ATHENS for First-Timers – Beyond the Acropolis

Yes, I’ve travelled the seven seas – at least metaphorically – yet never made it to Greece. Which is ironic since basically all of Greece is located on the seaside: with 13,676 kilometers of coastline – that’s roughly the little something of 8,498 miles – and 3054 islands and islets, Poseidon definitely is boss.

Not the only amazing facts: Next to Golgota and the Capitol, the Acropolis in Athens is one of the hills on which Europe was founded. Therefore, there is no excuse for having not yet visited the cradle of our civilization.

Cat at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

Although Greece is basically sea-girt, besides lots of water, there are many rocks. As well as cats.

So as we got nearer to Christmas and the holy days became holidays, the question of where to spend them was quickly answered: Athens – for the first time.

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TALLINN – a small city with a great spirit

Estonia’s capital Tallinn cannot be described with a handful of corny attributes and some stock catchphrases.

Tallinn - Estonia: St. Michaels Church

Besides many lovely and alluring things, there is also a bit of creepy to see in Tallinn – which makes the city even more intriguing.

For the standard categories, this city is too diverse, its past too changeful, its faith too inconsistent, its present too dynamic, and its future too promising: A hub between the poles of history and creativity.

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LÜBECK – a countdown to one of Germany’s most ravishing cities

Somehow the city of Lübeck has always reminded me of Venice: An innocently cute and relatively small city that used to possess such a political influence and economic power – reaching all over Europe and beyond.

Holstentor at Lübeck

There are quite a few lions in Lübeck – honoring Henry the Lion, the Bavarian King who after Munich founded also Lübeck in 1159. In the Backdrop the iconic Holstentor and right next to it the ancient salt warehouses.

Although Lübeck has incredibly beautiful buildings and alleys, seven church towers, three Nobel prize winners and world-famous marzipan, it does not suffer from destructive over-tourism. I don’t want to change that, however, I’d like to show you around one of Germany’s most ravishing cities.

 

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LJUBLJANA mon amour

Ljubljana: Already the city’s name sounds like a tender song…and derives from ljubljena – beloved.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Ljubljana Dragon Bridge
Like in every decent fairy tale, you have to make it past the dragon to get to the beautiful princess. Ljubljana is no exception.

Albeit the city is not hidden anymore, it kept its sleeping beauty charm and is still a sparkling gem.

 

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BRUSSELS is for everyone. A Guide.

(Updated January 2020)

 

If it hadn’t been for my daughter studying this winter in Brussels, it probably wouldn’t have come to my mind to visit Belgium’s capital – or Belgium at all, for that matter.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Chocolaterie Manneken Pis
Different strokes for different folks: World’s most famous wee-er made of chocolate. Bon appetit.

But Christmas came and families and loved ones were expected to get together, so I packed a couple of warm sweaters, threw in some fun presents and hopped on the late flight to Brussels’ airport.
Just to find out that this European capital with all its old architecture and new street art, its pralines and beers, surrealist art and political reality is not only for me, but for everyone.

 

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POTSDAM – how Frederick made a small town great

Potsdam, located about 40 km / 25 miles South-West of Germany’s capital, is often considered Berlin’s suburb. As a matter of fact, it can be reached by regional or urban train in more or less half an hour. Potsdam has barely 175,000 inhabitants but is still the most densely populated city of the federal country Brandenburg – and also its capital.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
Sanssouci Palace is Potsdam’s highlight, no matter what.

All this might make it sound like a cute, drowsy hamlet, but you’ll be amazed to see it’s rich heritage – and how Frederick made this small town great.

Which Frederick?, you might ask. Well, actually it was a couple of them. The most popular was certainly Frederick II, aka Frederick the Great. But let’s start with his father, Frederick William I.

 

Samuel Theodor Gericke: Frederick William I  (1713)
(Illustration:Samuel Theodor Gericke, Friedrich Wilhelm I 1713, public domain,
details on Wikimedia Commons

Born in 1688 in Berlin, Prussian King Frederick William I incorporated all the famous and also rather infamous virtues and quirks that Germans are said to have until this date: He was very rigid, absolutistic, sparing, meticulous – my tour guide in Potsdam cleverly remarked that he would have just loved the invention of the Excel sheet since even every little piece of stationary was enlisted in long files.

And he was totally military-buff and basically made Potsdam into a garrison town.
He was not called the Soldier King without a reason.

But you actually have to give him credit for implementing compulsory schooling and promoting trades such as wool and textile industry; whereby this is what basically all these dictators do.

With his wife – and cousin – Sophia Dorothea of Hanover, a sister of King Georg II of England – gosh, while I write this, I’m glad that these guys are marrying some random starlets nowadays – he had 14 children; Frederick II being the most famous one.

 

Anton Graff: Frederick II at the age of 68 (1781)
  (Illustration: Anton Graff, Friedrich Zweite Alt, public domain, details on Wikimedia Commons)

Frederick II was born in 1712 – and I cannot stretch this point enough: on January 24 – just like me (and Neil Diamond).

He was a pretty different character than his daddy and he had quite different ideas how to rule a country. Although he also led Prussia into the three Silesian Wars, the last being the Seven Years’ War, his leadership style was based on the ideas of the Enlightenment movement.

He was a pen pal with Voltaire, played the flute – at the age of 26 he composed his first symphony. He admired rococo painters such as Watteau and had a circle of artists friends – and he did not fool around with the ladies.

His father was not happy.
Do you remember the movie Billie Elliot – I can dance? It was a bit like that (come on, you history teachers, it’s a joke!).

Only after Frederick II agreed to marry Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel-Bevern (good for her that at that time they did not have to print names on credit cards), things between him and his father got a bit better. The marriage, by the way, remained childless since Frederick was sterile due to some STD he caught only he knows where.

 

Typical Dutch brick gables at the Holländisches Viertel, the Dutch quarter, planned by Frederick William I, accomplished by Frederick II
 (Photo: Axel Hindemith, Potsdam hölländisches Viertel Giebel, CC BY-SA 4.0)

However, he was by far not just an idle layabout: He brought industries such as silk farms and porcelain manufactures to Potsdam. He was the first to introduce potatoes to the people. He let Huguenots and Catholics alike settle down in the city – and they brought trades and manpower with them. And he fulfilled his father’s plans to build a Holländisches Viertel, a Dutch quarter, to attract Dutch craftsmen. Besides the Dutch, this cute neighborhood and the prospect of highly paid jobs attracted Prussians and French alike.

His most obvious achievement, of course, is the world-famous Sanssouci castle which was just his summer residence but is to this date Potsdam’s greatest attraction.

I know that this has been quite a lot of history, but you need to know this to understand how unique the small town of Potsdam is – and why.

But now, let’s take a grand tour of a grand town – and let’s start where you’ll probably will arrive: At the central train station. Like I mentioned above, you can get from Berlin to Potsdam by train in about 30 minutes.

Important: If you intend to buy a WelcomeCard for your stay in Berlin, you can get the slightly more expensive ABC-version that does not include only Berlin’s city center, but also the outskirts all the way to Potsdam; and you’ll get discounts at some attractions here, too.
There is no WelcomeCard exclusively for Potsdam, though.

So once you get to the main station, you might want to take tram #92 to get to Alter Markt/Landtag, close to the starting point, the Alter Markt square, the old marketplace.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Stadtschloss
The City Palace’s back facing the Friedrich-Ebert-Straße where you get off the tram.

Ceci n’est pas un chȃteau (This is not a castle) – What a clever adoption of René Magritte’s famous Ceci n’est pas une pipe! Whereby in this case, due to the changeful history and the fact that today this building houses a parliament, it has a double meaning.

You could easily walk this distance in ten to fifteen minutes, but since you’ll probably do some serious walking exploring Potsdam, you might want to save you this way; just sayin’.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
The Sanssouci park is just gorgeous – and it’s spacious, to say the least. Although for the promenaders it’s nicer this way, the fact that cycling is prohibited makes a visit a good exercise.

Depending on how much you want to see of Potsdam, I’d strongly recommend renting a bike – but beware: At the Sanssouci park you are not allowed to cycle!

