December 20, 2007


Here are a few images portraying Berlin at Christmas

Gendarmenmarkt for Christmas, Berlin, December 2007

Arkaden Shopping Centre, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Christmas 2007

Christmas Tree made of Lego in the Beisheim Centre, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Christmas 2007

Santa Claus and Reindeer made of Lego in the Beisheim Centre, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Christmas 2007

December 16, 2007


Before reunification, Germany was divided into West Germany and East Germany, the joins coming together in Berlin where the city was partly in the West and partly in the East. There were many differences, such as the Tram system being mainly in the East. Traffic was also different, East Berlin designed a 'friendly' little signal to protect its pedestrians from Ladas, Moskvitch, Skodas, Trabants, and Wartburgs, and these have been retained in parts of Berlin today, due to popular demand. West Germany had a generic Green Man to guide people across in front of its BMW, DKW, Fords, Glas, Merecedes-Benz, NSU, Opels, and VWs. The picture below shows East and West versions.

Ampelmännchen (on the left) was created in 1961 by an East German Traffic psychologist hopeful of getting obedience by appealing with a friendly little hatted mascot. On Re-unification Germany tried to impose its generic Green Man (right) on its eastern roads, but the citizens would not let go of their Ampelmännchen.

In 1961 Berliner Mauer went up to prevent the leakage of people from the Communist East to the Capitalist West. The picture shows a small section left standing after The Wall was broken down in 1989. Don't be deceived by this neat, smooth faced wall with its softly rounded top. This was only the wall that faced the West, on the inside there were lines of barbed wire, moats, ditches, mines, automatic guns, lights, sensors. And if you got through all that, the Stasi took vengeance on those you left behind. In other parts of Berlin, the route of the Berlin Wall is traced on the ground with lines of cobbles.

The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 and pulled down in 1989 and formed the the most notorious part of the 'Iron Curtain'. Some 128 people are recorded as dying trying to escape from East to West Berlin. Apparently 5000 people escaped from East Germany to West Germany, some 2000 of those being Border Guards. (The wire netting is a modern attempt to stop the wall being chopped up for souvenirs or being plastered with graffiti - some hope!)

Here is the Brandenburger Tor, a triumphal gate erected by Freidrich as an entrance to Berlin on the road from Brandenburg. It has always been symbolic for Berliners, and therefore for others who seek to make a big entrance to Berlin. When the Berlin Wall went up, the Brandenburg Gate became a rallying point for opposition to Soviet Rule and for Peace events. Since 1990 it has become a rather tame tourist attraction and now has ghastly modern architecture Embassies, businesses and posh hotels alongside it.

Brandenburg Gate was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II in 1788 to a classical design based on the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. Topped by a fraulein (Viktoria) in a Quadriga (Chariot) because Mercedes-Benz were not yet made. She represents Victory, but has indeed been a victim of defeat, being stolen in 1806 by Napoleon when he defeated the Prussians, and then hauled back to Berlin in 1814 when the nasty little Corsican upstart got his come uppance. Viktoria got a bit bent and her chariot's wheels went flat during the struggles in 1945, but eventually she got dusted off and renovated to symbolise victory over communism when The Wall came down in 1989.

Modern Architecture knows no bounds, witness to this is the collision between a glass pudding bowl and the German Parliament building; the Reichstag. Opened in 1894, "Reichstag" was the parliament of Germany until 1933 and this was the Reichstag building. After the little Austrian Dictator came to power, the Reichstag building burned down amidst rumours of Communist plots but also of Brown Shirts vandalism; who knows. The result was that the building became a ruin and stood as a metaphor for the ruins of the German government. When democracy returned after WWII it returned to Bonn and the parliament then was called "Bundestag". The fall of the Berlin Wall determined the Bundestag to return to the Reichstag building and to get Sir Norman Foster to destroy it or renovate it. You decide.

Berlin's Reichstag houses the German Parliament ('Bundestag'). It was re-opened in 1999 having been almost derelict since the fire of 1933, although some bad reconstruction was made in the 1960s. Sir Norman Foster won the 1990s competition and added the immense glass Cupola onto a building he gutted to a bare shell. I am not a fan of modern architecture, and wonder about the purpose of this glass pudding bowl; it looks like a superfluous gesture of attention-seeking rather than anything with any true function

Sachsenhausen was opened on the outskirts of Berlin in 1936 for mainly political prisoners. It housed approximately 200,000 prisoners who were sent there principally for 'crimes' such as political, or anti-social. This prison housed Gypsies, Criminals, people with disabilities, foreign prisoners of war, Jehovahs Witnesses and other religious groups, including 2 entire huts of Priests. It was for men only, although there were also some youths who were used for medical experimentation. The picture shows a memorial to Homosexuals who were sent here and identified by Pink Triangles, I use the word 'Camp' in my title to give extra emphasis to the forgotten thousands who died in these camps. See Salaspils Seen for my Blog about a Latvian Nazi Work Camp. The history of the Holocaust is often very partial.
Memorial to Homosexual men who were victims of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Homosexual men were regarded as criminals or ant-socials by the Nazi regime, and this was enough to get them sent to Work Camps such as Sachsenhausen. Forced to wear Pink Triangles on their striped uniforms, at least 50,000 Pink Triangles died of the harsh work.

