Thursday, 31 July 2014

Berlin Street Art Tour:

One of my favourite things which seem to define a city like Berlin and make it indisputably “sexier” is the vibrant street art scene. Urban artists have a very distinct voice and their works are exactly what gives the city a unique character that would make a lasting impression on any visitor. In fact, one can go as far as to say that according to art critic Emilie Trice, Berlin is “the graffiti Mecca of the urbanart world.”
It is astonishing to think that graffiti is actually banned by law and considered a form of vandalism given the amount of art works one can encounter in the streets, but with around 5000 artists currently active in Berlin, the authorities seem to be fighting a losing battle. The good thing about the city is that travellers don’t need to try too hard to discover its art scene, simply because Berlin can only be described as an open air gallery. Perhaps the most obvious choice for a good start would be the East Side Gallery, already mentioned in my previous post “10 things you didn’t know about Berlin”, and showcasing a total number of 101 images painted by artists from all over the world. But truth be told, there are a lot more gems scattered throughout the districts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain waiting to be discovered by those brave enough to venture off the beaten track. Keep your eyes peeled and you will without a doubt be rewarded with works by internationally acclaimed artists such as Banksy, Alice Pasquini, El Bocho, Jimmy C. or Guache.

1. Alice Pasquini:

Alicé, a muralist, illustrator and set designer from Rome, dedicated seven days to her newest project in Berlin Friedrichshain, located in close proximity to the East Side Gallery and Oberbaum Bridge. The artist committed 6 hours a day to the completion of her project, and the finished work showcases Alicé’s signature style through the use of warm colours, portraiture and watercolour illusion. 

2. El Bocho:

An artist whose name is already knows by the Street Art community in Berlin, El Bocho’s style is easy to recognise through his predominant use of paper cuts and “sticky paste”. The artist’s preference for cut-out artwork to traditional painting techniques raised a few questions within the community, and has been a constant topic of debate. Since street art is actually illegal in Berlin, paper cuts seem to be a clever way to avoid potential conflicts with the authorities.

3. Jimmy C.:

James Cochran, an Australian street artist now based in London, hit Berlin last year and left behind a series of surrealist paintings created in his signature ‘drip’ style, portraying people in relation to the urban environment. His works can be found predominantly in the districts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, but also in Haus Schwarzenberg, by the entrance to the Anne Frank Zentrum.

4. Guache:

The Colombian artist has recently completed a few works in Berlin, abundant in vibrant colours and traditional Latin American motives.  About street art, he says: I paint on the street in order to liberate the image, so that it lives without owners or clients,without schedules nor deadlines, uncensored and without explicit formalism in aim or demand, nor should there be…”

The Travel Corner

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A photo Journey through Potsdam:

No traveller should leave Berlin without at least one trip to the enchanting Potsdam, a former residence for Prussian kings and German Emperors. Accessible with just one train line from Berlin, and easy to explore on foot, Potsdam is not only abundant in landscapes which seem to be straight out of a fairytale, but also to the Babelsberg Film Studios, Europe’s largest and Germany’s Hollywood equivalent. Perhaps Potsdam’s best known attraction is The Sanssouci Palace, a former summer residence belonging to the King of Prussia, Frederick the Great, where he could relax away from his royal duties in Berlin.

Still not sure why you should consider a trip to Potsdam? I would say because "Berlin without Potsdam is like Paris without Versailles."

Chinese House Palace Sanssouci

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Sunday, 13 July 2014

10 things you didn't know about Berlin - part two

7. Adlon Hotel:

The grand hotel Adlon, overlooking Pariser Platz and the Gate clearly needs no further introductions. What perhaps not many people know is that this was the same hotel where Michael Jackson caused a memorable media scandal by dangling a 9-month old baby over one of Adlon’s balconies. What’s even more ironic about the incident is that he was invited to Berlin to accept an award in recognition of his charity work dedicated to children.

8. Holocaust Memorial:

Located just a few metres away from the Brandenburg Gate and the Sony Centre at Potsdamer Platz, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is probably one of Berlin’s most impressive sights. History meets personal reflection upon visiting Peter Eisenman’s architectural masterpiece, designed to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. The memorial consists of a total number of 2.711 of concrete slabs, also known as “stelae” whose sloping pattern allows visitors to descend deeper and lose themselves among the blocks. The memorial’s most touching detail is perhaps the fact that the slabs are completely devoid of any names or dates, giving visitors the chance to understand the sculpture’s poignant symbolism from a personal perspective. Eisenman’s design has been often compared to a graveyard, and the cold grey dominating the whole field could be in fact an allusion to the ashes of the Holocaust. Nobody can tell for sure what kind of emotions the sight of the Holocaust Memorial may trigger, whether it is confusion, uneasiness or abandonment, the only thing every visitor can be sure of is that it will not leave you indifferent.

