Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Global Warming and No End

Lately I saw a chart showing that only 41% of the Americans believe in a climatic change in spite of daily pictures of melting glaciers and severe weather situations with strong winds resulting in storm damage and with local heavy rainfalls causing flooding.

Even over here in Europe you meet climate change deniers. The other day I had a discussion with an architect saying that the world has often seen climatic changes in the past and survived. I answered him with a title of a well-known film about ALS: Yes, but not so much so fast and and I forgot to say: This time no ice bucket challenge will help.

Which are the two states in the US and Germany mostly concerned about climatic change? Yesterday night the US ambassador to Germany John. B. Emerson answered the question in his Carl Schurz Lecture Shaping the 21st Century Transatlantic Relationship: California and Baden-Württemberg. The reason surely must be viticulture as Red Baron had learned the day before yesterday in reading two articles in Der Spiegel (No44, Früchte des Zorns not yet online) and the Badische Zeitung.

When I attended a wine tasting seminar at the Staatliches Weinbauinstitut in Freiburg ten years ago the experts told us that they were working on grape varieties fit to grow in warmer climates. In his book 1000 Years of Annoying the French written in 2010 Stephen Clarke hoped for better deals on champagne in England in the future with global warming causing ideal producing conditions shifting north from France towards vineyards with similar soil on the other side of the Channel.

In my youth wine growers in Germany desperately tried to accumulate as much sugar as possible in their grapes by harvesting late. Praising their Spätlese (late vintage) wines they still had to add sugar to reach the necessary degrees Oechsle.

Times and climate have changed. With global warming budding and flowering of grapes has shifted in Baden to earlier dates in the year. In addition grapes are now harvested early when sugar and acid are in an ideal equilibrium.

What may still be good for the quality of wine in Baden turns into a nightmare for winegrowers in France. As I learned; for them the increase in temperatures during the day is not the problem but the warmer nights are. Warmer winters too make that grapevines do no longer come to rest. As one vintner said: Grapevines must sleep; otherwise they are stressed and this has a direct influence on the quality of the wine. In the progressively warmer French climate grapes reach a high sugar content early in the year with the build-up of tannine and enzymes lagging behind thus changing the character of a terroir dramatically. Will we still be able to sip at a Medoc, Pomerol, Pauillac, Meursault, Chablis, Pommard having the same taste in ten years from now?

French winegrowers need not see pictures of polar bears on diminishing ice floes or of Bangladesh under water. They already know: Le changement climatique, il est là.

What will happen to my favorite Riesling growing on the south side of Freiburg's Schlossberg?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Netzwerk Geschichtsvereine

On October 11, Red Baron took the train to Lörrach. Lörrach is a small town south of Freiburg on the Swiss border. The Netzwerk Geschichtsvereine (network of history societies) had invited to their annual meeting at the Dreiländermuseum (Museum of three countries). The network encourages the writing of a common history for the upper Rhine region in promoting the collaboration between history societies in France, Germany, and Switzerland. There are actually more than 430 local associations in the three countries dealing with (in particular) regional history. At the meeting many people stressed that the Trinationale Metropolregion am Oberrhein (Metropolis of three nations on the upper Rhine) is a region with a common history. At the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century this common heritage that had existed over centuries was replaced by national borders. The Rhine river became the dividing line instead of being the symbol of common roots in culture and trade.

Presently there are 35 exhibition in the region commemorating the Great War. The Dreiländermuseum in Lörrach had conceived an appropriate exhibition showing the impact of the war on the people who had lived together crossing the existing borders without showing passports or other documents before 1914. When shortly after the outbreak of the war Germany closed its borders thousands of Alsatians in the Reichsland* were suddenly cut off their work in neutral Basel. The border between France and Germany running on the crest of the Vosges mountains that had been loosely patrolled before now became the front line between the two countries. In spite of great efforts and enormous losses on both sides in men and material the front did not move until the end of the war.
*the German speaking part of France that Germany had annexed in 1871 following France's defeat in the War of German Unity

Here are some examples of how the region felt before and during the war:

Warding off the danger in drinking La Menthe-Pastille (©DLM)
The French producer of the liquor had intended to publish an advertising poster on the occasion of the Third Hague Conference of 1914. When the Conference was postponed to 1915 and therefore did not take place the firm withdrew the poster. On the left Kaiser Wilhelm II tries to feed the "sick man on the Bosporus" (Turkey) with the liquor while the Austrian  Emperor Franz-Joseph dreamwalks behind the scene. King  George V stands on the right in the back with a glass in one and his navy in the other hand. Tsar Nicholas II caresses Serbia's Premier Nikola Pašic who tries to bring the smaller Balkan states under Serbian rule while the Belgian King is raising a warning finger. Finally on the left French Prime Minister Aristide Briand is proposing a toast.

