November 29, 2008

Holy Ring-Necked Parakeet!

I was already planning to write a post about the incredible Amsterdam apartment that we're renting this week. After yesterday's events, I'm now planning to stay here forever. As I was waiting for the coffee maker to do its thing yesterday morning a flash of green caught my eye in the tree outside the kitchen window. What the f - a big green parakeet had landed, followed by a second. I figured they must be a semi-domesticated pair belonging to one of the area apartments.

Later that afternoon as we were returning from a day traipsing around the Jordaan, our shoulders weary under the weight of many bags of Wilhemina peppermints, a large flock of green parakeets took flight from a tree in the courtyard. They circled around cawwing and generally raising a ruckus. A few dozen resettled -- but not long enough for me to get an in-focus picture (damned point and shoot!). Then they were gone.

I googled wild green parakeet and came up with this site of bird lovers devoted to the conservation of wild city parrots everywhere. Apparently the Amsterdam flock of wild ring necked parakeets is well known to hang in nearby Vondelpark. (photos are theirs).

This city just can't get any better as far as I'm concerned.

November 28, 2008

six to eight black men and other festive delights

Hard as it is to believe, our great escape is almost up and around these parts it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, like Christmas if it involved an old Turkish bishop who now lives in Spain accompanied by 6 to 8 black slaves -- I mean helpers known as Zwarte Piets. Sinter Klaas and his, err, helpers, terrorize dutch children with the possibility of a severe beating culminating in a potential kidnapping. At least the treats are lekker! If you're not familiar with the wonder that is Sinter Klaas time in Holland, you really must read David Sedaris' treatise on the subject. This is one aspect of the motherland that is best left across the pond or even better, the middle ages ...

In other holiday news, we've been taking in the festivities as we go. First was the spectacle that is Tivoli, a Danish wonderland theme park (Michael Jackson and Disney have both tried unsuccessfully to get their grubby paws on it) transformed for Christmas. Glogg and aebleskivers were enjoyed by all.

Finding the Danish seasonal crafts and handiworks a little lacking (sorry Madsens), we made a special side trip to Osnabruck to take in what the German tourism site describes as the third best christmas market in the region. While it was nigh on (egads!) 19 years since I first took in the wonder of the Osnabruck christmas market, I'm happy to say it didn't disappoint. Gluhwein, sauteed mushrooms and rauchermanner oh my! I hope my family feels the same way when they open their gifts this year.

Time is a ticking and we are getting in the last of our euro-cultural art/design/wine/food indulgences before heading back across the pond to face the musical score of daily drudgery and piper paying. Back to it! Tot zeins.

November 21, 2008

musical interlude

I'm officially overstimulated. Apparently you can take in too much wonderful-ness in a given vacation. Time to regroup and reset my brain. In the mean time, I bring you...


a very very very fine Haus

The wonderful Bauhaus Archive!

The art and design lover in me marvels at the Bauhaus contributions and its continuing influence and reach. How amazing to be a part of such a movement. On the other hand, the introvert in me cringes at the communal-ness of it all. I would never have made it as a Gropius-groupie. Nope, no group Grop for this girl. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

November 19, 2008

Avedon in Berlin

For the last few days, we've been exploring the Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood where our Berlin apartment is located. (We're now 3 for 3 on the craiglist apartment front - I'm convinced, it's the best way to go.) It's both strange and exciting to be back in Berlin, or the DDR as we like to think of it. Hard to believe this is the same city I tramped around in all those years ago when I was living in Germany as an exchange student - fortuitously the year the wall came down.
We ventured out today beyond the "Berg" to take in the Richard Avedon retrospective at the Martin-Gropius Bau. Some 250 images taken over his 60 year career spanning the early Harper's years, to Vogue, to the civil rights movement, to his seminal American West series, to his most famous celebrity portraits. I have to confess, I'm not a big fan of portrait photography. The less posed the image purports to be, the more contrived I tend to find it. What I love about Richard Avedon, beyond the obvious technical mastery is his candour about his chosen genre. "A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."

His subjects - the faces! the character! They just don't make 'em like this anymore. What a treat.

November 18, 2008

Arne, Finn, Borge oh my

We came to Copenhagen to search out the best of Denmark's mid-century furniture design icons and it didn't disappoint. The first day we hit Ravnsborggade, the vintage and antique market district. We fell for a small cabinet but our hopes of bringing it home were dashed by the exorbitant cost of shipping - about double the cost of the piece.

The next day we headed out towards the Bredgade avenue - home of the heavy hitters in mid century design classics including Klassik and Dansk Mobelkunst where I inquired about a Finn Juhl upholstered 2 seater thinking "it's small, we could ship it". sadly my sofa budget doesn't quite approach the $15k price tag (though it does make that Hella Jongerius Polder sofa I've been drooling over seem more reasonable....) check out the Wegner Papa Bear Chair in the Klassik storefront window.

We stopped in at Bruun Rasmussen's auction house where he had an incredible early model chieftain chair. I've seen a few newer versions offered by mid-century dealers in north america but nothing compares to the patina on the original. With a guide price of $60,000 dollars, quite reasonable too, really. Bruun let us take a peek in the back at this rare Finn Juhl 2 seater chieftain! Apparently only 20 were made.
We also visited the Dansk Design Center and the Kunstindustrimuseet and took in a lot of newer design at Normann Copenhagen, Hay, Illums Bolighus - a huge department store dedicated solely to design. In the end, we didn't manage to bring home a Borge Mogensen or a Hans Wegner but it was fantastic to meet them all in person.

November 15, 2008

for the madsen sisters

Thinking of you as I wait out my glogg and aebleskiver hangover from yesterday.

November 13, 2008

del bellavista and other coastal delights

We took a time-out from spotting design classics to venture up the 'danish riviera' and take in a few iconic sites. First stop, Klampenborg to check out Arne Jacobsen's "Bellavista" housing complex, next to his eponymous cafe.

Next stop in Klampenborg was to see Finn Juhl's house - unfortunately it was closed that day. We tried to peek in but were thwarted by a photo crew using the house for a fashion shoot. Images of the interior here.

Onwards to Rungsted to see Karen Blixen's danish estate, now a museum. The best part of the visit was walking the grounds - 40 acres of forest and gardens that she had turned into a private bird sanctuary before her death in 1962. She's buried under a stately old beech tree on the estate. Also enjoyed reading excerpts from her notebooks and the handwritten note from Denys instructing her sternly on how to operate his new motorcar. It was lovely to complete the pilgrimage but the interior was definitely more sterile than the warmth of her Nairobi house.

Last stop up the coast was to the marvellous Louisiana Museum of Art. Founded by Knud Jensen in memory of his three wives - all named Louise. Unfortunately it gets dark here by 3:30 pm so it was hard to fully take in the surroundings. Quite an impressive museum - even the cafe (well worth the $16 sandwich). Took in the Eve Sussman and the Rufus Project exhibition. That deserves a post unto itself - save it for another (rainy) day.

(photos from museum website)

wonderful wonderful copenhagen

Danny Kaye - Wonderful Copenhagen - 1952 - Va

Scene around town

It's been a decidedly blustery and rainy week which has put a damper on picture taking, but not our enthusiasm for exploring this stately old town. Considering its design heritage, I was expecting a more ostentatiously fashionable exterior but (based on a week's impression anyway) people and buildings are attractive but not showy. Polite but not overly warm. (maybe that's just my dutch bias showing) all in all a lovely city.

our 4th floor loft apartment - found it on craigslist. I don't know if we're just lucky or whether every danish apartment has a finn juhl sofa and eames chairs...

out and about

the Stroget - a big pedestrian shopping area near our apartment:

November 10, 2008

all's well that ends swell

Neither the howling wind nor the pelting rain could put a damper on last night's Swell Season show at the Pumpehuset. A few clips of Glen, Marketa and the band (the guys from the Frames).

November 7, 2008

one night in copenhagen

i don't know how we'll be able to keep up this pace for another month.

November 5, 2008

the Dam

It's 3:30 a.m. Verdammt jetlag. A few snaps from day one (excuse the poor quality point-and-shoot pics).

The first set of stairs leading up to our 4th floor loft apartment in de Pijp:

transport of choice in the 'Dam.

Droog design! How lovely to see it all in person.

that bag may or may not contain this zipper
necklace by frans van nieuwenborg and
martijn wegman:


A survey of dutch architect/designer Hein Stolle's work (see chair above)

Other highlights include matching faux bois casserole dishes (image later)

and the treats: