The over 100 exhibitions feature 500+ artists exhibiting paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and jewelry using a wide range of media including ceramic, glass, wood, fabric, felt, leather, and metal.
There also is an extensive cultural program of over 600 performances of music, theater, ecology, cabaret, sound art and dance, readings, tours, and lectures.
Not quite the same as my horse Owen...
Wednesday has me relearning to ride a bike as we are all going to run errands in town and the bike is the optimal way to make one’s way around. I haven't ridden a bike in...oh...it has to be about 25 years(!). The biggest learning curve was shifting the gears - apparently no one uses the old levers that I remember from my youth.
At a Schützenfest, contestants compete based on their shooting abilities, for example, by shooting at a wooden representation of an eagle. The winner of the competition becomes the Schützenkönig “king of marksmen” until the next year's competition. A parade is also a big feature of the Schützenfest.
After dinner, Olaf and I are in search of Jens. He is not at his house, but he may be at the Mützengenta (so he says) so we walk to the festival to find him (ok, not such an easy task...). As we pass through the the parking area, we happen upon this beautifully restored Buick.
All of the craft booths are closed for the evening so all that was left was food, drink, and music. We meander through what food offerings remain and settle on some pasta. I enjoy the band - Irish - they play a wide range of songs...many of which I know.
Still no sign of Jens
The band ends before we wish to return home so we are now on the hunt for other active klp destinations. We move to Neu Tramm and find a band playing. They are good - somewhat folky - but good. Alas, after about 30 minutes they, too, end their evening and we are once again in search of some music.
The last stop for the evening is Lübeln where (after scoring a primo parking spot) we find a band playing...I am not quite able to describe the type of music...maybe a mix of punk and grunge brought into the now. The music was loud and those that were dancing were enjoying themselves. But luck is not on our side this evening - the concert ends shortly after we arrive. Time to go home and to bed!
Once we are done, the band is still not ready so we head to the lower stage area to get a drink. A discussion with the bartender yields some answers - the band is now playing. Back up to the venue we go...Raum 2. The band was very good - Russian. I did not understand anything he was singing but the six piece band was energetic and lively. Definitely a hit!
SAMSTAG, 16 MAI
Today is cold, windy, and rainy. The morning started with a short walk into the town for some shopping and an espresso. I am on my own for the remainder of the day but the weather is not conducive to me venturing out on my bike. I try to sit in the garden but soon abandon that notion for the warmth of the apartment. Olaf and I end the evening with a few drinks and some people watching at a cute, albeit smokey, Irish pub in Dannenberg.
Sonntag, 17 Mai
This afternoon we head to the the main site...the Mützengenta. It is close to Jens’ house and - low and behold - the elusive Jens has finally resurfaced. Olaf and I head to the Mützengenta to wander among the stalls - he is looking for leather trousers for his son and a new tobacco pouch. The weather is cloudy punctuated by short showers - but still fun. The afternoon is finished with a coffee and a wild pig sausage (a feature of the area).
“I don't like the wild pig sausage - actually, I don't like any wild animal to eat” - Jens
MONTAG, 18 MAI
Today I wake before the sun - 4:00! I try to go back to sleep but a strange dream about bats in my hair ends that silly idea. It is still not sunny although I can see that it not likely to rain a great deal today. I get up, make some coffee, and grab something to eat while I contemplate the workings of the day.
I manage to get a little work done before I am invited up for a coffee and the arrival of the new WLAN. Very exciting - who does not love a new router?! No - seriously! Think of all that wifi speed!
Back home for some lunch and more work. Mid-afternoon I head to Lina’s for some coffee and people watching. I sit outside as the weather is mild compared to previous days.
The interesting juxtaposition of old buildings with ultra modern additions is common in this area. It is a source of pride to “get off the grid” and solar panels and biofuel plants abound. This location also is home to the “colos-silo” - a rough amphitheater made from an old concrete silo. Ingenious.
