A scene from this year’s “Christkindl Market” in downtown Denver, Colorado — shelves of beer steins on sale at a vendor’s stall:
Oddly enough, it was only on a recent trip that we discovered that while the word stein is German, this style of beer mugs is only called a stein in English-speaking countries. Stein is an abbreviation of the German steingut (stoneware), the material they’re made of. But in Germany, bierstein (“beer stone”) is the term used for a scaly deposit built up in poorly-cleaned brewing vessels. A mug like one of these would be called a krug, or more properly a bierkrug.
So there’s your language lesson for the day, more about the “Christkindl Market” in subsequent posts.
…or of the Seven Years’ War, if you’re outside the U.S.
A few months back, we took a trip out to Ohio to visit some of my wife’s relatives. Near their corner of rural eastern Ohio, there’s a “Great Trail Festival” each autumn — with folks dressing up and (to some degree cooking) like frontier folk from centuries back. Part of the experience is a group of semi-local re-enactors portraying a skirmish from the French & Indian War.
Here, you see a French soldier on the left (who’s been “shot”) about to spring a surprise on a local colonist. Have to love the “French” gent’s expression…
On our recent trip to the Balkans, by far one of our favorite stops was the little walled town of Korćula in Croatia. Good food, friendly people, and some wonderful cultural sights — for instance, the ancient sword dance known as the Moreška.
The story behind the dance is timeless — there are good guys, and bad guys, and a young maiden caught in the middle. In this case, the good guys are the White King and his troops (once symbolic of Christians, later representing the Turks), and the bad guys are the Black King and his supporters (who have always represented the Moors).
In this scene, you see the White King (Osman, dressed in red) and the Black King (Moro) facing off — with the maiden Bula trying to stop the fighting. Bula is the white king’s fiancee, and the black king has kidnapped her, leading to a series of battles finally culminating in the white king’s victory and Bula’s happy return to her love.
The dance has roots dating back to conflict between Christians and Muslims in medieval Spain, and quickly spread throughout the Mediterranean. For centuries, many towns staged their own version of the Moreška — but usually just once every few years, and then on the given town’s patronal feast day. Over the years, the tradition disappeared from town after town until now, only Korćula stages it with any regularity. But the good news for visitors is that the town stages the dance every week, year ’round (and twice a week during the summer). The performers are all natives of Korćula, some with long and proud family histories of participation.
Should you ever get a chance to watch the show in person, I’ve got some tips for you:
Don’t use a flash
Sit in the seats opposite to the musicians, preferably on the center aisle, definitely near the front
Be prepared for low-light photography — I took this shot at 1/80 sec. to freeze any motion, which meant ISO 4000 and f/2.8
Recently, Topaz Software released the latest in their line of plugin and post processing software — Impression. The idea is that this software (which you can run stand-alone, or as a Photoshop plugin) can turn a photograph into something resembling a painting. And you can choose from approximations to any of a number of painting styles, with lots of things to tweak. It’s available at a discount through the end of the month, so I thought I should download it and a trial code and give it a spin.
My raw material was this shot of aspen trees turning — I took it last weekend down in the San Juan mountains thinking it’d make nice wallpaper for my various gadgets. Starting off with one of Impression’s “Van Gogh” presets and tweaking a bit, I rendered the original into this:
This past weekend, I happened to drive through the San Luis valley (south central Colorado), and so was able to wiggle a bit of free time loose in order to see sunrise at Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Sitting on a dune ridge, looking even further “up hill,” I thought this was a striking sight. A natural environmental abstract…