Short Circuit

Alter Markt

 

Already the Alter Markt, the old market, is a grand starting point.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Stadtschloss
The newly reconstructed City Palace.

You stand in the center – next to the obelisk. Already the 25 meters / 82 feet high obelisk is a special structure. It was built between 1753 and 1755 according to a design by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, one of Frederick II’s artist buddies.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Alter Markt
Look at all those towers: St Nicholas’ church, the Obelisk, the Potsdam Museum with the
Atlas-statue on top, and an old-fashioned lantern.
Old world charm at its best.

It was also von Knobelsdorff who design the Potsdamer Stadtschloss, the City Palace Potsdam, which used to be one of the two Royal’s official seat – called the Winter Palace; the other one used to be the Stadtschloss in Berlin which is about to be rebuilt and will be finished in 2019 (as mentioned in my last post on Berlin).

Seeing it today, you won’t believe that the Stadtschloss of Potsdam was damaged at the end of WWII, and eventually, the GDR government demolished it completely. The square then was used as a parking lot – although they hadn’t hardly any cars.

In 2014, the reconstruction – financed by donations of wealthy citizens – was completed and today the building houses the Landtag, the State Parliament.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Stadtschloss
The Palace’s facade facing the Humboldtstraße.

Parts of the building can be visited on Monday to Friday from 8 a. m. to 6 p. m.
Guided tours can be arranged by the Potsdam Tourismus (details below).

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Stadtschloss
A gilded statue of Fortuna on top of the entrance gate – if that doesn’t bring good luck, I don’t know what will.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Stadtschloss
The Fortuna-gate, seen from the courtyard, with the top of St Nicholas’ Church behind.

Across from the Stadtschloss’ main gate is the St. Nikolaikirche, Saint Nicholas’ church, a Protestant church, built in two steps in the middle of the 19th century according to a design by Karl-Friedrich Schinkel. Schinkel’s idea was to copy the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome – I know, it looks nothing like its model, but at that time, Rome was the epicenter of European art, and all the painters, sculptors, and architects spent time there to get inspired by the ancient Roman Empire and transform it into classicism.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam NIkolaikirche
The tambour cupola was erected from 1843 to 1850 – a decade after the main building was completed.

Although the church, too, was damaged during the air raid in April 1945, interestingly it was repaired and renovated little by little already during the GDR government.

On the square’s Eastern side is another majestic building – the former town hall, built from 1753 to 1755, commissioned by Frederick the Great. Today, after being re-opened only in 2012, it houses the Potsdam Museum. The big building is connected through a smaller, new one to the Knobelsdorffhaus – named after it’s architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff who designed many, many of Potsdam’s beautiful buildings.

The Potsdam Museum houses, of course, exhibitions on the city and its rich and everchanging history, but also paintings and sculptures.

Potsdam Museum – Forum für Kunst und Geschichte 
Am Alten Markt 9
14467 Potsdam
Phone: + 49 331 – 2896868
Email: museum-geschichte@rathaus.potsdam.de 

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 5 p. m., Thursday to 7 p. m. and weekends to 6 p. m.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Museum
To the left is the old town hall, today home of the Potsdam Museum. On its roof, a huge Atlas is bearing the weight of the world – which in 1776 crashed on the pavement and had to be replaced by a lighter version.
In the middle is the annex where the entrance to the museum is located and to the right the Knobelsdorffhaus – built by Frederick’s buddy Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff (hence the name).

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Museum
Thank you, sun, for illuminating the top of the building in this intriguing way. It simply underlines its beauty.

The lastly remodeled Palace in this square is the Museum Barberini which was finished only in January 2017.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Barberini Museum
The latest building being reconstructed at the Alter Markt is the Barberini Palace, housing the Museum Barberini.
Now the old market shines in its former splendor again.

Built in 1771/1772, the Palace is basically a copy of the real Palazzo Barberini in Rome – like I mentioned before: In the 18th century, Italy was the undisputed paragon of beauty and aesthetics.

Since the Barberini was restored with the money from the Hasso Plattner Foundation (Hasso Plattner made a fortune as a co-founder of a German software company), it shows changing temporary art exhibitions.

Museum Barberini
Humboldtstraße 5–6
14467 Potsdam
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 236014-499
Email: besucherservice@museum-barberini.com

Open Wednesday to Monday from 10 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Actually, all the buildings along the Humboldtstraße across the street from the City Palace are strongly inspired by Italian palazzi.

When you are done admiring the posh facades on Humboldstraße, turn right on Friedrich-Ebert-Straße and you’ll get to another pompous building: Built in 1685 as an Orangery Palace, it was transformed in the 18th century by – you guess whom?! Right: Knobelsdorff – and served as a stable for the King’s riding horses. Already in 1981, the building was turned into a film museum by the GDR government – and has been a film museum ever since. Why Potsdam has a film museum? We’ll get to that later on the Grand Circuit.

Filmmuseum Potsdam
Breite Straße 1A
14467 Potsdam
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 27181-12
Email: info@filmmuseum-potsdam.de 

The museum is open from Tuesday till Sunday 10 a .m. to 6 p. m.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Filmmuseum Marstall
Quite a stable, right?!

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Filmmuseum Marstall
The entrance – of course, decorated with sculptures of horses.

Neuer Markt

After you’ve already visited the Alter Markt, the old market, you should see also the Neuer Markt, the new market, located in the back of the Filmmuseum: Turn right into the Schloßstraße and wander the cobblestone alleys to the Neuer Markt square.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Neuer Markt
While the Film Museum used to be the stable for the King’s riding horses, this building used to house the carriage horses, the carriages, and provided housing to the carriage drivers.

Besides the old charming houses that make this area look like an open-air museum, anyway, there is the Haus der Brandenburgisch-Preußischen Geschichte, the House of Brandenburg-Prussian History, taking you back in time. This museum is also great for kids since it does not only house a huge model of the city – showing its privileged location nestled between the most scenic lakes – but also many artifacts making the old times and stories come alive.

Haus der Brandenburgisch-Preußischen Geschichte
Am Neuen Markt 9
14467 Potsdam
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 620 85-50
Email: kasse@gesellschaft-kultur-geschichte.de

Opening hours Tuesday to Thursday 10 a. m. to 5 p. m., Friday to Sunday10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Neuer Markt
Like they say, everything is relative, so this square is the relatively Neuer Markt, the new market.

After having explored this alluring old neighborhood and maybe having taken a rest and a cup of coffee for instance at the Café Kutschstall (which means, of course, carriage stable, what else?!), walk up north and you’ll get to the Alter Stadtkanal, the old city channel.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Wilhelm-Staat-Straße
The Wilhelm-Staat-Straße with its cute cobblestone road (drivers will probably disagree that it’s cute) and its elegant houses.

Cross the bridge and keep on walking, awing at all the gorgeous buildings left and right. Keep walking and awing along Wilhelm-Staab-Straße and then Jägerstraße until you get to the Brandenburger Straße – Potsdam’s pedestrian shopping mile.

If you turn left, you’ll get to the Stadtpalais, the City Palace, which was built in 1905 to house a department store. After a chequered history according to the political and economic twists and turns, in 2005, after expensive restoration, it became again a branch of the German tradition store chain Karstadt.

Turning right on Brandenburger Straße, you walk straight towards the Catholic Peter and Paul Church.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Brandenburger Straße
Pedestrian shopping street Brandenburger Straße with the Peter and Paul church at the end.

Holländisches Viertel

In front of the church, turn left, walk two blocks and you find yourself surrounded by a completely different architecture: The Holländisches Viertel, the Dutch quarter that I’ve mentioned before, is built in the red clinker brick style – pretty puristic compared to all the sumptuous neo-classicist facades.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Holländisches Viertel
The Holländisches Viertel during one of the various special occasions – the annual Tulpenfest, the tulip festival

To learn more about the open minds – and open arms – of the Prussian Kings that brought these immigrants, not exclusively from the Netherlands, to Potsdam, visit the Jan Bouman House, the first house in Potsdam built by immigrants and named after the Dutch master builder Jan Bouman who controlled the erection of the Holländisches Viertel, consisting of 134 of these brick houses, and many other buildings around Potsdam and even Berlin.

Jan Bouman Haus
Mittelstraße 8
14467 Potsdam
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 2803773
Email: info@jan-bouman-haus.de

Opening hours Monday to Friday from 1 p. m. to 6 p. m., weekends from 11 a. m. to 6 p. m.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Nauener Tor
If you are hungry and thirsty and tired from all that walking, you’ll certainly find a café or restaurant to your liking around the Nauener Tor.

 

Sanssouci

And now it’s time to pay the good people a visit who made Potsdam great (again), and where better could this be than at Park Sanssouci (which is French for no worries).

Walk down the Hegelallee, which is quite a walk, but a nice one.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Jägertor
The Jägertor, hunter’s gate, in the middle of the beautiful promenade Hegelallee. It’s even prettier in spring and summer when everything is in full bloom.

You’ll enter the premises at the South East corner where the Friedenskirche, the Church of Peace is located. Its annex is the Kaiser Friedrich Mausoleum which was added in 1890. Members of the House of Hohenzollern are entombed here; not Frederick II, though.

 

Friedenskirche with the adjacent Kaiser Friedrich Mausoleum
(Stefan14776, Potsdam-friedenskirche, als gemeinfrei gekennzeichnet, Details auf Wikimedia Commons)

The park has a size of over a square mile and cycling is not permitted.
So walk from the church to the central alley that will open to your right. You cannot miss it since you’ll have the iconic view of – tadaa – Sanssouci Palace.

It is a majestic view as you stroll towards it, walking around the large fountain surrounded by beautiful sculptures made by French artists of snow-white marble.
Some of them were a gift by Louis XV.
I didn’t count them, but they say that there are about 4,000 statues scattered across the park, some solo, some arranged in picturesque groups.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
Of course, Mr. Frederick is not missing. While here he’s walking, there is another statue of him on a horse which makes every Royal, even more, a Highness.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
Minerva, one of the gods and goddesses adorning the large fountain.

The Palace Sanssouci, built by our old buddy Knobelsdorff, is a fine specimen of dainty rococo architecture. I’ve been there in April, so I did not see the vineyard in full bloom, but it the sight was mesmerizing just the same.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
Mercury in front of Sanssouci Palace on top of the vineyard (end of April unfortunately quite bleak)

Of course, the Palace can be visited, they supply you with an audio guide and then you can take your time admiring all the sublime furnishing and decoration.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
Why am I cleaning my flat? Stained and attrited can be quite alluring – like ths mirror in one of the antechambers.
bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
Frederick’s music room where he pursued his passion for playing the cross flute.

Although I’m usually not so into kitsch, I really like the last room which is painted and decorated like a jungle-ish aviary with tapestry full of flowers and fruits and carved parrots – pretty unique.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
Frederick the Great, portrayed by Andy Warhol – I bet they would have become friends; well, bad timing.
This portrait is to be found in one of the former servant’s rooms at the end of the tour.

Well, the Palace is by far not the only superb structure to be admired at the park. Walking down westward the main alley, just imagine how the King came riding down where you are walking right now – all by himself, no visitors from Spain, Italy, India, or France being in his way asking for selfies.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
Frederick all by himself, hiding from the tourists in Sanssouci’s lush bushes.

Soon, to your right, you’ll spot the Neue Kammern, the new chambers, with the Historic Mill in the backdrop. This Dutch mill houses a Technical Museum, teaching you all about…mills.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
The New Chamber annex with the Dutch mill behind.

The way leading from the mill towards the Orangery is named Maulbeerallee, Mulberry Alley. Remember – Frederick II enforced the production of silk in Potsdam.

Following the Maulbeerallee from the Orangery to the Klausberg behind the Royal Vineyard, you can walk up to the Belvedere where you have…a pretty bel vedere, i. e. a great view of the land that once was Frederick’s.

From up there, you probably already spotted the other grand Palace of Sanssouci, the Neues Palais, the New Palace. While the Sanssouci Palace was finished in 1747, this regal building was added in 1769 – and you will immediately recognize the color and the style of some of the buildings around Potsdam, namely the Stadtschloss.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
Facade of the Neues Palais. The three graces are way up high and difficult to capture – so no selfie in their company.

Pay attention to all the beautiful details, the lanterns, the statues, the three gilded graces on top of the roof – it’s all so stupefying.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci
Just look at these lanterns. The Kings sure had a thing for decoration.

Behind the New Palace, by the way, is the Potsdam University.

There are various ticket options – from a single visit to the Sanssouci Palace to a family ticket for two adults and up to four kids covering various castles around Potsdam, so you have to check their website before you go. Anyway, since places are limited, I’d recommend you make an online reservation – you have to choose a precise slot and be there on time.

Schloss Sanssouci 
Maulbeerallee
14469 Potsdam
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 96 94-200
Email: info@spsg.de

Depending on the season, the opening hours are from 10 a. m. either till 4.30 p. m., 5 p. m., or 5.30 p. m.

 

Alexandrowka

I know, you’ve walked a lot and you’re tired. But it would be a shame if you miss out on one of Potsdam’s greatest curiosities, the Russian quarter Alexandrowka.
If you don’t feel like walking the two miles, you can as well take bus #695 at the stop Neues Palais and get off after 15 minutes at Reiterweg/Jägerallee.

 

A Russian homestead at the Alexandrowka.
(Photo: Mrsklonk, Russische Kolonie Alexandrowka in Potsdam, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Alexandrowka is one of these quirky gifts and souvenirs the nobles used to give each other. In 1826 and 1827, King Frederick William III commissioned this colony for twelve Russian singers, remaining of a choir of 62 soldiers. The Prussian Hohenzollern and the Russian Romanows were connected by familial and amicable relations, hence the colony was called Alexandrowka in honor of Tsar Alexander I, deceased in 1825. The complex consists of twelve small farmsteads and an overseer building.

 

Alexander-Newski-Memorial Church
(Photo: A.Savin (Wikimedia Commons · WikiPhotoSpace), Potsdam Alexandrowka 02-14 img4, CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the colony’s vicinity, the Russian-orthodox Alexander-Newski-Memorial Church was built on the Kapellenberg.

To learn more about this really special neighborhood, visit the adjacent museum.
Since it’s not always open, check their website for latest information.
Oh, and when you visit on your birthday, entrance is free (so you save 3,50 €uro, but I find it’s a really cute idea).

Museum Alexandrowka
Russische Kolonie 2
14469 Potsdam
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 8 17 02 03
Email: info@alexandrowka.de

 

Going back from the Alexandrowka to the main station, you can take bus #603 at Reiterweg/Alleestraße or bus #695 to S-Bahn Potsdam Hauptbahnhof.

So, guys, these are the most important attractions to see around the center of wonderful Potsdam. You see there’s a lot of stories and history. What I haven’t even mentioned is the historic importance of Potsdam at the end of WWII when the victorious powers USA, United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union met in Potsdam to negotiate how to proceed with what was left of Europe. In the end, they signed the Potsdam Agreement, determining the division of Germany into four zones. Eventually, the territory occupied by the Soviet Union became the German Democratic Republic, short for GDR.

Anyway, following my steps through Potsdam according to this itinerary, you can make it in one (long) day including maybe two visits to museums. However, this shows you that you won’t get bored visiting two or even more days. Actually, at Sanssouci alone, you can spend an entire day.

Then there are the outskirts and surroundings that are really beautiful and worth a visit, too.

 

Long Circuit

The best way to visit – at least in Summer – is renting a bike and cycle around the scenic lakes like e. g. Heiliger See, the holy lake, where many German celebrities have beautiful mansions in the Berliner Vorstadt neighborhood.

There is another imposing Palace to be visited, the Cecilienhof, the last Palace built by the Hohenzollern. Kaiser William II commissioned this home for his oldest son Prince Royal William. It was inhabited by William and his wife Cecilie until 1945. The architecture was adapted to the rustic surroundings.

