A Travellerspoint blog

January 2015

And now its off to Berlin I go

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Going by train from Copenhagen to Berlin doesn't look logical, or even possible - the bit of Denmark containing Copenhagen does not connect by land with mainland Europe. There are a couple of long bridges, but the gap between Denmark and Germany is at least 20 km (more than 50 if you go in via Rostock). I guess you could go via Finland and St Petersburg but it would take forever. So there's a ferry but, unusually, passengers don't get off the train to get onto the ferry - the train goes on the ferry as well. It is a 45 minute trip - just long enough to go to the buffet restaurant, make a hurried selection of random bits of meat and vege then eat frenziedly because you don't want to leave a half full plate behind. I like to have a beer with my food, and thought that since i was helping myself to food, I'd just grab the beer from the fridge. The staff had other ideas - one woman actually slapped me! I tried to find out what bit of Germany we landed on but the crew member I asked had no better idea than I had.

After a quick change of trains in Hamburg, I finally arrived in Berlin's main train station just after dark. It is a huge station, about five levels, very bright and quite difficult to navigate. As with all of the stations I've been in Europe so far, there's a charge to get into the bathroom but I had no Euros and, after wandering all five floors, had failed to find an ATM - had to ask for help. Then it was time to work out how to leave - luckily I knew the train I needed and found a printed noticeboard indicating which platform it left from. So, something that should have been a quick transition took more than an hour to accomplish.

The hostel I chose was fantastic - a classic old building in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin - where the staff greeted me with a free beer. The lounge area was among the best I've ever seen in a hostel. The law firm next door had an interesting feature in its atrium.
Kreuzberg is quite new in Berlin history - built to house workers in the 19th century, it was a pretty poor area through until the 1970's (and quite industrial before then but took quite a hammering during the war). It was a bit cut off from the rest of Berlin because it was enclosed on three sides by the Wall. Through the 1960's, this was one of the places to be - it became ground zero for the German punk scene:this is where David Bowie, Iggy Pop and the like came and hung out, thanks to the legendary SO36 club. It is likely that the Berlin that formed in my imagination from reading about this period was actually Kreuzberg. More recently it has had a flood of immigration, mainly Turkish, and because it is cheap, lots of artists, hippies and musicians have moved in. Now, apparently it is very on-trend. It is an area I should have explored more thoughtfully - done some research and made a plan. I was given directions at the hostel where to find the beating heart of Kreuzberg, but took several wrong turns and never found it - unless they meant the "Sports Bar" I came across with three old men crowded around an old CRT TV.

So I just wandered to see where I'd end up. One of the first things I noticed was that, despite beer and bars being so much cheaper than Scandinavia and despite it being really rather cold, lots of people were drinking in the streets - they'd randomly form little groups at the side of the footpath, and upon departure leave a little cairn of cans and bottles. My walk took me north to Potsdamer-Platz and across to Checkpoint Charlie (quite accidentally, and since I was just looking for dinner, I had no camera with me). I'm convinced that somewhere in my wander I saw one of the few pieces of the Wall still standing but when I went looking for it in the daylight, I couldn't find it.

Just along from the street, there's an enormous museum, the Museum of Technology, which is where I spent my first day in Berlin. It is an old industrial site and goods yard - the old buildings have lots of trains - so many that I actually lost a bit of interest, partly because they were crammed in so tightly and had such bright lighting I couldn't get decent photos.
There is also a historic, functioning brewery (closed when I visited, unfortunately) and it features various technologies, including printing, textiles and photography. My parents had one of these cameras - the Kodak Instamatic - and I enjoyed a linger in the printing room. Quite coincidentally, I'm reading Arnold Bennett's Claymore at the moment, and it presents a glorious (and very funny) account in a Victorian printery (it is a little known fact about me that my preferred career would be to be a Victorian printer).
Kodak Instamatic

