Austria: Salzburg Carnival/Salzburger Fasnacht

The European history never ceases to surprise me. Based on the information presented at the museum of Schloss Hellbrunn. I found out how some 17th century Europeans entertained themselves with their animals. During the annual Salzburg Carnival, which incorporated elements from Venice,

1. bulls and bears were hunted to death.

2. geese were beheaded. According to the following placard, “[i]n 1613, members of the Court, on the horseback and armed with sabres, tried to cut the heads off suspended geese. In 1616, servants had to strike at geese blindfolded.”


3. pigs were beaten and slain in play. For a reconstructed scene, watch the video (attached above) at 00:36-01:20 and 02:17-02:30.

4. cats were trapped in boxes and their tails were tied to the keyboard to play the piano. To quote the placard for the following picture, “[t]his reconstruction shows a cat piano, an instrument that was used in the 1618 parade in Salzburg. There is no known pictorial representation from the 17th cnetury. Living cats were confined in boxes and their tails maltreated using a keyboard (piano) with sharp metal spikes. The ‘music’ threfore consisted of the howling of the cats.” For a reconstructed scene, watch the attached video at 02:56-03:26.


The commentator on the audioguide reminded us that our [I think he meant “the modern European”] standard toward the animals is different from the previous standard. I wonder since when the attitude change has begun in Europe.


Despite the aforementioned dark history, I am still impressed with the ingenious trick fountains at Schloss Hellbrunn. Human kindness and ingenuity sometimes just don’t march together, right? 😉

Anecdote: Gog on the Plane

During my previous flight to Europe, a friendly neighbour on the plane struck up a conversation with me. We exchanged some polite chitchat, then she asked me: “So what are you doing in South Africa?”

“I am a postdoctoral researcher at the university in Potchefstroom,” I answered.

“What is your field of research?” She looked curious.

“I am researching the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at the faculty of theology.” I tried to be concise in my reply.

“That’s very interesting! I also read the Bible.” Her eyes gleamed as she exclaimed excitedly.

Encouraged by her remarks, I elaborated on my answer: “In the past, I did some research on the book of Ezekiel. You know, it’s one of the Major Prophets, coming after Isaiah and Jeremiah. It has some weird visions, but my focus was on the oracles against the foreign nations in the middle of the book. Oh, the book contains the famous Gog oracles.”

She suddenly looked at me in all seriousness and asked: “I know the oracles, ISN’T GOG RUSSIA?”

I knew this association was being made on papers and internet, and I had written an article on it, but I did not expect to encounter such an association face-to-face.

My mind had gone blank for a second or so, before I asked her why she thought so. She said she didn’t know. I asked her if she had read it somewhere. She shook her head again, but this time she gently asked for my opinion on Gog’s identity. I explained how modern biblical scholars commonly place a distance between historical contexts and modern associations. I was not sure if she agreed with me but she listened to my explanation very patiently and attentively.

Before my departure from the plane, I wrote down the link to my HTS article entitled “The Enemies Within: Gog of Magog in Ezekiel 38-39” on a tiny piece of paper and handed it to her. She thanked me and folded it carefully into her jacket’s pocket.

This random encounter touched my heart in two main ways. First, we all have uncritical assumptions, we can’t help it. But the lady on the plane makes me realize that it’s how we deal with these assumptions that counts. When she realized that she couldn’t justify her assumption about Gog,  she did not make up tall tales to give weight to her claim, she did not skip the conversation topic for the sake of convenience, and she did not direct my attention to mathematical problems (N/B: she was an accountant) where she could easily prove her intellectual superiority over mine. Instead I was simply humbled that she would ask for my opinion about Gog’s identity. She showed me her patience and respect during my explanation while reserving her final judgment. I think her attitude is something I can learn from during dissensions. Keep listening to the arguments from all sides, modify judgment when necessary. Easier said than done.

Second, it simply feels good to have written an article that can somehow be referred to during a daily conversation. #bridge the gap between academia and a wider public. 🙂


N/B: This photo was not taken from this trip. It was from my 2008 trip to Turkey.

Last Updated: 28.07.2017

Austria: A Wonderful Summer School in Salzburg

Prof. Kristin De Troyer held a fantastic summer school on the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of Esther at the theological faculty of the University of Salzburg between the 3rd and 7th of July, 2017. I consider myself luckly to have been selected as one of the eleven participants from around the world. A knowledgeable teacher who gave her very best in the class and friendly colleagues who treated each other as equal partners really made my learning of the biblical manuscripts overwhelmingly enjoyable!

Here are some of the memorable moments:

1. Huge smiles at the camera before the hearty dinner sponsored by the University of Salzburg (Photo courtesy of Prof. Kristin De Troyer)


2. Stunning view from our elegant accommodation in Haus St. Benedikt


3. Intensive learning of the critical and diplomatic editions of Masoretic Text, Old Greek, Alpha-Text of Esther. Other Jewish recensions, Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, and Vetus Latina were also surveyed.


