Sunday, November 3, 2019

Reality Mind Games at Illuseum Berlin

I remember how after being to an illusionist show as a kid, how much I wanted to understand the tricks of the showman. When my mother finally decided to buy us a 'magic box', with tissues and some cubes and a pack of cards and even a magician stick, I was the happiest human in the world for at least one day. As I would have learn later in school, there is more science to 'magic' and the lack of knowledge is what usually makes the excitement bigger. However, there is excitement in pursuing scientific research too and the brain games could offer high rewarding for those dedicated to intellectual endeavourings. 
My recent visit to Illuseum Berlin was a kind reminder that curiosity is a gift for all ages and it keeps our brain alive when we need it the most.

I might be biased right now, but out of all the Berlin museums I've visited - and there is a big bunch of them -  this is one of the most Instagramable I ever seen. It invites you to share your selfies and visual finds and there are plenty of them at every corner. You can find them here on Instagram, and use the hashtags #illuseumberlin.
Besides the visually entincing aspects, the explanatory part is also worth mentioning. For every 'magical' experiment, there is detailed information shared in Spanish and Italian besides English and German.

Recently renovated and rebranded, Illuseum Berlin is targeting a wide range of public: from small children to retired people, which made its offer even more generous - from children parties to team buildings.

When I visited, on a mid-day Monday, it was busy enough to wait for a couple of minutes the moment when you can experience directly one or the other of the 'illusions' available.

Here, for instance, you can put your lovely head on a plate and share the outcome on Instagram. No one is harmed during the experiment and you can soberly meet the rest of your body soon after. 

You can get hipnotized, see how your companion(s) is growing or just disappearing, don't believe your eyes when you reveal the hidden secrets of the holograms or get really dizzy in the tilted room (it actually happened to me; just another occasion to think about how fragile our brains are).

When life is more or less an illusion, travelling through the fragments of the mirror is a normal escapist solution. 

Here, you can play cards with yourself in a multiple version. Just take care to not get annoyed too much! Keep thinking about that's only one of 'you' who will always win! Win-win!

As the world looks upside down, you can always keep playing the fool, although knowing that in the end, the change is one click away.
Illuseum Berlin -  discretely located opposite the famous TV Tower - makes you think about all the options and get into the mood of the everyday science of 'magic'. It's the healthiest brain game you can offer yourself and to your family too. 
Tip: Don't forget to take your precious cell phone with!

Disclaimer: Gifted visit but the opinions are, as usual, my own

Friday, November 1, 2019

Exploring the Limestone Pits from Rüdersdorf bei Berlin

I must confess I do have a thing with industrial locations, factories and mines - a domain I know way too well as a consultant for various PR projects in the field of the mining industry. Looking at all those machines and industrial landscapes is nothing fancy about but the production system as such might tell an important story about the local civilization. As the ecological concerns are becoming an important part of the contemporary Western culture, many locations, some with a high pollution potential, where turned into natural parks, like in the case of this former rail yard in Schöneberg turned into a natural park.  

This time, I am out in a place near Berlin, to explore a limestone mine and processing complex, that provided the construction materials for famous locations such as the Brandenburg Gate, Sanssouci Palace or the Olympia Stadium: The Museumpark Rüdersdorf.

Arriving there is a little funny adventure in itself. From the S-Bahn Friedrichshagen in the Northern part of Berlin one takes a vintage tram for around 15 stops (aproximatively 23 minutes). Additional C area ticket is required. 

We randomly stop somewhere in the middle of the village, curious to see if there is anything else to see in this Rüdersdorf bei Berlin. For instance, the city hall, used as an administrative building since 1968, a former sanatorium and lazaret. 

Although there are some colourful views over water channels framed by autumn foliage, I couldn't find anything noticeable to keep me away from the Museumpark Rüdersdorf, the place where I will spend all my time in this little village.

If you are arriving by tram from Berlin, the station closest to the Museumpark is Heinizstraße, from where you just have to follow the directions until the entrance. The basic entrance costs 6 Euro, with the possibility of booking special historical or geological - searching for fossils is a recommended activity here - tours that high-up the price to an average of 15 euro. The program varies up to the seasons as follows: April to October, daily from 10.00 to 18.00, and November to March, from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30 to 16.00.

First time first, we are hungry and we make a generous stop at the small restaurant strategically located near the entrance. We are announced that there is no fried oil involved in the preparation of meals - no French fries, for instance. The hot veggie soup is bringing back all the good travel energies, while the burger builds up the proteins - wish the bread is a bit fresh tough. The prices probably takes into account that it's probably the only place around where you can eat.

Time to stop complaining about the economic challenges of German restaurant and start exploring instead! At the first sight, the location looks like an abandoned complex of castles and fortifications. In fact, every part of this park is a witness of the advanced technologies applied for the extraction of the shell limestone (Muskelkalk). Usually, those materials are hidden a couple of hundreds meters below ground. In the case of Rüdersdorf bei Berlin, an unique case in the geological context of this part of Germanny, the limestone is very close to the surface. 

Tunnels and channels connected with the limestone quarry were created during the mandate of the Mining minister Anton von Heinitz (whose name is given to the street where the Museumpark is located), at the beginning of the 19th century.

Aqueducts like massive constructions are magnifying the architectural landscape, whose overwhelming impression is tempered only by the expansive nature. 

I've visited a couple of interesting mining locations in the last years, mostly in Europe, and there is always a feeling of desolation while facing the geological view left behind after years of intensive exploatation.

Inside the tunnels, we are having a glimpse on the various stages of the production system.

Here, at the very beginning of the 19th century, the first Rumfort kilns, a completely new type of pit furnaces were introduced. What is specific about those pits is that they have individual chambers for the limestone and the fuels, run permanently, a clear sign of the industrialization of lime processing, at a time when the demand for lime was extremely high in Berlin, given the constant expansion of the city.

There are a couple of panorama points that can offer an overview of the park area, but for me, Glochenturm Panorama is one of the best.

Situated on the top of a small hill, you can see the exploatation area from above. It still looks as desolate as it looks from the ground though. 

After being out of intensive use for decades, the natural balance was reestablished it seems, as the huge mushrooms - typical apparitions for the Brandenburg area - are taking over the tree base.

If you visit the Museumpark Rüdersdorf with children, there are a couple of entertainment activities for the little ones. There is a small petting zoo where you can feed the sturdy goats, two playgrounds and a lot of climbing opportunities. For those at the teen age, you can rent go-karts, e-bikes, bikes or canoes. 

And it is even more: there are event locations that can be rented. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the limestone quarries were a popular background for the German film industry. It continues to be so, as here were also filmed sceneries from the Inglorious Basterds or the local German productions Terra X and Wanderhure.

Remants of the former production system are left in the middle of the fields, like outdoor sculptures of modern art. Kids might be tempted to climb on while adults can be curious to touch various parts figuring out - when the detailed information files are not provided - what those machines were used for.

Even not necessarily interested about industry stories, a walk around is a pleasant way to spend a sunny day - we've been there for around four hours. If it's raining, you better don't visit as there are not too many places where you can hide, unless you go for a Land Rover tour. For those keen for walking - as I do - normalsport shoes will make the steps counting for the day pleasant.

Imagine you have no idea where you are, what those conycal structures are used for. How would you describe this view?

Temples of the industrial life, maybe, testimonies of a time when the industrial revolution gave so many hopes and offered so many chances for a better future of the humanity.

The abandonned concrete monsters are deserted now. Graffiti scribbling - nothing outstanding about the street art here - include them automatically in the category of 'quirky', without joining though many of those abandoned places that fascinated the visitors of Germany, especially of Berlin for such a long time, like Teufelsberg or Beelitz

And there is even more to nurture your reflections on modern art and its efforts to give a special symbolism to average human - including industrial - activities.

Personally, I wish there is there a small museum at least, where I can get more insights about the production experiences and eventually a movie or live presentation of the different stages of the limestone extraction. As for now, there are audio-guides available at entrance where one can get the right context of the locations visited. Maybe I'm too nerdy and curious.

17 hectares of park later, we are leaving Rüdersdorf bei Berlin energized by the nature walking but with also some new knowledge about industrial architecture - my favorite German architect Schinkel contributed to some of the constructions as well - but also about ways in which old industries can be kept into the public memory. 
This Museumpark was an interesting beginning to explore more similar locations in Germany and as I'm writing this, I am already doing a bit of research for my future industrially-themed travel plans.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

How to Spend a Lovely Day in the Colourful Stade

As a regular visitor to Hamburg, I am always looking for the local recommendations for one-day trips. After I've been to Lüneburg a couple of years ago - and really enjoyed it - this time I finally have the chance to make the one-hour trip with S-Bahn to the colourful city of Stade.

It is a lovely sunny Indian summer day, and like in Hamburg, everyone is out enjoying, everyone's its own way. And abilities. Paddling is one of it, but if you are into romantic tours, you can even have your own gondola for a water tour. I am skipping those experiences for this time though.

I've been told a lot by my friends about the classical red-bricked buildings and Hanseatic style of Stade, but during my first minutes here I am having a look at the street art instead, done on a so-called 'legal wall' - the only urban space where the street artists are allowed to display their art skills. It looks moderately fine.  

The day is busy not only on the waters, but also outdoors. It's a city festival taking place and some of the old buildings are obstructed by colourful panels offering entertainment for children.

With so many events taking place, the central area of Pferdemarkt is crowded with stalls offering various local treats and entertainment. However, the side streets like Poststraße are so quiet that you can hear your steps on the cobblestone. The predominant colour of the buildings is red, and the bricks were aimed to diminish the risk of fire that consumed parts of the city more than once. 

The late Renaissance entry of the City Hall on Hökerstraße is a representative construction for Stade. It was built in the second half of the 17th century, on the ruins of the previous 13th century building, and rather looks like a local middle class palace than an administrative building.

As it is weekend, I cannot visit the interior, with its wooden staircases and the stained glass windows. Maybe a next time.

Meanwhile, I have plenty of time to stroll the narrow streets with the shops and small restaurants hosted at the ground level of half-timbered houses. There are plenty of local products and vintage stores and some small art galleries too. At Stader FachMarkt on Große Schmiedestraße I chat shortly with the owners about the selection of local products: among others, apple curry, cider and honey. Apple is a staple in the area of Alte Land, surrounding Stade, which are the main ingredients not only of various types of local cakes and jams, but also of brandies or even soups. On my to-eat list for a next visit. 

But before I am finding a place to eat - get ready with cash, as I tried at least seven places and cards were always forbidden fruits - I am enjoying a bit more the sun blessings. Finding a free place on Fishmarkt is mission impossible so I prefer to keep exploring more side streets.

And I am hardly disappointed, as I have always a weakness for colourful doors.

On the other side of the old city, the clean geometry of the modern buildings guarded by elegant boats is reflected into the water.

Although I am a big lover of everything modern architecture, this time I am more into discovering the old spirit of this Hanseatic little town, with its tradesmen houses.

And some hidden symbols displayed at the entrances, whose meaning I am too much in a hurry to decipher. Looks like a good beginning of a novel in Dan Brown' style.

Personally, I am more keen to decipher the beautiful combination of seasonal vegetables in my lasagna I am treating myself at Cafe im Goebenhaus, considered among Germany's best eateries. My order, a choice from a handwritten menu, is taken fast, and brought even faster, the meal is well balanced and genuinely tasty and the lemonade is one of the best I've had in Germany - which means still far from my standards. 

But Stade has more than nice foodie places and colourful doors. There is also a museum to see, Schwedenspeiche, a former warehouse used by the Swedish Army during the 30 years war in the 17th century. Swedish nostalgics can also have a Swedish meal at the Saltkran, a pretty eatery in the old city area.

Still, with the warm season at the very deadly end, I prefer to stay as much as possible outdoors, enjoying the views of just another pair of colourful doors...

...or some beautiful Baroque-style light orange building.

When the intensive noise of the bells announces me it is a quarter train is leaving the station, I feel that I would love to spend more time here. I wanted so long to meet Stade and was happy for the encounter. From now on, I know where I can go when I am spending just another long weekend in my lovely Hamburg.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Family Fun at Koserow Adventure Park

What you do when on your way back from Ückeritz, you have around two hours to kill until your connection to Berlin? You go a couple of stations away to Koserow Erlebnis Dorf. The fun is just about to begin!

It is build following the same concept of Elstal Strawberry Village near Berlin that I've visited twice and it offers a combination between old village-bound traditions and modern fun, with a strong strawberry scent - and taste too! The entrance is free, and you pay only for the different experiences. The prices are relatively low - starting from 2 Euro, but as there are many temptations around, expect to pay at least 20 EUR.

First, you go through a huge covered market hall, with walls plastered in shelves with teacups and teapots of different sizes and colours. One of my favorite views in Elstal.

On the ground, you are surrounded with various products made of strawberry, and marmalade is, indeed, one of the tastiest ones. The prices are moderate but it's hard to resist the temptation of purchasing more than - at least - three items. After all, the winter is coming and you need to feed the little bears a lot of tasty marmalade!

Outdoors, the yard is decorated with - not surprisingly - strawberry-related themes, but it goes beyond it: you have small water parks for the little ones and slides from the top of a wooden tower for the courageous big ones. Meanwhile, the parents can overview the activities while sipping some strawberry syrup or eating some strawberry cake...You got it!

Personally, we were happy to meet some funny musicians that we know already from Elstal.

A round tour with the tractor was also a much appreciated choice. The same for the pony tour that we enjoyed way too much to take a picture anyway.

The small indoors spaces where you can order various sweets and savory fast meals creates a warm mountain cottage ambiance. It's such a good feeling that you hardly want to leave.

But especially for city-children, such places are more than an opportunity to learn basic knowledge and skills about village life. How the milk is made, for instance, or how to make bread or how life looks like in the traditional countryside.

Adults - especially those who did not grow up in the German lands - learn something here too. Like, how big can a Rumtopf - rum pot for the English-speaking readers, where mixed fruit and alcohol are spending some time together before being served around the winter holidays' time - be. 

Erdbeerebratwust anyone? (Which in plain English translation means strawberry sausage, yep)

Or just some touch of strawberry mustard - Erdbeer Senf - as for now?

Fortunatelly for the average visitors as we are, there are also some 'normal' choices and we are back in the market hall for some good strawberry supplies, while watching how some bonbons are made - a fascinating experience for both adults and children - or for some chocolate tasting too.

Koserow Adventure Park was a great choice and we had two hours well spent. As such 'Erlebnis Park' are in many places in Germany, we are looking forward to trying at least a couple of them more in the next months. It's genuine simple fun and why refuse such an opportunity!?