Sunday, 21 April 2013

Mellow Yellow

A beautiful, yellow field of rapeseed near the border town of Guben/Gubin.

And our beautiful photographer friend John!






Michael Jackson Playground Ratzdorf

Hey, I'm saying nothing. Just reporting that there is a kids' playground in Ratzdorf named after Michael Jackson, and presenting here my photographic evidence:



It seems that the tiny village of Ratzdorf beside the Oder river was devastatingly flooded in the Summer of 1997. Michael Jackson got to hear about it, and to the surprise of the villagers donated 32,000 DM for the Kindergarten in the village. Except that there wasn't a Kindergarten, but they did need a playground for the kids to play on. So that's how it came about, and no ironical cynicism whatsoever is intended on my part.

However, wouldn't it be funny if there were also  ...




Oh "I'm Bad" !

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Violets: With Sherlock, Napoleon, Black Eyes, and Cuddles

Today we discovered gorgeous carpets of violets in the forests around Liepnitzsee. These ones look like the early dog-violet, or Viola reichenbachiana. It is named after the Dresden-born botanist Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach, who was the foremost German orchidologist of the nineteenth century. Being a big Sherlock fan though, I always think instead of the Reichenbach Falls where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's hero had his final confrontation with Prof. Moriarty.


I also think of Napoleon when I see this flower; the violet was his favorite and he was given the nickname Corporal Violet. When leaving Paris for his exile on Elba, Napoleon declared that he would return to France when the violets will bloom. The following year he managed to escape from the tiny Italian Island, and true to his word he arrived back in Paris on 20th March 1815. It is nearly a month later than that, but Spring has been late coming this year.

In German, violets are called Veilchen, and dog-violets Hundveilchen. 'Veilchen' is also the name for a black-eye, and if you are completely drunk then you are said to be 'blau wie ein Veilchen'!

The Romatic poet Heinrich Heine described them beautifully in his ode 'On Wings of Song', which was set to music by Felix Mendelssohn. He wrote that:

"Veilchen kichern und kosen / Und schaun nach den Sternen empor."
(The violets giggle and cuddle, and look up at the stars aloft)

That's perfect! The little flower heads nod up and down in the breeze as if they are giggling, whilst they definitely do all cozy up to one another in their crowds. Meanwhile they show their 'face' (the stamens) up to the sky, where their petals mirror the traditional shape of stars.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Ein geisterrad - Memorial to a Dead Cyclist

Whilst cycling near Buch, close to the Brandenburg/Berlin border, I came across a white-painted bicycle chained to a tree next to a road-side cross.



It was put there by the ADFC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club e.V. - German Cyclists' Federation) to commemorate the death of 21 year old Stefan Meske, a cyclist who was killed here on 24th September 2012.

This is one of fifteen weiße Fahrräder memorials around Berlin to victims of careless road-traffic in 2012.

A sobering thought, as the large lorries speed past.


Sunday, 7 April 2013

Along the Spree

A few photos from a walk along the Spree from the Nikolaiviertel to Oberbaumbrücke.

Neptunbrunnen

Berlin Bags

Berlin Bären

Wunderbare Bart

Organgrinders

Organgrinders

Spree Löwen

Sankt Georg

Zum Nußbaum

Hoopla!

Spree Insel

A busy Spree by O2 World

Oberbaumbrücke

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Celandine - the Spring Messenger


It seemed like Spring was never going to come this year, so it was heart-warming to spot celandine growing on the grassy banks of the former town wall at Greifswald.

Celandine's name derives from the Latin chelidonia, meaning swallow, and refers to the belief that its flowers bloom when the swallows return, and fade when the swallows leave. It is usually out a lot earlier than this, but Winter seems to have gone on forever.

In German it is called  Scharbockskraut. 'Scharbock' is an old name for 'scurvy' (der Skorbut), and 'Kraut' is a herb. It gets its name because the leaves contain a high level of vitamin C, and dried they were used by sailors in the Middle Ages on long trips to make sure they didn't succumb to vitamin C deficiency (scurvy).

The leaves of celandine can be added sparingly to early Spring salads - but ONLY before the flowers appear, as the plant then starts to develop toxic substances in all its parts. Apparently the toxins can be removed by heat (drying or boiling), but hey, why risk it when rucola leaves taste a lot nicer and are cheap enough in the shops.

The English name for this delightful, sunny-flowered plant is even worse than being called scurvy weed - it is pilewort. That is because its tubers have nodules that look, well, like hemorrhoids to be frank. By the medieval 'doctrine of signatures', plants that can help with ailments have been made to look, by the Divine Creator, like the parts of the body affected. Don't you believe it.

