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PIFF 2015

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on February 8, 2015

FYI I am only allowed to list a film after it’s had it’s first festival showing

Afterlife (Hungary) B+ Some good laughs, some great scenes and characters but some jokes fall flat.

Beloved Sisters (Germany) C Story of Schiller and the sisters he loved, marrying one. Unremarkable biopic except for it’s length of 3 hours.

Clouds of Sils Maria (France in English) C A disappointment. An interesting premise but unsatisfying. Deals with aging and manipulations.

Come to My Voice (Turkey) B Slow but interesting. Set in Kurdish Easter Turkey, the scenery and cultural aspects are great.

Corn Island (Georgia) A some will find it slow but it was fascinating to me. Very little dialog as a grandfather and granddaughter grow corn on an island just there for the season while Georgian and Abkahazian and Russian soldiers battle on shore and run up and down the river on boats.

Felix & Maeira (Canada) C+ She is a young, naive, dissatisfied Hasidic wife/mother in Montreal. He is a would-be artist runaway from his wealthy family. An unlikely friendship that will come to no good

The Fool (Russia) B+ Corruption. One of the most cynical films I’ve seen. Engrossing.

Gambler (Lithuania) B+ Dark story of a gambler and emergency services doctor who comes up with a profitable scheme while his girlfriend’s son gets a grave diagnosis and needs a treatment she can’t afford.

Gett (Israel) A This could be seen as an expose, though it’s not a documentary. Perhaps if I lived in a dictatorship I wouldn’t have been so outraged, but this is from the country that calls itself a democracy, often the only one in its region.

Hotel Nueva Isla (Cuba/Spain) E Fortunately this isn’t playing again so you won’t make the mistake I did and waste your time.

Human Capital (Italy) A Great. Three chapters focusing on three different characters in the same story so we see different details and points of view, in the time of reckless financial investors.

In Order of Disappearance (Norway) B+ Billed as a black comedy but more spraying blood than laughs. As is often the case, the description in the program is wrong but that doesn’t matter.

Invisible Front (Lithuania) D poor documentary (in English) lionizing a anti-Soviet patriot during the post WWII days (50s)

Iron Ministry (US) C this put me to sleep – to be fair it was a 9pm showing – but I was disappointed.

The Japanese Dog (Romania) A- I liked this quiet film but many thought it too slow. I enjoyed seeing the rural life, the houses, the way they treated each other. Not a whole happens but the relationships do change.

Liberator (Venezuela) C the story of Bolivar. Very Hollywood. Pass

Magician (US) B- Mediocre bio-pic of Orson Welles who was a fascinating man so it’s interesting even though it’s not a great movie.

Marie’s Story (France) B- Tearjerker based on true story of a deaf blind girl in 19th century France who learns to sign just as Helen Keller did but didn’t distinguish herself.

Mr. Kaplan (Uruguay) B+ delightful comedy about an aging man who is losing it but is he? A WW2 survivor goes Nazi hunting.

Life in a Fishbowl (Iceland) A- Very complex story in the context of the Icelandic crash before it happened and more importantly personal stories and pain. I didn’t get the flashback was a flashback, though afterwards I saw there had been clues

Living is Easy with Eyes Closed (Spain) B+ Charming road movie of a teacher on a quest to meet John Lennon while he’s making a movie in Spain. Warmhearted and great characters.

The Look of Silence (Denmark/Indonesia/Norway) not easy to watch or to rate. An Indonesian man whose brother was a victim of the anti-communist massacre of 1965 interviews shockingly unrepentant and frank perpetrators as well as his family. Repetitious but gripping. Long lists of ‘anonymous’ in the credits!

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (PIFF Sweden) A Hilarious. Some could find it too silly.

Phoenix (Germany) A-  A survivor is returned to Occupied Berlin to have her face reconstructed and look for her husband despite being told he betrayed her. She finds him, he doesn’t recognize her but wants her to help him get his share of her inheritance. Disturbing with a hell of a great ending.

10,000 KM (Spain) B Can a relationship survive a year apart with Skype? Not so well if you look at this couple separated because one gets an art residency.

