Berlin Day Two

It’s 4:15 pm and raining in Berlin. I bail on Murray and come back to the hotel, while he walks in the rain to see the Bauhaus Archive building and a couple of other buildings. Too wet for me.

Berlin

The day starts cool but dry, a good walking temp. We walk over the canal by our hotel and then to Checkpoint Charlie. If you need to locate tourists, go there. We don’t stay long, just long enough to look at a few info boards with photos from the days of the wall, snap a few pics and we are out of there.

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

I find it rather ironic that the sign in the back of the photo of Checkpoint Charlie is, of course, McDonalds.

There are two places to view sections of the wall. We stroll by the first one where there is a display and a museum which talk about the wall.

The Wall

Our next stop is the AEG building that Peter Behrens, Gropius’ mentor before the Bauhaus started, designed. It was initially a factory and it is imposing, massive and amazing. Two, or more, story high windows. I feel very small and insignificant standing next to it.

Peter Behrens designed building

Peter Behrens designed building

We walk past the other section of THE wall and this one has displays about all the people who were shot trying to cross the wall. This part of the wall was built through a cememtary, requiring many graves to be relocated. It is a somber sight.

The Wall

The western Wall through the eastern Wall across no man’s land

Our art fix for the day is visiting the Berggruen Museum, which houses modern artworks by Picasso, Klee, Matisse and Giacometti. I love the tall thin figures of Giacometti’s sculptures and the colours used by Klee.

It is way past lunch so we stop in at Charlotte restaurant where Murray has Curryworst and fries and I have Weiner Schnitzel and fries. Curryworst is a large sausage with BBQ sauce poured over top and curry powder sprinkled on. The food is just what we needed.

Oh, a knock on the door…Murray is back already! I will pass the post to Murray now to finish off.

Bauhaus Archive

Bauhaus Archive

Few more Germany/Berlin thoughts. There are no speed limits on the autobahn. It is amazing how the cars fly along the highway. There is a big difference between Alberta and Germany that makes this possible. The roads are in fantastic shape. There are virtually no potholes even on the city streets, no bumpity bumps, no ridges caused by freeze thaw or temperature changes, nothing, the roads are smooth. Our road crews  should come take lessons from the Germans.

We thought we might have trouble using a credit card in rural Denmark so we brought a bit of extra cash with us. Traveled though the entire country and had so much cash left we lived most of our Copenhagen stint with Krone. Then we get to Germany, figure we should have no trouble using a credit card here. But, even in Berlin, the world class metropolis, most of the food establishments we have eaten in  take cash only, no cards, go figure.

Germany shuts down on Sunday. But we are in Berlin, city of the world, yes. No, this place is shut tighter than a drum. Half the restaurants are open, the museums and galleries are open but grocery stores, nope, malls, nope, corner stores, nope. Sunday is a day of rest here.

After saying we were having trouble finding people that speak English in Germany we hit Berlin. Folks from all over the world live here, people need to communicate with each other and English is the chosen language. Here it is unusual to meet someone that does not speak English.

Monday is gallery closing day so tomorrow is a day of sights.

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Metro Day

Debbie in the midst of a cold and not moving too fast so we plan a day on the metro. There are some things too far to walk to, like most of this city, so we work out a route and jump on the train.

A flea market is stop one. I don’t know if there is an equivalent at home but this is like a giant daily garage sale. In what was I think a parking area near the edge of the Tier Garten there are 4 or 5 very long rows of tent like structures. People rent these tents, I presume on a daily basis, and sell stuff. That is the best word I can come up with, stuff. You name it, it is there. Antiques of all description, clothing, some but not many handy crafts, CD’s and records, jewellery, stamps and coins, any kind of small stuff you can imagine, we even note a couple of folks selling old dental picks and mirrors. Weird thing is each of the stalls seems to have a theme. Like the CD guy is not selling any dishes, and the dishes person is not selling any clothing. And all the merchandise is ‘previously owned’. We wondered how the seller managed to amass great numbers of similar objects so they can then be sold. As I presume this type of venue precludes the need for garage sales they could get the stuff from estate sales or maybe folks downsizing or?????? As we progress through our day we discover this is not a one off thing, there is another flea market set up the same way in a section of town far to the south of the one we first go to.