Kodak Instamatic

There is also a main, quite new, multi-storey building featuring computing, boating and aircraft. Looking at the computers, I'd have no clue how to make them work, but I bet they'd not be capable of much.
There were a few boats, although only a couple caught my eye. I don't think I'd have liked being in the sub (a "Biber") very much - not just because they are so small, but they went into production within six weeks of being ordered and had a few "technical flaws" - almost impossible to steer and to maintain trim, an unusable periscope, plus there's the petrol engine the pilot had to share the space with. No wonder the navy fed the pilots speed to keep them alert. The speedboat looks more fun.
Although they called the exhibit aerospace, the theme of aircraft collection is subtitled from ballooning to the Berlin airlift (no Zeppelin, but there was an advertising reel of one in action). The only balloon was a model of something I suspect would not fly. Otto Lilienthal is a big name in early German aviation - not powered flight, but gliding machines, inspired by birds.
Of course, there were lots of German aircraft - these are the ones I had some vague knowledge of
Heinkel He 162

Heinkel He 162

Focke Wulf A 16

Focke Wulf A 16

Lufthansa Junkers Ju 52

Lufthansa Junkers Ju 52

Messerschmitt Bf110

Messerschmitt Bf110

Two aircraft deserve special mention - neither are German, neither are unique, but both had a story attached to them. The first one is a Dakota/DC3 - quite a popular aircraft in its day. This particular one was used in the Berlin airlift (more on this next time). The Cessna 172 is the biggest selling aircraft ever made (even I have flown one), but this one is famous. In 1987 Mathias Rust decided to take it on a bit of a trip - through Finland and Iceland. But on 28 May 1987 he, ah, landed it in Red Square, in central Moscow, which is more than 500 miles inside the former USSR. It was no idle prank:

I thought every human on this planet is responsible for some progress and I was looking for an opportunity to take my share in it. I was thinking I could use the aircraft to build an imaginary bridge between West and East to show that a lot of people in Europe wanted to improve relations between our worlds."

There's a story on DW news with actual footage of the 'plane careening between the cars:

Road transport is in a separate building, mainly cars, with a few oddities, such as the wee car that looks the same from the front as the back, and the NSU Ro 80 which was so unreliable that when drivers of these cars met each other on the motorway, they'd hold up some fingers - one for each time they'd had to replace the engine. There were a few motorbikes, of sorts - nothing normal like a BMW road bike. The taxi is typical of what you'd see in Berlin at the end of the 19th century.
large_IMG_0337.jpglarge_IMG_0341.jpgMaico Mobile

Maico Mobile



There were a few handsome vehicles as well - a Benz, a NAG Protos (result of a joint venture between AEG and Siemens), and the indestructible Mercedes 190D.

Posted by NZBarry 17:09 Archived in Germany Comments (0)


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Maybe I was tired when I got to Copenhagen, a bit jaded after nearly six months on the road, or maybe it was the greatness of Stockholm and Gothenburg, but I didn't really take to Copenhagen, couldn't summon up any enthusiasm to see any of its attractions. I walked about the city a fair bit: I imagine its centre is as old as Stockholm's but it has not been preserved in the same way, is instead a pedestrianised shopping area, bright and glitzy.
Shopping Street

Shopping Street

I was impressed with the number of bookshops - one I spent at least an hour in, checking out its stationery and English book collection, and came out clutching several completely unnecessary pens and a marked down copy of Murakami's 1Q84. Just as well, as I finished the Game of Thrones on the train from Gothenburg and couldn't quite face the next one, which is lurking in my bag. Little did I know that not long into 1Q84, I'd be facing an assassin, although she's more Stieg Larsson than George RR Martin.

Outside the centre, I found the buildings to be quite cold and unwelcoming - a lot of grey, or very straight-edged brick buildings - but I did find a couple of things to amuse me as I wandered: a cheerful Christmas market, a factory making an unusual product.


Best of all was Paludin Cafe - just around the corner from the central public library, it was an antiquarian bookshop started in the 1950's which had a relaunch in 2000: most of the books are gone, but the bookshop still operates, with the space opened up turned into a flourishing cafe, open from some hour in the morning I don't even like to think about until 10:00 at night. It was always busy and getting a seat among the books was a mission, but I made several visits. The food was good, the coffee was certainly OK, the beer was slightly less than eye-gougingly expensive and the staff were nice.
Speaking of food, I found a very traditional Danish kitchen/pub near my hostel (the biggest in Europe - the hostel, not the pub, which was half a dozen tables) and found that at least one of their traditional dinners was not a whole lot different from a New Zealand one: roast pork, roast potatoes and veges although they added in a red cabbage pickle and these wizened up sugared potatoes. I also found another restaurant with woeful service: my server was cheerful and delivered my meal promptly, then went home and I was forgotten. After I finished, I sat waiting to be noticed for about ten minutes, very ostentatiously put my coat and bag on and lingered at the deserted bar for another while, stood outside for at least five minutes - no-one paid me any notice, so I ended up stomping off. Of course, then I started to panic about the level of security cameras in Copenhagen (it turns out they trialled them but the Chief of Police decided they were a waste of time) and was even more perturbed to find a police car outside the hostel.

