Month: August 2013

She still didn’t finish writing about Hamburg.

Let’s get right on that.

Day Two.
Deciding to get a bit of culture, we headed to the art museum.

The building itself was quite artsy, in an almost interpretative way that made it impossible to find the actual entrance.
(This is not it:)

You know what a snap-happy thing I am. I took quite a lot of photos of the art, but I’ll just show you a few.

We were a little silly and posed with the art, which became creepy when I was posing as the girl in the painting above and sticking my bum out, and an old man wanted me to pose again so he could take a photo.

We ran away.

I think this is Rodin.

Toulouse-Lautrec.
These below are by Cezanne and Armand Guillaumin. The second copied by the first, and displayed side by side in the museum. 
Spot the difference:

The owl. A.K.A. the only cool piece of art that Picasso ever made.

Ok, I only took a photo of this guy because he looks like he belongs in some sort of BBC period drama. I can totally envision him in uniform staring angstily across the room at his soon-to-be lady love but currently-‘it’s complicated’ relationship. And I can totally envision Ashlee, Ella, Claire and I drooling over him in this role.

And this family just looks bad-ass. Also the father looks a bit like Hugh Laurie, which is always a bonus.

The next floor contained more modern art, one section of which contained rather beautiful maps of, for examples, rivers flowing into the Amazon:

But it also contained art that was just lists of words- from what we understood the artist would go on long walks (the art was usually captioned with 1450 km, 17 days or something), and write down his keyword thoughts on the way.

Which was a bit boring. You can probably skip this part unless you’re really into trying to find meaning when there isn’t any. Or maybe I didn’t try hard enough.
When we got to the end of the exhibition, there was a woman from the museum who kept saying Karte, which means ticket, but also, rather confusingly, map. Naturally, I thought she wanted to see our tickets, and it took several minutes before we all understood that she was excited by how much Andy’s T-Shirt looked like one of the maps. 
So she took us back to the map, and we posed, and then she asked why we were visiting and we just said we wanted to see the art and that seemed to be the wrong answer and then there was more confusion and we all smiled rather awkwardly at eachother.

We went down the stairs with anti-police propaganda flying over our heads, and into the land of modern video art.

Which contained one of the most horrific, grating pieces of art you can see. You went into a closed room, and were surrounded on all walls by the spinning head of a man, which was also seen of the many TVs placed in the room. The man was screaming ‘feed/eat me/Anthropology’ or ‘Help me/hurt me/Sociology’, all overlapping so you couldn’t really make it out.

If you want to experience this for yourself, go here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyiZD4Q3Mdk&hd=1
but don’t forget to turn up your volume to max before you click the link for the full horrific experience.

A lot of the other video art felt kind of unoriginal to me, and seemed to be trying too hard to be deep: a grown woman telling of how she discovered her sexuality too young (and with older men), and then dancing around her living room for 5 minutes to show them that she is beautiful; a woman who test-filmed an alcoholic for a documentary only to have her die, and then to show the 1 minute of test film in slow-mo while the alcoholic’s sister talked of her life.

There was however, one film which showed a whole set of chain reactions- mostly involving fire or soap and liquid and ice- the sort of thing you try to do with dominos as a kid, but so much better and so much more explosive. Andy and I watched it for at least 10 minutes, and I’m pretty sure Andy would have stayed all day if allowed. It also reminded us of one of our pyromaniac friends: we’re pretty sure Owen would have loved it (although maybe more ‘doing it’ than just ‘watching it’).

After some well-deserved food, and a quick check-in with the triathlon that was going on that weekend, we headed to the botanical gardens.

One of these amazing flowers that only comes out every 10 years or something ridiculous.

Andy humoured me by being a dinosaur.

The land of Hamburgers

It’s raining again in Potsdam, which means it’s time to for some reminiscing, holiday-sun-fun style.

So let’s rewind a month back, to a magical time when the sun was high in the sky, Andy’s folks were visiting, and we all headed Nor-west to Hamburg.

