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  • Writer's pictureNigel

I must have prayed to the wrong gods 不運な時も 笑って過ごそう 27th Jan 2022

Updated: Feb 2, 2022


Well, I will not be shedding any tears for this past month.

Firstly, The Finanzamt (Tax Office) decided they wanted to claw back the Covid Assistance for Small Businesses and send me a huge sneaky bill; Secondly, my dentist decided I needed 3 new crowns (NOT cheap!); Thirdly, As reported already, I lost my Handy /Smartphone/ Cellphone / 携帯電話 /スマートフォン / Sumātofon.....err, sorry, in what part of the world are you reading this ? 😅 ; Fourthly, I got a Hexenschuß from walking 11km in the Rheingau. Now a Hexenschuß literally means a "shot from a witch", which is not a bad way of describing lower back pain. Wonderful! Where are you Hermione? I'm sure you know the right spell to counter this.

So it was with some amusement that I saw this poster on Langen station last week. It's from the Tax Office, and is actually a recruitment campaign. But the weather, or taypayers like me perhaps, have thought differently and have partially laid waste to it (Good grief, I hate to think what Google translate will do with laid waste in Japanese - better ask my teacher!)

"Ohne Uns Läuft Nichts" "Without us nothing works" ........Firm folded arms and the symbol of Hesse nicely prominent...well, true enough, a state needs taxes to run, and I am not whingeing about living in a stable democracy where public transport is generally clean and sort of efficient (I'll get some flak for that comment). I am also glad that when I get back on whatsapp or LINE, my account will not be blocked for using words on some goverment censorship list. I just wonder why the Swedes are so happy about paying their taxes. Maybe they see them invested in education?

Lots of nice things have happened in January, however. There have even been some sunny days .....

and some not-so-sunny days...........😊

OK, back to one sunny day in particular......

Recently I arranged with a friend to see the Max Liebermann exhibition in Darmstadt before it closed. As usual, I took the train. It is such a pain to park in Darmstadt. The S-bahn was eerily empty.....

and arriving in Darmstadt I admired yet again the railway station. It was built in 1912 under the architect Friedrich Pützer. Thank heavens it survived the destruction of 1945.........

There are also some lovely details on the outside walls....

On arrival at the Hessischen Landesmuseum we discovered that the time slots for the exhibition had been already booked. Oh no! Disaster! Here is the severe facade of the museum and looking around, a view of the tower that was once part of the city walls......

Now at this point one could have let Covid win the day and turn back home. But taking advantage of the gloriously sunny day, we took a leisurely stroll up to the Mathildenhöhe and Rosengarten.

The Mathildenhöhe is a hill in Darmstadt crowned with the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) "Darmstadt Artists Colony". This is a collection of buildings - A huge tower called the Hochzeitsturm (Wedding Tower - so named because you can get wed there), an exhibition hall, and numerous "Artists Houses". There is also an Orthodox church, which I find rather bizarre.....

The master architect behind all this was Joseph Maria Olbrich. Olbrich had already been noticed as a member of a group of artists in Vienna - the Viennese Secession, which included Otto Wagner and Gustav Klimt amongst its members.

In 1899 his big moment came when Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse gave Olbrich the contract to build this daring architectural ensemble. I think that the duke imagined it would add fame and prestige to the Land of Hesse and boost its economy. Curious to think that this all happened before the first World War.

Here is the Ernst Ludwig Haus, built as a sort of conference and workshop centre for the artists....

And a view down to another house, (photo taken last summer)

and here the domes of the Russian Orthodox Church. This was built a year or so before Olbrich's Artists Colony and was a private chapel for the last Czar of Russia, Nicholas II. Nothing like having your own chapel built in case you wanted to pop into Darmstadt and have a cup of tea with the Grand Duke eh?

Walking on over the hill and crossing a railway bridge we found ourselves looking up at the entrance to another of Darmstadt's wonders: The Rosengarten (Rose garden). This strange park predates the Artist's colony, and was instigated by another member of the illustrious Hesse aristocracy : Wilhelmine von Baden. In 1810 she converted a vineyard into this landscaped park , planting it with exotic trees and plants. The entrance......has

strange lions mounted on pillars.....Here is a side view which I took in the summer ....

It is all very intriguing. And then there is this: When you enter the park you come across something which I have never seen in the UK - Mausoleums. They were built for the family which ruled Hesse for generations. Passing some majestic Californian redwood trees the first edifice looms into view. Any student of Romanesque architecture would now gasp. What you see before you instantly displaces you to Ravenna, to the famous mausoleum of the Roman Emperess - Galla Placidia. Built in 425. Except that there are no mosaics to see here, and it was built in 1910. The massive bronze door is firmly locked.

Walking further through the trees we came to another - and again rather gloomy - edifice. Another mausoleum. Built in 1826. The only other place I have seen similar sites is in Charlottenburg in Berlin. That's where the Kaisers ended up. However, now that I recall, there are mausoleums in the UK....mostly on National Trust properties.

The park is famous for its roses in summer. But today was January. Walking down into town it was good to see streets full of living people. But the legacy of the Hesse family is hard to avoid. Here the domed church of St. Ludwig.....

It was time to head for a nice warm restaurant.

Note: Due to continuing problems I am having in the mobile phone department, and having no digital camera, some of the photos I have used here were shot on film and then converted to digital format. It's not difficult to distinguish analogue from digital. It's a bit like the difference between vinyl LPs and CDs. The older of the two has warmer colours, the newer technology is sharper and crisper, but not necessarily colour true.

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Jan 15, 2023

Maybe some design changes to the site soon. Don't panic.

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