Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Little Mermaid of Copenhagen

You cannot go to Copenhagen the Danish capital without seeing the famous little mermaid Statue.
I remember my late grandfather telling me about the wonders of hitch hiking through Europe in 1951. He said the Swedish women were beautiful but the place he most raved and waxed lyrical about was Denmark; especially Copenhagen.
My grandfather would tell me tales of the wonders of Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park. Coming from war torn and rationed London the lights of the park would have seemed like a million miles away.
He would be used to places like Southend on sea but this spectacle of lights, fireworks, water parks, gardens and amusements would have been a whole new experience.
I found an old photo that he took of the little Mermaid statue.
A small black and white snap taken from an angle on a sunny day 66 years ago. Now I found myself standing at that very spot where he took that photo.
A smile creeps across my face as I think of him as a young man and wonder how similar we would be.
It’s May 2015 and early evening.
It’s still light and the tide has gone out. I was always told that you will be underwhelmed by the statue and that it was smaller than what you expected. But what I didn’t realise was that if I stand on the band and jump I can literally clamber up ad stand next to her.
This of course is probably illegal as she has been vandalised in the past and in 2003 almost exactly 90 years after when was placed there she was blown off her rock with explosives!
Her head has been sawn off and she has also in the past been draped in a Burkha. So the poor lass has gone through the wars.
Anyway I couldn’t resist and clambered up on to her. The first thing I noticed was how well rubbed her breasts were, obviously it was either overzealous sexually frustrated tourists having a grope or good luck to rub them like it is with the Churchill bronze statue rubbing his foot as you enter parliament.
Either way I was up there now and gave her a little kiss for good luck. Not a passionate one of course just a peck.
I stood on the shore again looking out at the waters of Copenhagen.
A city that is beautiful and great fun to cycle round.
The Mermaid fitted perfectly. The fairy-tale creature created by Hans Christian Andersen and the statue commissioned by the son of the founder of Carlsberg. It’s an amusing story.
The head is modelled on ballerina Ellen Price's, but she refused to go nude for the body so that task fell to the sculptor’s wife.
So since 1913 her breasts have been in the sea. Recently Danish authorities have considered moving her further out into the bay to discourage people like myself from climbing on to it. But nothing has happened yet. I do however know a certain Australian man who swam out to her and posed naked in the same position as her. The photo does make silly viewing if unflattering for him.
I stared at her for a further minute until some tourists came along and ruined the view and the quietness. Therefore I moved off to see the kitsch and lights of Tivoli gardens and see what my granddad loved about it.
To me it was just a theme park with beautiful ornate entrances that dated from Victorian times. But to him this must have been like visiting Santa's Grotto. I smiled as I entered and saw the Peacock stage. Being here I know would have made him smile. Maybe travel was in his blood too. I certainly hope so.
As I left Copenhagen I heard a story about the mermaid that I wish I had seen. An act of Vandalism connected to international women’s day in 2006 left her clutching a whopping Dildo.
I will leave you with that mental image.

Am I back in old Soviet Berlin?

Treptower Park;  large, looming, ominous and unmistakably Soviet.
I feel as I step into the park that I have gone back in time. To a time when the stasi were an ever present part of East German life and a world where we lived in constant fear of a nuclear war.
Communist countries did love a sculpture, statue or tower. Some even had all three plus many more emblems that would adorn cities, streets and buildings. You would not be able to get away from the sight of political propaganda anywhere back in the days of the iron curtain and the Berlin wall.
Standing in Treptower Park in an area that was once East Berlin it seems remarkably quiet considering that there is a main road not so far away. It’s not quiet actually, it’s still.
Almost too still.
This adds to the eeriness of the place and the awkward feeling that the giant statue and centre piece of the park gives you as it stares deep into you.
The statue and park which is the East German war memorial is a reminder of the battle against fascism.
The soldier holds a child he has saved and clutches a sword; under his feet are the remains of a shattered swastika.
Powerful and emblematic stuff.
While I stand here looking I wonder how the people of East Berlin must have felt as their country plummeted towards economic ruin and isolationism from all but the soviets.
How did they feel seeing gigantic statues erected while they struggled with everyday life?
I shift m gaze over to the iron fence and see many parts have been removed, vandalised and stolen. Presumably melted down and recycled in harsher times.
Treptower Park also seems a little out of place as it is the Soviet Cenotaph commemorating the 80,000 Soviet soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle for Berlin.
It doesn’t seem like a German liberation statue or monument at all.
When it was opened in1949 the world was a very different place. East German citizens were getting used to a life divided from friends, relatives and soon their own country.
When I leave after exploring inside the monument and around I feel like I needed to know a little more but there was a lack of information. It seems that Berliners do not visit this place and it is almost forgotten and hidden amongst the trees.
Almost abandoned like the Spreepark derelict amusement park in the woods not far away.
I wander back along the river Spree and see it for myself. Large fences erected and signs saying keep out.
Rotting bumper cars and a falling down dilapidated circus big top. Large fibre glass dinosaurs standing covered in moss looking forlorn and having seen better days.
Then I see something that still to this day is one of the spookiest and creepiest things I have ever seen.
The large abandoned Ferris wheel is turning and creaking. Not just moving in the wind, fully rotating.
Through the quiet of the woods you can hear it creak and crunch and hum of a motor.
I walk back to central Berlin in need of a good German beer. But all my head can think of is why was it turning and did someone break in to turn it on?
Too many unanswered questions for one day.