holiday plans

Weihnachtsmarkt Dresden In one week, Marcus and I will fly to Berlin to spend Christmas with his family in the East. The last time we had a German Christmas was in 2009, a visit that also took us to the Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) in Dresden. It's a magical city, but even more so with a mug of Glühwein in hand and sparkling lights all around. Besides visiting Dresden, we're looking forward to visiting family, walking through the snowy woods, and eating at our favorite restaurants in Berlin. I can't wait to step on the plane and head East for Christmas!

What are your plans for the holiday?

summer in Germany

We took our annual summer trip to Germany in the middle of July. Marcus' father has a house on the edge of a lake and protected wildlife area. We spent most of our time in the woods and on the water, enjoying nature and the quiet. There was no internet, but lots of fresh fruit, nightly barbeques on the back terrace, the spotting of deer, reading books, and dancing in the fields.

shapes in Stuttgart

The southern German city of Stuttgart is a mixture of old and new architecture. I am always drawn to the classic grandeur of the old palaces and official buildings, but the newer buildings of the last decades had a fantastic array of shapes.

I was pleasantly surprised by my short trip to Stuttgart and all the city had to offer. Three days was barely enough time to scratch the surface between work obligations, but I will certainly return someday when I finally plan that journey through the Black Forest that I have been dreaming of since childhood. Until then, Stuttgart.


A few scenes from an evening in Stuttgart, where I'm spending the next few days on a work trip. After a morning of traveling and an afternoon of final preparations, I went for an evening walk in search of a bite to eat. It is properly summery here (ahem, Amsterdam) and everyone was outside to enjoy it. I landed in Weinstube Fröhlich for a dinner of Schwäbische Käsespätzle, which is basically delicious and cheesy. And not at all photogenic. More to come!

a plan for a day

When I announced my engagement on small sight, I knew I wouldn't turn this space into a wedding blog, but I also want to share a few moments along the way. Planning an intercultural wedding and marriage leaves a lot of room for learning. I spent one morning in September running between the American and German consulates in Amsterdam to finally learn that all answers would depend on the German province in which we will wed.

After phone calls, clarifications, translations, and waiting rooms, Marcus and I now have all our paperwork in order! It now needs to be submitted for approval, after which we will be allowed to schedule an appointment at the registry office in Berlin. What I thought would be the most difficult part has actually been quite painless.

I wish I had better news for the yet-to-be-printed save the date cards and the yet-to-be-booked venue. My older sister has a lot of event planning experience and is encouraging us to finalize the most critical parts. Maybe it's because we're planning a Berlin wedding while being in Amsterdam, but everything is just taking a lot more time. In between, I have been gathering some visual inspiration for that day in April, which I wanted to share. If anyone has some tips on wedding planning, I would love some insight! How did you handle all the details and planning?

Photo sources: flowers, table, dress and bouquet, church.

Weekend Links #39

Weekend Links is a collection of the interesting bits and pieces that I’ve come across on the streets and online. The weekly post is my chance to share with you a few things from the week, in a list compiled during the weekend. I hope you enjoy them as well.

A few things I enjoyed over the last week: 1. Spotting a photo of this beautiful work of street art by Remed (via unurth) 2. Buying tickets to see First Aid Kit on 8 December in Amsterdam 3. Planning a short jaunt over to Copenhagen next week 4. Seeing an infographic which visualizes American ancestry, which is largely German (via curiosity counts) 5. Watching Ed van der Elsken's short films of Amsterdam in the '80s (via @Ellenbokkinga)

Mobile Welt des Ostens

On our recent holiday to Germany, we found ourselves in a small town with a unique attraction. Mobile Welt des Ostens in Calau is a showcase of old East German treasures. Vintage cameras, books, clothing, and other articles are spread amongst classic cars, motorbikes, and communist paraphernalia.

As we walked around the exhibition, Marcus' father told stories of the old days in the East, pointing out the model of his first car and explaining the strange way of life under communism and the eye of the Stasi. He was impressed to find such a collection in the middle of nowhere, dedicated solely to the remembrance of DDR times. Nostalgia for East Germany, referred to as Ostalgie, has resulted in the preservation of memory objects and a continued admiration for the aesthetics of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik. Some extend this admiration to the politics. However, I think the fascination for the East is best manifested in exhibitions, films, and even hotels dedicated to remembering life in the DDR.

sailing on Geierswalder See

Needing some relief from an overdose of Dutch rain, Marcus and I headed to Germany last week for sun in Berlin and then time swimming and sailing the lakes in the east. Marcus and his father Matthias have sailed together often, but it was my first time and I loved every minute. The combination of water, wind, and sun was invigorating and relaxing.

We spent several days on the lake (der See in German), staying in a houseboat with a great view and the sailboat waiting out front.

We also had a front door that opened right to the water and a ladder that beckoned us to dive into the green waters.

Just down the lake, there was a beachfront area with canoes, windsurfing equipment and plenty of ice cream.

A perfect holiday.

Interview with Nanako Koyama: every morning

I love the quiet routine of the morning time. Discovering Japanese photographer Nanako Koyama and her project Every Morning (via oh, hello there), I was curious to know more about her visual exploration into people and their mornings. Here, a few questions I posed to Nanako:

Why did you choose to explore the connection between people and mornings? Nanako Koyama: Well, I grew an interest in exploring that which makes someone an individual―like the series '5 Stories About Rooms'―this was about exploring peoples' individualities and idiosyncrasies as well, in a way. Anyway, I was thinking that the moments before breakfast illuminate a person's real personality, or parts of it. When eating breakfast, one's brain finally becomes activated. To put it the other way around, before eating breakfast your brain is still kind of asleep and it feels like this is the only waking moment when you're not really in control of yourself. I just thought this "being yourself" in the morning would be interesting to explore. This is why I chose breakfast as my subject.

I wrote a postscript in Japanese but I'm still working on an English version. I'll post it as soon as possible too.

How do you approach the people in your photography? Do you know them personally or do you work with people unknown? Nanako Koyama: For this series I asked my friends if they would let me take their photos. Most of the time I take photos of people I know. I like to take photos after I've thought hard about the concept and composition. I do sometimes take photos of strangers. Even though I like to think about concepts or composition though, I mostly take 'snap shot' style photographs.

What was something you learned about people during this project? Nanako Koyama: At first I thought that as the country changes, the culture and people would change along with it to some degree. Because of this I was thinking about exploring a photo series about the differences between people. When I was actually taking photos though, I realized that the differences between countries are very confused and whilst different there were a lot of cultural similarities between the countries, especially in regards to breakfast time. Even now, with national boundaries swept away, these people―my friends―have their own cultural differences and these helped form their individualities. This is what I learned from this series.

Are you still working on the project? Nanako Koyama: I'm currently working as a studio assistant at the moment and so unfortunately I have little time to travel, however I would like to visit America or some other places where I've never been before in the future with this project in mind. So, yes, I can say I'm still working on it.

All photos used with permission from the photographer.

Berlin Again

The previous week took me to Berlin, the last of many trips to Germany this year. The official count for 2010 is certainly over ten, with at least half in the capital, but the latest visit was the first for work. Spending the week interviewing photographers while working with a German company was a new perspective on life in a city that usually constitutes friends and fun for me. I was also able to witness the first snowfall of the year. And it kept falling.


mono.kultur is a magazine from Motto Berlin, which features one interview with one person per issue. Past interviewees include German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, sound artist Carsten Nicolai, Israeli author Zeruya Shalev, photographer David LaChapelle, and architect David Adjaye. The latest issue features Cyprien Gaillard a Parisian-born conceptual artist. Always a fan of a great interview, I love that mono.kultur captures a conversation and offers a peek into the life and inspiration of vastly different artists.

I picked up my copy of issue #24 from Athenaeum Bookseller in Amsterdam, but heard about the magazine from The Post Family, an artist collective in Chicago. Although based in the States, they seem to have an inside scoop on small publications coming out of German-speaking countries. Can't help but love that.

Back to Dresden

When I came to Europe for the first time in 2004, I stayed in Dresden for two weeks, en route to Rome. I had friends studying there - translation: a free place to crash - which made Germany the perfect place to start and end my trip. Little did I know that the time I spent in Dresden would spark a love of Germany that continues today. While living in Amsterdam for the past four years, I have spent a fair amount of time exploring other parts of Germany, especially my Lieblingsstadt Berlin, but I always venture back to Dresden at some point. Even for just a day.

On the recent trip to Berlin, etc. Herr Pfeiffer and I spent two days in Dresden, getting reacquainted with the city I once knew quite well. Our lovely hosts Bill and Jule took us around the city and introduced us to Loschwitz, a neighborhood teeming with aging houses and rustic color. We spent the evening in Neustadt, 'new city', for drinks and dinner, which allowed us a peek at the graffiti blossoming in the vibrant neighborhood.

Eine Frau, graffiti in Neustadt, Dresden, Germany.

Mural in Neustadt, Dresden, Germany.

A beautiful house in the Loschwitz neighborhood of Dresden, Germany.

A lovely building with a word puzzle. Laden (store) Galerie (gallery), Ausstellung (exhibition) Verkauf (sales). I'm not sure the purpose of the repetition: store-sales, gallery-exhibition. Confusion reigns no matter how long I study. Any ideas?

A blue gate leading to house number 20. How I would love to walk through it at the end of each day.

Soccer City Stadium: Germany versus Ghana

Second best to working with the amazing journalists of Twenty Ten here in Johannesburg has been watching the Germany vs. Ghana match last night at Soccer City Stadium. After nearly one week in South Africa, it was my first World Cup match. And what a match it was. A happy ending for Germany, who won the match, and also Ghana, who advanced with Germany to the next round as second in their group.

Fans from both sides were ecstatic with the end result.

A World Cup weekend

The World Cup is off to a great start and South Korea has probably been my favorite so far. In 2006 I was watching in Seoul and couldn't believe the enthusiasm of the Korean fans, crowded onto the streets to watch the matches and celebrate together. They were probably quite happy about the great start yesterday, visualized above by The Guardian's Twitter replay, which shows the reactions on Twitter for each game (via Ardy)

I celebrated the kick off to the 2010 tournament in Amsterdam at the Tropenmuseum, along with the opening of the exhibition Africa Scores!

Germany plays today and I will be cheering along. Unfortunately Biergarten Die Heimat, which hosted fantastic screenings for the 2008 European Cup, is no longer open. Two nice alternatives are Biergarten De Goede Hoop and Trouw. Viel Glück Deutschland!