31 March 2012

Let's go camping

After book 1...

Onto book 2...

Let's go camping like it's 1962.

Thanks, Lego!


07:30 on a Saturday morning is a time to start removing paving. Not necessarily my favourite time, but a time, indeed.

Since we moved into this apartment in September, it seemed someone was constantly renovating something. Present company included. Though being renters we mostly cleaned, painted walls, and then drilled a few holes in them. As others were buying apartments around us, they were putting new tiles in, etc. Anyway. Every time I would think "seems it's over", it would turn out that another apartment had changed hands. This morning does put the icing on the cake though. They've been working on the paving of the building next door. Time to remove the old paving? Why yes indeed. See you 07:30 Saturday morning, sharp. Thanks blue truck with "Schwarz" written on it, thank you very much.

Guess we'll have to continue doing some building of our own. Much more quietly.

28 March 2012

All grown up and dignified in Stuttgart

Had a job interview. Only afterwards did I get a spot of chocolate ice cream on my white shirt. Now that's what I call being successful at grown-up life.

But on to sounding more dignified. Saturday night we saw L´Orchestra I Sedici and Maestro Luigi Sagrestano at Neues Schloss Stuttgart. An evening of classical music as a first Groupon purchase, why yes indeed. The alternative? Well, lots of things. You know, like a discount boob job. But no thank you, German Groupon, some things I might not want at discounted prices.

Hold up, why am I posting pictures of boobs? Dignified things! Focus!

Today I got my art on in Stuttgart. First, at the Staatsgalerie, where there is currently a show on with works by Turner, Monet, and Twombly. The title is "Later Paintings", as all the works are from later in the respective artists' careers. No, I'd never heard of Twombly either, but the curation of this show is very interesting. Curator Jeremy Lewison talks about it a bit with his dubbed German voice at the end of the exhibition, and I'm sure the book says loads about it, so I'll just tell you my take on it. I really liked the visual conversation that was sparked in each room. The thematic titles for each space helped, but the careful selection and placement of the pieces was even more powerful. Form, colour, movement—the differences and similarities between the works made one's eyes even more aware of the style and mood of each one. If there were a scale with one extreme at atmospheric and the other at, for lack of a better word, graphic, then Turner would be at the first end, Monet closer to the middle, and Twombly closer to the graphic end. These and other thoughts made me think that this exhibition is a triumph for really feeling the formal aspects of some artworks.

I didn't get a chance to see the permanent collection, maybe next time.

Later I went to Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. The temporary show features the work of Michel Majerus and... well, I didn't particularly care for it. I did like a number of pieces in the permanent collection, notably works by Thomas Müller and Adolf Hölzel. There were also some interesting works by Björn Braun (read | see) which will be up until 9 April. By the time I got to the most amazing stop frame animation of a chicken head stitching its already plucked and somewhat sliced up body back together again, my mechanical pencil was out of lead! Title and creator unknown!

The view from this building is quite something. I took some pictures of everyone enjoying the spring on the lawns, and of some street performers who drew quite a crowd with their juggling-burning-sticks-on-a-unicycle act. Respect.

The other thing that is far too awesome is—yes, you guessed it—the shop. Museum shops are the best!!! This one is filled to the brim with so many beautiful books it physically hurts. Fortunately this is Germany and a large proportion of the selection is in German. But here are some English ones that looked cool.

I won't even talk about the linen-covered hardbacks in colours like muted teal with only the beautifully typeset title debossed in, you know, maybe a subtle pink. I won't!

27 March 2012

Horses and moonshine

We took a short walk on what was yet another sunny afternoon, visiting the horses on a nearby farm. We returned home, and I continued my chicken soup effort—real chicken soup mind you, made of bones and lots of vegetables. A big task, but it pays back with flavour, plus interest. Later when I brought in some washing I saw the moon and her halo. I wish I had my own shrub with red branches so I could use them for ikebana. The end.

26 March 2012


Many thanks to Foto-Kurz in Böblingen for cleaning my camera as many times as it took to get rid of all those schmutzige spots that were ruining my photographs and my life.

The pastry above is about as far as I'll go to partake in Easter.

Also, we're on South African time, also known as GMT +2, since yesterday.

Oh, and we saw a guy wearing an OMG AKA WTF T-shirt. Har har.

That is all.

23 March 2012

On the topic of bad postcards

See bad postcards on It's Nice That. And then...

This gem is labelled as being from "Charles Skilton's Postcard Series", clearly featuring "H.R.H. The Prince of Wales". (Yes, the second set of quotation marks is "ironic".) Portrait by Karsh of Ottowa—who I just learnt took that picture of Winston Churchill! Wow.

