Heimat

Hello All

Back in the room after a fabulous few days getting acquainted with a family I had never before met. I would like to whole-heartedly thank all my German cousins (1st and 2nd!) for their help in making my stay in my father’s homeland truly special. BIG thanks to cousin K-D who made it possible to find key places in my father’s life which I would never have found alone, for making me feel at home and also for the mercy dash to pick up my connecting train when the first was delayed. Phew! And none of this would have happened without the Cologne and Bavarian cousins doing a lot of emailing and phoning. Well done C and R. You are all stars.

I still need to digest my emotions but to give you a flavour of what I found here are some highlights.

The building in Prenzlau where my father was born was once a Dominican Monastery and is now a museum. I found this very satisfying as not only do I love museums (you may have noticed) but it also means that should No1 Son and No1 Daughter ever follow in my footsteps it will still be here. What a lovely museum, we spent a little while pootling around (think I may have brought the English concept of a pootle with me) looking at the history of Prenzlau. Especially pleasing was the model of Prenzlau in 1935, this would have been just how my father would have known it.

Prenzlau is in a beautiful location on the shores of the Uckersee. Coming from the English Lake District this felt like familiar territory.

After a lunch in the Autumn sunshine enjoying this wonderful view we travelled the few miles to the village where my father learnt his trade as a blacksmith and his family lived.

Sadly the forge is derelict now, like so many old buildings in what was the DDR left empty to fall in to disrepair.

But there are beautiful houses and lovely homes in the village and K-D had arranged for me to meet some family from my Oma’s side who still live in Klein Sperrenwalde along with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Sharing coffee and cake with them was very special (oh to have proper cheesecake…delicious). Despite having no common language – Russian was the second language taught in schools until re-unification – we had a good laugh.

An early evening stroll round the village was magical. The stories about the buildings and people being thankfully translated by RW K-Ds son who had joined us. A gem!

What a thoroughly lovely bunch. I have a lot of tales and photos to share with my children when I get to my Heimat.

I will take away with me two powerful things: the kindness and thoughtfulness of my father’s family; and the staggering beauty of this landscape. I couldn’t capture the breadth of the horizons. This is a poor attempt.

It is a huge land where trees abound, herds if deer graze the fringes of that woodland and flocks of cranes fly from the fields as trains pass. It’s people and it’s countryside are amazing. Leaving was difficult.

Now before I come over all emotional I will leave you with this crazy character from the cloisters at the monastery to make you smile.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Winding Up

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Feeling a little touristed out I promised myself a woolly time today. Afterall I needed my Berlin ball of wool for the scarf-shawl-thingy didn’t I? The thingy is growing and the Leipzig mixed twist is rather splendid:

(Good grief hope Mr T isn’t ordering room service….) but I think it is ready for a calming influence. Where to go? A shufty on the Internet produced several candidates but from the pictures and website Wollen Berlin called to me. I was right to follow my instincts as near Ostkreuz S-Bahn at Gartnerstrasse 32, 10245 Berlin I found a haven of wooliness set in a lovely part of the city.

The assistant (who on checking the shop website was Caro) could not have been more helpful. She guided me to some German wool by ‘Hey Mama Wolf’. Looking at the Leipzig mixed twist we were both drawn to the same colour, not the most striking hue but spot on to stop the thingy being overwhelmed by a craziness of mixed yarns … the less is more.

Now while Hey Mama Wolf may call this Meadowsweet I have it in my mind as Berlin Senf (ignore my misspelling on the label, I couldn’t spell check while drinking tea at Hackescher Markt) as it reminds me of the colour of delicious German mustard.

Berlin Senf is created from German Merino sheep – not as soft as the Australian Merino but wonderful in it’s own Germanic way – and hand dyed. Like the Amsterdam yellow it is a bit finer than double knit so I asked if the 100g skein could be wound into two 50g balls so I could double up the strands. This was no problem and Caro was soon putting the yarn on the winder ready to make two neat balls of wool. While she set up I got busy snapping photos of the drool-worthy shelves of yarns. Note all the knitted and crocheted examples for customers to see how the worked wools look.

Skeins can be like life sometimes they get in a bit of a tangle and are then trickier to unravel. While I had been taking photos my skein had begun to misbehave.

Strange though this may be I like sorting out knots and tangles so I happily offered to hand wind my wool. What a pleasure to sit untangling the yarn and talk wool and sheep. Don’t you love woolly folk? It doesn’t take much to keep us happy. I managed to become happier still, not only did I finish my winding for the Thingy but I also got ….

