Friday, 31 January 2014

Die Berliner Siegessäule - Where Angels Dare


There are angels over Berlin, or so Wim Wenders visualised in his 1987 film 'Wings of Desire' (Der Himmel über Berlin). And one of their meeting points was on top of the Siegessäule (Victory Column) beside the greatest angel of them all, Goldelse!

Goldelse is the affectionate nick-name given to the 35 tonne, 8.3 meters high statue designed by Friedrich Drake. 'Else' (pronounced 'EL-sə') is a German woman's name and is a diminutive of Elisabeth. 'Gold' is 'gold'. So her name translates as something like 'golden Lizzy'.

Goldelse
or 'Golden Lizzy'
Her real name is Viktoria, and is a representation of the Roman goddess of Victory. Like the goddess (and her Greek equivalent Nike), Goldelse is winged and brings a laurel wreath for the victor. Unlike the goddesses, she holds a German battle standard in her left hand, topped with the symbol of the Iron Cross, which had been designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel as a military decoration that was first awarded in 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars.

With an eagle perched on her head, she could also be a personification of Borussia (the latin name for Prussia). And in fact, it is said that she is modeled in the likeness of Victoria, then Crown Princess of Prussia, who was the eldest child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert, and was born at Buckingham Palace.


The Crown Princess Victoria - also a princess to the UK throne of course - was often known as die Engländerin because of her background and her liberal Anglophile views. She was married to Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, who on 9th March 1888 would become Emperor (Kaiser) Friederich III of Germany (and she Empress and Queen of Prussia). Poor Freddy only reigned for 99 days, as he died of throat cancer on 15th June. 1888 wasn't a good year for German emperors - there were three that year, causing it to be known as the Year of the Three Emperors. German schoolkids remember this with the mnemonic 'drei Achten, drei Kaiser'. The third Emperor was Victoria's son, Kaiser Wilhem II, who led Germany into the First World War.

It is somewhat ironic really that the likeness of  Crown Princess Victoria, the liberal Anglophile who was always at odds with the authoritarian German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, stands atop a monument commemorating the victory of Prussia over three other European countries that Bismarck had war-mongered.

These triple victories were The Danish-Prussian War of 1864, The Austro-Prussian war of 1866, and The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. When architect Heinrich Strack - an apprentice of Karl Friedrich Schinkel by the way - first began the Siegessäule project in 1864 it was to be just to mark the victory over Denmark. But you know how it is with project-shift; the goal-posts kept changing as Prussia kept winning wars. When the Siegessäule was finally inaugurated on 2nd September 1873, Strack had designed in three rings to the column, to commemorate each of the three victories. For good measure he also added gilded cannon barrels captured from each of the three conquered armies.

Die Berliner Siegessäule
"Hang on a minute Andie", you cry; "looking at the photo you've shown us, there are clearly four stages to the column, not three!" And you are entirely correct. The fourth ring was added in 1938-39 by that rascal Herr Hitler, who also had the Siegessäule moved from its position in front of the Reichstag Building to its present location at the centre of the Großen Stern. Hitler hadn't accrued any cannon barrels by then, so his architect Albert Speer added golden garlands instead. Fact-fans might like to know that the total height of the Siegessäule column, from its base to the tip of Goldelse's golden standard, is 66.89 metres tall. Add in the base and let's call it a round seventy.

Gilded cannon barrels and golden garlands.
Stages three and four of the Siegessäule Sky-Rocket.
It is unlikely that Hitler added the fourth ring in anticipation of further wartime victories for Germany, as the Großen Stern was widened and arranged specifically as a memorial place for the achievements of the Second Reich, along with statues of  Bismarck, and Field Marshalls Moltke and Roon (also plucked from in front of the Reichstag). Hitler and Speer had much bigger plans for commemorating the eventual victory of the Third Reich which involved rebuilding Berlin on a mega-scale and renaming it Germania, capital of the World.

Anyway, back to reality.

The Siegessäule stands in the middle of a traffic island called the Großer Stern, and access to it is through subways whose entrances are four vaguely-neo-classical 'temples' also designed by Albert Speer.

One of four entrances to Siegessäule Island
If you look at these 'pavilions' you will see remembrances of the Second World War in the form of bullet and shrapnel scars. In the final days of the war, the whole area around the Reichstag was a fiercely contended battle-field as the Soviet Army trundled relentlessly towards the centre of Berlin amidst a storm of bombs, missiles, and hand-to-hand fighting.

The Straße des 17. Juni in which the Großer Stern lies had been widened by Speer to make a magnificent East-West Axis for the planned new World capital. This was no doubt wonderful for holding awesome processions of the Wehrmacht army on a totalitarian scale (and in the last days of the war as a last-ditch landing strip for flying generals in and out of Berlin), but it also provided a direct route for the Red Army tanks moving on to the Reichstag and then the bunker under the Reich Chancellery where Hitler and the rump of his military leaders. That the Siegessäule was still standing at the end of the Battle for Berlin was not so much luck than it was an obvious landmark the Soviets could direct their soldiers to make for.

Bullet holes on Speer's entrance hall
The subways under the Großer Stern have been livened up with a lighting art-installation, but never-the-less have the smell of impatience that all subways have.

Light installation in the subway tunnel
The square base of the Siegessäule is made of polished red granite surmounted by a circular collonade of pillars with a glass mosaic by Anton von Werner.

Base of the Siegessäule looking up at the hall of pillars.
Around the square base are four bronze reliefs depicting scenes from the wars of unification and the victorious entry of the troops into Berlin in 1871.

Prussia victorious! Love the pickelhaube helmets!
The above panel is in good condition, whereas the other three have bullet holes and extensive damage. There is a reason for this, because at the end of the Second World War the French actually wanted to have the Siegessäule blown up, being a symbol of Prussian militarism and particularly France's defeat in 1871. The United States and British occupying powers voted against the demolition, with the USSR abstaining, but they let France take three of the four relief panels back to Paris as spoils of war, leaving behind the 'Victorious Prussian army entering Berlin' one, which was stored at the Zitadelle Spandau. The three Parisian panels were reunited back in their original location with the one from Spandau in 1987 for the 750th anniversary of the founding of Berlin.

Priest with a hole in his head gives the Sacrament to a headless soldier. Strange times indeed.
The polished red granite still shows the scars of war, which still have the power to shock when you imagine some poor unfortunate hiding behind a corner being strafed by machine-gun fire:

Bullet holes
If you want to see the glass mosaics in better detail, you will have to pay an entrance fee, but it is only about 3€ and you also get to climb to the viewing platform just below Goldelse's feet.

The mosaics are very OTT about the historical imperative of Prussia defeating her enemies and leading to a unified nation of the Germanic tribes under the one Kaiser and a second Reich etc. etc. You can sort of understand why the French wanted to dynamite it all. But from a bit of temporal distance, they are quite interesting to look at from an historical point of view. Anton von Werner might have been the hottest must-have patriotic painter of his time, but he was no Michelangelo.

Glass mosaics at the Siegessäule
The 'Kaiserproklamation' of German Unity


After you have admired or otherwise the mosaics, it is time to ascend the 285 steps to the viewing platform. Needless-to-say, there are no disabled facilities here. By comparison, The Monument to the Great Fire of London has 311 steps, but you do get a certificate if you climb them.

Spiral stairs

When we first visited Berlin (for The Cure 'Trilogy' concert in 2002) the walls beside the steps up to the top were covered in graffiti. I must admit that I added my own, declaring our love for one another. The Siegessäule has since been renovated (2010-2011) and our little addition to the monument has been painted over, which is sad in a way, but we have to admit that the Siegessäule does look a lot better for it. Goldelse herself got a new gilding of 1,200 grammes of pure gold leaf, leading to comments that she was getting 'das teuerste Kleid Berlin' (the most expensive dress in Berlin).

