Saturday, September 29, 2007

Høstfest, aka the county fair, comes to Århus

Sometimes it is easy to forget that Denmark has almost five pigs for every person. You wonder where they are. We sort of expected to see them in the countryside, but they are apparently raised indoors in very high tech fashion, keeping the smell that plagues Iowa to a minimum.

However, pigs, sheep, cows, etc. were much in evidence during Høst Fest, the fall harvest festival in Århus today.

There were also a lot of old tractors and other farm equipment on display. This one reminds me quite a bit of the one my Dad used on our old farm in Kuna, Idaho. (Ours was a Ford of about the same vintage. The one in the photo was made in 1950.)

The whole event took place in the square right beside the main cathedral, whose construction started in 1200. So the setting doesn't look much like the Western Idaho State Fair of my youth, but it still reminded me quite a bit of county and state fairs we used to go to.

Odd to think about it now, but the first time I think I slept away from home with no relatives around was at age eight, beside my Guernsey 4-H show cow at the Western Idaho State Fair. (4-H -- Head, Heart, Hands, and Health -- is an organization for getting kids interested in farm life and work. It started in in the USA but spread to Scandinavia, so maybe the rumbles of memory here are not entirely accidental.) The fair today certainly had a lot of exhibits to let kids see cows.

From the baleful look this sheep is giving me, it seems like the animals have decided to stare back. It seems to be saying, "OK, I look silly because I have just been shorn. What's your excuse," although that is attributing a lot of thought to a sheep. They never struck me as the brightest bulbs in the pasture, even compared to the cows.

Of course, the Western Idaho State Fair never had medieval re-enactors working a forge to make tools, next to the sheep, fifty feet away from a Nigerian dance troupe exhibition. So the harvest fair seems to have gone pre-modern and post-modern all at the same time.

It does show how prominent medieval re-creation groups have become in the last few years in Denmark. (Although they were attracting a lot less attention than the Nigerian dance troupe.)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Arembepe, or beauty spots, south and north

It is only natural to concentrate a lot of these posts on Scandi- navia, since that is where we are right now. But the natural beauty, particularly the northern sunlight of Finland, called up a visual memory of another kind of remarkable light, that of the tropics, which I know best in Brazil.

One of my favorite places on earth is Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, for a lot of reasons. And one of my favorite places, just outside Salvador, is a little fishing town called Arembepe. I got interested in it intellectually first. It is featured in a very good ethnography, ASSAULT ON PARADISE, by an anthropologist I know, Conrad Kottak, who has been visiting the place on and off since it was isolated fishing village in the 1950s. His description intrigued me so much that a Salvador friend, Sergio Mattos, drove me up for a first look. I have since taken several overseas study groups there for visits and discussions of the issues in the book.

One of the first things you seen is an fresh water lagoon, between the mainland and a big sand ridge and beach on the ocean side. The first two photos are both of that. People drank from and washed in the lagoon, and fished in boats in the ocean.

The village got changed by a lot of things, a paved road linking it to Salvador so now it is a beach suburb of the city, nearby factories to work in, mechanization of the fishing fleet, and somewhat bizarrely, an inter- national hippie invasion in the 1960s. Somehow the word got out about the beauty of the place, so a bunch of hip types, including Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin, wound up hanging in a "hippie village," that was turned into a national park and preserve. The only hippie preserve that I know of.

You can see my son Rolf, who went along on one of the study abroad groups standing in front one of the houses still occupied by genuine hippy artisans who really want to sell you some handicrafts.

Other people have decided to capitalize on the whole hippy preserve thing, like the hippy camping area shown here.

The town also has a natural harbor protected, or partially obstructed by a reef. Here you can see some fishing boats grounded on low tide behind the reef which you can see off to the left.

In some ways I cannot think of places much more different in cultural terms that Brazil and Denmark or Finland. It goes from a wonderfully creative but very socially inequitable hybrid of Europe and Africa on one end in Brazil, to the amazing organization and fairness of Scandinavia. Both are strikingly beautiful in their own ways. Both add things that I miss in the USA.

