Frankfurt Tales of Winter and Spring.

I was born here, well, not exactly here, the back entry of the Alte Oper, Frankfurt’s old opera house, but a little up the street, to the right, at the Bürgerhospital in Frankfurt’s Westend, my playground was Holzhausenpark, the former park of the Holzhausen estate, now open for public, now meaning since 1913, just an eighth of the original extent, a tiny leftover, rather Parc Monceau than Central Park, the Holzhausens, like all patricians of the 1800s, the Astors, Vanderbilts and such, have lost their fortune, and their male heirs, all that remains is their moated Wasserschlösschen, a little water castle from 1729, replacing the old castle from the middle ages, I always wanted to own one alike, a pond surrounding one’s house always seemed so appealing to me as a child, jumping in after breakfast in summer, skating on it in winter, but when I look at it now, it has lost most of its appeal, if I were to pick housing today, I’d choose Neuschwanstein, so wonderfully aloof, but that’s another story, anyway, winter doesn’t do anything for Frankfurt, it’s just cold and grey, one has to flee to a gallery, luckily, the Städel has one of my favourite paintings on display, August Macke’s still life of his children’s toys, here at least, in the rooms with the collection’s French impressionists, you can find some spring, it’s not real, just a mirage, but still, it’s properly done, in oils so vivid you can forget about that winter called spring outside.

Spring in Berlin.

Finally a lunch break with some sun. Finally some spring in the air. However, let me be quite clear on that, it wasn’t spring at all, not really, maybe meteorologically, but definitely in name only, in fact, it was icy cold outside, my shawl was wrapped thrice around my neck, the sky might have been blue but there was still some snow left on the ground, ice patches made everything slippery that was left alone by passers-by, and of course I slipped taking some of the photos when trespassing the garden design, but it was worth it, Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie, the old national gallery, inaugurated on this very day some 150 years ago, on March 22nd, 1876, was looking splendid with the bright blue sky and the graphics of the leafless trees, there is nothing better to bring out architecture than a tree, the contrast between culture and nature is one of the most spectacular I know, and so I wasn’t too sad about just taking pictures of the gallery itself – and none of the great pictures on display inside.

Splendour, style and stairs galore.

Despite a very white sky, not grey, just really white, hate that colour on a sky, I felt like not having another cup of tea, but like strolling through Potsdam’s palaces and gardens, I needed some splendour, some king’s extravaganzas to lift me up, and Friedrich II’s summer residence Sans Souci, his pleasure palace outside of Berlin, would definitely do the trick, its rooms are just magnificent, rococo at its very best, but once I arrived after a 45 minute commute, I wanted to stay outside, even at temperatures below zero, every little puddle was frozen, just to catch up with nature, listen to the birds while walking through all those gardens, from Sans Souci to the Chinese teahouse, from the New Palais, new means, it’s from seventeensixtysomething, from the New Chambers to the Orangerie, some marathonic palace hopping so to speak, you see, the eye has to travel, once said Diana Vreeland, and so my eyes and I went on an extended trip, a very extended trip, through all kinds of architectural styles, we’re still quite exhausted from it, I’m blaming all those stairs, they’re all very beautiful, even perfect, but still, why did they have to construct so many of them? I feel like having spent way too much time on the stairmaster.

How I lost my peace of mind in Paris.

Walls, ladies and gentlemen, I need more walls. Ever since I saw the Cy Twombly exhibition at Centre Pompidou, I have been brutally aware of my wall-missing existence. Large walls, I mean. Spacious. Huge rooms and high ceilings. Very high ceilings. You see, I‘ve never had a problem with not having enough space for a Picasso, the classical period in particular, the one Olga was around, I love that portrait of Olga in that armchair, so beautiful, that serene expression of hers, and she’s so much more beautiful than in real life, he must have been so very deeply in love with her, anyway, getting Olga is so minor a challenge, it’s just about money, the non-existent millions, but I could hang her anywhere, easily, she’d be great in my bedroom, what a soothing idea, makes me want to retire, have a last look at her, and happily fall into the arms of Morpheus, but these large Twombly canvases, these splendid works of art, every single detail is a work of art on its own, they’re driving me insane, where am I to hang them? Where? I am quite serious, this is not a laughing matter, this March in Paris, I have lost my peace of mind forever.

Paris off the map.

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Paris has wonderful museums, they are all so very famous, the Louvre, the d’Orsay, the Centre Pompidou, and they’re all situated in such famous buildings with outstanding architecture, all these well known façades, they’re all sights for themselves, you get them depicted on postcards, in colour or black and white, just pick your favourite angle, even when you’ve left their art collection to the others there should be enough to write home about, although it’s a lost art somehow, I haven’t written one in years, I hate looking for post offices for the stamps, it takes you years and always in the opposite direction, but I digress, anyway, the Musée Bourdelle is no such museum, no pillars, no fame, no splendour, it’s situated off the tracks, I have never been in the area before, it’s somewhere in Montparnasse, in the 15th arrondissement, there’s a métro-station nearby, Falguière, quite unimpressive a street takes you to a building that looks like, well, a building, but definitely not like a museum, tiny entrance, no visitors, you enter and find yourself in a courtyard that looks like the industrial leftovers from a time when the socialist party had just been founded and this was a place where they might look for new members, it’s nothing but rust and bricks and dusty windows, the plants and flowers seem to have spread by themselves, and if it weren’t for Bourdelle’s works of art that you see everywhere, you might ask for directions in case there was a complete misunderstanding about it all. And then, once your brain rearranges its set of expectations forever, you cannot help but feel happy. It’s a wonderful place. I sat there in the drizzling rain, smoked a cigarette or two, and declared it my favourite museum ever.

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Olga en route.

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I didn’t come to see trunks when I went to see the Olga Picasso exhibition in Paris’ Musée Picasso, beautifully situated in an hôtel particulier in the Marais, Paris’ oldest quarter, one of these elegant mansions, châteaux to go so to speak, family mansions shrunk to fit into Paris, like Levi’s 501s in the 1980s, but Olga’s fabulous trunk by Goyard, exhibited on a par with Picasso’s paintings, struck me nonetheless. I can’t say that I liked it more than the stunning portraits Pablo did of her and their son Paul in the 1920s when they lived on rue de la Boétie, but it was the only object in the exhibition I took three photos of. Three! I therefore declare Goyard trunks works of art and give you all three photos – and some of the café on top of the Picasso museum (just because it’s such a great place to have a coffee). Picasso’s famous portraits, well, I leave them to the others, all these people less interested in art and coffee.

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Eyes wide open.

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Paris is full of marvels. Numerous big and fatty ones like the Arc de Triomphe and croissants, and smaller ones, like the elephant who is welcoming customers at Paul’s on Boulevard Haussmann, a bakery where you get those fatty croissants (and more importantly, although equally fat, Paul’s highly recommendable pains au chocolat, I just can’t get enough of them, so yummy), but you have to open your eyes, I know what I’m talking about, as I’ve been plenty of times to this shop without ever noticing its beautiful entrance, so I decided to keep my eyes open and discovered even more stunning attractions off Baedeker. A dachshund at Hermès, totally distracting me from all these fine leather goods, not for sale of course, otherwise he’d be sold out, I’m sure, an endearing sloth at Deyrolle, I’ve had a thing for taxidermy ever since I saw Hitchcock’s “The Man who knew too much”, but this guy was really adorable despite his being dead, I might be the only one who discovered a stunning detail in one of Cy Twombly’s paintings at the Centre Pompidou, maybe I was the only one who lingered long enough in front of it, and although I always wanted to steal a painting like Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole once did in Paris, I had to give up that sudden urge as all of my favourite Cy Twomblys are way too expansive to do it just as elegantly, meaning “to do it at all”, I stood in front of Marcel Proust’s old dwelling, (another dead guy, why are they all dead?), and was amazed that he lived almost next door to my favourite Starbucks where I had a Soy Caffè Latte Venti (I’m sorry, I know it’s not what you are expected to have in Paris, but try ordering soy milk with your café au lait) and in the end of this open eye excursion I was almost thrown out after entering an intriguing building on Boulevard Haussmann where I saw the most beautiful elevator I’ve ever seen. Totally worth it.

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