Diane Sawyer Newsletter/Blog #11 September 2013

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello! This newsletter comes to you with special good wishes for a wonderful autumn. Here, in Florida, the weather seems remarkably similar to the long hot days of summer. However, many of you live in foreign countries and cold climates “up north,” and will notice the seasonal changes. Go ahead, rake up those colorful leaves, put on jackets, enjoy bonfires and mugs of hot chocolate, and think of us walking barefoot along sandy beaches. Wherever you are, enjoy yourselves! Last, but not least, welcome to my six new readers. You know who you are.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

Enjoy the hardcover, paperback and e-book editions, available on Amazon and other on-line sites. (Amazon reports a temporary production delay of the paperbacks.)

 

This and That

Instead of a separate “this and that,” I extended the travel section to include anecdotes and historical information that I think you’ll like.

 

Travel

Your emails tell me that you love to travel. And if or when that’s not possible, you like to read about travel. Good! This month I have chosen Eastern Europe, which I visited via a bus tour several years ago with two good friends, Marce and Sharon. The trip was organized around an interesting mix of information and sightseeing offered by our guide while on the road; local guides during our city walking tours; independent sightseeing during our free time; and extra tours for a nominal fee to visit out-of-the-way places. I am including the many names for a region and a bit of history for a specific reason: to show the tremendous and tumultuous geographic and historic changes that occurred in this area at the conclusion of World War I. There is an old saying in the region that goes “A man lived in the same house all his life. He never moved, but he lived in seven different countries.” Another saying goes like this: “I went to Vienna over the weekend,” a friend said. His friend asked, “Is it still is Austria?”

The tour, entitled “Imperial Jewels,” referring to the four capital cities of Prague (capital of the Czech Republic, formerly Czechoslovakia), Vienna (capital of Austria), Budapest (capital of Hungary), and Bratislava (capital of Slovakia), took us on an 800-mile journey by bus through four countries, each with its own currency. Our group was composed of 43 people from America, England, Australia, and Canada, and all were experienced travelers. We began in Prague, passing through the Southern Bohemia countryside (Bohemia was once a region of Czechoslovakia and formerly a kingdom and province of Austria-Hungary*), to Cesky Krumlov, located in the province of Moravia (formerly a province of Austria, now part of the Czech Republic), onward to Vienna with a stop at Esztergom (on the current border of Hungary and Slovakia), to Budapest, before turning north to Bratislava, passing through Brno located in the Czech Republic, and returning to Prague.

(*A bit of information: Austria-Hungary was a former monarchy/empire in central Europe, broken up at the end of World War I. The modern-day states that have emerged from its territories are Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and parts of Serbia, Italy, Romania, Montenegro, Poland, and Ukraine.)((I added information from online sources and reference books to the information I gathered during the trip from guides and guidebooks. Any errors are mine, not theirs. Also, accents not available on my computer have been omitted from several foreign words. Spelling variations may occur because of the variety of sources I utilized.))

With free time in Prague on our very first day (the third trip for Sharon, but the first for Marce and me) we visited the city with trolley tickets purchased at our hotel. What a great day! Prague is a charming city with bridges, waterside restaurants, cobblestone streets, an intriguing Astronomical Clock in the town square, even a Salvador Dali Museum, and many bustling cafés surrounding the town square. There is a young, artistic, free-spirited vibe that energizes the city.

In a quaint shop filled with local articles, I chose a small pretty box to add to my collection at home. The picture on it was a replica of a painting by Alphonse Mucha, the leading artist of the area. I had never heard of him, but I wanted to see more of his work. So this purchase led us to the Mucha Museum, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. There was a movie in English about Mucha’s life, followed by a visit to several stunning galleries filled with his huge paintings in the Art Nouveau style, frequently featuring the French actress Sarah Bernhardt.