Timbuktu (PIFF Mauritania) A Life under Sharia law in Timbuktu and the countryside around it.

Today (Iran) B compassionate taxi driver sticks around when others wouldn’t have with a fare (who doesn’t even pay him) at the hospital.

Tu Dars Nicola (Wake up Nicola) (Canada) C Boring, pointless. Young woman drifting for the summer taking no responsibility for herself.

Underdog, (Sweden) A- Universally liked, complex story not just about being a foreign worker but definitely you see this aspect but it’s more about how one outsider affects a family, how people treat each other.

Wild Tales (Argentina/Spain) A Six black comic shorts each with a surprise ending and many laughs.

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Budapest: Synagogues, the Jewish Cemetery, the Holocaust

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on December 31, 2013

Rick Steves says, “With an elegant history cut brutally short by the Holocaust, Pest’s Jewish Quarter is gradually restoring its once-grand sights and embracing its long-dormant heritage.” There are several synagogues in the neighborhood. At the Great Synagogue there is also a Jewish museum and a memorial garden.

The Great Synagogue is the biggest in Europe

The Great Synagogue is the biggest in Europe

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Holocaust memorial garden

Holocaust memorial garden

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the Tree of Life in the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park at the Great Synagogue

the Tree of Life in the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park at the Great Synagogue

detail

detail

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The Orthodox Synagogue

The Orthodox Synagogue

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Synagogue at Rumbach Street

Synagogue at Rumbach Street

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Jewish food in the Jewish quarter

Jewish food in the Jewish quarter

The Jewish cemetery was in the outskirts of Budapest, an interesting trip since I’d only been in the older center until then. I took a tram and passed poorer areas than I’d seen, including housing projects and industrial areas. The only beautiful architecture was churches, schools and one gymnasium. The cemetery was at the end of the line.

IMG_1926 (Small)IMG_1904 (Small)

Not a grave, common in Central Europe, a memorial to a family murdered in the holocaust

Not a grave, common in Central Europe, a memorial to a family murdered in the holocaust

The cemetery also, of course, had a large holocaust memorial of its own

The cemetery also, of course, had a large holocaust memorial of its own

lists and lists of names

lists and lists of names

The tombs of the rich were along the perimeter

The tombs of the wealthy are around the perimeter

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the interior

Budapest: Museums and the Thermal Bathes

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on December 31, 2013
House of Terror advertises itself on building

House of Terror advertises itself on building

in 1944 under the Hungarian Arrow Cross (Fascist) Party is was the House of Loyalty, then between 1945 and 1956 the Communist Secret Police headquarters

in 1944 under the Hungarian Arrow Cross (Fascist) Party it was the House of Loyalty, then between 1945 and 1956 the Communist Secret Police headquarters

outside a commemoration of its victims

outside a commemoration of its victims

the best thing about the Traditional Arts Museum was the building

the best thing about the Traditional Arts Museum was the building

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I enjoyed seeing the mittens as years ago my knitting group had all made Latvian mittens but it turned out Hungarian are very similar

I enjoyed seeing the mittens as years ago my knitting group had all made Latvian mittens but it turned out Hungarian are very similar

IMG_1815 (Small)IMG_1818 (Small)

there is wonderful woodworking

there is wonderful woodworking

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The Museum of Applied Arts also had a fabulous building

The Museum of Applied Arts also had a fabulous building

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IMG_1455 (Small)IMG_1471 (Small)

IMG_1460 (Small)IMG_1486 (Small)IMG_1484 (Small)IMG_1482 (Small)IMG_1477 (Small)IMG_1457 (Small)

but the collection is great too

but the collection is great too

IMG_1466 (Small)IMG_1468 (Small)

Bedo Haz (okay not quite the right alphabet--they need little symbols above) is one of the finest Art Nouveau buildings in Budapest.

Bedo Haz (okay not quite the right alphabet–they need little symbols above) is one of the finest Art Nouveau buildings in Budapest.

It bills itself as a museum but it's more a store.

It bills itself as a museum but it’s more a store.

the things were beautiful but way too crowded together.

the things were beautiful but way too crowded together.

