A view of Berlin towards the Brandenburg Gate from the Victory Column, June 2008

Berlin, an Angel’s Eye View

For today’s 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a shot taken from the observation deck of the Berlin Victory Column towards the Brandenburg Gate. To the right is Potsdamer Platz, a major square that sat desolate for the 28 years that the wall stood.

Built in 1873 and moved to its present site in 1939, the tower measures 67m high from its base to the top of the bronze sculpture of Victoria. A fairly steep ascent up a spiral staircase, covering 285 steps, affords spectacular views of the city in all directions. It’s no wonder that it was a favorite hangout for the angels from Wim Wenders’ 1987 film, Wings of Desire. A trailer from one of the most beautiful films of the 1980s (and 90s) is below.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 300th (!!) straight, was snapped on 02-Jun-2008.



Lüftlmalerei, or Air Painting in Bavaria: 14 Examples

I mentioned Lüftlmalerei, or Air Painting, in my 68 Hours in Garmisch-Partenkirken Notebook post yesterday, but feel it needs a little further explanation. And more examples.

Lüftlmalerei refers to the colorful frescoes that are commonly seen on the sides of houses, hotels, storefronts and shops throughout not only GaPa, but in other parts of Southern Germany, Italy and elsewhere in the Alpine world. The style dates back to the mid 18th century and it’s believed that the name is derived from Zum Lüftl, the house and home of facade painter Franz Seraph Zwinck in Oberammergau, Germany. I’ve seen very similar decorative murals in some of Slovenia’s Alpine regions; whether that’s considered authentic Lüftlmalerei, I don’t know. As I recall the similarity in styles were striking.

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68 Hours in a Snowless Garmisch-Partenkirchen – GaPa Notebook

The Zugspitze is Germany’s highest peak. At 2,962m (9,717ft) It’s also among the highest places in the Alps where you can get a decent glass of sparkling wine. Reason enough to make a small detour last month to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany’s premiere winter sport center on my way home after a quick trip to Ohio.

But thanks to uncooperative mid-February weather, I didn’t see it. I didn’t even come remotely close.

“Not a very good day out today,” my guest house manager said as she set two hefty breakfast plates in front of me. “You probably shouldn’t have planned on the mountain today. Really bad idea.”

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45-Second Cheap Hotel Adviser – Haus Höllental, Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Haus Höllental
Höllentalstraße 39
82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
€38/night via booking.com, local tourist tax of €2/night not included.

There is no shortage of places to lay your head in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany’s most popular winter sport destination.  At under €40/night, my guess is that you could do much worse than the Haus Höllental.

A traditional, family-run inn, the 15 rooms are comfortable and beds cozy –I was given a double— with ample sitting space that’s generally offered by hotels charging twice the price.

Breakfast was the standard bountiful fare typical of this part of Europe: a big pile of fruit, yogurt, a heaping basket of rolls, a pair of nice jams, a hard-boiled egg and a plate of cold cuts with juice, coffee or tea.

Best is the location: it’s a casual ten-minute stroll to the central Marienplatz to the north, and about five minutes to the nearest bus stop to the south. Train station to hotel was five minutes by taxi (red light not included), about €6.

Added bonus on a misty morning: the view of Kramerspitz to the north, a peak that juts 1,985m into the sky and with frost gripping the trees visible through breaks in the cloud that shrouds it, is spectacular.

I stayed at the Haus Höllental from 17-19 Feb 2014.

A note about hotel scores and reviews: I base everything on value for money. There’s no other way to compare a $15 a night room with one that costs $150. Or more. More about Piran Cafe’s review policy.

Silhouette of the Brandenburg Gate

Atop the Brandenburg Gate

Today’s Pic de Jour is a silhouette of the quadriga that tops Berlin’s emblematic Brandenburg Gate, a four-horse chariot driven by Victoria, the Roman Goddess of victory. The chariot was sculpted by Johann Gottfried Schadow, and the gate completed in 1792. At a quick glance it appears that each of the horses are galloping in a different direction.

Waxenstein Mountain, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Waxenstein Mountain, Bavaria (Pic du Jour)

This is a south-facing view of Waxenstein Mountain taken this afternoon from the shore of the Riessersee lake in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Kleiner, or smaller Waxenstein, to the right stands at 2,136m (7,007ft) while Großer Waxenstein reaches 2,277m (7,470ft).

The mountain is part of the compact Wetterstein Range shared between Germany’s Bavaria and Autria’s Tyrol which is dominated by the Zugspitze, at 2,962m (9,717ft) the highest peak in Germany.

Look for a series of posts about Garmisch-Partenkirchen beginning this weekend.

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The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

Holocaust Memorial, Berlin (Pic du Jour)

I’ve posted this image of Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial before, but thought it appropriate to share again on the occasion of today’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The memorial, whose official name is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is a powerful and unsettling reminder of the horrors humanity is capable of.

Designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold, it covers a space of 19,000 square meters one block south of the Brandenburg Gate in the German capital’s Friedrichstadt neighborhood and was inaugurated on May 10, 2005, 60 years after the end of the World War II.

Never forget.

Photo taken on 17-Sep-2007

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Weekly Sunday Drive – 60-second Trabant Tour

When I was a kid growing up in the U.S. midwest, Sunday afternoons were oftentimes about drives. Usually into the nearby countryside east of Cleveland, much of which has long since devolved into developments with monstrously enormous homes. It was the same for a colleague Edwin, who grew up in the former East Berlin. But his drives weren’t enjoyed from the back seat of a 1969 Ford LTD. He and his three younger sisters were squeezed into the back of an early 1970s Trabant, similar to the one in the video above.

He didn’t tell me how long his parents waited before their legendary DDR limousine was finally delivered, but my guess is that when it did, they held on to it for some time. The average lifespan of the vehicle was an astounding 28 years. I’ll ask him next time I see him.

Officially it went from zero to 100kph/62 mph in 21 seconds and emitted four times as much pollution as the average car in Europe at that time. In all, 3,096,099 rolled off the assembly line. The one above wound up at the Historiale Berlin Museum and four wound up hanging in a U2 display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (pictured below). I have no idea what happened to the rest.

Anyone want to describe the riding experience?

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