Late Summer Room with a View

This was my “Room with a View” this summer:  One foggy late summer morning from my bed room window in the Black Forest.

After a long summer here in Germany I’m now ready to go home.

I found plenty of inspiration in the soft and muted colors and patterns of Southern Germany. The images below were taken in and around Freiburg:

Below is the small German/Swiss border town of Laufenburg which is divided by the Rhine and connected by bridge. People can easily stroll from Germany to Switzerland and back, much to the amazement to my daughter, who is used to random airport searches and suited security guards.

Even the sidewalk reminds me that it’s time to go home.

See you next week.

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Postcard from the Cotton Mill

“Herzliche Gruesse aus der Baumwollspinnerei”
(“Greetings from the cotton mill”)

Normally I chose a place to visit and then look for a centrally located apartment to explore the surroundings.

However, this time, we decided to chose the place to stay first and take the city that comes with it. By spinning the procedure the other way, it would give us the opportunity to explore in a very different way than we’re used to. Where did we go?

Given my love of fabric, run down loft living, art and improvisation, we decided to rent a room in the “Baumwollspinnerei“, a 10-acre former cotton mill complex in Leipzig.  It was one of the biggest factories of its kind in Central Europe employing 4000 people until it was closed in 1989.

What can you do with an abandoned ten acre cotton mill complex in the middle of a university city? How about turning it into studio spaces for struggling artists and galleries to highlight their work.

It also features an outdoor movie theater below right……..a great art supply store, a theater troupe and many artists to discover.

Best of all, there are two phenomenal lofts to rent, the Meisterzimmer (see top image – we stayed in Meisterzimmer 60). The huge room feels like a NY loft and is the perfect place to discover Leipzig’s art scene with painters from the New Leipzig School.

I rarely travel without extensively reading about the history of a place unless it’s nature in its original state and therefore timeless.

The cotton mill’s history started with a never ending demand for cotton.


“In 1887, 318 workers, working a maximum 77-hour week, processed a total of 6,200 bales of cotton into over 1 million kilos of thread. Only twenty years later, 20,000 bales of cotton were processed into 5 million kilos of thread by 1,600 workers working a ten-hour day. In just 25 years the Leipzig Baumwollspinnerei had become the largest spinning mill on the continent, with 240,000 spindles, 20,000 thread-twisting spindles and 208 combing machines.” (spinnerei.de)

There’s a great book to help find these treasured places in Germany and around the world: “In Bed With Art” is mostly written in German and features mainly German accommodations, but it also includes 16 entries outside Europe.  The author Katharina Kniess features portraits of  hotels, pensions and private b&bs,  all of which are in some way related to art and artists.

The cotton mill is one of those fantastic finds and will hopefully remain so for a long time. Often, when a place like that becomes “hip” and is featured as a secret tip, (or appears on a blog…) it loses some of its charm over time.

What a dilemma….by searching for the unique, untouched and pristine, we destroy it through finding it.

Postcard from Weimar

What looks like a typical Italian street scene above, is instead Weimar, a town in the Eastern part of Germany. I had never really visited the former East except for Berlin and was curious how it looked 20 years after the walls and fences came down.

Weimar is the birth place of Bauhaus and Goethe‘s chosen home from 1775 until his death in 1832.

Goethe was and still is Germany’s Renaissance man: a brilliant writer, philosopher, naturalist and traveler. From his many books and essays, this is one of my favorite quotes:

“Man sieht nur das, was man weiß.”
(You only see what you know.)

Weimar is a beautiful place with an old romantic market place, wonderful classical buildings, museums and sidewalk cafes. Of course it also has the ugly boring shopping strip right in the center of town, filled with cheap souvenirs and the same chain stores found everywhere  in Germany and beyond. Yes, there’s a McDonalds in Weimar.

When traveling,  I choose to ignore those and walk the side streets instead. Then my perspective isn’t tainted and it’s easier to imagine the streets as they were when the horse drawn carriages rode the cobbled streets.  They also take me from the familiar to the unfamiliar where I can practice “seeing” what I don’t know.

Above is a drawing of Goethe’s residence in the 19th century. Below is a photo I took of the backside of the house with its marvelous gardens.
Photographing the inside of the house wasn’t allowed, but I couldn’t resist sneaking a picture anyway:
Below on the right is the bedroom where he spend his last years.

It still looks very much like what I had seen in old pictures:

Our original plan was a much more glamorous trip to Italy, just like Goethe took in 1786. It seems I’ve found my own “Italy” right in the heart of former East Germany.

Goethe is right.

It’s a challenge to see what you don’t know and to see something familiar in an unfamiliar way. It’s the reason why I’ll continue to wander the side streets.

After leaving Weimar we headed to our next destination. Our “home” for the next few days would be in the building below,  behind the first chimney on the left.

Manipulations of the Week

This week I manipulated many things, all except fabric. It’s the last Sunday of June and sadly I have nothing to show you. However I did  manipulate a floor – that “darn” floor, that never became, and also my sleep pattern.

Leaving on vacation is a perfect moment to start a big project, so I decided 3 days before leaving to add a little anxiety to our travel preparations and paint our dining room floor black. Laying a wood floor was the initial plan, but painting is less work, less fuss and provides instant gratification.

I’m in love with our new floor (which is less glossy than the image above suggests) and can’t wait to finish the room. We’re now in the process of choosing THE perfect wall color. Any suggestions as to what would work with a black floor?

Apparently, the way to paint floors these days, is to use either boat paint, which is toxic and takes a year to dry, or use interior wall paint and cover it with a few layers of fast drying clear coat, and that’s what I did. It was much easier than expected. I painted the last coat at 7am on Friday morning and at 9am, we were off to NYC and the airport.

Remember that I wasn’t sure if the fasting while traveling was right for me. But I tried it and it really works. I have no jet-lag to speak of and feel great. (See here what I did.)

I’ll keep you updated and will post sporadically over the summer to share impressions and discoveries.

Visit Suschna to find out what she has created for this month’s fabric manipulation and to find more links.

Travel and Food

What do you eat when you’re on the road? Yesterday I cooked some food for our upcoming trip. In the past, I used to eat whatever it is that they serve on the airplane because I never planned in advance and  always ended up being hungry during the flight.  I would wait anxiously for the […] Read more »

Backpacking or Bourbon Packing

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac Did Jack Kerouac travel with a suitcase? Only one week left until I’ll pack my own bag to spend the summer in Germany. But we’re still here and in transition. […] Read more »

Flokati Rugs and MassMoca

Do you remember the old flokati rugs, the shaggy ones from the seventies? I had one and it was impossible to keep clean. This is what I should have done with mine before throwing it out. Anna Betbeze manipulates these rugs into textile sculptures, moving the flokati from the 70’s bedroom into world class galleries. […] Read more »

Summer is here: Vardos, Roulottes and Caravans….

(c) Les Verdines Fresh from my daughter’s Wizard of Oz performance, I’ve been thinking about the definition of “home”. What defines our experience of home. Is it a place? Friends? Or a feeling? I find the idea of bringing home wherever, you are intriguing. Living in a big house now, I’m really missing the mobility […] Read more »

Small Things and a Tasty Surprise

This week the kids are out of school and I have a bad cold. My poor child has been house bound with me for days and it’s vacation time. Enough, I thought, we’re all going on a trip. Rochester NY is not far from where we live and we decided the Strong National Museum of […] Read more »

Almost Back Home

Almost home. We flew over Iceland yesterday and even though there was just a brief lay-over, this is a country I’d love to visit in the future. With its magic light, friendly people, blue glaciers and black lava fields. The island has the feel of quiet and solitude and seems perfect for a get-away. After […] Read more »