abouthalfthree: black on white lino print of a domestic street (Köln)
Have been in Berlin for more than a week now, and have worked out the correct exit from the underground for both the place I'm staying and the Goethe Institute summer house.

I went to the opera on Saturday night. The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. Wagner. Interesting, but opera is still not really my thing. It was on as part of a festival, a week where each of the year's new productions is performed. So they were giving out wine when I got there. I had, between class and the opera wandered through the local galleries and had lunch, so I had not had time to change.

It was not a modern staging: the costumes were all period. But the set was just a whole lot of plain looking box-house things, with big doors so the cast could go inside them. And they could be moved around the stage so that were in the square or in the street or a lane way. Everything was in white and grey during most of the opera, because it's set at night. Everything was brilliantly coloured for the day scene.

They had captions in the back of the seat in front you. High tech. I mostly had the German captions because then I could hear what they were actually singing, rather than trying to translate the English back into German. But it also meant that I didn't always know exactly what was going on. That's not really a problem at the opera.

I thought it would finish about nine. But the curtain didn't come down til quarter part ten. I snuck out during the clapping.

Sunday was the trip to Potsdam. Potsdam is nice. Old. Most of it was okay and most of what was destroyed during the war has been restored. The whole area around Berlin has a lot of a ground water, so the administration decided to bring in Dutch builders, because they would know how to deal with that. So there is a Dutch quarter in Potsdam. And then a lot of castles in the park. We got to go a little tour of the guest chambers - a separate castle because the first, main one was too small for guests.

On Friday (don't think that this will be in order. I started writing this post a couple of days ago and won't post it until tomorrow morning, Wednesday.) I went on a boat trip on the Spree, which was good. Then I recovered from the sun by eating a large chocolate ice cream sundae. (Ice cream is also a recurring theme.)

Then I spent some time in the Bode Museum. It has the sculpture and figure collection. It is, on the one hand interesting and on the other creepy. It's creepy in different ways. A lot of the figurines are carved from ivory, so admiring the craftwork and aesthetic is tinged with horror. The Southern German Baroque and Gothic religious figurines and statues are all about Death. Like, personifications of the death coming for people. Then there was a Nürnberg jointed doll of a woman. And a crucified Mary Magdalene (I think it was MaryMagdalene, it wasn't always clear which card described which piece).

So that was all interesting. After Thursday night at the Gemäldergalerie, I'm getting the hang of wandering around museums and stopping to look at particular paintings (which turn out to the Rubens or Claude Lorraine and Gainsborough, or, very annoying Bruce Naumann who I thought I could write off, but apparently not).

The culture programme yesterday (which was Monday) and today were tours of particular quarters of Berlin. Very interesting the different histories, characters, people the different quarters have. Gentrification is a hot topic here. They kind of hand 20-30 years of infrastructure work, renovation and updating in the few years immediately after the wall fell, so it's not surprising the tensions are pretty high, but they are pretty high. I'm sure no one is against having modern wiring and an inside toilet, but the fact that people who have lived their whole lives in an area can no longer afford it is certainly a thing. About 80% of Berliners rent. And legislation about rents and landlord rights and responsibilities are set by the federal government, not the state. (Berlin is, obviously, a city, but it is also, constitutionally its own State.)

I think that is enough to keep you all going. I have booked tickets and accommodation for Kassel to see dOCTUMENTa. Now I've just got three nights of not knowing where I'm going to be sleeping. Somewhere quiet, I hope.

Berlin

Jul. 4th, 2012 01:55 pm
abouthalfthree: cute big cat cub (Cheeter Cub)
There has been a lack of ice cream in my daily life since leaving Dresden, but given that that is in part due to a change in the weather I am not terribly disappointed. The weather broke my last night in Dresden; I was woken up sometime in the middle of the night and had to close the door to the balcony. Awesome storminess and also awesome no longer 30 degrees.

We're looking at mid twenties for the few days. Phew.

I am in Berlin, after a very stuffy two hours on a train that can come to Dresden from Budapest via Prague on its way to Hamburg. I found my way to my host's apartment easy, thanks to a lucky choice in exit from the Underground. I have to managed to do it again, so there is a bit a difficult road crossing to get home. The Berliners have a word for that immediate area around one's house, the path from home to the U-Bahn station: Kiez.

I spent Sunday morning in the State Art Collection of Dresden. They have some amazing Turkish stuff from August the Strong's reign. And a lot of ridiculous jewels. I went mostly to see an exhibition of works by Gert and Uwe Tobias which were inspired by the collection of Chinoiserie and the collection of prints from the Master of Playing Cards. There was a suit of flowers, a suit of birds, a suit of deer and a suit of wild animals: Lions and bears. The Nine of Wild Animals had nine different etchings of lions or bears, different poses.

Saturday I caught the bus to Moritzburg, about 30 minutes out of Dresden. It's where Käthe Kollwitz was born and spent the end of her life. The Käthe Kollwitz House has a great collection of her work from her whole carrier and well her death room. I didn't even know it was there until I got off the bus and there was a sign for it.

Then I went to the castle. I took the tour, which got us into one of the round turret-y bits, excellent. It was very sunny, but the grounds had a forest. It's a hunting castle, so most of the decoration was antlers stuck onto plaster deer heads. In the main ballroom they had gilded the deer heads and some of the antlers.

There was also a little festival happening in the grounds, so I could get something to eat.