The free circulation of persons between France, Germany, and Switzerland before 1914
 is demonstrated in the postcard above.
Military personnel poses at the border stone marking the Three Country-Point ...(©DLM)
... that is not located near Basel
 but at Pfetterhausen deep in former French Upper-Alsace (©DLM)
Six friends from the three countries met in Porrentruy, Switzerland, in 1910,
posing for a photo wearing their French, German, and Swiss uniforms.
They were no comrades in arms ... (©MP)
... in particular when four years later the Pickelhaube fought the képi ... (©DLM)
... and Swiss soldiers were protecting their border (©DLM)
Nevertheless, wounded soldiers from both camps
were treated in neutral Switzerland in the spirit of the Red Cross (©DLM)

Monday, October 20, 2014


In a previous blog I mentioned the territorial restructuring in France where the government wants to reduce the number of "regions" from 22 to 13. This should in principle economize administrative expenditures.

The "classical" 22 regions in France (©Plavius, Wikipedia)

From the beginning the formation of a greater Alsace-Lorraine-Champagne-Ardenne region was unpopular but the opposition became virulent in neighboring Alsace when Minister-President Valls said: There is no Alsatian people, there is only a French nation. Once more in history the Alsatians saw their identity compromised.

Before the French King Louis XIV occupied the Alsace following the Thirty Year's War the region had belonged to the Holy Roman Empire. The inhabitants on the other side of the Rhine river spoke and some still speak a German dialect: Do werd noch elsassisch gredd (We still speak Alsatian here).

Touche pas à l'Alsace (©AFP)
Napoleon could not care less about languages when he recruited some of his best generals (Kellermann, Ney, Scherb, Walther) in Alsace: They are welcome as long as they fence like the French. The situation became stressed when after the annexation of the region by the German Reich in 1871 Germany forced its Germanisation. In freely using their language again the majority of the population appreciated the change until the Alsatians noticed that they were treated as second class Germans. In the Great War Alsatians fought in the German and French armies against each other. When after the war the French took over the Alsace again their policy was the forcing of the French language and culture. With the reconciliation between France and Germany after the Second World War the Alsatians started to define their identity as the hinge between the two cultures.

The plan of the Paris administration to throw Alsace-Lorraine-Champagne-Ardenne into one basket the Alsatians felt as a slap in their face in particular as the government did not touch the regional borders of Corsica and Brittany. They call le rattachement de l'Alsace à la Lorraine et à la Champagne-Ardenne a forced Anschluss. Would it better for the Alsace instead of the ménage à trois (love? triangle) to be married with the Lorraine only or is this combination a reminiscence of the affiliation of the region to the Second Reich?

In the meantime the Alsatians have abbreviated the name of the new region to Elsagne (Alsagne).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Where Shall We Store Our Radioactive Waste?

From September 20 to 22, 2014 the Deutsch-Schweizer Fachverband für Strahlenschutz (Swiss-German Radiation Protection Association) held a symposium in Mainz dealing with the topic: Zwischenlager - Dauerlager - Endlager: Wohin mit unserem radioaktiven Abfall? (Intermediate, permanent and final storage: Where shall we store our radioactive waste?)

After fourteen years of absence from the radiation protection scene Red Baron took the ICE train to Mainz ordering as usual the pot of coffee and the notorious Butterkuchen. While waiting to be served I opened my iPad to read the latest edition of the Badische Zeitung (BZ) online. I quickly passed over national and international political news that I had already read from other sources and concentrated on Freiburg's locals.

When I opened the page with the letters to the editor I was shocked reading the following title: Sie sollen den radioaktiven Müll in ihre Gärten oder Parkanlagen aufnehmen (They should take the radioactive waste to store it in their gardens and parks). In his letter to the BZ the writer accused operators, banks, share holders, and politicians being the profiteers of atomic energy while they were downplaying the radioactive waste produced in nuclear power reactors. The author suggested that these people shall proof that radioactivity is as harmless as they had propagated. They should be forced to live in atomic ghettos loaded with radioactive waste where they shall eat their home grown vegetables. It is not fair that some people had earned big money with electricity produced by nuclear power while we who had nothing to say must now take the rap for it.