More later.

Walking to Tarvaspää (Helsinki)

One of the most wonderfully rounded experiences I have had lately (other than walking with my arm around Sandy) was taking an absolutely gorgeous walk for a couple of kilometers from the end of the Munkkiniemi streetcar to the Akseli Gallen-Kallela Museum outside Helsinki. (You might remember Gallen-Kallela from a previous art-geek fan-post.)

This is right at the beginning of the walk. There is a very pretty duck pond between a rather bizarre office building with a drive through hole in the middle, where the path goes and some very nice houses.

Then the path winds around for a while among some very pretty birch woods along a long skinny park, with of all things, a frisbee golf course. There are several of those in Austin, where it seems to fit the Austin genteel slacker self image, but it was interesting to see one in Finland.

After a nice kilometer or so of woods, the path suddenly decided to cross one corner of a fairly large arm of a bay. It probably isn't obvious from the photo but the middle of the bridge is floating free on pontoons, not really anchored down to anything.

Here is another one of those places where interesting differences between even pretty close couples can emerge. I was thinking something on the order of "Cool, a pontoon bridge over a bay (ah, smell the ocean) -- maybe I can make it bounce up and down and go sideways." Sandy was thinking more along the lines of "Do I have to do this?" and "Will I turn green and throw up before I get to the other side?" (Sandy had remembered bridges but not the pontoons over the ocean part from a previous visit.)

However, we did get across. No trolls emerged to collect a toll. And before much longer we were at Tarvaspää, the name for Gallen-Kallela's little country house outside Helsinki, which has since been turned into another musuem. It seems to have been modeled after a French chateau fantasy castle, in contrast to the very Finnish log cabin retreat north of Tampere. (Personally, I could be happy with either.)

The museum was fun, with a great bookstore where we finally broke down and bought a pretty comprehensive book of his art that we had been drooling over for a while.

And then we had a drink at the side house to the chateau, which has been turned into a cafe. (Sandy, who is a great fan of Nordic fruit and berry juices, remembers having the best blueberry juice she has ever had when she visited the place in 1975.) We sat on the veranda you see at the right, on a beautiful mellow late summer day and admired the views. (I have never seen a prettier place for late summer than Finland, with mellow sunlight slanting in just a bit -- given the northern exposure -- to delight the inner photographer.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Danish humor, redux

Today several of my Danish colleagues who read this assured me, with visible grins and twinkles of eye, that they can make all the jokes they want in English. They only shift to Danish to make jokes about me. Nice.

Maybe. Admittedly my new Danish haircut is pretty funny, but I still think they they make a few other kinds of jokes in Danish. They seem to have had a lot of practice, even before I got here.

Danes are definitely the jokers of the Scandinavian world. When the Norse gods began to fade away, I think Loki, the trickster, took out Danish citizenship and hung around in Aarhus.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Danish humor and global English

A remarkable number of Danes speak English very well. Quite a few of my foreign students in my grad seminar came here primarily to study English, since the U.K. schools see student "exchanges" as a money making proposition, rather than the integration measure the rest of the European Union has in mind.

A few years ago, people even wondered whether the Scandinavian languages might just fade away since so many of them spoke English. That doesn't seem likely anymore. And I think I am getting a better fix on why.

Jokes, clever word play, double entendre, even the right kind of plain old slapstick. See exhibit A. Guldhornene, "Golden Horns," a Viking slapstick comedy due out in Denmark shortly. It is based on characters from a former pre-Christmas television serial called "Christmas in Valhalla."

In the film, Viking gods Thor, Loki and Heindall come down to Copenhagen to make sure the golden horns, copies of real pre-Viking artifacts whose orignals were stolen 200 years ago, don't get stolen (again -- the copies were stolen again recently but recovered), which would result in grevious harm to humanity, etc. The kid heroes help the gods (the hairy guys in the back in the photo) out.

