Here’s a countdown of my ten most-often-viewed blog posts in the year 2022, with links. (Five of these were also on my top-ten list for 2021.)
# 10 — Jacques Brel’s Marieke in Brugge/Bruges. It took me a long time to realize why the gorgeous young ladies in French love songs are always twenty years old, rather than nineteen or twenty-one. The explanation is in this post about Jacques Brel’s Marieke, one of his few bilingual songs. (This post was # 5 in 2020 and 2021.)
# 9 — Wildplassen. This is not the post I would have chosen to represent the lovely Flemish city of Ghent (aka Gent, Gand or Gante), but the search engines keep pushing it, no doubt because of its urological interest.
# 8 — Opern-Gespräche. After five consecutive years at number 1, my only German-language blog post has now slipped down to number 8. It is about an opera-appreciation course that I taught at the Adult Education Center here in Frankfurt for over twenty years, until the first coronavirus lockdown abruptly axed it during our 41st semester.
# 7 — 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??)
# 6 — 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 have written four blog posts about that day, and I’m glad to see that one of them has now entered the most-viewed list at number six.
# 5 — Bilingual street signs in Toulouse. For several centuries, no matter who was in charge (a king, revolutionaries, republicans, 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 Occitan language 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.
# 4 — Stone of Bordeaux. Unlike Toulouse, which has no stone quarries within reasonable hauling distance, Bordeaux is surrounded by quarries — some 1,400 of them — so the two cities look completely different. (Was # 7 in 2021.)
# 3 — Dionysian frenzy. Ancient Greek vases are the best places to see people (and gods, maenads, satyrs, etcetera) working themselves up into a Dionysian frenzy. (Was also # 3 in 2021.)
# 2 — Seating in the galleries at La Scala. Milan’s Teatro alla Scala 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. The ancient Roman Arena in Verona can seat up to 15,000 people if they sit close enough together. Making sure they 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. (Was # 2 in 2021.)