 1707, after the French were expelled from Italy, then moved on to Barcelona as chamber composer to Charles III, the pretender to the Spanish throne (following the death of Charles II of Spain in 1700 without any direct heir) and who kept a royal court at Barcelona. There, he wrote some operas that are the first Italian operas performed in Spain. He next moved on to Rome, becoming maestro di cappella to Francesco Maria Marescotti Ruspoli, 1st Prince of Cerveteri. While there he wrote in 1710 “La costanza in amor vince l’inganno” (Faithfulness in Love Defeats Treachery) for the public theatre at Macerata.

With the unexpected death of Emperor Joseph I from smallpox at the age of 32 in April 1711, Caldara deemed it prudent to renew his connections with Charles III (soon to become Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI) as he travelled from Spain to Vienna via northern Italy. Caldara visited Vienna in 1712, but found Marc’Antonio Ziani and Johann Joseph Fux firmly ensconced in the two highest musical posts. He stopped at the Salzburg court on his return journey to Rome, where he was well received (and to which he subsequently sent one new opera annually from 1716 and 1727).

In 1716, following the death the previous year of Ziani and the promotion of Fux to Hofkapellmeister, Caldara was appointed Vize-Kapellmeister to the Imperial Court in Vienna, and there he remained until his death. Caldara is best known as a composer of operas, cantatas and oratorios. Several of his works have libretti by Pietro Metastasio, the court poet at Vienna from 1729.

Here are some of his cello sonatas played by Gaetano Nasillo, accompanied by Luca Guglielmi and Sara Bennici.
1. Sonata Ottava in Mi bemolle maggiore 0:00
2. Sonata Undecima in Sol minore 8:20
3. Sonata Sedicesima in Sol maggiore 17:50
4. Sonata Quarta in Re minore 25:22
5. Sonata Quattordicesima in La minore 33:05
6. Sonata Decimaquinta in La maggiore 42:26
7. Sonata Dodicesima in Re minore 51:49
8. Sonata Nona in Sol maggiore 1:01:23

Friday 19 May 2017


“True nostalgia is an ephemeral composition of disjointed memories.” - Florence King

I received a couple of enquiries regarding the recipe for my grandmother’s Wild Greens Pies. Fortunately my mother makes them as well and here is her recipe:

Ingredients for filling
250 g baby spinach leaves (cleaned and washed, chopped)
150 g green, leafy part of silverbeet (=chard, cleaned and washed, chopped)
150 g of leafy part of mallows (=Malva sylvestris, cleaned and washed, chopped)
100 g green, tender leafy part of dock (=Rumex crispus, cleaned and washed, chopped)
100 g green tender leafy part of wild fennel (=Foeniculum vulgare, cleaned and washed, chopped)
1 bunch of chervil (cleaned and washed, chopped)
1 bunch of parsley (cleaned and washed, chopped)
5 Spring onions (cleaned and washed, chopped)
1 tsp dry mustard powder
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1 to 2 tablespoon salt (to taste)
A little olive oil to sauté.

Ingredients for pastry
500 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1.5 to 2 cups of water
Olive oil to fry

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the Spring onions. Add the chopped greens and stir through to coat thoroughly with oil. Cook well until the greens are tender. Add the mustard, salt and pepper, and remove from heat. Leave to cool and strain for a few hours in a colander lined with muslin. Discard juices.
Mix the flour and salt and add the olive oil and lemon juice, mixing thoroughly. Add enough of the water to make a firm but yielding pastry. Knead well and then lay aside in a cool place for 30-40 minutes to rest.
When ready to make the little pies, take some pastry and roll out a very thin sheet a couple of millimetres thick (you may use some corn flour to prevent the pastry sticking). Use a round pastry cutter (8-10 cm diameter) to cut rounds. Fill each round with a heaped teaspoonful of the greens mixture in one half and fold the other half over the filling to make a semicircular little parcel. Use a fork to press the two layers of dough around the filling to seal and decorate the pie. Fry both sides in hot oil until golden brown, and then drain on absorbent kitchen towel. They may be eaten hot or cold.
You may freeze the uncooked pies and fry them unthawed on a later date (ensure the flame is medium rather than high if frying the frozen pies).

This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Thursday 18 May 2017


“Memory believes before knowing remembers.” ― William Faulkner 

I was reminiscing about my grandmother and the special dishes that she used to cook when I was holidaying at my grandparents place in Greece when I was young. One of the wonderful tastes/aromas I remember were the “wild greens pies” (hortópittes) that she made. These were based on stewed spinach leaves from her garden, to which had been added Spring onions, leeks, silverbeet leaves, and more importantly, wild greens and herbs that were collected from the hills near their house. These greens were fragrant and according to the season they were gathered and the various types and quantities included, gave a special taste and aroma to the spinach.