This movie might sound really goofy. (Although no worse than much of what comes out of Hollywood.) But clearly humor is in the ear, eye and culture of the audience. And it matters.

I have been noticing my colleagues at Aarhus U. When I am around, they usually shift into English to accommodate me (and for some, to practice English a bit more), but many do so just a bit reluctantly. Fluent as they are in English as a second language, they are funnier and cleverer in Danish. One colleague told me that I was getting an invitation to a party first in Danish because he wanted to be clever in it, but would send an English version to make sure I got all the info straight.

So don't expect Danish to fade away. The five and a half million Danes here are having way too much fun with it.

And for Americans, Brits, Aussies, etc., don't think that you are learning all you need (or want) to know about the world because an increasing number of non-native speakers of English can talk business with you or talk you through a computer crisis on the phone. If you really want to understand what makes people tick (and laugh), it is still very important to learn their language.

I can't even begin to calculate the number of doors in Brazil that opened for me, or opened a lot wider, because I spoke pretty good Portuguese. One time, showing up at an office in Brasilia, representing a U.S. organization, I hear someone behind the door say. "What do you know! They actually got someone who can speak Portuguese this time." They were very helpful. Not to mention the sheer fun of understanding jokes. I still remember how much fun it was, late into my first year in Rio, to actually understand a complicated pun as it was being made. So that is why at the ripe old age of 56, I find myself studying Danish tonight, prepping for my class in it tomorrow. Hoping that maybe I will get a few jokes by the time I leave.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More medieval and back to prehistoric at Moesgård Museum

Warning, rant on: BTW, just in case you wonder why some of my images are turned sideways., while wonderful in many ways, turns most vertical images sideways as I upload them and offers NO tools or mechanisms to let me fix them. I have looked through their help lists, etc. and people say fix the image and then reload it. But the trouble is when the image is fine, right side up in my computer but gets turned sideways in the process of uploading. Oh well. Rant off:

I wanted to start with this image which is one of the first things you see in the museum. How can you not love a comical viking gravestone, with an interlaced beard, planted for good old Fúl, by his buddy Rolf and friends. It actually reads this way:

  • Gunnulfr and Eygautr/Auðgautr and Áslakr and Hrólfr raised
  • this stone in memory of Fúl, their partner, who died
  • when kings fought.
(This stone is famous enough that it has its own wikipedia site, even in English:

Or an equally interesting stone with an image of Viking trickster god Loki. (Most cultures love a good trickster god -- read The Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman for a nice recent example or read stories of Coyote from the Navajo. They do well demographically, too. Good old coyote now lives on the edges, house cats and leavings of people from LA to New York.)

The museum, in south Aarhus, has an amazing number of things from the Viking age, as well as much earlier stuff, including the remarkably well preserved image of a guy sacrificed by having his throat cut and being tossed into a bog, which preserved him remarkably well from when it happened around zero B.C..

There were later findings of weapons, jewelry and all kinds of things that warriors would carry in a bog at Illerup ådal. The defenders of a town beat off attackers and then to thank the gods for their victory threw all their stuff into a bog. (A pretty significant sacrifice of a lot of valuable things -- they were pretty serious about their religion, it seems.) The photo shows the things more or less how they were found, not as they look in the museum now.

There is also an outside component of the museum, built around some graves that were actually on the site, as well as others that were moved there and reconstructed. This shows one where a goat is defending his turf from Sandy who wanted a closer look, but was mindful of the fairly impressive horns on the goat. Didn't want to play king of the mountain with the billy goats gruff, apparently.

More Moesgård later. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Recreating the middle ages on the Russian frontier (Vyborg)

It is hard to warm up to fierce looking Russian ladies whose first bit of conver- sation is yelling "Nyet" at you. Sandy and I were wandering around the castle in Vyborg (now western Russia, NW of St. Petersburg, but built by Swedes and Finns), along with the UT/UMN grad seminar group. There were several small museums inside and we had not fully figured out that you paid separately for each one.

