Manuela has been working steadily since moving into her new
home just two years ago on her garden, lawn and landscaping, and has
transformed the blank landscape of a new home, into a colourful ‘French country
garden’, and it looks beautiful.
Freida the Husqvarna robot mower takes good care of keeping the new lawn in shape, working tirelessly, only taking a break every hour or so for a quick recharge before heading right back out. I suggested they rename it, Craig, after our fantastic neighbour, and excellent lawn maintenance man, but Georges likes the idea of a Frieda ‘cutting his grass’ instead of a Craig.
Georges is excellent at commanding a huge army of soldiers
in battle, but Manuela wasn’t so sure about his ability to build a trellis
strong enough to withstand the biting winds of Brittany, and knowing that we
were only in Paris before heading down their way for a visit, suggested to
Georges he could ask Brian for a little help with the construction. If Craig and Roger are reading this, you are
both probably having a good belly laugh right now, thinking back to Brian
building our arbour at home).
By the time we arrived George had the job planned with military precision, even making up a cheat sheet that Brian could use if he needed to go to the hardware store, with all the necessary words in both French and English such as hammer – marteau, to dig – creuser, to drill – percer, concrete – béton, and one he didn’t need any help with, beer – bière.
There was the usual standing, looking and discussing the job site, and Brian mentioned more than once that he usually just calls the concrete pump for his jobs, instead of using a watering can and a bag of concrete.
But soon the job was done, I barely had time between loads to snap a few pics they were so fast and while I tested out Manuela’s new washing machine on our mountain of laundry, the guy’s got the job done,
So now all it needs are some lovely climbing plants, and by the Spring it will be beautiful like the rest of Manuela’s garden.
Our time with the Gautier’s wasn’t all building and laundry though, one night while the boys went to see a Rugby match, Manuela and I went out for lovely dinner at my favourite restaurant in Vannes. We also were invited to attend the 10th-anniversary party at an Organic Farm that was catered by one of the ‘fancy’ restaurants they sell to, delicious food and a live band, and best of all we got to see Sophie, Georges daughter there as well.
Our time with the Gauthier’s always includes a trip to see the ocean, and this particular day a very famous French Sailing Race, the Tour Bretagne Voile was finishing, and we got to see the magnificent yachts up close.
All too soon it was time to say au revoir, but the Loire
Valley beckons us once again.
Stepping into Le Marais is like stepping into history, and you all must know by now how much we enjoy that!
In fact, this is the area we would choose to live if ever given the opportunity to reside in Paris.
Le Marais, located on the Rive Droite (right bank) of the Seine was once a swamp. In the 14th century (after the swamp was dried up), the land was cultivated to grow produce for the abbeys in the surrounding area. Shortly after that Charles V decided he would escape the hustle and bustle and smell of the city and would move from his palace, into one of the newly built hotels, and thus by that, making this district officially a ‘Royal one’.
The Royals lived happily in the Place Royale, (now
called Place des Vosges which is the oldest square in Paris) for a couple of
hundred years until Louis XIV transferred his court to Versailles.
Place des Vosges is the oldest place or square in Paris and was the inspiration for hundreds of squares (it’s where the name came from) around Europe and the first Paris park to be open to the public.
After the Revolution, the area was abandoned by the rich, and the artisans, shopkeepers, immigrants, poorer bohemian types moved in.
Now, this former French aristocratic reserve is a melting pot of Jewish, Chinese and LGBT cultures. Kosher bakeries, noodle joints, and gay bars line its narrow cobbled streets.
Today it’s laneway’s, arcades and little side
streets are home to trendy boutiques, galleries, and chic restaurants, deli’s and
in my humble opinion, some of the best falafel and Yiddish smoked meat
sandwiches this side of Black Sea.
Many a famous person has lived in this lively arrondissement as well. Victor Hugo the author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables (which he wrote while living here) being one. You can visit the museum in his old house for free.
In fact, since the 13th century (so long before the Royals) was home to a huge Jewish population until Hitler came along.
Arts et Métiers, Paris Métro
Opened in 1904 this is one of Paris’ fantastic Metro stations. This Jules Verne/Steampunk inspired station is my favourite Paris station.
The month that we have spent in Paris, (well housesitting in Autouillet 40mins from Paris), has been fantastic. It’s given us the opportunity to go into the city whenever we wanted, to flaneur around its cobbled lanes and streets, watch the world go by while sipping cafe crème on the sidewalk cafes, and best of all, to feel like locals.
We are truly grateful to Wendy and Patrick for entrusting the beautiful La Tonnelle, Fanny, Mona, and the Dove to us for a month.
We have made new friends and hope to see them again one day, maybe even in Australia!
And it’s newly opened Musee Liberation of Paris, which we visited recently in Paris.
The new museum honors key heroes of the French Resistance, Jean Moulin, and Philippe de Hautecloque, (also known as General Leclerc). The new museum displays everyday objects from the time of the occupation, as well as military equipment and documents relating to both resistance fighters and everyday Parisians, and I think is definitely worth visiting if you’re in Paris, and are tiring of looking at magnificent buildings and bridges, triumphal arches, and big metal towers. Or have an interest in history as we do.
The visit to Colonel Rol-Tanguy’s subterranean bunker command post, 20 meters under the new museum was just fascinating.
Descending the 100 long and very steeps steps to reach the former military command post, where for six days in 1944, members of the French Resistance played a pivotal role in the liberation of Paris. It was very hi-tech, wearing ‘Holo-Lens’ goggles you feel you are right there during those pivotal last days of occupation. (No photos in the command post, because of the goggles sorry.)
At the opening the Mayor of Paris said that he hoped the museum would inspire people to continue fighting for democracy, saying that the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan terror attacks showed that freedom was not guaranteed even in Paris.
“Things are never gained forever. Democracy is something you have to actually discuss, protect, and take care of”.
This amazing bookstore is on Paris’s left bank. First opened in 1919 (at another location) it has been a meeting place for many aspiring writers, Hemingway and Joyce to name just two. It’s also the best place to buy English language books, second-hand and antiquarian books in Paris.
It was closed by the Germans during Paris’ occupation and reopened at this current location in 1951, and where they say that more than 30,000 people have slept in the beds tucked between the bookshelves. The store’s motto is “Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise” and just this year now has it’s own cafe right next door.
The Pantheon is one of Brian’s favourite buildings in Paris. Situated in the Latin Quarter, it was originally built as a church dedicated to St Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.
The crypt holds many famous Parisians, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Marie Currie, Simone Veil, and Jean Moulin (who you will find out more about after our trip to the newest museum in Paris in a couple of days).
This is a movie being filmed in the courtyard at the Sorbonne.
I’ve been having trouble with the blog not automatically sending out emails to you all when I publish a new post, that’s why today you may have received a few emails that should have gone out over the past three weeks. So after playing around for hours I still haven’t figured it out, so this is sort of a test with a few pics you hopefully haven’t seen as yet.
Today we decided to leave the peaceful garden in Autouillet and catch the train into Paris.
I love Paris, the Joie de vivre.
Where every road you walk is a work of art, whether a beautiful building, landmark or place of remembrance.
Paris is magical, it just sweeps you up in its delightful entanglements, well it does me.
Paris is a feeling, and I get goosebumps just thinking about this city.
We didn’t really have any particular places in mind to visit today. Just take a nice walk in the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries, sit at a café and people watch, and try and find our friends Jeannette and Mort’s boat that is moored at the Port des Champs des Elysées, anchored on the Right Bank of the Seine in central Paris, steps from attractions like the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre. It’s like living in a postcard, with a view from the deck of the boat of the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Palais.
Sadly, they weren’t there, but in Provence at their house in Ampus, where we housesat for them last year.
It’s easy to fill a day walking around Paris, even with our ‘no plan’ and Metro tickets, we still managed to clock up over 20km. You get very good at the art of ‘flâner (walking/strolling) in Paris.
We had never visited the Rodin Museum when in Paris previously, so we decided that that would be our first stop on our next day trip to Paris.
Rodin considered to be one of the most remarkable sculptors of his time was born in Paris in 1840. Fascinated by the human body, the prolific sculptor and accomplished artist is renowned for his figurative sculptures.