Included in these wild greens and herbs were: Greek dock (Rumex cristatus); wild fennel (Foeniculum vulgare); common mallow (Malva sylvestris); chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium); common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica); wild poppy (Papaver rhoeas); red dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum); red valerian (Centranthus ruber); Mediterranean hartwort (Tordylium apulum). All of these were harvested fresh and only the tender green parts were gathered. They were stewed together with all the other ingredients and then used to fill parcels of dough, which were fried in olive oil. One of the herbs I have not found elsewhere is the white hedge-nettle… 

Prasium, common name white hedge-nettle, is a genus of flowering plant in the Lamiaceae family, first extensively described in 1982. It contains only one known species, Prasium majus, first reported for modern science in 1753. It is native to Madeira, the Canary Islands, and the Mediterranean region of Europe (Italy and Greece, especially), North Africa, and the Middle East, as far East as Turkey and Israel.

 This is a small spreading herb found on rocky ground. The purplish stems are square in cross section, a feature typical of the mint family. The bright green, nettle-like (but non-stinging, i.e. “dead” nettle) leaves are arranged in pairs along the stem, as are the flowers. The pretty white flowers have fine purple lines leading to the nectary. The protruding stamens are also purple tipped. Prasium majus is often found in thorny underbrush, scrambling through bushes. The flavour of this herb is lovely and contributes greatly to a number of dishes, including my grandmother’s “wild greens pies” (the recipe for them is here)…

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme.

Tuesday 16 May 2017


“When you move a border, suddenly life changes violently. I write about nationality.” - Alan Furst 

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 of 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.  
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking, explaining the city’s Germanic name. In 2006, the city proper had 272,975 inhabitants and its urban community 467,375 inhabitants. With 638,670 inhabitants in 2006, Strasbourg’s metropolitan area (aire urbaine - only the part of the metropolitan area on French territory) is the ninth largest in France.

Strasbourg is the seat of several European institutions, such as the Council of Europe (with its European Court of Human Rights, its European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and its European Audiovisual Observatory) and the Eurocorps, as well as the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman of the European Union. The city is the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine.

Strasbourg’s historic city centre, the Grande Île (Great Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre. Strasbourg is fused into the Franco-German culture and although violently disputed throughout history, has been a bridge of unity between France and Germany for centuries, especially through the University of Strasbourg, currently the largest in France, and the coexistence of Catholic and Protestant culture.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme. 

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post:

Monday 15 May 2017


“The seed cannot sprout upwards without simultaneously sending roots into the ground.” – Ancient Egyptian Proverb 

Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty in the 25th and 24th centuries BCE, he had become a major god in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the noon sun. In later Egyptian dynastic times, Ra was merged with the god Horus, as Ra-Horakhty (“Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons”).

He was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: The sky, the earth, and the underworld. He was associated with the falcon or hawk. When in the New Kingdom the god Amun rose to prominence he was fused with Ra as Amun-Ra. During the Amarna Period, Akhenaten suppressed the cult of Ra in favor of another solar deity, the Aten, the deified solar disc, but after the death of Akhenaten the cult of Ra was restored. The cult of the Mnevis bull, an embodiment of Ra, had its centre in Heliopolis and there was a formal burial ground for the sacrificed bulls north of the city.

All forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra, who called each of them into existence by speaking their secret names. Alternatively man was created from Ra’s tears and sweat, hence the Egyptians call themselves the “Cattle of Ra”. In the myth of the Celestial Cow it is recounted how mankind plotted against Ra and how he sent his eye as the goddess Sekhmet to punish them. When she became bloodthirsty she was pacified by drinking beer mixed with red dye.

To the Egyptians, the sun represented light, warmth, and growth. This made the sun deity very important, as the sun was seen as the ruler of all that he created. The sun disk was either seen as the body or eye of Ra. Ra was the father of Shu and Tefnut, whom he created. Shu was the god of the wind, and Tefnut was the goddess of the rain. Sekhmet was the Eye of Ra and was created by the fire in Ra’s eye. She was a violent lioness.

Ra was thought to travel on the Atet, two solar barks called the Mandjet (the Boat of Millions of Years) or morning boat and the Mesektet or evening boat. These boats took him on his journey through the sky and the Duat, the literal underworld of Egypt. While Ra was on the Mesektet, he was in his ram-headed form. When Ra traveled in his sun boat, he was accompanied by various other deities including Sia (perception) and Hu (command), as well as Heka (magic power).

Sometimes, members of the Ennead helped him on his journey, including Set, who overcame the serpent Apophis, and Mehen, who defended against the monsters of the underworld. When Ra was in the underworld, he would visit all of his various forms. Apophis, the god of chaos, was an enormous serpent who attempted to stop the sun boat’s journey every night by consuming it or by stopping it in its tracks with a hypnotic stare. During the evening, the Egyptians believed that Ra set as Atum or in the form of a ram.

The night boat would carry him through the underworld and back towards the east in preparation for his rebirth. These myths of Ra represented the sun rising as the rebirth of the sun by the sky goddess Nut; thus attributing the concept of rebirth and renewal to Ra and strengthening his role as a creator god as well. When Ra was in the underworld, he merged with Osiris, the god of the dead, and through it became the god of the dead as well.

