Smithsonian Journeys Dispatches

A Q&A with Expert Mariana Carpinisan

Q: Your expertise of this region is vast and you relate much of its history through art. How do you convey this through your presentations?

A: The journey on the Rhine promises to be a wonderful and new experience for those who have traveled to this part of Europe before as well as for the novice. Through my lectures you'll discover a different approach to painting, architecture, and history, which is the cradle for visual arts.

Q: What do travelers gain by cruising on the Rhine that they would miss by traveling strictly overland?

A: By traveling the Rhine travelers will be exposed to the wonders of the river, which unites inhabitants and cultures of different countries in the most unexpected and miraculous way. Our voyage and adventure begins in Zurich where we will see Mark Chagall's stained glass windows at the Fraumunster Cathedral. Also, here in Switzerland the painter most admired and cherished is Paul Klee. Born in 1879 he was the only painter of his generation who allowed his art to range freely between the figurative and the nonfigurative. Klee's art is characterized by the most readily grasped aspects of its appeal: its wit and whimsicality. As we continue to Strasbourg we marvel at a city situated on the borders of France and Germany, which shows the evidence of linguistic and architectural influence of both cultures. These features coexist and blend in a most extraordinary way.

Q: What do you look forward to seeing and experiencing most whenever you return to this region?

A: Personally I look forward to exploring again Heidelberg where one of the oldest universities in Europe and the castle in ruins overlook the Old Town. Heidelberg was a magnet for writers and composers alike. Goethe, Victor Hugo, Mark Twain, Schumann, and Brahms were captivated by its beauty and mystique. Again Chagall will show us his genius in Mainz in the Church of St. Stephen. Here the master transposed the Old Testament into the most exquisite windows and his colors remind us of heavens impossible to reach. While in Rudesheim (time permitting), I would like to walk the streets and marvel at the beautifully kept facades of the city's houses. Also here at the Bromserhof Museum I look forward to view again some of the most sophisticated examples of mechanical musical instruments put to the service of popular entertainment.

Q: What do you find especially appealing about this tour? 

A: Since the 1960s Cologne has been the German art metropolis. Ludwig Museum comprises the most important stages in the development of 20th-century and contemporary art. Amsterdam is an unforgettable city where Rembrandt and Van Gogh still reign supreme through their paintings and ideas. The poetry of silence offered by the Rhine contrasted by cities where the bells ring every hour will provide us all with unforgettable memories