His mansion with its beautiful grounds, along with his works and personal collections, that he donated to the French State on his death, is now the site of this fabulous museum.
It was interesting to see the progression of his work, starting from the clay models, right up to one of his most recognized pieces, The Thinker.
Rodin’s other probably most recognized piece is his ‘The Gates of Hell’, (inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is actually a collection of over 200 smaller sculptures placed together.
After our morning of art and culture, we decided on lunch in the Le Champ de Mars, the enveloping green space that surrounds the Eiffel Tower. So armed with our baguettes fresh from the boulangerie, and cheese from the market, no wine sadly (it was just too much to carry), we had a lovely, and cheap lunch in one of the best spots in Paris.
The Paris Metro is updating many of its stations, so sometimes instead of a short 10-minute walk, we end up doing a much longer 40 min walk just to get onto the Metro, the best thing about that is we find areas we have never seen before, and the walk eats up some of those lunchtime calories.
Another great thing about housesitting for a month just outside of Paris is we can just go into the city for just a few hours if we want, and this Friday I have booked us onto a boat trip on Paris’ Canal St Martin.
Construction was ordered by Napoleon 1 in 1802, to bring fresh water and to help stop dysentery and cholera to the cities inhabitants, and funded by a new tax placed on wine. It was also used to supply Paris with grain, building materials and other goods carried on canal boats.
It is covered in some places to make Paris’ wide boulevards, and there are also a number of locks and swing bridges along its route.
One interesting fact is that every 10-15 years the canal is drained and cleaned, and this is a source of fascination for Parisians to discover some curiosities and even some treasures among the thousands of tonnes of discarded objects.
We started our canal cruise at the Parc de la Villette end of the St Martin Canal, which gave us the opportunity to see another part of Paris we hadn’t visited before, the 19th arrondissement.
The Parc de la Villette is in the 19th Arrondissement in Paris’ northeast, a cattle market and slaughterhouse in the 1800s, it has been transformed into a fantastic 55-hectare park with playgrounds, festival halls. The Grand Hall is now showing the Tutemkarmen Exhibition, the Science Museum, the Conservatory of Music and the stunning Paris Philharmonic are also located here.
It also leads us to the Basin de la Villette, and where we catch our canal cruise.
The weather today is hot and sunny, 30c predicted so it will be pleasant (we hope) cruising along the canal, then into the Seine River and finishing our cruise at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris’ centre.
The guide on our 2 1/2 hour cruise was fantastic, switching seamlessly from French to English, he even had a little try in German (although I’m pretty sure no German speakers were on board). He explained the 5 locks we passed through, 4 being doubles which meant we dropped more than 6 meters to reach the next part of the canal or 27 meters in total on the canal. We also stopped traffic a couple of times for the swing bridges to open, passed under countless 19th century iron footbridges, and cruised under the Place De La Bastille in a 2km long subterranean tunnel.
It was a great way to pass a hot day, cruising down the tree-lined canal and seeing some of the lesser-visited touristic areas in Paris.
When we saw this housesit advertised months ago now, we knew right away it would be a good one for us. The timing was perfect, August is such a busy holiday time in Europe, so a good time for us to be off the road. There wasn’t a lot of pictures in Wendy’s advert, just the two Jack Russell’s, and one of the back garden, but in the notes was that the house was in the country near Versailles, how perfect is that.
I couldn’t get that application off fast enough!
We arrived the afternoon before our house sit starts as usual and Wendy, originally from Ireland and Patrick, a born and bred Parisian showed us around the vast 100yr old farmhouse, and the grounds, about 1 acre in total of hedged gardens, an orchard and the vege patch, full of soon to be ripe tomatoes and pumpkins!
We also met Fanny and Mona, who are just so funny and a breeze to care for.
The name of the village is Autouillet, and it consists of a
church that is closed because it’s undergoing renovations, but the builders are
on vacation, a Marie or the town hall, also closed for the Mayor’s holiday in
August, and about four dozen houses. To
say it’s quiet is an understatement.