After the after-dinner-before-bed Dino-Zug watching, I head back to my apartment to wait for a ride to Jens’ house. He had firefighters’ training today so he was not able to pick me up as he wanted at 17:00. At least I am able to catch up on a few emails before Olaf and I go Jens’ house after Johannes is asleep. There, we are joined by Uli and Kirsten as they return from their booth at the Mützingenta. Great conversation, alcohol, and friends. Oh, and cheese. There was much cheese. A late night for everyone!
We start out - the roads are perfect for motorcycling - meandering through the small towns and lush green forests with short straight stretches for a little speed. We wind our way through the beauty of the Wendland to reach Mützingen where we stop for a coffee before we head back to switch the motorcycle for a bicycle.
After delivering Johannes to music school, Olaf and I leave the bikes there and walk to Lina’s for a coffee while we wait for music school to finish.
The story goes...
...that when the mannequins were new and were in the window waiting to be dressed, a policeman entered the shop and stated that the mannequins must be covered. “Why?!” responds the shopkeeper. “Because there has been a complaint,” he replies. Well, as it turns out, there was a gentleman who found the unclothed mannequins to be...well...let’s just say...stimulating. Now, even 15 years later, the mannequins are ensconced in brown cloth while the windows are dressed.
“A fingerprint of our town” - Olaf
- meaning that despite the seeming cosmopolitan and modern appearance, there lies an underpinning of old-fashionedness.
“The strawberry plant incident”
In the garden, I am informed they have a new gasoline lawnmower (the old one is electric). Olaf is showing Johannes how to operate the mower.
“He must learn some time.”
After several false starts with a stalling lawnmower, Johannes finally gets the hang of it. Olaf sets up the mower again and Johannes is off!
But I see a potential problem...he has a direct line to Karen’s prized garden. He has plenty of room so I am concerned, but not overly worried. However, it soon becomes apparent that my concern will surely become a reality as Johannes’ relentless march brings him closer and closer to the row of lovingly tended strawberry plants.
I still hold out hope that he will let go of the clutch on the mower as he had done several other times. But he does not. As he moved closer and closer, Olaf is telling him to let go...but he will not...yup! You guessed it. Before he could stop the mower, one of the strawberry plants was mowed down in the prime of its life.
And I wait...and wait...and wait...
I am wondering if I missed my pizza but I am 10 minutes early so I am thinking that is not the reason my pizza is not forthcoming. Plus, I lack the ability to ask if my pizza was still “en route.”
Success! My pizza is ready! I am not quite sure it is as it was listed on the menu - perhaps a loose interpretation of the menu - but it is hot and delicious!
At last, the band starts - “Heart of Gold” - yes, it is as you suspect...a Neil Young tribute band. Although to be fair, they played some J.J. Cole, Muddy Waters, and Depeche Mode (okay...only one). The music is free but it is listed as der hut geht um - “the hat will go.” And so, the hat is passed; it is common to toss in the coins from your pocket although here the coin also contains 1 and 2 € pieces.
Dannenberg’s farmer’s market
Olaf explains that every Thursday there is a “farmer’s market” of sorts where (mostly) locally made foodstuffs can be purchased. Our first stop is a chocolate shop. It is Oma’s (grandma) 95th birthday and he needs to pick out a gift. While the shopkeeper assists him, I peruse the offerings.
After he has what he needs, we go to the bratwurst truck where we can get a “normal sausage.” Apparently after all of the organic, hippie, vegan, and odd food at all the klp stations, “regular, plain, everyday” food is a welcomed sight. So we order our sausages and walk around the market.
Then we move to the tobacco shop to pick up some magazines. After which we return home - just in time too...a passing raincloud unleashes a deluge.
Songs from the harp
The venue is in an old barn - in the attic. So we wind our way up the stairs to reach the room filled with a hodgepodge arrangement of chairs. We select our vantage point and settle in for the show. Before it starts, Olaf retreats downstairs to get some red wine. The room is not clean - there are cobwebs still draping from the windows and the ceiling is exposing its underbelly. But there is something slightly magical in its carefree, unapologetic attitude. There is a well lighted makeshift stage in the center of the room upon which stands two lovingly cared for harps.
Tonight’s performance is only attended by a few people - maybe eight including two children - so it is quite intimate. The entrance is 10€ or a bundle of firewood (apparently still a valid form of currency). The performer soon arrives and the show begins. It is a bit like interpretative dance - except no dance.
Just music and some storytelling. It is, of course, in German so I can only understand about 20% - “it’s ok” Olaf says, “you can only understand about 50% of an interpretive performance anyway.” So I guess am doing ok.
We were worried that the band had ended for the evening, but as we found a parking spot and walked in, we could hear the sound of music...fast paced and loud. Indeed, the band is still playing but they are almost finished for the night. However, we stay for what time remains.
The 6-piece band is from Mexico and their music is described at Mexican ska with hard rock and punk riffs. It is good and somewhat frantic but it added some energy to the evening. At the end of the set, we have a coffee before heading back home.
“What do you think about a bike ride?”
The day seems to be warming up so I go to sit in the garden. I bring my computer to do some work as Olaf said he would be running errands and later they will be going to Gorleben in the early afternoon for “Muui Op.” He had suggested I reach out to Jens for possible evening plans. Jens says he will come to get me after work - I tell him that is ok because I can do some work too. I move my workstation out to the garden where I think it will be nice. Nope...I was wrong. It has not had the benefit of the sun’s rays and, therefore, it is still cold. And the wifi is misbehaving - like a petulant child.
So I move to the front of the house outside my apartment where it is quite warm. I am settling down to work and Johannes leaves for kindergarten with his mother. Soon, Olaf emerges and asks if I would like to go for another motorbike ride. I am most definitely up for another ride.
The tower is a great way to see the Elbe and across to the old East Germany. The panoramic view from this vantage point is breathtaking.
Olaf explains that if you look across the river there is a small road that used to be the “iron curtain” where the wall stood and that the area had been riddled with land mines. It is difficult to imagine now, but it was not so many years ago.
We pull over at a view point near Damnatz so I can have another view of the countryside. He explains that these oak trees that line the river are under controversy because they hinder the flow of the water during the floods and there are some that would like them removed. But they are over 200 years old so there are those that do not want them removed .
Olaf points to a small area off in the distance...“see the taller lighter grass area?” I do. He says there is a secret entrance to that area and that is a very private area for swimming in the river. I am thinking he could be referring to FKK (“freiköperkulture” or free body culture) the practice of social nudity - especially when swimming.
Dömitz - the iron curtain
We stop for coffee at an old corn storage facility turned into a hotel and restaurant. The top floor has a wonderful panoramic view of the area so we head up. The restaurant is not open but we can go outside on the balcony.
We go back downstairs to find a table and order our coffee. He tells me that is is a great place when it is very hot because of the pool to cool off and with the sand it is a nice area for the children. “But” he says, “do you see that funny colored tower over there?” He points to a colorful structure on the other side of the river. Another reminder of this regions’ past - it is an old guard tower that was manned so that no one could pass through.
He mentions that it is much less expensive to live here but that no one wants to. Some clouds are now rolling across what what was a beautiful day and we wonder from whence they came. I snap pictures as we drive through the town to our last stop.
Our last stop is a keep just outside of town then we go back to Dannenberg - easily making the deadline of 15:30 and happy that we used the sunny part of the day for something good because the entire sky is now obscured by clouds.
Once home, Olaf and Karen leave to pick up Johannes from kindergarten and travel to Gorleben.
Back to the Mützengenta
Jens is not as keen to go to Gorleben - he suggests we go to the Mützengenta. At least there we can get some food (a pizza) and some drinks but there is no other entertainment here - or anywhere - except at Gorleben. As we walk to the Mützengenta, I spot this old Beetle And I think of Wolfgang - Jens says it is the ugliest color it could possible be painted but I do not agree. For my dinner, this time I order the Margherita pizza.
