Friday, January 3, 2014

The Berlin wall

The of the remaining sections of the wall has been turned into a open-air art gallery; basically they've had different artists create pieces using a bit of the wall as their canvas, with some spectacular results. It is slightly disappointing that many of the best have had graffiti over them- while I am actually a fan of most street art, I think it's rude to cover over somebody else's work, and it should be criminal when they do it over really good pieces! However, it is what it is, and here are some pictures.

Christmas markets (a few weeks late!)

The girls are ready for their gluhwein photo!

Finally all ready for our gluhwein in a hut picture!!!
Sorry for the long posting gap folks, life got a bit busy, as it is wont to do in fits and bursts.

Long story short, these days I'm a bit of an nomadic snail, bumming around Europe until early January, at which point I leave to be a nomadic snail in New Zealand for a couple of months, then I'll probably resume my life of frantically rushing from one location to the next at the drop of a hat.
Is  that really what it looks like? Yes, yes it is. Somebody knitted for a tree.

It's not that I haven't been busy seeing lots of places recently, I have, just that I was so busy frantically rushing about that I didn't get a chance to gather my thoughts (or pictures) together coherently. Most recently I have been (back) in Germany for a holiday- Berlin for a few days (another post altogether) and the Christmas markets around the Frankfurt region. I have an easy afternoon today, just sitting on a coach from Frankfurt (where I left my Christmas market holiday friends) to Cologne, where I will meet up with an old school friend who I haven't seen in about nine years, aside from one day earlier this week! And aside from running about Germany, I've also been doing work related things like conferences, and talking and networking and generally schmoozing.  

Anyhow, lets get on to the Christmas markets, because they are well worth knowing about! Christmas is rather a big deal in Germany, it would seem. Every town has Christmas markets to some extent I am told, but some are bigger and better than others. Big towns have numerous ones, they were all over the place in Berlin!

There were lots of exciting things in the Christmas markets, in particular Gluhwein, mulled wine to warm you up while you stroll the cobbled alleys between stalls examining all manner of Christmas decorations, from hand-carved hanging tree decorations to free-standing, highly decorated glass candle-holders and munching on deep-fried potato. It's amazing how many different ways there are to deep fry potatoes, I had no idea! Surely the most versatile food sources to ever exist! It's actually hard to capture the atmosphere of the Christmas markets with words, and the pictures quite assuredly don't do it justice at all. For starters you can't taste the sugar-coated almonds or chocolate-dipped bananas (yes, it's a bit of a sugar overload, particularly for me, I seem to be getting more sensitive to it by the day!), or watch your breath coming out in little steamy puffs while you get into the Christmas spirit. I was rather captivated by the Christmas ornaments though, they're just endless in variation, it's really quite impressive. I have declared that if I ever do something so boring and grown up as owning a house, then I will surely be coming back to Germany to deck it out for Christmas! I do like Christmas.

A mystery musical instrument!
Two of our party with markets in the background.

Berlin- a city under construction

Berlin definitely warrants a post of its own, it was quite an amazing place. S2 and I both really want to go back. We arrived early morning on a Tuesday, and left again Thursday afternoon, so we didn't have much time, and there is a lot to see in Berlin. Decidedly more than two days worth. Frankfurt barely manages one day's worth, IMO, but we were really just using it as a base to head out of town to the regional markets anyway. Berlin, on the other hand, was fascinating.

Berlin train station is an enormous construction of glass and steel, and by far the largest station I 've ever encountered!

I liked this sculpture on our first day in Berlin.
TV tower- an omniprescent sight
What made Berlin so good to visit is hard to say, but if I had to sum it up in one word, I would say it was the vibe. It's a happening sort of place. The arts scene is clearly thriving very well, they're very well known for the clubbing, techno in particular I think, and with a slogan of 'poor but sexy' they've obviously got some egoistic humour to balance out the hard-core party crowd. The history is obviously fascinating, how many cities have been chopped up into fragments and governed by foreigners for a few decades before being reunited and told to get along with things?

  A large menorah stands tall in front of the Brandenburg Tor, together dominating Pariser Platz.

It really is interesting to notice that you can really see which bits used to be West and which were East Berlin. Just a glance at the nearest building is usually a give-away, the architecture is quite visibly very different, and I'm no expert. The whole place feels like a city under construction, there are cranes dominating the skyline in almost every direction, half the streets are pulled up or blocked off for new tram lines or metro stations, and the only empty buildings you see look like they play host to some wicked gigs on a fairly regular basis. Basically Berlin is just pretty damn awesome. 'Nuff said!

A taste of the wall- I found this a rather witty comment on humanity and the walls we create.