Thursday, July 31, 2014

Brassica oleracea var. sabellica L.

Summer is not the right season to write about Brassica oleracea var. sabellica L. vulgo kale or borecole in English and Grünkohl (green cabbage) or sometimes Braunkohl in German. We call Grünkohl a Wintergemüse (winter vegetable), so on my last two visits to the States I was greatly surprised to find kale in restaurants as a preferred salad.

Boerenkool by ©Rasbak (Wikipedia)
Why do I mention it? Today Alexander Hofmann wrote in the Badische Zeitung about: Grünkohl down under. Kale as superfood has now conquered the younger generation in Australia. There are kale smoothies, kale chips, and kale in pancakes. There is strong competition for kale leaves between the young people down under and those Australian rabbits so prices are soaring.

Why is this kind of cabbage so popular? We read in Wikipedia: Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium. Kale is a source of two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties.

The origin of the two English words kale and borecole is quite interesting. Kale comes from the Scandinavian kål and the German Kohl (cabbage) whereas borecole originates from the Dutch boerenkool and the Lower German Burenkohl (farmer's cabbage).

Kale is most popular in north-western Germany around the towns of Bremen, Oldenburg and Hannover. Following the first night of freezing temperatures* the kale leaves are harvested, cooked and stewed. The stew is eaten together with Bratkartoffeln (roasted potatoes), Kassler (smoked pork shop), Mettwurst sausage, or Pinkel (groats sausage).
*It is said that kale needs some frost to "sweeten" its somewhat bitter taste

Red Baron loves kale that unfortunately is mostly unknown in southern Germany. Every winter season I am tempted to take the train north for a real good meal of stewed kale.

Not enough kale but too much meat ©Wittkowsky (Wikipedia)
The picture taken from Wikipedia although gives a wrong impression: Red Baron prefers his dish with lots of kale, a few roasted potatoes, and just one sausage.

Is there some hope that, following the example of the Australians, my country fellows living below the Weißwurstäquator (the Main river) will eventually discover the virtues of kale?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wagenburgler News

Wagenburglers are people who have decided to live in caravans, old buses, and trailers. It is the characteristic to the Freiburg scene that they do not move around but rather like to occupy sites within the city boundary parking their "wheel estates" permanently. From July until September 2011 Red Baron wrote five blogs about Freiburg's Wagenburglers introducing those who at that time occupied the entrance to Freiburg's green suburb Vauban. I described their protests against an ultimatum the city had set to clear the site, the dramatic cleaning operation by the police, the sequels of their eviction, and their last gasps.

Although one of my blogs was titled Wagenburgers' End, when the police had eventually cleaned an illegally occupied site, it was clear that those who had been driven out would be looking for other plots of land to place their mobile homes.

Freiburg presently has three sites for Wagenburlers called Biohum, Eselwinkel, and Schattenparkerplatz with a total of 96 positions. They are all occupied. Private and official efforts to find additional permanent space for a group of 14 Wagenburglers called Sand im Getriebe (sand in the transmission) were not successful. Between July 2013 and the beginning of April 2014 their vehicles had been tolerated on a plot belonging to the Pädagogische Hochschule (PH or university for the formation of school teachers).

March 2014: Sand im Getriebe at the PH premises
However, with spring approaching the agreement with the director of the PH came to terms and the Wagenburglers found themselves not on the road but on the city streets again. Although they moved around quite a bit on several occasions they occupied parking space along public streets illegally for more than 24 hours. Eventually on April 14, the police sent towing services and confiscated the Sand im Getriebe vehicles. The city authorities may withhold them for periods up to six months.

April 14: Confiscating Sand im Getriebe's vehicles
On July 24, Mayor Dieter Salomon offered to Sand im Getriebe a plot of land near the Schattenparkerplatz  but they considered 400 square meters being to small for their gear. Red Baron too regards a plot of 20 meters times 20 meters as being marginal to squeeze in a good dozen of vehicles. Did Sand im Getriebe feel aggressed by the Mayor's offer?

