may 2005, dessau and wörlitz

we had wanted to drive somewhere for a while, but for various reasons, it hadn't happened. finally i picked up an eyewitness guide to germany, and we both looked at it from time to time. anna spotted a bauhaus museum in dessau, and wanted very much to go, so we went there on sunday the 15th of may.

we are both interested architecture and design, and both have preferences for relatively modern stuff, so we were quite interested in seeing what apparently was the second home of the bauhaus movement. at this point, several of the key players had already become fairly well established, and the novelty of bauhaus had started giving way to its place as a key movement of the 20th century.

when we arrived and looked around, we decided to go on a tour of the museum, which was the only way to see a large chunk of it. unfortunately, the next tour didn't start until over an hour later, so we first dropped by their bookstore, to see what interesting things they might have. there we found this cool jana-sized desk, as well as a mobile, which i took a picture of so we can make it ourselves later, should we want to.

then we headed out to see the three "master houses", where lyonel feininger, wassily kandinsky and paul klee lived, the professors of bauhaus. we liked the houses very much, and it was unusually easy to get great pictures there, but for a couple of reasons, we could never live in a place like that. first of all, the light was very poorly managed in many of the rooms. one particular room on the second floor (third, to north americans) gave you the feeling of being in a basement! the window was small, and high on the wall. the rooms in general were too small, and the ceilings too low. but still, they were beautiful and it was interesting to see. in kandinsky's house, there were many wassily chairs, not too surprisingly. they are really gorgeous chairs, but not necessarily the most comfortable, unless you throw a leg over the armrest. still, we will probably buy one some day. they are not expensive. and we'll throw a leg over the armrest.
after this, we took a lunch break, and jana climbed around on some playground.
then we returned to the main building, where we were before. the architecture is at the same time beautiful and ugly. very stark, and industrial-looking, it nonetheless has a certain charm, and nice details abound. we attended a talk by our tour guide, and were then guided around. while the talk was going on, jana was quietly running around, playing, and i was taking pictures.

the office is where walter gropius used to sit. gropius was the founder of bauhaus, as i understand it, and his office reflected this, with its central location and spacious layout. the tour ended in this office, but i was waiting for people to leave so i could take a couple of pictures in peace. meanwhile, anna and jana went outside and were playing.

that evening, we had dinner at the kornhaus, which was also somehow related to the bauhaus movement, although i didn't quite catch how. initially, we were surprised at the rudeness of the service. when the table we sat at turned out to have a large wet stain on the tablecloth, we were herded to another table, because there was no possibility of changing the tablecloth, apparently! after a while, our young waitress turned out to be fine, but i doubt there is any hope for the older ones.
then we headed downtown, looking for somewhere to stay for the night. we found some nondescript hotel, the kind that once you are inside, you cannot tell which country you are in any more. the pictures were screwed to the wall. probably, they were afraid that people would throw them out of the window or something, since i cannot imagine anyone stealing the ugly things! anyway, it was fine, comfortable and inoffensive in every way. the next day we ate, packed, and headed out again.
before leaving dessau, we decided to visit the animal park, a small zoo. the zoo itself was fine, and had a surprisingly decent selection of animals, including a black jaguar. here it is lying in the sun and you can see that it still has spots. the turkey was hilarious, making a deep thumping sound somewhere inside its chest, as it shook its feathers in an extremely ineffectual threat.

the other patrons of the zoo were a very bizarre bunch. we got the feeling several times that the general population had a fairly high proportion of extreme right-wingers, with some people even wearing t-shirts with the hammer symbol, or the fist, and extremely short hair being the haircut of choice for almost every guy between the age of about 16 and 70. it would be unpleasant to be a hippie or a liberal out here. in the zoo there were some tough characters, and we felt sorry for some of the children getting yelled at by angry fathers, mostly just for wanting to play and horse around.

anyway, we didn't have any problems, and most people were normal and polite.

on the way to wörlitz, where we wanted to see the famous park, we saw this little church. anna doesn't like churches, since she was forced to see too many of them as a kid, but i went inside and took some pictures. a very unusual layout, and quite a neat place. the woman taking care of it seemed very happy to have a serious visitor. i guess not too many people come out this way to see a small church.
in wörlitz we found a place to eat with some ancient torture instruments on the wall, just the thing for a family establishment. then we went and saw the park, which was really nice, but not so different from other parks, other than the size. on the way back we took the ferry, which took quite a while to get onto, but which was cheap and fun. the ferry is tied to a long rope, anchored further up the river. thus, the ferry operator only has to start and stop the engine, which probably removes any, erm, spirit-induced errors of judgement, shall we say :) not that anyone had been drinking, but one could imagine it.
anyway, after visiting wörlitz, we returned on monday the 16th, which was a national holiday. all in all a nice little trip, not far from berlin. we will do more.