The first shot is of the Papagei Bar (Parrot Bar), one of the two striptease bars my Israeli father ran in Munich around the time I was born in 1966:
Putting aside my own personal interest, this photo is notable for the signs out the front, and as a marker of a society in the middle of big change, in a number of ways.
The next lot of photos depicts another German location, this time one that goes back to the Third Reich and beyond. It's a place I know well, the site of perhaps my first thoughtful encounter with a kind of ghost sign: the inscription over the doorway of a former synagogue and Jewish school, located in the old Rhineland wine-growing village of Venningen, at 15 Schafstrasse (Sheep Street). My grandparents used to live here, and I stayed with them a number of times in the 1990s. The synagogue was vandalised and desecrated in the 1938 Kristallnacht, then used to house prisoners of war from 1942- 1945.
The chalk writing you can see above is part of a local custom. Visitors mark the doorways of houses they have passed as part of door-to-door Christmas celebrations. This temporary marker creates quite a contrast to the stone letters above them.
Here's a snippet of text I wrote after I first encountered the house on Schafstrasse:
I stand outside the door of the old renovated house. A stone plaque fastened to the outside reads in German: Site of the Jewish synagogue and school, 1842 - 1940. Above the door an inscription in Hebrew, the chiseled letters freshly painted in gold.
I can see the sounds of the letters. I mouth them, right to left - sh, kh, r, n - as the wind flutters past on this fresh Sunday afternoon. I move the sounds around and around. Then, suddenly, I realise I'm mouthing the word atah - you.
Mind you, the local tribes did indeed leave signs, such as the stone clusters my grandparents and I found in the hills near Venningen that marked the border between France and Germany- the holes in the stones (see below) were to collect the sacrificial blood. Some of the local people on the plains told my grandparents that the hills were unholy and that they never went anywhere near there. The various markings in the stone have been made over many centuries by all kinds of explorers:
|Morocco - hand of Fatima warding off evil. The roots of the Sephardic Jewish Hamsa ('five') or good-luck hand with an eye in the palm: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamsa|
|Egypt - Luxor. Unfinished tomb (had to give the attendant special baksheesh to let me in)|
|Egypt - Nubia. Depiction of the Hajj.|
|Egypt - temple.|
|Jerusalem - 9th station of the cross.|
|Petra - Nabatean writing on watercourse wall.|
|Golan Heights - bombed and shelled mosque with writing and graffiti.|
|Jerusalem - archaeological dig under freeway|
|Old city, Jerusalem|