The star of the morning

Many moons ago,

I saw a stunning star,

The star of the morning,

I starred the memory as a favorite.

Woke up to stunning weather today. Crisp, fresh air. Cold breeze. Racing clouds and a layer of mist. And the sun peeping out. Most of the times, the sun looked like the moon: tiny, white and cold, except when the clouds moved enough for the sun to shine bright. It felt so amazing to feel the slightest of the warmth reach down, and see the lightest of the shadows fleeting by. I went back to the last time when I was so rooted and staring in awe at this celestial spectacle.
 
The day is made. I repeat, the day is made. 🙂
Happy ‘Sun’day!
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Grüß Gott!

After the long entry on the Har Ki Dun trek (https://gabbartrip.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/valley-of-god/), my  thoughts were still in the mountains, and I was transported back to Berchtesgadener Land in Germany. We were lucky that we could visit the area twice and could spend some time hiking, seeing, experiencing the local culture and practices.

The first time we’d visited the area, we were on a longer trip which had a lot of places thrown in – reason being this was our first big vacation in Europe and we didn’t know if we would be there again the following year. As a result, there was lesser time per place, but nevertheless we loved the place so much that we returned six months later to South Germany and spent a full week there.

Here are some memories from both the trips:

Arriving in Munich in the morning, we had a few hours which we used to hop over to the Oktoberfest.

Happy chugging from the 1-litre Maß 🙂

Emptyish hall when we clicked this. Started filling up soon as the music, beer, conversations and laughs started flowing

Friendly lady selling Pretzels

Just before the train pulled into Freilassing, there was an announcement saying that one of the staff was celebrating 30+ years of service with Deutsche Bahn and this was going to be his last day. I think he was from this part of Germany, which is why the staff seemed to have arranged a quick celebration for him at this station. There were friends, family and well-wishers cheering on and a lot of patting on the back, hugging and clapping. Such a nice gesture!

Heading on towards Berchtesgaden Hbf now, we saw glimpses of peaks from the train itself. Being our first year at such a northerly latitude, we were extra keen in checking out if autumn had yet graced us with its colours or not.

We reached in the late afternoon / evening, and called it a day at the campsite.

The following morning had started off cloudy, but the sun was rising somewhere behind the peaks and would soon clear matters.

We rushed to the stream nearby, the Königsseer Ache, which was flowing fast and steady. Beautiful companion to have..

We wanted to see the lakes and go on a hike, so grabbing a tiny bit of breakfast we started off. The lake was reflecting a bit too much light for our liking, especially after us having seen some photographs of how incredibly beautiful it could be – we were a bit disappointed and decided to come back later when the sun had moved in the sky.

We headed off, no particular place in mind, and saw a trail board pointing and leading to “Grünstein Klettersteig” and headed off. At that point, we didn’t really know that much German, and we thought it would be an easy trail. We were right, it was easy, but only because there was a trail all the way as an option. Klettersteig basically means a ‘Via Ferrata’ (Iron road) and we had neither the experience nor the equipment in that bit. Having said that, I’m really looking forward to climbing it that way now, sometime!

The ‘non-Klettersteig’ trail was level and broad, and easy, but where it lacked in making us really work out, it awarded beautiful views – dense forests, views of the lakes, trees in different shades, views of higher peaks across the valley and so on..

This was also one of our first hikes together, as in where both of us were not only hiking together physically, but we were much closer mentally and emotionally as well.

treetops on Fire! Autumn was on its way!

Along the way, we saw several elderly people hiking and found that very impressive. It was a recurring theme, how sport and fitness was such a lifestyle there, and how even the elderly are in such good physical condition! It also led to the sightings of a white mop of hair hurrying down the trail, catching the sunlight and reflecting it, a quick smile exchanged. Loved it!

Scenes from a memory..

As we came out of the thicker woods, we saw the Watzmann massif, and it looked daunting even from far off. We didn’t have the time on this trip to try and hike there, and in our next visit to this area, we couldn’t climb it since it was ‘nicht Schneefrei’ (not snow-free). However, it still left a mark and we still think about it a lot.

Here’s a popular and lovely imagination of the Watzmann family.

“”Watz” means rough, hard, stony and “Mann” means Man. An old legend explains the unusual formation of the Watzmann massif. Long, long ago, the area was ruled over by a cruel king called Watzmann, along with his queen and their seven children. The whole family was merciless and unfair, trampling down the crops on their wild hunting trips and taxing the people to starvation. Every Sunday the inhabitants prayed that they would be rid of these tyrannical rulers. One day, their prayers were heard at last. While in the hills on a hunting expedition, the entire family perished in a great storm and was turned to stone. And there they still sit today: the main peak is the king towering over the land, his queen sits to the left and the seven royal brats huddle between them.” – from ‘Your complete guide to Berchtesgaden” by David Harper.

By this time we were really hungry, having had a tiny breakfast and a light dinner the previous night. A Bavarian Weißwurst helped push us on.

The views were pretty, the trees seemed to be framing a landscape photograph!

Soon we were at the summit.

There was a board or two which shared details of the trail.

Back home, or rather back at the camping place, we saw the sun set on the peaks, a beautiful sight.

It was getting chilly, and we zipped ourselves in the tent once dinner was done and slept off, content.

The next day was foggy again, and an early rise and visit to the lake was rewarding.

The sun soon shooed the mist away, although both got trapped in a spider’s web

We went back to the lake later on and did a short hike till the Malerwinkel Aussichtspunkt (literal translation – Painter’s corner viewpoint), which as the name suggests is a view point from where a lot of painters painted the beautiful landscape. Personal note: I’m thoroughly enjoying pronouncing all the German words right now, after a gap of a year . People say the language sounds angry / harsh / unfriendly, but I really like the sound of it.

The next time we came to Berchtesgaden was in Spring, around the middle of April, and it poured for 5 days out of the 8 days that we were there!

However ,there were some delightful scenes to be seen right outside the tent, as overnight rain had left a carpet of water on the ground. Wildflowers had just started to bloom and along with the cool water, the whole place looked so fresh green, and fertile.

It was not breakfast time for us alone.

The lake was mysterious and intriguing green – different from what we had seen a few months back. Time and the seasons had woven a completely different shade into the surroundings.

We went off towards Obersee and saw some incredible reflections and shapes

Here’s the ‘normal’ view and the rotated photograph of the same view

There was another hike of about an hour and a half, which we took basically the entire day to complete(!) since the views were just too pretty. The clouds and the light kept changing, the sun went westwards as the day progressed and somehow the lake started getting stiller and seemingly clearer, and this is what we were offered a vision of:

‘mit Spiegelung der Berge’ – with a reflection of the mountains. I always see an ink pen with a green nib and a black body when I see this photo – almost as if the Supreme artist has taken a pause while drawing this out and left his brush here. Do you see it?

Farther on, the views just got even more stunning.

After 4 days of non-stop rain, gray skies and hardly any color, these views were a reward.

At a certain point of time in life, the mind / heart wants more and more, never satisfied with what it already has.

Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine.
Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.

– Rabindranath Tagore

But that day was not one such day. We didn’t want any more / less of sunlight or clouds or wind or still waters or anything else. It was the most comfortable place to be in, the most ideal condition of everything in the Universe, and those five hours flew by in a second, and yet lasted for almost at eternity.

As I sit here typing this a little more than two years later, I feel the same state of mind returning.

Reluctant to leave, and yet leaving without regret, almost as if designed to rub it in, we stumbled onto this board near one of the villages.

”Die Welt hat genug für jedermanns Bedürfnisse, aber nicht für jedermanns Gier” – Mahatma Gandhi, meaning that the World has enough for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s Greed.

Powerful. Appropriate. Urgent.

We again went off to Hintersee, now that it was sunny. The magic of this place and the incredible profound powerful beauty of nature just kept surprising us. If this is not wealth, what is?

Here’s something that I had felt when we were here –> https://gabbartrip.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/the-third-eye/

The next day started off bright, but cloudy, and we immediately headed off for another hike (easy to identify the pattern, isn’t it? 🙂 )

We decided to take some photos of the lovely flowers local to this region – we’d picked up a book which mentioned their names and we were trying to absorb the local plants as well.

Driveways were lined like this:

You go left, I’ll go right.

that's how we go underwater

That’s how we go underwater!

This is how the entire hillside looked like:

This tree in its convoluted shape and multiple shades looked like an abstract piece of art.

Little splashes of colors along the way, like tiny medals after completing a few sections of the trail.

Even though it was drizzling and was chilly, the water splashing down on us from the trees felt welcome and like a small prank played between us.

Fresh from a bath

That’s the summit, maybe there was a bit left to climb, but based on the time since the last milestone, we estimated that it wouldn’t be far from here. As such visibility was poor. That’s looking down into the valley, with the trail on the right of the photograph. We soaked in this view, and headed down.

The next day was bright and the river was pretty!!!!  Check out the shade of the water!

We’re all close knit, aren’t we?

spot the evergreens vs the new leaves? 🙂 loved the shades, with the clouds lifting up and revealing higher slopes behind

Saw a giant squirrel going about it’s business, foraging for food, making a forest in the process.

Adjust the brightness, contrast and settings in your brain, then in your camera and you can spot butterflies in the canopy overhead!

Saw more than a few couples hand in hand – a warming sight.

 

Home for a week! 🙂 (the black tent, I mean!)

This style of housing where a small house was built just outside the bigger one, was where the parents stayed once they grew older. We found it to be an interesting, if slightly unusual, idea.

We met a very nice person on this trip, someone with whom we spent a good amount of time, some of it drinking a lot of wine in his caravan, and then going out for a couple of drives and walks. We spoke about a lot of things, and have some very good memories of him. He had taken us to Cafe Reber – home to the delicious Mozartkugeln and several cakes.

He also took us to the Gradierhaus which “is the world´s biggest open-air AlpsBrine Inhalatoriuman, located in Bad Reichenhall´s Kurpark. About 400,000 litres of AlpenSole (AlpsBrine) trickle down the 13 meter high walls, which are covered with hawthorn and blackthorn twigs. Take a walk around the Gradierhaus and breathe in the fresh air enriched with small salt water particles. This ‘sea-breeze’ air has proven to be highly beneficial to the respiratory passages.”

Insert original and translation of what is written in the board here

Walking around these walls is considered to be healthy, and we could not help but compare it mentally with how regions near a sea shore leave you relaxed and fresh.

If you didn’t like to walk inside, you could walk around the area, which, on a sunny day, would be radiating some wonderful colors thanks to the beautiful flowers.

A closer look at the ‘grid’ – the wall holds moisture as it trickles down, and gives a cooling effect as well.

Below is a stunning, thought provoking sculpture called ‘Die Pietà’ by Anna Chromy, situated outside the Salzburg Cathedral.

The plaque had the following words:

“Und aus der atmenden Brust.. fühl’ ich die Seele entfliehen
Die leere Hülle als Symbol dessen was uns überlebt:
die Liebe, die wir gaben.
die Werke, die wir schufen.
das Leid, das wir erduldeten.”

English translation to the best of my abilities:

“And from the breathing chest I feel the soul flee,
The hollow covering as a symbol of what survives us:
the love, we gave,
the works, we created,
the pain, we endured.”

Back at the campsite by night, and off to bed, having spent a wonderful day in very good company.

The next day was a sunny day after a lot of days of rain – quick, dry everything, breakfast can wait!

This is the little order book where we could place orders for fresh bread for the following day. Loved the system, and loved the breads, too – Mehrkorn, Kornspitz, Croissants, semmelbrot – most of them were very tasty, especially when we added some dips / jams and tea / soup into the equation!

Back to the routine of wandering outside 🙂

This would however be the last hike of the trip, and we would return back to ‘civilization’ the next day, with enough memories for many years to come.

