The Eighth Wonder of the Oldest Remaining Monastery in Styria

Admont Abbey is the oldest remaining monastery in Upper Styria and hosts the largest monastery library of the world. But strangely it is not an UNESCO site.

I had the possibility to see this magnificent library just a few weeks ago with my friend Andreas from Graz. I saw last summer some photos of the place and told him immediately that I would like to see it. So we did last fall. It is just a two hours drive from Graz by car.

We arrived at a light rainy late morning and found some parking on the abbey ground. As we wanted to visit the library with a guided group we bought immediately a ticket. We had another hour of time before it started, and we were hungry. In the abbey restaurant we found a warm nice place to sit and yummy food to order.

Restored and full we were ready for the library when the guided tour started.

The abbey was found in 1074 by Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg with the legacy of Saint Hemma of Gurk. The Benedictine monastery is located on the Enns river and is known for its Baroque architecture. In the middle ages the monastery prospered and had a very productive scriptorium. Artistically the abbey was known for brother Benno Haan, an ecclesiastical embroider, and the sculptor Joseph Stammel (both of the 17th/18th century).

In April 1865 the big disaster: a fire destroyed nearly the whole monastery but the library. 30 years later the reconstruction was still not completed.

WW II was another hard time, many of its art was lost, the Benedictine monks forced to go.

Today the abbey is flourishing again and a tourist attraction.

The library, where we started our visit of the abbey, was built in 1776. The designs are from architect Joseph Hueber. The hall is 70 m/230 f long, 14 m/46 f wide and nearly the same height. The library has more than 200.000 volumes, in the hall are stored around 70.000. The jaw dropping ceiling has 7 cupolas, all decorated with frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte (he was already 80 years old when he painted alone all those frescoes). They show the stages of human knowledge ending in the Divine Revelation. The 48 windows make the library a room full of light and highlight the bright, vivid colors. The sculptors of Joseph Stammel are a little different, but very interesting. Don’t miss giving them a ‘deeper’ look!

The oldest manuscript is from the time of the founder and is one of over 1.400 manuscripts. In addition, the library holds more than 900 incunabulae (book or pamphlet printed before 1501).

The hall is divided into three parts: in the central part there is everything about the church generally, in the north side there you find theological literature and the last one contains all other science literature.

We visited also one of the museums. I saw some modern art, which I found very strange after so much beauty in the library. But I enjoyed very much the church embroidery.

My friend walked to see the natural history museum, me instead to the gardens and the church. I skipped the garden, it was raining too much. The church is bright and much simpler than the library. The pulpit is beautiful and the high, colorful windows behind the altar are amazing.

She is in neo-Gothic style and built after the fire in 1865. She is dedicated to Saint Blaise, an Armenian physician and bishop of the 3rd century AD.

It was the best way to spend a rainy day in Upper Styria. I enjoyed every single moment, had a great lunch, saw one of the most beautiful libraries I can imagine, relaxed in a beautiful church and had even a short, nice walk in the monastery gardens. We spent several hours at Admont Abbey and can be easily also more if you take more time for the several museums they offer.




































(“A young woman was once engaged to a knight but was unfaithful while he was at the crusades. When he returned she was claimed that she had sworn to enter a nunnery. When instead she married his rival she changed into skeleton at the wedding – at least according to the legend”)


Admont Abbey, Styria/Austria


For further information:
Here you can read more about the Library

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Fast Food and More in Venice

North America is famous for its Fast Food. Well-known fast food chains are coming mainly from that country, and they are very popular especially with the youth. Italy is a country that always had difficulties to accept that kind of food and only over the years and with a lot of ‘resistance’ of the fast food-chains they could establish themselves.

The thing is: we have our own fast food, that is local, healthy and homemade. Pizza ‘take away’ for example is a very typical ready food to buy in Italy, everywhere. And panini: white bread rolls filled with prosciutto, mozzarella slices, lettuce and tomato slices. More in the north of Italy you find very often also polenta bites: little polenta slices with a topping of something like tomato sauce, seafood or mushrooms

Typical for every sea town is also the display of the seafood or sometimes fresh meat in the restaurants. It is sometimes a decoration, but often it is there where you choose the fish you want to be cooked for you. I love these displays, they give you the sense of freshness of the food. I love for example rice with seafood, one of my favorite dishes.

In Venice, I saw some pigeons flying for shopping 🙂 They just entered the tiny shop and sitting on the cashier. The shop owner took that as an attraction I guess, he was not annoyed at all (and for sure very much used to it!)

What are you experiences with fast food in Italy? And what kind of fast food do you have in your country? Asia is famous for its street food as well, which is fast food, too.






Venice, Veneto/Italy:

For further information:
Tourism Board of Venice


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The Invisible Apple Cake

Some days ago a friend of mine found an interesting apple cake she wanted to prepare. Honestly I think she didn’t yet. But I was intrigued and gave it a try – gluten-free version.

Seen on the photo the cake seemed to me very particular: many apple slices piled up, hardly any cake batter to see. And that is right: the batter is just enough to hold the many thin apples slices together.

This nearly no cake but all apple cake was invented by a French food blogger. The Gateau Invisible is found in many versions on the Internet, I like also the sliced almonds in it. Definitely a caramel sauce on the top is also intriguing. The invisible refers to the cake batter which doesn’t seem to be there. In fact when you eat the cake it gives just that cake taste with the fruity and crunchy apple.

I used a smaller ring pan, this way the cake is high and the many layers are well visible. I was surprised how easy the cake is and how fast it was ready.

Warm or cold with icing sugar on the top, or decorated with chocolate, sliced almonds, with whipped coconut cream or dairy-free vanilla ice cream.. this cake is really great.

The recipe I found on this page (in Italian).



Enjoy this easy and fast apple cake!

Apple Cake
Torta Invisibile di Mele
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 pieces 20 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 pieces 20 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Apple Cake
Torta Invisibile di Mele
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 pieces 20 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 pieces 20 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Instructions
  1. Ground the zest of the two lemons and squeeze them for the juice. Set both apart.
  2. Peel the apples without cutting them and then – with a mandoline slicer or knife – cut the apples in very thin slices over a bowl. Add the Lemon juice and mix. The apples don't get brown this way.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
  4. In another bowl add the eggs and the sugar. With an electric hand mixer mix until the mixture is a little fluffy and brighter. Now add the lemon zest, the pinch of salt and slowly the flour and baking powder. Mix well for a minute.
  5. Now transfer the batter into the bowl with the sliced apples. Be careful not to break the apples slices.
  6. Prepare a 18 cm/7" round cake pan with parchment paper or grease the inside and put some flour in order to prevent the cake to stick on the rim.
  7. Transfer into the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes. After 30 minutes check with a toothpick if the inside of the cake is still wet. Let the cake in the oven for some additional minutes.
  8. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool in the cake pan. Open the cake pan and transfer the cake on a cake plate. Decorate with some icing sugar.
Recipe Notes

Instead of the all purpose paleo flour you can use also half-half of almond flour and cassava flour. 

I would recommend parchment paper instead of ghee/coconut oil and flour. It is not that easy to transfer later the cake from the baking pan to a plate. With the parchment paper it is easier to lift it.

Instead of icing sugar you can use also sprinkled chocolate for example or simply omit decoration. It looks good also with none. 

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Between History and Veggies – Il Mercato Centrale

This summer when I was exploring Florence together with my friend we came across an interesting building in the middle of a super crowded street with hundreds of vendors. It was the Mercato Centrale.

Not far away from the basilica of Florence and on the way back to the train station Santa Lucia Novella, we came across a street with hundreds of stands selling leather. It was overcrowded but, we were interested in the shops on both sides. A just because we were a little aside from the rest of the crowd in the middle of the street I saw the arches. I pointed it out to my friend, and we decided to have a better look at it. We found out that it was the Mercato Centrale.

