Brückenschläge und Schlagworte

Schlagwort: metropolis

My Happy Place – Tempelhof Airport

It is the week of the Berlin Tourism Fair ITB again, and just like last year, I felt like I should share some valuable information on things to see in my home of choice. A lot of travel bloggers will come to town for this, and I do hope that some of the visitors will make time to see Berlin – ideally beyond Brandenburg Gate and the (admittedly amazing) East Side Gallery.

Last year I indulged in the history that this city has to offer. The place I am bringing to you today, the airfield of the closed down Tempelhof airport, is one that I have wanted to write about for a long time. Only I never quite knew how, because it is special to me in a way that probably no other place in Berlin is.

Grass and Sky, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyWhen I was in Berlin apartment hunting just before I moved here, I got of the metro at what is now my stop, and made a turn to the left from the big street. It was February, and bitter cold had a lock on Berlin. At the end of the street I had turned on, I saw – nothing. Not a house, not a tree, it was as thought the street led right up to a hole. I had no idea what that might be and I was early for the meeting with the property manager who was supposed to show me what is now my flat. So I went down the street and to see what the great nothing was. This is approximately what I found.

View of airport building, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyWidth. Air. Freshness. A horizon that wasn’t limited by the nearest skyscarper or even just three storey building. In the distance the old airport terminals can be seen – built under the Nazis, they are impressive, functional, and of their own estranging fascist aesthetics that one is compelled to dislike, but can’t help finding impressive. I looked across the great barren field and  knew that I desperately wanted the flat that was so close to it. And I got it. The field is now basically my backyard.

View, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyWhen you walk either one of the two airstrips and you look North, you have a beautiful view that includes the old radio tower with its funny looking white ball on top, you see the TV tower in the distance, church towers, and one of my personal favourites, the two minarettes of the mosque that is close by at Columbiadamm (and that has a beautiful small cemetery worth checking out!). Maybe it is the Northern German gal inside of me that feels drawn to this place. I am just in love with being able to see that far while no mountain, not even a hill disrupts the view.

Kites, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyOn a clear summer’s day, when there is wind on the field, you can see people doing all kind of kite sports. Not just the kite skaters in this picture – there are people on windsurfing  skateboards, or just people flying stuntkites. The sky is completely bestrewn with kites of all colours, shapes and sizes, and there is wooshing noises as you walk past. I especially love the skaters with the traction kites. They make amazing stunts and fly several meters high, pulling themselves up in the air with their skates attached to their feet, only to land on the airstrip again and be drawn by windpower with amazing speed across the concrete desert.

Kite Skater, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyI love to come to the field on weekends for a walk or just to sit somewhere, in some remote corner, or even inmidst of everything, and think. It is amazing that even on a day when the field is packed with people, you will always find a way to feel as though you were the only person there, because people scatter. When there is only wind and the wide sky, my thoughts can run free and I can find peace.

View of airport building, Tempelhof, Berlin, GermanyOn the East Side, there is a Guerilla Gardening Project. On the North Side there is a minigolf course made out of trash and a baseball field. On the South and West Sides there is virtually nothing. The airstrips stretch out betwen the West and the East, and walking them always feels a bit like that slow motion scene in Armageddon.

The most indescribable thing is the field in winter, just before they close it for the night (because you cannot enter at night as to prevent vandalism). If you walk on there just before closing time, you will be completely alone on a 355 hectar area before long. The moon will hide behind clouds, and the air will be pregnant with humidity. It will set on your clothes like a cover. You will feel cold and damp and very alone. And alive like you have hardly ever felt before. At least that is how I experience it. I usually start singing. Loudly, desperately against the noises of the wind and the emptiness. The city is glowing at the margins of the field, and I am all by myself, fighting the demons of my thoughts, bowing to the good spirits inside of me. No picture can bring across the atmosphere of those moments.

My favourite time of the day on the field though is, without a doubt, dusk. There aren’t just the special weekend walks or the long reading sessions, not just the people watching or all the funny little interim arrangements that can be found there. The most intimate moments on the field are the ones I have every day when I come home from work from early Spring through late fall. I used to have a cigarette on the field before I went home. Now I just sit and watch the sun set. The sky is so wide, the colours so intense, and I feel so at home in this big, crazy moloch of a city.

photo 5

No, I never quite knew how to write all of this down so far. I always figured that I needed to go there just one more time to get that one special anecdote, or take that one beautiful picture. But then again there will always be another perfect moment, another extraordinary experience on the field, and yet I will never be able to describe it sufficiently in all its width, greatness and beauty.

Galata Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey

Today, I thought about which bridge I might write about in my Sunday post for quite a while, and digging through my archive I didn’t really come across anything. That is partially due to the fact that ever since I started using my new camera (so much love for my Sony NEX 3n!!), my old photos look crappy. But then I came across this. And I cannot even believe I haven’t used it yet when it makes my heart sing songs that no earthly words can possibly describe.

Galata Bridge, Istanbul, TurkeyThis is Galata Bridge, in Turkish: Galata Köprüsü, in Istanbul. This is the bridge that connects the two sides of the Haliç, the Golden Horn, connecting the districts of Karaköy and Eminönü. Tourists often get confused standing on one side of the bridge thinking that on the other side they see Asia. This is not the case – the Golden Horn is an inlet of the Bosphorus, stretching into Europe, and the bridge connects two European parts of the city.

Being on this Bridge, the Bridge of the Golden Horn, is very hard for me to put into words. I don’t know what it is about Istanbul that caught my heart so forcefully. The fishermen that cast their lines from behind the bridge’s bannisters. The smell of salt water. The sound of waves, ships, seagulls, and of so many people all around you.

The first day I ever spent in Istanbul, I got there early in the morning on a night bus and, before checking in with my couchsurfing host, had breakfast in one of the touristy restaurants under the bridge. It was simple, fresh, overpriced, but delicious. And I felt my heartbeat accustom to the city’s pulse. It didn’t take long until it was in sync. And when I returned to the city, it was the same feeling right away. Istanbul has placed a kiss on my soul, and I have never been the same person ever since.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Early Morning Rome – The Colours of the Eternal City

Four years ago, in 2009, I spent four days in the Eternal City with the family I had lived with in the US for a year when I was 16. It was simply an amazing city trip. My host father had organized tours of all the major sights, we had all the delicious food (oh! the gelato!!) and the weather was perfect. What meant by far the most to me, however, was having time with my second family. Even though I only spent a fraction of my life with them, they do feel like my dad, my mom, and my little sisters. I am blessed to have not one, but two families in this world who I love and who support me so much.

In the light of this, I was soaking up the company of the people I love and don’t nearly see often enough so much that my heart couldn’t even take in all of Rome. On my last day, my host family left around 6 am to catch their plane. I got up with them and decided to re-visit the places we had been to during the last few days, but this time in the early morning hours – without the masses of tourists and the burning August heat of the day.

Rome, ItalyThe light of dawn slowly turning into day accompanied me on my walk from Vatican City, via Piazza Navona with its beautiful renaissance fountains, to the Piazza della Rotonda with the Pantheon. The colours were simultaneously intense and almost muted – a weird twilight state, hard to describe. I took many opportunities to just sit down anywhere – on the pavement, if need be – and just note down my thoughts in my journal. I will quote from it below.

Vatican City Walls, Rome, ItalyI have a thing for inscriptions, or any kind of writing on the wall (pun absolutely intended). I call them word sights.  This one is a quote from the Bible in the Vatican City wall. How could religion not be omnipresent where Vatican City is? I was thrilled to remember my Latin well enough to understand it right away. This is Psalm 91, 11 – „For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.“ I was grateful that this inscription made me feel protected in this moment, because just a second earlier I had felt a tiny pang of loneliness after the last few days that had been spent in constant company.  St Peter's, Rome / Vatican, ItalyVatican City was incredible at 7 in the morning. I remember sitting and looking at the ginormous basilica for a very long time, marvelling in the light effects the sun created. My journal says:

I am sitting in St Peter’s Square, the place that impressed me so deeply when I set foot in it for the first time on Saturday. It still reverberates in me – the presence of an unearthly power. Is it Love? Is it Beauty? Is it God? Does it really matter what we call it?

I pondered deeply on religion sitting there, and the difference between faith, religion and the church. I won’t bore you with all my babble on it. But I do think that no matter if you believe or not, no matter if you even care about religion, no matter your confession – having seen Vatican City will make you see things about it that you haven’t seen before.

Rome, ItalyOn I went through the sometimes small and narrow, sometimes broader streets. One thing I regret is not having taken any pictures of bridges across the Tiber river – but I wasn’t the Bridgekeeper back then. All the more reason for me to go back, I am sure. I reached Piazza Navona still deeply in thoughts.

Piazza Navona, Rome, ItalyThe beauty of the Renaissance fountains was so perfect, so aesthetically impeccable that it was hard for me to believe it was not some kind of trick. The enormous dimensions of everything in this city extended to the beauty. It was unreal. Next to me street musicians played jazz classics in a group of a cello, a guitar, an accordion and a saxophone. Their style turned everything slightly latino-pop, and it added greatly to the relaxed morning atmosphere. Piazza della Rotonda, Rome, ItalyMy last stop before I had to make my way to the airport to fly back to Germany was Piazza della Rotonda where I took a look at the Pantheon. I loved the deep orange and red colours of the houses in the square. They contrasted harshly with the white marble of the Pantheon – The temple for all the Gods, as the name tells us. An ancient Roman temple converted into a church.

CIMG3135My journal says:

Beautiful and horrible: How vehemently Christianity takes possession of everything. Beautiful, because it creates an impressive case of interculturality. Horrible, because the Christian church thus makes a claim for power that might be deeply un-Christian.

Such were the ways that Rome inspired me to think. How is it that philosophising seems to come to me more easily when I am surrounded by beauty? In that sense, Rome made it very easy for me. I think I shall return, sleep during the day, and roam the streets between midnight and early morning every day.

Five Reasons Chicago Became My Favourite US City

As of lately, if you don’t have a great interest in Chicago, you haven’t had much to read on my blog. Now I still have many posts to write about the „Second City“ of the US, but I don’t want to bore you and instead keep diversion on my blog. Because of this, I am going to mix it up a little again in the future. I have some great posts in store. Nonetheless, I feel like my Chicago-adventures deserve an all-embracing post that rounds it all up for now. So today I will tell you the five reasons why Chicago quickly stole my heart and became my favourite city of all the ones that I have visited in the US.

1. Walkability and Public Transport

The L, Chicago, IllinoisMy most influential US experience, as I have mentioned, has been in El Paso, Texas. In El Paso it is virtually impossible to walk anywhere at all, and I was never allowed to use public transport for my hostmum’s fear of someone mugging me or the likes. In Chicago, not only are the sidewalks, but with the cta, Chicago Transit Authority, there is a magnificent system of metros (called the L, short for ELevated) and busses that will make every part of the city easily accessible. Convenient day-, three-day- and seven-day-passes make it a joy to move about the city. Apart from that, a lot of the stations on the L show the charms of days long past with their wooden platforms and cast-iron banisters.

Banisters at L stop Western (Blue Line), Chicago, Illinois Chicago is easily accessible in the most convenient, healthy and environment friendly ways. What’s not to love.

2. Architecture

Skyline, Chicago, IllinoisMy readers know that I am a fan of the medieval red brick beauty of Northern European Hanseatic cities. But Chicago has shown to me what urban beauty in a large metropolis can truly mean. Skyscrapers don’t have to be glass boxes without creative form or shape. They come in neo gothic, neo classicist, and in round, triangular, and square shapes in all creative combinations. I might not want to live on the 57th floor of any given building, but those skyscrapers are sure impressive. And they can be, I think I have mentioned it before, funnily reminiscent of social realist architecture in Eastern Europe.

Magnificent Mile, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has opened my eyes to a new artform – modern architecture. Thank you!

3. The Greenery

Lincoln Park Lily Pond, Chicago, IllinoisChicago has a seemingly infinite number of parks. It starts by the great ones downtown, Grant Park and Lincoln Park, that stretch along the entire coastline of Lake Michigan, and continues in uncountable small neighbourhood parks in every part of town. A lot of them have lagoons that add a freshness and wideness to the urbanity you find downtown. They are lively places where people from different communities seem to come together to have a good time, and people watching is a wonderful pastime here.

Humboldt Park, Chicago, IllinoisChicago is not only loud and crazy in its urbanity, but it provides spaces of retreat in its midst.

4. Shopping

Coffee and Tea Exchange, Chicago, IllinoisDon’t get me wrong, I am definitely not the girl who goes abroad to shop. In all honesty, I don’t even like shopping very much at home, and it is beyond me why someone would spend precious time in a foreign place with an activity as tedious as running through shops that look the same in all the Western world anyway. But… when there’s shops like in Chicago, it is different. There are unique places like the above Coffee and Tea Exchange that feels like what in German would be called a Kolonialwarenladen – one of the general shops of yore that would mainly sell items from the colonies. And there is an amazing vintage shop culture for ANYthing – clothes, records, and of course, books!

Myopic Bookstore, Chicago, IllinoisChicago puts the atmosphere, the individuality and the fun back into shopping for me. I haven’t had this much fun browsing through items in a long time.

5. The Lake

Lake Michigan Marina, Wilmette, IllinoisFinally, Chicago’s biggest selling point to a water girl like me is bound to be Lake Michigan. Being from Hamburg, I appreciate water in a city more than anything. Being at the shore of a river, a lake or an ocean clears my head and makes me happy. Usually I wouldn’t have thought that a lake would really do it for me – too static. But Lake Michigan is different because it feels like the sea. Its colours change between a Baltic grey and a Mediterranean bright blue, it has angry big waves and quiet glassy clear days. If you get out of the immediate city, you will come across beaches that are well worth a holiday.

Lake Michigan, Wilmette, IllinoisI appreciate Chicago’s urbanity, its excitement and all the convenience that it has to offer. But the beauty of it is that it doesn’t only offer that, but also the opportunity to easily get away from it all and feel yourself in nature. It seems that the city has it all.

What about you? Have you ever been to Chicago? Does it seem like somewhere you would want to go? Have you got a favourite city in the US?

Introduction to Chicago – Urban Beauty

My first few days in Chicago have exposed me to a myriad of impressions, even though I have taken it rather easy. I have about ten pieces outlined in my head that I could write, and I’m not sure where to start. Because it seems most natural, I will try and take you by the hand to walk you through my own first impressions of this exciting and beautiful city – because this much is sure: I like Chicago very much.

Avondale, Chicago

When I get to Avondale where my friend Jesse lives, I am surprised at the suburban, peaceful character of the streets and the low-rise buildings. It doesn’t feel like the third-biggest city in this huge country. I get my first taste of overstrain when we go grocery shopping. So many products, and so many brands, and so many choices, and everything is so unfamiliar. Later, in Jesse’s kitchen, I remark how both the stove and the fridge are much bigger than I am used to them being, and he says: „Everything is bigger in America.“ I remember that that is what they say. But I had forgotten about it.

City Hall, Loop, Chicago

It is my first full day, and I take the L, which is the local metro, downtown. I get off the Blue Line at Washington, and as I ascend the narrow stairs from the subway into daylight, high street canyons open up above me and I know immediately that this will be more what I envisioned Chicago to be like. On the plaza I land on, there is a large modern sculpture that I find out is an original Picasso and depicts a sphinx.

Picasso's Sphinx, Loop, Chicago

The buildings around are of eclectic shapes and forms, just one thing they have in common: They are all very high. Steel and metal are used as much as different stones, and there is modernism as well as neo-versions of architectural styles of centuries long gone. In this square alone I could linger for a long time. But I move on, on toward the elevated rails on which the silver L trains shoot along, past shops and stores, on to Michigan Avenue.

As I step out of the shade of Washington Street and before me the busy avenue opens up to show the greenery of Millenium Park on ist other side, my heart grows wide. I enter the park to find Lourie Garden where I dangle my feet in the water of the small creek and enjoy the relative quiet in the midst of the big city.

Lourie Garden, Millenium Park, Loop, Chicago

I can still hear Michigan Avenue with ist cars and buses, the occasional sirens of a police car or fire brigade, and the general hustle and bustle of urban business. But the noise is faint, the wooden planks I am sitting on are warm with sunlight, and when I turn around to see the impressive skyscrapers, I feel that this is as good as urbanity gets. It is still a little overwhelming to me, but then again this is my first day i Chicago, and already I have experienced true beauty. What a blessing.

Trump Tower, Loop, Chicago

Everybody’s Darlings – and Why I Don’t Usually Like Them

I will now talk about places I have travelled to and did not actually like that much. This is something that doesn’t often happen on travel blogs, as Andrew recently pointed out to me. His words were something like: „Everybody always writes about places they like. No one ever says: ‚Don’t go there, it was horrible!‘ That can’t possibly be true.“ He’s got a point. Now I won’t tell you not to go anywhere, because everyone has to decide for themselves. But when you hear which places I do not like, you won’t believe me anyway.

There are these places in Europe everyone loves. When you mention them on a twitter chat, or at a hostel, or on your facebook page, or just randomly over dinner with travel-loving friends, the reaction will always be along the lines of: „Aaaah, I LOVED [insert place here]. It is so lovely in [insert season here]. I could totally live there, especially in [insert trendy neighbourhood in said city]. There is a place on [insert famous street here] that serves THE best [insert local food here].“

I have a confession to make: These places are usually the ones I am not so keen on.

Oberbaumbrücke, Berlin, Germany

Berlin sure is everybody’s darling, eh? I’m not debating this one.

Of course there is exceptions. After all, the city I live in, Berlin, tends to be in the list of said places. So do a couple of places that I have never been to, such as Paris, Barcelona, or Venice. While I do want to see these places at some point in my life, I am not all too fussed about them right now. I am sure they will be nice and all, but I’m just not feeling a great passionate urge to see them very soon. Because in the past, Everybody’s Darlings have not necessarily worked for me.

This especially goes for the three I am about to discuss now. I can already hear everyone screaming „Sacrilege!“ and „Impossible!“ and „How could she!“ Ah well. Please disabuse me of my notions in the comments. Here go the places in Europe that everyone seems to love except for me.

1. Prague, Czech Republic

There, I said it. I am not a huge fan of Prague. As is usually the case with things like these, I suppose the circumstances weren’t entirely in my favour. I went there as a weekend trip from my voluntary service in Poland with five other international volunteers. I was heartbroken at the time for several reasons and while I liked the group, I didn’t truly connect with the others as much as they did with each other, and they set much focus on the consumption of loads of beer while I wanted to see the city. Also the weather was quite chilly and grey that March of 2007.

Prague Astronomical Clock, Prague, Czech Republic

People dream of seeing the Prague Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square. I was semi-impressed.

While all that made it difficult to enjoy being in the moment, I found the famous Old Town Square to be ridiculously overcrowded and the famous clock to fall short of my expectations. I also noticed I should have done more research – relying on my travel buddies had not been a good plan because they basically just wanted to go from beer to beer. Generally for some reason I couldn’t hear the music in my heart that I had expected to.

I think Prague was overladen with expectations from my side that it could not live up to. Because of that, this one is probably at least partially my fault. I am willing to give Prague another chance. It’s just not very high up my list right now.

Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic

Prague Castle is an admired and cherished place for many travellers.

2. Dubrovnik, Croatia

For most travellers who have been to Croatia, Dubrovnik has been one of their highlights. For me it was different. The first couple of times I went to Croatia, I didn’t even make it down there. I had planned on seeing it on my great trip through the Balkans and was always sidetracked by other places that struck me as more interesting – Bosnia, Montenegro, or even just the smaller places along the Dalmatian coast. I finally went to Dubrovnik on my way to the island of Korcula and stayed there for three days in late August 2011.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

You think this is gorgeous? So do most people.

Bad circumstances to add to my dislike in this case: It was unbearbly hot. I had been travelling for 10 days and hadn’t found back into the rhythm of it, I probably should have started out with just some chill-time. And then I got ill and spend a considerable portion of my stay there between my hostel bed and the bathroom.

But all these things aside, there were many things about Dubrovnik that just weren’t down my alley. For one thing, I found it ridiculously overpriced by comparison to what else I knew of Croatia, and have been around that country rather much. I also found the street vendors to be particularly aggressive. There was a moment of peace when I stood in the market and smelled the lavender that people were selling. At once I was pressed from three men in English and Italian to buy some – and the moment was over. No one spoke Croatian, and in general I didn’t see why people were so much more taken with the small alleyways and red roof tops here than in any other Dalmatian town, like Makarska for example – I had visited that in the midst of high season and totally crowded, but I still liked it loads better than Dubrovnik. I think Dubrovnik doesn’t live up to the beauty other Croatian towns have to offer. It is overrated.

Alleyway, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Cute alleyways in Dubrovnik – but hey, not any better or worse than those in Sibenik, Makarska, or Zadar.

3. Vienna, Austria

The last one on my list of only-okay travel destinations everyone else loves is the Austrian capital. I have been there twice each for a couple of days and while I suspect that if I hung out around more locals, I could have seen a different side of it, it all comes down to this: Vienna is too pristine for me.

Karlskirche, Vienna, Austria

Karlskirche is beautiful, sure – but I just feel it could be anywhere.

There are not even really any bad circumstances to this phenomenon – no connected bad memories of an emotional kind, no sickness, no weather issues. Vienna just doesn’t speak to me. It has this specific kind of beautiful that seems to me like the majority of the girls on Germany’s Next Top Model. Pretty on the outside, hollow on the inside. No edge, no character. Just this very neat, preppy, clean appearance. I never quite got behind it.

Now what probably didn’t help was that I had fallen in love with Krakow before I met Vienna. Now that Polish little sister of Vienna has the same Austro-Hungarian architecture and coffee house culture, the same turn-of-the-century morbidity and grand artistic tradition – but it is just ever so slightly more run down and truly old. I find it to be authentic. In Vienna I always feel like I wasn’t pretty enough. In Krakow I can be myself, out of style or out of fashion, and still love the city’s beauty and originality. Vienna is like a living room out of a magazine – pretty to look at, but who wants to live in the constant fear of spilling red wine on the white couch cushions. Against Krakow, it was bound to lose in my book.

Schloss Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria

Schönbrunn in Vienna – a fairytale kind of palace. I find it too clean.

I think all of this just proves how much about travel and discovery is about the chemistry between the traveller and the place, and how very much it is like falling in love. Some places – as some men – are perfect. But they’re just not for you.

What do you think? Do you disagree with me on my picks? Are there any places everyone loves that you don’t see anything in at all?