 

Cecilienhof’s inner courtyard. You see that it resembles rather a country house than a Palace.
(Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France, La cour intérieure du château de Cecilienhof (Potsdam) (2731361224), CC BY 2.0)

It was at Cecilienhof where the representatives of the victorious powers held the Potsdam conference in 1945.

Schloss Cecilienhof 
Im Neuen Garten 11
14469 Potsdam
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 96 94-200
Email: info@spsg.de

At Cecilienhof, too, you have various options regarding the entrance ticket – and it is also part of the sanssouci+ ticket if you choose so.

Opening hours vary according to those of Sanssouci Palace.

Another important attraction is the Babelsberg Film Studio, located across the Tiefer See, the Deep Lake, from the Berliner Vorstadt, so you can just cycle across the Glienicker Brücke, the bridge crossing the Glienicker Lake (I’ve told you there are many, many lakes around Potsdam) – connecting  the Federal Country of Brandenburg and Berlin, which is, just like Hamburg and Bremen, a city and at the same time a Federal State.

Here, you can first visit Schloss Glienicke north of Königstraße (i. e. King’s Street), Prince Carl’s idea of an Italian Palazzo, designed by Schinkel and built in 1823.

 

Prince Carl of Prussia got inspired on his trip to Italy, so he commissioned this Palace in a neo-classical style.
(Photo: Suse, Schloss Glienicke Süden, Formatted to 5:7, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Schloss Glienicke 
Königstraße 36
14109 Berlin
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 96 94-200
Email: info@spsg.de

Cycle along the lake pass the Jagdschloss Glienicke, the former hunting lodge, that cannot be visited since after its renovation, it serves as a skill center. Cross the bridge at Lankestraße and you are in Babelsberg.

And, of course, there is a Palace here, too, and it’s a really beautiful one.

Commissioned by William I and built from 1833 to 1835, Babelsberg Palace is designed in a neo-gothic style resembling many English stone castles.

 

Constructing Babelsberg Palace, instead of copying Italy, they copied Britain.
(Photo: Avantique, Schloss Babelsberg 3, Formatted to 5:7, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Unfortunately, at this moment, it is closed to the public due to renovation. It will be reopened end of 2018.

Schloss Babelsberg 
Park Babelsberg 10
14482 Potsdam
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 96 94-200
Email: info@spsg.de

From this point, it’s about three miles to the Filmpark, so you can cycle there easy-peasy in about 15 minutes.

Babelsberg film studios were founded in 1912 and they were the first major film studio worldwide. In the early years, classics such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel starring Marlene Dietrich were shot here.

 

Welcome to Studio Babelsberg – where the magic happens.
(Photo: Unify, Filmstudio Babelsberg Eingang, public domain, details on Wikimedia Commons)

The Nazis used it to shoot openly manipulative films or propagandistic movies, political messages hidden behind entertaining stories.

After WWII, the GDR government established the DEFA (short for Deutsche Film AG, German Film SA).

‘This way, please’ – Maria from  Fritz Lang’s silent movie Metropolis, probably the
internationally best known character presented at the Filmpark.
 (Photo: Havelbaude, Maria from metropolis, Formatted to 5:7, CC BY 3.0)

Following the reunification, the studios were handed from investor to investor, only since 2005, the studios are sailing in calm, profitable waters.

After all, movies like The Reader (featuring Kate Winslet), Inglorious Basterds (by Quentin Tarantino) and many other international productions were realized here.

There are two visits – either the real studios (at this time only in Germany language) and the Filmpark which is like a Theme park e. g. in the United States; only that you probably won’t know many of the movie characters involved since it’s very German themed.

Studio Babelsberg AG
August-Bebel-Str. 26-53
14482 Potsdam
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 721 00 00
Email: info@studiobabelsberg.com

Filmpark Babelsberg
Großbeerenstraße 200
14482 Potsdam-Babelsberg
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 72 127 50
Ticket order: + 49 – 331 –  72 123 45
Email: info@filmpark.de

If you need to go back to Potsdam and you are too tired to cycle, you can catch the S-Bahn, the commuter train, at the station Babelsberg. From here, of course, you can also go to Berlin.

 

General Info

 

Getting there

From Berlin, you can go to Potsdam either by regional train (train numbers starting RE…) or by commuter train (train numbers starting S…) e. g. from Bahnhof Zoo or Friedrichstraße. Potsdam is in zone C of the train system, so a single ticket costs 3,40 €uro, a day ticket, that you can use within one day as often as you like, costs only 7,70 €uro (and you can take up to three kids under 15 years of age with you). 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Bahnhof Zoo Berlin
The regional train goes every half an hour and is a bit faster than the S-Bahn, the commuter train, which, on the other hand, goes every couple of minutes.

 

If you are travelling with others, a group ticket might be your best choice: It costs 20,80 €uro for the day and up to five people can travel.
Like I’ve already mentioned, there is no special tourist card for Potsdam, but the ‘large’ version of the Berlin WelcomeCard can be used in Potsdam, too.
Which option is suitable for you really depends on what you are up to. For instance, if you want to spend the day almost exclusively at Sanssouci, getting a day ticket for the castles is (online) 21 €uro, add a 7,70 €uro for a day ticket and you are all set. The WelcomeCard for two days is 22,90 €uro, but you only get a discount on your entrance tickets.

Information

The guys at the Potsdam tourist information are very efficient and friendly and they have some great info material for free that allows you to explore the city on your own.However, to get some extra information, I recommend you join one of their walking tours. The lady I went with had a profound knowledge of each and every detail and sprinkled her explanations with entertaining personal stories.

Potsdam Tourismus
Humboldtstraße 1-2
14467 Potsdam
Phone: + 49 – 331 – 27 55 88 99
Email: info@potsdamtourismus.de

Money


The exchange rate is 1 US$ = 0,85 EUR (June 2018), but you can check the conversion on this page.

Language


While in Germany, in general, most people speak pretty decent English, this might not necessarily be the case in the former GDR regions. Therefore it might be advisable that you learn a couple of useful words and phrases. You can practice online, for instance, using Babbel (the first lesson is for free and already supplies you with useful basic vocabulary).

 


Note In this article, I’m writing out some of the German names of brands and places and you will notice that there are letters that might not exist in other languages: 
First of all, there is the letter ß that exists only in the German alphabet and it’s by no means a B – it’s a ‘sharp’, double S as in kiss. When writing, you can actually replace it with a double S.
Then there are three more vowels, ä being the easiest one since it’s pronounced like an open e as in head.
Ö and ü are tougher, ö being pronounced more or less like the e in her and ü as the u in huge. 


To give you a better orientation, I’ve put the two train stations, attractions and places in this map

If you choose to pin this post, please use this picture:

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Potsdam Sanssouci

 

Disclaimer: 

I was very lucky to be invited by Potsdam Tourismus to join one of their walking tours and to visit the Sanssouci Palace.

The Tourist Office visitBerlin supported me by supplying me with a WelcomeCard

However, all opinions on these services are mine and weren’t by any means influenced by my cooperation partners.

SÃO PAULO – a tour ‘guided by’ muralist Eduardo Kobra

Christ the Redeemer? In Rio de Janeiro. The jungle? At Manaus. The waterfalls? In Iguacu. So when in Brazil, why go to São Paulo?
Why? Because it’s the coolest and most artsy city of Brazil and you will get inspired and have a great time; that’s why.

Probably Kobra’s most political mural, raising awareness for indigenous people being threatened by a factory being built in the city of Altamira in Belo Monte.

Talking about cool and artsy: Let one of the most glorious sons of São Paulo guide you through the city to different neighborhoods and iconic buidings – let’s hear it for Mr. Eduardo Kobra!

Eduardo Kobra was born in 1975 in São Paulo and is one of world’s most recognized muralists. His huge, very expressive works are found in the US – and of course in Brazil. I introduced his pentaptych ‘Ethnicities’ that he has painted on the occasion of the Olympics in Rio in 2016.

Rio de Janeiro - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Mural “Ethnicities”: Kobra’s most famous mural in Rio de Janeiro used to be – according to the Guinness Book of World Records – till 2017 the largest spray paint mural in the world (3,000 square meters (over 32,000 sq ft)). It depicts five indigenous people from different parts of the world.

His kaleidoscope-ish portraits are – well, rather hidden than found – all over São Paulo, and not only do I lead you to the walls, at the same time I point out attractions and points of interests in their surroundings.

Wanna follow my route? I’ve marked all the Kobras on this map – and for your convenience all the other spots mentioned in this post, too.

São Paulo

How to get there and where to stay

Avenida Paulista

Parque Ibirapuera

Luz

Centro

São Paulo


São Paulo has over 12 millions inhabitants and is not only the most populous city in Brazil, but also the 13th largest city in the world (according to population). It has by gross domestic product the largest economy in South America – and is ironically being called Germany’s largest industrial city since approximately 1000 (!) German companies are operating and producing in São Paulo – Volkswagen being probably the largest and most famous.

Besides its pretty powerful economy, São Paulo can pride itself to have a vast art scene, many excellent museums and exhibition – and very relaxed and friendly people. If you don’t want to rely on people’s English (which is often not so great), you might brush up yours on babbel.

Oh, once we’re on it and talking ’bout cash: In São Paulo – as anywhere else in Brazil – you pay with Reais. The exchange rate is 1 US$  = 3,43 BRL (as per April 2018; check the current rate  e. g. on XE.

For an excellent tourist service and loads of really great brochures and maps go to one of the Centrais de Informação Turística (CIT), the tourist centers located at the airport, at the central bus station, at the Paulista and the Praça da República (where you can also meet the guys from the Free Walking Tour). They even had a mobile tourist office a the Parque Ibirapuera where I collected a vast variety of information material right from a truck – and the lady handing them out was a darling and very nice and helpful.

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How to get there and where to stay

Let’s start right at the airport:

Like most bigger cities in Brazil, São Paulo has two airports, too: Guarulhos International, located 30 km / 19 mi north east of the city center, and Congonhas which is in the city and can be reached in about 30 minutes by public transport.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Kobra’s colorful interpretation of  Congonhas airport.

If you are coming to São Paulo by bus, you’ll arrive at the Rodoviária do Tietê from where you get to the center by either bus or subway in about 20 minutes.

There is an excellent system of public transportation consisting of a subway (here’s a map) and different bus types (rapid and conventional).

If you find a reasonably priced hotel around the subway station Consolaꞔão/Paulista, go for it: it’s centrally and conveniently located. I stayed at a really nice apartment-hotel at the Rua Augusta which is the off-scene theater and clubbing district, however, the hotel was very quiet, very comfortable, yet reasonably priced. I can only recommend it.

Augusta Park Suite Hotel
Rua Augusta 922
São Paulo
Phone: +55 – 11 – 31 24 44 00
Email: augusta@augustapark.com.br

The Rua Augusta is packed with all sort of restaurants and cafés and bars – just walk around and take your pick, they are all very nice.

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Avenida Paulista

Although there is a ‘center’, São Paulo’s lifeline is the Avenida Paulista, stretching from Praꞔa Marechal Cordeiro de Farias all the way to the subway station Paraíso.

So let’s get started at the Paulista’s western end close to the subway station Consolaꞔão where Kobra painted the great Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna, who died in 1994 at the age of 34 at the San Marino Grand Prix.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Honoring the late Ayrton Senna who tragically died at the age of 34. Now his portrait lives on at Rua Dr. Antonino dos Santos Rocha, close to the Consolacão subway station.

Walking down the Paulista, you’ll pass many tall bank buildings, big stores, and malls: The Paulista is basically São Paulo’s 5th Avenue.

Four blocs down from Rua Augusta, you’ll find one of the best art museums São Paulo has to offer, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Besides their own collection of modern art, they organize inspiring exhibitions. For art-lovers, a visiting this venue is a must.

MASP
Museu de arte de São Paulo
Avenida Paulista 1578
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 3149 5959

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Thursday to 8 p. m.), entrance fee is 35 R$ (10,50 US$)

Another three blocs down, to your left on
Alameda Joaquim Eugênio de Lima, a nice surprise is waiting for you: a brandnew Kobra – I even saw it in the making beginning of 2018!

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A assume this mural was commissioned by the hospital. I particularly like that the doctor’s name is ‘Bueno’ – which means good.

Keep walking – whereby if you don’t like to walk, you can hop on one of the buses going down the Paulista or even take the subway. The disadvantage is that in Brazil you pay one price per ticket, i. e. it doesn’t matter if you go just to the next stop or across town – you always pay the same price (which is 3,60 R$ (a bit over 1 US$)).

Getting to the end of the Paulista means getting to the highlights – of the Kobras as well as of the attractions: concentrated behind the subway station Brigadeiro, you’ll find the Capela Santa Catarina to your left.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Two Brazilian heroes in one picture:
Star architect Oscar Niemeyer depicted by star muralist Eduardo Kobra

Right behind the Saint Catherine’s Chapel is the wonderful Japan House, a venue showing Japanese art and serving excellent Japanese food.

Japan House
Avenida Paulista 1578
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 30908900

The Japan House is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m., Sunday to 6 p. m., entrance to the exhibitions is free.

They also have a very nice restaurant – and don’t feel funny for eating Japanese food in Brazil: São Paulo is famous for Japanese and fusion cuisine!

Now, don’t you miss one of the most important Kobras right behind this building depicting another Brazilian art hero, namely star-architect Oscar Niemeyer!

You might get an even better look from the last attraction, located on the other side of the road, the romantic Casa das Rosas.

Sao Paulo - Casa das Rosas / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
The Casa das Roses – obviously named after the beautiful rose garden.

The Casa das Rosas – the house of roses – is a culture center organizing exhibitions, concerts and much more. It’s always worth it to drop in and check out what’s on.

Casa das Rosas
Avenida Paulista 37
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 32 85 69 86
Email: contato@casadasrosas.org.br

The exhibitions are open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m., Sunday to 6 p. m. Regarding other activities, please check their website.

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Parque Ibirapuera

Once you are close to the Brigadeiro station, let’s visit some more Kobras – and some other fantastic venues. But I have to prepare you: We are going to the Parque Ibirapuera, where especially on weekends many São Paulians are strolling with their families, walking their dogs, or jogging by themselves.

Take any bus going down the Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio and tell the driver you want to get off close to Praça Armando de Sales Oliveira.

Here you can admire the Monumento às Bandeiras, created in 1954 by Victor Brecheret, an Italian-Brazilian sculptor, commemorating the settling expeditions into the inner Brazil in the 17th century.

Sao Paulo  / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A monument honoring great man…

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
…and a great man honoring the monument.
Unfortunately, this mural by Eduardo Kobra, located on the wall below the Igreja do Calvário   is strongly damaged.

Now cross the Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral and you’ll find yourself at one of the nicest places in  São Paulo, the Parque Ibirapuera.

Ibirapuera is only city’s second largest park (in case you wonder: the largest one is Parque Anhanguera in the northern part of the city), however, it spreads over 2 qkm / 0.8 sq mi and besides its lush meadows, trees, and flowers as well as creeks and lakes, there is much to see even for those who are oblivious to the beauty of nature: three fantastic museums as well as the planetarium are located on or adjacent to the premises:

To be honest, I’m not so crazy about planetariums, but I like the design by Eduardo Corona, Roberto G. Tibau and Antônio Carlos Pitombo, that reminds me of an air saucer – very suitable.

Planetário Ibirapuera Prof. Aristóteles Orsini
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 55 75 52 06

To tell you the truth, I find the info on their hours a bit confusing, so if you want to visit, you better contact them beforehand; and tell them to improve the info on their site, please.

Just a stone throw away is the very nice Museu Afro Brazil.

While the exhibition on Portuguese colonial art on the ground floor is a bit pointless, the upper floor is an artistic treasury showing Afro-Brazilian art from different Brazilian regions as well as the African and Caribbean influence – like masks from Benin and artefacts from Haiti.

Whether folkloric naive sculptures….