(see Wikipedia for notes on the badges worn in these camps).

October 06, 2007


September has become the month that my sister and I meet up (we live 400 miles apart) and travel together on some touring holiday.

Miss (British) Italia [left] and Bridge of Si(mon) [right]

Neither of us can tolerate those London airports, and Archers gives a wide choice of regional airports for most of its tours. Usually we meet half way at an airport in the Midlands, but I was a little smug when my sister agreed that Leeds Bradford airport just over the next hill from me also suited her requirements.

Jet2 then launched us onto our holiday without fuss or bother, and with our homemade egg sandwiches in the overhead locker!. By lunchtime we had been bussed in the Venetian sunshine to our hotel for an overnight gathering of clans!

With Archers, people from all over Britain join tours and are collected together in an hotel on the first night of the holiday. You meet many different, and interesting people, but also as we have found you meet some people again; this year we joined two couples who had shared Archers holidays with us previously.

I chose to use up my first afternoon by making my own way into Venice rather than resting in my hotel, and I visited the Venice Gheto.

Continuing to explore on my own I came across other sights not usually seen by Venice's tourists.

The word “organised” may put people off joining an organised tour, but only the essential parts of the holiday are arranged. Outside of the essential you have the choice to wander alone like I did, or to join the arranged.

If you ride with the arranged itinerary then it is only a matter of getting breakfast and going down to the coach on time. On our holiday, the bus took us to Mantova where arrangements had been made for us to enjoy freshly cooked local food in an intimate family run restaurant, and afterwards a local guide collected us and walked us around the town giving expert explanations of what we looked at.

My photos show similar guided walks in Piazza del Signori (Verona) and inside the Baptistery in Parma.

Each afternoon we were brought back to a comfortable hotel and sat down to a good evening meal. In our view the right balance between relaxation and excitement.

Our tour started on the waters of eastern Italy and took us across to the waters on the western side. But we returned to La Serenissima for a memorable evening meal and a morning flight back to Yorkshire.

VeniceVeronaLiguria and Emilia Romagna

September 17, 2007



My first acquaintance with Venice was Boxing Day 1998 (with Page & Moy) when La Serenissima greeted me with ice covered boats. In such gloriously chilly conditions, no smell was evident from the watery Venice.

In 2000 I visited Venice in the heat of a warm September and in the chillier month of December for my birthday, and both times found no awkward aromas.

October 2002 found me again in Venice in a surprisingly hot week, and even after a high tide had flooded St Marks smells there were none.

September 2005 (with Cosmos), Christmas Eve 2006 (with Just You), September 2007 (with Archers Direct) I again took the vaporetto from the Tronchetto along the Giudecca into Venice and ambled around the many canals and along the Grand Canal without horrid humours.

No Venice does not smell !

Enjoy the watery reflections I have attached

June 17, 2007


I visited Latvia and Estonia at the end of May 2007.

Everywhere I went there were Lilac trees growing wild and in full bloom. The flowers were mainly a kind of paleish purpley colour (Lilac, maybe ?!?!?), but a few were in white.

The fragrance from all these blooming Lilacs was lovely.


Here is a small traditional dwelling on the island of Muhu off the coast of Estonia with Lilacs growing around.

This is the Muhu Museum where a hamlet of traditional Muhu dwellings is preserved as a Museum. (see Museum Website)

Pirita is the ruins of a Nuns Convent to the east of Tallinn on the sea coast, and here you see Lilacs embracing the historic site. (see Pirita Website)

You see above a contrast between the LIBERTY of free growing Lilacs and the shabby stern soviet-built tower blocks that represent an altogether different existence.

A 500year old tower, part of the old city wall, in the Old Town of Tallinn on the street called Viru, very close to where we stayed. (see Tallinn Website)

I have a growing collection of Baltic Albums on my Picasa site:

Saaremaa: Island EstonianMuhu: An Estonian EggBaltic

January 01, 2007


I came, I saw, I conquered some bits of Venice ... or at least I got to see some more of the lovely La Serenissima on Christmas Eve 2006.

This post shows the high points (!);, well okay that's a pun because this post is actually about TOWERS but there are heaps more pictures on Picasa and Simon's Red Pages if you click on those links.

My first "tower" is not actually the gorgeous Campanile of La Madonna dell'Orto in the Cannaregio, but the even more impressive towering Dolomite Mountains above almost 100miles distant!

My second "tower" is the Campanile of Saint Apostoli, though you are probably looking at the Gondola on the Canale Grande below this turret.

My third "tower" is actually a leaning one, though still in Venice. When you push thousands of wooden piles into a muddy lagoon and then build a heavy stone tower on top of it it is inevitable that some of these towers "relax". This one is San Giorgio - there are others too. And if you want to be reminded of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa then just click here.

My fourth "tower" is a Snail! Pietro Contarini's Palazzo with external circular staircase which caused it to be nicked named "Contarini del Bovolo" = Of the Snail.

My fifth "tower" is an Island. The Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the Canale Di San Marco. Oh you might see lots of other bits of Venice in this view too, including in the foreground the Doges Palace.

But if you want to see the thing that I shot those pictures from - The Campanile di San Marco you will have to wait until I get back down to the ground and then click below: