Marble Painting for Beginners

Thanks to a friend I happened on Studio 42 in Hamburg and took their class on marble painting. Result: it’s addictive! While doing it does require some space and covering up to avoid a mess, the whole process is exciting and even a little addictive. Obviously there are various levels to the technique and the creations that full-time marble painting artists come up with are mind-blowing. But those of us just starting out or looking for some artsy, creative enjoyment can proceed with full assurance of producing a unique, (mostly) abstract print full of colours playing off each other.

Read below to see one example of how you can do your own bit of marble painting.

What you need:

Rectangular shallow basin or tray – size depends on the paper size you’ll be using for your painting

Bigger basin

Glass sheet

Drying rack

Drawing paper

Old newspapers

Acrylic paints

Paintbrushes

Toothpics

Water

Bowl

Thin sponge

Thin rubber gloves from a pharmacy

Aluminium sulfate

Ox gall

Step by step:

  1. Fill your tray or basin with water, but not all the way to the brim, leaving an inch or two.
  2. Add the ox gall to the water (if you Google this, you might find that opinions differ on how much to add and whether to add any to the tray at all – take your pick!)
  3. Put on the rubber gloves.
  4. Mix your colours in small jars or containers using the acrylic paints and add bottled water so that it will be possible to shake/ spray the paint on the surface of the water later on.
  5. Mark one side of your sheet of paper with an X.
  6. Dissolve the aluminium sulfate in a bowl of water (ditto on the amounts in terms of different opinions), soak the sponge in it and wet both sides of the paper with wide, even strokes.
  7. Set paper aside to dry.
  8. Dip the brush in the prepared colour you want to start with. Hold the brush in one hand, positioned above the surface of the water, and gently, but firmly tap it against the index and middle finger of your other hand. Ideally, paint splotches will fly off the brush and settle on the water’s surface. Repeat this with several colours. Use a toothpic to create patterns.
  9. Turn the sheet of paper with the side marked X facing up towards you, take the bottom corner on one side and the upper corner on the other, and lower the sheet, placing it on the surface of the water.
  10. After a few seconds, pick up the sheet by both upper corners, and transer it to the board or sheet of glass in the larger basin. Douse with water to get rid of excess paint, then carefully transfer to drying rack. Use wide strips of old newspaper to skim the surface of the water in the tray before the next session.

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All photos by @juniperlu

Magnolia Trees in the Rain

I touch the tip of my shoe to the surface of the puddle from yesterday’s rain and watch the rings on the water spread petals from the cherry tree nearby. And that sums up spring in the lovely city of Hamburg. It blooms, it rains, it blooms some more and it rains again. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Good Friday is upon us with its much awaited time for rest and some peace, so I pull a Lizzy Bennet and go scampering about the city(side). Actually, I’m starting small. There’s a stack of real paper maps, yes, lying around at home. I’ve collected them during various outings because they were free and looked nice, which in my opinion are two of the best reasons to take something with you.

I’m always game for a walk around town and I’m also curious about testing my map-reading ability anew. Also, my phone chose to die right before I went outside, so no Google Map insurance this time.

Off down Grindelallee I go, the Hamburg University campus behind me, and the intersection between Bezirksamt Eimsbüttel, Hallerstraße and Beim Schlump ahead. On any other day this street is teeming with cyclists, students, locals, shops are open, bakeries are working fast and the buses 4 and 5 speed past every five minutes. Today’s quiet is an interesting contrast to the usual noise and bustle, and I let it sink in as the map successfully leads me to my next turn, on to Hallerstraße. It’s a very legible map, with little illustrations and a list of places to stop at on the back.

Hallerstraße is a charming residential street, rhododendrons and cherry trees on front lawns adding to its beauty. I stop to read a sign in front of the first building in the gallery below – it says the house was built in the Neo-Renaissance style and the “generous apartments” cater to fine tastes. I’m sure.

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Consulting the map, I turn left on to Rothenbaumchaussee and make a mental note of numerous pretty side streets to explore in the future. I pass elegant villas and new-looking apartment buildings, as well as the occasional purposeful parents shepherding their energetic offspring in to a car, most likely on the way to an Easter dinner with the grandparents. The headquarters of NDR (Northern German Broadcasting) are also located in the Rothenbaumchaussee.

After walking straight on for a few more minutes, I reach Klosterstern, and though I can get on the subway from there, I choose to walk some more, turning on to Jungfrauenthal. Other street names in addition to this one are indicative of the area’s earlier ties to religion and the church: Innocentiastraße, St. Benedictstraße. It’s raining a little and the air smells wonderful in these cosy streets lined with trees, more (I’m assuming also Neo-Renaissance) apartment buildings and plenty of bikes chained up in front of every door.

Isestraße is next, and when I reach the Hoheluftbrücke station, instead of continuing to where I started the walk, I turn on to Schlankreye, then Gustav-Falke-Straße. Brick buildings typical of Northern Germany line these streets, and I conclude my exploration with the discovery of two schools, one of which turns out to have a charming courtyard. All I can say is, if my high school had looked like this…

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I feel as if I have only scratched the suface of my surroundings, because I have all these questions: why were the buildings built the way they were? What used to be there before? Did any famous people live here? What was it like to walk around here 50, 100 years ago? My romantic imagination enjoys the remaining sense of mystery.

The nicest surprise during this walk, though, have been the many magnolia trees.

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Sunday Diaries: Brunch Time

McDonald’s in Italy now has a Nutella burger on their menu. That was the first thing I saw in my Instagram feed when I scrolled through it on my phone as usual on Sunday mornings. I just want to ask, why go pay for something you can make just as easily at home, probably spend less money on and which simply seems…weird? I mean, a burger is not something I will always make myself, so I might go somewhere for it, but spreading Nutella on bread has not gone up astronomically in terms of levels of difficulty, I hope, unless I missed something. But hey, marketing, competition, whatever works and if it does make someone happy.

I spread some (non burger patty thick) Nutella on a warm, crisp bread bun myself today and it was deeply satisfying. Due to watching Crazy, Stupid, Love (and some of it was indeed stupid, though some was love because of Steve Carell and Julianne Moore) until late last night, getting up occured somewhat later and I did not have time for what I term as the breakfast before breakfast – eating a bite before getting to your late breakfast or brunch date so you won’t faint on the way. But then a glass of juice must be included and since the café wasn’t far away, I figured I’d manage. It is Sunday in Hamburg, and those who aren’t still asleep after a Saturday night out are most likely making their way to a brunch.

The cafébar Gloria is located in a beautiful street in Hamburg called Bellealliancestraße. Cosy, residential, inviting and with multicolored buildings following each other, it makes for a nice pre-brunch walk in these fresh winter temperatures. The Gloria is red, easy to find and hard to miss. With 20 years of existence behind it, it’s clearly a favorite neighborhood meeting point and I’m excited to try the brunch buffet with my friend. And what a buffet it is. Roughly 15 euro with a glass of champagne or orange juice included for all you can eat – fresh bread, small croissants, fruit, various cheese, butter, jam, potato salad, cooked red beets (Russian roots seal of approval), smoked salmon, just to name a few choices, and very prettily arranged. Almost floor-length windows let in the sunlight of this clear, cold morning, and the atmosphere is relaxed, welcoming, as I listen to the snippets of conversation around me in French, German and English and dig in to my food. The staff is quick, attentive and smiling without seeming stressed. As I lean back and sip my fresh peppermint tea, I think again about how much I enjoy being part of a morning crowd like this, and that I will have to come back, because there is no room for the homemade cheesecake that my friend warmly recommended.

One once again idyllic walk around the glistening Alster river later, and I make lunch for the next day at work, only to discover that I had forgotten to defrost the meat I needed for the dish. But the internet saved me with this trick that actually worked!

One could have made a Nutella burger, but I’ll leave that to the pros.

 

 

Learning French as an Adult

Thankfully school students still draw in pencil on desks, so it’s easy to remove the typical choice of doodle that’s staring me right in the face and, quite frankly, offending me. You’d think they would get a little more creative in the 21rst century, but no. I open my coursebook to Lesson One and join the rest of the class in repeating the bonjours, bonsoirs, je m’appelles and et tois.

