Travels & Traditions: The Palm Beaches, Florida - #1406


This is a photograph of me and my uncle Maxwell and my grandmother’s chicken soup. Most people have never seen me without a beard. I’m the one on the right.

Each year, as school was about to close for the Christmas vacation, my uncle would take me to The Palm Beaches. And let me tell you, time on the beach was awesome.

We’d make the trip here on a train called The Silver Meteor. It was the first diesel-powered streamliner to run between New York and Florida. Introduced in 1939, it took about 25 hours to make the trip. The train is still being run. These days, however, it’s operated by AMTRAK and takes two hours longer.

I loved those vacations and to honor that memory, I thought I’d introduce my youngest son Nicholas to a collection of cities and towns in South Florida known as The Palm Beaches.

Because you’re a good student. I was not such a good student. I wasn’t a bad student. But I wasn’t a great student either. I was kinda OK.

Henry Morrison Flagler was born in 1830 and became wealthy beyond my wildest dreams as one of the founders of Standard Oil.

He was also responsible for much of the development of Florida’s east coast.
Starting in the late 1880s, Flagler began to build what he called “The American Riviera.”
He put together a railroad that ran along the entire east coast of Florida. He also began building hotels, including the Palm Beach Inn, which in 1901 was renamed “The Breakers”.

Flagler was also involved in some ground braking legislation. His wife had been in a mental hospital for five years. Then in 1901, he persuaded the Florida Legislature to pass a law that said if you were incurably insane it was grounds for divorce. Now before you get excited, and you want to know more about this law, because you think you’re married to somebody whose elevator doesn’t go to the top floor, forget about it. The law was repealed a year later and Flagler was the only one who was divorced under that law.

After being granted the divorce, he remarried and with his new wife moved into his newly built home, known as Whitehall. These days Whitehall is the Flagler Museum. It’s a 75-room mansion that’s considered a National Historic Landmark and open to the public.

John Blades:
We’re in the grand hall of Whitehall. It's about five thousand square feet. So it's the largest room... single room of any home of this period. This was really built as a... to evoke a sense of temple to Apollo. So, you’d see this huge ceiling painting here.

Did they paint that on the ceiling?

No, they painted on canvas then put it on. That was typical of the time period.

This is the drawing room... and it's really the room that Flagler probably put more of himself into than any other room in Whitehall because it was going to be a room that his wife used most often.

Well, this is the Flagler Kenan Pavilion which the museum built a few years ago in order to house the railcar you see. The railcar is even older than Whitehall. It was built in 1886 for Flagler. It's one of his private railcars and railcars were a big deal back then. Railroads were a big deal. They were the biggest industry in the country at the time and it's one of the two cars he took down to Key West to celebrate the opening of the oversea railroad. The completion of the oversea railroad in 1912. 10,000 people turned out to welcome Flagler when he arrived in Key West... and it was really the... he basically said he could die happy at that point. He'd accomplish everything he had hoped to accomplish.

Extraordinary woodwork. It's good to be king.

Well this was the most luxurious form of travel back in those days. And we’re in the sitting room, which is where he could entertain his guests. It also doubled as a bit of an office or a study. There's a fold down desk here.


It's amazing it survived. It's great to see.

I feel the same way about me.

Ralph Norton was the head of the Acme Steel Company of Chicago, which at the beginning of the 20th century was one of America’s largest industrial corporations.

He had a sizable collection of art and when he retired and moved to The Palm Beaches in 1941, he decided to share his collection with the public. The result is The Norton Museum of Art, with over 7,000 works that concentrate on European, American and Chinese art.

Scott Bernarde:
And this exhibition which we call “Going Places,” focuses on the way designers have depicted transportation and developed transportation.

And you got old... great old footage.

Fantastic! Our curator put together great footage from old movies to show that the American public has always had a great romance related to moving around the country. Going places.

Flying wings.

Flying, trains, and of course the great American obsession with cars.

Oh, what’s this stuff?

Well... so, one of the most interesting things that has come up through Fred’s collection is that the marketing of cars, and especially car interiors in the case of these drawings were looking at here, had a great deal to do with fashion and they linked it to fashion. So, strangely the illustrators for these wonderful car interiors... and these are just prototypes for car interiors... these are the designers dreaming for what it might be... have in many cases shown beautiful women sort of hovering ghostlike in the background of these images. And so it talks about the... the tremendous connection between the automotive industry and fashion, making the cars fashionable... changing every year so the people have to buy new models.


So, these drawings are an example of drawings that ordinarily would have been lost. And in many cases the designers themselves... there were these great stories of them smuggling drawings out of the... out of the workroom because they were the intellectual property of GM or whoever they were working for.


And there was... people were so concerned back in those days that's someone... a secret might leak.

Ah, right.

A design element might leak... that they were often destroyed. So, these are in many cases very rare drawings. And these show ways of looking at... you know... the same car with different tail fins, with different headlights and things like that. So this was the way they studied them. And interestingly of course, now we do this all with computer. But, these are all real drawings done with marker, watercolor, pen and ink.

It’s beautiful. It’s a Cadillac.

Yea, fantastic Cadillac showing how glamorous and elegant the front of that grill could be.

During the 1920s, Addison Mizner was America’ s best-known architect.
He specialized in resort buildings that had a Mediterranean and Spanish Revival look and his favorite locations were in South Florida.

His buildings were well suited to the Florida climate and he soon became the favorite architect of the neighborhoods rich and not so famous. He even built his own factory to produce the tiles, stones, columns and wrought iron for his structures. Eventually he even manufactured the furniture for his buildings.

One of his classic structures is the Boca Raton Resort and Beach Club. 

It still has the feeling of a Mizner resort but it’s been updated to meet 21st century taste.

There are private docks, so you can tie up and stay as quests of the hotel either in the hotel rooms or on your yacht.

There are 11 different places to eat. MORIMOTO is their Japanese restaurant.

I once took a class in sushi making but I was never able to focus the ingredients in the very center of the rice. In fact, I was so bad, that I had to spend part of my summer in remedial sushi class.

LUCCA is the Italian Restaurant and the chef is Adam Pile.
One of his favorite dishes is Sweet Potato Gnocchi apples and onions.

BLUE identifies itself as having elevated American cuisine. Which makes perfect sense.
The restaurant is on the 23rd floor.

501 East is a restaurant devoted to burgers, salads, steaks and a great brunch.

The hotels spa is often rated by publications like Conde Nast as number one.
There trademark procedure is called the ritual baths.

I used to take a ritual bath every Saturday night when I a teenager whether I liked it or not.

My son Nicholas was particularly fascinated by the FlowRider, where he was given has first class in surfing.

I figured if it was so much fun for Nico, I’d give it a try.

The original property is on the intercostal water, but the hotel has a second half, which is on the beach. And you can travel between the two by boat.

1492, when Columbus arrived in the Americas, there where no horses. The first horses to arrive in what is now the United State where brought to Florida by Spanish explorers. They had an extraordinary impact on the local culture and they still do.

Each year, The Palm Beaches host an International Equestrian Festival.

Show jumping, and dressage demonstrated by the best riders in each class.
It’s a 12-week event that takes place on 140 acres of specially built facilities. It looks like polo got started in China or Persia about 2,000 years ago. The game was originally used to train cavalry. By the 1500s, it was being played throughout the eastern world. The British first saw it in India and Burma and in 1862, founded the first polo club. Private clubs have always been a big thing with the English. British officers and tea planters introduced the sport to the west.

John Wash:
We go every Sunday but we play other days of the week. Sunday’s game is the day with all the pomp and circumstance. So, we start out at the beginning of January and we go until the end of April.

The field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. There are two goalposts one at either end of the field and there are two teams. There are four players on each team, and each player rides one horse at a time. If a player is riding two horses at the same time it’s considered cheating.

The actual game is a lot like soccer. The objective is to drive the ball downfield and between the opponents goalposts. The game is divided into 6 seven and a half minute play periods called “chukkers.” When the ball passes between the goalpost a point is scored and the team switches to opposite end of the field.

If the team you are rooting for scores a point, you may have a glass of champagne. If you are not affiliated with either team, which is my case, you could have a glass of champagne no matter who scores. Now coach I’m ready!

The Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida is named after the man who opened the first automobile megadealership in Florida. His namesake stadium is the only stadium in Florida to host two Major League Baseball teams for their annual spring training: the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Over the years, I’ve noted that many of our famous sports teams are named after animals. Cardinals, Marlins, Bulls, Bears, Lions, Eagles, Dolphins, Seahawks. And in many cases these teams have earned the right to be named after these intelligent and sometimes aggressive creatures. Though in some cases, the more appropriate name would be “ The Turkeys.” I leave it to you to designate the deserving organizations.

Phil Foster was one of the earliest residents of The Palm Beaches and one of the first to build a tourist court.

For those unfamiliar with the term “tourist court” it refers to a facility similar to a motel and is in no way associated with the federal, state or local judicial system.

Foster lived for here for 32 years until he died in 1917. The park was opened in 1953 and dedicated to his memory.

You can rent kayaks, paddleboards and snorkeling gear. And more important, especially for me, you can also rent guides who will show you how to use the kayaks, paddleboards and snorkeling gear.

Actually, I’m a certified SCUBA diver. However, my wife has warned me that if I continue to dive in open waters, she is going to have me re -certified as a nutcase. And sadly it’s only one of many reasons she could use for my re-certification.

The parks Blue Heron Bridge area is recognized internationally by scientists, scuba divers, underwater photographers, and snorkelers for its unique marine life. There is a snorkeling trail of limestone boulders and prefabricated reefs that run for two acres in a zone where the water is only 6 to 10 feet deep.

Peter Friedman:
Let’s go ahead and get geared up and get in the water.

In todays performance, the part of the fearless dive team will be played by Nicholas Wolf and his mother who you may well not remember from the many Jacque Cousteau films in which they did not appear.

Peter Friedman:
A lot of folks consider this the premier shore dive not just in the United States but possibly the world. Part of it is ease of access... you have relatively shallow water but you have an incredible bio-diversity here. And then along that snorkel trail you have a lot of stuff that’s just basically come in here and developed a home... and it acts as a nursery of some sort for some of the other species of fish. Things like angel fish, rays, you’ll see eels down there as well. A lot of folks here come here specifically for sea horses. We also have a lot of aero crabs, we have the yellow rays that are very common in this area. And the bat fish here are also very popular, some you don’t see very commonly out in the reefs. This is one of the best places in the world to dive... but for folks who want ease of access, great bio-diversity, Palm Beach County has a lot of that.

Each winter, during what is officially know as “the season” Palm Beach holds an antique jewelry and art show at the Convention Center. The season is a reference to the period of time during which the famous, infamous and just us folks come to the area to enjoy the climate both meteorologically and socially.

The Antique Jewelry & Art Show fills the Convention Center with exhibitors who have something to sell and visitors looking for something to buy or just looking.

Scott Diament:
Collectors, interior designers, art advisors, museum curators fly in from all over the world... all at one place all at one time, to be here in Palm Beach. Now what make’s it very special and really unlike any other event in the world is that we have a combination of wealth, the wealth that’s cultured, the wealth that collects, and wealth that you can basically walk from your front door to this convention center.

In 1906, at the age of 19, George Morikami emigrated from his native Japan to Palm Beach, Florida. He came here to join the Yamato Colony, which was an experimental Japanese farming community.

In exchange for the cost of his passage and a little spending money he had agreed to work for three years. At the end of which he was to receive $500 and a little bit of land. His plan was to sell the land take the money and head back to Japan. But, his sponsor died and he never got the land and he never got the money so he kept on working. Towards the end of the Second World War he was able to buy his own piece of land, which he farmed for 30 years.

In 1973, he donated his 200-acre farm to Palm Beach County, who turned it into a center for Japanese arts and culture. There are galleries with changing exhibits, a classic Japanese garden, a bonsai garden, a library, and a gift shop.

I actually filmed here many years ago and I bought a bathrobe and now that I’m back I’m gonna buy another one, what do you think? I was also going to buy a headband to hold my hair back but umm I don’t have that much hair anymore.

They also have an excellent Japanese restaurant.
This is a photograph that was taken many years ago when I first filmed here. It shows the chief and his wife. And they are still here. And their cooking is better than ever. We had two bento boxes --- a classic and a vegetarian. Baked mussels with an herbed mayonnaise. Yellow tail sashimi on a bed of seaweed salad. And Crab Cakes and Bang Bang shrimp. Awesome.

Depending on when you are visiting Palm Beaches, you might enjoy a free concert or Opera at the Meyer Amphitheater on the Intracoastal Waterway. Stretch out on a blanket, open your picnic basket, pop a cork and listen to some of the great operatic arias.

For the past few years I’ve been living in Switzerland. And when you say culture in Switzerland it is usually a reference to cheese because in fact they make some of the greatest cheeses in the world. But if you say culture in The Palm Beaches, it’s usually a reference to the Kravis Center For The Performing Arts. In which I have uh... apparently attracted a smaller audience than I had hoped for.

Starting in the 1950s, the resident of this area became interested in building a facility for the performing arts. In 1985, after 35 years of unsuccessfully trying to raise the necessary funds, Alexander Dreyfoos began a private fundraising initiative with a gift of one million dollars from his company, the Photo Electronics Corporation/WPEC TV-12.

Much of Mr. Dreyfoos’s work has been in the area of photograph and television production. In fact his Video Color Negative Analyzer won an Academy Award and many of his inventions are on permanent display in Smithsonian.

Being technically impaired, I have no idea of what a Video Color Negative Analyzer does, but my friends tell me it’s very important.

Raymond F. Kravis was a prominent Oklahoma geologist who wintered in The Palm Beaches. Shortly after the Dryfoos gift, a group was formed to raise additional funds and name the center in honor of their friend Mr. Kravis.

Judy Mitchell:
It was a community wide effort, it took the leadership of Mr. Dreyfoos and a very dedicated group of board members who really mobilized the community to fund this preforming art center.

Today, it is known as the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and it presents an extraordinarily wide selection material. 

And finally, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. Originally built in the mid-1800s, it’s 153 feet above sea level and can be seen for 24 nautical miles.

That assumes that the weather is clear and you’re wearing your glasses with the new prescription. They chose this place because it looked like an ideal spot for military defense. And in fact that turned out to be the truth.

In 1940, a navy radio detection station was set up. It was a secret installation designed to intercept German U-boat radio messages and inform US forces as to where the enemy subs could be found and demolished. In May 1943, 30 German submarines were destroyed and in June another 37.

I heard, that if the installation was still in operation, it might have been able to detect the fraudulent and totally disgraceful emission system in the Volkswagen cars.

That’s Travels & Traditions in The Palm Beaches.
Thanks you uncle for making this part of my life. And thank you Nicholas for joining me.
I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Sailing The Danube - #1405

Europe’s Danube River beings in southwest Germany and flows through nine countries until it empties into the Black Sea. It runs for almost 2,000 miles making it the second longest river in Europe. The longest is the Volga in Russia. The most famous waltz written by Strauss, describes the river as the Blue Danube, which leads me to the conclusion that Strauss would never have passed the color chart test for a drivers license. The river is brown or brownish-yellow because the current is constantly stirring up the lime and mud on the riverbed.

Nuremberg is in the German state of Bavaria. Bavaria covers all of southeastern Germany and is the nation’s largest state. But Bavaria is also a state of mind. It’s Europe’s epicenter for partying and its held that title for over 500 years. During the 1500s, the rulers of Bavaria spent so much money building magnificent churches and palaces that they almost ran out of cash. Nuremberg Castle dates back to the Middle Ages. From 1050 to 1571, every emperor of the Holy Roman Empire spent part of their reign in the Nuremberg Castle. Many of the rooms have their original paneling and are furnished with paintings, tapestries and furniture from the 15 and 1600s. For thousands of years, if you were looking for a safe place to build your castle you need a spot that was high enough so you could see what was happening around you and to make it difficult for your enemies to get near. You also had to have a dependable source of water, particularly if your castle was under siege. The shaft of the Nuremberg castle well was driven through 50 yards of sold rock.

The castle was built in stages on a sandstone hill on the north side of Nuremberg’s old city. The German emperors never had a home base. They moved around the country from one castle to another, but the castle at Nuremberg was a favorite and they appear to have spent more time there than anywhere else. The local government of Nuremberg was responsible for the cost of maintaining the castle, but in exchange they had the right to live there when the emperor was out of town. Hey Moe, it’s Curley. Barbarossa just left for his summer place. The castle is ours till September. Let’s get in today. In order to find a new source of revenue, the chief accountant for the Duke of Bavaria suggested that instead of buying beer from an out-of-state brewery, a royal brewery be set up right in Munich and it was a great idea. It kept all the cash in town and resulted in the introduction of the first Hofbrauhaus.

The beer is served in a liter mug called a mass. If you are the designated driver you might skip the mass and have a radler, which was designed for people going about on bicycles. It’s half beer and half lemonade. After our beer break, we headed into Nuremburg to tour the city. Nuremburg got rich during the 12th and 13th centuries as a commercial and craft center and the undeclared capital of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 1400s, it became a favorite city for artists living in northern Europe. The most famous was Albrecht Durer who was born in Nuremberg in 1471. For anyone interest in the history of art the Durer House is fascinating. It is a half-timbered building that was constructed in the 1400s, and is the only completely preserved Gothic house in the city. Exhibits inside the house are devoted to Dürer's life and works. A series of large woodcuts illustrating the Revelations of St. John was an immediate success. The horrors of doomsday had never been visualized with such power. Durer’s St. Michael is not standing in a traditional pose. This is real hand-to-hand combat between good and evil. Durer clearly had a fantastic imagination and the ability to present it in his works. But he was also devoted to the beauty of nature. His drawing of a hare makes the point. And so does his painting of a small patch of earth.

Nuremberg was at the center of the European trade routes and by the early 1600s, it was at the height of its economic and cultural development, but nothing lasts forever and by the early 1800s it was broke. My immediate assumption was that its decline was the result of an early form of credit default swap. But in fact, it was caused by Columbus. After the discovery of America, world trade routes shifted from the land to the sea. Nuremburg began to deteriorate. And Protestants killing Catholics and Catholics killing Protestants for 30 years during the Thirty Year’s War didn’t help either. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 1800’s, when the German railroads were being built that Nuremburg made a comeback as an industrial powerhouse.

Our next stop was Regensburg. Like most of the towns in Western Europe, Regensburg began as a Celtic settlement that dates back to about 500 BC. When the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius came through he took over the area and made it his power center for the upper Danube.

The Regensburg Cathedral, dedicated to St. Peter is a prime example of the Gothic architecture of southern Germany. Ribbing that reduces the weight of the roof. Arches that allowed for the introduction of larger windows. Buttressing that made it possible to build larger and taller churches than ever before. The dark heaviness that was typical of the earlier churches gave way to the light open warmth of the Gothic. These structures were meant to illustrate the wealth and influence of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. It was built on the site of the north gate of an ancient Roman fort.

The Romans were great judges of real estate. When they saw something in a good spot, they took it. Even it if it needed a little work. Regensburg sustained little damage during the Second World War and many of its ancient structures are still standing. It’s most famous is the Stone Bridge that was built in 1146 on the base of 16 huge arches. It’s been in continual use for over 800 years. At the base of the bridge is a little house where sausages are cooked and served at nearby tables. This simple outdoor restaurant was actually set up in the 12th century to feed the men who were working on the bridge.

Next, we sailed through the Danube Gorge. It’s only a 20 minute trip on a small tour boat but it passes through some of the most interesting scenery in Europe. Millions of years ago, during what Stephen Spielberg made famous as the Jurassic period, the Danube carved its course through the hard limestone rock of the Swabian Alps. At some points the river is only 350 feet wide with cliffs on either side that are 250 feet high. There are a number of rock formations on the walls that have been given special names. There’s the Bishops Mitre, the Beehive and Napoleon’s Suitcase. Unless you live in the neighborhood or have just finished 3 or 4 shots of the local brandy these forms maybe a bit hard to recognize. The area is also filled with ancient fossils, present company excluded. In fact, the oldest musical instrument, a flute carved from the tusk of a mammoth that dates back over 37,000 years was found in the Swabian Alps. Over the centuries rain has slowly been dissolving the entire mountain range. It’s loosing about 2 inches a year. So you better get here as fast as you can.

Salzburg means salt castle, which is a reference to the nearby salt mines. For centuries salt was the best way to preserve food through the winter and it was extraordinarily valuable. It was what made Salzburg important. People have been living here since the 5th century BC. When Rome collapsed so did Salzburg. But during the 8th century, St. Rupert put Salzburg back on the map. Apparently, Rupert had the only good map and he put on whatever he wanted. Today, Salzburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and the old town has many of its original baroque buildings. During the 1600s, Italian architects were invited to work in the city and the most beautiful squares and buildings were the result of their work. It’s most famous building, however is at Getreidegasse number 9, where on the 27th of January 1756, at 8 O’clock in the evening Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and cried his first note. (Baby Cries) It was a C sharp.

Getreidegasse is the main shopping street and it’s lined with dozens of shops. One of my favorite spots in Salzburg is the restaurant St. Peter. It was built into the walls of a mountain and is considered to be one of the oldest, still functioning restaurants in Europe. We all went there for lunch. As the Danube River runs west from the Austrian city of Vienna it passes through some of the most picturesque scenery in Europe. For over 35,000 years people have been living on these shores. They were originally attracted to the area because of the mild climate and the ideal conditions for farming. The ancient Romans occupied the region and when Christianity became the official religion of Rome the local population slowly gave up its pagan beliefs and built dozens of monasteries on the hills. 

But a monastery was not just a center for religious activities. The monks were skilled craftsmen, architects, and technicians. They set up permanent facilities that organized the peasants and showed them how to improve their farming, how to build better houses and upgrade the construction of roads and bridges. When a ruler donated land and money for the creation of a monastery it may or may not have improved the rulers’ value to the Almighty but it was definitely a mighty improvement in the value of the lands that the ruler ruled.

The town of Melk was founded as a Roman garrison at the point where the Melk River joins up with the Danube about 50 miles west of Vienna. In the year 976 the Emperor of Germany chose the Babenberg family to rule the neighborhood, which they did from a series of fortified castles. The castle at Melk was their most important stronghold and became the cradle of Austrian history. The Babenbergs decided to bury their ancestors at Melk and to make sure that the family burial site was cared for properly they set up a monastery inside the castle. The Babenbergs ruled for just over 100 years, at which point the castle and the surrounding lands were turned into a Benedictine monastery and Benedictine monks have been living and working here ever since. For centuries Melk was able to support itself with taxes from the local peasants and a profitable agricultural program on its own land. These days, however, the major source of income is tourism. Each year almost five hundred thousand people visit Melk.

St. Benedict’s motto was pray, work and read and the physical structure of Melk is designed to serve these functions. Up until that time monks were primarily hermits living separately in huts and caves. St. Benedict did that for a while but then he decided that monks should be together in a community. The Benedictine model is to bring people together in a life of holiness, but at the same time it should be a life of wholeness. He promoted a balanced personality of work, spiritual life, and intellectual advancement. The Benedictine communities became an oasis of learning within Europe, an oasis that preserved the idea of scholarship that was so much a part of the European tradition. The Rule of St. Benedict requires that nothing be more important than the worship service and the Melk Abbey church clearly reflects that instruction. Work on the church began at the beginning of the 1700s, under the direction of Abbot Dietmayr. Dietmayer decided that the subject matter of the artwork should be based on the idea that without a just battle there is no victory. And that theme is reflected throughout the interior.

Vienna was built at the crossroads of two major trade routes. The north-south axis was the Amber Road that went from Northern Germany to Greece. The east-west traffic was handled by the Danube River. The Danube was essential for the growth of international trade. Vienna got rich because the city controlled the traffic heading down river. And Vienna was controlled by the Hapsburgs. The Hapsburg family came to power at end of the 1200s and hung onto it for almost 700 years. This is Schonbrunn Palace, it was their summer place. Now, most royal families increased their land and their power by using military might, but the Hapsburgs used marriage. It all started when Maximilian married Mary, the daughter of the

Duke of Burgundy, which added the Netherlands and Luxembourg to his lands in Austria. Then Max’s son Phil married Joan, the heiress of Castile. And that got him Spain and Naples and Sicily and Sardinia and all the newly conquered Spanish lands in the Americas.
These guys were getting married all over the place and getting all the places where they got married. But at one point they made a fatal mistake. In order to avoid anybody marrying a Hapsburg and getting their land they started marrying each other--- a genetic disaster. It’s good to have a close family but not that close.
Swimming in the same gene pool made them weirder and weirder and in the end they lost everything. Fortunately, what they lost is now on display to the public.

Robert Tidmarsh has been a senior guide to Schonbrunn Palace for over twenty years. Tidmarsh: This room is the so called Marie Antoinette Room; it dates back to the time of the Emperor. What we've done is to try to show the public what a dining room was like at the time of the Emperor.
The napkins are the so called Kaiser Serviette. They're shaped similar to a fleur d'lys, and they were used, or are used for the head of state.
Even today when we have a state reception, if the President of Austria gives the reception then they will use the Kaiser Serviette. If it's the Chancellor, then they don't.
The Master of Ceremonies chose the length of the candles. So if it was going to be a long reception he would use long candles, if it was going to be a short reception, the short ones. Most of the people that came to a state reception were Austrians that had been to thousands of receptions before, and they would automatically look at the chandeliers to see how long the reception was going to take. The Emperor ate very quickly, which is not quite true. If he did, he would have looked like me. He ate very little and finished very quickly, and that led to a problem. As soon as the Emperor stopped eating everybody else was obliged to stop.

Most of the restaurants near to the Schonbrunn or near to the Hofburg or the hotels, knew about the problem. They knew that the reception would be over very quickly, and they were getting ready for the end of the reception. And the end of the reception would have been that moment, as soon as the Emperor stopped eating and everybody left the Hofburg or Schonbrunn and went to the next best hotel for a meal.

The last day of the cruise was was spent in Budapest, which is actually made up of three cities: Buda, Pest and Obuda. These days Budapest is a peaceful, beautiful and culturally interesting city, which has managed to hold on to much of its history while adapting to the needs of a modern capital. This is the Castle Hill area. The capital of Hungary was originally a few miles up the river on a flat plain that was almost impossible to defend. During the middle of the 1200s, the Mongol Tartars, who had become wealthy as a result of their invention of tartar sauce, invaded the town and destroyed it. So the next time a town was built in the neighborhood it was put up on a steep hill. Good move, safer neighborhood. The hill is about 200 feet high and about 5,000 feet long and it holds an entire city district filled with historic houses. The district also contains the Mathias Church. The original church on this site was put up in 1255 for use by the German residents of Buda. At the time it was known as the Church of Our Lady but people started calling it the Mathias Church after it was used for the first wedding of King Mathias in 1463. Mathias used it again for his second wedding to Beatrice of Naples. And I’m sure if he had a third wedding he would have been here too. He loved getting married in this Church and he was getting a fabulous deal from the florist.

Next to the church is an equestrian statue of St. Stephen who converted to Christianity in the year 1,000 and became the first king of Hungary. There is a story that the number of legs connected to the ground on an equestrian statue is related to the way in which the rider died: one hoof raised means the rider was wounded in battle; two hooves raised means death in battle. All four hooves on the ground means the rider survived all battles unharmed.

This is a popular story but not always true. It depends on when and where the statue was made and who made it. Behind the statue is an area known as the Fishermen’s Bastion. During the 1200s each group of tradesmen were responsible for defending a part of the city wall and this was the part defended by the fishermen. The spot has a great view of the Danube and Pest. The building that dominates the Pest bank is the Parliament. Well, that’s river cruising on the Danube. For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Hong Kong - Part One - #1401

Burt Wolf:

Hong Kong is a major commercial and cultural center with considerable influence throughout the world. It is a very modern city that’s continually being built up. Up being the operative word. Yet it has maintained much of what is traditionally Chinese. Which makes it attractive to tourists.

We came to Hong Kong to see what it looks and feels like to have tomorrow being built on top of a 5,000 year old culture

Hong Kong is clearly a modern world-class city. But its contemporary sophistication is supported by centuries of Chinese history. You’ll find an ancient temple. And across the street a starred Michelin Restaurant.

Antique junks sail through the harbor powered by Mercedes diesel engines. As I walked through the streets of Hong Kong, one of the first things I noticed was the enormous amount of signage. It’s like Vegas or Time Square on steroids. And like just about everything else in Hong Kong, you can see the evolution of something ancient into something modern.

Hong Kong has a number of markets in a layout that has been around for thousands of years. Streets filled with open shops where you can easily see what’s for sale. Communication takes place through direct contact. You can see, smell and often touch what is being offered.

When the ancient market became Main Street the products moved behind windows. You couldn’t touch or smell the stuff, but you could look at it. And because you were walking along a street you could stop and control the amount of time and attention you devoted to what was being offered.

These days, most of the merchandise is inside a store, and hundreds of stores are built right next to each other. People are moving through the area inside a car or they are walking quickly on a crowded street, and more and more they are distracted by some form of hand held device.

In that environment, if you want to tell people about a product a huge and dramatic sign does a great job. It’s intense during the day and even more so at night.

This is the Hong Kong Goldfish Market --- block after block lined with shops that sell goldfish. During the Tang Dynasty, starting in the 600’s, people began the selective breeding of carp that had a genetic mutation. The result was a golden fish, and for over a thousand years they have played a role in Chinese culture.

Goldfish are valued for their extraordinary colors, elegant swimming style and quiet temperament. These days there are over 300 different varieties of goldfish. I understand they can be taught to swim in a line, swarm together for feeding, and appreciate the songs of the Rolling Stones --- especially, I CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION.

Goldfish are a recurring theme in Chinese art. They represent wealth and success, but they also send a signal that it is possible for anyone to achieve whatever they want. If you don’t have an actual goldfish living in your home, the next best thing is a painting of a goldfish. It is considered to have the same effect with a reduced level of maintenance.

The harbor area in Hong Kong is named after Queen Victoria and it dominates the landscape, just like she did. The harbor is a very deep, sheltered waterway --- one of the world’s great natural harbors. In fact, as I was looking out the window of my room, I caught a shot on my iPhone of the Queen Elizabeth sailing through.

The harbor separates the island of Hong Kong from the part of the city that sits on the mainland and is called Kowloon. Its strategic location in the South China Sea made it a major trading center. Today, the harbor offers the most spectacular views of Hong Kong Island from one side and Kowloon from the other. For over a hundred years, the Star Ferry has been running around the harbor. It’s part of the city’s public transportation system, but it’s also a major attraction for tourists. There’s a ferry that runs up and back between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. That’s the commuter.

They also have a ferry that tours the harbor. In English, the word “junk” is used to refer to certain types of bonds and other financial instruments of questionable value, the contents of most kids rooms and clearly everything my Aunt Margaret brings home from the flea market. In China, the word ‘junk” means sailing ship, and it has a very particular and highly successful design that was originally developed over 2,000 years ago. In Hong Kong, a company called Aqualuna offers harbor cruises on a Chinese junk. The ship is a replica of a 19th century design that was used by a local pirate who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Apparently, income inequality was one of his major concerns. It’s one of the few remaining red sail junks and everyday it sails around the harbor. The tour takes about 45 minutes. Each of the sails on a junk has a series of horizontal bamboo strips that run from one side of the sail to the other. They are called battens. At the edge of most of the battens is a rope that allows the crew to control the shape of the sail. The sail plan on a junk also allows one sail to direct the wind into another sail, which makes it possible for the ship to move in more directions and handle better in heavy winds and rough seas. The interior of a junk is divided into separate compartments like a stick of bamboo. Those divisions help prevent flooding and give the hull greater strength. Chinese junks also used stern-mounted rudders hundreds of years before the west.

The phrase feng shui translates as “wind and water”. It is an ancient system for balancing the forces of nature. When feng shui is correct the spirits are happy. But if you have too much feng and not enough shui and you’re in big trouble.

One of the most extraordinary examples of feng shui is Hong Kong’s InterContinental Hotel. During the early stages of its construction a feng shui master was called in to make sure everything in the plan was properly balanced. In general, the design was OK. But the architects were from San Francisco and completely unaware that nine very powerful dragons lived nearby and the hotel was going to block the route they used everyday to go for a swim in the harbor. Fortunately, dragons can easily pass through glass, so all the builders needed to do was put in a row of glass doors at the entrance of the hotel and a big glass wall on the other side of the lobby that looks out on the harbor. Actually, there are eight regular dragons and so there are eight glass doors. The ninth dragon is the emperor who lives with the dragons but tends to bath separately. The feng shui master also suggested that the hotel’s reception desk be placed between the glass doors and the glass wall, which allows the dragons to drop off some of their wealth before they hop in the bay. These days, it serves the same function for the hotel guests.The collaboration between the feng shui master and the architects had some amazing results. In order to avoid blocking the dragon’s route the lobby lounge was created and turned out to be one of Hong Kong’s great spaces. All of the walls had to be aliened with the forces of nature, which had the side effect of giving the rooms a knockout view of the harbor and Hong Kong. The hotel’s Presidential Suite is considered to be one of the world’s most luxurious. In it’s double height living room is a grand piano. U.S. President Harry Truman was an excellent piano player. He would have loved this place. I always identify with presidential suites, you see when I was in the 4th grade I was the class president. Unfortunately I spent most of the term fighting a politically motivated attempt to have me impeached.

In 1900, the tire manufacturers Andre and Edouard Michelin decided to publish a guide for French motorists. At the time, there were only about 3,000 cars on the roads of France and their hope was that their guide would promote the sale of cars and the Michelin tires they road on. During the 1920s, they decided that restaurants should be included in the guides and they hired a bunch of inspectors to make sure only the best restaurants got into their books, with the exception of their cousin Pierre’s place in Leon which really wasn’t very good, but it was a cousin and you know when it’s family the rules change. In 1931, they introduced a rating system based on stars. One star meant it was a very good restaurant. Two stars indicated a level of cooking that warranted a detour from your planned itinerary.

A restaurant with three stars implied a gastronomic level so high that even if you planning on staying in your hotel room and watching reruns of Downton Abbey (or whatever the equivalent was in 1931) you should get up, get in your car (the one with the Michelin tires) and drive to the restaurant.

These days, Hong Kong has more Michelin starred restaurants than any other city in the world with equal population density In fact, three of them are within 50 yards of each other. The Steak House is a wine bar and grill that has been awarded a Michelin star. Its steaks come from the United States, Australia, Canada and Argentina and they are cooked on a charcoal grill. The wine cellar has over 3,000 bottles representing more than 500 labels. But their specialty is the big bottle.

One of the very unusual things about this steak house is that you get to choose the knife you are going to use to cut your steak

Guest: So we offer of the steel one, the powerful with the handle, they differ in the sizes as well so when you enjoy the steak, you’re more enjoyable

Burt: And I can pick whatever one I want? and I’ll get a fresh one

Guest: Can Do.

Burt: The other thing they have that I liked a lot, 12 mustards

Guest: Two of them is very strong. It’s like the mustard with the horseradish also the difficulty of the english mustard. The other is a Dijon mustard, the pomme mustard. and also we have onion, green pepper corn, garlic, chili, herbs, balsamic, grapes, horseradish, and also the honey and dill.

Burt: That’s awesome. They also have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 different salts that I can put on my steak or my baked potato or whatever I want. Okay let’s go get a steak.

Guest: Thank You

Burt: Spoon is a Michelin one-star created by Alain Ducasse, the peripatetic French chef.

tSo Today I will do a recipe of pasta so we have two different kinds of dough

Stephane Gortina is the executive chef and he prepared two of his favorite dishes. Homemade pasta with green asparagus and black truffles. And a Cook pot of seasonal vegetables and fruit.

