Sunday, 30 December 2012


On a Sunday after Christmas we returned to the Hauptstadt of MeckPomm, Schwerin, which we had last visited back in May 2009 (see that blog for Schwerin here).

It being somewhat colder than then, we explored inside Schwerin's rich heritage of buildings rather than just gawping at its fairytale castle. The Schweriner Dom (Schwerin cathedral) was particularly impressive:

Schweriner Dom
Altar, Shwerin Cathedral

Grave of a Prussian Princess

The neo-classical Rathaus gave a contrast to the brick-gothik of the cathedral

But as on our last visit, you couldn't get away from how stunning Schloss Schwerin is on its own island on the lake. It always comes as a surprise when you first see it from the top of Schloßstrasse (even if it was a bit shaded in the low, pale light of a Winter afternoon:

Schloss Schwerin
We went inside the castle, which was interesting enough but mostly demonstrated that the Grand Dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin had rather more money than taste. Also that they probably took a lot of the castle's contents with them when they had to flee in a hurry in advance of the Allied Forces in 1945. (The title of Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin existed in name only after the mass-abdication of Germany's nobility at the end of World War I. That's not to say that they didn't retain all their wealth and properties. That the last two heirs were members of the Nazi SS isn't mentioned in the Schloss tourist guide). Anyway, the State of MeckPomm have done a good job restoring the rooms of the Schloss, even if it isn't authentic, and it is well worth a visit. Don't miss out on the Throne Room in particular, where pretensions of grandeur are notched up to the max.

As I didn't fork out 3€ for a photographers pass inside the Schloss, here are some photos of the exterior:

Equestrian statue guarding the bridge to the Schloss

Schloss Schwerin bathed in golden light as the sun set

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Pizza Salami - ohne Salami?

There is an online Berlin-based food home delivery service called Lieferando that is advertising its mobile phone apps a lot at the moment. I saw this on the platform at Westhafen S-Bahn.

But hang on, what is with this Pizza Salami the app has found?

Pizza Salami - without salami? Cheese, mushrooms, red pepper and tomatoes - but where's the meat?

I don't mind, I'm a vegetarian. But it does make me question how accurate their app is!

(I am not even going to imagine what Pizza Scampi has on it. Yeuch!)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Die Neue Nationalgalerie

Lobby entrance at the Neue Nationalgalerie
The Neue Nationalgalerie stands apart from the rest of the Kulturforum in a plaza of grey concrete paving stones dotted with shards of sculpture. It was designed by Mies van der Rohe, former Director of Architecture at the avant-garde Bauhaus school, and opened in 1968. Mies' skin and bones building is often referred to as a 'lichte Tempel aus Glas', so it is curious that the permanent collection is buried away in the cellar. Indeed, if there isn't an exhibition on the ground floor, a visitor could easily walk in, think the gallery was closed for restoration or something, and walk straight back out. Tip: the gallery entrance and ticket desk are downstairs. I don't know if it is because of this off-putting first impression, or that the Neue Nationalgalerie is cut off from the environs of Potsdamer Platz by a wide and busy dual-carriageway, but every time I have been to the Neue Nationalgalerie the gallery-employed attendants have outnumbered the visitors.

The Neue Nationalgalerie (new national gallery) is named in contrast with the Alte Nationalgalerie (old national gallery) on Museum Island. The Neue Nationalgalerie contains paintings, sculpture, installations and conceptual art from the 20th Century, whereas the Alte Nationalgalerie has work that was also called modern when the gallery was founded in 1861 - Neoclassical, Romantic, Impressionistic and Modernist.

Here then are some photos of what to expect (click for bigger):

Looking at works by Asger Jorn
Yves Klein' IKB 49, 1960 with his patented blue, and a Lucio Fontana slashed canvas in the foreground.
Morris Louis, Beta Zeta, 1960/61
Mark Rothko, No.5 (Reds), 1961
La nuvola rossa (the red cloud) by Renato Guttuso, 1966
Die Geburts Hitlers by Icelandic painter Erró, 1966
Andy Warhols' Double Elvis, 1963
Strangely, 'All You Need Is Love' from The Beatle's 'Yellow Submarine' movie is on loop, the only sound in the gallery except for the periodic alarms going off as people get too close to the exhibits.
Daniel Spoerri, Restaurant de la City-Galerie (Fallenbild), 1965

Inside the Lichtraum, an installation by Otto Piene
An obligatory Picasso: Femme couchee au bouquet, 1958
The themed collection 'O Deutschland, bleiche Mutter'
Henry Moore 'Woman on a bench'
Francis Bacon's 'Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne' 1967

Another Picasso, this time a sculpture of a crane, in front of 'Beweinung' (Lamentation) by Jörgen Böttcher (aka Strawalde) 1958 

Harald Metkes' 'Removal of the Six-armed Goddess' 1956
Hans Uhlmann 'Kleines Karussell' 1958
George Karl Pfahler's 'Double RGB-Tex' (on far wall)
and Ronald Bladen's ''Three Elements' 1965
Les Noces (The Wedding) by Wilfredo Lam, 1947
The rather bizarre 'Concrete Tape Recorder Piece' by conceptual artist Bruce Nauman, 1968  
Lots of other amazing stuff!
That's just a taster! A good international collection well arranged, though the lighting is a bit subdued and the visit is punctuated by the sound of alarms which bring the attendants running to tell you not to get too close.

Note that the price of a ticket includes admission to the rest of the Kulturforum galleries, notably the Gemäldegalerie of old masters. This might not be apparent at first glance. There is a free English audio guide included in the price, but not many of the exhibits have their own sound-track: better to concentrate on just admiring the works, and besides there are adequate explanation boards in German and English.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Lübeck - City of Marzipan!

Lübeck, view of St.Marien zu Lübeck
For my Beloved's birthday we went by ICE to Lübeck, a Hanseatic port on the Baltic coast in Schleswig-Holstein. It's not exactly an obvious day-trip from Berlin, taking over three hours to get there, but it does have one thing to lure us that far: marzipan!

The legend goes that marzipan was first made in Lübeck, possibly in response either to a military siege of the city or a famine year. The story, perhaps apocryphal, is that the town ran out of all food except stored almonds and sugar, which were used to make loaves of marzipan "bread". So says Wikipedia. Whatever, it is definitely the home of the most famous marzipan makers in the world, Niederegger. And today is also the first day of the Christmas Markets in Germany, so another excuse to go!

From the train station you enter the old town over the charming Puppenbrücke, or bridge of 'dolls'.

Statue on the Puppenbrücke representing Harmony (Eintracht)
The old town (Altstadt) is encircled by the river Trave, which is linked by canal to the Elbe and out to the Baltic sea. From the Puppenbrücke you enter the Altstadt through the impressive Holstentor.

Lion on the approach to Holstentor
The Holstentor (Holstein Gate) is a fantastic brick Gothic (Backsteingotik) construction that once formed part of the fortifications of Lübeck, and it is easy to imagine how incredible the mediaeval city must have looked at the height of its magnificance. It is now sagging under the massive weight of ancient brick and stands beside a busy main road into Lübeck; in fact, it took quite a while waiting for a gap in the traffic to get this next photo:

Holstentor from the city side
Lübeck Altstadt is a charming crowded muddle of brick Gothic and half-timbered buildings lining cobbled streets climbing up a slight hill to the Marienkirche and Rathaus in the centre of town. It is no surprise that it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987. The dominant theme of the skyline is of Hanseatic style facades ...

Lübeck 'brick Gothic'
More brick Gothic, with glazed brickwork
And yet more variations of the same! Lübeck IS the Mother of Brick Gothic

... with glimpses of the many mediaeval churches ....

Lübeck cathedral
Often the towering churches are impossible to take in without getting a cricked neck!
But there are also neo-classical elements ...

neoclassical roof-top
... but mostly it is more Gothic than a Sisters of Mercy reunion concert in Whitby

Beautiful oriel window on the Marktplatz
Lübeck probably looks its prettiest in Spring and Summer when hollyhocks and roses adorn its half-timbered town houses, alleyways and courtyards; but even at the beginning of Winter the architecture is picture-postcard.

Half-timbered building, Lübeck
Lübeck also has an important University with faculties for Medicine and for Technology and Life Science. It is easy to spot buildings with University lecture halls - just look out for hundreds of bikes piled up outside!

Bikes outside a University building

Lübeck's importance was built on its Hanseatic status - and wharves, harbours and warehouses encircle it.

An der Obertrave
We took a half-hour bus-ride NE of Lübeck to the mouth of the Trave, during which we passed docks for Scandinavian ferries, large modern cruise ships, and container terminals. Soon we came to the Baltic Sea (Ostsee) and the seaside resort of Travemünde. It was wonderful to walk on the beach of soft white sand, sharing it only with playful dogs ...

dogs playing on the beach at Travemünde
And a couple of fit octogenarians exercising ...

Limbering up against a jetty
But no visit to Lübeck is complete without calling in at the Niederegger cafe by the Marktplatz, where the most amazing assortment of marzipan goodies await to entice you.

Marzipanwelt - marzipan disguised as bananas, apples and other fruit.
Not to be counted towards your five portions a day.
Naturally the birthday girl had to have a marzipan cake treat in the elegent Niederegger cafe!

Go on, it's your birthday darling!
Aside: Niederegger marzipan is real marzipan; its taste and aroma come 100% from almonds, and it is not bulked up with cane sugar like the inferior stuff is. If Niederegger want to thank me for this advertisement by sending us a box or two of marzipan, then contact me via this blog :)

Today was also the first Monday after Totensonntag, which means that the Christmas Markets start all over Germany. We spent the rest of the evening taking in the glowing Gemütlichkeit of the usual Weihnachtsmarkt goodies and the aroma of Glühwein and sizzling food.

Christmas ornaments for sale
And more ornaments

And roasted nuts and Lebkuchen hearts
And wooden Christmas decorations
And more nuts and Lebkuchen
And Glühwein stalls

And hook-a-duck stalls!

And, and, and ... well, you get the picture. And by the New Year we'll probably have got sick of them everywhere !
In conclusion, a most enjoyable special day out. I think we would definitely come back to Lübeck, but next time probably in the Summer to get a different perspective on the town. Unless we get a marzipan craving, when we might be back sooner! Auf Wiedersehen Lübeck! Wir lieben dich (as it says on the Lebkuchen hearts)!

An der Obertrave at night