The Bonn Women's Museum – World's first squatted Museum

The Bonn Women's Museum
© Wikimedia Commons Autor: Hans Weingartz

Marianne Pitzen is a self-effacing artist who found a need and filled it. Pitzen was born in Stuttgart on 29 May 1948 and held her first official art gallery exhibit no more than 21 years after her birth.  Obviously, Pitzen wastes no time getting done what needs to be done.  The need she found in the late ’70s was a lack of female influence in the art world and her solution was the founding of the Bonn Women’s Museum—which now addresses not only the need for more female influence in the world of art, but also numerous feminist issues that touch upon the emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical, social, and educational oppression of women.

The implied rationale is that it is utter foolishness to hamstring 50% of a nation’s talent in order to adhere to a crippling, grotesque, absurd, destructive, and pervasive philosophy of male chauvinism.

The Founding of the Bonn Women’s Museum

In 1981, artists and architects collaborated in the creation of a place for women’s art and women’s history in a vacant department store in Bonn’s old town.  “Actually, we intended that it should be a museum only for that summer,” said Pitzen, and the Bonn city fathers had agreed; however, rather than withdraw from the vacant department store several months later as agreed, they remained.  It was the world’s first squatters’ museum and, since then, the Bonn Women’s Museum has become an integral part of the Bonn museum landscape.  In retrospect, Pitzen confirmed that “we could not immediately tell the city what we had planned.”

The Museum in Danger

On 12 October 2014, Die Welt reported that Pitzen, an avowed feminist, is simultaneously a product of and a proponent of the women’s movement in Germany and throughout the world.  She frequently organized quite effective demonstrations against male domination of the art world.  This growing awareness led inexorably to her founding the Bonn Women’s Museum in 1981—the first of its kind in the world—only to have the Bonn city fathers push for its closure no later than 2019, despite Pitzen’s having won a €3,000 prize from the Foundation of Obstreperous Women and the political support of Ute Schäfer, the then-Minister for Family, Children, Youth, Culture, and Sport of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (15 July 2010 – 01 October 2015).

It took three years for the city to capitulate to Pitzen and her confederates and Pitzen is now the director of the officially recognized Bonn Women’s Museum and she continues in that capacity to fight the good fight.

Spotlight Exhibitions at the Museum

One of the Bonn Women’s Museum’s signal exhibits spotlighted by Die Welt (26 July 2014) was the plight of single parents, particularly single mothers, in the wake of their shabby treatment by federal and state legislators.  The federal and state governments—the administrations (officials and bureaucrats), the legislatures, and the judiciary—discriminated against single-parent families (20% of German families) vis-à-vis financial maintenance as well as income taxes and social law.  Single parents led lives of quiet desperation and Pitzen sought to rub the public’s nose in it.  “Making women’s problems visible is one of our most important tasks,” said Pitzen and backed up her commitment with an exhibit devoted to single mothers, holding that single mothers’ situations needed to be examined within the context of their history.  Of particular concern was the government’s paternalistic attitude toward single mothers and toward so-called illegitimate births.  Preferring to put a square peg into a round hole (“etwas Unmögliches machen wollen”), the government, stuck up to its waist in the repressiveness of the 18th and 19th centuries and still in organized religion’s thrall, assigned a father, i.e., a magistrate, to such children, thereby treating the mothers like children as well.  Pitzen’s efforts to liberate women and enlighten men put the fox into the henhouse (“den Bock zum Gärtner machen”).

Since its establishment, the Bonn Women’s Museum has sponsored more than 500 thematic exhibits—it prefers temporary exhibits in order to keep its messages fresh and relevant to visitors.  Its main cultural and academic thrusts continue to emphasize the contribution of female artists and art, both domestic and international, against a virtual relief map of art history and women’s history and in conjunction with simultaneous and, sometimes, spontaneous events.

Famous Artists at the Bonn Women’s Museum

The museum’s collection includes works from such legendary female artists as Käthe Kollwitz, Katharina Sieverding, Valie Export, Maria Lassnig, and Yoko Ono, a library-cum-archive focusing on specialist topics, including feminism, feminist politics, post-WWII art, and numerous other linked subjects.  The museums advisors regularly organize workshops, seminars, meetings, and other events of particular interest to female artists and the advisors have been instrumental in establishing similar museums worldwide.  For example, Berlin’s Frauenmuseum is linked with the Bonn Women’s Museum, which also supports the prestigious Gabriele Münter Prize for female artists and which regularly hosts art and design fairs and maintains its own publishing house, studios, and galleries.

The Bonn Women’s Museum is at Im Krausfeld 10, 53111 Bonn; telefon +49 228 691344.  Its hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1400-1800 and Sundays 1100-1800.  It is closed on Mondays.  Admission fees vary:  Individuals, €6,00; Concessions & Groups of 5 or more, @ €4,50; and Students, €3,00.  The museum’s URL is http://www.frauenmuseum.de/ and its eMail is info@frauenmuseum.de.  Don’t merely visit this museum.  Start your own in your city.

The Pinakothek Museum in Munich

The Pinakothek Museum in Munich
Von Lourdes Cardenal – Enciclopedia Libre. Source here, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Munich has a wealth of superb museums, of which three stand out as particularly spectacular jewels in an inspiring cultural crown.  The three are inextricably linked by their roots, mingled as they are with one another, with the Wittelsbach family collection, and, especially, with King Ludwig I of Bavaria (25 August 1786–29 February 1868).  While the three museums ostensibly restrict their respective collections to specific time periods, there is certainly some understandable and justified overlap, so take the time frames as rough guides rather than hard-and-fast boundaries.

First: The Alte Pinakothek Museum

The first is the Alte Pinakothek museum, one of the foremost European repositories of the so-called old masters, i.e., painters whose careers developed and peaked before the 18th century, as well as those 18th-century painters whose oeuvres are rooted in pre-18th-century styles, e.g., Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, François Boucher, Francesco Guardi, Nicolas Lancret, Giovanni Antonio Canal, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Maurice Quentin de La Tour, and Claude Joseph Vernet.  The Alte Pinakothek has thousands of paintings from the 13th through the 18th centuries (many of which it displays in a rotating schedule).  German artists are certainly well represented, but there are significant, even enviable, examples of Dutch, Netherlandish, Flemish, Italian, French, and Spanish paintings.  (The difference between Dutch and Netherlandish is too obscure and too complex for me to try to explain!)  If you’re pressed for time, your short list of what to view at the Alte Pinakothek should include Rubens’s Last Judgment, one of the largest canvas paintings in the world.