The chief cult centre of Ra was Iunu, the “Place of Pillars”, later known to the Greeks as Heliopolis (lit. “Sun City”) and today located in the suburbs of Cairo. He was identified with the local sun god Atum. As Atum or Atum-Ra, he was reckoned the first being and the originator of the Ennead (“The Nine”), consisting of Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris, Set, Isis and Nephthys. The holiday of “The Receiving of Ra” was celebrated on May 26 in the Gregorian calendar.

His local cult began to grow from roughly the second dynasty, establishing Ra as a sun deity. By the Fourth Dynasty, pharaohs were seen as Ra’s manifestations on earth, referred to as “Sons of Ra”. His worship increased massively in the Fifth Dynasty, when Ra became a state deity and pharaohs had specially aligned pyramids, obelisks, and solar temples built in his honour. The rulers of the Fifth Dynasty told their followers that they were sons of Ra himself and the wife of the high priest of Heliopolis. These pharaohs spent most of Egypt’s money on sun temples.

When the first Pyramid Texts began to arise, they gave Ra more and more significance in the journey of the pharaoh through the Underworld. During the Middle Kingdom era, Ra was increasingly affiliated and combined with other chief deities, especially Amun and Osiris.

At the time of the New Kingdom, the worship of Ra had become more complicated and grander. The walls of tombs were dedicated to extremely detailed texts that depicted Ra’s journey through the underworld. Ra was said to carry the prayers and blessings of the living with the souls of the dead on the sun boat. The idea that Ra aged with the sun became more popular during the rise of the New Kingdom. Many acts of worship included hymns, prayers, and spells to help Ra and the sun boat overcome Apep.

The rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire put an end to the worship of Ra by the citizens of Egypt, and as Ra’s popularity suddenly died out, the study of Ra became of purely academic interest even among the Egyptian priests.

Sunday 14 May 2017


“Prague is a dark place.” - Fred Durst 

Antonín Chittussi (1 December 1847, in Ronov nad Doubravou – 1 May 1891, in Prague) was a Czech Impressionist landscape and cityscape painter. His father came from a family of merchants who lived in Ferrara and moved to Bohemia during the Napoleonic Wars. After settling in Ronov, he married an innkeeper and later served as Mayor. At first, Antonín was expected to follow in the family business, but displayed an aptitude for art, which was noticed by his grammar school teachers in Čáslav, so he was sent to Kutná Hora where he studied drawing with František Bohumír Zvěřina.

At the age of eighteen, he went to Prague, with the intent to study engineering but, instead, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. However, he was dissatisfied with the courses being offered and went to Munich instead, but he became tired of their Academic approach. He was called to Vienna for military service, but was able to obtain a deferral, and briefly enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. Later, he returned to the Academy in Prague to study history painting.

In 1876, he participated in a protest by Czech students against Alfred Woltmann, a Professor of art history at the University of Prague, who was accused of German chauvinism, forcing him to flee the lecture hall. Clashes between Czech and German students ensued. After a police investigation and five days in jail, Chittussi and Mikoláš Aleš, who were identified as the ringleaders, were expelled from the Academy.

Afterward, Chittussi supported himself by providing illustrations for Česká Včela (The Czech Bee) and other magazines. This work introduced him to Prague’s patriotic social circles and found him a patron in František August Brauner, a member of the Imperial Council. He also befriended Brauner’s daughter, Zdenka, an aspiring artist who influenced Chittussi’s approach by introducing him to the work of the Barbizon school. In 1877, he and František Ženíšek, a friend from school, opened a studio. It was then that he became primarily interested in landscapes.

Following the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish War in 1878, the Austro-Hungarian Army moved in to occupy Bosnia-Herzegovina and, as an army reservist, he was called up and sent to the front. The death and destruction he witnessed had a profound effect on him, which he attempted to work through emotionally by corresponding with Zdenka. He was able to make a series of small drawings and watercolours, which he exhibited on his return and, with the help of friends, succeeded in financing a trip to Paris.

He arrived in time for the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition, but was not ready to accept what he saw. Eventually, though, he concluded that most of his earlier work had been in vain. In 1880, he rented a small studio and began to work on absorbing the new styles. He soon gained the support of the writer Élémir Bourges, who would later marry Zdenka’s sister, Anna. In 1882, he was invited to spend six months painting at the Radziwiłł estate near Ermenonville.

The following year, he exhibited at the Salon. Although successful, by 1884 he was ready to return home and held an auction of his works at the Hôtel Drouot. As it turned out, this meant a cooling of his relationship with Zdenka, as she actually began to spend more time in Paris than before, pursuing her career. He soon discovered an area in Southern Bohemia that inspired him to paint and helped him to assuage his hurt feelings.

Shortly after, he settled near Člunek. In 1887, he developed health problems, which were believed to be related to the time he spent outdoors, painting during inclement weather. He gradually grew weaker and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In an effort to stop the disease’s progress, he went to the Tatra Mountains, but it was too late. In 1891, he died in Prague on the way home from treatment. A street in the Bubeneč district there is named after him and, in 1997, the Czech government used one of his paintings (a castle in Chantilly) on a postage stamp.

The painting above is his “Paris as Viewed from Montmartre” (1887).