I am reminded of what I read somewhere, about how ‘He whom God loves, is dropped into the Berchtesgadener Land’, a quote by Ludwig Ganghofer.

~~~

Wilkommen in Deutschland !

Entries from 2013 – Part I

Its been two weeks since I came to Germany. I am currently living in the beautiful city of Wolfsburg famous for the Volkswagen factory , which I have been told , looks exactly like it did during the war. This is my first time outside India, and I sure have got a warm welcome from Germany – literally , since two weeks back it was still winter  !!  It is spring now, and what a beautiful time to be in Europe I must say ! With spring here, there are chamomiles, dandelions, tulips, wild violets just about everywhere. And the trees ..!!! man oh man !! what colors !


Have bought a second hand cycle for 59€ , discovered there are 3 lakes and a beautiful forest cover in the vicinity of our house, and that there are as many rabbits, geese and ducks here as there are people 🙂 Thanks to that , have discovered a new hobby – following ducklings and rabbits everywhere , with or without my camera !

Have been to a carnival already – one of the scariest haunted houses with a very funny counter – pay 1€ to find out whats in the box, and when you do, someone comes out and spits on you ! Have tried the curry wurst along with the local beer (Adelskronen – Weißbier, Brauerei Braunschweig and Beck’s Pils Bier , Bremen ), and a local dessert – schmalzkuchen (fresh out of the oven !) . Oh yes, how could I forget döner kebab . There are a lot of Turkish restaurants around , and they serve something similar to a shawarma roll – the döner kebab . Its a full meal in itself and is delicious. The next most popular cuisines are Italian and Chinese here, am hoping however to sample the former in Italy sometime soon ! Was gifted some Marzipan chocolates – still developing some taste for these, by my landlady – a wonderful person who bakes the best cakes 🙂 . She invited us to dine with her lovely Russian family where I feasted on some lip-smacking barbecued food and sampled a very delicious fruity drink ( can’t remember what its called). Nazdarovie !!!

I haven’t been able to see a sunrise yet – the sun rises as early as 5:20 (not an excuse this time around :-)), but the sunsets are gorgeous on a clear day . Yesterday we discovered a natural trail through the forest to one of the familiar lakes. Wonderful woods , but I was saddened by the sight of trees felled . I guess that the winter here does not leave much of a choice… More on that later. Anyway, my favorite location so far , is the Neuer Teich , where I go most evenings to watch the ducks get into the water along with their furry little offsprings .

Part II

In Contrast to my previous entry on Deutschland, which was primarily aimed at briefing my friends and family , this one is on a more personal level.

The first couple of things that made an impression on me when I landed here were – the signage, how everything was so well designed – very differently-abled friendly, how formal everyone was , how processes worked so smoothly , and yes, how everything was only in German!!!! the last point was more out of helplessness …while I planned on improving my German in the first couple of months, I had assumed that I would be able to make do with English in the meantime.This of-course, has made simple day-to-day tasks adventurous , kind of what I was going for in the first place isn’t it 😉

There is such a stereotype associated with Germans – that they are cold and unfriendly , I find it infuriating now, especially since I have found all of them to be extremely helpful, friendly and direct . There is a genuineness which you feel in their greetings, and they do go out of the way to help you. I have met enough Germans to conclude that such stereotyping , especially in this case , is baseless.

The signage , the universal design, and the discipline were a welcome change from India, though you miss its chaos instantly, the colors and the imperfections spontaneously. All I could think of is – why don’t we have these obvious little small things already in India ? I was , and still am , in awe of the city planning here in Wolfsburg – construction to open space ratio, forest cover, lakes,traffic signage (they have lane discipline for cyclists and pedestrians as well), waste disposal and water treatment…am still exploring these but so far everything seems to be well thought of. Things are simple, because everything has been designed extremely logically…there is no pretense there. One interesting thing I noticed at Penny – a superstore nearby , is that when I buy water (you have to buy water here in Wolfsburg, cant drink tap water), you get 25 cents back if you return the plastic bottle . There is a vending machine where you put the recyclable bottle – Pfandflasche , get a coupon in return (with the amount mentioned – 25 cents pro bottle) and you can redeem the coupon. Another good example of a process in place, but what bugged me was the amount of plastic bottles and the energy spent in recycling. Also , the superstores use unimaginable amounts of plastic – the vegetables , fruits , milk, everything is packaged. We always carry cloth bags with us , but I have not come across any vegetable vendors or markets till now…I have yet to explore farm fresh stores and local dairies. Couple of things I am still figuring out…items like Colas and cigarettes are costly , mostly because they are unhealthy. But then ,why are buses ( local transport ) expensive, is that on purpose? A lot of locals cycle to work when they can , to avoid the Bus expenditure.