Second: The Neue Pinakothek Museum

The second is the Neue Pinakothek museum.  It focuses on paintings and sculptures from the 18th and 19th centuries (more than 3,000 altogether) and regularly displays at least 450 objets d’art.  The collection comprises works that include German art of many movements, styles, and forms as well as robust English and several prestigious international holdings.  Initially, the museum’s collection focused on Romanticism, paintings that usually included “. . . images of the transitoriness of human life and the premonition of death” (Painting and Sculpture in Europe, 1780–1880 by Fritz Novotny, Yale University Press, 2nd edition, 1971) and the Munich School (naturalistic style and dark chiaroscuro whose typical subjects are landscape, portraits, genre, still-life, and history painting).  After the turn of the century, the collection received the Tschudi Contribution which added superb Impressionist and post-Impressionist works.  The museum’s collection includes works by such titans of the art world as Francisco de Goya, Thomas Gainsborough, Friedrich Wilhelm von Schadow, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Honoré Daumier, Lovis Corinth, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch, Auguste Rodin, and Pablo Picasso.

Third: The Pinakothek der Moderne Museum

The third is the Pinakothek der Moderne museum.  The Pinakothek der Moderne—locally known as “Dritte,” i.e., the third—specializes in 20th- and 21st-century art in four broad categories, each of which is presented as a museum, a so-called sub-museum, if you will, in its own right.  The first is the museum’s “Collection of Modern Art” which includes art of all genres from classical modern through the post-war period to contemporary art, including Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, New Objectivity, Bauhaus, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Minimal Art.  These movements include such artists as Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, Georges Braque, René Magritte, Wassily Kandinsky, Andy Warhol, Henry Moore, Willem de Kooning, as well as video, photo, and news media.

The second is the museum’s “Graphical Collection” which includes drawings and prints from the 15th century to contemporary exemplars, starting with the so-called print-room collection of  Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria, to which it has added old German, Dutch, and Italian drawings.  Artists represented in this section include such greats as Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci to Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, and David Hockney.  To call this a mere “graphical” collection is like calling the the Andromeda Galaxy a “bunch of sparkly lights.”

The third, based in great part on the Technical University of Munich’s largesse, is the museum’s “Architectural Collection” comprising probably the most extensive collection of historical and current architectural drawings in Germany—again through an initial donation from King Ludwig I—and the works of such notables as Günther Behnisch, Gottfried Semper, François de Cuvilliés, Balthasar Neumann, and Le Corbusier whose photographs, drawings, blueprints and models anchor a collection that includes contemporary computer animations and photographs.

The fourth is the museum’s so-called New Collection embracing the Munich International Design Museum, begun in 1925 and now includes more that 70,000 pieces, among which are objects of industrial design, graphic design, and the arts and crafts of so-called applied art, e.g., furniture, jewelry, appliances, motor vehicles—in other words, designs intended to capture the minds and hearts of consumers of pieces as mundane as a potato peeler to as grandiose as a skyscraper.

These museums share a common web site.  Contact the Alte Pinakothek, Barer Straße 27, 80333 München; telephone 49.(0)89.23805-216; the Neue Pinakothek, Barer Straße 29, 80799 München; telephone 49.(0)89.23805-195; and the Pinakothek der Moderne, Barer Straße 40, 80333 München; 49.(0)89.23805-360.

The life of Helmut Schmidt – An Obituary

The Life of Helmut Schmidt - An Obituary
© Wikimedia Commons

Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of West Germany between May, 1974, and October, 1982, died 10 November 2015.  Yesterday would have been his 99th birthday.  Schmidt also served as West Germany’s Minister for Finance, Minister for Economics, and Minister for Defense.  He worked for and with such illustrious German public figures as Georg Leber, Gerhard Schröder, Willy Brandt, Hans Friderichs, Karl Schiller, and Hans Apel.  In other words, Schmidt was a mover and a shaker in West Germany and on the world stage, on a par with Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt.  Helmut Schmidt was a statesman.

The Style of Leadership of Helmut Schmidt

In 1976, Schmidt wrote in The New York Times that West Germany’s political and social stability were rooted in many things, primarily in social security, union and commercial autonomy, and the weight given not only to fiscal and economic policy, but also in social policy, particularly in the “education and career training of our young people.”  He also emphasized West Germany’s persistent “humanization of work conditions” all within the framework of collective bargaining between labor and management.  “The government and parliament would not even dream of changing this.  In our experience, there exists no better solution.”  This steady, guiding hand unquestionably had a more effective and more reliable role in the eventual disintegration of the so-called Communist Bloc than did the weaponry and saber-rattling of the Cold War.  That’s what statesmen do:  they engage their nation’s people and they shape government policies to the benefit of those people, almost always to the envy of onlookers and rivals.

Schmidt’s strong reliance on collective bargaining paid off magnificently for West Germany’s economy—West Germany’s middle class is probably the largest and healthiest in Europe and West Germany’s business community is the envy of all Europe.  “I am profoundly convinced of the fundamental social and political necessity of broad codetermination,” Helmut Schmidt wrote.  Labor and management dealt so intimately with one another that the problems of one inevitably became the problems of both and guided both—usually wary and mistrustful on one another—toward seeking common solutions.  “This, I believe, creates a climate in which Labor refrains from excessive demands and generally asks for only what is reasonable.”

