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Stasimuseum Berlin (Forschungs- und Gedenkstätte Normannenstraße): Karte des DDR-Bezirke Potsdam und des Westteils von Berlin

This is one of the better maps of the actual border of West Berlin, 1:50000 scale and traces a few parts I hadn’t seen so clearly before. Like West Berlin’s exclaves. The Berliner Mauerweg feels a lot smoother than the raggedness I saw on maps and experienced when biking, as though the act of memorialising shaved off the annoying bits, and in turn reified this version of a border. An area that shifted over time becomes a single line.

The messy bits are around Dreilinden, which leads into the exclave of Steinstücken; some of Potsdam — though the crossing of the Havel means there’s never a true way, unless I paddle myself over; Staaken and Seeburg east of Spandau; and the stretch from Wilhelmsruh up to Glienicke. Feels like time to ride the Mauerweg again.

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Löbtauer Straße in Dresden

One of my favourite works from Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden was in the Albertinum Galerie Neue Meister, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Eisenbahnüberführung Löbtauer Straße in Dresden from 1910/26. It’s solid German Expressionism, not large next to other more formidable pieces, subdued in its colour palette, dominated by these pastel grey-blues, with slabs of orange and yellow cutting across and receding on a diagonal. I kept staring at it though, really fascinated with something in it. Those colours, the heavy weight of the iron railway bridge, the crudity of it yet total control of perspective, movement, how one’s eye moves about and over the figures.

As I was editing all those museum images down to something bloggable I saw the painting’s title, and as is my habit in such moments, I slobbed off to Google and Apple Maps. It’s reasonably uncommon to find the exact location of a painting — unless it’s a significant landmark. Small streets, cafés, the subjects of 19th and 20th century art and literature especially in Europe, especially in Germany (try following Walter Benjamin around Berlin), if they even exist are so unrecognisable I can often only get as far as, “Yeah, probably around there somewhere. Possibly.”

Kirchner’s Löbtauer Straße in Dresden exists. And so improbably so does that house on the corner of Roßthaler Straße. The steel train bridge doesn’t, replaced by concrete but following the same curve. Trams also, though they don’t feature in his painting. The buildings in the background though, all gone. In fact most of the triangular block it’s sitting on was until recently wasteland. The remaining set of apartment buildings at the opposite end were abandoned, trees growing out of the burnt and gutted roof. At the time of the painting, this whole block was packed with such homes. You can see the barrenness in the 3D Apple Map: most of the buildings in the left foreground are post-war East German and almost all the flat grassland and empty spaces would have been lined with typical 5-storey German Gründerzeit apartments. I find it harrowing to comprehend, every time I’m confronted with the total and utter destruction German rained upon itself, its own people, the people of Europe, its history — and the extremes of joyous communal destruction all of Europe and the world partook in. Language fails me.

Trainingsradeln Technik

Yes, I am back in Wedding. For a month. My first thought was, “Ooo nice! Cyclocross!” In my favourite forest with the peculiar name. (It’s officially Jungfernheide Forst, but everyone thinks Jungfernheide is the park in Charlottenburg-Nord, and it’s on the edge of Tegelersee, but Tegeler Forst is on the north-west side so that’s a name gone also. I call it Tegelerwald or Flughafenwald cos it’s got Flughafensee in it but no one knows what that is until I say, “The forest around Flughafen Tegel.” “Oh! That one.” and I see their eyes glaze over with “I have never been there. It is unlikely I will ever go there.”)

So, off for a ride. First this year in the forest even. And! A while ago, I inherited an iPhone 4s from Katrin. I haven’t had an iPhone or a smartphone even since I got so thoroughly irritated by my original one and was quite uninterested in even using phones for quite some time. It has GPS! Playtime! I had Trails installed on my old iPhone, and messed around with it last night to see if it could do what I want without leaking my data to the internet. Yay German software companies! (Seriously, they have an almost Pavlovian approach to data privacy.)

It rained yesterday, so the ground was nicely slushy, not dusty, fast, about as ideal as you can get without rain, snow, sub-zero temperatures and proper cyclocross conditions. And so very many horizontal trees. There was a massive storm a couple of weeks ago, and with all these newly fallen trees still green, it’s likely they came down then. I stopped as usual at the pavillion at the east end of Flughafensee, continued on, somewhere between automatic having done this route so many times and hyperattentive because I haven’t done it in half a year.

Back home and data fun. All kinds of excellent stuff like speed (average is a pathetic 22km/h, though slightly faster if I removed all the stops for lights, top speed was 37km/h, curiously in a 30 zone where I was going slower than the cars), elevation (334m up and only 330 descent, which means I’m currently hovering in the apartment above), graphs and maps, browser access over local wi-fi… The thing I really wanted though was to see where I actually went in the forest. I had a fairly good idea, but even the best online maps don’t include the smaller trails (and most just have the single access trail that cuts from west to east). And there it is! It’s not as straight as this zoomed-out map shows, but it’s still far straighter than I’d thought on the north-south stretch. Yes, this can be addictive.

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Muzeum Geologiczne Instytutu Nauk Geologicznych PAN w Krakowie

Wandering down a side street in Kraków Old Town, I see a Geological Museum. I knew there is a mineral museum somewhere. This wasn’t it. I was a little chafed at both museums housing the large mediæval art collections were closed for restoration, and having no real aim in mind and liking all things geo and tectonic, decided to go in. The archæological museum as well was directly around the corner.