From Wikipedia:

Karsh had a gift for capturing the essence of his subject in the instant of his portrait. As Karsh wrote of his own work in Karsh Portfolio in 1967, "Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can. The revelation, if it comes at all, will come in a small fraction of a second with an unconscious gesture, a gleam of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all humans wear to conceal their innermost selves from the world. In that fleeting interval of opportunity the photographer must act or lose his prize."
I guess that means Prince Charles is... to use that Americanism: kind of douchey? Oh no, I just Wikied douche! Argh!

Postcard purchased at Cape Town's Church Street Antiques Market, previously mentioned here.

22 March 2012

Stripey colours

Those copyright crusaders out there better not break Pinterest because I don't think I want to live in a world where images like these can't happen to come together so beautifully on my screen.

Shimashimajima by Tsupera Tsupera via Design*Sponge and Studio Bertjan Pot: Masks via It's Nice That.

P.S. If you want to laugh about copyright, check out this TED talk.

19 March 2012

Around the village by day, around city museums by night

I took this on Friday when the weather was insanely lovely. Like, nice South African winter day lovely. I love these delicate forms and how they're slowly becoming brittle and revealing their veins. I dream of a silver pendant like that, with some orange jewel inside.

On Saturday we took a walk among the fields, as you do when you're all couply and settled and have free time in this country. In the evening we attended Stuttgart's Museum Night, where museums, galeries, cultural institutions and other interesting places are open until about three in the morning. Trying to go on the Stuttgarter Newspaper printing press tour ended up being a bust, but we saw a bunker that was converted into a hotel and is now just a bunker-hotel ruin basically. Queueing to go in, my husband's colleague remarked how his grandmother told him about waiting in line while bombers were flying overhead. No point in being pushy and disorganised—you'll probably only retard your descent to safety. Other things we saw included containers being moved around at the river harbour, and everything to do with animals, plants, sex and evolution at Schloss Rosenstein.

Bedankt en tot ziens!

18 March 2012

Antwerp IV: Winding down

I spent my last day in Antwerp on essential gift shopping—chocolate Antwerpse Handjes for others and books for myself. I also tried to ignore my throat ache while doing some more cycling with the Velo bikes that I talked about before. The greatest success was finally finding the entrance to the pedestrian Sint-Annatunnel so that I could go to the other side of the river for this view.

I took some pictures of the Grote Markt square, again. You've got to love how the sun catches the golden statuettes on the buildings. Check out this cool flare on Google Maps.

And that is about it. The next morning I dragged myself to the station and spent some feverish eyeballs-baking-in-my-skull hours on the train until I was finally home. Cudos to the Deutsche Bahn conductor on the train from Brussels by the way, who did announcements in Flemish, French, German, and English. And on the topic of language, cudos to everyone in Maastricht and Antwerp who we accosted in English without making them flinch. I don't think we managed to make anyone flinch, in fact. My favourite language moments were however the two times I managed to have conversations where I was speaking Afrikaans to someone who was content to understand and answer back in Flemish. Viva occasional mutual comprehensibility, viva.

Antwerp III: My kind of holy

BOOKS! Lots of old books! And everything to do with making them. You know, in the olden days. European olden days. That's what you can see at Antwerp's Plantin-Moretus Museum.

Only view this slideshow if you want to see a lot of printing paraphernalia and beautiful old books. Design Loving has a much more lovely and succinct view.

There was also some more modern book exploration on day three. I went to Cultuurcentrum Mechelen to visit the number one bunny in the world, Miffy. Their Dick Bruna expo is on until 3 June. It isn't very large, but a lot of trouble has been taken to provide fun activities for kids while still giving an interesting overview of Bruna's life and work. I really liked seeing all the other work he did for his father's publishing company, specifically the covers for their Zwarte Beertjes paperback books. Bruna is 84 and still works every day.

14 March 2012

Antwerp II: Actual holy things, unholy things, and a bicycle

My second day in Antwerp started on a high point with a visit to De Kathedraal, or the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal. Reverence for St. Maria means that there are quite a few of those in The Netherlands and Belgium. Conversely there also seems to be a Jodenstraat in most towns. Anyway, renovations that are in progress notwithstanding, I really enjoyed this cathedral. I didn't only have to be content with works by Peter Paul Rubens, I could also be impressed by the intricate stained glass windows and other decorations. I can only imagine what an amazing space this must be to experience when no-one is hammering in the background.

For lunch I engaged in what might be considered the opposite of a beautiful church building, greasy chips with mayonnaise, or frietes.

