Tag Archives: Sandler

18 June 2013 Helsingborg, Sweden: Lighter and Brighter than Hamlet

As our voyage on Silversea Silver Cloud nears an end, we made a call at Helsingborg, Sweden, at the north end of the Øresund Strai between this country and Denmark.

Tonight we arrive in Copenhagen. To those guests leaving us here, Janice and I wish you safe travels. For the rest of you–and new friends coming aboard–we look forward to the next leg: up the coast of Norway to the top and then on to Murmansk and Arkhangelsk in Russia.

Here in Helsingborg, it was a beautiful sunny and clear day, as light as a feather. It was clear enough to see across the strait to Elsinore Castle, the setting for William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. That great play is a masterpiece of murder, revenge, incest, and other themes no at all light on the mind.

But we enjoyed the sun, feasted on fresh strawberries and lemonade, and girded ourselves for the voyage to the attic of Russia next week.

As a reminder, if you want copies of any of my photographs, please click on the tab marked Order a Photo, or send me an e-mail at    corey[at]sandlerbooks.com    (Substitute an @ for [at] please.)

And please don’t hesitate to keep in touch. We look forward to sailing with you again.

COREY and JANICE

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17 June 2013 Rostock and Warnemunde, Germany. Out from Under

Warnemünde, the beach resort at the mouth of the Warnow River, like much of this part of Europe, has risen and fallen with the tides of war and economic upheaval.

It dates back, as a mere fishing village, to about 1200.

Rostock would rise to great importance as one of the ports of the Hanseatic League.

And then it would become the home of some of the industrial might of Nazi Germany, including a major aircraft factory and port. Heinkel and Arado Flugzeugwerke grew out of the earlier aviation factories in the area.The Arado Ar 66 became one of the standard Luftwaffe trainers.

The firm also produced some of the Luftwaffe’s first fighter aircraft. Near the end of the war, Arado came up with the Ar-234, the first jet-powered bomber. Only a small number of the single-seat twin-engine plane were built, which was a good thing.

In their few sorties as bombers they proved to be nearly impossible to intercept. Not that they would have altered the outcome of the war, but they might have delayed its conclusion.

The jet, nicknamed Blitz or Lightning, was the last Luftwaffe plane to fly over England, in April 1945.

Until their liberation in April 1945 by the Soviet army, 1,012 slave laborers from Freiburg, a sub-camp of the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Bavaria, worked at the Arado factory.

That made it a major target of Allied bombing, and it was seriously damaged in the war.

Warnemunde and Rostock were severely damaged in raids in 1942 and 1943 and again in 1945.

The attacks on Rostock, and more importantly the historic Hanseatic city of Lübeck not far away, enraged Hitler—if such a thing was possible and led in April 1942 to a series of German raids on historic cities in Britain beginning with Exeter and continuing to Bath, Norwich, York, and later Canterbury.

The bombings became known as the Baedeker raids because the Germans supposedly chose them by thumbing through a Baedeker travel guide book about England.

Following that, the Soviets swept in…stealing what they could and then bringing the drab grayness that landed throughout East Germany.

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 WARNEMÜNDE

Warnemünde’s broad, sandy beaches are the largest on the German Baltic Sea coast, stretching about three kilometers or two miles.

It also has some pretty beachside homes, and all of the basic elements of a seaside resort including a promenade, outdoor restaurants, and tourist attractions.

There are three notable sights in Warnemünde:

Undressed bodies on the beach—some of whom you might wish would put on winter clothing or otherwise make themselves less apparent.

An historic lighthouse near the beach promenade, built in 1897.

And the Teepott, the nickname for one of the resorts most famous landmarks. It was built in the 1960s and is an appropriately odd example of East German architecture.

Today the Teepott holds a few restaurants and an exhibition hall.

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Among the many to invade this area in earlier times were the French under Napoleon, who occupied the town for about a decade until 1813.

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher surrendered to the French after furious street fighting.

Von Blücher, who rose to the level of Prussian Generalfeldmarschall (field marshal) would live to fight another day, leading his army against Napoleon at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 with the Duke of Wellington.

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Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher

Any Mel Brooks fans out there? There have to be.

In the film Young Frankenstein, the great actress Cloris Leachman, a household servant in the home of Doctor Frankenstein…or should I say, Franken-steen.

Brooks never explained the joke, but everytime Frau Blucher appeared on screen we would hear the whinney of the Marshal’s horse.

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Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher

SAINT MARY’S

Saint Mary’s Church Marienkirche, on Ziegenmarkt, is an imposing Brick Gothic structure that was first built in the 13th century.

Behind the high altar on the apse is an astronomical clock built in 1472 by a Nuremberg clockmaker.

