Yes, I know, the title should be “The Beauty and the Beast”, after the famous Disney movie. I chose ‘brute’ as in ‘brutalism’ which in turn derives from ‘béton brut’, the French expression for raw concrete. It is concrete that is left unfinished after being cast, showing patterns and seams imprinted by the formwork, often of timber. Brutalism is an architectural style that originated in the 1950s and is defined by raw concrete surfaces, unusual shapes and a blocky and ‘cold’ appearance.
Urbexing meant nothing to me until a friend suggested we give it a try. It’s the exploration of man-made structures, preferably abandoned. Photography is an essential part of it as is, in most cases, trespassing.
For me Hallstatt in Austria is associated with bad weather. We go and see it in rainy periods when hiking in the mountains is not an option, when the surrounding mountains are cut off by the clouds and the scenery, serene and dreary, is almost comically at odds with what is shown on the postcards. That is when and where the feeling of weltschmerz is best enjoyed, similar to the bitterness in dark chocolate. Also, the dark mood is better suited to a village that houses the world’s largest collection of painted skulls.
Newcastle upon Tyne, formerly a powerhouse of the industrial revolution and a byword for coal, is built on the bank of the River Tyne which can slope down fairly steeply. The city is jam-packed with the remnants of a brutalist urban dream from the 1960s that was aborted in a heroic act to save the many historic buildings it endangered. As a consequence, and in an effort to adapt to the slope and bridge the river, Newcastle bristles with bridges, underpasses, flyovers, walkways and tunnels that turn it into a vertical city.
Last Saturday I joined the People’s March in London that called for a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal. It was a peaceful and thoroughly enjoyable event with over a million attendants. I’ve seen more children than at any other demonstration—good for them as it is directly about their future.
My father is a fan of crab apple trees and has dozens of different varieties in his garden. The English word ‘crab apple’ doesn’t do them justice. They are more aptly named ‘Zierapfel’ (decorative apple) in the German language. Their fruit is too sour or bitter to eat. Crab apples are smaller than normal apples, some are of the size of berries.
It was a great honour to travel with the English Pocket Opera, a London based company, to Mostar where they staged Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet as an opera together with the children of two of Mostar’s schools. During the rehearsals for the performances, I had time to explore the beautiful city.
Many travelers say that Brasilia is not worth visiting. It is completely at odds with the rest of the country, and, conceived as an unholy combination of utopian project, planned city and modernist dream, it was doomed to become a failure. Whilst theoretically speaking these points have merit, I discovered that they don’t seem apply, perhaps in a blatant case of the exception proving the rule.
Reviewing the photos from last year’s trip to the Amazonas, I made a shocking discovery. We were not alone as we had thought but surrounded by the most bizarre and frightening creatures. Have a look for yourself in the gallery.
I love mountains and I wish there were some in Cambridgeshire. Instead, it has flinty and chalky fields that are desiccated by the wind. In mid-winter, when a grey sky touches the grey fields, they can be so bleak that even some lunar landscapes will look lively in comparison. To document this extraordinary expression of bleakness, I went in early February to the fields alongside the old Roman road near Wandlebury. Imagine my disappointment when I saw that I was too late and that many of the fields were covered by a green fuzz. But I thought I’d share the results anyway. It's no longer the story of a moribund patient but of a miraculous recovery beyond all expectation and hope.