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.

Richtung Süd: Web Summit 2018, LX

You know my other (blog) half already, and therefore you probably know the other part of my mind, which lives somewhere in the Southern sphere without moving from Berlin. Or at least escaping a few times per year to where it belongs.

This month I travelled to Lisbon aka LX again, partly for business and to connect with new people, partly for being with my best friends and to reconnect with them. The business part of the trip was due to the annual edition of the Web Summit – my first experience at the conference thus far. I expected big hype and crowds, but what I saw was really intimidating in numbers (not only to me), especially in a city that is one of the tiniest European capitals: almost 70000 participants!

The less intimidating, and rather promising one, was the ratio of women attending the event: 43%. It was not only visible in the crowd, but also in the networking focus and number of female speakers and panelists, as well as politicians attending, giving a good role model aspect to the aspiring professionals in various roles in tech.

The number of talks and its focus varied and was obviously impossible to track everything. Some of them stating the obvious, some of them: mind-boggling. I felt a lot of the questions I have for various branches in tech were not necessarily answered but at least well posed. It’s good not to feel alone, but less assuring to see same question marks and not too strong answers on how to move forward. Same comes for democracy, privacy and generally: staying human in technocratic world, while taking the best out of it.

I feel that getting to know inspirational entrepreneurs, mostly women, sharing experiences and ideas, looking for this positive needle in the stack, was my highlight of the event. I left with a few new ideas on my mind, good feedback and hope for the tech industry.

Last but not least, contemplating ocean waves from the Westernmost continental part of Europe was a bliss like always. Sharing this time with my best friend and great business mind in one person, and gave me a lot of hopes for women and for tech, together.

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!

Richtung Ost: Suwalszczyzna & Podlasie

I enjoy building small repositories for my foreign friends about my country of origin, and the nearest bordering country to Berlin at the same time: Poland. So far, I’ve mentioned bits and pieces about the city I was born and grown up: Poznan, the capital: Warsaw and the North-Western coast altogether with the city of Szczecin.

This time I’d like to focus on the North-Easternmost region of Poland: Suwalszczyzna and Podlasie, which is the home region of my boyfriend and thanks to whom I managed to discover this beautiful remote landscape this summer.

It takes between 13-18 hours altogether to reach Suwalki, the capital town of the region by train or bus from Berlin, so it made sense to visit our friends and family in Poznan and Warsaw on the way, especially that the summer was extremely hot this year and the journey was tedious. Then, the train took us to Bialystok, the capital of Podlasie, and all the way up to Suwalki, surpassing one of the largest woods in Poland and making way to the region of countless lakes.

It was my second time in Suwalki, since I’ve visited it on my way to Lithuania when I was a teenager. It’s actually quite close to the Russian, Lithuanian and Belarusian border, which naturally brings various culinary, linguistic and architectural influences to this region, including having banyas for the long and cold winters. Actually, Suwalki is considered the most remote and cold city of Poland. The weather forecast always places it as the frozen North Pole of Poland, and during winter it’s not uncommon to have the temperature drop to -25 or -30 Celcius degrees.

This is probably why the current tagline of the city is ‘Pogodne Suwalki’ which can be loosely transalted to ‘cheerful’ or ‘sunny’ at the same time. I could experience that for real. We were discovering the city on bikes thanks to the currently expanding infrastructure. It’s not entirely possible to visit all the surrounding lakes by this means of transportation yet, but it’s a great leap forward for the region to preserve the nature.

We were also very lucky to participate in the jazz concert from the series of the local cultural society SOK. We watched a jazz recital by the Silesian pianist Krzysztof Kobylinski, a founder of the Silesian Cultural Centre Jazovia where he invested most of his earnings from his previous life as a business man.

During the remaining days we were mostly day drinking, daydreaming, eating out at local Tatar vegetarian (yes!) bistrot, and birdwatching. The silence of the woods and the lakes made us spot such rare species as Osprey Eagle. My boyfriend could not believe such species exist, i.e. eagles that hunt fish from the lakes. And now while I write this blog post, he’s binge watching the osprey channel on YouTube.

On the way back to Warsaw we have stopped by Bialystok, the largest city in the Eastern part of Poland, the capital of Podlasie. Contrary to its current fame of being the most right-wing city, and that it’s not very welcoming to strangers, in the past it was one of the most multicultural cities of Poland, bringing together Jewish, Tatars, Orthodox and Catholics. Even its city hall is grinning all the time, despite the controversy.

Bialystok has as well a very impressive Branicki palace complex and a cosmic-shaped opera house. Speaking of birds again, we wanted to visit Silvarium – a unique, forest-based shelter for wild animals that need rehabilitation but we did not manage to find time this year.

Altogether, it was a great insight to the remote part of Poland which is a secret well-kept, so if you ever explore these natural wonders, do it with consideration, which is my usual ask for the places I write about. Even though, as the last rumour I’ve heard, the airport is built in Suwalki, and the remoteness of the place might be gone soon…

 

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.