From the S-Bahn platform at Priesterweg we drop down to ground level and follow the signs for the Naturpark. Even before we have left the station building we come across a gate and a friendly chap leaning against a golf cart and wearing a bright red hat. He charges me the one euro admittance fee to the park and hands Lotte a map of the grounds. An hour or so later he will still be there, to wave us on our way with a pleasant “safe journey home…” That’s a nice job, I think, as we walk into the park towards the rusting water tower that stands at its heart as a reminder of what once occupied this strip of land between the S-Bahn tracks and the intercity railway lines.
I spent most of my childhood in a small town called Burscough in West Lancashire, where the Preston-Ormskirk railway crosses the Southport-Wigan line. Once upon a time the lines were linked, but the Burscough Curves were long closed by the time we moved there – having been victims of the railway cuts at the end of the 1960s – leaving us with a couple of “dead railways” that were the perfect, hidden, spot for den-building and, later, the first tentative sips from cans of warm beer.
Subversive Urbanism is a blog by Phil Wood that takes us on an exploration through the urban environment “ready to question the ‘common sense’ or ‘expert’ ideas about the way our cities are and have to be.” According to his bio, Phil has been described as “cultural planner, urban therapist, intercultural innovator, insurgent anthropologist, psychogeographer…” and I have very much enjoyed reading back through his archive of work. Phil has kindly given us permission to re-publish the following piece on Venice – a city that is more subversive than you might think…
Venice… subversive? When I made a short visit to Venice I wasn’t expecting to be inspired to write anything in this blog about subversive urbanism… but I was wrong.
After all, isn’t Venice the ultimate clichéd example of a city that has lost all point and purpose other than to offer itself up as an open air museum, hawking its illustrious past along with an over-priced cappuchino and a souvenir tea towel? Well that’s certainly one way of looking at Venice and there’s plenty of evidence for the prosecution, even on an off-season Tuesday in March. There’s something dispiriting about those hordes of visitors trekking dutifully across the Rialto and into Piazza San Marco. Judging from many of their faces it seems hardly more pleasurable than the job, in the office or call centre, they’ve had to endure in order to raise the money to pay for the trip to La Serenissima in the first place. Somehow it’s a reciprocal obligation both they and the city must perform but which no-one really enjoys.
Just less than a week in a Japan and it remains a jumble of memories in my head. Here is the second half of my fragmentary tale of a journey to the other side of the world…
On a Sunday morning we take the train to Hibuya and then walk through the wooden gate into the grounds of the Meiji Shrine. This was once parkland where the Emperor Meiji – the man who opened Japan and ushered in a half century of incredible change, including a social, economic and industrial revolution – and his Empress Shōken has been known to visit for periods of rest and reflection. The paths leading through the woodland to the shrine that was built in their honour is flanked with billboards telling some stories of the Emperor and the Empress, as well as their poetry and other reflections. Only a short stroll from busy city streets, and despite there being a lot of people walking the gravel trails with us, it is a peaceful place. The crowds get thicker at the shrine itself, drawn to the site of the wedding party walking through the grounds. At the front the couple are in traditional dress. Behind then men are in smart suits, the women in dresses, and all the bags that dangle from their arms carry the name of famous designers from around the world. The bag that it comes in, it seems, is as important as the gift contained inside.
For a week I was in Japan – or was it six days? I count back on my fingers to try and piece together the chronology of a trip that even now, only a couple of weeks later, is something of a blur. It is okay, I tell myself. Just try and write it up, and you will find the through line; you will be able to chart a clear path through your notes and make sense of all the sights and sensations of those six days… but it has not worked like that, so we will go this way instead: fragments of a city to which I cannot wait to return…
By Julia Stone:
Ever since I was a small child my mom has been telling me how great Scotland is, the beauty of the landscapes and the friendly people that she met, and how she really wanted to eat haggis… the delicacy that she missed on her first trip over 35 years ago. So in October we made a trip – her return to Scotland – for our annual mother-daughter journey together.
The history of this village at the bottom end of the Scharmützelsee lake about an hour from Berlin is all there in the name. The Wends were West Slavs, who settled in the land between the Elbe and the Oder rivers over a thousand years ago. Divided into a number of different tribes, they were the majority population of the area that now makes up most of the state of Brandenburg until the arrival of German colonists between the 12th and the 14th centuries. By the 18th Century most of the Wends had been assimilated into the German population, except for the Sorbs, who continue to live as Germany’s only indigenous minority in the Spreewald region, not far from Wendisch-Rietz.