Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Hidden Gem of Tangermünde

While researching my travel plan for Stendal, I've found a couple of positive travel recommendations about Tangermünde, featured as a small little place with a special colourful flair.  As I am one of those always looking for traditional colourful destinations, featuring very often such travel places on my blog, I decided to use my time in the area for this short trip. 15 minutes later from Stendal - and 4 Eur. one way for the regional train - I arrived to Tangermünde, not sure what to expect.

And as usual in such cases, I left myself surprised with a special meal at the Hotel Schloss, a former noble residence turned into a 4-star luxury location with an excellent service and very children-friendly. My sweet board plate includes a combination of exquisite icecreams - poppyseeds - with fresh fruits and a tart with Port-wine soaked plums. 

After such a great foodie start, I felt encouraged to start exploring the area. The walled hotel has a beautiful garden decorated with art objects too, and the start was more than good.

It also has views over the Elbe river with its promenade, the best place to relax and keep fit without too much effort. Great place for biking too!

Outside the red-bricked walls, the city is already showing me its beautiful colours and I can't wait to explore more.

Antiquities shops are open displaying a big variety of objects, from small children toys and furniture to antique furniture.

Less than one hour away from Stendal and it looks like the sunny weather took everyone out of the house, and the little ones are already having their tasty icecream portions. For more restaurants and bars, you just have to check the Topferpassage.

The city hall is one of the most exquisite building of this kind I ever encountered in Germany. Built in the first half of the 15th century, it has the appearance of a religious instiution, with its Romanesque and Gothic features, and the rose windows. From all angles it looks really impressive, a masterpiece of architecture in its own right.

More importantly, Tangermünde features 'Frauen Orte'/'Women Places', featuring the personality of Grete Minde, both a literary - a character in the works of Theodor Fontane - and real character, the victim of her foreigness and the local machinations that targeted her because out of town.

The city invites me to discover all its secrets and admire its historical beauty, not significantly harmed by historical circumstances or the war bombings.

And who can resist the charm of those beautiful window frames and colourful doors? Not me...

What about the doors?

When it is about time to leave the walls of the citadel of Tangermünde behind, I know that I would love to come back for letting my eyes being soaked into the colours of this hidden gem. One of the many pleasant surprises of my trips across Germany, I am always welcoming...

Monday, May 7, 2018

Literary Histories in Stendal

There is one serious reason why I am in Stendal - for tracing a literary history. The French writer Stendhal was on my reading list as a teen - I've read the original version of most of works, thank you very much mom - and his name was inspired by this place. He added the 'h' for a stronger outline of the German origin. One reason for the choice was his admiration for the art historian and archeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann, born here, but also a love story he had with a blonde beauty, that lived close from this place, that he called 'Minette'. 
Enough reason for me to take the one-hour ride to a town I didn't know too much about...

Walking from the central train station, my companions are derelict buildings, waiting for some serious investor to save them from the inevitable destruction or maybe only for some local council funding. Yeah, it seems that my evaluation habits from the short time I've worked in real estate die hard...

Old brand company names are making a things a little bit better. Once on Hallstraße, the small houses are more friendly and a sign of better life from the around 40,000 inhabitants of this Hanseatic city, close to Hamburg. 

Things are getting only a bit better, once the Art Nouveau samples on the classical red-bricked buildings are creating more complex urban stories. At least for the architecture view, my visit schedule looks slightly improved.

Closer to the center of the old town, the views that I had a couple of minutes into Stendal are already history. Right now, I am welcomed by timbered houses with colourful doors, and a green area inviting to chilling and relaxation. I wonder though where are the locals spending their time, as I can hardly meet anyone walking the narrow cobblestone streets. 

As usual, there is always something specific about the buildings of legal institutions in Germany, as I've learned during my visit to the Moabit Criminal Court last year. Wherever you go in Germany, the local courts do always have an outstanding architecture, and the local legal court - Landgericht - in Stendal is another example in this respect. 

The central area is dominated by the building of another institutions which is always outstanding in Germany: the city hall (Rathaus). The fragments of old and new architecture are beautifully coming up together in Stendal. 

The famous Roland is a frequent appearance in many Northern German cities, part of the heritage from the time of the Holy Roman Empire. The most famous is in Bremen, but local variants can be also encounters in small towns like Perleberg. The statue represented the city liberties, but symbolically, it was associated with its special powers of watching over the city and its freedoms. In many cases, a second statue pf Roland was hidden in a safe place, in case that the original one would have been destroyed. 

