"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Travelogue 3: Hanover


"Life . . . is never the way one imagines it.
It surprises you, it amazes you, and it
makes you laugh or cry when you don’t expect it."

"This garden was made with difficulties, love, wild enthusiasm, obsession, and most of all, faith. Nothing could have stopped me."

"As in all fairy tales, before finding the treasure, I met on my path dragons, sorcerers, magicians and the Angel of Temperance."

~ Niki de Saint Phalle ~
(1930 - 2002)

~ 1993 ~


Eve Blossom
Kurt Schwitters' own translation of "An Anna Blume"

Oh thou, beloved of my twenty-seven senses, I love thine! Thou thee
thee thine, I thine,
thou mine, we?
That (by the way) is beside the point!
Who art thou, uncounted woman, Thou art, art thou?
People say, thou werst,
Let them say, they don't know what they are talking about.
Thou wearest thine hat on thy feet, and wanderest on thine hands,
On thine hands thou wanderest
Hallo, thy red dress, sawn into white folds,
Red I love Eve Blossom, red I love thine,
Thou thee thee thine, I thine, thou mine, we?
That (by the way) belongs to the cold glow!
Eve Blossom, red Eve Blossom what do people say?
PRIZE QUESTION: 1. Eve Blossom is red,
2. Eve Blossom has wheels
3. what colour are the wheels?
Blue is the colour of your yellow hair
Red is the whirl of your green wheels,
Thou simple maiden in everyday dress,
Thou small green animal,
I love thine!
Thou thee thee thine, I thine, thou mine, we?
That (by the way) belongs to the glowing brazier!
Eve Blossom,eve,
E - V - E,
E easy, V victory, E easy,
I trickle your name.
Your name drops like soft tallow.
Do you know it, Eve?
Do you already know it?
One can also read you from the back
And you, you most glorious of all,
You are from the back as from the front,
Easy victory.
Tallow trickles to stroke over my back
Eve Blossom,
Thou drippy animal,
I love you!!!!

~ Kurt Schwitters ~
(born in Hanover 1887 - died in London 1948)
Dadaist Practitioner of
Poems Performances Pieces Proses Plays Poetics

~ 1919 ~


In March of 2006, we had the opportunity to spend our Spring Break in Hanover, Germany because Gerry was teaching a week - long seminar at GISMA, who sent him emails that began: "Good Morning Professor McCartney Dear Gerry." Who could resist such an entreaty? We flew into Manchester, England, stopped by Liverpool for a weekend to see Gerry's parents and let Sam stay there for some quality time his British grandparents. Then Gerry, Ben, and I flew on to Germany, where Ben and I were full - time tourists while Gerry taught.

I hadn't even anticipated how much I was going to appreciate my bonding time with Ben, but I really did, especially, since we spent many hours just the two of us together walking around and taking photographs and going to museums while Gerry was working and Sam, of course, was back in England. Ben loved running around with the camera, capturing what he liked to refer to as "the essence of where today meets yesterday." For example, this juxtaposition of 21st century transport and 19th century architecture was taken at the Herrenhausen Gardens, just a short drive from Hanover's city center:
Tram Obscures Palace

In fact, Herrenhausen was our only jaunt outside of walking distance (besides Gerry going to work). It was not really all that far, and we were not sorry to have visited the Indoor Rain Forest House and captured the essence; however, unlike those websites that suggest this attraction is equally beautiful at all times of year, I would recommend saving this landmark for the summertime:

Bleak Mid - March

Gerry taught every morning and every afternoon joined us in some local excursion; and I know that he too really enjoyed having so much time with Ben -- it was nice for us to be able to treat him as a "kid" for a little while, before he grew completely up. Sam, on the other hand, was busy receiving the royal treatment as Grandpa's Boy! I think both Ben & Sam relished being the "only child" for a week, but they were glad to be back together at the end of the week for some good ol' sibling together time:

As for our tourist activities, Gerry, Ben, and I found Hanover to be a beautiful old city -- carefully reassembled after the War to blend reconstruction and preservation of whatever was left standing with new construction (well, I guess you could say this of most German towns). Hanover is not necessarily a tourist destination (like Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Munich, Berlin) but still there was plenty to see and do, and we enjoyed it all and certainly wouldn't mind going back if we have another chance. There is a wonderful huge stone - paved central square in the Old City, dominated by a gigantic medieval church and encircled by ancient historical buildings, plus some shiny new shops, such as the Oil & Vinegar store, which was full of great kitchen gifts and supplies -- along the lines of Williams Sonoma. I don't know if Gerry's teaching duties would ever take him there during the month of December, but I could just imagine the whole street scene filled with holiday sights and sounds and aromas of a traditional Christkindlmarket!

We lived in a local apartment complex, and picked up our supplies at the small shops on the plaza level:

Everything at the deli looked great, but we didn't buy anything there. We bought bread, sweet rolls, croissants, and ready - made sandwiches from the bakery -- just by pointing at each item and holding out our money and letting the cashier take the correct change. Everyone there seemed very helpful and honest, even though they could have easily fooled us! As on any trip, we encountered those -- such as the cashier at the little "Tabac" shop, where I picked up a few cards -- who were always kind even when neither of us could understand a word the other was saying, and those who weren't, such as the staff at the less than charming restaurant (Spago) where they treated us like Space Aliens. Reluctant Greetings Earthlings! Yankees Go Home!

We went to the grocery store every day for cereal, milk, orange juice, lettuce, strawberries, pasta -- things like that, just for general eating and snacking. We quickly learned to take along the big shopping bags left behind the previous tenants in our apartment, and to do our own bagging really quickly because there is no room for the items to stack up at the end of the tiny little conveyor belt. When buying Fanta or Mineral Water (for a mere 19 cents -- though in the restaurants it was more like $5 for the same size bottle!), we paid a plastic bottle deposit that we got back the next time. It was all kind of simultaneously New Age progressive and Old School quaint, reminding me in some ways of shopping as a child, with a basket on my arm, at the old - time corner grocery store with my grandparents.

In the dairy case we found nice wedges of Brie for 99 Euro - Cents. We had this for a snack a lot, along with bread from the bakery -- such a treat compared to the cost of Brie in America! This is also where we picked up items for the apartment, such as paper towels, laundry soap, etc. As Fruhling and Frohe Ostern were drawing near, the grocery counter was covered with the most beautiful Easter candy that I've ever seen! And over on the regular candy aisle we found our favorite German candy bars, miniaturized:

Ritter Sport Minis
So cute -- the perfect souvenir!

Ben and I spent the mornings following the Self - Guided Red Line / Thread Walking Historical Tour, using the little red information booklets to help us find our way and give us all the background information.

Leaving the apartment area, we walked east on Calenberger Strasse until we reached Rote Reihe, featuring the Lutheran Neustadter Kirche surrounded by a stone plaza; beyond that is a Concrete Memorial where the Jewish Synagogue used to be; and beyond that St. Clemens Catholic Basilica. This is a nice side street to walk down and take some photos, then circle back up to Calenberger Strasse and cross Leibnizufer, a divided major thoroughfare. The crosswalk and crossing lights make it very pedestrian friendly, even if there happens to be a lot of traffic. As soon as you're across the street, glance down to your left and you'll see the giant colorful Nana sculptures created for the City of Hanover by Niki de Saint Phalle.

Going forward, onto Schloss Strasse and Kramerstrasse, you'll cross a little footpath over the canal / moat. On the left is a large tower from the old city wall; on the right is the Leine Palace. Along Kramerstrasse, we liked the Historiches Museum, off to the left on Pferdestraße, for the scale models and the local color; this was Ben's favorite museum. Further along on Kramerstrasse, you can indulge in a creamy Italian ice cream cone Mr. Gelato (on your right). You'll recognize the big plastic ice - cream cone outside the door -- along with the All - American "Big Boy." We were never quite sure what the Big Boy was doing there, but he provides a very Midwestern presence, just in case you're feeling homesick!

At this point, you can turn in any direction for great shops, pubs, restaurants, and an immersion into medieval German history; for you are now at the Old Town Center, Old Town Hall, and mammoth Market Church mentioned above. From here, you can veer off to the right, cross Karmarchstrasse, and visit the Market Hall:

This market is nearly identical in nature to Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, if you happen to be familiar. It is filled with small stalls selling all kinds of gourmet groceries, and numerous little restaurants selling snacks and stand - up meals (plus a few sit - down places). Very colorful.

From here, you can head southward to the New Town Hall / Rathaus. You can also reach this area from Calenberger Strasse by heading to the Waterloo Underground stop and taking the pedestrian tunnel underneath Friederiken Platz. Be sure to go into the Rathaus lobby to see the four scale models of the city at different points in history (medieval, before WWII, after war, contemporary). At the back entrance of the Rathaus is a restaurant that was recommended to us (but we didn't ever find the time to eat there); and down the big steps is a scenic duck pond.

The Rathaus area is also the museum area. The Kestner is right on the corner, close to the front of the Rathaus. I really liked this small, peaceful museum, and Ben was mesmerized by the coin collection. The Landesmuseum (also called Lower Saxony Sate Museum) is behind the Rathaus, beyond the duck pond, through a little park, and across the street. Gerry liked this one best; it was comprehensive and classic. There was a snack bar (not as fancy as the Rathaus restaurant but nice), and a gift shop with lots of postcards. The Sprengel comes highly recommended by every guide book if you prefer Modern Art. If this isn't your favorite era, you might feel impatient in here; but it was perfect for me: "A major objective of the expansion is to allow extensive coverage of Niki de Saint Phalle and the Hanoverian artist Kurt Schwitters. . . . Besides Schwitters and de Saint Phalle [see poem and quotations above], the Sprengel Museums's key works include those of Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Emil Nolde and Max Beckmann from before 1945."

I think that covers most of what we managed to accomplish in five days, along with the rest of the Red Line landmarks that I didn't mention here. Once you start walking around, you'll realize that before you know it, you will have covered the entire Red Thread several times. Along most of the path, there is an actual red line (well, more like orange spray paint) painted on the sidewalk to guide the tourists, but in some spots it's rather faded or perhaps obscured by stray litter. For the most part, the city is tidy, but there was a garbage strike on while we were there (so brace yourself), and some areas are in badly in need of some urban TLC. Well, we're used to that! We'd go again!

For additional pictures, see:
Spring ~ Time / Ice & Water
Apples, Walnuts, Leaves ~ / Ten Thousand Thousand
Rocky Road

Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, July 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Ritter Sport: They're Everywhere!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Travelogue 2: Berlin vs Philadelphia


Streets of Philadelphia
I was bruised and battered, I couldn't tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
I saw my reflection in a window, I didn't know my own face.
Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin' away
On the Streets of Philadelphia.

I walked the avenue, 'til my legs felt like stone,
I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone,
At night I could hear the blood in my veins,
Black and whispering as the rain,
On the Streets of Philadelphia.

Ain't no angel gonna greet me.
It's just you and I my friend.
My clothes don't fit me no more,
I walked a thousand miles
Just to slip this skin.

The night has fallen, I'm lyin' awake,
I can feel myself fading away,
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss,
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the Streets of Philadelphia

Bruce Springsteen


Philadelphia: City of Brotherly Love
Sometimes I think that I know
What love's all about
And when I see the light
I know I'll be all right.

I've got my friends in the world,
I had my friends
When we were boys and girls
And the secrets came unfurled.

City of brotherly love
Place I call home
Don't turn your back on me
I don't want to be alone
Love lasts forever.

Someone is talking to me,
Calling my name
Tell me I'm not to blame
I won't be ashamed of love.

City of brotherly love.
Brotherly love.

Sometimes I think that I know
What love's all about
And when I see the light
I know I'll be all right.

Neil Young


The Streets of Philadelphia. City of Brotherly Love. As a city - dweller in downtown Philadelphia, my favorite urban activity was walking -- three or four miles in one direction, then three or four miles back -- admiring countless lovely green spaces and remarkable architectural details along the way. I swear I would discover new features every time, no matter how often I walked the same streets. When Gerry and I visited Berlin in 1993, we met a number of former University of Pennsylvania students, who seemed unaccountably disdainful of our fair city and the years they spent there before moving on to greener pastures in and around Europe.

I had hoped to share in their recollections of life in Philadelphia; but, strangely to me, they all seemed to draw one big blank. They had little to no knowledge of West Philly / University City, where I lived from 1993 - 2001 and where the University of Pennsylvania campus and my first Philadelphia house were located.

And they were even less familiar with downtown / Center City / Society Hill, where all the history happened and where I lived from 2001 - 2004.

Instead, their short - sighted experience was apparently bounded by the one or two buildings on campus where they attended class and whatever nearby apartment complex they had lived in at the time and some supermarket out in the suburbs where they would drive miles and miles away to get their groceries. What a wasted opportunity to shop local! They don't know what they missed by not enjoying the place while they lived there. A historical city like Philadelphia has so much to offer if you will just open your eyes! Some of the areas -- and I don't mean out-of-the-way places, but little gems and neighborhoods that are right in front of your eyes wherever you find yourself -- are truly as lovely as anything you'd see in Paris or Berlin. That was my thought on a good day.

Other days could be more frustrating. Philadelphia could never -- nor can West Lafayette, Indiana, for that matter -- measure up to the pedestrian - friendliness of Berlin (see previous post). One disheartening morning, I was out for a walk, right through the heart of downtown, when I heard a truck driver yell out of his window at a car driver, "Go, you f---ing idiot! Go!" Of course, everyone on the whole block could hear him. How can you have peace in your head with rudeness like that filling the air? All I could think was, why didn't I take my walk down another street? Not to mention that it was clear for all to see why the car was not proceeding yet, even though the light was green: because the driver was yielding to a pedestrian who not only had the same green light but also just so happened to have the right of way. I would have done the same thing had I been the unfortunate pedestrian or the picked on car driver. But more often than not the car drivers were just like that truck driver -- so impatient and filled with completely wrongful certainty even when breaking a clearly posted law. It wasn't always easy to accept the reality that the very same human density that made the city so exciting and wonderful could also what make it ugly and stressful. On a bad day, that unfortunate dichotomy just choked me up and made me want to go to another city or maybe another planet where life is nicer. [Come to think of it, even here in Indiana, without any human density, we have been honked at (and worse) just for slowing down to turn into our very own driveway.] So where is that nicer place?

Could it be Berlin? I must say that it was easy to imagine myself living there, something I've never felt in London and didn't feel in Paris. My friend Cate knew how to lighten my mood with her humorous yet wise perspective: "Trust me: rude people are everywhere. It's a fallen world. Your experience was just unlucky timing; even though we have no control over it, timing is everything. Why, even in Berlin, you were probably standing next to someone yelling obscenities in German, but you mistakenly thought they were saying, 'Hey, beautiful American woman, you are lovely in manner of Goddess on Grecian Urn.' Seriously, the only response to drivers like that is for someone to yell back, 'Awww, get a life.' "

On one of my early summer walks a dozen years ago, I approached a Center City corner and recognized Ed Rendell (Mayor of Philadelphia, 1992 - 2000; Governor of Pennsylvania, 2003 - 2011) standing a few steps out into the street, looking rather distracted and apparently waiting for his ride. I was also astonished to see there on the opposite corner a confused old man wearing two pair of pants, one of them down around his ankles, the other pair up where they should be -- thankfully. He was muttering and struggling to pull the outer trousers either up or down; who can tell. I thought, now here before me is some kind of parable or allegory of what life in the city can do for a man: the best result, the cream of the crop, power and education and benevolence and vision; or the ultimate disenfranchisement and marginalization and sickness, mental and physical. Two members of the body of Christ? It was a puzzling, disturbing sight to see. In a second or two, Ed's driver pulled up, and Ed jumped into the front seat of a big black car and away they went. The poor old smelly guy continued muttering, apparently oblivious to all around him. And I strode purposefully on my way to the bookstore or wherever I was headed.

My simultaneous brush with greatness and despair, over in fewer than thirty seconds. I had somewhat hoped to make eye - contact with the future governor and say, "Good morning, Sir" and signal my support of his campaign, but there was no time to catch his eye without shouting out. Cate and I had experienced a less conflicted encounter with our good Mayor one sunny day the previous fall just as we were finishing lunch at our favorite little French sidewalk cafe near Fitler Square:

After lunch, we decided to walk around the block before heading on our way, and as we came back around to the front of the restaurant, there was Mayor Rendell, taking a seat just a couple of tables away from where we ourselves had been sitting. Now, in this instance, I don't think that it would have been inappropriate to call out and wave hello (we were standing across the street from him), but we were just too shy. There he was, pulling his sunscreen out of his pocket and rubbing it into his forehead so that he wouldn't get a sunburn while sitting outside for his lunch. Isn't that just a slice of life?

When I saw him the following year, on the busy corner in Center City, I had to wonder what his thoughts were as he jumped into the car. Maybe he was just worried about getting somewhere on time. Was he as oblivious of the confused street man as the street man was of him? Or did Rendell see the poor citizen of his City and say a silent prayer? Does Rendell have a solution for this problem? Is there a solution? Is it a problem? Or just something that looks problematic to those who consider themselves to be more fortunate? What did Jesus say about this kind of thing? What would Jesus do? What could Rendell do? And how about me? Would I find it as cool to make eye contact with the street man as to wave hello to Mr. Rendell?

Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, June 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

An Old Street of Philadelphia