The Artful Traveler: Part 1 – London and Berlin

Where in the world is the artist LaRoach? Have you wondered why I haven’t posted much lately? The answer – I’ve been traveling through Europe during the past six weeks.

My husband and I share a love of travel and exploration. Every year we get out of town and experience a new city, country or culture. Our excursions offer the time and freedom to visit amazing museums, grand churches and cultural sites of note. Of course during this time I have the luxury of photographing to my heart’s content, something I rarely do at home when chores, schedules and social media seem to eat up precious creative time.

This year we chose Berlin, Salzburg and Florence to visit, also sandwiching two weeks in the middle of our trip to see cousins and friends in Bolzano and Trent (Northern Italy). Along the way my camera was busy documenting artful inspiration. Hopefully you’ll soon see bits and pieces from this trip pop up in my future artwork and stock photography.

Tower of London

Flying into Heathrow Airport, we decided to stay a few days in London Town. The Tower of London was a short walk from our hotel and since we had missed this site on a previous visit, we decided to spend the day walking through the murky legacy of England’s infamous prison. I snapped closeups of interesting architectural details, had my photo taken with a Yeoman Warder (also known as Beefeaters), and marveled at tales of  historical personalities imprisoned throughout the tower’s lengthy history.

Louise with one of the Tower’s Beefeaters

Our next destination was Berlin, Germany. My husband had chosen this city and I was also curious to see modern Berlin. Our AirBnB was a short walk from Checkpoint Charlie and one section of the Berlin Wall, important locations when the country and city were politically and physically divided by Cold War Russia. Since the Berlin Wall was both erected and eventually torn down within my lifetime, (yes I am old enough to remember the beginning of the wall), this was a point in history that I could identify with, as well as compare to our current political turmoil. Although this time period is an ugly part of Berlin history, particularly because it took place only 16 short years after the devastation of WW 2, I applaud the German people and their endeavor to remember and document what happened in an effort to never allow the separation of people and state to take place again. The memorial (across from the sobering Topography of Terror exhibit) has extensive documentation and photographs of the brutality that occurred – a very cut-to-the bone honest experience. Certainly a part of history that is better understood in person rather than reading about it in a book.

Checkpoint Charlie
Section of Berlin Wall with Exhibition

Another Berlin site I found extremely moving was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Stark dark grey granite blocks of varying sizes are set in rows on an undulating hilly plot of land. It was both mesmerizing and unsettling walking through the cubes that steadily increased in height, dwarfing all who ventured within. You soon felt lost in a maze reminiscent of grave markers. Every so often you caught a glimpse in the distance of someone crossing through your row or of another person meandering in your direction. Luckily we chose a perfect time of day to visit as the sun was low in the sky and the memorial had a strong three dimensional quality. I took my time within the structure, quietly walking between the rows in reverence to the three million souls who were lost during the Holocaust. One could not help but feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the site and what these cold blocks of stone represented. Along my way I took note of those I passed and their reactions to the memorial. Many young people were snapping selfies, laughing and obviously enjoying themselves in the late afternoon warmth, seemingly oblivious to the veil of memory hanging about them. But an older German woman, who was slowly walking the memorial alone, caught my eye. Her expression was of reverence and she was clearly upset by others who were not being so respectful.

Although my heart was heavy when I finally walked out and into the waning sunlight, I felt fortunate to have experienced this testimony to the Jewish people of the holocaust.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

And one final note before I close this lengthy post. As my husband and I were walking the streets of the city, exploring with our usual curiosity, we came upon a small stark cement building. Inside solemnly isolated and alone, sat “Pieta” by German artist Käthe Kollwitz. I am always awestruck viewing the work of an artist I have studied and admired. I won’t elaborate on Käthe Kollwitz in this post, but if you would like to know more about her legacy, here are a few links to look into:

Wikipedia – Käthe Kollwitz

Käthe Kollwitz – Museum Köln

Wikipedia – Neue Wache

Pieta by Käthe Kollwitz

I have always felt Kollwitz’s imagery and three dimensional art represents the very essence of humanity, and this sculpture particularly so. Not the idealized Mary found in Renaissance art, Kollwitz’s Mary is squat and heavy with sorrow. You feel the quiet desperation of her posture and submission to circumstances in her expression. With its quiet simplicity, the lone sculpture said so much about women and history. Finding “Pieta” was my most memorable moment in Berlin.

Pieta by Käthe Kollwitz

Watch for future posts in my “Artful Traveler” series! Until then –Auf Wiedersehen!