The panoramic view from the top is truly marvellous, and gives you a good sense of scale of how big the Tiergarten - that wonderful oasis of Green in the centre of a capital city - actually is.
Straße des 17. Juni looking East towards the Reichstag Building and the Brandenburg Gate.
This was Speer's planned East-West axis for World Capital Germania.
You can also see the plans for the Großer Stern being a monument to the Second Reich, with the monuments to the Prussian military leaders arranged around it.
Statue of  Field Marshall Roon on the left, the Bismarck Denkmal on the right

Looking down at the entrance to the subway
You also get a rather different view of Goldelse, who is one Big Mamma!
Getting close up and intimate with Goldelse!
Straße des 17. Juni looking West towards Charlottenburg,
the other side of the planned East-West axis

Doesn't everybody look like ants down there!
View NE towards Schloss Bellevue
The Field Marshall Moltke Denkmal is bottom left.
You may know that Mark Twain had a deep affection for Germany and the German language, often staying with his family in Berlin. He wasn't complimentary about the Siegessäule, calling it a belligerent, thuggish, gaudy 'Schandfleck' (eyesore). He later became more conciliatory about it, admitting that the Siegessäule was only scraggy from behind.

I disagree, and am gladdened when I catch a glimpse of Goldelse, often unexpected as you are walking around West Berlin. I deplore the militarism it originally stood for, and its integration into Speer and Hitler's megalomaniac plans. Nowadays that is all behind Golden Lizzy, and instead of military parades she smiles down on drunken revellers celebrating football victories on the Festival Mile, exuberant New Year rock bands and firework displays, or people running the Berlin marathon.

Her complete rehabilitation must have come when the Siegessäule became the centre of Berlin's infamous Love Parades in the 1990's, and was taken as the name for the magazine for Queer Berlin's LGBT communitywww.siegessaeule.de. Old Bismarck would have exploded in apoplectic rage at the very thought!

Auf wiedersehen, Else!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Does Germany have any Poisonous Spiders? Yes!

Actually, all spiders are poisonous. That's the way they kill or disable their prey; by injecting a paralysing neuro-toxic or necrotic venom into their victims then devouring them at their leisure. The question should be, are any spiders found in Germany capable of breaking the skin of humans and injecting us with their venom?

Unfortunately I discovered the answer to this last year. I was coming down the stairs at home, and crawling up the wall was a spider. Now, I am careful not to harm any of our eight-legged friends, though would prefer not to share our living space with them if at all possible. So I did what I usually do, and picked it up in my hand and headed for the front door to release it back into the wild.

Almost immediately I felt a sharp pain in the palm of my hand. The little bugger had bitten me! I quickly threw the spider away, whilst leaping around the hall-way howling and clutching my hand in agony. My Beloved managed to catch the spider with thick kitchen towel and threw it into the garden. I spent the rest of the evening running my hand under the cold-water tap, hoping the pain would ease.

The pain was about equal to a wasp sting, but it went on for a lot longer, and left a red mark in the palm of my hand for weeks afterwards. I couldn't sleep that night, as the pain extended up my arm and throbbed unbearably. The next day I rang in to work to say that I couldn't go in, much to the amusement of my colleagues who taunted me for months afterwards enquiring if I had developed spidy powers yet like Peter Parker.

As I say, that was last year, but this evening there was a familiar-looking spider in almost the same spot on the staircase wall as before. This time I got a photo of it before getting a cup over it and putting it out into the night. Now I'm not saying it is the same spider come back, but maybe it was one of its off-spring looking for revenge.

Here is a photo of it:



It is perhaps only about three centimetres long from foot-tip to foot-tip, and I think it is what in Germany is called an Ammen-Dornfinger, or more accurately cheiracanthium punctorium. From the Greek cheiro = 'hand', and akantha = 'thorn' you (sort of) get the German name Dornfinger. The thorn isn't anything to do with the spider's mandibles, but the male reproductive organs. Ouch. 'Ammen' is German for a nurse/nanny, and refers to the way the female spiders protect their offspring in a thick, swaddling web as well as her fierce protection of her young. The English name for the spider is a 'yellow sac' spider, which is in allusion to their yellow eggs.

These spiders are more at home around the Mediterranean, but with climate change they have extended their range up into Germany and Austria, causing periodic hysterical scare stories in the newspapers (e.g. 'Austria Gripped by Fear of Spider').

The good news is, if you are bitten by Germany's 'tödlichste Spinne' you would be highly unlikely and very unlucky to die of it. The bad news is, it's bite can hurt like Hell, and more and more are marching towards Berlin and Brandenburg each year as the weather gets warmer!