The good news is, French is so widespread nowadays, especially in a city as international as Hamburg and with travel in Europe being what it is, that the material is by no means unfamiliar. It’s simply been a very long time since I’ve learned and pursued. Practiced conversations are quite short and ever so slightly stilted, as we tentatively feel our way around words and sentence structures, not yet being advanced in verbs beyond the present tense. Que fais-tu? Moi, je suis danseuse classique, so there! Actually, I made myself a ballet dancer, but the teacher frenchified it a little more so that the translation wouldn’t be too close to Deutsch and we would learn new additional words. We were encouraged to make up professions today and the result was a long list of diverse occupations that we practiced talking about. Que fais un footballeur?

A French colleague told me ils and elles were used to talk about groups doing something, yes, “but the French language is a bit macho”, so even if there was just one man present in the group I’m talking about, the correct pronoun to use is ils. Mais oui, bien sûr.

Becoming German: My First Packstation

Ever since I started to shop online, which actually did happen when I moved to Germany (late, but happy bloomer), I have become my own post office. There are so many stories I can tell about recovering packages delivered while I was at work.

Going to the real post office (and you are lucky if you have one nearby) after getting the nice notification in your mailbox is, of course, a conventional route that doesn’t make for a particularly spectacular story, unless your nice friends patiently listen to you chanting “I picked up my package!” like a five-year-old or you relate amusing things you heard while waiting in line.

Then there’s the neighbors, who you don’t want to inconvenience, but you also sometimes sign for their packages and it’s just a part of modern life. There are also the shops downstairs where the staff might be nice enough to hold on to your boxes. There might be an office that reacts slightly grumpily when you finally do manage to come by, so you feel a little guilty since they have signed for your stuff multiple times and leave them a box of chocolates. And there’s the notification about your package being dropped off at a place you never go to and you have to find out how to get there. Time is running out, your package will soon be sent back and the opening hours aren’t too accommodating either. All in the name of consumerism and not wanting to enter an actual shop after getting almost addicted to all the psychological comforts online shopping offers.

It was time to get organized, I thought one morning, or even more organized – because make no mistake, I was a freaking good post office. But I did not want to be dependent on so many different receiving channels anymore. So after asking around and doing some diligent reading in German, I signed up for the so-called Packstation, already fantasizing about the changes this would bring to my life.

As with most things nowadays, you have to get an online account first – cue additional emails to customer service about not getting the confirmation email and therefore not being able to proceed with my enthusiastic readiness to conform, despite encouraging reminders from the service that I had “only one step left” to complete. This step was indeed finally completed. After that I had to physically go to the post office. And after that I was waiting for an envelope in the mail. Just when I was starting to wonder, it arrived, containing a shiny new gold-coloured plastic card. With new numbers on it that I had to identify.

After my first initial nervous excitement was over, I realized one very important thing – I had no clue how to use a Packstation or what it looked like, despite the instructions included with my envelope. This information was, of course, easy to research, and it was also comforting to confirm that there were other people before me who had googled “Wie nutze ich eine Packstation”.

With shaking fingers I placed my first ever order to be delivered to this new hiding place. The package arrived. I breathed out. And then I jumped again when I got a text message saying “Your package has been at the Packstation for TWO DAYS.” OK, I’m going. I successfully located the Packstation – two yellow walls of identical cells row upon row and a slot in the middle of one where I was to swipe my magic golden card. The touchscreen in front of me was very friendly and very clear. My only moment of panic came when I heard a click and a distinct sound of something opening behind me. Just as I thought I was afraid to turn around and search for fear this would CHANGE EVERYTHING IN FRONT OF ME FOREVER, the screen told me “The box is located behind you.” I turned around and saw one little door ajar. The sun was shining, there was almost no one around and it was all like something out of Chronicles of Narnia or Labyrinth.

I’m a fan now.

20up Bar

Spring weather has finally reached Hamburg, though not without the occasional rain shower. Plans to relax in one of the beach bars in the harbour were put on hold due to the beach bar of choice being closed that day, but then my friend suggested going to the 20up Bar.

