Weihnachtsmarkt

That time I met Benjamin meet Brecht

You know how some people wait until the absolute last day to go to an exhibition that’s been going for months, and suddenly come together to fill up a small space, that’s been sparsely filled for weeks, with damp shoe smell and garlic Döner breath? Well I’m one of those people.

Hi everyone! It’s been a while. I have to be honest and say I went through a pretty rough time since the summer, and it’s taken me a while for the process of ‘open the “write post” page and type something in’ to be easier…but if you’re reading this, the drought may finally be over.

While I’ve been neglecting WordPress and you, dear readers, I wrapped up a pretty nice Christmas season with a lot of Weihnachtsmärkte and at least 6 mugs of Glühwein. I even made it down to Nürnberg again, and longtime readers will remember how ridiculously full the Markt gets and ridiculously silly I get, but this time I was kept responsible by looking after a few cute kids.

Here are some pretty pictures of some of the markets my brother and I went to. It was his first Christmas season ever in Germany, so I made sure he got a good idea of what the markets are about (clearly: food).

 

I went home again to Florida for Christmas and fully took three weeks off school, which may or may not have been the best decision I’ve made last year. I came back early January and zoomed into the semester again, and now here we are, end January and I’ve visited a lot of lectures, done some writing, a lot of reading, and saw people do mad acrobatics/gymnastics in the Mercedes-Benz Arena again.  My brother and I also spent time being dorks in the snow, since we’re still Florida kids and just get excited by the white powdery stuff, you know?

 

And today I visited said exhibit that’s been open in the Berlin Akedemie der Künste since October: Benjamin and Brecht: Thinking in Extremes.

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yes. Berlin is just a grey and dreary in winter as people always say it is.

Oh, you didn’t know that one of the 20th century’s most celebrated playwrights and poets had met and worked with the 20th century’s favorite (okay, my favorite) cultural and literary critic? Oh, good. Me neither (and if you did… can we meet and talk?, because  you sound pretty interesting).

 

It makes sense that they’ve met giving the timing and both their fates as exiled from the 3rd Reich under the National Socialists in Germany, but as the title of the exhibit demonstrates, Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht were pretty different and their coming together in theory and practice was a bit explosive sometimes. Benjamin was a kind of straight-laced, tweed wearing (though I don’t know if he wore tweed), briefcase carrying rationalist and Brecht was a cigar smoking, scuffed sneaker, gesturing dreamer. Both believed in the necessity of art for social and political critique, though, and that much was clear in the exhibit.

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The exhibit was part record of their conversations and conversations about B and B, but also artwork that commented on their theory or generally continued the work of the two.

I especially appreciated Zoe Beloff‘s work. She submitted two of her paintings and a movie to the exhibit and if her movie Exile (still a work in progress) is ever available to own, I will definitely procure it.

And I don’t know if I was just in a good mood today, but seeing the community aspect of criticism and art just made me happy. I like to see the working habits of writers, how they spend their days and the kinds of lives they lead. This impression was created by the hanging boards with pictures and quotes of/about the men’s lives. Very little was said in the exhibit about the women in B’s and B’s lives, but most of the quotes about their relationship came from women. And both Benjamin and Brecht had children (something one doesn’t hear a lot about), so I’m assuming some part of their lives were spent wiping poop away off something.

It was an artfully done exhibit, taking advantage of the multiple technologies we have today (including a self-playing chess board… it was magic!), and I’m glad I went, though admittedly I got a bit anxious by the end because my work was calling and the exhibit got to be too full of people by the time I left. I’m not the only one who waited until the last day and looked for a bit of literary and cultural history on a bleak Berlin day.

Looking forward, the semester in Berlin is about to end (only three more weeks!) and in the meantime, I’m slogging through trying to get a working model of my theory done. It’s harder to pin-down than it is to think about it in a fragmentary nature though.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention that in this time of not-writing-about-going-ons-in-Berlin, I also visited a lecture that was meant to provide a mid-term evaluation about Trump. It was, interesting… but writing more would be its own post.

Hope the first month of the year was good for you, and that the next one is good, if not better!

Cheers, Dorothea

p.s. sigh. You can totally tell that the quality of my bro’s camera is better than mine.