I rode in on the ICE train late Thursday evening, and began my exploration with ‘the Wizza Gang’ (who had been in Hamburg since Wednesday) the next morning.

Actually, the Folks decided to head up to Luebeck- the famous home of the Marzipan, while Andy and I got to know the city with another Walking tour.

Let’s take a look ’round Hamburg shall we?

 
 

I travelled to Hamburg with Lauren and Ashlee back in ’09, but mainly with the purpose of visiting my cousins, and only for a couple of days. I remember walking along the water edge, going to markets, shopping for chocolate, and lots and lots of earmuffed seagulls.

But, with the exception of the Nikolai Church, I didn’t remember much about the physical appearance of the city.

Let’s be honest, I’m not great with physical landmarks anyway- but in my defense, it was winter last time- and the changes between the seasons are so extreme here that if they came any more rapidly I wouldn’t be able to recognise the street of my own apartment from one month to the next.

Our guide took us past Chile Haus, dedicated to the country- but strangely adorned with polar bears.

I guess they match the penguins.

The whole thing is rather spectacularly shaped like a ship- Hamburgians have a bit of a ship fetish from what we could tell, but I guess that makes sense with their rich (fiscally) past involving the sea, plus, according to wiki, the fact that they are still the second largest port in Europe.
 

What is important to mention that it is not shaped like Chile the country, despite how much Andy tried to convince the guide.

We also walked by the building formerly occupied by the company that made Zyklon B. Originally made as a pesticide, it was later used by the Nazis to gas its victims in the Holocaust. The company was found to have removed the warning smell from Zyklon B, and thus were found guilty of playing a deliberate role in the deaths.

The building is no longer occupied by the same company, but carries a memorial plaque to the victims nonetheless.

We journeyed onwards, to Nikolai church, the church I remember as a MontyPythonesque ‘burned down, fell over and then sank into the swamp’ project. In reality I think it only burned down and got bombed into the swamp, but one has to question whether such ‘acts of God’ were actually some sort of message.

 
Of course, as with all German structures, it comes complete with memorials.

We travelled on, where Andy found, and fell in love with, this water fountain

 
As you can probably guess, the cylinders rotate and bubble, making a rather pretty little clockwork show. Because of the motion, and the heat generated, it is the only fountain in the world to still operate when the temperature drops to minus 30.

If you travel down a secret pathway…



 
 
…you come to a ‘water courtyard’, enclosed by houses…
 


…some of which look suspiciously Dutch.

 

The building to the right is, if I remember correctly, the original burning point of the Great Fire of 1842- which raged for 4 days, took out Nikolai church, killed 51 people and left about 20,000 homeless.

We fled for some more water, to the new Harbourside town…

… where our guide coerced a few of the guidees to reenact the story of Klaus Störtebeker.

He was originally hired to cut off the Danish supply lines during one of the many Danish-Swedish tiffs, but so enjoyed the piracy that he decided to make a career out of it.

When captured, he is said to have offered a chain of gold long enough to wrap around Hamburg in exchange for his freedom, and then, when this was denied, he asked that as many of his men be spared as he could walk past after his head had been chopped off.

Apparently he walked quite well for a headless man, and was only stopped by the executioner (tripping him, or- as we were told- throwing the executioners block over him). All the men were killed despite his efforts, and when the senate asked the executioner if he was tired, and he replied that he could ‘easily execute all the senate as well’, the finished his life off too.

When we finished the tour, we wandered along the harbor, where we met up with some of those gulls I remember so well form last time, and ate some Nordsee FishandChips.

 

Andy wanted to go and check out the Reeperbahn- Hamburg’s very own red-light district, so, as he promised he wasn’t into the sex and drugs and just wanted to check out the rock ‘n’ roll, we headed over.

The Beatles statues are Beatlesplatz were honestly a bit disappointing- although Andy tried to make the most of it:

And then we saw this beauty.

 

 
 

As we were walking through a park, Andy mentioned the presence of a rather large man in the vicinity. I will admit that my expectations did not really prepare me for the awesomeness of

THE. BISMARK. MONUMENT.