….or political drawings like this one by Sidney Amaral “Estudo para gargalheira ou quem falará por nós?” (Study of a gargalheira* or who will be speaking for us?) – the museum shows a vast collection of all different kind of Afro Brazilian art.
*a gargalheira is the iron choker that was used on slaves 

Whether it’s traditional bead embroidery for the tropical carnival….

….or contemporary sculptures by Afro-Brazilian artists (here again a piece by Sidney Amaral whose work is so diverse)
Sidney Amaral Os chinelos da Mara (Mara’s flip flops)

I can only recommend visiting this venue.

Museu Afro Brasil
Avenida Pedro Alvares Cabral
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 33 20 89 00

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m., entrance fee are R$ 6

You think we forgot about Kobra? No way, he will be our next stop. Let’s walk along the facade of the Pavilhão das Culturas Brasileiras and take a look at murals by other also very talented artists.

One of many great murals decorating the Pavilion

Once you spot the Marquise Do Ibirapuera, you will immediately recognize Kobra’s style – decorating a public bathroom. I guess once you are a star like him, you get away with painting also restrooms.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Northern wall of the Marquise (including the entrance to the gents’ bathroom)

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Western wall of the Marquise.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Southern wall of the Marquise – including the entrance to the ladies’ bathroom.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Eastern wall of the Marquise – depicting to women kissing: A tribute to the extremely LGBT-friendly attitude found everywhere in Brazil.

Next door you might want to visit the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo – and maybe have a snack at their very nice cafeteria.

Museu de Arte Moderna – decorated by a mural created by two other Brazilian graffiti super stars, namely OSGEMEOS.

Here she is again, Tarsila do Amaral, and her cubist painting
“Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil”

MAM – Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 50 85 13 00
Email: atendimento@mam.org.br

Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Entrance fee are R$ 7,00 and Saturdays are free.

Next to the MAM seems to have landed another air saucer – but this one has a famous creator: It was Mr. Oscar Niemeyer himself who design the Lucas Nogueira Garcez Pavillion, better known as “Oca”.

Parque Ibirapuera Oca_Foto_JoseCordeiro, trata-se de vista da fachada da Oca e o crédito. Foto: Jose Cordeiro/SPTuris.
The art has landed: Iconic “Oca” by Oscar Niemeyer
(Photo: Jose Cordeiro/SPTuris)

Since 2017 it’s part of the city museum for being a historic building.
If you are interested in visiting, you have to inquire when it’s possible.

Museu da cidade de São Paulo 
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral 50
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 -11 – 50 83  0199
Email: oca@prefeitura.sp.gov.br

Before you continue to the best and biggest of the art museums, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, you shouldn’t miss to take a look at the sculptures in this part of the park – some of them are really outstanding.

Young people hanging out on Angelo Venosa’s sculpture of bones made of aluminium.

Talking ’bout outstanding: if you want to visit only one single exhibition while in São Paulo, it should definitely be the Museu de Arte Contemporânea.

Wild creatures welcome the visitors at the entrance hall:
Nina Pandolfo “Um Amor Sem Igual” (left) and one of Marino Marini’s horses.

It’s the place where the São Paulo Bienal is taking place – and obviously after every bienal is over, they leave some great art behind. Actually you could spend an entire day here and awing at great pieces from all over the world.

Rafael Canogar “Os Revolucionários”

Cybèle Varela “De tudo aquilo que pode ser I, II e III”

Not to be missed!

Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo 
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral 1301
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 26 48 02 54

Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Tuesday to 9 p. m.), entrance is free.

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Luz

Another beautiful park full of lush plants and great art is the Jardim da Luz behind the art museum Pinacoteca.

Facade of the museum with matching sculptures.

The Jardim has an area of 82,000 square meters, with two reflection pools and two ponds; it was declared a historic landmark by Condephaat in 1981.

What a great service: A mobile ophthalmologist at the park. You see that the name for the eye doctor is very similar in English and Portuguese – so you have that covered… 

There is enough art to be admired even on Tuesdays when the Pinacoteca is closed.
Vlavianos “Homem Pássaro”

Various sculptures made of aluminium by Odette Haidar Eid between 1983and 2002

Lasar Segall Três Jovens against the backdrop of the Pinacoteca

As part of the downtown revitalization project, it resumed dialogue with Pinacoteca, and was renovated in 1999. In 2000, the State Government earmarked funds for the purchase of Brazilian sculptures for its lawns. Even today, the exhibit is free of charge, for those who want to stroll through its green areas and also visit an open air exhibit. The Pinacoteca houses a vast collection of modern Brazilian art and is another mecca for the art aficionados. Founded in 1905, it is the city’s oldest art museum.

Pinacoteca
Praça da Luz
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 33 24 10 00
Email: pinacotecasp
@pinacoteca.org.br

The Pinacoteca is open from Wednesday to Monday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Entrance fee are R$ 6, Saturday is free

And Kobra?

His mural is to be found at the corner Avenida Tiradentes and Rua Dr. Rodrigo de Barros. On the way there you might want to see some sacred art – you can do so at the Museu de Arte Sacra de São Paulo.

A perfect painting in a perfect location.

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Centro

To explore São Paulo’s historic center, I recommend you join a ‘free’ walking tour (remember: the guides work for tips, so please don’t make it a free ‘free’ tour).

The happy wanderers – and now it’s your turn: Find W….no, Renata.
(Photo: Sao Paulo Free Walking Tour)

For the ‘Old Downtown’-tour, they meet at the tourist information booth at Praꞔa República (they also offer a tour along the Avenida Paulista and to the bohemian quarter Vila Madalena).

Well, this is what sadly happens when art is exposed to weather and pollution – it’s getting demolished.

Anyway, the downtown-tour takes you i. a. to the Biblioteca Mário de Andrade, to the grand Teatro Municipal, the Monument to Carlos Gomes – a copy of the Fontana di Trevi at the Praça Ramos de Azevedo, the Prefeitura – which is the townhall with a botanic garden and a pond on the roof; you cannot visit the building on this tour, but of course on another occasion.

Without a doubt there are many options where to grab a bite at the Centro. If you are opting for a healthier meal, give “Apfel” a try; that it means apple in German gives you a hint that they serve vegetarian food:

Apfel Centro
Rua Dom José de Barros 99
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 –  11 – 32 56 79 09

Open Monday to Saturday 11 a. m. to 3 p. m.

The beautiful fountain behind the Teatro Municipal.

If you don’t mind walking, you can stroll from downtown up towards the Paulista along Rua da Consolação.

While you admire the Nossa Senhora da Consolação church at the first big junction, don’t miss the great murals all around you; although they are not by Kobra – one of his best murals is to be seen at the corner of Rua Maria Antônia.

Although the paintings are large, they are not always easy to spot. I kept my eyes open for you.

Once you are here, you might want to get a drink – and a break – at the bar next to the mural, that is called ‘Esquina do Índio’, the Indian’s corner.

Esquina do Índio
Rua da Consolação/Rua Maria Antônia 49
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 31 20 24 18

Open from Monday to Saturday from 7 a. m. to 2 a. m.

Esquina do Índio – the Indian’s corner: A nice bar named after Kobra’s most political mural.
While these gentlemen are taking a short rest, the people in the family grave are resting for
ever; hopefully in peace.

Either keep walking or get on a bus and get off at the Cemitério da Consolação, a small, Brazilian version of the legendary Parisian Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. This cemetery is much smaller and the people buried here are not as world famous as those in Paris, still it’s a beautiful and interesting place.

São Paulo was only a three day stop on my trip to Southern Brazil. To read about the other – likewise fascinating destinations – check out my BRAZIL travel guide.

If you choose to pin this post, please use this picture:

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Weekend in Milan – an ‘aperitivo’ for the eye

Squeezing in an art weekend in Milan while on my way to Venice. What – do I think there won’t be enough art waiting for me at my final destination? By no means! I’ve still got free miles on Eurowings (formerly known as German wings, wisely changed their name after one of their pilots flew an aircraft on purpose into a mountain in 2015), and they don’t go to Venice.

Duomo di Milano
Piazza del Duomo – with the iconic cathedral.

