Sunday, April 15, 2007

Architecture and other lofty pursuits

We spent the easter weekend in Dessau, something which led to a general expression of horror from friends and colleagues. "But WHY would you want to do that to yourself?"

Okay, so it´s a prime example of the sheer ugliness of the former East, but there are also a couple of gems which we trundled on to have a look at. The Combi van survived the trip, all two hours of the drive, and we camped in it just outside of town. Probably not the most intelligent thing to do on the last real weekend of winter, with an overnight temperature of 0 degrees and exactly 3mm of insulation between my sleeping leg and the cold metal shell of the car. There was the occasional 3am exclamation of "ARRRGGHHH", or the even more eloquent "Bloody hell!", when the protective blanket covering slipped and I found my thigh frozen to the wall.

Dessau is the home of the Bauhaus, the source of all modern architecture. It was somewhat disappointing until I managed to get the whole thing n context. Although these buildings are just kind of ho-hum compared to what we have now, at the time they were as foreign and weird as a flying saucer landing on Potsdamer Platz would be. And to see photos of Gropius, Klee, Kandinsky and Feininger standing side-by-side on the roof of the Bauhaus really drove home what an amazing centre of art the place had been 80 years ago.

After we´d done all the modern(ish) stuff, including the only garage with World Heritage protection (it was part of Gropius´s home which was bombed in WWII and is the only bit still standing), we trundled down the road a bit to see a castle.

The whole area seems to be covered with castles, something neither DrH nor I had realised before, and is actually really beautiful. Had it not been so cold, and we´d had a bit more time, we would´ve done a big bike tour through the region. As it was, we settled with just Oranienbaum, a baroque castle in an amazingly small village. it was really quite weird to drive into this tiny, very east German-looking town, turn a corner and be standing in front of this. Of course, it´s undergoing reconstruction work, so half was covered in scaffolding - but it was still a pretty outstanding building.

That was the only castle we made it too on this trip, so I guess we´ll be going back for a weekend in summer to see Mosigkau, Georgium, Luisium and W├Ârlitz. I love it that the former East has so many gorgeous places that escaped destruction, and somehow even the notice of the West. It gives me the chance to feel like I´m discovering something new, which is a feeling I rarely have in the more touristy areas like the Rhein valley or Neuschwanstein. And that´s pretty cool.

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