About suemtravels

Thank you for visiting my travel blog. I created it to sustain personal memories and share my adventures as a solo traveler. Born with a fatal case of wanderlust, I love traveling! It satisfies my curiosity about foreign countries and cultures and is the excitement and passion in my life. Exploring the streets of Saigon and Istanbul, watching tango dancers in Buenos Aires, hiking Table Mountain in Cape Town and Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, getting lost in New Zealand's South Island wilderness, gorilla trekking in Uganda, watching Berlin's Festival of Lights, or viewing wild animals during an African game drive - I share these experiences and more in my travel blog! When on the road, I post frequently - not so much between trips. If you like the stories, follow me to get regular updates.

Berlin Reflections

Bergmannkiez Kreuzberg – Tagesspiegel

I’m approaching two months in Berlin and there’s much more to see and learn. Each city has its own personality, and Berlin is uniquely difficult to describe. I’m not a fast-moving tourist, so that shines a different light on everything. It’s a complex city with tremendous history and nuances and it takes time to explore.

Kreuzberg Apartment Building

Kreuzberg

At first, I was looking for an apartment in the Mitte District – known as Berlin’s “historical heart”. I ended up in non-touristy Kreuzberg. Kreuzberg was part of West Berlin and is an area of great diversity and energy. It’s south of the River Spree and was once enclosed on three sides by the Berlin Wall. Today it’s a haven for artists. The video link below describes nearby places and Kreuzberg streets I experience every day.

Facades in Bergmannkiez

One fun, interesting main street – Bergmannkiez – is a few blocks from my apartment. The buildings, shops, and restaurants along Bergmannkiez are fabulous. During warm weather everyone sits outside, but over the past week I’ve observed deserted tables, despite woolly blankets carefully draped over each chair.

My first week was a semi-catastrophe. I got lost often. When I found someone who spoke English and asked for directions back to Kreuzberg, first they corrected my pronunciation and then their eyes went blank. Someone finally told me how huge Kreuzberg was and that it’s impossible to give directions without a specific street and cross street. I quickly learned to identify my flat by the nearby underground station called Gneisenaustraße – still can’t pronounce it properly. I also learned to never leave my apartment without a fully charged phone and Google Maps!

Bergmannkiez

Language and Communication

Few people speak English in Berlin. Many know it but chose not to speak it because, depending on their circle of acquaintances, they really don’t have to. Occasionally some kind soul will take mercy on you and translate – generally you’re on your own. Menus and food labels are the most confusing. Learning German is necessary for anyone who wants to live long-term in Berlin. It’s a difficult language.

Flower Shop Zossener Straße Kreuzberg

I’ve visited Germany several times, including Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf, Wiesbaden, Stuttgart, Heidelberg, Cologne, and smaller towns along the Rhine River. During those trips I was traveling for a shorter period of time with other people. My clouded memories are more of interactions with traveling companions and not the places visited.

Those trips were before I began a travel journal / blog. I wrongly imagined English would be spoken widely in Berlin. It seems to me that even in cities like Rome, Lisbon, Prague, Istanbul, and Budapest it was easier to communicate, but I’m not complaining – well maybe a little :o)

Kreuzberg Apartments – GPSmyCity

Communication or the lack there of can become more of an issue when traveling solo. I like the challenge but unless you seek other Americans – that defeats the purpose of travel for me – you must learn to adapt and survive in an unknown and sometimes unfriendly environment. It’s exciting and at the end of each day there’s a feeling of accomplishment.

Huh???

Immigration

Germany is the second most popular destination for migrations – after the US – and Berlin is a diverse city of many immigrants. Since I use public transportation, I’ve seen and heard immigrants from everywhere – Africa, Mideast, Australia, Asia, South America, and other European countries. They often stick together and speak their own languages, not German or English. They seem content and settled although some have sad-looking faces indicating they may have experienced deep trauma and tragedy in their lives. They have been helpful and kind – more so than many Germans. Kreuzberg has a large Turkish population and some side streets could be in Istanbul.

Street Art Kreuzberg – commons.wikimedia.org

Germany encourages immigration of “highly skilled professionals” and “scientists”. There is no market for unskilled workers. I’ve heard the process of obtaining a permanent visa is daunting, with application reviews backed up for six months or more. I’m not sure what people do while waiting for their immigration review, but they must prove financial independence and learn German before obtaining a permanent visa.

Bergmannkiez Building

Early one morning I was awakened by a buzzing door bell. My apartment building is huge, and since I don’t know that many people in Berlin and wasn’t expecting a visitor, I ignored it.  A few minutes later there was loud knocking on my door. I looked through the peep-hole to see four policemen and quickly opened the door. They were polite, asked several questions, and requested my passport. They showed me photos of a Syrian couple they were looking for – not sure what crime they committed and didn’t ask. I didn’t recognize them.

Bergmannkiez – welt.de

The massive front door to the apartment building closes slowing on a heavy hinge, so anyone determined to enter the building could wait outside and manage to sneak through. I find that slightly scary and usually wait to make sure the door has closed completely behind me. Even with the lights on, the stairway to my flat is dark and slightly creepy.

These days, German immigration is complicated and difficult. I did cursory research on the process and decided it wasn’t for me. When Schengen visa requirements change in 2021 extended travel is possible and will meet my needs for future trips.

Bergmannkiez Market

Economy

The economy here is bustling and Germans are into their professions and making money – you don’t find many loose ends. Every other car in Berlin is a sparkling Mercedes. Berlin is full of high-tech. So far, I haven’t noticed any encampments or homeless people living in the streets. There are some alcohol or drug addicts.

Blog Only Apartments Kreuzberg

Of course the Berlin apartment I rented is not quite as wonderful as the photos… That’s the chance you take when renting a foreign apartment. However, hotels are way too expensive for a long visit and I’m not a fan of hostels. The apartment suits my purpose and is warm, private, and cozy. Except for one loud all-night party, it’s been quiet. I’m preparing for holiday festivities and have ear plugs ready.

As a tourist, it’s not possible to rent an apartment in Berlin for less than three months. The German government enforces the rule. Compared to New York, San Francisco, London, or even Munich, rental rates are reasonable.

Angela Merkel – thepressproject.gr

Politics

I’m still trying to figure out what’s happening with German politics. I know there are many changes in the air, with Angela Merkel’s recent resignation as leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union. Her refugee policy has long been unpopular.

Kreuzberg Church

Music and Arts

Music and arts are the major jackpot in Berlin with everything you could imagine or desire! I’m not great at museums and after a few hours find them overwhelming, so I still have many to visit in Berlin, and the list is growing.

River Spree Kreuzberg – Adobe Stock 81684539 1000

I’ve posted several blogs about live performances attended. There’s great variety and quality. I’m ecstatic and getting my fill of theatre and classical and jazz music. During the last month I’ll focus on museums, Christmas markets, and more music – enough to keep me occupied. Ballet and opera are of interest but pricey ($100+ per performance).

View from My Apartment

Food

Not a foodie, I still appreciate a good meal. Some Berlin restaurants are disappointing, but I’ve found a few I like and keep returning to them. The choices around Kreuzberg are endless, but it can be somewhat uncomfortable dining alone on weekends when most restaurants are busy and fully booked.

dean & david – karriere

The menus are never in English – and in some restaurants, asking for an English menu is downright painful… When I’m really hungry, my favorite “go to” restaurant  is a little place called dean & david where they serve fresh food and make incredible salads! The atmosphere is always friendly and comfortable.

Bergmannkiez – Photography ProdJo

Weather

Weather during October and the first half of November was heavenly. It’s turning cold now, but I came prepared. The shops and stores are super-heated so if you’re shopping for longer than a few minutes it’s almost unbearable inside and you start taking off layers. The cooler temperatures will be good for the Christmas Markets where you can buy hot drinks to keep warm.

Next Stop Dubrovnik

My next stop is Dubrovnik Croatia – a non-Schengen country. Although I traveled around Croatia for several months a few years ago I didn’t get enough time there and booked a small apartment for January. By December 29, I’ll have exhausted my 90 day Schengen visa limit and can’t re-enter any Schengen countries until April 2019. Hopefully the weather in Dubrovnik will be a little warmer than Berlin. Haven’t decided which non-Schengen country to visit after Croatia, maybe Albania.

Typical Kreuzberg Street – Sound Vinyl Store

There are tons of stories about my Berlin experiences and the challenging time here, but this post contains enough rambling. I haven’t taken many photos. Berlin isn’t known for its beauty, although some older buildings and streets are exquisite. I’m not into selfies and it’s complicated getting your picture taken when traveling solo. Before I leave, I’m focused on getting a photo in front of the Brandenburg Gate!

More later…

 

Baroque Masterpieces Charlottenburg Palace Berlin

Schloss Charlottenburg Berlin

Last night I enjoyed an interesting concert at Charlottenburg Palace. Dressed in period costumes, the Berlin Residence Orchestra performed baroque masterpieces by Vivaldi, Händel, Bach, and others.

Scholss Charollotenberg

Before the concert, some savored a three-course “themed candlelight dinner”. Years ago, I experienced a similar but disappointing dinner in Salzburg, so I opted for the concert only. Charlottenburg Palace is in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf District and easily accessible via U-Bahn. From November 26 through December 27 a popular Christmas market is set up on Palace grounds.

Queen Charlotte – by Johann Georg Ziesenis

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Today Charlottenburg is a working palace and one of Berlin’s most “grandiose event venues”. It’s a great place for concerts.

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Schloss Charlottenburg During Blood Moon – U. Gernhoefer Photocase

Charlottenburg Palace History

Charlottenburg is Berlin’s last remaining palace “reflecting the one-time grandeur of the Hohenzollern Family“. The complex covers several blocks along the banks of River Spree. Restaurants, hotels, and cafés near the Palace feature paintings of the grounds and Queen Charlotte. The Palace is surrounded by a beautiful baroque garden best visited during the day, but also lovely at night.

Queen Sophia Charlotte

In 1696, Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Hanover, wife of Prussian Friedrich III, commissioned construction of Lützenburg, a “summer residence in Lützow”.

King Frederick I – Emerson Kent

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“Originally a petite summer retreat, Lützenburg grew into an exquisite baroque palace with opulent apartments, festival halls, collections of precious porcelain, and paintings by French 18th century masters.”

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Orangery Garden – Pinterest

Soon after his coronation in 1701, King Frederick and Queen Sophie Charlotte expanded their Lützenburg residence. Tragically, Charlotte died of pneumonia in 1705 at the young age of 37. After her death, Frederick renamed the residence Charlottenburg Palace, built a magnificent dome, and added an “elongated building” named the Great Orangery.

Great Orangery Schloss Charlottenburg – Qiez.de

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“Loud against quiet, solo against ensemble, a competition of instruments dominates the Baroque period…”

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Baroque Masterpieces Compère – Pixel and Dot Photography

Berlin Residence Orchestra

In 2006, the Berlin Residence Orchestra began staging classical music concerts in Charlottenburg’s Great Orangery. The chamber music ensembles formed within the orchestra play at events throughout Berlin. The staged atmosphere transports audiences beck in time to when kings listened to Baroque music.

Berliner Residenz Konzerte Schloss Charlottenburg – Berlin Welcome Card

“Derived from the Portuguese barroco, or ‘oddly shaped pearl,’ since the nineteenth century, the term baroque describes the period in Western European music from 1600 to 1750.” The concerts are popular with locals as well as tourists.

Chamber Music Players

Last night, the chamber orchestra consisted of a harpsichord, cello, bass, flute, violin, and four violas. There were flute, viola, and cello solos. Soprano Sara Gouzy and countertenor Georg Arssenij Bochow were the featured vocalists, and their operatic solos and duos were fantastic.

Charlottenburg Palace Dome – Framepool

For a while, the commentator (compère) presented parts of the narrative in English and German – it was obvious he didn’t care for it. Later he spoke German only, so I missed the nuances and jokes that made others in the audience laugh….The program was slightly confusing to follow, but the music was wonderful.

Berlin Residence Concerts – Image Berlin

The program included well-known German and Italian composers, kings, and friends of kings:

Anna Fedotova Concertmaster – ResearchGate

Anna Fedotova Concertmaster

Multi-talented Russian Anna Fedotova studied at the Far East Art Academy in Vladivostok and later at Moscow’s Gnessin Academy. She’s participated in Salzburg masterclasses and is a “laureate of competitions in many countries”. Fedotova co-founded the Tango Ensemble Coamorous” and toured with the group throughout Europe. Last night she played a lovely violin solo.

Alexandra Rossmann Musical Director

Alexandra Rossmann Musical Director

Alexandra Rossmann is from Minsk Belarus, where she studied piano and became a teacher and accompanist. She performed at international festivals and made her début at the Belarusian Philharmonic at the age of 17. Rossmann moved to Germany and studied at the Musikhochschule Munich. Currently she lives in Potsdam and teaches piano. Alexandra played harpsichord during the performance.

Sara Gouzy Soprano

Sara Gouzy Soprano

French soprano Sara Gouzy completed her piano studies at the Conservatoire de Toulouse. She studied voice at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin and attended masterclasses in France and Germany. In 2012 Gouzy participated in projects at the “Hanns Eisler” and Berlin’s Komische Oper (Comic Opera). Gouzy is a scholarship holder of the association “Yehudi Menuhin Live Music Now” and soloist with the Berlin Residence Orchestra.

Georg Arssenij Bochow Countertenor

Georg Arssenij Bochow Countertenor

The German-Russian countertenor Georg Arssenij Bochow began his career as a chorister in the Berlin Staats- und Domchor and received Canada’s Saint Nicolas Award from the Royal School of Church Music. He began vocal studies at the “Hanns Eisler” in 2011 and took masterclasses. Bochow appeared with the Deutsche Oper Berlin in the world première of Evan Gardner’s Die Unterhändlerin (The Negotiator).

Great Orangery at Night

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“There are many misconceptions and mysteries about the countertenor. Some take it for a whim of nature, though this type of voice has nothing mysterious about it.”

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Charlottenburg Palace Courtyard

This is the first time I’ve experienced a countertenor in close quarters – a beautiful but most unusual voice!

Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic

Andreas Martin Hofmeir – Pilippe Gerlach

With countless variety and live performances every day of the week, Berlin is a great city for music lovers. Last night I attended – Jazz Meets Classic – a special performance at Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall.

Benjamin Schmid – Lienbacher

Andreas Martin Hofmeir & Band
The performance marks the fifth season of Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic. It included three duets by Andreas Martin Hofmeir & Band – beautifully illustrating how “classical and jazz stimulate each other”.

Stage – Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic

Hofmeir, a German tuba virtuoso, is the lead. Incidentally, on stage he performs barefooted. Hofmeir’s band includes renowned Austrian violinist Benjamin Schmid, two Viennese musicians – Matthias Bartolomey cello and Klemens Bittmann violin and mandola, and two Norwegians – Bugge Wesseltoft piano and Henning Kraggerud violin.

Matthias Bartolomey and Klemens Bittmann – http://www.bartolomeybittman.at

All the multi-talented musicians have impressive careers. Hofmeir has held positions with many European philharmonics and received prestigious awards. He’s also a composer, author, cabaret artist, and professor of tuba at the University Mozarteum Salzburg.

Bugge Wesseltoft and Henning Kraggerud Jazz At Berlin Philharmonic 2018

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“The formula that makes the Philharmonic jazz concerts so successful is that each is ‘an edition of one,’ a special, unique event.”
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Years ago, as a high school marching band member, tuba and brass instruments were a fascination. Hofmeir organizes brass bands, and when it comes to Tuba, he’s in a league of his own. He’s the best tuba player I’ve ever heard, producing an unbelievable range of flawless sound! His stage presence and commentary are endearing and humorous. Verbal descriptions and the printed program were in German, but the audience’s reaction spoke for itself.

Described as “progressive strings” Bartolomey and Bittmann create a young, contemporary sound adding a “unique dynamic, rocking power” to the band. I loved the original compositions they played with such passion.

Pianist Bugge Wesseltoft was a favorite. Wesseltoft, known as a “pioneer in the fusion of classical jazz with electronic music,” played with Henning Kraggerud, one of Scandinavia’s most distinguished string players. Their sound is brilliant!

Each duet included several sets, and as you were thinking nothing could top what you just heard, the next performance was equally fantastic! Benjamin Schmid and Henning Kraggerud are master violinists. Their beautiful music steals your heart away.

After their duets, all six musicians performed together completely blowing the audience away. They’re an unbelievable group of dedicated professionals. I enjoyed every minute of the concert!

Matthias Bartolomey – Andrea Peller

Jazz History in Germany

During fascism jazz and classical music were “strictly separated.” The Nazi regime banned jazz radio broadcasts.

Bugge Wesseltoft Pianist

The Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic series began in 2012. A great success, the popular performances continue to sell out. The concerts bring “jazz out of Berlin’s clubs and place it in classical halls to make more people aware of the astonishing skill levels in jazz and of its uniqueness and diversity”.

Foyer Berlin Philharmonic – Arch Daily

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“After 1970, government ministries gave up their antagonism towards jazz, explaining that it had become part of East German culture and politics.”

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Berlin Philharmonic Designed by Hans Scharoun 1963

I’m looking forward to more performances at Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall and started making a list of live jazz clubs to visit including B-FlatQuasimodo, A-Trane, and Yorckschlösschen.

Andreas Martin Hofmeir – News 38

VIVID Grand Show Friedrichstadt-Palast Berlin

VIVID Grand Show

Vivid Grand Show is an impressive production with ultra-talented actors, singers, dancers, and acrobats. Everything shines from the performing artists to the magnificent stage design, lighting, and costumes! The production premiered at Friedrichstadt-Palast last month, and sold-out performances continue to “WOW” Berlin!

Friedrichstadt-Palast Berlin

Venue

Friedrichstadt-Palast is the last major architectural statement of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s the world’s largest theater stage.

VIVID Jungle Gold – Robert Grischek

Luxurious Foyer Friedrichstadt-Palast – Wikipedia

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The  Friedrichstadt-Palast was where Berliners went to see the “most spectacular shows in the reunited German nation”

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Image Robert Grischek

Friedrichstadt-Palast history goes back to the 19th century when it was a “covered market and circus arena”. Before the GDR renamed it, the Nazis called it Theater des Volkes – Theatre of the People. Construction defects and damage from WWII air attacks resulted in the theater’s demolition. A beautiful new building opened in 1984 as “a significant emblem of Germany’s divided history”.

VIVID Grand Show Kickline Friedrichstadt-Palast

VIVID Grand Show Schlange Composing Foto – Robert Grischek

Theme

Vivid is a “visual narrative”. Powerful images and sound tell the story with German spoken during key parts of the performance.

VIVID Grand Show Hot-Blossom – Robert Grischek

The story is about a young woman – R’eye – played by actress Devi Ananda Dahm. R’eye becomes separated from her father and transformed into an android – half human, half machine. The audience accompanies androidin R’eye in her quest for freedom “while bathing their eyes in images of glittering variety”. Vivid graphically takes us through the process of R’eye becoming who she really is. We follow her as she learns about life and gains the courage to face life’s challenges and fears.

Grand Finale

“Although R’eye’s android life becomes subject to external control, her yearning for freedom lives on as she begins moving to a different beat. With the wonder of a child, she beholds the world with new eyes and perceives the overwhelming beauty of things we often overlook in life.”

Grand Finale

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“Who can you be? What’s your true ID? VIVID is a hypersensuous journey of self-discovery and a declaration of love for life.”

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Cobra Headdress and an Orchid Dress Friedrichstadt-Palast

Creative Team and Performing Artists

Designers

Vivid’s budget of 12 million euros makes it the most expensive production in Germany’s history. The spectacular costumes and stage sets are “unparalleled” works of art. As R’eye discovers her hidden identity the color theme progresses from black and white to the vivid bright “colors of life“.

Mongolian Contortionists Troupe Ayasgalan – Diário Zona Norte

Dancer in Fantasy Bird Costume – Martin Muller

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Stage sets like “a magical jungle garden with huge butterflies and a science fiction world take the audience into a magnificent fantasy world”.

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Butterfly Hat Friedrichstadt-Palast

Vivid Flower Dress Friedrichstadt-Palast

Vivid’s exemplary design team includes Philip Treacy, the famous milliner who creates hats for Queen Elizabeth II, Karl Lagerfeld, Ralph Lauren, Lady Gaga, and others. Renowned US production designer Michael Cotton created the extraordinary stage scenery. English audio engineer Cedric Beatty orchestrated sound, and Stefano Canulli – Italian film, opera, and fashion designer – created the elegant costumes. Set design animations are by Germany’s talented Jan Wünsche.

VIVID Laserbeams – Dennis Weinboerner

Mad Hatter Philip Treacy Friedrichstadt-Palast

Uzbekistan’s Duo Sky Angels Kristina Vorbeva and Rustem Osmanov – Yvon Kervinio

Actors, Singers, Dancers

Over 100 amazing international artists performed in the flawless production, each showing perfection, love, and dedication of their discipline with physical and “artistic-artistic excellence”. Actor and singer Andreas Bieber was “The Entertainer” and narrator. This is a list of Vivid’s amazing cast and creative team.

Ukrainian Gymnast Artem Lyubanevych – Thomas F. Strong

Andreas Bieber – The Entertainer – and Devi Ananda Dahm – R’eye

Contortionists, Gymnasts, Aerial Acrobats

The Contortion Act by Mongolian Troupe Ayasgalan was amazing as was the Aerial Pole Act by award-winning Ukrainian gymnast Artem Lyubanevych. Words cannot describe the Duo Sky Angels Iron Jaw Act by Uzbekistan’s Kristina Vorbeva and Rustem Osmanov! The stunning Ecuadorian Navas Troupe starred in their highly  dangerous, breathtaking daredevil Double Wheels of Steel Act. The Navas perfected the double wheels during Cirque du Soleil performances and at Radio City Music Hall!

The Navas Troupe Double Wheels of Steel – BZ Berlin

Navas Troupe VIVID Friedrichstadt-Palast

Jan Wünsche Set Design Animations – Xing

It was fun chatting with the mostly German audience during break in the Palace’s beautiful foyer. So much activity on the stage made it almost impossible for one pair of eyes to absorb. The all-inclusive theme and production are very Berlin. Can’t imagine a more entertaining evening!

Andreas Bieber, Costume Designer Stefano Canulli, Devi Ananda Dahm – Christian Marquardt

Berlin Jazz Festival November 2018

Jazzfest 2018

Berlin hosted its 2018 Jazz Festival from November 1 through 4. Founded in 1964 as Berliner JazztageJazzfest Berlin is one of Europe’s most renowned music festivals. Over four days, Artistic Director Nadine Deventer orchestrated multiple concerts with sold-out performances focusing on contemporary European jazz.

Jazzfest Berlin Director Nadine Deventer

The main stage was Berlin’s modern theater building – the Haus der Berliner Festspiele – which seats about 1000. Other performances were held at jazz clubs, landmarks, and businesses throughout Berlin’s diverse neighborhoods.

I watched two concerts, one at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and the other at the House of the Berliner Festspiele. Both featured outstanding contemporary jazz artists!

New Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Neo-romanesque Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Gedächtniskirche) is the symbolic centre of West Berlin. There are two buildings in the “Gedächtniskirche ensemble” – the ruins of the pre-WWII church (called the “hollow tooth”) and a beautiful new church symbolizing the “desire to build up Berlin in the post-war period”.

Inside Remains of Pre WWII Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

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Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is a Berlin landmark and “memorial against war and destruction”.

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Kaiser Wilhelm Church Before WWII Bombings

The stark remains of the original church are like a tube encased in stained-glass windows. The acoustics were fantastic, and it was a great venue for Threads of Estonia.

Ceiling New Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Haus der Berliner Festspiele

The Haus der Berliner Festspiele, known as the “Theater of the Free People’s Stage,” opened in 1963. In 1999 it was sold to an investor and in 2001 reopened as the “Haus der Berliner Festspiele”. The large theater is used year-round as the stage for events and festivals featuring international artists of all disciplines. It’s a bustling venue!

Threads of Estonia – Maria Faust and Kara-Lis Coverdale

The audience was mostly German, with few foreigners in the crowd, except the French couple seated in front of me who kissed their way through the concert.

Maria Faust Alto Saxophonist

Maria Faust

Composer Maria Faust plays alto saxophone and her group consists of a tenor saxophone, piano, cello, and two double basses. The music is avant-garde and a delight for those who appreciate contemporary jazz.

Maria Faust

Award-winning Faust is described as a “phenomenon”. She grew up “under the Soviet Star in Kurressare on the Estonian island of Saaremaa”. Conducting was a part of Faust’s classic and contemporary music education.

“Disarming openness and originality” characterize Faust’s many projects. Her search for the “musical expression of the elemental depths and abysses of our existence” is expressed in her recent chamber music work “Machina“. I thoroughly enjoyed the concert. The brilliant music definitely gets inside your head.

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“If you close your eyes, a kind of Nordic Saudade (longing) opens up: waves, chugging engine noises, sudden silence, heavy fog, and breaking light form a soulful, breathing, intimate whole.”

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Kara-Lis Coverdale

Illusive composer and organ soloist Kara-Lis Coverdale is Canadian with Estonian roots. Her electronic music is unique and hard to describe – “flowing beautiful sound has never been her thing”. She played with little light except that shimmering from the stained-glass windows and didn’t appear before or after her performance.

Coverdale is involved in Berlin’s MaerzMusik scene. Berlin hosts a 2019 MaerzMusik festival from March 16 to 25. The festival “combines the diverse currents within contemporary music with a contrasting panorama of renowned artists worldwide”.

Kara-Lis Coverdale

Coverdale has been “absorbing Nordic religious music since she was a teenager”. She’s church organist and choirmaster at the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John in Montreal. Coverdale is known as a “troublemaker who mixes hip-hop with the hymnals at her day job”. She composed the abstract piece “Extended Shadows” especially for her performance at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

Berliner Festspiele | MaerzMusik 2016 "The Long Now" Kraftwerk, 19/20.03.2016

MaerzMusik Festival Haus der Berliner Festspiele – taz.de

Kim Myhr / Mary Halvorson Octet / Bill Frisell

This rich performance included excellent back-to-back concerts on the main stage at Haus der Berliner Festspiele. The crowd was young and enthusiastic.

Kim Myhr

Norwegian composer, sound artist, and guitarist Kim Myhr is “concerned with creating a slowly developing, multi-layered sound cosmos that is so saturated with details that you believe you’re swimming in it” – not sure I understand that… Myhr is a “voice of Norway’s creative experimental music scene”.

Kim Myhr – Electric and Acoustic Guitar (c) Orfee Schuijt

An active composer Myhr writes music for chamber ensembles, electroacoustic settings, and theatrical projects. His performance included electric, bass, and acoustic guitars and three percussionists. His album You | me “is a work with a continuous pulse in which everything derives from a single musical idea”.

Mary Halvorson Octet

Guitarist Mary Halvorson’s Octet was the “highly anticipated culmination of her New York-based Jazzfest residence”. She spent two week-long residencies at New York’s legendary Village Vanguard jazz club and is one of the “most distinctive and original improvisers of her time”.

Mary Halvorson Guitarist – Bomb Magazine

Halvorson’s popular octet includes pedal steel guitar, trumpet, tenor saxophones, trombone, bass, and drums. She’s produced a phenomenal 27 albums in three years and is extremely popular in Berlin. Her album Away With You is highly praised.

Mary Halvorson Octet

Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell has long been a favorite of mine! I love his gentle sound, a contrast to the sounds of other performers during the evening. He was popular in the Bay Area and I remember his music when I was living in San Francisco.

Bill Frisell Guitar Soloist – Press Photo

Frisell attended renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston and lived in New York City. His distinctive, easy-to-listen-to music is sometimes described as “somewhere between Bonnie Raitt and John Zorn”.

Last year Frisell produced a duo album with bassist Thomas Morgan followed by a solo album “Music Is”.  He begins a tour of solo concerts here in Berlin.

Blue Man Group Berlin Halloween Performance

Blue Man Group

I spent Halloween evening at a hilarious spellbinding Blue Man performance in Berlin! The unique multimedia show is appearing at the Stage BlueMax Theater on Marlene-Dietrich-Platz in Potsdam Square. It was sold out and totally fun!

Blue Man Group Without Makeup

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“They are blue, they are three, they carry bald heads and do not make a sound…”

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Custom Instrument Made of PVC Pipes

Blue Man Group with Drumbone

The show originated in the US but is one of Berlin’s most successful long-term productions – “a mix of music, rhythms, comedy, and intense visual effects”. There are productions in Las Vegas, New York, Boston, Orlando, and Chicago. The Berlin show began in 2004 and is the Group’s first and only permanent venue outside the US.

The show emerged from New York’s art scene during the late 1980s. The original performance was in 1988 with founders Phil Stanton, Matt Goldman, and Chris Wink – as the first blue trio. Since then, the “three extremely creative bald heads have been unstoppable”. In 1991, they received the coveted “Obie Award” for theater – a well-deserved recognition of their talent.

The Blue Men actively interact with their audience during the performance. The audience participates by providing prompted (in German) verbal and body action. Those sitting front and center wear plastic ponchos for protection from paint spray. At one point the three highly fit Blue Men made animal-like crawling moves as they climbed from the stage through seats in the center of the theater – exhilarating!

Blue Man Group Berlin

Segments of the program feature randomly chosen members of the audience. One was pretty intense, so I wonder if they “planted” that participant. There were two Olympic Gold Medal winners in the audience.

Audience Berlin Performance

Interior BlueMax Theater

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“Music and rhythm are integral parts of every Blue Man Group performance. In contrast to the band, the Blaumänner themselves do not play conventional electric guitars or drum kits, but specially created instruments.”

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Blue Man Group with Unique Musical Instruments

A live band, including an incredible drummer, accompanied the Blue Men on stage and provided “an intense atmosphere reminiscent of a rock concert”. The “classic instrument of the troupe” is an impressive percussion made of PVC pipes. I’ve never seen anything like it. The sound was fantastic! Their outstanding musical performances show that they are experienced percussionists. They also used a smaller but “just as ingenious drumbone, a fascinating fusion of drums and trombone”.

BlueMax Theatre Berlin

In July 2017, Canadian Cirque du Soleil announced its intention to take over the parent company of the Blue Man Group. The entertainment company “intends to market Blue Man Group worldwide and diversify its live performances”.

BlueMax Stage Theater Berlin

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening! It was mesmerizing fun!

Potsdam Germany UNESCO World Heritage Site

Schloss Sanssouci Potsdam – http://www.isango.com

Yesterday I took a day trip to Potsdam, capital of the State of Brandenburg 15 miles south of Berlin. Scenery during the train ride changed from graffiti tagged concrete walls to colorful autumn trees and stately mansions in Berlin’s wealthy west suburbs. October weather has been phenomenal with warm sunny days, but it’s getting colder. Light rain didn’t hamper the beauty of the area, but it wasn’t great for photography.

St. Nicholas Church

I talked with people on the tour – mostly English-speaking Millennials from other countries who were interns or employees of German film and video game companies. They shared their challenges learning Berlin’s public transportation system and said it took them 6 months to acclimate. They thought it would take a long time to learn German in Berlin – versus a small German village – primarily because of the many versions spoken within diverse cultures. I’m slowly picking up German words and phrases – important because many Berliners don’t speak English.

Russian Orthodox Church Alexandrovka © Hans Bach

Get Your Guide, a group I’ve used in other European cities, led the tour. Potsdam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with baroque architecture, world-famous palaces, gardens, historic quarters, parks, lakes, and estates. The area was once the residence and garrison town of Prussian Kings and German Kaisers. Our guide was from Lisbon Portugal, but he’s lived in Berlin for over 4 years. As with most tours, it was fast-paced and full of details – a good introduction to the area.

Potsdam Church of St. Peter and Paul

Marble Palace Near Sacred Lake New Garden Potsdam

Potsdam’s palaces aren’t as grand as Versailles or Vienna, but it’s an impressive area with a fascinating combination of old and new. In the summer Berliners visit the lakes and parks for hiking, biking, swimming, boating, and nude sun bathing. The gardens are more natural than the manicured ones embellishing most European palaces.

St. Nicholas Church Dome

Potsdam Attractions

These are summaries of Potsdam’s best known attractions. During our six-hour walking tour we passed by attractions but didn’t view interiors – that’s a separate trip. My favorite park was once a royal hunting ground near Grunewald Hunting Lodge.

Hunting Lodge

Brandenburg has a chain of beautiful lakes – Havel Lakes – that surround Potsdam and include Dampferfahrten, Templiner, Fahrlander, Griebnitzsee, and Schwielowsee. A boat trip with a water view of the castles, churches, and parks sounds interesting.

Museum Barberini – Museums Heritage

Sanssouci Palace – constructed in 1747 this palace was the summer residence of Frederick the Great. The name translates from French to “without a care”. Sanssouci and Potsdam were where Frederick escaped busy Berlin.

House Potsdam

Dutch Quarter – is the largest Dutch housing development outside the Netherlands. Potsdam is surrounded by water, so Frederick brought builders from the Netherlands to construct his palaces because they were familiar with similar soil conditions.

Filmmuseum

Cecilienhof Palace – last castle built by the House of Hohenzollern – and the Historic Site of the Potsdam Conference. When fighting ended in Europe, the three major Allies of World War II –  American President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee (his successor), and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin – met at Cecilienhof to establish a Council of Foreign Ministers and central Control Council.

Cecilienhof New Garden

Alexandrovka – is a Russian Colony in northern Potsdam. Frederick brought Russian singers and dancers to Potsdam to entertain his guests. Many relocated permanently.

Dutch Quarter

Filmmuseum – encompasses the media city Babelsberg, including Studio Babelsberg – the oldest film studio in the world and the largest in Europe – Film Park BabelsbergRadio Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), the Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf, Babelsberg Film School, and the Film University Babelsberg.

Potsdam Windmill

Barberini Museum – a privately donated art museum in Potsdam’s Old Market center housed in a reconstructed Baroque palace. The museum’s benefactor is billionaire Hasso Plattner.

Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies

Bridge of SpiesGlienicke Bridge was built over the Havel River in 1907 to connect Berlin’s Wannsee District with Potsdam. During the Cold War, the US and Soviet Union exchanged spies over the bridge. Steven Spielberg’s 2015 film – Bridge of Spies – tells the story of lawyer James B. Donovan who negotiated the release of Francis Gary Powers, an Air Force spy plane pilot shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. Powers was exchanged for Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, a convicted KGB spy held by the United States.

Lindstedt Castle and Park

Einstein Tower – is home of an astrophysical observatory for studying magnetic fields related to solar spots. The tower is named after Albert Einstein. From 1929 to 1932, Einstein and his wife lived in Caputh, a village near Potsdam. Today, the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics – part of the Leibniz Association – manages the observatory.

Potsdam Old Market © Barbara Plate

Potsdam Brandenburg Gate – in the centre of Luisenplatz in downtown Potsdam is an original mock-up of Berlin’s grand gate on Pariser Platz.

Alexandrovka © Michael Lüder

Church of St. Peter and Paul – restored Catholic church that suffered serious damage during WWII bombings.

Schloss Sanssouci

St. Nicolas Church – the beautiful neo-classical Protestant church on the Old Market in Potsdam is listed as a sacred building.

Hunting Lodge

Berlin-Potsdam UNESCO World Heritage Area

Due to their “uniqueness, influence on art history, and proven association with historically significant events” the “Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin” joined UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1990.

Marble Palace © Ulf Böttcher

Sculpture Sanssouci

The Berlin-Potsdam World Heritage area extends from Peacock Island on the Havel River in the east to beyond the New Palace in the west. It includes the Berlin, Brandenburg, and Saxony-Anhalt areas with their villages, castles, and parks – Sacrow, Glienicke, Babelsberg, Sanssouci, Charlottenhof, Lindstedt, and New Garden.

Boat House Near Hunting Lodge

There’s so much to explore in Brandenburg and the tour peaked my interest. I’ll be returning. Unbelievably :(, I got lost on the way back to my apartment in Kreuzberg. Our train from Potsdam stopped in Charlottenburg and it was difficult finding the hidden U-Bahn connection (a 10-minute walk). The train, underground, S-Bahn, bus, and tram connections are still confusing – at least to me.

Frederick William I Hunting Lodge