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Indian Summer in Bavaria

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Bavaria’s Lower Franconia region is picture-book Germany. The Main river snakes through the landscape, passing rolling hills, vineyards and picturesque villages and towns. This region around Würzburg, Aschaffenburg and Kitzingen is especially beautiful in fall, when the leaves are turning and the grapes are heavy on the vines.

These photos were taken near Escherndorf and Kitzingen on the Main River and on Schwanberg.

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Written by Thorsten

October 3, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Feels like fall (2012 edition)

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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…

Written by Thorsten

October 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Posted in observations, this and that

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Don’t demolish the Cologne theater (Schauspielhaus)

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Please support the petition against the destruction of the Cologne Theater or Schauspielhaus. http://mutzukultur.de/

Photo: SurfGuard/flickr

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/

Written by Thorsten

January 6, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Bonn freezes over

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It’s unusually cold in Bonn, Germany. The streets are icy and the ground is covered with snow.

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.

Written by Thorsten

January 5, 2010 at 11:41 am

Oktoberfest in Phnom Penh – it’s Munich on the Mekong

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Oktoberfest in Phnom PenhI’ve never been to Munich’s Oktoberfest.

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.

Oom-pah music in Phnom PenhImagine an authentic Bavarian band playing German beer-drinking music and Alpine yodelling songs to a crowd largely made up of Asians.

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!).

dirndl and fish-net stockingsOne thing I loved was how Asia’s Tiger brewery decked local waitresses out in very loose interpretations of Bavarian dirndl dresses.

waitress posingI don’t know if the fish-net stockings are what a Bavarian matron would wear to church on Sundays…

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.

Written by Thorsten

October 10, 2009 at 4:42 am

Nobel Peace Prize laureate speaks out on Iran

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Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi Photo: deutsche welle / flickr

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi Photo: deutsche welle / flickr

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.”

Journalists attending Shirin Ebadi's press conference Photo: deutsche welle / flickr

Journalists attending Shirin Ebadi's press conference Photo: deutsche welle / flickr

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.

Shirin Ebadi giving a radio interview Photo: deutsche welle / flickr

Shirin Ebadi giving a radio interview Photo: deutsche welle / flickr

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.”

Feels like fall

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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.

Written by Thorsten

November 7, 2008 at 7:59 pm

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