Plus I’ve been to Milan for two weeks last year for my wonderful Italian class and do know that there are a couple of highly interesting venues housing highly exquisite exhibitions. To be honest, this is – besides the fantastic ‘aperitivo’-habit –  the only thing I love about Milan; otherwise it’s not Italian-historic-romantic enough for me.

But this weekend was awesome: great exhibitions woke – as an aperitivo for the eye – great expectations what Venice will have to offer.

SATURDAY

Buongiorno, Milano!
We art addicts have a huge advantage in comparison with ordinary people: When we land in Italy and the cielo is not azzurro, we just pace a little to get to the next gallery a bit faster.
As I landed, the cielo was far from being azzurro, it was actually mousy grey.

Galleria D’Arte Moderna di Milano (GAM)

What an excellent excuse to start the day with the first museum visit right away.

The GAM – Gallery of Modern Art, which are approximately the years from 1800 to 1900, is housed in a neo-classicist villa, built at the end of the 18th century as Count Ludovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso’s humble home.

At this moment they are celebrating “100 anni scultura a Milano 1815 – 1915”, presenting 63 sculptures made of plaster, marble, and bronze that were restored and are usually preserved in storage and not on display.

GAM Milano
Vincenzo Vela: The Morning Prayer (the central piece)

A visitor commented in the guest book “Arte moderna – certainly not Toulouse-Lautrec and Renoir”. Even though this a rude comment, every country had its guilded art age depending on the political, social, and economical situation, and Italy’s great eras were the Renaissance and the Baroque. Still, also some of the Italian symbolism is exquisite.

GAM - Milano
Giovanni Segantini: L’Angelo de la Vita (Angel of Life) (left) and L’Amore alla fonte de la vita (Love at the Source of Life) (right)

GAM Milano
Angelo Morbelli: Inverno nel Pio Albergo Trivulzio (Winter at the Trivulzio Shelter)
Just so you know: I took the picture from this angle so you are able to see at least something.
This painting is miraculous: When you stand right in front of it you hardly see anything.
Morbelli does not only touch my heart with his melancholic motives, he also has my full admiration for his technique.

Anyway, I’d recommend a visit to this venue mainly for the building itself respectively the old decoration of some parts of the galleries rather than for the art.

GAM MIlano
Looking this couple over the shoulder into the ceremonial hall.

Galleria D’Arte Moderna di Milano
Via Palestro 16
20121 Milano
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 88 44 59 43
E-mail: c.gam@comune.milano.it

Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a. m. to 5.30 p. m.

By the time I was done visiting the GAM, the weather was fair enough to walk a little bit. I can tell you, if you are carrying this big backpack full of money and your back hurts from the load, just check out the stores along Via della Spiga, Via Sant’Andrea, or Via Monte Napoleone – and your burden will be taken from you in a blink of an eye.

Milano Shopping
Missoni at Via Sant’Angelo….

MIlano Shopping
….or Fendi at Via Monte Napoleone

Walking along Corso Venezia instead is a nice alternative to all this decadence. Keep your eyes open not to miss all the great ancient palazzi there – the facades, the gates, the statues…just beautiful.

When you turn at San Babila from Corso Venezia right, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II takes you straight to the Duomo. I didn’t visit it this time, but if you haven’t seen it yet, I would definitely go, especially the climbing around on it’s rooftop is really special and fun.

I had a slice of pizza at “Spontini”, a chain restaurant which is…a chain restaurant, and did then pay the Museo del Novecento a visit.

PIzza
A humble meal on a gold plated counter.

Museo del Novecento

I love the Novecento for its architecture and its location and the views from the 4th and 5th floor.

Museo Novecento
The Spatial Ceiling was created by Luciano Fontana for the dining room of the Hotel del Golfo on Procchio (Elba) in 1956..

Museo Novecento
View from the 4th floor of the Novecento at the Duomo – standing under the Struttura al Neon, that Fontana designed on the occasion of the IX Triennale di Milano in 1951.

I’m not so crazy about it for the art: Severini, Balla, Carrà – I strongly dislike Italian futurism, to say the least, and the Novecento surely celebrates its masters, mainly Boccioni whom I particularly dislike.

Piero Manzoni
Yes, it’s a little bit childish, but I love the integrated slap in the face of the whole pretentious art scene.
Piero Manzoni: Merda d’artista (The artist’s shit)

At this moment there is a special exhibition on Italian art in connection with the US, and there are some Fontanas and some De Chiricos and it’s fine. Since you have to go there for the architecture and the views from the 4th and 5th floor, it won’t hurt to take a look at this event, too.

Museo Novecento
Entrance of the special exhibition “New York New York”.
On the left side Lucio Fontana: Spatial Concept. New York Skyscrapers, next to it Pietro Consagra: New York City

900 Museo del Novecento 
Via Marconi 1
Milano
Phone: +39 – 02 -88 44 40 61
Email: c.museo900@comune.milano.it


Palazzo della Triennale

I was also at the Palazzo della Triennale, but it was nothing what I expected, but very confusing: There is the Triennale Teatro dell’Arte going on, a theater festival, and everybody was all hyper and there were long queues and I felt a tad confused and completely out of place.

Tiempo delle donne
Me being part of an art project.
I didn’t really get what the whole thing was all about, but I take every chance to make a fool of myself.

Then they have a quite neat exhibition on design for kids (that I’ve just recommended some other guest at my B&B since she’s here with a small child and it’s still pouring), There were many kids, and I’m happy that their parents introduce them to the world of exhibitions because it might hold them back from slapping their flat hand on a Kandinsky painting like a maybe 8 years old girl did at the Novecento. Only when her mother saw me hyperventilating, she told her better not to slap Kandinsky.

Museo Disegno Triennale
Pretty cute: You enter the exhibition over a bridge that’s Pinocchio’s nose.
Come to think about it, it’s also a bit gross. 

Palazzo della Triennale 
Viale Alemagna,6
20121 Milano
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 72 43 41
Email: info@triennale.org

Open Tuesday to Sunday 10.30 a. m. to 8.30 p. m.

Museo delle Culture (MUDEC)

I was afraid that “The Klimt Experience” would be exactly what it turned out to be: It’s a poorly made assembly of Gustav Klimt’s paintings, pictures of him and his circle and of Vienna in his time.
Accompanied by all the Austrian popular tunes – starting with….of course “The Blue Danube”!
To screen this “experience” they’ve built some sort of big tent where there’s room for I’d say 150 people. These people are sitting there watching Klimt’s painting passing by.
I don’t get the concept. This is like making a comic book of Proust’s “In Search Of Lost Time” – easifying it because the real thing is not entertaining enough?!

The Klimt Experience
Surrounded by a painting.

I’ve seen something similar about a year ago in Berlin: “Hieronimus Bosch. Visions Alive”.

Bosch alive in Berlin
The people that organized the Bosch-show took it to the max: Visitors were even able to become part of an artsy freak show. Did I mention that I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself?

Even there I was skeptical, but with Bosch’s fabulous creatures from heaven and hell it still somehow makes sense that they are moving around you; actually I think it must be very disturbing watching Bosch’s imaginary friends moving around when you’re not …completely sober.
But Klimt’s elegant ladies?
What’s the point in letting Judith rotating in six different sizes around me while I have to listen to some cheesy waltz?
The show is screened every day for hours and still people had to wait in line since the tent is constantly full.
When I left it was drizzling so people waited in the rain.
I wanted to shoo them away: Do something else, it’s not worth the wait watching Judith rotate, go home or have a aperitivo at some nice bar.
But I let them see for themselves and instead I left to get an aperitivo.

Aperitivo
This is how a long day has to end: With a big glass of Aperol Spritz and some niblets.

I’ll be in Vienna for Christmas where I’ll see all the Klimt originals and none of them will rotate around me.

Museo delle Culture (MUDEC)
Via Tortona 56,
20144 Milano
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 549 17 |
Email: info@mudec.it

Open on  Monday from 2.30 p. m. till 7.30 p. m, Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30 a. m. to 7. 30 p. m. (Thursday and Saturday till 10.30 p. m. – no, this is not a mistake, they are open till very late!)

