Friday, December 28, 2007

St. Georg fighting the dragon

Click here for large size version

The bronze statue "St. Georg fighting the dragon" was made around 1851-55 and nowadays can be seen in the Nikolai Quarter of Berlin; originally it was located at the Berliner Stadtschloss, which was bombed to ruins in World War II.

The statue depicts in a naturalistic way the brave St. Georg fighting a dragon, retelling thus a rather popular Christian legend. The dragon usually is identified as "The Devil". and St. Georg fights him to release a King's daughter - not to marry her, but to make it possible for her to be christened properly. No wonder that St. Georg, the pure and brave, was one of the most popular Christian saints!

The statue was made by the German sculptor August Kiss (see the inscription at the leftmost part of the pic), whose first famous work also depicted a fight scene, a panther fighting with an Amazon on her horse.

Kiss worked in neo-classical style and very detailed, and since the statue of St. Georg was made near the end of his career and life, it shows his remarkable skills in sculpting an action laden scene like this. A life size plaster version of this statue won August Kiss a bronze medal at the world exhibition in Paris 1855.

The notes for this exhibition in Paris made clear that a the statue needed room - at least 11 meters to all sides were deemed necessary to give the onlooker a good view of it Sadly nowadays the statue resides in a rather cramped space, making it almost impossible to take a good photography of it without introducing too much of the very near and rather high houses in the background - very easy to see here in an animated tour around the statue:

Okay, a challenge is a challenge, and after pondering all possibilities I finally settled for a multi viewpoint / "reverse pano" approach in an attempt to show clearly the fine detail and action depicted so masterfully with this very three dimensional sculpture. ;-)

One last thing: If you wonder why St. Georg fights the dragon with his bare right hand - originally he didn't, he held a sword in this hand, but it got lost over the decades.

So enjoy St. Georg and his gripping fight with the dragon! And get out the popcorn - because this is a looong pic to travel! :-) BTW: If you missed the link directly beneath the small image on top of this post - no need to scroll back, just click here!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A special day in Rome

Join me for a special day in Rome! You won't be travelling on a Panorama Bus Cruise, but will be invited to have a glimpse of Rome looking at 17 (!) panorama pictures instead. Have fun!

One note: To really enjoy the tour don't forget to click on the links beneath each panorama picture for the larger versions!

Okay, let's start with the Roman Forum, the "Forum Romanum", a fascinating site of old day Rome at the Capitoline Hill, used as meeting place for commerce and justice as far back as 500 B.C. Here a view of the Forum in the evening light, but since we're starting our day in Rome just imagine it's the morning sun you're seeing here! :-)

Click here for large version.

Now let's get down into the Forum for some further exploration of those buildings and artifacts - all of them at least 1400 years old! Here a 360 degree pano taken at "ground level":

Click here for large version.

Not far from the Forum the Colosseum can be found, the ancient arena for the entertainement of the masses:

here for large version.

Now let's move slightly forward in time and visit the Piazza della Rotonda, sporting one of the 13 obelisks that can be found in Rome and of course serving as an entrance to the Pantheon (more about that in the next paragraph):

here for large version.

Next stop is the Pantheon, now a Christian church, but originally a building devoted to all deities there are, not only the Christian one. The Pantheon was finished in 125 A.D., and for 1.600 years was the building with the largest dome - 43 meters in diameter - on earth. It hasn't got any windows, only a 9 meter wide "eye" at the top:

here for large version.

Enough culture for now? Need a rest? Okay, the Piazza della Rotonda is surrounded by nice Italian bars and ristorantes, so let's have a break:

here for large version.

Fit again? Let's move! To St. Peter's Square this time, and without any guards and borders in view you have quickly left Italy and now are standing on the grounds of Vatican City - with another one of those obelisks in sight:

Click here for large version.

A peek inside St. Peter's Basilica? No problem, it's November and the tourist count is a tiny bit lower than usual, so you can roam the Basilica freely, admiring especially all that colorful marble and gold:

here for large version.

Now it's a question of your fitness - because mounting the more than 500 steps to the top of St. Peter's Basilica is some work. But the reward is a beautiful view towards St. Peter's Square - you can even see Italy (Rome) from here! ;-)

Click here for large version.

Let's wander a bit to the left to see more of Vatican city, here it's gardens - well, pretty much all of it in fact, save St. Peter's Square and the little railway station - those didn't make it on this picture:

here for large version.

A short look into the Vatican's museum brings us this nice view of the ceiling of the so called "Map Room":

here for large version.

