Linz, Austria, the Trinity Column and Mariendom (Europe 2010 – 13 May)

posted in: Austria, Europe, Linz | 0

After I left Munich on March 27 I caught a train to Linz, Austria. I had never been to Linz before and it was a midway point between Munich and Brno in the Czech Republic where I would meet my friends the following Monday. I wanted to check it out and also book a hotel with internet and maybe get some work done.

I stayed in the Park Inn Linz, which I would highly recommend to anyone. I was able to book it through Expedia and it was fantastic! This brand new four-star hotel had a café, restaurant, room service, and the best staff I’ve encountered in a hotel in a long time.

The part of Linz that I saw, and admittedly I didn’t see much of it, was beautiful. It was not yet tourist season, and I chose to go sightseeing early on a Sunday when most things were closed. It suited me that weekend somehow. I was still recovering from the transatlantic flight and also trying to get some work done, so I didn’t venture out much.

I walked down Landstrasse, the main drag that was only one block from my marvelous hotel, and reached the square.

It was Palm Sunday, a week before Easter. You could see evidence of this from the goodies in the bakery windows:

There was hardly anyone else around that early on a Sunday. But there was a lady who was sneaking bread crumbs to the pigeons, which someone told me was illegal there. It was hard to hide it, though, because they all flew around her in a giant pigeon-cloud. I tried to get pictures of her doing it, but she hid from me. She ended up dumping the food behind a phone booth and emerging from the other side looking all innocent:

There is a large advertising print and television campaign on this side of the pond for Nespresso machines. I haven’t seen this in the US, but maybe it’s there, too. I saw one of the posters in a shop window along the street. Guess who is the spokesperson?

There’s a really funny TV commercial running over here with George being hit by a falling piano and manages to bribe his way out of heaven with his Nesprsso machine. Malkovich, of all people, plays God! Is that running in the States, too? If you haven’t seen it, look it up on YouTube.

After about 10 minutes of walking I reached the main square. It was also mostly deserted with only the café workers setting out chairs and umbrellas. It was rather cold and threatening rain, but I guess they were expecting customers that day. In the middle of the square was a HUGE monument with gilded figures on top. The thing was massive!

Later research revealed that it’s known as Trinity Column. It’s over 65 feet tall, is Baroque, and was finished in 1723. It’s carved of white marble and was created as a dedication to the Holy Trinity by the guilds, Emperor and people of Linz because they had been delivered from war, fire and plague. Guess I’d be pretty thankful for that, too.

In the same square was a line of trees whose limbs were being trained onto frames that to me resembled music staves, though I guess they have too many horizontal lines. I thought the leafless branches were lovely like that.

And here are two more shots from the place I thought you might enjoy. One is something I bet Warner Brothers doesn’t know about:

The other just defies explanation entirely:

Past the square I came to a bridge – it was the Blue Danube flowing underneath! I love the way it actually looks blue in the photo. And so it did in person, too!

I turned back toward the hotel at this point and made my way to a very, very large church, Mariendom. It was so large that, even with my wide-angle lens, I could not fit the entire main tower in a shot from across the street:

And one from the side:

This neo-Gothic monster is referred to in Linz as the New Cathedral. It is the largest church in Austria and was built between 1855 and 1925. It’s dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, hence the name Mariendom (Mary’s cathedral).

This will give you some idea of how immense this church is. When I asked the uber-friendly young man at the desk at my hotel about what to see, he told me about this place and said it holds about 25 THOUSAND people. Thinking that this was Europe (everything is smaller) and that English was not his first language (he got his numbers mixed up), I corrected that figure in my mind to 25 HUNDRED. Well, in fact it holds more than 20,000 people! It has its own art gallery! But as enormous as this structure is, its tower height was limited to 134 meters (440 feet) because it was not allowed to be taller than St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Dontcha just love Austrio-Hungarian religio-politics? (I think I just made up a word!)

Just inside the huge, wooden doors was a scale model of a small room that had a bed, a chair and a table. It was lighted and you could see it through a window in a large panel across the front of it. I tried to read the copious information beside this window but it was in German—high German at that, and all I could make out was something about a hermit in the tower.

I did some internet research—what did I ever do without the internet—and it turns out that, as part of an art project, they had built this room in full scale high in the tower of the church about 200 feet up. People submitted applications to become a hermit for a week and live in this room without access to the outside world. They began this project in November 2008 and lasted for about six months. There were 22 hermits in all.

They held daily “Silence with the Hermit” hours at 12:15 every day so people could sit in one of the chapels in silence to share the experience. A diary was passed from hermit to hermit and photographers Miklos Boros and Paul Kranzler documented everything. The diary and photos ended up in a book that I could have bought in the church gift shop but didn’t know about. What a fantastic idea! I wonder if they translated the book into English – I’d be very interested to see what hermits might write.

Apparently there was some demand among hermits in the Linz area, because now you can rent the hermit room starting this year for 560 Euros (about $710) per week, which includes meals, electricity and water plus something termed “Spiritual Care.” The room is available during Lent and Easter, during the summer, and during the Christmas season. I just don’t know what to think about that!

I don’t have any photos of this or anything else inside the cathedral because taking photos inside was prohibited. I didn’t want to incur the wrath of the clerics that were skulking around the edges! But here’s a good website, though it IS in German, with some impressive 360-degree views from towers and inside the place.

I mentioned that the cathedral has its own art gallery. It was free with some coins for the orphans, so I checked it out. The exhibit was uncomfortable. It paid homage to a group of nuns who care for ill patients. The artwork itself was a couple of sterile-looking hospital beds draped in hospital sheets that had been painted with body parts. Think Shroud of Turin. The paint was neon colors and the sheets were not only on the beds but also used as canopies. It was just weird. But I’m always glad to see art expressions whether I like them or not.

I am embarrassed to say that I did not try the famous Linzer torte while I was in Linz. Mea culpa. I figured I would get one at the train station on my way out of town, but there were none to be had there! But I wanted to tell you about them because I did see them in bakery windows. The recipe dates from 1625 (to us Americans that’s just before someone bought Manhattan Island from the Native Americans for $24 worth of beads). The torte looks somewhat like a flat cherry pie with thin lattice crust and sliced almonds around the edges. Instead of cherries, though, it has red currant jam as a filling. And what recipe do you know that has its own web site?

Well, that’s about all for Linz from me. I didn’t give it my usual attention, but I will be back one day. It’s a beautiful city with a wonderful, cozy energy, even though tiny hail pelted my head on the way back from the cathedral. I was glad to have my new, white, weatherproof Columbia jacket whose name is Lindsey Vonn.

Stay tuned for Brno and the other end of the spectrum!

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