History Lessons (Berlin X)

If you search the internet for Cemeteries at Hallesches Tor, you will find blog posts about this cemetery, and some of them mention an encounter with a friendly middle aged man.

Saying a greeting led to a polite exchange, which in turn led to a conversation about the cemetery in general, which in turn led to an in-depth discussion of many specific graves.

This is another one of these blog posts. I, too, met this person, and received the best history lesson I had in my entire life.

For instance, I learned about the strange markings on many graves that look like gun shot holes. They are from gun shots, inflicted in one of the many utterly senseless battles of the Second Word War, when the Nazis forced teenage boys to confront the Soviet army, with only a handful of ammunition and no hope but death.

Or about the bunker that the Nazis build on this cemetery after making room by eliminating all traces of the Jewish graves, a bunker that was never used as it filled instantly with ground water, a bunker that has resisted demolition ever since, a bunker that couldn’t be more meaningless.

Or about the grave of Archduke Leopold Ferdinand of Austria, one of the last hopes of the Austrian Monarchy after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, one of the escalations that led to the First World War, but who happily renounced his title in order to marry the sex worker Wilhelmine Adamovicz. His grave (together with this third wife Clara Hedwig Pawlowski) is reportedly still visited yearly by mourning monarchists.

Other visitors commemorate E.T.A. Hoffmann’s death by following his request not to bring flowers but champagne…

And of course there are graves of mathematicians, like the one of the immortal Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi, and less famous ones, like the one of Horst Kirchmeier, whose brave attempts to liberalize the German law governing sexual offenses went rather far.

I could continue my history lesson for a while. Or write about the symbolic of the cast iron fences.

Or about the massive thefts of tomb decorations that apparently sell world wide for enormous sums. Or what happened to the churches to which this cemetery belonged, and what buildings are there now… Another day.

Encounters (Beaver Creek Wilderness III)

There is more to a landscape – or a life – than the sum of its pieces. So maybe acceptance is not the only way to relate.

More and more it occurs to me that what really matters is our involvement with the place, or the person. And hence, what I am talking about here is not the place, but my encounters with it.

Each picture not only tells the story of such an encounter, but in turn offers the viewer an opportunity for other encounters.

I am not suggesting that there is meaning here, merely an attempt of mutual understanding.

By capturing these moments of dialogue, do we try to capture time itself, be it in its vague state of chaotic flow,

be it in the solid state of a rock face hourglass?

Acceptance (Beaver Creek Wilderness II)

Entering Beaver Creek Wilderness from the Three Forks of Beaver Trailhead has the advantage that you get a view of the area before descending into the gloomy valley.

Signs are rare, trail markings sparse, and the trail itself often unrecognizable. The very humid landscape is subject to continuous transformation due to intense growth and decay, so I was initially grateful to be able to hang on to the rocks.

How does one esthetically tame a feral landscape like this? Instead of imposing structure, one approach is to embrace the wild complexity, and let it overwhelm.

Once you reach the valley bottom, you can follow Middle Ridge Trail along Beaver Creek upstream or downstream; the former offers better campsites (I think).

Hiking downstream has more rock formations, if you desire so.

Then, strangely, a rather wide wooden bridge: For what traffic?

After a while one gets used to the constant slipping in mud, tripping over roots, and breaking off rotten wood when attempting to prevent a fall.

One begins to look away from the rocks and to accept that the transformative power of this place, water, offers reflection, too.

Is this it? Why, is this not enough?

Falling (Beaver Creek Wilderness I)

The abundance of Magnolia macrophylla was one of the my favorite attractions in Kentucky’s Beaver Creek Wilderness.

At this time of the year, the giant fallen leaves become an essential part of the ground cover.

Even the Beaver Creek itself is not safe, the unfallen leaves appear as reflections.

Many get stuck among their smaller friends in the process of falling,

or decide to go the last steps of decay just a few inches above ground.

Panopticum (Berlin IX)

The Designpanopticum is a small but densely packed museum in Berlin’s Nikolaiviertel.

Vlad Korneev has been collecting technical relics for decades and arranged them to make them even more bizarre, as if this was necessary.

If there ever was meaning, we can be certain that it is gone now.

This place is the exact opposite of a tabula rasa; it’s what I expect to find in my own brain, if I had the ability to climb into it and have a look.