Stephane: So me and my recipe, I decided to do the pasta round. So just we will cut it. So basically I will use only the head of the asparagus for this recipe. This part of course we don’t throw away we keep and we can do a soup ,we can do a puree we can do a lot of things with this part of the asparagus. When you have this part, we use to say epicote remove this part. Red small baby red onion

Burt: I’ve never seen those, a baby red onion

Stephane: Yes

Burt: Far Out

Stephane: Here you will see so we will start with with olive oil, we sweat a little bit of asparagus, we add the onion and we will deglaze with stock so meat is a is a chicken stock

Burt: Okay

Stephane: and when it is Boiling, now we will add our pasta inside

Burt: so different, really interesting

Stephane: Yes

Burt: Because it’s fresh dough it will cook in a minute?

Stephane: Yes it is cooking very very fast. and now you will see them to cook, we will reduce the juice, and every thing will cook together, and all the flavor will stay together. We just missed one thing and that is the truffle. You must to try every time for the seasoning.

Burt: Sure

Stephane: So we have our puree pot. Just I will put at the bottom, so just we will put like this

Burt: Fabulous

Stephane: We will put the juice on what was the inside. Please take a spoon and try

Burt: Mmmm It’s the dish my grandmother never made. We put the finished pasta dish on a table so we could come back later and shoot what we call the beauty shot. However, while we were filmeing, my son ate it. Yan Toh Heen means the place you like to hangout with the great view It has been awarded two stars by Michelin and is considered to be one of the best Chinese restaurants in the world.
Its signature dish is Peking Duck.
The recipe starts with the duck being boiled in water for a while.
Then the duck hangs around in the kitchen for a day or two.
Then it gets roasted in the oven and basted with hot oil
At your table, the skin is sliced off, placed on a freshly cooked pancake and dressed with an assortment of vegetables and sauces.

Many restaurants have a sommelier that advises guests on the selection of wines. This restaurant has a sommelier that advises guests on the selection of tea and which tea goes with which food.I couldn’t cover the restaurant scene in Hong Kong without visiting Nobu.

The Nobu restaurants feature a style of Japanese cooking reminiscent of the countryside in Japan where Nobu grew up.

Years ago, I worked on a great book about cooking equipment called The Cooks’ Catalogue ,and Nobu wrote the section on Japanese equipment. I’ve been a fan ever since. Sean Mell is the executive chef here and he’s going to make two dishes.
The first is Foie Gras with Pickled Cherry on Homemade Boa Toast
The second is Baked King Crab Leg in Sea Urchin Butter

Sean: This is just a house made boa blend. and boa is typically when you are in Asia, and China you get the pork cha sou stuffed inside the boa. I think It’s steamed.

Burt: Yeah

Sean: So same idea only thing that we are doing here is not filling it with anything. Later after it’s steamed and cooled down we’ll use these as actually a play on if you would get a Foie Gras and brioche, at a french restaurant

Burt: right

Sean: So this is I guess just more asian, more Japanese feel to it. Just to kind of ensure they get the smoothness on top we roll them out and then you kind of fold them in and under.

Burt: Got it

Sean: So it kinda tightens the top

Burt: Okay

Sean: See how it kind of smoothes it out? Gets a little flat. And then you just want to pat it down

Burt: I have a distinct feeling I am going to be in remedial dough making

Sean: (chuckles) This is the boa after it is done. These have been steamed already

Burt: Okay

Sean: They are soft, and then once we start cooking these they will actually get softer. So it will soften up quite a bit. This is our foie gras we imported from France, it’s rougie foie so very high quality, very good. In the mean time, this is actually our sweet onion sauce that we got here were gonna start reducing. So this make in house as well. Start off with caramelized onions we deglaze a little sake, a little soy, some mirin, this actually gets a ah cooked in a wagu fat as well, the sweet onion sauce.

Burt: So you just sauté that for a minute or two?

Sean: Yes just a minute just to kinda get the outside charred. We actually start these in the pan where it is a little bit cold still. The reason being is you know you want the boa to get nice and crispy on the outside. Now the boa are just toasted to our liking. Nice little golden brown. We will start building our mini boa here.

Burt: Wow does that smell good

Sean: Thank You. And then this is just a little bit of micro chervil. Gonna to give it a little bit of herbaceousness A little extra balance there. and that is the foie gras toasted boa.

Burt: Fabulous
And this is the Hong Kong Jade Market. It’s made up of a series of booths selling things made of jade and an assortment of souvenirs.Jade has been an important element in Chinese culture for at least 6,000 years. There are two basic types of jade. One is nephrite. The more iron it contains the greener the color. The second is jadeite. It is softer than nephrite and much more difficult to find. We think of jade as being green, but it actually comes in a number of colors including white and black. the Chinese consider jade to be more valuable then gold.
My favorite jade dealer at the Hong Kong market is Alice at stand #148.
Good jade and good English.

Burt: It’s my understanding that different forms of Jade can protect you and help you with things with your life. We’d like to pick out two things. One to protect Nicholas, one to protect me

Alice: You have looking. This one is a different year with a Chinese

Burt: Oh horoscope

Alice: Yes

Alice: What year are you?

Nicholas: Mine is 2005 so the rooster

Alice: Ah rooster Ok rooster is a happy life

Burt: And I am the Year of the Tiger

Alice: Oh Tiger is a long life and good health. This one is a rooster and it’s very nice. Very fun very heavy. And then you have looking the tiger. Tiger is a very stronger. Tiger is a good health and long life. Is very good.

Burt: you want to put it in your pocket or do you want to hang it?

Nicholas: I want something I can wear around my neck

Alice: You have looking very pretty, the rooster

Nicholas: So many different shades of green and light

Alice: Yeah It’s very nice and very pretty

Burt: A friend, who lives in Hong Kong, told me that if you have a jade charm and it breaks, you should be pleased. It means that a piece of bad luck was heading towards you, and the jade protected you by taking the hit.
Over the centuries jade has come to be associated with immortality, beauty, courage, wisdom, justice, and compassion.
A white jade charm is thought to give the wearer special skills, including the ability to accurately forecast the failure rate of mortgage-backed securities.
Apparently, no one at Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s or Fitch Ratings were aware of this bit of folklore.
Well thats Hong Kong. It’s kind of like a layer cake.
The Base is 5,000 years of Chinese culture
and there’s a mid-section of modern.
And a light dusting of the future on top.
For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf

Travels& Traditions: Cruising the Adriatic Sea - #1306

When it comes to container ships, The Mediterranean Shipping Company is the world’s largest. It operates 426 ships that sail between every major port in the world.

It was founded in 1970, when Gianluigi Aponte bought a second-hand ship and started shipping stuff from the Mediterranean to Somalia. At one point, they decided that if they could take care of millions of tons of delicate cargo, they could take care of a few delicate passengers and so they started a division that operated tour ships. Their ships cruise the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, South America, Africa, and the Red Sea. The company is still independent and wholly owned by the family. It continues to expand, but not through mergers or acquisitions, they just put the kids to work.  I noticed that one of its cruises had an itinerary that matched my interest in the history of Venice.

The cruise starts in Venice, then goes on to the city of Bari on the east coast of Italy. At that point it crosses the Adriatic Sea and visits Montenegro, Greece, Turkey, Malta, Sicily and Rome. The trip ends in Genoa.

During the 5th century, Attila the Hun and his Mongol hordes marched down the coast of Italy destroying everything and everyone in their path. But in fact, there weren’t many Mongols in the horde. The Mongols were mostly an officer corp and the horde was primarily made up of local tribes who thought it was cool to hangout with Attila.

At one point, a group of insightful individuals decided that it was time to get out of the line of fire and they moved to a cluster of nearby islands. Eventually those islands became the city of Venice.  The islands had virtually no land for farming, but they were perfectly situated to become a center for trading.  As a result, the key to power for Venice was their control of the major ports in the Eastern Mediterranean.

For over 500 years the Republic of Venice fought a running battle with the Greeks and the Turks trying to control the area. They were also in constant competition with Italian city of Genoa, whose citizens where interested in controlling the same trade. This cruise literally traces that history.

The Venetians were famous for building great ships. The high-sided cogs were the bulk carriers of the Venetian trade. Kind of like the container ships of MSC. The Venetian war galleys were low, sleek and fast. And the Bucintoro was the lavish ship of the ruler of Venice.

The MSC cruise division is definitely into “the lavish”. The ship we sailed on was THE MSC DIVINA.  You come on board at DECK 5. There’s the reception area, a bar and a Cyber Café with 14 computer stations. The Black Crab is the ship’s main restaurant. It’s split over two decks. The overall style is art deco. DECK 6 is named after Zeus, the most powerful of the Greek gods. The central element on deck 6 is the Piazza del Doge. For hundreds of years, the Doge was the most powerful person in Venice.  He was the senior elected official and the head magistrate of Venice. And he was selected because the aristocracy believed that he was the smartest person in Venice. I still can’t get over that idea, selecting the head of your country because you believe he or she was the smartest person in the country. What an outrageous idea.

 Deck 6 also has THE SILVER LOUNGE BAR, THE CASINO, AND SEVERAL BOUTIQUES. This is also the floor for the Pantheon Theatre, which can seat over 1,600 guests.  They put on seven different shows. Tonight it was Kingdom of the Pharaohs. DECK 7 is named after APOLLO, the Greek god of light and Sun. The entire deck is devoted to eating and drinking. There’s a wine bar and a pizzeria, a TEX MEX, THE BLACK AND WHITE LOUNGE, a coffee area, a jazz bar, There’s a place with live music all night, and THE SPORTS BAR WITH TEN-PIN BOWLING.

Decks 8 through 13 are devoted to staterooms

Deck 14 is named after APHRODITE, the Greek Goddess of love and beauty.  Accordingly, Deck 14 is home to the spa and the barbershop. The BARBERSHOP had a vintage barber’s chair and I needed a haircut. Usually when I get my hair cut a scientist from NASA comes along because I’m part of a special study. Apparently, the bald spot on the top of my head is expanding at the exact same rate as our hole in the ozone layer.

MSC also introduced something new to cruising.  It’s called The Yacht Club. It’s like a super first class. They built a special private area on the front of the ship that’s only open to club members. They have priority embarkation and debarkation. 24-hour butler service. 24- hour private concierge service. A private lounge, with free drinks, and an afternoon tea service.

A private pool, with a solarium, two hot tubs and a bar. And its own restaurant

Suite number 16007 was designed with the help of Sophia Loren.  Rich reds, specially designed lamps and a red carpet were selected by Ms. Loren. Photographs of some of her most famous roles hang on the walls.  The dressing table is a replica of the one Ms. Loren uses in her room.

There is also a library where Sophia Loren picked the books.  That’s the ship. 
Our first port of call was Bari. Bari is an ancient port on the east coast of Italy, a major economic center and a university town. It was home to St. Nicholas, who among other distinctions is my youngest son’s patron saint.  So visiting Bari’s Basilica of Saint Nicholas was essential.

The Basilica is rather square and looks more like a castle with fortified towers than a church. Which would make sense, because for many years it was a castle.  Originally, the saint’s shrine was in Turkey. When turkey was taken over by the Saracens, it seemed like a good time to move Nicolas’s relics to a more appropriate location. Legend has it that when Nicholas was on his way to Rome he passed through Bari and announced that this was the perfect town for his body to be buried.  And on May 9th 1087, his bones were secretly removed and brought here to Bari where a new church was built to house them. It’s similar to the story of how Venice acquired the relics of St. Mark.

The Basilica houses a bishop’s throne which is called a cathedra. If a church has a cathedra it is entitled to be called a cathedral.  This one dates back to the 11th century and is considered to be one of the most important sculptural works of the Romanesque period.  The crypt has 26 columns with sporting capitals in Byzantine and Romanesque style, and it houses the relics of St. Nicholas.

Bari’s church is particularly unusual in that it is an important pilgrimage destination for both Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. While we were filming in the crypt an Orthodox group arrived. They had traveled to Bari with their local priest in order to hold a special service. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of pilgrims coming here from Eastern Europe.
The main feast day for Saint Nicholas is December 6th. And On that day, the clergy of the basilica lower a flask into the tomb to collect a substance that they believe is being radiated from the relics. The substance is called myrrh, which is a gummy resin that leaks from a wound in the bark of a tree. In ancient times it was collected and used to make perfume and medicinally to stop pain, Containers of myrrh from the Church of St. Nicholas in Bari are sent all over the world, and believers have reported various miracles as a result of rubbing it on their body.

The next day we anchored in the harbor of Kotor on the coast of Montenegro. The old port of Kotor is located at the end of a secluded fjord. Actually, it’s not a fjord; it’s a prehistoric submerged river canyon.  The area has been inhabited since the 5th century BC. and during the second century BC it was part of the Roman Empire.

When I walked into this square, and saw the church, I saw two numbers – 2009 and 809 and I assumed that a “1” had dropped down from the 809 and they were really talking about “1809” but in fact, there was no “1”. They were celebrating 1200 years – 809 to 2009.

In 1420, the city was taken over by the Republic of Venice. Its walls were fortified and it remained part of the Venetian Republic until 1797, which is why the buildings in the old city look so much like the buildings in Venice. Kotor is surrounded by protective ramparts that descend from the top of Mount of St. Ivan. The walls skirt the two short streams with their movable bridges and embankments. This continuous system of fortifications runs for about 3 miles along the sloping range of hills. Strategically it’s the most important part of the town.

For decades Hungary had ruled the Adriatic coast, but then in the 1300s, the Ottoman Empire began to challenge the small cities along the shore. Cities that had fought against Venetian control for hundreds of years suddenly began to seek theirs protection and Kotor was one of those cities.  Control of the Dalmation shoreline was essential to Venetian sea power, but the republic was highly selective as to which cities would receive its protection. The deal had to make economic sense. Venice was always ready to protect a city, it just had to be a place where they could make a buck. 

The St. Nicholas Church, on Kotor’s main square was built in 1616. When the Republic of Venice took control of Kotor, they decided to build a new more ambitious church, but it was never completed. Today, the original church and the unfinished building put up by the Venetians are next to each other.

During the 17th and 18th century, Kotor lost its economic lead to the maritime settlements that surrounded it, especially the town of Perast. Perast is just down the coast from Kotor and for hundreds of years it was thought of as the maritime capital of southern Europe. Over the centuries, thousands of sailors settled here. A widely respected nautical school was established.

It became so famous that the Czars of Russia would send their most talented naval officers here Kotor for training. Let’s face it. If you have a choice between spending the winter on a ship in Russia or in the Mediterranean, it’s a no brainer.

Perast's greatest boom occurred during the 18th century when its mariners employed four active shipyards with a fleet of approximately 100 ships deployed throughout the world. The town boasts 240 days of sunshine every year. This wasn’t one of them.

Unlike most towns in this part of the world, Perast is not surrounded by walls. Instead, nine towers protected the town's citizens. The most significant is the Holy Cross Tower. It was built by the Venetians in the 1400s. Because of its unique position at the entrance to the bay few foreign ships could enter the inner fjord without Perast's ancient defenses mounting a response.

The town is also famous for two unusual islands. The island of St. George is intense, dark, inward-looking and considered to be male.

The nearby island, known as Our Lady of the Rock is slender, gay, light-filled and man made. It is considered to have a female nature.  Our original plan was to hire a boat and take you out to the island so you could see the church and the island and how it was formed.  However the wind was blowing to a point where none of these noble sailors with their hundreds of years of tradition of sailing in rough weather would go out. I swim in stuff thats worse than this.The next day we sailed into the harbor of Marmaris. Marmaris in southwest Turkey is a port city on the Mediterranean. It’s on a part of the coast that is often called the Turkish Riviera. It is the country’s most sophisticated resort.

The town, in one form or another, has been around since the 6th century BC.  And it’s had a castle for at least 5,000 years. For centuries it was a small fishing village, but during the 1980s it experienced a construction boom, which resulted in a new shopping area filled with bars and restaurants. However, the town still retains some of its charm as a result of its exceptional location; the rugged mountains provide a magnificent backdrop to the sheltered harbor.

The town has an interesting navel history. During the 1500s, Suleiman the Magnificent kept the Ottoman here. In 1798, Lord Nelson sheltered his entire fleet here on his way to Egypt where he decimated Napoleon’s armada.

During the 300s BC, the town was attacked by Alexander the Great, who was not as great as Catherine the Great, or Peter the Great, but considerably greater than Nixon the Not So Great. The 600 inhabitants of the town quickly realized that they had no chance against the invading force.

So they burned their valuables in the castle and escaped into the hills. Alexander was well aware of the strategic value of the castle and quickly repaired the damaged sections. He also left a few hundred soldiers behind to watch over the place.

Next we stopped in the town of Dalyan. Dalyan is Turkish for "fishing weir". And a fishing weir is something the blocks the free passage of fish in a river. Bass, Mullet and Sea Bream swim upstream from the sea to the nearby lake. The fish spawn there, but when they try to return to the sea they are caught in the weir.

The lake the fish spawn in was formed about 7500 years ago, when the entire eastern part of the Mediterranean was the center of an earthquake zone. Together with its banks and the Dalyan basin the area comprises an environmentally protect region.

Above the river's cliffs are the Lycian tombs that were cut from the rock face about two thousand five hundred years ago. The Lycians where a group of people who lived in this area before the ancient Greeks arrived. They built a series of magnificent monumental tombs that were associated with some form of ancestor worship, but we are not quite sure how their religion worked. Whatever their reasons, the Lycians developed these tombs into a distinct art form. There are over 1000 tombs cut into the soft limestone.

There is one distinct feature of the Lycian tombs that sets them apart from the ancient Greeks. The Greeks placed their dead outside their cities, often on main roads leading into the town. Lycian tombs are usually integrated right into the living areas of the city.

Just across the river is the ancient trading center of Konos. One of the most interest ancient structures in Konos is the wind measuring platform that dates back to 150 BC. It was used to analyze the prevailing winds. Then the streets were laid out so the winds would constantly refresh the air of the city. Smart.

The spectacular Konos city walls were erected during the 4th century BC. They are extra large in relation to the city’s population, probably because the rulers had high expectations of the future as a marine and commercial port. At the time it seemed like the right thing to do.

Next was The Republic of Malta .The Republic of Malta is made up of a group of island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. They are about 50 miles south of the Italian island of Sicily.

For hundreds of thousands of years, Sicily was connected to North Africa by a land bridge. When the last ice age ended about ten thousand years ago, water levels in the Mediterranean Sea rose. The high points on the land bridge became the islands of Malta.

During the 1500s Emperor Charles V give the island of Malta to a military and religious order. These days they are known as the Knights of Malta. The Knights were victorious in a battle with the Ottomans, after which they decided to increase Malta’s fortifications. They also built the new city of Valletta, which was named after their leader Jean de la Valette.

Over the centuries, the Knights of Malta became increasingly unpopular. At one point, the local population encouraged Napoleon to stop in and free them from the Knights.  In 1789, Napoleon was on his way to Egypt to begin his attack on North Africa, but in the spirit of unfriendshipness he decided to stop in to Malta for a week and get rid of the Knights.

This was the building he stayed in during that week. And quite a week it was, too.  During that single week, he abolished slavery, he set up a system of public education, he started a university, he started building 15 primary schools and he granted the people of Malta all of the rights and freedoms additionally associated with the French Revolution. And in keeping with his personal schedule and the size of his ego, on the 7th day he rested.

On the 8th day he headed off to Egypt. But the French troops he left behind became as unpopular as the old Knights. They were always stealing things from the Maltese churches to help pay for Napoleons expenses in Egypt.

So the Maltese invited the British to free them from the French. The British sent their naval forces and surrounded and blockaded the island and The French surrendered and Malta became part of the British Empire. But they had a very special deal. They said OK you British people, you can protect us but Malta belongs to the people of Malta and you cannot mess about with us. Valetta has something they called Co-Cathedral of St John.

For over 200 years this was the official church of the Knights of Malta and the maintenance and improvement of the church was of great significance to the knights and they regularly donated gifts of the highest quality.

Two of those gifts are of considerable importance. They are paintings by Caravaggio, who is considered to be one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance. He spent 15 months in Malta and completed The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist and Saint Jerome Writing.

The church became one of Europe's outstanding Baroque buildings.

Trying to find a good place to eat in a town you don’t know is always a challenge. We lucked out with a recommendation from the local tourist board. It is called NENU / The Artisanal Baker. It was built by a local baker with part funding from the European Union. The EU has an organization called the European Regional Development Fund and its job is to help organize and put up some of the money to start businesses that protect historical elements in the community and improve the quality of life for the local residents. We each ordered a different traditional Maltese dish. Ftira is something like a pizza. The dough is thicker. More like a bread. The toppings included fresh tomatoes, onions, Maltese cheese, potatoes, anchovies, olives, and green peppers. Fantastic stuff.   There was a fish and garlic soup with side dishes of potatoes and garlic toast. Ravioli filled with a local sheep cheese and topped with tomato sauce. Pork chops smothered in sautéed onions. And an outstanding beef stew.

Well, that’s the first part of our MSC Cruise. In part two, we’ll continue our trip through the Eastern Mediterranean and then back to Italy. I hope you’ll join us.  For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf. 

Travels & Traditions: Lucerne, Switzerland - #1305

In July of 2011, along with my wife and youngest son, I moved from New York City to Lucerne, Switzerland.  It was precisely 100 years earlier that my grandmother had moved from Europe to the United States. And since she had come by ship, I thought I should return by ship. The accommodations were somewhat different but after all, it’s the thought that counts.

More and more of my work was based in Europe, and we thought it would be easier to live in the center of Europe for a few years than the center of Manhattan.  We were producing the Travels & Traditions series, which deals with history, culture and gastronomy. And most of the cities we covered were in Europe.  I was hosting a group of river cruises to help raise funds for the PBS stations. All the ships sailed on the great rivers of Europe. In addition, we were beginning to develop a series called ARTCOPS, designed to help recover missing works of art. And once again, much of the work was in Europe.

We knew that it would make sense to live in Europe for a few years, but we didn’t know where.  We looked at almost every country in Europe, and every major city in each country. Lucerne, in Switzerland appeared to have a lot to offer.

In terms of location and ease of travel, Lucerne has an extremely efficient transportation system. The trip from the Zurich Airport is only 60 minutes. Almost every hour, there is a train to each of the major cities of Switzerland and two to per hour to the international airport in Zurich. Every day the trains leave and arrive at the same time and on the same track. Because of Lucerne’s location, I travel to almost all the cities in central Europe by train.

It’s also up to date with its digital systems. About 90% of the homes have a high-speed Internet connection and in many of the public areas, there’s a free Wi-Fi connection.

Switzerland is divided into states called cantons. The city of Lucerne and the surrounding canton is attractive as a center for business because of its location, the availability of almost two million, mostly multilingual staff within 60 minutes commuting time and business-friendly government programs to support development.

The Canton of Lucerne is primarily a service economy with internationally known brands in automotive, construction, machinery, pharmaceuticals, and food. The political and financial stability of Lucerne and Switzerland make it an ideal place to do business.

My first and perhaps biggest surprise was discovering the relationship between the people of Lucerne and their government. In many of the countries I have lived in, I often felt that dealing with the government was an adversarial relationship. In Lucerne, the government personnel I encountered were polite, helpful and efficient. I was so impressed that I arranged an interview with the governor to find out what was going on. And what I found out was that the people who work for the government are trained to understand that their salary is paid by the people who come to them for assistance and it is their primary obligation to help them in every way they can and with the greatest courtesy. Since most of my work for public television was going to take place in Europe, I wanted to set up a television production company, and putting it in Lucerne made the most sense.

It’s a small company, ten people when we are at full strength. But instead of being treated like an insignificant operation, everyone in the Lucerne business community pitched in.

They helped us get the necessary government permits. Which, turned out to be considerably easier than renewing my driver’s license in New York. They helped us find a places to live and space for our office.

One good option was the D4 Business Center, which has its own train stop that connects to the Zurich airport. It has ready-made modern offices, two restaurants, and a kindergarten. More than 2,200 employees are working on this Business Campus, which was designed for small and medium-sized Swiss or International companies. There is also the TECHNOPARK Lucerne, a business incubator of technology oriented startup companies.

South of the city, and a 2-minute train ride to the main station in Lucerne, is a new development with over 280 apartments.

Switzerland has an interesting work ethic. By law, everybody gets four weeks of paid vacation a year. A while back though, there was a referendum suggesting that they have six weeks of vacation. Well, it was defeated. The people felt that four weeks was quite enough and that the additional two weeks might damage the companies they worked for or have a negative effect on the nation’s competitiveness.

The local government in Lucerne is always trying to improve their relationships with the companies that have set-up their European headquarters in Lucerne. Every few months the directors of the Lucerne Business Development invite people from business, cultural and educational organizations to come to an informal cocktail party to talk about what’s working properly and what the government could improve. They also set up lunches for three or four people to talk about their experiences and what they need the government to do to make life easier for expats. I made three suggestions that were immediately implemented. The government of Lucerne is actually listening. Far Out.

In many ways, Lucerne is one of the most business friendly Cantons.  There’s a combination of market access, modern infrastructure, an efficient talent pool, and lower operating costs. There’s also a competitive real estate market. 

In keeping with the international aspects of modern business, The City of Lucerne maintains a Sister Relationship with the City of Chicago, which is of considerable importance to me because my mother-in-law lives in Chicago. The Canton of Lucerne maintains a partnership relation with the Jiangsu Province in China, which is one of China’s strongest economic regions. And once again, I have a personal connection to Jiangsu. Jiangsu is a coastal state with a long history of great fish dishes. One of my favorites is Snapper in Sweet and Sour Sauce Jiangsu Style. 

Lucerne is the business, tourist and cultural epicenter of central Switzerland. Its attraction is the result of the beauty of the old town, the natural splendor that surrounds it, and what it offers for any business that moves here.

Lucerne was built at the northwest corner of Lake Lucerne at the point where the Reuss River flows out of the lake. The entire city is encircled by the Alps. People have been living in, on, and around the Alps for over ten thousand years. The ancient Romans wrote about the people who lived in these mountains. The most important were the Helvetians.  During the 400s, as Rome fell, German tribes took control of the northern part of Switzerland. The Burgundians from France conquered western Switzerland. But the Helvetians, high up in their central mountain villages, remained free and unaffected by much of Europe’s history. This is an extraordinarily beautiful part of the world, and relatively unspoiled. 

During the Middle Ages, Lucerne was a simple fishing village, but when the St. Gotthard pass, connecting northern Europe and Italy, opened in the 1200s, Lucerne became a major staging area. During the early 1800s, English poets showed up in Lucerne and began describing the beauty of the nearby lakes and mountains. The British upper class, always ready for a holiday abroad, made Lucerne a major tourist attraction.

Lucerne’s 650-foot roofed bridge is probably the oldest roofed bridge in Europe. Called the Chapel Bridge, it was originally built in the 1300s as part of the city’s fortification. The triangular roof supports were used by 17th century painters to present the history of Lucerne and the patron saints of the city. There are over a hundred images. The water tower alongside the bridge was also built in the 1300s. Originally it was a lighthouse on the top, a dungeon at the bottom and a torture chamber in the middle.  Reminds me of my first apartment. 

Lucerne’s old town is filled with ancient decorated buildings. The paintings present the history of a guild, or a family, or a special event.  This building is the site of the first pharmacy in Lucerne.  It opened in 1530.  The sign over the door reads, “There Is No Herb That Will Cure Lovesickness.”  And if there was one, it wouldn’t be covered by your insurance.

A few streets away is the Lion Monument, which commemorates the eight hundred Swiss soldiers who died defending King Louis the Sixteenth and Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution. The royal family had been attacked by the mob, but as soon as the King was able to make a deal with their leaders and felt that his person was safe, he told the Swiss guards to put down their weapons at which point they were all murdered by the revolutionaries. A classic sellout.  Mark Twain visited this monument and called it “the saddest piece of stone in the whole world.”

Just down the river from the monument is the baroque Jesuit Church, built in the mid-1600s.  Baroque architecture was a Roman Catholic response to the simple architecture of the Protestant Reformation. The Pope wanted to send a message that Catholic heaven was a big, magnificent and ornate place and much more fun than whatever was being offered by Martin Luther.  The robes of Niklaus von Flüe, Switzerland’s only patron saint, rests here. Von Flüe’s major act was to propose an agreement that regulated the division of spoils among Switzerland’s mercenary troops which is a story in itself. 

The economy of the Alpine village was based on small herds of cows and sheep and light farming.  But with no natural resources, the economy was marginal.  Since the farm work could be done by women and children, the men were able to go off and find other work.

 And the work that they found was soldiering for pay. For hundreds of years the Swiss fought other people’s battles for a fixed salary and a share of the loot. It was an important source of foreign income.  But in order to be able to offer their soldiers to one country without being attacked by another country, they instituted a policy of neutrality and offered their troops on an impartial basis, if you had the money, they had the men. It was an early form of migrant labor and very important to the history of the nation.

Switzerland no longer earns income from sending out troops; what it does do is bring in tourists. Modern package tourism got started right here in 1893, when Thomas Cook organized a group trip from England.

That first tour, and much of the tourism since then, has been based on the beauty of the Swiss mountains and our desire to see what’s happening on the top.  A twenty-minute drive south of Lucerne will put you at the foot of Mount Pilatus.  You can get there from the city of Lucerne on steamboat, which is my favorite method of transportation.

One of the steepest cogwheel railways in the world will take you to the top, which is seven thousand feet above sea level.  People have always been fascinated with mountain peaks. The ancient Greeks believed that their gods lived on a mountain. Many societies that live near mountains put their temples on top of them. They are also a good spot for meteorological and geological observations, or to check on your neighbors.

But Mount Pilatus was not always available to visitors. For centuries local residents believed that the mountain was inhabited by dragons, and if you disturbed them they would send down storms and great floods. In 1585 a parish priest from Lucerne and a courageous group of parishioners ascended Mount Pilatus and challenged every lake and cave where the dragons were thought to dwell. The priest returned to Lucerne and announced that the spell had been broken, the spirits were at peace, and guided tours would soon be available at a modest price.

Along with its trains, boats and buses, Lucerne is a bike friendly city, with lanes running along the major streets. And in keeping with the cities interest in technology they showed me one of the world’s most advanced bicycles. They are sold by a company called Boo Bicycles. The company is centered in the United States, but the building of the bikes takes place in Vietnam. And they have reps in Europe, the U.S. and Japan. They harvest their bamboo from a unique forest in Vietnam. Then for six months the poles are cured and tempered. Then there’s a stress test and finally the assembly, which includes wrapping the joints with carbon threads.  The tests indicate that their special grade of bamboo makes their bikes stronger than steel, as light as titanium and more durable than carbon fiber. Vibration is reduced and all of your energy is transferred to the rear wheels. See Mother Nature knows best.

(Christian Beuing) Real, Real smooth ride because of the special properties of bamboo. Bamboo absorbs the vibration way better than carbon or aluminum or steel.

(BURT) They appear to be the only bamboo bikes used by professional racers and a traveling television journalist who think they can recapture the feelings of their youth by going around town on a Boo Bike.

Lucerne is also home to a number of outstanding cultural institutions. One of the most significant is the Rosengart Museum. The works in the museum were originally the private collection of the Rosengart family. Siegfried Rosengart and his daughter Angela were art dealers. From time to time they would come across a work that they liked so much that they would buy it for their home. There was never a plan to develop a collection, they just bought what they liked.  At one point, Angela took all the works and put them into a non-profit foundation. In essence, she gave away most of her assets. She wanted to keep all the works together and that was the best way to do it.

A while later, she heard that the Swiss National Bank was planning to give up its building in Lucerne. It’s an amazing structure and Angela was able to arrange for it to become a museum for her paintings. A team of outstanding architects worked on the project and all of the important architectural elements of the original building were preserved. Today, it is considered one of the most important buildings in Switzerland.

After the structure was transformed into the museum, Angela took the works from her home and helped place them in the galleries. She was a dear friend of Picasso and she tried to hang the works the way Picasso would have liked. In one space she tried to recreate the feeling of Picasso’s studio. Visitors can now see over 300 works by classical modern artists including Picasso, Klee, Cezanne and Matisse. Picasso and the Rosengarts were close friends. There are 32 Picasso paintings and 100 drawings in the museum.

 One of the most interesting parts of the museum is an area filled with the photographs by David Douglas Duncan. Duncan was an American photojournalist and one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. He was a close friend of Picasso and appears to be the only person allowed to be with Picasso when he was working in his studio. Duncan was also the only one to photograph many of Picasso’s private works. 

One of my favorite photographs is the one of Picasso eating a fish. I used it in a program I made called “What Are They Eating In The Photograph”. We took a look at some of the great photographs that dealt with food, explained why they were important photographs and then had a top chef recreate the dish that was in the picture.

Lucerne is also the perfect spot to get a Swiss Army Knife.  Charles Elsner was a master knife maker, who originally sold his knives in his mother’s hat shop. When he was thirty he organized the Association of Swiss Master Cutlers. The objective of the association was to produce a pocket knife for the Swiss military. Now, the army was already buying knives, but they were buying them in Germany. In 1891, the first Swiss-made Swiss army knife was delivered to the army, and this is one of them.  It had a long blade, a screwdriver, a can opener, and a reamer for punching holes. And that was it.  The Elsner family is still delivering pocket knives to the Swiss army, but this is what a Swiss Army Knife really looks like. It’s made of a lightweight aluminum alloy; it has a blade, it has a small screw driver with a can opener, it has a big screw driver with a cap lifter and a wire stripper, and a reamer for punching holes.  What everyone who is not in the Swiss Army calls a Swiss Army Knife is this shiny red version with a Swiss Cross embedded in the handle. This is actually the Swiss Army “Officers” Knife.  Elsner developed the early version of this knife in 1897 but the Swiss Army never accepted it. Maybe the corkscrew and the nail cleaner were just too much.  But the troops loved it, both the officers and the enlisted men, and they purchased them with their own money. And they still do.

From the beginning, the company, which is now called Victorinox, developed pocket knives for different groups. During the 1890s they introduced the “schoolboy” model, a “farmer’s” knife and a “cadet” knife, and specialty knives are still being added. Today they produce approximately four hundred different versions of the Swiss Army “Officers” Knife.  They also produce the knife that goes to outer space with the astronauts.

Lucerne is also one of the most important centers for music. It has a year-round program of music including classical concerts, brass bands and a blues festival.

The Swiss Museum of Transportation is considered a historic and cultural institution.

It is an interactive museum that traces the history of transportation. There are areas devoted to railroads, highways, cable, aviation, and space. The staff at the museum came to the realization that the traditional forms of transportation not only carried things and people, they also carried ideas and so they set up an area devoted to radio and television. There are over 3000 objects in the museum. In addition, there is a planetarium, a theater and a small museum dedicated to the works of Hans Ernie. Ernie was born in Lucerne and became famous as an illustrator of postage stamps and lithographs for the Swiss Red Cross. When I visited the museum he was 103 years old and still very busy with his work.

My favorite winter sports include drinking mulled wine and hot chocolate. And when the weather is right I can actually do that at an altitude over 2,000 feet.  However, if you are into winter sports of a less stressful nature, Lucerne is an ideal spot. Some of the best skiing in Switzerland is nearby. And just to keep things hopping, every February, Lucerne presents one of the most unusual and colorful carnivals in Switzerland.  There’s a Summer Nights Festival with an outstanding display of fireworks. And in November a Blues Festival.

OK. So what are the drawbacks?

Not everyone speaks English. But that’s true for New York. You can get around rather well without speaking Swiss-German. At the time this program was filmed, I was unable to find a decent bagel. The natural beauty of the environment can interfere with your ability to concentrate on work unless you are a ski instructor. The Swiss are the world’s largest per-capita consumers of chocolate. Prepare to become part of the statistic.

