Medieval Dragon Legend and Brno Tradition

Snowy Christmas Day at the Napoleonic Wars Memorial

A few years ago I traveled to the Czech Republic¬†city of Brno. Within a few blocks of my apartment the story of the past 900 years of this part of the world is preserved… not only in stone but also in legends and the cultural traditions of the people there.

Brno is located north of Vienna, Austria. It is a small city of about 500,000 people and is accessible by trains and busses that run between Vienna and Prague. Many tourists just see Brno as a waypoint between these more famous places. Little did I know when I initially arrived that I would find myself staying in Brno’s old town for seven months including a frigid, blustery¬†winter. Living in Brno provided me with a different perspective than a tourist may get.

This blog story is based on a small geographic portion of the city… my neighborhood… and the legends, history and traditions that are preserved there.

Continue reading “Medieval Dragon Legend and Brno Tradition”

One Too Many

Sometimes I think of my blog as just a place to ramble on about things that are interesting or curious to me. I write it for myself and if others read it, that’s fine but it isn’t why I create it. This story, however, some of my former DuPont colleagues may find interesting. When I worked for DuPont for 23 years I was within a unique corporate culture where safety was of utmost importance. Knowing that, decisions I make (even today) are influenced by the ingrained safety culture. That makes the following story more understandable while the title may have raised your curiosity.

Vines in the Wachau Valley, Austria
Vines in the Wachau Valley, Austria

Presently, I am in the heart of Austrian wine country. Just about all of the grapes in the Wachau Valley are Gruner Vetliner which makes a dry white wine. Austrian wine is serious business… right at the pinnacle of national culinary importance just above beer, schnitzel, and strudel. Wine is sacred with two millennia of history and strict attention to growing techniques and quality.

So, here I am in wine country. I think it would be reasonable to have a few glasses of wine now and then. Well, my story is titled “One Too Many” for good reason as I describe my following experience.

A very nice cafe

Several weeks ago I decided to travel to Rosenburg, Austria. Rosenberg is a tiny community about 60 kilometers from where I was staying in Melk. I wanted to visit a particular castle there. It was a rather humid, hot day around 37 degrees in Rosenberg. I was thirsty but not for a beer and the cafe next to the train station was open. So, being in wine country I thought that there was a possibility to avoid the popular cold white and get a cold sweet red. I know that sounds sacrilegious for those who know about serving a red cold; you must be cringing. But I have known that some Austrian establishments sell a cold red as an alternative for many like myself.

The "Culprit"
The “Culprit”

I enjoyed my robust red wine, paid my bill, and was off to the castle. Even though the castle was right outside on a cliff overlooking the cafe, to get there, one must hike along a highway for about a kilometer and then climb up a sloped hill for about another kilometer. Less than 50 meters into the walk I felt so light-headed that I had to sit on a bench along the highway. Thinking that the situation was ridiculous, I soon got going and could hardly wait to hug the next bench about 50 meters away. I have rarely been drunk but I recognized the feeling!

Fortunately, my DuPont safety awareness kicked in. I ruled out going anywhere near a cliff. Next, I decided to sit for a while… that was really boring! Then I decided that I likely wasn’t going anywhere other than the direction back to the train station, no more than 150 meters. I consciously arrived at the station to find that the next train wasn’t for an hour and forty minutes!

So for the next hour and forty minutes I found myself doing a variety of things. I thought I could walk along the train track to the next train station. Hummm, if a train were to come, there was nowhere for me to escape so I stopped doing that. Then I decided I could take a well-marked hiking trail to the other train station. The trail went over a swaying foot bridge over a rapidly running stream that seemed like Category Five rapids (but really wasn’t). Oh, in case you have never tried it, that’s a bad decision when your stomach is already feeling like you are riding the tilt-a-whirl, so I paused and held onto the swaying bridge for a few moments and went back from where I came and settled in at the train station.

benchI made it to the station once again and I was feeling worse so I sat on a bench. Similar to this photo from the web, the seat was more rustic and made of a series of wood slats of approximately 25 X 50 mm stock with about a 25 mm gap. I sat there and my head began to swirl and throb. Was I going to fall to the ground? Thinking that I might, I put my head toward my knees so that if I were to fall that would shorten the distance (How about that safety thinking?). Fortunately, I didn’t fall but I was beginning to get sick at my stomach (the swirling water on a swaying foot bridge didn’t help) and I was developing a brain-splitting headache. I decided to lay down.

Only OneRecall that the station bench is about 25 mm wide boards followed by a 25 mm gap. Oh, that is medieval-rack-torture uncomfortable to lay on but I stayed there thinking that was best to do. Meanwhile, Johann, a neighbor by the station, must have been amused and came over to check on me. He spoke minimal English and I speak no German (except for a few words) but somehow I understood he was asking if I was okay. About this time I was becoming more cognizant and the spinning and throbbing had ceased. I told him I was okay as he pointed to his house for what I thought was his way of saying “American, if you can’t handle our wine, at least come inside and be safe.”

The train soon came and I made my way back to Melk. I am still here to tell the story of drinking one too many in my adventure. So here is the precious gem in this story. As it turns out on this particular day it was one too many but it was only one! Yes, one too many.

“Old” is a Relative Term in Krems, Austria

So the past few days I have been out and about in Krems, Austria and there is so very much to absorb here! Yesterday alone I walked over 7 miles in awe! I am like a sponge soaking up Krems and I admit it is overwhelming! I will be writing more in the future about what I am seeing and doing as well as my reflections of this beautiful, historic town and area along the Danube River.

As I have said previously, Krems is “old” and I am so consumed with the architecture that I am rapidly filling the memory in my iPhone as I take one photo after another. But today I felt like I have to draw a line otherwise I would be taking pictures of everything! So the line I drew is this…unless it has some particular aesthetic value, I want to take photos if the structure (or whatever) came about prior to 1600! So that, for now, will be my guide for photographing and sharing “old” Krems.

FullSizeRender (4)Krems is the eastern gateway to the Wachau Valley which is a World Heritage Site. Today I want to share with you a photo of a local fountain and the story that goes with it, The fountain is near my apartment and is of a man on a knee before a woman with the inscription “SIMANDL”. I thought it was a man proposing marriage but it turns out that “simandl” means “henpecked!” The monument is about the story of the town’s men and, in this case, a man imploring his wife to give him the house key so he can participate in a man’s night out! You can read more about this very interesting fountain at this link here.

The food is terrific! I have eaten pork in many ways and there are so many cafes to grab a fragrant coffee, bold wine, or warm strudel in vanilla sauce. Even though it was cold today, I along with others ate fresh-made ice cream! Who can resist a cone for 1 Euro (about $1.10)!

More soon, my friends!