It still came as a surprise when on the morning of July 26, and without any warning 150 persons occupied the site in Freiburg's suburb Hochdorf where the city had stored eleven of the confiscated vehicles belonging to Sand im Getriebe. The occupants declared their solidarity with their brothers in wheels and protested against the, what they called,  the illegal confiscation of April 14. The city considered the occupation of the Hochdorf site as trespassing and compulsion and called in the police. They cleared the place in the late evening. Ninety people involved in the occupation will face court action.

July 26: Occupation of the Hochdorf site and banners with mixed language:
Living in trailers is not a crime, stealing of our vehicles is.
July 26: Asking for more space for vehicles, everywhere.
Yesterday on July 27, a couple of Wagenburglers went downtown occupying the Rathaus square with their vehicles for a few of hours accusing the Freiburg authorities of a gezielte Hetze (incited propaganda) against alternative forms of living.

July 27: In front of the Rathaus: We are asking for a dialogue on equal terms.
Space for Wagenburglers is congenial to Freiburg.
All photos are ©Badische Zeitung
Freiburg is back to square one with its Wagenburglers.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Federalism and Trans-boundary Regions

For Europe the 19th and the early 20th century was a period of defining national identities. Nationalism was particularly virulent on the Balkan, called Europe's gunpowder barrel, leading on June 28, 1914, to the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne in Sarajewo. This spark not only ignited the Balkan but the explosion led to Europe's Urkatastrophe (seminal catastrophe).

It seems that after the Second World War Europe had eventually learned the lesson. Alcide De Gasperi, Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schumann were the architects of a European Community based on a common cultural and economic heritage. A good symbol is the Karlspreis, a medal named after Europe's founder, Charlemagne, and awarded in Aachen to persons for their efforts on behalf of European unification. Over the years the European Union incorporated more and more countries that are represented in a European Parliament. Today the old borders still exist but border checks are performed only at the so-called external frontiers with the European Union.

With European unification progressing people nevertheless want to live their identity. They love their village, their town, their region, their local dialect. Take the case of Bavaria as a grown historical region* being a state of the Federal Republic of Germany. Hamburg is a city with a rich history and proud to be a state in Germany too. Baden-Württemberg on the contrary initially had some difficulty to find its identity.
*This is true if one only considers the time after the Westphalian Peace Treaty that resettled the territorial map of Europe. Catholic Old Bavaria acquired the two Protestant Palatinas, the upper part also called Franconia. There is a movement that would like to create a new federal state of the same name.

Germany is lucky to have a naturally grown federal structure that is reflected by state boundaries. Other European countries have historical regions too like Scotland and Wales in the UK, Alsace and Brittany in France, Catalonia and the Basque region in Spain but these countries have strong centralized governments. In the European Union there is a tendency to build regions that sometimes cross old national borders as in the case of the Basque people.

Following the Hundred Years' War the French kings deprived the local dukes of their power and centralized the governmental activities in Paris. The city is still the pivot of all activities in France. The other day Red Baron probed the train connection from Karlsruhe to Lille in case he had missed the bus at Karlsruhe station. The classical solution offered by the Deutsche Bahn Navigator was to take the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV Est) from Karlsruhe to Paris and then the TGV Nord from Paris to Lille. When I forced the application to show the more direct connection Karlsruhe - Luxemburg - Lille I only saved on money but not on travel time.

France had started to decentralize its administration as early as 1955 creating 22 regions on the mainland but only in 1982 regional parliaments were created having limited competence.

The "classical" 22 regions in France (©Plavius, Wikipedia)
However, it turned out that with these 22 regions the administrative expense was still to high. So lately the National Assembly passed a law reducing the number of regions from 22 to only 14. That the culturally homogeneous Alsace was put together with Lorraine already found great resistance among the Alsatians but in the latest proposal the new region should incorporate the Champagne too. Will the beer and wine drinking Alsace welcome Champagne?

In the meantime the European Union patronizes trans-boundary cooperation based on historical structures. A most typical example is the Trinational Metropolitan Region on the Upper Rhine.

The people living on both sides of the river have never regarded the Rhine as a boundary but as a waterway used conjointly. For centuries, speaking the same Alemannic dialect, they had been related by a common economic and cultural heritage until, starting in the 17th century, governments thought otherwise.

Matthaeus Merian's map of the upper Rhine region dated 1658
Map of the Trinational Metropolitan Region on the Upper Rhine
turned by ninety degrees for easy comparison with the historical map above.
May the French eventually create their regional structure. At present European ambitions are faster.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Schiller's Genius

My readers know that Red Baron is a member of Freiburg's Museumsgesellschaft. Once a year the society organizes the Museumsreise, a three day excursion. My blog about our trip to southern Burgundy in 2012 still ranks second place when counting the all time visits of my blogs.

This year about thirty members traveled to Interlaken Switzerland, to attend the local Tellspiele. The play is based on Friedrich Schiller's drama Wilhelm Tell (William Tell) and performed outdoors. Schiller, the poet of freedom, wrote the ultimate play about the formation of the Schweizer Eidgenossenschaft (Swiss Confederation) born out of the fight for independence against the Habsburg rule: Wir wollen frei sein, wie die Väter waren (We want to be free as our fathers were).

Wilhelm Tell in the beginning not interested in the struggle for freedom became the symbol of Swiss resistance once Governor Gessler had threatened the physical integrity of his family in forcing him to shoot an apple from his son's head with his crossbow. Tell went so far to assassinate Gessler thus liberating his country fellows from the Habsburg yoke.

In the beginning: Rural idyll.
Forced labor: Building the stronghold for Governor Gessler.
Oath on the Rütli: We want to be a single folk of brothers.
Tell's arrest: He had refused to greet Gessler's hat visible on the pole.
Governor Gessler with a yellow cape on horseback.
On the left: The apple on Walter's head.
On the right: Usher watching Tell taking aim
further on the right at a distance of 80 steps.
Schiller's ideas about freedom were greatly influenced by the French Revolution but even more so by the American Declaration of Independence. While in France the third estate had reckoned with nobility and clergy guillotining them by hundreds Schiller deliberately, but somewhat artificially, included the latter in the strive for freedom, i.e., in Schiller's idealist view all Swiss eventually stand united.

Our group was lucky to have an expert in our ranks carving out Schiller's genius as Germany's poet of freedom and as a playwright in a lecture. In fact, in the 19th century Schiller was more popular than Goethe among Germany's Bildungsbürgern (educated citizens). No wonder that in the 20th century right and left wing governments tried to embrace Schiller's genius.

Corrupted in the Third Reich: Schiller as Hitler's comrade in arms.
Not for long. Hitler himself ordered a ban on William Tell on June 3, 1941
when he had sensed the reactions of the spectators
on the tyrannicide during a performance at Vienna's Burgtheater.

Abused in the GDR: He belongs to us: Schiller the poet of freedom.
Schiller was so popular that many a proverb in today's language is a direct quotation from Schiller's ballads and plays. Here are just a few:

Karl Mohr in Die Räuber (The Robbers) V,2: Dem Mann kann geholfen werden (This man can be helped).

Questenberg in Die Piccolomini (The Piccolomini) I,2: Was ist der langen Rede kurzer Sinn? (Is there any sense in this long sermon?)

Wrangel in Wallensteins Tod (Wallenstein's Death) I, 5: Ich hab' hier bloß ein Amt und keine Meinung (Here I merely have a task and no opinion).

Pappenheim in Wallensteins Tod (Wallenstein's Death) III,15: Daran erkenn' ich meine Pappenheimer (By this I recognize my Pappenheimers [his soldiers]).

Talbot in Die Jungfrau von Orleans (The Maid of Orleans) III,6: Mit Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens (With stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain).

Most of the most popular quotations are however taken from Wilhelm Tell:

Gertrud in I,2: Der kluge Mann baut vor (A wise man plans ahead).

Tell in I,3: Der Starke ist am mächtigsten allein (A strong man is most powerful alone).

Attinghausen in II,1: Ans Vaterland, ans teure, schließ dich an (Attach you to your dear fatherland).

Tell in III,1: Die Axt im Haus erspart den Zimmermann (An ax in the house saves the carpenter).

Tell in IV, 3: Auf diese Bank von Stein will ich mich setzen (I want to sit down on this bench of stone).

Tell in IV, 3: Mach deine Rechnung mit dem Himmel, Vogt (Settle your account with heaven, governor).


Red Baron in particular admires Schiller for his work as a historian. Today students still profit from reading his book about the History of the Thirty Years' War. It was Schiller's thorough research on this first of Europe's many tragedies that enabled him to write his epic drama-trilogy Wallenstein.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Council of Constance

In 2010 I had told you about Feierabend, a grouping of elderly people interested in computer activities who generally meet on the second Saturday of each month for a coffee morning. Some members even are more active arranging excursions, bicycle tours, and visits to museums or exhibitions in addition.



Last Friday I joined eighteen members of Feierabend to go by bus from Freiburg to Constance. There we were scheduled for a visit of the exhibition commemorating the Church Council of Constance that opened six hundred years ago on November 4, in the small city on the Lake* and closed four years later ending the Western Schism.
*sometimes affectionately called the Swabian Sea

Since the authorization of scheduled bus services over long distances in Germany many companies offer connections between cities particularly those that are badly connected by train service. To travel by train from Freiburg to Munich will take - in going to Mannheim first and change train - 4 hours and 30 minutes for a minimum of 75 euros in second class. The long distance bus (several companies are operating from Freiburg) will take you to Munich in 4 hours and 45 minutes for just 14 euros.

In case of Constance transport by bus is way ahead in all aspects. It will at least take two and a half hours from Freiburg to Constance changing trains twice and the fare is 47 euros. The direct bus with one stop at Singen covers the distance between the two cities in a mere one hour and 45 minutes and will cost between 8 and 11 euros.

In the present gold-rush mood competition is fierce between various bus companies serving Freiburg. In view of the low fares actually practiced experts are waiting for the first carrier to throw the towel.

The bus ride to Constance was on schedule and smooth. Our group arrived in the city that in comparison with other German cities is small but beautiful for it is nicely situated, as Dietrich von Nieheim attending the Church Council wrote in 1414.

Artist's impression: Constance 1414:  The warehouse at the bottom left was used for the conclave in 1417 when the cardinals elected Pope Martin V. The building now is wrongly called Konzilshaus and located one hundred meter inland. The negotiations took place in the Münster church (in the centre), in other churches, and in the Dominican monastery (building on the island right). 
The Council of Constance was a world conference and it is still a mystery how a city of 6000 inhabitants could house the 50,000 participants and furnish enough flaisch, visch, höw und haber (meat, fish, hay, and oats) to satisfy the needs of men and horses. And for further needs there were offene Frauen in den Frauenhäusern und sonst Frauen, die Häuser gemiethet hatten, und in den Ställen lagen oder sonst wo Platz fanden, seien gegen 700 da gewesen, ohne die heimlichen ("open" women in brothels and other women who had rented houses and lay in the stables or found space elsewhere, there were about 700 not counting the illegally present).
The Council under the spell of Imperia
(Statue at the entrance of Constance harbor)(©Fn78 Wikipedia)
The Council had to solve three enormous tasks. Get rid of three popes thus regaining the unity of the church (causa unionis), undertake necessary internal root-and-branch reforms (causa reformationis) urgently, and deal with basic questions of faith (causa fidei).

Three popes at a Constance fountain. Who carries the best polished tiara?
(©Anmargi Feierabend)
Burning Hus alive at the stake on July 6, 1415
The Council solved the first task in dethroning three popes and electing Martin V. as their one and only pope. Although the German King Sigismund was pressing the assembly for reforms the causa reformationis was not even touched upon and made Luther one hundred years later break with the Church. Johann Hus who had come from Prague to discuss the causa fidei was not even listened to but burned alive at the stake as a heretic, a fact that caused political unrest in Bohemia and led to the Hussite Wars. You may like to read more about the Council of Constance in German or in English.

 Like the outcome of the Council the exhibition in Constance was unsatisfying. The first part was just an collection of 15th century church treasures from all over Europe with explanations too small to read. The second part was better leading the visitor through the time sequence of the Council with columns standing for milestones showing dates and documents.

A Luther citation closes the exhibition: In Constance they roasted a goose (Hus means goose in Czech) but in one hundred years from now they will listen to a swan, singing, where Brother Martin clearly meant himself.