TUNISIA – WATER, DESERT AND NOMADIC VASTNESS


It doesn’t matter if the path is long,
as long as there is a well at the end. (Tuareg saying)

 

Water is our cool elixir being available unfortunately not everywhere in the world. However, with the ongoing climate change the desert and semi-arid areas will expand even more globally while water shortages even occurr today in countries like Spain or Italy during summertime.

Remote Cape Negro and the Mediterranean in the still greenish North

From the main road between Tabarka and Bizerte we had to drive 15 km over deserted sand tracks to reach Cape Negro, a forgotten and left place at the Mediterranean coast with typical vegetation, a quite cool wind from the sea and also a long sandy beach without other people.

Cork oak in a forest near Tabarka not far from the Algerian border

“Hotel Les Mimosas” in Tabarka

Doesn’t this hotel look really very French? The lovely place is situated on top of a small hill allowing a nice view on Tabarka and the sea.

Water reservoir Sidi-el-Barrak near Nefza

This water reservoir in the very green North of Tunisia is also a complete non-touristic place but during this moment of a late afternoon the sentiment and interaction of light, clouds and water revealed something else.

Atlas massive divides Tunisia, at its Southern edge the great Sahara begins

Take in mind that Tunisia was once serving as the breadbasket of the Roman Empire only 2,000 years ago. Since then the warming period after the last Ice age and normal climate change have transformed formerly very fertile areas to extensive badlands and endless desert zones. And the Sahara has so far not ceased its unbridled expansion.

Cracked desert between Tozeur and Tamerza, Sahara

This photo means still one of my favourite travel remembrances from Tunisia showing a single resilient bush in an area of burst and dried soil most likely due to very seldom and heavy rainfalls some time ago.

But where are the legendary dromedaries? Not a single one here.

Photo was taken on the main road coming from the North and Tunis, this is now really deep in the South somewhere between Metlaoui and Tozeur.

Matmata cave dwellings also known as Luke Skywalker’s home in Star Wars

Half way between Tozeur and the peninsula Djerba lies the cave village of Matmata where people have lived for thousands of years and which got well known by the famous cult film series Star Wars.  The landscape is quite barren with only a few apartments on the surface but the magic of Matmata goes deeper and is revealed to guests when they descend into the unique underground cave dwellings which offered its inhabitants good protection against extreme cold at night and the burning sun during the day. 

Arabic scene in Tunisia, Ernesto Quarti Marchio, 1933

Small paradise and tiny water fountain near oasis of Douz with Beatrice vested as a fabulous Tunisian princess

Oasis areas in the endless width of the great Sahara desert are often to be found in geological break zones and depressions such as here. In the desert each drop of sweet water is just more worth than a sack of gold.

Dromedaries waiting for clients at the oasis of Douz

The Sahara desert used to be a wide ocean in former times where the nomads did their endless sails on dromedaries (not camels), some do it till today. Though, I admire the desert very much (like high mountains) as a quite puristic place with a clear unlimited view till the distant horizon which may clear a mind and widen the own horizon, a real exciting feeling beside all those known hazards and risks.

Nomadic monument at road junction in Douz

The oasis of Douz is a real gateway to the Sahara with around 30,000 inhabitants today. The desert dunes near Douz are famous because they are consisting of an incredible soft and nearly white sand. The area is traditionally inhabited by the semi-nomadic Mrazig tribe, an Arab Bedouin tribe who left the Arabian Peninsula in the 8th century to settle in Tunisia in the 13th century. Today many live from the date harvest and probably the best dates in Tunisia come from Douz called Deglet en Nour. So the “gold of the oasis” is more than just any fruit for the people of Douz.

Death zone of the huge salt lake Chott-el-Jerid after sunset

The tremendous salt lake Chott-el-Jerid can be traversed today safely on a solid dam with street which is also connecting the oasis areas Nefzaoua and Tozeur. In former times such travel turned out to be a real dangerous adventure.

