Innsbruck: Marie-Antoinette’s mother meets Zaha Hadid

Innsbruck: Zaha Hadid's curvaceous funicular stations
Innsbruck: Zaha Hadid’s curvaceous funicular stations

“I’m not visiting another imperial palace or baroque church until we’ve seen the Zaha Hadid funicular,” I say.

Dr K looks at me with a face betraying absolute incomprehension, obviously concerned that I may have passed the point of no return on the road to cultural redemption.

We’re just coming out of the Hofburg, in central Innsbruck, the palace from which Marie Antoinette’s mother, Empress Maria Theresa, ruled Austria for 40 years.

Now Dr K is casually suggesting that we go on to Schloss Ambras, on the other side of town, when all we really want is a nice mélange and a slice of chocolate torte.

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Cluny: conjuring up lost worlds

Breakfast at Tupinier
Breakfast at Tupinier

It once stood to rival Rome as the largest centre of Christian influence in western Europe and seemed a fitting start to our Vienna road trip.

Yet, imagining what Cluny must have been like in the 11th century is challenging. The huge monastery, whose church was larger than Notre Dame in Paris, fell victim to the 1789 revolutionary zeal and was systematically dismantled and quarried in the early years of the 19th century.

Today there is hardly anything left of it. Wandering around the pretty town you see enough remnants of the old religious complex to get a sense of its importance, including the rows of romanesque houses built by the stonemasons employed to work on the monastery. Continue reading “Cluny: conjuring up lost worlds”

La Tourette, silence and peace

La Tourette convent, a place of silence and peace
La Tourette convent, a place of silence and peace


“This is a place of silence and peace”, says the sign as you enter La Tourette convent, Le Corbusier’s last major work in France. Quite what the party of 40 architecture students from Darmstadt, who are boisterously pouring out of their tour bus, will make of that remains to be seen. Or how they will comply with the instructions pinned on the back of the bedroom doors not to congregate, eat or drink in the ‘cells’.

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