Well, that’s the Swiss city and canton of Lucerne.  One of the nation’s best-kept secrets. But now that I’ve told you all about it, it’s not very much of a secret.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Assisi & Siena, Italy - #1304

This is the fourth program in a series in which I travel around Italy with Steve Perillo. Steve is the third generation to run a company called Perillo Tours, which specializes in bringing American tourists to Italy. We started by visiting Assisi, which was the birthplace of St. Francis, then we moved on to Siena which was the birthplace of Italian Renaissance painting.

Assisi was built on a hill that has been inhabited for about 4,000 years. Umbrian tribes were in residence when the Romans arrived in 89 B.C. They say that the stones that were used to build Assisi have absorbed the prayers of the millions of pilgrims that have come here over the centuries. And now the stones radiate a sense of peace and quiet that has a spiritual effect on visitors.

In the center of town is a Roman temple that was built in 25 B.C. to honor the goddess Minerva. Minerva was in charge of art and she appears to have done a good job in Assisi. No other city in Italy has had a greater impact on Italian painting.

The underlying cause for the great art in Assisi is St. Francis who was born here in 1182 and died here in 1226. Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. He learned to read and write Latin and speak French and he had a romantic and heroic view of the world. He dreamed of becoming a Knight and living a life of adventure.

It was a time of continuous warring between the city-states of Italy. The city of Perugia was the great enemy of Assisi and Francis took part in one of the many battles between them. He was captured by the Perugian forces and held prisoner for almost a year.

His health began to fail and he started asking himself, “If I actually do survive all of this, what should I do with my life?” He did survive and he decided to join the Pope’s army. But on the way to Rome, he had a vision. A vision that told him to return to Assisi, where he would be called to a new kind of knighthood.

At one point he was praying in the ruined chapel of San Damiano just outside Assisi. As he prayed, he heard a voice coming from above the altar telling him “Repair my house, it has fallen into ruins.”

Saint Francis went to his father’s warehouse, took some clothing and rode to a nearby town where he sold the clothing and his horse. He tried to give the money he got from that sale to the priest at San Damiano, but the priest wouldn’t take it. So, somewhat annoyed, St. Francis just threw the money out the window.

Francis’ father found his son’s behavior unacceptable and had him called before the bishop of Assisi. But before his father could say anything, Francis peeled off his clothing and gave them to his father. Standing completely naked, he said; “Until now I have called you my father on earth. But from now on, I can truly say: My Father is in heaven.” The bishop was astounded and gave Francis a cloak to cover himself. Francis renounced his family and all worldly goods and embraced a life of poverty.

Francis wanted to imitate the life of Christ.  Poverty was his bride. He was a social worker, a traveling preacher, a lover of nature, and a protector of animals. He thought of all creatures as his brothers. 

In 1209, Francis took a group of his disciples to Rome in the hope of getting official approval from the Pope and to demonstrate his recognition of papal authority. It was a long shot but Francis lucked out.  The Pope had a dream in which Francis was holding up the church of San Giovanni in Laterno, which is the official church of the Pope in Rome. The Pope saw his dream as a sign that he should give his approval to the work of the Franciscans.

Saint Francis died in 1226 and within two years, plans for his Basilica were underway. Francis was not even Saint Francis at the time. But there were three influential groups that wanted the basilica as fast as possible.

The Papacy wanted it because most of the followers of St. Francis were outside the church and the Basilica would bring them in. The Franciscan brothers wanted it because it honored their founder.  And Assisi needed it in order to make the city an important and profitable center for pilgrims.

The Pope, who had been a longtime friend of Francis, announced that the basilica was being built on land owned by the Pope and would forever be under the control of a Pope and only a Pope. No other authority would be allowed to influence events in the Basilica or the Franciscan order.  The Basilica became a fortified papal residence. The Pope gave the friars custody of the building and control of the local treasury.

The Basilica of Saint Francis is actually made up of two churches, one built on top of the other. The Upper Church is the model for all Franciscan churches around the world. The façade has a double portal under a pointed arch, which is typical for places of pilgrimage.
The Basilica of St. Francis is the cradle in which Italian Renaissance painting was born.  On these walls, art was transformed by a new approach developed by Gothic artists who had been working north of the Alps. In the past, religious events were presented within the classical tradition of Byzantine painting.  Byzantine art asks you to take its story on faith.  The Gothic artists brought a realistic vision to their work.

For many years Friar Pascal Magro was the director of the Basilica library.

(PASCAL MAGRO) Giotto is considered to be the founder of Italian art, also with his master Cimabue, who painted four cycles of frescoes in the apse here and the transepts of this church. 

There is a new conception of the spaces, the spaces are recognizable spaces of this world. So these episodes are taking place on recognizable stages, real stages, and historical stages.  We have the beginning of landscape in Italian art. We have the landscape of Assisi. In the first fresco of the life of Francis of Assisi, the saint is represented walking on the Square of Assisi. 

(BURT) Everyone from Assisi who saw this picture of St. Francis receiving homage from a simple man recognized the temple of Minerva in the background. The actual Temple is still in the center of Assisi’s town square.

Giotto’s twenty-eight panels illustrating the life of St. Francis was the first time that an artist used the walls of a church to tell the entire life story of a saint who was buried in that building. It is a story set in familiar places and creates a totally recognizable vision. You don’t have to take this story on faith you can see it with your own eyes and identify where it took place. The old Greek style was out. The new Latin style was in. The Renaissance was underway.

During the days I spent in Assisi, I met Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and people who were not interested in religion at all. But they all appreciated the message of Saint Francis and his love for everything, animals, people, and our natural environment.

Just before we came to Assisi, we were filming in Rome. It was busy and stressful environment and my focus moved up and back between its ancient past and what Rome is today. In Assisi, I lived in a much more spiritual space. I never felt pulled into the present. Everything around me kept me in the world of St. Francis. It’s an extraordinary place.

Our next stop was going to be in Siena and I was curious to see what it would be like.

During the 9th century, the hill town of Siena in central Italy became a major stopping point on the road between Paris and Rome. By the beginning of the 12th century it was a bustling city producing some of the best wool in Italy, developing a clothing industry and exploiting a small silver mine. 

By the end of the 12th century Siena was a commercial and financial center and her growing economic success began to challenge the city of Florence, which was only 30 miles to the north. An emotional competition developed between the two cities, which eventually led to the Battle of Montaperti in 1260.

Siena won the battle and entered a period of extraordinary power, power, which rested in the hands of a small group of influential families. One way the families showed their newfound wealth and influence was the construction of magnificent fortified palaces.

The city’s location on the road to Rome gave it a commercial advantage but it also made it a resting place for pilgrims. If you were on your way to the Vatican from virtually any part of Europe, you made a stop at Siena.

During the 12th century, the city began building a series of outstanding churches, towers and public squares. And since most of the modern construction has taken place outside the old city, Siena’s character remains relatively unspoiled. Narrow winding streets and ancient buildings give Siena a distinct medieval feeling.

Hundreds of years ago, Siena was divided into sub-districts called contrade. 17 of them still exist. They were not set-up simply as geographic boundaries; they were self-governing political and social neighborhoods.

Each contrade has an emblem that represents one of the virtues attributed to Siena. The Giraffe for elegance. The Snail for prudence. The emblem with the Sea Creature and water is the Wave and it stands for joy.

Debra Barbagli is in charge of the women’s society for the contrade of the Goose.

(DEBRA BARBAGLI) Contrade is a kind of life and it’s a life full of people, with people that have the same feelings that you have.  And if you need something, you know that in your Contrade you can find this help.

(BURT) The Noble contrade of the goose stands for wisdom and intelligence. It was awarded the title of noble because of the courage shown by its militia in the battles against Florence. Like the other contrade it has an administrative building, a museum, which displays trophies of its past, a neighborhood band, and a warehouse for the storage of weapons used in great battles, a fountain and a community church.

Badia a Coltibuono translates as “the abbey of the good harvest. It was founded about a thousand years ago by a group of monks who wanted a quite place to pray. And we were able to arrange for group to have a private tour of the property.

In 1051, they began planting vines to make wine and by 1400, the vineyard was so successful that it was in the care of the great Lorenzo de Medici. During the Napoleonic occupation of the area, the monks were forced to leave, but the winemaking continued. Napoleon was no fool.

In 1846, the property was purchased by a Florentine banker and today it is run by his descendents including Emanuela Stucchi Prinetto, who took us on the tour. She pointed out that when the monks first began working the land over a thousand years ago, they understood the importance of biodiversity and organic farming. They wanted to preserve and maintain the integrity of the land and that is still at the center of the work at Coltibuono.

After the tour the vineyards we stopped for lunch and a wine tasting at the vineyard’s restaurant. After which we toured the interior of the ancient palace.

It was during the 13th and 14th centuries that Siena’s most important public works were constructed including the Palazzo Pubblico which is considered to be one of the most elegant buildings in Italy and the inspiration for many of the other palaces in Siena.

It has been the seat of the city’s government for almost 700 years.

Siena was well aware that its love of wealth and power was often in conflict with its love of the Virgin Mary. The Palazzo Pubblico is filled with art that addresses this problem. A perfect example is The Portrait of our Lady in the Hall of the Great Council.  On the surface the subject appears to be entirely religious, but that is not the case.  There is a block of text in which Mary warns the government to act with humility and justice. It says, “I will answer your prayers, but if the strong molest the weak, your prayers will go unheeded.” 

Down the hall is a giant fresco that dates to 1335 and makes the same point in a different way. It's titled "The Effects of Good and Bad Government".

There are two matching scenes. One is Siena under good government – the other under bad government. Good government is represented by a wise old man dressed in the colors of Siena. Next to him are the cardinal virtues – Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude. Prudence is always at the head of the line because it is the virtue that regulates all the others. Above are Faith, Hope and Charity. In the properly governed city, life is peaceful, work is progressing.  Bad government is marked by the dishonesty of public officials, pride, greed, mismanagement, and the power of special interests. Fascinating to see how little has changed.

The center of Siena, both culturally and physically, is a plaza called The Campo. It is one of the most famous squares in the world and for centuries it has been the focal point of Siena’s political and social life. This was the site where official government proclamations were read.

Early on, Siena became a sophisticated self-governing republic and divided itself into associations, each with its own political and economic interests. And the Campo was the spot where the associations came to battle things out. Differences of opinion among the groups was often settled by an organized street fight in the Campo with about three hundred guys to a side. The rules called for fists-only but from time to time a dagger or a sword or a battle-axe would slip in. At some point in history they were able to redirect most of the anger into a horse race.

The Campo is the site of that race and it’s called The Palio. It was first recorded in 1283 but probably goes back much earlier. The race is held twice each year on the 2nd of July and the 16th of August. The edges of the plaza are covered with sand and the corners are protected with padding. Each of the ten horses in the race represents a neighborhood association, one of the Contrade. On the morning of the race there is an elaborate procession through the streets and around The Campo. The participants are dressed in 15th century costumes. The race itself takes less than two minutes – enough time for the riders to circle The Campo three times. There are no rules of conduct for the race which takes on the character of a moving free-for-all. Considerable amounts of money are bet on the outcome and the honor of each neighborhood is at stake.
Siena’s great Cathedral was planned as the largest cathedral in the world. What you see here today, however, is only a small section of the original design. The arrival of the Black Plague in 1348 put an end to the grand plan.

(MARIA ELENA TORCHIO) The church was begun at just after the end of the 12th century, and it was completed in the middle of the 14th century. It took about 200 years to do all this. It was made in bricks, and bricks were covered with a coating of marble stripes. The idea of using marble stripes came from far away, from the mid-Eastern world.  It’s something you found in Turkey and Syria first of all but it's also very evident in Spain, in the southern part of Italy. It’s like a fashion they brought from there. The relationship with the mid-Eastern world was really very important. They had trade all around the Mediterranean area. They had many families, from Siena they moved down to the mid-Eastern world just to go to Crusades in the Holy Lands. And coming back, they brought back artists’ objects, ideas. So they knew the use of marble stripes.

What is really very unique here in this cathedral is the floor, because it’s something that you find only here. And then the whole floor is covered in marble.  It had to be like a picture book, to give messages to help people understanding something. We have to remember people were not able to read. And the floor is dedicated, not only to religious subjects; you find something from mythology, from the classical world, very profane subjects, just to help people understanding something.

The church itself is like a museum. In the centuries they went on adding more and more just to show the authority the importance and the power of the church. 

(BURT WOLF) The church also houses the Piccolomini Library which is covered with a series of frescos that illustrate the life of Pope Pius II.  The colors of the frescos in the library are original. Because votive candles were not used in the room and very few candles for light, the walls were never repainted. Today when a curator is restoring a work of art and wants to check on what colors were really like during the 1500s, they come here. 

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf. And I’m Steve Perillo

Travels & Traditions: What's Cooking in Rome - #1303

This is the third program in a series in which I travel around Italy with Steve Perillo. Steve is the third generation to run a company called Perillo Tours, which specializes in bringing American tourists to Italy.

This part of our tour started in Rome, then went on to Assisi the home of St. Francis and the town where Giotto's paintings began the Italian Renaissance, and then to Siena with its magnificent cathedral.

One way to understand Rome is to think of it as a city made up of layers. Most historians like to date the beginning of “Ancient Roman” as the eighth century before the birth of Christ. They see that as the earliest layer, a layer that is made up of the ruins and restorations of ancient Rome.  Stuff that’s been in the neighborhood for over two thousand years.

The Coliseum is part of that layer and the place where we started our tour of Rome. It took eight years to build and opened in 80 AD. It held over 50,000 spectators who came to see the gladiators take on the lions, the tigers, the bears and occasionally the Green Bay Packers. 

There was assigned seating and you needed a ticket to get in. The ticket also told you which of the 80 different entrance ways would get you to your seat in the least possible time.  The building had an immense awning that was spread out to protect the spectators from the heat of the sun. It consisted of segments of colored canvas that could cover all or part of the structure.

At one point in its history, the building became a source of marble for the local construction companies and it was stripped of its facade.  Some ruins are more ruined than others.

Next stop on our tour was the Forum. The Forum was the political, religious, and commercial center of ancient Rome.  As we wandered through the ruins, our guide told us what was happening here some 2,000 years ago.  The Forum was built under the direction of Julius Caesar.  That pile of broken stones...that was the spot where triumphant generals stood when they returned home.  That clump of weeds... the location of the magnificent House of the Vestal Virgins. Those columns...the Temple of Saturn. 

And now, look what is left. You see Nicholas.  This is what can happen if you don’t keep your room neat. 


Next we visited the Pantheon.  It is probably in better shape than any other ancient Roman building.  It was built in 27 BC as a temple to all the Roman gods.  Kind of a mutual fund approach to pagan religion.  You spread your veneration over a large group of deities and reduced your risk of missing out on the powerful one.  The Pantheon seems to have survived the centuries because in 600AD it was turned into a church. If you look up, you will see the dome of the structure, which is bigger than the one on St. Peter’s.  The hole in the center is the only source of light and unfortunately it is also the source of water whenever it rains.

The third layer is Renaissance Rome the extraordinary rebirth of culture that took Europe out of the Middle Ages.  This was the time of Di Vinci and Michelangelo, and Raphael.

A perfect example of how the Renaissance layer was placed on top of everything that went before, is the Capitoline Hill.  It was originally the site of two pre-Christian temples. One honored Jupiter, the other Juno.  In 1538 it became the home of Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campidoglio.  You approach the plaza by walking up a long, gentle inclined ramp -- perfect for a grand imperial entrance to Rome, which was Michelangelo’s objective.  The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was coming to town.  When the Emperor arrived here, he was greeted by two statues, the twin heroes of classical mythology. 

In the center of the piazza, the emperor was confronted by a magnificent statue of Marcus Aurelius, set on an impressive pedestal.  The original statue is no longer here, but the pedestal is proving once again that even when a politician is gone, much of his or her platform can remain.  On two sides of the piazza are museums storing ancient Roman artifacts.  The third building is the Senatorial Palace, which to this day is used by the local government of Rome for the storage of ancient ideas on how the city should be governed.

Next was a period known as the Baroque. The movement was part of the reaction of the Catholic Church to the Protestant Reformation.  Protestant churches were simple and uncluttered. A Catholic Church built in the Baroque style was over the top. The more elaborate the structure, the better.

The building was designed to ask the viewer, “Where do you think God wants to live, in that plain, uninteresting Protestant Church or in this magnificent structure? A baroque church is propaganda in the form of architecture and sculpture. In Rome, some of the greatest examples of the Baroque are the works of Bernini.

One morning we visited the Campo de’ Fiori, which translates as the field of flowers and during the Middle Ages that’s what was here.  But by the 1500s the district had become the heart of Rome. 

In most ancient societies everybody ate and drank pretty much the same things.  Of course the rich had a lot more of whatever it was than the poor.  But in ancient Rome, perhaps for the first time, that began to change.  Because the Roman Empire was so huge and in contact with so many different parts of the world, the people of ancient Rome who had the money were able to choose from an extraordinary variety of foods.  Foods that were just not available to people who didn’t have the money.  But they were not just interested in variety, they were fascinated by quality.  And they would spend an enormous amount of time, money and effort getting the best of everything.

When Marcus Apicius heard that the shrimp off the coast of Libya were superior to those available in Rome, he outfitted a ship and sailed off to check it out.  When he got there and found that the shrimp were no better than what he was already using, he turned around and headed back without making a purchase.

And that desire for the “best of class” is still very much part of the attitude of the modern Roman food lover.  One of the first things that you learn as a traveling eater is that almost every town has a special interest in certain foods.  Those same foods may be available in other cities but not at the same level of quality.  And not subject to the same level of interest on the part of the local public.  In New York they would be bagels, pastrami, steak and cheesecake.  In Paris it would be pastry, wine, and chocolate.  Here in Rome, it’s bread, particularly in the form of pizza, ice cream, and coffee.

The place to try “best of class” bread and pizza is the Antico Forno at the edge of Campo de’ Fiori. For ice cream it’s Gioletti. And for the best thick chocolate ice cream with a whipped cream topping... it’s the Tartuffo at Tre Scalini in the Piazza Navona.

And almost everyone seems to agree that the best cup of espresso is at Sant Eustachio.

While we were in Rome, our group stayed at the Rose Garden Palace Hotel, which is ideally situated just off the Via Veneto. You can walk to the best shopping in town, and some of the most famous restaurants and many of the most important cultural attractions of the city. The inside has an elegant contemporary look. They have 57 double rooms and 8 suites. The hotel is big enough to deliver all the services you might need, but small enough to deliver those services in a personal way.  They also have free high speed, wireless Internet in the rooms and the public areas. The fact that the Internet connection was free has become an issue for me. I think it should be a basic part of what you are paying for in a good hotel, not an extra. And I was pleased to see the management of the Rose Garden felt the same way. The hotel has a well-equipped fitness center with all the equipment necessary to keep or put you in shape. It also has a pool, which is a great luxury in Rome. There’s an excellent restaurant with both indoor and outdoor tables.

And another thing I look for, lots of comfortable public space.

Water... soaring up from beneath the earth.  A spring has always had a mystical quality, offering an opportunity to be cleansed and rejuvenated.  It’s an ancient and universal symbol of life and rebirth. Ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, planted gardens and built shrines around their springs.  When the builders started to use basins and reservoirs to display and transport the waters, the springs became fountains.  The Romans developed a purely decorative form of fountain that eventually ended up as a monumental sculpture.  The early Christians placed fountains in their basilica as a symbol and a source of purification.

During the Middle Ages, the fountains moved into the courtyards of the monasteries.  But it was in Italy, during the Renaissance, that the fountain took on a form that was dominated by staggering, immense, virtually gargantuan sculpture.  And Rome is the place with the most extraordinary examples of this art.

This is the Piazza Navona, which takes its long, narrow shape from an ancient Roman stadium that once stood here.  There are three fountains in the Piazza Navona, but the most important one is the Fountain of the Rivers.  It was designed by Bernini. Who was a great architect of the Baroque period. The work was finished in 1651, and represents four rivers from four corners of the world: the Danube for Europe, the Ganges for Asia, the Rio de la Plata for the Americas, and the Nile for Africa.  The head of the Nile is covered to show that the source of the Nile was not known at the time the fountain was built.

The most famous fountain in Rome is probably the Trevi Fountain.  During the year 19 BC, thirteen miles of canal were built to bring water into the city, and this is the spot where the water arrived.  The figure in the center represents the ocean, and he is being drawn across the waters by two sea horses and two sea gods.  In the 1959 film, La Dolce Vita, Anita Ekberg took a little dip in these waters, and the place became even more famous.

During the middle of the 1600’s, Pope Urban VIII began building a fountain here.  He used money that he collected from a tax on wine, which proved to be extraordinarily unpopular.  He ended up being accused of trying to turn wine into water.  He had to give up the tax and his plans for the fountain.  It did get built, however, about a hundred years later by a local sculptor named Nicola Salvi.  Local folklore has it that if you stand in front of the fountain, facing away, and throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, you will someday return to Rome and your wish will be granted.

(crashing sound) Grazzi, sorry, terribly sorry, sorry, sorry.

Steve also arranged for us to have a special visit to Vatican City with an after-hours private visit to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.  Rome’s Vatican City is the epicenter of the Catholic Church. With a population of only 550 and a landmass of just over 100 acres, it’s the world’s smallest independent state. It has its own newspaper with an international circulation. Its own book publisher.  Its own television network.  Its own police force. Its own stamps and a postal service to go along with them.  It also has its own radio station that went on the air in 1931.

(announcer) The Pope for the first time in the nineteen hundred years of Catholicism has sent his voice throughout the world.  With this broadcast his Holiness celebrates the ninth anniversary of his coronation as Pope Pius the XI…

It was one of the first international stations and was actually built by Marconi who was the inventor of wireless communication.

The world Vatican comes from a Latin word meaning prophecy and during Roman times, Vatican Hill was a place where fortune-tellers would offer their advice, for a fee, to the general public.

During the first century, a racetrack was built nearby and used by the Emperor Nero to stage elaborate spectacles. His favorite was killing Christians.

The square was built in 1656 and is almost the same size as the ancient Roman Forum.  It’s partially enclosed by two semicircular colonnades. Above the colonnades are statues of saints and martyrs.

The double-colonnades symbolizes the outstretched arms of the Church, welcoming and protecting the faithful. It is considered to be one of the world’s finest examples of civic architecture and can hold over 250,000 people. The square is the approach to St. Peter’s Basilica.

Historians believe that the basilica was built right next to the spot where St. Peter was martyred. As a condemned criminal, he was not permitted a normal burial so his remains were secretly recovered and placed in the public necropolis on Vatican Hill.

In 1940, workmen digging below the basilica found a burial chamber that dated to the first century. A small space below the chamber appeared to be the tomb of St. Peter. That belief is supported by an adjacent wall that is covered with the names of pilgrims asking for St. Peter’s help.

At the beginning of the 4th century, Constantine, was the emperor of Rome and believed that a dream with a vision of the cross gave him an important military victory. He converted and made Christianity the official religion of the empire.

Constantine’s conversion may or may not have been heartfelt, but it was definitely part of his big plan, he did everything he could to advance the standing of the Christians within the Romans and at the same time everything he could to advance his own standing with the Christians.

In 323, he ordered the construction of a huge basilica designed to sit directly above the cemetery where the remains of St. Peter were buried. The basilica itself stood up to continual use for 1200 years.  But during the 1400s it began to disintegrate and a plan was developed for a new structure.  Michelangelo built a 16-foot high model of the dome so he could make a series of stress tests. His dome was 137 feet wide and 440 feet above the floor of the basilica. He was an artist, an architect and an engineer.

Work got under way in 1450 but like most construction projects it ran over budget. To help raise the needed funds the Church offered to pray for your well being in the afterlife in exchange for a meaningful donation during your present life. Some people considered this scandalous and it became a major irritant for Martin Luther. Construction on St. Peter’s also ran a little late. The opening dedication took place in 1626 which was 226 years after workers began digging the foundation.

Today St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest Christian church in the world. In 1508, Pope Julius II entered his private chapel. Walking next to him was Michelangelo, considered to be one of the greatest artists of the time. The Pope pointed to the ceiling, looked at Michelangelo and said, “Paint it.” Michelangelo spent the next four years of his life lying on a scaffold and painting a fresco. He even made sketches of himself at work.

The fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is considered to be one of the greatest works of art. It presents events from the Old Testament. The Popes were good clients for Michelangelo, and Pope Paul III brought him back to paint the west wall of the chapel. He was eighty years old.

Today the Sistine Chapel is the room used by the Sacred College of Cardinals when they meet to elect a new Pope.

On the 22nd of April, in the year 1300, Pope Boniface VIII stood on the balcony of the Church of San Giovanni in Laterano and announced the first Jubilee Year. He had gotten the idea from the biblical book of Leviticus which described a jubilee year that took place every fifty years and required that all slaves be freed and all debts paid.

Boniface declared that anyone who came to Rome during the Jubilee Year, confessed their sins and visited St. Peter’s would be pardoned from the temporal punishment that was due as a result of those sins.

It's like saying to your kid, “You’re forgiven, but you still have to pay the consequences”. Not a free flight but definitely the ultimate bonus miles program. And everybody who could take advantage of the offer came to Rome. During that single year, over a million people visited this city.

The Church intended to mark every hundredth year as a Holy Year. But in 1334, the interval was shortened to 33 years, the length of the life of Christ. In 1464 Pope Paul II cut it down to 25 years. The quarter-century spacing has been in use ever since.

A Holy Year begins on the preceding Christmas Eve when the Pope opens the Holy Door, the Porta Santa of St. Peter’s. Traditionally the Pope would used a silver hammer to knock down a temporary wall that was erected in front of the door, after that, the door was opened.

In 1500, the name was changed from Jubilee Year to Holy Year but the offer of forgiveness remained.

The visits enhance the image of Rome. People discovered extraordinary buildings. They viewed amazing works of the art and they heard music that was specifically composed to lift the hearts of the faithful. They went back to their homes throughout Europe with a new awareness of the importance of Rome. That first Holy Year was one of the greatest tourist promotions of all time. And one of the great things about tourism is that it has the ability promote tolerance and understanding.

I think Steve did a superior job of arranging our tour of Rome and under the theory that no good deed is unpunished, I’ve asked him to set up a tour of Assisi and Siena. Which is where we are heading.  For Travels & Traditions, I'm Burt Wolf. And I’m Steve Perillo.

Travels & Traditions: Florence, Italy - #1302

This is the second program in a series in which I team-up with Steve Perillo to travel around Italy. Steve’s grandfather started a company that eventually became the largest organization taking American tourists to Italy. And this program is about the city of Florence. And to make it truly challenging we brought along my youngest son.

Steve thinks the two things that every tourist to Florence wants to see are the Cathedral which is called the Duomo, the name comes from Domus Dei, which is Latin for the House of God. They also want to see the Baptistery, and I agree. No ancient building in Rome could have spanned the immense distance envisioned for this structure. Nor could any architect working in the early 1400s, until Brunelleschi figured out how to do it.

There are actually two domes, one inside the other. The inner one is made up of self- supporting bricks in a herringbone pattern. When that was completed it was used as the support for the scaffolding to erect the outer shell. The fresco on the underside of the dome depicts the Last Judgment. It was completed in 1579 and intended to be Florence’s version of the work by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

Most of the art created in Italy during the Renaissance was produced under a system of commissions. The church would announce that it was interested in having a nice little sculpture for a spot on the outside of a building. A guild, which was like a super powerful trade union would offer to cover the cost. The guild would choose the artist, often after a public competition.

Then the work would be created and donated to the church. In this case it is a statue by Donatello. It represents St. George, the patron saint of the armorers’ guild, they were the guys who paid Donatello for the work.

Of course the armorers’ guild would like you to believe that St. George was standing there fearlessly because he was using one of their new shields - model 1477, in bronze available with or without the gold trim. Product placement was a basic part of Renaissance art.

Directly across from the Duomo is the Baptistery. Florentines claim that it was originally a Roman temple built to honor Mars, the god of war who had just given them a hand in a battle against the Etruscans. In fact it appears to have been built in the 500’s but it did use some old Roman stones. Italian cities are always trying to extend their history into the past unlike my cousin who keeps maintaining she’s getting younger. Italian cities keep claiming to get older. The mosaics in the dome illustrate the history of the bible from creation to the Last Judgment.

In 1401, the wool makers’ guild announced a competition for the north and east doors of the Baptistery. Ghiberti won. His north doors illustrate the life of Christ. The east doors present the stories of the Old Testament. When Michelangelo saw them he called them the “Gates of Paradise”.

Santa Croce was originally a Franciscan Church, and at the time it was built, it was one of the largest churches in the world. It became the burial site for many of the most famous Florentines. The walls are lined with monuments to Dante, Michelangelo, Boccaccio and Machiavelli.

Since the 1300s, the area around Santa Croce has been the leather working center of Florence and the Santa Croce Monastery was a big customer. The monks were in constant need of leather covers for their manuscripts.

At the end of the Second World War, the Franciscan friars at the Monastery teamed up with the Gori and Casini families, who were master leatherworkers, together they created a school that would teach children who were orphaned in the Second World War how to make things in leather and earn a living.

Laura Gori, the daughter of one of the founders, took us on a tour.

LAURA: And this is what they make when they come for the short term classes which are 3 hours. They start by selecting the leather with the color, the combination of colors. Then Carlo, who is a master craftsman helps them punch the holes and tells them how to put it together, and imagine for such a plain item it takes minimum 3 hours. Since Florence became the capital of Italian fashion, my father decided that these kids needed to be able to find a job after they left the school so we specialize in handbags. We have 2 parallel activities now, one is the school, which is here and is now international, and one is the workshop and display room upstairs. Down here the master craftsmen with the help of the younger artisans whom I select from the best of our students and enroll in our workshop, produce the leather lines displayed upstairs in our showrooms.

For over 300 years, one of the most powerful families in Florence were the Medici’s. They appear to have gotten started in the farming area north of Florence. The name is the plural of medical doctor and at some point that was probably the family profession. During the 1300s, they were very successful in the wool trade. That was OK, but they soon realized that the real power was in banking.

They open their own bank, which vastly increased their wealth. They also became extremely popular with the general public by supporting the introduction of a proportional tax. Imagine that, a banker suggesting that the rich pay more taxes than the poor.

The biggest accomplishment of the Medici, however, was their sponsorship of art and architecture in Florence, which was made possible by their great wealth. During the Renaissance a leading artist would only create a work after he had been paid. Masaccio,

Donatello, Fra Angelico, even Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci worked without an accounts receivable department. The Medici were also great supporters of scientific projects. They hired Galileo as the science teacher for their children, and Galileo repaid the compliment by naming four of the largest moons of Jupiter after the four Medici children he tutored. How cool is that?

In addition to commissioning great works of art, the Medici were serious collectors. It is their private collection that forms the core of the Uffizi Museum. The buildings that make up the Uffizi gallery were originally commissioned by a member of the Medici family to house the city’s administrative offices. Having everybody in one place gave him greater control. He even built a secret walkway that allowed them to walk between their private Palace and the seat of the government without coming into contact with the people they ruled. Something like the private subway in the U.S. Senate. In 1737, Anna Maria Ludovica, the last of the Medici, donated the family’s entire collection to the people of Florence. Today the Uffizi contains the world’s largest collection of Renaissance art.

It is virtually impossible to walk around Florence and not be confronted with the Medici, and that includes the hotel were Steve and I stayed.

The Hotel is the Grand Hotel Villa Medici. It has an ideal location at the very edge of the historic center of the city. It’s just a few blocks away from the Duomo and the Baptistery and the most important shopping streets. The hotel itself was built into an 18th century residence and still has much of that traditional character. And there is the bar. Now every animal has a series of natural habitats and one of mine is a hotel bar.

The creation of certain drinks is associated with certain cities.

The Bellini was created in Venice. Irish Coffee in San Francisco. Manhattans in New York. Florence created the Negroni.

Count Negroni would come into the bar every day and ask for a drink made up of Campari, red vermouth and gin. And eventually they named it after him. 


BARTENDER: Grazzi Senore 

STEVE: That looks good 

BURT WOLF: Here’s looking at you kid. Cheers. 

STEVE: Cheers.

BURT WOLF: Proost, Nostrovia. Mmmm. It’s just the way my mother made it and drank it.

BOTH: (Laughter)

One of the advantages of the location is that the hotel has a private garden where guests can relax. It also has a swimming pool. Which is very unusual for Florence.

The Villa Medici has a well respected restaurant called the “Lorenzo de’ Medici. Steve and I asked the chef to prepare a meal of typical Florentine specialties.

He started with panzanella salad, then a potato pasta, and a Florentine steak. Florence is in Tuscany, and Tuscany is world famous for its wines. Accordingly, the hotel has an extensive collection of Tuscan wines. There is also the Conservatory restaurant that looks out on the garden.

There are less than 100 rooms and suites in the hotel, which gives the entire property an intimate feeling. And there are two styles of decoration to choose from. One keeps the antique feeling of Florence. The other has a contemporary style. And one suite is actually listed as a landmark by the Italian Ministry of Arts. Ahhh -- Lorenzo would have loved this place.

For over 700 years, Florence has been a world epicenter for craftwork with particular skills in leatherwork paper production, and clothing design. We have seen some of the leather working tradition in the Leather Works School and that’s a great place to learn about the craft, but it is also practiced in dozens of shops throughout the city. One of the objects I admire is the Florentine treasure box. and Simone Tadei is a master at making them.

SIMONE: This is my third generation, my grandfather, my father, and me. My grandfather started and learned from other master craftsmen in the 1920’s and now I have the same process I adopted from my grandfather and my father. Strips of leather are soaked in water until they are soft enough to wrap around a wooden box. The box is then heated. The leather dries and hardens. Once it is completely dry the leather is shined with wax and vegetable dyes in order to achieve the desired color and shine. In the final step, the wooden mold is removed and the leather box stands on its own. It’s all done by hand and can take as long as eight weeks.

When Catherine de Medici of Florence married King Henry II of France her jewels were carried to Paris in hard leather boxes that were part of the leather crafting tradition of her home city.

SIMONE: Everything is all done by hand only better and with the passion, time to make these authentic boxes today is very hard.

BURT WOLF: We’re heading into this place Nicholas because they make gloves and they are supposed to fit you very well.

STEVE: Like a glove.


STEVE: Good afternoon.

BURT WOLF: We’ve come for our fitting.

STEVE: Is this a big hand?

GLOVE MAKER: Yes, large size.

STEVE: What size is this do you think?

GLOVE MAKER:  9+1/2 or 10, want to try one pair just for..?

BURT WOLF: 8+1/2.

GLOVE MAKER:  8+1/2 yes, try first of all in size 10. 

STEVE: So what does that thing do?

GLOVE MAKER:  This is to stretch the gloves in the finger because when the glove is new.

STEVE: This is the first hand that’s ever been in the glove?

GLOVE MAKER:  Yes, then after you have tried the gloves, you’ve used the gloves it is not necessary, it’s just when the glove is new. OK push your elbow here. Thank you. The winter it fits much better the glove. Because now the hand is a little bigger than...It’s size 10, I think it’s the right size.

BURT WOLF: Are they lined?

GLOVE MAKER:  It’s cashmere lined.

STEVE: Oh yeah...

GLOVE MAKER:  It’s a classic style for men.

STEVE: This is beautiful.

GLOVE MAKER:  Size 10 is your size.

STEVE: All right, ready?


BURT WOLF: How do we know if it’s a good quality glove and it’s a good fit?

GLOVE MAKER:   Try the gloves. Check first of all that it has to fit correctly in the length. 

BURT WOLF: Right to the tip and solid there.

GLOVE MAKER:  If you find a glove that is too long or too short in the finger it is not the right size. To know that if it is good gloves first of all you have to know the leather the kind of leather because many gloves look similar but is completely different. Also the cashmere, the composition inside

Anthropologists believe that gloves go back to the time of the cavemen and I assume cavewomen.



