Traveling around Berlin in Brandenburg – this is also a wine region, yes!

Brandenburg – wine region – are you serious? Yes I am.

Brandenburg is surrounding Berlin, and is located pretty far north in Germany. Too far north for wine, I always thought. But then I came across the book “Weinland Brandenburg” by Tom Wolf (be.bra Verlag Berlin 2016). Tom Wolf describes 31 vineyards in Brandenburg. Very interesting. I decided to explore some of them, when traveling in Brandenburg, the hinterland of my mother town Berlin.

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Why are there wines in Brandenburg – so far north?

In early medieval times, Europe was christianized. As a consequence, monasteries were founded – also in Brandenburg. The monasteries needed wine for their cult and hence started to grow grapes for that, but perhaps the monks also enjoyed some of their wine from time to time.

It was Frederick the Great who stopped the wine production in Brandenburg in the early 18th century. He was of the opinion that potatoes are more useful – and he made his people cultivate potatoes instead of wine.  In addition there were more frequent frosts at that time that discouraged cultivating wine.

Shortly before the iron curtain fell and even more after the reunification of Germany, the tradition of cultivating wine took off again on some of the sunny hills that the monks had already selected earlier. Hills in Brandenburg are not high, but there are slopes that allow to produce wine, especially now with global warming. It may not be a Bordeaux or a Burgundy wine, but I found well made wine from biological production. Oh yes, some people say that wines from Brandenburg are sour – but I found them to be good companions for tasty local meals.

Let me tell you more about the monasteries and about the vineyards that we visited. Check out the book of Tom Wolf to find out more about 31 vineyards in Brandenburg.

 

Source: LBV Raumbeobachtung 2011

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Potsdam: Frederick the Great had his own vineyard – nevertheless

Frederick the Great or, as we call him, der Alte Fritz, may have told his subjects to cultivate potatoes instead of wine, but… he had his own vineyard in Sanssouci – a patchwork of small greenhouses with stone walls and glass windows climbing up the hill to his intimate palace “Sanssouci”.

I had always thought that this wine garden in Potsdam is somewhat excentric… and now I know, cultivating wine here is not excentric, but it is an old tradition

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Uckermark: Prenzlau – the monastery of the Dominicans  and the vineyard hanging on the town wall

Prenzlau (north of Berlin) is located on the northern shore of the Uckermark lake. The Dominicans founded a monastery here. In the former refectory some frescos have been renovated.

This beautifully carved altar shows the pastor with his sheep just arriving at the stable where Christ was born.

The monks needed wine for their cult and selected the town wall to capture the heat and light of the sun reflecting in the Uckermark lake. This southward looking slope is very warm, indeed. I could feel that even on a chilly day.

In 2013 the vineyard has been reinstalled for the LAGA which is a German garden exhibition (Landesgartenschau). The grapes planted are Regent (red) and Solaris (white). The wine is pressed in Pleisweiler in the Pfalz and can be bought in the tea- and wine house Gotzmann. (Tom Wolf, p. 207). Gotzmann was closed, when we were in Prenzlau, because it was a Sunday.

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Lausitz/Spree: Welzow with a vineyard in the open cast mine and Dr. Martin Krause’s vineyard in Drebkau

We spent a few days in the Spreewald with its woods along ramifications of the Spree, where cucumbers become “Spreewaldgurken” in vinegar.

All of a sudden the forest opens and we see the open cast mine of Vattenfall near Welzow. A huge, huge desert. Villages had to  be sacrificed, one of them being Wolkenberg with a former tradition of wine growing. Vattenfall started to plant their deserted hole and local specialists are cultivating the wine called “Wolkenberg” that can now be tasted in local restaurants (Tom Wolf, p. 145). Well, Vattenfall undertakes a small effort to repair what they have destroyed. I just stopped to breathe, when I saw this naked landscape.

We selected the lookout point of Welzow, but from here, we could not see the vineyard.

Instead we found Dr. Martin Krause’s vineyard in Drebkau/Klein Ossnig.

Dr. Martin Krause has done research and found that about 50 winegrowers were active around Cottbus in the 16th century  There was a vineyard in Klein Ossnig that delivered wine to the monastery of Cottbus – look for the monks! (Tom Wolf, p. 163).

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Fläming: Baruth and the Glashütte with the very special wine shop

In the southwest part of Brandenburg called “Fläming”, we visit the open air museum “Glashütte”. Beyond learning about how they made glass here, I buy three bottles of wine in the Weinsalon Glashütte:  Brandenburger Landwein from Zesch (Pinot white) and two bottles of Goldstaub with white wine made from the grapes Solaris and Helios that are common in this area. By the way, the wine saloon also offers wines from Moldovo and organizes events. A very inviting place.

Tom Wolf talks about the Weinberg Zesch that benefits from the lake of Zesch, not far from Baruth (p. 83). He also mentions the Mühlenberg in Baruth that produces the wine called “Goldstaub” – yes, there is a mill-wheel (Mühlrad) on the label (p. 89).

I have never tasted Solaris and Helios before and I am curious.

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The monastery Lehnin and the vineyards in Werder one of them being the Wachtelberg

The monastery of Lehnin and the adjacent hospital are now run by deaconesses. By the way, this romanic monastery is called Le-H-nin (with an “h”).

The monastery owned various vineyards in Werder which is a quiet town spreading out widely on the shores of the Havel near Potsdam. The Wachtelberg was one of the vineyards and today it is a vineyard again. We found it amidst the houses of Werder. There is a wine bar (Weintiene) on top of the hill that is open in the afternoon.

Dr. Linicke started to grow wine in the late 80’s in the former GDR, but after the fall of the iron curtain, nobody was willing to buy wine from the “east”. In 1994 the wine production was restored, again involving Dr. Linicke (Tom Wolf, p. 33). Now he has installed the “Erlebniswanderweg Wachtelberg”: Each line of grapes is described in detail, like this line of Ruländer or Pinot Gris.

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Wolanski and his Klosterhof Töplitz

Lara Wolanski does horse dressage and her father, Klaus Wolanski, started in 2007 to grow wine in Töplitz (Tom Wolf, p. 19). When we arrive at the Klosterhof, we find a message at the door: “Call me, I am happy to come”. Very soon a roaring noise announces the arrival of Klaus Wolanski. He comes on his small tractor and welcomes us with his black-white dog. He tells us that his wine production is based on biological principles. Here – so far north – the  grapes are not delicate, they do not need those strong pesticides, he says. There is grass in the vineyards that the sheep “cut”. The sheep also eat the leaves such that the grapes get more sun. They do not like the grapes, as long as they are sour, but – they would love them, once they are sweet. Hence these “helpers” have to stay outside now, in autumn.

We walk around in the area. There is a picnic place on top of the Töplitz hill. People used to flat land might be happy to recover from the steep ascent. And it must be a great place to celebrate.

We buy some wines – Riesling, Pinot Gris (both white) and Regent (red) – one bottle of Regent has matured in the barrel.

Annerös takes one bottle of Regent home. She drinks it with her husband, and they like it. Well made, they said. Soon after arriving at home, I shared the Grauburgunder or Pinot Gris with my neighbours. The wine was clean and freshly fruity – a  real “Ruländer”.

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Not only wine, but also stronger stuff for the monks: The KlosterBruder

In the monastery of Zinna – also a Cistercian monastery founded in 1170 – they produce the “Zinnaer KlosterBruder” or “Zinna Monastery Brother”.  Right in the building under the clock.

It is a herb liquor that is supposed to be healthy (monks called their herb liquors “aqua vitae” (water of life) and used them as a medicine. The technique of distilling liquor has been known at least since the 12th century, perhaps even earlier.

There is a legend related to the “KlosterBruder”: A cavalier from the area was in love with a lady that was too noble for him. As he could not marry her, he went to the monastery, where he produced holy paintings with the face of his beloved noble lady. The abbot recognized the face and made him destroy his paintings. The monk obeyed and started to collect herbs. He invented the herb liquor “KlosterBruder” named after him and discovered that this drink made him feel cheerful and happy.