There is much conversation around me but I am only catching snippets here and there as my understanding of the language lags. We are joined by this fellow who strikes me as somewhat odd...ok...maybe a little more than somewhat.
After he leaves, Jens tells me that the man makes the pizzas. I think I have found the reason for the interpretative pizza I had yesterday. As I watch the children play, I remember also playing in such a way in my youth. Having fun with what was available - a stage, a tree, places to hide and make a fort. I am thinking that if this were the U.S., all of these children would have a smartphone and would be playing a game on it instead of the play they are experiencing.
I mention to Jens that it is Damon’s birthday and we take a selfie to send to him with birthday greetings. As chance would have it, Jens is wearing a souvenir from his trip to Ohio a couple of years ago.
At 22:00, we leave as it is last call; all the booths are closed and only a few people linger to talk the politics of the region.
After Seedorf, we are on our way to the Mützengenta to see the Chaos Variete - a performance with three people featuring juggling and pantomime among their repertoire. While we wait, we wander among the artisans’ stalls.
The performance that we have come to see is starting. We all gather around on the grass and he has everyone sit - including the adults. The show was a combination of pantomime and circus acts...at least they were not dressed as traditional clowns. It was a good show, I did enjoy it even if usually these types of performances are not my cup of tea.
Clearly, it's a dragon, not a scorpion!
Neu Tramm is active tonight so we have to park a little ways out and walk in. Once there, we pay our cover at Raum 2 and then go back out for some wine and to wait. We watch a performance artist while sipping our drinks...it is getting cold. I point out this great piece on the wall and say what a great dragon it is. Olaf says it is a scorpion because of the tail. I say “How can a scorpion have a skull?”
Soon it is time to find a good spot in Raum 2 before it gets too crowded. As we walk by the vendors, he mentions that he would like to get a hoodie so we stop. He selects a dark grey hoodie with a screen print of bicycle gears on the back. Once purchased, we continue to Raum 2.
La Cafeteria Roja
We get some great seats directly opposite the band which, for the moment, is visible but I can see that as the dance floor fills up, this will no longer be true. However, the best part of a band is the sound so I am not concerned as at least this is a comfortable seat. The band said they were a combination of trip-hop and hip-hop from Barcelona. I enjoyed them but Olaf said he thought they were fair. They had a slightly mellower tone than the prior bands we have seen at Raum 2 so maybe that is the reason.
I use the term galleries loosely because during this time, people open their old barns and houses for the artists but, to be fair, these barns are no longer being used for the purpose for which they were built. At least, for the 12 days of the klp, the beauty of the old craftsmanship can be admired.
Here, we are to see a band - Wirsing Brothers - that plays mostly for the kids. There are many booths of “Handwerk” or crafts. Some quite good, but all very expensive (as you might expect). I am hungry so I queue up for a wild bratwurst. As I eat, I wander among the artists offerings.
When we arrive, Olaf and I stand in line to order the pizza - it will be an hour until ready! The man taking orders seemed to be out of it - maybe he was tired (maybe...maybe it was that giant bud I saw changing hands) - because when he took Olaf’s name down, he wrote Roland. I was thinking to myself to how many other people has he done this? We move off to find the clown and Johannes and Karen. At 30 minutes, Olaf and I move back to the pizza making stall and wait to be called.
The pizza booth is very busy - I can only describe it as slightly controlled chaos. There are people complaining that they have been waiting for over an hour and confusion sets in and they try to decipher in what stage their pizzas might be. I must, here, mention to you that this pizza ordering procedure is similar to ordering a Starbucks coffee in which the person taking the order writes your name on the cup. You see, it is at this point that the process can break down as the names are dependent on the listening, interpretation, and spelling capabilities of the one taking the order (hence Roland).
“The pizza conundrum”
As we wait for our pizzas (remember we are a good 30 minutes early) we watch the spectacle. For the most part it works smoothly but every once in awhile it breaks down...this is one such time. A pizza emerges (with corn on it so I can see why it was not claimed) and the finisher cuts the pizza, places it on a plate, and calls the name on the slip of paper. “Marjie!” he yells. There is no response and he tries again. “Marjie!” Still no one emerges to claim the pizza. About 30 seconds later, he tries another tactic - “Maya, Mary, Melanie, Maria!” Still there is no response. This sequence is repeated several more times. Olaf and I know exactly what happened.
Just as there is a change in the person calling the names for pizzas, ours emerge from the oven...along with a corn topped pizza. As we wait for our ours to be processed, the new man calls “Marjie!” At this time I cannot control my laughter and soon many of those in the pizza booth are laughing too. I have to wonder if it was a practical joke on the new guy. As we eat our pizzas, we continue to hear them call for this seemingly non-existent person. We finish our pizzas and very soon head home - it has been a long day for all!
MONTAG, 25 MAI
As beautiful and sunny as yesterday was, today is not. The wind has returned bringing the clouds as company. A sun shade has been placed over the area which my windows face and, as a result, my room is darker than normal - especially with the cloud cover. After a brief awakening at 6:00 and 7:00, I finally get up at 8:00. Last night Olaf mentioned that he will take Johannes to the Cirque Gones that was missed yesterday - a nice performance -and I am welcome to join them. I decide I will do that - even if circuses are not my “cup of tea.”
Before we head out to the circus, Olaf asks if I would like to take a bike ride as he has a couple of errands to run. I do - I am missing my exercise and the weather has not been good enough to bike to the klp sites the past few days. Along the way, we ride along the lake and he shows me the areas where the beavers had been and where the swans make their nests.
The “radical” epicenter
Meuchefitz is sort of the epicenter of the radical movement in the area - or what remains of the radical movement. It can be seen in the type of person at this klp site versus the other sites. Also in all the literature available as well as the types of performances (the circus excluded). Olaf explains that Lampedusa is the destination to which thousands of migrants are hoping to reach after crossing the Mediterranean Sea. It is very dangerous and there is a huge controversy surrounding this.
The show is called “Kitchenette” and it is about a married couple and a little scene of life in the kitchen as the are baking a cake. Of course there is a little bit of juggling and other similar performances to entertain the kids.
But to watch the actors, particularly the woman, was divine. Her expressions are spot on - especially when dealing with her “husband” - it was priceless. She has me laughing almost the entire time.
At the conclusion of the performance, the cake has finished baking and they serve it to all the children. I am very glad I went - this was very different from the circuses I am used to seeing. We are in search of some coffee and a bite to eat.
DIENSTAG, 26 MAI
This morning I wake early - around 6:00. Lots of sleep! It is another cloudy day and I am a little chilly. Olaf contacts me just before 7:00 - on his way to work - and asks if I would like a cup of “good” coffee (if I am awake). “Of course!” I reply. Olaf also mentions that there might be a barbecue this evening and the weekly therapy session to which I am invited. He drops off the cup and I settle in with a nice cup of coffee and think about what I will do for the day. I know I will need to do some work but I am also thinking (if the weather improves) of going to Lina’s for a cappuccino in the afternoon. After my coffee and a small breakfast, I shower and wash my hair. I hear the stirrings of Karen and Johannes outside so I poke my head outside to say Guten Morgen and complain about the weather. Karen says they are on their way to do some shopping.
Even as I circumnavigate the lake in the gloomy day, the quiet serenity is wonderful but also will make me long for this when I am gone. I snap some selfies for all those who complain I never manage to take pictures of myself.
After my tour, I stop at the market for some chocolate and Lina’s for my last cappuccino in the Wendland.
I return to my apartment and settle in to do some more work. Around 4:30, Frida (their cat) spots me through the window and comes to investigate...
After some investigation, she decides that she wants nothing to do with me and takes off. In the front of the apartment the neighbor is attempting to fix Karen's vacuum (to no avail) and I step outside to say hi. The neighbor has a little girl named Bella and a puppy named Sir Henry and a cat named Garfield.
Fare thee well Dannenberg
Once home, we walk to the restaurant. The food is good and the owner loves Johannes so he gets special treatment. On Wednesdays, the restaurant is inhabited by the older crowd and all of the seniors love Johannes too. It is difficult to get him to leave. The sun is just setting and the town is quiet. It is peaceful and the long light of dusk makes the town somber...or maybe because it is my last night here that it seems that way. Almost like it is bidding me farewell.
Today I leave the Wendland...
I wake at 6:00...it is another cloudy day. Olaf stops by as he leaves for work with a cup of good coffee. He wishes me a good rest of my trip in Germany. I return to the bed to sip my coffee. I do not want to get up...if I refuse, will the day progress without me? That, unfortunately, is not an option...I have other adventures awaiting me. I rise to eat breakfast and complete my packing. I decide to take one last ride around the lake.
This air museum, as it is called, has many buildings representing all the different buildings that would be needed in a town - a bakery, a weaver, a steel smith, and so on. The building are not original to the site but have been donated and moved to the site from different areas around the region. Also, they are from different times (1500 - 1800). Because of this, they have different architecture - it is interesting to see how the building styles change over the years. These buildings are also quite different from the ones I saw in the Wendland.
Almost all of the buildings are a single building combining a stable and house. Yes, that means everyone slept with the animals...horses, cows, and pigs. Many pigs. At the end of the barn was a large open area - a kitchen - which was basically an open fire with a pot suspended above it.
The sleeping areas were usually in rooms off the back of the kitchen. The rooms were small and the beds were actually in cupboards (with doors) - I am sure most slept two. It seems very sad but as I walk through all of the buildings, I realize how cold they all are. It was then I thought that, despite the austere appearance, it was a good thing because the small space allowed for better heating by the body - none of the rooms had heat.
I can say, that the odor must have been tremendous. One of the houses had a fire that was lit as a demonstration and the entire place smelled of smoke (there were no chimneys) and that, combined with the smells from the barn, I am quite sure would make for a glorious(!) odor.
At a time when other castles were undergoing major renovations - usually to an overly ornate Baroque palace - the county of Bentheim did not have the funds needed to take on such a project.Therefore, much of the castle is preserved in the midieval and early modern building style. Only a few interior rooms were updated.
After the castle tour, we head back home for dinner. Tonight we are eating in. Hugo and Christel had planned a barbecue but it is only warm for the few moments that the clouds are not obscuring the sun. So we go with a backup plan. Raclette. This is a form of grilling indoors but each person makes their own food with a combination of different ingredients. All of the food is in small amounts so it is definitely a thing to do with company. It will take hours to “cook” enough food to get full.
Jens contacts me and says he is in the worst traffic jam ever. He will be late. He is late. Very late. But I just wait and watch the bustle of the Hamburg Hbf. When he arrives, he says that the original plan for the day - a trip to the shore - is out. The traffic is much too bad. So, as we stand in the parking lot planning our next move, I see all the people, cars, and hear the noise. He suggests a tour of Hamburg...or maybe we can visit a castle...I readily second the castle....I want to leave the city.
Our first stop is Nahrendorf - the site of a large battle in which Napolean was defeated. Jens explains that there is a reenactment at the site every 5 or 10 years. We walk in to see the grave marker.
I should note here that, as with many words, when you translate a word from English to German, you will get several words in return. It is difficult to know which one is correct. If you translate castle into German, you receive no less than 7 words. Including schloss and burg. “Okay,” I ask Jens, “what's the difference?” He explains that a schloss is a castle only for living whereas a burg is a castle that is also for defense.
The castle is imposing on the outside - a much different building than the one I visited the previous day.
But the inside of this castle is a sad, hollow reminder of its former glory. The rooms are mostly bare, bereft of furnishings and vibrancy. Much of the exhibition are paintings and a few pieces of decoration (clocks, statuettes, etc.). Despite the state of decay, I can see the opulence that this place must have demonstrated.