Can you even find Andy in the picture?

We walked past more buildings that look like boats, and then popped into an up a church.

 
 

It’s pretty impressive when a church comes complete with its own halo.

Incidentally, the church has an opshop very close buy, which has (had- I bought them all) some rather wonderful things.

We met up with Andy’s parents for way too much dinner, and then took a ferry around the harbor.

I rather love these shipping cranes. They remind me of Fremantle, and make me think of dinosaurs.



Potsdamer Schlössernacht

Once a year Sanssouci opens its gates at night, and, surrounded by musicians, actors, and period costumed extras, visitors can explore the beautifully light palaces and glowing gardens.

I saw it as a nice excuse to dress up in a new frock (although it turned out that I was the only one not wearing jeans and practical shoes- I still have some assimilating to go).

Andy saw it as an excuse to show off his wonderful new moustache:

It was a lovely setting. We arrived just after 7pm, and wandered through the paths, occasionally passing a random flautist or violinist, or stumbling upon a gathering watching some sort of German period drama:

This fellow was very ‘Let them eat cake’ (French and Saunders comedy on the french revolution- if you haven’t seen it you very much should. Slightly lowbrow, but excessively hilarious).

Of course, you probably shouldn’t go if you’re not into ancient palaces silhouetted against swirling skies, or catching the last drops of sunlight.

In addition to the Artists and their art, the gardens were littered with the little ‘christmas market-y’ food tents that I love.

At the start I was a little disappointed there wasn’t anything ‘posher’- I’m thinking wine and cheese and delicate little canapes- the sort of thing befitting a royal palace.

But after discussing it in depth with Andy and only coming up with ‘very small potatoes’ and ‘artfully placed cabbage’ as potentials for the German version of hors d’oeuvres, we decided to be quite content with our cheese covered bretzels.

Being the nerdy planties that we are, we spent quite a bit of time in the botanic gardens…

… and were very happy to find an Aussie section, with eucalypts, bottle brushes, banksias…

(not that Andy’s face is really portraying the happiness)

And bougainvillea. Although this might actually be from Brazil. But as our second home in Perth- The Swamp Shack – is absolutely covered in the stuff, it always reminds me of Australia.

 Did I mention there were people in costumes?

 I’m seriously contemplating buying one of those wigs. I see it as more of an ‘investment’ than an actual purchase.

 As the light dropped, the park became more and more beautiful.

We stopped outside the picture gallery to watch the end of a play, that involved women disguised as men in pantaloons, a lot of prancing (to live music), and repeated mention of the word ‘ghost’. My guess had something to do with the main man being ‘unfaithful’ and the women springing him. Andy interpreted it as a ‘Christmas Carol-esque’ thing with ‘ghosts of girlfriends past. Which shows you how terrible our German still is.

But you know, all great art is open to interpretation from the masses.

Do you like my jacket?

It feels period appropriate, but I’m sure one or two of you will be able to tell me that it’s actually from the wrong period.

My natural crazy-cat-lady genes allowed me to find this little fellow, who was intent on watching (and occasionally pouncing on and eating) the larger of the bugs attracted to the lights.

And then we moved on to the ‘Chinese Tea House’. I think I’ve featured this before, although in the ‘cold light of day’, and mentioned that, with the exception of the memorial plaque to Fredrick the Great that’s always completely covered in potatoes, it’s probably my favourite thing about the park.

It’s amazingly over the top, and decorated in a ‘I can’t believe it isn’t Asian way’, with statues clearly designed by that same guy who did the lions at Trafalgar square or those fellows who made all the old tapestries.

You know the ones, where the lions look a lot more like dogs, and it’s immediately evident that the artist has never seen anything more closely related to a lion than a house cat?

The tea house takes a similar approach to the Orient.

But doesn’t it look lovely all lit up?

Moving on we encountered one of the many ‘talking trees’ of the path- who would explain in an appropriately pompous voice, what they are, where they come from, and why they’re so unique- medicinal properties and the like.

I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember this fine young fellow’s name, but I’m going to assume it was Oscar.

Does this look familiar to any of the Plant biologists?

Think C3-C4 plants….

It’s Cleome spinosa!

We finished our massive loop of the gardens at the New Palace, arriving just before the fireworks began.

Which was spectacular. The fireworks were all perfectly timed with the classical music that boomed out over the crowds.

It was like watching Fantasia in real life.

Copenhagen IV

I was a bit lazy with the photo-taking on my last day in Copenhagen.

Please forgive me.

This rather stunning spiral building is Vor Freslers Kirke/Our Saviour’s Church. We heard about it a bit on the walking tour, when our guide mentioned that generally, towers like this were designed to have a left handed spiral.

This purpose of the ‘chirality’ being to give a right handed castle-dweller an advantage in defence of his home, against other right handed, sword-holding attackers, who might be trying to come up the spiral.

Easier to hack at steel and flesh when you’ve got a bit of air for the swinging.

The story, as told by our guide, is that the architect built it wrong, and then, as some sort of self-imposed punishment, threw himself from the top.

Sound a bit far fetched?

It gets outright ridiculous-sounding if you actually make your way to the top of the 90m building: the whole spiral just kind of… peeters out.

No doors leading inside, no ledge, no flag post.

No nice little icecream prize for being a good girl and climbing all the way up.

The stairs wrapping around the building just wrap tighter and disappear.

 Odd.

So what do you think?
a) truth
b) lie
c) I’ve watched too much QI and I’m afraid that either answer is going to make the alarm go off.

The internet tells me: lie.

The architect died in his bed seven years later. Although the writer of that article also suggested that right-handed twisting is good so that the ‘left hand rests on the railing’ while you do your hacking.
Huh.

Despite having forgotten our swords in the armory, the three Wiszniewskis and I took the many stairs, through pokey stairways that often seemed closer to tree house ladders than deliberate and permanent architectural features, to the very top of the tower.

The view was terrific, making Church-Climbing a Compulsory Challenge for Copenhagen!

But it was also terrifically terrifying. It was windy, and after Andy mentioned it I kept on imagining that the building was swaying. Plus there were waaaay too many people trying to shove past, and the golden railing felt very, very low.

We also checked out the church itself. For me, the most impressive things were the elephants guarding the doors.

That may say more about me than the church though…

While we were clinging madly to the sides of the church spire, we momentarily co-clung with a fellow Australian- an artist who was visiting the city for a few months, and she happened to mention in detail the glory that was Christiania.

Which just happened to be our main sight for the sight-seeing of the day.

Christiania is basically a massive commune, occupying, according to Wiki, 34 Ha, and containing 850 residents. They’ve ‘separated themselves’ from the city, and have a certain ‘special status’ as far as some legal issues go, although the reality of what this means is apparently (still) being debated 40 plus years after its foundation.

And the reason law enters into it is that Christiania is very pro-marijuana. They’re anti- hard drugs, anti- violence and weapons, and fairly anti- ownership (of cars in particular). But if you go there, you go to see the ‘green light district’ where large piles of Cannabis, in all its incarnations, are displayed for sale.

Which is why I don’t have any photos. Marijuana being illegal in Copenhagen and all, the sellers are not so keen to have their photos taken. And like the Red-light district of Amsterdam, people who try to take photos in the Green light district apparently get their photos broken.

I’m going to be honest: I found the whole thing boring and tacky. Maybe if I was more into the drugs?
But it was just all a big capitalist tourist trap. They had deliberately kitsch ‘markets’, selling exactly the items you’d expect: Bob Marley hats, South American ‘alpaca’ sweaters, Tibetan prayer flags… and so on.
I found it totally boring that they had just stolen everyone else’s symbols in an attempt to be ‘totally spiritual man’. 
I found it tacky that a commune that was supposed to be separating itself from the crap of society, was so clearly running on the cash of stupid rich tourists. 
Although I guess in saying that I’m assuming that part of their mission is to be ‘above capitalism’, but really, from our visit we have little evidence of that. As Andy mentioned later, it would have been nice to see a museum of some sort- read about their mission statement, hear about their founding fathers. See if there was more to the town than it’s shiny, ugly exterior.
The surrounding houses were nice, in the way they had let the trees grow over and everything ‘run down’ a bit, but the rest… I could just as easily leave it.

Which we did, partially because we had an ice-cream mission.

Our friend Joram had, very conveniently for us, been to Copenhagen just a few weeks before our visit, and being a man of fine taste, had marked out a few ‘must try’ places.

Sicilliansk Is.

Delicious icecream? Tick.
Nice little hipster Copenhagen boy behind the counter? Tick.

I went with my standard chocolate, plus the ‘butter milk’-ish flavour, which is apparently based on a Danish dessert, and a Sanddorn flavour, which I got because I had no idea exactly what Sanddorn was.

I’m still not exactly sure- but you should googleimage it just to check out the awesome berries these things make.

Next stop: Assistens Cemetery. The final resting place of Hans Christian Anderson (as if you didn’t know his name would pop up again sooner or later). Also of Neils Bohr, and a whole lot of other famous people who we didn’t know.

It was definitely a beautiful place- maybe not as ‘ethereal’ as the one we saw with Ashleigh, but still enough to think ‘hmm, I still would rather be charred and sprinkled, but I kinda get this whole in-the-ground-for-the-worms-to-eat thing’.

I seem to have stopped photographing at that point. We had a bit more of a walk around the studenty area of Copenhagen (Norrebro)- which turned out to have many op shops and many interesting looking stores. 
Of course, with the exception of one (which I ducked into and came out of with a hat), all of them were closed for the day by the time we arrived. So we’ll have to go back to Copenhagen for a shopping spree. Actually, Norrebro seemed to be a very interesting area- Joram described it as Kreuzberg-ish, and I regret that we didn’t get to spend more time there, and really do think that we’ll have to make another visit.

I had to catch the plane home that night, so we had an early dinner at a burger bar, possibly brining my burger total up to three in the four days I spent in Copenhagen. (I miss good burgers. Germans don’t understand the concept of proper burger bun bread, and their beef is terrible! Someone post me a Missy Moo Blue Cow?).

After our weekend, I’m seriously shocked that more young Aussies don’t go to Copenhagen as part of their traditional ‘eurotripping’. I know Rome, Paris, London etc are more classic, but Copenhagen has ample culture (although I barely got a chance to dip my toes in), beautiful parks to visit, and seems to have lovely urban jungle areas that are just good for the wild roaming. The prices are a bit steep compared to the rest of Europe, but seem ultimately pretty comparable to Perth as far as food and short-term accommodation go.

Seriously- check it out!

Copenhagen III

The horrible realisation hit us on the morning of the third day in Copenhagen:

We’d been in Denmark for 40 hours, and not eaten a single danish!

Luckily, this was a situation that could be easily rectified: we rushed to our local Lagkagehuset (a bakery chain that produces goods above and beyond what you’d expect for something of its ilk), where I scoffed down a cinnamon pastry, and a truly delicious chocolate rye ball.*

*we managed to discover that the rye balls will last several days without any major changes to their composition. So if anyone’s in Denmark and wants to post me a few…

Our plans for the day were somewhat grand- we were taking a train to the north, where we would visit Hamlet’s Castle at Helsingor. Then we would ride across the ‘sea’ to Sweden, have a look around, travel back down the Swedish coast and train across the Swedish-Danish bridge.
Coming from Australia, where our borders are pretty well defined, I found the whole ‘ferry to another country’ rather amusing. But more on that later.
This is in the north, but it’s not the castle.
Europeans sure know how to do their train stations in style.

The city was smaller and ‘quainter’ that I’d expected- although part of that was due to it being a Sunday- most things were closed, but at least not ‘German closed’. When we arrived we realised that the sunny ‘Copenhagen weather’ of the day before clearly didn’t apply to Helsingor. So we rushed into the nearest store and bought the warmest woolliest tights we could find, and (I) shamelessly put them on in the middle of the street.

That super fancy modern building in the background is actually a library- one of the most beautiful, alluring, functional libraries I’ve ever seen.
Let’s take a peak inside:
The ground floor had a reception, and a cafe area, with extremely artsy chairs, perhaps not the most pleasing for those with a delicate bum.
But the first floor was just amazing. It was all of the children and young adult stuff. They had this capsule reading room, giant hippos to sit on, and tons of wonderful places for kids to lounge around.
Plus these:

The first and second floors had the adult sections, with all the books you can imagine, plus magazines and newspapers, reading nooks, a stunning view over the harbour and this:

 Do you remember Funny Face? I’m pretending to be Hepburn. Except that I’m actually pulling a ‘funny face’ because I put the camera on timer, and about two seconds before it went off someone walked in front of me trying to work out why the girl was clinging to the ladder posing and aiming a pose at a bookshelf.

Speaking of posing:

 They also had their own version of the little mermaid. Perhaps they thought it was sexist that a woman was getting all the attention back in Copenhagen?

We headed to the castle, keeping an eye out for William.
The history of the place is quite amazing, even if you’re not that into Shakespeare. 
Through the positioning of this castle, and a twin on the other side of the sea in what is now Sweden, the Danish kings were able to control passage of all ships into the Baltic sea. Initially they charged a fee per ship, but then realised they could charge a percentage of the worth of the goods, and the money started rolling in. Of course, the ship owners at first tried to massively undervalue their cargo, but they soon found that if they tried that, the king would buy their goods for the lower price, and then on-sell it, keeping the profit for himself. 
This all ended when an American ship refused to pay for passage, but they had a pretty good run of it. And the wealth is reflected in the castle halls, but also in the tails of great feasts lasting for weeks, with eating of too much food, and the respective disgustingness of having to rapidly rid oneself of the food. 
One of these actions involved the top end, and an Ostrich feather used to tickle the throat. 
The other required lots of hay.

I’ll be honest, hearing about the parties was enough to make me claustrophobic. Plus the stories were coupled to ‘fairytales’ of the 30-40 year old king, and his blissful marriage to a 14 year old (who of course, for the purpose of the tourists, was very much in love with him, so you know, that totally makes the statutory rape ok).

Of course it would be rude to the memory of our beloved Bill to not make at least something of the location:

ALAS!
Who do you think is the most convincing?
We took an energising piece of cake and made an executive decision to sail for greener pastures. 
The ferry was like a tiny shopping mall, with food court, duty free shop and supermarket. I guess because the alcohol is more regulated in Sweden than Denmark, everyone was taking their chance to buy cartons of Carlsberg before they got off. 

All up the trip took about 20 minutes. Which, as I’ve mentioned before, is ridiculous. When we were on the walking tour we heard about a man who was working for the resistance in Denmark during the war (II). To get the information to the right people he had to get out of Denmark. The first time he practically made a working plane from scraps. The second time, he waited until it was a bit chilly, and walked across the sea to Sweden.

Having taken the ferry, I find the story somewhat more believable.

Although, it should be noted that you ARE going into another country: 

We had a bit of a wander around Helsingor’s sister city, Helsingborg.

… And then, seeing as we were now in Sweden, we feasted on open sandwiches.

This next shot is for my father, who keeps making comments about Andy’s ‘stunned bunny’ look in photos.
Happy?

We then took the train down to Malmo- which roughly lines up with Copenhagen latitudinally.

After dinner in Sweden, we took the train over the bridge back to Denmark. This, say it with me now, is clearly ridiculous! 

While discussing this with a German at work, she noted that near her birthplace, you can stand on the spot that marks the corner of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

It is now my singular life goal to go to there!

Check out how hip these Swedish underground stations are. There is one drawback though: