The snow is crunching underneath the tyre, I am wrapped like in my skiing days. On the sidewalk cycling is good, on the road it is too soapy. Road clearing vehicles dash along, apart from that the inner city runs in low gear, only few tourists fight their way through the snow flurry. Because of stopping for taking pictures alternately my toes and my fingers get cold. Then I have to kick the bike for a while. Actually, that is what makes winter so terrific!
Last nite it began when we sat in the pub, just in front of the door, in the glow of the street lamp the snowflakes began to float out of the dark. Finally! It can be called a miracle when the weathermen predict right, who would have thought they would tell the truth this time! But only later in the nite the white became so heavyset that it covered all, piled on the trees and the cars. And it still goes on...
To all you believers and non-believers: Merry X-Mas!
It's snowing and snowing and snowing. A well-meant mental preparation for the hard time at home without snow. Well, thanx! In deed, the last snowflake we saw on Warsaw's airport, in Berlin drizzle as we know an fear it for years. I have accumulated snowy winter mood, built up a small reserve, we will see if it will last until the real winter reaches here... the giant chocolate bar backup is ready.
And yet, now there it is, the russian-orthodox X-mas tree. Since means are narrow a recyclable model from steel and plastics has been chosen. Richly decorated it is twinkling nervously like a lighthouse with a bug. Hordes of children and young couples come by for a photo and will ruin their eyesight.
Next door stands the friendly fellow from the local DIY-chain in his red dress. He shoulders a blue elephant and cruelly strangles its trunk. With an innocent look he waves his free hand - who can you trust?
Needles to say, I won't throw my camera into the air to let it slip out of my hand and see it smashing on the pavement. I start from the scratch. Exposure up, flash off. On the bed I focus the tv, press the release button and throw the camera into the air, unfortunately it touches down before it has released, more training is needed. First I make a careful experiment in James Bond manner, shaken, not stirred. The result of the outdoor test, the blurred portrait of the northern railway station, can be seen here. For those who like it...
It's not wise to have the head sheared too short in winter if one is allergic to bonnets. The wind drives the drizzle along the beach, grog weather. The snow has long disappeared. A dozen of seagulls battle for flying bread crumbs. The waves break uproariously and multitudinously, they eat the beach and make a tictac noise when retreating over the pebbles. Sky remains grey. The mingy daylight leaves early, good opportunity to take the grog by the fireplace in the half-empty restaurant on the beach promenade.
Just beside the railway embankment stands the old power plant. Its chimneys smoke peacefully into the biting cold air. Beyond the dam the abandoned allotments with their burnt-down wooden houses sleep still. Only the carbonized door still stands, along with the corner pillars, black and slanting, and some charcoaled trees beside. Apples knock on the iced puddles from underneath. Otherwise nothing is moving on the fallow land, just some footprints tell of people roaming along. Not far away a dog barks intruders off an allotment not yet deserted. Here I am on my photo safari.
Who is the master of all the feral apple trees? No-one? How the redlings might have felt when their tree stripped of all leaves and let them swing there, exposed to the wind? Who knows about the feelings of those late apples? And now the wind takes them down one by one, the last leaves tuck them in, then the snow comes and - here we go - they lie there like glazed apples, yet no-one wants to take a bite. Is it due to the neighborhood? Close by flows the green-gray river which never freezes up, reeky and off odors the civic cloaca takes its way regardless of the freeze.
Local hospitals must be jam-packed with broken arms, legs and hips. The asphalt glitters like a bed of diamonds as it was wet at day and has now frozen again at night. It's not a pinhead who puts his old stinky socks over his shoes to avoid to take a purler. One doesn't have the impression that the winter maintenance is in the warm-up phase, no, it rather feels like they sit it out. For sure this winter will be ending, that's a fact. Let's pray for the poor and invalid. Amen.
Through the window I saw it flashing behind the tree skeletons pressed between the clouds - who would have guessed it here? Not me. My eyes went up, seeing blue. Blue? My thoughts started criss-crossing, what to do first? Washing and tooth brushing! I skipped the breakfast and got a move on. Only little later the bus dropped me at the baltic sea shore which was lying there snow covered under a light blue sky waiting to be shot 217 times. What a model!
Don't we all know about the enlightening effect of snow which makes the difference between a lively ideal winter's day and a typical pre-X-mas day in cold rain lowlanders like us experience since ages? Aren't we, the lucky ones who don't know about any strange winter allergy, as happy as can be when the snowflakes are dancing?
Above the clouds the weather is always so nice, I would like to twist the pilote's arm to stay up here, as far as I know there are refueling planes that one not necessarily has to come down!? And since I have not fully recovered from my flu, the pressure equalization doesn't work properly, therefore I have to recall my life as a seal when I held my nose before diving. Old story.
Finally I get myself out of the house and saddle the bicycle to look what is going on in my hometown. I don't want to be accused of being unaware of the changes. The city center is cordoned off, road blocks everywhere, memorial day, governmental big bananas are on the way. At the same time the inevitable X-mas markets (when typing the word anger and disgust sneak up my spine - already?!) are erected and the avenue Unter den Linden is under renovation, big time. The inner city is a giant building site - nobody say that numbness is ruling Germany!
The swell is so massive all the time, that the waves become too messy to surf on, thats what my fanatic surfing travelmate explained to me, and indeed, I tried myself - the swell really is too massive! Giant waves that don't want to carry anybody and instead collapse in white spray at the beach. If there wasn't more to do here the holiday was f***ed.
Why does a picture made in autumn look like a picture made in autumn? Why would a picture made in autumn never pass as a picture made in summer (or even in winter??)? Because of these little fluttering things coming down the trees? Because of the sunlight leaving so early? Making night pictures possible at four PM? Because of the missing snow? I don't know. But this terminal feeling is burned into it like in the movie where little geniusses sent secret messages hidden in .gif-files or like in a kiddie movie where a perverted projectionist inserted a piece of porn visible for a fraction of a second that people don't trust their eyes. Isn't it?
The guy at Kaliningrad airport did not lie saying 15D would be the best seat in the tiny turboprop, the view of the Curonian Spit, Zelenogradsk (which I said goodbye to just yesterday), the Vistula Lagoon, Baltisk and Polish waters was great, only the windows of the plane could have been polished more thoroughly. But there the river Vistula comes in view - tata! - landing gear out! We were flying just moments ago and now I sit at the airport being in the internet, man! But it's time to disconnect.
Every morning and evening we rumble across it, every time the launching pad of the second track reminds us. But no, it's no tow bridge, it's the remainder of German retreat in WWII, only one side of the bridge spans the two arms of the river Pregel and the endless reed. I am trying for two months now to take a good picture at sunrise while we rumble along, no chance. It's getting cool outside now, the heating season has started, in the office we are sweating since the only regulation is the window knob. And, all of a sudden, the end has come, today is the last day and so unreal again. After the weekend it's time to go home... woolmice beware!
No-one is listening to the cries of pain when the rough wind strips the trees without any spark of decency and throws the autumn foliage down on the tarmac, no-one, really no-one cares for the suffering of the leaves. Coyly the already fallen companions cover the swear-words with their noisy rustling, in conspiration with the wind that is driving them along, just before the feet of those who are called like car wipers here and who have to clean up all this mess. But just one gust and the next load of work comes down. How these guys may swear!
Yep, my camera can do close focus shooting, so that objects in close distance are needle-sharp, but with the many takes I did to get the best photo out of the session the pussycat lost its nerves, I only just escaped before it could get me into its paws. The other zoo animals are much more relaxed at present, but snow leopards wait of course for A) small hail; B) snow; C) rain; D) hail? That's the 16.000 Euro question, all joker are gambled away, the showmaster is waiting...
O boy, it takes me a lot of strength to remember the last saturday, so much has happened in the meantime that I do hardly remember as well. After rushing down the autumnal avenues to visit another historical place, my disappointment was limited when we again found a town showing only a newly built church as the only sight worth seeing. But here the united prussian and russian troops once stopped the french invaders under Napoleon for the first time, leaving the name of the defending general Bagration as a gratitude. Well, and apple trees are there innumerable, most likely heritage of the pre-communist era, overgrown orchards, if there ain't no fence, go get them! This year it's a gainful occupation, the trees are full like...I don't know. The small red apples look like inflated belladonnas, taste like real apples, are there so many varieties at home, so intensely tasting power dwarfs?? [Btw. the zoo animals prefer them over the white bread]. The report about the following sunday , beginning with rain and ending with sunshine when the excursion had ended, I am keeping for myself, fullstop. The photos were accordingly.
Just arrived at the Hotel I throw the pack back, fish for the camera and make my way to the port. Mercilessly the sun runs down the sky, even faster than yesterday - who would be able to catch up!? And already the evening glow is there, but too short. The lights in the port go on, one, two, three, four, Kaliningrad Marine Port! And it is getting cold outside, the finger tips do not yet stick to the camera body but I am pulling my jacket closer as I leave for the station to perform my first tramway ride.
While many old churches in the area fall into ruins or are used inappropriately, in some locality white images of the Kaliningrad Cathedral grow. It's always good to have a place to find some consolation in hard times. This example obviously is the only decoration of Polessk, a dreary town close to the Curonian Spit.
Exhausted the city retires to its weekend. While for some the fight for the daily bread continues, I go for a walk. The sun plays its game with the window panes and the golden roof of the cathedral until vanishing far too early behind the houses. The beer bottles crane their necks out of the brackish pond, the noisy traffic stifles behind the discoloring trees. The slender sickle of the moon dares to enter the pastel shady red sky watching the daylight disappearing. Cut. Done.
