New World Visitors – Part 2: Bamberg, Germany, Bike Ride and Boat Tour

Entertaining visitors from the USA in Bamberg, Germany, including a bike ride, wine tasting, Italian restaurant and more wine (Federweisser)!

Visitors from the New World – Part 1

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In my last post I told you that I would be taking a three-week break because some friends were coming to visit me here in Bamberg, Germany, where I live and teach English. Well, it’s been four weeks, so I hope you’re still reading. The three-week break took care of the visitors, but I guess I needed another week to settle into a new teaching job and recover from my visitors’ vacations!So, I’m back. In this post you’ll see just what me and my visitors were up to for those three glorious weeks. BTW, one visitor was my lovely husband James and the other two were Cyndie and Bram Smith, good friends of ours from Florida. Cyndie is a talented metal-jewelry artist I met while I was director at the art gallery there.They all arrived on the same flight in late September, which made the hook-up easy, and I met them at Munich’s main train station. I’d taken the train in from Bamberg and they had taken the train from the airport. Then we all made our way to Marienplatz to see the Glockenspiel and have Weisswurst and beer for breakfast. Here’s a shot of Bram (the back of the head closest to my lens) watching the Glockenspiel, but mostly giggling with me about the combover of the guy in the red shirt in front of us! Here’s the back of Cyndie’s head (long
hair, on the right) as she takes a picture of the Glockenspiel in action.
And here’s James enjoying a wonderful Oktoberfest beer along
with his Weisswurst
.
Because Weisswurst translates literally as “white sausage” and because they are
actually white in color, Cyndy dubbed them “White Weenies.”

Since I am lucky enough to have seen
the Glockenspiel many times, it’s my special pleasure to watch the crowd watch
the Glock. I get great people shots from this. Here’s one of a “living tripod”
who looks like she’s used to filling this role for the photographer behind her.

We ventured around the corner to the wonderful
Viktualienmarkt where, among all the luscious fruits, vegetables, cheese,
wine and beer, we saw artichokes that had bloomed. This is what they look like
if you don’t pick them while you can still eat them.
read more

(Almost) Albrecht Dürer Exhibit in Nuremberg – Again

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Ok,
last week you read (I hope) about my aborted trip to see the once-in-a-lifetime Albrecht
Dürer exhibit in Nuremberg. The wait was hours long so I had a schnitzel
instead.
  I
attempted the trip again the following Thursday, thinking that a weekday would
be better and the crowds would be smaller. Plus, bonus, it was raining that
morning, so I figured I was in like Flynn, whoever Flynn is.
 

So
I set out on the train once again and joyfully hopped off in N-berg and trekked
the small distance through the lovely old town section to the German National
Museum. It was looking good, I must say – the place was near deserted. I was so
happy I was almost skipping! read more

(Almost) Albrecht Dürer Exhibit in Nuremberg

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Despite the fact that my trip to Kassel for the dOCUMENTA art exhibit was a downer, I set my sights on the Albrecht Dürer exhibit in Nuremberg. Nuremberg is easily daytrippable from where I live in Bamberg, so the logistics were quite simple.Albrecht Dürer is a son of Nuremberg, born there during the Renaissance in 1471. You can tour his house, which is preserved in the Old Town section. Although you might not know his name, I’m betting you have seen some of his artwork here and there along the line. He’s famous for a lot of images, but among them are a painting of a rabbit, a rendition of Adam and Eve, and the praying hands image that is popular among your grandmother’s set.You can see photos of all his work here.The most interesting thing about Dürer for me is that he was so famous during his own lifetime – about the first German artist to achieve that. He was excellent at self-marketing and had the genius notion of making prints of his original artworks to sell. Painters had not done this before Dürer. Therefore, not only was he a good painter, he was also a very rich man.Dürer’s artworks are distributed all over the world, and I’d seen many of them in places like the Louvre in Paris. However, this exhibit had gathered all his works from around the globe into the German National Museum in his hometown for a big, once-in-a-lifetime show wherein you could see his work altogether.So, on a Sunday in August, I hopped a train and was soon in N-town. I hoofed the small distance from the station to the museum, congratulating myself on living so close and being there as the museum opened to beat the crowds. Then I rounded the corner to the museum and saw this:Well, ok. I can stand in line for an opportunity to see this exhibit. No problem. So I stood there. And stood there. And stood there. The line barely moved. After about an hour the couple in front of me asked a passing museum staffer how long the wait might be. The answer: another hour. Because of the preservation standards for the artworks, they can only allow a certain number of people into the exhibit rooms at a time.A little while later, the husband of said couple went inside for a bathroom break. When he returned he reported another line inside that was two or three times longer than the one we were in! That couple bailed and decided to just go see Old Town because they were on a tight schedule.After another 15 minutes or so, I decided to bail as well. I figured I could come back on a weekday and it wouldn’t be as crowded. Since it was almost lunchtime, I headed to a good German restaurant I knew about that has some of the best schnitzel I’ve ever eaten (right, Cheryl?).Along the way I saw this: No wonder Europeans think our country
is full of guns. The American stores in Europe are gun stores! Or fast food
restaurants! Along the way I was also treated with this view of St. Lorenz
church in the morning sun:

