Wanderung 5

Happy Haus for Holt’s in Hamburg.

February - April 2004

March 10 - The Museum of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg

We had agreed to join Heinke and Gustl in front of the Museum for Kunst und Gewerbe (Museum for Art and Crafts) at 10, so we worked our way downtown with the bus and train and met them there. Joining forces, we checked our packs, paid 8.60 Euro each, and headed off for the photography exhibit on the first floor. The exhibit was from three generations of a German family of photographers. The first two generations had taken great black-and-white pictures of Germany and other lands from around 1900 to the 1970s, and we had a great time carefully inspecting those.

The pictures of lines of people planting and weeding in the fields of pre WWI Germany looked like pictures I’ve seen of people hand-picking cotton, which is very hard work indeed. As in the U.S., native Germans don’t want to do that type of work anymore, so what hasn’t been mechanized is performed by Polish or Turkish guest workers similar to our Mexican migrant workers. I was also drawn to the pictures of old modes of transportation such as horse-drawn wagons, old trucks, and farm tractors, and a series of pictures of daily life in pre WWI Russia was really interesting. Another set of prints was the yearly portrait pictures of the photographer’s daughter from birth to her 30s. It was fascinating to see how one person changed thru the normal phases of the first part of life: baby, girl, pre-teen, teenager, young woman, and finally a 30-something woman who almost looked middle-aged.

Heinke was intently studying many of these photographs as she was trying to take better pictures with her new camera. At one point we were all looking a very dark, moody picture of a sunset in the mountains on a cloudy day that we all found fascinating, and Heinke suddenly looked at Gustl and said, “I took a picture just like that but you told me it was too dark!” Monika interjected, “Gustl, your words are coming back to haunt you!” Gustl immediately quipped, “See, this trip has already been worthwhile!”, at which point we all broke up laughing. That kind of humor comes naturally to Gustl and made outings like these pleasant, especially if we were stuck in a traffic jam or some other frustrating situation.

The second generation of photographer’s family was a daughter whose pictures concentrated more on Hamburg and the surrounding area from the 40s to the 70s. All of these pictures were still in black-and-white, which was somewhat surprising as she could have easily transitioned to color during that period. But as Gustl said, the black-and-white pictures were more really more artistic. Also, having her pictures in the same format as her father’s older shots made the transition from his pictures to hers almost seamless, and that in turn allowed us to really compare the pictures across the decades. It would have fun to take some of those old harbor or building pictures and retake them from the same vantage point in 2004 to compare how things have changed over the decades (or not changed, as the case may be). The third generation of the family turned away from the documentary style of photography of the first two generations and became more of a photographic artist. Typically the photograph was combined with a panel of some color with an seemingly arbitrary text printed across both the panel and the picture. So reading the text interfered with seeing the picture and the color panel just stuck out like a sore thumb. I thought that having the text parts in English was a curious choice for an exhibition in Hamburg because it certainly made the appreciation of these works more difficult for the typical German viewer. But despite being reasonable fluent in English, I still couldn’t connect the meaning of the text with the content of the pictures for most of these works. Possibly the text was meant to have deep, allegorical meaning in the manner of some modern art, but we didn’t feel like standing there and trying to figure it out so we left to find the special exhibit that Gustl had read about.

The special exhibit concerned depictions of nature in pictures and crafts, and it was in truth wildly eclectic. Different aspects of nature were represented in media ranging from projected pictures and movies to melted glass, swamp reeds, silk forms, carved foam, wood, and huge wall textiles that looked somewhat like tapestries. Despite the diversity in the media, the exhibit pieces hung together because the selection of the pieces was uniformly excellent. I was impressed that almost every piece was a unique and evocative representation of some aspect of the natural world. In particular, I thought the silk and wire pieces that resembled beach shells and were lit from within were just breathtakingly beautiful. I’m sure they are not easy to make, but it sure made me want to make something like that to put into our living room in Reinbek. We already had two floor lamps leftover from Kim in the corners of our living room that are fabric-covered towers lit from within, so these silk shell-shaped lamps would have just fit in perfectly.

Some of the melted glass pieces were also gorgeous. One piece was very artistic and almost three feet in diameter, perhaps mimicking the shape a lily pad. I could only begin to imagine the difficulty in physically forming a piece of melted glass that large. It represented quite a feat and I had to wonder how many attempts failed before the artist got what he or she wanted. The vivid colors of the embedded glass reminded me of a montage of flower petals caught in the momentary peak of bloom—quite an achievement, that. Anyway, it was a very impressive exhibition and if you’re in the Hamburg area and it is still on display you might want to take a peek.