Herb liquors are not really my favourite drinks… To my opinion they taste like medicine.

But I like wine – and the wine culture in Brandenburg was a surprise for me. The wines make nice – though a bit unexpected – souvenirs from Brandenburg! And there are more vineyards to explore, when going back – at least 31 of them.

In addition, there is much more to see in Brandenburg – the early Slavic immigrants (Sorbs and Wends) and the ramifications of the rivers (Spreewald, Havelseen or Oderbruch). We found numerous castles (Wiesenburg, Eisenhardt, Lübbenau, the Fürst Pückler park with the duke’s castle or charming Sanssouci in Potsdam) and nice bigger and smaller cities (Bad Freienwalde, Jüterbog, Bad Belzig, Lübbenau or Brandenburg) with timbered houses and gothic churches and townhalls made out of brick (we call that German Backsteingotik – sometimes even Backsteinromanik). I will go there again. Perhaps for a bicycle tour.

Back in Kraków on the tracks of Bronislaw Chromy

I am still in Kraków and it is July 2017. Over the years, I had accomplished all Kraków excursions of my “Müller guidebook”, except number 12 “Las Wolski” (wolf forest). I try to do the excursion to the forest on a hot Thursday. But I do not get far, as I get stuck in the pavilion of Bronislaw Chromy – discovering him is too attractive.

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By bus to Park Diecjusza in Zwierzyniec (north of the city center)

I take bus 192 at the Cracovia Stadium. More Lajkoniki are welcoming me in the bus!

One of the bus stations on the way is called Lajkonika. Perhaps it was here that the Mongols had been defeated by the Krakówians in the 13th century?

I leave the bus at the station “Park Diecjusza”. I oscillate a bit to find the park that the bus station is named after. A friendly man explains the right way to me. I am so proud that I understand him (he spoke Polish).

In the park, I come across a lady that lies flat on the grass meditating while more ladies are thoughtfully grouped around her. Is this a place of strength? Oh, I understand, I have found the Willa Decjusza that now provides conference rooms. These ladies might be relaxing from a meeting. The Willa is a Renaissance building.

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Harmonic sculptures in the park made by Bronislaw Chromy

The Park Decjusza is wild and shady. Great for a hot day. Cyclists are passing by. In the middle of the park, I find this pavilion surrounded by sculptures that are beautifully embedded in nature.

It is the pavilion of Bronislaw Chromy.

It find it difficult to capture the sculptures with my camera. These are the cyclists on the Juniper bush. They are almost swallowed by the bush and the trees.

The hands holding a rounded stone show harmony. Mother Earth seems to give support .

Inside the pavilion, a friend of the family of Bronislaw Chromy serves coffee and self made cake. He gives me a book and, when reading it, I start to understand. Bronislaw Chromy, born in 1925, is a very well-known contemporary artist in Poland. His sculptures can be found all over in Kraków: He created the dragon (or smok) under the Wawel that spits fire (the dragon is loved by children from all over the world). He also created the monument for the dog Dzok that after the death of his master kept on waiting for him. And he is also the artist that made the impressive Christ in Nowa Huta – the Christ that is being crucified while ascending to heaven at the same time.

Born in 1925, Bronislaw Chromy is an old man now. The family friend managing the pavilion talks with deep respect about the “professor”.

In the cellar I find charming paintings made by him such as these two birds – they may be about to attack one another.

The pavilion sells sculptures of Chromy such as this is peacock.

Back in Kraków I look for Chromy’s owls in the Planty near the Wawel castle. Here they are – a friendly mum with two cheerful young owls.

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Good-bye Kraków for now

From the owls, I walk around the corner to have a salad in the Bona in Ulica Kanonicza while thinking over my day. I am happy to have discovered Bronislaw Chromy who is a gifted sculptor. And I may have to finish the walk number 12 of “my Müller guidebook” when returning in December – to see the Las Wolski (or wolf forest).