The word "ghetto" reminded me of Germany's darkest past and drove me nuts. I started drafting an answer immediately. However considering that anger is a bad counselor I decided to wait for the outcome of the symposium before writing a letter to the BZ.

In 1962 Germany's first nuclear power plant in Kahl had been connected to the grid and since then everybody and not only operators of nuclear reactors has profited from the electricity produced. When Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and his Atomminister Franz Josef Strauß propagated Atoms for Peace in my country in 1955 they found a wide societal support. As time went by more and more nuclear power stations were built and produced electricity without endangering the population until 2011. In that year the Federal Government shocked by the Fukushima catastrophe decided the phasing out of nuclear energy in Germany. Now the installations already shut-down and those still to be decommissioned must be stripped down and the radioactive material be safely disposed of. To finance this work operators of nuclear power station had to build up reserves over the years that by now amount to several billion euros.

Before the symposium started the executive board of the Fachverband gave a press conference with Red Baron sitting in the back listening. Presently spent fuel elements and other radioactive material are safely kept in intermediate storage near the reactor stations. The radioactivity is cooling down and waiting for a final storage that we all need. Even people that always have been and still are opposed to nuclear power must admit that our generation having profited from nuclear energy must clean up the radioactivity and not leave the job to our descendants. Germany needs a final repository. The next day a well balanced article in the Rhein Main Presse had the attention-grabbing headline: Wohin mit dem radioaktiven Gift? (Where to place the radioactive poison?). The author wanted to be sure that people read his column but somewhat spoiled the issue.

Indeed, the question is where can we find places to safely store material still presenting a hazard in more than 100,000 years? Such a choice not only needs our consent but that of future generations too. Germans stoke their Angst and trust their Bauchgefühl (gut feeling) so it will be difficult to reach the same general consent on a repository as in the case of the entry in and exit out of nuclear power.

The Federal Government has set up a commission of 33 persons to deal with the deposition of highly-radioactive waste according to the Standortauswahlgesetz (Law for selecting a site). The German government called scientists, members of environmental associations, representatives of the Churches!!, economy, trade unions, members of parliament and state governments into the commission to find a consensus on a site until December 31, 2015. In their initial sessions the members of the commission lost their time on points of order; so I doubt that they will meet the deadline set by the government.

I got a reaction to my letter to the editor in which the writer nearly duck the issue of the safe depository. Instead he started his letter with a general discussion on nuclear energy mentioning among other things the victims who had died from incorporating radioactivity while mining uranium or reprocessing fuel elements. When further on he denounced reactor research that is still performed in Germany he had definitely opened the can of nuclear worms or shall I rather say Pandora's Atomic Box? Remember: I had only asked for a national consent on a depository for highly radioactive waste, a safe site to bury our sins? of the past.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What's Brewing

was the title of a beer workshop Freiburg's Carl-Schurz-Haus had organized last week. Red Baron had registered early and was later asked whether he intended to show up. The reason was that the workshop was overbooked, so the director of the Carl-Schurz-Haus eventually decided to organize an additional one.

In earlier blogs, I had lamented about the dullness of German beer and later described some highly welcome craft beer startups in Germany. To a certain extent, the workshop was a continuation of my beer tasting in April 2012 at Toni's place and of a pub crawl in Madison at the beginning of September 2013 when an over-hopped Hopalicious beer had numbed my taste buds for hours.

At the What's Brewing Workshop, our masters of ceremony were two beer experts, one from Belgium and one from California. The following graphic shows the fantastic world of beers. Even if you cannot read the names, the diversity of brewing is impressive.

On the menu, our sommeliers had put eight different kinds of beer. Their tasting was accompanied by scientific and historical comments and video clips. In the end, one participant had lined up one can and seven bottles for a photo shooting.

Here comes a short description of the beers we tasted. We started with a traditional American Blue Ribbon Beer. It reads: This is the original Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Nature's choicest products provide its prized flavor. Only the finest of hops and grains are used. Selected as America's Best in 1893.