Now for something completely different - let's go to the biggest open air market in Rome on the Campo de' Fiori. It's not that big a market actually, and tourists flood this market especially in the summer time, making lots of noise in the evening and nights and scaring away Roman residents. But now it's November, and things are quiet and peaceful. Here actually not a look at the market, but at one of its sides - with two of the ubiquitous Roman motorcycles decorating some of the typical house fronts lining the market:

Click here for large version.

A short way from the Campo de' Fiori we'll find one of the dozens of other fine churches, this time San Carlo ai Catinari, with a voluptuous baroque decoration:

here for large version.

And as an example for another fine square in Rome here a view of the Piazza del Popolo, the entry to Rome from the north of Europe. It has another one of the Obelisks, this one cut off here, but in spite of that one of the oldest - it was brought to Rome in 10 B.C. and orginally had its place at the Circus Maximus. And interesting to note that the "almost twin" churches you can see on the right of the panorama were built (not only) for decoration purposes - they just looked good paired this way:

here for large version.

It's getting late, and so it's time for a very special event: Dolce & Gabbana meets the Trevi Fountain! And not Anita Ekberg this time, obviously: ;-)

here for large version.

Too much commercials? Okay, let's visit something more officious, the Capitoline Hill with it's main square designed by no one less than Michelangelo (who of course also was responsible for other buildings, places, statues, paintings you'll find all over Rome - see e.g. St. Peter's above):

here for large version.

Not tired yet? Than let's go for some classical culture in the Opera house to finish up our nice day in Rome:

here for large version.

Hope you enjoyed the tour! :-)

Want even more pictures & panoramas? Visit the Rome section of my PBase account here!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

"The Mega Multi Maxi Park"

… is what the Duisburg-Nord Country Park in Germany calls itself - and mega, multi and maxi it is! But this is not the usual amusement park you'll find everywhere - this is a truly unique site that combines family fun with industrial history, cultural events and lots of nature at a place where you wouldn't expect it - at an old steel plant.

Between 1901 and 1985 this steel plant in the north of Duisburg - part of the old industrial Ruhr region - operated up to five large blast furnaces. Six years after its closure a competition was held to convert the old steel mill to a public park; the concept of landscape architect Peter Latz won, and the result is quite fascinating: he turned the industrial site into a center of memory and culture, by allowing some old structures and buildings to remain, and by converting some others to new uses: a large gasholder became Europe's largest indoor diving pool; two halls now house theatrical productions, exhibitions and other events; the ore bunkers were partly converted to a multifaceted climbing site. But the stars of the park are the large blast furnaces. You can actually visit and climb on furnace #5 - up to its top, seventy meters high. And what a view you have from it!

View from blast furnace #5 of Duisburg-Nord Country Park - click here for a large size version

But not only these true monuments of old industrial culture and the new use of some of them are awe-inspiring - how nature and plants are allowed to take over other parts of the site is equally impressive. This is demonstrated especially, but not only by the ore bunkers: while some of them now serve - as mentioned - as a climbing site, most of them were left alone, and nowadays small primeval forests grow in them. This not only looks nice, but in fact is an active part in reducing toxic substances that have soiled the surroundings of the steel mill in the years of its active operation. There even is a word for this cleansing process, it's called "phytoremediation".

Here now pictures showing some of the sights offered by the Duisburg-Nord Country Park - a park visited by around 500.000 people each year. Incidentally none of them has to pay a single cent for it, the entrance is free.

First a look at the diving hall in the former gasholder - this diving site holds 21.000.000 liters of water, and the first flooding of the gasholder took five days. On its ground the divers find pipe systems to explore, also old wrecks - ships, a car, even a small plane:

Click here for a larger version

Now a look at the blast furnaces #1 and #2 - on the left the ore bunkers with the plants growing out of them:

Click here for a large version

A panoramic and because of that curved look at the large crane used to transport the ore from the bunkers to the furnaces - easy to see how nature already dominates the industrial site here. The crane is nicknamed "The Green Crocodile", because it's illuminated by green lights at some nights:

Click here for a really large version of this panorama

And here a look up the real star of the park, the blast furnace #5 - you can climb it up to its top. This picture is taken among the middle of the furnace, revealing some of the intricate pipe structures of this gigantic edifice:

Click here for a larger version

More images from the park you'll find in my gallery. And lots of information about it here, at its official site.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Project "Good Weather"

Click here for a larger version - and here for a very large version of this picture!

"This is about difference and sameness. About variety and uniformity. About hunger and satiety. About repetition and change. About culture and tastes. About health and illness. And finally it's about the weather. Because a German proverb says: If you eat everything up properly we'll have good weather!"

That's written on the pic already - and because this blog is about pictures and the stories behind them, here some background.

The picture is designed to be a large poster - the impact is a bit different than here then, and because all the gory detail is there ;-), it can be viewed close up or - stepping back - in its entirety. You're invited to click on the two links below the picture to get a feeling how these different views could be.

It consist of 46 single pictures, taken in August 2008 during my midday work break. The challenge was not to ignore the stares of the onlookers - especially while photographing the "cleaned" plates after eating - but to recreate a look of uniformity. It's incredible how distorted the lenses even of rather capable cameras render straight lines (the pics were taken with a Fuji F810), and how minuscule differences in perspective contort an image. So without a camera mounted on a tripod and consistent studio lighting at hand all one can do is extensive post processing on each and every image to at least create some similarity among them.

But since this image is about sameness and difference, about uniformity and variety, I allowed for slight changes in white balance, lighting, and even went so far to cut off elements at the borders. In a future version of this pic those cut off elements might be eliminated.

All technicalities aside - the bottom line: For me it's a bit like minimal music. Variations, differences, repetitions, rhythms within a tight framework. In other words: Modern civilized life!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Linz and the Ars Electronica

The Hauptplatz in Linz - click here for a large version

Linz: A medium-sized town in the north center of Austria, located on both sides of the Danube. A town with a long history, reaching back to Roman and Celtic settlements. There are aspects of the history of Linz that are quite interesting and nice - e.g. that the city was for a short time in the 15th century capital of the Holy Roman Empire, that the famous mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler worked and published in the early 17th century in it (the local university bears his name) and that the composer Anton Bruckner lived and worked here in the 19th century. Very nice to know, sure - but most cities have some famous inhabitants, haven't they?

But Linz is also tied to another, rather infamous person: Adolf Hitler spend a part of his youth there, performed miserably in a local school, but in spite of that somehow grew fond of it (of Linz, not of the school ...). He had big plans for Linz, and - stemming maybe from the feeling of being a unrecognized artist - had the idea to turn it into a cultural center of the Third Reich. And as he proclaimed the annexiation of Austria into Greater Germany in 1938, he did so in Linz, at the townhall at the main square in Linz, the "Hauptplatz". Want to see where? Click on the link beneath the panoramic picture above showing the "Hauptplatz" at night, and look at the somewhat pink building with the small clock tower on the left side on the panorama, right to the large "Plague Column" (built 1717 to remember the victims of the Plague) - this is the townhall.

Curiously enough Hitler's idea to turn Linz into a cultural center somehow worked - fortunately not as he originally planned, but in a much more modern way: Linz nowadays has several fine museums, some of them dedicated to the modern arts, and since 1979 it holds the annual "Ars Electronica", a festival for art, technology and society - a very interesting event, especially nowadays in the times of quickly evolving media technologies.

The panoramic picture above showed you a glimpse of the old Linz - so now some looks at Linz as a modern centre of art & thought!

Interactive video sculpture with bubbles - seen at the Landesgalerie Linz.

"Mirror cells" - an interactive environment by Sylvia Eckermann and Peter Szely, exhibit at the Ars Electronica 2007. Everybody who wanted could get into that large mirror cell and type some SMS on those projected round screens you see at the ceiling. Altogether quite a sight! So do take your time to sort out all that reflections.

A quick look at this year's conference at the Ars Electronica - main topic was the debate on the value of privacy in the age of blogs like this one. ;-)

And now as an adequate ending - adequate to the topic of the conference that is - a private look at the author of this lines - reflecting himself in the ceiling of the Lentos art museum in Linz.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

At the "Stuff-and-Cattle-Market"

What is this? A market for "Stuff and Cattle"? It's exactly that, a great yearly market where a lot of things are peddled and traded: cattle like horses and cows, and all sort of small and large stuff - from assorted knives up to expensive front doors, to name only a few examples. All this looks back on some hundred years of history: this year the "Stuff-and-Cattle-Market" in Bad Arolsen, Germany, was held for the 276th time!

Like a lot of yearly markets in Germany it's not only for trading - it's also the time for some fun. And to be honest: most of the around half a million people that visit the market each year go directly to the big funfair part of it - that one with the giant ferris wheel, the cotton candy and shooting booths, and with all those technically advanced amusement rides.

It's open day and night, for three and a half days. Here some glimpses of its attractions - simply click on the pics to see larger versions, especially of the landscape oriented ones:

The specialty of this roller coaster are its spinning cars - the cars not only race up and downward, but also do rotate during the ride. To show a bit more of the action at one glance I took the liberty to combine three single shots for this pic, BTW.

Nice to have a ride on a classical carousel in between. Not that it doesn't twirl with a remarkable velocity when at full speed! I had to hold my camera pretty tight, I can tell you ...

On to the shooting booth, where hard man shoot for cuddly stuffed animals.

A glimpse of the funfair in the evening - the ferris wheel dominating the scene.

Want to have a go at the can-throwing booth? Power and precision is needed here!

Even more power here, for the finale: you're looking at the "Power Tower 2", a free fall ride that reaches a whopping 66 meters in the air - the highest of its kind. The "free fall" you can experience here accelerates up to 54 kilometers per hour downwards. Of course it's completely computer controlled - so no need to fear anything; as long as this controlling computer doesn't run on Windows, of course ;-).

BTW: You're looking at a composite again, this time made out of four (big surprise!) single pics.

More funfair pics at my gallery!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A panoramic tour of Lake Garda, Italy

Today I want to invite you to a short panoramic tour around Lake Garda in Northern Italy. Six panoramas will offer lots to see! Don't forget to click on the links beneath each picture to get to the full size views.

To get in the right holiday mood lets start with a view of a hotel pool situated a short distance from Peschiera in the south of the Lake Garda - the mountains you can see in the background are those surrounding the lake:

Hotel pool, near Peschiera, Lake Garda - click here for large version

Now let's get down to Peschiera, a small city on the southern side of Lake Garda, situated at the river Mincio, the only river leaving the Lake Garda - all others flow into it. Pescheira has a nice picturesque Old Town - her a view of it in the evening:

Peschiera in the evening - click here for large version

After this relaxing evening we now get on the Gardesena Orientale, the route on the east side of the Lake Garda. Our first stop is Lazise, a small town with a beautiful promenade - grand for nursing a glass of red wine, maybe from nearby Bardolino - and watching the sunset on the lake at the same time. Also worth a look is the old harbour of Lazise:

Lazise harbour - click here for large version

Traveling further north our next stop is Bardolino. Here we visit a sort of "beach" (there are no sand beaches at Lake Garda, only pebble ones) for a swim in the lake. In fact we're a short distance north of Bardolino:

Bathing near Bardolino - click here for large version

Refreshed? Okay, for a very nice evening meal now let's go a few kilometers further north, to Costermano. There you can find a Ristorante named "Miralago" - and that offers a wonderful view of Lake Garda and the city of Garda (named exactly as the lake):

View of Garda from Costermano - click here for large version

Now for a last stop we go around the northern tip of Lake Garda and follow the Gardesena Occidentale, the wonderful route on the west side of the lake. Here the mountains are higher, and the villages at the lake's shore are fewer and due to the steep mountains don't have much space. Until said Gardesena Occidentale was opened in 1931/32 villages like Limone could be reached from the south and eastern shores of Lake Garda by ships only:

Limone - click here for large version

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Gelato - Italian Icecream

Icecream in Garda, Italy - July 13th, 2007

Gelato - icecream - sure is one of the most fascinating aspects of Italian culture. At least one of the most tasty ones ;-). It comes in a large variety of flavours, and has to be freshly produced and homemade - artigianale - to be considered a worthy dessert for Italians. Here only three of the maybe lesser known compositions available at the better parlors: Ricotta-Fig, Mascarpone-Caramel and Concertina (don't know the ingredients for sure of the latter one, but it's definitely marvelous!).

Like in the pictures shown above and below it's normal style to present the icecream in boxes that are not only full to the brim, but much beyond that. And those mounds of fresh icecream suggest a richness and opulence that's almost impossible to resist. At least once a day you just have to succumb to the temptation and buy some.

But beware: Servings of two different flavours generally are enough for one person, because their size usually is very generous.

In typical tourist areas the icecream shops of course abound, but it's interesting to know while many sources date the beginnings of modern icecream back to the Renaissance in Italy (check here for more information on this) that for a very long time it remained a delicacy reserved for the rich and famous. Only with the invention of freezing machines in the late 19th and early 20th century icecream became easy to produce and affordable for the masses - for us, that is.

Selling icecream in Lazise, Italy - July 15th, 2007

Another interesting cultural note: Icecream forms a strong bond between Italy and Germany. Italian icecream parlors became popular in Germany beginning with the 1920's, and at that time the Italian immigrants were the first to introduce the delights of international cuisine to the Germans on a broad scale.

Nowadays it's of course normal in Germany - as in every globalized country - to have restaurants offering food from all "four corners" of the world - you'll find e.g. Mexican, Korean, Indian, Thai food easily, and of course much more. But the Italian Icecream parlors named "Venezia", "Dolomiti", "San Marco" - to name only a few typical ones - were the very first to broaden the culinary knowledge and insights of Germans almost a century ago.

Iceream vendor in Lazise, Italy - July 15th, 2007

Friday, August 3, 2007

The future of plumbing

Seen in Valeggio, Italy, July 17th 2007

Isn't that a true work of art? The nameless plumber* is to be congratulated for his clear structured, straightforward and at the same time very dynamic composition. And as every real work of art it's not only compelling, it's also visionary: maybe it will soon be a "must have" for rich house owners in the future to have elegant plumbing structures on the outside - and more and more of those, even in the parts further up north in Europe, won't have any fears of freezing, thanks to the ongoing global warming effects!

Right now such beauty is confined to those lucky ones who live in a Mediterranean climate - winters without too much freezing are sure needed to avoid greater problems with your morning shower the year round. Valeggio in Italy - where this picture was taken - normally is too far north for this climate, but Lake Garda, only a few miles away, operates as a big temperature buffer in the winter, keeping temperatures higher then usual at this latitude.

By the way: Another unusual place for "outdoor" plumbing is Cornwall in Great Britain. This southernmost part of the Bristish Isles has subtropical vegetation - palm trees and wonderful colorful plants abound - and a very mild climate thanks to the Gulf Stream flowing alongside its coasts.

* For all I know these don't have to be water pipes, but could also be gas pipes or pipes for some electrical cords. I'm no plumbing expert, I admit. But for the sake of the story just let's assume we're looking at water pipes - and it's not unlikely that we really do. :-)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Madonna

Near the church San Benedetto in Limone sul Garda, Italy, July 12th 2007

Now, is that corny or simply typical for Catholic Italy? That the afternoon light illuminates the face of the Madonna as sent from a heavenly spotlight ... The woman hurrying away in the background no doubt has just watered the flowers and cleaned up some miniscule dirt to let the Madonna really shine!

Italy is very Catholic for sure. True, the Roman Catholic Italians are outnumbered for example by Brazilians and even US-Americans of the same faith - but in Italy around 90% of the population belongs to this denomination. No real surprise here - the pope doesn't reside that far away, does he?

Because of this the sheer number of churches you'll find in Italy is astounding. There are more than 25.000 parishes for the around 57 million believers - in comparison the 147 million Roman Catholics in Brazil only have around 9.000 parishes.*

Now unfortunately not all of the tens of thousand of Churches in Italy have a ceiling decorated by Michelangelo. But do remember that the Roman Catholics as a rule don't really shun vivid colors and works of art & splendor. So you can at least be reasonably sure of some nice displays of artistry in every church in Italy. Always worth a look!

* Source: Among others The CIA World Factbook and The data about the percentage of Italians belonging to the Roman Catholic faith varies from source to source - between 88 and 97 percent.

Inside of a church in Lazise, Italy - July 10th, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Neptunbad in Cologne

Click here for large version.

Seen yesterday in Cologne. Doesn't it look nice? The Neptunbad was a municipal indoor swimming pool, built in 1912 in the Art Nouveau style. It served the health and sports interests of the public up to 1994, when it had to be closed - the necessary costs for renovation and modernisation were too high for its owner, the city of Cologne.

In 2002 a private investor bought the heritage-protected building, and made a modern gym out of it. The original swimming pool with its high 13 meter ceiling is now converted to a place for workouts. But the also heritage-protected sauna can be used again in its original look and feel.

But if you feel cheated, because you really, really wanted to have a swim in a German Art Nouveau "Jugendstil" swimming pool - don't despair, you still have the chance to do so: visit either the Stadtbad Neuk├Âlln in Berlin (built in 1914), or the M├╝llersche Volksbad in Munich (built in 1901). Those two are still in operation and in very good condition. And both share something: Each has - of course! - two big swimming pools; the slightly smaller one was "women only" in former years.

So if you plan to visit Berlin or Munich: don't forget to pack you bathing suit!

An addendum: Do I hear someone complaining that the picture above looks a bit warped? No, it's not. It's just a curved panoramic projection - I had to take the photo really close to the front of the building and so had to resort to multiple exposures to be stitched later. Want to see really warped? This is what the stitching program thought it could get away with first: