1. Singers and conductor applauding the orchestra
2. Opera audience at the Münster City Theater
3. Musicians in the orchestra pit
4. Birds and animals taking their bows
5. Program booklet for The Cunning Little Vixen (in German Das schlaue Füchslein)
Unlike Mozart, who started writing operas when he was eleven, Leos Janacek got off to a late start as an opera composer. His first really successful opera, Jenufa, didn't come out until he was fifty, and he really hit his stride between the ages of sixty-six and seventy-four when he composed The Excursions of Mr. Broucek, Katja Kabanová, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Macropulous Case and From the House of the Dead. (All of these are still performed, and I have seen all of them.)
Janacek made a habit of sitting in the park in his home city of Brno and noting down what people said in everyday conversation, not only the words but also the language rhythms and melodies. He used these notes when he composed his operas, so his music closely follows the rhythms of the Czech language. For this reason his operas are often performed in the original Czech, even in places like Frankfurt am Main where hardly anyone in the cast or audience speaks or understands this language.
In Münster, however, The Cunning Little Vixen was sung in German.
While he was composing The Cunning Little Vixen, Janacek not only listened to people speaking Czech, but also went out to the woods and noted down various sounds that he heard, in musical notation, so in this opera the instruments in the orchestra often imitate woodsy and animal sounds.
I'm listening to a recording of The Cunning Little Vixen as I write this, and it's very nice. Janacek is not at all a "difficult" composer, despite what a lot of people here in Germany seem to think.
Someone neglected to tell the architect that castles are supposed to look mean and intimidating. Burg Vischering is a beautiful moated castle in a pleasant park setting. As you stroll around the moat, you see that there is not an ugly angle on this structure. The castle wasn't completely open when we visited, but we were still able to walk across the wooden footbridge, into the courtyard, and up onto the battlements.
I believe there is a museum on the grounds, and some historical artifacts within the castle, so check to see what hours these things are open.
Even if the museum isn't open, it's still a nice park to stroll around, with sculptures placed here and there.
The Zwinger is a 16th century tower that was once part of the wall that surrounded the city of Munster. The wall is now a pedestrian greenway that encompasses most of the city, but the tower has been some what restored and houses a 'permanent' sculpture installation that evokes the oppressive history of the place. The tower was built as part of the city's fortifications but was used as a prison from the 18th and 19th century. Later it was used by the gestapo for executions. It was a horrible place where torture was common and an air of dread still lingers.
If I recall correctly, admission is free.
The most recent acquisition of Münster's art scene: The square in front of the Picasso Museum has received a new pavement from stones in different colours which depicts the face of Picasso, including his famous striped sweater. The inauguration happened just when I was there, on September 1, 2010.
It is a bit hard to see from ground level. You get a better idea from the top of the stairs in front of the museum entrance but to really see the picture you'd have to be at a window on the upper floors of the surrounding houses. I have photoshopped one of my photos to give you an idea.
The so-called "Stadthaus" ("City House") was built next to the old city hall in 1902 - 1907 to accommodate offices of the city administration. While the rest of the building and everything around was destroyed in World War II, the tower survived miraculously and almost without damage.
The tower is a landmark in the heart of the city where Prinzipalmarkt and Ludgeristraße meet. The style happily mixes neo-renaissance and art nouveau elements. ALong Ludgeristraße, one of the main shopping streets, you walk straight towards it.
In 2001 the tower received a new carillon. Every day at 11.00, 15.00 and 19.00 you can listen to its bells.
Münster has been the seat of a bishop since 792. The cathedral is a huge building that has grown over centuries and styles. After severe damage in World War II it has been rebuilt according to the original shape but simplified in details, as especially the western front shows. Parts of the furnishing have been saved, others like the pulpit had to be renewed.
Look at the big Christophorus statue in the western transept. Faith tells that when you look at a Christophorus you can be sure you won’t die that day.
Update 2010: The outside of the cathedral is currently undergoing restorations and large parts are behind scaffolding.
Münster’s only baroque church, built by Johann Conrad Schlaun in 1745 - 1753. The octogonal church is crowned by a dome - deriving from the model of baroque architecture in Rome and finally from the ancient Pantheon. The dome is decorated with a fresco that reveals a (painted) view into heaven. Restoration works had it closed for some years. However, these works are finished. The church can now be admired in all its freshly polished splendour.
