Saturday, 26 January 2013

Another early 20th century French invention: Electric roller skates

As previously mentioned, the French have always been inventive people. Here is another interesting French early 20th century invention:

A French invention from 1912 - motorized roller skates.
This invention, motorized roller skates, was introduced in Paris in 1912. A two-stroke engine, is attached to the right foot skate. The engine is powered by a battery, which is attached to the skater's back. 

Electric cars are nowadays favored by many politicians and environmentalists, but motorized roller skates have the advantage, that they do not need large spaces for parking. So maybe it is time for a revival of this wonderful French innovation? Paris - as well as other world capitals - would no doubt look much nicer without cars. 

However, on slippery autumn and winter roads, these electric rollers might pose a problem for the riders. In that case there might be use for another French invention from 1912 - a hearse tram car:

Another French invention from the early 20th century - A hearse tram. The news report from a 1912 weekly does not tell, whether the other half of the car was used by ordinary passengers.

Friday, 25 January 2013

A sunset setting for cargo vessel Tidan

Yesterday we had another beautiful sunset over Øresund. The ship on this photo is the Faroe registered small cargo vessel Tidan (88 x 12m) on its way from Gothenburg to Klaipeda.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

A French artillery invention from 1906

A French officer directing the artillery fire in 1906. 
The French have always had a talent for innovations and inventions.This French artillery invention on wheels was introduced in the beginning of the 20th century. It made it easier for an artillery officer, who was standing on a 5 meter high steel ladder, to direct the artillery fire during a battle. I have not seen any information about the actual use of this early "mega Segway". One drawback, from the officer's point of view, could have been, that he was also a fairly easy target for enemy sharpshooters.

Here, and here, are a few other French inventions from the same era.

The first luxury hotels in Sweden

In 1795, Copenhagen became the first Scandinavian capital to have a hotel of high international standard, the Hotel d'Angleterre. It was not until 1857 before the first truly international class hotel, Hotel Rydberg, opened in Stockholm.

The Hotel Rydberg at the Gustaf Adolf Square in Stockholm.

The funding for the new building was secured through the legacy of a wealthy merchant, Abraham Rydberg. Before his death, Rydberg had reserved a large sum of money in order to build a hôtel-de-ville (a city hall), but the Stockholm merchants' society instead chose to interpret this as meaning a hotel! 

The man, who was put in charge of the new hotel was King Oscar I's former French chef, Jean-François Régis Cadier. Rydberg soon became very popular, particularly with visiting diplomats, nobility and well to do industrialists. The hotel closed in 1914 and in its place the Skandinavisa Banken built a new office building.

Most Swedes probably do not know very much, if anything, about Hotel Rydberg, but almost everybody recognizes, and has tasted, Biff á la Rydberg (Beef Rydberg), which originates from Cadier's kitchen. 

The Grand Hôtel Stockholm in the late 1890s. 

However, before long Cadier saw a need for an even classier international hotel in Stockholm. His plans led to the building of the Grand Hôtel, which was inaugurated in 1874. The architect was Axel Kumlien. Cadier continued to operate the hotel successfully until his death in 1890. 
The Grand logo on a match box from the 1980's

The Grand Hôtel is still THE classical five star luxury hotel in Stockholm.Through the years the hotel has acquired the neighboring houses, and right now has about 300 guest rooms, 34 of which a suites. 

Shipping and navigation were also very close to Rydberg's heart. In his will a large sum of money was reserved for the foundation of a navigation school.This led to the acquirement of a sail training ship, which was named Abraham Rydberg. 

Monday, 21 January 2013

Kronborg castle and Helsingør

Hamlet's Kronborg castle and Elsinore (Helsingør) are always worth a visit!