Opposite the Paludin cafe, there is a grand brick building, through the windows of which I could see very high wooden bookshelves and old leather-bound books: I so hoped it was a library, and indeed it had been, but is now research space for graduate students. The public library was nothing special and totally packed - to the point I needed to retreat to the cafe to work at one stage.
Old University Library

Old University Library

I was staggered by the number of bicycles in this town - many buildings had a line up similar to the one outside the public library. Of course, that was not the only library in town, and if it hadn't been for the Paludin, I'd have abandoned it after my first visit. Apart from a couple of grumpy library staff and the amount of noise some made walking (boots on hard floors are not a good combination if you want a silent environment), the Royal Danish Library was a fantastic place and just around from the hostel.
Royal Danish Library

Royal Danish Library

The library is on the river which runs through Copenhagen: beside it, is the "Dome of Visions" - they built a house, of sorts, and put in a bunch of plants and then put a dome made from perspex panels over it. Apparently this is the way forward for sustainable living: when I saw it, I thought it an idea that won't catch on, but have actually seen similar things in my subsequent travels. Behind the library, you have the Royal Library Garden and then the Parliament.
Just a couple of random photos - the Round Tower was built in 1642 as a combined church, library and observatory, and now houses a cafe and lets people climb laboriously to the top to get a slightly elevated view. I think my favourite building in Copenhagen is the old Stock Exchange, which was actually built at the same time as the Round Tower, was used to trade various things for a couple of centuries and is now a function venue. The spire is apparently a good luck charm - the nearby Parliament has often caught fire, but never the Stock Exchange. The last tow photos? No idea, sorry.

Posted by NZBarry 18:06 Archived in Denmark Comments (1)

Gothenburg - Cafes and Libraries

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Cafes and libraries are what make me tick on this journey: I need the latter as a space in which to work and the former to give me the sustenance to work. Although I never actually made it into the central shopping area of Gothenburg until my last night when I thought I should at least see it (and immediately wished I'd spent longer there because it did seem, unusually, quite delightful), I found plenty of the good stuff elsewhere.

My walk in from the hostel would take me along a street called Andra Langgatan, a semi-bohemian area with three record shops (one of which had a shabby-genteel coffee shop run by grand-parents), lots of cheapish places to eat, some funky clothing shops, a couple of live perferomance venues and half a dozen bars. I was amused to see the Kings Head and Queens Head side by side, one packed and the other deserted - pubs really are all about the vibe. As I said in my last post, I found a pub which spoke to me, the Rover, which was on this street.

After a kink, I'd then walk along Haga Nygata, one of Gothenburg's oldest streets, which had been workers' accommodation but has undergone quite a transformation: mainly nice wooden buildings, it is a mix of good cafes and boutique shopping. A couple of the side streets running off it were classical in their lines.

I became a bit confused by some of the cafes - they had piles of food, mainly sweets, laid out haphazardly, as if I was supposed to help myself: it looked a bit like the Italian aperitivo but with cakes, I didn't quite know how to navigate this experience so opted for cafes with more traditional cabinets - I could still try a different cafe on Haga Nygata each day.
Haga Nygata

Haga Nygata

My first couple of days, I then had a fairly long walk along Vasagatan - the main public library and university library were at its far end. Gothenburg University is pretty strange, in that it has a very small campus, but many buildings strung out along Vasagatan.


large_270_IMG_0113.jpgGothenburg University

Gothenburg University

Up near the public library, I found a great cafe - the coffee itself was a bit average, but they had nice cakes and people, and had a big pile of fresh bread and butter you could help yourself to (at least, I HOPE so) but best of all, lots of brocaded sofas I could cosy myself into with my stolen bread and a book (still going with the second Game of Thrones, although the violence wearies me, and I wonder how someone can write so casually about rapes, murders, beatings and pillaging) - Eva's Paley. While it can trace its history back 70 years, the cafe had a complete refit just last year.
Eva's Paley