We spent most of our time in Pest, but Buda is the site of the castle, so we crossed the Danube for a visit

We spent most of our time in Pest, but Buda is the site of the castle, so we crossed the Danube on the famous chain bridge

took a funicular to the top

took a funicular to the top

great view back of Pest

great view back of Pest

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the wall of the castle compound

the wall of the castle compound

gate

gate

it was Monday and the museums were closed but the church was open and beautiful

it was Monday and the museums were closed but the church was open and beautiful

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Budapest is know for its thermal bathes--we went to the Gellert

Budapest is know for its thermal bathes–we went to the Gellert

elegant

elegant

IMG_1851 (Small)IMG_1847 (Small) - CopyIMG_1843 (Small) - Copy

next door is the Gellert Hotel

next door is the Gellert Hotel

behind the desk at the hotel

behind the desk at the hotel

IMG_1840 (Small) - Copy

Budapest–April 2013–Architecture, Art & Bridges (and a little food)

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on December 31, 2013

This is the photo I recently made my profile for Facebook–it had to be cropped there so here is the whole one for those of you who saw it there.

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On our very first walk we came across a florist shop in a beautiful building

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the Cathedral

the Cathedral

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The Gresham Palace, now a Four Seasons Hotel

The Gresham Palace, now a Four Seasons Hotel

The Gresham Palace again

The Gresham Palace again

The elevator floor indicator at the Gresham Palace

The elevator floor indicator at the Gresham Palace

the dining room in a upscale department store

the dining room in a upscale department store

same dining room's ceiling

same dining room’s ceiling

IMG_1561 (Small)IMG_1444 (Small)IMG_1439 (Small)IMG_1412 (Small)

little painting outside a small shop with folkart painted wares made by the owners

little painting outside a small shop with folkart painted wares made by the owners

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many sculptures on buildings

many sculptures on buildings

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ceiling in a passage

ceiling in a passage

ceiling

ceiling

manhold cover

manhold cover

art in a shop depicting West and East Berlin consumers

art in a shop depicting West and East Berlin consumers

at the Spring street fair

at the Spring street fair

in a very hip, arty restaurant we found the first evening

in a very hip, arty restaurant we found the first evening

art in window of shop

art in window of shop

lock installations seem to be big. It looks like anyone can add (and do) add to it

lock installations seem to be big. It looks like anyone can add (and do) add to it

close up of lock art

close up of lock art

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Franz Liszt plays an imaginary piano in the square named after him.

Franz Liszt plays an imaginary piano in the square named after him.

Paris Dept Store (earlier dining room here! sorry for the separation)

Paris Dept Store (earlier dining room here! sorry for the separation)

Paris Dept Store had amazing art

Paris Dept Store had amazing art

this also at Paris Dept. Store

this also at Paris Dept. Store

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drawn by the sound of music, we also found a passageway

drawn by the sound of music, we also found a passageway

inside a collection of bars, cafes and shops

inside a collection of bars, cafes and shops

everything looked like it had been made from discards

everything looked like it had been made from discards

the building had been abandoned

the building had been abandoned

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art in subway

art in subway

clocseup

clocseup

Heroes Square features statutes of Hungarian historic figures, with an art museum on either side

Heroes Square features statutes of Hungarian historic figures, with an art museum on either side

the museum lobby

the museum lobby

looking up

looking up

since the river runs thru, separating Buda from Pest, bridges are frequent

since the river runs thru, separating Buda from Pest, bridges are frequent

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this was my meal at the Spring Fair: Rooster Testicles. Very disappointed when they turned out to just be sausages. Should have known--could a rooster really have such big ones?

fabulous Hungarian sweets
fabulous Hungarian sweets

BERLIN: Markets and more

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on June 18, 2013

Great street and flea markets. First the Turkish market

turk market 1 (Small)

grape leafs

grape leaves, for stuffing

 

long leeks

long leeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

turk market 6 (Small)

 

turk market 7 (Small)turk market 8 (Small)

 

turk market 9 (Small)turk market 10 (Small)

turk market 11 (Small)

many flavors of quark similar to yogurt

many flavors of quark similar to yogurt

On Sunday there are a number of street markets. I went to the one my walking tour guide said was the most alternative. Some good performers there as well as interesting stuff

sunday market (Small)sunday market busker (Small)

sunday market male busker (Small)

Currywurst is a Berlin speciality–a sausage with curry ketchup. I had to try one. I couldn’t really taste the curry but it wasn’t too bad–until the next day

curry wurst 2 (Small)

my currywurst is at the very bottom of the photo

my currywurst is at the very bottom of the photo

and now some miscellaneous photos

Marijuana shop??? it wasn't open, couldn't find out

Marijuana shop?activists? it wasn’t open, couldn’t find out

saturday market 2 (Small)

street sausage seller (Small)

okay, we have pedal wagons like this in Portland but the folks aren't drinking beer in Portland

okay, we have pedal wagons like this in Portland but the folks aren’t drinking beer in Portland

moving the frig on the subway

moving the frig on the subway

moon over the Reichstag

moon over the Reichstag

shoes (Small)

sunset from the platform

sunset from the platform

Turkish women

Turkish women

watching the game

watching the game

Alla Hopp the doll maker

Alla Hopp the doll maker

burger ville (Small)

BERLIN: Art & Architecture April 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on June 16, 2013

One of the things that so excited me about the city was the art everywhere.

The very first morning as we walked to the place we could buy our transit passes we came upon a huge photo mounted on a building–turned out to be part of an installation by JR, a French artist who was in town that very day having an opening at a local gallery in conjunction with the installation Wrinkles of the City that were around town. We managed to see several (but not all) of these. We also went to the gallery where we could see stills and videos made in other cities where he’s done this same project–photos of people with wrinkles mounted on buildings with wrinkles too.

The building with scaffolding is an old post office. The woman in the photo worked there and was forced by the Stasi to open correspondence for censorship between East &  West. She says this makes the building more positive for her now. The photo below it is of an old water tower (now upscale condos) in a small park.

JR1 (Small)

jr scaffold 2 (Small)

JR bend (Small)jr on water tower (Small)

This project has happened in a number of cities, Havana, Los Angeles, so it’s not what made Berlin such an art place for me. It is more the graffiti, murals, pasted on graffiti (more about that later), statutes & other public art and, of course, museums.

wall art 4 (Small)

wall art (Small)

wall art 2 (Small)

sidewalk art  chalk (Small)

street art humpty dumpty (Small)steetart profile (Small)

honoring firefighters

honoring firefighters

statute fire detail (Small)

statute  (Small)obama in the peoples army (Small)Copy (1) of wall art (Small)building art near esg (Small)

building art 2 (Small)building art 1 (Small)

building art (Small)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of graffiti cleanup but it is illegal and if caught several times one can end up in jail but penalties are significantly lighter if you paste paper on the building as opposed to painting directly so there’s lots of that now including some artists with signature styles or even art such as the one who does bananas and another who just does words in a distinctive font.

banana 4 (Small)banana 3 (Small)

 

 

 

wall pasted art (Small)wall art pasted (Small)

tail on bldg (Small)poster boy group (Small)

art at platform (Small)on the river (Small)

streetart books (Small)graffiti (Small)

 

 

 

There’s an amazing alley with murals, kinetic sculptures by the Dead Chicken Collective, a couple of museums there as well as a coffee shop and a bookstore up a highly painted staircase

 

alley (Small)alley art 2 (Small)

alley art 3 (Small)alley art 4 (Small)

 

 

 

alley art 5 (Small)alley art 6 (Small)

 

 

 

alley art anne frank (Small)alley art bikes (Small)

 

 

 

alley art dead chickens 1 (Small)

alley art dead chickens 2 (Small)

alley art science (Small)alley bookstore (Small)

 

 

 

alley facebook (Small)alley flags (Small)

 

 

 

alley occupy (Small)alley stairs (Small)

 

Instead of cows that are around town painted as a fundraiser (would be interesting to know how many cities have this now) Berlin has bears

 

Berlin History Beatr (Small)erlin bear (Small)

There’s a large building complex in the former Jewish quarter that after reunification became an artist squat/counter culture workshop called Tacheles. (Yiddish for “straight talking) . It did not appear to still be active and Wikipedia says it was closed last fall. Probably a target of development as it’s in a very central location.

Tacheles 2 (Small)tacheles 3 (Small)

 

 

 

tacheles 4 (Small)tacheles 5 (Small)

Tacheles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since 75% of Berlin was destroyed in WWII, there are lots of new buildings, especially in the area where the wall was since there were actually two walls–one on the actual border between West and East and another farther east so that if you tried to escape by climbing over you had to run across a no-man’s-land. That area had no buildings until after reunification. And then there are the restorations and the modifications (see another post for the Reichstag)

modern building 3 (Small)modern building (Small)

 

modern apt building (Small)modern   building 2 (Small)

 

 

 

hackescher market (Small)facade (Small)

 

 

bricks (Small)architecture 6 (Small)

 

 

 

architecture 5 (Small)architecture 4 (Small)

architecture 1 (Small)apt court 3 (Small)

 

apt court 2 (Small)apt court 1 (Small)

Construction continues. The most cranes I’ve ever seen in one place.

cranes in Berlin (Small)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are some very interesting alternative spaces which, like Tacheles (artist squat above) were taken over during the chaos after reunification. Our very first evening we ran into one. Fortunately someone was around (he was waiting for the neighborhood Green Party meeting) and explained it a bit to us. There was a building that looked like it might have been self-built, a day care center, fire pit, playground, waffle cart, bike rental shop, garden…

 

alternative space playground (Small)

alternative space 1 (Small)

another great alternative space is right by the East Side Gallery (see Berlin: Jews, the Holocaust, the Stasi), soon to be lost to development. It’s a bar, a playground, a beach and much more.

yaam beach 2 (Small)yaam beach  (Small)

also some pretty great public spaces–lots of parks (had one of those culturally fascinating conversations with a young mother. we remarked how many parks and playgrounds we saw and thought it was so great. she responded that there are a lot of children)

In our neighborhood we had Kathe Kollwitz Park. Not just a statute of her but also a marvelous playground

 

kathe kollwitz statute (Small)Kollwitz playground (Small)

there’s also a memorial to Kathe Kollwitz with a very powerful (and large) reproductions of one of her sculptures elsewhere in town

memorial kollwitz sculpture (Small)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing museums most of which do not allow photography but one of my favorites did. It was the private ME Collectors Room which had two shows. First a very eclectic selection from the Olbricht Collection called Wonderful: Humboldt, Krokodil & Polke (I think the owner’s private holdings) uniting “objects from the Renaissance and Baroque periods with works of the modern day.”  Second, Wunderkammer Olbricht, artworks  shown with “rare phenomena of nature…, scientific instruments…, objects from strange worlds…, and inexplicable items…” Here are some photos from each but perhaps my favorite was a video which I cannot post here but you can see it the trailer  here

First from Wonderful

Quell by Kate MccGwire

Quell by Kate MccGwire

Map of Truth and Beliefs by Grayson Perry

 

 

Litter by Patricia Piccinini

Litter by Patricia Piccinini

Homeostasis by Liza Lou, beaded fiberglass

Homeostasis by Liza Lou, beaded fiberglass

 

High Expectations by Elmgree & Dragset

High Expectations by Elmgree & Dragset

Gestas, Jesus, Dismas by George Condo

Gestas, Jesus, Dismas by George Condo

 

 

Good vs Evil chess set by Maurizio Cattelan

Good vs Evil chess set by Maurizio Cattelan

the evil side

the evil side

 

Chess Set by Jake & Dinos Chapman

Chess Set by Jake & Dinos Chapman

Black Supper by Andres Serra

Black Supper by Andres Serra

 

The Last Supper by David LaChapelle

The Last Supper by David LaChapelle

The Anxious Attempt of Art to Mourn the Silence of Melancholy Over Everything by Ged Quinn

The Anxious Attempt of Art to Mourn the Silence of Melancholy Over Everything by Ged Quinn

 

I only took a few photos at the second exhibit, not sure why, but here are my favorites: ivory anatomical models of pregnant women

ivory anatomical teaching model (Small)another teaching model (Small)

