A walk along lake Starnberg : from Tutzing to Seeshaupt

We set out with about 40 participants to walk approx. 12 km (7.5 miles) around Lake Starnberg near the German Alps. The reason there are so many lakes at the foot of the Alps is because the glaciers moved down and ground out many depressions and moraines which gradually filled up with water, rocks and pebbles. (Anecdote: when Napoleon and Montgelas came to Munich, they would have liked to clear the pebbles out of the river Isar, only they couldn’t, as they continually wash down from the Alps.)

Our walk started in Tutzing, down to the swimming areas, on a path winding past houses and through high hedges, sometimes along the main road. The famous Buchheim Museum is here at the water’s edge, with interesting modern art and sculptures.

Most often we walked through lovely parks like the Bernrieder Park with blooming meadows, very old oak trees, a babbling brook, at times a wooden bench near a path leading down to the water.

Wilhelmina Busch-Woods, an heiress of a brewery (Anheuser) in St. Louis, Mississippi, bought large parts of Baron von Wendland’s property near Bernried. She and her first husband owned two large farms with horses, she had her own ship and finally furnished a small castle with antiques in Höhenried. Oh, not to forget, she accumulated three husbands as well. She later created a Foundation to allow the general public to walk through her Bernrieder park after her death in 1952.

When we finally reached Seeshaupt at the south end after three hours of walking, we were quite happy to enter the restaurant for a very good lunch. I had a look at the small church nearby with its light yellow and white hues.

We then drove on to Gut Kerschlach, a very large farm with many horses, dog training, horse carriage rides, meadows, gardens, an empty specialty shop, sausage production, a bakery and a large café. As we were tired from our long walk, we were especially glad of the coffee and cakes on offer!

Shanghai – downtown and Yuyuan Garden

Right in the center of Shanghai, between modern shop fronts and high rise buildings you can walk through a gate and find a beautiful garden : the Yuyuan Garden. Winding pathways lead you past little pagodas, ponds, flowering shrubs and walkways decorated with banners of golden Chinese letters. In between you can rest your weary feet on roofed benches inside shady and artfully carved wooden frames. This is one place you shouldn’t miss. It is a real oasis within a busy city.

After enjoying ourselves among the shady fronds and Chinese pointed pagodas, we decided to have some nice tea and look out over the rooftops of the city, where a cool breeze dried our damp forehead.

China – The Dazu Rock Carvings of Mount Beishan

The Dazu Rock Carvings are actually about 75 sites scattered throughout the steep hills. This World Heritage Site depicts Buddhas and gods with Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist influences. They are in the Dazu District about 2 hours away from the large city Chongqing.

Some carvings are shrines but by far the largest part are carved into the open rock face. What is unique is their exceptional coloring which has often been preserved. The biggest site is on Mount Beishan. The oldest carvings are from the mid 7th century in the Tang dynasty.

It is a refreshing walk through green trees and bushes to see the outdoor carvings of Buddhas.

Beijing – The Forbidden City

Many, many, many people, mostly Chinese stood in line on the Tiananmen Square outside the walls of the Forbidden City in Beijing (Peking). Luckily, our Chinese guide “Joseph” who spoke excellent German, had already organized the tickets and the wait was not quite that long. Meanwhile, we were often asked by Chinese tourists whether we would stand with their group for a photo and would grab any one of our group by the sleeve. They were always smiling and very pleasant and well-mannered.

The Forbidden City served as Imperial Residence for the Ming through the Qing Dynasty (1420-1912). For 500 years it was the center of political power. It is not far away from downtown Beijing. It is entirely surrounded by walls with the Palace (now a museum) in the center and the women’s quarters on the edge. The women have a beautiful rock garden near their building, one part of which is now a souvenir shop with lovely silk items. Many of the former concubines lived in comparative solitude we were told. The complex is now a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site of oldest wooden structures.

As you can see, red and gold are the predominant colors, blue represents the sky. The pointed roofs ward off evil spirits. The large metal bowls filled with water are a symbol of eternity. The steps and decorations are carved in white marble.

At times the crowd was so thick you could only see inside a temple using your camera and a selfie stick to reach over other people’s heads and look inside the room. Note also how many people used parasols, as the sun was very hot. Several hours are a minimum to see all the artefacts and wonders of this Palace!

El Anatsui in the Haus der Kunst – “Triumphant Scale”

El Anatsui (*1944) is a Ghanaian artist who has worked for most of his life in Nigeria. The youngest of 32 children, he lost his mother early on and was forever searching for something that had “more relationship to me”.

By pure coincidence, he once found a bag full of bottle tops and took them home, where they were forgotten for a while. When he found them again, he cut the caps into different pieces, formed them and joined the pieces with copper wire. Why expensive copper wire? According to El Anatsui, copper has been part of man’s culture for all times, used to make bronze, weapons, pots and pans, and so forth, making copper mine owners rather rich.

The hangings made of metal and plastic caps weigh very much. They are held up by steel wires and beams, nails and in the case of “waves”, the hanging is buoyed up by rabbit wire which the artist went off to buy himself in a hardware shop.

The “curtains” of Liligo Logorithm form a kind of labyrinth, some overlap and form an opaque layer, some have ornamental insets, some are open and airy.

The black and white prints titled “Cassava” are the 3D prints of the cassava fruit graters. Oil canisters are cut into pieces, holes are punched into the metal and then enlarged to make a grater for the fleshy part of this seed fruit, also known as manioc. Manioc is a staple food in Ghana. The whiter print is a photo of the cuts and grooves of the working table.

The hangings in black-red-gold are an hommage to Germany. The big red one is called the “Red Block” and the black one the “Black Box”. Most caps are from alcohol bottles and it is quite intentional that the large red caps are “The Lords” and farther up the caps are tinier.

On one photo (9) you can see the “Tiled Garden”, a series of square white “tiles” surrounded by round floral designs in green and red and the stump of a “tree”. The golden hill (bottom row right) is titled “Yams’ hill” to imitate the real hills that yams are grown in, a staple food in Ghana.

His works in wood symbolize traditional plates or indicated the need to save the trees and not waste wood.

Meanwhile El Anatsui employs many people to help him prepare his works of art, some of which take half a dozen years to finish. Each and every exhibition is unique since the buildings, the wall paint, the hanging and the “waves” are always different. Should you have the opportunity, do go to see the originals, photos are not half as good!

The Tombs of the Ming Emperors near Beijing

From the third Yongle Emperor on, the one who chose feng shui principles for the tombs, thirteen emperors of the Ming dynasty in China have been laid to rest. The valley enclosed by mountains was chosen so as to guard the spirits from bad demons. A seven-kilometer “Spirit Way” leads into the complex, guarded by animals and a large “Red Gate” with three arches. The tombs are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 2003) including yet other tombs of the Ming and Xing dynasties. The eighteen pairs of mythical animals carved of stone lead the souls of the dead Emperors to the nether world.

The steps are made of marble and carved with snakes and dragons. The all-pervading royal colors are red and gold. Large metal pots filled with water symbolize longevity. The pointed ends of the rooftops shall ward off evil spirits. Bells and prayer drums are for the use of the devotees.

Within the buildings many objects like headdresses and silk robes are on display.

Longmen grottoes in Luoyang, province Henan, China

The limestone caves or Longmen grottoes are about 12 km to the south of Luoyang. They are the finest examples of Buddha statues carved in the soft rock and formerly painted. At times steep steps lead up to the statues, other are farther down, sometimes an entire rock face has been transformed into miniature and large niches for different sized statues. The Yi river flows through this area, the Yique or “gate of the river Yi”.

About 1/3 of the caves are from the Northern Wei and about 2/3 from the Tang dynasty, with some caves from other periods of time. The grottoes have been included in the World Heritage list as ‘outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity’ by the UNESCO in 2000 showing such an amount of Tang art. The surrounding area is home to almost 2,500 stelae and inscriptions, as well as 60 Buddhist pagodas.