Outside mass and services the church can only be viewed through the wrought-iron gate behind the entrance door.
The baroque palace was designed by Johann Conrad Schlaun, Westfalen’s great 18th century architect. It was the city palace of a noble family who were important civil servants in the bishopric.
The palace grounds are located on a street corner. The main building is positioned diagonally so that a triangular courtyard was formed in front of it. A high baroque fence separates it from the public street.
The Drost or Droste was actually the title of a high-ranking official in the administration. Since the positions soon became inheritable and connected to certain noble families, they adopted the title as part of their name and called themselves “Droste zu (of) Nameofplace”. The best-known member of such a family is probably the 19th century poet Annette von Droste zu Hülshoff, or von Droste-Hülshoff as she is usually named.
The modern museum building contains a large permanent collection about history, art and culture of the region of Westfalen and also shows temporary exhibitions - check their website what's on. The museum is owned and operated by the Federal State and the biggest museum in the city.
Update 2010: The entire back part of the museum has been torn down and is currently being substituted by a new building. So there is a huge construction site. Only a limited part of the exhibition halls can still be visited.
The zoo has a special attraction for horse-lovers: the Westphalian Horse Museum. The region of Westphalia is a centre of horse-breeding with its own race of warmbloods (Westfalen) and the seat of the German Equestrian Federation in Warendorf, so horses are for sure a topic here. The museum presents the horse in biology, history, work and sports. Quite interesting.
Live horses are around on the outside, of course. No Westphalians, though. The shetland ponies are probably used for ponyriding for kids. Then they have a herd of giant Poitou donkeys (with a cuuuute woolly foal), Mongolian ponies and Przczewalski horses. The horse park is combined with the kids zoo.
The Dolphinarium is open all day, so you can watch the animals - bottlenose dolphins and sea lions - any time. Dolphin shows take place three to four times a day, I assume they use different animals each time. Check on the website or at the zoo entrance for the exact hours of the show.
The show is included in your entrance fee, no need for extra tickets. Just walk in and find a seat, even if a show has already started you can walk in. It is a small show - they had one dolphin and one sealion participating.
Some volunteers were picked from the audience who were allowed to feed and pat the sealion.
The aquarium is included in the zoo price, it is one of the several houses that are connected to the entrance buildings on covered paths. It is, I have to admit, not very big. They have mostly tropcal fish (no sharks, sorry) and some reptiles, amphibia and so on on the upper floor. The light was all right for some photography. (I hope the photos are displayed well here, VT is known to have trouble with underwater photos.) The aquarium is a bit hidden, so make sure you don't miss it.
Münster has a very nice and enjoyable zoo. Take your time because it is big, walks are long, and there is a lot to see so you do not feel the long walks. The animals inhabit roomy enclosures which resemble their natural habitat as much as possible and they all look well-kept.
They name it Allwetterzoo, a zoo for all kinds of weather - well, only the main houses are connected by covered paths, the rest is open-air as anywhere else. So if the weather isn't perfect, take an umbrella despite the name.
The entrance fee of 14 € for adults looks steep at first sight. However, it includes everything: the zoo, the aquarium, the dolphin show, the horse museum - other zoos would charge extra for each. So in relation to what they offer it is worth the money.
Families: Apart from the usual repertoire, like playgrounds, a kids zoo with goats and sheep and chickens, pony riding and a lot of boards with information directed at children, there are some special options your kids will particularly enjoy. They may help feeding the penguins (only at the feeding hour) by throwing fish for them into the basin. Visitors can also feed the elephants during their regular feeding hour. Check the website or, when you are there, at the zoo entrance for the exact hours.
More zoo photos are in my travelogues on this page.
Really didn't do Münster justice I think, just a morning to explore before the heavens opened and that was that. An equestrian event at the castle didn't really interest us, so, just a few photos from our morning.
The town hall in Muenster is open to the public. You can buy a ticket at the desk to view the Friedensaal (Peace Hall) or simply look around the entrance hall. Here you will find coats of armour and swords on the walls.