4. Summer greenery from the summit of Festung Hohensalzburg


5. Pleasant aequous surprises at Schloss Hellbrunn


For me, the climax of the summer school was at the end, when my husband, who has been studying in Germany, was able to come to Austria and spent some quality time with me after six months of separation. Love him so much! ❤



Austria: Suffocatingly Beautiful Vienna

When I first arrived in Germany, I couldn’t even utter a German sound. There was this friendly chap, who could speak fluent German, and didn’t mind to teach me that difficult language. Subsequently, he even invited a Cambodian friend and me to stay at his friend’s place in Vienna. This was how I ended up visiting this beautiful city in Austria over the weekend (02.09.2010 -06.09.2010) ~~

To give you an orientation of Vienna, here is a map of the city, which I tore off from the local tour magazine. As you can (probably) see, the famous Schloss Schönbrunn is at the south east corner outside the inner city (see the small zoom-out map at the bottom right hand corner), while the Riesenrad is in the north east, on the other side of the Danube Canal (Donaucanal, colored as blue in the map) :

The Map of Vienna: The photo is  a bit blurred, but hope that you can make out the general contour of the city

The Map of Vienna: The photo is a bit blurred, but hope that you can make out the general contour of the city

Two full days are enough to tour around the important sights in Vienna.

Our first day was dedicated to visiting the main sights on the outskirts of the city (Schönbrunn, Belvedere and Risenrad):

1. The baroque Schloss Schönbrunn (lit: Beautiful Spring Castle) lies quite far away from the city centre, so we rented a city bike to go there. Probably because of its French-styled gardens, and its former resident, the legendary Sissi Empress of Austria, whose aunt is the equally, if not more, legendary Marie-Antoinette Queen of France, this palace is also called the little Versaille.

Since the baroque Schloss Schönbrunn lies quite far away from the city center, so we rented a city bike to go there.

Schloss Schönbrunn

2. To be honest, in comparison to Schloss Schönbrunn, another Baroque palace – Schloss Belvedere – is more pleasing to my eyes. Actually Schloss Belvedere consists of not one but two palaces (Oberes Belvedere and Unteres Belvedere). Here you will find Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss.

Belvedere Palace

Schloss Belvedere

Schloss Belvedere

With the dark storm approaching at the background, don’t you think the expressions of the schulptures look more dramatic?

3. At night, we biked to Prater to board on the Riesenrad (Giant  Wheel). It was constructed in 1897 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef I. For a brief history of Riesenrad, check out this link: Here is where you can catch a panoramic view of Vienna at night!

Riesenrad, Prater

Riesenrad, Prater

Our second day was greeted heartily by the rich breakfast at Café Central, Vienna.This made a perfect beginning for a day dedicated to exploring the inner city.

1. It was quite a strange feeling to have a breakfast where Ludwig van Beethoven, Leon Trotsky, and Sigmund Freud had once dined. The atmosphere of Café Central created a surreal atmosphere, which made me think that all the aforementioned geniuses might casually drop in at any time, and sit next to me to have their own breakfast.


breakfast at Cafe Central

2. As you stroll across the inner city, be prepared to be awed by Stephansdom – a 13th-cenutry Gothic architecture.



3. Street performance is quite common in this city of culture 🙂

Street Performance

Street Performance

4. The boldly colored and whimsically shaped Hundertwasserhaus in Kegelgasse 36-38, 1030 Vienna is my favourite! “Ein Maler träumt von Häusern und einer schönen Architektur, in der der Mensch frei ist und dieser Traum wird Wirklichkeit” (A painter dreams of houses and a beautiful architecture, in which the human is free, and this dream becomes reality). Hundertwasser has indeed realized his dream.


Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna

5. Drawn back to the city centre by the violin of Johann Strauss the “Waltz King” in Stadtpark.

Stadtpark, Vienna

Stadtpark, Vienna

6. Before moving further, let’s try this delicious Wiener Tafelspitz at the restaurant of Kunsthistorisches Museum!



7. Only then, we can have the energy to stroll through hundreds and thousands of artworks in Kunsthistorisches Museum. Here is one artwork inspired by Gen 11:1-9 and other extra-biblical sources. At the bottom right hand corner, you can see workmen genuflecting in front of Nimrod, who is mentioned in Gen 10:8-9 as “the son of Cush” and “the mighty hunter before YHWH.” Micah 5:6 seems to associate Nimrod with Assyria or Mesopotamia. Anyway, Nimrod is not explicitly mentioned in Gen 11, but he has indeed been painted as a blasphemous proud in later traditions (e.g. Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews and b. Hul. 89a)

The Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel, by Pieter Bruegel (1563)

8. We ended our journey with a window shopping along the Mariahilferstraße. Don’t miss out this delicious snack that you can find in Mariahilfer Straße 95. 😉


Snacks at Trześniewski