Icelandic wool…I can barely contain myself ….. warm mittens…..ooooh yes…..you know you want some ….

With a halo that was now beyond wonky it was time for a church. Negotiating the S-Bahn (overground) I made may way to the biggest church available, Berlin Dom (Cathedral).

It’s interior was stunning

However I was distracted from my usual interest in the organ by the contents of the crypt. Berliner Dom crypt contains a macabre collection of sarcophagi containing the earthly remains of the Prussian royal family some dating back to the 1660s. I found it all a bit peculiar. Even though morbid curiosity overtook me – turns out my halo completely slipped – I couldn’t help but wonder if these aristocrats realised they were to become exhibits. It didn’t strike me as resting in peace. Bizarre.

Outside with a little sigh of relief I was on the island of museums. You can rest assured Berlin’s sizo-meter did not fail.

In my turn I made a sizeable decision. I would not visit them as I knew I would find it frustrating to rush around for a few hours and not completely enjoy the pleasure of taking time to view the artefacts. Oh well … I will just have to come back and spend a week in the Altes Museum alone!

Time to hop on a bus (love that German bus stops have digital updates of the arrival times of the buses and they are FREQUENT!!!!) and wend my way along my favourite route back to the hotel. Blimey they are breeding like ….

He was certainly not there last night.

Tomorrow I am off to Prenzlau. So for a while I must bid you adieu as I am having a little time out to meet family …. and I am likely to be without Wifi.

Auf Wiedersehen Berlin city of a big heart and mind blowing architecture.

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

Underneath the arches

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I opted for a hop on hop off bus tour today. I really needed an overview of this enormous city. So I hopped on at Potsdamer Platz and away I went with a jolly commentary from our guide. The bus stopped perfectly with the front half in what was East Berlin and the rear in the West. The line of the old wall is marked by a double brick line which snakes along and across the present road system. Potsdamer Platz which is now regarded as a ‘boom town’ was then part of the no man’s land, the death run.

How easily we now pass remnants of the wall which split families – including mine – and friends. Checkpoint Charlie so symbolic of freedom now seems little more than a photo opportunity. My head didn’t really know what to make of it. I so clearly remember the Wall coming down, just before No 1 son was born, and seeing it as a significant sign of better times to come. Now it is in its proper place. A part of history.

After one circuit I felt brave enough to disembark and go solo … for all of five minutes as I decided if one tour why not two? And I boarded a boat for a river borne trip on the River Spree. Apparently the River Spree is a very relaxed sort of a river meandering happily on its way. It is known as the slowest thing in Berlin. No wonder I liked it, think I could beat it into a poor second. Refreshed by a mug of hot chocolate and plate of kartoffel salad (potato salad – it was the only veggie thing on the menu honest!) I wondered what today’s post would be about.

I wasn’t feeling that I had got up close and personal to anything but I was really enjoying being a step removed and floating under countless amazing bridges and suddenly went all arty and started taking pictures of these wonderful structures, This bridge really impressed me.

A thing of beauty? just me? Look at that curved brickwork.

This riverine reverie was not to last. Emboldened by having two tours under my belt I set off on foot and headed in the direction of the Brandenburg Gate. Now on a bus this seemed REALLY close to the river boat trips. In reality it was quite a walk and I was beginning to lose heart when Hallelujah! A tour bus stopped.

On I hopped …. then like a crazy frog off I hopped. It wasn’t returning to the Potsdamer Platz as it was the last run of the day. Lip trembling feet screaming I set off in the direction the guide had indicated. Thank goodness I did because I could get up close and personal (careful, I am British you know…well half of me is) to the stupendous Brandenburg Gate,

And be able to notice the way transport has evolved in an ironic full circle. From horse drawn,

To people pedalled.

Yes, one or the other or both were very tempting to my tootsies but I told them (the toes not the carriages) to get a grip and walked on.

Along the route I passed the Holocaust Memorial (The Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe) a silent and powerful monument to a genocide we must never forget.

A cloud passed through my thoughts. But that is one of the many good things about traveling solo and walking. Time to think and no way to dodge the thoughts you would rather avoid.

But soon I was on familiar ground. Whoopee, Potsdamer Platz I love you. Then home straight back through Marlene Dietrich Platz.