Still, and non unlike the tabula rasa, this overloaded chaos gives us the opportunity to commence again, to consider this as fertile ground instead of as a mess.

Following the loop, stairs up and down, we find new ways to see, to make sense again, in an entirely new way.

Lost function becomes purposed beauty. Maybe this is not for everyone to see. It’s my brain, after all…

Missouri & Fancy Lakes Loop (Colorado II)

An excellent hike to warm up and adjust to altitude in the Holy Cross Wilderness in Colorado combines the Fancy Lakes and Missouri Lakes trails to a 8.5 mile loop.

The ascent via Fancy Lake is a steady climb without difficulties, and offers plenty of opportunities to contemplate nature, and the nature of loops.

There is the contrast to an In&Out, where you retrace your steps, an undoing — what remains is the memory of having been.

Towards Fancy Pass (at about 12,400 ft) we have climbed above tree level and the look back offers serene desolation, while the other side is an enormous open meadow.

Our non-human animal friends are surprisingly trustful here; maybe they haven’t left paradise yet.

From Missouri pass it’s a long but gentle descent to a chain of a dozen lakes with the same name. again offering time for contemplation.

Why do I like sad faces better than happy faces?

Aren’t they more beautiful, always?

Good loop trails don’t really close. They seem to leave a small gap at the end, like a broken circle, an unfinishing.

We will come back, and try again, and again.

There is beauty in that, too.

Up (Colorado I)

The standard route to Mount of the Holy Cross begins at Half Moon trailhead and leisurely climbs up to Half Moon pass.

Starting early (5am) gets you to the pass at dawn with magnificent views back.

The other side of the pass reveals the mountain and the prospect of a long and steep climb. Before that, you’ll have to descend 1,000 feet, losing almost all you had gained before.

Eat breakfast at sunrise among wildflowers on the north slope.

Despite its harshness, there is vegetation all the way to the top.

Then you begin an eternal climb on a well-maintained trail.

Just before the final & rugged ascent, there is a long and eery horizontal ridge. Nothingness can be beautiful.

The summit itself is a nice plateau with breathtaking views. If you have breath left.

From here, it all looks very gentle and easy.

On the long way down don’t forget to save some energy to climb up to Half Moon Pass again.

Disappearances (Berlin VII)

One of my favorite post-wall places to photograph in Berlin is the Hauptbahnof, the main railway station, about which I have written twice already.

If you look at the previous posts, you will see that I took full advantage there of the strong lines that steal beams, rails, escalators and elevators offer.

The many transparent and reflective surfaces seem to emphasize the structural strength even more, but one can also take a different point of view.

Using a shallow depth of field, the lines disappear in secondary and tertiary layers. Out of the sudden we become insecure, and the certainty of the place is cast in doubt.

The overwhelming feeling of being here and now is replaced by questions about elsewhere and tomorrow. A mistake? I don’t think so. After all, we come here in order to leave.

Dark Matter (Berlin VI)

Dark Matter is a light-sound installation by Christopher Bauder, distributed over seven rooms. Abstract shapes move in space, change color to sound, a concept not unlike the ballets Wassily Kandinsky designed a hundred years ago.

While the aspect of motion gets lost in the static images here, I didn’t find the first few rooms compelling, the shapes are too simple, the action to little.

What really was missing, however, became clear in the Polygon Playground, where an artificial hill could be climbed and interacted with, providing the visitors with a bath in light.

From then on I became more fascinated by the reaction of the visitors to the art than by the art itself.

Or maybe I had just misunderstood before, maybe all the installations are just a canvas on which the actual art is happening.

This became even clearer in Grid, where dozens of light tubes move to an epic electronic composition by Robert Henke (Monolake), transfixing the audience.

Interaction has become art.

Borders to Canvasses (Devil’s Mountain III)

The interior of the four-story building that supports the domes of the former Cold War listening station on the Devil’s Mountain in Berlin is accessible only through two (new) exterior stairwells. Each has a long corridor (without any doors!), and open spaces separated by walls.

Most of the walls are decorated with the most wonderful graffiti in bright colors.

The entire building has become a piece of art.

Views through the ‘windows’ show more building-sized graffitis.

So in a miraculous way, one of the most secretive and locked up places from Cold War Berlin has become an organic landscape of open art.

If only we all could deal with our own borders like this.