Bergen and Norwegian Natural Beauty

Another city on a fjord, Bergen is the perfect starting point for a tour of Norway’s rugged landscape and seascape. First, we take a very scenic train ride from Oslo to Bergen. We have a celebrity sighting in Oslo; lesbian activist and comedian Kate Clinton and her friends are also vacationing in Norway. We introduce ourselves with Mary offering the unimaginative “I love your work,” and Kate tells us they will also be “doing the boat tour.” Then we board our different train cars and never see them again.

Fantastic scenery out the windows of our train, Mary makes 10 videos and after taking about 100 pictures. Here’s a small sample:

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We arrive in Bergen, sisterhood of the rolling suitcases, and make our way to the wharf area and our hotel, passing some sidewalk and street art along the way.

These colorful buildings form Bryggen, the historic commercial district. Foundations in this area date to the 12th century, but trading really got going in the 1700s.

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The brick buildings look like those we saw in northern Germany, because they were built by the same Hanseatic League merchants. Bergen was the northernmost outpost of the League, and supplied Atlantic cod (easily salted, dried, and shipped) to people throughout Europe.IMG_2771

Tucked behind the colorful waterfront, this house from the 1600s survived many fires and is the oldest in Bryggen.IMG_2793

Las  Chicas eschew cod for  a more familiar Norwegian snack:IMG_2759

The following day, our real Norwegian adventure begins with a mild train ride back to a small mountain town where we board a narrow gauge train that will take us to Fläm and Aurlandsfjorden. Railroading!

En route to Fläm, the train stops beside a giant waterfall where Mary is out the door first to photograph the scene without people.

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Then the rest of the passengers disembark to see the waterfall and enjoy a little recorded music and a dancing “spirit of the mountains”. (See video at end of this post.)

After descending to sea level, we arrive in Fläm where our Fjord Safari boat is blocked from view by a giant cruise ship. We brave the souvenir shop with the British hordes, walk along the water and up a hill, then it’s time for Fjord Safari! We dress in fashionable waterproof coveralls, life jackets, hats, and goggles.

The boat is like a zodiac–made for ocean waves, hard bottom, inflatable sides, and ropes to hang on to. Joel, our fuzzy faced captain, steers from the back of the boat, while we 14 passengers sit roller-coaster style in rows facing forward.

We putt-putt past the monstrous cruise ship, Joel guns it and we fly across the fjord in search of wakes so we can bounce and swerve and aim for the fjord’s cliffs. We slow and float and Joel talks about waterfalls and how fjords are fresh water on top and salt water below.

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More speedboat racing and swerving, then floating at this village famous for its brown cheese. “It wins awards,” says Joel.

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Speed and wind and waterfalls. No rain, and orange-tinted goggles are not necessary.

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IMG_2942Joel drops us off at Gudvagen on the Nærøfjorden where we board a van and drive back to the regular train, and back to Bergen. Great memories of the UNESCO World Heritage Area: “The Norwegian Western Fjords.”

We eat dinner al fresco beneath red tents on the wharf, consuming paella and merluza (hake) cooked by Spaniards! And weak 2.5% beer, much to Mary’s dismay.

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We brave the rain on the next day, exploring a bit more of Bryggen and its archeological museum.

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Map shows the town in 1276

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Partially built frame of an old trading ship, and map showing the trading region including Ireland, England, Iceland, Greenland, Scandinavia, Russia, Europe.

Some archeological objects

To end our Norwegian experience, we visit KODE, the modern art museum. At KODE 2, the JC Dahl exhibit shows Norway in its stormy glory of seascapes and mountain storms.

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We’re lucky that our fjord adventure did not include raging seas, only clouds and beautiful waterfalls.

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Thank you Norway for amazing art, and watery outdoor adventure!

A little taste of mountain music :

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

 

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Malmö: Cool City by the Sea

Las Chicas return to 🇸🇪 Sweden in hopes of escaping the unrelenting summer heat of Berlin. Our first stop is Malmö, just across the channel (30-minute train ride) from Copenhagen. Record breaking heat in Malmö too? Hotel air-conditioning to the rescue!

Malmö’s city center contains a mix of very old and very new buildings. St. Peter’s Church in the Gothic style, built in 1319:

The church is under renovation, so it holds services in this dome festooned with small rainbow ribbons representing universal inclusiveness.