The Berlin metro is amazing. We get off one train and our transfer train is there waiting. Must of known we were coming. The longest we have had to wait is for a bus. We did not know the bus times so we just went there and waited maybe 10 minutes. We zip around the city like we know what we are doing. We need two maps – one of the city streets and the other of the metro/underground train system. We freelance the buses and so far have done OK. We each take a map and sit every once in a while to coordinate.

Nachste halt, Pucklerstrasse. The street names sure are big in German, the locals don’t seem to have any trouble with this but it is hard for us, we go with the first 4 to 6 letters and get off at that stop, so far it has worked.

A couple of hundred meters from this bus stop are a two art galleries – the Brucke Museum and the Kunsthaus Dahlem. The Brucke was a group of artists active in the 1910’s in and around Berlin. I don’t ever recall hearing of them in any of my art courses but I found the stuff they did really cool. They worked in a time slightly after the Impressionist and more in the same time as the Expressionist painters in France and southern Germany. I don’t know how much, if any, contact they had with those groups but the work shows striking similarities. Not the same, just similar. It must have been something in the air at the time. Anyway neat stuff.

The second gallery building started life as an atelier commissioned by the Third Reich. It did go through several other changes but finally in the summer of 2015 it was opened to display post war German sculptures. I am not a big fan of sculptures, not that I dislike them but they don’t stir much in me, but I did like this display. Well worth the price of admission.

It’s Saturday night in the big city and two different symphonies are playing. Thought we should take in some music. We chose by building rather than program. The Konzerthaus Berlin was finished in 1821. It is a finely detailed hall, very different from the Bauhaus architecture we have been following that shuns any ornamentation at all. Even thought it was not a full time concert hall until 1994, it was fun to sit in a hall where concerts have been played on and off for a couple of hundred years. The sight lines did leave quite a bit to be desired. We sat high on the side of the hall and could only see about 1/3 of the orchestra.

The city is vast and it may be another tram day tomorrow. We’ll see.

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Stuff and Berlin

Everywhere we go both Denmark and Germany, except Dessau???, we see kids on field trips. Learning out of the school. Seeing what the world has to offer. And from what I can make they are not just one or two hour trips. The older kids are on buses checking into hostels and wandering the streets of the town in the evenings.

The play parks are, if you can believe it, dangerous. They have climbing apparatus 3M plus high with sand as a landing platform. You know sand that stuff cats actually might shit in, maybe. They have spinney things, not quite like our old merry-go-rounds but something you might get sick on. And there are no fences around the day cares. Oh I feel for the wimpy kids of North America.

English is not very prevalent in Germany. In Denmark it was unusual to run into someone who did not speak English, young, old it did not matter. Travel was exceedingly simple for us. We did learn a bit of Danish and tried to use it but anything complicated required we use English or charades. Here in Germany it is hard to find anyone that speaks English. Not even the folks involved with tourists are very good at it. Young, old again it does not matter. The kids are able to help out but still have to search for words and our conversations are stilted. It is not that people should have to speak English to satisfy our needs it is just that I find the contrast interesting.

I find Germans a little bit cold. Not all, it is just I found a few folks out and out refused to stop and help a lost tourist out. They walked by me as if I did not exist, not even acknowledging I had asked a question. From my Canadian perspective I found this extremely rude.

There are not a lot of panhandlers (beggars) here but there are a few. Two or three in Munich, a big city, and at least one in the smaller cities we have stopped at. The kneel at the edge of the sidewalk and not say anything, just hold out a hat. In contrast I did not observe even one person asking for money in Denmark.

Dessau at least the areas around the center of the city is not very well kept. The lawns for the most part are dead. Not one green blade of grass anywhere. The foliage is also very thin, there is as much dirt as dead grass. The weeds in the so called lawns however thrive and provide evidence that people do not cut the grass as those said weeds are a foot high. (the dead, yellow grass could be a result of this summer’s heat wave but we did not see that elsewhere)

Bathrooms in Denmark are an all in one affair. The toilet, sink and shower are in one small space. The drain is in the center of the room and curb to contain water is at the doorway. I remember this because I tripped over those curbs just about every time I entered the WC. In Germany every place we have stayed the can is on the North American model. The shower is contained with the drain inside the shower stall and the curb defines the shower stall. Odd.