The building was constructed in the end of the 19th century during the so-called Risanamento of Florence (changing the urban style out of necessity). It was the period when Florence was for a short time of 6 years the capital of the newly built Kingdom of Italy.

The old market place had not enough space anymore because the population was growing fast. There was an urgent need for a bigger, newer one. And covered. So they decided to cover three places and make a public market out of them. One of these was the Mercato Centrale in the quarter of San Lorenzo.

For this work they demolished several house blocks, houses that already were in a bad condition. This way they opened a big space right in the heart of the city and not far from the most important sights. The market was designed by Giuseppe Mengoni and constructed with iron, glass and iron cast. There are 5 arches on each side of the middle section which form a loggia, an exterior gallery. The inauguration was in 1874.

Due to the glass and iron roof there is a lot of daylight in the hall that it gives you the sense of being outside.

In the last decades people are moving out of the center and most of them go now to big supermarkets, they simply don’t buy that much anymore at farmers markets. So the market re-invented itself by opening on the first floor restaurants and activities.

We were in the market in the late afternoon. The building itself is very interesting and is worth a visit. But also the many different restaurants. You get the light feeling of being in a station, first floor, where you have all the fast food restaurants. The difference is that these restaurants are serving finger-food, Italian style fast food and a variety of other things. I saw also some cooking classes.

I liked to wander around in this place, it offers food of different regions of Italy, some from other countries as well. You can have finger-food, a quick dish or also fine-dining. A very particular atmosphere!




Florence, TuscanyItaly:

For further information:
Official website of Florence
Website of the Mercato Centrale


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Santa Maria Novella – The First Great Basilica of Florence

When we got out of the train station Santa Maria Novella in Florence, we walked towards the city center and passed beside a nice looking building. I wanted to have a look, why not starting right here to sight-seeing the city? It happened to be one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen: the basilica Santa Maria Novella.

It’s the main Dominican church and the first basilica of Florence. The church itself is connected to a cloister and chapter house which house many art pieces and funerary monuments. Many of the most important Florentine families paid for them to get a place on consecrated ground.

In 1219 Fra’ Giovanni da Salerno arrived with 11 Dominican priests from Bologna and two years later they got the little church Santa Maria delle Vigne, at that time outside the city walls. They decided to build a new church: Santa Maria Novella (The New One). In the mid-century they started building the church and an adjoining cloister. 120 years later all was finished, including the Romanesque-Gothic bell tower and the sacristy. In 1410, nearly 200 years later, the church was consecrated.

Later in that same century the upper part with the for Florence so typical green and white marble, the church facade became as it is today. During the centuries there were many works and changes to culminating in the look of the present-day. Famous architects and designers like Alberti, Vasari and Dosio embellished inside and outside the church and cloister. In 1919 the church became a Basilica Minore. Only recently the church was restored and since 2001 there is an entrance fee.

The many, many paintings, the choir, the wonderful decorated ceilings, the high columns in the church, the beautifully decorated cloister.. we spent a couple of hours inside the area.

Inside the church there are different chapels like the Filippo Strozzi Chapel, the Gondi Chapel, the Rucellai Chapel and many others of important names for the city are all different and amazingly beautiful. Don’t miss the fresco by Andreas Buonaiuto in the Spanish Chapel (former chapter house, called Spanish Chapel because it was assigned to Eleonora of Toledo)!

Here you can see paintings and art work by Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Bronzino, Pisano, Giotto, Vasari, Ghiberti, Lippi and many, many others.

Only later I found out about the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica. The monks have produced rose water since 1381, they created a perfume for Catarina de’ Medici in 1533 made with bergamot, since 1590 the apothecary expanded also outside the Dominican order and in 1612 there was the first apothecary shop.

The Basilica Santa Mari Novella is a must-see on a Florence tour and easy to find as you pass it when you arrive at the homonymous station, and you are on the way to the main attractions of the inner city. It is a good introduction to architecture and art of Florence.
















Florence, Tuscany/Italy:

For further information:
Official website of Florence
Website of the Basilica Minore Santa Maria Novella
Website of the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica of Santa Maria Novella


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