It’s a really small museum, more of an exhibition, a room about 60 square metres. What it doesn’t have in size, the Muzeum Geologiczne makes up for with an utter lack of wasting of time. There was a really nice guy on the desk who gave me a folder for english translations of everything … everything, but wow if every museum took attention to detail like this one did. Information overload? Yes! And! “The rocks. You can touch, also.” Excitement!

A clarification, it’s a museum of the geologic history of Kraków and neighbourhood predominately, with some general Poland and Carpathians thrown in as required. It starts with a nice geologic map of the area and NS and WE cross-sections. Then it throws a wall-sized map of all the impact craters and other stuff that’s slammed into Poland from above.

The main room is split into three areas: the left wall with covering several geologic periods from Precambrian to Holocene, the right covering plate tectonics in the region (with some tasty photos of limestone cliffs), and the centre display cases of wood, plant, and shell fossils from the various epochs. Plus a monstrous cubic block of salt.

It’s brief, consistent, and comprehensive for such a small exhibition. Each period has a stratigraphic log, text explaining the different processes at work and the resulting rocks, minerals, landforms, samples of minerals, rocks, ore, crystals, all in a glass case, and then a few bits to pick up and turn over. It sounds a little dry but for me it wasn’t. Probably because it wasn’t 3 hours of room after room of this. It’s obviously been assembled by knowledgeable and passionate geologists, who don’t dumb down the information, yet also present it carefully and attractively. And yes, nicely lit. Actually, it needed about half a room more, to give more room for information to the fossil display cases and the geologic maps.

I wasn’t sure what to blog; I photographed almost everything. So, a few samples and minerals because it’s been a while since pretty invaded supernaut. And that block of crystal salt? It’s about the size of a small person. (And some of the translations I did myself as the fossils weren’t translated in the folder.)

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Tanami Track & Desert

Somehow I got from trying to find my way across Berlin to several hours traipsing up the Tanami Track and across the desert in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Along the way I found a couple of impact craters, marvelled at the astoundingly and diversely complex geological processes across central Australia, followed dry, braided rivers to their inland deltas, seasonal lakes and waterways, found airport runways, a scrawl of tracks, trails, roads, paths that faded in and out, cattle stations, groups of houses, mines, diggings, scratchings, was amazed at the quantity of signs of human existence in the blankness, more amazed still by the utter beauty of the land, realised it looked a lot like my favourite kind of art and some of the stuff I was doing a while ago, and I was better just to take screenshots than a paintbrush, also that I am unlikely to ever see this land from the ground, and to see it like this, from surveillance satellites mapping the planet down to metre-resolution is something I’ll never experience.

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Museo della Storia di Bologna

The day after opening Parsifal, and I couldn’t even persuade myself to sleep in, so … To the Museums!

Unlike Berlin, where I live and know a reasonable amount about the city, Bologna is entirely new to me (ok, besides spaghetti bolognese). Indeed, this is my first time in Italy. I suppose this means I experience a museum in this city more as it is intended: an educational summary of a specific topic. Dasniya and I decided to go to the Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna, but it seemed it would close not long after we got there. Across from Piazza del Francia we passed the Palazzo Pepoli, containing the Museo della Storia di Bologna, one of several museums that are part of Genus Bologniae. Open until 7pm and barely 2pm, we decided it would be a perfect choice for an hour or two. It was nearly closing by the time we left. I think the sheer number of photos I took and the number that ended up here illustrate what a fine time both Dasniya and I had.

This is the museum of the history of Bologna, and it goes back to the Etruscans, around 700BCE, when it was known as Felsina. It was also the city of Cassini, the Cassini, a satellite bearing his name orbiting now around Mars, who was a remarkable astronomer at a time of revolution in the field. This, and the art of building time-pieces (along with mercantile families and their ventures, and the famous university) is what the museum is built around. The Palazzo Pepoli of the family Pepoli dates back around 800 years, and while the museum doesn’t cover them as much as I’d have liked, it did devote the last exhibit in the formal dining hall to a series of 11 busts made in the 17th century of generations of women from the family, each of them spectacular in their own right.

I took an audio guide again, after my very good experience with one at the Musikinstrumenten-Museum a couple of weeks ago. It was a good decision, as all the exhibits are in Italian, though they also have information sheets in several languages in every room; the audio guide really adds a fantastic amount. It’s tempting to go through each room as a recollection here, but I think the photos capture something of that, and it’s sufficient to say I understand the city I’m working in far better than I did a few hours ago and have fallen into something of a love affair with the place, and Italy.

So, some flat notes amidst what is one of the most splendid museums set in one of the most beautiful city palaces I’ve ever been in. Despite the Pepoli women mentioned above, it’s unavoidable the museum gives a wide berth to the role of women in the history of the city. Even in the contemporary section, where 48 Bolognese are interviewed, only 5 of them are women; barely clearing 10%. Otherwise, it’s a sausage-fest, which is a pity, as the Pepoli women prove, the city has a history at least as long their family in which women play a central role.

The other, which coming from Berlin could never have been gotten away with in that city, was the exhibit (about a fifth of one of the 35 rooms) covering the Second World War. Or rather, “Liberata. Risorgere! Ai vittoriosi” “Liberation. Rise again! For the victorious”. No mention of Italian collaboration, fascism, Jews sent to concentration camps, just, “April 1945! Yay! … Oh, and the city was heavily bombed … Sad city is sad …” In Germany a museum would probably end up in prison for historical revisionism.

Besides that, this is a brilliant museum, varied and stimulating, beautifully laid out, so much attention to detail and the creative display of exhibits (a red Ducati next to a Roman chariot in the exhibit on the Roman Via Emilia trunk road!). I feel delightfully spoilt, and a little worried; if all museums here are so good going back to Berlin is going to be a torment.