9. Line of stones former Berlin Wall:

The Berlin Wall came down in 1989 thanks to the public mistake of Günter Schabowski, a state official, whose understanding of the new GDR travel regulation was to change the course of history. Nowadays, the original course of the Berlin Wall, dividing East- and West-Germany can still be easily tracked by following a double row of cobblestones set into the ground.
Tip: start your quest behind the Brandenburg Gate; you can’t really miss them if you look carefully!

10. Women sculptures overlooking the Berlin Dome:

Up to this very day I was perpetually intrigued by the four bronze statues overlooking the Berlin Dome. The sculptures are entitled “Drei Mädchen und ein knabe” (Three girls and a boy)and were designed by Wilfried Fitzenreiter for the Palast Hotel which used to be located on the corner of Karl Liebknecht Straße. They seem to blend in with the atmosphere surrounding the Dome perfectly and I can’t imagine seeing them 
anywhere else in Berlin.

Many thanks to SandemansNew Europe Berlin who provided me with an excellent and engaging insight into Berlin’s amazing history.

The Travel Corner

Saturday, 5 July 2014

10 things you didn't know about Berlin

Having spent a whole year in this beautiful city, learning a series of random facts about one of Europe’s most beloved destinations and cultural landmarks was hardly any surprise. I decided to make a list of the quirkiest Berlin related facts – enjoy!

Berliner Dome

 1. Swamp City:

Well I bet nobody saw this one coming, but apparently the word’s etymology can be traced all the way back to the old Polabian language, a West Slavic dialect spoken by the Polabian Slavs who inhabited the area around the Elbe river. Berlin was also described as a fishing village in the first historical documentations and it is therefore very likely that the city’s name has its origins in the Polabian stem “berl-/birl-“ which translates to “swamp”. So why should anyone bother visiting swamp city?

2. Because: “Wir sind arm aber sexy” (We are poor but sexy)

This is perhaps Berlin’s most popular slogan, and was first mentioned by Klaus Wowereit, the governing mayor of Berlin during an interview in 2004. My own interpretation of the slogan is closely linked to the flamboyant and vibrant alternative scene and artistic innovation to be seen everywhere in the city, which brings me to the next point:

3. East Side Gallery Sell-Out:

We all know that the East Side Gallery is by far one of the city’s emblems of the above mentioned artistic innovation, but the recent urban expansion and renovation project Media Spree may actually succeed in demolishing a landmark standing for the city’s history and freedom of expression. The project has unsurprisingly been met with outraged protests and street art slogans, and even a petition demanding the gallery’s preservation was launched.  

4. Pariser Platz:

The famous square hosting Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate is named Pariser Platz, which, as you may have already guessed, is referring to the French capital. So why would Paris have anything to do with Berlin? The name is connected to the Battle of Paris from 1814, during which the city was occupied by the Anti-Napoleon Allies, a coalition formed by Russian, Austrian and Prussian armies. 
Pariser Platz is therefore paying homage to the victory over the French Empire.

5. Hitler’s Bunker:

Is now nothing else but a desolate car park.  Quite rightfully so, because what reason would there be to commemorate the bunker where Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun committed suicide at the end of the Second World War? The site remained completely unmarked until 2006, when a small plaque with a plan of the underground corridors was installed.

6. Quadriga and the French Embassy:

Ever wondered why the Quadriga’s head, the imposing chariot on top of the Brandenburg Gate, seems to be looking over the French Embassy? 
Because Napoleon actually stole it from Berlin during the Napoleonic Wars and it was not returned until 1814. Ever since, the statue’s head is ostentatiously oriented towards the Embassy building - Berlin’s way of saying: “We’re watching you.”

Berlin Sunset Skyline

Museum Island - Bode Museum

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Berlin in One Year

Now that my year abroad in Berlin is about to come to an end, the next following blog posts being dedicated to this amazing city is hardly much of a surprise. Combining my personal photo collection with inspiring and captivating facts about the German capital, I will try to show you the way Berlin looks through my eyes. Enjoy!

Berlin Dome

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Monday, 30 June 2014

Photo Essay: Prague

During my year abroad, I decided to return to the Czech Republic and visit Prague once more during a long weekend. 
Escaping to the “Golden City” was the perfect getaway from my fast-paced, and at times utterly chaotic, life in Berlin, only this time we decided to completely abandon any preplanned itineraries and just discover the city through the eyes of a pair of aimless wanderers.

Prague was everything I remembered it to be: striking, dramatic, mysterious and a little bit overwhelming.

Prague is one of the cities whose atmosphere can only be truly appreciated in either fall or winter. While it is true that winters in the city can be rather harsh, snow is what also turns it into a unique and almost magical place.

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