I arrived in Berlin Sunday evening and got to have a short chat with my host before heading out to have dinner with Marco at his favourite pizza place, which was very pleasant.

I spent Monday being tested the Goethe Institute. After the written test a supplementary test and an interview, I am clearly in B2.2, which is a step and a bit higher than I was in Melbourne, which is good. Less grammar, more vocabulary, because it's just two weeks. We're also doing word building/word family stuff, and turns of phrase that are more specifically German. It's good. Small group, too, which is nice.

This afternoon I'm going on a tour of the Neue Nationalgalerie. Yesterday I went on a tour of various neighbourhoods of Berlin, where we discussed gentrification.

There's also a Stammtisch (pub outing) this evening.

Even though I now get to spend several hours a day in a classroom, I still managed to spend about six hours yesterday walking. And I got home before dark (because it never gets dark in Summer).

Dresden

Jun. 30th, 2012 12:12 am
abouthalfthree: "Those who throw objects to the crocodiles will be asked to retrieve them." (Objects from Crocodiles)
Tonight I climbed up to the top of the Martin Luther church. It's not very tall, I went up the Frauenkirche yesterday. But the Martin Luther church is a little local church, and it was night. Coming down is much worse than going up. The spiral staircase is inside one corner of the bell tower bit, so going down, you have a clear view of the cars in the carpark outside the church, but you can't see what you'e walking on very well. It's like over nothing.

Brilliant view up there. And it was lovely weather for it. It's hot and humid at the moment, so being up there was better than being almost anywhere else. The icecream place was open on the way back to the hostel, though, so I got to have an icecream.

I spent several hours in the art museum today. Excellent collection. They've got some fantastic stuff.

Yesterday I wandered around for a while and went to a fantastic exhibition at the Lemon Press. A retrospective of Xu Jiang, whose a contemporary Chinese artists. Fantastic.

Then I went out on this tour of the local area lead by this great guy who told us about the church tower being open on Friday nights. Much fun and drinking and interesting things to see. Then we went on successful a 2am hunt for kebabs.

I got to see all the art Weimar as well, including Goethe's house, which is interesting. Good, too, becaue you do get to wander through all of it. He had some strange stuff. (I forgot to say, one of the things in the Wellcome Collection in London is a French revolutionary guillotine!) The New Museum also had an exhibition of the students of the Bauhaus University in Weimar.

I'm considering going to one of the castles tomorrow. Before I go to bed, I'm taking my doona out of its cover and just sleeping under the cover.

Weimar

Jun. 26th, 2012 09:42 pm
abouthalfthree: cute big cat cub (Cheeter Cub)
So, Eis Cafes.

This evening I was almost completely beaten by my ice cream. It came with a lot of nuts heaped over it, and they were more filling than expected. Also, as well as the cream on top of the generous scoops of ice cream, the stem of the glass dish was also filled with cream! I managed to eat all the ice cream around the last handful of nuts.

I forgot to order milk to go with my tea, but that was okay.

I am in Weimar. Last time I was in Weimar was close to midwinter, like second week of December, I think. It was dark and cold and closed. Weimar seems to be doing well for itself, better than last time. There are some buildings near the station that need fixing up, but someone of them are being used for funky art things. I'm not sure how much of teh change is a change in the economy from seven years ago and how much is just that it's summer, the sunsets at quarter past nine and everything is open.

No updates since Munich. So.

First, to follow the ice cream theme, today's tartufo had amaretto liquor instead of cherry liquor. I prefer the cherry based tartufi to the amaretto based ones.

Long update, including small Bavarian towns, amusing dogs, fire, and no visits to any castles. (Click little arrow to left or this test to read it.) )

There are a lot of museums I have to visit tomorrow before I catch the train to Dresden. I'm tired from walking and from the alcohol in my ice cream and also because I keep sunburnt without realising it. (I spend sometime in the early evening wondering while I feel flushed.)

Oh wait! on my way back to the hostel from the Eis Cafe, I got stopped by Mormons. Sadly, I did not quite have my wits with me to cause trouble, and I think it would have been mean. But I have plans for the next time religious fundamentalists want to talk to me about their religion.

Icecream

Jun. 21st, 2012 10:44 pm
abouthalfthree: TS Eliot: "I should have been a pair of ragged claws." (I should have been)
This was going to be more of a post about how the Germans have Eis Cafes, which have the decor of sandwitch shops and sell icecream sundaes. There is one on the way back to this hotel from the underground. I was worried that it would closed when I was on my way back from the movies, but it's open til midnight.

Also, there was art this morning, and shopping for improbably coloured trousers. (One pair is fine blue and white stripes, the other pair red.)

But it turns out that La Trobe Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences is getting rid of Art History. Like, it seems, getting rid of the entire area of study. No more Art History subjects. (No more Art History staff?) So I have had to spend some time looking at tumblr to restore the chocolate icecream and cherry liquor induced mood of earlier.

And now I must sleep.

The city of Sophronia is made up of two half-cities. In one there is the great roller coaster with its steep humps, the carousel with its chain spokes, the Ferris wheel of spinning cages, the death-ride with crouching motorcyclists, the big top with the clump of trapezes hanging in the middle. The other half-city is of stone and marble and cement, with the bank, the factories, the palaces, the slaughterhouse, the school, and all the rest. One of the half-cities is permanent, the other is temporary, and when the period of its sojourn is over, they uproot it, dismantle it, and take it off, transplanting it to the vacant lots of another half-city.

~ Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino