Weimar – where Classic meets Bauhaus

I’ve started my Bauhaus discovery upside down from the timing perspective. First, when I moved to Berlin in 2014 I visited Bauhaus Archiv (currently under re-construction, with a temporary exhibition placed elsewhere in Berlin) and later on, visiting Dessau on a particularly gloomy winter day.

This Easter I decided to travel to Weimar, in the heart of Germany, where not only Bauhaus was born, but where the new Bauhaus Museum has been recently opened. Not to mention, that everything was pretty much marked by Goethe’s and Schiller’s presence and a few other important Germans in the history. Except from the places which boastfully mention that Goethe war hier. Nie! (‘Goether was here. Never!’). This is the witty proof how proud Weimarers are about their rich history dating back to Classicism period and is renowned as the UNESCO Heritage Site.

Easter time this year was exceptionally warm and sunny which was fantastic for sightseeing the city by foot. Even all-present Goethe mentioned that ‘Weimar is not a city with a park. It’s a park with a city’. Except from the Neues Museum, dedicated to modernism era, Bauhaus Museum, there’s several museums and houses worth visiting and all of them accessible within the purchase of a 48 hour Bauhaus Card for the whole region of Thuringia. Worry not, it is impossible to visit all the sites in such a short period of time.

One of the places I’ve picked to visit was the Nietsche Archiv – a house where the eccentric philosopher spent his last 3 years of life. Although these years were rather gloomy and turbulent, the background stories one can learn from visiting the house and admire the exquisite interior design by the Belgian architect Henry van der Velde are definitely worthwhile getting to know.

On the way to Weimar, it is worth to have a stroll around the neighbouring romantic city of Erfurt. Although it is not as charming as Weimar in my humble opinion, its Old Town has some interesting pieces of Prussian and Roman architecture, alongside with a few interesting museums as well.

Now coming back to the Bauhaus Museum, which was the main reason for travelling to Weimar in the first place: currently, it’s a very crowded spot, potentially due to the 100th Years of Bauhaus celebrations taking place and the recent opening. The museum concentrates on the first years of Bauhaus, including the initial concepts, surrounding movements like the Triadic Ballet and is focusing on the emblematic pieces of interior design, including the famous Barcelona Chair by Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich.

Interestingly, it shows the controversies around Bauhaus’ fascination over the usability and productivity as well as the gendered view on certain approaches (i.e. how to improve the life of housewives in the kitchen – how stunningly ironic it looks after years!). In the before-mentioned city of Erfurt, there’s an exhibition solely dedicated to the Women of Bauhaus, often dimmed in the light of their male colleagues.

At the same time, there are Bach Weeks going on in Thuringia which are connected with the public spaces like the Bauhaus Museum. Unfortunately, getting the tickets to these concerts over the Easter period was impossible but all in all, three days spent around this stimulating and beautiful city was definitely worthwhile.

I would definitely revisit Weimar for its historic charm, green parks, great restaurants and friendly people around. Soon, the Haus am Horn, a brilliant example of the ‘Martian architecture’ of Bauhaus will re-open for the public view. So I guess this is bis Später, Weimar!

Welcoming spring: walking around Brandenburg

The long-awaited longer days have come and I feel the awakening of my vital powers like all the flora and fauna around me. End of March is usually transformational for me, and looking back into my blog I can confirm this. After a week long overcast days, here comes the sun and people like me have the urge to go out, and be surrounded by nature.

Berlin has arguably impressive surroundings, I have to say. However, it’s one of the greenest and cleanest (in terms of air quality) metropolitan cities I know and if you love long walks around the forests, parks or countless lakes around the city, listening to the bird songs of the early spring days, hiking around the Berlin is one of the best ways to recharge on the weekend.

Thanks to my friend Aleksandra, I’ve joined a hiking meetup last month where like-minded nature and physical activity seeking folks pick a hiking trail and spend a day walking distances between 25-35 km on average. This time they’ve picked a lovely lake trail around Erkner, where some of the streets are even named as a ‘Way to Relax’ (Weg zur Erholung).

And it’s not only the fresh air coming out of the forest, lake or meadow that make these hikes special. These are the people you meet on the way: often coming from similarly creative and demanding roles, willing to spend some time off the computer screen and connect with others, look at something different than a concrete jungle, which after over a half a year of winter can take its toll.

I am grateful for the diversity of experiences I’ve had in this city so far. It’s been intense, it’s been lazy and I felt free to do whatever: be it dance the Sunday away in Berghain, to wake up and eat brunch when the sun sets, or be an early bird on the S-bahn to Erkner to take a scenic forest trail. And I’m ready for the spring to take over!

Frühlingsgefühle in Sächsische Schweiz

February is a strange month: it’s short and you never know what to expect from it weather-wise, so it’s better to focus on the relevant cultural happenings, such as Berlinale. This year I took a bet and stayed in the city, overbooking myself throughout the festival, but at the same time, the weather surprised me in a very positive way.

The days are definitely longer and there is more light everywhere – almost as if the springtime is ready to kick off. This reminds me of a remarkable weekend trip I took with my best friend Wero to Sächsische Schweiz two years ago around this time of the year.

Thanks to one of my colleagues, we knew where to focus on this short, 48 hours trip. We booked a little apartment to stay in Kurort Rathen, a picturesque, yet pretty touristy town. We were quite lucky to be there outside of the high season, as it was fairly quiet and not overtly crowded. The only issue WE had was the culinary diversity – almost everything available was pretty represented by particularly heavy, traditional food. It proved it served us well after a long and strenuous hike!

Upon our arrival, on a late Friday evening after work (it took us about 2,5 hours to travel from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Dresden and further with a regional train), we had to cross the Elbe river with the ferry and we were literally the last passengers of the Fähre. Next day, from the very beginning we headed off to Lilienstein and Festung Königstein, wandering around meadows, woods and climbing up the typical rocky foundations in the region, which was pretty exciting. After having walked for over 20 kms of the steep terrain, we gladly ate a big Roulade mit Sauerkraut and not being used to such heavy food, fell asleep at 8 or 9 pm.

After a typical, German Sunday breakfast-feast at the hotel next door, we headed off to Bastei to explore a few hiking routes around this most emblematic ‘rock bridge’, often associated with Sächsische Schweiz. It seemed that there was a plenty of Sunday visitors from Dresden which came for a stroll as the weather was sunny and blissful. Still, the views were breathtaking. At the end of our trip we headed off to Bad Schandau, from where a train was taking us back to Berlin directly.

I wish I could repeat this trip and see more of the hiking routes, however, time flies and I actually never re-visited Saxony, instead I went to Harz, which I can definitely recommend for the nature-loving Berliners to visit over the weekend.

Weihnachten in Berlin

It’s been over 4 years of living in Berlin for me and I’ve managed to spend my first Christmas (and New Year’s) season here only for the first time. There are many reasons to it: the most trivial one being lazy, and hesitant to spend more time at the airports, paying for the overpriced tickets to only get away to more sunny, appealing side of the world. Secondly, it’s a brand new state of living together with my partner and actually caring for staying at home (!) with our family, and last but not least: experiencing the ‘abandoned’ city vibe, empty streets, peace and quiet at once. Yay!

First, I felt a bit panicky about the fact that for a few days there will be very little to do with our parents who have (thankfully!) seen Berlin-as-a-tourist-place already and in case we run out of food, there will be nowhere to go to eat out. We definitely didn’t feel like spending the whole time in the kitchen and running around with all the schlep related to it.

Fortunately, most of the Asian, Indian and Turkish places, including our favourite ones were open and running during the whole holiday season, and there were many patchwork-expat families like ours enjoying the atypical dining. For three days, we enjoyed not only cooking at home, but also relaxing from the end-of-year hustle.