Ref: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammen-Dornfinger




Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Big Freeze

It has been -15 degrees centigrade today. We went for a walk around Wandlitzsee and Liepnitzsee. The beauty of the frozen lakes was breath-taking, but my was it cold!

We heard a strange phenomenon: it sounded like there was a large flock of twittering birds out on Lieonitzsee, but we couldn't see any birds at all except the odd duck. We realised that it was the sound of the sheet of ice covering the lake that was making high-pitched cracks and squeaks as the ripples and waves of the water flexed it. Very eerie!

In the end my camera batteries gave in to the cold, but I managed to get a few shots before they died completely.

Ducks on Wandlitzsee

A lone seabird rests on the ice at Wandlitzsee

The ferry to Großer Werder island on Liepnitzsee. It doesn't run this time of year!

Großer Werder Island on Lipenitzsee




Sunday, 19 January 2014

Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz

Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Bahnhof opened in 1838 and was Berlin's first railway station.In fact, it was on Prussia's very first railway line, connecting the towns of Berlin, Zehlendorf, and Potsdam. Stations were added at Schöneberg 1839 and Steglitz in 1839. The line was extended to Magdeburg in 1846.

The station was built in front of the Potsdamer Tor, just outside the Berlin Customs and Excise Wall, on land purchased from the Brüdergemeine community of Berlin and Rixdorf. The Brüdergemeine were (and still are) the protestant Moravian Brethren's Church, and they owned land around Berlin from the time when Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia gave asylum to 350 refugees from Bohemia in 1737.

Potsdamer Bahnhof grew rapidly to become the main terminus for long-distance and urban trains in Berlin, and with it grew Potsdamer Platz. From a collection of sleepy villas on the edge of the Tiergarten, the area became a busy, bustling hive of commercial activity and the down-town centre of Berlin.

Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz was badly damaged during the war, as was the whole of Potsdamer Platz, and closed to long-distance trains on 27th September 1945. When the Berlin Wall went up in August 1961, the S-Bahn station here found itself right under the Todesstreifen (death-strip) and became a ghost-station. S-Bahn trains would travel through it between East and West, but nobody was allowed to get on or off; armed guards could be glimpsed on the platform. This continued until the fall of The Wall in 1989.

Curiously, Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz and the land around it was owned by the borough of Mitte (East Berlin), even though it was on the border between Tiergarten (West Berlin - British Sector) and Kreuzberg (West Berlin - American Sector). So for many years the ruins of Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz became a no-man's land; beyond the Berlin Wall but not legally belonging to West Berlin. The land was eventually handed over to the West in a land-swap deal in 1972, though there was much protesting by squatters who had set up a small community of allotments there. Some of the disputed land can still be seen today as the narrow strip of the Tilla Durieux Park (the one with the giant see-saws) that lies over the North-South tunnel and runs down to the Landwehr canal.

After the fall of The Wall, the bare scrub-land of Potsdamer Platz witnessed a building frenzy, and was described as the largest building-site in Europe. Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz was rebuilt alongside the creation of the Sony Center et al and was officially re-opened to regional trains on 26 May 2006.

I find Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz today an eery place; silent and empty of life between trains, and dark and cold whatever the time of day or weather outside. The darkness is lit up by cold green-tinged lights and blue signs, pierced by shafts of artificial sunlight that come down from Potsdamer Platz itself, high above your head under a roof of concrete. It feels like a futuristic sci-fi set for a film about the aftermath of some apocalypse. The clinical cleanliness of stainless steel and cold marble add to the uneasy impression of a morgue. There isn't even any litter to indicate the presence of life. But then a regional train arrives, the platforms are filled with alighting passengers, and the bustle of the former Bahnhof is brought back to the present day.





Friday, 17 January 2014

Memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims of National Socialism


The Nazi's plans to rid Nazi-controlled Europe of the Jewish people through the genocide of 'The Final Solution' are well known, and are justly condemned by all right-thinking folk around the world. What are less well-known are the similar plans to segregate, persecute, and in the end annihilate the hundreds of people in Europe who we would call (often innocently, though sometimes pejoratively) 'Gypsies'.

