Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Watercolor Travel Journal - Germany Wanderlust

Cologne Cathedral Front Portal
by jojo sabalvaro tan 2013

Recently, my husband and I along with two of my high school classmates embarked on another  European road trip. This time we went to  Germany. We have dubbed our group the Roundabouts as an homage to the many roundabouts in Europe we were constantly going around and around in.  Of course, I had to capture the places we visited and experienced in my watercolor travel journal. This time I used  the Moleskin Watercolor Notebook (5"x8").  I started out as usual with sketching with pencil, sometimes started on site and finished in my studio at home. I will often use a reference photo when I am working in my studio. I will  then go over the pencil  sketch with black ink. My favorite is Pitt XS for it's very fine point. Then I start adding color using artists grade watercolors. In my workroom, I use a Daniel Smith half pan metal watercolor case (Thank you, Ginny!) which I filled with my favorite colors from various manufacturers such as Daniel Smith, Sennelier, Holbein, Winsor Newton and Daler Rowney. I always have fun working  on my watercolor journal after a trip because of the pleasant memories it brings. I find that I prefer sketching buildings as opposed to landscapes. Painting the journal truly makes my vacation euphoria last longer. I am also blogging on most of the places we visited.  I have made reference to and attached links to the relevant blog entries that are already published.


This painting is of the front portal of the epitome of a Gothic cathedral, the  Kolner Dom in Cologne. As we were taking pictures around the cathedral, a superfluity of nuns was going into the cathedral and I knew that was the moment I wanted to keep in my journal as a painting.

Beethoven Haus In Bonn
by jojo sabalvaro tan 2013

We stopped at Bonn to visit the house where Beethoven was born. It was nice to be able to be in a place where a genius was born. Maybe some of it will rub of on us. I do not think I will have any chance of playing more than a few notes on the piano but my husband, who has played Fur Elise since he was a child might benefit from the visit. For more about our experience, please visit  my blog entry, To the Beat of Beethoven.


Sankt Severius Church - Boppard
by jojo sabalvaro tan 2013

We fell in love with this little town, Boppard, situated along the Rhine and were reluctant to leave after some very tasty bratwurst for lunch. We lingered at this marktplatz in front of the church and rathaus and hang around by the fountain with the rest of the villagers. Please visit my blog entry, The Lure of the Loreley, for a more detailed account of this leg of our journey.


Burghotel auf Shonburg, Oberwesel
by jojo sabalvaro tan

This is the medieval castle where we stayed. It was the perfect castle experience. We loved our room that overlooked the Rhine and had a  hidden door that leads directly to the castle's curtain wall (fortification). It  gave you a feel of how the castle was defended. The entire place was decorated in period furniture but was not stuffy. For more about our stay at the Burghotel auf Schonburg, please read my blog Castles in the Air


The Residenz, Wurzburg

by jojo sabalvaro tan

Wurzburg was a lunch stop on our way to Rothenburg. It is one of the suggested stops on the Romantic Road. The Baroque- style Residenz, dubbed the "nicest parsonage" by Napoleon was built for the Prince Bishop of Wurzburg, Johann Philipp Frantz von Schonborn and his brother Friedrich Carl von Schonborn in 1720 and completed in 1744. It was put into the UNESCO World Heritage Site list as "at once the most homogeneous and the most extraordinary of Baroque Palaces." We had a great Franconian-style lunch, where I indulged on another piece of German apple strudel, at the restaurant on the palace grounds. After lunch, we strolled around the grounds and the lovely gardens and visited the gift shop. I had fun enunciating over and over again the name Wurzburg, as our German waiter tried to teach us, to the utter exasperation of my traveling companions.  It is pronounce "Veetz-borg" in a guttural manner. Try saying it, it's really addictive once you get started.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The Markusturm and our hotel on the right in  Rothenburg o.d. Tauber
by jojo sabalvaro tan 2013

Verschneites Plotein in Rothenburg. This fork on the 
road is the most photographed spot in Rotheburg
by jojo sabalvaro tan  2013

Hands down, the favorite place we visited on this trip, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is all it is touted to be: charming, typical old German town, fairy tale setting, interesting and picture perfect. We loved exploring this small walled town, with its towers, ramparts and streets you can delightfully get lost in. This is another place that deserves its own blog entry.


