The voice of the young singer “Rosario La Tremendita” fills the stage: Smoky, sublime, “tremendous” and full of fire as the Andalusian Flamenco she sings. While she draws her breath, the equally impressive singer Mohammad Motamedi from Iran responds in his very own Far Eastern way to the fiery flamenco, resulting in a singing duet as I have never heard it in my whole life.
These days, we are travelling to attend the Lower Austrian Festival & Culture Summer at the event sites of Krems, Melk, Schallaburg & Grafenegg. Actually, me living right here in Krems, I sometimes find we hardly take the time visiting the “treasures at our doorstep”, don’t you? More often than not, we prefer travelling instead to far-flung places such as New Zealand, South America, Portugal or France. This time, however, the world … has come to visit us here in my beautiful Lower Austrian wine district, at the cultural sites of Melk & Krems along the beautiful Wachau Danube valley. A good opportunity for me & my travel blogger colleagues Nienke & Nick (TheTravelTester), Gudrun (“Reisebloggerin”) and Monique (“Teilzeitreisender”) to check out the culinary cultural events taking place.
“Metropolis reflects power and downfall of mankind during the First World War, the current exhibition at Schallaburg directly mirrored by our summer theatre here in the Wachau Melk Arena.”
Such are the words of welcome spoken by the friendly and dedicated artistic director of the Wachauarena Melk, Alexander Hauer, at the foot of the world famous Abbey of Melk by the Danube. “Metropolis, the big soft belly of the beast” after a silent film by Fritz Lang in the 1920s … While Gudrun nods knowingly, I am still thinking about what we can expect here? Alexander Hauer takes us behind the scenes, we see the actors shortly before the performance takes place and are able to feel the excitement. Looking back, I can only say: WOW. The ability of the immensely talented actors to take us on the journey of deep human emotions and tribulations, has deeply impressed me.
“I’m not beautiful. I am alive!”
“We need a mediator between brain and hands. And that is the heart.”
“The most precious thing we have is our life. It is only given to us once. It is our chance! Let us seize it.”
Parallel to the eloquent play “Metropolis”, the Schallaburg castle hosts the featured exhibition “Elation & misery” (“Jubel & Elend”) until 9 November 2014, offering to see one of the most extensive representations of World War I in Austria. 2014 marks the 100th “anniversary year” of the war-launch: Thanks to the lively descriptions, we go right into the details about what has happened during the war years of 1914 – 1918, still impacting world events today. It takes me back to history lessons at school: Shocking, really, to deal with the fearsome war events of World War I during this visit – however, there is no denying the actuality of what has happened in the distant past in light of current world events. The atmosphere of the magnificent Renaissance castle Schallaburg, the “most beautiful Renaissance castle north of the Alps”, provides a perfect backdrop for our visit. The adjoining gardens are a true delight and invite you to relax, enjoy & contemplate past & present in peace.
From the Wachau, we travel straight on to the adjoining Wagram district. Grafenegg Palace is unique in Austria – and home to a stunning, so-called “Wolkenturm Cloud Tower”, an architectural and cultural masterpiece of Lower Austria.
“If things get really busy, I just sit on my bike and cruise round the castle park in order to relax”, Julia Ornetsmüller laughs while welcoming us at the cultural event centre in Grafenegg. The castle park which surrounds the pretty Grafenegg Palace built in English Tudor style, has, in fact, something to calm you down almost instantly. Wide green spaces alternate with tall park trees and cosy little corners, such as the newly constructed hamlet. Again and again, I find myself returning here in order to take a walk with a good friend, for example. The castle itself, as well as its modern addition, the “Wolkenturm Cloud Tower“, are really worth seeing. The latter represents a stage for internationally acclaimed classical concerts with access to almost everyone: Tickets on the green areas around the auditorium are sold from € 10,-! “Especially local people from Lower Austria take up the offer for access to high culture in such a magnificent surrounding”, Julia tells us with pride in her eyes.
“Glatt & Verkehrt: We take traditional Austrian folk music. Weave in contemporary elements. And thus ‘knit’ a unique music & performance festival.”
Casually, Jo Aichinger, the artistic director of the Glatt & Verkehrt Festival, leans against the pillar in front of the Sound Space “Klangraum” Minoritenkirche Krems-Stein. He admits to being not quite awake yet, and when asked for how long he has already been the artistic director of the festival, he responds mischievously: “Far too long!” We join in his laughter, his openness drawing us right into the festival and concert series of “Glatt & Verkehrt“. His vivid account of his career, and that of the festival, seems to wake him up. He describes how “Glatt & Verkehrt” has developed into one of the most successful and established festivals in Lower Austria, taking place each year in July featuring national and international sound & performance artists. The festival series starts with “Imago Dei” at Easter and leads all the way into autumn: “HerbstZeitLos” is home to more sound artists during late September, as we are now able to experience during the summer time.
What has especially impressed me among the festival performances, as I mentioned right at the beginning, are the singing skills of the duo Quasida Rosario “La Tremendita” & Mohammad Motamedi, who have seemed to marry Andalucia & Persia through vocals and instruments. The band “Fanfarai” from Algeria & France also brought an exciting addition of upbeat and heart-warming rhythms encouraging us to dance – “even us tired Austrians”, as the singer proclaimed: “In France, I am used to people freaking out completely, dancing, going wild, spitting, all sorts of things. I THANK you for giving me so much attention and really listening to our music. We are not used to that!” After these words – and especially the subsequent music & rhythms – even the Austrians could no longer stay on their seats and danced away happily – awesome! Wearing my Bad Aussee typical Austrian Dirndl dress for the first time during this festival, I felt really proud and happy to join in the feeling!
(The fact that we were previously spoiled by the Winzer Krems to a glass of wine or two may have contributed to the good mood … pleasure, joy, music and dance go hand in hand after all! How fortunate to have it all right here at our doorstep in Krems. :D).
Check out more photos and travel tips from this weekend in Lower Austria here:
Disclaimer: We have been invited by the Lower Austrian Culture & Festival Association to travel in the Wachau district of Lower Austria. All opinions are my own.