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Tag: urban (page 1 of 4)

Vondelpark Bridge in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Bridges are awesome not least because you can come across them virtually anywhere – as majestic architectural masterpieces in large cities or as randomly strewn about planks across a creek somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  Vondelpark, Amsterdam, Netherlands

This small bridge in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark combines the aesthetic striving for perfection of culture with the beautiful surroundings of nature. Of course it’s not entirely natural, it’s still part of a park and as such quite domesticated. Nonetheless places like these are really important for a big city. They are green little retreat spaces that make you forget about urban noise and agitation.

When I was small I had a children’s book about Claude Monet called „Linnea in Monet’s Garden“. If you have children (or just love children’s books…) look it up, it’s really cute. When I came across this bridge, I felt instantly reminded of Monet’s pictures as I remembered them from the book. It’s really almost as if it was taken out of an impressionist painting.

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!

Blauwbrug in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

My summer travel destination was chosen mainly for the fact that it promised to hold many, many, many bridges. And man, did it deliver!

Blauwbrug, Amsterdam, NetherlandsAmsterdam was, of course, never going to disappoint me, the fangirl of water, of rivers and canals, and of bridges. I’m afraid my Bridges on Sundays series will contain Amsterdam pictures for a long long time to come. Bear with me. I’m starting you off with one of the prettiest though.

The Blauwbrug, or Blue Bridge, is a late 19th century architectural marvel across the Amstel river. It is thus not one of the many canal bridges. The Amstel river is much wider than the average Amsterdam gracht, and thus allows for a more elaborate bridge structure. Elegant looking young business people were crossing the Blauwbrug in the drizzling rain. In its majestic grandeur the bridge differed from the more laid-back, relaxed and proverbial liberal side of the Dutch capital. I took to its beauty nonetheless. Especially since, when standing on it, you had the next gorgeous bridge in eyesight. But I’ll leave more on the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) for another day.

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!

Šeher Ćehaja Bridge in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Hercegovina

My life has been rich and colourful lately, even without me travelling much (at least not internationally). I do have some exciting plans for the summer, but as of now I am revelling in the quiet excitement I find in routine. And yet every now and then I dream myself away. Away to countries that hold my heart. Away to my most recent adventure – away to Bosnia.

Seher Cehajina Bridge, Sarajevo, Bosnia & HercegovinaThe first bridge in Sarajevo across the Miljacka River that comes to mind is certainly the Latin Bridge – especially in the year of the one hundredth anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand which happened just around the corner from the pretty little Ottoman bridge. I must say, though, that I almost prefer the one in the picture above – Šeher-Ćehajina ćuprija. „Ćuprija“, by the way, is a Turkish loan word in Bosnian and means bridge (when standard Croation or Serbian would be „most“). I love the word in all its intercultural richness.

I couldn’t find out what the name of the bridge refers to or much about its history. I just know how beautiful it is to look at when you sit on a bench next to the river on a hot day in early June, eating Burek and, for desert, strawberries that are so sweet you wonder what people actually need candy for. I know how I felt looking at the city hall, to the left in the photo, which was still a brown grey-ish burnt out ruin when I last visited the city and is now restored to its old beauty (even though it can’t be entered yet). I know how full of giddy anticipation I was when I crossed it with a small crowd of people to go for dinner in the Sarajevo Brewery; and also how well-fed, deeply content and happy I was when I returned from that dinner. What can I say. It is a good place.

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!

Moltke Bridge in Berlin, Germany

Like probably every decent traveller, I love airports and I love train stations. Berlin has one of the biggest train stations in Europe, and when you exit toward the Spree river and walk towards the water, this view is your reward: Moltkebrücke, Berlin, GermanyWhen I’ve spent a weekend away inside of Germany, I often take an early morning train back to Berlin and walk from the main station to my work. I could public transport instead of walking. But I love arriving in Berlin and being welcomed by the river, the bridges, even the government buildings you see in the background of the picture. This is also part of the pulsating, thriving capital I love, even far away from cool hipster neighbourhoods like Kreuzberg and Neukölln.

The bridge in the picture is called Moltkebrücke. Helmuth von Moltke was chief of staff of the Prussian army in the late 19th century. The bridge certainly shows Prussian grandeur with its red sandstone structure and its delicate ornaments. If you google it, you will find pictures of it with the old Lehrter Bahnhof in the background – the beautiful historicist train station that once stood in the place of what is now the modern, steel and glass main station. Berlin, a palimpsest made up of different time layers – if only you want to see them.

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!

The Things I Love About Poland – Part I

My self-imposed focus when it comes to travel and thus, to writing (since most of the time one means the other for me) is Eastern Europe. How that came about is a long story. But one part in it is certain: that it all starts – and possibly ends – with Poland.

I would be lying if I said I had always had a fascination for that part of the world. When asked on a study trip in high school, I distinctly remember saying: „What in the WORLD would I want to see in POLAND?!?!?“ I went to Greece instead, which was nice. But it is no Poland.

Pasym, Poland

Pasym, a beautiful small town in the Mazury Lake District

How did my love affair with Poland come about then? In college I needed a second major adding to the one I had always known I wanted to get – German literature. I chose Polish. One of the questions I must have been asked most in my life is certainly: „Why Polish???“ – usually asked with an undertone of utter disbelief. Well, it was a mixture of random reasons, but really, most of it was gut feeling. And the older I get, the more I believe that this is a better reason for decisions than most others.

From then on, it all just added up. Poland and I are, in a way, meant to be. I’ve come to love it more and more. And here is why.

1. The Cities

Poland’s cities are special. They are different from the cities I have seen elsewhere – they are beautiful and ugly, and full of atmosphere and history. And they are very different from one another. That is best displayed in contrasting Warsaw and Cracow – without feeding on the rivalry between the two. They compliment each other in the best possible way – Warsaw is grey, progressive, and full of hipster culture and modern art. Cracow is traditional, conservative, and insanely pretty.

Palace of Culture, Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw’s Palace of Culture – a gift from Stalin to the country and an impressive example of socialist architecture

Sukiennice, Cracow, Poland

Cracow’s main market square, the largest medieval square of its kind in Europe, with the beautiful Sukiennice (Cloth Hall)

Travelling in Poland, one should obviously not neglect the other urban gems, though. Wrocław might be the most accessible city for foreigners, and it somewhat combines the best of the two previously mentioned cities. Gdańsk has the added selling point that it is right by the Baltic Sea and, as an old hanseatic port city, has a tradition of being very open-minded and down-to-earth. Poznań may have the prettiest market square I have ever been to. And I haven’t even been to Łódź or Lublin. Indulge!

Market Square, Poznan, Poland

Poznan’s beautiful market square

2. The Sense of History

When travelling in Poland, it is impossible to miss the active memory culture that the country has. Memorials are all around. For a history freak like me, that is just plainly wonderful. Poles generally know their country’s history much better than Germans from my experience. They are aware of their country’s proud past as a mighty kingdom in the middle ages, and their painful loss of territory which forced them to exist as a nation without a country between 1795 and 1918. They have been in an unfortunate geographical position in the 20th century, wedged between the Germans and the Russians, and it has shaped their identity. They have fought for their culture time and time again, and they are proud of it while still being critical of it. And they know that it is important to remember the past.

Shipyards, Gdansk, Poland

Memorial to the victims of the strikes in the Gdansk shipyards in 1970. Most of the fight against the socialist regime was yet to come. The memorial was one of the early achievements of the Solidarnosc movement that contributed significantly to the downfall of socialism in Europe.

3. The Hospitality

None of the above would mean a lot if it wasn’t brought to me by the most hospitable, caring, genuinely kind and wonderful people. If for a woman the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, for a country the way to my heart is through its people. Hospitality in Poland is of dimensions that were unknown to me before I came there. They are so much less distrustful than Germans are. Don’t be surprised if you ask someone for directions and they walk you to your destinations. Don’t be surprised either if they invite you to their home for dinner – and don’t say no. I’m getting to the food in the follow-up post! In short, it is easy to make friends in Poland – and you will want to make friends there if you want to truly see through the more complicated dimensions of the country’s history and culture and get to taste the truly amazing vodka.

Friends, Grudziadz, Poland

My friends Agnieszka and Karol are among my favourite people in the world. I met them in Gdansk, but this was when Karol took us on a roadtrip to visit his hometown Grudziadz.

4. The Language

Ah, that singsong sound of the Polish language with all the freaky consonants and a few nasal vowels. That grammar that drove me up the wall when I learned it, but is capable of expressing things so precisely, so uniquely, most of all so differently from German. The germanisms like wihajster, literally whatshisname and used for any random thing you can’t find a name for; and the anglicisms with their weird spelling that turns manager into menedżer.

I have been learning Polish for ten years, I cursed it and loved it, and was always pretty sure I’d never actually be able to speak it. But I’m getting there, one tongue twisting hell at a time, and loving every step of the way.

Signs in Gdansk, Poland

German – Polish – English. How I love it when translations come out all weird and funny as they do in this German sign outside a ramshackle building. It sounds as though the building was a person, verbally threatening to cripple or kill the visitor.

5. The Music

When learning a language as twisted as Polish, music is of huge help. I know about half my Polish vocabulary from song lyrics – singing along, trying to understand what’s going on, sometimes actually translating the lyrics at home at my desk. Over the years I have been in touch with Polish pop, rock, rap, reggae, folk, and basically everything in between. I will just give you a few examples here. The Polish equivalent of the Rolling Stones is the rock band Dżem. Their song „List do M“ was the first Polish song I knew by heart, and it is a beautful and sad rock ballad.

A specific kinf of music I got to know in Poland is Klezmer. It is a Jewish musical tradition, not so big on lyrics, but mainly instrumental, using different instruments to make beautiful, yearning, sighing, swinging music played often at celebrations of any kind. The band Kroke may be the most famous Polish Klezmer band.

My personal favourite is the Polish singer / songwriter tradition that brought forth many wonderful artists I listen to almost every day. It is quite folksy, and if we translated the lyrics, most would run away screaming for they drip with Kitsch – but in Polish, they somehow work. There is a tradition called Poezja śpiewana, Sung Poetry, that is especially well known for its poetic song lyrics. Jacek Kaczmarski, whose most famous song „Mury“ I put here for you, is a bit of a special case. His songs are much more political, and he is often referred top as the Barde of the Solidarność, the trade union and political movement that brought down socialism in Poland.

If you find I am missing things, rest assured that I will probably mention them in my follow up post on more things I love about Poland. It will discuss the landscapes, the food (and the vodka…), the literature, the beauty of Polish swearwords, and the incomparable Polish sense of humour.

Have you been to Poland? What do you love about the country? Or was there anything you didn’t like at all?

Bridge in Leipzig, Germany

Last year, I wrote a bridge post about a bridge in Stuttgart where I met up with three friends from grad school. We are making this meet-up an annual thing, and this year it took us to Leipzig.

Bridge, Leipzig, GermanyJust like last year, the weekend with the girls left me inspired, grateful, and all in all fulfilled. I have never had a stable group of „my girls“ that has accompanied me through me entire life. Funnily enough, the girls and I didn’t even hang out all the time when we were studying, and we are not the kinds who speak on the phone every week. But out meetings have come to be something I look forward to all year.

The bridge metaphor I used on last year’s post still holds true – we are crossing through stages of our lives together, and once a year we meet and discuss what is going on, how we see the world, what is on our minds. We are alike enough to understand each other, but different enough to learn from each one’s perspective. On my way home to Berlin, I thought: „Well, now we’re going to make new experiences for a year, and next time those experiences will help us explain life to each other, as they do every year.“ I have to say I can’t wait.

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!

Outrageous – Leipzig’s Monument to the Battle of the Nations

There are places in Germany I am dying to see. I love discovering my own country, and there is more than enough to see that I haven’t seen yet, or that I haven’t seen enough of. Leipzig had for a long time been one of the places I felt a strange pull toward, and when I went there for the first time in September for a conference, I knew that it was a city that I would keep coming back to. If only for the famous Monument to the Battle of the Nations, which I hadn’t managed to see.

When my three girlfriends from grad school and I decided that our annual meet-up would be held in Leipzig this year, I claimed a visit to the Monument at once. I mean, who wouldn’t want to visit a place with such an impressive name? Especially being the history geek that I am. So my girls and I left our pretty airbnb apartment one morning for a nice one hour walk from the centre to the site.

Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyI realize most non-Germans won’t have heard of the place, so let me give you some background. The Völkerschlachtdenkmal on the outskirts of Leipzig commemorates the Battle of the Nations which was fought in 1813 by Prussians, Austrians, Swedes and Russians against Napoleon. The very abridge version of history is that after the French revlution, Napoleon went a bit ahead of himself and started to try and conquer all of Europe. In the Battle of the Nations, he was beaten and in 1814 forced into exile on Elba. There was a comeback and another battle, at Waterloo, that broke his power for good in 1815. After this Europe was re-organized in the Congress of Vienna.

When walking up to the monument, one realizes at once that it is supposed to architecturally mirror the immense impact of the battle, which was to remain the greatest battle in history until World War I. The monument was opened in 1913, for the one hundredth anniversary of the battle, which explains its expressionistic style. It looks like a massive mausoleum, or, as my friend pointed out, an ancient temple of the Inka. Everything about it is huge. Materialized outrage.Relief at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyThe entrance is guarded by a relief of archangel Michael, and above his head the words „Gott mit uns“, God with us, are chiselled into the stone. To the sides, more elaborate carvings decorate the walls. Eagles, storming fighters, but also the fallen dead can be seen in the decor. Overly stylized, all the figures scream visions of power and victory. It is not exactly pretty. But it is impressive for sure. And that is the sole purpose of this kind of art.

Two of my friends stayed to enjoy the sun, while one of them came with me to enter the monument and climb to its top. Entrance is a whopping 6€ (4€ for students), but I just had to see the insides for myself.

Ruhmeshalle Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyThe first level you get to inside the monument is the Crypt. Eight guards of the dead stand watch here as the light falls through the glass stained windows and the cupola. The light only emphasises the expressionist character of the statues. They are massive. But when you look up to the next storey, you can already see that yet more outrageous figures await.

Bravery Allegory at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, Germany

Bravery

Fertility Allegory at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, Germany

Fertility

The second storey is called the Hall of Fame, and the four statues here are 31 feet tall. They represent „Germanic virtues“ – bravery, fertility, sacrifice and faith.

My mum had told me about these, and she always mentioned that what most impressed her were the feet of the statues. When I saw for myself, I understood what she meant. Standing next to one of the statues, even just looking at a foot would make you feel dwarfed, minimized. It was strange for me to not be able to shake the feeling that it was so intentionally done. I did feel dwarfed, but at the same time my intellect wanted to push aside that feeling that was forced upon me. I could feel myself being manipulated into feeling awed.

Foot of Allegory of Sacrifice statue at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, Germany

Feet of the statue representing Sacrifice. The second, smaller pair of feet belongs to the dead child the figure is cradling in their arms.

The glass stained windows gave the hall a church-like atmosphere. Granted, it was designed as a crypt, but it is still estranging to see battle intertwined with the sacral to this degree. In general the monument has a lot of elements that can later be seen in fascist architecture, which I have always had a weird thing for. It fascinates me how political ideology can be formed in stone, and all of this reminded me greatly of projects the Nazis did later. The common denominator is nationalism, of course. German virtues. German power. I shivered under the cold stone and at the notions that I saw represented here and that, knowing history, would turn out so desperately destructive and horrifying.

Windows at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyCloser and closer we got to the cupola which is lined with knights on horses, storming forward. They display ancient Germanic fighters, and the design is supposed to remind of runes from ancient civilizations. I must say it does the job. Yet again it sends a very clear ideological message: The German nation is ancient and traditional, and it has prevailed throughout history. Powerfully so. I think back on how design like this has been used to intimidate people since antiquity. I shiver again.

Cupola at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyFrom yet another balcony, the gallery of singers, you look down, and the massive figures look a lot less significant. Again this displays power structures. The more you lift yourself above things, the more empowered you feel. But is that a good thing? Shouldn’t power consist of recognition of other beings – not of decreasing their position?

View from Gallery of Singers at Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, Germany

Fertility is to the left, Faith to the right

Finally when we made it to the top, a view of Leipzig unfolded itself on this beautiful, but hazy Spring day. Looking over the lake in front, the Lake of Tears, symbolizing grief for the approximately 100,000 killed, wounded or missing soldiers of the battle, the modern, thriving and beautiful city shone in the distance. It was a world away.

View from Völkerschlachtdenkmal, Leipzig, GermanyI am glad I finally got to visit this site. It left me thoughtful, and more aware of how powerfully art can shape thought – visual arts including sculpture and architecture as much as literature or music. It also made me contemplate the concept of manipulation, of inducing awe or fear, and how easily it can be done and abused in the name of any ideology. I can only hope that as human beings, we all strive to be aware of these mechanisms and reflect them carefully before we fall victim to them.

Have you visited memorials or monuments that reflect an ideology? How did they make you feel? Would you still want to visit the Monument of the Battle of the Nations or did my description put you off?

So what is the Deal with East Germany?

When I lived in the States aged 16, I was asked a fair amount of weird questions about Germany. There were mostly the many variants of „Do you have X in Germany?“ [Replace X by anything from electricity to chickens. I am dead serious.] Other than that, the biggest portion of questions was concerned with German history, mostly along the lines of the obligatory „Are you a Nazi?“ I have written about this in my post on German patriotism. Today I want to address a different question I was asked back then which seems a little more unusual. It was „So are you from the good or the bad part?“

As a Northerner I should have replied: „If by the bad part you mean Bavaria, I am from the good part.“ (I am kidding, obviously. Or am I? ;)) But that was not what the question was after. I quickly translated  it in my head to „Are you from the West (good) or the East (bad)?“ Although I think I just replied that I was from Hamburg which is the West, I cringe at the the many things that are wrong with the question to begin with.

A while back I sat with my temporary roommate over breakfast, conversation carried us from topic to topic, and eventually I showed her this youtube video.

It is a song by German singer songwriter Reinhard Mey, someone I have also mentioned before in my patriotism post, and it tells the history of Berlin from 1945 until 1990, finishing with the downfall of the Berlin wall. A West Berliner, Mey sings:

I lived my whole life in half a city.
What do I say now that you give me the other half as well?

My roommate, who grew up in the Southwest, in Stuttgart, and I were both in tears, and she said: „No one ever explained that to us properly. Going to school in Southern Germany you were just never told what a huge deal it was when that wall came down and why.“

Berlin, Germany

A cobblestone strip in the pavement indicates where the Berlin Wall used to be. It runs the entire course of it through the city.

It is true that not even history classes in Germany seem to pay enough attention to this part of German history (at least in my days) – possibly because they are so eager to hammer into the students the fact that the Third Reich was horrible and is never to happen again. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for teaching about that. But I am not enjoying the fact that we teach kids the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the „good“ capitalist part of the country, but not about the German Democratic Republic, the „bad“ socialist part. And don’t even get me started on the fact that in this discussion, the countries are usually opposed not on grounds of their political systems, but the economical ones. It isn’t democracy vs. dictatorship. It is capitalism vs. socialism. And since when is capitalism the best invention since sliced bread? Both countries are one today – but does that mean that the history of only one half of it should be valid?

From my experience, a lot of people in the West don’t know anything about GDR history – neither about the political dimension of it nor about the country’s cultural and social parameters. They think the same way that I thought for most of my life: „That’s all in the past, so let’s just move on.“ I don’t think it’s quite that easy anymore.

When I was 19, I started college in what used to be the GDR. Reunification had happened 13 years previously. I didn’t think the East-West-thing would be any issue whatsoever, to be honest, I didn’t even think about it as a „thing“. Only the ignorance of a Westerner could have allowed me to do that. Because as I met people my own age who were born in the GDR, I realized that in their lives things had actually become different after the political change. And that was the thing: I couldn’t relate to that. Neither in 1989 when the wall came down nor in 1990 when the countries were reunified did I notice anything different. But these new friends of mine remembered a monetary reform. They remembered their first „West toys“. They had parents lose their jobs or, very much less often, find a new, better one. They remembered being disappointed because they weren’t allowed in the socialist Youth organization, the „Free German Youth“ – because it ceased to exist. And they told me how they were nor allowed to sing certain ideologically laden children’s songs anymore and didn’t understand why at the time.

People who are culturally interested ask me sometimes if differences between the East and the West are still noticeable. I think that’s less and less the case, but it’s not as easy as just saying that there aren’t any. Especially people who lived the bigger portion of their lives in the GDR – how could they not be influenced by that? It was a specific culture, a specific system that shaped them, and in today’s Germany, very often there is no acknowledgement, no place for that. The GDR is reduced to a secret police and lack of freedom. But there was more to the country than that – such as a well-functioning social system, or a rich and colourful art scene.

There is a meaningful and symbolic piece of information when it comes to that. The constiution of the Federal Republic of Germany is called the „Basic Law“ – and not the Constitution. This is because after World War II, it was given in the hope that one day, there would be an actual constution that would be valid for a reunified Germany. But when reunification came, there was no new, no mutual constitution. Instead the GDR became subject to the existing Basic Law. This is why some people call the reunification not that, but an annex of the GDR through the Federal Republic.

I may have a specifically emotional relationship to this topic, especially for a Westerner. I would hope that our culture would allow more room for this part of its past. After all, history has made us what we are today. I don’t think it is healthy to push aside vital parts of any organism’s past. Why should it be different for a country than it is for a person?

Admiralsbrücke in Berlin, Germany

Today was one of those beautiful days in early Spring when the air is pregnant with sunshine and the smell of flowers. I took a bike tour along the canal to photograph bridges, and today I am presenting you one that I have been excited about for a long time. I have been in love with it ever since I moved to Berlin. Admiralsbrücke, Berlin, GermanyThis is Admiral’s Bridge in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. From the first time I saw it, I’ve loved its wrought-iron bannisters with the secession ornaments, or the cobblestoned street that leads across it. It has a romantic, old-fashioned feel to it inmidst the rather trendy area – altough one must admit that the people who reside here have come to be more and more settled, as have the restaurants and coffee places.

It isn’t only its architectural beauty that has taken me by storm, though. On a day like today, the bridge is packed with people relaxing in the sun. It is in a traffic-calmed area, so hardly any car ever disturbs groups sitting on the street and relaxing. It will be even more busy once summer hits. In fact there is a 10 pm curfew for parties on the bridge because it is so popular. People go to the nearest „Späti“ – little kiosk places where you can buy tobacco, alcohol and snacks – to get a beer and then just have it sitting outside, on the bridge, leaned against the bollards that calm traffic. It is lively and colourful and relaxed, and it is very much Berlin.

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!

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.

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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.

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