B_Tours 2015: Berlin and Leipzig

Last updated: 31 July 2018

2017 update: interesting post on how participation works

This year’s walking inspiration from Germany – see posts on B_Tour Berlin and Belgrade in 2014. Twitter: @b_tour_festival | Facebook.

B_Tour Berlin, now described as “a new hybrid form of public art that provide locals with a new perspective of their city and an opportunity to experience it differently”, ran from 26-28 June, with the theme of Re-placing the periphery. 

First up, B_Talk #1 around the festival theme:

The terms “center” and “periphery” are conceptual constructs denoting not only geographical but social, economic and cultural formations. Representatives of artistic and academic institutions will illustrate the challenges these conceptual constructs bear and present their approaches to creating new and thought-provoking conceptualizations of contemporary spaces. Which are their approaches to the problematization of the terms “periphery” and “center” and why is this extremely relevant to every and any city inhabitant?

Presented in cooperation with Ogino Knauss, who run a Re-centering Periphery project, working with VJing as a technique for creating open narratives and developing creative and critical ways to observe, describe and perform the city.

Come in, Vestegnen and Udkantsdanmark!

Next, B_Talk #2 on  Touristification! New ideas for sustainable tourism:

Museum tours, “underground” or “alternative” tours and traditional sightseeing have become common day practices in most urban environments. This panel will investigate the more nuanced effects of tourism on the city. How does tourism and touristification impact spaces, people and local culture? B_Talk #2 will look at the ways in which tourism can become a more sustainable practice and what could be the role of artistic interventions in redefining and challenging touristic practices.

This is of interest due to the increasing #touristification of Copenhagen, lapped up on all sides at the moment, but fashions change. Plus is there an element of benign ‘Nordicism’ at play? I don’t identify with this fairy tale city, nor does much of the imagery reflect the two thirds of the population who don’t live in the capital (back to B_Talk #1). See too Leipzig’s Hipster Walk (below) – lovely Leipzig has now made it as far as the Guardian’s Alternative Europe series.

See this Barcelona story and Nana Rebhan’s documentary Welcome Goodbye:

15 tours in Berlin, including:

  • Eat the wall – foraging on bikes with two Danes who have MAs in Rhetoric and German Studies from KU
  • Mapping stories on the Ringbahn – “during a 37.5 km journey participants are invited to share their personal memories of, and imagined fantasies about, the stops along the way; these intimate offerings will determine the route of the tour and will be collected and edited into a textual atlas of the city”
  • Plattenbautour (review) – “The ‘Plattenbau’ has a bad reputation. It is perceived as anonymous and boring. The names of individual Plattenbauten seem almost scientific – PH16, WBS70, M10, Q3A –  yet people live in them and call these strange architectural forms home. How do people turn concrete jungles into liveable spaces? What are the small scale, but crucial, techniques they use to bend the alienating into something familiar?…Boring was never so exciting.”
  • A sesnsual expedition to urban voids –  the hidden magic of linear district heating pipes, abandoned industrial landmarks and community gardens within GDR housing blocks
  • Shadow – seen this before, several times; “After a brief exchange of text messages at the beginning of the tour, the participant will find themselves setting out on an adventure in the footsteps of a stranger. At the end there will be a meeting and a surprise. Bring an open mind, curiosity and a phone.”

No B_Tour Belgrade this year, but instead we have B_Tour Leipzig in cooperation with Tanzarchiv Leipzig, from 2-12 July with the theme of movement in urban space, reflecting on current perspectives of city development and stories of public spaces in Leipzig.

13 tours, including, although pretty much all of them are inspiring:

  • Ghost Tracks: Karl-Heine-Straße – the hidden tracks of the urban space, traces left in the present by ghosts from the past and the future; the audience is led through the so called “booming districts“ of Plagwitz and Lindenau via a GPS-based audio tour
  • Kaufhaus Ury – performative installation, reconstructing the ground plans of what was once Leipzig’s biggest department store owned by a Jewish family
  • Hipster Walk – some people call Leipzig ”the better Berlin“ while others have used the terms ”Hypezig” and ”Likezig”; the walk brings a literary, ironic perspective to the notion and status of ”hype” districts and streets which no longer lie on the periphery of public awareness; available via Talk Walks
  • The Living Boundary – “The airport is the ultimate symbol of the modern world. It is an inbetween space that represents the contemporary hunger for speed and information. Kursdorf is an island of memories, nostalgia and dreams hidden behind the highway noise barrier at the edge of the Leipzig/Halle Airport.”
  • The Monday Walks – follows the Leipzig Montagsdemos of 1989 on the city Ring; audio tour, based on interviews with eyewitnesses aimed at triggering the imagination of participants about how urban spaces can be re-appropriated as public sphere, for the expression of democratic rights and as a place of political action
  • Nightwalkers – follow the traces of countless workers in the former industrial area of Lindenau
  • Phonorama – self guided tour through the Clara-Zetkin-Park, where the Sächsisch-Thüringische Industrie- und Gewerbeausstellung took place in 1897
  • Silent Walk – cross the Waldstraßen district, once the main Jewish quarter of the city

