Old And New (Summer in Berlin III)

There are many good places to contemplate the clashes between old and new in Berlin, and one of them is the area along the Spree near the U-Bahn station Schlesisches Tor. This is where the world ended for people living in West-Berlin while the city was divided. Now one can walk across the bridges and admire the construction circus on both sides.

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Herbert George Wells might have thought that his phantasies have come true. When they are done with all this, will it looks like this?

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And will we get more playful little sculptures like the Molecule Man by Jonathan Borofsky?

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There is some obvious resistance. It feels like the perfection of a finished building is stifling the creativity.
Who wouldn’t want to defend the octagonal brick building below?

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Do we really want to lose all this?

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My taste is more for blending old and new and let them coexist.

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The Door Was Open (Summer in Berlin II)

I like architecture, or, to be precise, certain states of buildings. Ruins are fascinating, but even more so construction sites. Both are usually off limits (as are the corresponding states of human affairs, death and conception, unless you are involved one way or the other). So I am often forced to trespass a little.

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In this case, as you can see, the door was open, and I just couldn’t resist.

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Views like the one above make it instantly clear that we are not on a generic construction site. Somebody with taste has been designing this, and whoever is doing the construction work, is doing an excellent job by creating crystal clear previews of what’s to come.

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Wondrous tools are on display too, just for me. I can only guess their purpose by looking at the ornamented concrete slabs. Everything is purposeful, even the occasional leftover tile.

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What fascinates be most at places like these is the tension between the clarity of the present and the vagueness of an undefined future.

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The Jewish Museum (Summer in Berlin I)

Berlin has changed a lot since the wall came down in 1989. Most notably the constricted architecture from before finds its counterpoint in buildings that show a liberated sense of what can be done with space.

One of my favorites is the Libeskind addition to the Jewish Museum from 2001.

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You can only enter it underground and are confronted immediately with long and slanted corridors.

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I felt the natural way to photograph this is by slanting the camera as well. There is a lot of narrow vertical space,

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admitting just enough light so that we don’t feel claustrophobic.

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Then there are the Voids, most of them inaccessible, but present through views and gaps in our perception.

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We lose the distinction of being inside or outside, but we learn that is us who create the space around us.

The Price of Beauty (North Iceland XII)

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In this last post of my little series about North Iceland we return to Vesturdalur. Instead of revisiting the basalt cones at Hljóðaklettar, we hike another loop to Svínadalur.

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It begins with massive basalt formations. When in Hljóðaklettar they were well placed accents in the landscape, here one is overwhelmed to the extent that one doesn’t quite know where to look. Then the landscape unfolds.

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Who would want to live here?

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The little mounds are what is left of Svínadalur, a farm abandoned over 50 years ago. One can barely trace the contours of a handful of small houses.

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Who dares to build a home at a place like this where you have an open view of 50 km in every direction?

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And then, after having built that home, why would you leave? The trail continues towards the Jökulsá á Fjöllum and the views become more dramatic again.

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Maybe this place is too beautyful to bear it for too long.

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Bad Weather? (North Iceland XI)

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If you expect a cloudless sky every day, Iceland might be a bit of a disappointment, even though it happens there, too, as you can see above at Heimskautsgerðið near Raufarhöfn. So one has to live with a few occasional clouds like below.

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This is still excellent weather. How bad can it get? On a rainy day with complete cloud cover, the landscape varies between

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and

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It appears inverted – the endless plains of northeast Iceland become insignificant compared to the enormous clouds above. Even though monotonous, they have their appeal, too.

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When the impenetrable fog clears, things become instantly dramatic again.

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Finally, after a long drive through rain on dirt roads, even the back of our car looks impressive:

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An Essential Element (North Iceland X)

Like Dimmuborgir, Námaskarð is very close to Lake Myvatn. At the ground you see cracks and holes. Signs of otherwise rare creepy crawlies?

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Ominous bubble are visible in the little puddles.

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When you lift your head, you quickly lose all hope for discovering new life forms.

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You nose will have told you long ago that this is not paradise:

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We are in the middle of highly active sulfur springs.

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This is a fun place to be, briefly.

Walking on or Staying? (North Iceland IX)

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Dimmuborgir (Dark Castles) is a lava field near the much more mellow Mývatn area.

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Allegedly, here it is where Satan landed after his fall (or did he leave deliberately?).

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What makes the place spooky are not so much the bizarre rock formations but rather the cracks one can see everywhere: Are they just signs of decay, or an indication of growth and an immanent emergence of something else?

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At least, the holes and tunnels seem to always promise a way out.

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But what about those who got stuck and now have to look back at us, frozen in rock for millennia?

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