Hamlet's Kronborg castle and ships as mirages

The Kronborg castle "hovering" in the air, seen from Viken on the Swedish side of the Sound.
A definition of Mirage:
 an optical effect that is sometimes seen at sea, in the desert, or over a hot pavement, that may have the appearance of a pool of water or a mirror in which distant objects are seen inverted, and that is caused by the bending or reflection of rays of light by a layer of heated air of varying density


Yesterday was a great day for mirage watchers in Øresund. Hamlet's Kronborg castle was nicely "floating" in the air, and strangely distorted  ships were passing by. 

A somewhat closer view of Kronborg. On the left you can see the distorted silhouette of one of the Helsingør - Helsingborg ferries.

Another ferry has just passed in front of an approaching trawler. 

The trawler on the left and two of the ferries.

Another ferry and the trawler "floating" in the air.

The trawler (Russian?) approaching Kronborg.

In front of Kronborg castle. A ferry on the left of the castle.

Another Kronborg picture.

Minutes later the trawler continues northwards along the Danish coastline.

The strange looking "blob" in the middle is probably a small naval vessel or a tug, on its way southwards in Øresund. 
If you are interested in learning more about maritime mirages here is an interesting and informative page. 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A winter's day in the "Scandinavian Mediterranean"

This afternoon I spent walking in the beautiful village of Viken, about five kilometres north  from where I live. The view from Viken to the Kullaberg nature reserve was spectacular. The color of the water was almost mediterranean. But the temperature - about -6° C - was anything but south European. Still, a lot of people were out enjoying the pleasant winter day.

Not many picknickers on this cold but beautiful day in Viken. The Kullaberg nature reserve in the background.
Adding a person to the picture makes it easier to understand that this is not
Cannes or Nice ....
I was not the only one with a camera ...
Another view over to the Kullaberg nature reserve.
Icy Øresund

A renaissance for operetta in Europe

This is what Piotr Beczcala, the world's number one tenor in the operetta repertoire, says about the demands of the genre:  "Operetta is in my opinion valuable, magnificient, but today underrated. I take the vocal demands of this music very seriously and consider it a real challenge." In another recent interview the singer said that he is very much hoping for an operetta renaissance.

Finally, there is some really good news for friends of operetta! This genre, so often derided by "serious" classical music critics, is in for a renaissance, according to Peter Schwenkow, one of Europe's leading concert organizers and managers:

"I am thoroughly convinced that an unbelievable renaissance is awaiting the operetta. We know that classical music superstars are going to publish operetta albums. Christian Thielemann is conducting a pure Kálmán program on ZDF on New Year's Eve. And Kálmán's daughter is refering to Anna Netrebko. The Russian star soprano is going to record 'The Gipsy Princess' with Jonas Kaufmann". 

The New Year's concert, broadcast from Dresden's Semper Oper, that Schwenkow was speaking about turned out to be a huge success, as earlier was reported on this blog. The operetta gala concerts from Dresden have now become a tradition that millions of television viewers look forward to. 

Christian Thielemann - here shown at the Operettengala concert on December 30, 2012 - is not afraid of praising operetta music.

Before the December 30 concert Christian Thielemann had this to say about operetta music:

"These pieces have been underrated for years, and not performed by the best singers. Take a look at those who previously used to sing operetta, and you will be amazed. All the big stars. Hilde Güden was singing this, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Fritz Wunderlich, Anneliese Rothenberger, Rita Streich, Hermann Prey, René Kollo. At some stage this then changed. And suddenly it was said: Oh, this stale old stuff. It was considered unsophisticated, petty bourgeois, it was simply not played anymore."

In the same interview Thielemann mentions that there are plans for new operetta performances at the legendary Festpielhaus in Baden-Baden. And we already know that the Seefestspiele Berlin will in August open with performances of the "Gypsy Princess"

Soprano Ingeborg Schöpf at the successful Operettengala in
Dresden on December 30, 2012.

Also, the new intendent of Berlin's famous Komische Oper, Barry Kosky has declared that he plans to bring more operetta into the theatre's repertoire. The successful revival of Emmerich Kálmán’s "Die Bajadere" in December last year was the first promising beginning.  

All in all, friends of operetta have a lot to look forward to in the coming years!