Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kölner Dom

I went to Cologne yesterday and spent several hours in the Ludwig Museum. They have a wonderful collection of German expressionists and Picasso paintings as well as Dada, Pop art etc. I kept discovering new corridors of paintings I had missed.

Then I sat outside and sketched the Cologne Cathedral next door. How do you paint such a massive building as this is?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pink roses

Roses, painted at the Uetersen Rosarium (under an umbrella in the rain) yesterday.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wonderful Roses

Uetersen, on the outskirts of Hamburg is a thriving rose breeding center and the Uetersen Rosarium is a 'must-see' for rose enthusiasts. I took this photo of the rose Nostalgie at the Uetersen Rosarium yesterday.

A new book about the Rosarium and about Roses has just been released (in German with English summaries). It documents the history of the many roses bred in the area and is full of excellent photos ... like the one on the cover.

Co-author of the book Hanny Tantau, showing a group of garden lovers around the Rosarium. A spot of drizzly rain was not enough to stop the tour. Fortunately for the roses, the heavy rain that has brought southern Germany to a standstill has not reached the north.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Man and wife

Drawn in the train today on the way to the Hamburg art gallery. The trains were overflowing as it was a car-free day and trains travel was free.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lighthouse day

Today all the lighthouses along the Elbe River were open to the public. I rode down the rather steep hill to the Rissener Lighthouse to have a look.There was still a queue at 5pm (the official closing time) so I didn't wait to see the view from the top. Instead, to gather my strength for the ride back home, I had an 'Alsterwasser' (shandy) at a nearby Kneipe called Cafe Buchfink.
I took one sip of the Alsterwasser and thought what a pity to ruin a good beer with lemonade. Yuck. But I drank it before I pushed my bike back up the hill.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Hamburg: Water City

Hamburg, like Venice, is built on water. The Town Hall sits on one of the tributaries that run from the Alster Lake to the Elbe River.
Boat tours take tourist on trips around the Alster lake in the middle of the city. (Note the plastic bag on the bike seat - it was a wet day.)
I read somewhere that there are more bridges in Hamburg than Venice
and I can believe it.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Rissener Lighthouse

This is the Rissener Lighthouse down by the Elbe River. It was a lovely morning, fluffy clouds and the river was silver-blue.
By noon the clouds had turned ominous and there was a cold wind. Perfect though for the sailboats that skimmed across the water.

Friday, June 05, 2009


I saw a fantastic production of Die Meistersinger von Nuernberg at the Staatsoper last Monday. Great singing (John Trelevan sang Walther von Stolzing, Alan Titus sang Hans Sachs) fast, fun. The students were young rascals dressed in sailors outfits like the Vienna Boys Choir, the backdrop to the second act (after the fire at the end of the first act) was a picture of a devastated Nuernberg after the war, and the backdrop of the third act (normally a singing hall) was grass stalks that were so big that the players were the size of insects. We were in fairyland and there were not only fairies but characters from other Wagners operas: Tannhauser with his lute, Lohengrin clutching a swan and a handsome Elsa, an overly blond and handsome Siegmund dressed in a wolfs fur, a dwarf, Wotan with spear and stick, three Rhinemaidens with their chunks of gold and even Wagner himself. By the time the judges of the singing competition and the cast of characters were seated on the podium and the fairies and school boys were seated below there was very little room left on the stage. The Rhine maidens passed their chunks of gold along the row to Eva (Pogner put it under a chair) and Tannhauser whispered a few words of advice into the ear of Walther von Stolzing before he began his final song. It was very deft.

In the middle of Hans Sach's ode to Deutschland there was a silence and from the podium on which all the judges sat, one judge called out  'Just listen to yourself Hans Sachs, what are you singing? Do you really mean that?"
'Yes, of course I know what I am singing,' said Sachs.
The judge retorted, 'It is just so much National Socialist rubbish!'
The judges were then caught up in a loud verbal (not sung) argument:
'Well, we can change the words!'
'Oh no, we can't do that to Wagner's libretto', etc etc.
The chorus of Wagner characters and fairies stood around looking bemused as the judges argued. Then a voice boomed over the top:
"Gentlemen, could we please sing the opera to the end now?"
The orchestra started playing again and Sachs finished his song.
I thought to myself that this could only happen in Germany where so many people find Wagner's fixation with German culture embarrassing. I thought it very well produced, argument and all. Having all the characters there in a fairy like setting added depth to the discussion.

I could have sat and listened for hours. Well, I did sit and listen for hours, but it felt like 20 minutes.