It is the only Medieval clock of its kind still in working condition with its original clockworks.

The clock has three sections.

Every hour, the apostles circle around Jesus for a blessing; the last, Judas, is shut out by a clanging door.

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15 June 2013 Hamburg and Lübeck, Germany: Hello, Goodbye

Moin moin.

That’s “hello” or…later on, “good bye” in Frisian and Low German dialect or lingo.

That’s the local greeting Hamburg, where Silversea Silver Cloud arrived today.

Actually, there’s a wonderful musical coincidence here: “Hello, Goodbye” was the name of one of the many hits by a rough-and-tumble rock-and-roll band from Liverpool.

You know them as The Beatles, but they went by a number of names from 1960 to 1962 when they underwent an intensive round of hardscrabble engagements in the Red Light District of Hamburg.

They played the Star-Club, Kaiserkeller, Top Ten, and Indra.

The Reeperbahn—the word means ropewalk, a place where ropes are made—is also sometimes described as die sündige meile, the sinful mile.

The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stu Sutcliffe, and Pete Best played at strip clubs and dank beer joints in Hamburg. (Sutcliffe would leave the band to pursue a career in art, and Best would be replaced by Ringo Starr once the group began iuts ascendancy to the Rock Pantheon.)

“Liverpool was where I was born,” said John Lennon, “but Hamburg was where I grew up.”

The clubs (and the “sex workers”) are still there, joined by a modern sculpture immortalizing the band, at Beatlesplaatz.

The symbolic heart of the city is the Rathaus or Town Hall.

It is a substantial, in-your-face neo-Renaissance structure completed in 1897. Like much of central Hamburg, the Rathaus was heavily damaged in World War II air raids, but was restored by 1957.

It still holds the office of the Mayor and the meeting places for Hamburg’s parliament and senate.

The immense building has about 647 rooms (six more than Buckingham Palace). I say “about” 647 rooms because it’s apparently hard to keep count.

In 1971 a room in the tower was discovered accidentally during a search for a document that had fallen behind a filing cabinet.

SHADES OF GRAY

Hamburg was nearly flattened by bombing by the Allies seeking to destroy the industrial facilities including shipbuilding and submarine pens, as well as other industries.

And there was also the Neuengamme concentration camp, about 15 kilometers or 10 miles southeast of the center of the city.

By the end of the war, more than half of its estimated 106,000 prisoners had died: about 50,000 dead. The camp served the needs of the German war machine and also carried out exterminations through labor.

As if that was not enough, consider this: on April 26, 1945, about 10,000 surviving prisoners from Neuengamme were loaded into four ships: the passenger liners Deutschland and Cap Arcona and two large steamers, SS Thielbek and Athen.

The prisoners were in the ships’ holds for several days without food or water.

Hamburg Gauleiter Karl Kaufmann later claimed during a war crimes tribunal that the prisoners were destined for Sweden. However, at the same trial, the head of the Hamburg Gestapo said that the prisoners were in fact slated to be killed, with one plan calling for scuttling the ships with the prisoners still aboard.

On May 3, 1945, the ships were attacked by three squadrons of Royal Air Force Hawker Typhoons. The RAF believed the ships carried SS personnel who were being transferred to Norway.

Intelligence that the ships carried concentration camp prisoners did not reach the squadrons in time to halt the attack.

About 5,000 of the prisoners died.

On May 8, 1945—five days later—most German forces surrendered and the war in Europe was over.

LUBECK

I spent the day on a shore excursion in Lübeck, about an hour from Hamburg up the Elbe River.

The entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with nearly 2,000 landmark buildings including St. Mary’s Church from the late 12th century and home to the world’s largest mechanical organ.

It is a handsome place, the City of Seven Spires. There are many more churches than that–some dating back five hundred or more years–but seven steeples remain.

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Around town in Lubeck

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Inside the shell of St. Petri Church

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St. Mary’s Church was the pride of the town. It was all but destroyed in an air rad in 1942–those big clumps of metal above are the remains of the original bells, preserved within a chapel.

The stained glass windows are a modern version of the Dance of Death or the Danse Macabre of Bernt Nottke. At the bottom were added two scenes of St. Mary’s in flames.

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Lovers’ Locks mounted on a pedestrian bridge in Lubeck. The idea is for a couple to get a lock, paint or chisel their names on it, and then toss the key in the river. I imagine there has to be an occasional re-visit with a jeweler’s saw or mechanical cutter for good love, gone bad.

Hello, Goodbye.

(And I also thought of the bridges in Venice, I was there a few weeks ago, and the locks are weighing down the ancient bridges.)