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Starchitect Santiago Calatrava’s Twisted Torso, which twists a full 90 degrees from bottom to top. With 54 storeys, it’s the tallest building in Scandinavia:

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Above is an new extension designed by Australian Kim Utzon for the World Maritime University (below), a United Nations Institution. The brick university building is the former Malmö Harbor Master’s building.

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During a day of walking around the city, Mary relaxes in a temporary lounge chair, among many couches and chairs built for fans of the upcoming Malmö festival.

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The Clarion Hotel makes its bid for Scandi-cool design:IMG_1138

Green glass curves greet us as we emerge from the train station. It’s called “Glasvasen” and designed by Kanozi Arkitekter.

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Like other Scandinavian cities, Malmö boasts thought-provoking public art too.

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“Non-Violence” by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, 1 of 16 of his knotted guns around the world.

“Way to Go” includes nineteen bronze shoes that represent artists from different eras and professions. The shoes point to a place that was important to each artist.

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“Optimistic Orchestra” by cubist sculptor Yngve Lundell.  He said it was a tribute to “two positively disobedient people,” Lech Walesa and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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“Rubato – Free Flow” by  Eva Hild. She created this aluminum curvy sculpture as an antidote to the city’s boxy buildings.

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“The Spectral Self Container” in colorful fiberglass by Matti Kallioine, with small boat harbor on the left and harbor buildings behind it.

Sculpture and shadow along the canal, but we fail to get name and artist!

From architecture to design, we visit a Swedish design store. Mary spots the neck bike helmet, created in Sweden, on sale; then we see a cyclist wearing one. We spot several cyclists using this self-inflating balloon helmet throughout our travels in Scandinavia.

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More Swedish specialties! Below left: “Upcycle” display from the festival, how to use recycled glass and broken cement. Below right: “Caviar” fish paste that comes in tubes in a variety of flavors from shrimp to garlic. Mary tests this savory spread at the hotel breakfast buffet and dislikes it.

We bike to the Ribersborgs Kallbadhus (cold bath house) on the sea. We walk out the long pier to an old wooden building perched on pilings. The original building was constructed in 1898, but has been renovated several times since then.

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Lisa riding the rental bike with ferry to Finland in the background; locks and tiny lockers at the bath house.

The bath house has single sex bathing areas, plus single sex and co-ed sauna spaces.  Open all year so winter guests alternate icy plunges into the sea and steamy or dry saunas. We pay our fee and enter the women’s side, changing out of our clothes and into nothing! Textile free” like everyone else, we walk outside, past the bath (actually sea water) surrounded by an interior deck and changing rooms.

Ready for this new Swedish experience, we head to the exterior deck and staircase into the open sea. Women and girls of all ages enjoy the water and sunshine.  Lisa immediately heads into the sea and dives right in. The temperature is perfect as we swim and float, get out for some sun, in again for more swimming.  At the bath, we experience lagom (pronounced laaaw-gum), the Swedish word for health and contentment.

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

 

Cologne Cathedral between Roman Towers and Crane Houses

The spectacular sky matches the spectacular Cathedral as we walk from the Rhine River to its entrance.

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Above: the Ludwig Museum of Modern Art in the foreground.

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The back of the cathedral

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North side, flying buttresses

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North tower

Below are more details of one door, and carved figures around the same door.

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Construction began in 1248 and didn’t finish until 1880! Emperor Wilhelm I presided over the opening of what was the tallest building in the world. (Four years later, in 1884, the Washington Monument topped it.) Over the years, builders and architects worked from the original plans, so the church remained Gothic in style throughout over 600 years of construction.

The interior height of the nave is 144 feet, one of the tallest in Europe.

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The stained glass windows didn’t last through the centuries, World War II bombings and battles near the cathedral shattered many of them.  During reconstruction in the 1950s, builders replaced some windows with clear glass.

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Below is a photograph taken in 1945 showing the destroyed railroad bridge and damaged cathedral. (Note: Poor photo quality, as the photo displayed under plastic.)

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Modern art made its way into a south facing window in 2007, when Gerhard Richter created a random pixel design in 72 colors to cover its 1,200 square feet.

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Above: Floor mosaics

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God, Jesus, the 4 apostles, and a world map that doesn’t include North and South America.

