Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the sculpture trail: frog in the snow

This frog is sitting on a wall next to the entrance of an elementary school complex. The name of the school can be read in the frog's background: Schule am Baumschulenweg, written in colorful letters by school children.

The Schule am Baumschulenweg is a school of the city of Bremen in northern Germany. Brick walls and concrete floors are often the dominating features of German school buildings and adjacent sites. However, times are changing (or have changed already). This school gets kids actively involved in nature project. The concrete yard is turned into a nature playground, in which kids are introduced to environmental topics and to natural science. After all, Baumschule means tree nursery.

Getting there
From the central station, take the light-rail line number 6 going to the University. Exit at the intersection Emmastrasse/H.-H.-Meier-Allee. Walk along the H.-H.-Meier-Allee in northeast direction past the post office. The frog and school entrance is less than 5 minutes away, depending on fresh-snow accumulation.

Monday, December 20, 2010

On the sculpture trail: Heini Holtenbeen in Bremen's medieval Schnoor district

Heini Holtenbeen is walking through the snow looking for a table. This is a bronze sculpture to be found at the corner “Hinter der Holzpforte” in Bremen's Schnoor. The sculptor is Klaus Homfeld (also: Claus Homfeld) [1], who created realistic art work displayed at various locations in northern Germany.

Heini Holtenbeen was a real person. His real name was Jürgen Heinrich Keberle (1835-1909) [2,3]. The story goes that he fell out of a skylight window and, since then, his way of walking was impaired. Hence, his nickname: the Lower German (Plattdeutsch) name Holtenbeen means Holzbein in Standard German (Hochdeutsch)—stiff leg in English. Or does holten relate to halten—to rest or stop? There were other oddities about him strolling through the narrow streets of his Schnoor neighborhood. Around lunch time, he placed himself at the entrance of the cotton exchange building (Baumwollbörse), where he eased the in-going traders from their half-smoked cigarettes. There was no smoking allowed inside the cotton exchange.

An herbal liquer has been named in honor of this original fellow. Good to know that a bitter spirit —and not a brand of cigarettes—is carrying his nickname. Zum Wohl!

References and more to explore
[1] Als K
ünstler immer im Unruhestand. Bildhauer Claus Homfeld.
Die Geschichte von Heini Holtenbeen und dem Kräuterlikör. www.heiniholtenbeen.de/geschichte_krauterlikoer.php.
Jürgen Heinrich Keberle (1835-1909). www.bremer-geschichtenhaus.de/de/ausstellung/heini-holtenbeen.html.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lichen back from space

These lichen samples were shown to the public at the COSPAR 2010 Meeting (www.cospar2010.org) this summer in Bremen, Germany. The lichen has an interesting history of traveling. In June 2005, it was send into space with BIOPAN (‘biological pan’) mounted externally to a Russian re-entry capsule. BIOPAN is a multi-user facility, which can be opened in space by telecommand to expose biological samples to the “local” conditions.

The lichen samples in the picture were exposed to the full spectrum of solar light including UV, cosmic rays, space vacuum, microgravity and extreme temperatures. Their BIOPAN container was closed and hermetically sealed during re-entry and return to Earth.

The lichens survived their exposure to space conditions during a two-week flight and resumed their metabolism on Earth. Although lichens live and thrive in harsh planetary environments such as desert rocks in Nevada, their space survival is a surprise. In the past, some scientist (and science fiction authors) have argued that lichens and other organisms might arrived on Earth via “space flight.” The current findings give more credit to such possibilities. But what natural system achieves the critical protection for organisms to enter the atmosphere from outer space and reach Earth's surface intact?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A silvery whale in Bremen

At a hasty glance, this shiny building may be mistaken for a giant whale. Actually, the silvery construction is housing the Universum Science Center Bremen. It was designed by architect Thomas Klumpp. The Universum features a permanent exhibition and frequently adds special exhibitions. The concept is hands-on experiencing of nature and technology.

The Universum is located near the University of Bremen. This area has been a wetland, and still is. Various narrow trails can be found between buildings, ponds, canals, and beer gardens. Small nature preserves, study areas and the city forest (Bremer Stadtwald) are nearby. Students as well as Bremer (city residents) and visitors come her for jogging, biking, swimming, surfing, paddling, rowing, horse riding, kite flying and live music events. This former, frequently flooded lowland has turned into a multiverse—for real.

More on locatation, exhibits and events
Address: Universum Bremen, Wiener Str. 1 a, 28359 Bremen.
Getting there: From the airport or the central station, take light rail No. 6, exit at the “Naturwissenschaften 2” stop and walk (less than 5 min.) to the Wiener Str./Unversitätsallee intersection.
About the Universum: http://universum-bremen.de/en/home/about-us.html.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On the sculpture trail: “Pair” by Mareike Seegers in Bremen's Teerhof district

Bremen's Teerhof district is just a few steps away from the Schlachte. A walk over the pedestrian bridge (Teerhofbrücke), crossing the Weser river, gets you to the Teerhof “peninsula.” The sculpture “Paar” (meaning pair in English) by Mareike Seegers is located next to the pedestrian alley along the peninsula axis between the modern red-brickstone buildings.

The compositum Teerhof literally means tar court. In the past, ships were here tarred and equipped with what ever it needed to make them sea-going. The historical district got mostly destroyed during World War II. Today's Teerhof, reconstructed with the historic architecture in mind, combines apartment and office buildings—and art. Teerhof's “Neue Museum Weserburg” (The Museum in the River) is a modern art museum, which opened in the year 1991 and is collecting and presenting international and contemporary art.

More about the artist and her work
Paar von Mareike Seegers (1998) - auf dem Teerhof: http://fotos-bilder.de/Bremen/neustadt/page-0009.htm.
[2] Künstler - Mareike Seegers-Herenda: http://www.atelier-brandt-credo.de/seegers_herenda.html.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

River walk in northern Germany: Bremen's Schlachte

The city of Bremen in northern Germany features river walks—promenades as well as bike trails—along the Weser river. The paths and trails pass the downtown area and go beyond the city limits into the state of Lower Saxony. They are typically well-marked with signposts giving directions, location names and distances in kilometers (km).

Allthough Bremen is located about 50 km south from where the Weser meets the North Sea, the river through the city still experiences tides. Until the construction of the new port (the Freihafen) between 1884 and 1888, goods from overseas were shipped to the Schlachte, which is seen in the picture and now is a historical harbour destrict with pubs (Biergärten in summer), businesses and landing sites for theater, restaurant and tourist boats.

Two information boards, one in English and one in German, explain that the original structure of die Schlachte did not survive World War II. Major renewal work has been done at the end of the last century and the Schlachte was reopened in 2000. For over six hundred years this was the harbour of the Hanseatic League port Bremen. Beginning in the eighteenth century, however, sea-going ships couldn't access the Schlachte due to natural silting processes in the Weser. This didn't stop commercial activity and trading. Barges were carrying goods along the final river stretch to town.

Getting there
The Schlachte is located between the Wilhelm-Kaisen-Brücke and the Bürgermeister-Smidt Brücke (two bridges). From the city hall (Rathaus), stroll across the market place and through the narrow Böttcherstraße. At the end of this lovely alley you'll find an underground passage leading to the boat tour terminal (Martini Anleger, next to the church, Martinikirche, in the picture). The Schlachte is to the north. You can walk on different levels. The lower level is occasionally flooded when high tides and winter storms converge.