Friday, July 13, 2018

CRUISING ON THE ELBE


Cruising along the Havel and then the Elbe Rivers, we came to Magdeburg.
We explored the Cathedral, the oldest Gothic church in Germany:


and I was fascinated by the Hundertwasser Citadel:



Designed by the Austrian artist/architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a building for commercial and residential use, and known also as the Green Citadel, it was built in 2004/05.  The quirky architecture surprises from every angle, and includes courtyards, shops, and 55 apartments.  Hundertwasser believed in the existence of a close relationship between architectural design and the wellbeing of those living within a building.  Concepts include 'tree obligation' and 'window rights' - there are even trees growing out of windows, and wildflower meadows on the roofs and slopes.  



We found a model of the entire Citadel in a coffee shop.  It covers about one city block:




Back on board...


and on to Lutherstadt Wittenberg:

Wittenberg University was made famous by its teachers, religious reformers Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon.


The Reformation started here on October 31, 1517, when Luther reputedly nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the wooden doors of the Castle Church:



We explored the preserved University and home of Luther and his wife Catherine..


who apparently are still walking around the city...


His personal hymn book


The lectern of the University..


The City Square...


And there was Luther on the river bank as we sailed on to Dresden...


Dresden, it is well-known, suffered much destruction of its Royal Palace and historic buildings during the last few months of World War II.

After German reunification, reconstruction began on the palace,the beautiful Frauenkirche, the Opera House, and the city centre..


including this fantastic mosaic mural of the Kings of Saxony



Frauenkirche..


and its beautiful interior..


The Semper Opera House, originally opened in 1841, razed to the ground in 1945, and opened again after reconstruction in 1985.


The dazzling interior, where we enjoyed The Marriage of Figaro



and so to bed....


XXXXX


Saturday, July 7, 2018

A TOUCH OF SWEETNESS


The Glienicke Bridge across the Havel River connects Berlin with Potsdam.
During the Cold War, and until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bridge was a point for exchange of imprisoned secret agents.
It became known as the Bridge of Spies, and features in a Steven Spielberg movie of that name released in 2015.

A frisson of excitement went through our tour group on the bus as we crossed this historic place, and went on to see Potsdam, formerly the jewel of the Prussian Empire and the home of Kings and Kaisers, their most famous palaces and their vast armies.


We went to Sans Souci, the former summer palace of Friedrich the Great (1712-1786) and, following the reunification of Germany in 1990, his final resting place.

More like a large single story chateau, this dainty Rococo style palace has just ten principal rooms, all styled in Friedrich's personal taste now characterised as 'Frederician Rococo'.





As I lover of pink, I was entranced by its sugar-candy sweetness and style...








After a walking tour of the historic centre of Potsdam we enjoyed the contrast of a visit to the Museum Barberini, Potsdam's very new fine arts gallery, where I enjoyed some fine Kandinskys:




At evening we embarked on the Elbe Princesse, our floating hotel for the next week...




Drifting into the sunset along the Havel River towards the Elbe..


and on into the night.

We had the river to ourselves, and never saw another cruise boat.

Blissful...

XXXX


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

BERLIN

The Brandenburg Gate

Hello again Dear Readers - 
Blogging unfortunately ceased when we reached Berlin and joined our Renaissance Art and Music tour and cruise.

There was simply no time!

With a group of 60 fellow Australians, we were led by local Berlin guide and Architectural historian Tom Abbott, exploring the history of this fascinating city through its architecture.

With less than 800 years of history, Berlin is considered a rather young capital city.  In 1701 after Elector Friedrich III crowned himself King Friedrich I of Prussia, Berlin rose to become a royal capital.

We saw gorgeous Rococo style buildings, many faithfully restored after the ravages of various historical wars.

Friedrich the Great 1740-86



The old and the new:  a modern glass dome 




Following Napoleon's occupation and withdrawal from Berlin in 1806-08, the city was again re-created in Greek classicist style.  After 1871 the city became capital of the first unified Germany, enjoying a construction and economic boom.


Google image
Of course, we observed the haunting Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial), a powerful and unsettling sculptural park.  It consists of 2,711 concrete slabs of different heights arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping ground, but arranged slightly irregularly which causes a disorientation in the viewer.

Berlin became divided after World War II, a city shared between the USA, UK, France and Russia, while located within the Russian communist East Germany.


And then, in 1961, as its citizens fled to the West, Russia built the Berlin Wall around the western sections of the city, containing the people in East Germany.


We visited Checkpoint Charlie, the former entry to the US part of Berlin, and went in to one of several museums telling the story of The Wall, in pictures and film.  Here we could inspect several sections and one can even buy little pieces of the wall as souvenirs.


As you know, history records the Wall was re-opened in 1989, and demolished by 1992, with the exception of some sections kept as memorials.





The Berlin State Opera, recently re-opened after a long-term and faithful restoration (2010-2017).  Here we enjoyed not one, but two Operas:



I can't begin to tell you how excited I was to see and hear the great Daniel Barenboim conduct Debussy's 'Pelleas and Melisande'.
He is like a rock star! 
The whole performance was sublime, exquisite music, particularly the young boy treble, and fascinating Cubist sets and German aesthetic costumes.


Two nights later, we were there again for a fantastic production of Tosca -
this time conducted by Australia's own Simone Young.


Our tour group attended two orchestral concerts at the Berliner Philharmoniker, enjoying the Deutsches Symphonie Orchestra playing Beethoven, and the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle playing Bernstein and Korngold.
So much excitement in a few days!


And of course, a pilgrimage to see Nefertiti at the Neues Museum - she really is absolutely beautiful - and the Alte Nationale Galerie for a guided tour of Masterworks of the 19th Century.

Let's look at one or two or them:

Renoir 
 
Paul Cezanne' Still Life with Flowers and Fruits' 
 
Edouard Manet 'In the Conservatory'


One of our Australian tour guides, Christopher Lawrence of ABC Classic FM radio fame, accompanied us to the Museum of Musical Instruments.






We were captivated by all the antique keyboards, horns and stringed instruments, and the beautiful Wurlitzer organ.

As you can see, we were kept very busy, but enjoyed time walking the streets of the former East Berlin, restored and elegant, with sidewalk cafes and chic shops.  

Next stop: Potsdam

XXXX