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The Crucifix of Bishop Gero, 10th century, the oldest known large crucifix.

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The High Altar from 1322 is topped with a solid 15-foot slab of black marble

On the streets and underground, we see remnants of the 1st century Roman colony, Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium.  Beneath the Roman gate on the Cathedral plaza, we chat with two Camino de Compostela de Santiago pilgrims, beginning their long walk to Spain. We wish “Buen Camino” to them on Jakobsweg, as it is called in German.

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We also visit a stone tower, which marked the northwest corner of the Roman settlement. Check out the 2,000-year old mosaic design.

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On our way to mid-morning ice cream, we passed another tower, its base from Roman times.

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Roman foundation stones even support the cathedral. This hall cuts through the foundation stones:

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Also beneath the cathedral is a partially reconstructed storage chamber believed to part of a wealthy Roman merchant’s house.

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Mary has to squeeze in one more tourist outing, so she visits the Deutsches Sport & Olympia Museum. Brutally hot due to no air conditioning, she rushes through the history of assorted sports. The museum details the Olympics’ beginning in ancient Greece and displays a replica of a Greek bronze discus.  Also pictured below, a mechanical betting machine from the early 20th century, used in 6-day racing (people on bikes in a velodrome) and horse racing.

Our final morning walk along the Rhine River takes us below three 17-story cantilevered shimmering glass and steel buildings.

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Reminiscent of the harbor cranes that served Cologne’s shipping industry, they are each called Kranhaus (Crane House). Built in 2008, architects Alfons Linster and Hadi Teherani designed them.

On our last night in the city that was once part of the Roman Empire, even the spectacular cathedral is dwarfed by the sky’s colors at sunset.

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© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

 

Baltic Sea Bike Tour: Day by Day

Through the woods and over the hills and onto the ferry

Before we reach the Baltic Sea, our trip begins in Rostock, home to a mish-mash of architecture, sculptures and fountains. Our tour will also take us through what used to be the GDR, German Democratic Republic, aka former East Germany, before the Wall came down in 1989. The city, like others on the Baltic coast, still shows off the monumental Gothic architecture of the Hanseatic era (1400s).

The largest church in Northern Germany, Marienkirche (St. Marien church), towers in Gothic glory next to a small goat fountain from the East German era. The church was built in 1230. The goat is from the 1970s.

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Ratschow-Haus from the 15th cetnury, now Library of the City–important government documents kept here:

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Another GDR fountain celebrates the workers of the world, fishing and farming:

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A hotel spangles with East German festivity:

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Rathaus, or Town Hall, a garish mixture of pink plaster and red brick turrets built in 1270:

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We walk along the waterfront in drizzle. Thankfully, we find a cozy corner table overlooking the water, in an Italian restaurant, and fortify ourselves for our first bike kilometers tomorrow.

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On the way back to our hotel, we see the Steintor, one of the old stone gates of the city:

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After a bit of morning misdirection (Mary blames the bike tour book), we ride on the correct path to the sea. First, we pass through lovely fields, forests, and find the sea on the edge of a campground, just over the dune.

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After riding by the sea, we turn inland to Wustrow, on the bay. We have the best room, with a small balcony overlooking this harbor.

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We see another large Gothic brick church and enjoy another Italian meal. After breakfast among the sea shells, blocks and tackle, net tatters, and photos of sailboats and iceboats, we’re off to our next town.

As you read in the Natural World , this day is Mary’s favorite. It begins with a pause for this horse-drawn wagon filled with children singing camp songs.

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Cool weather, tailwinds, and paved bike paths!

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Not too many other people on the path. Mary secretly hopes for a sailboat cruise in the long light of evening at the next port town.

We arrive in Barth to discover a town as grim as its name. Road construction stymies us on busy roads. The hotel is basic, far from the harbor, but at least there is a cat to entertain Lisa while Mary fumbles with the lock and dank garage that holds our bikes for the evening. We ride our bikes to “Thai Asia Bistro,” but the smell of rancid oil mixed with pork, beef and who knows what else quickly drives us back out the door. So we head to familiar ReWe, a German supermarket chain, shiny, new and air-conditioned with many food options. Relieved, we get our food to go, and return to our room overlooking the parking lot to watch the Tour de France. Critically, we also purchase tortilla chips to be smashed in the pannier for mid-morning snacks on the next day.