We use less than a quarter of this massive house, just our large bedroom upstairs and its bathroom, complete with claw-footed bathtub, it’s typical French kitchen and breakfast area. The house also has two staircases, formal and informal dining rooms, six bedrooms and eight toilets, (that I have found so far). The first couple of days I got lost, and more than once!
The grounds must have been an idyllic place for Wendy and Patrick’s children, hide and seek would have gone on forever, so many places to hide.
Paris is 40 minutes away by train, and Thoiry with its huge 16th-century châteaux and safari zoo, supermarket, pharmacy and a couple of restaurants about a 10-minute walk, you can actually hear, see and smell the animals from the path down the road early in the morning.
We are surrounded by forest as well, so great for walks that we do take the dogs on most afternoons, even though they certainly have a large enough yard to exercise.
So this is where we will spend August, taking a few day trips into Paris and the surrounding area, but mainly just enjoying being here.
Our decision to visit Luxembourg was an impromptu one. We needed fuel before heading back to France, which at present has the highest diesel prices in Europe, it was on our way after following the lovely Moselle Valley through Germany, and most importantly we had not visited here previously, so adding another country to our list.
Ruled by its own monarchy, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a small landlocked country tucked away between Germany, Belgium, and France, so has some excellent cultural influences
It’s a natural beauty, the sheer amount of green undulating hills, and the opulent architecture of the hilltop castles and villages are outstanding. Our first night was spent in Echternach a lovely village that just happened to be celebrating the 150th anniversary of its Fire Department, so there were displays, beer tents, and food, perfect entertainment, and dinner!
Luxembourg has it’s own language Lëtzebuergesch, that the children learn in primary school, but most Luxembourgers also speak English, French, and German. Walking through the city though you hear an amalgam of languages widely spoken by the many nationalities that live and work here and travel daily the short distance from Belgium, France, and Germany.
Well known for its banks, it’s also one of the founding members of the European Union, and one of the wealthiest nations on the old continent. Evident by walking their Grand Rue where you see every well-known designer brand you can think of, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Hermès, and Christian Louboutin just to name a few. Then there are the Jewellers!
Luxembourg City is not only for shopping though it’s also famed for its medieval fortifications, the Bock Casements.
For over four centuries, the best military engineers from France, Austria, Spain, and Germany made this city one of the most fortified cities on earth, helping is the fact the city sits high on a rock wall that helps its natural defense.
The vast Bock Casemates, 23kms of underground tunnels encompasses a dungeon, prison and the Archaeological Crypt, considered the city’s birthplace. Along ramparts above, the Chemin de la Corniche, called the most beautiful promenade in Europe, are dramatic viewpoints over the deep gorges cut by the Alzette and Pétrusse rivers, and they were also nice and cool on yet another hot summer day.
Their transit system is unique. Free travel on public transit for anyone under 21yrs, and only €2 for all others, and that is soon to be abolished to make public transit free to everyone. We parked in a free Park & Ride area and caught the bus into the city, and by the number of these P & R’s around, it seems most city workers do the same.
We have heard about the huge ferris wheel that has been in Caloundra the past couple of months, but how about this fantastic feat of engineering?
The City Skyliner is a mobile observation tower 72m in height that rotates 360 degrees. It sits on a massive base and weighs 270 tons the City Skyliner can carry up to 60 people at the same time and the trip takes about 8 minutes.
Right next to the Skyliner on Constitution
Square is the Golden Lady that was set up in 1923 to commemorate the
Luxembourgers who died in the First World War. The memorial represents a
gold-plated female figure on a stone obelisk.
In 1940 the Nazis pulled the monument down and it was found hidden in the sports stadium. Restored and put back in its place of pride where today it symbolizes freedom and resistance for the Luxembourg people.
Talking about pride, Luxembourg was the first country to have an openly Gay Prime Minister, elected in 2013, and who married his architect husband in 2015. P.M. Xavier Bettel has spoken about gay rights at various conferences around the world, even in Arab countries. For a very tiny country, only 2500 sq kms, they are very forward-thinking.
Luxembourg is not really on the tourist route, but if you have the chance to visit do so, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Shaped by water and commerce since the Middle Ages, Hamburg
is defined by it’s maritime past and is also Germany’s largest and busiest port. The skyline filled with huge cranes over the
port area attest Hamburg’s claim to be the ‘Gateway to the world’.
Beautiful Gothic style, 100-year-old seven storey red brick warehouses topped with copper turrets and built on oak piles are adjacent to the port. Connected by canals and now UNESCO World Heritage listed as the world’s largest continuous warehouse complex, stretching more than 1.5kms and in use until a few years ago storing tea, coffee spices and to my surprise carpets. Now used as museums, restaurants and very exclusive apartments.
It is Hamburg’s new Elbe Philharmonic Hall sitting atop one
of these 100-year-old seven storey warehouses that to me is the most
outstanding building in Hamburg.
The bottom half looks virtually unchanged from the warehouse
it was until the late 1990’s, but then looking up you see the soaring structure
above of more than 1000 curved glass panels, that remind us of waves.
The 82m long escalator is the first sign that the interior will be just as spectacular as the building’s façade. Said to be the longest escalator in Europe, it’s a long and slightly curved golden tube that makes you feel like you’re travelling through a tunnel of magical bubbles. Acoustically the concert hall is the most advanced currently, and it would be amazing to attend a concert here at some time.
Hamburg’s Altstadt or old centre was all but destroyed during WW ll, with very few of the beautiful Gothic buildings and churches left standing after the cities devastating fire-bombing in July 1943.
The haunting and soaring half ruin Church of St Nicholas, first built in 1195, and taking decades to complete was reduced to rubble in only minutes during one night of Operation Gomorrah, the three days and nights of bombing in 1943, which killed 35,000 citizens, and incinerated much of the centre. The tower once the world’s highest has been left standing, with only a few of the walls left. The crypt is now fittingly an Anti-War Museum, and serves as a memorial for the victims of war and tyranny from 1933 to 1945.
Fortunately, the Rathaus, with it’s gilded façade and soaring coffered ceiling wasn’t seriously damaged, as it would have to be one of the most opulent buildings we have seen in Germany. The main entrance leads you up Sicilian marble steps to an elaborate wrought iron gate, where the roof is supported by more than a dozen sandstone columns. Our 45 minute guided tour sadly didn’t take us to all the 647 rooms, although we did get to see the Emperor’s Hall with it’s unusual embossed leather wall covering, and amazing ceiling fresco, Government meetings rooms, and it’s elaborate 50m long Grand Ballroom, with three massive crystal chandeliers our guide told us weigh more than a car, and beautiful paintings that tell Hamburg’s 1200 year history.
This week the temperature has soared all over Europe. Germany has had 36c – 40c day’s and poor Hermione (and us) have been struggling as well.
With the Elbe River, and all the canals around Hamburg it’s been the perfect place and time to be on the river. Doing a little research on Hamburg I discovered that one particular ferry route takes you along the river, and is included in our day transit ticket, bonus, and about a 10th of the price of a river cruise! Obviously loads of other tourists read about this trip as well as it took us a couple of go’s just to get onto the ferry, but there is nothing better on a hot day than to sit up the front to catch the breeze, while soaking up the river landscape.
One of the other things that Hamburg is famous for is it’s
‘Fischbrotchen’, which is fish on a bread roll (brotchen). It can be pickled herring with onions a local
fav apparently, salmon, a homemade fishcake (my fav) with a rémoulade (spicy
mayo) or a filet of battered fish. We
tried all but the herring. ‘The’ place
to go is Brücke
10 down by the port, a trendy café/restaurant/bar right alongside the river,
the best place to catch what little breeze there was on those hot, humid days.
Apart from it’s proximity to Brücke 10, our excellent free and dock
side parking was reached by an under-river pedestrian/bike tunnel, with a
separate vehicle tunnel that runs alongside, the Alter Elbtunnel or Old Elbe
Built in 1907, 426m in length and built at a depth of 24m and
built to provide the dock workers a direct route to the city, and such an
engineering marvel in those times, well any time really. This experience was probably the coolest,
both in temperature and experience, that I did in Hamburg!