Eva's Paley

I'd walked past a building which intrigued me, way back at the other end of Vasagatan.
Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I had a good old nosey - I could see books inside.It turned out to be the Economics library of the university - I took up residence here for the rest of my stay.
Near the end of my stay, I went up to the Volvo museum - while I was trying to find the right bus stop (had to ask three people), I noticed a nice looking cafe, so nice that I made a bee-line for it when I returned from inspecting Volvos. Criminally, I failed to record its name, because I loved the vibe of this place, including the wall covered in records (behind glass, so I couldn't get a decent photo).
There are so many more places I didn't see here, so yes, Gothenburg is another of those places I'd love to come back to.

Posted by NZBarry 17:07 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Gothenburg - Not Gothic but Volvo Central

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I really knew very little about Gothenburg, just had ideas about gloomy, stone, spikey people, no I meant churches, well maybe people as well, and that my train was going through. I hopped off for a five night stop, and it is a great city - helped by the fact that, curiously enough, the sun was out most of the time I was there. I did see one shop which sold goth-related gear and there was a club which had a goth night, but that was about it. I saw lots of record shops (i.e. selling actual vinyl records), but they were more likely to sell Neil Sedaka or coffee and cake than Fields of the Nephilim. The churches were largely cheerful brick buildings. Not far from where I was staying, in a former jail now hostel, the Rover pub made me very happy - 32 beers on tap, the ones I had (including an IPA from famous Danish brewer Mikkeller) were fantastic.

I also had one of the best meals of my trip while I was in Gothenburg - I'd noticed a restaurant (Rustica) with a daily special of beef bourguignon and thought that would be nice. What I didn't know was that instead of cutting the fat out of the beef or even cutting it up, they just cooked it very slowly as one large chunk: delicious. One table of fellow diners intrigued me. For a start, they didn't dine - one of the three fellows nibbled at the hard bread put free on the table, on one of his rare pauses from talking. He looked like he was lecturing - very intense, gesturing, deliberate. Another fellow, green jersey matched with horribly bright orange trousers, took notes. The third fellow, very natty, complete with bow-tie, questioned. When the note-taking one took a break, the other two went for their smart-phones, every so often sharing screen with the other. Maybe it was a job interview, maybe an oral examination or maybe they just had an odd way to socialise.

My big touristic endeavour was to go up to the Volvo factory. Way back when Volvos were big, chunky, square cars, I really wanted one but they evolved and even with my eccentric approach to car purchases think that the old ones are getting a bit long in the tooth to be a sensible acquisition. I had actually hoped to go on quite a special tour of Gothenburg: a fellow has a small fleet of Volvos from the 1950's, and lets people drive them in a bit of a convoy, but he'd stopped for the season. So going up to the factory was the next best thing - it took a couple of buses to get there,
large_IMG_0117.jpgthe second one went right in to the depths of the site, past all sorts of buildings- a bit like a really big, industrial looking university campus.
There wasn't actually a tour inside the factory to see the cars being made (which would be cool), just a museum showing off the company history. It started out as a bearing manufacturer, SKF, which is still going - Volvo was the name of one of their products. At the start, it was a two man (Larson and Gabrielsson) company with one desk - they kept this desk the whole time they were together, and would stamp on the floor or bash it with a broomstick to communicate with the workmen down below.
Their first car was a bit of a botch-up: they installed an important part of the gearbox backwards, and that was the direction the car would go. 14 April 1927 was the big day for their first public display - not bad looking for a first effort. Within a year, they had one with a roof, the PV4, and sold 700 of them. Top speed was a credible 55 miles an hour. Then came a 6 cylinder version, the PV651, in 1931, a wee bus and a 7 seater taxi that was "impossible to wear out".
First Volvo

First Volvo





large_IMG_0137.jpgUnstoppable Volvo Taxi

Unstoppable Volvo Taxi

In its first twenty years, Volvo was only selling its models in the hundreds - to succeed, it needed a hit. Post World War II, it produced the PV444, a "little black hump-backed car" (sounds SO appealing), planning to sell 8,000 - but ended up selling a staggering 200,000 of them. I don't know why they planned to sell 8,000 as they had pre-sales of more than that. I can't say I like the look of them, but this is the model that the fellow who runs tours around Gothernburg uses - I would have had a go at driving one given the chance. In the early 1960's, it had another success, with its P1800 sports car: Roger Moore drove one in TV Programme, The Saint. He (or the production company) didn't look after it very well: it was found in 1982 in a paddock in North Wales, engine on the back seat and in a very sad state. Nearly 40,000 of these were made.




