Archive for December, 2019

Side trips within Berlin.

Friday, December 20th, 2019


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September 2, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

Having made two side trips out of Berlin we decided to see a bit more of the city itself. Parts that we had never been to in our numerous trips there.

Our first excursion was to visit the Berlin Television Tower or Fernsehturm in German. Surprisingly we had never visited this iconic building in all the times we had been to Berlin, going right back to our first time in 1972.

The tower is situated near Alexanderplatz, in the district of Mitte, an easy stroll from our hotel. This area was in the heart of the the old East German side. The tower was completed in 1969 and is visible from just about anywhere in the city.

Standing 368 metres high, it was a giant middle finger salute to the West. 

These days the main attraction is the viewing tower, with a revolving restaurant, which draws over 1,000,000 visitors per year. The viewing level is 203 metres above Berlin and from there you can get a great view of the city and most of the landmarks.

On the eastern side we could even see the Hotel Ibis, our temporary home for the last six weeks. The tower is such a landmark that the Ibis has a graphic silhouette etched into the glass doors throughout the hotel.

Ironically the tower has now become the most prominent symbol of the united Berlin.

 

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September 6, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

It was the centenary of the creation of the modernist Bauhaus school of design in 1919. What better time to visit some of the architecture that became a legacy of their principles.

Siemens City or Siemensstadt was founded in 1913 by Siemens and Halske, the forerunner to today’s Siemens AG. The primary reason for its creation was to provide low-cost housing for the nearby Siemens factory.

The construction took place over many years and is regarded as a model of urban design. So much so that in 2008, together with four other modernist settlements in Berlin, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Many architects were involved in the design of Siemensstadt, including Walter Gropius (1883-1969) who designed a very contemporary addition in the 1930s.

Walter Gropius was a founder of the Bauhaus and is regarded as a pioneer of Modernist Architecture.

Gropius studied architecture in Munich and then Berlin, where he joined the office of Peter Behrens, a founding member of the Utilitarian School. Other employees within the practice were Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier both influential in developing Modernist Architecture.

With the rise of Fascism in the 1930s Gropius was forced to leave Nazi Germany. He first went to Britain in 1934 and then the United States in 1937.

He died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1969 aged 86.

 

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September 7, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

As part of the Bauhaus Centenary, the Berlin Gallery of Modern Art had staged an exhibition celebrating the milestone. 

The ‘Original Bauhaus’ Exhibition (1919-2019) covered the students, teachers and philosophy of arguably the most influential design school of the 20th Century.

The school was only open for 14 years in Germany but its influence has lasted for a century. It is regarded a the pinnacle of thinking in graphic design, architecture, industrial design and teaching.

As Deutsche Welle wrote on September 8, 2019:

“The original Bauhaus design school was opened in Weimar in 1919 by the legendary architect Walter Gropius.

The school moved to Dessau in 1925, and then Berlin in 1932, before being closed by the Nazi regime. The communist East German government was also initially critical of Bauhaus, before embracing its legacy in 1976 and having the original building reconstructed.”

Luck was with us yet again, being in Germany for this historic exhibition.

 

A side trip to Lindau, Germany.

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

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August 26, 2019. Berlin to Lindau Island, Germany. 

It was time for another side trip from Berlin, this time to Lindau Island on Lake Constance.

We caught the ICE (InterCity Express) from Berlin HBH to Lindau HBH. This took up most of the day but the ride was very comfortable and the train had good internet, so I could work.

Once we were on the island we met up with our Swiss/Australian friends Denis and Martine.

We were staying at the Hotel Garni Viktoria, which was on the edge of town but still very close to the centre. The hotel wasn’t open when we arrived, so much to Denis’s delight, there was time for a late lunch.

Lindau township is very close to the Austrian and Swiss borders and is on the 0.68 square kilometre (0.26 square mile) island of the same name. It is joined to the mainland by a road bridge and railway dam.

A feature of Lindau is the harbour entrance to the port, with its lighthouse and Bavarian Lion statue, both built in 1856.

Once we had checked into the hotel we went for a walk around the town. We then came across the Hundertwasser exhibition Dreamcatcher For A More Beautiful World at the recently opened Kunstmuseum at the Inselbahnhof.

Friedrich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) was an Austrian born New Zealand artist, architect, environmental activist and opponent of ‘a straight line’ in architecture. This use of biomorphic forms  has led to him being compared to Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926) the famous Modernist architect from Catalonia, Spain and designer of Sagrada Família in Barcelona.

