Tuesday, May 08, 2001

Mystic Crystals

I'm coping with a goofy German keyboard. The header almost came out "Mzstic Crzstals".

Innsbruck has been enjoyable (enjozable). I really am amazed at looking one way, and seeming the Alps right in front of me, and then turning around and seeing them in the other direction. Also, Innsbruck is a nice, old town with walkable streets and old buildings.

Today was the afternoon we had off from the conference for the excursion. The excursion was ostensibly to "Swarovski Crystal World," but the iron rule of any sort of bus tour is that you can never spend too much time in anz one place. It upsets the bus driver or something. So our first stop was the village of Hall. Hall was home to the old Mint. As the brochure says:

Competent personnel offers help and advice to guests and shares their pleasure when they create a durable souvenir of their visit to Hall in the form of a medal they can coin themselves by means of a powerful blow against the coinage die or an energetic jerk of the screw press.

Anzwaz...The Mint was apparently founded by Maximillian's uncle, Sigmund. The innovation due to it was to coin big silver coins rather than small gold ones; the innovation soon spread across Europe. This was good for Sigmund, since there's a silver mine nearby. The minting continued until Napolean invaded. Then, when the Bavarians "liberated" Tyrolia, they also helped themselves to the coin presses. Then we walked around Hall and looked at a couple of old churches.

Then it was of to the Crystal Worlds. Apparently Swarovski moved here from Bohemia 106 years ago because he had a great idea for making crystal, but was afraid somebody in Bohemia would steal it. Since this area was bereft of people who knew crystal, it seemed like a good place to start a crystal business. (That's my understanding, anyway.)

6 years ago, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the business, Swarovski commissioned a trippy techno "experience" (the type of thing Brian Eno would be involved in -- yep, he was involved in this.) Basically, you walk through about 6 different rooms filled with lights, crystal, and music, and are encouraged to ponder the meaning of it all. And they laughed at EuroDisney.

After those rooms (we were given over an hour; they took about 15 minutes), we were deposited in the gift shop. This seemed a familiar scam -- except for the fact that the gift shop was way cooler than anything else in the museum. Bunches of tiny crystals carved into parrots, dice and other wacky shapes. Really, really expensive chandeliers that you wonder who would actually buy.

It was nice to get out of Innsbruck. The mountains are really beautiful, and it snowed a couple of weeks ago. They say the snow will melt in a couple of days, but it's pretty while it lasts.

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