Up next, another great day of riding by bays, harbors, marshes, and thatched roof houses. Thatched-roof houses are everywhere throughout our days of touring–old houses, new thatched-roof subdivisions, thatched-roof hotels, and assorted collapsing barns.

We also visit the restroom of a lumberjack festival, happening later this summer. Note  saws as decoration.

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The clouds seem threatening, and the day is a little dark, but we arrive in Stralsund in time for a late lunch at a 1970s-style restaurant. We head to the harbor to figure out the ferry for the next day, but do not figure it out, and spend some time looking at digital (Lisa) and paper (Mary) maps to determine the location of our hotel.

View of St. Jakobi church in Alte Stadt (old town):

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We ride past the Alte Stadt, and another lake, drag our bikes into the hotel cellar, marginally aided by the 8-inch ramp next to the stairs. But what a view from our room! The trees, the lake, the Gothic spires of the Alte Stadt. A perfect backdrop for recovering while watching the Tour de France.

Hotel room view:

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St. Marien Lutheran Church, built before 1300. Between 1549 and 1647, it was the tallest building in the world with a bell tower at 103 meters.  Parts of the church have been rebuilt ove the centuries.

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We walk to dinner by the harbor, admire the fountain in the lake and studiously avoid Asian bistros. Bellini’s welcomes us with delayed but delicious Italian food. It’s a lovely summer evening in a university town.

We are überpünktlich (“over on time” or extremely early) for the ferry ticket office in the morning, then we wait another 45 minutes for the ferry.

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While waiting on the dock, we chat with friendly Berlin cyclists who tell us we will love the Island of Hiddensee, And we do! No cars allowed to drive on the island–only horses, walking, and bikes.

A bit of biking on bricked bike paths, a bit of hiking to the Leuchtturm (light house), and some lounging on the beach.

 

Mary goes for a swim. We wait for a ferrry, early early again!

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Later the same day, we catch another ferry to Breege. This ferry features an accordion player who serenades passengers from bike deck.

We arrive to the cobblestone dock in Breege, and ride on it just like Tour de France riders do that very same day (Stage 9). We have finally arrived on the Island of Rügen, home to semi-famous seaside resorts.

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Our hotel is easy to find, and throbbing with 2 busloads of tourist jubilados (Spanish for retired people) in the buffet line for dinner.  It is not a seaside resort, but a friendly family-owned hotel. The owner/manager welcomes us with “I speak English, I am Dutch” and tells us where to put our bikes, and about the buffet.   Starving we are, we quickly dump our stuff in our room and head to the end of the now short buffet line. Fish and many styles of potatoes, spargel (white asparagus) soup, and ice cream for dessert.

We avoid the German and Dutch bus tour folks by eating outside with a sliver of the bay visible through the buildings across the street. We take another lovely after-dinner amble along the water in the peaceful village of Breege.

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The next day, we follow the short cut recommended in our guidebook, and become lost on a rough cobbled road, followed by a slippery sandy track through fields. We follow various hiking trail signs in an attempt to get to the beech forest and white cliffs which should be the highlight of our trip.

Mary no longer enjoys riding on cobbles on rented tank bike.

Finally, we reach a town and a large parking lot where the National Park shuttle bus stops. Civilization! Salmon sandwiches and coke in the shade of a food truck restore us. We get better directions and ride on a rolling paved road through the forest. Upon recommendation of our Dutch host, we take a dirt road into the forest to Wald (forest) house.

After locking our bikes, we head down the trail and get our first views of the cliffs. Beech trees envelop us with calm, and cleanse us of our morning cranky cobbles.

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Refreshed, we cruise downhill to Sassnitz. Foiled by guidebook misdirection again, we ride on more cobbles to the industrial port area. Mary says “Our hotel is up there,” pointing to the hill above the harbor. Lisa gets out her trusty digital phone to guide us to it. We ride along the waterfront, and up another hill (this time on a smooth-ish sidewalk) and arrive at our hotel that time forgot. It is overdone in a weird way that 1950s GDR architecture referred back to some golden era.

But collectibles! We discover two rooms on the first floor filled with cases of small objects from around the world. There’s also a detailed book explaining the collector and his collections – for whoever might be interested.

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A groovy pedestrian bridge leads down to the harbor in Sassnitz.

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We also learn this used to be a critical port on the Stockholm to Berlin immigration journey, from the 1890s:

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After an Italian dinner by the harbor, we watch a large vessel with two-hulls, like a green and white super-sized steel catamaran, circle the harbor waiting for a place to dock. After another similar red vessel departs, the green one ties up.

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We identify British accents and ask the man with a suitcase about the type of vessel. “It takes us to the wind farm, it’s ok to say that right?” he says looking toward the German. “Ya.” Baltic Sea commuting! Wind farm engineers work for weeks at a time, like oil rig roughnecks except on sustainable energy platforms. German, British, and Swedish firms own and operate the farms.

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On to Binz! The bike route to Binz is first dangerous: we ride on a narrow bridge over a steel grid sidewalk with train tracks below. Then it turns to simply  dreary, a paved path through a tunnel of scrubby pine along a busy road. We skip the bleak community of Prora, which was the Nazi and East German summer playground for the privileged of those eras. Its Bauhaus style buildings are in disrepair or gentrified, depending on which part of the beach you visit. Find out more from this Architecture Magazine story. 

We park our bikes and stroll along the Binz seaside strand. We see 19th and early 20th century “villas,” small resort hotels that now contain vacation apartments.

The Jetsons apparently also spent some time here:

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Everyone must have a beach ticket, and we attempt to pay, but the machine hates us and will not take our Euros.

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Away from the busy central area, we sneak across the sand past these cabanas, to dip our toes in the water. After an ice cream snack, we’re on our way to the smaller resort town of Sellin.

We get to our hotel just before it starts to drizzle. Undaunted, we go to the main street for a delicious Italian lunch, then take a stroll to the famous pier, built in 1906 (rebuilt since then). It’s gray and blustery, so we don’t spend too much time. Later in the evening, we return to the beach where a few people still swim at 9 pm.

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Rain greets us the next morning, so we greet the narrow-gauge train called Rasender Roland that takes us to Putbus, shortening our 62 km bike ride to “only” 50 km.

A bike car holds our bikes along with a few others. The train is quaint, historic, and cozy until the coal smoke blows into our car, Mary moves to the back of the car to avoid it. A couple of stops later, Lisa joins her. Thank goodness the coal-powered stove is not necessary today.

 

We ride along double-track through the damp forest, but the rain has gone! In the fields and forests, we see other bike tourists carrying much heavier loads than us. We’re crossing the interior of Rügen which is hillier than the coast. After a couple of hours into the wind, and across the long bridge to Stralsund, we reach civilization and the  confounding posted bike signs vs. guidebook directions. One final mis-direction from Mary “No, I’m sure it’s this way,” is corrected after about a mile. And we reach our hotel. No, we will not be climbing stairs to the second floor of the “villa” which is certainly a converted barn. The hotel gives us a regular room instead.

The next morning, we bid “auf wiedersehen” to Stralsund  at the Flix Bus stop, in the shadow of St. Marien.

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Map of our total route with Fähre (ferry).

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

Forgotten Women Sculptors of Berlin

We ride our bikes to see over 100 sculptures by Berlin women from the modernist era (most created between WWI and WWII). It’s the last weekend of this exhibition at The Georg Kolbe Museum: “The First Generation: Women Sculptors of Berlin Modernism.”

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The look of peace emanating from this face was captured in bronze by the Marg Moll. Moll began her career as a painter, then shifted her medium to sculpture, inspired by Louise Schmidt. She is most famous for the sculpture “Dancer,” not part of this exhibition. In 1943, Moll and her artist husband lost nearly all of their work when their home was bombed.

Many of the ten female sculptors with works on display sculpted bronze, wood, and marble. They flourished during the 1920s, a time when Berlin celebrated cultural diversity. The celebration abruptly ended with the rise of National Socialism. The Nazis closed art schools,  stripped women of their status as artists and teachers, and banned them from purchasing materials because of their gender, because they were Jewish, or both.

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Some sculptors focused on familiar animals. Renée Sintenis sculpted this donkey, but she’s most famous for sculpting the “Berlin Bear.” This figure welcomes drivers into the city at the former Dreilinden border crossing near the Zellendorf neighborhood of Berlin (photo below from Flickr):

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Sintenis was named to the Academy of Arts the 1920s, but expelled in 1934 because her grandmother was Jewish. In 1955, she became one of the first female professors at the University of the Arts in Berlin.

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Gross Daphne (Large Daphne) by Renée Sintenis.

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The small-format bushbaby (nocturnal primate native to east Africa), was created by Christa Winsloe. A sculptor in her early career, Winsloe focused most of her time on writing.  Her plays were the basis for several films including Mädchen in Uniform (Girls in Uniform),  loosely autobiographical about her experience in a military-like boarding school, and considered to be icon of early lesbian cinema. But like many female sculptors of that time, much of her work has been lost.

Louise Stomps was one of the first women to study at Berlin’s University of the Arts in 1928. After WWII, Frankfurt art dealer Hanna Bekker vom Rath supported her by regularly exhibiting the sculptor’s organic and abstract forms.  The city of Berlin later purchased several of Stomps’ works in bronze and wood.

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Kleine Ruhende (Small Dormant Figure) by Louis Stomps.

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Sakral (Sacred) by Louise Stomps.

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Kleiner Rufer (Little Caller) by Louise Stomps.

Käthe Kollwitz was the first woman elected to the Prussian Academy of Arts. A committed socialist and pacifist, the artist is known for depicting  working class people suffering from the effects of hunger, poverty and war. She lost her youngest son during World War I. After the pain she and other families endured, she wrote: “There has been enough of dying! Let not another man fall!”

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Mutter mit zwei kinder (Mother with two children) by Käthe Kollwitz.IMG_1302 copy

Abschied (Farewell) by Käthe Kollwitz.

In 1933, the Nazi party forced Kollwitz to resign her position at the Academy of Künste, and banned her work from being displayed. However, the Nazis did use one of her images, “Mother and Child” as propoganda.  The Nazis declared her to be a “degenerate artist” in 1936. During the World War II, she fled to a small town near Dresden, where she died in 1945, just days before the war ended.

She is honored in Berlin with a statue in Kollwitzplatz in the Prenzlauer berg neighborhood, where a street is also named after her.

IMG_1300 copyGottes Hand (God’s Hand) by Milly Steger.

Milly Steger became municipal sculptor for the city of Hagen (in western Germany), which commissioned her to create large-scale architectural sculptures. Four larger than life female nudes she made for the facade of the Hagen Theater created a scandal and made the artist known throughout Germany. Like other women sculptors, her work was declared “degenerate” by the Nazis. She worked for just a few years in Berlin after WWII; she died of cancer in 1948.

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Hagen Theater figures by Milly Steger. From website: https://www.wp.de/staedte/hagen/diskussion-ueber-theater-zukunft-in-hagen-auf-den-8-mai-vertagt-id7873817.html

There is a different feeling in these rooms of sculpture created by women, most noticeably in the figures’ facial expressions.  The female figures here are loving, joyous, sad, intense, beautiful, sexual — a range of human being-ness.

After wandering through this amazing exhibit, we explore the small garden and works by sculptor Georg Kolbe.

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A lovely café lunch energizes us for the bike ride home through the shady Grunewald, and back to our Halensee neighborhood.

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

 

Springtime in Berlin

May is here which means bike rides beneath tree blossoms, in forests, and parks. We also celebrate International Workers Day, May 1, at a street party in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin.

First, bucolic Berlin and Brandenburg:

 

Treptow Park bike path and  Spree Park (abandoned amusement park)

Treptow Park tree blossoms

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We ride through Grunewald Forest by masses of stacked wood on the side of the road, and see a magic hut that appears and reminds us of fairy tales, but instead houses a conservation education project for students.

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Sacrower Heliandskirche (church) from both sides of the Havel River.

Off to Kreuzberg for May 1, an international holiday (so no school for Lisa!)

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Workers of the world unite! And drink beer, and eat bratwurst, or Indian food, or anything else.  We join friends from the neighborhood who tell us that the police actually started the street party. Why? Because a few years ago, the May 1  workers/anarchist march through the neighborhood was too destructive–cars trampled, trash cans  on fire, windows smashed. Now there’s live music, alcohol (nothing unusual in this city), people offering free hugs, and a Love Revolution flag troupe.

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IMG_0168We also see the club made famous by David Bowie and Iggy Pop back in the day:

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After weaving through the masses in dark clothing, we aim for sunshine along the canal. We cross “Hipster Bridge” where millenials lounge; we eschew the 90-minute pizza place (“not worth it,” according to locals), and dive into Isabel Eiscafé for superior ice cream.

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Dogs enjoy the spring weather too, as Mary discovers on her accidental bike ride through the largest off-leash dog park in Berlin. In the same park, there’s Jagdschloss Grunewald  (palace) and Grunewaldsee (lake).

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It’s still chilly in the morning, but Lisa bundles up in brighter colors for her bike commute:

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And more flowers to celebrate spring!

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

Waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvička jezera, Plitvice Lakes National Park on the eastern edge of Croatia, pulls Las Chicas into its watery wonderland of blues and greens and silvers and white.

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Cloudy days mute the colors in photographs, but not in person. These lakes are a result of the confluence of several surface rivers and subterranean rivers. The lakes are all interconnected and follow the water flow. They are separated by natural dams of travertine (a type of limestone), which is created by the action of moss, algae, and bacteria. The travertine basins give the lakes their other-wordly turquoise color.  The dams create waterfalls as one lake cascades into the next.

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We stay at a small B&B  just a 15-minute walk from the top of the tallest waterfalls.

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While passing by the outdoor kitchen and fireplace grill, we eye the fish which will be our dinner and their dead eyes. Mary asks “what kind of fish?” and the cook indicates he doesn’t speak English,  then answers “roasted.” We determine that the fish are some type of local trout, perhaps even Plitvice trout.

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Can you see dinner in the photo above?

Down the road from our B&B, Mary takes the broken stone staircase challenge and climbs down to the base of the falls, stepping over small piles of snow.  Lisa waits at the top, and enjoys the peace of the water, as stair climbing is not a friendly activity for her knee at the moment.

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Mary’s happy for the raincoat that protects her from waterfall spray.

Yugoslavia established this National Park in 1949.  The government built large hotels and restaurants to accommodate tourists, following guidelines that only single-story and two-story structures could be built, and must be adapted to the terrain, without standing out. So that’s what socialist vacation spots look like! Today buildings still host thousands of tourists each year. In fact, on one drizzly day we are happy to get out of the rain and into a cafeteria style restaurant after a walk in the woods.

War smashed the peace of these  beautiful forests and lakes on “Plitvice Bloody Easter” in 1991. Serbs and Croats killed each other over control of the park; the Serbs wanted this park to be part of their country, not part of Croatia. The Serbian army occupied Plitvice and the surrounding region, tourist hotels became army barracks, or they were severely damaged during the fighting.  Local Croats fled and lived near the coast as refugees. Due to the risk of land mines, the United Nations placed the park on the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger during the war years. The Croat army took back the park in 1995.  After the war, the Plitvice Lakes were among the first areas to be cleared of mines and renovated. The park is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From our B&B, we drive to the other side of the gorge, to the main entrance of the park. There are ramps down to the water, and wooden walkways across the tops of falls and along the sides of the gorge.

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Lisa takes her turn in the mist at the tallest waterfalls:

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Shuttle buses and ferries make it easy to explore the whole park.

We see a few educational and warning signs for tourists, we learn that jezera is lake and slap means waterfall.

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After a Croat breakfast of eggs, bread, muesli, yogurt, and ignored meat and cheese platter, we head out for one more day of exploring.IMG_1986

We take a long walk on the park’s road to the upper lakes because the shuttle isn’t running that way, it’s too early in the season.  Small snow piles line the road, but a sprinkle of flowers tells us spring is coming!

 

View along the road, to waterfalls across the lake:

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We hear torrents of water before we see them. Then the most magical waterscape appears, with very few other people. Through the trees:

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Click on the photo below to see enlarged panorama:

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Or you can see professional quality photos of this area here.

We return to the main area of the park, with a few more chances for photos in the sunshine. Mary tries out the “street food,” cherry pie from a stand at the park entrance.

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We drive back to Split, passing fields and snow-capped mountains. Croatia’s coast is beautiful, but we love the magic of its mountains too.

Tread the wooden walkways over travertine dams with us in this video:

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018