Apparently, whenever there was a situation where people wanted to protect their hands they developed a glove. Gloves were found in the tomb of Egypt’s King Tutankhamun. You couldn’t be a well-dressed Knight at the Round Table or anywhere else for that matter if you didn’t have a nice pair of gloves. Most gloves come in pairs and you’d think that half a pair would not be particularly interesting. Well quess again. Michael Jackson’s single glove sold for just under a half million dollars.

There is also a long tradition of making marbleized paper. 


PAPERMAKER:  Hi Nicholas, How you doing? 


My son Nicholas stopped in for a lesson. 

PAPERMAKER:  Let’s go together here, so what we have here, see this is a glue and we use this material to decorate the paper following this old method. It was used by the book binders. Let’s start with the blue. You hold this, hammer, on top. All around. Let’s go with another brilliant color first as we did before, and keep going like that. This is fine, you see we have already a kind of pattern. Now look I will take this simple item and you go inside this liquid and then in this part you go with a different movement. Hold it here, OK. You dip it in and go to the right. You see. A new pattern came out. But you can change again. You can change again and we can turn into a pattern we call peacock, peacock tail. Now we have to transfer all of this onto the paper. You go down when I tell you. Hold it. Hold it. OK. Now, we lift it up, a little, hold it, and we did it. Leave it, Leave it down. Here we are. See, and you can make just one at a time. See, every piece it’s unique.

NICHOLAS:  It’s nice. 

PAPERMAKER:  Did you like it? 

NICHOLAS:  Yeah, I like old fashioned stuff.

PAPERMAKER:  See Nicholas, this technique, once it was very popular. The book binders they used to use this kind of paper to cover the end page of the books, so the beginning and at the end. Here you are Nicholas.

NICHOLAS:  Thank you.

PAPERMAKER:  This is your job.

NICHOLAS:  Thank you.

PAPERMAKER:  Congratulations.

NICHOLAS:  Thank you, bye.


Florence is a good town for walking which may have something to do with its long history as a center of production for shoes. In fact there is a museum in Florence dedicated to a shoe designer. It is a private museum, open to the public, and dedicated to the history of the Ferragamo company and its founder Salvatore Ferragamo.

BURT WOLF: They told me that that shoe was originally made for Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot

STEVE: They told me you can have it for 5,000 dollars.

BURT WOLF: Do they give you a discount if you buy the right shoe too?

He was an extraordinary talent. His anatomical studies of the foot led to a revolutionary technique for making shoes. Salvatore Ferragamo was the inventor of the platform shoe, and this is one he developed for Judy Garland.

This shoe was created in 2010 for Angelina Jolie for her appearance in The Tourist. He made special shoes for Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, and Julia Roberts. In films, it was sound technology that made it possible for women to talk. But it was Salvatore Ferragamo who made it possible for them to walk.

Well that’s a quick look at Florence, Italy. I hope you will join us next time on TRAVELS & TRADITIONS . I’m Burt Wolf and I’m Steve Perillo.

STEVE: Hey guys what about ice cream. I love Gelato.

NICHOLAS:  Yah Dad, we haven’t done anything about Gelato. 

BURT WOLF: You’re a tough crowd, I promise, the next show.


For more information about the people in this show, visit their websites.

Travels & Traditions: Venice, Italy - #1301

Venice sits just off the northeast coast of Italy at the top of the Adriatic Sea. It is the only city in the world that was built entirely on water. It consists of over a hundred islands connected by bridges and canals. During the 5th century, Attila the Hun, a generally annoying individual, and his Mongol hordes were moving down the east coast of Italy destroying everyone and everything they encountered. 

Some of the people who were in Attila’s direct line of march decided that it might be a good idea to get out of town and so they migrated across the lagoon to a group of islands. Their bet was that Attila was having such a great time sacking and looting and burning and taking slaves that he’d never bother to follow them across the water. And you know what, they were right. 

Their islands had virtually no land for farming, but they were perfectly situated to become a center for trading. The Venetians soon realized that the future success of their community rested in their ability to buy luxury goods in the east and sell them to rich people in the west. And apparently that is still going on. 

Because there was no farmland, there was no feudal system of landowners and serfs. The nobles were merchants who commanded a fleet of ships to bring stuff to Venice. Everyone in the city was bound together like the crew of a ship. You could inherit money and property, but positions of political importance came by election. And there was constant competition among the important families. 

The Christian world had been divided in half. The western part was centered in Rome, the Eastern part was centered in Constantinople, which was also known as Byzantium. Venice was part of the Eastern church in Constantinople, but physically it was right down the road from Rome, so it was in an ideal spot to control the trade between the two empires. 

The primary trade was in spices – pepper, ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and sugar. Sugar was often considered a medicine, but the others had almost no nutritional significance. 

However, they were a sign of social status and the first example of an ideal item for long distance international trade. They were lightweight and not very bulky, you could get a lot into a small space. They were extremely expensive and they had an almost indefinite shelf life. 

For over 500 years, until the early 1500s, Venice was the commercial center of the world. And the Venice you see today is the result of those 500 years of outstanding power and wealth. 

I had been to Venice a number of times as a tourist, but things are very different when you come with a film crew. You need to know a great deal about the history of the place, what would make an interesting story, and how you can get that story. You need special permits and official contacts. Venice is even more complicated for a film crew because whenever you want to get from one place to another, you need a boat. 

To make sure I had the best visit possible, I teamed-up with Steve Perillo. Steve is the third generation of a family that specializes in bringing American tourists to Italy. 

STEVE PERILLO: My grandfather started Perillo Tours in 1945 with a $300 Remington typewriter in the Bronx. It was right after the war so the main service was helping the immigrants and their relatives back in Italy sending packages back and forth, eventually selling steamship tickets, and pretty soon my father took over and it was 747s back and forth to Italy and now we’re in the travel business. Eventually they ended up with America’s largest travel company devoted to Italy. 

BURT WOLF: This is the first of a series of programs in which Steve and I travel around Italy. And we try to plan the programs so you can take the same trip as we did. 

In Venice our first stop was St. Mark’s Square. For centuries, St. Mark’s Square has been the social, religious and political center of the city. In 1496, Bellini painted the Procession in Piazza San Marco. Over the years it has become the most reproduced view of the city and as you can see, the view has remained pretty much the same. 

The most important buildings in Venice surround the square. The Palace of the Duke of Venice, called the Doge. The Basilica of San Marco. The main administrative buildings. And the two most visited coffee houses in town. 

Let’s start with the oldest coffee house. Most great cities have a historically famous coffee house. Rome has Caffe Greco. Paris has Deux Magots. Vienna has the Sacher. Seattle has Starbucks. And Venice has Florian’s. 

The first coffee beans reached Venice in 1638 but it took almost 100 years before it became a popular drink. The problem was coffee’s bad reputation. Rumors from Istanbul claimed that coffee incited women to lascivious behavior. 

BURT WOLF: It was pretty bad for women. 

STEVE PERILLO: It was worse for men. They suffered a loss of virility, weakening of character, and they were even talking about overthrowing the government. 

BURT WOLF: Well you know eventually most of those rumors were proved false with the possible exception of the ladies running around more because they were running around so much to begin with, no one could determine whether coffee had an affect, and you must keep in mind, this was Casanova's home town. 

STEVE PERILLO: Let’s try this coffee. 

BURT WOLF: I’m gonna need a double. 

Florian’s opened in 1720. The interior you see now dates to the 1850s. For almost 300 years, the thing to do was sit out in front, be serenaded by the orchestra, and have a coffee, a hot chocolate or a glass of sparkling wine. 

For centuries, the most powerful person in Venice was known as the Doge. And this was his palace. He was the chief magistrate, and senior elected official of Venice. And he was selected because the local aristocracy considered him to be the smartest guy in town. Imagine, a society that elected their highest official because he was the most intelligent person in the country. What an extraordinary idea. 

But the powers of the Doge were strictly limited. There were a series of checks and balances that prevented any single individual from taking control. And if someone tried to take over, they could easily wake up dead. 

During the 1300s, architects shifted their focus away from churches to more secular buildings. They wanted to build town halls and universities and private homes and bridges and pizza parlors. 

One of the finest examples of this change is the Doge’s Palace. It was begun at a time when the power and wealth of the city were at their height. In spite of an enormous amount of ornament, it presents an image of authority and grandeur. And it was never involved in a subprime mortgage. 

The most impressive building on the square is St. Mark’s Basilica, which was the Doge’s private chapel. In 1071, the Doge asked the powerful merchants to do him a small favor. He pointed out that since they were already sailing around the ports of the eastern Mediterranean, it would be nice if they could stop for a minute and pick up some rare marble and some semi-precious stones and a few sculptures and stuff like that so he could decorate his chapel. Just the basics. 

And that is exactly what they did. Of course, the people in the eastern Mediterranean felt their treasures were being looted but you know, you just can’t please everybody all the time. 

The Basilica was modeled on the Byzantine churches of Constantinople and designed as a status symbol of the city’s wealth and power. 

St. Mark was the author of the Gospel of Mark and the creator of the Church of Alexandria in Egypt. He is considered to be the founder of Christianity in Africa. His feast day is April 25th, his symbol is the lion and he is the patron saint of Venice. 

Tradition holds that it was to St. Mark’s home that the disciples came after the death of Jesus and where Jesus came after his resurrection. There’s also a theory that the last supper was held in St. Mark’s mother’s home. Now there is no proof of this in either the New Testament or church history but the belief is widely held. 

In 68 AD the pagan residents of Alexandria were so infuriated by Mark’s efforts to turn them away from their traditional gods they tied a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he died. 

In 828, two Venetian merchants who were doing business in Alexandria heard that the Muslim rulers of the city had decided to cleanse the town of all references to Christianity and they were going to destroy the body of St. Mark in the temple where it had been preserved. So, the two guys secretly stole the body and took it back to Venice. The Basilica was built to house the relics. 

Outside, there is a mosaic that shows the two merchants covering the relics with a layer of pork. Since Muslims are not allowed to touch pork, this was an ideal way to prevent them from discovering the relics. When the relics got to Venice, they were hidden while the new basilica was being built. 

When it came time to install the relics in the basilica no one could remember where they had been hidden. Everyone in Venice came to the basilica and prayed for the recovery of the relics. 

Then in 1094, St. Mark extended a hand from a column and indicted where his remains were. They were removed and placed into a sarcophagus. 

The Campanile is St. Mark’s freestanding bell tower. The original structure was built in 1514. The tower is over 300 feet high. You can reach the top using the stairs. Or if you agree that discretion is the better part of valour, you can join Steve and me in the elevator. From the top, there’s a great view of the city and the lagoon. 

One of the things you might notice as you look down is that the domes of the Basilica appear much higher outside than they do inside. And that is actually the case. At one point the new buildings in Venice were getting higher than the domes of the church, which was not good for the Doge’s image. So he had a set of false tops put on which keep his domes higher than the other domes. Remember that until the 1800s, the Basilica was the Doge’s private church. These were a form of ego implants. 

STEVE PERILLO: The bells in the tower signal the people. One signal might be for the senators to meet, another might be that the fleet was coming in. 

BURT WOLF: Or the arrival of a soft ice cream truck. 

There are three ways for a tourist to get around the waterways of Venice. Public transportation is provided by water buses called vaporetti. The stops are clearly marked and it is the easiest and least expensive way to get around. There are also private water taxies that will get you where you want to go fast or slow. It’s your call. They’ll also take you on a private tour of the city. 5 

Finally, you can explore the canals in a gondola. The gondola got its present form during the 1600s. They are made from 8 different woods and coated with 10 layers of black paint. The top of the metal prow at the front is said to symbolize the hat of the Doge and the six forward prongs represent the six districts of Venice. Only a native Venetian can become a gondolier and the job is usually passed from father to son. 

The price of a Gondola ride will vary with your requests. The least expensive is a simple tour along the Grand Canal. If you want a detailed historical description of the buildings, the price goes up. And there’s another increase for singing. Which may or may not be worth the price, depending on who’s singing. 

The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings that date from the 13th to the 18th century and demonstrate the wealth, power and artistic talents of the Republic of Venice. 

(BARBARA) This is the grand canal, and the grand canal is the more important waterway in Venice. and one of the more beautiful streets. 

STEVE PERILLO: How deep is this? How deep is this water? 

(BARBARA) Here is going to be 4 or 5 meters. On canal grande there are the more important palaces of the city. Private palaces or they could be a palace that holds the office of Italian government. 

In front of us we can see the bridge of academia. It is one of the four bridges that exist on Canal Grande. You know that Canal Grande divides Venice into big parts. All the Italians love the Venetians because they say they first learn to drive a boat and then they learn to walk. 

STEVE PERILLO: Oh is this...This is the Realto Bridge. 

(BARBARA) Yes. Realto maybe derives from the word ‘rivus altus’ that means high boardwalk or another version is deep river. This one was the first place where people settled moving from the mainland in the 5th-7th century. 

STEVE PERILLO: I see. When was that built, the Realto Bridge? 

(BARBARA) The last bridge, the bridge in marble, was built in 1592. You have to imagine that in the past, the water space was much wider. Without a boat you couldn’t live in Venice. Then during the century they reinforce the shore, they build the boardwalk they build palaces, sometimes they fill canals. That’s why sometimes you can see the name of the street Rio Terra, it means river filled, Terra, Terra, Interrato. 

STEVE PERILLO: So the story of Venice is the story of water. 

(BARBARA) Absolutely, you cannot divide Venetians from water. 

STEVE PERILLO: That’s great. Hey, thanks for the ride. 

BURT WOLF: While we were in Venice we stayed at the Westin Europe & Regina hotel. Five buildings dating from the 17 and 1800s were joined together to create the property. The oldest of the buildings was a palace belonging to the family of Tiepolos. Two of the Doges where Tiepolos. But the most famous was Giambattista Tiepolo who was one of the greatest Venetian painters of the 1600’s. Many of the rooms look out across the canal at the church of La Salute. 

By the middle of the 1800s, some of the building had been turned into a hotel. Claude Monet, the impressionist painter stayed here because of the great views. Another of the hotels buildings was a Theater which hosted the first performance of the first opera composed by Rossini. 

It was also the place were in 1896, the people of Venice saw their first movie. It was a film produced by the Lumiere Brothers, who were the original guys into the business. The strength of their work lay in the fact that people moved. The boys were a little weak on storyline. It opens with a dramatic scene of people leaving a factory, then people leaving a ship, then people getting onto a train. Getting on as opposed to getting off was a dramatic plot change. At that point they discovered comedy, based on a squirting hose. There was a scene where people played cards and then the great finale when a house was demolished. I heard that a major Hollywood studio is planning to remake this film. 

Much to their credit, the management of the hotel has maintained the feeling of the old palaces. 

The hotel is fortunate in having an extremely talent chef who is serious about his work. He runs the kitchen, but he also does the shopping. One of the elements I use to judge a hotel is the quality of their breakfast buffet. Most nutritionists agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and apparently the director of food and beverage here agrees. 

Of all of the markets in Venice the best known is the Rialto Market. It dates back to 1097 and has been a constant source of fresh produce and fish for centuries and it is open to the public. It’s an ideal place to see what the people of Venice eat, and to pick up some fruit to snack on. 

At about noon, the market closes and many of the merchants stop in to one of the nearby bacari, which is a lot like a tapas bar in Spain. 

BURT WOLF: There’s a big bar with all the food is on it. You pick out what you want you eat and you pay up. 

STEVE PERILLO: And they always have wonderful wine by the glass. 

BURT WOLF: Wine by the glass, we’ll have two. There’s a long bar with lots of small dishes. Spicy meatballs, artichoke hearts, tiny sandwiches, grilled vegetables, mashed codfish and garlic and small glasses of localwine. You eat and drink what you want and when you’re finished you tell the owner what you had, pay up, and you’re on your way. Good, fast, easy, and inexpensive. For us it was a perfect spot. 

BURT WOLF: Such a cool place, wish we had the same thing in America. 

During the Renaissance, the painters in Florence and the painters of Venice had very different approaches to their work. The painters in Florence were more interested in drawing than color. They used perspective and composition to produce a unified pattern. Color was something that came after. For the painters of Venice, color was the main focus of their work. 

One of the most famous Venetian painters of the 15th century was Titian and you can see one of his greatest works, the Madonna with saints and members of the Pesaro family in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Now that’s about as close as I can get to the real pronunciation but tell them you’re looking for the Titian and they’ll bring you to the right place. He moved the Holy Virgin out of the center – outrageous. He broke up the balance between St. Francis and St. Peter. Very dangerous. There had been a tradition of putting in the guys who paid for the painting, but in this case Titian does it in an entirely new way. The painting was a statement of thanksgiving for a victory by one of the Pesaro’s over the Turks. Pesaro is kneeling in front of the Virgin. Behind him is a soldier in armor, holding a flag, and dragging a Turkish prisoner. On the other side of thepicture, St. Francis brings the other members of the family to the Madonna. The painting was successful because Titian used light and color to bring balance to a very unusual composition. Having a flag balance the figure of the Holy Virgin was unheard of. But the rich colors make it work. 

Venice seems to have invented itself. It is the only major Italian city that did not exist at the time of the ancient Romans. They built their city where no city had ever existed, and they invented their history. Steve and I could probably produce 50 half-hour programs about Venice and still have more to talk about, but times up and we’re heading to Florence. 

I hope you will join us next time for TRAVELS & TRADITIONS. I’m Burt Wolf and I’m Steve Perillo.

Travels & Traditions: Lyon to Arles - #1208

BURT WOLF: In this program we sail along the Rhone River through the French district of Provence. We start in the ancient city of Lyon, which was founded by the Romans in the year 43. It is the gastronomic capital of France. Then a visit to the twin cities of Tournon and Train L’Hermitage which are connected by the oldest suspension bridge in Europe. I took a walk on it, it’s quite suspenseful. A side trip to the Pont du Gard, a 2,000 year old aqueduct built by the Romans. A stop at the Pope’s Palace in Avignon, and then our final destination, the town of Arles, which is where Vincent Van Gogh painted his most famous works.

We cruised on one of the AMAwaterway ships and got on board in the city of Lyon.


BURT WOLF: As I mentioned Lyon was founded by the ancient Romans in 43 BC. They developed their settlement on a peninsula formed by the meeting point of two great rivers --- the Rhone and the Saone.

The hill above the city is called the Fourviere --- probably a contraction of “Forum Vetus” which is Latin for Old Forum.

On the top is the church of Notre Dame, which was built in the 1870s. It’s a little flashy for some of the local residents who refer to it as the upturned elephant because of the four short towers that stick up from the corners.

Even though the subject matter is the Virgin Mary, the mosaic-covered walls and floors give the inside of the building a Moorish quality. It has become a major pilgrimage site with over a million visitors each year.

Right down the street is the excavation of two ancient Roman theatres. They were discovered during the 1930s by a group of nuns digging a garden. The larger theater was constructed in 15BC and had over 10,000 seats. If you got to perform here, it was considered an important booking for your act and a tribute to your agent’s power and influence. It was like playing the big room in Vegas.

Even today, the theatres are used to present special events.

These giant Roman amphitheaters are the earliest Roman structures outside of Rome.

At the base of the amphitheater’s hill is Lyon’s Old Town. During the 1400s,

King Louis XI of France granted Lyon the right to hold commercial fairs that brought in buyers and sellers from all over Europe. Many of the merchants who took up residence in Lyon were from Italy and the buildings have a similar look to the buildings that were constructed during the same time in Florence. In fact, Lyon’s Old Town has one of the largest collections of Renaissance buildings and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The word Renaissance literally means rebirth and in the arts it’s reference to a period in European culture that followed the Middle Ages. It was characterized by an interest in the classical knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome. In architecture the objective was to re-create the ancient classical structures of Rome. Harmony, balance and proportion were the essential elements.

At the beginning of the 1800s, Lyon was considered to be the silk capital of Europe. Over half the population of the city was involved in the weaving and dying of silk. The weavers were known as canuts and today La Maison des Canuts is a museum dedicated to the history of Lyon’s silk industry.

Our AMA cruise manager arranged for a guided tour covering the history of the textile industry in Lyon, the invention of the jacquard loom which revolutionized textile weaving and how the industry is evolving in the 21st century. In addition, the museum has a gift shop with great silk scarves and fabulous ties.

Lyon also has a unique architectural feature --- known as traboules, they are narrow covered alleys that were designed as private connections between the great family mansions. They were originally used to transport the delicate fabrics between the different producers and the dyers, and to allow private visits between the families.

During the Second World War they were conduits for the French resistance. The residents of Lyon knew the network --- the Nazi’s didn’t.

Today the traboules are still private but agreements between the owners and the Lyon Tourist Association make them available to visitors.

Many people say this is the town that invented modern French cuisine and Chef Paul Bocuse reinvented it in the 1970s. We sampled some of the signature dishes at Brassiere Le Nord. For starters, a chicken liver and foie gras mousse, roasted beet salad and a puree of cod and potatoes. The main courses were pan roasted chicken, steak in a pepper sauce and whatever the daily special is. Today it’s saddle of lamb. For dessert, a fresh fig and raspberry tart and a pineapple upside down cake with coconut ice cream.

It looks like we are all going to be here for a while. So, how about a brief musical interlude.

Hmm, that was rather out of context.

On a more appropriate note, later that afternoon our AMA guide arranged for us to visit a local boule club. Boule is the French form of what the Italians call bocce and the English call bowling.

The present form of the game as it is played in France was developed in 1907 right here in Provence. The ancient Greeks played a primitive form in which they tried to throw a stone ball as far as possible.

Then the ancient Romans came along and added the target. For some reason, many of the Kings of France decide that the common people should not play boule and the game only became a legal sport for the average citizen in the 1600s. I guess, if you were the king you wouldn’t want any of your subjects improving their stone throwing skills.

The objective is to throw all your balls and the individual or team who threw their ball closest to the target wins. Our group formed itself into a number of teams and we began playing.

Apparently, my style of play was more Italian than French and I was placed in a remedial boule class.

I had learned to play the game in Naples where certain families were allowed to run further down the filed than other families. Which was not considered appropriate either by the members of the local club or my fellow passengers.

There were two other excursions that AMA set up for us that were lots of fun. The first was a visit to a local wine maker who took us into his vineyards to see how his grapes were grown and then took us into his house to see how his wine tasted. Lots of interesting information and lots of good wine.

Our next stop was a goat farm where they made goat cheese. Goats appear to be very friendly animals that enjoy a bit of human company. We were there for about a half-hour and I saw nothing that would indicate the validity of the phrase “stubborn as a goat” or that the older goats were any cause for concern in connection with the phrase “you old goat’.



BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, the ancient Greeks were trading in this area. They were followed by the Ancient Romans. Romans liked to go everywhere the Greeks had been, it was that kind of relationship. 

BURT WOLF: There were three things going for this spot: it had a Big River that emptied out into the Mediterranean. It had a Small River joining up right here, which gave them the ability to go deeper inland. And it had a couple of high mountains where they could build forts to defend the area.

The twin towns of Tournon and Tain L’Hermitage face each other from opposite sides of the Rhone River. In 1825, they were linked together by the earliest suspension bridge in Europe.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Originally all suspension bridges were built with chains. And of course they were only as strong as their weakest link. Then in the middle of the 1800’s a couple of architects came up with the idea of twisting steel wires together to make a much stronger cable. That gave them the opportunity to build longer and stronger bridges. And the first one of this type built in continental Europe, was built right here.

BURT WOLF: The quiet riverside road at the edge of Tain L’Hermitage offers some of the most beautiful views of the river.

One of the city’s original gates is still standing, with its town crest and motto: strong walls make good neighbors.


BURT WOLF: The next morning our ship was deep into Provence.

Some locals like to tell you that this land came into existence when God decided to take all the best parts of the universe, that were left over after the Creation, and use them to make his own paradise. Interesting view --- It’s humble in the sense that you are working with leftovers, but awe inspiring because it’s God creating his own paradise. Typical attitude for Provence---everything here is simple, but it’s the best.

We tied up in the town of Avignon.

DAVID ALFON (ON CAMERA): The old name of the city was Avignon. The city of the wind. And here we have a very cold wind called the Mistral wind. Mistral in Provencal that means the master. And this wind is coming from the north of Europe getting cold in the Alps and crossing the Rhone Valley. But this wind is very useful because it’s pushing the clouds away. So when the Mistral is blowing, no clouds, very sunny day, very beautiful day.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): On one side of this river is the town of Avignon which belonged to the Popes. On the other side of this river is land that belonged to the king of France. And for hundreds of years they were connected by a bridge. Then in the 1600s a huge flood came down the river and knocked out half the bridge. Obviously it had to be repaired. So the Pope called up the king and said “Hi, how about fixing your bridge!?” And the king said “ha ha ha it’s not my bridge, it’s called the Pont de Avignon, the bridge of Avignon. Your town, your bridge. You fix it”. And they discussed that for a while. And today if you want to go from one side to the other, you swim.

BURT WOLF: The reason the Pope was in Avignon was because during the 1300s Rome was in such chaos that he decided that he had to get out of town and the new town he chose for the Papal Court was Avignon. That’s the Papal Palace that was built for him. It was a busy place when the Pope was there, and filled with magnificent works of art. But it was also a primary target during the French Revolution and inside there’s not much left.


BURT WOLF: The next day our AMA cruise manager arranged for us to take of tour of the Pont du Gard.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): People have been living in this area for thousands of years. But in the year one hundred twenty they became citizens of the Roman Empire. The big town in the neighborhood was Nimes and 50,000 people lived in it, which meant they needed 40,000 cubic meters of water everyday. Roman architects solved the problem by building an aqueduct that came from this spring to the center of town. The spring was always filled with water. Cause it rains a lot.

BURT WOLF: In about the year 50 AD, Roman architects began building an aqueduct to bring water from the mountains to the city of Nimes. It was an impressive structure than ran for almost 30 miles and the most spectacular part was the span over the Pont du Gard. Even today it attracts thousands of tourists. It illustrates the high level of architectural skill possessed by the ancient Romans.

The Pont du Gard passes over the normally quiet Gardon River at the bottom of a deep valley. But from time to time the Gardon floods and the water crash against the pillars that hold up the bridge. In order to protect the structure against these destructive currents the Roman architects shaped the pillars like the prow of a ship. Smart guys.

The walls of the canal were waterproofed with a type of plaster that was made from a mixture of lime, pork fat, wine and figs. Salt and pepper was added to taste. It was so effective that two thousand years later it can still be found on parts of the aqueduct.

Much of the primary work for the construction was done at the stone quarry. Each stone was cut to a particular size and shape --- then lettered to indicate which arch it was for and numbered to show the workmen where it was to be placed in the arch. Not quite a kit from IKEA but getting close.


BURT WOLF: Our next stop was the town of Arles. A lot of its ancient Roman architecture still stands and gives the town a strong sense of history. Its Roman arena was built to seat over 25,000 spectators.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Over two thousand years ago Roman architects figured out how to design a stadium so people could get into it and out of it quickly.

There was a circular walkway that went completely around the stadium. Off the walkway were stairs. 

BURT WOLF: Some of them went down to the lower seats. Some of them went to the middle seats. And some of them went up to the bleachers.

The spectators showed up regularly to see the gladiators take on the wild beasts. You can see the tunnels where the animals charged into the arena. And there’s where they posted each day’s final score ---Gladiators 2, Lions 7.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): For me the most interesting aspect of Arles is that it was the town where Vincent Van Gogh created many of his most famous works.

He arrived here in February of 1888 and in the 15 months he lived here produced over 300 paintings and drawings, including this one called The Drawbridge. I don’t think that looks anything like that. Hey Andy, are we in the right place?

This is another famous Van Gogh painting called Aliscont. It’s a walkway designed to look like Roman Burial ground. You guys are kidding right?! Van Gogh was fascinated with the challenge of painting an outdoor scene at night. And this is one of his most successful solutions. It’s called the Café at Night and you can see he’s begun to put in his famous stars. That actually looks like the café. The location scout’s getting better.

BURT WOLF: Van Gogh was born in Holland in 1853. The son of a pastor, he was serious about his religious convictions and had once worked as a lay preacher in England and Belgium.

He wanted to paint pictures that would appeal not only to the sophisticated connoisseur but to the average person. His objective was to express his own excitement about the things he painted. He painted and drew the simplest things. Things which in earlier times where not considered worthy of attention by artists.

My favorite is his room in Arles.

Van Gogh was not particularly concerned about the accuracy of his images. He used form and color to express what he felt and hoped that the viewer would feel the same thing. He had purposely given up the idea of painting as and imitation of nature.

Van Gogh longed for companionship and dreamed of a society of artists who worked together. He was able to convince the impressionist painter Paul Gauguin to join him in Arles.

Gauguin and been a successful stockbroker in Paris, though to the best our knowledge he was never involved with sub-prime mortgages. The subject matter of his most famous works were the natives of the South Sea Islands, particularly Tahiti.

The two men were very different. Gauguin had none of the Van Gogh’s modesty and sense of purpose. Gauguin was proud and had a strong ego.

It was a complex and stressful relationship and from time to time quite acrimonious. When Van Gogh died, Gauguin took it as a personal insult and never talked to Van Gogh again.

One of the AMA guides had an impressive understanding of the local architecture and she took on a fascinating tour.

GUIDE: This church is considered as the highest Romanesque church in Provence. 

BURT WOLF: It was here in the south of France, during the 1100s, that Romanesque churches began to use sculpture to express the teachings of the church.

The front of the church of St. Trophime in the center of Arles was built in the late 12th century and is one of the most outstanding examples of this style.

The front porch is shaped like a Roman triumphal arch. The field above the lintel shows Christ in His glory, surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists.

The lion for St. Mark.

The angel for St. Mathew.

The ox for St. Luke.

And the eagle for St. John.

Below there are 12 seated figures, each representing one of the apostles.

To the left of Christ there is a row of naked figures in chains --- the dammed being dragged to hell.

On the right we see the souls of the blessed. Looking at Christ and filled with eternal bliss.

And below that, figures of the saints, each identified by their emblem.

We always hear that a picture is worth a thousand words. And these are the pictures that enforced the words of the priests. You might not remember precisely what was said in a sermon, but there’s little doubt about the message in the sculptures. The entrance to the Promised Land is here and the doors are always open.


BURT WOLF: That afternoon, we took a ride through the countryside to the village of Les Baux de Provence. It’s a pedestrian-only village next to the ruins of a 13th century castle.

DAVID ALFON (ON CAMERA): First the Prince of Hibble came here and built this village because they got a lot of enemies all over Europe. And then during the 17th century they became Protestants and the French king said to his prime minister, Richelieu, to come over there and destroy all the area and kill everybody. 

So the French Army came here and destroys all the area. So that's why you have the rooms of the castle at the top of the village. Then during the19th century an engineer came here and found the bauxite in this area. And they were mining over there to extract the bauxite and the people came here to work in the mines and they did renovation in the village. And that's why you have this very well preserved village just behind us.

BURT WOLF: Well, that’s river cruising through the south of France. For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Melk to Budapest - #1207

BURT WOLF: As the Danube River runs west from the Austrian city of Vienna it passes through some of the most picturesque scenery in Europe. For over 35,000 years people have been living on these shores. They were originally attracted to the area because of the mild climate and the ideal conditions for farming. The ancient Romans occupied the region and when Christianity became the official religion of Rome the local population slowly gave up its pagan beliefs and built dozens of monasteries on the hills.

But a monastery was not just a center for religious activities. The monks were skilled craftsmen, architects, and technicians. They set up permanent facilities that organized the peasants and showed them how to improve their farming, how to build better houses and upgrade the construction of roads and bridges. When a ruler donated land and money for the creation of a monastery it may or may not have improved the rulers’ value to the Almighty but it was definitely a mighty improvement in the value of the lands that the ruler ruled.

The ideal way to pass through this part of Austria is to travel on one of the river cruisers. I sailed on one of the AMAWATERWAYS ships.

BURT WOLF: The cruise directed had an excellent understanding of the local history.


BURT WOLF: The town of Melk was founded as a Roman garrison at the point where the Melk River joins up with the Danube about 50 miles west of Vienna. In the year 976 the Emperor of Germany chose the Babenberg family to rule the neighborhood which they did from a series of fortified castles. The castle at Melk was their most important stronghold and became the cradle of Austrian history.

The Babenbergs decided to bury their ancestors at Melk and to make sure that the family burial site was cared for properly they set up a monastery inside the castle. The Babenbergs ruled for just over 100 years, at which point the castle and the surrounding lands were turned into a Benedictine monastery and Benedictine monks have been living and working here ever since.

For centuries Melk was able to support itself with taxes from the local peasants and a profitable agricultural program on its own land. These days, however, the major source of income is tourism. Each year almost five hundred thousand people visit Melk.


BURT WOLF: St. Benedict’s motto was pray, work and read and the physical structure of Melk is designed to serve these functions.

Up until that time monks were primarily hermits living separately in huts and caves. St. Benedict did that for a while but then he decided that monks should be together in a community. The Benedictine model is to bring people together in a life of holiness, but at the same time it should be a life of wholeness. He promoted a balanced personality of work, spiritual life, and intellectual advancement. The Benedictine communities became an oasis of learning within Europe, an oasis that preserved the idea of scholarship that was so much a part of the European tradition.

The Rule of St. Benedict requires that nothing be more important than the worship service and the Melk Abbey church clearly reflects that instruction. Work on the church began at the beginning of the 1700s, under the direction of Abbot Dietmayr. Dietmayer decided that the subject matter of the art work should be based on the idea that without a just battle there is no victory. And that theme is reflected throughout the interior.

St. Peter and St. Paul in a farewell handshake as they set off to meet their deaths--- their final battle. Christ crowned with thorns battles through suffering to glory. A panel shows the woman of the Apocalypse who battled the dragon. The entire area around the altar represents one idea---God’s people battling on the road to salvation. The design reaches its peak in the dome. We see the heavenly Jerusalem---the great victory that follows a just battle.

The paintings present the idea of a journey, a struggle, a spiritual battle in which each individually has to participate. There is no room for the passive bystander, you must be involved, you must be part of the struggle.

The abbey library is one of the worlds finest with over 100,000 books including many ancient hand written and illuminated manuscripts.

This book was written in the 1100’s and presents elements from the mass.

By the early 1200s Melk had its own writing room which produced hundreds of illustrated books and was probably the inspiration for Umberto Eco’s medieval murder mystery----“The Name of the Rose”.


BURT WOLF: In 2001 the Melk monastery museum was built to illustrate the history of the abbey and to help visitors understand the forces that shaped its past.

The most precious treasure and the holiest relic in the monastery is the Melk Cross. It contains a fingernail-size piece of the cross of Christ that was given to the abbey in 1040. The gold screws that hold the two sides of the cross together are the oldest known screws with a right-hand thread which is now the norm.

There is also the lower jaw of St. Coloman. Coloman was the son of an Irish king who was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but because of his strange language and clothing he was suspected of being a spy. In the year 1012, he was imprisoned, tortured and hung. Almost immediately a series of miracles began taking place and the local population began to view Coloman as a saint.

The Badenbergs heard about the miracles and had Coloman’s body brought to the castle for a ceremonial funeral. The Badenbergs knew that having the body of a saint in their castle would be considered a divine confirmation of their authority as rulers. Coloman became Austria’s first patron saint.

The museum represents all the periods in the history of Melk---the good, the bad and the truly bizarre. Some of the more bizarre stuff came in during the second half of the 1700s when everything was being subjected to what, at the time, was considered to be logical behavior.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): In 1784, Emperor Joseph II reached a high point or perhaps a low point depending on your view point in terms of logical thinking. He’d come to the realization that the Lord wanted the human body to return to the earth---ashes to ashes and dust to dust and that a coffin only stood in the way and so he demanded that all coffins be reusable.

BURT WOLF: This is a model of the reusable coffin he introduced. Once it was lowered into the grave a pulley opened a trap door in the bottom and the body remained in the earth while the coffin was pulled up to be used again.

Now as much as Joe loved his reusable coffin, he didn’t think it was quite right for Emperors.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): You see there really weren’t that many Emperors and so it wouldn’t get used that often. And therefore it really wasn’t a very efficient piece of equipment – for Emperors.


BURT WOLF: The Melk Abbey museum also contains some of the greatest religious art of the late middle ages. These paintings were produced as works that would teach the bible to people who could not read, which was the case for the majority of the population.

An excellent example is the painting of The Twelve-Year-Old Christ in the Temple. Mary and Joseph are looking for him and find him with the scribes. Jesus is sitting on a ‘teachers chair' on the same level as the highest teacher symbolizing that what Jesus says is as important as what the scribe has to say. In addition, the scribe is using a book. Jesus needs no book ---he is saying what God has taught him. In the lower right hand corner is a scribe who has closed his book. All the scribe needs now is the wisdom of Jesus. Paintings like these were explained to the viewers and thereafter each time they were seen, the message was remembered and understood.

The monasteries of lower Austria are still teaching tools. They can remind a visitor that for thousands of years people have struggled to lead a more meaningful life and their belief in a superior being or higher force has been an essential part of that struggle.



BURT WOLF: During the 1500s, the Protestant Reformation spread throughout Europe and introduced an architectural style that was much less decorative and ornate than what had been in fashion up to that time. Much of the elaborate art and sculpture was removed from the Catholic Churches, which were being converted for use by Protestants.

Baroque art and architecture was the Catholic Church’s response to the simple decorative style of the Protestant Reformation. The Baroque got started in Italy during the late 1500s and continued for about 200 years. The objective was to build a church that was so elaborate and so ornate that it overwhelmed the observer.

It asked, “Where do you think God really belongs, in that plain undecorated modest Protestant church or in this magnificent structure?” The architect was trying to evoke an emotional response. Elaborate decoration was essential; for a Baroque artist, more was never enough.

A favorite element was a scene from the Bible that was so powerful that it inspired conversion. The ceilings of Baroque churches were often covered with scenes of heaven suggesting that the Church was the only reliable road to salvation. The Baroque was propaganda in the form of art and architecture.

You looked up at the ceiling of a Baroque church and you saw the coming attractions. The art was a call to action. Step this way, there’s immediate seating in the balcony and our operators are standing by.

The style was not limited to churches. This was a period when the kings of Europe were consolidating their power and a monumental Baroque palace clearly indicated who was in charge. The outstanding example is the royal palace and gardens at Versailles. It was built to illustrate the power of the state. Baroque architecture was about domination.

The last places to undertake the construction of a series of major Baroque buildings was Southern Germany and Austria. The monastery at Melk is a perfect example of the style.

In music, the most famous examples of the Baroque are the works of Vivaldi, Handel, and Johann Sebastian Bach.


BURT WOLF: Vienna was built at the crossroads of two major trade routes. The north-south axis was the Amber Road that went from Northern Germany to Greece. The east-west traffic was handled by the Danube River. The Danube was essential for the growth of international trade. Vienna got rich because the city controlled the traffic heading down river.

And Vienna was controlled by the Hapsburgs. The Hapsburg family came to power at end of the 1200s and hung onto it for almost 700 years. This is Schonbrunn Palace, it was their summer place. Now, most royal families increased their land and their power by using military might, but the Hapsburgs used marriage.

It all started when Maximilian married Mary, the daughter of the Duke of Burgundy, which added the Netherlands and Luxembourg to his lands in Austria. Then Max’s son Phil married Joan, the heiress of Castile. And that got him Spain and Naples and Sicily and Sardinia and all the newly conquered Spanish lands in the Americas.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): These guys were getting married all over the place and getting all the places where they got married. But at one point they made a fatal mistake. In order to avoid anybody marrying a Hapsburg and getting their land they started marrying each other--- a genetic disaster. It’s good to have a close family but not that close.

BURT WOLF: Swimming in the same gene pool made them weirder and weirder and in the end they lost everything. Fortunately, what they lost is now on display to the public.

Our AMA cruise manager arranged for a tour of the Palace.


BURT WOLF: Robert Tidmarsh has been a senior guide to Schonbrunn Palace for over twenty years.

ROBERT TIDMARSH (ON CAMERA): This room is the so called Marie Antoinette Room; it dates back to the time of the Emperor. What we've done is to try to show the public what a dining room was like at the time of the Emperor.

ROBERT TIDMATSH: The napkins are the so called Kaiser Serviette. They're shaped similar to a fleur d'lys, and they were used, or are used for the head of state. 

ROBERT TIDMARSH (ON CAMERA): Even today when we have a state reception, if the President of Austria gives the reception then they will use the Kaiser Serviette. If it's the Chancellor, then they don't. 

ROBERT TIDMATSH: The Master of Ceremonies chose the length of the candles. So if it was going to be a long reception he would use long candles, if it was going to be a short reception, the short ones. Most of the people that came to a state reception were Austrians that had been to thousands of receptions before, and they would automatically look at the chandeliers to see how long the reception was going to take.

ROBERT TIDMARSH (ON CAMERA): The Emperor ate very quickly, which is not quite true. If he did, he would have looked like me. 

ROBERT TIDMATSH: He ate very little and finished very quickly, and that led to a problem. As soon as the Emperor stopped eating everybody else was obliged to stop.

Most of the restaurants near to the Schonbrunn or near to the Hofburg or the hotels, knew about the problem. They knew that the reception would be over very quickly, and they were getting ready for the end of the reception. And the end of the reception would have been that moment, as soon as the Emperor stopped eating and everybody left the Hofburg or Schonbrunn and went to the next best hotel for a meal.


BURT WOLF: After our tour of the Schonbrunn Palace, the AMA cruise director made arrangements for us to visit one of Vienna’s traditional coffee houses.

Coffee originated in Ethiopia, and by the sixth century Arab communities in the area were cultivating coffee. The Moslem sect called the Dervishes loved the stuff. They realized that when they drank coffee, they had more energy and they were able to stay up longer. That gave them more time at prayer. So they figured it was a gift from God. They called it 'kava,' which is where our word coffee comes from. Moslem armies attacked Vienna in 1683. When their siege failed and they headed back to the Near East, they left behind sacks of coffee beans. The Viennese discovered them, figured out how to brew it and opened up their first coffee house.

A coffee house is a place to read the newspaper, play a game of billiards, have a light meal or a dessert, a glass of wine, and definitely a cup of coffee.

The waiters in a true Viennese coffee house will be dressed in tuxedos. They will offer you over 20 different types of coffee and with each cup there will be a small glass of water to aid your digestion.


BURT WOLF: Vienna is the epicenter of European baking and famous world wide for its pastries and cookies. The official home of Vienna’s cookie monster is Demel. Demel got started in 1786 when a confectionary assistant settled in Vienna and started selling decorated baked goods. His shop, which served coffee and hot chocolate along with the pastries, became a gathering spot for the local aristocracy.


BURT WOLF: The last stop on our cruise was the city of Budapest, which is actually made up of three cities: Buda, Pest and Obuda.

These days Budapest is a peaceful, beautiful and culturally interesting city, which has managed to hold on to much of its history while adapting to the needs of a modern capital.

This is the Castle Hill area. The capital of Hungary was originally a few miles up the river on a flat plain that was almost impossible to defend. During the middle of the 1200s, the Mongol Tartars, who had become wealthy as a result of their invention of tartar sauce, invaded the town and destroyed it. So the next time a town was built in the neighborhood it was put up on a steep hill. Good move---safer neighborhood.

The hill is about 200 feet high and about 5,000 feet long and it holds an entire city district filled with historic houses.

The district also contains the Mathias Church. The original church on this site was put up in 1255 for use by the German residents of Buda. At the time it was known as the Church of Our Lady but people started calling it the Mathias Church after it was used for the first wedding of King Mathias in 1463.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Mathias used it again for his second wedding to Beatrice of Naples. And I’m sure if he had a third wedding he would have been here too. He loved getting married in this Church and he was getting a fabulous deal from the florist.

BURT WOLF: Next to the church is an equestrian statue of St. Stephen who converted to Christianity in the year 1,000 and became the first king of Hungary. There is a story that the number of legs connected to the ground on an equestrian statue is related to the way in which the rider died: one hoof raised means the rider was wounded in battle; two hooves raised means death in battle. All four hooves on the ground means the rider survived all battles unharmed. 

This is a popular story but not always true. It depends on when and where the statue was made and who made it.

Behind the statue is an area known as the Fishermen’s Bastion. During the 1200s each group of tradesmen were responsible for defending a part of the city wall and this was the part defended by the fishermen. 

The spot has a great view of the Danube and Pest. The building that dominates the Pest bank is the Parliament.

When we finished our tour of Budapest we headed back to our ship where we celebrated our last evening on board. 

Well, that’s river cruising on the Danube. For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Nuremburg to Linz - #1206

BURT WOLF: Europe’s Danube River beings in southwest Germany and flows through nine countries until it empties into the Black Sea. It runs for almost 2,000 miles making it the second longest river in Europe. The longest is the Volga in Russia.

The most famous waltz written by Strauss, describes the river as the Blue Danube, which leads me to the conclusion that Strauss would never have passed the color chart test for a drivers license. 

This river is brown or brownish-yellow because the current is constantly stirring up the lime and mud on the riverbed.

Accordingly, our cruise will take us down the brownish-yellow Danube starting in Nuremburg with a stop in Regensburg, a passage through the Danube Gorge, a beer break at the Weltenburg Abby and a visit to Linz, home of the Linzertart.

We boarded our ship, which was an AMAWATERS river cruiser.

One of the really nice things about traveling on a river ship is that you unpack once and never deal with your suitcase again until the trip is over. The ship is like a moving hotel that takes you from town to town.


BURT WOLF: We boarded the ship in Nuremberg, which is in the German state of Bavaria. Bavaria covers all of southeastern Germany and is the nation’s largest state. But Bavaria is also a state of mind. It’s Europe’s epicenter for partying and its held that title for over 500 years.

During the 1500s, the rulers of Bavaria spent so much money building magnificent churches and palaces that they almost ran out of cash.

Nuremberg Castle dates back to the Middle Ages. From 1050 to 1571, every emperor of the Holy Roman Empire spent part of their reign in the Nuremberg Castle.

Many of the rooms have their original paneling and are furnished with paintings, tapestries and furniture from the 15 and 1600s.

For thousands of years, if you were looking for a safe place to build your castle you need a spot that high enough so you could see what was happening around you and to make it difficult for your enemies to get near. You also had to have a dependable source of water, particularly if your castle was under siege. The shaft of the Nuremberg castle well was driven through 50 yards of sold rock.

The castle was built in stages on a sandstone hill on the north side of Nuremberg’s old city.

The German emperors never had a home base. They moved around the country from one castle to another, but the castle at Nuremberg was a favorite and they appear to have spent more time there than anywhere else.

The local government of Nuremberg was responsible for the cost of maintaining the castle, but in exchange they had the right to live there when the emperor was out of town.

Hay Mo, this is Curley. Barbarossa just left for his summer place. The castle is ours till September. Let’s get in tonight.

In order to find a new source of revenue, the chief accountant for the Duke of Bavaria suggested that instead of buying beer from an out-of-state brewery and sending revenue out, they should set up a royal brewery right in Bavaria and keep all the cash in town. The net result was the first Hofbrauhaus.

The beer is served in a liter mug called a mass. If you are the designated driver you might skip the mass and have a radler, which was designed for people going about on bicycles. It’s half beer and half lemonade.

The crews on the AMA ships are always looking for an excuse to introduce the passengers to something that’s fun, and Bavaria’s love of beer and sausages was a perfect opportunity.

After our beer break, we headed into Nuremburg to tour the city. Nuremburg got rich during the 12th and 13th centuries as a commercial and craft center and the undeclared capital of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 1400s, it became a favorite city for artists living in northern Europe.

The most famous was Albrecht Durer who was born in Nuremberg in 1471.

For anyone interest in the history of art the Durer House is fascinating. It is a half-timbered building that was constructed in the 1400s, and is the only completely preserved Gothic house in the city.

Exhibits inside the house are devoted to Dürer's life and works.

At the time, Italy was considered the great artistic center of Europe. The Italian masters had discovered the scientific principles of perspective, and a detailed knowledge of how to render the beauty of the human body. Durer travelled to Italy to learn how all this stuff worked.

When he returned to Nuremberg and opened his own workshop he was able to demonstrate his new and impressive skills.

A series of large woodcuts illustrating the Revelations of St. John was an immediate success. The horrors of doomsday had never been visualized with such power.

Durer’s St. Michael is not standing in a traditional pose. He’s in the thick of it, using both hands to drive his spear into the dragon. This is real hand-to-hand combat between good and evil. Durer clearly had a fantastic imagination and the ability to present it in his works.

But he was also devoted to the beauty of nature. His drawing of a hare makes the point.

And so does his painting of a small patch of earth.

The Durer House is definitely worth a visit.

Nuremberg was at the center of the European trade routes and by the early 1600s, it was at the height of its economic and cultural development, but nothing lasts forever and by the early 1800s it was broke. My immediate assumption was that its decline was the result of an early form of credit default swap.

But in fact, it was caused by Columbus. After the discovery of America, world trade routes shifted from the land to the sea. Nuremburg began to deteriorate. And Protestants killing Catholics and Catholics killing Protestants for 30 years during the Thirty Year’s War didn’t help either.

It wasn’t until the beginning of the 1800’s, when the German railroads were being built that Nuremburg made a comeback as an industrial powerhouse.

Hitler saw Nuremberg as the perfect stage for his party rallies. This was the location where he held his fanatical gatherings. It was also the city that gave him his strongest powerbase.

On January 2nd, 1945, British and American bombers pounded the city into a pile of rubble.

Clearly, the Allied high command wanted to send a message to the residents of Nuremberg about the consequences of their previous behavior. As you sow, so shell you reap.

AMA arranged for us to travel though the city with a particularly knowledgeable guide.

BURT WOLF: When the war ended the city was chosen as the site of the War Crimes Tribunal. Their work became know as the Nuremberg Trails. Leading Nazi war criminals were tried for conspiracy and crimes against world peace, the rules of warfare, and humanity. The trials became a milestone in judicial history as the birthplace for a new law of nations: For the first time in history, sentences were pronounced according to the principle of personal responsibility on the part of the individual. It was the end of “But I was only following orders”.

Eventually, the remaining population of Nuremberg began to reconstruct their city. For the most part, they were able to do it with the original stones. Today, almost all of the city’s main buildings have been restored including the castle and the old churches.

After the tour, we returned to the AMA ship and took part in a wine tasting and talk given by one of the America’s leading wine experts.

Alpana Singh is the youngest woman ever to pass the final exam to become a Master Sommelier. Only three percent of the people who take the test pass. She is especially well known in Chicago as the host of the local PBS show called Check Please.

Alpana gave us a taste of the wines that are produced in the areas we sailed through. It’s one thing to have a tasting at your local wine store, it’s quite another to drink your way through the neighborhood where the wines are made and have a great wine authorities on your ship.

AMA has a number of cruises hosted by leading wine authorities and I think knowing more about the wine you are drinking can often add to the pleasure of the experience. You want a teacher who is entertaining, knowledgeable and makes the wine more interesting to drink. You loose me with the technical stuff. Alpana was perfect.


BURT WOLF: Our next stop was Regensburg. Like most of the towns in Western Europe, Regensburg began as a Celtic settlement that dates back to about 500 BC. When the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius came through they took over area and made it his power center for the upper Danube. 

The Regensburg Cathedral, dedicated to St. Peter is a prime example of the Gothic architecture of southern Germany.

Ribbing that reduces the weight of the roof.

Arches that allowed for the introduction of larger windows.

Buttressing the  made it possible to building to larger and taller churches than ever before.

The dark heaviness that was typical of the earlier churches gave way to the light open warmth of the Gothic. These structures were meant to illustrate the wealth and influence of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. It was built on the site of the north gate of an ancient Roman fort.

The Romans were great judges of real estate. When they saw something in a good spot, they took it. Even it if it needed a little work.

The city sustained little damage during the Second World War and many of its ancient structures are still standing.

It’s most famous is the Stone Bridge that was built in 1146 on the base of 16 huge arches. It’s been in continual use for over 800 years.

At the base of the bridge is a little house where sausages are cooked and served at nearby tables. This simple outdoor restaurant was actually set up in the 12th century to feed the men who were working on the bridge.


As we sailed down the Danube, we were confronted by the Hall of Liberation looking down on us from the top of a hill and visually demanding us to pay it a visit.

Almost every country I have visited has at least one monument that must be visited and photographed out of respect. In the United States there are the Washington and Lincoln monuments.

Rome has the Pantheon.

Paris has the Arch d’ Triomphe.

This one was built on the site of an ancient Celtic settlement by King Ludwig I of Bavaria. It is a memorial to the Bavarian solders who lost their lives in the War of Liberation which took place in 1815 and led to the final overthrow of Napoleon.

The outside has 18 columns topped with figures representing the legendary German tribes.

The inside was designed to feel like the Pantheon in Rome.

There are 34 victory figures symbolizing the individual states that made up Germany at the time.

There are 17 plaques recording the names of the major battles of the war.

72 granite columns that bear the names of the cities recaptured from the enemy.

And 112 PBS viewers remembering what it felt like to be on a class trip.


BURT WOLF: Next, as a reward for visiting the monument, we sailed through the Danube Gorge. It’s only a 20 minute trip on a small tour boat but it passes through some of the most interesting scenery is Europe.

About 50 million years ago, during what Stephen Spielberg made famous as the Jurassic period, the Danube carved its course through the hard limestone rock of the Swabian Alps. At some points the river is only 350 feet wide with cliffs on either side that are 250 feet high.

There are a number of rock formations on the walls that have been given special names. There’s the Bishops Mitre, the Beehive and Napoleon’s Suitcase. Unless you live in the neighborhood or have just finished 3 or 4 shots of the local brandy these forms maybe hard to recognize.

The area is also filled with ancient fossils, present company excluded. In fact, the oldest musical instrument, a flute carved from the tusk of a mammoth that dates back over 37,000 years was found in the Swabian Alps.

Over the centuries rain has slowly been dissolving the entire mountain range. It’s loosing about 2 inches a year. So you better get here as fast as you can.


BURT WOLF: As a further reward for visiting the Hall of Liberation we stopped at the Weltenburg Abbey.

It is a Benedictine monastery that was founded by Irish or Scottish monks in about 620.

It is considered to be the oldest monastery in Bavaria.

The entire place was rebuilt in 1717 in the ornate baroque style. The most important structure is the abbey church, which is dedicated to St. Geroge and St. Martin. It’s filled with outstanding examples of Bavarian baroque art.

The cupola is decorated with a painting that shows the saints in heaven. And the organ, which was built in the 1700’s is in perfect working order. Now I like a baroque church as much as the next guy. But that is not the reason I keep returning to the Weltenburg Abbey.

The Weltenburg Abbey is home to the Weltenburge Cloister beer brewery, which often wins the award for the world’s best dark beer. And it’s being made in what is probably the world’s oldest brewery that is still in operation. It opened for business in 1050.

There is also a traditional Bavarian restaurant with a menu that include the monastery’s home made cheese.

Appropriately fortified we boarded the little river ship and headed back.

On the way we passed a group of people who had a unique approach to river cruising. They had built a small raft, set up a table and chairs, a bucket of wine and a few snacks. And gently drifted down stream. 


BURT WOLF: AMA also offered an optional excursion to the Austrian city of Salzburg and that’s were I spent the next day.

Salzburg means salt castle, which is a reference to the nearby salt mines. For centuries salt was the best way to preserve food through the winter and it was extraordinarily valuable. It was what made Salzburg important.

People have been living here since the 5th century BC.  When Rome collapsed so did Salzburg. But during the 8th century, St. Rupert put Salzburg back on the map. Apparently, Rupert had the only good map and he put on whatever he wanted.

Today, Salzburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and the old town has many of its original baroque buildings.

During the 1600s, Italian architects were invited to work in the city and the most beautiful squares and buildings were the result of their work.

It’s most famous building, however is at Getreidegasse number 9, where on the 27th of January 1756, at 8 O’clock in the evening Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and cried his first note. It was a C sharp.

Getreidegasse is the main shopping street and its lined with dozens of shops.

One of my favourite spots in Salzburg is the restaurant St. Peter. It was built into the walls of a mountain and is considered to be one of the oldest, still functioning restaurants in Europe.

We all went there for lunch.

After lunch we walked through the streets of the city, checked out the pastry shops and eventually headed back to our ship.


BURT WOLF: Our next stop was the Austrian town of Linz, which is on the Danube about 100 miles) west of Vienna. It is the third-largest city in Austria and the biggest port on the Danube.

During the first century, Linz was the site of a Roman settlement and because of its location on the Danube, by the Middle Ages it had become an important trading center.

For me, the most significant fact about Linz is that it is the home of the Linzer Torte, which is a Christmas classic in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Hungary.

There is some evidence that the oldest known recipe in Europe is for a Linzer Torte. The document dates to 1653.

That evening a group of us settled down at the bar in the lounge and  started telling old jokes. Some of them were so good that I felt the need to share them with you. Here’s my favorite.

“ Mr. Goldberg goes to see his doctor for his annual check up …..”

Well, that’s what it’s like to sail on the Danube from Nuremberg to Linz. Please join us next time when we continue river cruising in Europe from Melk to Budapest. For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Artcops - #1205

BURT WOLF: For over 40 years, I have been traveling around the world reporting on history, culture and tourist attractions. Invariably, I would end up visiting the famous museums.

Anyone who has ever been to Taiwan eventually ends up in the National Palace Museum. When I first visited the museum in the early 80s there were very few tourists. Today it is the most visited tourist sight in the nation. There are tourist from Europe, Africa, North and South America and hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists from the mainland who come over to see their artistic heritage.

The museum was built in Taipei, Taiwan by the government of the Republic of China in 1965. The architectural style is based on the traditional Chinese Palace --- four stories, green tiled –roofs with yellow ridges. The primary objective was to protect and preserve over 650, 000 objects that represent 8,000 years of Chinese history.

With the exception of portraits, most traditional Chinese art shows giant landscapes inhabited by tiny people. The artists wanted to illustrate the point that people are insignificant in comparison to nature and its forces.

The museum is an important destination for many tourists, but one of its primary objectives is to give young Taiwanese a sense of their artistic heritage --- to inspire an appreciation of Chinese art.

And it’s almost impossible to get through Paris without someone taking you into the Louvre to see the Winged Victory or the Mona Lisa.

My personal favorite in Paris is the Musee D’ Orsay. The Gare D’Orsay was a train station built for the 1900 World’s Fair. By the early 1950s, however, its platforms were too short for modern trains and the building was scheduled for demolition. But the President of France, Giscard d’ Estaing, understood the value of the structure and turned it into a national museum. A museum filled with works of the great French Impressionists.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): French Impressionism got started in the late 1800s and early 1900s when a group of painters in Paris got fed up with the traditional subjects of French painting. They’d had enough of religion and mythology and history, they wanted something new.

BURT WOLF: During the late 1860s, Claude Monet began concentrating on the effects of light and color. The subject matter of the painting, the depth and the perspective became less important. Surface pattern became more important. The Impressionists did all of their painting outside while looking at their subject as opposed to the conventional practice of painting in a studio.

Today the Musee D’ Orsay presents the works of the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionists including Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh---artists who freed Western painting from thousands of years of tradition.

SIGRID IVO (ON CAMERA): And you see especially in the 1950’s, that’s a very typical American one.

BURT WOLF: But I also looked for museums that were virtually unknown to the average traveler. Like the museum of women’s handbags in Amsterdam.

During the last few years, I became aware of the extraordinary amount of art that has been stolen from many of the world’s most important museums and private galleries. And almost all of it is still missing.

A stolen work of art is a missing piece of our history and we need to get these works back were they belong. Where we can see them.

I began to wonder what a television program would look if it’s primary objective was getting back these works. Here’s what I came up with.

Each year over 6 billion dollars worth of art and antiquities are stolen and much of it is used by organized crime to fund drug deals, arm sales and terrorists. And tens of millions of dollars of reward money is waiting to be claimed. A stolen work of art is a stolen piece of our history

In March of 1990, Johannes Vermeer’s “Concert” was stolen from the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston. The Vermeer was part of a 300 million dollar theft and considered the most valuable painting ever stolen. There’s a 5 million dollar reward.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has the most extensive collection of his works.

In December of 2002, Van Gogh’s View of the Sea and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church were taken from the museum.

The total value of the two works is $30 million. 

There’s $150,000 reward.

BURT WOLF TO CAMERA: ARTCOPS will tell you what’s missing, why these objects are an important part of our history, why they are worth a fortune and what you can do to help find them and earn the reward money.


BURT WOLF: Erica Morini was born in Vienna in 1908. By the age of 5 she was considered a major talent. At 16 she was booked for a national concert tour in the United States. She is considered one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century. Her instrument of choice was a Stradivarius violin that was made in 1727.

During the fall of 1995, at the age of 91, while Erica was being treated at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital someone entered her apartment and stole the violin. At the time it was valued at three and a half million dollars. Today, it’s probably worth eight million. The thief also took Erica’s musical scores, which contained her notes.

The New York Police Department ran down the leads.

The FBI was called in.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): A few days later, Erica died without being told of the theft.

15 years later, it’s a closed case …. and mostly forgotten.

BURT WOLF: But, not by us, we want it back.

First question… what makes a violin worth 8million bucks.

The guy to ask is Joshua Bell. He’s a world famous Grammy Award winning violinist who also owns a Stradivarius. 

JOSHUA BELL (ON CAMERA): You can find a modern violin that will play loud, and sound good in Carnegie Hall, you know, to the back of the hall. That’s fine. But when you’re trying to get the nuance and the color in a piece like the Franck sonata, there’s nothing like a Strad. It’ like being a painter, being given thousands of colors to choose from to get the shading just right, as opposed to three or four colors. And, you can be a much greater artist, as a painter, with that at your fingertips. As a musician, you feel the same way. It opens up whole worlds of sound, and nuance, which you can then apply to the music.

There are so many things that make an old Italian instrument. It’s the only thing I can even think of that is that old, I mean it’s a 300 year old. That is as useful, 300 years later. I can’t think of an example anywhere of something that’s still better than anything that you can make today. I think a Stradivarius violin is really one of the great achievements of a human being in history

BURT WOLF: Chris Marinello is the executive director for the Art Loss Register which is the largest private database for stolen art.

In addition to keeping the database, they also search for missing works.

They check out major auction houses, they see what’s happening on line, they go to the important art fairs. 

AUCTIONEER (ON CAMERA): At 75 million dollars then. Are we all done. I’m happy to wait. 

BURT WOLF: I asked Chris Marinello if he had any idea where the Stradivarius might be.

CHRIS MARINELLO (ON CAMERA): It’s really hard to surmise. Who would have a Stradivarius, lying around. It’s a little different than a picture that you put on the wall and look at. We think that there might be some gang somewhere just holding onto it, hoping that one day the time will be right to sell it. We’re finding that art is taking a longer time to surface. So, thieves might just be holding onto it 

BURT WOLF: Dorit Straus is the world-wide fine arts manager at the Chubb Insurance Company

DORIT STRAUS (ON CAMERA): One of the theories that I heard, that it was an inside job because everybody knew that she kept her violin in the closet, but that’s about all that I can tell you about it. I think if it ever surfaced it would be identifiable because it’s a well-known instrument, it has a well-known history. 

Authorities would know what it is, and it would be recovered. I am not sure whether it was insured and who the company was that insured it, and whether they put up a reward, but it is it’s a sad thing when an instrument like that, is missing. It should be played, it should not be just, you know, somewhere.

BURT WOLF: For 20 years Bob Wittman was an undercover agent for the FBI and helped recover over 200 million dollars worth of art. How do you open a cold case like the Stradivarius?

BOB WITTMAN (ON CAMERA): You have to go back to the beginning and follow all those leads through again and see what’s come up since.

The first thing I would do is get the entire investigation, review it all, re-interview all the people that were looked at before, see who wasn’t interviewed ... because that’s always the situation. Use all the resources that we have today that weren’t available at that time. Internet, Artnet, uh, auction records. And look at all of these things that have come up in the past 15 years, ten years that weren’t available maybe 25 years ago, and use all those forensic techniques to come back and see what else we can come up with.

BURT WOLF: Apparently it’s not that difficult to steal a work of art. The problem is now that you have something famous and worth millions, how do you sell it? Crag’s List--- eBay?

BONNIE MAGNESS GARDINER (ON CAMERA): The Internet has been useful to us because it allows us to see what’s out there and identify stolen works of art when they come up on the Internet, because we have information on what’s been stolen. We have images. Sometimes, certainly descriptions and titles. 

So if somebody tries to sell a stole work of art on the Internet, it is potentially identifiable. And that is a good thing. There are elements of the Internet also that are traceable so that you can see who has put up the information and trace it back to a source. Again, that’s helpful.

On the other hand, it allows people to sell things that are stolen quite easily, because you can put something up on a list and it can be gone the next day. 

BURT WOLF: If you spot this Stradivarius, please get in touch with us. There’s a $500,000 reward.


BURT WOLF: During the fall of 2010, the building at 55 Gansevoort Street in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District was owned by the family of Robert Romanoff.

There’s a night club in the basement.

A cafe on the first floor.

And a restaurant on the second floor.

There’s an elevator that opens directly on to the street but its right next to a door that’s staffed by a guy who works for the restaurants and the nightclub. The elevator is operated by a key and only a few people had that key.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): On Thanksgiving Weekend when Mr. Romanoff was out town a gang of crooks broke into his apartment by punching a hole through the wall in a hallway closet. They escaped with about $750,000 worth of art and jewelry including ten Warhols and two Lichtensteins. They also took the security camera video tape. Nice touch.

BURT WOLF: The New York Police Department released images of the art, hoping that someone might help solve the crime.

Ten of the works were by Andy Warhol who is often described as the father of Pop Art. The Pop Art movement got started in London during the mid 50’s and caught on in the United States about 5 years later. Pop artists would take familiar images from mass culture, advertising, product logos, labels and comic book art and place them in new and unusual surroundings. Very often the artist would use mechanical means to reproduce his work.

I asked Susanna Garcia of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain to show me some of Wahol’s work.

SUSANNA GARCIA (ON CAMERA): In my tours I usually like starting here --- Andy Warhol, because I think this is quite different. This is not the Andy Warhol we are used to. I mean, this is what he was doing in the Fifties. He was a graphic designer, and he was designing those shoes you see. But from here, I personally – I can see the evolution he is going to have. Because I can see the glamour already, and he is going to be obsessed with glamour. I can see the bright colors. I can imagine his assistants helping him to paint, to color, because he had what he called his coloring parties. And, as he said, he wanted to be a sort of machine; he wanted to work in every medium --- in cinema, photographs, paints, fashion, music, everything. He thought that everything could be art, and are could become common.

BURT WOLF: When he died in 1987 he left behind a body of work worth billions of dollars.

Two other works stolen at the same time were by Roy Lichtenstein. Born to a middle class working family in New York City in 1923, Lichtenstein became one of the most well known Pop Artists of the 20th Century. Art was a hobby, not a part of his formal education until he attended the Art Students League. He shifted the focus of his education and went on to get his undergraduate degree in Fine Arts at Ohio State University. In 1961, Leo Castelli, an influential gallery owner, started showing Lichtenstein’s works alongside other pop artists like Warhol. His work explored pop art through the use of hard-edged compositions and tongue-and-cheek humor. Often his paintings looked like comic strips, which included the use of Ben-Day Dots. He died in 1997. These days his works often sell in the tens of millions of dollars.

CHRIS MARINELLO (ON CAMERA): Those I believe, will surface soon. Those are the types of things that change hands quickly and will end up in the hands of a dealer who will one day check it against the Art Loss Register and they’ll pop up as a match.

We do find insurance claims go up when you have a recession in place. Many cases over the last few years have had circumstances where maybe the gallery had too many art thefts, too many insurance claims. You know, these things are always investigated. 

BOB WITTMAN (ON CAMERA): I’d like to review that case, because I think it would be interesting to see if we could maybe shake the trees a little bit and pull those paintings, those, those prints. Mostly they were prints. They were not paintings.

Well, the fact that where he was located, and restaurants and night clubs above and below. And there’s a lot of interesting things, yeah. 

BURT WOLF: If you have any information about this crime, please get in touch with us.


BURT WOLF: Chris Marinello at the Art Loss Register is particularly interested in the recovery of three specific works.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the harbor at Antibes on the French Riviera has been a playground for the rich and famous. For the last 50 years it has been home to some of the world’s most luxurious private yachts. In 1999, a Saudi billionaire brought his yacht into the harbor to be refurbished.

The Portrait of Dora Maar, who was Picasso’s mistress, hung in the ship’s main living room.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Normally it was kept under a sophisticated alarm system, but because the walls of the room where about to be repainted and the contractor said that the painting was in the way and it had to be removed.

BURT WOLF: The plan was to put it in a bank vault. So the painting was taken down and locked temporarily in a different room. Unfortunately, it was more temporary than planned. The room didn’t have an alarm system. Hay, nobody’s perfect.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): A few days later the owner’s art expert came on-board and the painting was missing. The video surveillance camera at the dock had been out of action for 3 months. The police felt it was a “theft to order” for another private collector.

BURT WOLF: If you have any information about this crime please get in-touch with us. A reward of one million 500,000 dollars is being offered.

This is a portrait by the British painter Lucian Freud of Francis Bacon --- another British artist. 

The painting belongs to the Tate Gallery in London. The Tate lent it to the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. It was hanging on a special wall that had been built just for this exhibition and was therefore not linked to the museum’s standard alarm system.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): In fact, it wasn’t linked to any alarm system. In broad daylight the thief walked into the museum, took the picture off the wall and thanks to its small size --- just walked out with it. It’s worth about 2 million dollars and it hasn’t been heard of since.

BURT WOLF: There’s a $150,000 reward.

In February of 1997 a gallery in Italy was being renovated. One afternoon, while the renovation was taking place someone opened a skylight in the roof, dropped a fishing line into the gallery and hooked a painting by off the wall. The work was by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt. Nice catch.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): It was worth about 4 million dollars. People realized that it was missing, but they assumed it was in storage. Four days later they discovered the empty frame on the roof and decided it had been stolen. Brilliant deduction.

BURT WOLF: A substantial reward is being offered

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): One of the most disappointing things of art theft is the recovery rate. Only 14% of the works that are stolen are recovered within 25 years of the date of the original theft. We are hoping to help change that, and there are things that you as a view can do to help.

BONNIE MAGNESS GARDINER (ON CAMERA): What we would like from the public is information. If someone in the public knows of a stolen work of art, has seen something, then it would be good for them to get in touch with us. If they hear of a theft or somebody who is planning to steal something, again, that is the kind of information that it would be useful for us to know. 

DORIT STRAUSS (ON CAMERA): Things in the public domain are quite, you know, quite, vulnerable, whether it’s, you know, Iraq we had a tremendous amount of looking from the, from the museums…

BOB WITTMAN (ON CAMERA): The public can keep their eyes open. Keep looking at what people have in their homes and if you see a Monet in your friend’s house and if you have a couple of beers with him down the bar give somebody a call. You know, let us know. Basically, they can just keep their eyes open and be observant and pay attention.

RON SIMONCINI (ON CAMERA): I think you need a sophisticated alarm system that has back up. In a museum, in a large enough museum there’s generator back up if the electricity fails due to a black out. Cell phone communication between the museum or the collector’s house and an alarm company so they can then call the cops.

