Nine years ago, I was sipping a cup of deliciously decadent, silky-smooth, hot chocolate for a minimal price at the Rathaus Cafe in Offenbach, Germany.
I remember glancing at the temperature gauge, noting it was zero degrees celsius outside, before watching a squirrel, as he scurried around the branches of the weeping tree nearby. It was the first time we had seen a squirrel, more familiar as we were with marsupial creatures with young in pouches. We were fascinated.
The large, deciduous tree was fast losing the remainder of its pugnacious, golden-brown, Autumnal leaves and stood like a slowly wilting sentinel, witnessing the imminent passing of its foliage’s use-by-date.
To some, it might be just a tree, in a not so unique village in Germany. To me, this tree was like a wrinkled, weathered face: elegant, wise and experienced in its maturity and so very different from anything back home.
It wasn’t just magnificent, this tree had history. Not only did it provide shade and shelter, it emanated clean air as large trees do and contrasted ever so softly with the harsh lines of the historically significant structures around it.
This majestic beast framed the entrance of a park adjacent to the white neo-baroque manor house that, to me, resembled what I imagined to be a ‘Von Trap,’ style mansion. Having just arrived from the subtropical heat of a humid Australian city, I thought I had stepped into heaven!
Busing Palais in Offenbach
The Busing Palais in Offenbach was home to 18th-century entrepreneurs Peter Bernard and Johann Georg d’Orville, and the likes of Goethe would spend summers there. All but destroyed in 1943, this manor house was rebuilt to become a Museum, Library and of late, a conference centre.
Not only that but a Scloss, or Castle and Chapel completed a heritage square nearby.
As much as I enjoyed the architecture, the Festival of Leaves around me was the real jewel in the crown.
The Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, was an impressive piece of religious architecture and a tourist draw-card for the small city. Sadly it’s now gone, due to two large earthquakes that occurred back in 2010 and 2011. I was lucky enough to visit just two weeks before the first earthquake.
History of Christchurch
For Christchurch to be declared a ‘city’, with all the privileges that entailed, it had to have a cathedral, so the pilgrims that sailed on the immigrant ships in 1850 and made Christchurch their home, built the cathedral in the historic style of the time. Clearly, they had faith that the city would develop.
The Church though a little damaged, remained intact after the first earthquake, in 2010, but the beautiful tower fell in the second event barely six months later. An earthquake-proof cathedral, presumably of a different design will be re-built on this site.
Some insight into days on board the immigrant ships was provided:
Life on board was cramped. Steerage passengers were confined to a small space below the main deck. Single men slept in bunks. Married couples had a curtain for privacy. This space was used not only for sleeping, but also for storing everything needed for the voyage. There was a lack of fresh air, and dampness was a constant concern. Basic food was provided, such as salted meat, flour, rice, biscuits and potatoes. A bucket was supplied for washing and laundry.
Many suffered from seasickness. The worst, during the first two weeks, but for some, it continued for the whole voyage. Passengers passed the time at sea plotting the ship’s course, writing letters and diaries, sewing, playing cards and games, and dancing. Prayer meetings were held every morning and afternoon, and there was a full church service on Sundays. There were also school lessons for the children. Source: http://www.firstfourships.co.nz/
A door like the Cathedral entry door could withstand any earthquake.
Christchurch Cathedral’s Stained Glass Windows
Not able to withstand the quake were the stained glass windows and curiously patriotic cushions on the pews.
The mosaic theme continued all along the wall and floor tiles. They loved these sorts of things in the mid 1800’s. Didn’t they? A real treasure.
Part of the design included a Swastika, a symbol that held a different meaning, prior to World War II.
The Swastika is known as the Fylfot and is an ancient symbol found in the ruins of Troy, Egypt, China, and India. In Sanskit, it means prosperity from the belief that it brings good luck. The Victorians loved the symbol and I have a Victorian hat pin that is a swastika. It gives me the creeps, but historically, that was not the intention.
Not sure what the relevance of this was for, other than what it says.
Here is what the cathedral looked like until recently – Reduced to rubble but the door remains intact.
Work was scheduled to begin in 2020, on the re-build.
I am not that fond of social media, but I do use it. Sounds a bit hypocritical, doesn’t it? I rather like the Facebook ‘Memories’ feature. It reminds me of what I was doing on that same date, in previous years. They are always happy memories. (I generally don’t post sad ones).
Last year at this time, for instance, I took a road trip with an old friend. We stayed overnight at an Eco-resort, a first for me. It was sublime. In the morning we took a walk through the forest and there was a surprise waiting for us, one that I wasn’t so fond of:
Instead of taking the highway home, we opted to follow some back roads. An unscheduled stop in a rural area, to check on a noise in the rear boot, (read: trunk if you are from the USA), led me to discover a surprising panorama. One that only the farmer and the cows might have shared:
However, a bigger surprise was to come a few miles north.
In a park prone to flooding (?!), a kilometre outside of the small country town of Kenilworth, Australia, a town known more for its prize-winning cheese, is a prize-winning Dunny, or public toilet facility.
180 people submitted their designs in a competition, run by the Town’s Council, for the creation of a new public – ah – monument. It was a local architectural illustrator, Michael Lennie, whose design titled Canistrum, Latin for a basket, that was selected.
At a cost of $600,000, the ‘Dunny’ was supposed to represent a basket – the basket being the history of the town and the unfinished basket supports the future history of the town, yet to be written.
But why yellow?
On pondering the glorious throne, of which I did not deem necessary to try out first hand, I pondered whether the artist was having a go at us, or maybe he was a ‘basket case?’ Lol.
The folks up that way do seem to have a wry sense of humour as the next surprise seemed to indicate.
This was spotted on the back road across the mountain.
Jurassic Park anyone?
If you haven’t already guessed, the theme this week for Friendly Friday is:
Show us a Surprise photo or two, or three in a Friendly Friday Post?
Because everyone likes Surprises, don’t they?
Even if they are a prize winning public toilet facility.
How to Join the Friendly Friday Challenge
To participate in the Challenge this week, you need to:
Create a Friendly Friday Post titled: ‘Friendly Friday – Surprise’
Designed by Kenzo Tange to resemble a computer chip, Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Office Building is a set of three towering skyscrapers, in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.
Two of the towers have a panoramic Observatory on the 45th floor, or 202 metres up, and there’s a few things about them that are rather special.
As well as one of the most amazing illuminated Cityscape outlooks you’ll find, the T.M.G. Building Observatory is open to the public, every night till 9pm, and what’s more – entrance to the observatory is FREE to the public.
Now that’s something that doesn’t come along too often, does it?
But back to the building. Impressive by day, the view was spectacular by night.
This is one of the views that awaits you.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government building complex occupies an entire block close to Shinjuku station. Entrance is via street level or a subterranean shopping arcade and underground walkway. There are actually two observatories, one in the North tower and one is the South tower, each with alternate openings times, so that if you visit two nights in a row, you might see two different views.
This is important to note, as it can be somewhat disorienting, if you exit via a different lift than you entered previously. Or perhaps it is only a sign of my approaching the elder years?
Uniformed Security Personnel are on hand to check bags prior to entering the lifts in the main foyer. In typical Japanese fashion, these Assistants are immaculately dressed, polite and helpful. Note that there will be a queue to enter the lifts, so factor this into your time allowance when visiting.
I would allow 45 minutes to an hour for this experience. Longer if you want to browse the gift shop or eat at the rooftop restaurant – which comes complete with faux Roman columns! The few trip advisor reviews for the restaurant I read, were mixed but they would surely have a first class view.
When you return to ground level, don’t forget to keep an eye out for an interesting clock in the foyer.
Even in the daytime, the building is quite impressive. In the foreground is a walkway across the busy street.
If you are observant of details and the resolution is not too small, you might note there is what appears to be a homeless person in the foreground. This was the only one I ever saw in the time visiting Japan. He appeared to be reading his Buddhist scriptures in the morning mist. I know that he was Buddhist, not that it is of any consequence to me what religious persuasion he was.
I realized this at a much later date, when I was informed by one of our guides that Shintoism does not have any written scriptures. In fact, anyone can invent a deity in Shinto if it is meaningful for them. They have thousands of deities.
One attraction that everyone comes to see in Trondheim, Norway, is Nidaros Cathedral and yet it is the nearby Værnes church in Storjdal that, for me, holds more fascination, at least in a historical sense.
Not only does the Værnes Church have a purpose-built ‘Weapons House,’ that dates back to Viking times, but you get to see Viking age architecture in regular daily use and see some of Scandinavia’s earliest church frescoes.
In the 11th Century, any self respecting, newly Christianized, Viking carried with them a range of knives, axes and other paraphernalia used in defence, and weapons such as these were banned from Church. When the Priest really wanted the new Christians to attend Church, he had to provide a purpose built structure to safely lock up any instruments of death. And so the Weapons House was built. Ten centuries on, I believe the ‘House,’ now accommodates nothing more deadly than a garden hoe or lawn cutter. [Watch out for your toes].
The interior of the church takes the visitor straight back to the 11th Century and is every bit as unique as the Weapon House. The roof trusses, pictured below, span 11 metres and are completely original. This is Viking carpentry at its finest and it is the only original roof of its type, still in existence. Notably, the trusses were used as a design template in reconstructing the roof of Nidaros cathedral and Håkonshall in Bergen.
What you see above you, at Værnes, is what a Viking saw ten centuries ago.
A raised and carved chair (c 1685), see above, was constructed as the private pew of General Von Schultz, the local Squire. It makes me slightly recoil to tell you this but, the wooden lattice ‘cage’ below was for the wives to sit, ( either Von Schultz or the Pastor’s wife. It is embarrassingly even referred to as a ‘wife’s cage.’ Awful, I know, but that is history.
Faces carved into the interior of this elevated chair are thought to depict the face of Von Schultz, but no one is quite sure of that. To me, some of them more resembled a gargoyle or the “north wind.”
The wall mural pre-dates the carved pulpit and is also original. Echoes of a world now past.
A fresco on the wall that looks like a hood from a pulpit remains a mystery to historians. The meaning and significance of this symbol has been lost.
Threatened by the Nazis during the war years, with their intensive infrastructure plans for a military base and airport, at Trondheim, Værnes Church survived and is still used for church services today. In fact, the church is so popular for baptisms and weddings, it is booked out many months and sometimes, years in advance.
Make a small detour from Værnes Lufthavn, (Trondheim airport), to Stjørdal, in Norway and you can walk the path of history.
Værnes Kirke is an important link to the past and something to ponder about. Linking to Jo’s Monday Walks – a tad earlier
“We don’t catch hold of an idea, rather the idea catches hold of us and enslaves us and whips us in to the arena so that we, forced to be gladiators fight for it.”
– Heinrich Heine 1797 – 1858
So says the inscription on the statue of German Poet, Journalist and literary critic, Heinrich Heine, in Berlin, Germany. His words of wisdom have often intrigued me and it was for that very reason that I tracked down his statue, on a recent trip to Berlin.
Why bother to search for a statue, you might say? After all, the Heine statue is a little off the usual tourist path and one has to actively search for it, [and you already know that I was doing just that]. It is because I’ve been fascinated by the liberal, and at times prophetic words, of this free thinking writer and how his words written in the 19th century, became catastrophically true, in the twentieth century. But more about that a little later.
Heine’s statue sits in a small square, fringed with manicured hedges and shady trees, and is a suitable spot to rest and reflect, as Heine did, upon the world, (although I suspect, today’s visitors might update social media, rather than navel-gaze). Whilst mapping out my walking route around Berlin attractions, finding his statue was a short stop before my walking destination – the Pergamon, a Berlin absolute ‘must – see’.
The Pergamon is situated amongst a complex of museums, housed in several palatial buildings on Museum Island. The classic architecture of the museum buildings harkens back to Ancient times and is an excellent visual attraction in itself.
Also in the Museum complex, the monumental Neues Museum, circa 1800’s, contains Ancient art and archeology, whilst Neoclassical art fills the neighbouring and awe-inspiring Altes Nationalgalerie.