This was an exhibition of his painting and print making and his avoidance of the geometric was evident in the work on display.

 

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August 27, 2019. Lindau and the Bodensee, Germany. 

Lindau Island is connected to Lake Constance and the surrounding area by a network of ferries.

We decided that a day trip to Mainau would be a great way of seeing some of the lake and one of the most significant other islands.

We took the fast ferry to there so we would have enough time to explore. Even though the ferry was described as fast it still took nearly two hours to get there.

On the way we kept on seeing blimps in the sky over the lake. These came from town of  Friedrichshafen, home of the famous Zeppelin. 

A visit there was planned there for another day.

Mainau is described as a Garden Island and once you reach it you can see why. It’s geographical location gives the island a more Mediterranean climate than the surrounding country. This allows semi tropical plants to thrive in the more temperate conditions.

There are a number of historic buildings on the island but the main attractions are the gardens and the Arboretum. This garden of trees was created in 1856 by Grand Duke Frederich 1 and contains over 500 rare trees.

Mainau is administered by the Lennart Bernadotte Foundation and there are only about 200 people permanently living on the island.

To add to the tropical feel there is a greenhouse which also doubles a butterfly enclosure. 

Wherever you walk on the island there are also great views of Lake Constance. It is certainly a big tourist attraction and we found ourselves jostling for vantage points to get good shots of the attractions.

One of the architectural highlights of Mainau is the Castle Church of St Marien. This Roman Catholic church was built in the Baroque style between 1732 and 1739. It is richly decorated with ceiling frescos and alter paintings by Franz Joseph Spiegler (1691-1757). There is also rich stucco work by Francesco Pozzi (1704-1789).

We took the slow ferry back to Lindau which added another half hour to the journey. A relaxing beer and wine in the salon of the ferry Konstanz and the time seemed to go past very quickly.

 

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August 28, 2019. Lindau to Friedrichshafen, Germany. 

It was the start of the new school year for the refugees in Arnex. This meant Martine had to return home to supervise the enrolments for her French classes. This left Denis, Thea and I to go to Friedrichshafen to visit the Zeppelin Museum.

This time we were on a train, which was a much faster journey than the previous day’s ferry. Admittedly Friedrichshafen is much closer to Lindau than Mainau.

The centrepiece of the Zeppelin Museum, the world’s largest aviation collection, is the reconstruction and history of the Hindenburg.

The partial reconstruction of the Hindenburg measures 33 metres in length and gives a good idea how this monster airship might have looked back in 1937. It is complete with a recreated lounge, that surprisingly features Modernist furniture. 

The Hindenburg became a propaganda tool of the Third Reich, who totally rejected the work of the Bauhaus, a Modernist Design School that started in 1919.

The Hindenburg was designed and built by the Zeppelin Company in Friedrichshafen and operated by the German Zeppelin Airline Company. The commercial, passenger carrying, rigid airship flew from March 1936 until it was destroyed by fire, while attempting to land in New Jersey, USA, 14 months later in 1937.

Thirty six lives were lost in the fiery crash, with conspiracy theories abounding as to the cause. As there was a huge media presence at the landing site in Manchester Township, it became one of the most reported airship disasters. However the loss of life was considerably smaller than some of the preceding crashes. In 1923 the French Dixmude lost 52 lives. In 1930 the British R101 lost 48 and in 1933 the American Akron lost 73 lives.

Not the safest form of transport in the day.

Another feature of the exhibition was a beautifully restored Maybach Zeppelin. The Maybach Car Company was formed in 1909 by Wilhelm Maybach and his son and was a subsidiary of the Zeppelin Airship Company. 

Apart from the airship museum there is a side gallery containing an important collection of art from South West Germany. Within that exhibition there was a special section that related to the ‘Nazi plunder’ of German art.

During World War II the agents of the Third Reich plundered art from all over Europe, much of it was taken from the Jewish population that either left Nazi Germany or were sent to the concentration camps.

This art is now being gradually recovered and the exhibition detailed the forensic analysis that is required to trace this art back the original owners. Many of the paintings were exhibited so you could see both sides, the art itself and the side that usually goes against the wall. This was done because the frames, canvas and shipping notes are a vital link to tracing the art’s origins and returning it to the original owners or their relatives.

After lunch by the lake in Friedrichshafen we returned to Lindau and spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around the streets. 

That was until the rain came.

There was an interesting portrait collection by Brigitta Loch in St Stephan Church. It was unusual to see art, other than the religious sort, featured in a church.