The Sunday keeps being quiet in Stendal and we are using our time for a solitary strolling of the narrow streets bordered by beautifully preserved timbered houses. My favorite is Altes Dorf street, a former village added to the city, where time seemed to stop somewhere in the 17th century.

Nearby, there is the museum dedicated to Winckelmann, hosted in the house where he was born, at the beginning of the 18th century. Among many other achievements, Winckelmann was the founder of modern archeology, and also of art history, as he introduced clear specifications and categories into the history of art and various historical styles. As of January 2018, the museum was closed for renovation and will be open some time at the end of the year. A good reason to return to learn more about this personality.

Observing the architecture styles of the streets is part of my travel homeworks, and Stendal gives me a couple of good food for thought.

It is a sense of home that people living here may have it while going inside their small colourful historical houses. A home which most probably is part of a multi-generational history.

Most restaurants are closed for the day, but I spotted a couple of Indian - weirdly, serving pizza too - but also Italian or classical Chinese fast-food parlours.

The main park keeps being empty - the weather may look sunny but it is still one digit though - and as we are heading back to the train station, there is still no soul in sight.

But another glimpse into a beautiful Art Nouveau building made me count the wins of this short trip to Stendal. Disappointed that the Winckelmann museum was closed and that I couldn't get a real vibe of the place - the case with almost all the places I visit in Germany during the winter anyway - at least the architecture and the local spirit gave me a modest idea about what it means to live here. For now, it may be enough, until a return, one day, for a reason or another. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

6 Reasons to Visit an Aviatic Show

A350 surrounded by people. Many of them
As someone used to often travel by plane since my early teens, I remain fascinated by that extraordinary feeling when the massive mass of the airplane its smoothly taking off and makes its way through the clouds up in the air. Although I do have a more than basic scientific background to understand step-by-step the process, I continue to be in wonder every time when the landing takes place, as it shows how extraordinary things the human mind can create sometimes.
However, my curiosity about airplanes stops here, and I am nothing more than a regular miles collector, offering myself once in a while the pleasures of a luxury stay on the board of the airplane. Unless those airplanes do have some interesting histories to tell. History was a good reason to visit the last year the Gatow Military History Museum near Berlin, featuring interesting artefacts of the Cold War or Anklam, two yea
rs ago, for seeing with my own curious eyes the pioneering work of Otto Lilienthal.
ILA aviatic show and exhibition combines both history and high-technology, with a permanent air show where the latest technological discoveries are displayed for the public - for the two days at the end of the exhibition - and for the experts in the area. I visited this impressive event a couple of years ago, and this year I was back to refresh my memories, and maybe to learn one thing or two about airplanes too. 
For those planning to visit the next ILA - will take place again in Berlin only in 2020 - or other aviatic shows anywhere else in the world, here are my top 6 reasons to do it. Believe me, it involves a lot of fun too!

1. Learn a lot about history of humankind

Airplanes do play an important role in the history of humanity. Can you imagine life nowadays without airplanes? It helps people and merchandise move faster, but also helps saving life in case of emergencies when rescue helicopters can arrive at the site of an accident, for instance. All those achievements are in the front of your eyes within a couple of meters only.

2. Airshows are fantastic

The best way to experience an aviatic show is by effectively watching the fantastic live shows. Either there are military or domestic flights on display, the visual experience is always fantastic. During my time of visiting ILA, I've seen a couple of military airplanes regularly operating in Afghanistan and other conflict areas, but also the A350 Airbus - France was the guest of honor this edition - or the least known Kawasaki 1 Airplane.

3. Admire the latest technologies

You don't need to be a geek or an engineer to realize how far science and technologies are when it comes to achievements in the field of aviation. Just have a look at the Beluga, by Airbus, to feel the science vibe. It leaves you speechless, indeed...

The newest Lufthansa logo

4. Have a tour inside some of the airplanes of the day

You can not only see the airplanes from outside, you can also have a visit inside some of them, which is not an everyday occurence. For instance, this huge Luftwaffe airplane is usually used in Afghanistan and talking with the pilots and checking all the fantastic technical amenities is an experience in itself.

5. Have some fun too...

Fancy a business trip with this 1949 Cesna 195?

Not everything is so science-serious - altough, at least for this edition, there were way too many military-related exhibits. It can be also fun, to see all those small airplanes, go on board and take a picture of yourself, eventually with a glass of beer on your hand - the offer in terms of food and drinks was impressive, although a bit overpriced. 

6. Meet people, many people, lots of them

Especially if the weather is fine, is really worth to spend a fun day outdoors, together with other many thousands of people. One ticket costed 22 EUR, and shuttle buses were taking the visitors from the S-Bahn Schönefeld until the location and back. The total amount of visitors, according to ILA webside, was over 150,000, most of them probably during the two last days when the exhibition was open to the public. With so many fun time alternatives for both children and families and couples and people passionate about airplanes, an aviatic show is a great way to spend some time surrounded by so many people, and their fantastic machines.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

How to Spend 2-Hour Layover in Hanover

The perks of being a freelancer is that there is always possible to find yourself a last-minute assignment which involves travel. Therefore, right now I am in Hannover, for the largest world's technology meeting to participate to the latest day of the Messe/Fair, held every year at the end of April. 

First on my agenda is to finish my meetings, while finding my way at the huge location - thankfully there are commuting buses which make the life much faster - but I cannot stop once in a while to admire some artistic add-ons on the side. 

Host of Expo2000, Hanover has a well-defined place on the map of international events. The 13th largest city in Germany knows a bit about how to organise huge events - of any kind, from high-tech to hunters' reunion - offering locations already looking far into the future. 

Unfortunatelly, this time I have free time to see the city only for maximum two hours and it is a pity. A couple of years ago, I wrote an extensive guide of the city - one of my first travel freelance assignments, but unfortunatelly returned only for commuting on the way to the charming Bad Pyrmont spa, which is less than one hour away from here. However, as usual, I am trying to get the best of my time here, so this is what I am doing...
From the classical train station, I am taking a long walk alongside the Niki de St. Phalle promenade with its many diverse shops and the hustle typical for a Friday afternoon in a big city. The famous Nanas by the extravagant artist Niki de St. Phalle can be admired at the Leibnizufer.

There are two big category of architecture that you may find in Hanover: the 1960s-1970s brutalist post-war style and those reminding of the glamorous history of the city (after all, they didn't call the Hanoverian Kings of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for nothing). Although there are not that many timbered houses as in the neighbouring Celle, but strolling around Kramerstrasse ending at the equally interesting from the architecture point of view Holzmarkt, would for sure offer the best of the old Hanoverian world. 

When I visited Hanover from my travel guide, it was autumn and I am pleasantly surprised to see how the spring bloom makes everything so beautiful. The Ballhofplatz, with its intimate ambiance and French-style outdoors cafes is becoming a complete beauty spring life. One more minute here and I am about to think about staying here overnight.

Colourful houses bordering quiet small streets are maintaining the dream-like ambiance. 

Which dreams are about to get to a different level on Kreuzkirchof street, with the suspended chairs against the yellow-beige building facade.

Not too much time to taste the generous foodie offer of the city, but at least I am ready to have a bit or two at the Wanderwaffel store. A Berlin brand with a very good customer service, plus a very pleasant ambiance. Enough refreshments for the exhausted freelancer.

Sad that I am so out of time for a visit to a museum or two (there is a museum of the oriental carpets I would be very curious to have a look at, for instance), I keep my eyes open for the many art samples exhibited on the street. 

All those funny statues do make life in the city a little bit better. Talking about art in the city, if you are around Ernest-August Platz and you hear music coming from the pavement, it is not an illusion, but part of the DJ Gullyman Project, also featured in Bratislava. With so many unexpected works of art spread all over the central streets, at least there is another similarity between the two cities.

On the way back to the train station, a stop at the Opernplatz 1, at the Holocaust memorial, built on the place of a former synagogue, where each and every name of the 2,000 Jews from Hanover sent to death are inscribed.

Having a look around at the architecture is a good aesthetical experience. The building of the Börse/Stock Exchange looks like an elegant Italian palace. The interior is also worth a little curious look, as far as I remember from my previous visit.

One of my favorite so far is the Deutsche Bank building in Georgplatz, which was used for various means before, including as a religious institution. I've had the chance to admire many impressive bank buildings during my travels in Germany, especially those hosting the Sparkasse for instance, but as for now, this one, with the so many classical details and ornamentations is by far my favorite from now.  

My last look over Hannover box of treasures is the neo-classical building of the Opera House, re-opened in 1950 as the first West-Germany opera institution, after being seriously affected by the bombings. It looks like an out-of-time postcard that I am happy to send from Hanover - although not a big opera lover myself. Hopefully, the next time I am here it will be more than a layover, but even for a short time, Hanover succeeded to surround me with beauty and interesting local histories.