Category Archives: Miscellany

Elsewhere No.04 – With essays from Prague and Rhoscolyn

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I am extremely proud to report that we have just launched the fourth edition of Elsewhere: A Journal of Place. Long-term readers of Under a Grey Sky will know that I am the editor-in-chief of Elsewhere and founded the journal in 2015 with the incredibly talented Julia Stone as the Creative Director. In the journal you will find writing, interviews, photography and reviews all relating somehow to the topic of place, and one of the most striking elements I feel are Julia’s illustrations which can be found throughout.

We have had a great response to previous editions, including nice reviews and quotes from the likes of Robert Macfarlane and Monocle magazine, and we have published some very talented writers that it has been an absolute pleasure to work with. In Elsewhere No.04 I have two essays; one on the subject of memory, literature and memorials on the streets of Prague; and one on memory, nostalgia and landscape on the headland of Rhoscolyn. Aside from my feelings about the journal as a whole, I am very proud of both of these pieces of writing. Here are a couple of brief snippets from both:

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Twin Peaks in West Berlin

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From Teufelseestraße the path leads through the winter woods for only a few metres before it begins to rise. Although we have come across to the other side of Berlin to climb a hill, in this the flattest of cities the steepness of the slope still comes as something as a shock to the system, not to mention the thighs. As we walk it is clear what this hill, the 99 metre Drachenberg, is made of. Beneath the young trees that guard its slopes, poking through the crumbly top-soil, is the rock of the mountain. Here it is granite. There it is marble. A slab of concrete. Red brick.

The Drachenberg and its neighbouring Teufelsberg (120m) were created out of the rubble of the Second World War. The latter hill is made up of an estimated 400,000 bombed houses, and buried underneath it all is the remnants of Albert Speer’s Nazi military training school. Pre-war Berlin is what these mountains are made of and as we walk towards the “tree line” and the open plateau at the top of the Drachenberg, it feels as if the history of those countless buildings is clamouring for attention at our feet and at the base of those bare trees. Continue reading

Elsewhere: A Journal of Place – No. 00

Regular readers of Under a Grey Sky will know that I have spent the past six months or so working with my good friend Julia and an increasing band of walkers, writers, photographers and illustrators on a new quarterly journal of place. Above you can see the digital-only, half-size ‘zero’ edition that we created as part of our crowdfunding campaign to give people a sense of what the journal will be like when the first print edition is released in June 2015. Please have a look and a read, and if you think that this is a project you think you would like to support then I would be extremely grateful if you could visit the crowdfunding campaign via the link below, pre-order issue 1, take out a subscription, or one of the many other options complete with exclusive goodies that we have put together. It is an exciting project, and I am really confident we can create a wonderful print journal that will showcase the work of some fantastic writers, musicians, artists, illustrators, photographers and more… but we need some help to get us to the start line, so anything you can do to get us there would be really appreciated.

Elsewhere: A Journal of Place – Crowdfunding Campaign on Indiegogo

On the road…

On the road

Yep… it is that time again. Under a Grey Sky will be taking a little break for the next month or so, as we recharge our batteries, think about what we want to do with this project moving forward, and of course, to have some more adventures beyond the front door that we can write about here. Our plans will take us on a road trip through Germany, some time in the steephead valleys of the Jura, in France, and who knows what else closer to home? We hope all the readers and contributors to Under a Grey Sky have a great summer, and many thanks to all of you who have continued to read, write and comment over the past twelve months.

Paul and Katrin

Fragments of Tokyo – Part One

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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…

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Pieskow Village and the Family Schultze

Pieskow

Walking through the lakeside village of Pieskow in Brandenburg is a lesson in history through architecture. There is the grand manor house, with a garden that sweeps down to the lake, high fences to keep out the riff-raff, and mysterious initials on the doorbell where – in a more humble abode – there would be a surname or even two. There are the classic, single-storey Brandenburg farmhouses arranged around cobble courtyards. There are prefab blocks from the GDR-era, once belonging to a holiday camp, now abandoned in the woods. Further along the shore there is a functioning holiday camp, built after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in the style of Swedish or Danish boathouses… all wooden decks and stoves to keep out the cold. And there is the village church, of uneven brick and a tiled roof, the tower looking out over it all…

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Christmas under grey skies…

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…we can hope, because that might mean we get a little snow with the holidays. Under a Grey Sky will be cuddling up under a warm blanket by a lake for the next week or so, with service resumed in the New Year. So all that is left is to thank everyone who read and contributed to the site over the past twelve months. During this, the second year of Under a Grey Sky, we welcomed a lot of old friends to these virtual pages but also many new ones as well. No-one gets paid and we are extremely grateful to everyone who has shared their words and images with us.

On a personal level, Katrin and I have once again found that Under a Grey Sky has not only been a great place to collect our words, our thoughts, and what we capture through a lens, but also inspires us to get out the door and look for new adventures. This year we made it over to the United States as well as a couple of trips to England, but we have also enjoyed many smaller trips out from Berlin, up to the Baltic sea or the Oder river, the lakes and forests of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg, or even days exploring corners of our city both familiar and otherwise. Over the two years of the website it has definitely proved to be kick-start to get us out the door on a Saturday morning…

Hope you have a great couple of weeks and we will see you on the other side.

Music: Seanin and Trubadore

Guided Walk along the Berlin Wall Trail – 8th September 2013

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Autumn appears to have arrived in Berlin with the start of September, although the weather is supposed to turn fine again for the coming weekend, which is good because I happen to be leading a “Hike the Berlin Wall” tour for Slow Travel Berlin on Sunday and it would be nice to do it in pleasant sunshine rather than in a blustery shower. I first made this walk – alone – almost exactly a year ago, and although I had long planned to turn it into a guided walk for Slow Travel Berlin circumstances (and the elements) conspired against the inaugural walk until August of this year.

Five people joined me for the walk from Griebnitzsee to Wannsee and I believe we all had a good time. It is a walk that combines some of the most beautiful corners of Berlin and Potsdam with some fascinating stories from the history of both cities… and at around 15 kilometres in length, you certainly feel as if you earned the beer that is waiting at the end of it.

There are still some places available for the guided walk on Sunday 8th September, and it costs €15 per person. If you would like more information, or even to book, then head over to the tour page on Slow Travel Berlin and all will be revealed.

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Tales from a fractured summer

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There was no big trip this year… no epic road trip north, or month-long absence from which to return. Instead we were here and there, more than half of the time in Berlin and yet it did not feel like that. We made our escapes, to a village on the Oder river, in sight of Poland. To a cabin on the edge of the forest an hour or so north of Berlin, where were picked our way cautiously through the woods so as not to meet a grumpy mother wild boar protecting her young. To the very edge of the city, for a day walking the Berlin Wall Trail on the banks of the Havel. And to England, to an old stomping ground and a new corner of my home country never before explored.

We have some more plans, some weekends out of Berlin before the weather turns, but school starts again next week and yesterday I took a small group of people around Wedding on cultural-historical tour through my neighbourhood, and it was a homecoming of sorts. It not only reminded me about the interesting places within a stone’s throw of my front door, but helped to connect me in to the city again and why it is such as fascinating and interesting place to live. The idea of this website has never been to be a personal blog, or one focused on Berlin, but as the principal contributor to Under a Grey Sky, and as I happen to live in the city, then it is only natural that a good number of the pieces found here will be based on the different discoveries I have made in the German capital.

On Friday, on a walk that took me past both the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag – the most well-trodden tourist path through the city – I stumbled across a couple of places that I had never visited before and which confounded the expectations I had about what I was about to see when I set out from home a few hours before. That is one of the wonderful things about living in a city such as Berlin, even after a decade of living here, that there remains places to discover. They will feature on the website in the coming weeks, as well as the various tales of our fractured summer in Germany and beyond.

It’s good to be back.

Words: Paul Scraton
Picture: Katrin Schönig

Summer in the city and beyond

Summertime

This time last year we were about to hit the road north, towards Rostock and the Baltic and a ferry that would take us across the water to Sweden. During those four weeks, we put Under a Grey Sky on a break so that we could spend all our time relaxing, enjoying our experiences in Sweden, and to re-charge the batteries for the start of term feeling that always comes with the end of the summer. This year we have decided to do the same, although our journeys this year are slightly more fragmented, to the Lower Oder Valley on the German-Polish border, and then across to England, to Yorkshire and Northumbria, giving us the chance to discover a couple of new places both here and there.

Once again we would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has written for, subscribed to, followed and read Under a Grey Sky. And if any of you out there have some particular adventures beyond the front door that you would like to share on these pages, then please do not hesitate to get in contact at paulscraton (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have a great summer.

Paul