That night the three of us had dinner at a very German restaurant in a Bavarian pub. This was slightly out of the centre of town and we had to scramble back to the hotel, dodging the persistent rain.

August 29, 2019. Lindau to Berlin, Germany. 

After breakfast at the hotel, which we all decided was excellent value, we wandered into town for a coffee and then parted ways.

Denis was on the ferry, heading back to Switzerland to join Martine and we were on the train returning to Berlin.

It was a long train ride, interspersed with torrential rain.

A soggy end to our second side-trip from Berlin.

 

A side trip to Dresden, Germany.

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

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July 23, 2019. Berlin to Dresden, Germany. 

We had been staying in the Ibis Hotel in Berlin for about 9 days and decide it was time for our first side trip.

After picking up the rental car, a Ford Fiesta from Europcar, we drove to Dresden. 

We did have a couple of stops along the way. 

The first was a coffee stop in Bestensee and then for a walk around Neuendorfer See. 

The Lake, which is both an inflow and outflow of the Spree, is a popular camping spot for Berliners with many permanent sites. The shoreline is flat with many bays and the surrounding area is covered in pine forests.

And apparently the fishing is also good.

We then drove into Dresden and found the B&B Hotel. This was out of the city centre and had two great features. Firstly it had free parking and secondly it was half the price of the inner city hotels and still within walking distance of the sights. 

After a stroll around the city we had dinner at a restaurant on the River Elbe. 

It was a rather quiet spot and we wondered where the action was in Dresden. After dinner we continued our city walk and discovered the Neumarkt Square. 

It was crammed with restaurants, serving a variety of cuisines – we will return there again. 

 

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July 24, 2019. Dresden, Germany. 

It was a slow start to the day with breakfast at a local café before we headed out to do some sightseeing.

It’s lucky that there is any of Dresden left to see, considering the pounding it took in February 1945. 

Primarily a city of art and culture Dresden, unlike many other cities in Germany, wasn’t the home to vast industries. On the night of February 14 the RAAF deliberately bombed the Dresden city centre. The destruction of the city and the resultant civilian casualties, many of whom were refugees, was hotly debated, even before the war ended later that year.

Even now, 74 years after the war, Dresden is suffering again, this time from the tyranny of the far right. The growing concern about the rise of extremists in Dresden has led to the city council declaring a ‘Nazi crisis’ in the city.

Porcelain from Dresden is famous, so we headed to the museum to experience it first hand. 

Between 1602 and 1657 more than 3,000,000 porcelain pieces were imported into Europe.

In 1715 Augustus the Strong introducing porcelain to Germany. Much of the Oriental works that he imported came via the East India Company and is housed in the museum.

It’s a huge collection of 20,000 pieces but with limited display area available in the Zwinger only about 2,000 artefacts are viewable at any one time. 

Meissen Porcelain, which was derived from the Oriental version, was first developed in 1708. Again Augustus the Strong was involved, as he was instrumental in financing the construction of the royal factory in Meissen, near Dresden.

To protect the authenticity of Meissen Porcelain a logo was developed in 1720. The ‘crossed swords’ is thought to be one of the earliest forms of trademark.

The Zwinger is not only home to the Dresden Porcelain Collection but the Old Masters Picture Gallery and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments. This Baroque palace was completed in 1728 and designed by the court architect, Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann.

August the Strong, on returning from a grand tour through France and Italy, decided that he needed something like Versailles for his own court. This ultimately resulted in the building of the Zwinger.

The buildings were destroyed by the carpet bombing raids of February 1945, however the collections had been moved by this stage and were saved.

Just around the corner, in the historic centre of Dresden, is the Semperoper or Opera House.

In order to see inside we had to wait for an escorted tour.

The building was originally designed by Gottfried Semper and built in 1845. Following a fire it was then rebuilt by the same architect in 1868. It was destroyed again in 1945 and then rebuilt to the pre-war design in 1985. 

The interior is a combination of Italian Neo Classical, Baroque and Corinthian styles.

When we reached the main body of the theatre there was a rehearsal underway. This was for an Australian production of Westside Story. We were told that, due to the rehearsal, we couldn’t take snaps in the auditorium. I pointer out to our guide that we had paid €6 to take photos and that we weren’t photographing the actors but the architecture. 

I don’t think she was impressed but we carried on regardless.

Outside it was over 32°C, so we continued our touring with a slow walk around the city. 

On our travels we explored the interiors of two of the largest churches in Dresden. 

Dresden Cathedral or Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (1739 and restored in 1962) and the Dresden Frauenkirche, the Lutheran Church (1726 and rebuilt in 1993). 

We expected the Lutheran church to be more austere than the Catholic. In fact it was just the opposite. 

The Lutheran church had a rather Baroque alter surrounded by a very spacious interior that was decorated in pastel colours. 

Naturally that night dinner was in the Neumarkt Square, at a Spanish restaurant, Bodega Madrid. 

With the evening temperature so balmy it seemed only natural to eat Spanish Tapas – outside.

 

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July 25, 2019. Dresden and a side trip to Bastei, Germany. 

This was our day to explore ‘The nature’ around Dresden, so after breakfast, this time in the hotel, it was into the Ford Fiesta for our drive to the south east.

Another heatwave was forecast for Europe, with temperatures into the high thirties. The car was a good refuge from the heat. 

I was about an hours drive to Rathen South. We then caught a ferry over the Elbe River to Rathen North, which is on the edge of the Saxon Switzerland National Park, a protected area of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. 

From there we had an easy walk around the Amselsee, an artificial lake or reservoir that’s only 55 metres long and quite narrow. There is boating as well as fishing, as the reservoir is stocked with trout. 

Then it was a very hard walk up to Bastei, a lookout over the Elbe River. 

The degree of difficulty was raised by the temperature, which was now into the mid thirties. 

Today little remains of Neurathen Castle, which you get to by crossing over the Bastei Bridge. This rock castle was first built between 1100 and 1200.

Bastei has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years. In 1824 a timber bridge was built to connect some of the stone formations. This was replaced in 1851 by the current stone one.

Bastei means bastion and relates to the towering rocks that formed a defensive ring around Neurathen Castle.

It was a tiring afternoon climbing around the Bastei rocks in the  37°C heat. We were therefore very glad of the air conditioning in the car on the return drive to Dresden. 

 

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July 26, 2019. Dresden to Berlin, Germany. 

After checking out of the B&B Hotel, which is more a walk-out than a check-out, as everything was paid up-front, we drove into Dresden. We then parked in one of the numerous underground car parks near the centre. 

Coffee was at the Solino Café and Bar Italiano, which is in the Glockenspielpavillon of the Zwinger Palace Museum. 

This is probably the best coffee in Dresden, well at least that we found. 

We arrived just in time for a performance of the glockenspiel. The bells were made in the famous Meissen porcelain factory and have only been part of the Zwinger since 1933. The carillon plays a short melody every 15 minutes and a longer one at various times during the day. The more extensive tunes are from Vivaldi, Mozart and Bach.

I have no idea what was playing but it was certainly a wonderful sound as we sat inside sipping our espressos.

This time we were in the Zwinger to visit the Mathematical Museum or to use its full name the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments.

Elector August of Saxony started the collection around 1569. In Saxony Elector Augustus was to mathematics as Augustus the Strong was to porcelain.

It was an important role of rulers to sponsor both the arts and sciences during this period

The understanding of mathematics and the associated equipment was a measure of power in the Renaissance period, so it was very important to have those instruments on display.

Today the museum is divided into four sections. The Cosmos of the Prince. (Instruments from around 1600). The Universe of Globes. (Terrestrial and celestial globes covering seven centuries). Instruments of Enlightenment. (Large telescopes and burning mirrors, which use the concentration of sunlight through a convex lens to generate great heat). The Course of Time. (Clocks, watches and automata from the Renaissance).

Animated graphics were used to augment the displays and add explanation. There was also a number of hands-on displays. 

An astronomical Clock, made in 1568 was a feature. It stood nearly a meter tall and not only told the time but indicated where the planets and constellations were at any given point. 

It took five years to build. 

After retrieving the car from subterranean Dresden we drove to Kunsthofpassage. This is in the Bohemian part of Dresden and features wacky architecture and funky cafes.

The complex consists of five courtyards where the buildings are decorated with various themes. 

There is the Yard of the Elements with the bizarre architecture that used downpipes. Courtyard of Light that used reflective surfaces. The Yard of the Animals with a number of animal reliefs on the building exterior. Courtyard of Mythical Creatures that are displayed in mosaic tiles from Portugal, Italy and Meissen. The Yard of Metamorphoses, which has two steles or freestanding monolithic pillars. In the evening they are illuminated and become lamps.

After this very contemporary interlude, from what was primarily a Renaissance experience, it was back into the Ford for the two hour return trip to Berlin.

Our first side-trip was complete.