But, I am here to see the Pergamon itself, and its jewels in the archaeological crown – one of which is the excavation finds of frieze panels of the Pergamon Altar, reclaimed in archaeological digs, from 1878 to 1886. Disappointingly, for me and future visitors, I find that the Pergamon Altar exhibit is closed for renovation, until 2019. Well, maybe next time.
What you won’t see till 2019. Wikipedia Photo
Nevertheless, I am aware that one ‘altar’ doth the Pergamon, not make. There are other ‘jewels’ to see. Some of the other monolithic exhibits, such as the Market Gate of Miletus, the Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way from Babylon, are overwhelming and to say that is a complete understatement. Just look at them!!!
If you don’t ever get to visit the historic sites of the Middle East yourself, visiting the Pergamon will make you feel like you have!
The exhibits are unlike anything I have seen and are but a small window into the world of ancient civilizations. I am completely gobsmacked by the level of intricate detail and the skills necessary to produce such fine work.
To Plan a visit, go to the Museum website here, and please note there’s an option to purchase a combo ticket, for entry to all three museums, at a discounted price. A good tip to remember is to arrive at the Pergamon around opening time so as to avoid the lengthy queues commonly found, later in the day. I arrived just on opening time, and already the queue to enter took around 20 minutes.
If you decide the queues to the Pergamon are too long on your arrival, the surrounding gardens and Berlin’s Domkirke cathedral are in themselves, a delight to see. The square in front of the Cathedral church is filled with buskers, street artists, and unfortunately, a few less desirable folk angling for the tourist dollar, legally or illegally. Be careful with your money around them.
The Pergamon Museum complex is located on Bodestraße 1-3, Berlin and if you don’t want to walk there, from your accommodation, as I did, you can take a Bus, Tram, UBahn or Uber. Me? I enjoyed the a brisk, but lengthy early morning walk from my room at Comfort Hotel Auberge, which is located on Bayreuther Straße, a few steps from Wittenbergplatz station, but the walk back was a little too much, after being on my feet all day, so a bus near the Brandenberg gate took me right back to Kurfürstendamm, and then it was only a short stroll home past the farmer’s markets.
Hotel Auberge is family run boutique hotel with classic old world features. Think ornate plaster ceilings, chandeliers in every room, carpeted stairs with turned wooden banisters, and a spacious room overlooking a leafy courtyard. Breakfast is an ample and satisfying buffet and tea is served to your table.
On a 37° Celsius summer day like this one, the balcony seat was a perfect place to enjoy the sounds of the birds, and the city waking from its slumber before embarking on my walk.
The modern KaDeWe and Kurfürstendamm shopping precinct, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the Europa-Center and the Zoological garden are an easy 10 minutes walk away.
On my lengthy walk around Berlin, and the Pergamon, I was happy to find Heine, and pondered his thought-provoking words, especially his tragically prophetic line from the 1821 play, Almansor,
“Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.”
Today, as I read a book called Stasiland by Australian author, Anna Funder, and learn of what it was like to live in the GDR, prior to the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall, I remember the inscription on Heine’s statue and ponder more his words, in much the same way as Anna Funder did, in her book:
“Heine, the free thinking poet, would be turning in his grave to see the sort of enslaving and forcing and fighting that has gone on here, under his cold black nose and pigeon shit shoulders.” -Anna Funder in Stasiland.
Have we really learned any lessons?
If you enjoyed reading my Tuesday Travel adventures, and are looking for other Travel themed blogs, you may like to check out:
Around this time 6 years ago I was walking in Wellington, New Zealand
A light shower greeted me this morning so the day started with an indoor activity hunting down a friend’s family history at the library. To our surprise we found a connection with our own family… is everyone in New Zealand related in some way or another to a resident in the Hawkes Bay area????
Wellington promised to live up to Melbourne’s weather reputation of having four seasons in one day… becuse pretty soon the sun came out, allowing us to have a picnic lunch, after walking along the beach. The children had a great time and I saw the harbour at its best. It really is a huge natural harbour surrounding by breathtaking mountains and forest.
The old part of Wellington has some beautiful houses:many perched on the absolute top of the ridge, and especially around Oriental Bay, one could be forgiven for thinking you were in San Francisco.
After all, New Zealand is on a fault line, like San Francisco, has a cable car like San Francisco, has houses perched on perilously steep cliffs and mountain sides, ending in a beautiful harbour, and lots of wooden architecture from the early 20’s – 30’s like San Francisco, and then of course, there is the earthquake issue.
New Zealand had around 15,000 earthquakes each year, mostly in the North Island, but very few are felt. The town centre of Napier, in Hawkes Bay, was completed flattened by a quake in 1931 and you’ll find footage of this in the Te Papa Museum, central Wellington, which was my next destination on this walk.
An earthquake ‘house’ gives a simulation of what it was like to be in Napier on that fateful day. The terrible rumbling, the premptive the shaking and rattling, and sudden movement underfoot is actually terrifying. Really gives you an idea , of what it is like to live through such an event, without experiencing the danger.
The Maori exhibits are also interesting and one can sit inside a Maori meeting house where they occasionally hold council meetings…. it is quite dark inside and has an atmosphere of solemnity and seriousness.
If you visit this museum, don’t forget to see the Kiwi and, the Giant Squid, both preserved and dead of course. Children are well catered for too, with dress ups, games, activities and play areas that allow for interactive learning.
Travelling further through the main centre of Wellington, we took a ride on the cable car to the small museum at the top of the hill. The museum itself, outlines the history of the Cable car, has some Vintage cars and you can also see the cable mechanism at work.
On our return to the city, we paused at the fully timbered church where my cousin’s parents were married. Truly unique I think in New Zealand’s church architecture. Our walk continued following a short car ride (sorry Jo, I cheated), to the wind turbines at the Karori Reserve. Some energetic Wellingtonians were actually jogging the whole way up the narrow 5 kilometre road, and this in very windy conditions, one of the reasons I declined the offer to walk the 5 kilometres. Even then, we almost got blown away when we stepped out of the car at the top!
The wind turbine was built with Danish technology. While being able to sustain winds of up to 200km/h, it shuts down when the winds goes over 80km/h.
Wind power is something many cities are now pondering about.
If you are watching any edition of Aussie news at the moment, it would not have escaped your notice that Queensland and the “Territory” are experiencing the effects of a tropical cyclone of monster proportions.
Most of us had to wait for the Weather bureau’s radar to tell us a cyclone was bearing down on us, and exactly where it would hit, but for some, their own version of the news bulletins have been screaming warning messages for weeks. So who are these intuitive, all – knowing metereologists? Animals, and nature, of course.
For weeks, the turtles have been emerging from the creek beds and creeks, plodding ever so slowly, (well, they do have to start early, don’t they?!) on their way to higher ground.
The Cockatoos, those screeching white birds with the sulphur crest, clearly possess a sixth sense, that we humans, missed out on as they have been flying inland in flocks during the last week or so. (When there is drought, they immigrate to the cities in search of food and water). If a lot of rain is expected, they will head inland to feed on the drier grassy areas, as they are doing now.
I even heard the Kookaburras laughing their ‘heads’ off, all last week, a sure sign of the onset of rain.
And the Ants, well there are ants everywhere, and I mean everywhere they are not supposed to be, like in your kitchen cupboards, in your laundry, and even in your bed!! Someone should tell them that there are higher places to hibernate than in my low set, one-level house!
And these creatures are always correct, which is more than I can say for the Weather forecasters!! Funny to think that an animal such as a turtle, or ant could replace a tertiary-educated professional or the highly sophisticated computer software!!!
Even non-living things seem to have an edge on what the weather will do: if you cast your eye upwards and see cloud formations that look like a mare’s tail, or sheep’s wool, you can bet your bottom dollar, there will be rain within three days. Guaranteed!! The mare’s tail clouds are particularly accurate, unless you live in the tropical areas, which has a unique weather pattern all of its own.
In any case, the rain arrived yesterday, and continued all through today, unrelenting for hours and hours. There were no less than five ( clearly a bit below par as far as animal intuition goes), toads, swimming in my backyard swimming pool this afternoon. Stupid, poisonous creatures, that obviously don’t have the intelligence or intuition of the turtle! (Although the toad is an introduced pest, so perhaps I’ll excuse them for this).
So what are we doing? We batten down the hatches and await the arrival of Tropical Cyclone Marcia (anyone who has ever watched the Brady Bunch TV show is now chanting Marsha, Marsha, Marsha), and the joke is tired already!! The cyclone made landfall at Yeppoon this morning as a Category 5 – with 260 km/hr winds. It sounded like a freight train passing over, and there is much structural damage like you see in this video.
Tropical Cyclones are severe weather systems that strike the Australian coast during the summer months. They usually consist of a central eye, in which the wind is fairly mild; there may be no or little cloud, or perhaps even sunshine. This is surrounded by a rapidly rotating low pressure storm system which produces enormous amounts of rain and wind. The systems spin clockwise, in the southern hemisphere, and counter – clockwise in the northern hemisphere.
Residents in affected areas need to stock up on candles, matches, a generator perhaps, batteries, battery operated radio, torch, non-perishable food supplies, and tape up their glass windows, as well as remove any debris in their yard that could be flung about causing damage in high winds. STAY indoors, in the strongest part of their house, perhaps under a table or in the bathroom with mattresses and blankets for protection, should the roof be blown away. Most houses built since the devastation of Cyclone Tracy, (which flattened an entire city on Christmas day 1976), are built to cyclone proof standards, but in a Category 5 cyclone, Queenslanders have had to hold and barricade doors and windows on near new homes to prevent them from blowing in!
Here is some basic information on Cyclones from Wiki:
Tropical cyclones typically form over large bodies of relatively warm water. They derive their energy through the evaporation of water from the ocean surface, which ultimately recondenses into clouds and rain when moist air rises and cools to saturation. The strong rotating winds of a tropical cyclone are a result of the conservation of angular momentum imparted by the Earth’s rotation as air flows inwards toward the axis of rotation. As a result, they rarely form within 5° of the equator. Tropical cyclones are typically between 100 and 4,000 km (62 and 2,485 mi) in diameter.
At the center of a mature tropical cyclone, air sinks rather than rises. For a sufficiently strong storm, air may sink over a layer deep enough to suppress cloud formation, thereby creating a clear “eye“. Weather in the eye is normally calm and free of clouds, although the sea may be extremely violent. The eye is normally circular in shape, and is typically 30–65 km (19–40 mi) in diameter, though eyes as small as 3 km (1.9 mi) and as large as 370 km (230 mi) have been observed.
[Marcia’s eye was 70 km wide]
The cloudy outer edge of the eye is called the “eyewall“. The eyewall typically expands outward with height, resembling an arena football stadium; this phenomenon is sometimes referred to as the stadium effect. The eyewall is where the greatest wind speeds are found, air rises most rapidly, clouds reach to their highest altitude, and precipitation is the heaviest. The heaviest wind damage occurs where a tropical cyclone’s eyewall passes over land.
DAY 28. – Jonathan Wunrow – Adventure Inward: A Risk-Taker’s Book of Quotes
Where else does one find a quote, but in a book of quotes.
Jonathan is a rock climber and mountaineer, and has been stuck in places where he has been tired and exhausted, but nevertheless stuck. It is there he does his best thinking and problem solving. He contemplates, death, extreme sports, personal actions and faults, in his book of quotes. This is the quote I have chosen to highlight today:
ACCEPTING THINGS AS THEY ARE, IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM ALLOWING THEM TO REMAIN THAT WAY! – Jonathan Wunrow
Simple, but poignant. Inspiring Action!!! Do not just sit there and take it! Make change!!!
In reference to the above quote, Jonathan also adds, There are times in our life when acceptance is cause for inaction, and there are times when taking actions is the only way to accept a situation and MOVE ON>>
Something to Ponder About.
Final two days of the 30 day Challenge: DAY 29. – A book you hated. DAY 30. – Book you couldn’t put down.
I find profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and across cultures, and speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes like proverbs, can make us think more deeply about something.
Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought-provoking. I hope you will too.
In keeping with the book theme that is currently proliferating my posts, I have chosen a proverb from Saudi Arabia this Proverbial Thursday:
“A book is a garden carried in the pocket.” Saudi Arabian Proverb
“We have to learn to be our own best friends because we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies.” Roderick Thorp