Herzlich willkommen!

This is the personal webpage of Andie Gilmour.

I am a seasoned IT professional who together with my partner and cats upped sticks from the UK in 2008 and moved to live just north of Berlin.

Why did we make such a momentous move? Surely we must have been crazy? As the traditional song goes: Du Bist Verrückt, mein Kind, du musst nach Berlin, wo die Verrückten sind!

Well yes, we were crazy - crazy about Berlin. There is no city like it, and Land Brandenburg around it is also a beautiful thing.

On this page I have incorporated the most recent posts from my blog, which has chronicalled our move to Berlin and our lives and discoveries since. I hope you read it and can share with us our love for this crazy place.

Alternatively, you can subscribe to the Best of das Blog newsletter and get a periodic digest of the best monthly posts sent direct to your email box!

 

Mit freundliche Grüße!

Andie Gilmour

top 👆

1. Bamberg - Mediaeval Jewel of North Bavaria


The old town in Bamberg is the largest, preserved historic centre still in its intact state in Germany. For this reason it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1993, and in a Europe where so many Altstadts are anything but (having been mostly destroyed in WW2) Bamberg provides the visitor with an authentic feel of what a mediaeval German town was like.

It is not a day-trip destination for Berliners though. It is situated in northern Bavaria (Bayern), and even on a high-speed ICE train takes five hours to get there, via Fulda (though once a day direct) and changing onto a regional train at Würzburg for an hour.

The long journey is worth it for the architecture and history of the city. It has strong links with Slavic culture (particularly Polish and Hungarian) and with the German-speaking Franks, as well as being the seat of power of prince bishops of the Holy Roman Empire. Bamberg was also a centre for the flourishing of Enlightenment ideas in southern Germany, and philosophers and writers such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and E.T.A. Hoffmann lived here. Claus von Stauffenberg (the would-be Hitler assassin as played by Tom Cruise) has associations with the town as well; he began his military career with the local cavalry regiment, and married his wife Nina here in 1933.

Whether you are a great fan of the baroque or gothic, or are attracted by Bamberg's rich religious heritage, or are a beer connoisseur (Bamberg has nine historic breweries - try the local Rauchbier), or just like wandering around twisting mediaeval streets, Bamberg will not fail to please.

To further get a feel for Bamberg, please check out my gallery of photos of Bamberg.






Posted on 2 August 2015 | 5:01 am

2. Unter Dampf! Up the Brocken by Steam Train

I shouldn't really like steam trains. Noisy, dirty, fossil-fuelled monsters from a past age, with no place in an eco-considerate world. But I find a beauty in their precise engineering; how so many parts work together so skilfully and, using only the power of boiling water, can move a mass of many tonnes of metal and freight and passengers up a mountain.

So, when a short stay in Wernigerode in the Harz Mountains gave us the opportunity for a trip on the narrow-gauge Harzer Schmalspubahnen steam railway up to the top of the Brocken, how could I resist? I might be drummed out of Greenpeace for this traitorous action, but please allow me this guilty pleasure.

Here are a few photos from the trip. Unfortunately, none are from the top of the Brocken mountain, because the summit  was shrouded in rain and mist. They say there are lovely views from the top, but there could have been a coven of sky-clad witches dancing on the flat summit and we wouldn't have seen them for the descended cloud. Still, a lovely experience, and a nice shot of schnapps on the train to keep us warm.














Posted on 14 July 2015 | 12:09 pm

3. Berliner Schloss-Humboltforum 'Tag der offenen Baustelle'

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

The re-building of the Berliner Stadtschloss is coming along marvellously. Usually you only get to judge progress from the building work and cranes towering up over the tops of the hoardings enclosing the site, but over the weekend the building site was open to anyone to come in and see how things were going. And the answer is 'pretty good'. If only the nearby Berliner Staatsoper (State Opera) on Unter den Linden was doing so well. Or dare I mention it, the ill-fated Berlin Brandenburg Airport.

The new Schloss does still look a bit like the shell for a multi-storey car-park, but the dome has just this week had its topping-off ceremony and once they get around to adding the baroque plaster twiddly-bits it should look quite impressive.

It is in fact a bit down-beat to see the concrete skeleton of any building before it has had its façade applied, like seeing a drag queen before the make-up is slapped on, or a sponge wedding cake before the icing, frosting, and fluting. Better I think if the building consortium hadn't shed light on the magic, and kept the Stadtschloss under wraps - Christo and Jean-Claude style - until it was ready for its appearance on the Berlin stage: Taaa-daa! Of course this kind of architecture is nothing new; if you've visited the Colosseum in Rome you will have seen how the Romans were adept back then at building in brick and concrete then adding the Corinthian columns and pilasters as a final adornment.

The open day featured all the usual German accoutrements to entertain the curious: Bratwurst, Bier, and a military brass band. But also live music, songs and food from other cultures, anticipating the palace's future role as a forum for dialogue between the cultures of the world and setting for the World Art and Culture museums from Dahlem.

The open day featured a lot of fund-raising from the visitors to keep the project going. And why not? Maybe the Berlin Brandenburg Airport could have been funded this way instead of throwing public money into the bottomless coffers of greedy speculators and out and out crooks? I did think of setting up a stall and mischievously organising a petition to have the DDR-era Palast der Republik rebuilt instead. Or, God forbid, a completely new 21st Century building as befits a modern World Capital instead of a Disney-esque Höhenzollern Kaiserland theme park.

A fun day out for all the family then, though perhaps a cause of puzzlement for foreign tourists. I mean, you came to Berlin and you're looking around a building site? What's that all about then? Anyway, the multi-culti musical entertainment and the fast-food was great, and it was entertaining as a Brit that the German military band played 'Colonel Bogey' (my inner voice singing 'Hitler, has only got one ball ...) followed by 'Land of Hope and Glory'. It felt just like Last Night of the Proms; if we'd have stayed longer they might have broken out into 'Jerusalem'!

Here are some of my snaps of the Stadtschloss Baustelle. It will be interesting to return when the palace is completed and do a before-and-after comparison.

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

photos of the Stadtschloss under construction by Andie Gilmour

Posted on 13 June 2015 | 10:55 am

4. Museumsinsel by Night

Museum Island is a popular place to wander around any time of day, but it is especially precious after the sun has just set, the tourists have left, and the loving couples come out. Usually there is at least one busker left to fill the evening with music, and the bars and restaurants of Mitte are only a short walk away.

photos of Museum Island, Berlin, after sunset by Andie Gilmour

photos of Museum Island, Berlin, after sunset by Andie Gilmour

photos of Museum Island, Berlin, after sunset by Andie Gilmour

photos of Museum Island, Berlin, after sunset by Andie Gilmour

photos of Museum Island, Berlin, after sunset by Andie Gilmour

photos of Museum Island, Berlin, after sunset by Andie Gilmour

photos of Museum Island, Berlin, after sunset by Andie Gilmour

photos of Museum Island, Berlin, after sunset by Andie Gilmour

Posted on 11 June 2015 | 4:07 pm

5. Kraftwerk Jähnschwalde

photos of  Kraftwerk Jähnschwalde by Andie Gilmour

Coal-fired power stations shouldn't look beautiful. They should be photographed with billowing sulphurous smoke and dark thunderous clouds, with lightning bolts and a storm of acid rain. But on a sunny Spring day, the Jähnschwalde power station can't quite pull the satanic role off.

photos of  Kraftwerk Jähnschwalde by Andie Gilmour

photos of  Kraftwerk Jähnschwalde by Andie Gilmour

photos of  Kraftwerk Jähnschwalde by Andie Gilmour

photos of  Kraftwerk Jähnschwalde by Andie Gilmour

photos of  Kraftwerk Jähnschwalde by Andie Gilmour

photos of  Kraftwerk Jähnschwalde by Andie Gilmour

This area NE of Cottbus, known as Teichland, is a joy to cycle around. Just watch out for midges and mosquitoes! It is hard to realise that these lakes are flooded open-cast mines.

photos of  Kraftwerk Jähnschwalde by Andie Gilmour

Shouldn't that sign say 'Kraftwerk Autobahn' though, not Straße? (German musical joke there)

photos of  Kraftwerk Jähnschwalde by Andie Gilmour

Posted on 15 May 2015 | 1:00 pm

6. High Up With the Slavic Gods

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

Cycling around the Teichland  NE of Cottbus we unexpectedly came to a steep hill. This was unexpected because Brandenburg is everywhere else as flat as a pancake. That makes for great and easy cycling, but it does get a bit boring not being able to get some perspective on the landscape. This hill was so steep that we even had to change down to first gear. Oh, and get off and push half-way up.

The hill turned out to be a visitor attraction called Erlebnispark Teichland, a kind of theme park with exciting things such as a mini-golf, bungee trampoline, wooden roller-coaster, and a labyrinth. What it is doing here I have no idea, though I suspect it was created by Vattenfall (the owners of the nearby massive brown-coal mining operations and Jänschwalde power station) to 'beautify' what they had previously made into an open-cast mine and slag-heap.

We weren't very interested in bungee trampolining, but our eyes were caught by a tall, white tower on the top of the hill, beside a strange collection of brown statues signed as a Slawischer Götterhain (grove of Slavic gods. Or 'Slavonic' gods as the as-usual-misspelled English translation had it).

The tower was an Aussichtsturm (look-out tower) and we found that entrance to it was 2€ per person, with coins put into a turnstile. A warning here though: the tower is 50 metres high and has 272 steps. There is no lift so you are buggered if you happen to be disabled or not very fit. This despite there being a disabled parking bay outside the tower.

The Aussichtsturm does have quite spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, albeit that most of what you can see are acres and acres of forest and large terra-formed fields. It isn't too far from the Polish border, so I imagine that some of what you are seeing is Poland.

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

From the tower you get a good idea of the shape of the 'Slavic Grove':

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

You also get a good view into the labyrinth, and there is an urge to shout down directions for the people wandering around it!

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

The Grove of Slavic Gods is a peculiar affair. As works of art they are not at all impressive, and if there is any spirit of the old gods and goddesses inhabiting the place, I think they would be rather offended. The deities on show are rather a mish-mash of gods and folklore too. It's rather as if a Chinese theme-park had put up plastic statues of the Madonna, Jesus on a crucifix, Robin Hood, The Morrighan, and Micky Mouse inside a small-scale concrete Stonehenge. What's it for? I don't know. The Slavs were almost eradicated by German tribes here centuries ago, and the ones who clung on, the Sorbians, are devoutly Christian. Anyway, it made for an amusing break before we cycled on into the Lausitz countryside and thence for a train back to Berlin.

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

Teichland by Andie Gilmour

Posted on 15 May 2015 | 11:48 am