I am sure these fellows were not there last night! No time to wonder where they had come from I was speeded by the need to spend a penny (several by this stage) and positively zipped the last leg of my walk and was ever so glad to see the hotel and those bonkers chairs in the lobby.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. Here is a vision to make you chuckle. For my party piece today I was leaving the hotel via the twirley door but forgot to get out and had to humiliate myself my going round again. It would not have been so bad except for my fly trapped behind glass impression as I tried to get out just after the opening. Of course the foyer was full to maximise embarrassment. I tried to walk off with as much dignity as possible but was crying with laughter at what a twit I had been. Dignity was impossible. Mx

We are the people

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On the face of it Leipzig is one more big city with lots of shops but there is much more to it. Take last night for instance. I went out to find the nearest veggie cafe and walked straight into a demonstration. I hasten to add it was VERY PEACEFUL I mean one of the placards even said ‘I am just here to say Hello’. Nonetheless it reminded me that Leipzig has a strong history of challenging wrongs and played a significant role in the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.

I was curious about this demo and discovered it formed part of the history of the Monday Demonstrations. The initial demonstrations began in Autumn 1989 in Leipzig after the weekly prayer for peace in St. Nicholas Church and demanded the right to travel and to elect a democratic government. Yesterday’s demo was to mark the anniversary of the most famous Monday Demonstration held on 9 October 1989 when the protesters swelled in numbers to more than 70,000 all united in peaceful opposition to the regime.

I am glad a little piece of serendipity let me see this peaceful gathering and remember that “Wir Sind das Volk!’ (We are the people) who together can accomplish amazing things. To see where all this started I went today to see St Nicholas Church.

To understand how brave this movement was I also went to visit the Stasi Museum (Museum in der Runden Ecke),

Housed in the old Leipzig Stasi headquarters the museum is an uncomfortable and unsettling example of the few short steps it takes for a state to move from having a legitimate police force to having a Stasi. Not only was there the terrifying prospect of ‘vanishing’ but the Stasi also employed much more insidious psychological methods to destroy lives and careers. Only now by accessing the records held by the secret police can people understand how their lives were undermined by subtle Stasi tactics. State bullying of people for the merest form of dissent was commonplace.

You were allowed to take photographs in the museum however (unusually) nobody was and it felt wrong to do so. I took this shot of the entrance lobby.

And stopped when I passed through the door that you could enter but not exit. Free entry to the museum was I suspect to ensure that no one profits from suffering.

I needed an antidote to the evil manipulation of people and sought solace in music at the Bach Museum.

Located in the house of the Bose family who were friends and neighbours of the Bachs this fresh and modern museum celebrates the 200 years that this musical powerhouse of a family (oh for those genes) dominated the German music scene.

Special to me – cos I seem to have developed a love for organ music – was this beautiful instrument:

And the journey it has been on.

Other highlights were the tubular bells

Gently swing them around and hey presto! You are playing Bach. Get me the musical genius.

Mustn’t forget Bach’s orchestra, the original artworks and manuscripts and OH YES all the opportunities listen to beautiful music composed by various members of the Bach dynasty…particularly Johann Sebastian. I could have sat there all day just to hear the music.

But my musical sojourn had not ended. I trotted across the road from the museum and to St Thomas’ Church famous for its choir and choir school.

I walked in and was taking this snap when ….

…. the organ started playing. WOW! It was mind-blowing it’s phenomality (don’t think that is even a word) no doubt augmented by the surprise. It was a lesson for a young organist (don’t play in Constantine’s Basilica, save yourself!) and wonderful to hear.

Now to matters domestic. Himself has made a nest in my crochet.

He believes I may have been defeated in my wool challenge. I confess it was looking bleak in Leipzig. No dedicated wool shop (well not in walking distance) where to turn…?

The local shopping centre! And this beauty had something for every crafter under the sun, including stones for those interested in rock carving. My bag is heavy enough I stuck to buying a ball of wool.

Coming in it’s own colourful bag welcome Leipzig mixed twist wool. Move over Mr T there’s a new wool on the block…I mean in the bag.

That was my flying visit to Leipzig. A city where old and ultra new come together:

So ultra modern is Leipzig that I still haven’t figured out how to switch on the loo light and as to the lift I spent about 20 minutes trying to get it to stop at my floor. Mind you I made a lot of friends as I travelled up and down.

Auf Wiedersehen Leipzig exciting city of contrasts and old ladies trapped in lifts. Tomorrow I am off to Berlin.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Sitting pretty

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For my last day in Heidelberg I decided to have a languid Sunday. After breakfast and blogging I strolled down the street to the Volkerkundmuseum ( Museum of Ethnography) where I was charged a reduced 5 euro entry because only one exhibition was open.

But what an exhibition. It held wonderful examples of South Pacific textile crafts, Tapas together with fantastic ceremonial masks from the same area.