Another highlight, recommended by a colleague was the special Großes Berliner Weihnachtskonzert at the Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt. On the 25th, we attended a concert of Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau who performed ”Der Freischütz” overture of Weber, Mendelsohn-Bartholdy’s concert for violin and orchestra e-moll and Smetana’s pieces from ‘My Fatherland’.

With this I could definitely recommend staying in Berlin during winter holidays, slowing down, bonding with your family and friends, especially if you have some expat ones, who are missing their nearest and dearest, and often also the sun and human warmth.

Richtung West: Herbst in Westphalia

The month of October marks my Berlinversary – this year it’s been exactly four years since I relocated from Barcelona and started a new life. One year ago my friend Aleksandra, with whom I shared a lot of important moments in the Barcelona chapter has relocated to Germany too. She’s now living in Hessen, not too far away from Frankfurt and we try to find a way of seeing each other regularly, and at the same time discovering our new country of residence together.

This time we decided to travel to Westphalia, namely Köln and Bonn for a weekend getaway.

Köln was our main location where we aimed to discover the city life during the evenings. We kicked off our brief sightseeing from the picturesque Old Town and Rheinterassen, encouraged and discouraged at the same time by my German friends. They told me these are fun places to be, unless it gets very crowded, touristy and bachelor party-like. Which was the case of the Friday night and we picked a nice Iranian restaurant to simply catch up after months of not seeing each other.

I visited Köln years ago, on my way to Lisbon by train and not surprisingly, I mostly remembered a magnificent Cathedral visible long before you arrive to the main station.

Since Köln is so easily connected with the rest of the cities in Westphalia, we used regional and S-bahn service to discover Bonn, and eventually Düsseldorf window-watching Rhein banks and leaving city panoramas behind.

We spent almost whole Saturday in the sun walking around Bonn’s river bank, and tasting various Grauburgunder type of wines – it was a perfect match for the weather and for the companionship. Since Bonn is an interesting city from historical, administrative and architectural perspective, after visiting a cute Old Town and Beethoven’s house, we decided to focus our sightseeing around the Museumsmeile – ‘a mile of museums’, including those dedicated to modern art, German history and arithmetic.

Museum der Geschischte is an accessible museum documenting the history of GDR and FDR (aka West Germany) while walking from the basement towards the upper part of the building, seeing the stories from both sides of the wall in parallel.

It’s definitely a place worth visiting to learn that actually, there were a lot of similarities on both sides, regardless of the wall and propaganda separating the country artificially. Ending up with an installation about the recent refugee crisis in Europe, one may think about how divisions are simply some powerful ways of manipulating the population.

After visiting Köln and Bonn, I convinced Aleksandra to spend the whole Sunday in Düsseldorf, another interesting city of business, art and architectural importance.

On our way to K20 and K21 – modern museums of Düsseldorf, we passed an interesting Japanese district, due to the presence of the consulate and thousands of residence of this origin, which brought my thoughts back to Tokyo.

Elegant and minimalist architecture is a landmark of the city, and that makes it utterly photogenic one, especially caught in the lense of Aleksandra’s phone.

We were very happy to see a lot of green spaces with flock of birds, namely Canada geese, as we’re both animal lovers and I’m particularly a bird watcher every now and then.

Last but not least, city landscape did not disappoint us when it comes to the ever-present modern, quirky art, even though the soul of the city seems definitely opposite to ‘poor but sexy’ Berlin, showing off often as posh/BCBG.

To finish off, this was a very compact weekend, though at the same time we discovered all of the three cities at our own pace, with necessary breaks to indulge in the vegan restaurant options, which was not problematic nor costly (ask me for a breakfast buffer menu of 5 EUR if you’re interested). Autumn (ger. Herbst) remains my favourite season to discover this country, and it doesn’t necessarily mean going all crazy at Oktoberfest!

Harz – for life, and for a weekend too!