If you look on trademe, or see Volvos on TV, you might be forgiven for thinking that they only make station wagons, and yet they didn't even start making them until 1953. This one was bought by the Volvo employees to give to the boss on his 60th birthday. Coming into almost modern time, the Amazon was made until 1970 and then we finally get the first of the boxy Volvos, the 164 and the kind of Volvo I'd really still quite like to have.


Volvo 164

Volvo 164

Volvo 262

Volvo 262

Volvo don't just make cars and buses - there was a big exhibition of their machinery and of their trucks, and of a stupid looking concept bus where the driver sits in the middle, and finally, a Volvo made from Lego.

Posted by NZBarry 18:34 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Stockholm - Odds and Sods

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Apart from the two tours I took in Stockholm, I didn't actually do very much that could be called organised. I tended to just wander around, so that my trips back from the library could take hours to accomplish - mind you, it was about 5 km away. There was nothing closer - I thought I had found one, went in, sat myself down and was ready to get settled when I found myself escorted from the premises. It was a library, yes, but for "ungdomen" - young people. Somehow they knew I didn't qualify.

In my wanders, I tried hard to get a good picture of Riddarholmen Church, the burial ground of the monarchs. It is the oldest church in town, one of the oldest buildings, although it has not been used as a church with a congregation and masses and the like since 1807. It is huge and is an enclosed space, so the best I could do is a little sacrilegious. I did better with the rather pleasant looking S:ta Maria Magdalena kyrka, which I'd walk past twice a day.
Riddarholmen Church

Riddarholmen Church

S:ta Maria Magdalena kyrka

S:ta Maria Magdalena kyrka

One officially touristic thing I did do was visit Fotografiska, a three storey building devoted to photography. I went in at about 7:00 in the evening and was surprised to find hordes of people - obviously a popular spot. I had two favourite photos, both by the same photographer, which I enjoyed for their sense of whimsy. When I was done with the photos, I went up to the restaurant on the top floor for dinner: didn't really appeal, but I found a band doing sound-check - they sounded so good, I stuck around and ate, late, elsewhere.
Nadja Al-Malki @ Fotografiska

Nadja Al-Malki @ Fotografiska

The band was called Nadja Al-Malki, and were delightful - they sang in English, were sort of pop-jazz, very cheerful and fun. As far as I can tell, no-one in the band is actually called Nadja Al-Malki. I have found a couple of videos, but they are collages rather than performances of a single song

From various vantage points on Södermalm, there were good views of the Old City, which was to the north with a hint of east, and then further east the harbour opened up a little. The big brick building in the fourth photo is the town hall - it is where they hold the Nobel banquet and apparently is very flash inside. I haven't found confirmation, but I was told that the tower was a bit of an after-thought, added to ensure that the Stockholm Town Hall is taller than the Copenhagen Town Hall. The three Crowns on top probably relate back to the period when Sweden, Norway and Scania (part of Denmark which was pawned to the King of Norway) were ruled as one.
Looking in to Old Town

Looking in to Old Town

As always, I have a couple of photos of buildings I like, but have either failed to identify them or can't remember what they are.
large_WP_20141123_008.jpgRandom Bridge, Stockholm

Random Bridge, Stockholm

I do know what the building is in these last photos - the Stockholm Public Library. I had intended to go to the State Library of Sweden, because state libraries tend to be rather grand, but in Sweden, they seem to have put the books in the wrong building - the State library is a grotty little thing, so I didn't even go in. The only problem I found with the public library was that the acoustics in the reading room are fantastic, so when they put in a fellow to perform some sort of half-spoken, half sung play-poem-song, it was a brilliant place for him and his audience but not so great for people using the library.
Stockholm Public Library

Stockholm Public Library


Posted by NZBarry 16:10 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

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