I poked my head in one that had all sorts of interesting costumes and armor, but whose lady guard started yelling Nyet. Very loud. A lot.

While with- drawing I noticed a bucket on her desk which seemed to have a ticket price attached, so I went back in holding money out (usually a good negotiating tactic). Plus our Finnish - Russian friend Svetlana negotiated for us. The museum lady condescended to let us look at the place.

It quickly became clear that almost everything in the museum was recreated costumes, armor, shields, and weapons made by local people who were medieval recreationists and were focused on the Viking and Swedish medieval past of Vyborg.

Things like fur lined hats, as well as seemingly practical shields and padded under-armor clothes, like those above, that seemed designed to be used in recreating the fighting as well.

(Truth in blogging moment here -- Sandy and I have been members of the Society for Creative Anachronism for a long time -- and we have seen, made and used things that looked an awful lot like this stuff -- but that also let us realize that the Vyborg things were pretty well made and reasonably decent-looking recreations. Even making a statement like that is a tricky business for many people who have really researched the era, like Sandy, for whom this kind of thing dove-tails with her regular academic interests. Still there is an evolving practical sense of what people think things were likely to have looked like.) Things like these get made with modern tools and materials, so, so much for real authenticity, but one tries to make it look reasonably good, decent movie level authenticity, if not exactly normal museum quality. Above, for example, is a cross-bow that the re-enactors in Vyborg had made or bought.

Here, by contrast, is a real historical cross-bow preserved from the castle, in a more conventional museum setting (and well protected behind glass).

In the museum put together with the things created by the re-enactors, you could get much closer to the stuff. Apparently we got too close to the cross-bow because another wave of Nyet was rolling our way (although the Russian guy in front of us had handled it for several minutes without such nattering negativity).

So this was not exactly a standard museum we had found, with original artifacts preserved from the past, but rather an exhibit run by a local re-enactors club. There were pictures of them wearing their stuff and even doing recreated battles within the castle walls, which made us a tiny bit envious. It looked like fun.

Den Gamle By

Sandy and I are trying to get out and do something every Saturday that involves a decent walk and something interesting to look at. Today we went to Den Gamle By, a living history recreation of an early modern mercantile or trading town, right near the center of Aarhus. Here is Sandy beside a couple of large grind stones in the entrance to a compound of carpenter shops and their houses.

Some of the interiors have been fairly extensively recreated so you can see what a workshop, or apothecary, or kitchen at any of several time periods would have looked like. Here is another carpenters' shop.
One thing Scandinavians are even crazier about than Americans or Canadians is living history sites. In fact, we looked at a book today that examined how they invented the idea and then it spread elsewhere. We have seen a couple now (and I will go back to others in other posts.)

At the very least they seem to gather together or rebuild/recreate historical buildings. Some add finished interiors, workshops, and frequently they have at least a few people acting out parts, like this guy who is the news drummer in Aarhus' Den Gamle By.

Den Gamle By is a very ambitiously recreated town. It has a lot of different kinds of shops that have been recreated. (We were seduced into buying at the bookshop and bakery.)

It has a lot of different workshops, even some small early factories for carding and spinning wool. It also has several very nice museums of toys, clocks, and a lot of houses, essentially done as museum pieces of different times and towns. They are pretty good about telling you where the houses and interiors are actually from.

The recreated town is built around a recreated mill pond and mill, shown here.

Very impressive place, although the featured entertainment for the day was a somewhat cheesy men's choir who sang a mixture of Danish songs and things like Danny Boy. It has different events, depending on the day. Today was a very popular brewing festival, the singers, and an odd but really charming exhibit with film on Danish made motorized bicycles and mo-peds (remember them?) from the 1960s and 1970s, featuring an old man whose passion was to rebuild the things. Reminds you just how many kinds of passionate hobbyists there are out there.

