Here is a countdown of my eleven most-often-viewed blog posts in the year 2023, using statistics provided by the Jetpack app from Automattic Inc.
I was planning on listing just the top ten, as in some previous years, but this time the gap between the tenth and eleventh was so small that it was nearly a tie, so I decided to list them both.
# 11 — Opern-Gespräche. After five consecutive years at number 1, and one year at number 8, my only German-language blog post has now slipped down to number 11. It is about an opera-appreciation course that I taught here in Frankfurt at the Adult Education Center for over twenty years, until the first coronavirus lockdown abruptly axed it in March 2020.
# 10 — Vauban in the Invalides. So far, I have written 23 blog posts about Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707), a French military engineer and adviser to King Louis XIV. This particular post has been on my site since 2017, and it finally got up to # 10 in 2023.
In his long career, Vauban strengthened the existing fortifications in three hundred places, conducted fifty-three sieges and built thirty-three completely new fortresses around the borders of France. Many of these fortresses still exist, and in 2008 twelve of them were designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. In his retirement years, Vauban wrote books advocating religious tolerance and tax reform, but unfortunately could not persuade Louis XIV to follow his advice.
# 9 — The legend of the Titanic Organ. This huge self-playing mechanical organ was long thought to have been commissioned by the White Star Line for use in the first-class dining room of its luxurious new steamship the RMS Titanic. Supposedly there had been some delay in construction of the organ at the Welte factory in Freiburg, so it was not finished in time for the first (and last) voyage of the Titanic in April 1912. My post on the de-bunking of this legend was my ninth most-often-viewed blog post in 2023.
# 8 — Bilingual street signs in Toulouse. For several centuries, no matter who was in charge (a king, a regent, republicans, revolutionaries, an emperor or whoever), the French central government tried with considerable success to impose a standard language on the entire country. In the city of Toulouse, in southern France, the traditional language Occitan is rarely used any more, but in 2001 the city started posting bi-lingual street signs, usually by adding a sign in Occitan below the existing sign in French.
# 7 — Stone of Bordeaux. Unlike Toulouse, which has no stone quarries within reasonable hauling distance, Bordeaux is surrounded by quarries — about 1,400 of them — so these two southern French cities look completely different. (This post was # 7 in 2021 and # 4 in 2022.)
# 6 — Pedestrian crosswalks in Paris. It’s a wonder more Germans aren’t run over in Paris, since the zebra-striped pedestrian crossings don’t mean quite the same in France as they do in Germany. (Perhaps my modest blog post has saved a few lives over the years??)
# 5 — Dionysian frenzy. Ancient Greek vases are the best places to see people (and gods, maenads, satyrs and whatnot) working themselves up into a Dionysian frenzy. (Was # 3 in both 2021 and 2022.)
# 4 — Love locks in Salzburg. In February 2011, I wrote my first blog post about love locks, describing them as “the cheapest way to declare your eternal love for that special person in your life, the one you met this afternoon and are trying to maneuver into bed.” Since then I have blogged about love locks in Paris, Cologne and Prague. Now my post on the locks in Salzburg has unexpectedly turned up at number four on the most-viewed list.
# 3 — Tapestries in the Louvre. In 2013, I had the privilege of spending a day in the Louvre Museum in Paris with the Belgian art connoisseur Eddy Dijssel, whom I had met through the now-defunct website VirtualTourist. I later wrote four blog posts about that day, and this one has now moved up to number three on the most-viewed list. (Was number six in 2022.)
# 2 — Seating in the galleries at La Scala. La Scala in Milan is my nomination for the world’s most infuriating opera house, because if you’re not careful you can pay through the nose and still have little or no view of the stage. My solution for this is to get a seat in the last row of the newly-added (21st century) galleries, where you can stand up and see most of the stage because there is nobody behind you.
# 1 — Seating in the Arena. This post was already # 1 in 2022. In 2023 it got more views than the next eight posts all put together. This is entirely due to Google, which seems to be pushing it constantly. (Not that I’m complaining, mind you.)
The post is about the ancient Roman Arena in Verona, Italy, which can seat up to 15,000 people if they sit close enough together. Making sure they really do sit close enough together is the thankless task of the poorly-paid young ushers, who still gladly do the job all summer so they can see and hear some of the world’s most popular operas night after night.