Posts Tagged ‘germany’
This year’s autumn has been spectacular in Germany. The weather has been perfect and we’ve seen some amazing fall foliage.
The pictures in this slide show were taken in different places: near the Rhine and along the Sieg river in the west of the country, and in Bad Brückenau in the southern federal state of Bavaria.
Btw: a few years ago, I posted another autumn slide show here on this blog and called it “Feels like fall“. That slide show was created on slide.com and then embedded here in this wordpress blog.
Unfortunately, slide.com no longer exists. If you go to their website, you’ll see a notice “Slide.com closed its doors on March 6, 2012 and is no longer available.”
So when you read my original 2008 wordpress post “Feels like fall” today, all you see is the text. The slide show is gone forever. So that really does feel like fall…
Please support the petition against the destruction of the Cologne Theater or Schauspielhaus. http://mutzukultur.de/
Granted, the Schauspielhaus isn’t spectacular post-war architecture, but it has an aesthetic of its own. And the building is part of a larger architectural ensemble by Wilhelm Riphahn that is thought through.
In a city like Cologne, which hardly has any architectural coherence, destroying such an ensemble would be a crime.
Rebuilt from the ruins of war
More than 70 percent of Cologne was reduced to rubble by the bombs of the Second World War. In the post-war years, the city was hastily rebuilt.
Interestingly, one of the first big construction projects the citizens of Cologne started after the war was building a new opera house and theater. And architect Wilhelm Riphahn was assigned with the task.
Much of the 1950′s and 1960′s architecture in Cologne is nothing but mediocre. But Wilhelm Riphahn’s buildings have a higher quality. In addition, they are integrated into a grand design, a larger post-war reconstruction plan for the whole city.
Parts of that grand design are still visible on Cologne’s Hahnenstrasse and on Offenbachplatz, where Riphahn built the Oper, Schauspielhaus and Opernterrassen.
Big plans but no money
In recent years, many of Riphahn’s buildings have been torn down or disfigured through so-called modernization. The architectural ensemble made up of the opera, the theater and the Opernterrassen restaurant on Offenbachplatz, however, could still be saved.
But city officials doomed it for destruction. The city council voted to tear down the Schauspielhaus and the Opernterrassen and to preserve only Riphahn’s opera house.
In 2008, an architectural competition for a new theater building was called. The jury awarded architects JSWD and Atelier d’architecture first prize, but very bluntly said that “architecturally, the project does not meet the expectations. … The architectural form … lacks one essential necessary property: an identity that is adequate for the purpose of the building.“
Some of the features that made the jury award this design first prize have meanwhile been scrapped due to lack of funds (e.g. the so-called “Lichtgraben”). So it’s already obvious that what might be built in the end will be even worse than the architectural plan. And that wasn’t very inspiring to begin with.
If you ask me, I’d say the design for the new theater looks like a giant department store or like a parking garage.
In any case, one thing that’s certain is that it will be much more expensive to build a new theater than it would be to renovate Riphahn’s 1960 Schauspielhaus.
Let’s preserve this integral part of Cologne’s post-war modernist architecture.
Please sign the petition against the destruction of the Cologne Theater at: http://mutzukultur.de/
The weather man says that temperatures aren’t about to change soon.
This cold spell is unusual here in the Rhineland, where temperatures hardly ever drop significantly below freezing.
Cities like Bonn, Cologne or Düsseldorf don’t see much snow during an average winter. But for the past couple of days and weeks, we’ve had some pretty icy conditions here.
Doesn’t really look like global warming when I look out my office window.
Update, Thurday January 7, 2010 – My colleague Guy Degen just posted a video showing how the snow is piling up in Bonn this morning.
Somehow the combination of binge drinking, oom-pah music and big-busted waitresses in dirndl-dresses always failed to intrigue me.
So I was unprepared for what I experienced last night, when I attended the Oktoberfest in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh – of all places.
The locals seemed to enjoy it, but most of them didn’t have a clue what the singer was trying to tell them when he repeatedly shouted “oans, zwoa, gsuffa!” (rough translation: drink, drink, drink!).
The food was surprisingly authentic, though. The organisers must have had a tough time trying to find Sauerkraut, Weisswurst (a special kind of Bavarian sausage that is boiled, not grilled) and Apfelstrudel (an Alpine interpretation of apple pie) in Cambodia.
Overall, Phnom Penh’s Oktoberfest was bizarre, but fun. Munich on the Mekong.
