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.


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.


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.


Jun. 20th, 2012 09:13 am
abouthalfthree: black on white lino print of a domestic street (Default)
Hamburg is pretty. Also big and old. Awesome combination.

I went to the ballet last night. The second half was Phillip Glass's Amreican Four Seasons. Fantastic. The first was Schubert, Mahler and Alfred Schnittke. Also very good. The ballet was lovely to watch, but bits of it didn't really seem to make much sense. This is possibly because I was a cheap seat and missed half the stage. But still, I'm sceptical.

The previous night, my arrival in Hamburg, I just wandered around and ended up in a square where they were showing the Football - Croatia versus Spain. I was there for 30 minutes and NOTHING HAPPENED. There were several shots at goal by the Spaniads, who did seem to be doing better than the Croatians, but the Croatian goalie was good. It's a very frustrating game.

Yesterday morning I went to the Hamburg Kunsthalle. I got to see Cspasr David Friedrich's Wanderer Above the Mists in person. It's smaller than I was expecting. Also the guy's suit is green! They also have a collection of contemporary art, which has what you'd expect, including a Dan Flavin (the flurescent tubes). Oh! I forgot to say, the Tate Britain has the sculpture that is a glass of water that has been transformed into an oak tree!

Anyway, Hamburg also has a great collection of German Expressionist stuff! Including a couple if very nice Emil Nolde paintings. The German Impressionist stuff was also interesting.

One of the problems with being interested in art instead of say, movies or theatre, is that there is a lot of walking around.

I'm at Hamburg airport now. The gate opens in about 30 minutes and I want to see if I can find a tacky souvenir, or indeed any sort of souvenir for Hamburg. I am on my way to Munich. I don't expect them to let me into my room until 2, but when they do I will be having a nap!


Jun. 18th, 2012 09:54 am
abouthalfthree: "Those who throw objects to the crocodiles will be asked to retrieve them." (Objects from Crocodiles)
Today I fly to Hamburg. So that's mostly what's on the agenda.

Yesterday was hanging out with people in Birmingham and eating lots of pudding. Lunch out and then dinner with friends.

Saturday after breakfast I went to the Wellcome Collection, which is fascinating. Eccentric British collectors! The collection is mostly medical stuff. There was interesting exhibition about modern medical techniques and culture, with contemporary art instalations as well. Including one I really like, non-prescription pills carved into the shape of the organs they are supposed to treat. Also a map of the world, the coast lines of the continents, made out of mosquitos.

The main collection of Wellcome's stuff includes things like Florence Nightingale's moccasins, Lord Nelson's razor, Charles Darwin's walking sticks and a fragment of Jeremey Bentham's skin.

Birmingham is familiar! That is very nice. It hasn't changed much, except the new library is out of the ground, almost finished.

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