As we traveled on the train from Munich to the north part of Germany we noted how with each village, town or city we passed the urban landscape is noticeably more industrial. The places are not as urbane, more of a country feel to the them. They, except where bombed to hell in WWII, look older. I’m not sure if they are not a well maintained of if they have replaced fewer of the ancient structures.

As we fly across the country side in a train we note little raised towers here and there. Not is any particular place or in any sort of order. When we were in Munich I noted one outside of R & I’s place. R told me the hunters used them in the fall. The climb up in the 1M x 1M blind and sit and wait for game to pass by. All Debbie and I can figure is the beer is too heavy to carry about wandering here and there like the hunters in Alberta so they pack in some beer and wait for the deer to cross close enough to have a shot at it.

Berlin

We are now in a BIG city. No edge of town in sight. We rode the train from Dessau today and Debbie was astute enough to notice the train ticket, which we purchased to included the tram within Berlin to our hotel, was an all day ticket for 2. So we had a look at a couple of the far flung things we had to do and did those on a more or less free ride.

Hufeisensiedlung (Horseshoe Estate)

Hufeisensiedlung (Horseshoe Estate)

First stop is to see a neighbourhood designed by a guy named Bruno Taut. The center piece of the area is the ‘hufeisensiedlung’, the horseshoe estate. It is truly a great piece of urban design. There is a horseshoe shape building of flats with a green space the size of maybe 5 football fields in the middle. I think I could live there no problem.

I then headed to one of the main Berlin squares and walked back to the hotel. The small part of the city I saw is an interesting mix of new and old. Some with absolute no redeeming features what so ever and other places I had to stop in my tracks and admire.

Konzerthaus Berlin

Konzerthaus Berlin

Berlin is truly an international city. Sitting on the train, looking around there are people from every continent on earth in one tram car.

Looks like this place is going to take all of the energy we have left to explore it in the three days we have.

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In Search of Modern

In my humble opinion the Bauhaus and it off shoots are the root of all things ‘modern’. In the years from 1919 to 1933 the school developed a language for design of the future. The language has ebbed and flowed, changed and altered over the years but the underlying aesthetic is evident in everything considered and has been considered modern from that time forward.

The first years of the Bauhaus were in Weimar, but when the political climate became unfriendly to the progressive ideas being generated at the school, the director, Walter Gropius up and moved the school to Dessau.

Historic Employment Office, Dessau

Historic Employment Office

Today our journey continues thru Dessau. Starting at the Dessau Employment Office. It was built to help people find jobs in a depressed time. Efficiency was the foundation for the way it was laid out. Interesting building with skylights so natural light could reach the depths of the workspace and covered bike parking for the patrons. It has been renovated over the years and adapted for different uses but is still for the most part intact.

Historic Employment Office, Dessau

Historic Employment Office

Next stop the Bauhaus. A building designed to house the school itself with some attached student housing, and space for a vocational school. This is the piece de resistance. Again I have seen pictures of the building for many years and the 3D reality is quite stunning. As we go through the building we get the idea how many times it has been changed and close to destruction. Yet in 1976 the GDR set out to restore the building, in 1996 the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation set about to restore the school to as close to the original as possible and even though there have been some concessions it is remarkably close to what it was like when originally built. Access to the building is actually quite limited unless you join a tour (which on the day we have there is in German) but it is still exciting to walk the halls and see the place.

The Bauhaus

The Bauhaus

The masters houses are just a block or two away and are four stunning examples of Bauhaus design. Two of them were destroyed by the bombing raid of 1945 and have recently been reconstructed. The are NOT as the original but are buildings that reflect the design philosophy and are set up to stage art exhibitions. As we approached I was quite taken but as we got closer I realized the windows are not windows but opaque glass for letting muted light into the interior. And when we got inside I felt it was a total letdown as the spaces were monolithic and not resident like what so ever. Frankly not worth the time.

One of the Masters' Houses, Dessau

One of the Masters’ Houses

We go further down the row of house and the last five have been kept or refurbished to match the original buildings and contain some original furniture and some replicas of furnishings as they were in the 1920’s. This was truly mind blowing. The buildings and the way they are laid out could be any house designed and built today, 100 years after they were constructed. The furnishings are dated but the essence of today’s household is completely evident. I would move into one in a flash.

This week is about the Bauhaus and today was the keystone in the journey.

Kornhaus Restaurant, Dessau

Kornhaus Restaurant

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Dessau

Up until today we have been existing in old towns, old buildings, stone everything in both Denmark and Germany. Today, when we reach Dessau, there is a noticeable difference. There are no old stone houses or old buildings (and by old I mean 1500s old). The city was for all intents and purposes destroyed by allied bombing raids in 1945. What we see are wide avenues with square blocky buildings built after WWII when Dessau was within the GDR (East Germany). The buildings reflect the architectural stylings of the communist regime. And where are all the people? The streets are barren! There are very few tourists. Those who have come here are like us, in search of the Bauhaus, but the numbers are few and no where near what we have encountered in Munich or Weimar.

The Steel House, Dessau

The Steel House

We came to Dessau to explore the Bauhaus as this is were the school moved after leaving Weimar. It stayed until the Nazis shut it down and once again had to move, this time to Berlin. There are a number of structures, the ones the bombs did not hit, to look at and the Bauhaus School, designed by Walter Gropius and built specifically to accommodate the school, to tour.

Konsum Building

Konsum Building

We get into Dessau around noon and that leaves time to visit some of the most far flung buildings designed and built during the time the Bauhaus was in session in Dessau. The district of Torten at the south end of Dessau has a few streets of what we would call row housing designed and built by Bauhaus Masters. They still stand massed as they were originally built but because of the innate human desire for individuality the people living here have modified and renovated the places beyond recognition. Unfortunately these changes were undertaken without proper architectural intervention. Whether this is because of ignorance of the historical importance of these buildings or if it was because the owners just do not care, the renovations are quite literally a travesty. What is quite odd though as those who have endeavored to maintain the original building intact have become by happenstance the individuals that all the others sought to be by imposing hideous enhancements. Even though most of the units have been messed up one can still get a feeling for how it should be and how radical the place would have been in the 1920’s.

Torton Estate House

Torton Estate House with original styling

I’ve seen this housing development in pictures and it is kind of spooky to walk though in real life. Tomorrow we will tackle some more places I only know as images and see if the 3D tactile experience lives up to the expectations built up over many years of oogling glossies.

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Weimar and the Bauhaus

Weimar is a very popular spot for school kids on field trips. We have run into numerous groups of, perhaps, high school age teenagers. There is much history (literature, politics, philosophy, art and design) in the town, so it is a draw for educators. I think the Europeans have a much different view on field trips than Canadians. They just do it, whereas the liability thing holds back our education system.

Today we walk a bazillion kilometres following the Bauhaus. We view two different houses that Henry van de Velde built. He was the original creator of the arts and crafts school that eventually became the Bauhaus. One of the houses was Van de Velde’s own house and one was Nietzsche’s final residence before he died.

Lunch was Thuringia Bratwurst on a bun with mustard, eaten in the square on a bench in the shade with other hungry folks doing the same thing. The Bratwurst stuck out of both ends of the bun and it looks quite silly, but tasty! We are partaking in life just like the Germans!

Bauhaus University

Bauhaus University – one of the original buildings

The best part of the day is touring the Bauhaus University. The tour is totally in German, so we don’t get much out of the words, but we get into some places that we would not have gotten into on our own. We enter the Director’s Office, which was put together for the 1923 exhibition of the Bauhaus work. Each department was responsible for creating some part of the finished project, the furniture, carpets, wall decorations, lighting.

Bauhaus Director's Office for 1923 exhibition

Bauhaus Director’s Office for 1923 exhibition

We also see the art work in one of the stair wells done by a Bauhaus student (Herbert Bayer) that follows the colours of Kandinsky done for the same exhibition. There is a blue circle motif on the first floor, red square on the second and a yellow triangle on the third. It was very exciting to see these early Bauhaus creations.

Bauhaus artwork

Bauhaus stairwell artwork

Bauhaus artwork

Bauhaus stairwell artwork

The main stair was painted by the ‘Master of Form’ at the Bauhaus, Oskar Schlemmer. It was removed by one of the later directors of the Bauhaus for being to ‘bourgeois’, (he was a communist) but was restored and now adorns the stair once again.

Bauhaus artwork

Bauhaus stairwell artwork

After sushi for supper, we take in the first half of a free concert held at the Hochschule fur Musik Franz Liszt (a music school for young classical musicians). We hear these university aged students play Schumann, Bloch and Schostakowitch. Very complicated music, I don’t think it is easy stuff to play. They are exceptional and we wish we could stay for the second half but we have a hotel Dessau to book and a blog post to write. Duty calls!

Bauhaus artwork

Bauhaus artwork

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The Bauhaus Trail

For a long time I have wanted to go on this pilgrimage to follow the trail of the early 20th century design school, the Bauhaus. After a ride on the ICE train from Munich we arrive in Weimar at about noon. After we check into the Hotel Anna Amalia, a funky small hotel in the center of town, we head to the Tourist Info place to get a map and info on what Bauhaus sights might be about.

Weimar, Germany

Next year is the 100th anniversary of the first year the school opened and they are building a new museum to house the articles that had been collected over the years. Unfortunately for us they have already closed the old museum and the stuff they have is not displayed anywhere.

Haus Am Horn, Weimar

Haus Am Horn, the first Bauhaus building to be realized in Weimar

There are still bits and pieces to see like the first house designed on Bauhaus philosophies, Haus am Horn. Georg Muche, one of the school’s ‘Masters’, designed the house and construction was finished in 1923. So we amble off through the cities wonderful river park, across the river and up a wicked steep hill in search of our first real sighting of a Bauhaus work of art. Once found it is really not that exciting. It is fenced in but the gate is open. The building is closed for maintenance so all we can do is peak in the windows.

The Bauhaus is one of Weimar’s less known claims to fame. The city is know as the birth place of German democracy. After the first world war the German powers that be met here, rather than in Berlin, to put together the structure of the new Germany. After the emperor Kaiser Wilhelm had be ousted from office and representatives from all over Germany laid the foundation for a democratic state. From 1919 to 1933  Germany was unofficially named the Weimar Republic.

Weimar, Germany

Earlier than that, in the 19th century Weimar was a gathering place for cultural and intellectual giants. Johann Wolfgang Goethe lived most of his adult life here writing works that include Faust. Johann Schiller and friend of Goethe’s and also a writer spent the last years of his live in Weimar. Franz Liszt and Johann Sebastian Bach both spent some time here, as did Carl Maria von Weber. All well know composers in their time and giants in the classical music field 200 year hence. A few years later Friedrich Nietzsche, a philosopher much studied over the last century, spent the last years of his life in Weimar.

Goethe's Garden House

Goethe’s Garden House

So even though one of this town’s highlights, at least for me, is not available to view, tomorrow should be interesting enough as we chase the ghosts of some very famous people.

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Weird Art and a Beer Garden

I, Murray and I drive downtown to go to the Haus der Kunst (House of Art) to see some modern artworks.  All I can say is WEIRD! I don’t understand modern art and it is not my definition of art. It must be someone’s (the artist’s??), but not mine. I cruise by the pieces looking at them and try to expand my mind and artistic sensibilities, but I am not sure the art will leave as lasting an impression as a Van Gogh.

In the afternoon, the four of us drive to Ammersee, a lake about 35 km outside Munich. We eat and drink at a typical Bavarian beer garden. It is a glorious hot day, and the lake, beach and beer garden are busy. Swimming, sailing, paddling and sunning are the enjoyment for this wonderful September hot weather.

Lake Ammersee

Lake Ammersee

We sit in the shade in the beer garden sipping on Cokes and beer. Murray and I eat Rote Currywurst and Pommes Fritz. Roasted sausage in a BBQ sauce with curry powder sprinkled on top with french fries. Pretty good for hungry folks. We chat with I&R and learn about Germany and Bavaria. We are discovering there are many similarities between Germany and Canada and their peoples

Bavarian Beer Garden

Bavarian Beer Garden

Tomorrow we must say goodbye to our friends as we are off to Weimar to follow the Bauhaus.

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King Ludwig

The general consensus is that King Ludwig was crazy. In the mid to late 19th century he set about to build three different opulent castles. The best know of the three is the one Walt Disney copied with the Fantasyland castle in California.

The Lake at Herrenchiemsee

The Lake at Herrenchiemsee

We set off in the morning to visit Herrenchiemsee.  It is located on an island on lake in Bavaria just south of Munich. We set out on the autobaun and travel along at pedestrian speeds for Germany because the Saturday morning traffic is so thick it holds the speeds down to around 100 or 110 kph.

We arrive in Prien, Chiemgau a touristy town. It is not overrun with people but it is busy. There are several lake size tour boats that ply the waters of Lake Chiemsee. One of the stops is at the island that King Ludwig bought in 1873. He had grandiose ideas for all three of his castles. His ‘hero’ king was Louis XIV of France. So Herrendhiemsee is full of references and innuendo to his hero. There are rooms that are copies of rooms in Versailles. There are portraits of Louis, with a sort of 19th century photoshoped image that made him look younger and slimmer then he actually was.

Royal Palace of Herrenchiemsee

Royal Palace of Herrenchiemsee

The castle decoration is in the Barque and Rococo styles, meaning quite fussy and curvy detailing. Tons of gold, 5 kg of gold leaf in total was used to decorate the rooms that were finished before he died. Every one of the  public rooms shone and glistened. His private chambers are still very fancy but he held back and not as much gold is on display. The great hall is jaw dropping. An audible and collective “aahh” could be heard as the group entered the room.

Royal Palace of Herrenchiemsee

Maybe this king was crazy, maybe not, but he sure knew how to spend money. The palace was never finished. Ludwig died before he could deplete the money in the royal coffers but what is completed is very well preserved and is an attraction worth a visit.

Sorry there are no pics of the inside as photography is verboten.

Royal Palace of Herrenchiemsee

Royal Palace of Herrenchiemsee

It was quite a relaxing not hurried day as the trip is far and takes the entire day. The ride home was quite a bit quicker as the traffic was less and traveling, at times, up to 180 kph cuts down travel time considerably.

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Day 2 in Munchen

Clock Tower, Munich

Clock Tower, Munich

We found where all the tourists hang out. Yesterday we did encounter a few travelers moving in groups headed by tour guides as they wandered up to the cities sites or a few random folk at the galleries we stopped at. Today we stop in Marienplatz. It is the plaza from which to view the famous clock tower that has the moving figures as the clock strikes the hour. Every man and his dog is standing in the square as the bell tolls. Their necks are craned upwards and their cameras are ready. 15 minutes later the show is over an 3/4 of the crowd head to the market next door to search out lunch. We muse over the fact that many many people experience the clock through the lens of an iPhone camera and not with their own eyes. What happened to just watching and experiencing without feeling the need to get it all recorded?

Wittlesbach Residenz, Munich

Wittlesbach Residenz, Munich

We do go to another art museum, but the cool thing we did was to go to the Residenz Museum (a castle) to see the rooms that are done in the Rococo fashion of design. Gold, curly designs, over the top decorating. That is Rococo. It was fabulous!

Residenz, Munich

We meet I&R in Odeonplatz and walk through the English Garden, a huge park that rivals Hyde and Central Parks in size. Just on the edge of the park, near a bridge there is a spot in the river that has a natural standing wave. Surfers surf this wave. It is about 30 ft across and they take turns surfing back and forth along the wave. It is a short ride for some and then they are back in the cue for another try.

Surfing in Munich

Surfing in Munich

We walk to a typically Bavarian restaurant for supper and munch on snitzel, roast pork and steak. We share a dessert of pancakes mixed with raisins, almonds and sugar which is topped with apple sauce. Yummy!

Another full day in Munich!

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