Nuremberg’s old town is quite large
compared to many German cities and it has a few different squares. The square I
was headed to is ostensibly the main one and where they hold the famous Christmas Market and in which the Schöner Brunnen

resides. This name translates literally as “Beautiful Fountain.” As
opposed to the ugly ones, I guess. But it really is beautiful. It was built in the 1300’s and is about 62 feet tall.

Its figures depict the
world view of the Holy Roman Empire, with philosophers, popes, etc.
read more

dOCUMENTA(13) – Part 3 of 3

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This journal is the third and last installment of my trip to Kassel, Germany, to see the dOCUMENTA(13) international contemporary art exhibit. If you remember, it takes place every five years and involves artists worldwide. The installments are spread over eight locations in Kassel and, this year, also in Canada, Afghanistan and Egypt.I left you just as I had exited the Fridericianum Museum, the main venue in Kassel. I ducked around the corner to the Ottoneum, which was opened in 1608 as the first theater in Germany. It has been used since as a military chapel, a cannon foundry, art museum and observatory. Today it serves as the natural history museum. Here you can see it around the corner of the Fridericianum: As with the exhibits in the Fridericianum, I can’t say that I was much impressed by the artwork presented here, either. The first room had a pallet of what looked like bars pressed out of dirt and compost. After reading a lengthy description of these bars, called “Soil-erg,” which purported to be a natural, green product that could be used as everything from building material to fuel, the last line of this very detailed description stated that it was just an artist’s conception, not a real product. Really? At least it didn’t smell as bad as it looked.Another work by the same artist, an American, was a framed, ragged outline of an American flag that had been composted! What? Apparently she is trying to make a statement about the political aspects of agriculture worldwide (according to the bombastic guidebook). I think she may be trying to draw attention to her fieldwork in developing ways to increase agricultural production in poor areas, which is commendable. However, personally I think there are more positive ways to do it.Honestly, I was really fed up with the holier-than-thou flavor of this rather unorganized exhibit and skimmed over the rest of the artworks in the Ottoneum. But, I was in a natural history museum, which was great! There was a preserved skeleton of an elephant and tons of biological specimens. One of my favorite rooms was this traditional one:  In contrast was a very modern display in the next room: What looked like a big (52″ or so) flatscreen TV with a view of the garden outside was actually a cinemagraph! I’d recently learned about this cool photography technique and was very excited to see such a beautiful example of it.Briefly, a cinemagraph is a series of still photographs converted to .gif files and combined in a video loop. You’ve probably seen very small examples of looped .gifs in internet forum posts. Some people use an animated avatar like a smiley that moves; this is basically what a cinemagraph is, but in a cinemagraph, the looped images are still photos, not smileys. Most of the image does not move from frame to frame, but one element does. In this one, the plants were stationary, but the water rippled and moved. It even had an accompanying sound track of insect and bird songs.Cinemagraphs can be gorgeous! Check out this link for some great examples. I can’t wait to try it myself!But moving on. I left the Ottoneum and took a turn about the rest of the large area around the Fridericianum. I was really not interested in seeing more artwork. It was too depressing. Plus I would have had to backtrack and redeposit my camera bag at the coat check room. But I’m glad I took the walk.Here’s a picture of the complimentary yellow bus you could ride to the other seven locations in Kassel with a valid dOCUMENTA ticket. Behind the bus you can see the State Theater, the modern, glass-fronted building. It also housed artwork. On my stroll to the State Theater, I passed this art installation: You can see it’s a van and the work is by an Australian Aboriginal artist. There is a video screen depicting an Aboriginal woman working on a handmade blanket. Apparently this is a typical scene in certain Australian cities. The woman and her family live in the van and move it around selling handmade goods to tourists. The items in front of the screen blend into the video scene. It was precise! The van is moved around Kassel during the exhibit, just like it would be in Australia.Another building just next to the van and beside the State Theater is the Documenta-Halle, which was built in 1992 to house artwork for the exhibits. In addition, they hold seminars, workshops, performances and such there. It was glass-fronted just like the State Theater and I could see into the building. There were long rows of wooden tables. The drawings or paintings on the table were covered with what looked like big blankets or sheets of leather. Visitors had to lift the covers to see the artwork underneath. They all looked like they were at a peep show – or maybe it was me! Also on the grounds below the hill was the Orangerie, dating from 1700. It was built as a royal summer palace and a winter greenhouse (orange trees inside = “orangerie”). In 1992 it became home to Kassel’s Cabinet of Astronomy and Physics, with an observatory and displays of historic science instruments. At this time it also had dOCUMENTA artworks.