Last month I decided for a very spontaneous weekend getaway with my boyfriend. It was very close to our unofficial anniversary and his birthday anyway so I thought about planning a short & sweet trip for us. Since I’m definitely the more wanderlust-craving spirit in our constellation, I simply thought about the location we’d both enjoy and told him in advance of one week or so not to book anything for that weekend.

With a Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket in hand we met at Alexanderplatz and after 2,5 hours and changing trains twice (he really couldn’t tell where is our final destination and hence the suprise was even better) we arrived in Wernigerode. It’s a lovely town on a former Eastern German border of the Harz mountains region,just below the highest mountain: Brocken, and a house of a renowned technical university.

While Berlin is NOT Germany in most of ways, the heart of Germany (and Harz region is located in the middle of the country) definitely is. We could finally practice our German almost everywhere, as English was scarcely in use.

Wernigerode offers a glimpse into a typical Prussian-style architecture, has a cute old market square with tiny owl-shaped bells ringing a melody every hour, a magnificent Schloss (German castle) and a lot of green spaces.

One can spot some peculiarities like teeth in a garden and enjoy a delicious local cuisine. Thanks to my colleague’s recommendation we had a chance to try ZeitWerk – creative & purist menu awarded by a Michelin star in 2018. Forget about the heaviness of the German dishes and try the seasonal dishes – most of them being vegetarian or if needed, offering vegetarian option menu, not always common for the star restaurants.

We also had great fun traveling on a steam train from the early 1900s all the way up to the Brocken top. It stops in various locations where one can either hike around the rocky formations or enjoy a number of Biergarten spots. The only hassle with it is the all-time present steam which is actually bringing us back in time, where industrial pollution was a part of the landscape. Now, we can observe how heavily polluted the local forest and the area around the station is. Maybe some eco-version of the same will come up soon.

So within a 2,5 hours reach from Berlin, we ended up in a very different landscape, culture and although short, we could taste the little getaway outside of Berlin. This year I aim to visit more German cities, but also parks, mountains and wildlife.

 

Dessau (not) depressau

Before the spring came to Berlin with its continuously perfect sunny weather, I was craving for a short and inspiring getaway. For years, I’ve been interested in visiting Dessau, a capital of Bauhaus with its university centre and original settlements created in between 20th century’s 20s and 30s. As my trip in February got cancelled, I spontaneously decided to travel on my own to spend a day off in Dessau and its museums.

 

The University centre and museum offers a thorough experience and journey through Bauhaus history, life of the Directors and ideas that came into live during the period it was settled in Dessau. Currently, talented designers ranging from conceptual to interactive disciplines are studying there and further bring inspiring ideas to live. I was very happy to see one of my friends from Brasilia pictured in the graduates hall, as she’s moved to Germany to pursue her design career.

 

What I found especially interesting is how Bauhaus influenced the further development of the city, even after WWII. One of the highlights and recommendations for visiting would be a stay overnight in one of the original Bauhaus houses of the Directors! It’s available throughout the year, but I’d definitely recommend visiting Dessau on a sunnier day, due to the variety of parks, bike paths and its surroundings.

 

I am naturally curious person and I don’t necessarily discover only the classically beautiful sites of the world. After my visit in Eisenhütenstadt or Rügen, I strive for getting a better understanding of a complex history of Germany. Often, you find the most interesting stories in places which seem depressing, gloomy or unwelcoming at a first glance. Still, what you learn from its history, art, architecture and often industry, is priceless.

Before visiting Dessau, many people warned me it can be truly ‘Depressau’ especially on a winter day. I did not find it depressing at all, rather refreshing, after long winter in a dark, big, yet super intense city as Berlin. A short getaway (less than 2 hours on a train) can boost one’s creativity more than long hours inside your den, and even though I spent just a couple of hours in Dessau, I’m tempted to come back in 2019, for the 100 years of Bauhaus anniversary.