Also four B_talks, on art and activism (3 July), urban sounds and imaginary spaces (4 July), creative capital(ism) (8 July) and tracing histories of public space in Leipzig (12 July), not tweeted.

Finally, B_events in Leipzig include a workshop entitled Traces of walking: creating an imaginary sound book of Leipzig, with noTours, augmented aurality:

Jewish wildlife recording pioneer Ludwig Koch made a ‘sound book’ of Leipzig mid 1930s which was intentionally destroyed in WWII. We recreate this sound book (imaginary maps, urban interventions and site-specific soundscapes) retracing Koch’s paths through the city and his urban and natural recordings, inspired by his memoires. Participants are introduced to methods of artistic and sound walking and field recording, using noTours, a free online editor, to create their own sound walks.


Høstfest! Harvest time in Denmark


on guard

Time for some more foraging, aka going into your garden and picking stuff. We’re over-run with apples, although the beags do their best, endlessly playing in the evening sun with windfalls, and there are herbs to freeze or dry – rosemary and thyme are supposedly perennial, but not in our garden they ain’t. The rhubarb has survived being moved twice this summer, hopefully we’ve finally found its sweet spot, the gooseberries were as disappointing as usual and the raspberries should have been pruned earlier. Our grønkål/kale is coming along OK, despite the best efforts of slugs and snails. Can you tell I’m not much of a gardener? Partner is lined up to divide and conquer our løvstikke/lovage and kvan/angelica, so they can come into their own next year, and in the case of the latter, hopefully flower in a dramatic fashion.

Other things we can avail ourselves of:

  • damsons/kræge – or probably not, although maybe could substitute mirabeller, more prevalent here – Delia’s chutney | Telegraph
  • hasselnødder/hazelnuts – preferably cobnuts, sighted last year on Roskilde Torv
  • havtorn/sea buckthorn – good with apples in compote; chutney, infused as a tea
  • hyldebær/elderberries – soup with potato starch? ellers tak
  • kvæde/quince – after the first frosts
  • rosehips/hyben – infused as a tea; chutney
  • røn/rowan – aka mountain ash; apparently it is a tradition in both Scotland and Denmark to have a rowan tree by the front door to ward off witches and evil spirits, and we have one handily placed; jelly seems to be a thing, also wine; TBH thought the berries were poisonous
  • sandtorn/tjørn/hawthorn – jam?
  • slåen/sloes – Daily Mail | BBC | Gdn gin

A Facebook friend, who is doing the full Hugh FW, has been mushrooming and after several attempts located some kantereller/chanterelles, but I think we’ll have to stick to Irma for those. Theirs come from Belarus, how exciting is that.

But what to do with all this stuff? The answer tends to be jam, involving massive amounts of sugar, or snaps. Planning to use some rowan berries in the last of our Faroese snaps, plus some sloe gin, which I have mixed memories of as a student.

Latest entry from backlash corner: from Jay Rayner’s Just because you can go foraging doesn’t mean you should:

5,000 years of agriculture and now we’re all foraging. I bet the Mesopotamians wonder why they bothered…the biggest argument against it is the lacklustre and uninspiring food that so often results from all that clomping about down in the woods.

As someone yet to empty their one jar of kryddesalt I can only agree, but the Danes seem well up for it, in particular as part of an event.

Last week a Høst-havemarked (harvest and garden festival; coverage) in nextdoor suburb Rødovre closed Vestegnens Kulturuge (also part of Golden Days). The garden of the Heerup Museum, which incidentally offers the least value for money of any museum I’ve ever been to, was transformed with mini-gardens, an apple press was on duty, honey from some local urban bees was on sale, you could roast your own coffee, grind your own flour, drink local wine…the gullaschkanon (field kitchen) got an outing, there was a WW1 exhibition including a row of tents, 200 flea market stalls and local radio supplying the sounds. Festivities continued with music from established names and local acts until midnight, moving to Damhuskroen until 5 in the morning. Blimey. Just a shame about the weather.

Sunday was Naturens Dag, with Byhøst doing an autumn forage in Valbyparken. Also involved was haymaking with scythes from Vild Med Vilje – read their report from the Vild Festival in August, when it also rained, and lots of stuff for children. Elsewhere there was some sort of fishing cum picnic thing at Sct Jørgens Sø, which is nice, as I’ve been pondering for a while why more doesn’t go on at the Lakes. Next Sunday sees a picnic at Tippen, with grapepicking at our local vinyard pencilled in for 11-12 October.

Meanwhile, the Eat your city conference (Facebook) promoted urban farming, particularly as a social movement, looking very serious minded, but it did culminate in KBHs Høstfest (Facebook | review), a harvest festival with a 2500 seater 800m longboard down Sønder Boulevard – it was hipster heaven. All part of the Sharing Copenhagen effort.

For a more realistic view of the eating habits of the average Dane see Michael Booth in The Local, or visit any ‘budget’ supermarket.

Richard Mabey’s nature cure

Last updated: 23 March 2018

Knocked off another classic from the nature writing canon, Richard Mabey’s Nature cure (2005; review | interview | A life in writing). Richard is perhaps “Britain’s greatest living nature writer” (The Times), the author of 30 odd books, and top forager (Food for free, 1972). His key concerns include anti-authoritarianism, in particular against our presumption that humankind is superior, advocating a ‘post-colonial’ relationship with nature.

The style is familiar now, most rewarding to me when it touches on the human, although the sections on nature and culture, “the interface between us and the non-human world, our species’ semi-permeable membrane” (A life in writing) were interesting.

LibraryThing reviewers find it self indulgent and the nature sections over-written, and it might be fair to say that it lacks humour and takes itself rather too seriously – although maybe I’ve just read too much nature writing for now. All in all, 3.5 stars out of five feels about right.

The book was Vintage’s Shelf Help book for April, part of its bibliotherapy promotion,with a reading guide linking to a 2008 video from New Writing Worlds – see the session report. All this secondary literature can be a rich seam to mine – a curatorial approach to reading?

For Alex Clark the book is about “the importance of setting ourselves new courses, and steering towards new horizons” – the seasonal cycles of nature can exhaust as well as renew. Following a bout of depression Richard decided he was “clotted with rootedness”, and so he moved to East Anglia, finding exhilaration in the discovery of a new landscape.

He writes of experiencing liberation in the open, flat wetlands of the Fens, once he had learned how to shorten his focus and look at the inherent details. Home to a great tradition of literary melancholia, the “haunting but sometimes oppressive landscape of East Anglia” is played out against “the relentless march of soil-destroying agribusiness and soul-destroying land development” (Guardian) – the future happening here and now. The new English landscape goes so far as to describe East Anglia as “of profound ecological and imaginative resonance”, forming a new territorial aesthetic.

As a serial nomad for me a process of re-rooting seems to need to take place every few years. Being rooted in a place does not feel like a good thing (ruts, snares), however a rooted relationship with a place does not need to be singular and exclusive. Richard found that he could go back to his ‘native’ place without feeling homesick for what was before.

See Steven Poole on nature writing as bourgeois escapism vs Mabey’s defence.

I’d fallen out with computers when I was ill, not from any ideological hostility but because I found the cornucopia of choices they offered at every turn too much to cope with.

Foraging in Valby Park

Last updated: 19 Feb 2018.

2015 update: it’s coming round again, quite possibly redoubled. See fex Spis Amager Fælled, and from the US, Salad from the sidewalk, which has lovely pix in the faux traditional style. And ditto for 2016 – see the rather bucolic Galloway Wild Foods, with a big foraging events programme.

The arrival of warmer days means it’s time for some foraging. As in the UK collecting local food is a la mode among the Danish chattering classes, chiming in with the Nordic food vibe, silly prices and all. More down to earth efforts include Byhøst (gloss: City Harvest), who crowdsource ingredients and offer simple recipes. On 25 May a free sanketur (foraging walk) was on offer in nearby Valby Park, organised by the local community council and led by Julie Swane.

Valbyparken, inaugurated in 1939, is Copenhagen’s biggest park at 64.2 hectares. The area was used as a dump until 1937, but now boasts northern Europe’s biggest rose garden and Café Rosenhaven (1964), a naturlegeplads (nature playground), 17 themed gardens (established during CPH’s turn as European Capital of Culture in 1996) and three haveforeninger (allotment associations).

A number of festivals, most recently a medieval market, and open air concerts are held in the park during the summer, and plans are afoot for horrors! an urban beach at the mouth of Harrestrup Å. Given the park’s varied topography, from wilderness areas to cultivated lawns, hedges and bushes to windswept coastlines, it’s one of the best places within the city limits for foraging.

What we gathered (see photos from a previous Byhøst sanketur):

  • humle – humulus lupulus – wild hops (twisty turny shoot around another plant)
  • granskud – fir tree shoots (really)
  • røllike – achillea millefolium – yarrow (Steen of Vorherres Køkkenhave used the flowers for snaps; the most common weed in Denmark)
  • fuglegræs – stellaria media – chickweed (Steen sautes in butter)
  • strandkarse – lepidium latifolium – pepperwort (very strong, reminiscent of horseradish)
  • løgkarse – alliaria petiolata – garlic mustard/Jack by the Hedge (Steen: a gift)
  • strandmælde – atriplex littoralis – grassleaf orache??
  • hvidtjørn – crataegus laevigata – hawthorn (Steen: use flowers in tea or wine)
  • kvan – angelica archangelica – angelica
  • spansk kørvel – myrrhis odorata – cicely (not to be confused with hundepersille or skarntyde)

I’m a bit of a halfhearted forager – the price and quality of herbs, fruit and vegetables in Denmark give the concept some appeal, but I tend to think there’s a reason why these plants haven’t been taken up by commercial retailers – yes you can eat the things, but would you want to? The Danish answer to Alan Titchmarsh, Søren Ryge Petersen, is also more than a little sceptical. In his review of Claus Meyer’s Naturalmanak (DK 249/£30, 312 pages), Søren says he has never been tempted to forage, not least because his kitchen garden offers more than enough provender. For him it’s all a bit Emperor’s New Clothes – it may be politically correct to eat local, but it takes time, both to gather enough to eat and to prepare something worth eating. He suggests there’s a reason why we started growing our own food rather than gathering it.

The Guardian’s beginner’s guide to summer foraging also attracted some barbed comments, such as “Surely this is more like ‘going into your garden and picking stuff’ than foraging?” The trend attracts a particular vintage style, illustrated in the admittedly rather lovely free Byhøst leaflet with pictures from Flora Danica. Of use in decoding Danish names was my Observer’s book of wild flowers 1963 edition (first printed 1937), inscribed ‘Gatehouse of Fleet 1964’ in my mother’s dashing hand on the flyleaf, with a six year old’s signature from my brother beneath. Which for some reason brings me in mind of butterscotch Instant Whip and frozen Steaklets. When’s all that coming back? (Update: Angel Delight is having a moment. And while we’re at, how about the Sainsbury Packaging Archive, also as book.)

Back in the garden, having spent the previous day digging up copious amounts of Jack by the Hedge I subsequently went a bit overboard looking for its garlicky mustardness, which however seemed a bit lacking. I also made some herb salt as an alternative salad dressing and have just strained a batch of fancy elderflower cordial. The Byhøst boys had jars of Arken pesto, named after the modern art gallery at Ishøj beach, for sale – tasty (and pricey) enough, given the benefit of a large number of additional non-foraged ingredients.

See more photos from the afternoon on Facebook, plus a dish made by one of the participants.

A further tour in September will look at the berries and fruit in the park. In the meantime, the new Byhøst app retails at DK 70 (£8), which feels on the pricey side, so we’ll stick to the map. An issue with this sort of crowdsourced data is that it needs periodical weeding to be useful.

In Denmark you can gather anything growing in a public space – just don’t break branches, dig up roots or take the last shoots (ensures something there for the next person and for next year). A lot of people worry about pollution, however we were assured that not much is taken up through the roots, and any nasties can be washed off  – use your common sense, and remember the Jyske Lov (1241):

Collect only as much as you can carry in your hat

Some books and blogs:

Update: a feature in Politiken on 21 June highlighted Trondheim resident Stephen Barstow’s Around the world in 80 plants, on eating such delights as Caucasian spinach (spinatranke), hostas and xtreme salads. Danish enthusiasts include Søren Holt on Amager, who blogs at In the toad’s garden (dansk) and Naturplanteskolen in Hedehusene, who sell seeds for dandelions. What a business concept!

Coming along on 29 June we had Claus Meyer with a riposte to Søren Ryge, foraging in our very own manor at Hvidovre Havn, where he found strandasters, strandmælde, spydmælde, røllike, vild kørvel, kvan, vild pastinak and forvildet peberrod (horseradish). We’ll have a look for the last next week.

His argument came down to “it’s free so you might as well”, which is a bit weak.