You need to have redundancies in place. If you have a large amount of art in your summer house, I suggest you have staff.

If you're away from home and you don't have enough alarm and enough redundancy, people will steal your art. It’s really you know, I don't know. I think that depending on the amount of art in your house, and you know, and it doesn’t have to be expensive It could be something you really love, um, you have to protect it. 

There is no free lunch in the art theft business.

BURT WOLF: ARTCOPS.COM is our website. On it you will find pictures of each of the works we talked about in this program, the stories of how they were stolen and the amount of the rewards being offered 

If you know anything about their whereabouts, please contact us. Your information will be kept totally confidential. If it leads us to the recovery of any of the objects in our programs we will help you receive the reward money in complete privacy

We also update our website with new information about the works covered in our programs and about other missing art.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Our primary objective is to recover the works of art. A missing piece of art is a stolen piece of our history.

For ARTCOPS, I’m Burt Wolf.

BURT WOLF: Since this program began broadcasting a number of the works we talked about have been recovered. For further details visit And please keep your eyes open for the works that are still missing.

Travels & Traditions: Cochem to Luxembourg - #1204

BURT WOLF: Having turned onto the Moselle River, we headed down to Cochem.


BURT WOLF: Cochem started out as a Celtic settlement.

Then the Romans came along and finally the local German dynasties.

During the 11th century construction began on Cochem's Reichsburg castle. It was built at a key point on the River.

At a point where the owner of the castle could block the traffic on the Mosel by hanging a chain across the river from one side to the other. They also had a few nice cannons so they could blast you into pieces. If you wanted to continue your trip you paid a toll. If you didn't pay the toll the soldiers would throw you in the river and take your ship. Seemed like a pretty straightforward offer.

The rulers got rich and the castle got better furnishings.

CLAUDIA SCHIFFER (ON CAMERA): Our castle was built the first time around the year one thousand. And the builders of this castle were Frank Comes Palatine Counts. They were from Aachen and they were the owners here until 1151. But in 1689 the castle was destroyed. It was blown up, burned down. The destroyers were French troops. It was the Sun King Louis XIV. And he destroyed all the castles between Heidelberg and Cochem to make inheritance claims.

All the walls are painted. This is not wall paper. And you have to imagine that you are in the past. All the walls were covered in gold leaf. The style of the furniture we call Renaissance. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): A basic part of Renaissance design is balance. So if there’s a door on one side of the room there has to be a door on the other. But this door leads to a rather interesting room. Nothing.

CLAUDIA SCHIFFER: On the walls can you see the four symbols? These are the Cardinal Virtues. These are wisdom, bravery, prudence and justice. But for the fifth one, the chastity, we had no space in the room. These are lions. The lions they have a knights helmet on the head. The wiser is pulled down and definitely looks like a frog. Maybe you’ve seen the same thing outside, the bigger one by the cannon. It’s not a frog, a lion.

RUDI SCHREINER (ON CAMERA): Well the Mosel is my favorite river valley in the world. I think it’s about the most beautiful part of Germany. It has the most beautiful most charming towns.

BURT WOLF: For thousands of years, people have been using rivers as a primary means of transportation. It was usually easier and safer to move things on a river than on a road. But many rivers were too shallow or too narrow for anything but a small boat.

One way of solving that problem was to build a series of dams. The rivers got deeper and wider but then you had the problem of a river with different levels -- similar to a set of steps.

The invention that dealt with the steps is called a lock. A lock is a mechanical system for raising or lowering a boat as it passes from one level of a river to another. Like an elevator it can take you up or down. It has a chamber with gates at both ends. A boat or boats go in the gates are closed and water is either pumped into the chamber to raise the boat or pumped out to lower the boat. When the water has reached the proper level one of the gates is opened and the boat sales on.

The first gates used in Europe worked like a guillotine. The gate was held in a frame and raised and lowered -- like a guillotine.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): One day Leonardo da Vinci took a break from painting the Mona Lisa and invented a new and improved form of lock. The doors were in a V shape so the down stream pressure actually kept them closed. In 1478 he oversaw the construction of six of these new locks and they were fabulously successful. 


BURT WOLF: Our next stop was the town of Bernkastel.

And we were able to dock at the edge of the old town and just walk in.

The entry point to Bernkastel is the road that passes along side the tower of the St. Michaels Church. The tower was built in the 1300s and was originally part of the town’s defenses. Nice touch. There you were in the church tower praying for victory while you were throwing hot stones at your enemy. Convenient.

RUDI SCHREINER (ON CAMERA): I think Bernkastel is my favorite. From the architecture, from the structure, from the way the town is set-up. It is absolutely gorgeous.

BURT WOLF: The town is famous for its half-timbered houses.

Half-timbered houses are made by building a frame of wood and then filling in the open space between the wooden beams with clay, brickwork, or just plain rubble. The exterior and interior surfaces were often covered with plaster.

It is one of the world’s most environmentally responsible, ecologically friendly and aesthetically pleasing architectural styles and it was developed about a thousand years ago in northern Europe.

England, Denmark, Germany, and parts of France and Switzerland had lots of forests. Timber was in good supply but there was a shortage of stone and the skilled workmen needed to cut the stone.

If you were a skilled stonecutter you had all the work you needed building a cathedral. A farmer’s house was not something you wanted to work on, unless it belonged to the king or your father-in-law.

The half-timbered houses had many advantages. At the time the basic building material was a tree or a tree stump. All the work was done by hand. The tools were axes and knives and hand powered drills.

A farmer could gradually put the frame together, fill in the walls and end up with a structure capable of handling a great deal of weight with very little of the internal space squandered on supports. And if he wanted to move the house, he could knock out the filling between the wood frame, move the beams to a new location and fill in the spaces with new clay. A relatively easy process.

Bernkastle is also well known for its wine. Accordingly, AMA took us to a private wine tasting.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Above the town is a hill that has a famous story. During the 1300’s the Bishop was quite ill and about to die. He said that anybody who could save him would get a great reward. A kid shows up with a big barrel of wine. Starts giving it to the Bishop. A little more every day. The Bishop recovers. The reward, all the wine from that hill will be labeled “doctor.” Today there are four families who share that hill and all of their wines are marked “doctor.” Unfortunately most of our medical insurance policies do not cover the good doctor’s wines; however, it’s probably worth the investment.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): This is a great telephone. It says “if you want any wine opened, if you have any questions about wine, if you want to buy some wine, just call number 10.” Hi this is Burt Wolf. Is their a doctor in the house? Not funny.

BURT WOLF: When we returned to the ship the captain was having a final night party. Quite frankly, it looked like the party we were having every night. Except on this night we were formally introduced to the members of the staff, each of whom appeared to have their individual fans.


BURT WOLF: The next day we headed to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg --one of the smallest countries in the world.

It’s wedged in between Belgium, France and Germany and has been a heavily fortified military site for thousands of years. It was often referred to as the Gibraltar of the north.

JEAN-CLAUDE CONTER (ON CAMERA): This is the very place where we come from. In fact right behind me you have this promontory, the Bock Promontory. Where the first counsel of Luxemburg was built in the 10th century. We were a county, then we became a Duchy in the 14th century. And then Burgundians started a period of 400 years of foreign domination. After Burgundy it was Spain, France, Austria, Prussia and Holland who decided what happened with Luxembourg. They all left traces behind. 

KATHY GIORGETTI (ON CAMERA): Luxembourg always has been a very interesting place of strategic importance in the middle of Europe. And you were always very close to your next friend or to your worst enemy, right in the middle of Europe. Right now we are standing on the ramparts of our fortress walls. It was the perfect place to build a fortress. All you had to do was build ramparts and walls on the existing rocks you see right in front of you.

KATHY GIORGETTI: These are the rocks the typical sandstone that you will find every where in Luxembourg. And since it’s a very soft stone it was very easy to build ramparts. And to dig what we call today the famous Labyrinth of the Casemates. The Casemates is actually a labyrinth of underground tunnels. So you have to imagine Luxembourg like a Swiss cheese. It’s under our feet you have 17 kilometers of tunnels and galleries carved into the rock. This city has been built on two levels. We’re standing on the upper level of the city. But then you have the lower part of the city and it goes down 50 meters. It was the perfect the perfect setting for a fortress city.

JEAN-CLAUDE CONTER: This was for centuries a battlefield of the Europeans. And it has become a working place of the European Union. So symbolic.

BURT WOLF: Luxembourg is a linguistic meeting point where the Germanic languages of northern Europe encounter the Romantic languages of the south.

Most of the Luxembourgers speak three languages. Luxembourgish, German and French. It has become a center for banking and commercial services. These days, Luxembourgers have the world’s second highest standard of living and per capita income. The Swiss are the first.

Walk through the streets of the city and you get a clear indication of the wealth of the community. And the city administration is always trying to improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Luxembourg was one of the first cities in the world to be totally covered by Wi-Fi. No matter where you are in town, you can make a free connection.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Worked in the kitchen.

BURT WOLF: Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy with hereditary succession. The executive power rests with the Grand Duke, who appoints the prime minister. The Duke does all the meet’em and greet’em stuff and the Prime Minister and his cabinet run the place.

JEAN-CLAUDE CONTER (ON CAMERA): We are right in front of the most prestigious building in town. It is the Grand Ducal Palace. In other words the residence in town of His Royal Highness Grand Duke Henry, the head of state of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

JEAN-CLAUDE CONTER: The architecture is quite extraordinary for a northern country. Because it shows us Spanish Renaissance. It is the palace in town of the monarch where he receives the official States Guests. The balcony has also quite a symbolic meaning to the Luxembourgers because if there is a Royal wedding or special event then the Royal family shows up on the balcony and the crowd of people greet them in the streets. On this balcony for instance a generation of migrant parents saw Grand Duchess Charlotte come back from her exile in America in April 1945. Napoleon was also received in this building as Luxembourg was French. It is a relatively small but a very elegant palace which was restored in 1995.

BURT WOLF: Since 1919, voting by adult citizens has been compulsory -- vote or else.

JEAN-CLAUDE CONTER (ON CAMERA): So here we have the ministry of foreign affairs, the Prime Minster’s office, the ministry of commerce, of finance, of agriculture, and at the end a Michelin star restaurant. One out of 13 in the country. We have the highest concentration of stared restaurants in the world. And in the center of the square we have the monument of her Royal Highness Grand Duchess Charlotte. Who was on the throne from 1919 to 1964. A long period of 45 years, cut by the second World War when she was in exile in the United States. She became close to President Roosevelt who promised her, “my child I’ll bring you back home.” And that happened in April 1945.

BURT WOLF: There is a considerable amount cultural activity in Luxembourg. Of particular interest is the Mudam Museum. The architect was I.M. Pei and the building reflects his modern approach to architecture, which is in keeping with the museums objectives.

STINA FISCH (ON CAMERA): He chose this particular place in Luxembourg City. And he chose it because on this spot here we have remains of the fortress of the city of Luxembourg. And he built onto the fortress, but which much respect to the fortress. So he kind of echoes the original design of the fortress walls that are by Vauban who built many forts in Europe. So it is kind of a beautiful marriage of old and new, what’s happened here.

BURT WOLF: The exhibitions are designed to introduce visitors to contemporary art. Artists are given a specific space in the museum and invited to do whatever they want within that space.

VIDEO BAND: One, two, three, four. (screaming)

BURT WOLF: More or less.

STINA FISCH: This is a piece by Luxembourg’s most famous artist. Her name is Su-Mei Tse. That doesn’t sound very Luxembourgish. And this is so because she is her father is Chinese. And what is quite interesting too is that she trained as a cellist so every one of her pieces involves sound. 

Marie Lund the artist she took a piece of stone. In this case it was marble and knocked on it in one strong gesture. And that’s how it broke and the break kind of creates a horizon if you want to look at the marble like a landscape.

BURT WOLF: And how would I know this wonderful story if you weren’t here to tell me.

STINA FISCH (ON CAMERA): Well that’s why I’m here. That’s what I do in the museum. I am the mediator. So basically I am, I replace all the text on the walls and all the reading people have to do and the audio guide and whatever.

STINA FISCH: We try to have real people to talk to the visitors about the art. I tell them that incase of doubt, it is always art. Because you are inside a museum. And a piece of stone dropped somewhere next to the wall is probably art because you are in a museum. Outside the museum you can’t be certain. And then I can start to explain how it got there and what it’s doing.

BURT WOLF: The town also has an excellent open market.

I went shopping with Kathy Giorgetti who is with the Luxembourg Tourist Association.

KATHY GIORGETTI (ON CAMERA): This is William II Square. And it’s market day, so Saturday and Wednesday twice a week you see plenty of people coming to town for shopping and most of the people are looking for fresh organic foods. You have all these stalls with vegetables, flowers, fruits and homemade products that they sell.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Oh look at these Savoy cabbages. Makes me what to make soup. Actually everything I want for soup is right on these tables.

KATHY GIORGETTI (ON CAMERA): Yes. Whenever I come to this market I really feel like cooking or you know. On your left side you have Luxembourgish home make products. These are real products, its apples they are organic they are nuts there are no chemicals. And William II statue actually. He is just in front of us.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): What’s he got in his hand. Oh, cabbage. Looks like a cabbage. He came here to shop. Ah, I like a king who does his own shopping.

KATHY GIORGETTI (ON CAMERA): Burt you have to taste this, because this is typical Luxembourgish foot. It’s pastry with meat and inside it has some white wine Riesling. And we call it Riesling pate.


KATHY GIORGETTI (ON CAMERA): What do you think?

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): It’s pate au cul with a jelly. I got it. I got it.


The nice thing is that you always see people that you know. Luxembourg is small. Everyone knows everyone. It’s more fun because, you will meet your neighbors or some people you haven’t seen and then you go for coffee. It’s about socializing.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): That’s what markets were meant to be.


BURT WOLF: And around the market are some outstanding shops.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Right at the edge of the market is a little shop where they have all of the great wines made by the Luxembourg vintners and you can come in and get a free sample of each. I’m going to be here for quite a while. I offer you a brief musical interlude.

YODELERS: (yodeling)

BURT WOLF: That was interesting.

Luxembourg also has some of the best restaurants in Europe. My favorite is the one owned and run by Lea Linster. She was the first female chef to win the Bocuse d'Or award. In 1987, the Michelin Guide awarded her restaurant its first star.

Lea was busy studding law at the university when her father's sudden passing required her to return home and take over the family business, which consisted of a combination cafe, restaurant and gas station.

LEA LINSTER (ON CAMERA): I always cooked. I loved to see all this tourists and to see everybody and then I cooked for them. I remember when I was around ten years old I loved to cook soup for the Dutch guests because they were not so spoiled.

BURT WOLF: She makes the best Madeleines I have ever tasted. And the recipe is quite simple.

A batter is made from butter, sugar, egg whites, ground almonds, and flour. It rests in the refrigerator overnight. Then it’s piped into the Madeleine form. And into the oven for 5 minutes. Because she feels they are at their best the day they are baked, so I ate 15, just to help her out. It's important to be there for your friends.

LEA LINSTER (ON CAMERA): My food is of course it’s classical French food, from the real fine French cuisine. But I always put my way because I’m what you would say a very foodie person. And things have to have the right taste that’s very important for me. So I care a lot for the taste.

BURT WOLF: She also prepared a saddle of lamb wrapped in a potato crust. This was the recipe that won her the Bocuse D' Or.

I put the full recipes for the Madelienes and the Saddle of Lamb on our website

Well, that sailing from Cochem to Luxembourg. For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.



Ingredients for 40 to 50 madeleines

 Madeleines: (to be prepared one day in advance)

  • ½ pound plus 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 ½ cups sifted confectioners’/icing sugar
  • 8-9 egg whites
  • 3 ¼ ounces finely ground almonds
  • 6-8 tablespoons sifted flour


  • Baking molds for madeleines (available at high-end kitchen supply stores)
  • Softened butter and flour to prepare the molds


  • Brown the butter in a small pan on medium heat until it has a light hazelnut odor, then remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour the butter through a fine sieve into a bowl.
  • Beat the confectioners’ sugar lightly with the egg whites until smooth. Mix the almond powder and the flour, and add them to the sugar and egg white mixture. Pour in the warm browned butter and mix well. Let the batter rest overnight in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap.


  • Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Butter the madeleine molds with a pastry brush and flour lightly. Fill to 2/3 with the batter. Bake the madeleines 3 minutes at 400 F, then lower the temperature to 350 F and continue to bake for approximately 4 to 5 minutes more. Take the madeleines out when they have a beautiful golden color. Let them cool fro a moment and unmold while still hot, Let them cool on a rack and serve with coffee or tea.


Only bake as many madeleines as you will need for one day. They are much better eaten the day they are made. The batter will keep very well in a sealed container in the refrigerator for one week.


By Lea Linster

Ingredients for 4 people


  • 1 ¾ pounds russet potatoes (4 large)
  • ¼ cup neutral vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
  • 12-16 ounces saddle of lamb, boned 
  • fine sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup bread crumbs


  • 2 cups lamb stock
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter
  • fine sea salt

Potatoes & Lamb:
Pre-heat oven to 375 F.  

Peel the potatoes, julienne them with a mandolin (Benrinder) and press them well between your hands to rid them of excess moisture. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Spread out half of the potatoes in a thin layer to make a large wafer-thin pancake (galette) of 10 inches in diameter. Brown on medium heat on one side and slip it onto a cloth without turning it over. Strew on half of the chopped parsley. Repeat the operation for the second galette. 

Place one piece of lamb onto lower third of one of the potato cakes, using kitchen towel, roll it up. The potato should stick to the meat and to itself at the lateral ends. Place pieces of lamb next to each other, but a little distance apart on a griddle with tinfoil underneath.  Roast in the pre-heated for approximately 15 minutes, until pink.

To Prepare the Sauce:
While the lamb is roasting, reduce the lamb stock with sprig of rosemary in it, until the stock is reduced to half. Remove rosemary. Shortly before serving, cut butter into small pieces and add to sauce. Stir until melts. Season with salt.

To serve – remove lamb and cut each piece immediately into 4 pieces. Serve 2 pieces per person on pre-heated plates. Pour sauce around the lamb. Enjoy! 

Travels & Traditions: Cologne to Zell - #1203

BURT WOLF: The Rhine is one of the world’s great rivers. It starts in the Swiss Alps and flows for 865 miles through six European countries ending up in the Netherlands and the North Sea. It connects to dozens of other rivers and canals forming a vast inland waterway. Berlin, Paris even Provence on the Mediterranean is reachable on this freshwater highway.

Traditional Rhine ships are long and sit low in the water. They’re long because they can’t be wide—the river is too narrow and the locks are even narrower. They can sit low in the water because they’re not worried about ocean waves and heavy seas.

The ancient Romans understood the commercial value of the Rhine and maintained a Rhine fleet to protect its trading boats. Moving things on the Rhine was cheaper than moving things on land. As a result, the river is lined with some of Europe’s oldest and most famous cities --- Basel, Strasbourg, and Cologne are perfect examples.

The river has inspired paintings, operas, symphonies, and books—and in recent years, tourists. So I decided to take a cruise along the Rhine from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Basel in Switzerland.


BURT WOLF: Cologne was built by the ancient Romans in 38 AD, at a point where the Rhine River crossed a major east-west trade route. It was an ideal spot for commercial development and by the Middle Ages it had become the largest and one of the richest cities in northern Europe. And once again it was a city’s position on a major river that made it rich.

But Cologne’s wealth and fame is also the result of its religious relics. In the middle of the 1100s, Emperor Barbarossa, who lived in Milan, gave the remains of the Three Kings to the Archbishop of Cologne who brought them home, and had them placed in a golden shrine. And built a fantastic cathedral to hold that shrine.

Since the Middle Ages Cologne has been a religious center and a destination for pilgrims. Pilgrims came from all over Europe to visit “Holy Cologne”. The city’s great pilgrimage site is its Gothic cathedral. Even today, over five million visitors come here each year, which has made the Cologne Cathedral Germany’s main tourist attraction.

These days, more and more people are using their vacation time to make a pilgrimage, but a pilgrimage is really designed for more than just holiday travel. A pilgrimage is also a sacred journey. It’s a way of healing yourself. Physically you travel to a new place, but the big voyage is the one you make inside, the one that might transform you. 

To understand the medieval cathedral, you need to understand what most people believed. Christianity had spread throughout Europe. And the medieval Christian had a very specific vision of life. Life was a journey, a pilgrimage to the Promised Land. 

The medieval Christian didn't look back to the golden age of the Garden of Eden, because he was moving forward. Heading to the new Jerusalem in heaven. And if you wanted to get a look at the coming attractions while you were still on earth you could stop into a cathedral.

The massive walls keep the outside world out and the heavenly and holy world in.

And the way to enter this sacred space was through the great western door. Which in fact was often called the Gate of Heaven. You could see images of the angels and saints over the doorway, and on the doors. You could see scenes from the life of Christ. This was the journey that the believer would follow. And eventually all the good people would come together in heaven.

DR. KLAUS HARDERING (ON CAMERA): Cologne Cathedral is the largest Gothic Cathedral we have in Europe. It's kind of a high point in the development of Gothic architecture.

BURT WOLF: Construction began during the 1200's and did not finish up until the 1880s. A time span of over 600 years.

DR. KLAUS HARDERING: The choir stalls are the largest in Germany we have of that Gothic period. And they are richly carved. There are more than 500 figures and reliefs. We made an examination of the wood material so we can say all those things must have been carved between 1308 and 1311, that means within 4 years.

In the mosaic floor there is a representation of the wheel of life. It's shown that a young man is going to move that wheel with all his power, he reaches the high point of his life as a rich man, he can give alms to the poor but the wheel moves on and he looses his hold so he falls down, all his money is lost, he wants to stop the movement of the wheel but he can't.

We have almost 10,000 square meters of stained glass windows inside Cologne Cathedral and about 1,300 are original Gothic. So that's a treasure because we don’t have so much medieval glass in Germany. In 1939, that means in the first year of the Second World War they were taken out. So they survived the Second World War.

We have several funeral monuments of tombs of Cologne archbishops and they are normally placed in the so-called choir chapels. One of the most important funeral monuments is the tomb of Archbishop Conrad von Hochstaden who laid the foundation stone in 1248 and he got a very beautiful bronze tomb. 

DR. KLAUS HARDERING (ON CAMERA): In the chapel of St. John's you find a monumental medieval drawing, the largest we have in the world, more than 4 meters high and representing the main facade of Cologne Cathedral with the two monumental towers as they were built in the 19th Century but as they must have been planned in the Middle Ages because that drawing was made before 1283.

BURT WOLF: The Cathedral's greatest attraction for pilgrims is the gold shrine said to contain the remains of the three kings. In the New Testament, the three kings are referred to as wise men who traveled from a distant land to bring gifts to the Baby Jesus at his birth.

In the Third Century, they were referred to as almost kings. And as time passed, the word "almost" disappeared and they settled in as the three kings.


BURT WOLF: Cologne’s great cathedral is not the only interesting church in town. During the 400s, the Emperor Charlemagne made Cologne an archbishopric and since then the city has built 12 Romanesque churches on the graves of martyrs and early bishops.

One of the most unusual is St. Ursula’s, which is under the care of Father Dominik Meiering.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING: Well this is the wonderful church St. Ursula here in Cologne one of the twelve Romanesque churches. One of the most wonderful and one of the most important because here is the place where the 11,000 virgin martyrs are buried as the legend of St. Ursula tells us.

BURT WOLF: The legend of St. Ursula goes like this. Ursula was a British princess who lived during the 4th century and with a group of her friends made a pilgrimage to Rome.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): On her way back, she passed through Cologne, where she and her companions were murdered by a group of nomadic tribesman and generally unpleasant people, known as the Huns. 

BURT WOLF: In 1155, an ancient Roman burial ground was discovered and designated as the spot that contained the relics of the legend. Ursula was elevated to sainthood and became the patron of the Ursulines, a congregation of nuns dedicated to educating young girls.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING: The Golden Chamber as we call it here is a wonderful place. It is absolutely unique, it's a reliquary but very special because you enter into a place where many busts of the virgin martyr's with the skulls inside look onto you.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING (ON CAMERA): That means you go into the place of holiness, you are surrounded by the holy spirit of all these people who are buried here. 

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING: In the upper part we've got a decoration for you made out of bones. And there are even inscriptions you can read for example, Saint Ursula ora pro nobis, that means holy Ursula, pray for us, and this is built out of bones.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING (ON CAMERA): You can find the relics, the bones not only here behind this Gothic architecture but you can find it also here in the hat, you can open the hat, and underneath this wooden plate, you find a skull of one of the virgins.

BURT WOLF: Wrapped in cloth.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING: Wrapped in cloth of the Middle Ages which is very precious. We have got in this church two old golden shrines. One is the relacory of St. Ursula and one is of Aetherius who was the man who should become the husband of St. Ursula.

FATHER DOMINIK MEIERING (ON CAMERA): The specialty of Cologne is also that you have the possibility to go under the shrines. So now we can go underneath the shrines as the pilgrims of the Middle Ages did and we can say our prayer and we can hope of the benediction of the saints and of God.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Very unusual to have it above you like that.



BURT WOLF: One of the nice things about the AMA Waterways ships is they often dock in the center of a city so you can just walk off the ship and you’re in town. 

Clearly, a visit to the bone room at St. Ursula’s calls for a drink and the drink of choice in Cologne is Kölsch. And the place to drink it is the Haxenhaus which was about 100 yards from where the AMA ship docked,

Cologne is famous for Kölsch which is the local beer. There are several different brands but they are always called Kölsch and it can only be produced within Cologne, even thought it’s shipped all over the world.

It comes in a small glass that holds about 8 ounces. The brewers in Cologne think that the small glass has a distinct advantage over their competitors in Bavaria who use big steins to serve their beer. In the small glass the beer stays fresher longer. The waitresses keep bringing you glasses until you've had enough but they don’t know when you've had enough so you put this little coaster on top of your glass, and that tells them that you’ve had enough.


BURT WOLF: The next day we passed through the Rhine Gorge.

The Rhine Gorge is the most picturesque part of the river. It runs for about forty miles and has been declared a World Heritage Site. For hundreds of years those romantic castles belonged to a bunch of the nastiest guys on the planet. Known as Teutonic knights they set themselves up as independent rulers, fortified the high points along the narrow gorge and charged a toll for every ship that came by. If you couldn’t pay the toll you lost your cargo and in many cases you lost your life. It wasn’t until the middle of the 1800s that these guys were finally subdued and a treaty was signed by all the countries along the Rhine making it a free and open highway to ships of all nations.

So they finally got rid of the Teutonic knights, but they still had the problem of the Lorelei. The story goes that a beautiful woman named Lorelei lived on a rock that towers some 400 feet above the river. Her thing was to sing an enchanted song which distracted the boatmen. They lost control of their craft, crashed into the rocks and drowned.

The truth, however, is that this was a very dangerous part of the river and not all the boatmen knew how to handle it. So if they smashed against the rocks and the ship and its cargo where lost, he could always blame it on Loreli


BURT WOLF: Upon our arrival in Rudesheim, we walked off the ship. And over to a beautiful old house that was built in the 1500s.

It’s home to Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Museum. The museum has about 350 exhibits dating from 18th to 20th century.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): These days the definition of a musical mechanical device is one that plays music, selects the notes and does so without any human intervention once the on switch has been thrown. The earliest example of this kind of device that we know about goes back to the ancient Greeks about 300AD.

BURT WOLF: Dufner's band consists of 27 automated dolls with each one playing a different instrument. It is the largest automated doll calliope ever built.

Also, in the too big to fail category are the huge orchestrions that play virtually all the instruments found in an orchestra.

Guides, in period costumes, or their grandmothers dresses, I'm never quite sure which, take you on a tour.

There are prototype jukeboxes, hand-cranked carnival machines, gramophones that use wax barrel recording to play the voices of the great 19th opera singers like Enrico Caruso.

The museum is the creation of the slightly eccentric Siegfried Wendel. During the 1960s Siegfried became interested in rescuing and repairing automatic musical instruments of the 1800s that were about to be discarded for scrap metal.


Tell me about this piece.

SIEGFRIED WENDEL (ON CAMERA): That is a very unusual one. It was called the 8th wonder of the world because this instrument plays real wiring. 

BURT WOLF: The Hupfeld phono Liszt Violina is a group of six real violins set up to play music by the composer Franz Liszt. And they play in perfect harmony. Because the machine surpassed all expectations for the quality of its sound and accuracy it was promoted as the eighth wonder of the world.

SIEGFRIED WENDEL (ON CAMERA): That was a mixture of technique and music you see. And my way came from the technique, but I also like very much music.

BURT WOLF: In addition, there is outstanding collection of delicate music boxes. Of particular interest is series of snuffboxes with musical songbirds. They were produced during the first half of the 1800s by a craftsman in Geneva, Switzerland. When the mechanism is activated the lid opens and tiny birds appear. The smaller the bird, and the more realistic the sound, the higher the price.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): At present most people consider musical mechanical devices as a novelty. But for centuries they were a central part of the field of music. Great composers like Haydn, and Handel and Mozart wrote for them. And is a most recent development a company in Japan that makes music boxes is licensing their sounds to cell phones.

What do you think? Lady Gaga?

BURT WOLF: It's amazing to see what people did in their spare time before YouTube.

The Romans arrived in Rudesheim about 2,000 years ago and taught the local population to build more maneuverable ships and stone houses. They also showed them the best techniques for cultivating vines and making wine. The Rüdesheim vineyards ended up providing wine for the Roman troops.

During the first half of the 1800s, Rüdesheim became a main stop for steamboats and railroads and suddenly it became a destination for tourists. Most of the sightseers came from England, which was in its Romantic Period. Rüdesheim’s old courtyards and winding alleys lined with half-timbered houses were just what they were looking for.

We also stopped into the Rüdesheimer Schloss – which more appropriately would be called Rüdesheimer schloshed. Their specialty is a Rüdesheimer coffee which consists of sweet coffee, a substantial hit of the local brandy, and a topping of whipped cream with chocolate shavings. 

On this particular trip we sailed on a ship called the AMACELLO.

Basically, it is a small, well-appointed hotel that takes you from city to city along the Rhine. It was built under the direction of Rudi Schriener who was one of the pioneers of European river cruising.

BURT WOLF: One of my pet peeves about hotel design in general is the art. Most of the time it is terrible.

RUDI SCHRIENER (ON CAMERA): We have Klimt, Gustav Klimt the Austrian artist.

BURT WOLF: But Rudi has decorated his ships with reproduction of works by leading 20th Century European artists.

RUDI SCHRIENER (ON CAMERA): When a ship is getting close to being ready I select an artist a specific artist. And then the whole ship features his work or her work throughout the ship in the state rooms in the hallways in the dining area.


BURT WOLF: At one point, we took a right turn and headed down the Moselle. Germany’s Moselle River is a tributary of the Rhine. The valley that it created runs for over 100 miles and contains some of Germany’s oldest towns. The village of Zell is one of the oldest and famous throughout Germany for its Black Cat wine.

When our AMA ship docked at the edge of Zell, the mayor and his band came on board to serenade the passengers. Not bad for guys who only do this for a hobby. After their onboard performance they led us through the streets of the town to a wine cellar.

The cellar just happened to be underneath one of the government buildings. It’s nice to meet a mayor who has his priorities in order.

Well that’s it for today. Please join us next time when we continue sailing along the great rivers of Europe.


Travels & Traditions: Amsterdam to Cologne - #1202

BURT WOLF: Each year millions of tourist visit Europe. They come from all over the world to walk through the great museums. They look at the celebrated monuments. They visit the historic homes. They taste the traditional foods and drinks.

And this has been going on for almost 500 years. Beginning in the late 1500s, it became fashionable for wealthy aristocrats to send their sons on a tour of Europe, in the hope of completing their education with a look at Europe’s classical art and architecture. Eventually it became known as the Grand Tour.

They saw the great Gothic Cathedrals of France. The Renaissance frescos of Italy. The Rembrandts of Holland. They were exposed to Europe’s finest works of art. But they were also exposed to a variety of less scholarly experiences.

I have been traveling since I was 6 years old. My mother would put me on a plane and I would fly, by myself, from New York to Boston where my aunt would pick me up and take me to see everything she thought I was old enough to appreciate. I loved it. The Toll House cookies were the best.

Traveling always brings back my sense of childhood wonder. It takes me away from the familiar comforts and the security of my home. Suddenly I am alone. I have a heightened sense of awareness. I’m forced to pay attention to everything that is going on around me because it is all new. The Swiss travel writer Nicolas Bouvier said that when you travel you are more open to curiosity, to intuition, to love at first sight. 

That’s why I always bring a new pair of glasses and that’s how I met my wife.

During the past few years I have made two alterations in my approach to travel. First, unless there’s a special reason, I like to travel to a particular location when most other people aren’t. If you avoid the peak travel periods almost everything is easier and less expensive.

You don’t want to show up in Asia during the weeks of the Lunar New Year celebration --- usually in late February or March. Everyone is coming home for the holidays and its fun but it’s a madhouse.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I often go in the early spring or the fall. And I never worry about the weather. I remember what my youngest son tells me. ‘There is no bad weather, there’s just inappropriate clothing. And that from a five year old.

BURT WOLF: This is the first of a series of programs that present my personal, slightly off beaten Grand Tour of Europe. I decided to base them on one of the modern river cruisers. They offer the extraordinary convenience of having your hotel come with you as you travel. This is the Amadolce which is one of the AMAWaterways ships.

We started in Amsterdam in early November. Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities. It’s filled with art, architecture, great museums and places to shop.

One of the guides on the AMA ship told me about Amsterdam’s Museum of Handbags and Purses. It has over 4,000 objects with some that date back to the 14th century. I’d been to Amsterdam dozens of times and I thought I knew the city. But this museum was an extraordinary surprise.

The collection was started by Hendrikje Ivo. Today it’s run by her daughter Sigrid.

SEGRID IVO (ON CAMERA): My mother, she was an antique dealer traveling through Europe to find her antiques, small silver items on the table. Cutlery and those kinds of things. 

SEGRID IVO: And then she saw a very beautiful bag made of tortoise shell inlaid with mother-of-pearl and she fell in love. 

BURT WOLF: Her mother spent over 30 years collecting hand bags and displaying them in her home on the outskirts of Amsterdam, but eventually she needed a bigger space.

SEGRID IVO (ON CAMERA)L: And we spoke a lot with the local government but that didn't work out. And then she put a sign on the door ... and ... saying ... "S.O.S. Who can help us for a new location?" And she asked also a lot of people, "Can you help me with a new location. Do you know a millionaire? I don't like to have them only for myself. But half of it maybe." 

BURT WOLF: And then one Sunday afternoon a millionaire came along, visited the museum, read the sign, and bought them a building in the middle of Amsterdam. 

BURT WOLF: The museum illustrates the history of the handbag from the 14th century to the present. The earliest women’s handbags were worn underneath their dresses.

SEGRID IVO: They had a ribbon with two pockets hanging on it. And then you have two or three underskirts. Then this ribbon goes around your waist. And then your nice dress goes over it and there's an opening in the dress. So you could reach your pockets.

In the late 19th century it changed because the fashion got very slim. And we are looking back to the Greek and Roman periods and the waist goes up into the breast. And then you get very slim tiny dresses. They have to look like a Greek dress. Because that was fashionable in that period. 

SIGRID IVO: And they were made of fine muslin, a very fine material, sometimes very transparent. So then you can't wear these pockets inside. Then you see that the ladies wear, for the first time the bag in the hand.

BURT WOLF: And what did they put in their bag? 

SIGRID IVO: A coin purse, you had a letter case for your letters. They were writing a lot. Maybe also the card, a calling card holder. Because when you went to visit somebody, you go there and then you say to the servant I would like to visit the lady of the house. Then she's giving the calling card to the lady of the house. And she is deciding if she wants to see you.

BURT WOLF: I've always wondered about the Queen of England. What does she have in her handbag? Cab fare? A Swiss Army Knife? Keys to the Palace? Enquiring minds need to know.

SIGRID IVO: She has never money with her. No, she has a camera because she wants always to show where she is to her children and grandchildren. A lipstick. She has a powder compact because that was given by her husband 50 years ago, 60 years ago. Sometimes for her dogs things because she likes her dogs. 

BURT WOLF: I also noticed that in the last maybe ten or fifteen years handbags have become a status symbol.

SIGRID IVO: Until the 60s, you could show that you were rich or you're different by your clothing. But in the last decades, it's getting more and more difficult. Because what we see in the fashion show in Paris or Milan or New York, you can buy it a little bit later in the shops and you can buy it expensive or cheap. It's copied all over. So it's very difficult to be different.

SIGRID IVO: And that you see that these big brands, they come with handbags because that's something you can show that you can be different. Not everything that’s in fashion will be fit you very nice. But a handbag will always fit you. So the brands have more emphasis on the handbags because everybody can buy a handbag from a brand if you have the money, of course. But it's everybody will shoot a handbag. Everybody will fit a handbag.

BURT WOLF: I may not be able to get into that dress.

SIGRID IVO: Exactly.

BURT WOLF: But I certainly can carry that handbag.

SIGRID IVO: Yea. The handbag is the soul of women because all your personal items go into it. And you don't want to show it to other people. 

SIGRID IVO (ON CAMERA): But there are an also lot of things people, ladies don't want to tell about.

BURT WOLF: For instance? 

SIGRID IVO (ON CAMERA): That I can't tell you, because that's a secret. 

BURT WOLF: Quite honestly, I think this is one of the most interesting museums I’ve ever seen. And I strongly recommend it to you.

At lunch time we headed back to the ship. Each day on board there was a buffet with appetizers, soups, sandwiches, cold cuts, breads, a salad bar, two main courses, one of which is usually a carving station, a dessert table.

PASSENGER (ON CAMERA): Delicious. I love ice cream.

BURT WOLF: A cheese board and fresh fruit.

One of the keys to an enjoyable river cruise is the knowledge of the cruise directors. They need to know what is going on in town and the right time for you to make your visit.

At the suggestion of the AMAWaterways Cruise Director we spent the afternoon on a tour of the Hermitage Museum.

FRANS VAN DER VERT: It’s an old building, it’s an Amsterdam building, it’s a landmark building on the river Amstel which is interesting because the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is also on a river, on the Neva.

FRANS VAN DER VERT (ON CAMERA): Well the relationships between Russia and Netherlands are very old.

FRANS VAN DER VERT: Peter the Great already came in the 18th Century to Amsterdam to get inspiration for his new city St. Petersburg. And the museum in St. Petersburg is very large, and they really wanted to share their collection with the rest of the world. Since we already here in Amsterdam organize so many exhibitions from the collection of St. Petersburg, naturally we sort of started talking about a way of cooperation. Then this wonderful building came available and then finally in 2010 we decided to open up this beautiful museum. 

What we do here is we make exhibitions. We make large big exhibitions every six months from the holdings of The State Hermitage Museum. But also from other museums. So in the future we will do work with other museums too. Behind me now you see part of the new exhibitions we have on Alexander the Great. But we’re doing exhibitions on Rubens, we’re doing exhibitions on Russian icons. They are all exhibitions with topics you can’t find in Dutch museums. And one of the most beautiful things the golden crown we have here, from the beginning of the 2nd Century. 

It’s a building from 1683. And actually built not for a museum, but built for old ladies, to take care of old ladies. It was a church institution and it stayed that way until 2007 when the last person left the building

FRANS VAN DER VERT (ON CAMERA): And we could start renovating and building the museum here. 

FRANS VAN DER VERT: This is the Amstel River which is the heart of Amsterdam. And you can see also all the big houses are here. And it’s interesting that this building is on the central river here in Amsterdam. Like the state rooms you usually see in the center of St. Petersburg. 

FRANS VAN DER VERT (ON CAMERA): This used to be a church. It was a Protestant building. So everybody came here every Sunday to have supper here. But also went to the church.

FRANS VAN DER VERT: So this what you see here is the organ which was given by a lady called Mrs. Contaler in 1810. For the dinners here. And now we have sort of changed it in a different room we have music and concerts here. But you see some of the things here still. What we tried to do is also make a modern design. That’s why we did this lamp.

FRANS VAN DER VERT (ON CAMERA): It’s very interesting because you think it’s paper, then in the end you see it’s all very very thin porcelain. It’s very difficult to make. Of course the nice thing you see here is the garden and you see the river there. This is a beaching field where people used to bleach the laundry. And these used to be in Amsterdam everywhere.

BURT WOLF: Where they do the laundry out here.

FRANS VAN DER VERT: They do the laundry, and put it on the grass and then it bleaches. 

FRANS VAN DER VERT (ON CAMERA): And know an architect sort of reinvented this whole thing.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I should have brought my laundry.

BURT WOLF: That evening we returned to our ship for dinner. Dinner is a traditional four course meal: appetizer, soup, main course, and desert. And there is always a red wine, a white wine and a selection of beers and soft drinks that are free. 

Another great suggestion from the AMA crew sent us to The Dutch East Indiaman.

The period between 1579 and the end of the1700s is described as Amsterdam’s golden age, and much of that gold came from importing spices from the islands of Bali, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and New Guinea. Islands which are now part of Indonesia.

In 1748, that trade was dominated by the Dutch East India Company which was the largest trading company in the world. A replica of one of their ships is docked in Amsterdam’s harbor.

HENK DESSINS: So from here you can see the compasses that were used during steering.

BURT WOLF: The director of collections, Dr. Henk Dessens showed me around.

HENK DESSENS: In the beginning they used just the ships that were used to sail with in European waters.

HENK DESSENS (ON CAMERA): But in a short time the East India Company discovered that it was important to make more standardized vessels.

HENK DESSENS: The journey was very long, the ships were expensive. So it was very important to plan all the journeys as much as possible. 

Ship building was a kind of a magic art. It was an art which was brought over from father to son, and the governors of the company didn’t like that. They wanted to have more grip on the technical aspects of the ship. 

The main space onboard was of course the hold. That was the place that the ship was built for essentially. Because she had to get spices and other trade from Asia and bring it back for high profits to the Netherlands. 

Most of the crew lived on the quarter deck. You must imagine that on this quarter deck here lived about 300 people. There was no daylight in this space. Many people died during the voyage and people who survived got more space.

The captain had in fact two cabins on board. One was his working cabin, where he did navigation, had a meeting with his mates, with officers. And he also had a separate bedroom. He was the only person onboard with his own bedroom, with an ordinary bed. He didn’t sleep in a hammock. But he had more privacy. 

BURT WOLF: I notice he had two toilets. How did he choose?

HENK DESSENS (ON CAMERA): I think that was dependant on the direction of the wind.

BURT WOLF: One of the things I liked about the AMA itineraries is the open times they give you. You can do whatever you want to and the staff supplies you with the information you need to make the best use of that time. Which I spent shopping. 

I have two favorite spots. One of them is a beer store.

BEER MAN: It’s a beer store with 12 hundred different kinds of beer from all over the world. And all different styles. This is the German section lots of lagers and wheat beers. The Dutch people love wheat beers now a days.

BURT WOLF: You know I learned a years ago that when you clink glasses with regular beer you go straight, but if you have a wheat beer you only clink the bottom. A great wheat beer glass is very thin at the top, as opposed to the mass the ones you can bang.


BURT WOLF VO: There was also a large section of beers from the United States. It appears that small breweries in the U.S. are experimenting with different styles and that they are becoming more and more popular in Europe.

BEER MAN: Because the hopy beers are getting very very popular with the real beer geeks. But what is also very popular are the Belgium ales. That’s where the beer lovers start their hobby. The Belgium beers are very accessible. 

BURT WOLF: St. Arnold the patron saint of Brewers is credited with spreading the brewer’s skill throughout Belgium.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): He was curious as to why the rich seemed to live longer than the poor. And he finally decided it was because they drank beer instead of water. And he was absolutely right. For centuries the safest thing to drink was beer.

BURT WOLF: Today, Belgium produces over six hundred different beers and beer experts have chosen some of them as best of class, worldwide. The beer brewers of Belgium are the great artists in the business. And one of the oldest brewers is Lindemans.

It’s been in the same family for over 200 years. Their most unusual beers are called Lambics. Lambics are fermented by natural yeasts in the air and the fermentation process takes place over many months in wooden barrels and tanks.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Lambic is the meeting point between a beer and a wine. It is made from wild yeast in a process that’s very similar to that used for making sherry. And like a sherry it’s aged for years in wooden casks.

BURT WOLF: Some lambics are blended together and aged to make a gueuze which has a wine-like flavor and complexity. Lambic brewers never want to make the slightest physical change to their brewery buildings because it might disturb the yeast.

Belgian beers are also fermented with cherries to produce a drink called kriek or with raspberries to make a brew called framboise. Kriek is the Flemish word for black cherry. Lindemans adds cherries to their lambic and the fresh pure fruit flavor makes a great pairing with the tart complexity of the lambic.

The bar on the ship had a nice selection of Belgian beers and we put them to good use.

The next shop we visited is one of the finest shops in the city. It’s called the Cheese Room of Amsterdam and it carries over 400 different cheeses. The owner is Luke De Lure. He took me through the shop and had me taste an assortment of different cheeses, pointing out that as cheese gets older it gets stronger, as opposed to my own pattern which appears to be quite the opposite.

LUKE DE LURE (ON CAMERA): And this is organic. You add nothing, just milk. Here you are. Ya.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Oh amazing. A very different taste.

LUKE DE LURE (ON CAMERA): Ya. Also different farmers. Every farmer has his own specialty of making cheese.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Like the wine makers.

LUKE DE LURE (ON CAMERA): Ya. Exactly. Ya. 

BURT WOLF: Cheese is one of our oldest foods dating back at least 3,000 years. One theory is that someone in Central Asia or the Near East was carrying milk in a bag made from the stomach of a calf and the acid in the stomach, known as rennet, interacted with the milk and caused the liquid called whey to separate from the solids know as curds. The liquid was drained away and curds pressed together to form the solid cheese.

In terms of survival, cheese has some distinct advantages over milk. It lasts longer, than milk without spoiling. It’s easy to carry. And it takes up less space – about one-tenth of the volume of the milk from which it was made.

I only have one problem with cheeses. If some cheeses are aged for months, even years by the cheese makers, how come they only last for weeks in my refrigerator? Is this some kind of manufacturers built in obsolesces. Enquiring minds need to know.

CAMERAMAN: What do you call it?

LUKE DE LURE (ON CAMERA): Sticky finger. Do you want to smell?

CAMERAMAN: No thank you.

BURT WOLF: This was the first leg of the voyage that took us from Amsterdam to Luxembourg.

Along the way we stopped in Cologne, Rudesheim, Koblenz, Winningen, Cochem, Zell, Bernkastel and Trier. Some of the passenger went on to Paris and some to Luxembourg. 

BURT WOLF: In part two of this series our ship docks in Cologne. We’ll take a tour of the city, visit the great cathedral which has become the most visited tourist attraction in Germany, stop into a museum that is totally devoted to chocolate and serves a chocolate drink that made my day.

We’ll find out the origin of Eau de Cologne, and drink some of the local beer called Kolch. Then we’ll sail on to Rudesheim to visit Siegfried’s mechanical music museum, a collection of robotic and self-playing instruments. And we’ll meet the great Siegfried.

We taste the local specialties, encounter the challenge of the drinking log and finish off with a cup of Rudesheimer Coffee spiked with the local brandy.

I hope you’ll join us.


Travels & Traditions: Atlantic Crossing - #1201

BURT WOLF: In the spring of 1911, my grandmother and her one-year old daughter, my mother, immigrated to the United States from Europe. I was able to find her original departure documents at the Immigration Museum in Hamburg, Germany.

Hamburg was a key departure point for Europeans immigrating to the Americas. Between 1850 and 1934, at least 5 million people sailed from Hamburg. To handle the traffic a small city was built near the port. It had 30 one-story buildings, a church, a synagogue, a hospital, a cafeteria dormitories and a playground.

Today, the memory of that city is honored with the BallinStadt Museum. Many of the original rooms have been recreated. There are documents and exhibits that relate to almost every aspect of the immigration process. Mannequins in period costumes are equipped with recordings that tell the story of individual immigrants.

The buildings that were recreated are in their original spot. They are also the same size, and look as they did then.

Most immigrants who passed through BallinStadt, spent between three and five days waiting for their ship. If any of them were sick they were brought to the hospital and cared for until they were well. Bringing immigrants to America who were ill was bad business.

Ellis Island in New York City and most other immigration centers in the United States had teams of medical officers looking for signs of sickness. If they found anything suspicious the immigrant was sent back to Europe and the shipping company paid the cost of the return trip.

I used the computer program at the visitor center to find my grandmother and my mother.

To mark the 100th anniversary of her trip, I decided to sail back to Europe with my wife and youngest son. Since my grandmother failed to buy a round-trip ticket, I was able to choose my own accommodations for the return, which turned out to be the Queen Mary 2.

The ship departed from a pier on New York’s Hudson River.

As we passed under the Verrazano Bridge the passengers applauded and expressed their appreciation. Apparently, the fact that the ships height in relation to the bridge was kept in mind while the ship was being built came as a complete surprise to many of my fellow travelers and a cause for celebration.

As we pulled away from the tip of Manhattan, we passed the Statue of Liberty and the old immigration station on Ellis Island. I thought about my grandmother’s strength and determination. And I thought about the tens of millions of Americans whose parents; grandparents and great-grandparents passed through Ellis Island and helped build our nation.

A few minutes later we entered the Atlantic Ocean. We would not see land again for seven days.

The great ocean liners are the largest moving objects on our planet and one of the largest ocean liners is the Queen Mary 2. She is 1,130 feet long, 130 wide and 136 feet high. She has 14 decks, a crew of 1,250 and usually carries about 2,500 passengers. Her normal speed is 29 knots which is about 35 miles an hour. She was built by the Cunard Line in 2004.

Cunard is famous for introducing the first regularly scheduled transatlantic service, which they did in 1840. In 1907, the Mauritania came on line and set a new standard for speed and luxury. The objective for these early transatlantic ocean liners was to create a luxurious environment --- an environment that made the passengers feel that they were spending a week as the guest of a wealthy British relative.

ANNOUNCER: Its grand foyer and main dining hall rival the decorative splendor of a palace. One thousand feet long, weighing eighty thousand gross tons, the ship posted artistic murals created France’s greatest painters.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): One of the most important breakthroughs in the history of the ocean liner was the introduction of the oil-powered turbo engine.

BURT WOLF: Before that, ships used coal. And as they burned the coal, the ships got lighter, and the lighter the ship got the more it bounced around which was not too comfortable for the passengers.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): With oil burners, the ships were able to replace the burned oil with ocean water. Which kept the weight of the ship pretty much the same and gave a much smoother ride to the passengers.

BURT WOLF: By the early twenties, exercise had become an important part of the experience. There was a Promenade Deck for long walks. A swimming pool. A fully equipped gym. Some ships had squash courts, steam baths and saunas. One vessel actually had a tennis court, and the game of miniature golf was invented for ocean liners. During the 1930s, ocean liners introduced the Ledo Deck with a swimming pool.

The early liners had dining rooms with long tables and swivel chairs that were bolted to the floor. By the early 20’s, there were splendid dining salons with free-standing chairs and an extraordinary staircases that gave quests the opportunity to make a grand entrance.

Some ships even recreated the famous dinning rooms from London’s chic hotels. Cunard introduced the Verandah Café, designed to look like the front porch of a great hotel. It was located at the rear of the ship and was filled with potted palms and wicker furniture.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): But of all of the comforts associated with the great ocean liners the most important were those that dealt with eating and drinking. Drinking.

BURT WOLF: Food has always had the ability to be more than just nourishment for the body. Food can be a symbol of wealth and power. It can be a source of emotional comfort. It can be a distraction or an entertainment. And there is a considerable amount of scientific evidence that eating can reduce emotional stress. From the beginning, the great ocean liners used food and wine for all of the above.

It’s interesting to see how much of the original plan is still in operation.

The largest dinning room on the Queen Mary 2 is the Britannia Restaurant. It’s three stories high and clearly designed in the grand ocean going tradition. We were invited to dine at the Captain’s Table. However the captain was not a captain, he was a Commander, a rank that is considerably higher. I had to have two Martinis to get up there, but it was worth the trip.

The ship is actually rather serious about their Martini’s. They even offer a course in Martini making.

BARTENDER: A fine mist of vermouth is actually one part and that’s enough.

BURT WOLF: Traditionally, a martini is made from gin and dry white vermouth. A dry martini has very little vermouth, a wet martini has more vermouth and a dirty martini gets a splash of olive juice. Martinis began to show up in the second half of the 1800s.

Gin itself is mixture of grain alcohol and juniper berry oil that was originally concocted in the 1600s by a Dutch doctor. He believed that it would cure kidney disorders, stomachaches, gout, and gallstones, while purifying your blood. The Dutch would for “gin” is Geneve and the original stuff is still available in the Netherlands, but without any medial claims.

There are a number of stories about how the Martini got its name. One claims that it was the result of a group of people who lived in Martinez across the bay from San Francisco and every night they would gather in the bar of the Occidental Hotel and have a drink made from gin and vermouth.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The Netherlands says it was associated with the Knickerbocker Hotel and a third associates claims it was the Martini rifle, because it had the same kick.

BURT WOLF: Either way the Martini’s real popularity was the result of prohibition. It was fairly easy to get illegal gin and a martini was an ideal and elegant way to serve it. With the repeal of Prohibition gin was even easier to get and the martini took off.

A more recent boost to its popularity came from James Bond with his recommendation to shake but not stir.

In keeping with the 150 year old tradition of recreating big name restaurants on board transatlantic liners the ship has a Todd English Restaurant.

Todd was born in Amarillo, Texas, grew up in Georgia, lived in Connecticut, went to school in North Carolina on a baseball scholarship and eventually graduated for the Culinary Institute in New York.

TODD ENGLISH (ON CAMERA): Ok, we’re gonna put some hearts on palm in there, alright.

BURT WOLF: He is an author, restaurateur, and has his own cooking program on PBS.

His restaurant on the ship was of particularly interesting to me because its where we held the party for my sons sixth birthday.

WAITERS: Happy Birthday to you. Excellent. Yay.

BURT WOLF: Most of our meals were taken in the Princess Grill, which specializes in the preparation of table side dishes. One of the most popular was the ships version of Cesar Salad. As you probably know, there are numerous varieties of Cesar. There’s Julius with shrimp. That’s because Julius always liked to go into battle with people who were shorter than he was. Augustus with chicken. He never wanted to go into battle at all. And Sid who was always good for a laugh. The standard Cesar Salad recipe came from Cesar’s restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico.

The ship’s head chef oversees the preparation of 14,000 meals each day.

KLAUS KRAMER (ON CAMERA): So here you have Kohila. There’s about 18 chefs working here. They are doing the preparations of the appetizers for lunch. So they do all their own cooking in their own galleys. Each restaurant has their own galley. So then we do, of course we do a little sugar work, art work with chocolates and stuff for the buffets. We’re making about a thousand two hundred scones every day. And this attached is the cream and the jam so that’s gonna be the afternoon tea. So you go easily to a thousand two hundred every day. 

BURT WOLF: In a year, they go through 250,000 pounds of potatoes. 350,000 gallons of fruit juice. 55,000 pounds of coffee. And most interesting to me, 540,000 toothpicks.

KLAUS KRAMER (ON CAMERA): Well one of the important parts or the most important part of the kitchen is the meal count system which we have in place here. For the amount of guests you have, one thousand two hundred per seating, you need to know a little bit a head of time how much you need for each meal. That’s for instance pork scaloppini. Red means now. We have to cut more pork. Because you run short, because two hundred order that’s what we made, and you’re already on 195 an order. That means you have five left, call the butcher which is one deck below here, cut me thirty more portions that takes about five minutes.

That’s the way up to the restaurant. You have three levels. The waiters have a serve level the second level you go first up the stairs, then you go one down or the same level out there. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): It is an amazing set-up.

BURT WOLF: The ship has four grand dinning rooms and nine specialty restaurants. One of the more informal rooms was the Golden Lion Pub. Pub is short for Public House and for centuries the local pub was the major gathering spot in the small villages of England. Everyone came in after work for a few drinks and lots of talk.

Traditionally, the windows of a pub are made of smoked glass or covered with curtains so no one in the street can see you. Clearly, this is not an issue in the middle of the Atlantic. Accordingly, this is the first pub I’ve ever been in that is filled with natural light. I could actually see what I was eating, which in many pubs is not an advantage.

When I worked in London during the late 60s, the food in the pubs, which was called pub grub could easily have been described as a weapon of mass destruction.

The dishes in the Golden Lion are drawn from the classic repertoire of pub grub, but they’re quite very good. There’s bangers and mash. Which translates as sausages and mashed potatoes. And Fish and chips. Deep-fried fish filets and French-fried potatoes. And, of course, a wide selection of Ales.

On the third day of the voyage I went up to the bridge to talk to the Commodore. Commodore is a military rank that goes back to the French knights of the Middle Ages and designates someone of great authority. Today it is a rank above a captain but just below a Rear Admiral.

I was curious as to how he got into this line of work.

COMMODORE CHRISTOPHER RYND (ON CAMERA): It was never a conscious decision to aim for this spot. I wanted to go to sea and be a navigator. And that was largely the influence of my father. He had been at sea in the Navy and you take with you a culture of being at sea, of being a sailor. And in early life we grew up in those great ports of Colombo and Singapore. And so seafaring was always apart of it and coming to sea was just the natural thing to do.

BURT WOLF: Besides running the ship, he is also in charge of an elegant hotel.

COMMODORE CHRISTOPHER RYND: The people aspect of it is one of the most satisfying and rewarding parts of it.

COMMODORE CHRISTOPHER RYND (ON CAMERA): Whether as a manager or a host or as somebody for whom the ship’s company can see as somebody who looks after their welfare and well being. So all of it comes together very nicely.

COMMODORE CHRISTOPHER RYND: I joined the Queen Mary five years ago. So she was just two years old then. I took her on her first round the world voyage. And many maiden ports in those early years. But I’ve always been very aware that this is the most magnificent ship in terms of her speed, her power, her beauty, her sheer ability to delivery this magnificent product, which has it’s links with the past.

The crossings are all about the weather and the current. We go east and west across the Atlantic throughout the summer, no route is ever the same as the last. Every time you’re looking at what combination of weather and current will give us the most comfortable and the most economic journey or crossing. We aim to do the shortest crossing, but it’s seldom works out that way. You have some sort of weather or current avoidance built into that.

BURT WOLF: Of course, an essential element for any ship on the high seas is the safety drill.

PORTER (ON CAMERA): One two quick and quick, quick again. And one two quick and quick, quick again. And one two quick and quick and stop. 

BURT WOLF: As you can see from the public areas, everything on the Queen is rather regal. In fact, Cunard’s association with the Royal Family goes back to 1859 when Queen Victoria bestowed the title of Baronet on Samuel Cunard for his service to the country during the Crimean War.

Just for the record. The Crimean War took place between 1853 and 1856. England and France were on one side, Russian on the other. The Ottoman Empire was in decline and the issue became the control of the Holy Land. The war stands as a highpoint in the history of military and political stupidity and incompetence. Four Hundred Thousand people died in a war that achieved nothing.

BURT WOLF: I like the old days when the head of a country had to lead his troops into battle.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): What ever happened to “follow me men”. Ah, back to Cunard.

QUEEN ELIZABETH (ON CAMERA): I name this ship Queen Elizabeth. May God bless her and all who sail in here. 

BURT WOLF: Since then, eight Cunard liners have been named by senior members of the Royal Family, including four by Queen Elizabeth. In accordance with this special relationship, the QM2 celebrated the marriage of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. They loaded hundreds of bottles of champagne, much of which was used to make a commemorative cocktail for the royal toast. They decorated the Queens Ballroom with British Flags. They commissioned a collection of Royal Wedding souvenirs.

I heard that some of the porcelains were based on the designs of the great Ukrainian master, Dmitri Chachka of Odessa. Truly a collector’s item.

They baked a giant fruitcake similar to the one that would be served to the bride and groom. They prepared a small box with a slice of the cake for every passenger on the ship. And Lord Twinning produced a commemorative blend of tea.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Tea was the signature non-alcoholic drink of England since the 1600s. Those were the good old days or the bad old days depending on your viewpoint when a European country would take over of some other part of the world, declare it to be a colony , do what ever they wanted to do to make as much money as they could.

The Spanish did a good job of it in the Americas, the Belgium dug up the Belgian Congo, and British had a grand old time of it in India.

BURT WOLF: They had two million acres of tea-producing plantations in India. They built roads and ports, brought in tools and equipment and managers and sent millions of pounds of tea to England.

The idea of stopping for tea in the afternoon was introduced by Ann Maria Russell, the Duchess of Bedford.

And every afternoon, in honor of the Duchess, the QM2 serves tea.

It was the early 1800s, a time when the English were getting more and more worked up over the industrial revolution and even the rich guys were staying late at the office.

Dinner was being served later and later, usually between 7:00 and 8:30pm.

Lunch had been introduced to fill in the gap between breakfast and dinner. But lunch was a very light meal and there was nothing to fill in the hours until dinner.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The poor Duchess found herself getting hungrier and hungrier. So she decided that around four o’clock she would stop for a snack. Oh maybe a little piece of dundee cake, and a cheese sandwiches, and a little sandwich with some smoked salmon in it, and she liked those little scone things with a big dollop of cream on top and maybe some jam. Just a little something to hold her over until dinner. Well she began to have such a good time that she invited her friends over.

BURT WOLF: You could sit around, drink tea, eat sandwiches and sweets and tell the most awful stories about other people. It became the ladies equivalent of the London men’s club. It’s been going on for over 200 years. These days men are invited which has sadly diminished the quality of the gossip. In a desperate attempt to give a significant roll to the men and fill in for the lack of gossip, dancing has been introduced.

After seven days at sea, and two tea dances, we arrived at Southampton, collected our luggage and began our new life in the old country. My grandmother would have been pleased.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf

Travels & Traditions: Connecting the Dots in America Part 1 - #1108

BURT WOLF: For over 30 years, I have been traveling around the world looking at the history and traditions of different cultures. I discovered what different societies eat and drink. I came to understand the central characteristics of various religions. I took part in hundreds of gatherings and celebrations. I even investigated the history of shopping.

But I never really looked at a nation’s economy. What made a country or a city wealthy or poor? What did people do to earn a living and how did that affect their society?

Having lived through a half-dozen recessions, I began wondering about business in the United States. I wanted to know, from an economic viewpoint, what made us stronger and what made us weaker.

I spent time with Steve Chen who invented YouTube, Daniel Pink who wrote two bestselling books on what America needs to do to stay competitive in the 21st Century. And Gideon Gartner who invented a new type of company that deals with information technology.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And I learned some interesting things. Since 1980 almost every new job created in the United States was created by a start-up company that was under 5 years old. 40 million new jobs and our old traditional corporations, including some that got bailed out with taxpayer money, they created almost nothing.

BURT WOLF: I came to realize that the real backbone of our economy, the people who created good-paying jobs were the creative entrepreneurs with great imagination, smart enthusiastic risk-takers. People who started businesses based on their innovative ideas and technology. People that most of us never head of. Albert Einstein once said that imagination was considerably more important than knowledge. And I think he was right.

One of the creative entrepreneurs I interviewed for this program was a man named Bob Howard. Bob Howard was an associate and shareholder in Wang Labs with An Wang, created the cable television business, and invented the dot matrix and laser printers. Along the way he partnered with Howard Hughes and Rupert Murdoch. Bob's inventions affect all of us and in many ways and the industries he started employ hundreds of thousands of people. He’ written a book about it, titled Connecting the Dots. He’s a perfect example of the kind of person that makes a significant contribution to the strength of America’s economy.

BOB HOWARD (ON CAMERA): Since about 1960, a couple of engineers with a bright idea were able to get some financing and develop a product that would created industries and create a lot of jobs. That lasted until about 1980 or there abouts. When this financing for those kind of ventures almost disappeared. It did disappear during that period from time to time when there were stock market crashes, but that quickly came back and the entrepreneur was about the get his idea, put something under his arm and get some financing, and be able to create a product or an industry.

BOB HOWARD: It created new jobs, new industries, and for the most part higher paying jobs. More skilled special jobs. Such as everything that’s involved in the computer industry. That started around 1960, and look at what has become in the meantime. 

BOB HOWARD (ON CAMERA): That was just the idea of a couple of guys that developed the microprocessor. And then other people expanded upon the use of it. A lot of people came in and developed software for those cheap computers. And as a result millions of jobs were created.


BURT WOLF: In 1947, Bob Howard was hand making high quality television sets on his dining room table in Queens, New York and he gave one to his Uncle Riley who owned a motel in Virginia Beach.

Nice gesture. Only problem was the nearest television station was 110 miles away in Richmond and Virginia Beach couldn’t pick up the signal. So Howard and his pal Milt Shapp, who later became the Governor of Pennsylvania, drove to Uncle Riley’s motel to see what they could do.

Howard brought an antenna he made from the aluminum tubing of a beach chair and Shapp brought a bunch of amplifiers.

BOB HOWARD (ON CAMERA): We went down and right adjacent to the motel was a parking lot that had a light tower that was 30 feet high. And we decided we're gonna put the antenna and the amplifier up there, only I weighed 276 pounds, and couldn't climb up the pole. Milt was with me, and he was slim and trim and in good shape, so he climbed up and he installed the antenna and the amplifier and we ran down from there a coaxial cable for the signal and a zip cord, electrical supply from the motel up the pole, which was absolutely illegal. 

And lo and behold, and we knew the direction to aim the antenna, by way of a compass. And we tried it out, and the reception was near perfect. Which was amazing to us and everyone else. My Uncle Riley was delighted because it was a big attraction for his motel. But he had a friend who was the mayor of Virginia Beach. 

And he wanted a certain insulation of whatever he lived about two blocks away. So what we did was take the signal from the antenna, run it along the light poles and telephone poles on the street, just holding a wire on each pole, with electrical tape. And we gave him reception also. And that was the beginning of about, I think, six or more people that hooked onto that antenna in the vicinity of the motel. 

BURT TO CAMERA: Eventually Howard turned his technological innovations into a business and New York awarded him the first city wide cable franchise. However they insisted he only charge three dollars and fifty cents per subscriber, per month. Clearly things have changed.

Next, I talked to Daniel Pink who reinforced Bob Howard’s belief in the importance of the creative entrepreneur.

DANIEL PINK (ON CAMERA): Well it’s really the whole set of right brain abilities. And I think all of us are right brain people in some way. We lean one way or another but all of us have all these kinds of artistic empathic inventive qualities. It’s a part of what it is to be human. The thing that’s changed is that those kinds of abilities, abilities that have we’ve often over looked and undervalued in this country are now the ones that matter most in business. 

BURT WOLF: He also has some clear ideas on how to motivate creative people. 

DANIEL PINK (ON CAMERA): I think that the most important thing is not to offer that person a carrot or threaten them with a stick. We tend to think that those are the best motivators for everything. And those are actually pretty good motivators for simple routine rule based algorithmic kind of work, whether you’re turning the same screw the same way on an assembly line or whether you’re just adding up columns of figures over and over again. But for creative conceptual work those kinds of motivators, those if then motivators, there’s forty years of science that says they don’t work.

DANIEL PINK: Don’t do the carrot motivators for creative tasks. Instead offer people enormous amounts of autonomy. Management is just a technology. It’s a technology for organizing people into productive capacities. Well it’s a technology from the 1850’s. There are very very few technologies from the 1850’s that we still use today. And yet we keep using it. We are basically using an 1850’s technology to operate our businesses and think there is nothing wrong with that. 

DANIEL PINK (ON CAMERA): If you want people to do what you want them to do they way you want them to do it, it is your technology of choice. But if you want engagement, and that’s what we want if we want inventors. That’s what we want if we want entrepreneurs. That’s what we want if we want right brain thinkers. If you want engagement management is the wrong technology. The pathway to engagement is self direction.

DANIEL PINK: Self direction leads to engagement almost in explicatively as management leads to compliance. And if you want engagement then you’ve got to relinquish control. Give people autonomy over their time, when they come into work, how long they work, what days they work.

DANIEL PINK (ON CAMERA): You got to give them control at least partially over what they actually do. Very important is giving them some amount of autonomy and sovereignty over how they do it. Rather than you know breath down their necks or suggest there is only one way to do it, in the way there is often only one way to turn a screw on an assembly line. And also and this is important, some kind of autonomy over who they do it with. Because one of the things that makes work good or bad, exhilarating or deadening, is often the people that you do it with.

BURT WOLF: He also believes there is a screwed up motivational system that keeps getting our country in trouble.

DANIEL PINK: If you give people high stakes rewards for short term achievements some people are gonna take the low road there. And if you give people high stakes rewards and they are not at all accountable for the long term consequences or the broader consequences for the system, then people are just gonna get what they want and the whole system as we learned can come tumbling down.

DANIEL PINK (ON CAMERA): So there are many executives, corporate executives, CEOs, who if they are in charge of a company and the company does really well they make a huge amount of money. But if the company doesn’t do well they make a huge amount of money. Ok, so the executive compensation system is rigged. I mean it’s a heads I win tails you lose kind of situation for a lot of the top executives. Stock options. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with stock options. The problem is if they become so salient within a company that if that’s what people are focused on rather than on actually doing great work. Then I think what happens is you get a short term pop and a long term disaster. 

BURT WOLF: But creative entrepreneurs are usually not the problem.

DANIEL PINK: Entrepreneurs and inventors are very very much systems thinkers. 

DANIEL PINK (ON CAMERA): They understand that if you press a lever here or if you drop a seed there that the effects aren’t going to be merely where you did it, but the effects are going to cascade throughout the system.


BURT WOLF: Bob Howard had another story that illustrated the importance of creativity and self-direction.

In 1967, Bob was in Florida playing golf with a foursome that included Grant Sawyer, the ex-Governor of Nevada. Throughout the game Sawyer kept griping about all the money that was being skimmed in the casinos and how the government was being cheated out of its tax revenue and the government needed to find a way to stop it.

BOB HOWARD (ON CAMERA): And my answer was, "Well, what you need is a computer system, like they have in department stores that have thousands of items that they control. 

BOB HOWARD: And it would be a comparatively simple thing to do."

BURT WOLF: A few weeks later Sawyer asked Howard to come to Vegas and meet with the Gaming Commission.

BOB HOWARD: I had never been inside a casino in my life. So I decided to go a day earlier figuring that in a day I could learn to be an expert in casinos. And I wandered for twenty-four hours in and through the casinos. And the next morning I went to a place that made signs, or painted names on trucks. And I bought big pieces of manila paper and had them make a system outline, for my explanation at the meeting that afternoon at the Gaming Commission.

BOB HOWARD (ON CAMERA): I went to the meeting got up on the podium and had my big charts. It looked like a very professional presentation. And the Gaming Commission decided they'd like to try to go ahead, and they'd want to know how we'd do that. 

And I said, "It's very simple. I'd have to take about six months to learn all of the intricacies of cash flow and player habits and casino procedures to be able to properly do the software for the system. And have the absolute controls that they would require."

BOB HOWARD: That's more or less the beginning of the casino computer system, and a company called Centronics Data. 

BURT WOLF: And while Bob Howard was in Vegas he saw another opportunity.