Well, 'Kenig' is an out-of-doors-city, here the youngster buys a beer at one of the plenty booths open 24hrs and sits with friends in one of the many parks or squares. Better than going home. But what are they supposed to do when the weather gets shitty? Can't think about it!
Mist lies above the meadows like spider webs. The sun shines diffused like behind a parchment wall. It slowly burns through like a hot light bulb through a paper lampshade.
The birds crouching on the overland lines wistfully think of the carefree summer life and find it hard to spread their clammy wings. Chilly the night was, dew glitters on the feathers, foretaste of the hard times coming.
The sun finally shares out its warmth promising a nice day and maybe the last one.
In case my smartass travel book doesn't lie, Father Josef has just rang the bells of his three-spired church giving the town the opportunity to listen into itself. And now at the baptism he cuts a strand of hair from the heads of the russian-orthodoxian's who stand in line. For good luck. Or is there something else about it?
Does the fella collect here in the St. Michael's cathedral and interim gymnasium hair samples to open a funny wig factory?
Just like in the great (German) poem about the amber catcher, the sun took great pains climbing over the horizon. To hide its bleary-eyed appearance from any critical observer it surrounds itself with this glistening light that can't be defied without dark shades. So I walk along the beach with watery eyes.
Benevolently the ocean today wraps the rays (well, it's waves to be correct, ha) into a mellow steam until the sun has found its path and goes for the zenith like on guide rails. Good old Baltic!
It's not much left of Balga Castle, the first fortress of the German Order Knights in old Prussian's country. Almost undisturbed the imposing remains lie there in the forest by the Kaliningrad Lagoon. Only some picknickers made their way along the pot-holed and narrow road - which is said to be the oldest of Eastern Prussia - to start a campfire and turn on loud music. If the smoke doesn't help against the nasty mozzies the music will do?! As soon as these little fellas took your scent there is no escape without a bite. Happy autumn!
Are we in the zoo or in a circus?
As the girls pull apples - and no f***in' bread! - out of the hat, all the bears sit up and beg, swing their arms, tear their mouths open showing their sweet tooth. Catch the fruits with it. Make fools of themselves for the fruits! For some minutes at least they interrupt running in circles around their piles just laid.
By the way, we are in the zoo which looks it's age of more than hundred years quite obviously.
The first - and maybe last - light sunburn tickles on my skin. All sunday long I had tried to evolve an even, crunchy tan, rolled and turned around, well, almost perfect. Anyway I consider myself a little more clever than these lobsters worshipping the bright planet above.
On the terrace of the only recommendable restaurant by the awardwinningly ugly promenade of Selenogradsk it's getting chilly when the sun stops keeping me warm. Time to prepare for saying goodbye to the summer.
He's sitting there all alone on the dune as per script. It's Stumpi aka Wolfgang Stumph, well-known from film and TV. All alone means, he is the second from the right, easy to see, the distinctive face beside the recording producer. Later in the film he will look like being alone. Therefore everybody has to keep quiet when they are shooting.
He is sitting on the dune means on Europe's highest roaming dune on the Curonian Spit, about 80km north of Kaliningrad.
'Trip to Königsberg' as per working title, may be on German TV next April.
Well, I really do like watching these old bastions from outside and have already walked down much of the old defense ring. But - apart from the cathedral - I haven't seen any museum here from inside. So I missed the Amber Museum in the old Dohna Tower at the Upper Pond, where "...amber dealers with over prized tourist offers..." (my travel book) sit in their booths. And since I don't bring home any dust catchers anymore...
Only some trees obstruct the view at 'Kenig's winning post of German pilgrim coaches. All alone the cathedral stands on the Kneiphof island in the stream. Once covered with houses the area was graded thoroughly after WW II. The cathedral itself was in ruin for decades, a 'hollow tooth' then president Breshnev had wished to be pulled. Obviously the subject got lost in memory and the reconstruction of the building was finished in 1998. Now one can climb the steep stairs to visit a scanty exhibition while an organ is played nicely to drown your panting.
To tower above town, first and foremost the old German cathedral, that was said to be the idea when planning this house of God. The nice white stone is only panelling, tiles are glued to the wall like gingerbread bricks are joined with sugar icing to form a house.
At night classical music resounds on the Victory Square accompanied by the fountains splashing in tune. People sit around and enjoy the nice weather.
Nobody seems to care about the choking traffic roaring by on the bumpy roads pressing the square.
It's becoming kind of usual seeing two steel skeletons dance at Lehrter Bahnhof (will-be "central railway station"), watch them bending down over the glass-made station to finally hold each other by their cold fingers. It happened for the second time this past weekend but spectators had to deal with some drizzle coming up on friday night. The "Bahn" management could have arranged better in that regard! At least there was a chance to go for free from Tiergarten station to Friedrichstrasse and vice versa on the stand-in bus. Generous, but hardly intentional. On sunday the job was done.
Driving to the island of Usedom via Anklam one can visit a remarkable labyrinth cut into a vast field of sunflowers. After some days at the sea it might be easier to deal with the always changing weather. A rain shower loses its shudder if only the sun comes out in the very right moment to take some intriguing photos. You just have to take care that the camera batteries can stand the thousands of shots…
Lush green as far as the eye can see - what a difference! Only just between date palms as the only rich green and now this here. Everything smells of life, grows rampantly. The sun pleasantly alternates with the clouds creating a lovely weather. Just right to roam through Berlin's surroundings on Shanks's pony, there where it still lies waiting for the kiss of the notorious rich (read: Western German) prince to develop the area for the masses. For the time being we cherish the morbid charme of the old east and feel home.
Some may find it disgusting - but it isn't so!
First the little fella is to be shot (by camera) extensively and to be released (!!). Then the photo is to be transferred to the computer. Against moaning and groaning the photo is to be opened with a picture editor and disfiguered with the sepia function. The rest can be done as usual. Then save.
This bad photo is now to be served to the disappointed readers - done.
Today I am leaving this gorgeous place. See ya around.
Spaniards may wipe a tear seeing that, but here it is a common view. The wadi is dry as a bone, the small puddles dried away a while ago. The loose plates of the cracked ground sound like unbaked stoneware if stepped on. Nonetheless there is life still. Long legged black beetles wander around searching for whatever, smaller red ones scuttle along the tiny wild melons looking for the entry door. Fairly plucked cicadas bop around with only one leg or hide timidly in the bush tops. Birds chirp in the trees. It's time to wake up, sun sets.
Getting from A to A+ or even B ain't that tricky on a 'main track', just take your pick-up to the speed of around 80kmh to only touch the peaks of the small bumps (which could be avoided merely by opening your own track) and you literally fly through the desert. The trail of dust will stick to the rear of the car like a banner visible from miles away. If you stop and wish to get out of the car wait the inert mass of dust lay down before opening the door.
Most likely your destination can be reached via the well-maintained road system, anyway. Keep far right then to let the teenage boys in their pick-ups pass.
"Hold on, o magnificent dune as you wander incessantly, and spare an undignified bush from the cruel death of suffocation! Have mercy!", the undignified bush whimpered, although it was clearly marked for disappearance by the Maker of all things and cornered from three sides. "Who are you, to interfere with my course, when there is no-one standing in my way without dying a miserable death? How dare you?!", the dune fumed and rolled over the green thing with a spine-chilling laughter.
"How romantic", she whispers. "Yep", he replies with his eyes lost in thought wandering along her unveiled curves, still hot after all this time, reflecting the last sun beams. He would love to bite her flawless neck. 'Passed from hand to hand, but now there is only the two of us!' his mind goes and makes him show a satisfied grin. She once sent him packing but then she got packed! He had seen through her! 'To be young again!', a sudden emptiness takes hold of him and a sigh slips out of his mouth. "O, to be young again", she whispers with an exstatic expression in her face. His fixed stare discovers fury surging up in him, 'Yes, being damn young again! No pushing around! No shaking well! And let no-one steal my hat! And to show her once again what I'm made of...' But the fury silts up fast, just like every night. "Well well", he puffs ruefully. Without moving a limb they lie beside each other while the sun is setting beyond the wadi. The wind coaxes some indecent noises from the two, but no-one else is around and only the wadi is listening. The sand, their common ancestor, feathers them in their nest.
The news of a steadily growing local car market should have made it's way to the importeurs ears who might be blessed with giant blisters on their palms from rubbing hands for joy. The so-called Pick-ups are an all-time favorite here, preferably in shiny white color. Just this morning we felt sorry for such a specimen parked by the road, standing there sulky, the lower lip drawn over the upper, the head eyes shattered, lacking tears, body fluids all across the road after an event of negative accelleration caused by unwanted contact to an obstacle already disappeared. Even such a pick-up lives a life, although it's a short one around here.
The cemeteries, boasting looted, disfiguered skeletons waiting for decay are as abundant as the single injured, flayed, gutted and abandoned mortal remains lying along the roadside reminding again and again of the very short transitional period from camel and donkey rides to rolling horse-powers.
Take: a wadi, place it in the western Saudi-Arabia, in the mountains between the Red Sea and the Dead Desert, the place where the clouds rain down annoyed about going to the desert. Leave the wadi to simmer at an ambient below 30°C for some melon years, there you have the biosphere!
Up to your taste add some homo saudi later providing the required waste (soft drink cans, oil cans, tyres, bottles, rags, plastic bags etc.) to shorten the time of the local baboon population. Additionally appearing dragon fly parties might have to be dealt with.