On day four, we left Prague and rode through the beautiful Southern Bohemian countryside, as green as the landscape of Ireland, into Moravia. There we made a two-hour stop at Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO World and Cultural Heritage Site on the banks of the Vlatava River. In retrospect, this was perhaps the prettiest spot of the entire trip. After lunch we walked from the center of town to the castle, the second largest in the Czech Republic. As we looked over the side of the entrance-bridge, way below us bears played in a gully and lumbered from one side of the entrance-bridge to the other. A surreal experience!

Talking to other travelers is always fun. At the time we were on this trip, “The Queen” was a popular movie and two English women wanted our opinion as to how it was received in America. We gave it rave reviews, especially the performance by Helen Mirren. One of the English women commented, “Although Helen Mirren was wonderful, it was the Queen herself, not Helen, who deserved the Academy Award.” The other English woman concluded, “It wasn’t really acting. It was merely imitating.” The next morning at breakfast one of the English women looked out the window and treated us to a bit of humor about the unpredictable weather in her country. “The sun is shining. Better bring your coats and umbrellas.”

Day 5 we spent in Vienna, one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. Renata, our local guide, a petite blond who wore black pants and a chartreuse jacket, described everything we saw by bus and on foot and brought in many anecdotes to enliven her talk. There was Imperial Vienna and the dazzling Royal Ring of golden palaces now used for administrative purposes. Modern Vienna stands side by side with Imperial Vienna and is immaculate with shady streets. We saw the house where Strauss once lived. It is now a McDonalds with the balcony of Strauss’ apartment still intact!

Some of the sightseeing highlights were the State Opera, Parliament, Town Hall, Heroes’ Square, and the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We learned several interesting facts: the Austrian Empire once had 50 million people. The Vienna Woods surround Vienna. Vienna is divided into 27 districts. There are many styles of architecture in Vienna: neo-classical style for Parliament; neo-(Flemish) Gothic City Hall; neo-(French)Gothic Votive Church. Our daily guide Mario called the style of the buildings in this elegant quarter “historicism,” meaning, he said, inspired by previous civilizations.

A few fun things we learned about the royalty. Maria Theresa, Empress of the Hapsburg Empire, reigned for 40 years. She had 16 children, 11 of them girls. Because she married off her daughters to European royalty, she was referred to as the “Mother-in-law of Europe.” Another Empress, Princess Elizabeth, called SiSi, who married at 17, didn’t like the pomp of royal life. Preferring to spend her time on physical fitness, she had exercise rings installed in a doorway where she “worked out.”

That evening, Marce, Sharon and I chose an optional tour and attended the Straus and Mozart Concert at the magnificent Hofburg, under the baton of the Wiener Hofburg Orchester conductor Gert Hofbauer. We sat on velvet upholstered chairs and enjoyed the orchestra and six very talented opera singers—four women and two men dressed in gorgeous costumes. Many comedy routines, obviously intended for tourists, rounded out the evening. It was wonderful, with everything from romantic duos to the comic precision of the anvil “concerto/symphony” during which the anvil player nearly struck the conductor’s finger (presumably as rehearsed!).

***I plan to include more about this trip next month, including the art of explaining that you need help when you don’t know the language (and they don’t speak a Romance language or any language you learned in school). TIP: Start exercising your hands and practicing your facial expressions before you hop on the airplane. ***

 

Cooking Delights

Make-Believe Caviar Appetizers

Every now and then there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to prepare time-consuming hors d’oeuvres for your guests. So here, with no apologies, is a very fast recipe with only four ingredients.

Ingredients:

6 English muffins, sliced in half (with help from a fork to

preserve the nooks and crannies)

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

a small handful of pitted black olives, cut

1 1/2 tsp curry powder

 

Preparation:

Toast muffins in oven until lightly browned. Or if you dare, place them under the broiler and keep checking on them so they don’t burn.

Mix all ingredients except English muffins. Spoon the mixture evenly over English muffin halves. Cook in oven at 350 degrees until bubbly. Cut in quarters and serve.

Bon appétit!

Fondly,

Diane

 

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