Now it is time to say good-bye Krakow.

 

Back in Kraków on the tracks of Matejko and more

Another day in Kraków in July 2017. Today the weather is sweltering. Fortunately I have bought a linen summer dress at the Rynek that I am now wearing.

It is so hot and humid that it is a great day for museums. After some shopping, I visit two of them, and in between I meet more friends, for lunch and for an aperitif in the evening.

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The bookshop in Ulica Bracka with the great childrens books

Not far from my hotel Wawel in Poselska I get stuck in a cute bookshop in Ulica Bracka. It is called “De Revolutionibus”. They serve coffee and cake and have many nice books for children. I particularly like the book about cats and dogs. Look, how dogs resemble their masters.

Source: Antonio Fischetti and Sébastien Mourrain: “Psy i koty pod lupa naukowców”, Polarny Lis.

This is how the bookshop has set up the corner for children.

I buy “the wedding” written by Wyspiański. He was a painter AND an author. Agata tells me later that she read and analyzed this book at school.

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Frightening paintings in the museum of Wyspiański

Next Iook for information about Wyspiański. However, I cannot find an exhibition about this Krakówian multitalent in the museum named after him. Instead I find a special exhibition of paintings produced by prisoners in Auschwitz and Birkenau. Some were ordered by the SS to decorate houses or to illustrate orders to the prisoners. Others have been painted in secret showing the atrocities of the concentration camps. And some are memories of the life outside the camps – they were painted to give hope that one day, they might be free again. I am particularly impressed by the drawings of a formerly famous skier that had painted the mountains with and without skiers. I am suffering of what the Germans that I am sharing roots with have done… I always feel guilty and I am not able to take one photo.

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The house where Matejko lived: Ulica Florianska 41 

I had found out about Matejko, when visiting Nowa Huta and Krzeslawice. He had a cottage near the lake of Krzeslawice which is now a museum. He was born and lived most of his life in Florianska 41, not far from the Rynek. Florianska 41 is this neoclassical building that has been renovated by adding modern style elements.

Matejko was born in 1832 to become an important Polish painter of the 19th century. He engaged to remind the Polish of their identity and culture, when Poland was ruled by foreign forces after 1792. He was famous for painting historical scenes such as Sobieski vanquishing the Turks in Vienna in 1683.

It is said that his paintings helped the Polish to keep up their spirit of resistance. In addition he painted portraits and cartoons. He was a professor at the academy of arts. One of his pupils was Wyspiańsky.

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Two great places to relax: The Magia and the Bona

I go back to the shady courtyard of the Magia to have a fruit juice and meet Agata. Later I move to the Bona, a bar-bookshop in the Kanoniczka street and have a nice dry Muscat from Poland.

While I am reading, I am listening to a beautiful female voice singing opera arias in front of the twelve apostles of the Saint Peter and Paul church. This is what the place looks like later in the night.

Warm summer evenings in Kraków are a very relaxing experience! I return to the Rynek (Main Market Square) and listen to a violin player.

Look at the Sukiennice in the middle of the Rynek….

… and at Maria Church (Kosiól Mariacki) illuminated in the night.

I finish off my quiet evening with a Zubróvka (bison grass vodka) in my favorite coffee bar, the Magia, just behind Maria Church.

 

Back in Kraków discovering Nowa Huta

In July 2007, I spend a few days in Kraków attending a wedding, meeting friends, visiting places I like and seeing some new ones.

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Nowa Huta – shall I really go there?

One such new spot I visited is Nowa Huta. So far I have not been interested in socialist buildings made out of precast concrete slabs. “You have not been to Nowa Huta? Then you should go. There are a lot of green alleys and parks and much space between the houses”, Radek says proudly. Maybe you are right? As Fidel Castro ONLY visited Nowa Huta, when coming to Krakow, I could give it a try as well.