And for those in Phnom Penh who can’t get enough of German Gemütlichkeit, there’s good news: the Cambodian capital is home to not one, but two Oktoberfests. One’s at the Cambodiana Hotel, the other at the Sunway.
I heard the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi talk about the situation in Iran on Monday (July 13, 2009). What she said was very impressive.
Shirin Ebadi said many more people have been killed in Iran in the aftermath of the elections than we know now. “What happened in Iran is an obvious human rights violation”, she told a Deutsche Welle journalist.
Ebadi described the first day of demonstrations in Tehran after the Iranian elections: “When the Iranian people demonstrated peacefully, there were no problems – not even a window was broken. But towards the end of the demonstrations shots were fired from office buildings. Some died and many more were injured. That was the beginning to the state’s crackdown. That night at 3 a.m., a student residence was attacked, five students were shot dead and several were injured.”
Shirin Ebadi said the government’s actions were neither in line with the Iranian constitution, nor with Islam, nor with human rights.
Ebadi said the Iranian people would continue their demonstrations. But the protest would take on new forms because of the government crackdown on the street demonstrations. Ebadi added that this continuing protest and the criticism from within the Iranian clergy will further destabilize the government.
The Iranian human rights activist called on Germany and Europe to increase the pressure on the Iranian government.
But Ebadi made it very clear that she’s opposed to military intervention and economic sanctions. Those, she said, would only hurt the people of Iran.
Shirin Ebadi criticized the West for only concentrating on the nuclear dispute in its negotiations with Iran. “You wonder,” she said, “whether the Europeans only care about their own security and not the security of the people in Iran.”
She also criticized companies like Nokia and Siemens, saying they had delivered technology to Iran, which is now being used to monitor and control the citizens.
Ebadi is an outspoken human rights activist
I was impressed with Shirin Ebadi’s courage to speak out. Some of her co-workers in Iran have already been imprisoned by the regime. But that doesn’t deter her from fighting for human rights for the people of Iran.
When asked whether giving interviews to foreign journalists in the West could cause problems for her in Iran, she replied “That’s not that important to me. I consider this a task that has to be done.”
What surprised me was that Shirin Ebadi had left Iran shortly before the elections and has not been back since then. She said that her co-workers had urged her to stay in Europe and raise awareness for her cause there. She’s in constant contact with her colleagues back home, who keep her informed about the situation in Iran.
Of course, she’s freer to talk and to take action when she’s in Europe than when she’s in Iran. But it’s risky for her, nevertheless. After all, her husband and her family are still in Iran. They might have to suffer the consequences of her actions abroad.
But despite the risks, Shirin Ebadi expressed confidence that she would be able to return home “after I have finished my job here.”
It’s strange to be back in Europe after six weeks in Asia. No more heat and humidity, like in Thailand. Instead, it’s autumn in Germany.
The days are sunny and the skies are blue. It’s dark by six p.m. and the evenings are turning cool. The last remaining leaves on the trees have turned red or yellow.
When you walk through a forest or park, there’s a smell of fallen leaves and moist earth in the air.
It’s all very beautiful and somehow sad. Winter is around the corner. The dark season. The trees will be bare, the sky will be gray, the days will get even shorter.
You won’t find me at a lot of political rallies.
So when I got my ass up this weekend to go out and demonstrate, you know that it must have been a cause that was very important to me.
This weekend, racists and neo-Nazis from all over Europe had planned to gather in my home town Cologne for an “Anti-Islam-Conference”.
They were hoping to use public sentiment against the construction of a big mosque in Cologne to their advantage.
They’d planned a big rally in one of Cologne’s downtown squares, the Heumarkt, with speakers from right-wing parties like France’s Front National, Italy’ Lega Nord and Austria’s FPÖ.
Cologne debates construction of a big mosque
Many people in Cologne aren’t comfortable with the idea of building the new mosque. Cologne is a very catholic and a very traditional city.
But the fact is that the city also has a large Muslim population. And so far, they’ve been meeting in small neighborhood prayer rooms.
The new mosque will give them a central meeting place in town. And it’ll be an architectural statement that Muslims have become an integral part of this city.
And while the debate about the construction of the mosque is a regular part of the democratic process in Cologne, racism and xenophobia are not.
That’s what brought the people of Cologne out in droves this weekend to protest against the “Anti-Islam-Conference”.
In the end, their massive protest foiled the efforts of the right-wing extremists.
