Monthly Archives: April 2011

Bullet Holes Remember Berlin’s Past

The signal sent to my consciousness was a slight prickling of the skin at the back of my neck as the baby-fine hairs raised and brushed against my silk scarf. “We’re walking around in history. Can you feel it?”

“Yes,” Mark answered — “and those are bullet holes all over that building!”

A sunny Sunday in Berlin — Easter Sunday in fact — and there were throngs of people in the public squares. But the side streets were quiet and I was able to take quite a lot of photos without being jostled by crowds.

The buildings around us were a mix of old and new and some of them still retained their stunning late-19th or early-20th century facades. Although I am a huge fan of modernism and contemporary architecture, these handsome structures made me wish that all new construction still had such attention paid to the small details and bits of ornamentation.

On either side of that visually arresting entry were the bullet holes — intentionally left unrepaired so memories of the tumultuous past of this city do not entirely fade.

Architectural detail of classical head over entry of building from early 1900s

Architectural detail of classical head over entry of building from early 1900s


World War II bullet holes in stone building

World War II bullet holes in stone building


Bullet holes in stone building

Bullet holes in stone building

Further down the street, we had a chance to have a laugh and then do a double-take. Here’s why.

Four weeks ago we were in London and we passed by the short street leading to 10 Downing Street where the British Prime Minister resides. The amount of security personnel and high tech security gear all around that area was rather interesting to see. Apparently, much like the President of the USA, both heads of state believe that they are in a constant state of threat.

Now contrast that with the pictures of the residence below. And this is where the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel lives. Not only are there only two guards out front, but there is a man with two red shopping bags having a casual conversation with the guards while a young dark-haired woman sits on the edge of the sidewalk. You can even see the cones and bit of construction items including a site caravan from the ongoing construction all up and down that street. There are no high tech gates or fences or any such ‘necessary’ items of security outside. Even the windows are quite open to the front of the very accessible street. She may live quite high up in the building and the inside may be fortified, but the very fact that she lives on a normal street instead of behind locked gates shows an amazing sense of trust. And I find all of that quite refreshing!

Apparently low-tech security at Chancellor Merkel's house

Come back soon for another post from beautiful and fascinating Berlin!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Berlin On A Sunny Sunday – Part One

Quick, quick preview with a couple of pictures. A longer post will be coming later today or tomorrow morning with lots more wonderful photos of Berlin from a walk on a sunny Sunday. The two pictures below were taken in what was the old East Berlin and it’s now a lovely and lively area!

The Fernsehturm or television tower was a strong image, not just for the German people, but for the world during the division of Berlin into East Berlin and West Berlin. Built by the GDR during the Cold War period of the mid-1960s, it was meant to be a symbol of power for the eastern side and visible throughout the city, but there are also some amusing facts about it. So click on the link to read the history!

Sunny Sunday in old East Berlin with Fernsehturm shining in the distance

Do you remember the post from Hannover? I included a photo of one of these vehicles sitting empty and I wondered what it would look like with people on it. Here’s a fully loaded version! They look like they are having quite a good time on this multi-passenger bike.

Fully loaded multi-passenger cycle

Check back soon for more wonderful pictures of Berlin!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Berlin – With Earplugs In Place!

Working our way around Europe, being very frugal, living like a local, interacting almost exclusively with each local population, and being prepared to be a bit inconvenienced at times was always firmly in our minds.

Deborah's temporary office nook

We knew when we left Australia in December and then the comfort of the family home in Norfolk, England (that we have been using as our European base), we would need to maintain a good sense of humour and the ability to live in flow.

Also, if we were going to have this long-planned trip work out well and since Europe is not exactly a budget location for travel, we’d need to find ways to stretch the euros — hence the working along the way scheme. So far, so good.

So — alright already!!! I’m living in a very noisy flow!!! And here is exactly where I am sitting as I write this post — on a white plastic garden chair in the corner of our temporary kitchen.

Here in Berlin, in addition to having a wonderful time seeing this gorgeous city, we are helping our friend Stefan to renovate the house that he has purchased and which he hopes to be moving into in 4 weeks time. Fingers are firmly crossed on that one right now because most of the house still looks like a bomb site!

This will be a beautiful place once it is complete since the rooms are spacious and there is so much light flooding in from the front and back.

It’s the traditional European style of construction — thick masonry block walls covered with brick or render on the outside and hard plaster on the inside. And it is spread out over 5 levels. You’d never guess from the outside (which looks just fine!) what is going on within. So here below is a little peek at what will need to get resolved in the next few weeks if Stefan is going to move in as planned. CLICK on the photos to enlarge.

Rubble in one of the bedrooms

Mark checking the stability of a crumbling wall

Mark and Stefan discussing the renovation

Crumbling door frame

Crumbling entry door area

I am listening to a house FULL of contractors right now — the 2 or 3 electricians, the 2 plasterers, and the 3 heating contractors plus my husband Mark. All of the hard surfaces that this house is constructed of just echo any noise again and again.

It was a little bizarre to be sound asleep at 8:30 this morning with earplugs in and hear 3 voices open the door and say, “Ooops!” I kept my eyes shut tight, they closed the door, and I raced to the bathroom to quickly put some clothes and wash my hair in the sink (with not very warm water) before they turned off all of the water to move the pipes around before installing the new radiators.

We’ve had 2 days of very cloudy weather and the solar panels are not getting enough charge to heat the water in the huge tank up to nice-and-hot. Hence the lukewarm showers and hair washing. However, Mark has had instructions today in the art of oil-furnace back-up water heating. Sheesh!!! It’s quite an interesting contraption!

Right now I can hear normal drills, electrical sanders, trowels against hard plaster, the tapping of chisels, a hammer drill, and hammers — not to mention the sound of heavy feet as those fellows clunk their way up and down the stairs to all 5 levels of the house. I have my orange earplugs in, too!!! The whole house is vibrating with sounds and it’s making my heart race quite a bit.

At least at night it is beautifully peaceful and we sleep well. The neighbourhood is incredibly silent once darkness falls. A temporary small ‘apartment’ has been created out of 3 rooms up on the top floor and that’s where we are living for now.

We eat dinner, have a bath in the huge bathtub (not pictured), and then cuddle up side-by-side to watch a movie. Fortunately I have enough movies and British television shows in my computer to keep us occupied since there isn’t enough light in the bedroom to read by.

Late today the electricians are doing the final-fix (at least I hope that they are!) of the outlets and then perhaps we can have some lamps on in the evening instead of just one lamp and some tealight candles.

But at least it’s atmospheric with the candlelight. We are very relaxed once everyone leaves and we certainly have a sense of humour about it all!

Temporary bedroom setup

Temporary kitchenette

Blue bathroom - partially crumbling bu functional

Heilandskirche – Waiting Near The Waterside, Trapped by the Berlin Wall

“We might be too late for photographs,” he said. But we quickly left the car and hurried up the gravel path, swishing aside the clouds of mosquitoes in the air as we walked. I heard myself exclaim aloud, “Oh my!” And I sped up a bit since the sun was swiftly sinking and the sky was already flat and gray.

Italian Romanesque Revival style Campanile at the Heilandskirche near Berlin

I might have momentarily thought that I was standing on the edge of a lake in Italy — but I was at the waterside in Germany, looking at a the Heilandskirche, the Church of the Redeemer — a place that was frozen in time and held hostage for decades by the construction of the Berlin Wall.

Heilandskirche at the water's edge

Gazing up at the campanile and ambling through the solemn but serene columned arcade on either side of the church, I could barely imagine how devastated the parish would have been when the wall was built right up to the church and the GDR border troops prevented people from entering for worship.

Columned walkway on right side of the Heilandskirche

And so it sat — crumbling into disrepair until the Berlin Wall came down, a campaign was mounted to raise funds to restore the church, and once again everyday citizens and tourists alike could have a quiet moment by those now-peaceful shores.

Columned walkway on left side of Heilandskirche

Sculpted plaque on the courtyard side of the Campanile

As you look at the picture of the columned walkway above, you can see a tower in East Berlin off in the foggy distance on the other shore of the lake.

I am grateful to our friend Stefan Hoffmann for taking us to this remarkable place and sharing the story with us this week.

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Hanging Out In Hannover – Part Three

This entry will be a series of photos of funny things we saw, odd things, and beautiful things in Hannover. Enjoy!!!

Hang on a minute — wasn’t this the Big Boy that we saw at our drive-in restaurants in the USA in the 1960s???

Big Boy statue in front of a hamburger shop

And just how many people can ride this crazy version of a bicycle???

And what about that carving that I saw high up on a brick wall? Do you think it is telling me to stay away — or just trying to ward off ‘evil spirits’ during times long gone?

Maximum pedal power

Perhaps it is telling me to stay away?

You just never know when you might need a friendly cow wearing boots to lean against whilst making a phone call.

Leaning on a cow, making a phone call

This tour guide below in the top hat and tails was leading his group around historic Hannover on Segway vehicles. What a way to go!

Segway tour group leader in Hannover

Segway tour group in Hannover

Yes — this is yours truly courtesy of my husband who is holding one of the cameras for awhile. Hope you enjoyed Hannover as much as we did!

Deborah in Hannover, Germany

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Berlin Bonfire Night – Funkenfeuer

Last night was Easter Eve and it was also Bonfire Night – Funkenfeuer – in Berlin. We didn’t know what to expect but our friend Stefan told us we’d all have a good time. And he was SO right!

The bonfire or Funkenfeuer marks the end of Lent. But since I have read about quite a lot of such festivities during my years of graduate degree research, this one is definitely a pagan-origin ceremony that has been ‘absorbed’ into Christian tradition.

We followed Stefan down the pathway through the grass (Stefan is in the red jacket on the right — turning back to look at us) and we could soon hear and see the throngs of people who had arrived earlier.

Off to see the bonfire with Stefan

The sun was low in the sky as we made our way through the crowds, but the first of the large bonfires had already been lit and was blazing away. Hundreds of people milled around, eating barbeque or salads or sweets and drinking the plentiful beer on tap.

Bonfire night just before sunset

The first bonfire is now well under way

We ate delicious roast pork sandwiches, drank beer, watched the fire for awhile, and then Stefan and Mark stood in the eerie blue glow of the beer stand to get another beer.

Barbeque in Germany

Stefan and Mark in the line to purchase a beer

The second bonfire was lit as darkness descended and it was even more dramatic than the first one had been since it was now silhouetted against the black skies. As I edited the photos this morning, it was easy to understand how mankind in a more primitive time period could have ‘seen’ visions of dragons or eerie figures dancing atop the flames against the inky backdrop of the night sky. I certainly see them in the last 2 photos below!

We may all be more ‘civilized’ nowadays, but the powerful allure of an enormous bonfire still answers some primitive song which is echoing in our hearts.

Although the term Funkenfeuer is apparently technically correct, our Stefan told us tonight that he had never called it by that term and had always heard it called simply “Easter Fire.”

Bonfire in the Berlin suburbs

Bonfire in Berlin

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Hanging Out In Hannover – Part Two

Like a moth to the light, I am invariably drawn to certain kinds of cathedrals or churches or abbey ruins. Thus it has always been as I travelled throughout Europe and Great Britain and this trip is proving to be no exception to that.

Arch side detail on the Marktkirche in Hannover

Overdoor detail of Death chasing a man

Marktkirche in Hannover, Germany


Discovering the beautiful old Marktkirche in the heart of the historic precinct on Hannover was made all the better when we heard music drifting outward into the plaza. Ever curious about what was going on during a Wednesday afternoon, we had a marvelous moment of serendipity as we happened upon the rehearsals for the Easter weekend concert performance of a Mozart Requiem and several other pieces in a similar vein. The music was glorious and there were less than a handful of people watching from the back.

I don’t know that I ever remember being inside such a large church where the brick vaulting was so evident instead of plastered and painted over. But lest you think that it made it feel heavy or oppressive inside, let me assure you that the height of the interior dispelled any sensation of being dark or enclosed. And the acoustics were marvelous!

Rehearsal for Mozart Requiem performance

Brick vaults and columns in the Marktkirche in Hannover

Concert poster at the Marktkirche in Hannover

Organ pipes inside the Marktkirche in Hannover

It was apparent that the church had been rebuilt — most likely after World War II — but it was not until I did some research following our visit that I discovered that Marktkirche had been built in the 14th century and was flattened by bombs in 1943. The church was then rebuilt in the 1950s.

A prominent statue of Martin Luther outside reveals that it is indeed a Lutheran church. The other giveaway is the very plain yet serene and lovely interior which is devoid of the ornate ornamentation so common amongst Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals.

The entry portal leads to doors with a rather startling subject matter — the events in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. They were created by the artist Gerhard Marcks and I found them quite compelling.

Door #1 panel on Marktkirsche in Hannover

Door panel #2 on Marktkirsche in Hannover

Door panel #3 on Marktkirsche in Hannover

Door panel #4 on Marktkirsche in Hannover

Door panel #5 on Marktkirsche in Hannover

Door panel #6 on Marktkirsche in Hannover

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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