Not for drinking – just salty water of Chott-El-Jerid

Ruins of the old city and mountain oasis of Tamerza

Now this excursion here has really turned out to become more a collage of texts, impressions and varied images which had been picked up at diverse locations scattered all over vast and nice Tunisia. 

Breakfast always with fresh flowers at oasis of Tozeur

Most photos were made during a self-organized round trip thru all Tunisia in April 2006, but here are also 3 still analog pictures included resulting  from a short trip to Tozeur in October 2002.

51. International Festival of Sahara in Douz 2019

 

P. S. The featured image at the beginning with a Tunisian motif is a painting by another Orientalist artist: “A street in Gadames” by Giorgio Oprandi,1929.

 

MONPLAISIR – A TYPICAL FAKE

In the countryside, somewhere in the nowhere on midsummer day, we passed by this road sign that aroused our curiosity because a French village name in Central-Germany is quite exceptional. Monplaisir stands just for my pleasure so one would normally expect a beautiful place what turned out to be a complete error.

In reality it is one of the ugliest places I have ever seen – abandoned and neglected buildings, a lousy road, industrial facilities, a solar park and at the very end of the road a stinky, daunting and oversized pig farm using Monplaisir in its enterprise name, an example of ruthless agro-business and factory farming. So if you want to become a vegetarian or simply intend to reduce your meat consumption, a visit here might be very helpful indeed.

 

PREHISTORIC MIDSUMMER AT WOODHENGE

Diving in an offbeat Stonehenge feeling at Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

The western gate (Beltane / Lugnasad)

On the occasion of solcistice 2020 we visited the Woodhenge Pömmelte (Ringheiligtum von Pömmelte), a circular sanctuary in Saxony-Anhalt; in the evening of years’ longest day time had come to discover this ancient and magical spot. During this period of the year people usually enjoy the very long days, so this archeological site offered special guided tours on June 20 at 8:30 p.m, followed by the sunset at 9:28 p.m.

View through the outer palisades at dusk

Although weather was not ideal with a more grey sky and even a little bit of rain, some nice light effects emerged at the distant horizon when the sun finally disappeared, impressive moments that we longingly look for.

View on the sanctuary from the visitor’s platform

Woodhenge Pömmelte is a reconstructed circular earthwork of Neolithic times and the early Bronze Age. South of Magdeburg, not far from the river Elbe, archaeologists discovered in 1991 the remains of a huge cult site. A complete excavation took place between 2005 and 2008. Afterwards, the circular ditch system was completely reconstructed at the original site. The complex structure comprises seven rings of wooden palisade rings, pits, ramparts and embankments with a total diameter of 115 m. 

A burial place – the engraving shows the position of the deceased

Inside the sanctuary at dusk

In terms of size, structure and function, the ring sanctuary resembled the English Stonehenge. However, the construction in Pömmelte did not consist of large stones, but of 1,800 wooden posts; both sites were erected by the socalled Bell Beaker culture at the end of the Stone Age. So we may assume that some kind of European community, travelling and exchange has already existed more than 4,000 years ago.

Inside the sanctuary – people waiting for sunset

View on the inner circles from the western gate

Many generations of prehistoric inhabitants utilized this place to cultivate their customs and practices, and to pass them down to their descendants in the time period 2,335 – 2,050 BC. The location was used as a central sanctuary with sacrificial pits and ritual dumpings; drinking vessels, animal bones, millstones, stone axes, pottery, grindstones, arrow heads and parts of human bodies were part of ceremonious sacrifices and burials those days and found here in diverse deposits.

More varied deposits in the ramparts
between the inner and outer palisades
 

While the world was changing radically, the Stone Age ended and the Bronze Age began, there was persistence here for quite a long time, a place of worship and assembly, a burial site, a victim’s place and an astronomical calendar in one.

The eastern gate (Imbloc / Samhain)

Like in Stonehenge the plant design was also guided by astronomical issues and aspectsThe two main gates and entrances to the complex (in the East and West) are based on the sunrise and sunset points of the days between the solstices and the equinoxes. So the site served as a huge calendar marking seasons, harvest time and New Year as well.

We were a bit disappointed because we had expected that the sunset would take place directly in the middle of the western gate as a special midsummer event when looking directly from the East. However, we surprisingly learnt that this effect appears instead on April 30 but the guide did not go in the details or just talked to quick. 

At home I could satisfy my curiosity regarding April 30 well known here as Walpurgis night when witches gather at particular places. Though, in the old Celtic belief (Beltane) in Ireland, Wales or Scotland it meant also the beginning of summer, an important date for successful agriculture.

So when April 30 was regarded in former times as the beginning of summer, I now understand better why solcistice is also named midsummer here in the Northern hemisphere.

All in all a very nice trip, and thanks for following this short time journey and midsummer excursion.

 

linked to:

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #102: A Quiet Moment

The Cosmic Photo Challenge.

Jo’s Monday walk : a fishy tale!

HIKING BEHIND THE TIMES

“Here is not past, nor future;
everything just flows  in an eternal present.”
(James Joyce)

 

Thanks to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic,  we spend more time than usual in the rural countryside or urban nature which are actually the safest places to be.

More recently we have visited Hellsee / Bright Lake being situated 20 kms northern of Berlin. It is a fabulous nature reserve, so you may not be astonished that fallen trees are partially lying on the trail.

The beautiful lake is part of a glacial basin with a diversified landscape including wet meadows, marshland, forests, small streams, sandy gorges and moraines.

We were of course also looking for birds and then at the car park stumbled finally across this quite kitschy scene.

HIDDEN GEM DOWNTOWN

It is always good to know a nice and fabulous place nearby to be found in a small cluster of stucco-fronted streets which have retained much of their late 19th century charm. A tranquil enclave of Berlin where locals relax in pleasant street cafes and watch the world pass slowly by. Here tucked away on Charlottenburg’s quaint Danckelmannstreet is the entrance to the Ziegenhof or ‘goat courtyard’.

Although Berlin offers a lot of greenery, this special yard comprises an area of 6,000 m² where you find a mixture of city farm, green retreat and children’s playground and as well the main attraction , a family of very friendly goats. Housed in their own, Swiss-style chalet, they rub shoulders with a coop of well-fed chickens and love getting visits from kids both young and old.

It is well worth dropping past in this pretty relaxed part of town.

 

linked to:

Jo’s Monday walk : Praia de Barril

ARTBASE FESTIVAL 2019 – MURALS IN RURAL RUINS

Artbase is a festival of urban art moving in a vivid kaleidoscope between painting and party on deserted grounds. The first issue took place in 2011 at the former pulmonary hospital Grabowsee. During the last weekend of August 2019 it was realized again in the former and now abandoned lunatic asylum Domjüch close to Neustrelitz (80 kms north of Berlin). Nearly 150 international urban artists transformed these ruins into a wild, romantic and very alive place.

 

A smooth wind blows through the long abandoned houses‘ empty corridors, while a warm and friendly summer sun gleams through the ailing cracks. Inside the ruins, a conglomeration of fading colors and amazing street art works decorate the walls.

A place where nature has slowly recaptured the old walls. Deserted, long hallways, abandoned rooms with only faint memories.

 

But suddenly a soft hissing of a spray can sounds. Someone presses a button. Suddenly sounds are coming through the empty rooms. Loud voices echo through the old walls and the place awakens.

After WW II the buildings were used for military purposes by the Soviet Red Army which left the site in 1993, the start of a long and deep slumber which was interrupted abruptly now by all kinds of colors, visions and phantastic dreams painted on the crumbling walls of this remote place.

And last but not least on the premises you will find also the namegiver of the site, a beautiful forest lake called Domjüchsee.

Jo’s Monday walk : Alvor & the Estuary

 

MY NEAREST MOUNTAIN – CRAZY TEUFELSBERG IN BERLIN

Today, I would like to introduce you to the mountainous aspects of Berlin. Downtown there are of course some quite higher tops like Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg which make me thinking of the funny film dealing about an English man who climbed on a hill and came down a mountain (that’s also the film’s title).

Postcard with view from Kreuzberg in 1866

But the nearest and more well-known and highest elevation of Berlin is Teufelsberg / Devil’s Mountain in the huge municipal forest Grunewald and just 2 km distant from my home – even with rising sea levels a safe place due to an actual height of unbelievable 120.1 m, a location which also offers an interesting and surprising history.

Deceptive idyll on Teufelsberg in June 2018

Being geologically one of the youngest mountains worldwide, the 50th birthday of the location has just passed by, a critical age where a lot may change usually in the course of times as the following pictures of the site do clearly suggest.

Today Teufelsberg a center of urban art, the very last mutation of a bizarre place.

But let’s see what happened before here. At the end of WW II you would simply find a flat forest and the bombed rests of a big building formerly used by the German Wehrmacht as a military academy. This place was lying in the British sector of (West)-Berlin where no German army was allowed till the early 1990s when the special status of the city ended with the German unification. So nobody had any use for these military ruins left by the Nazis.

Ruins of Wehrtechnische Fakultät at Teufelsseechaussee

Vast areas of the town were also destroyed as a result of WW II, so this was declared as a place where all the debris and rubble of smashed houses would be brought till the late 1960s, in total 26 million cubic meters of waste material piled up to a new mountain getting the name Teufelsberg  because the site is lying at the road Teufelsseechausee leading finally to natural lake Teufelssee.

A truck transporting rubble to Teufelsberg, December 1951

Nature took quickly control of this dump, so today the mountain is covered by a wild nature and secondary forest. And the people of West-Berlin used the new mountain also for leisure like  snow sports as it was difficult to go elsewhere for quite long time due to the Wall of Berlin surrounding them till 1989.

Ski lift on Teufelsberg (120.1 m), Winter 1961

Down the mountain’s not too long slope, December 1981

But the mountain has also been the last listening post of the Cold War. In the years 1968 the American army seized the complete top area of the mountain and erected till 1969 a radar and monitoring station for intelligence purposes such as controlling telephone conversations in the former German Democratic Republic. The secret name of these constructing and supervising ambitions was Project Filman. The last and fifth tower was built and finalized in 1989 shortly before the political transitions and opening of the Wall of Berlin. With the unificiation of Germany this complex was no longer required, the American army left the place in 1991 changing the area to a mere ghost town.

Teufelsberg radar and monitoring station by US-army in the 1980s

Path around the complex through the secondary forest, June 2018

Pioneer plants conquered the place in the time being which grew in the cracks of the asphalt and even settled on roofs. Undemanding plants such as the evening primrose, the stonecrop or the elder have laid the groundwork that it is today very green on top of the Teufelsberg. The complex was sold to an investor who planned a hotel and luxury appartments on the mountain. But after getting many millions of loan for the project from the banks, he was never seen again in the city. Some years ago this area has also been declared as forestrial land making impossible such luxury projects in the future. 

One of the decaying radiation domes, August 2019

Colorful wildness of the ruins, August 2019

The abandoned and still militarywise fenced place attracted of course the urban art and graffiti community. So in the ruins you find today a vast diversity of amazing colorant works of any kind. The domes can no longer be visited due to their bad conditions, but the unique complex is huge and can be visited against payment of an entrance fee. Meanwhile another change, the city awarded this wild site the relevant status of a real protected monument. So history can be just fabulous sometimes!

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Linked to:

Tuesday Photo Challenge – City

 

ALPINE FLORA AND FAUNA IN MONTAFON VALLEY, AUSTRIA, BY BEATRICE

Now this will be the last feature regarding our Summer holidays in Austria, and after Ulli (who operates this blog) already has shown for instance some tracks left by Ernest Hemingway here in Montafon as well, it is now really time for some flowers and animals to be found in the beautiful Austrian Alps, colourful impressions picked up by me.

Old world swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

 

Amazing temporary geometry

Ferns in a forest

Bleached sculpture on the trail to Falla

Swiss horses on vacation at Gargellenalpe

Explosion of colours in TschaggunsHill moor with cotton grass (Eriophorum angustifolium)

Fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)

High plateau and trail leading from Wiegensee to Verbellaalpe

Fading floral aesthetics

Moss covering a tree and gravestones

Mountain meadow

Alpine rose (Rhododendron ferrugineum)

Turk’s cap lily (Lilium martagon)

Alpine gentian (Gentiana alpina)

A layer of old snow near Kreuzjoch

Thanks for joining this small excursion through mountains and flora!

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linked to:

Jo’s Monday walk : Vila Franca do Campo

FOTD – August 22, 2019 – Photographer and Dahlias

HISTORICAL MURALS OF BERLIN, 1965-1989

In the 1970s, the graffiti scene, inspired by the burgeoning hip-hop movement, finally developed in the New York underground. Within a few months it became a gigantic wave that spilled over to Europe. The punks and hip-hop took streetart to their strongholds of London and Amsterdam, from where they arrived in West-Berlin.

View on newly erected houses at Stalinallee, Berlin-Friedrichshain, 1963

Wall frieze by Walter Womacka
House of the Teacher, Berlin-Mitte, 1965

Also in East-Berlin there were forms of street art, however, the artists were severely restricted in their freedom and had to be in strict compliance with mandated socialist realism as to be seen here on the wall frieze by Walter Womacka from the 1960s. Political slogans were also painted on houses and walls of East-Berlin but usually immediately removed by state security. The Berlin Wall initially only presents itself as a huge screen in West-Berlin, onto which political slogans, murals and later graffiti are painted and sprayed from the 1970s.


The dividing Wall of Berlin, 1961-1989

Wall frieze by Walter Womacka
House of the Teacher, Berlin-Mitte, 1965

In its beginnings streetart found many advocates. The Second World War had left many traces in Berlin in the form of firewalls and bomb blanks, which could be concealed by the murals. The politicians promoted the street art projects in West-Berlin with design programs and competitions like Kunst am Bau. Numerous artists brought different styles and techniques with them, the goal was an active intervention in the cityscape.

Ben Wagin, “World Tree”
Berlin-Tiergarten, 1977/2018

It all started with a moaning tree being surrounded by violent car exhausts. The environmental work Weltbaum (World Tree) by Ben Wagin was the first big mural realized at the Western part of Berlin in 1977. Due to construction works it can no longer be seen at its original place. Therefore, it was painted and reconstructed again in May 2018 at a suitable building in Lehrter Str.

Gert Neuhaus, “Zipper”
Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1979

Marilyn Green, Rainer Warzecha and Christoph Böhm
“Model Germany”, Berlin-Kreuzberg, 1981

Political slogans painted or sprayed on house walls have always been part of political movements, not only since the West-German squatter movement of the 1970s and 1980s, which makes intensive use of this means of expression. The squatter movement was especially strong and active in West-Berlin where many houses were unused, empty or in very bad condition.

House ruin at Winterfeldplatz
Berlin-Schöneberg, 1981

Mural on a squatted house
KuKuck, Berlin-Kreuzberg, 1982

The works created in West-Berlin in the 1970s and lateron by the squatter movement of the 1980s often had a political message – such as the “World Tree” by Ben Wagin or the now-defunct Mural “Model Germany” by Marilyn Green, Rainer Warzecha and Christoph Böhm. Illusion painting was also very popular. One example is the still existing gable “Zipper” by the artist Gert Neuhaus.

Sigurd Wendland, “Potsdamer Str. 1945”
WW II bunker, Berlin-Schöneberg, 1983

Harald Juch, “Chernobyl Disaster”
Berlin-Schöneberg, 1986

View on Kurfürstendamm
Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1987

Gert Neuhaus, “Phoenix”
Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1989

Illegal underground art existed by mutual agreement in addition to commissioned works, which were mostly awarded by housing associations. Sometimes the works also overlapped, often disappearing again. With the big political transitions starting in late 1989 a lot has changed in Berlin also in regard of urban art, but that’s still like that till today!