Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ideas and Shadows

In Berlin we are now into minus temperatures, but with no rain or snow. Time to stay in, put the heating on and find a good book to help you through to Spring. Try this one. It has 1015 pages plus 100 pages of references and notes. That should keep us busy during the dark evenings.

What is really good about the book is the structure. Peter Watson has written 36 sections organised within 4 themes. This means you can jump around and read any chapter you want in any order. The alternative is to start at page 1 and stop at page 1015!

I read the introduction, conclusion and then chapter 35 called 'Enemies of the Cross and Qur'an - the End of the Soul. It's about the loss of faith in the 19th Century and the rise of science. We start with David Hume and his 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion' published in 1779. Hume reminds us of Kant and his statement that concepts such as God, Soul, Immortality can never be proved. What a pity that millions of 'religious people' don't know this!

I then jumped to chapter 10 called Pagans and Christians. Did you know that Pagan comes from the word 'Paganus' which means 'villager'.  This chapter is about the decline of Rome and influences there on the development of early Christianity. Did you know that the early church stole the 25th December from the Mithras cult? It was the Feast Day of Mithras then celebrated in Rome.

I didn't read the book on Friday afternoon for I was enjoying time with my Photoshop Gang. We returned to the theme of 'Shadows'. We took a background photo of Karl-Marx-Alle where it runs into Alexander Platz. We then added a photo of Helga and Maria. The difficult bit was to then add a shadow of them. After a few mistakes, we got there. Here is my masterpiece.  Now back to my book!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


One crane is now operating in front of my window. Another is being built. The base is in the sand and the workers are building the metal supports before the concrete is pumped into the base structure.

It is really interesting to see how the work is organised and divided. Each group just gets on with a task regardless of other groups working nearby.

I now have a row of blue mobile container offices outside my window. I wonder who will occupy them and what they will do.

I recently got a call from Stefan Sch. just to catch up on news. In the course of our conversation he said he looked at my blog but mainly for the photographs!

Another photo looker to go with Jan and a few others. All university educated so I still wonder what is difficult about reading a simple text in addition to looking at the photos?

I should have gone to Poland this morning for a shopping excursion. It was called off at the last minute due to 'Oldie Illness'. We may go next weekend or next week depending on other appointments and health.

Meanwhile, have a look at the cranes - if you are unable/too lazy to read text :-))

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Another concert

I went to another concert at the Philharmonie this evening. You can see the programme on the card. It was designed to put 'bottoms on seats' = no strange discordant notes or noises! I have told you about this orchestra before. They are amateurs and give any profit to buy instruments for talented children from very poor families.

We started with the Franck piece. I know he/it was influenced by the French-Prussian war of 1870, and that Franck was also influenced by Wagner. You can hear that in the piece. It moves around a lot but it doesn't go anywhere - remember I said that first! Most of the audience were family and friends of the players so it was almost booked out, including coughing Grannies :-((

Last Friday afternoon  I went to my Photoshop Gang meeting and after coffee, cakes and catching up on news, we played around with a few images. We took a background photo of the old inner city airport, added photos of two of our members then noted they needed shadows. We added shadows but it is a secret how we/I did it :-)  As usual, it is not real but looks so.

After creating yet another piece of art, I galloped home, helped Daniel with his English, introduced him to Marcel when he arrived, had a meal with Marcel and then found time to relax before the weekend arrived.

Herr Ober!

Yes, when you are 'dining' in an expensive and traditional German/Austrian restaurant and you want to get the attention of the waiter you say clearly, 'Herr Ober!' Even in less expensive places it is still used and considered polite, but formal.

I said it to Marcel a few times yesterday. He grimaced! Others within earshot stared or smiled! Here is a photo of him being Herr Ober. On his tray you can see my half empty paper coffee cup. Well, he had to carry something to show the boss he was working!

The event was laying the foundation stone for the new building opposite my flat. I was invited and enjoyed the event. Lots of information about the project including that it will cost €20 million, there will be 60 underground garages and 78 different sized flats above them, plus a garden and meeting centre for tenants.

Having duly laid the foundation stone we formed queues for a range of grilled steaks, large sausages, potato and other salads, rolls, cakes, coffee, tea and cold drinks. I munched my lunch in the tent where a group played popular jazz. At the end only Marcel and I remained to applaud the group for the last tune. A really nice time. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Guess where

Guess where Marcel will be working on Saturday morning? No idea? Then look at this image. No, not cleaning out the workers' toilet you can see in the foreground :-((      Look behind it and you can see a large, white, tent! Well done, you got there!

Where is the tent? Yes, you recognised the area. It is in a corner of the large hole in front of my flat. It is being furnished for an event starting at 11am on Saturday 22 November. I got an invitation as follows: 'Einladung zur Grundsteinlegung'. It means an invitation to the laying of the foundation stone. I accepted immediately!

The connection to Marcel is that he works part time for a catering company. They got the contract to feed and water people like me at the event. He was asked to work there as a ......waiter :-))) He called me yesterday to give me the news. What a coincidence!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mosque visit

This afternoon I had a new experience in Berlin. I went to a mosque. This is an interesting word for I know it also as die Moschee and Musjid from Hindi, Urdu and Arabic. I have been to many in various countries but never before in Germany.

The event was organised by Michael who is the deputy chairman of the SPD Oldies in Lichtenberg. This is where I live, as you surely know by now. We met up in our local AWO and headed off in three cars. Yes, there were twelve of us.

We finally found a parking space in Kreuzberg. This is a district in the centre of Berlin. It is one of two main districts housing Muslim people. Most are descendents of Turkish 'guest' workers. They raised the money to build a mosque in the 1990's.

We entered the mosque to be met by our guide. A large and friendly man with almost perfect German and a very big smile! We took off our shoes and entered the prayer hall. He explained his religion and talked about the mosque building. It has six floors combining the large three story prayer hall, floor for kids, one for women and one for offices.

We did a tour of the building, which we discovered had been financed by donations, and ended up in a friendly cafe, which was also part of the building. My 'Gang' relaxed over coffee, cakes, or a large plate of hot food. Lots of chatting during which I discovered that nearly all had been in a mosque before, and all had positive experiences.Nice to report something positive about Islam in current all too often negative reports!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Living in sand

I live opposite a huge sand pit. Just look at the building site outside my window. All of Berlin is built on such sand deposits. If you remember your geography lessons at school you will know that the whole of north Europe is just one big pile of sand with a thin coating of soil.

From the coast of Netherlands to the eastern border of Poland, you only have to dig down about one foot and you hit sand. That is why only certain kinds of plants and trees can grow. I wonder why there aren't deposits of oil, as you find under sand in the Middle East.

Work on the building site is progressing. You can see that other workers have arrived to set down the floors of what will be the underground garages. The flats will be built above them. It is interesting to see how each group of workers just gets on with their specialist work and ignores the others.

I should have written 'men' for so far I have only seen one women and she drives a large truck to take away the sand. I think she could tell a few stories about only working with men.

I got a really nice postcard from Heike. She was on holiday in Portugal and thought of me. Thanks Heike :-)) I really like the calm you feel when you look at the sunset. I decided to share with you so that you can also enjoy the sense of calm.

Nothing remarkable about last week and the next week looks very much the same. The same routine of teaching, including helping Daniel to understand the English tense system. It is not easy! Meetings with different Oldie groups and SPD meetings. And so is my life at the moment.

PS:  UPDATE Saturday. I told you so!  I woke this morning to the sound of a different machine. I peered out of my bedroom window to see something new. A cement lorry attached to another lorry with an extension arm carrying a pipe. The pipe went into the garage foundation. Lots of brushing to make sure the cement was even and the men and machines began the task of leaving the site for the weekend.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

25 years after

Yesterday I went to Cinemax at Potsdamer Platz. I met Marcel and Andreas. We saw the film Interstellar. I can really recommend it. Very clever story mixing science, particularly time and gravity, with fantasy. The music is integral to the film and was composed by Hans Zimmer. I noted 6 composers he had borrowed musical ideas from!

This morning I should have gone to Cottbus in the south of Land Brandenburg. Repairs to lines and building work delayed arrival at the main station so we cancelled. Instead I can stay in Berlin and celebrate the breaching of the Berlin Wall exactly 25 years ago.

A 'newspaper' called die Bild Zeitung published 42 million special copies to celebrate the event and I guess that every postbox in Germany got a free copy! I read it and noted a few points I didn't know about that day and life in the DDR.