 

Only one photo from the Neue Museum National Gallery. It’s from a show about West & East during the post-war years. Surprisingly it included art from the other countries including the US and memorabilia e.g. Life magazine covers

Untitled by Lee Bontecou, American

Untitled by Lee Bontecou, American

BERLIN Jews, the Holocaust, the Stasi April 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on June 10, 2013

Though Berlin was last on our itinerary, I find myself wanting to write about it first because I found it such an amazing place. It’s odd history of being occupied, divided and isolated certainly has a big part in making it so. It’s heavily graffitied (I only saw one graffiti remover working in 9 ½ days), full of public art, new buildings (I’ve never seen so many cranes as when I looked out on the city from a height) as it was 75% destroyed in WW II.

The Germans, from my experience (and talking to others who have visited European countries I haven’t), are facing their sins of WW II more honestly and directly than any other European country. 2013 is the 80th anniversary of Hitler and the Nazis coming to power. One way they are commemorating that in Berlin is with a series of posts around the central city (twelve sites, I think) covered with information on the loss of diversity under the Third Reich: bios of people who were victims, those who were murdered in the camps (and they use the word murder) as well as people who escaped, and stories of cultural repression.

One note on a racist image below, it’s an historic one from Nazi time. The text below is about culture and jazz which was targeted too.

posts group museum island (Small)post underground culture (Small)

post themenjahr (Small)post survivor (Small)

post gays (Small)musik (Small)

It’s not a surprise that there’s a lot more in Berlin about the Holocaust.

An ongoing Holocaust art project is by the artist Gunter Demnig. He’s installed small brass plaque in a number of European cities in addition to Berlin in front of homes and workplaces of people later killed in the Holocaust. He calls them “Stolpersteine,” or stumbling stones, and says that with his art he wants to bring back the names of the millions of Jews, gays, resistance fighters and Gypsies who perished at the hands of the Nazis between 1933 and 1945.

This from a Fox news story: ‘Demnig set his first stumbling stone illegally in Berlin in 1996, as part of an independent art project. After several years of negotiations, the city of Berlin allowed him to add more legally and other cities soon followed. Since then, his art project has turned into something of a social movement.

“Anybody can get in touch with the artist and sponsor a stumbling stone for euro95 ($120) which pays for the artist’s work and material used for the plaque. The historical research is done voluntarily by local citizens, school classes or surviving family members, who then contact Demnig and ask him to set a plaque for a victim whose address their have tracked down.

“In Berlin, there are three full-time paid city workers who support the volunteers and who also serve as contacts for surviving family members who want to attend a plaque setting.

“Often these settings even turn into ceremonies for the dead, Demnig said… The artist said such events are one of the most important aspects of his art project because they bring together relatives who were torn apart by the Holocaust”

plaque quartet (Small)memorial plaque (Small)

memorial plaque (Small)plaques 3 (Small)

The holocaust memorial to the Jews is officially The National Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. There are competitions for all public buildings and monuments; the winner of this was Peter Eisenman of NYC. Very controversial, I read, both for its size–seemed like at least a full city block–and its location on prime real downtown real estate. Another weird one, the company that provided the anti-graffiti paint is the one who produced the gas used in the gas chambers! Ah Germany. In any case, it’s a bit mysterious, big and very moving.

holocaust memorial 1 (Small)holocaust mem 2 small

In the park that corresponds to New York’s Central Park in size and location, Tiergarten, there is a beautiful Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered under National Socialism (I never heard of Sinti before either, but they are another Gypsy group) The last photo is a closeup of the rim of the pool on which is written a very sad poem.

memorial roma 1 (Small)memorial roma 2 (Small)

memorial roma 3 (Small)memorial roma  broken heart (Small)

The same park houses a Gay monument. Very unusual. The plaque says, ” In Nazi Germany, homosexuality was persecuted to a degree unprecedented in history….Because of its history, German has a special responsibility to actively oppose the violation of gay men’s and lesbians’ human rights. In many parts of the world, people continue to be persecuted for their sexuality, homosexual love remains illegal and kiss can be dangerous.”

The actual monument is a cube with a opening for viewing. What you see inside is a video loop on gays and lesbians kissing. Unfortunately, none of my photos of the video came out–too dark in there!

gay installation (Small)

synog memorial (Small)

One day I noticed a sculpture in a front garden of a building that looked like it might be a Jewish Star. Further investigation confirmed this, it was the site of a former synagogue. The fence precluded a photo but I was able to get the monument

There are many synagogues in Berlin though, the Jewish community is alive, growing and thriving. Former USSR Jews are emigrating and getting excellent benefits and assistance from the government. Here’s a couple of photos of one of the busy synagogues. Yes, those are police in front providing the security. The government may condemn antisemitism and outlaw holocaust denial and the possession of Nazi memorabilia, but there are neo Nazis and a neo Nazi party which is not just antisemitic but anti-immigrant as well.

new synagogue (Small)new synagogue 2 (Small)

And just one more photo before I move on from Jewish Berlin: The Jewish Museum is incredible, both the architecture and the exhibits. I didn’t manage to get good photos but you can easily find plenty online. The focus is not on the holocaust but here is one item shocked me.

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The Germans (and other countries I’ve visited in the former Soviet Bloc) are much more interested and angry about the 40 years they spent under Soviet occupation. Makes sense since the entire adult population suffered under it and not that many people who lived thru WWII are still around. One day I visited both the Stasi (secret police) Museum and the Stasi interrogation prison.

First the museum which is housed in the former Stasi headquarters. The former director’s suite is included in the tour. Photo here of his conference room with the tape recorder concealed in a cupboard revealed. The exhibits included a lot on propaganda and educating youth but what fascinated me the most were the spying devices: the miniature cameras and microphones concealed in watches, buttons, briefcases, purses, a stump and even below the handle of a watering can.

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stasi watering can with camera under handle

stasi watering can with camera under handle

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There’s a subway stop right in front for the convenience of the Stasi, I’m sure. I was struck by the sign on the stairs down given what I’d just been seeing. In the subway station were paintings by two artists of the period, one of whom had a painting in the director’s office with the tape recorder above.

stasi still spying (Small)subway art (Small)

The prison was not so easy to get to. It was a secret prison (they would drive the prisoners around for hours before taking them there so they wouldn’t have any idea where they were–even did this if they needed to take them to the hospital) so out in the suburbs and a long walk from public transportation. Prisoners were kept here only during their interrogations (though this could go on for months). There were more interrogation rooms than cells! Some of the tour guides are former prisoners though mine was a woman too young to have suffered there. We were told that conditions were terrible under the Russians (cold, no mattresses, only a bucket for a toilet etc.) but slowly improved after they turned it over to the Germans after a year. We saw cells in various iterations. Finally ones with running water and even a mirror. We also saw torture cells. Last photo is a memorial to the dead in the courtyard.

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Two last photos: a long mural from Soviet times showing how happy everyone was under socialism and the very interesting Ampelmann phenomena. He’s the figure you see (and saw) in East Berlin on the pedestrian traffic signs. After reunification, the people in the East began to resent that differences were being dealt with by making everything the West’s way. So when they went to replace the Ampelmann, it was too much! Not only has Ampelmann stayed but products featuring him have flourished. Keychains, tee shirts, cups, hats, you name it. this is the sign for one of many Ampelmann stores. I do believe that some traffic signs in the West may feature him now too.

mural soviet (Small)ampelmann (Small)

One more: Karl Marx Allee a boulevard lined with 50s and 60s era Soviet housing

Karl Marx Allee (Small)

May Day Rally & March in Portland

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on May 1, 2013

Beautiful day and a noisy, peaceful and diverse (for Portland)

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Berlin–a visit to the Reichstag Dome

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on April 22, 2013

Just a few pictures of this spectacular new dome over the German Parliament chamber designed by British architect Norman Foster and one view from the deck of Berlin at night. the blue tent-like thing is Sony. In one of the photos you can look done into the chamber and see the purple chairs.

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Budapest

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on April 6, 2013

First day or two of photos

captions coming soon, I hope.

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