A broad coalition against racism
Opposition against the “Anti-Islam-Conference” in Germany’s media and among the public had gathered force throughout the last week.
Germany’s radio and television stations, newspapers and many websites reported in-depth on the upcoming meeting of the racists in Cologne.
They also described the growing dissatisfaction among the city’s citizens about the event.
And they reported about planned anti-nazi demonstrations and creative ways to obstruct the racist rally. A broad democratic coalition formed.
Cologne turns anti-racist protest into a carnival
One the funniest anti-racist initiatives was “11 000 Bellydancers”. The organizers called on people to come dressed up in oriental garb and dance to oriental music. The aim was to contrast xenophobia and racism with multi-cultural fun, song and dance.
Other forms of protest included some of Germany’s most popular bands joining forces for a concert against racism. It took place exactly at the time and within hearing distance of the right-wing rally.
Meanwhile, protesters blocked the streets leading to Heumarkt square, so that the right-wing supporters who wanted to attend the “Anti-Islam-Conference” couldn’t get to the rally.
Whenever someone tried to get through the blockade and onto Heumarkt, the protesters started chanting “Nazis raus!” (Nazis get out).
Racist rally doesn’t take place as planned
In the end, there were only about 90 right-wing supporters on Heumarkt.
The low turnout was a blow in the face to the organizers, who had hoped to attract thousands of supporters.
And it was a victory for civil rights.
I’m proud of the demonstrators who blocked the tram line that leads from Cologne airport into the city. This prevented hundreds of racists who had arrived by plane from getting into town.
I’m proud of the airport officials, who threw the racists out of the building when they tried to hold an improvised press conference there.
I’m proud of the teenagers who blocked the streets leading to Heumarkt.
I’m proud of the Cologne hotel manager who asked the racists to pack their bags and get out as soon as he found out who had checked in to his hotel.
An important step forward, but still a long way to go
I know that – even though the racists had to retreat this time, they still have a lot of popular support. In Cologne, in Germany, in Europe.
This time, the supporters were silenced by the massive protests.
But they are still among us. Silent now, but waiting.
The organizers of the “Anti-Islam-Conference” have already announced that they want to schedule another rally in the near future.
The public debate about multi-cultural society is far from over. Integration and tolerance remain difficult in Germany.
The people of Cologne have a nice sense of humor. They’ll even turn political protest against Neo-Nazis into a carnival.
Liberal groups in Cologne are calling on the people of the city to stage a mass bellydance on September 20th. They’re hoping that 11 000 dancers will swing their hips to oriental music in protest against a neo-Nazi rally planned for that day.
Right-wing organizations from all over Europe will be meeting in Cologne from September 19 – 21 for an anti-Islam convention.
Its “highlight” will be a rally in downtown Cologne. Notorious right-wing politicians from all over Europe will be there – including Jean-Marie Le Pen, the head of the French “Front National”, representatives of Italy’s Lega Nord, Belgium’s Vlaams-Belang and Austria’s FPÖ.
Not the kind of people I like to see in my home town.
And not the kind of event that’ll give the city good press.
Many citizens of Cologne are furious about this right-wing rally. But there’s no way to stop it. The authorities say it’s a legal political demonstration. They can only step in when speakers openly advocate racism or hatred.
So to show their opposition against this right-wing convention, the people of Cologne have decided to bellydance against Neo-Nazism.
I think that’s a much more imaginative idea than simply calling a counter-demonstration. Because the idea of a left-wing demonstration clashing violently with the right-wing demonstration doesn’t really turn me on either.
Everywhere you go, you’ll come across advertisements for Khan Bräu, for instance. The Khan Bräu brewery has been around since 1996. It’s run jointly by a German and a Mongolian.
Khan Bräu makes its beers in Mongolia, but they’re brewed in strict compliance with the German beer purity law. This law dates back to the year 1516 and dictates that beer should only be made from water, hops and malt.
Consequently, Khan Bräu imports its hops from Bavaria to give its beers that special German flavour.
But Khan Bräu doesn’t only make beers. It’s taken the German idea of Gemütlichkeit even further: Khan Bräu also runs a “Biergarten” restaurant in Ulan Bator. Here, they serve their Pilsener and dark beers and also classic German food specialties like Leberkäse and Bratwurst.
If you don’t have the time to sit down in the Khan Bräu beer garden for a hearty German meal, how about some fast food? You can stay with the German theme even if you just want some junk food: there are at least three fast food joints called Berlin Burger in Ulan Bator.
German meat products seem to have a pretty good reputation in Mongolia. In downtown Ulan Bator, you’ll see German-language billboards for the Makhimpex meat processing factory.
The German may be a little rough, but what this friendly butcher is trying to tell his Mongolian clientel is that he’s providing European quality and taste, but that his products are made in Mongolia.
They need a little help with their advertising
According to the Makhimpex website, the company slaughters and processes sheep, cows and horses. It also tells us that its daily production includes:
- 4 tonnes of blood
- 1 tonne of meat and bone meal
- 8 tonnes of blood meal
- 10 tonnes of food oil
Reading this, I’m glad once again that I’m a vegetarian.
Tune in to German radio
Maybe the Makhimpex meat processing company should try advertising on Ulan Bator’s German radio station? Yes, German radio also exists in the Mongolian capital.
Three Mongolian journalists put the programs together – with a little help from Germany’s foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle. The three have been on the air since March, 2008, and hope to reach a sizeable amount of the German-speaking crowd in Ulan Bator.
So far, they haven’t gotten much feedback from listeners, though. They want to improve their programs, however, and are willing to learn.
The Leipzig connection
One reason why German products and the German language play a role in Mongolia is that many Mongolians have personal ties to Germany.
Before the 1990’s, Mongolia was a staunch ally of the Soviet Union and had excellent connections to the other Eastern Block countries. One of these countries was communist East Germany.
Consequently, many Mongolians who wanted to study abroad went to the German Democratic Republic.
It’s estimated that some 30 000 Mongolians have been educated in Germany over the last half century. 30 000 may not sound like a lot – but if you keep in mind that Mongolia only has a population of less than three million, you realize that this “Leipzig connection” must be a pretty strong force in Mongolian society.
Most of the 30 000 Mongolians who studied at German universities now hold important positions in this country. They’re a powerful group in Mongolian society and most of them are pretty wealthy for Mongolian standards.
At least they make enough money to be able to afford German beer, Bratwurst and all the other things they grew to love while they were in Germany.
My cultural highlight this week was a visit to Kolumba in Cologne. This museum has been around for almost a year now, but you know how it is: when you’re not a tourist, when you live in a city, you never really get around to seeing the sights…
A couple of friends had already been to Kolumba’s new building, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. They’d all raved about the architecture and the exhibits.
But the fact that Kolumba is the art museum of the archbishopric of Cologne somehow didn’t help to get me excited about it.
Was I ever in for a surprise
Kolumba is very different from your average museum. One of the unusual ideas here is that the exhibits aren’t organized in a time line. You don’t walk through the ages and see how ideas and styles evolve over time.
Instead, pieces of art are juxtaposed: a medieval statue next to an Andy Warhol. A gilded baroque angel next to an abstract yellow painting. An elaborate silver reliquary from the 13th century next to a small meditative painting by Alexej Jawlensky from 1937 that’s almost completely black.
Architecture and art
It’s not just the juxtaposition that brings these works of art to life. It’s also the space that they’re given in this amazing architecture. The building is minimalist, yet spectacular. The architecture doesn’t take center stage, but works extremely well with the artworks.
Hardly any rooms in the museum are square – instead, Zumthor surprises you with new room shapes and heights at every turn you make.
A courtyard for contemplation
One of the most magical spots of the museum is a little courtyard, which used to be the graveyard of Kolumba church. Today, it’s a place for contemplation – fine white pebbles, some trees and some chairs.
When you sit down here and look around yourself, you see the ruins of the gothic Kolumba church that used to stand here until it was destroyed in World War II.
Behind these walls is a site that shows the excavated ruins of the medieval church, but also of the Roman houses that were there even before the church was built. Then you have some 1950′s architecture by Gottfried Böhm, who rebuilt parts of Kolumby church after the War. And finally, above all and holding it all together, is Zumthor’s 21st century architecture.
Giving art the space it needs
Another thing that adds to the Kolumba museum’s effect is that the rooms are not stuffed with all the artworks that the church surely owns – the curators limited themselves to a few exciting pieces. Some of them aren’t even by well-known artists, but seen in this context, they suddenly gain new impact.
You really start thinking about the art in a different way when you see it presented in this museum. It’s awe-inspiring, sublime, stunning.
I came out of that museum feeling inspired. Small. Grateful.
And I almost feel ashamed for having entered this shrine wearing camouflage shorts and flip flops.
More pictures here.