Celandine is part of the buttercup family, which has a characteristic that its members have nodular tubers that helpfully fix nitrogen into the soil (thus cutting down on the amount of fertilizer needed for your crop). But also like buttercups, they are toxic to livestock. By the way, this is lesser celandine I am referring to: there is a greater celandine, but that is an entirely different species that belongs to the poppy family.

William Wordsworth liked this flower (even more than daffodils) and wrote a number of odes to it:

"There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, ’tis out again!..."

And with that I shall leave the banks of Greifswald be, and see if I can spot any swallows on the river Ryck.


Kloster Eldena - Romantik Ruins


The ruins of Eldena Monastery lie a couple of kilometres East of Greifswald. They are famous for inspiring local artist Caspar David Friedrich to go all Gothik. As CDF is my favourite German Romantic painter, a visit to them was a must.

Kloster Eldena have lain in ruins for centuries. Danish Cistercian monks operated lucrative salt-pans in Griefswald Bay here, incidentally causing the growth of the town of Griefswald, which was the monastery's trading post, until the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1535. After being badly damaged during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), followed by decades of dereliction under the Swedish occupation (1648-1815) when stones from the monastery were quarried to build Greifswald's fortifications, it was an overgrown ruin when Caspar David Friedrich began sketching it and including it in his oil paintings of the nineteenth century. Friedrich's images caused a renewed interest in renovating the abbey from 1828 onwards, and Peter Joseph Lenné landscaped the grounds around it into a public park that you can visit to this day.

In keeping with the Gothic feel of the ruins, I am presenting my photos of Kloster Eldena in delicious black and white!









By the way, this is one of Caspar David Friedrich's takes on the ruins, 'Klosterruine Eldena', which you can see in the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin:





Wieck (Greifswald)

A short ride East by bus from the ZOB (Zentraler Omnibus-Bahnhof) at Greifswald brings you to Wieck Brücke - the 800 year old Dutch-style Klappbrücke over the river Ryck at the heart of the small fishing village of Wieck.

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour
Wieck Klappbrücke raised
a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour


The number 2 bus runs every fifteen minutes - thirty minutes on weekends - between Greifswalder ZOB and Wieck Brücke. The journey takes twenty-three minutes, and if you are traveling in a group it is cheaper if you ask the driver for a group ticket for each multiple of five people. We know all this because meine Geliebte organised a photogroup excursion of 23 English speaking photographers there one sunny Saturday in April. Organising a large group of photographers is like herding cats, because they keep wandering off distracted by promising things to photograph. But she managed to keep them all together for a whole day, and the same number returned to Berlin from Greifswald as traveled out. Success!

We also got some great photographs, and those of the group who like eating fish said that the fish served up in Wieck was the tastiest they had eaten. It should be, given that it was freshly caught right here in the bay.

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour
Fish caught in the Baltic being unloaded
a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour
Fresh fish for sale

We're not lovers of eating fish - we leave all that to our cat Cassie, who prefers this arrangement. But we do love being beside the sea; there's something about the quality of the light and the smell of the sea breeze. Lots of other folk are also drawn to the Baltic, and this village looks like it will be heaving with visitors in Summer. Even in April it was quite busy around the harbour. We left our group at the Fischbrötchen stall and went exploring further.

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour
Eine Reuse is a fish-trap. This looks more like a tourist-trap.
Wieck is not just geared up for the tourist trade though, it really is a working fishing and sailing port. It dates back to 1297 when Greifswald acquired a strip of land on the mouth of the river Ryck from the monastery of Eldena. Apart from being a source of fish for the city, Wieck also became an outer harbour and a place to administer taxes on goods being unloaded or exported.

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour
I think I have fallen in love with Hedi!

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour
The Harbour Master's house.
The blue line to the right of the door marks the flood level on 13th September 1872

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

Wieck isn't just a picturesque harbour though, it is also a picturesque village too. The village has a large number of thatched cottages, though they are so pristine that it looks as if they were built last week. Perhaps they were? There is a bit of a toy-town feel though, and I think many of them are holiday homes to let, or second homes for rich city-dwellers.

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

The coastline to the East of Wieck stretches around a calm estuary with a long curve of pale golden sand. I suspect that in Summer you would have to pay to go here, but we easily slipped around the fence.

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour


Caspar David Friedrich painted this coastline, and I chanced to take my own take on Der Mönch am Meer (The Monk by the Sea) :

a photo from the blog post about Wieck (Greifswald) by Andie Gilmour

After filling our eyes and hearts with the tranquil sand and sea, we headed inland to meet up with our group of photographers at Eldena Monstery (my blog post from that here).