Next came an Anchor Steam Beer from San Francisco, a beer first brewed at the Anchor Brewery in 1896.

We continued with a Liberty Ale also produced by the Anchor Brewing Company, an Indian pale ale (IPA) first brewed in 1975 commemorating the American Revolution 200 years earlier.

The Post Road Pumpkin Ale was next. It is brewed by the Brooklyn Brewery. The ale was already celebrated in 1643 with the first American folk song: For we can make liquor, to sweeten our lips, of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.

The Schneider Weisse Tap 5 for me was a perversity. Wheat beers are typical summer drinks like the Berliner Weiße or the Bavarian Weizenbier. If you do not like the alcohol, there are alcohol-free varieties for hikers and bikers who, rather like Weizenbier, as a refreshing isotonic drink, replenishing lost minerals in their body.

There is a distinct difference in taste between a normal and an alcohol-free wheat beer: alcohol surely serves as a flavor enhancer. However, when I took a sip of the Schneider Weisse Tap 5, I tasted alcohol only. Once the famous physicists Isidor Isaac Rabi had asked the pertinent question: Who ordered that muon? Because that elementary particle is not needed to create the world we live in. Let me add here: Who ordered that Schneider Weisse Tap 5 with its alcohol content of 8.2%?

Red Baron studying a label (©Carl-Schurz-Haus)
Black Chocolate Stout from 1999 brewed by the Brooklyn Brewery contains caramel, and as the beer hunter Michael Jackson once stated: The ultimate dessert beer. This stout tastes like Sacher Torte, the dark chocolate and apricot cake of Vienna.

The next one was an Original Ritterguts Gose. A gose is a top-fermented beer and in its early form conforms to the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot (purity law) of 1516: To any beer, no more ingredients than barley, hop, and water shall be taken and used. In my blog from 2011, I remarked that they had forgotten the yeast. Well, what is common today was not known in the primitive days of beer brewing. The prepared mash tun was left open to the surrounding air until (mostly) lactose bacteria started the fermentation, eventually leading to a beer with a sour taste. Nowadays, a controlled mixture of beer yeast and lactose bacteria is added to the mash resulting in a gose of consistent quality. As you may imagine, a gose tastes a little sour and was particularly appreciated by Wolfgang Goethe when he was a student at Leipzig University.

The word gose comes from the town of Goslar where the beer was first documented. Gose is not to be confused with the Belgian geuze, where the name instead refers to the carbon dioxide gas.

The highlight of the evening was the Black Sheep IPA 2014, a beer unlike the rest of the flock. We read on their website the following expertise: Our Black Sheep IPA is what you get when four brewers from three different continents collaborate and hit the beer scene in Freiburg. It has an abv of 6.9%, yet it is dangerously smooth. Amarillo and Simcoe hops give our beer an explosion of flowery and citrus aroma, backed by a spicy finish that leaves you longing for another sip. The Black Sheep IPA is the first craft beer from Freiburg, it is brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot with color, aroma, and taste all it's own. It is massively hopped, unabashedly bold, and uniquely refreshing.

Thanks to our sommeliers, I learned a lot about beers I did not know before. Tomorrow I shall be in Munich putting my newly acquired knowledge into practice.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


No, this blog is not about a fest in winter time.

In recent years it became a custom or should I rather say an annoying custom that "lovers" decorate bridge railings with padlocks. A few months ago this practice had a dramatic effect on a bridge in the City of Love (where else?) when due to the additional load one of the railings broke and fell into the Seine river.

Cologne is not Paris. The following photo with the cathedral in the background I took on Hohenzollernbrücke four years ago,

but this is nothing compared with what my son saw in the Netherlands on a bridge over a canal in Amsterdam a week ago.

Freiburg had been spared somewhat. Only recently a few padlocks appeared on the Luisensteg footbridge spanning the Dreisam river.

When I passed the footbridge yesterday I was surprised. Lovers had crocheted a sort of wristlet for the handrail. Well, with the cold season approaching is it not quite natural to make the handrails winterfest (winter proof)?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Old Hartmann

When you plan to visit the war memorial of the Hartmannsweilerkopf in the south of Alsace, beware. You will only find road signs in French to Le vieil Armand (The old Hartmann).

The day before yesterday Red Baron went with the Feierabend crowd to visit the site of the Hartmannsweilerkopf where particularly in the beginning of the Great War the fight for the strategic height between the French and the Germans took a high death toll. Later the war on the Vosges developed into a trench warfare as everywhere on the western front.

