Berlin Day 4 and 5: The TV Tower and the Fairy Tale Fountain

On the fourth day we visited Berlin Zoo, said to be the best zoo in Europe. I have mixed feelings about zoos. I love animals, and seeing creatures I would never normally see unless I visited their native habitat. However, while some animals seem happy in their enclosures, I can’t help feeling they should be in their natural homes instead of a pen far smaller. That said, I think it is beneficial in terms of breeding endangered animals.

I was disappointed to discover that the panda had died some years previously, which was fairly misleading considering they had used it’s photos on the leaflets, website, park map and even their current merchandise. It seems most of the zoo wasn’t that up to date with signs, and unfortunately some of the animals, especially the big cats, had a tiny glass cage for a cell. Thinking about it now, most of the enclosures were clinical and sadly not representative of their natural habitats in any way.

The seals and sealions were beautiful creatures which seemed reasonably happy. I took some shots for reference for selkies.

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At night we went up the TV tower. The landmark is visible from almost every part of Berlin at 368 metres tall. The downside was that the lights from inside the tower reflected on the angled glass which made taking photos a bit more difficult. I bought a picture book from the gift shop. The beautiful watercolour illustrations tell the story of the TV Tower and the Berlin Bear mascot taking a trip around the city.

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On the last day we visited the Marchenbrunnen, the fairy tale fountain in Volkspark Friedrichstain. The fountain features statues from traditional Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. Unfortunately, it seems the fountain is under maintenance at the moment. All of the fountain’s statues are housed under graffiti-covered “sheds”, and it looks like it has been that way for some time. There was no English notice stating why it was this way, and I have found nothing about it online since.


The Marchenbrunnen – with the statues covered

Statues from inside the cover – unfortunately they are still unrecognisable

There were some freestanding statues that I was able to take photographs of:

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Sadly I didn’t see any postcards of the Marchenbrunnen. The shop across the road (actually named after the fountain) was no help either.

The rest of the day was spent with some retail therapy. I bought two books on children’s illustration from a fantastic book shop which actually has illustration as a separate category from graphic design, which doesn’t happen often! One is called “Print and Pattern” and the other “European Children’s Illustrators”.

In the shopping centre we spotted a fantastic display for the new “Pastry Chef” range of Swatch watches. The watches are inspired by sweets, and each watch is featured alongside boiled sweet jars and cake stands in matching colours. The catalogue itself is a work of art, and seamlessly blends product advertisement with homemade sweet recipes.


Berlin Day 3: The Wall, Nefertiti and Chocolate Heaven

We visited Checkpoint Charlie. It’s quite a strange sight to see the base in the middle of a busy street.


Nearby there were parts of the Berlin Wall which had been decorated by various artists. Here are some of my favourites:

They all bring feelings of joy, hope and freedom.

Further down the road there was a strange structure which seems to be a wire frame for the cathedra, and a giant ball almost like chewing gum with objects stuck in it. There was no plaque signifying the relevance of the sculptures.


I’m guessing there are fairly relaxed (if any) laws about fly-posting and graffiti in Berlin, as there is endless amounts of it. The poster build up is very effective. The guerilla marketing techniques are very eye catching and I’d love to find a way to promote the exhibition in this kind of style.

This traffic light is covered with stickers for the Museum of Kommunikation, in a spectrum of colours.


We visited the Ritter Sport Bunte  Schokowelt, a chocolate lovers paradise. There were endless amounts of flavours and combinations, as shown by this pillar:

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The architecture was bright and fun, the square panels mimicking the squares of the chocolate.




We treated ourselves to a chocolate lunch in the colourful Chocolounge:


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They also demonstrated how chocolate is made and where it comes from. I spotted this cocoa tree which I will use for reference in creating my tree display.


In the entrance to the Sony Centre stands a life-sized Lego giraffe. I’m not sure if it’s completely Lego or if it has some sort of internal structure. What a great job that would be! I wonder how long it took to make.


The Sony Centre itself is a grand building described as “”cyberpunk corporate urban (futuristic)” aesthetic”.


We then visited the Neues Musuem to see the Nefertiti bust. You can’t actually photograph the bust, so here she is from outside:


I found the Egyptian and Roman exhibits fascinating. I’ve always enjoyed the ancient worlds at school but to see 5000 B.C. artifacts in real life is incredible, especially in such good condition. I loved the way the partial tombs were pieced together with museum plinths filling in the blanks. The hieroglyphics were mesmerising, so detailed and consistent, one of the earliest forms of illustration.

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The building itself was also a work of art:

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Berlin Days 1 and 2: Street Art and the Bauhaus

This year’s college trip was to Berlin. From the moment we arrived, the sense of creativity was in the air. On the journey to the hostel alone we had seen coloured Lego-block style flats, and buildings adorned with giant flowers and dripping paint.

The evening we arrived we wandered around the neighbourhood to get our bearings:


Illustrations up the side of a building beside a children’s playpark


The Bradenburg Tor, graffiti style


More sights of Berlin city


Cut-and-stick graffiti


Yarn bombing on the bridge beside the railway station


On the first day we visited the Bauhaus.


The Bauhaus

The Bauhaus was a school which lead crafts and fine arts from 1919 to 1933. The most interesting pieces I found were studies of the colour wheel and the effect of altering dominant colours.

Colour wheel study by Katja Rose, 1932. Source:

I wasn’t particularly taken with the other works on display, the geometric shapes and bright colours that later inspired Ikea. I took several notes regarding their method of display for ideas for our own exhibtion.

  • Information boards, black foam – pops out
  • White wall panels
  • Frames in a grid layout
  • Photos printed on foamboard
  • Text onto white boards
  • Use of spot colours:
  1. Plinths with coloured tops
  2. Inverse colours – white text on orange
  3. Light up panels
  4. Cube stools and benches
  5. Glass cubes – accent colours

In the gallery shop I found two short picture books. What struck me about these is the landscape format. There is no difference in cover paper weight, and the paper is uncoated. I’m not a huge fan of the illustration style, but it demonstrates how styles can vary across cultures.

I also found a little wooden dragon:

After we left the Bauhaus we walked across Großer Tiergarten, the largest park in the centre of the city. At times it is more like a forest. I took a few photos for reference to illustrate one of my spreads for The Milk White Doo.


Reference image for “The Milk White Doo”


View from a bridge within the Großer Tiergarten

We reached Bradenburg Tor, and continued to the city centre.

Bradenburg Tor

Bradenburg Tor

The bridge leading towards Berlin Cathedral was adorned with mythical creatures:


Head of a bird, body of a fish… not sure what this is!


These appear to be Ichthyocentaus, creatures that have a man’s torso, horse’s legs, and the tail of a fish.

The cathedral itself is a dramatic building, like something from a fairytale.


The cathedral contrasts with the TV tower in the background.


The cathedral at sunset.


The TV Tower.

Folklore in the Family?

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Throughout the Christmas break I have been reading up on folklore of the local area, in order to work out which stories to feature in my degree show. Today, whilst reading “The Guide to Mysterious Perthshire”, I came across a tale I found particularly interesting, possibly linking to my own ancestry. The original account is as follows, written by Alexander Low in “Low’s Mixture of Poetry and Prose” (1841):

As I am sprung from a line of ancestry, many of whom were much higher in rank than myself, some notice of them, as far as my memory and traditional information serve, may be at least amusing. I shall begin so far back as my great-grandfather, whose name was Abraham Low (in those days called Abraham the Blacksmith). It appears, from the many traditional fairy tales that were and still are told of him, that he was a very ingenious man, and better than common at his trade. The good credulous folks of these days (the sixteenth century) believed he had more than ordinary human wisdom, and that he obtained that wisdom from the fairies (or ” guidly neipers,” as they were then called) ; a race of beings that could do great feats, chiefly at night, and could make themselves visible or invisible as they pleased — a kind of half-spiritual, half-human beings. Owing to this reason, it became a common saying, ” I’ll tell you a tale of Abraham Low and the fairies.” It is storied of these elfs, that they often took away children (infants, I mean), and that they, as was then sacredly believed, if not carefully watched, would, immediately after its birth, take a good, and replace a bad child for it. This I have heard gravely affirmed. But let us return to Abraham’s acquaintance with these little active and powerful beings, who were always very helpful to those who kept their friendship, and equally hurtful to those who made them enemies. Well, Abraham, one night walking alone, by the side of a hill, it suddenly opened, and showed him a company of these lightsome, merry little fairies, with all the cheerfulness, mirth, and dancing imaginable, and they accosted Abraham as follows : —

” Welcome, welcome, Abram,
For ever and for aye.”

” Never a bit.” quoth Abram,
” But for a niglit and day.”

And, it is affirmed, that, during this night and day, Abram got all his superior wisdom. Some have called it a year and a day, and that he was absent during that period. Abram’s wisdom was discovered in answering the fairies at once, and prescribing his terms. Their first word was their last; and according as you answered their questions, you were held in estimation or not. So Abram became a great favourite with the fairies, and got whatever he asked ; and it is storied that he never needed to want a man to strike the large hammer (commonly called the fore-hammer). Having occasion to be from home one day, his journeyman asked him where he would get a man to strike the fore-hammer. Abram whispered to him, ” I’ll tell you a secret, but you must not divulge it ; nor speak to the two little men who will strike the hammer for you, as they won’t bear to be spoke to ; and if you in any w ay accost them, we lose their services for ever. When you want them to come, or want them to go, instead of speaking, you must just give your hammer a purr on the studdy (anvil), and they will start up and strike as long as you please. Give your hammer another purr, and they will disappear ; but no words, must pass.” The foreman observed this rule throughout the day, and two little men, the one with a red, and the other with a blue cap, started up, and struck with the hammer most powerfully. But, alas ! for the faithless foreman ; towards evening he exclaimed to his active assistants —

” Weel strucken red cowl,
Far better blue.”

They quickly replied, and immediately disappeared, never more to return —

” strike here, strike there.

We’ll strike nae mair wi’ you.”


My mum’s maiden name is Low, and hails from Blairgowrie. The family occupation was blacksmith. This could all be purely coincidental, but it is enough for me to want to find out more. It appears the Low family of the past (the story meant to have taken place in 1770) was rather large, Abram’s only son Isaac who had 8 children; and Alexander, Isaac’s grandson, having 5 siblings. If the rest of the family brood was this size I think it’s quite likely to be related in at least a distant way!

Whether I find out the connection or not, I think the story itself is worthy of a place within my exhibition space. While there are many ghostly tales and ancient traditions around Perthshire, there are fewer of mythical creatures, such as brownies, kelpies and urisks. Mythical creatures have always been one of my key interests within folklore, and this will be one area of focus for my exhibition.