Celebrity poetry slam, Aarhus edition

I saw this on the way from the market in Aarhus today, walking with Sandy. The mind fairly boggles about the way that these two might compete, but I decided that a celebrity poetry slam would be a nice start.

It also made me think about cultural globalization, which is something I think about for a living, anyway, to be honest.

One could see the same graffiti in many places, including Austin. But I wonder if it means the same thing?

It was right across the street from this place. It is even odder to think about what bowling means in places even as modestly different as Aarhus and Austin. I frequently walk by this bowling alley on the way to my office, and it seems to have teenage goths and punks hanging out by it some days -- another interesting bit of globalization -- teenage goths everywhere -- and ordinary looking college students other days.

Friday, September 21, 2007

More farm life

Two more memories of farm life, just for fun.

I made my first big break from farm life to go to college in northern California at Stanford University in the fall of 1969. This was the end of the Bay Area full on hippy days, when going back to the land on a commune somewhere was the thing to do, Whole Earth Catalog days. Here is the first one, out in Fall 1969. I think we have one back in Austin. (One of the things I am reading these days is a book, From Counterculture to Cyberculture, that is largely about Whole Earth's founder, Stewart Brand, who was a pretty interesting guy. I got to interview him on the radio once at KZSU.)

So when I told people I was from a farm in Idaho, a common reaction was, "Wow, man. You grew up on the land, man. That must have been so cool, man."

I would then get a certain sadistic, bubble bursting pleasure out of saying, "Yeah, let me tell about the land on a February morning on a dairy farm in Idaho. You get up at 4 or 5 a.m. It is right at zero degrees (Fahrenheit) with a nasty wind and blowing snow. You get the cows in the barn. They aren't very smart, so they have pooped and lain down in it, and it has frozen onto their udders. So you take a warm wet rag to wipe off the frozen s**t so you can put on the milking machine. The cow doesn't like this so it swings its frozen s**t encrusted tail at you and tries to kick you with its frozen s**t encrusted hoof. If you really want to go live on the land, I'll give you the directions."

They would usually look a bit confused at this point and wander off.

There were some amazing things about it, though. One of my very first memories is of the enormous work horses my Dad kept for farm work until the mid-1950s, when he finally got a tractor. (My Dad was a bit conservative about technology.)

This photo shows me (the short one on the right, in my prized Hopalong Cassidy hat) with a neighbor girl at haying time, with those horses.

The pastoral life

Sitting in a nice, high tech office in Denmark in an urbanized small city, Aarhus, not so different from where I usually live and work in Austin. Sometimes it seems it a bit remote and dreamlike that I really did grow up on a dairy farm in Idaho. So I have been trying to remember what it looked like. Maybe it was like this. No, that is a Dutch painting from the 1600s, "Young herdsman with cows," by Albert Cuyp, currently at “The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

Maybe it was like this. No, that seems to be a photo of a long lost Swiss cousin, with his prize bull, that I found on the Web. Nice lederhosen, yes?

Ah, here is the real thing. Back in Kuna, Idaho, one of my main jobs as a kid was feeding the calves, and young steers and heifers, who lived in this shed on our farm. You can just hearing her thinking, inasmuch as cows really did much of that, "Where's dinner"?

A thirty acre dairy farm with 12-15 cows did not make much money, so my Dad had to work six months of the year at a sugar beet processing plant to make ends meet. We both got tired of milking by the time I was in high school, so we got a one ton Hereford bull, which I named Ferdinand. (He really was quite gentle -- I guess nothing scares you when you are that big.) We gradually bred the herd over to beef instead of dairy. No more milking at twelve hour intervals. Here is a mixed Guernsey - Hereford cow and her calf in the main corral of our old farm.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Finnish farm adventures

Our host for the three week UT-UMN grad program in communication in Tampere, Helsinki and St. Petersburg was Kaarle Nordenstreng. He is married to Ullamaija Kivikuru, another well-known media scholar in Finland, at Helsinki University. Both are remarkable people in many ways. He has been one of the people behind two major discussions of problems and inequities in the international media system. She has done some fine work in Africa on media there.

Kaarle has always been interesting and surprising. He has done some of the most seminal international communication research for over 30 years. He is a model of how to be really engaged in policy issues and also a very thoughtful researcher and historian. He drives a vintage 1965 Mustang.

He had mentioned several times that he and Ullamaija had a nice farm in the country that he wanted to show us. We really did not understand until we went there quite what that meant.

The farm has come down through Ullamaija's family and dates back to 1680. That is remarkable to us as Americans, since few of our families have even been in the U.S. that long and most of us move around too much to think of living on the same farm for centuries.

You can see the date on the weather vane on an outbuilding that used to be a barn and granary, and has, naturally enough, been turned into a wood burning sauna. Their daughter, who is a lawyer in Helsinki, likes to come home for the weekend and was stoking up the wood (and heat) in the sauna.

The main farm house has been expanded several times, but the core of it is a very large room that was the original house, which goes back several centuries. The central room is visibly ancient, made of logs, with beams for hanging up food and tools.

The kitchen is somewhat newer but still quite old. It has a very old wood fired brick oven for baking that would put most pizza ovens to shame. It has several round timbers for hanging up the kind of Scandinavian flat bread that is round with a hole in the middle. (If, like me, you wondered about that shape, it is for hanging on a long, round pole up in the ceiling.) Ullamaija mostly keeps day old bread there to feed to her horse, who lives in a pasture out back.

One of the more remarkable coincidences of our short visit to the farm came as we drove out to it with Kaarle and his son, Markus (in the cowboy hat). It turns out Markus is a big fan of much of the same pretty obscure country rock and music that I am. We had a great time talking about it. People from Gram Parsons in the 1960s/70s to Son Volt now. Even more, Markus is a DJ and musician who plays that kind of music mixed with other American style roots music, blues, etc. He has played at South by Southwest in Austin before. Check it out at

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beyond rat-baggery

The rat-baggery post brought back these two emailed stories. First, from Mark Thorne about his brother, Jon and Jon's wife, Kris, both technically my nephews but close to my age and more like close cousins. Quoting Mark, with Kris' permission:

The story of rat baggery reminds me of the time that Jon and Kris were defrosting their freezer. After discarding dozens of remnants of meals long past they came upon a bag which neither recognized. Closer examination revealed a beloved family pet, a parakeet. Having expired some years back on a cold February day, it had been awaiting a proper spring burial. I don't know if they followed through with the ceremony but I can see Jon, after the thing croaked, dangling the mite infested corpse over the plastic bag drawer. Truly a "guy thing" to do.

Second, from Ree and Al Pruehs, in rural Michigan, with her permission:

I don't remember if I told y'all this one on us or not, but Joe's latest post put me in mind of it... Pulled into the driveway, noticed that Al had obviously been home, the mailbox was empty... opened the front door... ...and discovered I wasn't alone in the house. A five-gallon green bucket, apparently half filled with worn-out socks and shop towels, sat in the middle of the foyer. The cloth and paper towels were moving feebly up and down and a singular noise -- not unlike the screech of fingernails on a blackboard -- was emitting from the bucket.... I worked up my courage to pluck enough of the cloth out of the bucket to get some idea what was in it...

"Oh ****...he's left me with a bunch of BABY RACCOONS"... [By then] I had found the note on the computer keyboard. Summarized: =Darling, I found someone to take the baby raccoons. We need to take them to the rehabilitator's home. I'll be back in a little while, wait for me.= Screech screech screech in the background.)

I had been home listening to baby raccoons for nearly an hour. Karen [rehabilitator] and I agreed that if Al wasn't home by 7:00 I would load my "guests"... and head on out... Fortunately, Al drove up five minutes later. Joyous spousal reunion. ("YOU LEFT ME ALONE WITH THESE THINGS! ...thank God you're back.") Al exited the house, with raccoons.

I got outside a few minutes later. "Where are the babies?"
Shrug. "In the trunk."

(Visualization of fast stop, overturned bucket, baby raccoons loose in the car -- followed immediately by visualization of baby raccoons overcome by exhaust fumes and desperate explanations to Karen the rehabber. Neither pleased.) "YOU PUT THE BABIES IN THE TRUNK?"
"Look. They are PERFECTLY all right, wedged in just fine --"
"What, you're going to carry them in your lap?"

So. Half an hour drive... bucket of baby raccoons on floor of passenger front seat wedged solidly between my knees and the dashboard. Much complaining from the bucket... Al regaled me with the story of how he found the raccoons in the garage and how many calls he had to make before finding the ONLY rehabber in Livingston County who takes in raccoons...

Finally arrived at the rehabber's, bucket and both sets of human eardrums intact... She took the bucket, shoved the cloth aside -- "Oh yeah, these little guys are cold" -- and casually plopped them one by one into a covered box half-full of heating pad. "They'll start getting active after they warm up." We looked at each other. ACTIVE? Oy...

Talked to Karen for a few minutes afterward... Her current guests include ducklings, goslings, baby squirrels and over 25 =more= baby raccoons. (She figures the fawns to start arriving any day now.) When she mentioned she's already gone through a fifty-pound sack of baby-animal formula this year we coughed up a contribution to the cause... Funny. It seemed awfully quiet in the car on the way home.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jugendstil (or major art geekery in Vienna)

One thing that was a lot of fun when Sandy, our youngest son Chris and I were traveling together this summer in Vienna and Prague was all of us getting excited about art. Granted that we are a bunch of culture geeks, anyway. But we still don't run around talking about art very often. Usually it's more like wondering how Donald Duck comics have come to affect the Danish vocabulary so much (more on that later).

In his Austria study abroad program, Chris had gotten really interested in the Austrian version of Art Nouveau, called Jugendstil. We had a quick preview of an art week to come when we checked into our hotel and saw a large example on the lobby wall. Cool! And we had not even talked to Chris yet, so this is just in the Austrian air.

As we got mildly lost trying to find where Chris' study abroad office was, I snapped this shot of a subway station just because I thought it was interesting. Guess what, more Jugendstil at the Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station by Otto Wagner, who it turns out Chris had been studying. Art synchronicity.

We decided to go out and wander around the open market near our house. We saw some really interesting façades. Art premonition.

Turns out they were by Koloman Moser, another polymath art genius who did architecture, design, prints, paintings, stained glass (including some amazing stuff for a church by Otto Wagner).

Here is one stained class image from that church.

We went to lots of museums on the crown jewels, armor, and even the kitsch icon, Sisi, who was the last Empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, famously played in a movie by Romy Schneider.

As art synchronicity continued, we also went to the Leopold Art Museum, who had a major career retrospective by none other than Kolo Moser.

Now, I am a real painting geek. Ask Sandy. We have more Brazilian primitive paintings, European prints, etc. than we have walls. It freaks Sandy out that the art broker at the Mercado Modelo in Salvador, Bahia knows me by name. I usually have to be dragged to look at furniture. Still, one of the things that intrigued me the most in the exhibition was how Moser along with a lot of other interesting artists, including Klimt and Kokoschka, had a commercial design collective called the Wiener Werkstätte. Here is a cabinet Moser designed with them. It would look very nice in your house, no doubt ;<)

So as you can see, Familie Straubhaar spent several days happily geeking out on art, from painting to stained glass to some really nice cabinets.

More art geekery to come, along with food, travel and politics. Not to mention the Fall Danish potato holiday, which gets us out of work for a week in October.