Wednesday, 11 July 2007


Mariazell is I think my very favorite place in Austria. On Sunday we needed a day off from the moving, so we went to Mariazell.

Mariazell is Austria's major pilgrimage centre, and since the iron curtain fell, it has recovered a lot of its earlier importance for Eastern Europe as well.The Basilica there is absolutely beautiful. I've always loved it, but they have recently restored it, and the results are spectacular. The major difference is that they reopened windows, letting light in. At the same time they cleaned/repainted the walls and ceilings so that they are again white instead of blackened by candle soot. (They also no longer allow pilgrims to light candles in the basilica. Instead there is a candle grotto behind the church. Quiet and meditative last February, this week it was busy, and very hot. Every spot for a candle was taken. Or nearly so.)

When you enter the church you see the central chapel with the medieval wooden statue of Mary and the child, but if you go around that you see the lovely main altar. With the window behind it, and the gold and silver cleaned it is now visible and well worth seeing. The globe below the crucifix is again usable as the tabernacle. It is also a real globe, showing the geographical image of the world at the time it was made.

Even on weekdays you are likely to find a service of some kind going on. On Sunday it is not surprising that there was a Mass when I went in. I stayed for the rest of it, and it was just what I needed.

Afterwards I wandered about in the stalls that surround the entrance to the church selling candles, souvenirs, toys, ... I found one I didn't know before - one selling products from monasteries. I had a lovely talk with the shopkeeper, tasting some of the liquors, discussing the preparations for the Pope's visit in September, and generally enjoying myself. I left with three bottles in my bag. Do stop by 'Klosterschätze' at Stand 46 if you go. Much as I enjoy the stalls, it was nice having a change from the general run of them.

With my bag really heavy, I headed for a bench near the central fountain to wait for my menfolk. They had headed up the mountain on the cable car. Soon Steven arrived. He said that Jerry would be along soon, but was coming down the mountain on foot. Steven was full of the changes made to 'Holzknechtland' since he had last been there. He still loves the models of how wood was harvested in the region, and especially the working model with water and small logs. (See June 13). They had also gone up the Aussichtsturm - viewing tower and seen Schneeberg very clearly. Steven headed off to do some window shopping, and finally Jerry hobbled into view. He had fallen on the mountain and was in quite a bit of pain.

One of the other important sights of Mariazell is Pirker's. They make lebkuchen and other things for the physical needs of the pilgrims. Jerry rested from his adventure while Steven and I enjoyed the lebkuchen ice cream.

The best route from Vienna is Westautobahn to St. Pölten Süd and route 20 South. To get there by train take the train to St. Pölten and change to the narrow gauge railway. This takes a lot longer, but is a lovely trip, and highly to be recommended for the tunnels and views of the mountains.

The upshot of the day, unfortunately is that Jerry has a torn ligament in his left ankle. This week he is in a plaster cast. Monday it gets changed to an 'air cast' that should be more comfortable, and can be walked on, and even removed for bathing!

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Week 27 Project 14 Sampler

I finally finished the sampler last night! It's hanging in the stairway here at the apartment, but I'll move it to the house soon. I will also take a picture as soon as I unbury the camera from whereever it has gotten to. (Moving is creating real chaos everywhere. And I thought it was bad before!)

Anyway, it looks lovely. I really did finish the whole whitework alphabet. Not nearly as difficult as Linn made it sound - I found the border gave me more trouble. I changed a few of the letters - partly just becuase I thought they would look better my way, partly to fill up the two rows, as my sampler is a different width from hers.

At the bottom I added our new and old addresses in the first alphabet. That makes it a real momento of this year.