SUNDAY

Ugly can be just gorgeous, every fan of industrial chic knows that. Therefore numberless art venues are to be found in abandoned industry sites which obviously have the advantage to offer enough space even for humongous installations.

Pirelli HangarBicocca

Going to the Hangar, you will get to know a pretty ugly neighborhood – but that’s one side of Italy, too.

The Seven Heavenly Palaces

And one of the highlights of the HangarBicocca gallery, established in 2004 on a former industrial site, is the humongous installation “The Seven Heavenly Palaces” by Anselm Kiefer: seven towers made of concrete and other construction material, 14 to 18 meters / 46 to 60 feet high – at which other venue could he have installed something like that?!

Anselm Kiefer at Hangar Bicocca
When Anselm Kiefer is at work, heavenly palaces can become pretty hellish.

Anselm Kiefer at Hangar Bicocca
One of five the towers accompanying paintings: Die deutsche Heilslinie (German line of salvation)

From Source to Poem to Rhythm to Reader

This is an installation of projections and films by Rosa Barba, of whom I’ve never heard before although she has participated in several Biennales and showed her work at the most prestigious venues. Anyway, at the Hangar you can see her work till October 8, 2017.

Efêmero

Even before you reach the site, which by the way covers 15.000 qm / more than 161,000 square feet, you can enjoy a great piece of art – namely street art: The Brazilian twins Gustavo and Otávio Pandolfo (born 1974) who adopted – very clever! – the name Osgemeos, meaning ‘twins’, did decorate one part of the hangar with their graffiti. This is the first of the “Out of the Cube”-project the gallery initiated.

Osgemeos - Hangar Bicocca
Osgemeos: Efêmero

#arttothepeople is this gallery’s motto, hence entrance is free. I personally find that this for one sounds a bit marieantoinettish, plus I’m a bit torn when it comes to free entrance: In London all public permanent exhibitions are free and I saw people – kids and grownups alike – doing the most incredible things to the exhibits like touching paintings and climbing on statues to take pictures. Museums degenerated to playgrounds and covered markets. If that’s the result of free entrance, please triple whatever you’re charging now!

Pirelli HangarBicocca 
 Via Chiese 2
20126 Milano
Phone: +39 – 02 – 66 11 15 73
Email: info@hangarbicocca.org

Fondazione Prada

While the HangarBicocca is in the middle of nowhere all the way North, I had to cross town to the South East to get to another posh venue founded by another stinking rich company: Prada. Here my thanks go out to all people who shop their stuff and thusly finance their foundation.

Subway Milan
Taking the subway in Milan: Even half a minutes are announced. Do you get now, why they are called German Italians?

Fondazione Prada has venues in two North Italian cities, Milan and Venice. You’ll read about latter next week, here is what’s to see at the Milan branch, that used to be a distillery and was transformed into a art gallery the size of 19.000 qm / more 204,500 square feet, whereby three new buildings were added to the existing seven.

Fondazione Prada
A golden entrance. Quite promising.

There is the permanent exhibit of Thomas Demand’s “

“Processo Grottesco”

, a grotto that Demand built in layers of cardboard and photographed it in a way that you have to look really close to see that it’s artificial; like he does with all motives of his photographs.

Thomas Demand at Fondazione Prada
The grotto model made of cardboard layers. Photographed by me.

Thomas Demand - Fondazione Prada
The grotto model made of cardboard layers. Photographed by Thomas Demand.
And then photographed by me.

The other permanent exhibition is in the so-called “Haunted House”: There are installations by Louise Bourgeois on the two lower floors and by Robert Gober on the three upper. Since the “Haunted House” is very narrow, it can be visited only during time slots.

Louise Bourgeois at Fondazione Prada
Louise Bourgeois: Cell (Clothes)

Robert Gober at Fondazione Prada
Robert Gober – part of his installation for the 4th floor of the “Hounted House”

At this moment there is a special exhibition by Francesco Vezzoli that’s probably much more fun if you are Italian respectively very familiar with Italian TV, but it’s also well worth seeing if you’re not because it’s set up very nicely.

Francesco Vezzoli installed “TV 70. Guarda la Rai” in four different halls:

NORD

On large screens artists are interviewed or filmed and at the opposite wall is an example of their art – sometimes the one you see in the TV feature.

Giorgio di Chirico
Giorgio di Chirico in an interview to the right (he seems to be quite a grouch) and the painting which he’s working
on in this feature to the left (in the dark, but you can trust me, it’s there)

Pistoletto at Fondazione Prada
Michelangelo Pistoletto explaining his mirror-art to a reporter – and behind him the very mirror.

Pistoletto and me at Fondazione Prada
Michelangelo Pistoletto: Serigrafo Bianco – and me.

SUD

In five galleries, garishly furnished with elements that could as well be part of a TV setting, the tackiest TV shows are screened – put into dialogue with corresponding photo series.

Grace Jones
Grace Jones singing in Italian while taking a bubble shower.
Congruously screened in a room next to photographs of transvestites.
Cicciolina at Fondazione Prada
Cicciolina singing “C’era due volte” and writhing through blinding colors. No wonder Jeff Koons went nuts.

Tomaso Binga
This is complimenting my review of the current exhibition “Art and Alphabet” in Hamburg:
Tomaso Binga: Alfabetiere murale

CINEMA

At the cinema a collage of different TV fragments is screened.

PODIUM

While the exhibition at the South gallery shows the shallow, tacky, even moronic TV snippets in a gay, colorful environment, the upper floor of the Podium is painted pitch black and the small TV screens show news from the 70s dealing with murder, bombings and other terror attacks. If you think Europe is an insecure place right now, this part of the exhibition reminds you that some European countries have had to cope with terrorism already years ago.

Fondazione Prada Milano
Largo Isarco 2
20139 Milano
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 56 66 26 11
Email: info@fondazioneprada.org

Open Wednesday to Monday from 10 a. m. to 8 p. m. (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to 9 p. m.)

Tip: Keep your ticket since it gives you free access to the observatory at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (PAC)

I didn’t even do it on purpose, but actually I’ve saved the best for last: “Africa. Raccontare un mondo/Africa. Telling a World”, presenting 33 artist from various generations, countries, and backgrounds using different materials and media to implement their art.

Last year during my language course in Milan, I saw an extraordinary exhibition of Cuban art that really impressed me a lot; and this one on African art is just as wonderful. Seems to me the PAC seems to be a venue one should never leave out when in Milan.

PAC Milano
Barthélémy Toguo: Road to Exile

PAC Milano
Chéri Samba: Quel avenir pour notre art? (Which future for our art?) – and that’s a question asked by one of Africa’s most
famous and recognized artists. But he’s right: I’ve only seen his work in exhibitions on African art, never in a permanent
collection. Picasso is shown everywhere – whether in context with Spanish art or not.

PAC Milano
Frédéric Bruly Bouabré: Les Rires (The laughs)
Mister Bouabré, who sadly died in 2014, was presented in two venues on the Venice Biennale in 2013.

PAC Milano
Remarkably many artists show sculptures made of trash – a reproach also to Europe flooding Africa with our discards.
In the front Amadou Fatoumata Ba: A Petit Fauteuil Tressé (Little woven chair) and
in the back: Romuald Hazoumé: “W”, a totem made of  a ski, a toilet seat and a receiver.

Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (PAC)
Via Palestro 14
20122 Milano
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 88 44 63 59

Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30 a. m. to 7.30 p. m. (Tuesday and Thursday to 10.30 p. m.)

I had great plans getting a wonderful aperitivo at my favorite bar since it’s my last evening, but it was raining so hard and I was soaked so I just grabbed some grilled chicken and some Gnocchi at the supermarket and ate in my room at the B&B.

Guys, after this weekend I will be so ready to write the rain-part of the upcoming “24 hours in Milan”-piece….

Fondazione Prada
Looking at the golden “Hounted House” through the falling rain.

I love to listen to music that reflects the atmosphere of the place, therefore here Lucio Dalla’s hymn to Milan:

Sadly, Lucio Dalla – who was a wonderful poet – died in 2012. But he left us his tender songs.

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