Had a message request on facebook (only use it as a platform to post images) from a fellow wordpress blogger. Mudar Salimeh lives in Syria and we all know what’s been happening there! He is an artist and butterfly fanatic his blog https://syrianbutterflies.wordpress.com/ . Mudar tells me he knows I follow his blog but cannot see mine or any wordpress blogs he cannot reply to my comments. That is a sad situation. So I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be a nice gesture if some of you who read my posts pay him a visit, leave a like or comment or better still follow. Show a bit of friendship to a fellow nature lover.
Spare time has been at a premium just recently and the weather mostly poor. As a result I have not been out with the camera since my trip to Germany. Exchanging comments with Brian over at https://wildlifeintrigued.com/?wref=bif gave me an idea for this post. So B for you Snow Buntings!
Each winter, here in Norfolk, we are lucky to have numbers of these delightful Buntings visit the coast. The flocks can be over a hundred strong and in flight although they twist and turn as one each individual rises and falls. With the white in the plumage they resemble snowflakes. As they fly they have a lovely ringing call.
In the UK the Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), as a breeding bird, is restricted to the high mountains of Scotland. I remember seeing them outside the cafe on Cairngorm and Mrs H calling them sparrows! The birds we get in the winter most likely are migrants from Scandinavia. Occasionally a male will still retain it’s gorgeous black & white feathering. They usually return to the same areas of coastline. One such place is the shingle ridge at Salthouse. Here local birders supplement their diet with seeds, this makes them fairly approachable and some nice images can be had with patience.
Throughout history countries have erected walls to keep people out. The Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall spring to mind. In more recent times a wall was constructed to keep people in, the Berlin Wall. After an estimated 20% of the population had left East Germany through entering West Berlin, then moving freely onto other countries, the communist government, on 13th August 1961, erected a barbed wire barrier which divided and encircled the city. This was soon replaced with a pre-formed concrete barrier 3.4m (12ft) high and running for a length of 156km (97 miles). Further modifications took place including a second wall with the gap in-between known as the ‘killing strip’. After successful uprisings in neighbouring communist led countries the people of East Germany demanded change. On November 9th 1989 following a TV announcement that access to West Berlin would be allowed the people flooded the wall and it ‘fell’.
Today only fragments remain and as I touched on in a previous post the longest section is the East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain – Kruezberg not far from the banks of the river Spree. Here 105 artists from around the world painted their thoughts on this grim reminder of times past.
"In Sensurround sound in a two inch wall
Well I was waiting for the communist call
I didn't ask for sunshine
And I got world war three
I'm looking over the wall
And they're looking at me"
"They're staring all night
And they're staring all day.
I had no reason to be here at all.
Oh now I got a reason it's no real reason
And I'm waiting at Berlin wall
I gotta go over the Berlin wall.
I don't understand it (I gotta go over the Berlin wall)"
'Holidays in the Sun' Sex Pistols 1977
If you have the chance to visit Berlin allow time to view the East Side Gallery.
When I was out in Germany I noticed that the crows did not look quite the same as those I am used to back in the UK. I didn’t get good sightings to start with but when I did I realised these were Hooded Crows (Corvus cornix)
In the UK this species is mostly restricted to northern Scotland and Ireland. The odd bird will wander south in the winter. The crow I am more used to is the Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) which is entirely black. It is not many years ago that these two were, in this Country, treated as variants of the same species. The crow family is not everyone’s favourite and perhaps with some justification. Most often they are seen living up to their carrion name, scavenging on road kill. They are very adept at this and will fly up at the last second so as not to become the main course! They do however prey on the nests of other birds. Populations of corvids has grown in recent years and with very few natural predators this is causing a slight imbalance.
Our second full day in the German capital and again we awoke to beautiful blue skies and temps in the 20’s C. We left our hotel, the ‘Erlanger Hof’ and walked down Flughafenstrasse to meet our daughter for breakfast. There is a great choice of small independent cafes in this area and they are very friendly and reasonably priced. We then caught the U-Bahn (underground) to the city centre. Here things were so much different. Gone are the small, intimate shops to be replaced by huge ‘glitzy’ high-end brand named stores which can be found in cities the world over and a coffee is twice the price.
This is the district of Mitte. We headed toward the river and an area known as ‘Museum Island’ and crossed the Spree via the Friedrichsbruke. Despite their appearances the buildings are of no great age. The Berliner Dom was finished in 1905. This building although called the cathedral does not have a Bishop so is really a massive church. As we admired these fine sights something started to dawn on us, all the old stonework was riddled with countless thousand bullet holes. This was a very sobering moment when you realised how terrifying this area must have been in April 1945 as the Russian army advanced.
We continued our walk besides the river and headed toward the Reichstag, home of the German parliament. This building was completed in 1894 but was badly damaged during the war and left abandoned. It was only after re-unification in 1990 it was re-built. The large glass dome was added in 1999 and if you book in advance you can go inside.
One sight which can be seen from almost everywhere is the Television Tower or Fernsehturm. This is the highest structure in Germany at 368m (1207ft) and the third highest in Europe. What surprised me was that it was built in 1969 by the GDR as a symbol of communist power (good to know where their priorities lay!). Today part of the crystal is a revolving restaurant.