So – I went and liked this socialist invention. Wide alleys start from a large square named after Ronald Reagan. In addition to the socialist traces, I discover two gorgeous modern churches, a monastery and two wooden churches. My guide is the guidebook that Radek and Piotr had given to me some five years ago: Magdalena Niedzielska and Jan Szurmant, “Krakau”, Michael Müller Verlag 2011.

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Starting problems: Where is the station of tram no 4?

My guidebook and the Internet say that tram no 4 goes to Nowa Huta. I find a tram station in front of the main station and buy a ticket at the ticket machine. Then I wait. No trams here. Very suspicious. A family from Denmark also looks for that tram no 4. A young Krakowian tells me that the trams leave in the tunnel. Which tunnel? With the Danish family we start to look for that tunnel. After having oscillated around and after having asked again, we find a busy tunnel, two levels BELOW the main train station. Here we board on to tram no 4.

(Later I find out that I could have caught tram number 4 just on the east side of the Planty, much closer to my Hotel Wawel).

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Ahmore Lajkoniki making fun of the Mongols

We sit down in tram no 4. My neighbours leave the tram some stations later and what do I see? Two Lajkoniki. Looking at me from the seats.

And near the exit, there is another Lajkonik. They are all over in Kraków and you notice them, when you know the history: When attacking Kraków in the 13th century, the Mongols were defeated. The Krakówians put on the Mongolian cloth and celebrated their victory over the Mongols. They still do so today at Corpus Dei in June – and by placing small Lajkoniki all over in their city.

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The Poles are proud of Solidarnoscj and there IS a lot of green space in Nowa Huta

A lady in the tram proudly tells us: ” Yes, we have arrived in Nowa Huta. Look at the monument for Solidarnoscj.”

Yes, we have reached the central square named after Ronald Reagan. The square is spacious and surrounded by buildings that copy the pride of a classical antique style.

After a coffee and a delicious cernik (cheese cake), I follow John Paul II’s alley. Indeed, there is much green space between the mostly well renovated houses with passages leading to more gardens and more houses.

House no 14 (Ulica Mierzwy) was the first Nowa Huta building, as this plate proudly indicates.

If only my “Müller” would not have this habit of judging with his nose in the air… what I have seen from Nowa Huta, is by far not that bad!

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The wooden church from the 15th century and the monastery

There has been life in Nowa Huta before the socialist times, as the church of Saint Batholomeus from 15th century proves (Kośiól sw. Bartlomieja).

The door is open. Inside I find nice paintings – my “Müller” says that they are Rokoko.

The altar is a trompe-oeuil painted on to the wall.

Across the street I find the Monastery Opactwo Cystersów Mogíla. The church welcomes me with a baroque facade. The interior is gothic from 1477, with some frescos..

Mogíla – that sounds like “grave” to me. Yes, that is correct, as I learn later from Adam Bujak: “There is a burial mound named after Princess Wanda, who according to legend threw herself into the currents of the Vistula river to avoid marrying a German.”  (“The Cracow Millenium”, Bialy Krk 2014, p. 9). Her mound is just behind the monastery – I will look for it the next time.

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More beautiful churches, but modern this time

The socialist government had carefully planned Nowa Huta, but being atheists they had not foreseen to build churches. The Krakówians fought for their churches and the result are two beautiful modern churches.

The first one is called Mother God of Tschenstochau (Kościól Matki Boskiej Czestochowskiej), located where the army had practiced before.

The interior is  bright and makes me meditate.

A nice detail are the amber chains forming a boat

The second church is called Ark of the Lord (Kościól Arka Pana) or also Church of Our Lady Queen of Poland, consecrated in 1977 (Karola Wojtyla was the Archbishop of Kraków at that time).

Inside I find two levels. Concentrated praying is going on on the ground floor. On the first floor the painted windows and the statue of Christ provide a mysterious atmosphere. Christ is almost flying away, as if Crucifixion and Ascension were to happen at the same time. Beautiful. It was Bronislaw Chromy who has created this sculpture, as I learn later, when visiting his exhibition and pavilion in the north of Kraków.

