Actually, more walking in Washington

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In a nutshell

 

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Texting or praying? In the largest Catholic Cathedral, seat of the Archdiocese of DC

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Such poor boxes!

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At the wonderful Renwick Gallery. This is all carved from one piece.

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Visiting Emily’s office was really fun! They all have mirrors to see who’s coming in (if you are not seated facing the door). Also, Emily won the 2017 chili cooking competitio at her office.

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Georgetown

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“Die Korrespondenten der ARD – für Sie aus aller Welt!”

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The city’s administration planting cauliflower-like flowers as decoration seems to be the latest trend in DC and Philadelphia

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Well, that’s reassuring.

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I haven’t figured out if this was for changing babies, assisting the elderly or something else.

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The museum stores held many patriotic children’s books.

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View from the Library of Congress which is an impressive palace of books

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President Roosevelt writing memos to his cook

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If you want to take your bike on the bus, you don’t put it inside, instead you put it bike rack kind of thing at the front of the bus

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The Smithsonian American Art Museum commissioned Janet Echelman to create an artwork to transform the Renwick Gallery’s iconic Grand Salon. Echelman created a soft, voluminous net sculpture that surges through the air of the hundred-foot length Grand Salon, intersecting with its historic cove ceiling. The complex form is composed of many layers of twines, knotted together in vibrant hues that interplay with colored light and “shadow drawings” on the walls. A carefully choreographed lighting program subtly changes the experience of sculpture with every perspective. Visitors find themselves transported into a dreamlike state, gazing skyward at an ethereal choreography of undulating color.

A 4,000 square-foot textile floor echoes the organic topography of the aerial form in monochromatic hues, providing a playful contrast to the vibrant hues of the sculpture’s 51 miles of twine above.

The work’s title is 1.8 Renwick, which refers to the length of time measured in microseconds that the earth’s day was shortened as a result of a physical event, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan with devastating effects. The forms in the sculpture and carpet were inspired by data sets of the Tsunami wave heights across the Pacific Ocean. The artwork reminds us of our complex interdependencies with larger cycles of time and matter. Its physical presence is a manifestation of interconnectedness – when any one element in the sculpture moves, every other element is affected.

(http://www.echelman.com/project/smithsonian)

Hotel Helen is open

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„Helen, I am waiting for new blog content!“, I was texted last night. Give them an inch and they’ll take an ell, eh? I gathered lots of content, actually, but time is a ridiculously scarce ressource right now. Maybe because I spent the weekend in Amsterdam, am travelling to Sweden this next weekend and along the way opened Hotel Helen for the public.

Yes, Hotel Helen, or Domicil Lux if you’d like, was busy these last nights. On Thursday, my friend Svenja and her husband Burak came to visit as they were travelling through Dizzel International Airport.

Before I met them, I attended a gathering of the Dizzel Business Club where they talked about just this airport that has over 22 million people in 90 minutes’ radius and no less than 700 departures and arrival every day. The only thing that impressed me even more at that meeting was that the gender balance was totally off with about 5 % of the attendees being female. I guess working in Swedish business contexts has spoiled me (despite the fact that even we don’t usually come up to more than 30 %).

Svenja and Burak’s impression of Düsseldorf was very interesting to hear. I’ve gotten used to quite some things by now but they looked at the city with fresh eyes and – closing the circle to the above paragraph – stated, „This place feels very masculine“. They thought that because there is a disproportionaley high number of men’s outfitters, many men on the streets, a lot of cars and I added that I actually think the architecture is somewhat male. How can architecture be male, you’re wondering, and how can this gender studies graduate say something this un-gendery? Oh well, I don’t t know, come to Dizzel and see for yourself!

The next guest was Anna. When we were holidaying in May and talked about school with her not being too fond of history, I said next time she has to write a history exam, I’d help her study for it. No sooner said than done, I got an email with the subject line „History exam“ and on Friday night, we sat going through Hitler’s ideology. That’s one way to spend a Friday night. Personally, I have lots of objections to how and what students are taught in history in German school. Like at her school, they started the A-Level preparations with the late middle ages, to then move to displacement after 1945, continue with the 1870s and then teach about Hitler. You don’t have to be a historian to figure out that that is widely confusing. (Also, since ages we are taught every fricking detail of Hitler’s sick thoughts but the prelude, the Weimar Republic, is often neglected.)

The last topic in their A-Levels will be ”myths”. No more info on that. What’s that even supposed to mean? It’s like saying, „We’ll study war. Won’t tell you which one, which time period and who against whom.“

The next morning, I interrogated her on ideology at the breakfast table when my former co-workers‘ cousin from Denmark arrived to check in at Hotel Helen for the night. I handed her the keys and an extensive manual („the grocery store is here“, „the tram leaves here“) and dashed off with Anna to the central station to take the train to Amsterdam. Amsterdam! Excuse me but how wonderful isn’t Amsterdam? I don’t know if it is the kamikaze cyclicsts, the super crooked houses, the beautiful water everywhere or the fact that one of my favorite cousins lives there – but I really like the city. We also had great luck with the weather which was both good when we strolled through town on Saturday and when we visited the Rijksmuseum on Sunday because bad weather would’ve meant huge crowds, I guess.

I have been wanting to go to that museum for a while. It is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam, founded in 1800. The building itself is absolutely lovely and the collections are impressive. If I find some time, I need to study the Dutch more because it is certainly marvelous how a small nation managed to produce so many outstanding artists during their Golden Age and to attain such global significance. My cousin told me that the Dutch East Indian Company was the most valuable company that ever existed, even by modern standards.

So finally I got to see The Nightwatch. Actually, it impressed me less than The Milkmaid, The Jewish Bride and the Swan which was the very first painting the museum acquired. It is quite peculiar how I recognized lots of paintings and I am still not sure if my arts education was simply very good or if anything from that time looks alike and I just thought I recognized it.

We made a point out of paying attention to small funny details in the paintings. My cousin even photographed every drunk person in the art, I think he’s planning to make a drunkard collection or something.

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Helen meets the Night Watch

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You can even get The Milkmaid as a playmobil

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Love and appreciation in this painting

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“It seems a little extreme that they would have flown off the ship like that”, said my cousin

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A happy bat!

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Cousinquote. “His outfit makes me slightly uncomfortable”

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Even the baby is tipsy, huh?

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The ceiling in the museum’s atrium

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Cousin and I play Maarten and Oopje. Rembrandt painted the marriage portraits of the newly-weds Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit in Amsterdam in 1634, when he was twenty-eight. They are most wanted and least exhibited Rembrandts in the world.

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Cousin and his university

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I thought this was art, too, but apparently they just marked the spot where you should put your bins, with “household garbage”

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This is Anne.

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The Wu-Tang Quarter of town.

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Del 11 i citat-samlingen

“Om ett barn heter Tina, varför måste man ge det ett nytt namn och kalla det Zahara bara för att man har adopterat barnet från Afrika? Det är som om jag kallade dig Vättern.” “Men jag vill hellre heta Tingstädeträsk då.”

“Köpenhamn är lite som Stockholm, det är fint men man vet inte vad man ska göra där.” “Va? Det stämmer ju inte alls, Stockholm har Stadshuset och Skansen och Vasamuseet…” “Du är en sån pensionär.” “Nej, jag är Stockholmsambassadör!”

“Om du är så upprörd, skriv en insändare då.” “Nej, jag måste göra nåt större. Kanske twittra.”

“Visst räknar man fem glas champagne?” “Per person?!”

“Auf Schwedisch heißt Batman Läderlappen.” “Zu Batman habe ich geforscht! Im Folterkontext.”

“Das Wort fika ist gleichzeitig ein ett-Wort und ein en-Wort. Die wollen einen fertig machen mit ihren Artikeln.” (Kollegin, die angefangen hat, Schwedisch zu lernen:) “Aber ich lass mich nicht fertig machen! Ich lern das einfach auswendig!”

“Det är så många nya ställen i Stockholm nu. Jag kände mig som en lantis!”

“Düsseldorf is not that bad. It has museums. And…grassed areas.” – “Are you in sales by any chance?”

Nothing I can see but you when you dance, dance, dance

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In our magazine, we’re focusing on dance in the next issue. That’s why I emailed the embassy because I had talked to the head of the division for cultural affairs when I last was in Berlin, I wanted to touch base about what’s going on dance-wise. And guess what – apparently I live in the German dance hot spot!

Düsseldorf is home to the most important dance fair in Germany, the Internationale Tanzmesse NRW, and it is full of Swedes. We were thus invited to attend the Nordic Mingle in the Swedish Booth on Thursday which was quite a privilege because this fair is for industry experts and not for ordinary mortals. “If ayone asks”, we were instructed, “you are the press from Sweden”. Not entirely wrong, actually, since we were researching the dance article.

We talked to lots of people within one hour, I learned the difference between Konstnärsnämden and Kulturrådet,  and now I know that Cullberg Ballett is the thing from Sweden. I should probably go see some dance, dance, dance.

 

Life is sweet

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I started looking up more today. Lots of nice patterns to find! This is Kungsgatan.

I am sitting on a big sofa in front of the discussion of the Portugal-Wales match on TV. There are four people in the studio: two men and two women. In Germany, when a female commentator was on TV during some matches, people online went wild because they felt that was so wrong.

But that’s not the only reason I think things are paradiasical. It’s mostly that I got to hang out with Bianca all day without any stress and with lots of vardagslyx (everyday luxury). Eating lunch, lying by the water discussing girl topics and strolling to Moderna Museet. That’s where an exhibition with works of Yayoi Kusama was shown. Judging from the posters, it was very instagramable, so we decided to go. Don’t judge us, we’re millenials.

The artist lives in a psych ward since the 1970s and her art is inspired by her hallucinations. Much of her work had either polka dots or phallus themes. A mother with two young kids was standing in front of the penis boat Kusama had created and exclaimed, “Fantastic! Fantastic!”

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At home, we made dinner (actually, we forced Francesco to make dinner) and we went for a walk to the petrol station. I know it sounds silly but it was so nice to stroll around the neighborhood and see the different houses and to check out the magazines at the gas station. Bascially living a normal life. After all these years, I’ve seen (almost) all the touristy things, so a little sururban normality is just what I long for.

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The best fridge in town! (It has the magazine I produce on it)

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Our after-lunch view

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Urban knitting love

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At the mall Gallerian, they made a map with words that describe the city. So cool!

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Even though I am somewhat affected that my former hoods have “gout” written in caps all over them…

Living as Cézanne’s neighbor

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Aix – mon amour! Just when I thought I was not cut out for holidays down south, we encountered this little town. We made our way here with the bus yesterday, listening to Wise Guys songs, only to find the last bus to our airbnb room had already left two hours ago. The nearly three kilometres uphill with our bagagge became a first city tour – and what a buzzing delightful place this is! Literally every square has its own fountain with a mix of young students, Asian tourists and locals sitting around the ripply water. The sun drenched the big tree-lined boulevards as well as the little picturesque streets of the old town that we wandered. Unlike Marseille, Aix-en-Provence seems devoid of big city stress and full of joie de vivre.

We were received by our airbnb host who is very lovely and has provided us with the best room during my trip this far. After a night in a bed that we would fit into even sideways, we found that we stay right next to where famous painter Paul Cézanne used to live and work. We see Mount Saint-Victoire, the motif of many of his paintings, from our window and both his studio and his terrain de peintre are some minutes away. I quickly informed Anna about Cézanne’s life and work during breakfast (thanks to Wikipedia) and we set out to discover his town.

After our Cézanne-seeing, we went downtown and Anna linked arms with me and stated, „You are really good to travel with because you sleep in, you’re relaxed, you don’t have to go to the bathroom a lot but you are never hungry!“ Anna wants to eat every two hours while I didn’t get hungry until five hours after breakfast – a fact that distresses Anna. I conceded to eating crepes with her.

As good tourists, we also visited the tourist office and were surprised to be served by a lady who knew German. She handed us a map in Danish and German (are there that many Danish people visiting?) that among other things offered „Free tours to Sainte-Victoire on foot, by bike or on a donkey“.

In the afternoon, I successfully got Anna into visiting the Art Center showing a Turner exhibition. We marvelled at his colors and tried to make sense of the French explainations. (Reading actually works very well for me.) Unlike Cézanne, Turner was acclaimed already during his lifetime, with Andrew Caldwell calling „his paintbrush magical“. The Art Center was a former palais that was absolutely gorgeous and we also got to watch a movie about Cézanne there as well in their own cinema. The film dramatically recaped what we learned at breakfast (did you know Cézanne was best friends with Emile Zola who also was from Aix?) and ended with Picasso’s quote, „If I know Cézanne? He was my one and only teacher“.

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Anna in the Art Center

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Being a good Catholic, visiting church on Whit Monday, and walking through the Door of Mercy

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In Aix, dachshunds are kindly asked to walk on the right side of the street

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Anna at a random leftover gate

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Why not have a whole laundry rack at your window?

 

In an inspired mood, we ended up at my favorite square (yes, I already have one) and were lucky to get a table at „Chez Jo“ in the evening sun along with a delicious salad and a good pizza. It felt very vacationish! Even this time, our last bus had left early and hitchhiking proved fruitless so we walked up the hill once more. It’s a shame we’re already leaving tomorrow but maybe we’ll come back. I for one have alreadystarted trying to talk Anna into attending l’Université d’Aix!

Nine reasons to read The Goldfinch

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The Persians say, a good book is like a garden you carry in your pocket. I just finished a book like that, a book that has been so highly acclaimed that I started reading it sceptically. Whenever something has been talked up, I expect it to not bear up to the enormous expectations created. But “The Goldfinch”, the book that took Donna Tartt ten years to write, did not disappoint.(After finishing it, I am not at all surprised it took a decade to write.)

It is her unique combination of details (which make everything seem more real), in depth research (she must have spent months or years with art historians and antiquity experts) and unerring linguistic mastery to describe feelings and situations. While reading the book, I frequently stopped to jot down the way she had formulated things, something that happens very rarely with me.

Ten reasons that should convince you to spend reading time with “The Goldfinch”

  1. Donna Tartt describes adaquaetly what it is like to start noticing that you miss a deeper connection with some people.

But those sparkling blue shallows – so enticing at first glance – had not yet graded into depths, so that sometimes I got the disconcerting sensation of wading around in knee-high waters hoping to step into a drop-off, a place deep enough to swim.

2. She envisions what comes after death in the most beautful way.

But maybe that’s what’s waiting for us at the end of the journey, a majesty unimaginable until the very moment we find ourselves walking through the doors of it, what we find ourselves gazing at in astonishment when God finally takes His hand off our eyes and says: Look!

3. She elegantly phrases the fugacity of superficial beauty.

[He said] The pursuit of pure beauty is a trap, a fast track to bitterness and sorrow, that beauty had to be wedded to something more meaninful.

4. Even the quotes she picks from others to open her chapters are eye-opening true.

We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves. (F. de la Roucefoucauld)

5. She touches the reader with her relatable protagonist and expresses his deepest pain gracefully.

When I lost her, I lost sight of any landmark that might have led me someplace happier, to some more populated or congengial life.

For in the deepest, most unshakeable part of myself, reason was useless. She was the missing kingdom,the unbruised part of myself I’d lost with my mother.

6. She provides you with excellent compliments to use for the next person you like.

Everything about her was a snowstorm of fascination.

7. She portrays her heros in a way that you see them right before your inner eye because you know someone who is just that person.

Everything came alive in her company; she cast a charmed theatrical light about her so that to see anything through her eyes was to see it in brighter colors than ordinary.

My standoffish dad had hated this about her – her tendency to engage in conversation with waitresses, doormen, the wheezy old gus at the dry cleaner’s.

8. She gives you orientation for life.

That maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway; wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open.

9. She has the awareness for history worked out and she knows how to convey it to you.

It is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch. […] And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire and sought them when they were lost and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.

Do yourself a favor and read “The Goldfinch”!

 

Swedish soil and Swedish signs

I am a funny traveller. I plan to go places all the time (mostly because someone I love is there) and when I need to start travelling there, I despise the process and want to stay at home. But now I’m here, safely landed in my dear friend Linus’ apartment where I get to monitor the flowers while they’re gone, and I don’t regret getting on that plane. Talk about ambivalence.

When I packed for this trip in Düsseldorf four days ago, the weather report stated that it would be zero degrees Celsius at the lowest, no snow. I considered leaving my snow pants at home  but my friend Michelle clearly instructed me to bring them. Let me tell you this: there are minus degrees and it is snowing in Stockholm. I have lived in Germany so long by now that I forgot how troublesome it is to drag a 20-kg-suitcase through un-cleared streets full of snow.

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Photo: Chiva Congelado/flickr.com

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When we landed in Arlanda, the entire terminal was dead. Nothing opened, no people anywhere, basically a ghost terminal. Also, the 8-o-clock-flight from Hamburg always lands as far away as possible from the center of the airport. Today, as I strolled through the terminal, I noticed things are happening here (they may very well have been there longer but I never saw them). They put up large installations by Marie-Jo Lafontaine. Transparent portaits of young people, along with neon letters in all languages of the world, reading: “I am a citizen of the world, my homeland is everywhere, I’m a foreigner everywhere.” I thought it was very fitting for the place, our times, and my life.

The next sign I encountered was more easy-going, in the elevator at the station. Even in Stockholm, they combat public urination. But they do it in a funny, almost charming way, with a little fellow protectin himself with an umbrella and asking to please not pee in the elevator.

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Other than that, I’ve managed to meet my friend Mia and hear about new developments at our former shared workplace, boost the Stockholm economy by spending lots of money on…what, actually…public transport I guess, and finding the place I want to go to tomorrow thanks to my favorite magazine amelia (an old women’s magazine according to my friends): Fotografiska, the Photography Museum has opened a store in central Stockholm and I am in need of a large above-sofa-adornment. Maybe there’ll be a match.