Advent and Christmas Spirit in Berlin

I know the title is about Berlin, but I have a few photos of my visit to Hamburg last weekend that I wanted to share as well. Same theme, different (beautiful) city.

I’ve been meaning to post for some time now and just found myself overwhelmed by school, work, work for school, applying for scholarships, trying to get some social life in… not to mention, exercise, eat, and sleep–it’s all a bit much. But I figured I’d relieve some of the pressure that I’ve put on myself by making a short post about Christmas in Germany, round 2.0 (see the archives for Round 1.0 in Hamburg in Dec 2014). That way, I can decide to tune-in a few times through the rest of the year with photos and maybe an end-of-year post that probably is too self-reflective anyway to be super interesting, but I won’t feel bad if I remain tuned-out of WordPress and tuned-in into the rest of my world.

That aside, there are two things that make the holiday season unique in Germany:

  1. Advent
  2. Christmas markets

img_2013Now, I think it’s pretty clear that Germany is developing into a recognizably multi-cultural, -ethnic, -religious space. However, its social life is still heavily framed by a Christian (mostly Lutheran in the north and catholic in the south) background and traditions, and these traditions play out in various corners of the social spheres. One way that Advent is noticeable by living in Germany is the sale of wreaths and evergreen arrangements with four candles, one for each Sunday of the waiting for the baby Jesus. People wish each other a happy Advent Sunday and it’s assumed that households will have a candle set of some kind in their homes and light one more candle each Sunday as the 24th draws near with their inner family circle or with friends and extended family. It’s a time of togetherness, quiet, and reflection… and a lot of goodies: Lebkuchen, Domino Steine, Zimtsterne… the baked goods in Germany are delicious anyway, but around December they are especially good.

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Since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, the Advent season is as long as it can ever be: 5 weeks. Starting the weekend after Thanksgiving (good thing most Germans don’t celebrate both!) and carrying through the 24th, Advent is a chance to feel legitimately festive all through the month.

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Included in Advent are the Advent calendars. One sees these boxes with little doors for each day of December in US stores now too-most notably Trader Joes, Aldi (both German, btw) and The Fresh Market. However, in Germany they can get a lot more elaborate, there’s many more brands to chose from, and many people make their own for their loved ones.

Still, while people may not have heard of German Advent customs, they most likely have heard of the Christmas markets. Nuremberg is an extremely popular one in the US, but each German town will have one or more, and while some are just a place to get Christmas-y festival food and drink (basically every other stand has waffles or crepes or candied almonds or mulled wine [Glühwein]), a lot are still special with hand-made crafts, carol singing, and unique items for sale that may make a good gift after a mulled wine or three. A few larger markets will have amusement rides, which aren’t really my thing, or ice-skating rinks… which I wouldn’t mind visiting!

So I leave you with a few choice images of Adventszeit in Berlin, and I wish you a healthy, safe, and as-stressfree-as-possible holiday season.

–  Dorothea

A Winter Wonderland

Everyone is preparing for Christmas:

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In the universitaet Mensa (one of the many cafeterias at the Uni Hamburg)2014-11-27 18.48.00

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in the hall of the main university building

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one of the stands at one of Hamburg’s smaller Christmas markets

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the windows of the major department stores look exactly like how I’ve always imagined them in novels.

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life-size Weihnachtspyramide at the Spitaler Weihnachtsmarkt. One could get all the holiday drinks here… egg nog (Eierpunsch), Gluehwine (a sort of warm, mulled, spiced wine) Gluehwein with some extra pep, but no beer 🙂

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EVERYTHING gets decorated, even the standard outside bench

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inside of the Hauptbahnhof

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my room: I am now a proper Hamburger with my “forgotten to return” Gluehwein mug. I read that almost 25 million Tassen get “lost” each year. Even though the stands charge an extra 1-2 Euro Pfand for the mugs, many people (like me :/) just pack them as a souvenir. However, the stands see this as a worthy trade (and perhaps therefore also charge 2-3 Euro for a cup), and they don’t blame the customers. I’ll do it once, because having this mug brings me a certain amount of happiness drinking out of it at home, now, but next time I want my Pfand back! (although there may be no next time because I was only told later that the Gluehwein is mixed sugar, something I’ve been trying to avoid consuming. 😦

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