The lovely weather enticed me to revisit Grote Markt and get a good picture of the hero flinging away the giant's hand. Sounds obscure, I know. The folk origin of the city is explained on Wikipedia:

According to folklore, and as celebrated by the statue in front of the town hall, the city got its name from a legend involving 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 Dutch hand werpen—akin to Old English hand and wearpan (= to throw), that has changed to today's warp.

Next I walked up to the MAS, Antwerp's main museum of ethnology, city history, and the like. Two of the floors weren't open, but I so thoroughly enjoyed the ethnographic exhibitions on the top floors that much more would've simply passed me by. Another cool thing about this museum is the "behind the scenes" peek you can get on the first floor. My desire to spend my life in a museum or archive of some kind is growing ever stronger.

I had bought a Velo day pass online the night before, so I spent the rest of the afternoon using these bicycles to cruise around the city. With the user number and password I had, I could go to any station and get a bike. Only the first half an hour with a bike is free, but if your time is up it's easy to dock at a station and walk around for a while, or you can just wait five minutes and take a bike again. Antwerp is very walkable, but as a tourist trying to save her feet a bit I was very happy to enjoy some relaxing cycling.

Antwerp I: Train travel is holy

I tried not to let the dreary weather rain on my mood, so I set out with my friend who was up early to go be academically productive. In searching for the university library, I found the art school instead. It had an interesting old building next to it. After that I actually managed to find the library, which indeed had some cool courtyards around it. I then enjoyed a free omelette at Pool Planet—yes, it's true—free breakfast every weekday for anyone. I had a courtesy coffee of course. But between €2.30 for that and €2.20 for lunch in the student cafeteria, eating seemed to be off to a delightfully cheap start.

It was still a bit early for shops to be open, so I went to the station that had impressed me so the night before. Antwerp station is quite the cathedral to travel by rail.

Next stop was the Meir with all its old buildings and fancy shops. I found a second-hand shop just off the main street and bought two cute skirts. €10 per item is much more my speed than the price of new things in fancy shops.

In an attempt to spend some more time indoors I visited the Diamond Museum in the afternoon, but it was rather underwhelming. Museum design update, please.

13 March 2012

Maastricht II

Sunday morning started well with an excellent Hotel Randwyck breakfast. There were two kinds of pie, so really, the morning was made right there. More correctly I could've said that there were two kinds of vlaai, but I'm still not convinced that the dish is actually that different from any other kind of tart or pie.

We were pleasantly surprised with the temperature and enjoyed some wanderings and photography without our jackets on. Alas, the bliss had to end and turn to rain. Lunch at some sandwich place took an hour to be served and then the longest part of our return train journey was spent next to some smelly youngsters who may have been returning from a hiking trip. But all is well that ends in an extended Picasa slideshow, so here you are.

12 March 2012

Maastricht I

Back home after a week away. I've recovered from the cold I came down with at the tail end of my trip only to skip feeling better and land right in the middle of the most ridiculous hay fever ever. Yes, I know, poor me.

The trip was initiated by the great present-day initiator of outings, Groupon. I met up with a classmate from those once upon a time university days and two of her more recent acquaintances to complete the foursome for the two twin rooms voucher at the Hotel Randwyck.

We spent our first half-day wandering around and absorbing Maastricht in general. This is incidentally also how we spent our second half-day. Sorry to spoil the next post so soon.

Firstly it should be noted that the whole "Dutch people cycle" stereotype exists for a reason—they really do cycle. I think I consciously started including an active cyclist in most photographs, and this wasn't hard to do. They also ride mopeds without helmets, which is... interesting? They do these things while looking generally rather stylish in fantastic coats and boots. The memento I bought was a natural choice: nijntje op de fiets, or in English, miffy's bicycle. I bought the book in one of the best places I've ever been in—a bookstore in a church. If you're a regular reader of this blog (hi, Gran!) you might understand how that's a collision I'm very appreciative of. You can see more about Selexys Dominicanen on inhabitat.

And you can see more of our wanderings below. If you're looking for an odd yet humorous way to raise funds, go hang out in your town square and charge people €1 to try and toss an egg into a cup attached to your hat. If they get one in, they receive a bonus egg to pelt you with. We gave up after €2, but we definitely wouldn't have donated anything if there was no silly game involved. I honestly don't even know what they were raising funds for.

Cool books seen in the bookstore-in-a-church included the adorable Mama kwijt by Chris Haughton (Dutch edition on Amazon.de and YouTube | English editions on Amazon.com), the intriguing PERCEEL NR. 235. Encyclopedie van een volkstuin by Anne Geene (see a pdf preview bly clicking "Bekijk"), and the potentially interesting Behind the Zines: Self-publishing Culture.

More after another 1000 sneezes, tomorrow.