Having walked around the perimeter of the Reichstag and past haunting memorials to those who perished in darker times, we visited perhaps the most famous landmark in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate. Having a history of tumultuous events it was the scene as the crowds gathered when the wall fell in November 1989 and is now the symbol of peace and unity. The statue on top is of the Roman Goddess Victoria (the Lemmings name) riding in a quadriga, a four horse chariot.
We had walked for many miles but had not finished. As the afternoon slipped by we took in Viktoriapark back in Kreuzberg. Climb up to the very top and you will find a monument dedicated to the Prussian liberation wars (1814) and splendid views across the city.
It was a lovely break and we look forward to returning sometime in the future.
Way back when as a fresh faced, wide-eyed teenager I embarked on a 36 hour train-ferry-train adventure to south east Poland to visit a pen-friend. These were the days of the ‘Iron Curtain’. On the outward journey the train was filled with British soldiers heading to Berlin. With each bottle of beer the trip became like a huge party. We entered the City at night. I gazed out at a clean and modern cityscape. In the station the troops disembarked and now, in silence, the train inched forward through the divide which almost touched the carriages. On the other side more troops embarked. These were not in the least bit friendly, welcome to the East! We moved through a dark and desolate City which, to my eyes, looked not to have been touched since 1945.
Back in July our daughter (who I refer to as the Lemming) graduated from university in Manchester and announced she was moving to Berlin. So last weekend Mrs H and myself jumped on a plane and in half the time it takes to drive to Manchester we were in the German capital.
The district she is living in is Neukolln. Like most of the areas we visited the narrow cobbled streets are lined by five storey buildings, the older ones are very ornate, these are formed into blocks with the inner courtyards filled with trees. Trees also line the streets at about every 15m. So on our visit, in autumn, they make a wonderfully colourful backdrop.
The Lemming took us on a tour during our stay. The weather was superb with sun, light breeze and temperatures in 20’s c. Not everyplace is a famous landmark so please join me as I relive some of the highlights in a two part blog (thanks to wiki and google for filling in the blanks).
In the district of Kreuzberg, on Admiralstrasse, stands this sculpture by Ludmila Seefried-Matejkova. Erected in 1985 it is called ‘The Double Admiral’ and it depicts a mirror image of Admiral Adalbert who in 1848 founded the unified German fleet. Seated besides the egg timer shaped globes are two bronze punks to represent the area’s modern scene.
The Ramones museum on Skalitzer Street was right at the top of my ‘must visit’ wish list having been a fan of the New York punk band since I first heard them in ’76 and seeing them live in ’87. R.I.P Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee & Tommy.
Crossing the River Spree via the Oberbaum Bridge your eyes are taken by this massive 30m high sculpture standing in the river. ‘Molecule Man’ is by Jonathan Borofsky and erected in 1999 on the intersection of Treptow, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain districts to represent unity as the river was the boundary between east and west. It consists of three aluminium figures leaning in. The two-dimensional human shapes are full of holes to depict the human molecules.
In Berlin, by the wall
you were five foot ten inches tall.
Lou Reed ‘Berlin’ 1973
The ‘East Side Gallery’ is a must see. 1.3km of the Berlin Wall was painted in 1990 (one year after it’s fall) by 105 artists from around the world. In 2009 restoration was started as the original art work was defaced by graffiti (as is most of the City). I could do a blog alone on the famous, haunting and thought provoking murals.
To end our first day we went to the Tempelhofer Feld. At 355ha this is the worlds largest inner-city open space. On the site of Tempelhof airport which closed in 2008 it was given to the people of Berlin. And thousands enjoy cycling, walking, playing or just relaxing everyday. There are bars, cafes, bbq areas, dog walking areas, community allotments and nature zones, also a great view of the sunset!
September already and the drag racing season is drawing to a close. What better way to wrap up the European series than with one of the best, if not the best, meetings I have ever seen. The weather conditions on Saturday and Sunday were perfect and to reflect this the number of records and personal bests broken was unreal! In qualifying on Saturday, which I watched via live feed, the Top Fuel Bike world record came within 1/100th of a second of falling not once but twice as ‘Fast Fil’ from Greece ran two 5.66 sec passes. The European Top Fuel E.T record was lowered to 3.806 by Norway’s Maja Udtain. And the Pro Mods just keep on getting quicker.
Race Day on Sunday and it’s a different mindset. Now is the time to get to the other end of the 1/4 mile first yet still the times were phenomenal. Apart from 2019 champ Anita Makela the Top Fuel cars struggled to get the power down and several very expensive engines went bang. With few major clean-ups the day flew by. Roll on next season. As usual there are more images and results on my HOME page https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/portfolio/drag-racing-2019/
I have been a huge fan of Drag Racing ever since my first visit to Santa Pod when I was 7-years-old. I love all Motor Sport but Drag Racing is still the one that gets me jumping around enthusiastically. Despite America having the larger NHRA Championships, which I also continuously follow, I have always preferred European and British Drag Racing. This is mainly because I have grown up with it - the first official FIA European Championships were held in 1996 and I haven't missed a big event at Santa Pod since 1997. When an event is on I get to the track, plonk myself down somewhere along the spectator banking and would very happily sit without moving for the entire weekend watching the racing.