#AtoZChallenge: April 23, 2013 ~ Thurn und Taxis

Thurn und Taxis

Castle Sankt Emmeram Most of my readers will be familiar with the courier company TNT, but probably not with its historical origins.  The family of Thurn und Taxis are one of the oldest princely houses of Germany, with roots in the Italian early 12th century.  Those princes were builders, brewers, and the inventors of the modern postal service in Europe of the 15th century.  Since 1748 their home is Saint-Emmeram castle in RegensburgRainer Maria Rilke wrote Duino Elegies while visiting Duino castle and princess Marie of Thurn und Taxis.

The family held the position of Master of the Postal Services  from the creation of the first service by Ruggiano di Tassi in 15th century Italy until the 18th century.

The Thurn und Taxis history inspired Thomas Pynchon’s novel “The Crying of lot 49”. They gave their name to a board game…

Deutsche Bundespost

#AtoZChallenge: April 4, 2013 ~ Dolomites

Dolomites ~ Dolomiti ~ Dolomiten

 The Dolomites are an alpine mountain range of North-Eastern Italy, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.  It is said that part of the Dolomites are the last genuine wilderness left in Western Europe.  The North-Western part of the range lies in the autonomous province of Bolzano-South Tirol, itself part of the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige-Südtirol.  The Dolomites’s people have a long history and diversity of cultures and languages: besides the Italian and Germanic (Austrian) influences and traditions, the historic linguistic minority Ladin population, in a majority in some small communes of Val Badia, maintains a tradition and culture with roots in pre-Roman and Roman times.

The province of South-Tirol (capital Bolzano, or Bozen) exhibits a linguistic and cultural diversity unique in the European Union.  After WWII and a period of unrest and sometime violent protest, the province won its autonomy, enshrined in the Italian constitution, through an exemplary case of culturally sensitive negotiated compromise on the part of the Italian and Austrian governments.

The Dolomites, whose high peaks tend to be around 3,000m, host some of the best, and vertiginous, rock climbing routes of the Alps.  In winter there is a variety of skiing options, from beautiful off-the-track skiing to world-class descente and slalom pistes.  In Val Badia (Gadertal) Corvara hosts the annual Mens’ Slalom World Cup.

My Summer pics of Südtirol!

#Geometries: Trinken

 It is a threat, and a pleasure, perhaps the most pernicious risk to mankind since the Black Death… Yet, how could we give up those marvels of nature, human skills and poetic evocations? Just think: from the Old World to the New, Pino Grigio, Montbasillac, Saint-Emilion, Burgundy, Champagne, the marvellous Australians, the North-Californians, the Cahors, the sunshine from South-Africa, the smiling Italians, the harsh Spanish, without forgetting the gold and diamonds of South America… the inexhaustible riches of the grapes! And what is cooler than a glass of iced Grappa after a Mediterranean meal?

And how to drink with moderation? Perhaps it is a matter of location, of space, of atmosphere? The geometries of drinking are as varied as the colours of the rainbow.

Think: drinking alone, drinking at two, with many? At home, at the dinner table, in the lounge, in the bar? Champagne at breakfast, Pinot Noir at seduction time? And who seduces whom? The possibilities are infinite…

The Public Library of South Australia has a beautiful and well researched site on the subject: “Wine Literature of the World”… But what about writers and drinking? No shortage of amusing and frightening examples here, from Poe’s “What illness can be compared to alcohol?” to Hemingway’s “Paris was a moving Feast”, and many who sought inspiration, or absolution, in the bottle.

Yet at least one of the great religions of the world, Islam, bans the consumption of alcohol. And for good reasons: the series of disasters caused by alcohol abuse is endless, from horrific drink and drive dramas to domestic violence and costs to society… But is prohibition conceivable today?

Then there is the variety of beverages, the beers of Germany and Czech Land, Belgium, India, Italy, Alsace… and of course the grapes and grain alcohols: from the sumptuous Cognac and Armagnac to the wonders of Scotland, the sharp Schnapps and Vodkas, without forgetting Grappa and the Kentucky treasures.

And so, what of this blogger then? Smiling all the way to the cellar: learning to drink – with reason if not moderation – takes time and… love: a shared pleasure, and, yes, part of the geometry of living.

Alto Adige

 They found the village as it always was, quiet and yet full of life. The peaks were sparkling in the stormy sky.

It rained in the evening and they had a meal at the little albergo.

Sarah was smiling and girlish, as she took him to bed.