In the middle section there is a two page questionnaire. I could only answer about half so I need to ask more questions from friends who lived through that period. One photo shows Helmut Kohl now
confined to a wheelchair following a stroke, which also removed most of his ability to speak. There is lots of praise for his role in subsequent events.

One photo I like is of the Wall with people clambering on it and walking through the breach. Wir sind das Volk = We are THE people, does not have the same resonance as it does in German, but the words and image capture the event.

Another page shows messages from George W. Bush(90) and Michail Gorbatschow(83). I don't think I need to tell you who they are, and were 25 years ago. On the right of that page is a list of front pages from other European newspapers. I think The Sun from London has the best word play with 'It's Wall Over'. Oh noooo!

Finally we have a story/photo from a Bild reporter and photographer who knocked on Margot Honecker's door. She lives in Santiago de Chile in Chile and was married to Herr Erich who was the last 'Boss' of the GDR. She is now 87 and at least the reporter said she looks younger and fit while making a negative comment about her opening the door with a roller in her hair and rubber slippers on her feet!

On realising who he was she said, " Hauen Sie ab, Sie unverschämter Kerl!" Not easy to translate this for she used the 'Sie' formal form in German even though 'door-stepped'. She said, 'Go away/get lost you impertinent/brazen-faced fellow!'  I wonder if she will be watching the celebrations on TV today exactly 25 years after her world began to collapse?

Monday, November 03, 2014


I went to Küstrin (Kostrzyn in Polish) yesterday. It wasn't my first visit but this time I wanted to see the Altadt. The weather was ideal as you can see in the photos. I met Oldie H at Lichtenberg railway station as we got into a train heading east. The journey takes just over one hour to cover the 80 klm to Küstrin on the Polish border.

Küstrin is part of German-Polish history. Let's go back a thousand years when the area on the east of the River Oder was part of a Duchy of Greater Poland. A town developed on an island formed where the river Warta flows into the larger River Oder, which then flows into the Baltic Sea.

As German tribes moved east they encountered earlier settlements of Slavic speaking people. The Electorate of Brandenburg was formed in this early migration and this title and land was bought by a family called Hohenzollern. They ruled from 1200 to 1918. The Duchy of Küstrin passed by marriage to Brandenburg in 1261.

Jumping to the 1500s, we find Elector Joachim I Nestor of Brandenburg married to a lady called Elisabeth of Denmark which produced two sons. Joachim II and his little brother Johann. On the death of Papa in 1535, the lands were divided between the sons. Big brother got the Elector title and lots of land. Little brother got the title of Margrave of Brandenburg-Küstrin and lands which made up a decent 12,500 sq. klms. He decided to make Küstrin his capital so lots of building started.

A town with a castle emerged. It had five bastions, was surrounded by earth walls, protected by swamps in the east and was surrounded by a moat. It also had three gates leading in/out of the town. A later Elector turned the fortress into a barracks for the Brandenburg-Prussian army in 1641.

Returning to Margrave Johann von Brandenburg-Küstrin we find he developed his lands and wealth by careful economic management, was an ardent Lutheran, and took part in the Catholic-Lutheran wars (see my post about Torgau). He died in 1571 at the then old age of 57. He left two daughters, but  no male heir, so his Margraviate was reunited with other Brandenburg lands.

Later the town/fortress hit the headlines again when Frederick the Great's father imprisoned him there because he planned to escape to England, and had his soldier friend executed for helping him. Nothing much seems to have happened until 11 March 1945. After heavy fighting the town fell to the Soviet Army as it swept on to Berlin.

In the fighting the Altstadt was completely destroyed and was not rebuilt. The remaining German population was expelled. It is now an overgrown area of ruins with only the fortress walls rebuilt to hold back the river. What a history!

The 'new' town has a population of 20,000, hosts post-1960s box like blocks of flats and a 'tacky' market area selling clothes, cigarettes and petrol to 'Ossies' from Germany!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

November 2014 Things

Nothing new or different for me in November. It is not one of my favourite months. I am a spring and summer Mensch!

 I just put on warmer clothes, take an umbrella with me and think about the coming Spring!

Who has a birthday in November?
Daniel will be 18 on the 2nd November, then we jump to the 19th when Jeff, Rob and Annie celebrate different birthdays in The Netherlands. Sarah from my Uni days will celebrate her 54th on 22 November in London. I shall celebrate Stephen's 57th birthday here in Berlin on the 29th November. Happy Birthday to each and all!