Schmidt’s Influence on Germany in the 80s

As reported by The New York Times’s correspondent John Vinocur in 1980, one of Schmidt’s (unnamed) political colleagues in Hamburg described his positive attributes as “lightning intelligence, vast technical expertise, pragmatism, and tirelessness,” his negative attributes as “permanent irritability, a tendency to depression, know-it-allism, and arrogance,” topped off, as it were, with the ultimately liability at the time of “being German.”  The summer of 1980 was a turning point for West Germany and it was launched by Schmidt, who, earlier in the summer, had progressed from the earlier, self-effacing German line “that West Germany really was not an economic giant,” to the robust assertion that, second only to the United States, West Germany’s “. . . financial and commercial strength is the greatest in the world.”  Bear in mind that not only was this true, but also that it was true only 35 years after the dust and the rubble of World War II.
To call West Germany’s rise a miracle does a disservice to the intelligence, education, experience, common sense, and persistence of West Germany’s post-war leaders, of whom Helmut Schmidt was probably one of the most inspiring at home and abroad.  Schmidt’s savvy Weltanschauung gave him the vision to see further into the world’s political and economic future than could almost all his contemporaries.

The Policy of Helmut Schmidt

Schmidt’s policy was to try to set himself above the fray, i.e., to assess political and economic events and problems objectively and pragmatically—a stance often criticized by his supporters as being unemotional, and by his prickly critics as being downright insensitive.  Schmidt knew, as do all insightful individuals, that, when confronted by a problem, emotion is a fatal flaw.  Regrettably, he did not factor in voters’ emotions.  Once he had triggered their doubt in his effectiveness, he realized that his political future would rapidly wind down.  In an unguarded moment, Schmidt asserted that the Palestinians’ pursuit of self-determination vis-à-via Israel was no less valid than West Germany’s pursuit self-determination for all Germans—both in West Germany and in East Germany.  Then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin denounced Schmidt’s motives and comments.  Begin focused particularly on Schmidt’s failure to mention Jews in his earlier apology for the misery and harm Germany had caused other nations in World War II.  Schmidt privately told colleagues that Germany could no longer allow its domestic or foreign policy to be hobbled by the guilt of World War II.
The slur that Schmidt was unemotional, even icy, was no more than a handy criticism for those who could not find true fault in his policies or procedures, but his assessment of the world more than 30 years ago is as valid today as it was then.  He visited Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A., for a week in April, 1985, during which time he said that the West lacked “a common grand strategy,” implying, rightfully, that the petty and vicious infighting, both political and commercial, of the so-called western allies sapped their moral strength and handicapped their political and economic strengths.

Schmidt’s four Yale University lectures were to be held in a hall intended for no more than 300 attendees.  More than 1,000 showed up for the first lecture.  The venue had to be changed at the last minute—for all the lectures—to the Yale Law School’s auditorium.  That is a measure of the respect, even awe, in which Yale University students and faculty held Schmidt.

Schmidt was recognized and revered as a strong leader because he routinely disdained the posturing of politicians, both domestic and foreign.  He knew what the world was about and he had the confidence to be blunt about how things were and how the West should proceed.  He fell victim, as have so many great leaders, to the inability of those he led to keep the faith.  Schmidt’s leadership was the leadership Havelock Ellis described when he wrote “To be a leader of men, one must turn one’s back on men.”

The Fabergé Museum in Baden-Baden

The Fabergé Museum in Baden-Baden
© Pixabay

While this superb boutiquey museum was established in Baden-Baden eight years ago (2009) to honor the renowned Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé, it houses much, much more than examples of and information about Fabergé’s spectacular creations between 1885 and 1917 for Tsar Alexander III (1845-1894) and Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1917).  Of course, Fabergé is best known for his bespoke Easter eggs, but his artistic expertise extended well beyond those unique annual bespoke creations.

Various Works on Display

The museum also proudly includes some distinctive and unique works of 19th-century competitors and colleagues of Fabergé, including Carl Edvard Bolin, who joined Andreas Roempler as a full partner upon marrying Roempler’s daughter Ernestine Catherina.   In the late 1900s, Fabergé’s creations eventually surpassed Bolin’s in imagination, creativity, and popularity; Frederic Boucheron, whose mid-19th-century founding in Paris prompted Boucheron’s spectacular creative successes in the early years, especially the corsage he created in 1878 for Russian Prince Felix Youssoupoff which led to Boucheron’s establishing a branch in Moscow in 1893.  The Youssoupoff corsage included six detachable diamond bows; Louis-François Cartier, who held his first exhibition and sale at the Grand Hotel Europe in Saint Petersburg in 1907.  Shortly thereafter, Tsar Nicholas II appointed Cartier an official purveyor to the House of Romanov;  Pavel Akimovich Ovchinnikov, who founded his firm in Moscow in 1853.  Ovchinnikov, preceding Fabergé by almost 20 years, was named a purveyor to the Tsar’s court in 1868.  Ovchinnikov combined traditional shapes with cloisonné enamel and with the then-modern shaded-enamel technique in which colors and tints were blended naturalistically, with no metal separating the colors; Ignaty Sazikov, established as a court supplier by the Tsar in 1846, specialized as a silversmith and his works included silverware, cast silver, and cloisonné enameled silver pieces.  Of particular interest is the magnificent 27-piece Sazikov punch set, created in 1874-75 by command of Tsar Alexander III and weighing 12.45 kilograms; Ivan Khlebnikov bought the Sazikov firm from his heirs in 1887.  Khlebnikov was a world-renowned specialist in enameled silver as well as in silver chasing, trompe-l’oeil imitative castings, and cloisonné and plique-à-jour enameling.

The most popular features of the Fabergé collection

Among the most popular features of the Fabergé collection, be sure to see the chameleon fashioned in bowenite, a pale-green, semi-precious stone traditionally identified with the Māori of New Zealand, who used it for tools, weapons, and jewelry.  This unique piece once belonged to King George V of Greece.  The chameleon’s eyes are delicate Siberian rubies ringed with gold.  The collection also includes a marvelously detailed rabbit family with a large doe and six kits.  All are in silver with inset eyes of rubies.  In addition, there is a beautiful horse-race trophy, a cloisonné cup created by Fabergé in 1911 on behalf of Tsar Nicholas II for the World Exhibition in Rome.  It is primarily turquoise-colored enamel and gilt on silver.  Be on the lookout also for a brooch designed specifically for Tsarina Alexandra in 1913 (part of a larger brooch collection).  It is the imperial Russian eagle in full wingspread fashioned of gold and platinum with numerous diamond and ruby accents.  There is a late-19th-century figure of Buddha created by Fabergé from bowenite, gold, brilliant-cut diamonds, Siberian rubies, and Guilloche-Emaille, i.e., a mechanical technique employed to apply a delicate, meticulous, elaborate, and duplicative design on a metal base.  Fabergé perfected this technique with his bespoke Easter Eggs and applied it as he deemed appropriate to other creations as the opportunity arose.  A lovely Guilloche-Emaille, gilded desk clock of silver from the early 20th century (after 1903) fashioned by one of Fabergé’s chief workmasters, Henrik Immanuel Wigström, under Fabergé’s aegis.  There is a small stemmed bowl created by Michael Evlampievich Perchin, perhaps Fabergé’s premier workmaster until replaced by Wigström following Perchin’s death in 1903.  The bowl incorporates topaz, gold, diamonds, and enamel in its formation with a snake winding around the stem from its base to beneath the bowl proper.  One of the most significant collections within the overall Fabergé collection is that of the more than two dozen brooches commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty (1613-1913) fashioned of amethysts, rose-colored diamonds, brilliant diamonds, and gold.

The Fabergé egg in the Collection

The museum comprises more than 700 items whose display are rotated regularly on a so-called mix-and-match basis and includes a regrettably unfinished Easter Egg with the working title Blue Constellation Easter Egg made for the Tsarina Alexandra in 1917, but never presented due to the Communist Revolution.  There is also an extensive assortment of luxurious cigarette cases with humorous animal miniatures in precious and semi-precious stones.  The collection is a superb representation of the abundant wealth that furthered the artistic creativity and imaginations of jewelers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, and associated artisans from the mid 19th century to the very early 20th century.

Directions and opening Hours

The museum is at Sophienstraße 30 in Baden-Baden, between Stephanienstraße and Vincentistraße, where Sophienstraße bears off north as an undivided side street.  Sophienstraße is a wide shopping boulevard, commencing at Leopoldsplatz, with a wide, tree-rich landscaped median strip that enhances the charm of the area.  The museum’s normal hours are from 1000 until 1800 daily; however, it’s closed on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  The telephone is 49 (0) 7221 970890—call ahead to confirm the hours and to ask the time of the next exhibition change.

The Weserburg Museum of Modern Art in Bremen

The Weserburg Museum of Modern Art in Bremen
© Jürgen Howaldt via Wikimedia Commons

Referring to itself as “the museum in the river,” the Weserburg is being unnecessarily and endearingly modest as well as delightfully symbolic.  This superb museum contains one of Germany’s—and the world’s—most significant assemblages of modern art and, as such, is certainly the jewel in the crown as far as the City of Bremen is concerned.  As for the symbolism, it’s true that the museum is smack dab in the center of the Weser River, like the prow of an indomitable ship, at the westernmost tip of a 6.5-kilometer spit of land (the Teerburg Peninsula) jutting westwards.

The History of the Weserburg

The Weserburg Museum of Modern Art is a natural extension of an idea that began almost three decades after World War II, when the building complex lay in ruins because of numerous air raids.  Following the war, the building complex was rebuilt and, in 1949, the Schilling Brothers, who had owned the building complex and had operated there as a coffee importer and roaster since 1923, opened again for business—a business which lasted until 1973, when the Schilling Brothers closed the business permanently and sold the building complex to the City of Bremen.

Over the next 18 years, numerous artistic studios of all sorts apportioned and used the building complex’s spaces for cultural, artistic, and social events.  In 1980, in response to many casual suggestions from various social, artistic, and cultural advocates, a semi-organized movement, anchored by the City of Bremen, to dedicate the building complex’s use to develop a so-called collector’s museum gained momentum.  The organization officially established the museum in November, 1988, and officially opened it less than three years later in September, 1991.  Go to this site for a superb history of the Weserburg Museum and the building complex.

The Concept of the Museum

In a nutshell, a collector’s museum displays works owned by collectors.  From that simple idea, the Weserburg has developed a reputation for assembling breathtakingly broad and thorough exhibits comprising works lent by collectors worldwide.  In a 2015 telephone interview with the New York Times journalist Scott Ruben, Marta Gnyp, a Berlin art advisor, said that “. . . public museums have financial restraints, . . . [b]ut they are still attractive to private collectors.  Public institutions give a quality stamp and visibility to collections.”

In other words, private collectors, for the most part, want the general public to be able to enjoy what they themselves enjoy, but the private collectors simply don’t have the facilities to permit the general public regular access to their collections.  Enter the notion of collector’s museums.  Private collectors lend works to collector’s museums so that the general public can enjoy the works and, in return for this public service, the collectors bask in the reflected glory of their possessions.

The museum’s web site is http://www.weserburg.de/index.php?id=78&L=1.  The museum is closed Mondays and open Tuesdays through Sundays from 1100-1800, except Thursdays until 2000.  The contact information is Teerhof 20; Bremen 28199; telefon 49–(0)421–59 83 9-0; and eMail is mail@weserburg.de.  Admission prices vary with age and group, but normally adults are €8, with special pricing for families, students & pupils, groups, classes, soldiers, the unemployed, the severely disabled, etc.

The Bauhaus Museum in Weimar

The Bauhaus Museum in Weimar
© Pixabay

Walter Gropius (18 May 1883—05 July 1969) was a renowned German-American architect and academic authority who founded the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919.  The Bauhaus was an advanced academic institution focusing on applied arts, architecture, and design which conflated the teachings of the Weimar Academy of Arts and the Weimar School of Arts and Crafts.  Gropius’s overarching principle stemmed from and developed the ideas of the so-called arts-and-crafts movement of the late 19th century and of the English designer, reformer, and poet William Morris, who objected to the tastelessness and banality of the mass-produced products of the Industrial Revolution. The movement eventually gave rise to Art Nouveau (der Jugendstil) and later to the sublimity of Gropius’s Bauhaus, which blended art with technical expertise.

Gropius was a dreamer who summoned fellow dreamers with the closing paragraph of his manifesto:  “So let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen, free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavored to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us strive for, conceive, and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting, and which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of craftsmen as a clear symbol of a new belief to come.”