The entrance to the war memorial is protected by two guardian angels.

Deep underground the chapel contains three altars, a Catholic altar in the middle,

Queen of the martyrs, console the afflicted
a Protestant on the left hand side,

I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live,
even though they die (John 11:25).
The swastika were explained being a Lutheran symbol?? 
and a Jewish altar on the right.

Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain,
that they may live (Ezekiel 37: 5,9)

Here is a color photo taken of the Hartmannsweilerkopf in 1915! on the German side:

All the trees are annihilated
The soldiers lived in bunkers,

fought in trenches,

and some survived in holes.

Later Mother Nature covered the graves of those killed with fresh green,

An early color photo
until much later those corpses identified were reburied and lined up in rows. The unidentified rest (about 15,000  men) was placed in a common grave below the memorial.

View from the memorial into the Rhine valley
Walking up the hill to the memorial

After the Wehrmacht had occupied the Alsace in 1940 Nazi governor Robert Wagner ordered the war memorial to be dynamited. When a mayor from a nearby village informed the Gauleiter that possibly also bones of German soldiers repose in the common grave below the monument Wagner rushed to the Hartmannsweilerkopf making it just in time. The sappers had already placed dynamite into the bore holes. Disappointed the troops found some consolation in destroying the Jewish altar.

Hollande and Gauck on top of the monument (©Merkur)
Last month French president François Hollande and his German counterpart Joachim Gauck met at the Hartmannsweilerkopf. In the past Gauck had frequently asked for a common remembrance of both nations, a proposal Hollande had refused because for him La Grand Guerre is a French affair. Eventually François gave in and the two presidents laid the corner stone for a French-German museum commemorating the First World War together.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Into the Scrap Press

Last Saturday 400 people demonstrated in Freiburg in favor of the Wagenburglers, i.e., those people who like to live in vehicles instead of apartments. As you know by now they are always looking for space to park their rust buckets within the city boundaries. Red Baron had previously reported about the guerilla war between the Wagenszene (vehicular-scene) and the city authorities.

For the vehicles the police had confiscated in March the retention time of six months is running out on October 13, when the city will send the vehicles to the scrap press. So members of the group Sand im Getriebe (Sand in the Transmission) marched through the streets shouting Für die Freiheit, für das Leben, Wagenplätze muss es geben (For freedom and living, space for vehicles must be provided) and showing a banner Autoritäre Stadtpolitik in die Schrottpresse! Sand im Getriebe bleiben! (Put the city's authoritarian policy into the scrap press! Sand in the Transmission will remain!).

©Der Sonntag
Fact is that all parties in Freiburg's city council pay lip service supporting the living style of the Wagenburglers but when in the past it came to a commitment the city council offered a mere 400 square meters to Sand im Getriebe, a surface the latter claim being too small to park their 20 vehicles.

The feud continues with the authorities being greatly surprised for they had counted only 10 vehicles whereas in the previous round-table discussions the participants had even so considered 15.

The space problem will possibly be put off until later for the left leaning parties in Freiburg's city council have asked Mayor Salomon to postpone the scrapping of the confiscated vehicles by one month. Shall I keep you informed about the development?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

More about Merkel's Rhombus

In an earlier blog I deliberated on Merkel's rhombus. Whenever Angela addresses a crowd here hands form a rhombus possibly a sign of concentration.

The latest gossip goes in the direction that our chancellor is forming the sign for the female reproductive organ. I his blog Anatol Stefanowitch, professor of linguistics! in Berlin, however shows that vagina in the German Sign Language is not at all an open rhombus.

In the American Sign Language the sign for the vagina is a rhombus but it is flipped with the index fingers pointed toward the ground, the thumbs toward the sky and the other fingers tucked under as presented in the following picture:

Note the difference! Angela is not tucking her fingers under as Professor Stefanowitch stresses in his blog Merkels versaute Raute (Merkel's filthy or rather screwed up? rhombus).

Swiss Sign Language (©AS)
Michel Obama (©LDCB)

In the Swiss Sign Language, however, the vagina is presented by a rhombus but again the fingers are not tucked under.

In addition the web site Life During the Commercial Break presents a picture of Michelle Obama. She is, as they write, showing us her family values.