 

 

13 June 2013 Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Where Something Old is New Again

There’s a lot going on in the Lowlands of Europe: the Netherlands. First of all, there’s a new King in town:

28-year-old King Willem-Alexander took the throne on April 30 of this year. This followed the abdication of his mother Queen Beatrix, who in retirement has taken the name Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix.

Somewhere, Prince Charles stifles a sob.

The other big news, which also came in April of this year, was the reopening of the spectacular Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The art gallery has been closed for the past ten years.

Any homeowner will sympathize with this: what started as a relatively modest renovation turned up all sorts of other problems that needed fixing.

And then there were political issues involving the route of a bicycle path.Trust me, along with the Royalty, Rembrandt, and a dedication to most sorts of personal liberty, the Dutch will not stand idly by when bike paths are threatened.

The Rijksmuseum opened in 1885 as the treasure house of the Dutch Golden Age, filled with paintings by masters like Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen and Franz Hals.

The building itself is massive and hulking—nowhere near as delicate or uplifting as most of the work within. It is an odd mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, expanded upon and modified over the years in a rather haphazard way.

The Rijksmuseum closed its doors in 2003, with plans for a five-year restoration. In April 2013, after ten years of work and 375 million Euros or $500 million dollars, it has reopened right on time in a government project sort of way.

Where did the extra five years go?

Workers found asbestos, which had to be removed.

And they ran into an unanticipated protest from Amsterdam’s hundreds of thousands of bicycle riders who did not want a popular bike path re-routed, even if it ran through one of the country’s greatest cultural treasures.

The museum was officially reopened by Queen Beatrix, in one of her last official acts before her abdication.

I had been to the Rijkmuseum in its older, dark and heavy incarnation. I was happy to return to see it reborn.

Silversea Silver Cloud docked in the morning at the base of Amsterdam and we jogged over to Central Station and hopped on a tram to the museum. We had prepurchased our tickets on the Internet, although lines were short when we arrived about 9:45. By early afternoon, though, there was a serious line for tickets–and this is still early June. Visitors in July and August be forewarned.

The entrance from Museumplein is well decorated, and the interior atrium has been spruced up–and opened to the light–in a way never seen before. The atrium will be used for public events, and you can visit without a ticket–but why come all this way without seeing a bit of Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Gogh and so much more?

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Here are some works that caught my eye. I’ll start with the museum’s most famous piece, The Night Watch by Rembrandt. It is now beautifully displayed in a hall that can be seen from many points in the museum. We got there early enough to reacquaint ourselves with the work, and came back later to marvel at the crowds.

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The Night Watch is watched.

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A beautiful 1/12th scale model of the Dutch Warship William Rex. The model was made about 1698 at the dockyards of Vlissingen (Flushing), where real warships were being constructed.

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Carvings and tryptychs

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The restored library, some impressive furniture and trompe l’oeil painting that looks like sculpture, and a set of noblemen.

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Upstairs, Downstairs. A dollhouse from about 1700 of wood, tortoise shell, and pewter.

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The Tree of Jesse, attributed to the school of Geertgen tot Sint-jans from about 1500. It is said to show Christ’s family tree, growing out of the sleeping figure of Jesse, forefather of a line of kings that gave rise to Solomon, David, and Jesus. Who knew?

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The Merry Fiddler by Gerard van Honthorst, completed in 1623. A happy fellow in extravagant clothing seeming to lean out of the frame to clink glasses with us. I loved the painting…and it reminded me of a very different place. A few weeks ago we were in Valletta, Malta and re-visited the spectacular Co-Cathedral of St. John. There we saw the work of Mattia Pretti who drew dozens of figures who lean out from the ceiling and walls.

Those sorts of connections are why we love to travel.

If you’re interested in obtaining any of my photos, please send me an e-mail at corey@sandlerbooks.com   You can also visit my websites of www.sandlerbooks.com  and www.sandlephotos.com

 

12 June 2013 Antwerp, Belgium: Pulling Back the Curtain

The Stadhus or City Hall of Antwerp is one of the most dramatic structures in this beautiful city. Built between 1561 and 1565 in a pleasingly off-kilter mix of Renaissance with Flemish and Italian influences, and decorated originally with female figures representing Justice, Prudence, and the Virgin Mary today it is festooned with flags of the European Union, NATO, the United Nations, and any number of other organizations.

In an ancient form of flattery,the Green Gate in Gdansk, Poland is obviously modeled after the same building,

According to folklore, and as celebrated by the statue in front of the town hall, Antwerp got its name from a mythical giant called Antigoon who lived near the river Scheldt.

He exacted a toll from those crossing the river, and for those who refused, he severed one of their hands and threw it into the river Scheldt.

Eventually, the giant was slain by a young hero named Brabo, who cut off the giant’s own hand and flung it into the river.

Hence the name Antwerpen, from the Dutch hand werpen, roughly translated as To throw a hand.

There are other theories for the name, including the meaning “On the Wharf” or “At the Wharf” but I prefer to give a hand to Antigoon.

Out front of the City Hall on the Grote Markt (Great Market Squareis a statue of Brabo and Antigoon, and no tour (or tourist) can come to town without pausing there.

But very few get to pull back the curtain and see the interior of the City Hall.

On our visit to Antwerp this time, we had a private appointment to enter the huge building, and it was a trip back in time. Here is some of what I saw:

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Antwerp City Hall with the statue of Brabo

ALL PHOTOS Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler. If you would like to obtain a copy of these or any other photos from my collection, please contact me by e-mail, at: corey@sandlerbooks.com

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A side street off the Great Market Square

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Inside the main hall of Antwerp City Hall

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11 June 2013 Ypres, Belgium: Where Everything New is Old Again

Belgium has a grand history, not all of it glorious. Much of Flanders, including the once-great city of Ypres. was flattened in World War I or World War II.

Oostende, where Silver Cloud docked this morning, was leveled by Allied air raids against the German occupiers in World War II and was rebuilt–but the result is mostly a city of the 1950s and 1960s, which is not my favorite architectural period.

The trick in Oostende is to look carefully between the featureless box buildings for the relatively few surviving old facades.

In Ypres, the city was reduced to rubble by shelling in the awful Great War. But here, the core of the medieval city was painstakingly recreated. It is quite easy to forget that the spectacular Gothic structures–some from the 15th century–were reconstructed less than 100 years ago.

And there is beautiful Bruges, one of the most magnificent cities of the world. It is very much a veritcal town; visitors who keep their eyes at street level miss half of the sights.

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Oostende is a place where you need to look between to see history. The Belgian port was heavily bombed in World War II by the Allies, and also by the retreating German forces. It was not rebuilt in its old style, and so you must instead look for vestiges sandwiched between modern (and undistinguished) structures of the 1950s and later.

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Parking lot in Oostende outside the Central Station. Trains run to Bruges and Ghent. There’s also a coastal tram that does north and south to the Netherlands and France.

I made a visit to Ypres in the Flanders region of Belgium. These were the almost indescribaly horrific killing fields of World War I.

Just as one example, more than 400,000 soldiers were killed in 100 days in fighting over a few miles of mud near the insignificant village of Passchendaele (now known as Passendale). 

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Part of the Tyne Cot cemetery near Passendale, where more than 11,500 soldiers from Commonweath nations are buried.

After the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915, when German forces unleased a lethal barrage of explosive and gas weapons, the Canadian doctor John McCare wrote a poem that has lived on as a truly evocative memorial to World War I. The poem was, “In Flanders Fields.”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow,

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky,

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

Ypres itself is an astounding place. About five million British and Commonwealth soldiers pased through Ypres on their way to the Salient–a wrinkle in the front line that the Allies were determined to straighten while the German Forces were trying to encircle and cut off the troops who were there.

The city, home of some great structures that date back to the 14th and 15th century, was almost completely destroyed by German shelling. And yet, today, it is there to be seen.

It is hard not to forget that nearly everything in Ypres has been reconstructed in the last hundred years. Some buildings were not completed until the late 1960s. And even today, hundreds of tons of century-old weapons are still being found in the fields of Flanders; every few years an unfortunate farmer or a misguided collector becomes yet another victim of the truly misnamed Great War.

Here are parts of Ypers today.

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10 June 2013 Honfleur, France

We’re off on a voyage from London to Copenhagen, with stops in France, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden.

Silver Cloud glided across La Manche (The Sleeve) or as Anglophones may know it better, the English Channel from Southampton to Honfleur in the Calvados region of France.

Honfleur is an extraordinary place, one of the best-preserved old towns of the region. It survived both world wars nearly intact, with heavy wooden beam and decorated plaster walls.

For me, I walk the streets of Honfleur with the hypnotic music of Erik Satie in my head. That may have been his intent, and he almost certainly wrote his best-known pieces while stoned on absinthe. Satie was born in Honfleur, as was the painter Eugene Boudin. Both of them were important influences on later impressionists including Corbet and Monet.

Here are a few photos from Honfleur…

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Le Vieux Bassin in Honfleur

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Inside Ste. Catherine’s

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The birthplace of another quirky Honfleurais, the 19th century humorist Alphonse Allais. He wrote poetry that specialized in auditory puns (homophonous verse) and also is semi-famous for the earliest known example of a completely silent musical composition. His Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man of 1897 consists of nine blank measures. Satie would approve.