The Bauhaus moved from Weimar to Dessau in 1925 and from Dessau to Berlin in 1932, but was ultimately banned by the Nazis.  Early on 11 April 1933, the Nazis closed the Bauhaus just as the then director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, arrived for work.  The reason given was that the Bauhaus contained a secret printing press used to oppose the Nazi regime.

Gropius ideas

Gropius promoted the idea that good design should be part of every aspect of daily living and rejected the notion that the creation of individual luxury goods should be paramount.  Gropius realized that, if the combination of art with technical expertise were to influence all society in the 20th century, it would have to be combined with mass production, i.e., practical and beautiful objects for all society had to be designed with mass production in mind.  Toward that end, Gropius included in-depth workshops—wall painting, carpentry, weaving, metal, graphics, pottery, typography, stained glass, and stagecraft—taught by accomplished, respected artists and craftsmen, e.g., Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy, Lyonel Feininger, Oskar Schlemmer, Marcel Breuer, Herbert Bayer, Gerhard Marcks, and Georg Muche.  The entire undertaking was exhilarating and impressive and the more than 200 exhibits in the Bauhaus Museum in Weimar chronicle the intellectual fulfillment of Gropius’s farsighted ideas.

Highlights of the Bauhaus Museum

Given the size and diversity of the museum’s exhibits, I will highlight some of the more unusual and distinctive ones; however, bear in mind that my selection is highly subjective and that all the exhibits should be evaluated by visitors.
First on my list is the Tower of Fire, a glass sculpture by the abstract painter Johannes Itten.  It is a glass spiral using leaded glass of the primary colors red, yellow, and blue and is an insightful attempt to represent the manifestation of a version of an ancient Persian religion, Mazdaznan, revived at the end of the 19th century by Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha’nish and is concerned with thought, emotion, and behavior.  The sculpture is quite a bit more than that.  It also signifies the unification of all the artistic and craft disciplines Gropius sought to link.

Gelmeroda XI by the German-American painter Lyonel Feininger is one of several Feininger studies (13 in oil over a fifty-year period) of the church in Gelmeroda, a suburb of Weimar.  Feininger’s works are superb examples of German Expressionism, with their almost melodic coloring and seemingly uncontrolled orderliness (a seeming oxymoron that well describes a significant artistic ploy) and are fundamental examples of Feininger’s incorporating and furthering a sense of science, art, and technology in all his works.

Wilhelm Wagenfeld was an industrial designer known particularly for his sleek glassware and streamlined table lamps.  His “Bauhaus Lamp” is still produced as is his glassware.  He famously said that necessary household objects should be “. . . cheap enough for the worker and good enough for the rich.”  Probably Wagenfeld’s most significant contribution to the classic elegance of the homes of both the rich and the not-so-rich is his teapot, which Jenaer Glass still produces (€142.50).  As soon as you see it, you will recognize it.

The classic baby cradle of Peter Keler continues to awe and amaze new parents almost a century after Keler designed it in 1922―he was only 20 at the time―as a project given him by his Bauhaus tutor Wassily Kandinsky to incorporate the three primary colors: blue, red, and yellow, with the square, the triangle, and the circle―the geometric forms Kandinsky felt corresponded to the primary colors.

Finally, there are several examples of Bauhaus architectural plans.  Take particular note of the plans submitted by Walter Determann in response to Gropius’s competition to provide a larger environment for the Bauhaus, which was always short of both workspace and living space.  The campus designed by Determann came a cropper, but they incorporated every aspect for an ideal learning and living environment.  Farkas Molnár contributed fascinating plans for an alternate Bauhaus campus on so-called Am Horn estate, just above Goethe’s Garden House.  Gropius built a house on the site and it’s worth a visit.  It is as modern as anything you might encounter in the world.

The Sanssouci Picture Gallery of Potsdam

The Sanssouci Picture Gallery of Potsdam
© Pixabay

The Location of the Palace of Sanssouci

Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick the Great) (24 January 1712―17 August 1786), a strong supporter of benevolent despotism, built his magnificent rococo palace in a 290-hectare park in Potsdam, just southwest of Berlin, between 1745-1747 as a respite from the official court in Berlin.  Its very name comes from the French phrase sans souci, which means “without a care” and “carefree,” i.e., “sorgenfrei” and “unbeschwert.”  It’s important to know that rococo was an 18th-century art movement that emphasized lissome, clever, and witty ornamentality, and is more or less the antithesis of and a reaction to baroque.

The most important Features

The palace is within the larger park (“Park Sanssouci”) and the picture gallery, the “Bildergalerie,” built between 1755-1763 and formerly a tropical greenhouse, is just east of the palace proper.  So, when you visit, and you must visit, be sure to allot at least three days to immerse yourself as much possible in the Sanssouci experience, i.e., at the absolute minimum, you need to visit the grounds adjacent to and behind the palace, the “Weinbergterrassen,” the “Lustgarten,” and the “Neptungrotte.”

The Wish of Frederick the Great

“Old Fritz,” as he was lovingly called, said “I have lived as a philosopher and wish to be buried as such, without circumstance, without solemn pomp, without splendor.  I want to be neither opened nor embalmed.  Bury me in Sanssouci at the level of the terraces in a tomb which I have had prepared for myself . . . .  Should I die in time of war or whilst on a journey, I should be buried in the first convenient place and brought to Sanssouci in the winter.”  It took a long, long time―205 years―for people and events to honor his wishes.  His tomb is now finally where he wanted it to be and it is certainly worth a visit―a modest resting place for one of Germany’s two or three greatest leaders.

The Highlights of the Picture Gallery of Sanssouci

The Picture Gallery is not the only reason to visit Sanssouci, but it should be your primary reason.  Beyond that, there is the Sanssouci Park and all its buildings that are works of art, in and of themselves and in their own right.  I will provide a somewhat detailed listing below; first, however, a few highlights of the Picture Gallery.

Among the artists and styles favored by “Old Fritz” were Antoine Watteau, history paintings, renaissance art, so-called mannerism art, and baroque art.  The Picture Gallery includes superb representations thereof as well as many, many additional works.  Five representative works of the Picture Gallery are Anthony Van Dyck’s The Descent of the Holy Spirit, oil on canvas; Johann Christoph Frisch’s Frederick the Great at his Tomb at Sanssouci with the Marquis d’Argens;  Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas; Anton von Werner’s The Opening of the Reichstag; and the extravagant profusion of all the so-called Fridericianum Baroque.

Going for a stroll in the Lustgarten of Sanssouci

Sanssouci Park is open every day from 0600 until sunset and entry is without charge.  The Evangelical Church of Peace, dating from 1845, behind which is the Lagoon of Peace, is just within the Green Gate, which is the park’s main entrance and quite near the Potsdam city center.  Within the church’s apse, look for the spectacular 13th-century Venetian mosaic of Jesus, Mary, John the Baptist, St. Peter, and the martyred St. Cyprian of Carthage.  Stroll west several meters and turn north through a bower and across a peaceful stream towards the Palace.  Your first stop is the Garden of Delight (“Lustgarten”).  Beyond this point is the Weinbergterrassen and the Sanssouci Palace proper, while off to the right are the Picture Gallery and, slightly farther east, the Neptune Grotto.  Beyond, i.e., just north of the Sanssouci Palace, the path will take you to the relaxing Steed Fountain and then on to the historical Sanssouci Mill and the Weinstube, across from the Neue Kammern.  Farther along Maulbeerallee on the right is the famous 300-meter-long Orangery.  The central building of the Orangery, from which two wings extend, contains numerous paintings (almost 50) by Raphael in the so-called Raffael Hall.  The building also accommodates government offices, luxurious living quarters, and, in the dead of winter, sensitive plants that need a bit of succor.

Other sights in the Park

Additional sights include the New Palace, Charlottenhof Castle, Dragon House, the Roman Baths, the Chinese Teahouse, the Belvedere, and the Ruinenberg, a 74-meter high hill that continues to play a significant role in drawing visitors to Sanssouci, particularly for the incredible view from the top of the artificial ruins commissioned by Frederick the Great afford over the surrounding area.  When contemplating your visit to Sanssouci, remember that it is all a museum and that the museum we know as Sanssouci contains a significant treasure in its core:  The Picture Gallery.  For additional information, go to http://www.potsdam-park-sanssouci.de/home.html.

The Chocolate Museum of Cologne

The Chocolate Museum of Cologne
© Pixabay

A museum for the “Naschkatze”!  Wherever one may live on any of the five continents, it’s impossible to think of chocolate without thinking of Germany, for German chocolate sets the benchmark (“der Höhenfestpunkt”) for two very close, competent rivals, Swiss chocolate and Belgian chocolate.  The difference is that German chocolate is simply better, not only because it is a product of efficient German commercial interests, but also because chocolate is a true German passion.

The Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum – one of a kind!

The Chocolate Museum—the only museum in the world devoted exclusively to chocolate—was established in Cologne in 1993 by Dr. Hans Imhoff (12 March1922 – 21 December 2007).  Imhoff’s love of chocolate began in his childhood in Cologne’s Fleischmengergasse, where he lived, quite near to Cologne’s central library and also quite near to Cologne’s Stollwerck chocolate factory, founded in 1839 by Franz Stollwerck.

The Inspiration for the Chocolate Museum

The aroma of the Stollwerck factory’s products—chocolate, marzipan, and gingerbread—entranced young Imhoff, who indulged his love of chocolate by establishing a chocolate and sugar factory after World War II and successfully producing generic chocolates.  A few years later, Imhoff bought Berlin’s Hildebrand chocolate company, Germany’s oldest manufacturer of chocolate and famous for the “Scho-Ka-Kola” brand.  Imhoff later rescued the failing Stollwerck business enterprise, reorganized its management and marketing, and enabled his now extensive European Chocolate Group to buy such famous brands as Sprengel and Sarotti.  Claus Jacobi wrote the definitive biography of Dr. Imhoff, Der Schokoladenkönig. Das unglaubliche Leben des Hans Imhoff (Langen Müller, München 1997).

Chocolate in German culture

Chocolate plays a significant role in many Germany holiday traditions, including cultural and familial celebrations—in the form of candy.  The annual Advent calendars often include chocolate doors between the First Sunday of Advent and Christmas.  Advent wreaths also become a conduit for chocolate.  A new candle is placed in the Advent wreath every Sunday, after which, the family sit together sipping their hot chocolate and enjoying one another’s company.  Every 5th of December, St. Nicholas Day, either St. Nicholas or his sidekick, Knecht Ruprecht (who is quite scary looking!), would bring a bit of chocolate to the children.  The family Christmas tree also partakes of the celebration of chocolate, for, included in its decorations, are decorative pieces of chocolate candy.  There are, of course, chocolate Santas to meet everyone’s Christmas-chocolate cravings.  Easter brings chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs as well.

The Chocolate Museum promotes chocolate as a food

Remember, chocolate is loaded with carbohydrates, which provides quick energy when needed, and it has healthful amounts of the antioxidants caffeine and the alkaloid theobromine.  The museum underscores what is the routine use of various chocolate products in German life, from bitter-sweet and semi-sweet dark chocolate, through milk chocolate, white chocolate, and couverture chocolate, used primarily in baking in quite familiar formats, e.g., chocolate bars, either entirely chocolate or, more likely, chocolate mixed with other delightful foods, such as nuts (hazelnuts are a distinct favorite), strawberries, yogurt, peppermint, nougat, marzipan, coffee—even bacon!  Then there are the quite popular romantic gift of filled chocolates, i.e., pralines, filled with all sorts of complementary sweets such as liqueurs and/or nuts and candied fruits.

The History of Chocolate

The museum’s collection is as extensive as it is varied, beginning, of course, with a succinct time-line history of the discovery of chocolate in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, where the cacao tree was first cultivated more than three millennia ago by the Maya, Oltec, Toltec, and Aztec civilizations.  The cacao beans were used both as currency and, after processing, as a beverage, particularly a ceremonial beverage.  The museum shows that, eventually, the beverage conquered Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries and was deemed so precious by the idle rich that it was served only in porcelain and silver containers.

The museum goes on to show the cultural history of chocolate as it sprouted and flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries through retail shops catering more and more to an expanding audience of devotees through a recreation of a typical popular candy-shop interior and with numerous examples of early advertising of chocolate products cleverly masquerading as “samplers” and collectibles of various sorts to be kept in scrapbooks and revered as if they were family photo albums.

A special treat for the visitors of the Chocolate Museum

The Chocolate Museum’s exhibition starts with the harvest of the cacao bean in a tropical greenhouse through to the raw product’s eventual arrival in a chocolate factory.  An impressively tall (three meters) chocolate fountain greets visitors to the exhibition.  The next level of the exhibition includes a chocolate studio displaying hollow chocolate products that include various fillings such as truffles.  If you want to try your hand at being a chocolatier, the museum offers both courses and the opportunity to exercise your skills.  Knowledgeable museum docents will explain the four-thousand-year history of cacao from the first frothy beverages to contemporary candy products.  You’ll also be treated to examples of early advertising of various chocolate products that will bring a smile to your face.  You’re also invited to enjoy the always running chocolate fountain.

Where can the Chocolate Museum be found and when is it open?

The Chocolate Museum is located between the old town and the Rheinau harbour on the banks of the River Rhine.  For explicit directions via auto, bus, train, taxi, and the Schoko Express, go to http://www.chocolatemuseum-cologne.com/visitors/getting-here/.  The telephone is 49.221.931.888.0 and the eMail is service@schokoladenmuseum.de.
The Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, from 1000 until 1800, and Saturdays, Sundays, & bank holidays from 1100-1900.  In addition, it’s also open on the 21st of March, every Monday in July, August, and December, and on the 10th, 17th, and 31st of October.  Tickets are priced as follows:  adults:  €9,00; Groups from 15 persons:  €8,50; Eligible discount:  €6,50 Groups from 15 persons:  €6,00; Family ticket:  €25,00 (2 adults their children up to age 16); children, students, apprentices, school pupils are entitled to this discount.  Voluntary service-providing, disabled persons, and senior citizens (at least 65 years old).  Children 5 and younger are admitted at no charge.  Also, if it’s your birthday on the day of your visit to the Chocolate Museum, we will invite you for free on your special day!

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Filmmaking in Germany – Let's go to the Kino!

Filmmaking in Germany - Let's go to the Kino!
© Pixabay

 

Part One:  Ante-Third Reich

Motion pictures were initially developed in the 1870s by the British American photographer Eadweard Muybridge, building on France’s Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre’s development of the positive photographic process and on England’s William Henry Fox Talbot’s negative photographic process, in order to prove the theory of the wealthy horse breeder and then governor of California, Leland Stanford, that all four hooves of a galloping horse leave the ground simultaneously.
Following the more than 35 years in which such films developed as popular novelties and ever more sophisticated curiosities without any serious artistic or narrative content, the notion of telling stories with motion pictures arose.  Germany was a leader in that movement and in 1910 began to produce a series of tasteful, distinctive, insightful, and reflective films based on stories.

One particularly effective example is the 1913 production of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Student of Prague, produced by Deutsche Bioscop GmbH (later bought outright by Babelsberg Studio along with affiliated production companies) and filmed in Berlin.  Today, Babelsberg Studio in Potsdam-Babelsberg, on the outskirts of Berlin, is the financial and production center not only for German filmmaking, but also for a majority of international, high-budget films.  It is the focal point of German artistic and professional filmmaking development.

Films such as The Student of Prague had a profound effect on viewers who were used to still photographs that captured the true “Kodak moments” of their lives, i.e., that portrayed people, locations, and events that marked incidents in their own lives.  Viewers often transferred this reinforced belief in their own photographs to the stories told through motion pictures, as if the plots, characters, locales, etc. were real, i.e., viewers “willingly suspended their disbelief” (“freiwillige Aussetzen der Zweifel”).  This aspect of filmmaking brought acceptance and much success to the motion picture industry.  Technological developments attributed to German filmmakers include the early projector and sound-on-film and contributed greatly to German filmmaking successes.

Filmmaking in World War I

World War I gave rise to the use of filmmaking to promote propaganda which promoted the fatherland and denigrated the enemy.  This new tack brought about the establishment of Universum Film AG (“UFA GmbH”) by the German military, ostensibly to combat foreign film competition, but also to promote German national interests and to coordinate and refine propaganda on behalf of the fatherland.  Because the war affected imports of foreign films, German filmmaking quickly took over all aspects of the German film market:  documentaries, weekly news reviews, feature films, etc., mixed with and influenced by the ever more sophisticated propaganda films.

After the war, UFA trended away from propaganda towards more commercially viable projects and, in the process, many German directors, executives, and stars, e.g., Ernst Lubitsch, Erich Pommer, Emil Jannings, Pola Negri, Conrad Veidt, and Lya de Putti, became more prominent and German filmmaking competed directly with Hollywood.  Unfortunately, in 1923 a series of poor business decisions brought UFA to the brink of bankruptcy and only a massive injection of capital by new owners and a restructuring of both its business model and its marketing plans managed to save it at the last minute.  After seven years of hard work and planning, UFA seemed to have weathered the economic storm.

On the creative front during this time, imaginative and ambitious German filmmakers stressed social issues and pragmatic rather than theoretical political matters presented in a documentary style that contributed to each film’s verisimilitude.  They replaced conventional filmmaking techniques with radical camera techniques, editing, and unconventional visual presentations.  A film’s storyline was no longer the sole source of information for the viewer.  The way a filmmaker told a story was as important and as effective as the story itself and, as often as not, the filmmaker never resolved the story’s conflict, leaving it to the viewer to create his/her own resolution—or lack of one—based on the realism, the ambiguity, and the viewer’s personal experience and imagination.  In effect, the fourth wall was breached to make each viewer a participant in the story.

German Expressionism

German filmmakers first brought expressionism—the effective use of realism, imagery, and symbolism to evoke viewers’ interests and attention—to the screen, most notably The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene), Nosferatu (Murnau), and The Golem:  How He Came Into the World (Boese & Wegener) and its development had a powerful effect on international filmmaking, particularly in France and the U.S.

New Objectivity

German expressionism gave way to social themes and realism which unabashedly spotlighted very controversial themes.  It evolved into so-called new objectivity (“Neue Sachlichkeit”), a filmmaking school which focused on the average, even mundane, lives of ordinary Germans as they related to the various components of society, e.g., literature, politics, commercialism, art, education, etc.  It highlighted the average German man-in-the-street’s pragmatic, day-to-day goings-on rather than on the philosophical aspects of their lives.  It also dealt bluntly with many quite controversial topics—topics that continue to plague societies worldwide even today:  illegal drugs, prostitution, abortion, homosexuality, etc.

German filmmakers then began to chronicle man’s struggle with nature, after which German filmmakers introduced animation, and then spectacular historical films which stirred patriotic feelings, finally ending up with so-called chamber dramas which provided an intimate examination of the bleak, desolate lives and petty dramas of ordinary people.  This somewhat mediocre artistic vein petered out as the Weimar Republic began its inglorious downhill slide in the few years before the Great Depression and war gripped Europe.  Part Two will discuss the years commencing with Hitler’s rise, through the war, and the fall of Nazism.

The Museum of Bread Culture in Ulm

The Museum of Bread Culture in Ulm
© Pixabay

Ulm, a city in Baden-Württemberg with a population of roughly 120,000, has many worthwhile cultural sights.  One of its more unexpected and especially delightful sights is its Museum of Bread Culture on the northern edge of the Old City.  In 1955, Willy Eiselen (1896-1981) established the museum and, along with his son Hermann Eiselen (1926-2009), promoted the museum not only throughout Germany, but also worldwide.  The Eiselen family provided supplies, equipment, and provisions to the bakery trade and felt an understandably strong allegiance to the craft and trade of which they had been a part for so many decades.  The first exhibits opened in 1960 and the museum has grown considerably in the last 56 years.  Its one-millionth visitor passed through its doors in 2004 and it is now administered by the Eiselen (charitable) Foundation.

The Size of the Museum

The museum has more than 18,000 public-collection objects, of which 700 are on permanent display, supported by a rotating display of selected stored items to keep the exhibits as fresh as your daily “Brötchen.”  Displays include advances in bread making over the past 6 centuries and underscore the cultural, social, and religious significance of bread.  The museum also boasts of a comprehensive, bread-oriented library of more than 6,000 books.  One thing you will not find in the museum is even a crumb of bread.  Why?  Because, from its inception, the Eiselen family and the museum administrators have wisely held that bread is not an exhibit, but a food to be baked and eaten fresh daily.

While the museum proudly claims to dedicate itself to the “. . . 6,000-year history of bread,” the fact is that the history of bread can be dated from more than 12,000 years ago; however, I assure you that, regardless of the history of bread, when Germans perfected “Bauernbrot,” i.e., coarse rye or farmhouse bread, it reached its apotheosis, for “Bauernbrot” is perfection itself.  Along the way, there were many, many various grains and techniques used by cultures throughout history to make bread.

In the Beginning, there were the Grains…

The history of bread with all its intrinsic characteristics begins with grains, i.e., cereals, which ancient peoples ground carefully to make flour.  The museum covers this and all aspects of bread and bread making in detail on the first floor.  In the process, grains such as maize (corn), barley, millet, buckwheat—none of which contained sufficient gluten to create raised bread—wheat, and rye.  The well-known flat breads of various cultures came about because of the lack of gluten in the grains used, while the raised breads came about through grains which contained sufficient gluten to generate the gas (CO2) needed to inflate the gluten-rich dough.  To promote such gases, savvy bakers use leavens, e.g., natural leavens (yeast) and chemical leavens (baking powder, baking soda, etc.).  These are the most popular leavens, but there are certainly several more which provide specific and unique characteristics to the breads for which they’re used.

Bread throughout the ages

The second floor of the museum deals with the extrinsic aspects of bread.  Civilizations and cultures have progressed through history side-by-side with bread.  Bread’s only rival as a necessity of life is water, which is itself an essential part of bread.  When we realize that bread and water are requisites for life, it should be no surprise to find that both are linked inextricably to religious beliefs, ceremonies, and rituals.  Of course, the absence of bread in a culture or civilization is just as significant as its presence; the absence of bread means famine.  Without a good harvest, in the wake of wars, and in the aftermath of natural disasters such as floods earthquakes, hurricanes, locusts, fires, wars, and plagues, there is soon no bread.  People starve.  As Jonathan Swift said in A Tail of a Tub, “Bread is the staff of life.”  Who could argue with that?  A significant display by such artists such as Markus Lüpertz, Salvador Dali, Käthe Kollwitz, Franz Francken, Pablo, Picasso, Georg Flegel, Max Beckmann, Man Ray, and Ernst Barlach includes magnificent representations of bread throughout the ages.

The historical Significance of Bread

If there were ever a commodity that meant the same thing to all people, regardless of culture or religion, it is bread.  First, of course, bread is a food; indeed, it is the basic food.  Beyond that, the word bread stands for all food in many expressions, e.g., “Give us this day our daily bread.”  In his Satires, Juvenal observed that the Roman empire had deteriorated to the point that the “. . . people . . . longs eagerly for just two things—bread and circuses!”  Shakespeare referred to “. . . the bitter bread of banishment” in The Tragedy of King Richard the Second.  Esau sold his inheritance for bread and stew.  The author of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám could not be happy with his life if he could not have a loaf of bread along with the company of his sweetheart.  Marie Antoinette allegedly lost her life by sneering at the plight of the commoners who had no bread.  “Let them eat cake,” she callously crowed.  A common English expression is “dough,” i.e., unbaked bread.  This slang term hasn’t yet migrated to German as far as I can tell, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time.

Bread was also a lifesaver in a quite literal way.  In ancient Egypt, physicians applied poultices of moldy bread to infected wounds.  In the early 17th century, wet bread was mixed with spider webs to treat wounds.  And, while the development was not sparked by bread, it is based on a mold much like the bread molds used by the ancient Egyptians and the medieval Poles.

The Museum of Bread Culture is open daily from 1000 until 1700.  The address is Salzstadelgasse 10, 89073 Ulm; Telefon +49 731 69955; eMail info@museum-brotkultur.de.  Admission cost varies:  adults €4 and children, seniors, students, the disabled €3.  There’s a good chance that your tour of the museum will inspire your appetite.  If so, “guten Appetit!”

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