Restoration of the pedestrian tunnel was only recently completed, and
the Art Deco lamps that line the tiled walls, with beautiful terracotta glazed
plaques of fish, crabs and other water life, match those from the original build
Entry is by either three large vehicle elevators, that only operate
during the week, or the two new passenger/bike elevators on either side of the
lovely red brick Art Deco building, that from the exterior you would never
guess what was going on underneath.
Restoration work is now being done on the vehicular tunnel.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Hamburg, take a couple
of days and enjoy this great city, I know we really did.
find the best way to see the sights of a city is to walk it, or in the case of
a city the size of Berlin buy a day transit ticket that gets you onto every
tram, bus, both the U and the S-Bahn trains and ferry, even the local line from
where we are staying in Wilhelmshorst about 18kms or 40 minutes from the city
centre, all for under €8 a day, it’s great value!
is market day around here, whether you are looking for antiques, fresh fruit
and veg or the largest flea market we have ever seen, and that’s our first stop
for the day, Mauerpark.
The flea market at Mauerpark has long attained cult status. All year long you can find anything from designer clothes, old army uniforms, records, jewellery and fine art to old pots and pans. And in between all those stalls are the food vans with every nation’s food available. We bought the most delicious burek and gozleme from a couple of Turkish ladies at their food stall for our lunch.
the time Berlin was divided the site of the park was the border strip of the
Berlin Wall, and the area was off limits from 1961 to 1989.
After reunification the no-man’s land became a public park, that many Berliner’s flock to on the weekend for picnics, or to join in the karaoke in the ‘bear pit’ that attracts hundreds of would be singers.
is a palpable feel between the old east and west especially here in this area
of Berlin city to me. The old east just feels a bit grittier, not
so prosperous and clinical as the west, and although the much-needed work is
being done now on the buildings and roads that deteriorated badly in 45 years
of Communist neglect, it will just take time.
is not much of the old wall left, although in most souvenir shops in Berlin
they will happily sell you a small chuck of rock that apparently is the genuine
wall, I have my doubts. Even more so
since I watched a young woman out the back of one of those shops splashing a
bit of watery paint on some chunks of concrete before gluing them to
cards. Call me cynical, but I would
rather see some of the old wall still standing.
East Side Gallery is just the place to do that. It is a 1.5km long section of
the wall that has been made into the longest outdoor art gallery in the world. Painted
by artists from all over the world as a monument to the freedom of expression
The Berlin-Potsdam area have some beautiful rivers and lakes.
We didn’t get to see them all, but we did manage to take a 30 min ferry ride across one of these beautiful lakes in Berlin to the picturesque village of Kladow on the Wannsee, in the up-market Spandau district south of Berlin.
It was a beautiful afternoon for a little cruise with our ticket included in our tageskart (day transit ticket), and what we saved on the tourist cruise, we could spend in the beer garden, another great thing about using public transit you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving.
Our lovely homeowners are home later tonight so that means we are back on the road tomorrow, and heading to Hamburg.
Berlin has seen an overwhelming transformation over the last 75 years, with a tumultuous history so recent it almost feels palpable.
This city was headquartered by fascists, heavily bombed during World War II, divided by Communism with the Berlin Wall and finally reunited — all in just the 20th century.
Today, Berlin is one of the most multicultural and open-minded cities in Europe. It also has some of the most amazing cutting-edge, and eclectic mix of architecture of the cities we have visited.
it’s destruction in World War II that left very few historic buildings intact,
and the contrasting urban planning during the years of division, the city is
now filled with new and wonderful buildings that might not have found space in
other cities in Europe.
At present a new U-Bahn or
underground line that runs right under the Unter Den Linden is being built. All this area was under the control of the GDR
during the times of division, where no money spent on these beautiful buildings
or any services or upgrades.
Today huge cranes tower all over the city, construction is everywhere. The master-plan is that this area along the Unter Den Linden is to be the ‘Showpiece of Berlin’ and will be completed by the mid 2020’s.
A replica of the former Prussian City Palace is being built now. On the outside it will look like it’s predecessor, but the interior will be modern and be used for cultural events.
You may have seen my post on the palaces of Potsdam with their Baroque splendour. This post is more about the modern Berlin, and the way that the modern and the historic have been so brilliantly integrated together.
contemporary buildings of Walter Gropius who founded the Bauhaus School we
visited not long ago on our way to Berlin, to Frank Gehry and David Chipperfield’s
re-construction of the Neues Museum, but that still shows the remnants of it’s
war wounds on the inside walls.
Chipperfield’s new modern James Simon Gallery addition onto the National Gallery just opened last weekend. The building raised on a stone plinth over which sit the tall white stone columns that form the stunning colonnade The gallery’s new building will also function as the new entrance to the cluster of Berlin’s museum buildings on Museum Island, by the Spree river in the centre of Berlin.
Or I.M. Pei’s 5000 sq metre exhibition hall, a massive glass façade that opens out onto the 300-year-old armoury that now houses the German Historical Museum. The prize winning, Chinese born architect Pei was in his mid-80’s when he designed this building, said ‘architecture should seduce people to move through the whole building full of curiosity and pleasure’ he also designed the spectacular glass pyramid at Paris’ Louvre, and studied under Bauhaus’ Gropius. He died in May this year aged 102. He must have been an amazing man.
the cultural centre is the beautiful Opera House and the easy to be missed site
of the public book burning by the Nazi’s in 1933. My picture of the empty book shelves
underground, has I think, although I may be biased, a great reflection of the
side of the State Opera house in a square that also includes the first
university in Berlin, the Humboldt which was originally the palace of a prince.
further down the Unter den Linden is the Brandenburg Gate which is probably
Berlin’s most famous, and photographed landmark.
by a Prussian King as a symbol of peace the gate is topped by the Quadriga, a
golden statue of Victoria the winged goddess of victory, driving a chariot
pulled by four horses.
former symbol of this once divided city, where a friend told us you could once climb
to an observation platform to get a glimpse of the life behind the Iron Curtain.
(A little extra info now for my history buffs;
In 1806 after Napoleon staged a successful war against Prussia, he kidnapped
the golden statue and held her hostage in Paris, until she was freed in 1814 by
a gallant Prussian General).
The U.S. Embassy built in the late 1990’s sits right alongside the Brandenburg Gate.
It takes up the whole block and runs right along what was once the ‘no-man’s land death strip, and the old wall.
With all the wonderful buildings built after the unification personally I would not put this one on my architectural delights list, but thought it should be mentioned more because of it’s location. It looks just like a big office block which I suppose it is, complete with barricades, watch towers and machine gun toting armed guards
Another interesting detail; disclosures by the US in 2013 is that the top floor of the US embassy was used to wiretap mobile phones being used just across the park, only a stone’s throw away in the Reichstag, even targeting Chancellors Angela Merkel mobile.
Will those American’s ever learn?
The Reichstag, the home of the German Parliament has been bombed, burned, re-built and is now topped with a glistening glass dome that reminds me of a giant beehive, but apparently was designed as a metaphor for transparency and open-ness in politics.
We lined up for more than an hour the first time we visited this amazing building, it was worth every minute. Now you can book tickets in advance.
Right behind the US embassy is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Above ground all you see is the field of stelae, the 2711 grey concrete slabs of the same length and width but in various heights, all arranged in precise straight and narrow rows over nearly 20,000 sq meters of undulating ground. Apparently from the air it looks like a huge grey wave.
Whenever we have visited this memorial, I always see people sitting on the lower stelae. To me that that seems disrespectful, and it takes all my will-power to not yell at them to get off it!
The title of the memorial above ground doesn’t say ‘Holocaust’ or anything about who murdered those European Jews, but the museum below with it’s poignant and heart-wrenching themed rooms lifts the veil of anonymity from the six million Holocaust victims.
In one darkened room the names and year of birth, date and place of death are projected onto the four walls while the names are read out loud. It’s very moving.
Around every Berlin corner there are amazing things to see and do. A huge park the Tiergarten right in the city to cycle through or bring a picnic to have under the Linden trees. Free lunchtime concerts by the Berlin Philharmonic in their concert hall right across the road, remnants of the old wall, the flea-market in the Mauerpark and it’s ‘bearpit karaoke’, my list could go on and on.
Gritty, glamorous, edgy,
radical and fascinating would be my best words to describe Berlin……and it’s a
place everyone should visit at least once.