As is to be guessed from the name, the bar is located on the 20th floor of the Empire Riverside Hotel in Hamburg. We found ourselves to be the first in line as the doors opened, and that was a good thing, because 20up is very popular and fills up quickly. Booking in advance is recommended closer to the weekend. The staff comes up to you after you pick a table and takes your order, then you’re asked to pay after being served. Card payments are accepted starting from 25 euros, so have cash on hand if you don’t plan on spending more.

Opened in 2008, the bar’s 20-meter long counter faces a wall made up entirely of tall windows that open up to an expectantly breathtaking, unblocked view of the harbour and the Elbe river. Picture-taking enthusiasm guaranteed.

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My liking of bars with a view has been reignited since the visit to the Radisson Blu Plaza Skybar in Oslo. There’s just something about looking at the world from above with a drink in your hand (non-alcoholic Jolly Roger cocktail for me) that makes going out feel like an occasion, whatever the day, and it’s also oh-so-slightly decadent. Cheers!

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Brunch on the Elbe River

“If someone falls overboard, please be sure to actively bring our attention to it,” our captain says. He’s not what I pictured he would look like – sunglasses, somewhat weatherbeaten, of course, a brick red woolen hat covering his head, no obvious uniform, both relaxed and business-like. We’re addressed with “Ihr” – the informal collective German “you”. The safety instructions relating to a possible sinking situation are new to me. “That thing with grabbing the life jacket collar before hitting the water so it won’t knock you out sounded a little complicated,” I remark to my friend. “We won’t need it,” she assures me. I need another sip of my sparkling wine.

Welcome to the Mare Frisium. The day turns gorgeous as we sail away from the Sandtorhöft dock, minutes away from Hamburg’s historical Speicherstadt (warehouse district) and the Elbphilharmonie concert house towering nearby. We all feel the shifting of the three-masted schooner underneath our feet as it glides along the Elbe river, and the floor actually still seems to be tilting underneath me as I type this. The Mare Frisium includes sleeping cabins and is used for events in Hamburg, as well as making appearances at annual events like the Hafengeburtstag (harbour birthday).

The vessel is beautiful and comfortable, with plenty of room for all those on board. The Elbe glittered in the spring sunshine, reflecting the blue of the sky above – a welcome break from April’s repeated icy rain showers and pellets of hail. Our route partly follows that of the traditional harbour boat trip, or even just that of the Hamburg transportation department’s ferry, so familiar sights popped up: Landungsbrücken, the harbour station and area; Elbstrand, the Elbe beach; Blankenese district and its own beach further along the river.

While the joys of contemplation and observation were part of the trip, the smell of fried bacon and scrambled eggs carried to us upon the fresh breeze did lead us to abandon them for a while in favour of the breakfast room on the lower deck. I immediately noticed cupcakes topped with swirly frosting I resolved to come back for later. Fresh bread, pain au chocolat, croissants, cheese, ham, various fried vegetables, smoked salmon, small boiled potatos, sausages, fried mushrooms in a creamy sauce, the aforementioned scrambled eggs and bacon – need I say more? I love a good buffet, but I love a good breakfast or brunch buffet even more.

Even though low-heeled, my ankle boots required slightly more careful navigation along the Mare Frisium, especially with a plate in my hand or on stairs. Sneakers next time. We ate outside, with attentive staff regularly passing by, fresh air being the best stimulant for a good appetite. I love brunch. Being a city person I do tend to sleep in during the weekend when I can, and then when I get up, I feel like eating a larger first meal than a typical breakfast, but still not in the direction of lunch, so brunch is the perfect solution, because it’s hearty enough to set you up for the rest of the day, but still lighter than a lunch might be. And I love breakfast food.

After the first food rush guests dispersed along the schooner, finding places to sit or lean against comfortably while watching green Hamburg shores pass by. Speed would occasionally pick up and we’d be roused from our slightly sleepy selves. The four hours of the trip felt like a week-long vacation.

The floor is still tilting, but in general I think I’ve got rather good sea legs. At least for a river ride. And if I get fed. Prost!