Astronomical clock, Rathaus in Heilbronn
by jojo sabalvaro tan 2013

Another one of our lunch stops, Heilbronn is a very modern and industrial city very much like Bonn. We had lunch at the Stadtgalerie Mall and did a little shopping. Not much is left of old Heilbronn since it was leveled by bombs in World War II. It was subsequently rebuilt "from ashes."  It's location, close to several Autobahns and the River Neckar, made it the logistical center of Southern Germany and attracted many large companies to open there. The mall was actually only a few meters away from the Marktplatz where some of the older parts of Heilbronn have been restored. The Rathaus or town hall features the three-tiered historic astronomical clock I painted above.  Built in 1580, it not only tells the time but shows the month, position of the sun and astrological signs. Another point of interest is Killiankirche that dates back to the 13th and  15th centuries. The tower of the church was built in 1513-1529 and is the symbol of Heilbronn. I loved the beautiful intricate Gothic wood sculpture by Hans Seyfer that soars at  the high altar.


One of the gatehouses at the Schloss Hirschorn and
 view of the Neckar River and Odenwald Mountains
 in Hirschorn
by jojo sabalvaro tan 2013

The Schloss Hirschorn, high above the Neckar Valley  is the other castle we stayed at. One of the popular stops on the Castle Road, it had a commanding view of the Neckar valley, the Odenwald hills and the old town of Hirschorn which is  situated on a slope protected by the castle walls. The hotel is about 20 minutes from Heidelberg. The gatehouse in the painting is one of many on the grounds and to me, is one of the most charming structures in the castle compound. More about Schloss Hirschorn on my blogpost, Schlossing at Hirschorn.


KRuds lining up a shot on the camera at the Alstadt in Heidelberg
by jojo sabalvaro tan 2013
We elected to take the train, rather than drive, from Hirschorn to Heidelberg. I think we were still having some post trauma from the scary drive in the Odenwald mountains the day before. My husband and I last visited Heidelberg in the mid 70s and curiously, I no longer have any memory of the town except seeing a bust of Jose Rizal somewhere. Nothing seems familiar so it was like visiting a new place. 

Hope you enjoyed some of my recent sketches from my watercolor travel journal and traveling with us. I will tell more stories about the places we visited in future blogs. Please tune in, 

And I leave you with a couple of thoughts from Mark Twain who found inspiration  in Heidelberg for his novel,  Huckleberry Finn.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain
And, I know, for sure, that I love the folks I traveled with. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

To the Beat of Beethoven

Beethoven "BLUE" (1987) by Andy Warhol
Height: 97 cm Width: 97 cm
I was channel surfing this morning and happened upon a concert in Verbier , Switzerland featuring classical pianist David Fray on the Ovation channel. He was playing Bach but his pouty, brooding style reminded me of Beethoven and our recent visit to his birthplace in Bonn, Germany.
We decided to stop in Bonn on our way to the middle Rhine River valley from Koln (Cologne). Seeing the house where Ludwig van Beethoven was born was one of the cultural features of our road trip. Bonn is actually very close to Cologne. It was the provisional capital of Germany from 1949 to 1990 and the official seat of government from 1990 to 1999 when it was replaced by Berlin. Bonn looked very industrial but as a capital, it appeared to me rather provincial compared to other capitals even though it is still the seat of almost half Germany's federal agencies and hosts several international organizations such as the United Nations.

Our GPS directed us exactly to Bonngasse 18-24 where the Beethoven house is located. Since it is a pedestrian only street, we had to find parking. There was actually a parkhaus(parking garage) across the street but because of the one way streets and no possibility to make a U turn, it took us several attempts to get there including crossing the bridge over the Rhine at least 3 times.
The Baroque facade of the house Beethoven was born in Bonn.

I did not expect that Beethoven's house would be located in a street filled with local store fronts and restaurants. In Beethoven's time,  I imagined it to be a quiet street filled with homes of well to do families. The street was actually one of the main thoroughfares in Bonn until the late 1950s.

The door leading to the museum
Ludwig van Beethoven who was named after his grandfather and also godfather was born on December 17, 1770 in one of the attic rooms of Bonngasse 20, a baroque facade building. It  now houses a museum dedicated to the life and times of Beethoven and holds a digital collection of all of his known works as well as sheet musics. You enter the museum through the gift shop and then the back gardens which lead to the entry into the museum. Entry fee is 2EUs and no camera or large bags are allowed inside. Lockers are provided for storage. Please click on the link to the official museum site for a virtual tour of the Beethoven Haus museum. With the virtual tour you can actually 'walk' all the rooms we were in and zoom in on items we saw to get more details and information.

The gallery of Beethoven busts in the garden of the Beethoven  Haus
At the age of 8, Beethoven was already recognized as a child prodigy and  publicly performed on the piano in Cologne. He published his first composition at the age of 12.  When he was 14, he already joined the court orchestra and was giving private music lessons along with his father to families of noble members of the court. He travelled to Vienna to have lessons with Amadeus Mozart and later with Joseph Haydn. His study trip to Vienna turned out to be a permanent one due to the French occupation of Rhineland. He is to have many rich and influential patrons.  Ludwig became increasingly deaf by 1802 but continued to compose and perform, Beethoven died on March 26, 1827 in Vienna.

Fur Elise section in Beethoven's handwriting
One of my favorite compositions by Beethoven is Fur Elise (Bagatelle in A Minor). We bought a music sheet of it at the Museum shop and tucked into it is a couple of pages reproducing the original music sheet written by Beethoven. Not having any talent for putting musical notes into an original compositions, much less reading them, it is a wonder to me how anyone could have transcribed the original. My favorite of his sonatas are Pathetique 2nd movement and Moonlight and symphonies,  5th symphony in C minor and the 9th symphony in D minor which included the choral for Ode to Joy. Please press on titles to link and listen to the actual compositions.

While walking through the museum, the one thing that struck me is how the young handsome Beethoven was portrayed in pictures, paintings and sculptures as increasingly sulky, angry and  brooding as he got older. I think he felt cursed that as a musician and composer he turned deaf.    And yet, that did not stop him from composing masterful works and producing a body of work that would make him  one of the greatest musicians of any generation and whose music will continue to be admired and played now and in years to come.  As a giant in the realm of classical music, Beethoven's influence on all musical genres  is without question.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Lure of the Loreley

Typical Scene Along the Rhine River

Recently, we embarked on a self-driving tour of Germany arranged for us by Umfulana, a custom travel consulting company in Germany. Umfulana took care of  accommodations, which were top rate, and suggested options for routes and stops along the way. Our main goal was to travel to the more out of the way, less touristy areas of Germany and stay at a couple of medieval German castles. Our first stop was Cologne (Koln) and the plan was to drive south along the Rhine on the so-called Romantic Road to Rothenburg ob der Tauber and then follow the Castle Road to Heidelberg. Driving on one of Germany's infamous autobahns and watching cars whizzing by a dizzying speeds, we decided to continue on more local roads by diverting our direction towards the town of Boppard. Here we were able to drive at a more leisurely pace along farmlands, vineyards and hills along the Rhine.

The beauty of having your own car when travelling is that you can stop anywhere and anytime you want. The bad part is that no matter how great your directions  are, you do occasionally make the wrong turn and end up driving in circles and come close to throwing your GPS out the window.  But to me the surprise of ending up in quaint little hamlets where few tourists have been is a great trade off. During our drive, we spotted charming little villages along the banks of the Rhine dominated by the ubiquitous church steeple plus numerous castles along the way. On one of our earlier visits to Germany, we took a Rhine cruise where we saw the same scene from a boat and now, we are seeing them from a different vantage point and actually driving within the scenery itself. This whole area of the middle Rhine valley was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was very excited about that as my goal is to visit as many of the UNESCO sites as possible.
Overlooking the town of Boppard

Driving gave us the rare chance to stop at a promontory on a curve of a hillside which we thought was a great place for a break. So, we dug out some of our snacks from the trunk of the car and while indulging on meat pies and drinks, we took in the panorama of the Rhine River, the hills filled with vineyards in early stages of spring growth, the various water crafts working their way up and down the dark green waters and the town of Boppard, a little hamlet on the banks of the Rhine, dominated by the church steeple of Sankt Severius just below.

St. Severus is the main and largest church in Boppard. It is a 12th to 13th century building which is located off the market square. It features two tall towers, topped by black spires. Inside, you can find remains of an older church on the site. There is a baptismal font from the 5th century, and a pulpit from the former church. Also inside are a collection of impressive colourful wall paintings. The Triumphal Cross is also incredibly old, yet well preserved. (from www.agermanyattraction.com)
Sankt Severius

Triumphal Cross Altar
Baptismal Font

Wall Frescoes
Ceiling Frescoes

Miraculous Madonna and Child

Stone work outside church

After the brief respite, we followed the narrow winding road down to Boppard and decided to stop and visit the church and shop for souvenirs. After which, we were hungry again and asked the shopkeeper for suggestions for a quick bite and she suggested the bratwurst at the local butcher down the street. It was the best bratwurst I've ever tasted. We had a choice of beef or pork bratwurst mit brot (with roll) which were grilled and accompanied by some mustard. Along with the local beer, it was just perfect. So charmed by Boppard and not wanting to leave the town right away, we had some ice cream and joined the locals basking in the warm sun on a cloudless day at the little platz (plaza) flanked by a modern fountain in front of the Rathaus (Town Hall) and Sankt Severius. One note,  the fountain was surrounded by sculptures that were meant to be seats and one of them is sculpted in the form of a naked  female form which I thought was peculiar for a fountain on a church square.
Markt Platz (Market Plaza) with Fountain
The shops around Markt Platz
More Shops around Markt Platz

 Food offerings from the Butcher Shop

Shopping District

Our drive continued along the Rhine passing by similar villages as Boppard. Notable is St. Goar with the huge Rheinfels castle, started in 1245 by Count Diether V of Katzenelnbogen, lurking over it. We originally planned to take in a Rhine river cruise from St. Goar but our timing was not right so we decided to skip it and just check in at our hotel.
Rheinfels Castle above Sankt Goar

On our way to our hotel, we passed by the legendary Loreley rock and of course, had to stop to take pictures. The rock (more like a hill) is located on the narrowest part of the Rhine. The name Loreley is attributed to either the German "lurein ley" meaning murmuring rock due to amplified murmuring sound from the rock or "lauern ley' meaning lurking rock due to the many accidents in the area. Loreley is also the name of a water spirit (mermaid) of the Rhine who, according to lore, lured sailors to their doom. The many ballads and poems written about Loreley as well as Frantz Liszt musical composition Die Lorelei have contributed to its mystique and legend.

Loreley Rock

Click on picture caption to hear one of the more famous ones by Die Lorelei Heinrich Heine recited in German

In addition, here is the English translation by A.Z. Foreman

The Lorelei

I do not know what it means,
That I am so sadly inclined;
A fairy tale of old, it seems,
preoccupies my mind.
The air is cool and darkening,
And peacefully flows the Rhine,
The mountain top is sparkling,
The twilight sunbeams shine.
The fairest maid is reclining,
In wondrous beauty up there;
Her golden jewels are shining,
She combs her golden hair.
She combs it with a golden comb,
And therewith sings a song;
It casts a spell on the gloaming,
Melodious and strong.
The boatman in his little boat
is seized by wild delights;
He looks not upon the rocks,
looks only up to wondrous heights.
Both vessel and man before long
By the waves to their ends were flung;
And none of this if not for the song
The Lorelei had sung.

We continued our journey headed towards  another town on the banks of the Rhine named Oberwesel where on a hill towering over the town the Schonburg castle is located and which is also where we would be spending the night. I will tell you about this special place later.

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