We finished up in an exhibit of antique musical instruments. We looked at a great assortment of harpsichords, pianos, and similar instruments plus some 18th century oboes, clarinets, and so forth. I immediately thought of my sister Lois and how she would like to get her hands on those old oboes and try to play them. Many of the old harpsichords and cembellos were also works of art, of course, manufactured for the upper classes and displayed in salons. Very pretty. I really was sorry to leave the museum as I had only seen about 1/3 of it, but we had to be on our way to Heinke and Gustl’s house for the midday meal.

After taking the train back to Barmbek, Monika put the dirty clothes we had packed with into Heinke’s washer while I answered email. While searching for a USB port for my flash disk drive, I accidentally pushed the main power switch, which it resembled, and immediately crashed the system. Fortunately it rebooted without errors and I could continue, but reading the menu choices in German was a lot more difficult and time-consuming than back at home. I think I could get used to it, but it simply is a new set of German vocabulary for me to absorb and that is hard to do while you are concentrating on the email task. I was disappointed to find that the spammers had once again found our email address somehow, and even more upset that a totally unknown person had sent me a virus-infected attachment. But I could delete the spam and the attachment had been caught by the firewall and quarantined, so nothing catastrophic occurred. Still, it was irritating after enjoying a couple of months of spam-free, virus-free email service.

We had a nice meal with Heinke and Gustl, chatted while waiting for our wash to finish, and packed up for the train ride home. Our first load required 1.5 hours of washing time, but that amount of wash would have typically taken about 40 minutes in our machines at home so I was a bit surprised. The spin cycle must have been quite strong, however, because some of our stuff was almost dry when we unpacked it. I also borrowed Heinke’s saber saw to use back at home and she gave us some fresh pillowcases and towels, so we were a bit bundled up for the trip back but found seats on both trains so it was no problem.

Back at the ranch, I chopped some wood and then strung some lines in the basement to hang up our laundry to dry. My sister Lois would have been proud of me, I’m sure, because that is the way she still does her laundry. I’m not sure whether it’s a matter of principle for Lois and Heinke or just that they are similarly quirky (note the pot calling the kettles black, here), but taking it home to dry was for us just the most reasonable solution. We had, after all, a big, dry, unused basement with some hooks in the wall. I could, of course, been happy to use my hammer-drill to bore some more holes in the concrete and put in some more hooks, but that proved not to be necessary. Shucks, I missed my chance to pound holes in concrete while singing “John Henry and the Hammer” at the top of my lungs. (Amazing that Monika’s been married to me over 30 years, isn’t it?)

We had another nice evening watching some ski jumping before the evening news and enjoying a cracking fire the entire time. The German national government seems to be squeezing the state and local governments by ratcheting down their support just like happened in the U.S. in the last 20 years. The German government is also considering cuts in their version of Social Security, and that is just as unpopular with the old folks over here as it is every time that issue is raised in the U.S. In many respects, the political landscape and issues of corruption, cost-overruns, and such like seemed very similar in both countries.

But some things I saw on the German news seemed to have, to me at least, a very different flavor. The German Supreme Court declared a tax law unconstitutional on the grounds that it was so complex that it couldn’t be enforced. They reasoned that therefore only honest people would have paid the tax, and therefore the effect of the law was discriminatory. That, to me, was very interesting reasoning for a Supreme Court to take. Would the U.S. Supreme Court veto parts of the incredibly complex U.S. tax code because only honest people would end up paying those taxes? Do you think so? I couldn’t even imagine our current Republican Supreme Court worrying about fairness to honest taxpayers or anything liberal like that. I also saw the reports that the German Supreme Court declared unconstitutional some of the government-sponsored wiretap provisions like the “sneak and peek” rules in Patriot Act of the U.S. The result of the veto is that the government will actually have some evidence of probable cause before instituting wiretaps on its citizens. Overall, I definitely got the feeling that the German Supreme Court was really concerned about the rights of individuals and the fairness of the laws enacted by the German version of congress, and that was a refreshing change.

Copyright 2004 by R. W. Holt and E. M. Holt
Prolog Map Epilog

February 2004
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
March 2004
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31
April 2004
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30

Return to the Wanderungs Homepage.
Sign the Guestbook or Read the Guestbook.
Comments about this site? Email the Webmaster.
Contact Bob and Monika at bob_monika@hotmail.com.