Monday, June 25, 2007

Favorite Castle

You probably are thinking that we visited our favorite castle this weekend. Actually it would be TOO hard to choose one favorite...but this castle is named "Schloss Favorite" or "Castle Favorite". It was built as a summer residence by the Duchess Augusta in 1710 near the town of Rastatt where their principal residence was located. Schloss Favorite is often called a "porcelain palace" because many of the walls, fireplaces and different places in the palace are covered with over 5,000 handpainted porcelain tiles, each one unique. They reminded me of the blue and white tiles we usually associate with Delft Holland but our guide told us that these tiles were from Nuremburg and were blue because at that time that was the only color they could fire.

Another thing that makes this castle a treat to visit is that it was never bombed or otherwise destroyed so the decorations, floors and ceilings are 70% original. Each room was different than the others, and just when you thought you found the one you liked the best we would go into another. One had hundreds of mirrors decorating the walls and ceilings of the room and painted portions and little shelves with porcelain and china vases and things. Another was a 'game cabinet' and was all done up in black laquer. The floors throughout the castle were either made of wood polished smooth by years of slippered feet or a unique kind of faux marble called scagliola decorated floor that we were not allowed to walk on because of it's delicate condition. We were only allowed to take pictures in the great hall in the center of the castle where they would entertain guests. It is 3 stories tall and is awe inspiring.

Once we finished our tour we took a nice stroll through the wonderfully landscaped gardens and enjoyed looking at all the different kinds of trees and waterways. Bill and Colin found someone's cork and toothpick boat stuck in some reeds and rescued it. Boys will be boys! I came upon a mother swan resting with her adolescent 'ugly duckling' babies and one started to come over to me but got startled and they all headed for the water. Phooey..I thought I was going to get to pet a swan! Ah well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Midsummer Nights Dream

Last night we attended a special presentation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream performed by the American Theatre Troupe in the courtyard of Heidelberg Castle. We got some great seats front and center since we got there early and enjoyed the atmostphere of the castle as the actors set up the stage and the rest of the audience arrived. I had never seen a Shakespeare play and wasn't sure what to expect, but we had read a synopsis of the story online before we went so we would have some background. The way they interpreted the play was so fun and interesting, we were not the least bit confused OR bored. Bill and I got some great pictures of the performence and we all agreed that we would love to see another play like this again. Colin said "I can't wait to find out about MORE Shakespeare plays!"

Monday, June 18, 2007

850 years!

This year marks the 850th year that the town we live in, St. Leon, has been in existance. Yes, 850...that is NOT a typo! That means that the town we are living in is 619 years older than our country! It is hard to even get my head around that. There was a street fest all weekend long, and on Sunday afternoon was the big event, the historical parade. The first entries in the parade were honored guests who were either walking or riding in coaches.

After all the dignitaries rode past we were treated to a trip through time beginning with the Stone age.
Once all the cavemen and women (and kids) went by we moved into Roman times with soldiers and others wearing tunics and other Roman garb, isn't this little one a cutie??

The next event in the history of St. Leon was when the Bishop of Speyer turned over the land (I'm not sure to whom, it is hard to translate the history). They had a float depicting this.

This was followed by several different walking groups showing traditional clothing from the 15th and 16th century. Mostly women who are going to the markets.

There were a few different bands with colorful uniforms and flags interspersed throughout the parade. I loved watching them twirl them around with one hand above and around their heads. I am sure their arms must have been VERY tired!

Our friends the Nichol's family lives right on the parade route so they invited us to watch the parade from their home. Their son Jack shared a window with me.

The next people in the parade were the children who attend the town Kindergarden. Their banner said they were celebrating the 125th anniversary of the school. The kids were so cute carrying their brightly decorated pretzel sticks and some on their bikes.

Following the cute little kids was a group of people dressed up in the clothing and wigs from the Baroque age. I bet they were glad to return to our time at the end of the parade and get out of those hot costumes!

The next group was a lively bunch of men who were depicting some of the events in the Peasant's war. They carried rifles and shouted "Revolution!!!" as they went by.

The next part of the parade that I have pictures of was a tractor pulling a wagon with a mock asparagus (or spargel as it is called here) field. Our next door neighbor until last year was a spargel farmer and he was driving the tractor. Hallo Herr Gromlisch!!!

Following this was a lot of old tractors and machinery showing the beginnings of the age of Industry. I love looking at all the old farm stuff.

The next group of people in the parade were the construction workers who built the New Catholic Church. The outfits these men are wearing are still often worn today, usually by young people who are doing their apprentice work and travel around the country looking for places to learn their trade.

The builders were followed by a group of men who were depicting some of the last ones to return home from the War and also some women who I assume represented wives looking for their lost husbands.

The last entries in the parade were showing what kinds of clubs and activities you can be a part of in St. Leon today. There were soccer and volleyball clubs, other sports clubs, a dog club, horseback riding club....many many different ways to join in with people who like the same things you do. I thought the whole thing was very exciting, it was fun to see everyone dressed up waving their little flags. The people along the parade route decorated the front of their houses with tree branches and flags and bunting and streamers too. And look....even Colin got into it...that's him with 2 flags stuck in his hat! (and shhh....there is Bill with HIS camera too!)