BOB HOWARD: It became apparent to me that the mechanical slot machines that had been around for 100 years were still mechanical devices, and were very limited in the scope of substantial payouts, which they tried to accomplish. But it was near impossible with a mechanical machine.


BURT WOLF: In 1895, Charles Fey, a San Francisco machinist built the first slot machine. It had three spinning wheels with images based on the suits in a deck of cards. Each wheel also had an illustration of the Liberty Bell. Three bells in a row produced the big payoff, fifty cents. He placed it in a local saloon as a test and it was an immediate success and he’d became the father or perhaps godfather of the slot machine business.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Today two-thirds of the income for a casino in the United States come from the slot machines.

BOB HOWARD: I felt that, if it were a computer-driven slot machine, an electronic slot machine, that they could have, ultimately, much more control than a mechanical machine, it could be random selection. But the amount of things that they choose from for the ultimate large win could be so far out, as far as the number that it would take to have a single winner, that the electronic slot machine would solve that payout problem.

And since then, virtually every slot machine in the world is electronic now. And they've expanded these payoffs to enormous numbers. And, reliability has gone up and cheatability has diminished.

BURT WOLF: The casino was also the place were Bob had the idea for a company called Centronics Data which developed the first dot matrix printer. 

BOB HOWARD (ON CAMERA): We found that we needed a printer to print the transactions and make multiple copies and do it very fast and very reliably. At that time in the mid 60’s the printers that were available were big line printers that were too expensive and took up too much room or teletypes that were inexpensive but very very unreliable. And that caused the development of the matrix printer, and with that we became a public company and gradually grew into what I believe is the largest printer company in the country at that time.

BURT WOLF: Bob Howard is a serial entrepreneur. He keeps developing new companies based on the challenges and opportunities that confront him. Another serial entrepreneur is Gideon Gartner who started in Operations Research

GIDEON GARTNER (ON CAMERA): Operations Research was using mathematics to solve business problems, or management problems, or military problems. It was used extensively in World War II. 

GIDEON GARTNER: For example, if there was an American jet going after a messerschmitt they were going at different angles. And you had your guns. You had machine guns. And you had to figure out, what am I aiming at? You actually often had to aim behind the messerschmitt depending on the relative speeds of the planes. So the science and the mathematics of developing equipment or even to train the pilots for how to use the equipment is an example of Operations Research.

BURT WOLF: Eventually Gideon went to work in the Commercial Analysis Department of IBM.

GIDEON GARTNER (ON CAMERA): Now, you should know that Commercial Analysis is actually a euphemism for Competitive Analysis. 

GIDEON GARTNER: It was a huge department, because IBM didn't like the fact that there was any competition out there in the market. 

BURT WOLF: The team was product-oriented and they analyzed in detail, every product that was announced by competition and that was out there in the marketplace.


BURT WOLF: Gideon told IBM they need a war room.

GIDEON GARTNER (ON CAMERA): What I was selling to IBM is that they should use their computer equipment and their display capabilities to create a new facility. within the ... start in the data processing division, for, Whenever they have meetings, would have to make their big decisions, they go there. And all the data that they need including, obviously, all the data from our department, and from the other departments, and it would all be visible. Instead of getting handouts and things, you'll see all the data.

BURT WOLF: IBM liked the idea but did nothing about it. Gideon, however, soon realized that other companies would like to have a system like this and it could be a business.

GIDEON GARTNER (ON CAMERA): Timing is everything in life. I then get a phone call, out of the blue, from somebody I never heard of, who is, one of the senior vice presidents of a brokerage firm called EF Hutton. 

BURT WOLF: Hutton made Gideon an offer to join them and he did.

GIDEON GARTNER (ON CAMERA): And now I have to learn how to be a security analyst, do something completely different. But, I know the computer industry. So and I'm taken around by a couple of the analysts when they visit companies, and when they visit clients, just to see how the interaction goes. And so I learn something about that process. And I eventually write my first report on Wall Street.

GIDEON GARTNER: Xerox, in those days, was one of the Nifty Fifty. 

GIDEON GARTNER (ON CAMERA): Like IBM. Which means that, there were 50 companies that every large institutional investor owned, and they bought and held. They never sold. Because, these were companies that had had a growth pattern that was predictable and continuous for decades. They were really real growth companies. And they were kind of monopolies in their industry. And IBM was that way in computers, and Xerox was that way in reprographics and copying machines.

I knew that Xerox had a price per copy pricing scheme, right? You paid for each copy in those days. Ten cents a copy or whatever it was, per page. Besides the cost of the paper. Whereas others need not do that. They could charge you by the month, or by time. That's the way IBM did it, right? 

IBM might announce, actually announce a copying machine. And go out against Xerox. It was weird. They would never do one copying machine. I'm sure they have a whole planned program, to go from one to two to bigger, and they're gonna be a force, and Xerox's multiple is up here. And, gee, in doing my research, the Japanese they're not a factor. Not considered a factor. But they're here already. Right? And, I was already very impressed with the Japanese from my experiences at IBM. And what they were doing.

GIDEON GARTNER: So, I wrote the first negative report on Xerox. 

GIDEON GARTNER (ON CAMERA): The salesmen would call every portfolio manager of every bank, insurance company, foundation in the country that was investing money. They said, "You gotta read this report." And, they said, "You oughta meet this guy." And they started to set up meetings for me all around the country, to meet with all these people face to face, to explain the story. 

I become well-known on Wall Street, instantaneously. With very little background. I started something new there that nobody else had ever done. 

BURT WOLF: One day he goes to a meeting in Monterey, California and a guy says to him, “Why don’t you do it yourself.”

GIDEON GARTNER (ON CAMERA): He introduced me to one of the senior partners at Eyer Morbic Pinkus.

GIDEON GARTNER: And that's the way Gartner got started.

BURT WOLF: Daniel Pink, Gideon Gartner, and Bob Howard. Three people with considerable knowledge of what it takes to strengthen our economy.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): But that’s only half the chronicle. In part two of CONNECTING THE DOTS, I will continue traveling around the United States, learn more about Bob Howards story, interview Steve Chen who invented YouTube and discover more reasons we should be supporting creative entrepreneurs. For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf

Travels & Traditions: Taiwan, Nurture vs Nature Part 2 - #1107

BURT WOLF: A while back I read a book titled The Genius In All Of Us. It summarized a lot of research and concluded that people who are very successful are not born with a set of rare genes that make them great. Success is usually the result of the interaction of your genes with your environment--- plus relentless dedication and faith in your ability to succeed. It also pointed out that stressing your mind like stressing a muscle will cause a biological change that improves performance. Most of us live with a considerable amount of stress. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): This program looks at what happens to you when you grow up in one cultural environment and are suddenly put under an enormous amount of stress by moving to a new one. It focuses on a group of Taiwanese who grew up in a traditional Chinese culture and then suddenly moved to the United States and what that move did to them.

BURT WOLF: I talked to Chen Ming Wong who came from Taiwan and once played baseball for the New York Yankees.

Doctor Henry Lee one of the world’s most famous forensic scientists. He had become the youngest captain in the Taiwanese police force when he decided to move to New York.

Steve Chen the cofounder of YouTube who came to Chicago when he was a child and then moved to California because he loved computers and internet technology. I was particularly interested in what they liked about Taiwanese culture, how they thought it affected them and what they did when they went back to Taiwan for a visit.


JUSTIN LIN (ON CAMERA): I feel like action a lot of times people take it for granted, I try to break it down into dramatic beats.

BURT WOLF: The first person I talked to was Justin Lin. Justin was born in Taiwan in 1973 and moved to Orange County, California when he was eight years old.

JUSTIN LIN (ON CAMERA): Being an immigrant Asian American kid and understanding or at least being exposed to the concept of underdog was such a strong thing for me. And it made me feel like I can go and do anything.

BURT WOLF: Justin became a director and one of the most accomplished and promising young film makers in Hollywood. 

ACTOR (ON CAMERA): Welcome, to the Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift.

BURT WOLF: He directed The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift, Fast and Furious Four, Finishing the Game and Better Luck Tomorrow. 

Justin gives considerable credit to his Taiwanese background.

JUSTIN LIN: That route and those choices. I think being an immigrant, that is the strength of it


JUSTIN LIN (ON CAMERA): My first film, I you know, I didn't know anybody, so I took ten credit cards and I made it for 250,000 and it went to Sundance and got bought by Paramount and everything and changed my life. 

JUSTIN LIN: And then my next film was $25 million budget. So you're going I'm spending my whole budget on my last film before lunch on this one, and it goes from $25 million to $100 million movie, so you know you figure out as you go, I think at the end of the day you are still trying to tell a story. Now you have more tools and more toys to play with.

I do have a lot of memories great memories of Taiwan. 

JUSTIN LIN (ON CAMERA): And I went back to Taiwan with my first independent film for a film festival 25 years later. And I remember when I landed, it obviously changed a lot. 

JUSTIN LINYou know? But as soon as I took the first bite of food, all these memories just popped back in.

Anything gooey I miss.

I miss stinky tofu a lot, and it's usually just I can't drag anyone to with me to go. Last time, I went back for the premiere of "Fast and Furious," and so the studio's doing it up, and they're taking us to all these nice restaurants. And finally I snuck out for three hours. And I'm not kidding. I had about eight meals in three hours. 

I love just exploring and just walking you know, that's the thing that I really enjoy about Taiwan. 

I love just getting lost. I pride myself in finding a little hole in the wall. And I actually I was able to go back and find it. And it was a little dumpling place where everyone would just go eat at lunchtime. And it was amazing. You get like 12 dumplings for like 50 cents.

I love exploring and finding and kind of going with your gut and finding where locals go. 

I love the street carts, and I remember when I was a little kid, my Dad would take me and we would go find little street carts for beef noodle and stuff like that. So you know, I'm partial to that kind of eating.


BURT WOLF: Justin suggested that I get out into the country side and do a little biking, which makes sense. Taiwan has a number of unspoiled national parks and bike paths that runs from one end of the country to the other. It also has the world’s biggest manufacturer of bicycles.

In 1972, a young Taiwanese named King Liu began manufacturing bicycles. Even though he built the bikes they carried the brand names of the companies that sold them to the public--- Schwinn and Nishiki were the most famous.

TONY LO (ON CAMERA): You have a nice bag you can put on here and just carry with you.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Oh that’s clever show me how that works.

BURT WOLF: Tony Lo is the company’s Chef Executive Officer:

TONY LO: Actually we have been making all kinds of bicycles for all different kinds of people. We focus on quality, but secondly we really make use of the technology and try to make a breakthrough on bicycles.

TONY LO (ON CAMERA): In the past the bicycles was either for just mobility, transportation or for people to compete on. But actually for most people to enjoy bicycles, bicycles need to be very light, very strong and functional, to be very good.

BURT WOLF: In 1981, Giant decided to start selling their bikes under their own name. Today Giant is the largest bicycle maker in the world. They make over 5 million bikes a year which are sold in over 10,000 stores in 50 countries. 

TONY LO: We are lucky, lucky because Taiwan is a small country, so we have all kinds of industry.

We have all kinds of materials, we have all kinds of technology. And when you are small a lot of brands go around. Therefore things go very fast here. We have to work with the German company, the Swiss company, the US company, the Japanese company, but finally we are the ones to bring everything in one place and made it happen. So actually Taiwan is small but this small actually becomes kind of an advantage to integrate all the technology and to make things happen.

BURT WOLF: The fact that Taiwan is not a sprawling giant is a distinct advantage in the development and integration of the nations industries but it is also a benefit for tourists. You can see the entire country in a short time.


BURT WOLF: Everyone I spoke to about the performing arts in Taiwan recommended the Cloud Gate Dance Company. It was founded in 1970 and immediately became an important part of Taiwan’s creative community. Cloud Gate blended Asian mythology and folklore into modern dance with constant references to tai chi, meditation and the martial arts. The company spends most of its time performing throughout Taiwan. But from time to time they perform in Europe and the Americas. I first saw them in New York. The founder and creative force behind Cloud Gate is Lin Hwai-min.

LIN HWAI-MIN: Cloud Gate is the oldest known Chinese dance. And we took this historical name as the name of our modern dance company.

LIN HWAI-MIN (ON CAMERA): Founded in 1973. Thinking that we would like to draw inspirations from our own culture to create something that is contemporary.

LIN HWAI-MIN: Most of the time I ask them to improvise because their bodies are so rich, they are multi-lingual. And I find something from the material and create it in and modern, well creating

is like an adventure into the jungle. You hear the calling and then on the other end of the jungle and you have to find your way to go there.

So now a days I live in Taipei, I tour around the world, but Taipei is a fascinating city. You have the influences of different cultures. Well I think nowadays we have our espresso at Starbucks but still we love our tea that takes time to make. Even longer time to sip, so we can have both.

They should take the subway and get to meet the people, the people in Taiwan are very nice. We have journalists from China and they write me that even before I leave the country I am already homesick about Taipei. This doesn't look like any Chinese city.

Cloud Gate performs in this theater and has 3 outdoor performances each year. About four each year. That would attract about 50-60 thousand people in different cities of Taiwan, and we tour around the world with works inspired by our own culture but in contemporary forms.

LIN HWAI-MIN (ON CAMERA): I think People should come to Taiwan they will find something very fascinating.


BURT WOLF: For centuries the rugged mountain range that runs down the center of Taiwan pushed the population centers to the western shores of the island.

As the population and economic activity increased, transportation along this north-south corridor became more and more congested.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I have a distinct and painful memory of setting out to drive to a town about 50 miles south of Taipei. I had a map and it showed an expressway and it looked like I could knock it off in about an hour.

BURT WOLF: What my map did not show was the fact that there was nothing express about the expressway. It was more like the nation’s longest parking lot. After three hours of getting nowhere, I just turned back. Apparently, this was life in the fast lane for everyone in Taiwan.

To solve the problem, the government developed Taiwan High Speed Rail. The stations are modern, clean and highly efficient. The yellow lights in the floor tell you that the train is arriving or departing

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): They offer both standard and business class. In business class the seats are a little bit wider, they have a radio entertainment systems, and electronic plug-in system for all your portable electronics.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome aboard Taiwan High Speed Rail.

BURT WOLF: The announcements and the signs are in Chinese and English.

ANNOUNCER: (In Chinese)

BURT WOLF: And to say that the cleaning staff runs with military precision would be an understatement. .

The Taiwan High Speed Rail is based on the technology used by the Japanese bullet train. The line runs from north to south for just over two hundred miles and has a top speed of about 190 miles per hour. It will take you from one end of the island to the other in 90 minutes instead of four and half hours. The train makes it possible for people living in Taipei to commute to the South for work, and vice versa. The total cost for the project was15 billion dollars which made it the largest privately funded transportation project of the time.

And, it's environmentally responsible. The New York Times reported that a passenger traveling on a fully loaded train will use a sixth of the energy that they would use if they drove alone in a car and release only one-ninth as much carbon dioxide gas.

The high-speed trains have successfully out-competed planes. Domestic air travel has fallen by almost half. And there was a similar drop in long distance bus travel.


BURT WOLF: Dr. Lee suggested a visit to the Taipei Electronics Market. The market started as a gathering spot for antique dealers offering old books and toys. Today it is a market for the latest electronic and computer products. There are things here that won’t go to North America and Europe for months. And some of the stuff will never be offered outside of Asia.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): There are 6000 letters in the Chinese alphabet, how do you use a computer keyboard?

ISABEL CHEN (ON CAMERA): Actually there are more than 5 ways to enter Chinese in the computer, and one of the most common ways is Phonetic, which I'm using right now. Let me show you. Basically you just hit the keys with the right symbols of pronunciation and then they can combine into one correct Chinese character.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Give me She She ne.


BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): It means thank you, how many keystrokes did that take you?

ISABEL CHEN (ON CAMERA): Eleven in total

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): That's pretty cool. Can you put it into English?

ISABEL CHEN (ON CAMERA): Of course. I just need to switch to English here and then I can enter thank you.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): That's pretty impressive.


BURT WOLF: Another recommendation from the people I interviewed was the National Center for the Traditional Arts. The part I liked best was a row of buildings constructed in a traditional style. I have seen streets like this all over Taiwan. There is a shop on the street floor and the family that operates the shop lives upstairs. The shops at the National Center for Traditional Arts are occupied by artisans practicing traditional crafts.

This shop specializes in objects made from bamboo. Unlike the wood that comes from tress that take decades to grow, bamboo is a grass that is harvested every 18 months. It is an ideal sustainable material. The artisans who operate this shop make bamboo bowls, and chopsticks, teacups, cutting boards, and vases. Very time-honored stuff

But they are also very busy keeping up with the needs of their 21st century customers

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Ancient Chinese bamboo holder for I-Phone. Confucius would have loved this, and that is a USB, also, 8000 years old if it's a day.

BURT WOLF: The shop across the street makes old fashion Chinese candy.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Sesame. Peanuts and sesame, very good.

BURT WOLF: This shop makes wooden sandals. And they cut the straps to fit while you wait.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Left right left right

BURT WOLF: They also make a model designed to teach intergroup coordination.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): We’re stopping now. Shop! Ok. This is an ancient Chinese technique for teaching coordination amongst a group of 3 people, and boy do we need that teaching. OK, lets go and right, right, right this is your right. OK 1 2 3 go, right left right left right left were never gonna make it back to the hotel.

BURT WOLF: And everyday there are street performances based on age old folktales.


BURT WOLF: As I traveled around Taiwan, one of the first things I noticed was the number of Temples. There are over 10,000 places of worship in Taiwan and the dominant form is a folk religion that blends elements of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian philosophy.

Chinese folk religion maintains that the human world and the supernatural world exist side by side and are in constant contact. They also believe that it is the responsibility of humans to send things to the inhabitants of the supernatural world in the form of offerings.

The most common offering is food. And what kind of food is being offered can tell you a lot about the relationship between the person making the offering and the being in the supernatural world that it’s being sent to. If the food is ready to eat it is probably being offered to a relative or a friend and was something that that dearly departed liked during his or her earthly existence.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): If you are making an offering to a really important god the food will be totally unprocessed – a raw chicken, a vegetable pulled out of the ground with its roots on. The idea is to show the distance between you and the deity. The god does not need your help to feed himself.

BURT WOLF: And the gods are very practical. They don’t actually eat the food. They just inhale the essence. The food rests on the offering table for a while and then it’s either picked up by the person who brought it here, taken home and eaten or distributed to the poor by the monks. It’s a win- win for everybody.

Some people come in to the temple to get advice. The equipment used for soliciting guidance from the gods is a set of crescent divining blocks. You ask your question and drop the blocks on the floor. If they land with one round side up and one flat side up the answer to your question is “yes”. If they land with both round sides up the answer is “no”. If they land with both flat sides up it means that all of the deities are busy assisting other worshipers and you should try again later.


BURT WOLF: Like the residents of most major industrialized nations, the people of Taiwan do most of their shopping in modern supermarkets. But like Paris and Rome alongside the supermarkets in Taipei there are traditional street markets. In many cases, the families of the vendors have been in the same spot for generations.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): That’s a hot pepper and it's used in the cooking of Szechuan and Hunan dishes bit it's not indigenous to China. They were actually brought her by the Portuguese traders who picked them up on the pacific islands.

BURT WOLF: This noodle maker has been here as far back as anyone can remember. There’s a variety of different shapes with different ingredients and they are made fresh every morning.

Chinese noodle making got started in the Han Dynasty which ran from about 200 BC to 200 AD. Cooks had mastered the technique of grinding wheat into flour and mixing it with water to produce noodle dough. Cutting the dough into strips makes the noodles cook faster and therefore use less heating fuel. It’s the most basic of foods and cooking techniques and you’ll find it in one form or another in every culture that developed flour.


JUSTIN LIN (ON CAMERA): So as you can see some of this is still pretty raw.

BURT WOLF: Justin Lin making movies in Los Angeles.

TONY LO (ON CAMERA): Now this is one of our very popular models.

BURT WOLF: Tony Lo running the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer.

LIN HWAI-MIN: There are many forms of folk dance in China.

BURT WOLF: Lin Hwai-Min developing the Cloud Gate Dance Company.

The engineers who designed Taiwan’s High Speed Rail system.

The extraordinary programmers who got 5,000 ancient Chinese words onto a modern computer keyboard.

In each case you have people who grew up in the traditional Chinese culture of Taiwan and where challenged by moving and working in a very different environment.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): What we are is the result of the interaction between our genes and our environment. The people I interviewed are a clear example of what can happen when a structured Taiwanese childhood is topped off by the creative energy of the United States.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Taiwan, Nurture vs. Nature - #1106

BURT WOLF: In 1869, Francis Galton, an English anthropologist and all-around smart guy published a book titled Hereditary Genius in which he argued that all talent was the result of heredity. No matter what the skill --- from painting a great picture --- to inventing a perfect recipe --- it was always the result of the genes you received from your parents. A few years later, he introduced the idea of nature vs. nurture, once again claiming that it was all about genetics.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Today, we know that he was smart but he was wrong. What we are is the result of the interaction of our genes and our environment. And we are changing constantly throughout our lives. The net result, our biology is actually altered by our environment.

BURT WOLF: One amazing study showed that the part of a cab drivers brain that remembers locations got bigger the longer he or she drove a cab. And there were dozens of drivers in the experiment. It’s remarkable, part of their brains actually got bigger.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I began to wonder what happens to your brain when you change environments. What happens if you grew up in one culture and suddenly moved to another? That's what happened to me. I grew up in the United States and then suddenly moved to Europe with my family.

BURT WOLF: That also happened even more dramatically to a number of people I know who grew up in the traditional Chinese culture of Taiwan and then suddenly moved to the States. Did parts of our brains change shape? Did we change the way we thought? I wasn’t ready to put my head into an MRI and have a brain scan, but I was certainly up for a half dozen interesting interviews and a few weeks in Taiwan.

Taiwan is an island off the coast of mainland China. It’s 250 miles long and about 90 miles wide at its widest point. The first Europeans to get a look at it were Portuguese traders and as soon as they saw it they called it Ilha Formosa --- the beautiful island.

About 23 million people live in Taiwan. Almost 98 percent are ethnically Chinese and they have held on to much of their traditional culture.

Every few blocks there is a temple dedicated to one of the ancient Chinese religions.

The museums are filled with traditional works of art that date back for over 8,000 years.

But along side that very traditional Chinese culture is some of the most advanced twenty-first century technology. Taiwan is the world epicenter for the manufacturing of personal computers and cell phones.

It has one of the most advanced high speed rail systems.

It's the world leader in bicycle design and actually produces and exports more bikes than any other nation.

But a very interesting thing happens to a person who grows up in Taiwan with its mixture of ancient cultural values, and technological skills and then moves to the United States with its stress on creativity.


STEVE CHEN (ON CAMERA): Well you know I think that technology is actually changing so quickly it’s hard to imagine.

BURT WOLF: Steve Chen is a good example.

STEPHEN CHEN (ON CAMERA): I was born in Taiwan in 1978 and I came to America in 1986. I think there was just a cultural, a big cultural shift between growing up in Taipei, one of the busiest thriving cities in Taiwan to moving to the northwest suburbs of Chicago in which we, my brother, my parents formed the sort of only Asians in that sort of a 30 mile radius. 

For me first grade and second grade - going to school there, was a just a distinctive difference between the schooling system. The amount of sort of strictness that was forced on kids; the amount of sort of memorization that was put onto kids. And so a lot of that influence to me, the most memorable pieces were on the academic and schooling system in Taiwan as opposed to when I came to the U.S.

Not exactly a lack of structure, but a little bit more free formed, a little bit more through giving kids a little bit more liberty to explore things that they were interested in. 

BURT WOLF: Steve was interested in computers and programming and in 1999 he moved to California and took a job with PayPal.

STEVEN CHEN: All of us had these little digital cameras that we were taking pictures. But we were also taking some videos at the time. When we found out that night afterwards that the pictures were very easy to share. When it came to actually sharing these videos there was no way to share it. And we just thought well, there has to be a demand for a way to be able to upload, share these videos. 

BURT WOLF: Einstein said that imagination was more important than knowledge. And there was Steve imagining something that did not exist --- an essential element for great achievers. And what was Steve's achievement?

CHAD HURLEY (ON CAMERA): Today we have some exciting news for you, we have been acquired by google.

STEVE CHEN (ON CAMERA): Yea, thanks. Thanks to everyone of you guys that have been committed to you tube the community.

BURT WOLF: Steve and his partners were the founders of YouTube. A perfect blend of Taiwanese structure and American creativity. Steve is still in touch with his Asian roots and often returns to Taiwan.

STEVEN CHEN: I’m a big fan of tea. So there’s a lot of tea in Taiwan that’s particularly unique to Taiwan. And then the food, I think everybody goes back to Taiwan for the food. There’s sort of a thriving market for a lot of these small street side eateries that you can go to and you can experience all sorts of food.


BURT WOLF: One of the places that Steve suggested was the National Palace Museum. When I first visited the museum in the early 80s there were very few tourists. Today it is the most visited tourist sight in the nation. There are tourist from Europe, Africa, North and South America and hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists from the mainland who come over to see their artistic heritage.

The museum was built in Taipei, Taiwan by the government of the Republic of China in 1965. The architectural style is based on the traditional Chinese Palace --- four stories, green tiled –roofs with yellow ridges.

The primary objective was to protect and preserve over 650, 000 objects that represent 8,000 years of Chinese history.


BURT WOLF: Porcelain has always had an important place in Chinese art. During the middle of the 1700s a group of potters working for the emperor developed a technique for applying a brocade pattern to their works. The emperor loved it and the vases, bowls and jars became some of the most prized objects in the court.

This bell was commissioned by King Lu over 2,000 years ago. It was made to commemorate a military victory over a neighboring ruler formally known as prince who tried to invade Lu’s kingdom.

With the exception of portraits, most traditional Chinese art shows giant landscapes inhabited by tiny people. The artists wanted to illustrate the point that people are insignificant in comparison to nature and its forces.

The museum is an important destination for many tourists, but one of its primary objectives is to give young Taiwanese a sense of their artistic heritage --- to inspire an appreciation of Chinese art.

ANNOUNCER: The National Palace Museum in Taipei.

BURT WOLF: The museum even made an animated 3D film designed to make children aware of their artistic tradition.

ANIMATED BABY (ON CAMERA): Oh no, looks like they started.

ANIMATED DRAGON (ON CAMERA): You better get going.

BURT WOLF: The film features 50 of the museums most famous objects coming to life after the museum closes for the night.

ANNOUNCER: And discover the surprises hidden within.


BURT WOLF: The National Palace Museum was also a major influence on the work of Anna Hu. Anna is a jewelry designer who trained with some of the world’s great jewelers. Today, she has her own shop in New York City.

ANNA HU (ON CAMERA): This is really a journey from an original sketch.

BURT WOLF: Anna was born in Taiwan and came to the United States when she was fourteen years old. 

ANNA HU (ON CAMERA): My father was one of the oldest diamond dealers from Taiwan. So, instead of playing with teddy bears or Barbie’s, really, all I saw was pile of stone on a desk. So, while I was practicing piano and cello I got tired with my shoulder, so I would say, “Hey, Daddy,” He would be like, “Why don’t you do something by size, by color, sort it.”

ANNA HU: To me, it’s like composing music. I can achieve the perfection until the day I want. Instead of playing cello, we always worry about if our hands are too cold, if I’m too nervous, if I’m going to play out of tune, this, all these problems disappear. It’s this ultimate perfection that I always dreamed to achieve. 

ANNA HU (ON CAMERA): This is a necklace converted to be a tiara. If you look at the back, you have all the different connections and the joints. Later on it will become a tiara. 


BURT WOLF: Once again, blending Taiwanese and American culture produces a high level of creativity. Anna also demonstrates that the occupation you choose when you are young may not be the occupation that will express your greatest talent. Our genes interact with our environment and our life plan is redirected.


BURT WOLF: Considering the fact that most Chinese believe that cooking is one of the great art forms, if not the greatest, it’s only logical that Taiwan’s National Palace Museum would open a restaurant that preserves and presents Chinese gastronomy.

Its called the Silks Palace Restaurant and it’s housed in its own 5 story building just across the street from the Museum.

It’s decorated with antiques and works of art from the museum’s collection.

The main dining room offers a selection of traditional dishes from the eight great culinary regions of China.

But its real claim to fame is a series of dishes based on the most important works of art in the museum's collection.

This is the Jade Cabbage sculpture. It was treasured by the Emperors of China and kept in the Forbidden City. The central element is a bokchoy cabbage in jade --- a sign of purity.

The dish in the restaurant consists of the heart of a Chinese cabbage that’s been boiled in broth.

The Ching Dynasty Meat-Shaped Stone was carved from agate in the 1700s. The artist stained the top so it looks like a piece of cooked pork.

The restaurant’s version is made from stewed pig’s knuckle that has been carved into the shape of the work of art.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Nicholas, please eat your art.

NICHOLAS WOLF (ON CAMERA): But it tastes old.

BURT WOLF: (ON CAMERA): That’s a problem when something's ancient



BURT WOLF: In terms of ancient gastronomy China’s relationship to tea goes back for thousands of years. And these days one of the most knowledgeable people on the subject its Ellen Liu. 

ELLEN LIU (ON CAMERA): I always brew a cup of tea for myself in the morning.

BURT WOLF: Ellen was born in Taiwan and came to America when she was 22. Her husband is the Chairman of the TenRen Group which specializes in the highest quality tea and has over a hundred shops around the world. Today, their shop in New York City’s Chinatown is considered a landmark.

ELLEN LIU (ON CAMERA): Each tea, they have their own character. So, it's like a different fragrance, different color. I like oolong tea. Taiwan produces the world-famous oolong tea. That's from my hometown. That's my favorite.

I'm gonna show you, this is a green oolong, then I'm gonna show you one more kind it's a black oolong. This shows a green color. And this is a black oolong which you often get from Chinese restaurant.

This is called Tienlita, it's one type of a high mountain green oolong. It's grown in the center part of Taiwan. The elevation is about 1300 meters or above. In the high mountain, the sunlight in the daytime is short and it's colder weather temperature. So, that factor will make tea leaves and buds tender and produce a sweeter taste.

Brewing tea. One of the common culture in Taiwan is enjoying tea with the family or friend together. When you have a Chinese tea first we'll ask you to smell the aroma first.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Should I do that now?

ELLEN LIU (ON CAMERA): Yes please. And then you can sip for the flavor, that allows us to appreciate the flavor more. 



BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): It was difficult for Ellen to get her husband’s business started in New York, but she kept at it. And as the research is showing – just having a good idea is not enough. It must be accompanied by persistence. It’s the old line --- success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. And that is central to the Taiwanese attitude.


BURT WOLF: One good idea that has been accompanied by persistence is cross- strait tourism. The phrase ‘cross- strait’ is a reference to the body of water that separates mainland China from Taiwan. For many years it also separated millions of people with a common cultural tradition, but in 2008 things started to change.

The government of Taiwan began a series of programs designed to increase cooperation and links between Taiwan and the mainland. Mainland Chinese tour groups were invited to visit Taiwan. Each week, there are almost 500 direct flights between the mainland and Taiwan.

There are also 50 cargo flights as a result of the increased business between Taiwan and the mainland. Mainland China is probably the most natural area for Taiwanese investment.


BURT WOLF: The increase in general tourism and people traveling on business particularly from mainland China has had a direct effect on the nation’s hotels.

I have been visiting Taiwan since the 1980s and I have stayed in a number of interesting hotels.

Taipei's Grand hotel was built on a tree covered hill above the city. It opened in 1952 and quickly became a national landmark. The architectural style has been used for hundreds of years in the construction of strongholds in which the emperors lived.

At the opposite end of the historical spectrum is the modern Grand Hyatt Hotel which was built near Taipei 101, which is one of the tallest buildings in the world.


BURT WOLF: Because of the increase in cross-straits business travel some of the best business hotels in the world are in Taiwan.

Each year Travel + Leisure magazine publishes a list of the best hotels in the world. One of their categories is Best Business Hotel. I wondered what a “business hotel” meant.

I can spot a resort hotel. It’s on a beach ---- or in the country side. People are lying around a pool. There are lots of golf bags in the luggage area. And men with really bad legs are wearing shorts.

But once I’m in a city, I’m not sure what constitutes a business hotel. I’ve stayed in dozens of city hotels and I usually find a mix of guests. Some people are there as tourists, some are there to do business and some are in the Federal Witness Protection Program.

To get an idea of what it means to be a business hotel I asked Sharon Hsu. I met Sharon in 1995 in Taiwan when she was in the marketing department at the hotel where I stayed. Today she is Director of Marketing at Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel which Travel + Leisure listed as the second best business hotel in the world.

SHARON HSU (ON CAMERA): I think location is always the key criteria for businessmen to choose a hotel. A centralized location will have easy access for our guests to go to the office or wherever they are going.

BURT WOLF: A business hotel should offer all of the necessary services required of a person traveling on business. Free Hi-speed internet service in all rooms, the operative word here is free, free hi-speed service. Wi-Fi in all public areas. International newspapers first thing in the morning.

Business people like highly efficient service but they like it to be unobtrusive.

And unlike what happens with most resort hotels, business people return to the same hotel over and over again and they expect the hotel to remember their preferences. Which type of pillow does the guest like? What brand of water should be in their room refrigerator? Is there a particular table that they like in one of the restaurants? A good business hotel keeps a detailed history of their guest’s preferences.


BURT WOLF: Major hotels around the world have one or two good restaurants within their building, but Taiwan appears to believe that the more good restaurants in a hotel the better. And they are not designed just for the guests. These restaurants actually have as many local Taiwanese patrons as tourists. It’s a tribute to the quality of the food and the talent and creativity of the cooks. 

Eddie Liu is a perfect example. He’s a leading authority on Chinese food. The author of a number of books on the subject and he oversees a program that presents the classic dishes of China. 

Shanghainese cuisine is one of the world’s great gastronomic traditions and much of it is based on the seafood of the East China Sea. It’s also influenced by the rivers, lakes and the canals of the Yangtze Delta. Taiwan, being an island shares much of that tradition which has made it an outstanding place to sample Shanghainese dishes in their most traditional form.

Many classic Shanghiness recipes include the use of alcohol and are described as “drunken”. A perfect example is Drunken chicken.

The chefs of Taiwan also use the traditional combination of sugar and soy sauce to give a dish a sweet and sour flavor. You can always count me in for a dish of Deep fried pork with sweet and sour sauce.

The central point that I want to make about the cooking of Taiwan is that Taiwan is probably the best place in the world to sample all the great regional dishes developed by Chinese chefs during the past 5,000 years. And in addition, they have incorporated cuisines from other Asian traditions as well as the west. During the past 15 years Taipei has become one of the world’s gastronomic capitals.


BURT WOLF: Historically, the words we use to describe eating and romance are often the same: sweet, tender, hot, cool, luscious. Words that work for both forms of hunger. And so does a spot called The Marco Polo Lounge which is one of the most famous spots in Taiwan.

It has a knockout view of the city and is considered the ideal spot for a romantic encounter. The staff is especially trained to cater to the needs of the romantically inclined.

They have a series of specially designed couches where two people can set together and look at the view but no one can view them. Technically these could be described as love seats and they are often used for proposals of marriage.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I proposed to my wife in a rather traditional way. I got down on my knees, presented a ring and asked her to marry me. She said yes and then she called room service to have somebody come and help me get up.


BURT WOLF: Steve Chen, Ellen Liu and Anna Hu, three people that grew up in Taiwan and came to the United States. Each one had a traditional Chinese childhood. Each was suddenly transported into a totally new culture. And each achieved a considerable amount of success. They wanted to get something done and they worked at it until they achieved it.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): What we are is the result interaction of our genes and the environment. The people I interviewed clearly show what can happen to a structured Taiwanese childhood when it's topped off by the creative energies of the United States.