In the adjoining park was what looked
like a big tree holding up a boulder. It’s actually a sculpture and the tree is
made of bronze.

On the extensive grounds of this venue area were
various other displays and several musical performances. In front of the
Fridericianum was a cacophony of displays that looked like political protests.
I still do not know if they were truly protests or part of the dOCUMENTA
exhibit, but every political issue was covered, from green initiatives to
refugees to oppression worldwide. read more

dOCUMENTA(13) – Part 2 of 3

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Before we get to the travel journal proper, I’m proud to say I got a mention on my quilling mentor Ann Martin’s allthingspaper blog (check near the end of the article). The link points to my updated photography website, so check that out yourself if you haven’t don it already.Last week I left you on the steps of the Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany, about to go into the biggest contemporary art exhibit in the western world, dOCUMENTA(13). As you can imagine, my expectations were rather high for this one.While standing in line, a man behind me asked if he could borrow the pen he saw in my hand. He said he had to sign and date his ticket. Okay….I followed suit, thinking this was typical German overkill attention to detail.However, when I got to the ticket-taker podium, the man in front of me was sent off to the side to sign and date his ticket before they would allow him in! Mine passed muster and I escaped with a smile and a small stamp! Interestingly, the stamp reflected the date, so why did I have to write the date, too? The first of many mysteries about this exhibit that remain unsolved.It had been quite warm outside standing in line, but once I got into the exhibit hall, there was a wonderfully cool breeze and I enjoyed it fully. I was a little confused, though, because the spacious foyer of this place was entirely bare of artwork!I had to thread my way through small groups of people milling around to find a room where there was anything to see. I found a couple of video presentations, but they were located down short, narrow corridors and around a corner to shield light. The thing was, the corners were so small that it was nearly impossible to get to the videos because of the people who were already there.I saw a few other things here and there, including a giant black-and-white, photographic, panoramic mural in a round room that was kind of interesting. But so far I wasn’t very impressed.I ended up in a room that had a wall filled with old-fashioned display cases. In the display cases were hundreds of items made from old artillery shell casings – everything from letter openers to ashtrays to toys to vases to pens and cigarette cases. It was fascinating looking at each unique piece obviously hand-worked out of the remnants of war.Fortunately photographs were allowed in the exhibit as long as there was no flash. However, most of the lighting in the exhibit areas was so dim it was hard to get good shots. But here is a shot I managed of those shell casing pieces: On the other side of the room from the display cases was a complex of floor-to-ceiling metal shelves with carved wooden busts and stacks of books:When I got closer, I found that the books were all about atrocities of war or some psychological or societal result of war through the ages and the wooden busts were hideously deformed depictions of people who were mutilated during the world wars and other conflicts. Creepy and depressing.I don’t remember what else was on the first floor, but I remember it was terribly disturbing to me. It seemed that the artists were intent on showing everyone what was horribly wrong with our world. I hoped it would get better.So, I fled that floor and made my way upstairs to the second level. The first area I came to was a brightly lit room with some scientific-looking equipment in it and a chalkboard full of mathematical equations on one wall. It turns out that the equipment was set up there because a Viennese physicist was set to duplicate the famous “double-slitexperiment” in quantum physics first done by Thomas Young in 1803. I was about a week early and the experiment wasn’t in progress, but it was really cool to see the equipment set up for it! I wish I could have seen it; I’ve been reading about quantum physics lately. My faith in the exhibit was somewhat restored.In the adjacent room was a huge display of drawings of apples:On close inspection you could see that each set of two apples was different than the next and each set was photo-realistic. Ok, this is good, I thought. Then came the down factor when I found out that the artist was a priest who drew these pictures while he was forced to tend the garden at Dachau concentration camp! Sheesh. However, he did develop a few hybrid apple varieties, one of which is still cultivated widely today.The display cases in the middle of the room held a collection of index cards with notes on them for a speech. Not sure what all that was about.In the next room was a handmade embroidered tapestry made by an Italian artist while he was in Afghanistan. The whole thing was a map of the world, but I shot the USA:In the next room was a weird combo of posters made from an artist’s drawings, doodlings, diary entries and such tacked on the wall: Although I read about the artist and this concept in the guidebook, it didn’t really make much sense to me. The cardboard cartons were full of copies of these posters and the visitors were invited to take them. People were going through them like it was Black Friday at Walmart. Although they looked kinda cool in the museum, I knew I’d just bring them home and throw them away. I have enough journal entries of my own!The next room I visited had some most excellent books carved out of stone. They were lovely and some were inset with precious stones as well:Turns out they were stone copies of books that had been destroyed when the bombs hit the Fridericianum in WWII. Here is what’s left of the extensive state library that was housed there:In the same room was also a collection of rubble and shrapnel from wars and battles all over the world. I did like the way they wrote on the glass of the display case (in English) as labels for the items, though, again, the subject matter was really depressing. There was even a piece of the World Trade Center debris from 9/11.Further on I saw a display about this “artist’s concept” of trying to get a resolution passed to designate the Earth’s atmosphere as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For those of you who are unfamiliar with UNESCO sites, it means the same as a structure being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the US. This essentially means you aren’t allowed to destroy it or significantly change it in any way. So it would mean that we would not be allowed to destroy the Earth’s atmosphere and would have to stop global warming and so forth. Interesting concept.There were some paintings in one room which were fun to look at because of the moiré effect. You could kind of hypnotize yourself if you wanted. They were abstract enough to not seem depressing, anyway. The guidebook states the artist is Aboriginal Australian and is depicting the sand, salt and heat of his homeland. After that it mentions that the artist was motivated to depict his homeland before the white man came along and took it away from his tribe. Harshed my buzz!Interestingly, I had read an article a few days before about low-level filters built into high-end digital cameras to prevent the moiré effect. I entertained myself watching two men with mobile phone cameras try to photograph this artwork and wonder why there was a moiré effect! You can get a little moire effect of your own if you scroll this webpage back and forth – the slight flashes between lines is the moire effect.After visiting most of the artwork in this building, I was a little disappointed with the exhibit overall. It was all Nazis, war, poverty and destruction. Plus I was really getting tired. However, I went back to the groundfloor and stood in the line for a part of the exhibit called “The Brain.” At least that’s what the sign said. I actually had to step out of the back door to get in the very long line. They allowed only a certain number of people in the room at a time due to environmental conditions. After 45 minutes or so, I was admitted to the room.This room is described as where “…a number of artworks, objects and documents are brought together in lieu of a concept.” I have to say that it was probably my favorite area of the exhibit and most of it was not even contemporary art.These are the so-called Bactrian Princess figurines from Central Asia and date from the late third and second millenia B.C. They were so delicate and beautiful!There were other cool items in this room, but, unfortunately I found out the hard way that I wasn’t supposed to take any photos in that room! The attendant caught me raising the camera to photograph something and rushed over to stop me. She apparently didn’t see me photograph the Bactrian Princesses.So, I’ll describe a couple of things that I thought were worthy of note. One, there was a vase and two bath towels from Hitler’s bathroom! How in the world two bath towels survived from his bunker is a fairly mundane story, so I’ll leave it to your imagination.Another object, the one I was trying to photograph, was a metronome with a cutout of an eye from a photograph attached to the part that tick-tocks back and forth. It was called “Indestructible Object” and was created by Man Ray.Next to the metronome was a book open to a page that contained a diagram of such a setup, but the one in the book was titled “Object to be Destroyed.” The text, written by Man Ray, stated, “Cut out the eye from the photograph of one who has been loved but is seen no more. Attach the eye to the pendulum of a metronome and regulate the weight to suit the tempo desired. Keep going to the limit of endurance. With a hammer well aimed, try to destroy the whole at a single blow.”The original metronome piece was made in 1923, and later destroyed. I’ve read at least five different stories about how it got destroyed, but all of them indicate that his instructions were followed! Man Ray made more of them in later years, renaming them “Indestructible Object.”Perhaps my favorite article in the whole “Brain” collection was an ordinary brick, like one for building houses. The brick had a broad yellow stripe painted down one narrow edge. It’s called a Czechoslovak Radio.Here’s a good description – and a photo – I found on a website reflecting what the dOCUMENTA guidebook says about it: When
Czechoslovakia was invaded by Soviet army in 1968, people resisted to the
repression of political reforms through creative means. After people were
forbidden to listen to radio broadcasts, they started attaching antennas to
bricks as a sign of protest.

Nothing
more than painted bricks, these fake radios started to spread among the
population pretending to listen to them, and although they were useless as a
communication device, they were continuously confiscated by the Russian Army.
It is still unclear if this was caused by the genuine thought these were hidden
audio equipments or because they were seen as anarchic pieces of art. read more