Advent forest, Salzburg

The Advent market of Hellbrunn Palace — just outside of Salzburg, Austria — is open from late November until Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, our guided city tour, which included a 15-minute stop at the palace grounds (otherwise closed during the winter) was on Christmas Day.


However, the absence of any other people among the remaining structures and decorations made it easy to appreciate the lesson of a simple good idea plus repetition.



The market areas in the two entry courtyards of the Baroque palace were set within “forests” of 400 cut trees and 13,000 red balls, according to one website.


The palace was (caused to be) built by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Markus Sittikus, between 1612 and 1615. Its 148-acre park includes a section of trick fountains and a pavilion built for the filming of The Sound of Music. 

The Prince-Archbishop used the estate as a pleasure retreat during the long summer days, always returning to Salzburg for the night.


I hope, wherever you are today, that you are enjoying a wonderful holiday season!

Travel tips

Lovely, compact Salzburg makes a good Christmas travel destination, as long as you realize that almost everything will shut down at about 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and not reopen again until December 27. Do your shopping, as well as visit the fortress and other museums, on the 23rd. The two Mozart homes are open on Christmas Day and the 26th, and the guided tour companies are running on those days as well.

Be sure to make dinner reservations for the 24th, 25th, and 26th well in advance (a few weeks out). Our hotel had two good restaurants, and they were so fully booked for Christmas Eve that the hotel was not providing room service that night.

However — this year, at least — the big Advent/Christmas market in the old city center was open through December 26 (although it closed early on the 24th), so it was easy to get a lunch or an early dinner of sausage and gluhwein.

Salzburg’s old city center from a pedestrian bridge. Note The Sound of Music “do-re-me” reenactment on the left side.

Also, Austria is one of the very few European countries that still allow smoking in restaurants and bars. Ask about it when booking or look around for ashtrays on the tables before sitting down if you want to avoid that sort of nostalgic experience. (Two of our three dinners were in restaurants without smoking.)


Vaux le Vicomte, France, 1925, Library of Congress
View from the château, Maincy, France, 1925, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Vaux-le-Vicomte — the château and garden together — was “the first great work of the French baroque,” according to garden historian Tom Turner.

In his book, The Seven Ages of Paris, Alistair Horne tells the story of the estate’s big reveal to Louis XIV, then only 22 years old and struggling with a nearly bankrupt treasury:

Nicolas Fouquet, a vain, ostentatious and ambitious parvenu, had been Louis’s minister superintendent of finance since 1653.  Now aged forty-five, he had just built himself a magnificent mansion at Vaux-le-Vicomte. . . . [O]n 17 August 1661, [he] audaciously invited the King to a lavish gala. . . The massive iron gates gleamed with freshly applied gilt; in the vast gardens laid down by André le Nôtre 200 jets d’eau and fifty fountains spouted on either side of a main alley nearly a kilometer long. For the previous five years, some 18,000 workmen had toiled to produce this wonder of the modern age, eradicating three villages that had happened to be in the way.  Certainly it trumped the modest royal hunting-lodge of the King’s father out at Versailles, which Louis was currently doing up.

Inside the imposing mansion the royal party dined off a magnificent gold service which likewise must have made its impression on the King, who had had to sell off his plate to meet military expenditure. . . . [T]he whole episode outraged him.  At various points in the evening, Louis came close to losing his temper — whispering to his mother, “Madame, shall we make these people disgorge?” . . . Less than three weeks later, just as he was arriving at a meeting in Nantes, Fouquet was arrested by the legendary D’Artagnan of Three Musketeers fame.

After the arrest, Louis took possession of artwork, furniture, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. More importantly, he sent its architect, Louis Le Vau, and its painter-decorator, Charles Le Brun — and, of course, Le Nôtre — to Versailles. Fouquet died in prison in 1680.

Seven Ages . . . is a very good history to read if you are planning a trip to the Paris.

I have been taught never to brag but now
I cannot help it:  I keep
a beautiful garden, all abundance  .   .   .
I want to take my neighbors into the garden
and show them: Here is consolation.

Paisley Rekdal, from “Happiness

The Sunday porch: Strasbourg, France

St. Pierre le Jeune 5, Strasbourg, Aug2016, by enclos*ure

We spent Thursday through Saturday this week in Strasbourg, and a highlight of this trip for me — aside from two great meals (here and here) — was a visit to the Église protestante Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune or Young* Saint Peter’s Protestant Church.

The church has the oldest surviving cloister “north of the Alps,” according to its website.

Three of the four galleries were constructed in the Romanesque style in the 11th century. The fourth, shown above and in the three photos below, was completed in the 14th century in the Gothic style.

St. Pierre le Jeune 6, Strasbourg, Aug2016, by enclos*ure

The gallery shown above and below was set up for a performance that day.

St. Pierre le Jeune 1, Strasbourg, Aug2016, by enclos*ure

St. Pierre le Jeune 7, Strasbourg, Aug2016, by enclos*ure
Behind the small stage was a modern sculpture. There were modern works throughout the church. (Unfortunately, I didn’t think to photograph their labels.)

St. Pierre le Jeune 8, Strasbourg, Aug2016, by enclos*ure

Above: a Romanesque gallery, also ready for a performance or lecture. I loved the pretty chairs, used throughout the church.

St. Pierre le Jeune 2, Strasbourg, Aug2016, by enclos*ure
A stone mason’s mark?

St. Pierre le Jeune 11, Strasbourg, Aug2016, by enclos*ure
Above and below: the garden in the center.

St. Pierre le Jeune 9, Strasbourg, Aug2016, by enclos*ure

The cloister was heavily damaged and partly buried in the 1700s and then re-built in other ways. After the French revolution, the site was privatized — serving over the years as a wine cellar, a cloth factory, and apartments. It was restored to its original appearance between 2000 and 2008.

St. Pierre le Jeune 12, Strasbourg, Aug2016, by enclos*ure
On the inside, Église Saint-Pierre is remarkable for its array of colors and forms. The church was built in the 14th and 15th centuries in the Romanesque and Gothic styles.

Originally Catholic, of course, in 1524, it became Protestant.  Then in 1682, Louis XIV gave over the choir area behind the rood screen for the exclusive use of the Catholic parish. A dividing wall was built, and it remained there until 1898, when the Catholic congregation moved to its own “Young Saint Peter’s.”  In the meantime, in the 18th century, the choir had been redecorated in the Baroque style, in green and gold. Continue reading “The Sunday porch: Strasbourg, France”