Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Friday, 24 June 2022

Strolling, walking, a walk in the park...

 



I do not know whether the German painter Carl Spitzweg (1808 - 1885 - late (German) Romantik & Biedermeier) is well-known outside Germany. 

He very often did his paintings tongue-in-cheek - though in such a gentle mocking way that nobody felt hurt. 

Above you see my photo from a newspaper, Die Welt, which offered an interesting essay on the cultural history of "The stroll". 

You might call it "walking", if you are more athletic. Or call yourself a "Flaneur", who is more elegant than an athlete. A famous example of a flaneur is the Berlin-author Franz Hessel (1880 - 1941) - a silent observer. 

In the pandemic strolling in the park or woods became a new popular sport. The remembrance of the oh-so-dull Sunday-strolls you had to do with your parents (of that I have drawings in my early diaries when I was about 12 years old) vanished in the pandemic and gave room to a sort of "Lebenslust" - joie de vivre - zest for life - though I have qualms over the term "zest" when I look at Spitzweg's painting "Sunday Stroll" - that family seems more sedate...  

Maybe they are complacent antecedents for the Western discovery of Zen and the Art of Walking

Yours Truly - as you know by now - enjoys her brisk morning walk up the high route - through fields and hilly landscape, which gives me time enough to reflect about "Being Seen": only when I changed my clothes to a fashionable sporting outfit, the inhabitants of the Bavarian village, where I spend great parts of my life now with the triplets, noticed and talked about (and with) me doing "Walking". 

I did it before - in Jeans and a T-shirt - but the phenomenon "Who is she?" when seen WITHOUT the triplets (a phenomenon I noticed too when I was a mother)  - or without sport-dress came into the picture again. 

I miss being a Flaneur in Berlin (nowadays the word-police "created" the "Flaneuse", which I detest) - with little excursions into cafés where you can sit and listen (same blip as with the users of cell-phones: both believe they are invisible and inaudible :-) 

Well, I'll pick a quote from that essay by Claudia Becker in DIE WELT: 

"I can only think when I walk. If I stop my thoughts do the same; my head moves in unison with my legs." Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  (my translation - and hopefully that sentence is only a half-truth) 

If in doubt: Snatch your trainers! 





13 comments:

  1. I would walk more, but it causes me pain.

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    1. Dear Tom, if there is any pain I wouldn't walk. An article from an American university said that walking helps in many ways against arthrosis in a knee - but honestly: I would listen to my body!

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  2. I like the picture. The dear papa, using his hat as an umbrella and everyone else protected, including the young girl he is leading by the hand.

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    1. I agree, Joanne: we see (slightly humorous) the ideals - and the fashion of the Biedermeierzeit: father's black tophat, his sideburns, his "leadership"-role in family, mother's bonnet (Schutenhut), the beautiful parasols (technically outstanding!), both girls well protected (the second by an aunt or a governess - and the boy free to catch butterflies. All females (except the little one) carry the important accessory of a cashmere shawl (as important as a parasol).
      Spitzweg was a very "photographic" observer.

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  3. "Who is she?" So many ways to interpret this, dear Britta, but we know ... I, for one, am more flâneur than invigorative marcher about the countryside (well, cityscape to be precise) but I have been known to don some, ugh, sneakers and do a quick 30 minute loop of a crisp evening down to the naval base and back before making dinner, if I feel I've been particularly slothful after a stretch of time. The shoes are the only concession to the activity, mind; no costume change seems needed for the pre-prandial burst of activity.

    Of course, if it was Rome and a proper passeggiata was proposed, there would be not a dressing down but a dressing up for the very leisurely arm-in-arm stroll along the Vias, with an eye on both the illuminated shop windows and the similarly adorned fellow pedestrians. But that, too, seems like a distant memory.

    I love your Spitzweg! A name I've never heard before today. Furniture from the Biedermeier is rather popular these days (our hand is up! It is so complementary with Art Deco :)) but for whatever reason the art hasn't made its way into our homes - is this a form of cultural appropriation where the uncouth have cherrypicked an element out of all context, I wonder? Anyway, I notice the use of the hinged parasol against the fearsome Germanic sun, hahaha, but who is following behind the little party? Is that the son with a butterfly net? Or is it a tour guide with a little flag, directing the walkers out of sight in the right direction?!

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    1. Dear Pip, in a city like Berlin I am so much of a flaneur that for some time I even started to blog about it.

      The village-people here are kind and enthusiastic: some days ago a car stopped beside me (I was not running :-) and a woman cried out: "You wear a such a lovely dress! I had to stop and tell you!" (Of course I was enchanted).

      Not being seen meant, that they cannot put me into a little box with a name - my last name name belongs to my role of grandmother - and those don't do aerobic sports (different from Berlin). As I am still sometimes working as a Silver-Model (presenting fur and leather) people seldom do overlook my 1,78m. But on my walks I ponder questions why that is still so important for me, not to become invisible when getting older?

      I utterly agree with you on the high level and ultimate joy of Italian elegance. When before the pandemic I visited Venice with a female friend (end of January), we both were enchanted by those beautiful men, clad in oh-so-slim elegant cloaks, and the women with grace wore shoes that made me slightly shiver, though their fur coats worn without guilt warmed them.
      In one word: STYLE!

      As to Spitzweg - or better: Biedermeier - that period has, as you remarked, beautiful furniture - and architecture - and the development of bourgeois living culture ("Wohnzimmer", "Innerlichkeit", conservative retreat into private life - that they're derided for - and the patriarch led his family (though his wife didn't suffer, I think).
      In Berlin we have a (free-entry) museum, the Knoblauch-House, were they saved a whole house with all that belonged to it.

      And yes: the boy is trying to catch butterflies. (Spitzweg even painted the right ones of this time of the year: the map butterfly (Araschnia levant) - of which I see here (never before in Berlin or Northern Germany, where I come from) hundreds on my walks).

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  5. I don't walk very much. I am happier to watch the world go by from the comfort of a seat.

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  6. But then you miss, Rachel, the smell of a ryefield, the shimmer of hot air high above you, the tender salt on your skin after an effort. I see you as an adventurous and highly outgoing, travelling person - am I so wrong?

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    1. I am a traveller but I am not a walker in ryefields. I am surrounded by them but I do not walk them. I have always enjoyed cities for my travels.

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  7. Walking or hiking is always enjoyable on a temperate clear weather day. The city sidewalk and park walk makes for an equally enjoyable but different experience. I like both, each for different reasons.

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    1. Dear Susan, yes, both are very different experiences - and weather matters. At the moment I leave the house early, because the days are so hot - one could use the parasol if one had one. (In Berlin on a flea market I saw a beautiful cream white one as those in the picture, with an ivory handle and frilly lace - but so fragile!)

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