Sunday, 25 August 2013

Wall On Wall - Photographic Exhibition on the East Side Gallery

This exhibition by Kai Wiedenhöfer is on until 13th September 2013.

It consists of large photographs of walls of division - the Israel-Palestine wall for example - pasted onto the rear of a section of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery.

There is a poignancy of course of showing these images on the reverse of the extant Berlin Wall, and a hope that like the Berlin Wall they will some day not be needed. The trompe-l'œil effect of such large and naturalistic photos is quite unnerving, and makes you feel part of it.

The exhibition is so much better than the mess of graffitied murals on the East Side Gallery itself. If only it could be there permanently, then it would give a raison d'etre for all the tourists who have tramped out here to see the embarrassment of what the over-hyped East Side Gallery has become. But I expect that if it were here longer than 13th Sept. Wiedenhöfer's work would be similarly vandalised. Though it is interesting to see that many of the other walls of division have also been graffited.

See it while you can!

Here are some of my favourites (though it feels a bit strange photographing someone else's photos):

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Through The Hartz Mountains by Steam!

The Hartz Narrow Gauge Railway (Harzer Schmalspurbahnen) is a wonderful little steam railway that criss-crosses the Hartz Mountains and up to the Brocken Mountain (the setting for a witches black Sabbath on Walpurgisnacht by Goethe in his play Faust).

We didn't travel all the way up to the Brocken, but we did take a ride from Wernigerode up into the mountains to the Drei Annen Hohne station, where we had a very pleasant walk back down through the forests to Wernigerode again.

Here are a few photos I took of the railway:

Wernigerode Westerntor station

Volldampf voraus!

At Drei Annen Hohne station

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Bad Muskau

Continuing on from the mad bridge in the rhododendron gardens of Kromlau as we headed towards the Oder-Neiße bike trail, we found ourselves in the park and gardens around the New and Old Schlosses at Bad Muskau.

Das Neue Schloss
This was an unexpected pleasure; we had read about the famous Fürst Pückler Park (it is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage areas), but nothing prepared us for how large and beautiful it is. Of course, we might be pre-disposed to appreciate its charms as the parks designer, Hermann Fürst von Pückler-Muskau, was very much influenced by English ideas of architecture and landscape design. We also know him from his park on the outskirts of Cottbus - the one with the earth pyramids - and we also love his ice cream! (or rather the three-layered vanilla/chocolate/strawberry ice cream made by Royal Prussian court cook, Jungius Louis Ferdinand which Prince Pückler made famous by writing about in his cookbook).

Anyway, shame we couldn't spend more time here, but here are a few photos to remind us to return when we have more time.

Altes Schloss

Two-thirds of the park are actually in Poland, and it wasn't until 27 December 2007 when Poland implemented the Shengen Agreement that you could pass this border-post without needing to show your papers!

The Polish Border

The landscaped park looks enticing to explore, with delightful little features like this waterfall at every turn.

It is disturbing to recall that the three bridges over the river Neiße here, and the Old and New Castles, were all demolished in the Battle of Berlin at the close of World War II. But edifying too to see how the park and castles have been restored to their former glory, and that the park has got its UNESCO World Heritage status because of the co-operation between Germany and Poland in making this area open to the public with visitors from both countries mingling together to enjoy it.

One to return to, but we had the rest of our 50km bike-ride to complete!

The Crazy Bridge called Rackotzbrücke

Der Wahnsinn ist nur eine schmale Brücke
die Ufer sind Vernunft und Trieb ... Jetzt hab ich dich! - Rammstein, 'Du riechst so gut'

Today we travelled by train with our bikes to Schleife, just over the Saxony/Brandenburg border, with the aim of cycling to Bad Muskau and then up the Oder-Neiße-Radweg long distance cycle path along the Polish border to Forst. It was a 51km cycle and great fun.

One of the surprises though (the other being how lovely Bad Muskau is) was a Rhododendronpark we visited on a whim in Kromlau. Here we came across the most amazing bridge built between 1863 and 1882. It surely has no other purpose than to befuddle your senses and strike you with awe, as it has no possible practical use.

The bridge is called Rackotzbrücke. Or without the 'c' Rakotzbrücke - despite how the sign next to it spells the name. Google calls the lake it spans Rakotzsee so perhaps it should be Rakotzbrücke. In popular parlance it is also (almost inevitably) called die Teufelsbrücke or Devil's bridge. 

It looks like something out of Lord Of The Rings, and you expect at any moment to see an army of dwarves pass in single file across it on its way to the Mountains of Moria.

Around it, built into it, and projecting out of the lake beside it are amazing rock sculptures that look like basalt columns straight off The Giants Causeway. I believe the basalt actually came from quarries in the Sächsischen Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland) region, but they look so bizarre that I was looking (unsuccessfully) for air bubbles in the stone that might indicate they were cast from concrete.

How they managed to cement those enormous boulders together to make the arch and have it still standing 150 years later is a marvel.

Anyway, take a look at my photos of it, and if you ever find yourself cycling through Kromlau (I know, I know, rather unlikely), I urge you to take the time to seek the Rackotzbrücke out. Even better I think, visit it in Spring when the rhododendrons are in flower (that's a date in our calendar for next year).

Saturday, 10 August 2013

A God-send for Punctured Inner Tubes

These dispensing machines are a great idea for taking the stress out of the lives of cyclists who find themselves with a punctured inner-tube and miles away from any bike shop (or one closed on a Sunday).

They have a range of sizes and valve types and yes, 7€ is a bit more than you'd pay at your local Fahrradwerkstatt, but if you have ever been unfortunate enough to have suffered a busted inner-tube and no easy way to get back home, you would know that ten times the price would seem fair.

I have seen them all over Berlin (and memorised their location just in case), as well as on long distance cycle paths such as the Oder-Neiße-Radweg. This one is on the market place at Torgau.

Reichsbahn Kabel-Durchführung

I spend a lot of time at German railway stations for one reason or another. To pass the time, I am always on the look-out for survivors of the past, such as this cast-iron cable marker from the days of the Deutsche Reichsbahn with its winged wagon wheel and imperial crown. Spotted at Torgau station by the way.

I know, I know. I should spend more time browsing the magazines in the Bahnhof shop instead.


Who says the German's don't have a sense of humour?

Well not me; some of their comedians and sketch shows are actually quite funny. But, it is an impression much prevalent outside the German-speaking world, so I present to you a visual pun by the artist Robert Verch in an installation in the grounds of  St Mary's church where Martin Luther's wife Katharina von Bora is buried ... Rehformation!

(to understand this, note that Torgau is an important town in the history of the Protestant Reformation, and a roe deer is in German ein Reh).

The artist Robert Verch's explanation of the installation (in German) can be found here.