Potsdam – Barberini Museum

Its four years since I visited Potsdam on the outskirts of Berlin. At the time, most of the historic buildings in the old market square area were ring-fenced by tall hoardings and crowned by a cluster of cranes. Heavy war damage and subsequent DDR disinterest meant it is only now, many years after the Wall came down, that the city’s important buildings are rehabilitated, some from the ground up.

Just opened in January is the Barberini Museum, built in the likeness of the palace built here by Frederick the Great the second in 1772. He was inspired in his palace design by the Barberini palazzo residence in Rome.

The building was bombed almost flat on April 14 1945 and the rubble cleared in 1948. It was eventually replaced with tasteless ‘tin can’ hall but it was torn down in favour of a return to the original design.

The building is stunning and the Alt Markt Square on this side is truly gorgeous. But enough of the location, the art inside the new gallery is also marvellous.

There are 10 of us on this visit to celebrate a birthday. I am with a cultured crew, and we make a serious effort to see everything in one afternoon.

The headline exhibition is from the Washington Phillips Collection called From  Hopper to Rothko. Its completely absorbing, if not a bit ironic to be looking at a Jackson Pollock in a corner of Brandenburg.

To get back on more of a German theme, I break off from the others and head for the DDR art section, having seen some amazing works in Dresden in the past.

I have huge respect for these artists, who walked a perilously fine line between self expression and political correctness. I enjoyed Wolfgang Mattheuer’s abstract work. But I particularly liked artist Rolf Händler, who didnt get caught up in this conundrum, he just kept to a regular output of self portraits.

Downstairs is some very fine Monets and sculptures by Rodin. But the river side cafe is where we re-group and sit panting under sun umbrellas in the 30 Celsius heat.



Bauhaus to Bach in Weimar

I wasnt going blog this stay in Berlin as I am supposed to be focussed on my documentary, but just one week here and its a holiday weekend already.  Time to get back on a train again.

I have been obsessed with the Bauhaus movement and was curious about its origins in Weimar. I take a couple of trains snaking my way south and arrive in a brewing thunderstorm.

A short walk into town watching the dark skies and on the square facing the famous statue of Goethe and Schiller, is the Bauhaus Museum. Quickly inside, I am bemused to find for the first time I can take photos with impunity. In Berlin’s Bauhaus Archive, this is verboten.

I make up for lost time and capture every sculpture, household item design, architectural model and painting. Which isnt a lot -as this is Bauhaus lite. Whilst housing an archive of 10,000 items there is only a space of about 200 -300 square metres given over to an exhibition. Never the less, its amazing to sight the originals of items I have only known in books. And many of my heroes’ work is here – Itten, Klee, Schlemmer.

I listen to the audio guide and learn of a remarkable movement that originally flourished here with a heyday in 1920 – 1925 supported by a relatively liberal state government, until the downward spiral of intolerance began and the school was closed in 1930.

The skies open and visitors crowd into the gallery for shelter rather than edification. I have an umbrella with me and take a dash out into the torrential rain.

I try to stalk a few of the Bauhaus artists, looking for their apartments on the Bauhaus sites map. Several of the street names have changed and when I arrive at Oskar Schlemmer’s flat at Prellerstrasse 14, the building looks almost brand new.

I do find Nietzsche’s house on a detour into an opulent suburb on the city’s fringe, but circle back for some shelter in the Deutsches Nationaltheater foyer where I end up being talked into buying a ticket to their Bach concert.

Image is Johannes Itten’s ‘Turm des Feuers’ 1920 Bauhaus  Museum Weimar.

A new larger Bauhaus museum is being built to open in 2019.

More images are on instagram – susangibsonpr



Chilling out on the Clutha Gold Trail New Zealand

In contrast to the rigours of the mostly grade 3 (intermediate) Roxburgh Gorge trail, the Clutha Gold trail next day promises to be a relaxing grade 2.

Snow has sprinkled the mountains over night, but with it has come clear Otago skies and sunnier weather.

I cross over the top of the huge Roxburgh Hydro Dam to the sound of booming water and a rising mist of spray from the torrent below. Then speed down the hill to join the trail at Commissioners Flat.

The name bodes well for an easy start to the 10 K ride to Roxburgh township, the first stop on this trail tracing the Clutha Mata-au River.

The path is benign but I still have to have my wits about me as there are some sharp bends and narrow bridges.

The miles pass meditatively by without me seeing anyone. The river, my constant companion, is emerald green, backdropped by sunburnt hills and a foreground of verdant flatlands with row upon row of trees heavy with fruit.

Roxburgh town’s pink-painted span bridge eventually comes into view. But I am pressed for time to catch a transfer,  so push on to the 20 K leg of the trail to Millers Flat.

I am rewarded with lovely river vistas and I stop often to take photos of landscapes that could easily grace a New Zealand souvenir calendar.

Its hot work on the sunkissed trail,  so I rest on the river bank and crack open my second litre of  water. It doesnt get much better than this, but I have rouse myself or I  wont be on my flight home tonight.

Back on the trail the topography changes and I head inland into forest, cycling through welcome shade.

I am in farmland before long and close to Millers Flat, the last part of my journey, eventually coming to a stop at the blue span bridge of Millers Flat.

I pull up by Millers Flat Tavern for a late lunch and chat with a serene old man seated in front of his easle  painting the bridge scene. He is from the Netherlands and is travelling the south, painting scenes like this as he goes.

Too soon my transfer arrives and I am joined by others off other parts of the trail, elated by their day too. We whitter on about trails done and trails to do, until it becomes competitive and one of us has to spoil it, a big city compatriot, by inserting his net worth somehow into a harmless conversation about cycling.

I inwardly groan knowing I am back in civilisation again and wish I had more time to cycle on to Beaumont and Lawrence beyond. Instead I zone out for the rest of the trans in my new happy place, beside that beautiful riverbank back there by the Clutha Mata-au River.

For images from the trails visit my instagram account @susangibsonpr

For information on the Roxburgh Gorge and Clutha Gold trails visit centralotagonz.com

Thanks to  shebikeshebikes for cutting and pasting together an amazing ride for me in such a short window of time. Next visit will be much more leisurely I promise.