Berlin – December 23, 2013

Before I start this entry, I want to warn you.  I just discovered Pixlr Express.  It’s a free online photo editing / collage making program.  This is going to be fun.  I’m going to play around with it in this blog entry.  You have been warned.

Mr. MM and I were staying at our family’s house in Zehlendorf while my mom, sister, and a couple family friends rented a flat nearby.  The quaint German house where they rented deserved a ‘vintage’ filter …

House with rental flats.

House with rental flats.

Most of our daily adventures started with either the bus or the S-Bahn from the Zehlendorf station into Berlin Mitte.  As you’ll soon conclude, I love photographing graffiti.  And so it started on the S-Bahn platform that morning.

Views of the Zehlendorf S-Bahn station.

Views of the Zehlendorf S-Bahn station.

Arriving in Alexanderplatz, the first thing we saw was a large Christmas market sprawling over the plaza northeast of the train station.  I absolutely loved all the Chtistmas markets even though you tend to see the same sorts of tchotchke being sold.

Alexanderplatz Markt.

Alexanderplatz Christmas Markt.

When I travel, I buy souvenirs that are items I’ve been looking for instead of the typical t-shirts, snow globes, etc.  This way, the item comes home with the story of the travels attached.  I’ve been in the market for a incense smoker but wanted one that could be used throughout the year … so no St. Nicholas for me.  With so many to choose from, it was tough to choose just one.

My mom and sister just couldn’t pass up the Berlin Buletten (Berlin-style hamburgers).  They were particularly good at this stall in the market.  They were given the stamp of approval from mom.

Remember that we were in the former ‘East’ so street trams abound and the communist-era buildings are an eyesore.  But Germany has done an amazing job at brining the ‘East’ up to western standards in regards to conservation/restoration of its historic buildings, infrastructure, and general capitalist expectations.

Onwards to the Marienkirche (St. Mary’s church) completed in the 14th century.  Thanks to Martin Luther, many of the churches we visited in Berlin are Protestant.  This Gothic beauty is no exception.  Carved from alabaster, the pulpit beautifully decorated with bas-reliefs of John the Baptist and personifications of Faith, Hope, and Love.

L: Pulpit. R: Marienkirche & Fernsehturm (Television Tower).

L: Pulpit. R: Marienkirche & Fernsehturm (Television Tower).

Much to Mr. MM’s dismay, we stumbled upon another Christmas market in a plaza between the Fernsehturm and the Rotes Rathaus.  We managed to herd the cats and proceed to the nearby Nikolaiviertel.  This district was completely destroyed in June 1944 and was rebuilt by the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) / GDR (German Democratic Republic) in the early 1980’s to re-create some of the old heart of Berlin on the site of the city’s medieval core.  It is a mix of exact replicas of historic buildings and overly stylized ‘old Berlin’ buildings.  It might be a bit hokey but it’s a welcome architectural break from the GDR’s typical method of leveling an area and building a enormous concrete edifice.  Unfortunately, the streets were empty except for us tourists.

Around 2 pm we were ready for a late lunch.  One thing I love about traveling with Mr. MM is that he always has marked up maps locating various beer bars/restaurants.  This day was no exception.  Zum Nussbaum, a pub dating from the 16th century, was a favorite watering hole for Berlin artists when it was located on the other side of the Spree.  It was destroyed during WWII.  We ate lunch in its Nikolaiviertel replica.  Which is a faithful copy, including the walnut tree in the tiny front garden.  Traditional German food and a decent beer selection.  Sister and I split a Wiener Schnitzel (complete with egg on top) and I had a nice hefeweizen.

Nikolaikirche bell tower.  Vignettes from the Nikolaiviertel.

Nikolaikirche bell tower. Vignettes from the Nikolaiviertel.

After lunch, we followed Propststrasse past the side of the Nikolaikirche all the way down to the River Spree.  There a statue of St. George and the Dragon met us.  The plan was to follow the River Spree around toward the Hackescher Markt so we could see Museum Island from this side of the river.  That plan was foiled due to a huge infrastructure project and construction fencing.

We eventually found our way to the Hackescher Markt train station and caught an S-Bahn toward ‘home’.  Wanting an afternoon cup of coffee, we mistakenly got off at Potsdamer Platz.

A little Potsdamer Platz history.  Prior to WWII it was one of Europe’s busiest plazas but the during the final battle for Berlin in 1945, Potsdamer Platz was bombed into a mountain of rubble.  It became a vast open space in the shadow of the Berlin Wall where tourists would climb up to high observation platforms to look over the Wall.  After the fall of the Wall, development started and in 1992 Potsdamer Platz was the largest construction site in Europe with $25 billion having been invested.

We didn’t realize that unless we wanted to go to Starbucks, there’s not much to be had.   Well, at least the evening brightened when we went to dinner at a family friend’s house.  Home cooked Indian food.  Stuffed and content surrounded by family and friends.

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Berlin – December 22, 2013

Took the bus from our family’s house in Zehlendorf to the Kurfurstendamm (known locally as the Ku’damm) where Mr. MM and I went exploring while the family went shopping.

Zoo Station.

Zoo Station.

Walked past Zoo Station on our way to the Museum of Photography.  Helmut Newton’s foundation occupies the first two floors of the building and hosts a permanent exhibition:  Helmut Newton’s Private Property.  The exhibit was good.

Entrance hall at the Museum of Photography.

We then walked around the south side of the Zoologischer Garten.  The brick walls around the Garten displayed a menagerie in brick relief.

Rhinoceros.

Rhinoceros.

We walked along the Landwehrkanal to our next destination, the Bauhaus-Archiv.

Stairs to the water.

Stairs to the water.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen mistletoe ‘in the wild’.  Very cool.

Mistletoe!

Mistletoe!

The Bauhaus-Archiv is a must see for any architect visiting Berlin.  It was lovely to see Ludwig Mies van  der Rohe’s design for the 1921 Friedrichstrasse skyscraper competition.  I’m a huge collage fan so seeing the actual layering of the existing site photo and Mies’s design drawing was exciting.  The juxtaposition of the existing buildings with the stark glass and steel building must have been shocking for Berliners at that time.

Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper Photomontage.

Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper proposal.

Now it was time to meet the family at KaDeWe (Kaufhaus Des Westens). Over 645,000 square feet of shopping!  It is the second largest department store in Europe next to Harrod’s.  What makes KaDeWe so special is that the 6th floor is where they have 30 counters selling everything form cheese to champagne.  There are four distinct champagne bars alone.  My favorite counter sells bratwurst (served with the most perfect brotchen … crispy on the outside and doughy on the inside) and Franziskaner to wash it down.  What more could a girl want?  Every visit to KaDeWe during our stay in Berlin found the 6th floor packed to the gills.  There was no way I could take a photo of the 6th floor offerings that would do the place justice.  See the half circle window on the Ku’damm side?  The lower six windows is where we camped out Christmas Eve (more on that in a later post).

KaDeWe.

KaDeWe.

Full from our brats and beer, we jump in the car and made our way to the Weihnachtsmarkt at Schloss Charlottenburg (the Christmas market at the Charlottenburg castle).  This is the big one, kids!  About 250 vendors … lots of food and alcohol.  The sun had set and it was time to warm up with Gluhwein (mulled wine).  My photos just don’t do the market justice so I found these two which I feel captures the essence.

Christmas market at Schloss Charlottenburg.

Christmas market at Schloss Charlottenburg.

Detail of the main alley in the market.

Detail of the main alley in the market.

Time to make our way home for that last round of schnapps …

Repurpose: Christmas Tree Skirt Alternative

Whenever I need something for a utilitarian (or not so utilitarian) purpose, I first think ‘repurpose’.  What have I bought at a flea market that I can use or what can I buy at a flea market and use?  I like objects that come with baggage … history’s patina … a story.

Our 1910 twin is a cluster of smallish rooms.  The first Christmas season posed a question … real tree or fake?  I do love a real tree but our living room is pretty tight.  During a trip to Target I spotted the perfect tree for our living room:  a 7′ tall pre-lit slim balsam fir tree.  Slim being the key word.  Nature is not familiar with slim when it comes to Christmas trees.

After a few years of covering the hideous metal base with a traditional tree skirt, I was in the market for an alternative.  Where do I go to look for inspiration?  Pinterest, of course.

I settled on the idea of using a galvanized tub as an alternative tree skirt.  But a vintage tub would feel better than a new one. I found the perfect one on Craigslist for $25.  A Nesco galvanized tub that was used by the owner’s parents for apple bobbing when she was a kid.  Baggage … patina … story.

Vintage Nesco.

Vintage Nesco.

Although the tub is 24″ in diameter, the tree base was too big.  Issue resolved:

Bricks.

Bricks.

Bricks placed in the bottom of the tub to raise the tree base to an elevation that works.

Tree assembled in the tub, canvas drop cloth added to the tub, ornaments placed, and we’re ready for Christmas.

A Manayunk Mod Christmas.

A Manayunk Mod Christmas.

We’re adding to the baggage / patina / story.

Blues …

Feeling a bit melancholy today.  Could it be the weather … this endless winter?  Could it be from reading about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s selfish departure?

Recently, a friend and I were talking about “Four Weddings and a Funeral”.  In particular we were trying to remember the lines from “Funeral Blues” by W H Auden.  I know exactly how devastating it is for Matthew to lose Gareth by his choice of this poem:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Gareth and Matthew

Gareth and Matthew

Junk Box

That’s what Mr. MM calls the indoor flea market I drag him to during the winter months.  I refer to this bi-monthly flea market as methadone to my flea market addiction.  Held in a warehouse building at 9th and Spring Garden, it hosts about 50 vendors.  Decent assortment of vintage goods.  Nothing to go out of your way for but desperate winter months call for desperate measures.

Yesterday a vendor was selling printing blocks three for $5.  That’s a good deal.  He had a nice collection and I brought these three home with us.

Three printing blocks.

Three printing blocks.

The bottom left block is 1″ x 1″ — for scale.  I particularly like the text on that one:  Loyalty Mercy Humanity.  A quick Google search of that ‘motto’:

Volunteer Medical Service Corps (VMSC).  In 1944 the VMSC moved from a paramilitary organization to one devoted to emergency medical care.

According to their website:  The insignia of the Corps was designed by Dr. Boston, assisted by Mr. Herbert Ruthrauff, Sr. an artist. The VMSC crest is a white shield superimposed on a caduceus, the wings and heads of the serpents extending above the top of the shield and the bottom of the staff the tails of the serpents below the shield. The shield is edged with blue and gold, the colors of the state of PA. It is divided into three fields by a green chevron with its point upward, green being the color for marking medical installations, for instance, the broad green stripe around hospital ships. In the upper left field is a gold Maltese Cross, in the upper right a Fleur-de-Lis, the insignia of scouting and placed as a tribute to the Boy Scouts of America. In the lower field is the Geneva Red Cross. This was changed in 2001 due to “Copyright” laws with the American Red Cross. The crest now bears a Gold cross in the bottom field. Across the bottom of the crest is a scroll with the motto of the VMSC in gold letters, “Loyalty, Mercy, and Humanity”.