The Forecast Called for Rain

By Rob Packer

And this is probably the cloud to do it.

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A Clash of Influences: Leipzig’s Völkerschlachtdenkmal

By Rob Packer

It doesn’t happen very often—or indeed, ever—that you go somewhere and think “Wow, this place is exactly how I’d mix Ancient Egypt, Star Wars, Tolkien and Heinrich Heine!” The Völkerschlachtdenkmal, the memorial to the 1813 Battle of Leipzig, in a suburban park is just that kind of place.

My knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars has always been a bit patchy: history-teaching in British schools leaves centuries-wide chasms in historical knowledge (1688 to 1914 is just the most scandalous gap) and my university studies of German history started around 1815. It’s only par for the course to find things out that I really should have known; and unless we’re talking about something in War and Peace, Childe Harold or Goya—or the odd reference to Nelson or Wellington—there’s a high chance of it. The Battle of Leipzig (no Tolstoy, no Byron, no Goya, no British) is just one of those.

The battle involved 600,000 soldiers, of whom at least 80,000 died, which makes it (thanks Wikipedia) the largest European battle prior to the First World War. This more than lives up to its standard name in German, the apocalyptic-sounding Völkerschlacht—the unnuanced English translation is the Battle of the Nations.

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No Entry

In response to this Picturing England blog, here’s the same (or almost the same) No Entry Stickman in Milan:

I’ll leave who it’s by to experts like Ali to wonder who it’s by—I could probably tweet my entire street art knowledge.

Spring in Germany

By Rob Packer

A chestnut candle.

The rhythm of the seasons is different everywhere and more used to more gradual changes in seasons, the continental shifts in Germany seemed shockingly drastic. After an Easter weekend spent in Munich, I remember my first day of cycling to work, turning left into a Schöneberg backstreet and stopping my bike. I’d taken a wrong turning. But had I? Where? I retraced the route in my mind: it seemed right. But the road looked nothing like what was here last week. The light was different: greener, viscous, darker. But no; the five-storey houses and the parked cars were the same. I carried on cycling and then realized. Spring had come to Berlin like an unexpected wave sprays you on the beach, and as suddenly as the electric storms that would clash without warning over the city in the summer to come.

Nearly ten years later, I stepped off a plane in Leipzig into an evening that smelled of honey. There might have been a whiff of kerosene in the bouquet, but suddenly time had concertinaed upon me. In two hours, I’d travelled forward in seasons from a blustery London airport to a balmy Leipzig spring; but also back in time to that post-Easter morning in Berlin and also back 17 years to my first—and only other—time in Leipzig. My timing was perfect to meet the seasons.

I’ll write more about Leipzig and Berlin soon, but here are some photos that I hope will convince you that Germany and spring really do go together—and not just in a song from The Producers.

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Babylon

By Rob Packer

Just across Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz from the Volksbühne is Kino Babylon. They win points with silent films and their CinemAperitivo season: a Sunday afternoon Italian film followed by a traditional Italian aperitif.

The Volksbühne

By Rob Packer

The Volksbühne

„Wir freuen uns auf Ihren Besuch und wünschen Ihnen einen anregenden Abend“
Email sign-off, Volksbühne Berlin

If you could timetravel, where would you go? I saw this question on the train to the airport (on Mediaeval Musing’s excellent blog). My answers were definitive and immediate: Justinian’s Constantinople, pre-Conquest Tenochtitlán, Weimar Berlin. On a tram in Leipzig the next day, I heard the excellent BBC documentary, “Europe: The Art of Austerity”*, on artistic responses to 1930’s austerity in London, Paris and Berlin, where it looked at Brecht, Döblin and others (listen online or on podcast). A few days after that on a Prenzlauer Berg terrace, I clapped open Zitty, the Berlin listings magazine, and saw two Brecht Lehrstücke on the next day at the Volksbühne. If that isn’t a sign, what is? Tickets were booked within hours. And when I read the email sign-off, wishing me a stimulating (anregend) evening—rather than the normal pleasant (angenehm) one—I knew they were telling the truth.

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This Morning

By Rob Packer

I’ve been out of the country and on something of a blogging holiday recently (for various reasons; blogs on some coming soon). Walking into the kitchen this morning and seeing the newly leaved trees at the end of the garden glowing green in the morning sunlight, I grabbed my camera and ran out before the light changed.

Here are the results:

And this one yesterday evening:

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