It is believed from linguistic and genetic evidence that the Romani people originated in northern India and embarked on a diaspora about 1,500 years ago. The European Romanies migrated through the Balkans at least 900 years ago, when mediaeval accounts of their persecution immediately began appearing in the records. Across Europe they were either put to death or expelled, or branded with hot irons. There are accounts of Romani women having their ears cut off, or their children abducted. The Romani language was everywhere banned, and in some countries Romani people were forbidden to marry amongst themselves.

In a feudal society where everyone was bound life-long to the land and the lords and owners of that land, an itinerant folk who refused to remain in place was considered a threat to the 'natural order' of the world. The Jews faced a similar problem, though their propensity to assimilate into society, and even renounce their religion - the core of their identity - meant that by the turn of the twentieth century many Jews had prospered and gained high status in European society. Not so the Romanies, who continued to be shamelessly persecuted right up until the start of the Nazi regime. Both Jews and the Romani were then subject to the most horrific consequences of National Socialist ideas for the regeneration of Europe through 'racial' purification.

Under National Socialism the Romani people were the first to be interred in concentration camps, to be forcibly sterilised, to be used as guinea pigs for extermination through gassing. Thousands ended their lives in the SS-designated 'Gypsy Camp' of  Auschwitz-Birkenau. By the end of World War II an estimated 500,000 Romani men, women and children became victims of the Nazi genocide program.

Berlin had built a vast, impressive, and moving Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, inaugurated in 2005. People rightly asked, well what about the other murdered groups of Europe? What about the Romani folk for example? Or the homosexuals, the mentally ill, the Jehovah's Witnesses and other pacifist groups?

In May 2008 Berlin erected a memorial to the homosexuals persecuted under Nazism. Good and proper, but it wasn't until 24th October 2012 that Chancellor Angela Merkel officially opened the 'Memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims of National Socialism'.

By the way, in German-speaking lands, the Romani people were called 'Sinti'. In Eastern Europe and Russia they are called Roma. In their own dialect, they refer to themselves as Romane.

The memorial was designed by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan. He describes his creation beautifully like this:

"A clearing in the Tiergarten, lined with trees and shrubs, in the vicinity of the Reichstag building. A quaint, unimposing site, withdrawn from the bustle of the city. A site of inner sadness, a site for feeling pain, for remembering and not letting the annihilation of the Sinti and Roma by the National Socialist regime fall into oblivion. 

Is such a place possible? Or is it only found in emptiness, in nothingness? Do I have the strength to create a site of nothingness? A site deprived of everything. 

No words, no names, no metal, no stone. Only tears, only water, surrounded by the survivors, by those who remember what happened, by those who know the horror as well as those who never experienced it. They are reflected, upside down, in the water of the deep, black pit, covered by the sky – the water, the tears. 

Only a small stone, which sinks and rises, again and again, day after day. And on it every day a new blossom, so that each day we can remember anew, constantly, to all eternity. 

The water encloses the sky, the blue, the grey, the black sky. Clouds, light, darkness. The whirling water swallows it all. All that remains is the sound of a lonely violin raising a murdered melody, poised in pain."

»Den Sinti und Roma ist durch die NS-Diktatur schweres Unrecht zugefügt  worden. Sie wurden aus rassischen Gründen verfolgt […]. Diese Verbrechen haben den Tatbestand des Völkermords erfüllt.«
Bundeskanzler Helmut Schmidt, 17. März 1982
In the explanatory boards that surround and shelters the memorial are the words of German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (photographed above) that confirm that the injustice inflicted on the Romani constituted genocide.


In the centre of the mirror-like pool is a black, stone triangle. We all know about the pink triangle badge that homosexuals were made to wear in the concentration camps. The Romani people were similarly often made to wear a black triangle badge, which designated the prisoners who were 'asocial'. Others made to wear the black triangle were the mentally ill, the homeless, alcoholics, the 'work-shy', and draft-dodgers and pacifists.

Each day the triangle descends into the pool and comes up with a fresh flower.


Sunday, 5 January 2014

Warnemünde in Winter


I must go down to the sea again, 
to the lonely sea and the sky; 
I left my shoes and socks there -
I wonder if they're dry?

Spike Milligan (after Sea Fever by John Masefield)


I love the sea.
I grew up beside her and know all her moods, her charms, her terrors.
Whenever I can, I return to her, even though I am living now quite a bit inland.

One of the nearest seaside resorts to Berlin is Warnemünde, on the Baltic (Ostsee) coast in the German federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It takes about three hours to get there by Regional Express from Gesundbrunnen Bahnhof, and if you catch the ten to nine train you can be there by lunch-time.

We first went there in June 2009 (see my Warnemünde blog for that) and have been back since, but never in the deep mid-Winter. But it is my fiftieth(!) birthday this Monday, and I felt like I needed a treat.

In Warnemünde, nothing seemed to have changed, except it was a bit chillier and there were less visitors around. I hadn't noticed before, that the craze for showing your love for someone by locking a padlock on a bridge had reached Warnemünde. It evidently has, though I pity whoever's job it will be to someday have to get the bolt-cutters to this lot:

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

Otherwise, Warnemünde was just the same wonderful mixture of sea, boats, sand, seabirds, and fish:

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

You could only tell that it was still within the twelve days of Christmas by little additions such as a Christmas tree on the mast of the lifeboat Arkona:

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

Warnemünde isn't just a holiday resort, it is also a busy port and one of its fascinations is watching the sea traffic flow in and out to and from all parts of the world:

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

Warnemünde also remains a traditional day out for the kids to play around in the sand-dunes, even at the beginning of January:

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

The Baltic Sea is not much different to the North Sea and Atlantic that I grew up with, though perhaps a bit calmer, especially this week when gales and storms are battering Ireland and the West coasts of Wales, Scotland and England. Look, hardly a ripple:
photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

Even if the seas do get rough, the iconic lighthouses marking the entrance to Warnemünde harbour show the way to a safe haven:

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

There were a fair number of people walking up and down the beaches, but there was enough space for meditation and enjoying the sounds of the splashing of the waves.

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

Not my dog, but she wanted her photo taken with her favourite stick, so I had to oblige:

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

It's kind of funny to think, when looking back inland, that it's about 1,200km before you reached sea again at the Adriatic. In the UK it's never more than 100km in most directions you headed, and often much less.

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

This is a view of the Hotel Neptun. Opened in 1971, it was built as a show-case for guests to the DDR - including Fidel Castro - that East Germany could do 'luxury hotel' as well as the West. Even if it does look now like a piece of Seventies Torremolinos, except without drunken Brits diving off the balconies into a swimming pool.

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

My new Samsung camera (an early birthday present from my Beloved) certainly seems to have a good zoom:

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

One brave (or mad) soul we spotted was a seventy or eighty year old woman who bathed naked in the freezing Baltic. I have spared her her embarrassment by showing her with her bath-robe on before diving in, though she seemed to have no embarrassment herself at the time. And I'm worried about turning fifty! Good on her!

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

This is the famous landmark, the Teepott. Established as a tea pavilion in 1925, it was rebuilt in 1968 in imitation of the Kongresshalle in West Berlin (now das Haus der Kulturen der Welt). It might not be as large as the building that inspired it, but it's looking pretty good next to the old light-house. However, if you want a better cup of tea (or hot sandornsaft as I had) and more importantly an extensive range of delicious cakes and confectionery, then we can recommend the nearby Cafe Röntgen.

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

All too soon the Winter sun was setting, and we had a walk along the middle quay to the golden statue called Hoffnung (or Esperanza) - meaning 'Hope' - by artist Ene Slawow.

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

Okay, the statue might be meant to be calling and waving at boats coming into port - perhaps it is meant to depict the wife of a sailor anxious for the safe return of her sea-faring husband? - but is it naughty of me to think that it looks like someone making a tooth-brush moustache with her fingers under her nose and about to do a Sieg Heil?! Yes it is Andie, very naughty indeed!

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

photo of Warnemünde by Andie Gilmour

Four hours in Warnemünde flew by, and we found ourselves heading back home after a wonderful day beside the seaside. Thank you Warnemünde - and my Beloved of course! - for making me feel good about everything and ready to face up to being fifty!