Rutvid and myself, we both prefer smaller towns now, and this small town surrounded by lakes and a forest is quite an idyllic setting. The sky is stunning, a lot of rabbits running around in the grass (they will always have their mouths full :-)), and you can hear birds chirping almost all day long. Days are long (5 am to 10 pm) and I have been told that it will get dark only after 11 in the night . You can see a lot of people spending time fishing, kayaking, disc golf is a popular sport here, roller-blading, cycling, playing with their kids. You will see a lot of people camping over-night near the lake , with their fishing gear left out , and then in the morning you will see faces gleaming with the satisfaction of having caught a big fish to feast on with some beer ! Rutvid once saw someone with beer cans in his back-pockets. Although there is a restriction on drinking in public places, it is not a rare sight 🙂 The spring here is a wonderful experience, you can feel the inspiration behind the paintings  thoughts and poetry. Nothing prepares you for its beauty, quite an experience for me since I love colors. Bangalore used to be like this some years back. But Gujarat and Delhi, where I have been brought up, offer a very different landscape, though North India – Himachal , Jammu , might be offering a similar landscape during this season with spectacular views.

One common concern from our families is food, since both of us come from vegetarian families . But we two do have meat – primarily chicken , and do not really have a problem if we have to eat some other meat once in a while. But yes, we do relish our Indian meals . One can get all the daals and some of the masalas at an Asian store near ZOB, but aata can be tricky. We ended up with something similar to maida! Actually, it’s not really a problem, just unfamiliarity. Here there is a standard for flour – a numbering . We purchased type 405 Weißenmehl instead of the 1100 series, and it so turned out that the lower number has low fiber content and is mostly carbs. But the Aaloo Parathas turned out yummy 🙂

More soon!

The third eye

What changes in the lakes to make them appear different to me every time I see them? Is it just the combination of what makes the lake a lake? Is it the permutation of colors, birds and fishes, blades of grass, cloud cover, wind patterns and angle of sunlight? Or is it all of this along with the changing thoughts and moods which ‘make’ me?

You see it – apparently barren and deserted, almost as if it is rejecting life, in the cold months. Then, as the sun climbs up, the trees blossom, the geese return in number, the forest blossoms – life is back, in full form! Again, the waxing and waning continues, the skies darken, the trees explode in bright colours; it is time for solitude, for tranquility. And then again, like a cycle, a long period of reticent beauty. Everything changes, and still stays the same.

I am currently reading ‘Walden’ by Henry David Thoreau and his genius at description had to be shared here. Here is what he says: ” A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. The fluviatile trees next to the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows”.

Of a beauty beyond words

 

The stillness of a lake always stirs up something in me. I am able to understand it a bit better now.

“Our first real estate”

I remember the first time I stayed in a tent. It was on a trek and next to a waterfall, rather than on a camping site. I was quite afraid that blood sucking leeches and other ‘creepy crawlies’ would enter the tent at night, and have a gala feast on me. Thankfully, in-spite of the rain spitting down noisily on the tent, I could manage to sleep, largely due to the fatigue from walking the whole day. I woke up the next morning, realized where I was, quickly scanned self and tent, and after having breathed a sigh of relief, got out of the tent. I stepped out and immediately came face to face with the waterfall. Fantastic! How often is it that you can see a waterfall right in front of the main door?

From that day, I have been hooked on to camping. Yes, it can be incredibly hot / cold / humid / wet / hard / windy and the terrain has also been hard / inclined / cold at times, but it has been memorable almost every single time.

Before coming to Europe, the concept of a camping site was fairly new. We didn’t know how they worked, what facilities were provided, and so on. After having camped out for 40+ nights in the past year, ranging from weekend trips to a 20 day camping marathon, we now don’t deny the label of campers which is thrown at us.

The toughest bit on long camping trips is keeping the tent tidy and the smell out of it. We once bought a lot of apples as snacks and left them in the tent in the day while we were out, and after 2-3 days of doing this, the tent smelt sweetly of apples. The same thing happened with Tea. In a fit of nostalgia, I had picked up ‘Indischer Tee’ (Indian Tea) , which was exaggeratedly heavily spiced and aromatised. 3 Days and the tent smelt like a kettle of tea. The tip would be to air out the tent regularly, and lock all these strong aromatic things in a zippered rucksack or something.

Similarly, with typical european weather, the occasional rain shower can’t be ruled out, and hence care needs to be taken to keep things dry. Generally, we follow a schedule of drying / airing things out first thing in the morning while we have breakfast. Breakfast can wait for half an hour if a rainy day has been followed by a sunny day! 🙂

What we missed till pretty late in our trips was a proper pillow/cushion. Easy to amend, buy a small inflatable one, or take one from your favourite couch! 🙂 That helps an immense amount in sleeping peacefully.

A positive ‘side-effect’ of camping is the absence of plug points and reading lights, etc.. You are ‘forced’ to spend time with your thoughts, or with your friend / family. We like that aspect a lot. Plus, we also think that all the radiation from the mobile network and the wi-fi signals roaming around in the cities and cafes and offices can’t necessary be beneficial to our health – a few days of low radiation ‘earthing’ is always welcome!

We have camped mostly since we don’t like city centers too much. I think I personally spend too much time in a box (bus/office/home), surrounded by other boxes (homes, buses, cars, buildings), and a relatively small tent in the middle of a nice grassy pitch, next to a river, under the whispering trees, or close to a mountain is very refreshing for me. It also puts into perspective how little one needs to be fairly comfortable. I could not have put it much better than this –> “ I argued that physical discomfort is important only when the mood is wrong. Then you fasten on to whatever thing is uncomfortable and call that the cause. But if the mood is right, then physical discomfort doesn’t mean much“.

Apart from that, camping can be greener, significantly inexpensive, flexible (most camping sites hardly need reservations for a tent; only caravans need one) and the locations are sometimes fantastic.

Thank God they have some camping sites close to National Parks. I can not imagine rows of hotels and associated ‘services’ being built at some of these places. One more advantage of camping is the people you meet. You meet some truly fantastic people – people who have chosen to camp due to the long vacations / trips they are on. It is fascinating to sit with them, have the simplest, yet memorable breakfast of bread and jam with them, or bump into some very warm and friendly locals and join them for ‘some’ wine and food in their caravan. Some nice people and memories already! 🙂

Most of the camping places, in fact, all of them, have been safe, clean and secure. However, there was one campsite, in the middle of the peak tourist season, where we were a little skeptical about the safety of the tent and the stuff lying inside. What we did still makes us laugh! We cut a hair band and tied it through the zippers of the tent, so that they would not open! Anyone capable of opening knots,  let alone someone with a pair of scissors would have been able to get by! That however, did the job. We felt secure, and enjoyed a good day out. After all, 3 knots aren’t a joke.

We don’t have a car, we have been taking buses and trams everywhere, and it works! The public network is really well laid out, with a bus stop within walking distance from the camp site. There are generally vending machines or a petrol pump or a street-food vendor nearby for the emergency snack when all else is exhausted. There are lockers available at some sites, in other cases, a small bag can be accommodated safely in a neighbor’s caravan or at the friendly reception. There are washing machines, cooking areas, areas to clean the utensils and sometimes even restaurants on site. Germany continues to impress us as there is waste segregation at the campsites too. At other places, we just filter the waste on our own before disposing it. There are small bakeries which bring fresh, hot bread early in the morning. This can be pre-ordered the evening before. Some campsites give you daily bus passes for the city, which again means the convenient of hopping buses at will, free of charge, and free of fishing for change every-time!

We also saw some really creative and very interesting ‘live-in sculptures’ which were available for rent. Needless to say, there are several design iterations which we have started sketching in!

Pedal your way to the next camp site, collect rainwater on the way, and then cosy up at will..!

Pedal your way to the next camp site, collect rainwater on the way, and then cosy up at will..!

But, for me, a tent exists at the boundary of indoors and outdoors. It is where you can hear the raindrops, be close to the swaying branches of the trees, feel the wind batter you, and still stay dry (and generally warm).

 

 

Just what the doctor ordered.

Fallen Leaves

One of the most fascinating experiences in Europe has been the museums. We have seen some truly inspiring museums and exhibits. There is certainly terrific creativity in designing the space to house certain exhibits. A museum is more than a hall or building which houses exhibits or paintings or sculptures. According to us, a museum is also something that should ideally capture the essence of the exhibit. If it is a museum on nature, what better than to feel really immersed in it as we see the displays, if it is a museum on art, what better than to be almost transported into the artist’s mind?

We had been to the Jewish museum in Berlin. The Holocaust and the countless wars going on everywhere since ages have always left us feeling very sad. However, this museum had something on a completely different level when it came to the viewer associating with the exhibit / theme.

We walked into the museum, started seeing the exhibits which documented the life and events then, the cultural aspects, the finer details of the emotions at play and so on. As we walked, absorbed in silence, we entered a long dark corridor. From near the end of the corridor, we could hear a lot of rhythmic and yet aperiodic clanging noises, a disturbing, clanging noise which hurt the ears and which you wanted to stop even before knowing what it was. We entered the space and were not prepared for this. If you are planning to visit the museum sometime soon, please stop reading this now. Would like you to experience this in as unbiased a way as possible.

On the floor lay hundreds of circular iron discs. That, however, was not the surprising part. What disturbed us was their form – they were crude, and yet realistic cutouts of faces – 2 eyes and a mouth gaping open, faces frozen in a gloomy expression. These faces were an architectural expression of the people who have lost their lives in wars and violence all over. The exhibit encourages you to walk over this layer of faces, symbolizing, to us, the treading upon of the people. It was like walking over a pile of bodies. We don’t know personally the Jews who died, we don’t know their culture properly even after visiting museums and seeing films on them, and yet there was immense sadness, immense guilt. There was anger and confusion regarding the wars, the countless bloody wars, and the countless people who suffered directly and indirectly, physically, mentally, emotionally.

Fallen Leaves

Fallen Leaves

 

Initially, I was reluctant to walk on these ‘dead’ faces, but I wanted to be with them, almost as if I knew they would talk to me if I spent time with them. Hesitantly, I stepped over.

With each footstep, a metallic scream would emanate as the discs clanged against each other. I started seeing subtleties in the expressions – horror, shock, pain, despair, hopelessness, even peace. The varying sizes of the discs to me signified kids and adults; the difference in corrosion between discs seemed to signify different time scales. Heart wrenching stuff. The only question that arose was ‘Why’? Why do we fight, and kill and destroy? Why are we insecure and greedy and blind? Sadly, I could not find any answers. However, the importance of staying human, respecting each other, and the value of peace and freedom which we now take almost for granted was renewed.

A fantastic museum with one of the best displays we have seen so far. While so many leaves have fallen, hopefully, we will be wise enough and not repeat such horrific acts which do not befit the title of being humane.

Here is more information on the museum –> http://www.jmberlin.de/main/EN/01-Exhibitions/04-installations.php

Just mirroring love

From the lofty ladders of ambition
in the weekdays where I work,
through the layers of deadlines,
and the pressure to out-run.
From the dais of self-importance,
across the big divide
I dive into nature
and plunge through the nuisance.
Grounded by this action,
I fall in love again.
Clarity
With each breath,
I walk with her.
With each step,
I breathe in.
~~~