I think that this Christ is a symbol for the will to fight for freedom that the Poles have proven over and over again – and I hope they will prove it now and in future once more.

The crew of Apollo 11 gave a rutile cristall from the moon to this church. It is now in the tabernacle at the front.

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Along friendly alleys to the lake of Nowa Huta

In the distance I see some large houses probably from socialist times.

But most of the houses I come across are well renovated and, Radek was right, they are surrounded by green gardens.

When strolling along Fatimska and Bulwarowa street, I come across this happy dog that watches his territory.

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Around the lake of Krzeslawice

Finally I reach the small lake of Krzeslawce with childrens playgrounds. I walk around that lake and stop in front of the museum for the painter Matejko.

It is closed now, as it is one of those Mondays, where all museums are closed.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the corner, I take a picture of another wooden church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist (św. Jana Chrzciciela). Unfortunately it is closed.

I walk back through this friendly area of Kraków to catch tram number 4 in Struga and to return to the city center.

I finish off my day with three friends on the roof top restaurant Malecon with the great view of the Wislaw or Vistula river.

 

 

 

Back in Kraków – discovering places in Kazimierz that are new for me

When returning to Kraków in July 2017, I attended a wedding, met friends and visited “old” and “new” places. Let me start with Kazimierz.

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A half hour boat ride on the Wisla

In winter I saw many wooden boats parked along the shore of Zwierzyniec. Now I can see, what they are for. They are waiting at the peer under the Wawel, until they have 12 passengers. Then they start for a half hour ride on the Wisla. Great, I start the day with a boat ride.

I enter the boat called Kościuszko – after the man that fought for freedom of Poland around 1800 and is now buried on a hill above Kraków. Two friendly ladies (probably my age) offer mint toffees to me.

Another boat is called “Lajkonik”. Yes, the horse riding men making fun of the Mongolians vanquished in the 13th century are omnipresent in Kraków.

From the boat ride, I take back this great view of the Wawel castle.

After my boat ride I follow the Wislaw and enter Kazimierz from the south.

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The church of Corpus Dei or Kościól Bozego Ciala in Kazimierz

Often I have walked by the church of Corpus Dei in Kazimierz. Now I enter it. The church is an example of brick gothics, built in the 14th century. I like the cross hanging in the nave.

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The high synagogue in Kazimierz (Synagoga Wysoka)

At Józefa street I find a cosy courtyard, where I eat a zurek (sour soup). Not far from here is the high synagogue or Synagoga Wysoka that I had never taken notice of before. The synagogue is called “high”, because the praying hall is on the first floor or “high” up. This synagogue has been built in the 16th century.

In the praying hall some of the former wall decoration is left.

There is an exhibition of photos that show the normal Jewish life in Kazimierz before World War II. I am suffering – why has all this happened?

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The museum of Ethnographics in the townhall of Kazimierz

It is hot today. I look for a chilly place and escape into the Ethnographics museum that is located in the former townhall of Kazimierz. The museum has only few English explanations, but the exhibits are pretty straightforward – houses, barns and mills as well as photos and requisites that illustrate the life from craddle to grave in the 19th century. I understand that family and village life was important for the Polish that struggled to preserve their culture and language, while being ruled by Russia, Germany and Austria in the 18th and 19th century.

The top floor shows artifacts like this wonderfully carved Man of Sorrow from the 17th century.

I finish off the day in my favorite tea house of Kazimierz, the Czajownia. Then I meet Radek for dinner. We eat in the restaurant Trezo, where I have a delicious pike perch with a Riesling from Poland. Yes, Poland grows wine as well.

 

Back in in Saint Petersburg – some small charms such as the Чижик-пыжик

In June 2017 I spent four weeks in Saint Petersburg. Let me review a few Russian charms taken from here and there.

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The smallest monumentЧижик-пыжик or Chizhik-pizhik 

From previous visits in Saint Petersburg, I knew that the Chizhik-pizhik exists somewhere above the Fontanka channel. This time I found this tiny monument. Ursula took the photos.

There are coins on the small platform that the bird stands on. Here you see that people are throwing the coins aiming carefully. When the money lands on the platform, you have a wish!

“Чижик” or “chizhik” means siskin (Zeisig in German) and “пыжик” is either a young reindeer or the caps made out of the reindeer fur. Hence, the Chizhik-pizhik is a small siskin with a reindeer cap. This alludes to the students that used to wear those caps and also used to visit  the pub of the merchant Nefedov near the place, where the Fontanka channel meets the Moika channel. In that pub the students would sometimes drink too much and then feel dizzy. The Chizhik-pyzhik is actually a drunken student. A small song explains that:

Чижик-пыжик, где ты был? На Фонтанке водку пил. Выпил рюмку, выпил две —Зашумело в голове.
Chizhik-pyzhik, where’ve you been? Drank vodka on the Fontanka. Took a shot (literally: a small glass), took another – Got dizzy (literally: it roared in my head).

Charming.

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The Swiss watch of the brand Omega

Not far from the blue bridge crossing the Moika we found this clock. It is a Swiss clock of the brand Omega.

I could not find out, why this watch hangs in the Pereulok Antonenko near the blue bridge. Greetings from our home – charming.

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Great gardens all over

Beginning of June the tulips were in flower. It was still spring. Towards the end of June, summer flowers started to be in bloom. There are beautiful parks all over Saint Petersburg. One of them is the Jelagin Park where we took this photo.

Charming gardens!

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Beware of “unexpected” obstacles Saint Petersburg or Venise of the North

The channels Moika, Fontanka and Griboedov as well as the Neva are great for a boat trip – we did two of them. Here our boat is flying along the Fontanka close to the houses called “Three Sisters”.

But… the channels are definitively impractical for cars.

Charming traffic sign!

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“My” Planeta Fitness has now become a church

“My” Planeta Fitness or Планета Фитнес was the place where I kept fit, when I was in Saint Petersburg in 2013. I loved the Planeta Fitness for its efficiency and the good fitness trainers. Though the equipment was somewhat worn out, it was perfect and charming.

“My” Planeta Fitness does no longer exist now. It has become a church, as the new decoration on the window shows.

Fitness can still be acquired in Saint Petersburg, but I found a different setup. A friend of mine took me to a luxury hotel with a luxury spa… the elyptical trainers were modern and in good shape and there was a large swimming pool with wellness corners. Things have obviously changed in Saint Petersburg.

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Rain, rain, rain… it is a cold summer in Saint Petersburg

2017 is a chilly summer in Saint Petersburg, and there are often heavy rainfalls. More than once, we were wet through to the skin. We never left our house without an umbrella. Very useful, as this photo taken from our kitchen window  shows.

When back in Switzerland, I had to switch on my ventilator, because it was so hot – more than 30 degrees. When skyping with my Russian teacher she says that she has no ventilator. I am about to feel sorry for her, but she laughs: “What do I need a ventilator for here in Saint Petersburg, it is rarely more than 20 degrees now.”

It is good that there is so much to do in Saint Petersburg, even when it is chilly and raining. It is a charming town, and I look forward to returning some time soon. This is the wish that I would utter, when successfully throwing money on to the platform of the Chizhik-pizhik or Чижик-пыжик.

 

 

 

Back to Saint Petersburg – some thoughts about the Russian language

Before leaving to Saint Petersburg in June 2017, Ursula studied the Cyrillic alphabet. When walking around, she would always read, what she sees – and she understood a lot such as: банк=bank, кофе хаус=coffee house, бистрот=bistrot, ресторан=restaurant, стритфуд=street food, магазин=shop (magasin), автобус=bus (Autobus), такси=taxi, вокзал=station (from Vauxhall) or – another example – френч дог=French dog.  Knowing the alphabet provides the first access to the language.

Having been exposed to Russian for quite a while, I experience the Russian verbs to be one of my most serious obstacles. I keep on stopping, when seeing advertisements and signposts… why have they used the perfect aspect here and the imperfect aspect there…? And why the multidirectional and not the unidirectional motion ? How do Russians think?

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About the perfect and imperfect aspect – some cases

The perfect and imperfect aspect are unique in Russian (and other Slavic languages). The perfect aspect shows that the result of an action (or of some actions) matters or that the action is planned. The  imperfect aspect points to the fact (“has it happened or has it not happened?”) or to the process (now, in future or in the past). Russians use two separate verbs for their two aspects, and I could not find any consistent rules to relate one to the other (e.g. говорить is imperfect and сказать is perfect – both meaning “sagen”). The concept applies to all verb forms, also to the infinitive.

In the newly renovated park of New Holland in Saint Petersburg they play nicely with the two aspects, perfect (pf) and imperfect (impf).

It says: “We ask you (now, impf) to wait a little bit (pf, result “until” matters), until the young lawn will strengthen and grow (pf, future). Very soon it will be possible again to rest on it, to read, to eat or to simply look into the sky (rest, read, eat, look are processes in the future, hence impf).” It sounds charming – I do not know another language that prohibits access to anything so nicely. Translating the text literally into English does not convey the full charm of it.

This is another example. When going for a boat trip on the channels of Saint Petersburg, you are asked not to stand up under the bridges. “Под мостами” means “under the bridges” and “не вставать” means “do not stand up”. “не вставать” is a negative imperative in the imperfect aspect (expressed here using the infinitive –  in German you could also use the infinitive for the imperative: “nicht aufstehen!”).

Tatjana told me that, for the negative imperative, I should use the imperfect aspect in 95% of the cases. The reason: It is just forbidden to DO something – nobody is interested in the result of the action, what matters is just the “doing” that is not allowed. BUT if you are really afraid of the result of the action, then it matters and you would use the perfect aspect. Standing up under the bridge can really hurt, as they are so low above the water level. When approaching the bridge, I might watch my friend stand up, I might be shocked, I might fear, she will bump her head into the bridge now, I want to prevent the accident and, as the danger is very real and immediately ahead of us, I would then shout “не встань” (perfect aspect – do not stand up!).

Another example that puzzled me: In Russian trains there are green buttons that you are asked to press to open the door at the station. Having to press those buttons is a general fact. Hence in the trains, “press the green button” is written in the imperfect aspect: “нажимаете зелённую кнопку” (“нажимаете” means “press” and is imperfect). But then, in Repino, I find this plate: “Нажмите кнопку – ждите зелённый сигнал”. “Нажмите” (press) is the perfect aspect and “ждите” (wait) is imperfect. Why this? I sense that it is still a general fact that I have to press the green button, whenever I want to order green light to cross the street, but the Russians seem to think differently, as Tatjana explains to me.

For Tatjana, it was evident. By pressing the green button (perfect action), you start the process of waiting (imperfect action).  I can understand, what she means, but I find it difficult to get this right.

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About the verbs of motion such as “ходить” and “идти” – and I am twinkling with my eyes

“По газонам не ходить” means “do not step onto the grass”. More precisely translated it means “do not walk around on the grass”. This also includes “do not walk to the shore and then back.” The verbs of motion differentiate between the process of going in one direction (“unidirectional motion”, идти ) and to walk around or go there and return (“multidirectional motion”, ходить). The sign says that it is forbidden to walk on the grass, “multidirectionally” or “to the shore and back”.

Now I am joking: These two guys may have done everything right, because so far they have only walked to the shore (which might be expressed by the unidirectional verb “идти”). In case they leave the place swimming, they have not walked around (“ходить” – forbidden) nor have they gone there AND returned (also – “ходить” – forbidden).

I am doing hairsplitting and twinkling with my eyes. Of course, the intention is to forbid “any” way of walking on the grass, which requires the “multidirectional” verb “ходить”.

Multi- and unidirectional motions is another concept that applies to Slavic languages and it holds for all verbs of motion such as climb, run, drive, bring, crawl, swim – in the imperfect aspect.

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