As I was the only visitor (strange in a town of visitors but I’m not grumbling) the young assistants were keen to help me understand the exhibits. Tapas are made from beaten bark and while most of them looked like hangings and possibly floor rugs I learnt that the fabric produced by this method is infact very pliable and the texture is something like very very very soft leather so they are worn too. Sadly I could not take pictures but the Tapas varied in size – from 2 metres by 2 metres to smaller pieces just enough to be used for a short sarong style skirt – and were covered by designs (some of which resembled knitting pattern grids to me) which combined both hand drawn and block printed work. The colours were largely reddish-browns and blacks created through natural dyes.

Next door to the Tapas was a room of masks some almost as tall as me! These were both grotesque human and animal in form. The performers must practice a great deal and have superb balance to wear these creations even for a short ceremonial dance. Definitely no good for the Jitter Bug.

Back outside and watching runners finish a local marathon in the nearby square I was wondering what to do for the afternoon and came to the conclusion that nothing would be better that messing about in boats (sure someone has used that phrase before). I even went all Eco and chose to glide silently down the Celtic named Neckar on a solar powered boat.

What a civilised way to enjoy a Sunday afternoon. But just in case my halo needed polishing up I popped into the Heilliggeistkirch which sat diagonally opposite my hotel. Inside I was greeted by this wonderful scene.

And in case you are wondering,the organist here is quite safe. They have both feet on the ground. I have been getting quite concerned about these musicians it was a relief to find a sanctuary for safe organ stopping.

You thought I had forgotten didn’t you? But no I did get my Heidelberg ball of wool. I bought it from this lovely emporium on the ‘shop till you drop’ Hauptstraße.

We had a little language barrier to contend with but with a bit of face pulling and much smiling the assistant and I came up with Heidelberg green-mix. Wool is a universal language.

To be frank I am not sure about my overall collection of colours. They are beginning to look like the flag of some little known state. I hope I am not insulting anyone here but a flag was not the look I was really after. Luckily I think the Heidelberg green-mix will turn things around (ever the optimist) and I might end up with a wearable shawl-scarf-thingy at the end of my travels.

Too quickly it was time to say: Auf Wiedersehen Heidleberg it was lovely getting to know you.

Writing ‘live’ from the ICE1651 train …. I am relieved to tell you that on this latest leg of my journey I have managed not only to find the right train, the right carriage but also (fanfare please) the right seat…. No one is going to turf me out this time. I am sitting pretty and on my way via Frankfurt to Leipzig. Again I am looking at incredible amounts of wooded land … as soon as I wrote that we entered the longest tunnel EVER! That’s live blogging for you. Having escaped the darkness I can see a pastoral landscape peeking through the trees with pretty villages. I am intrigued as to what the old East will reveal. I will as ever keep you posted.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Around and About

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Isn’t it lovely how woolly crafts can be an instant icebreaker? I was back on the trains today and happily working on the scarf-shawl-thingy when a lady sitting next to me in the waiting area at Trier station asked what I was making. What followed from that enquiry was a lovely companionable journey.

Like me the curious crochet observer and her friend had been visiting Trier and we shared experiences and thoughts about life in general. I especially loved their observation that they had visited so many churches they should now be wearing halos!

As we chatted and chortled the crochet like the train moved on and I will soon be ready for Trier Burgundy.

With a little sigh I waved off my happy acquaintances at Neustadt and carried on alone to Heidelberg. By 3pm I was sitting in a new hotel – Goldener Falke – my home for the next few days and thanking my lucky stars to be staying right in the middle of the old town.

To illustrate this I went outside and took photos in front of the hotel just by turning around. Got dizzy and looked a bit of a twerp but it was very satisfying:

I didn’t notice the unusual spelling of Restaurant until I was checking through my gallery. But perhaps the elision of Restaurant and Restoration is just right. The hotel building dates back to the late 1600s and it has been an hotel and restaurant since at least 1805. Over the hundreds of years it has occupied this site it has undergone many a restoration and thankfully for me up in my third floor garret these included the inclusion of a lift. Yeah!

Sorry but I digress. Now turning to my left:

Here is the City Hall (Rathaus). Left turn again:

Quaint eh? And just look you veggies and vegans …

Could be zoning in tomorrow lunchtime. Oops yes one more turn left (easily distracted by food):

The Heiliggeistkirche which began life early in the 15th Century. I love all the little shops and stalls nestled around the church, part of the fabric of the building.

Now not strictly a left turn but just around the corner from the hotel is this gob-smacking photo opportunity:

Stunning.

Heidelberg is chocolate box top Germany and is consequently thronged by tourists. I am going to embrace this status and tomorrow I am off for a couple of hours on a coach tour. Expect many Schloss shots! And don’t be surprised if I come home in a dirndl.

A step too far?

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

P.S. Terence has been with me all day but until he gets a scarf is refusing to come out of my bag! Such a diva…. Mx

Wolle und Stoffe* (so near Wool ‘n’ Stuff but not quite …)

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Last day in wonderful Trier and yes I have done it. I have bought my Trier ball of wool. I found another fine wool shop, Kaethe Faber with another lovely lady able to help me select my yarn and (thankfully) the next colour. Here it is:

A thing of beauty is it not? This yarn is an international affair. Peruvian Alpaca yarn spun in Italy for a German company, Lana Grossa. It is just the right thickness and weight and I know Trier Burgundy will work well with the Newcastle Blue and Amsterdam Yellow. Better get on with the scarf-shawl-thingy as I am looking forward to adding this snuggly yarn. Today there was a nip in the air and I will soon be needing a warm wrap.

I was going to be all medieval and Romanesque today but those darn Romans got the better of me. Or could it be that someone missed out on my Roman excursions and threw a huff?!

Well done Terence spotters you noticed he wasn’t about yesterday so I thought he had better get back on the road today. Good job too as he reminded me to visit the Barbara Baths.

A large Roman site just a minute from the hotel which can be accessed by walkways over the excavations and is free. Wunderbar! As I said you are tripping over antiquities in Trier. This large excavation will never reveal the full extent of the baths:

If easily offended avert your gaze but this gives you an idea of how the baths were used:

Cheeky.

Enough of this silliness time to waddle (again had a fantastic meal last night, waddling is all I can manage today) into the centre and visit some of the newer builds.

So here I am at the Cathedral of St Peter (Dom):

Again it is hard to escape the Romans (even Boudicca found that out!) as the square core of the Dom was constructed c.340 AD and still forms part of the Cathedral today.

Despite damage caused by marauding Germanic tribespeople (400s) and Vikings (882) the Cathedral remained and successive generations re-built and enlarged it and in the 1600s a new chapel was built to house Trier’s Holy Robe. The Holy Robe being, according to tradition, the seamless robe of Christ brought to Trier by the Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena. Mention of this robe first appears in the 11th Century. The facade of the shrine is at the top of the pilgrim stairs in the middle of the picture.

Alarming to me was again the poor organist’s home – I never knew it was such a risky physical occupation until this trip – which looked to me like an ornate wasps’ nest suspended from the ceiling.

Amazing yet chilling in equal measure.

These enormous churches are certainly testament to the faith and skill of those that spent lifetimes working on them. Looking up to the ceilings I wonder at the dangers these craftspeople faced.

Oh dear …

I hope he is not still under there.

As is often the case my favourite place in these great buildings is the Lady Chapel and Trier Cathedral’s did not disappoint. It’s simplicity leant it a tranquil atmosphere. It was pleasant to sit and be still.

Apologies for the gloom but it was downstairs and a little subterranean. Very atmospheric.

You won’t by now be surprised to learn that the Dom is another part of Trier’s UNESCO World Heritage Site as is it’s sister building next door, The Church of Our Lady.

The Liebfrauenkircher is the earliest German Gothic church and was begun sometime around 1230. What makes it unusual is that it has a round Cruciform floor plan which echoes the 12 petalled rose (Rosa Mystica) symbolising the Virgin Mary. Now you know! Thank goodness for Wikipedia.

Coincidently I had just been reading a review in this month’s Cumbria Life (I am not on commission) of a book about Pre-Raphaelite stained glass. It reminded me how explosive these windows can be, alive with colour amplified by the changing light illuminating the detail. Trier’s Church of our Lady has an abundance of this wonderful art-form.

Of the two buildings this was my favourite I think the shape pleased me. I love circles: no beginning and no end. Mesmerically there was eerily beautiful choral music playing. And if that weren’t enough the Cathedral bells tolled for three. It felt positively medieval.

Time to lift myself out of this enchantment with some jolly snaps of colourful buildings and a multitude of fountains.

That was the gorgeousness that was my Trier. I hope you have enjoyed sharing it with me and if you visit you return the favour.

Tomorrow …. Heidleberg.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

* Stoffe means fabric and not ‘stuff’ which I had rather hoped for.

P.S. For those that expressed concern about his welfare don’t worry I will be making Terence a scarf.

P.P.S. In my eco-guest bag today was …..

Gut, ja?! Mx