×

William Cook rss

backfront

Europeans no longer fear Germany. But do the Germans still fear themselves?

13 December 2014

In the old Death Strip between East and West Berlin, which runs through the centre of the city, there is a graveyard full of German war heroes and a few… Read more

The undiscovered country: ‘Germany? Where is it?’, asked Goethe and Schiller in a collaborative poem. ‘I don’t know where to find such a place.’ Above: ‘Goethe in the Roman Campagna’, 1787, by Johann Tischbein, currently on show at the British Museum

German history is uniquely awful: that’s what makes it so engrossing

13 December 2014
Germany: Memories of a Nation Neil MacGregor

Allen Lane, pp.640, £30, ISBN: 9780241008331

As I grew up half German in England in the 1970s, my German heritage was confined to the few curios my grandmother had brought here after the war: a signet… Read more

northstar

Fortune tellers, pound shops and Orville: why I love Blackpool

13 December 2014

‘Jesus is the light of the world,’ reads the sign outside Blackpool’s Central Methodist Church, but all along the promenade the lights are going out. I’d returned to my favourite… Read more

Vallée de Joux

Down on the Swiss watch farms

29 November 2014

In a cosy attic above Junod, Lausanne’s oldest watch shop, there’s a museum which charts the story of Switzerland’s obsessive quest to create the perfect wristwatch. There are all sorts… Read more

Sea change: the old fishing town of Warnemünde has been transformed into an affluent resort

A voyage along my grandfather’s coastline

25 October 2014

My grandfather was born in a huge white house on the Baltic coast of eastern Germany, and ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by this enigmatic tideless… Read more

Quiet, quaint and understated: Cobblers Cove

Chasing the shadows of slavery in Barbados

18 October 2014

Driving up the west coast, from Bridge-town to Speightstown, you soon see why people around here call this the Platinum Coast. It’s not just the colour of the coral sand… Read more

'Supermarkets' (1976), by Sigmar Polke. Picture: The Estate of Sigmar Polke

Tate Modern’s latest show feels like it’s from another planet

18 October 2014
Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010 Tate Modern

‘Some day we shall no longer need pictures: we shall just be happy.’ — Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, 1966 Who says Germans have no sense of humour? OK, so… Read more

Herculean feat: hauling a steamship over a mountain for ‘Fitzcarraldo’

The enigma of Werner Herzog

30 August 2014

Strange things happen to Werner Herzog — almost as strange as the things that happen in his haunting, hypnotic films. In 1971, while making a movie in Peru, he was… Read more

Switzerland’s loveliest lake lies before you

The loveliness of Lucerne

26 July 2014

When Queen Victoria came here for her summer holidays, Lucerne was already a bustling tourist destination. Today it’s just as popular. It’s easy to see why. When you emerge from… Read more

Photo: Alex Kouprianoff

How Napoleon won at Waterloo

5 July 2014

In a one-horse town called Hestrud, on the Franco-Belgian border, there’s a monument which encapsulates Europe’s enduring fascination with Napoleon. The story carved upon this plinth is more like poetry… Read more

More than just a pretty place: Salzburg

Salzburg – more than just a ridiculously pretty place

14 June 2014

Salzburg is so ridiculously pretty, it’s sometimes hard to take it seriously. Standing on the ramparts of its knights-in-armour castle, surrounded by snowcapped mountains, admiring the delicate cluster of domes… Read more

Bill-Forsyth

Bill Forsyth interview: ‘If we hadn’t made a go of it, my plan was just to disappear.’

31 May 2014

I watched the new DVD of Gregory’s Girl on the train from London up to Edinburgh. I hadn’t seen Bill Forsyth’s school-yard comedy in more than 30 years. Incredibly, it… Read more

New old city: Dresden

Notes on… Eastern Germany

26 April 2014

Ever since the Berlin Wall came down, I’ve been pottering around eastern Germany, where my father’s family came from, and fled from at the end of the second world war.… Read more

UKRAINE-RUSSIA-UNREST-POLITICS-CRIMEA

Today Crimea, tomorrow Estonia?

8 March 2014

 Tallinn, Monday  ‘I have some sad news,’ says the Estonian politician, as we sit down to dinner. ‘War has broken out.’ The pain in his voice is palpable. For this… Read more

‘French Window’ video still, 1973, by Ian Emes, whose show opens in April

The Ikon Gallery's greatest hits

1 March 2014
Ikon Icons Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

In a crowded storeroom at Ikon, Birmingham’s contemporary art gallery, its director Jonathan Watkins is unwrapping the pictures for his latest show. His excitement is infectious. He’s like a big… Read more

Capital asset: Riga’s 2014 programme reaffirms its cosmopolitan credentials

Is it a good idea to splash money on European cities of culture?

8 February 2014

As you enter the old KGB building, at the end of Freedom Street, the first thing that hits you is the cold. Outside it’s below freezing. Inside it’s even colder.… Read more

‘Life in the Alps (Triptych)’, 1917–19, by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

The best thing to come out of Davos

18 January 2014

Another new year and once again the world’s leading CEOs and politicians descend on Davos, transforming this little Alpine town into the world’s most (self-) important talking shop. Yet there’s… Read more

David-Chipperfield

Interview David Chipperfield: It is better to be fond of architecture than amazed by it

7 December 2013

For a man who’s about to celebrate his 60th birthday, Sir David Chipperfield looks remarkably fresh-faced. His pale blue eyes are bright and piercing, his thick white hair is cut… Read more

watches

Minimalist watches for simpler times

30 November 2013

The first time I saw an Ochs und Junior watch was on the wrist of my Swiss friend Fabian. It was unlike any wristwatch I’d ever seen. Bold but understated,… Read more

Tangier

Tangier: Hidden treasure

16 November 2013

‘I remember you from last time,’ said the young man on the promenade. It was my first night back in Tangier. I was alone and tired and lonely. I liked… Read more

Slow-Train-to-Switzerland

Slow Train to Switzerland, by Diccon Bewes - review

9 November 2013

In 1863, the pioneering travel agent Thomas Cook took a group of British tourists on the first package holiday to Switzerland. One of them, a jolly young woman called Jemima… Read more

The tourist version: Grote Markt lit for Christmas

Notes on … Christmas shopping in Bruges

2 November 2013

Most Belgians of my acquaintance tend to be rather disparaging about Bruges. It’s a theme park, they say, a Flemish Disneyland. Antwerp is livelier, Ghent is more authentic. A lot… Read more

Sir John Betjeman. Photo: Getty Images

The false paradise of Metroland

5 October 2013

Gaily into Ruislip Gardens runs the red electric train… Near the end of the Metropolitan Line, where London dwindles into woods and meadows, stands a Tudor manor house, built within… Read more

The work of Henry van de Velde: Vase, 1902; fabric sample, c. 1908; and workbench, 1902

Henry van de Velde — the man who invented modernism

28 September 2013
Henry van de Velde — Passion, Function, Beauty Cinquantenaire Museum, Brussels

In the Musée du Cinquantenaire, a grand gallery on the green edge of Brussels, those bureaucratic Belgians are welcoming home a prodigal son. Henry van de Velde — Passion, Function,… Read more

Yorkshire Sculpture Park: the 500-acre site is a great artwork in its own right

Yorkshire: England’s sculptural heartland in the north

21 September 2013

I am standing on the deserted shop floor of a Victorian mill in Wakefield, with the industrial history of Yorkshire spread out before me like a map. Down below, the… Read more