Germany votes: the Wahl 2013 in photos

Next Sunday, Germany will elect a new parliament, the Bundestag. And slowly but surely, the Wahlkampf is invading our lives. On the radio, in the news, but most noticeably: in the streets. In this photo essay, an impression of how the parties are trying to convice the Germans to vote for them.

Underutilized election campaign boards

Special posterboards have been erected for election campaign posters. But most are not used fully.

Using the trees for posters
The political parties rather use trees…

Using traffic lights for posters
… and traffic lights to spread their message.

A hidden QR code
Some try to lure us to their websites with QR codes. Even if the posters are put up in such a way that the QR codes are hard to scan. If this is a design error, what does that say about the party or canidate in question? And what does the fact that the QR code leads to an non-transparent shortened url say about this party in question?

Oversimplifications are easy messages
And of course, there are those who claim to be the ones with the courage to tell the truth. To me it seems that they are often also the ones trying hardest to hide the truth by oversimplifying issues.

Will this shock you into voting?
In any democracy, there’s always room for parties with an extreme message. Some of them are trying to shock people into voting for them with extremely rude messages: ‘Which a….. will you vote for next time?’

I’m not eligible to vote in these elections, so to me it’s mostly amusing. But then again, with Germany being one of the driving powers of Europe, I think these elections are important for all Europeans. So, please my German friends: be wise with your vote.

A celebration of craftsmanship: Festival des Métiers by Hermès

The maker movement is one of the disrupting forces of the new collaborative economy. It brings a strong focus on producing items yourself with personal specifications, made in an artisanal way. Quite some luxury brands have a similar focus: bespoke items and craftsmanship. One such brand is Hermès, and they show this off in the touring Festival des Métiers. You can see Hermès artisans at work, and ask them all about it. They put up their show in Düsseldorf these days, in the Areal Böhler. Below an impression.

Saddle up
The saddle maker composing a saddle

Double stitching leather
The stitches on leather bags are double, and all done by hand.

Ties
Two ties are printed on each piece. They are cut out and sown together by hand.

Decorating ceramics

Ceramics are painted layer by layer, each layer needs to be baked for several hours.

Velvet maker
This lady cuts the silk threads by hand, to create the velvet. It takes days to finish a piece.

Stitching clothes together
I really love this sowing machine, which is used to assemble the several pieces that make up a clothing item.

Paint
A rack with paints for printing the designs on the famous Hermès scarves.

Next stop of the Festival des Métiers is Paris. I’m not sure where they go after that, but believe it’s Canada. If you get a chance to visit it, you should definitely go. It’s impressive and inspiring to see these artisans at work.

The people who stand on advertising columns

A Säulenheilige used to be a person who would go up on a pole, and sit there to contemplate and pray. But that was a long time ago. These days, in Düsseldorf, the Säulenheiligen are statues placed on top of advertising columns. There are, as far as I can tell, nine of them; made by artist Christoph Pöggeler. You might not have noticed them, while walking through Düsseldorf, because of their elevated position, and maybe also because they seem to be regular people doing regular things you do in a city. Here are six of them

The first one I noticed, was the photographer, who is making a nice photo of the main station.
Säulenheiligen: Photographing the photographer

One that I like for her cheerful attitude, is the lady dancing through the Altstadt.
Säulenheiligen: Dancing in old town

Then there is the couple taking in the view of the Rhine from the Burgplatz.
Säulenheiligen: Two tourists enjoying the view

But you can also take a cue from this sweet couple, and make Düsseldorf a place of romance.
Säulenheiligen: Lovers near the tv tower

Or, you can do like this lady, who is enjoying the sun, and, if you look at her from the right angle, seems to be looking up to the Rheinturm. Her name is ‘Marlis’.
Säulenheiligen: Marlis

A bit hidden away, close to the Rhine, there’s this mother with her child.
Säulenheiligen: Mother and child looking over the Rhine

Slightly out of central Düsseldorf, a bit in the northern part of town, there’s this guy who’s ready for a swim.
Säulenheiligen: where's the pool?

Have you seen any of these Säulenheiligen? Or maybe one of the other three? Which one did you like best? Let me know in the comments.

The tumbling people of Düsseldorf

Radschläger Uerige

On our first visit to Düsseldorf, we soon met the first Radschläger, in the Old Town, right in front of the Uerige city brewery. Clad in copper, an with a U for Uerige, initially I thought it was an advertising gimmick from the brewery.

Small Radschläger

However, as we discovered more of the city, the Radschläger turned up in more places. Sometimes easy to find, sometimes a bit hidden away behind a mall, like the one above. Always slightly differently looking, and always captured in a different moment of his acrobatic moves. Sometimes sponsored, and sometimes not.
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Autumn in Riga: first snow of the season

It’s October 26, today. Autumn is in full swing, and some trees are trying hard to hold on to their leaves. But winter is coming to Latvia, and quick. The first signs arrived today. When we woke up and looked out the window, we saw the first snow. Time for a first snow of the season post.

Snow in the morning, this is what we woke up to

Snow in the morning, this is what we woke up to

That was only the beginning. There was more snow in the morning, in what to some seemed a blizzard. Enough snow fell for the first snowmen to come out of hiding.

Snow men came out of hiding

Snow men came out of hiding

Of course, we went for a walk, and B made his first snow tracks of the season.

B making tracks

B making tracks

In Viesturdarzs park, the autumn colours and snow created a beautiful landscape.

The colours of autumn and winter in Viesturdarzs

The colours of autumn and winter in Viesturdarzs

Trees and statues all got a new top-coat, like this statue of big cats playing.

Pumas or tigers? In any case: a fresh white coat

Pumas or tigers? In any case: a fresh white coat

Even our beloved dog run has turned white.

Our Sunu Pastaigas Laukums (dog run) turned white

Our Sunu Pastaigas Laukums (dog run) turned white

One more photo from Viesturdarzs, with the Triumph Arch.

And one more look at Viesturdarzs park

And one more look at Viesturdarzs park

Three honoured men of Riga

Map of the statues and streets honouring Kalpaks, Blaumanis and Rainis

Map of the statues and streets honouring Kalpaks, Blaumanis and Rainis

Within in the distance of only a slightly extended dogwalk from our home, there are three Latvian men honoured with a street being named after them, and a statue. Now, this should not be surprising in the capital of a country. And national heroes are a great subject. But what actually did surprise me, is that in all three cases, the locations of streets and statues do not coincide. Rainis, Kalpaks and Blaumanis have statues that are not placed on the boulevards and streets that carry their names: Raina Boulevard, Kalpaka Boulevard and Blaumana Street. I just think that’s interesting. Just as I think it’s interesting that two of these men (Rainis and Blaumanis) are poets/writers. Good people to have as national heroes.

Statue of Blaumanis in Bastejkalns park

Statue of Blaumanis in Bastejkalns park

The statue of Rainis in Esplanade park

The statue of Rainis in Esplanade park

Statue of Kalpaks, in Esplanade park

Statue of Kalpaks, in Esplanade park

The Wonderful Facades of Riga

Riga is a beautiful city, full of beautiful buildings. Also outside the old town you can find buildings with amazing facades. Especially in the Art Nouveau district. One of the more famous one is located on Elizabetes street, and is the signature blue and white architecture of Eisenstein. Especially impressive are the faces at the top.

One of the Eisenstein buildings

Eisenstein building at Elizabetes iela

Not far from there is Alberta street, which features some wonderful Art Nouveau buildings. I like the window shapes in this one, and am sometimes dreaming of living in the appartment behind these windows. Not that I know what it looks like from the inside, but it should be great.

Wonderful window shapes in Alberta iela

Wonderful window shapes in Alberta iela

Unfortunately, not all buildings are well kept. The details of this one, on Vilandes, are amazing, but I’m not sure for how long they can still be seen. The building has been empty and in desperate need of repair as long as we’ve been in Riga, and recently part of it has been burnt down. So the building is badly damaged, maybe even beyond repair.

Beautiful Facade, but damaged beyond repair in Vilandes iela

Beautiful Facade, but damaged beyond repair in Vilandes iela

It’s not only the facades that have been designed with a keen eye for detail. In some buildings, the staircases have some nice details as well, like this stained glass window. The building is not public, but it’s also in the Art Nouveau district.

Stained glass in stairwell

Stained glass in stairwell

But, the buildings with beautiful facades are not limited to the Art Nouveau district. Scattered around the city you’ll find some great examples. The details of these balconies, on a building in the higher numbers of Elizabetes, across the street form Vermanes Garden are stunning, albeit not all in great shape. Imagine looking up to the balcony above you, and seeing dragons fly.

Dragons holding up balconies on Elizabetes iela

Dragons holding up balconies on Elizabetes iela

I’d like to finish with one of my favorites. A friend mentioned it to me, and I think it’s great. It’s a bit outside the center, but just look at the theme of the facade decorations and let your imagination run wild.

Watch out for flying...

Watch out for flying...

Foreign statues stand proudly around Riga

One of the great things about living in a country other than the one you grew up in, is that you look at things differently, and start noting things you normally wouldn’t think twice about. Being immersed in a different culture does that to you, you look for the differences and find them, or similarities. In The Hague, the city I lived in for most (still more than half) of my life, I couldn’t tell you which statues in the public space were donations from foreign governments. Here in Riga, I run into some of them on a daily basis.

One that I have shared earlier is the statue of the bicycle, donated to Riga by the city of Amsterdam and the Dutch embassy in Latvia.

Amsterdam-to-Riga-bike

A bike donated to Riga by the Dutch

Another one is the statue of Mirzo Ulugbeg, a scientist, ruler and grandson of conqueror Timur. The statue was donated by Uzbekistan, and stands proudly in a hidden corner of Kronvalda Parks.

Statue of Ulug Beg

Statue of Ulug Beg in Kronvalda Parks

In the same park stands a pagoda that was donated by China to the city of Riga to commemorate its 800th anniversary. The pagoda is used intensively. Sometimes by people taking cover from the rain, but in the evenings mostly by youth hanging out in the park at night, and on quiet evenings by young couples as a romantic spot. It looks used, but somehow I think that has its charms: the pagoda is not just another statue, but it is something that has a function for locals.

Chinese pagoda

Chinese pagoda in Kronvalda Parks

Also interesting is a clock. The most famous clock in town is of course the Laima clock, but this one has a maybe even more visible place on the corner of two busy streets and close to the national museum of art. It was a gift from the city of Kobe in Japan.

Kobe Clock

Kobe Clock, but where's the beef

These are only a few of gifts from foreign governments (or cities) on display in the public space. If you know of more, feel free to share in the comments. Obviously, there are more gifts from foreign dignitaries, presented at official state visits. These are on display in the recently opened Museum of Foreign Art on Doma Laukums.

Bikes in Riga: different but familiar

Coming from a country that is reputed to have more bicycles than people in it, I should be used to bikes all around me. My first encounter with Latvian cyclists however, annoyed me. I was stepping out of our front garden onto the sidewalk, and almost got run over by one. Or maybe it were two. Riding on the sidewalk is something that people in the Netherlands do with great care. Your place is on the street, and when you’re on the sidewalk, it’s for a reason and you try to avoid pedestrians. Not so much in Riga. My first thought on the subject was that if you want to ride a bicycle, you should be courageous enough to take part in normal traffic, and not bother pedestrians. A few months later I was almost used to it, and understood it a bit better as well. It’s the rules, here. And car drivers are simply not used to cyclists on the street, and don’t really care. So being part of normal traffic is slightly dangerous here.

Bikes on the Sidewalk

Riding your bicycle on the sidewalk is normal in Riga

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Graffiti in Riga, and why you should not clean it all

Graffiti is everywhere. And of course, also here in Riga. What not many people know, is that it is not simply a thing of modern times. The earliest forms date back to about 30000 years ago, when people started drawing things in caves. Unfortunately, not all graffiti is of historic value. In many cases these days, it comes down to sheer vandalism, in which public or private property is defaced by mainly spray-paint. There are basically two forms of modern vandalism graffiti. The simple name-tagging:

Graffiti: name tagging vandalism

Graffiti: name tagging vandalism

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