Sunday, June 21, 2015


It is general knowledge that Europe imported the potato from South America about 400 years ago and that Frederick the Great made enormous efforts to introduce this staple food in Prussia. Potatoes fed Prussia's growing population and made its food supply less dependent on the harvesting of cereal grains.

Frederick inspecting the harvesting of his favorite staple food
that the farmers subserviently present to the "potato king".
Rumors were frequently spread that Frederick's troops were superior to other armies solely fed on cereal grains because of the potato (not spinach!) diet of the Prussian grenadiers.

Frederick on the eve of the Battle of Torgau (1760) that he nearly lost.
Somewhat dreamily he observes a country lass boiling potatoes on an open fire.
Did the miracle tuber perhaps save Frederick's upcoming day?
Potatoes are still popular in Europe. Here in Germany kids in particular adore them in the form of pommes frites (French fries) called Pommes rot with ketchup or Pommes weiß with mayonnaise or even Pommes rot-weiß. Another popular preparation is frying sliced potatoes in a pan.

Following the white asparagus season ending at Sankt Johannis (June 24) restaurants in the Freiburg region seamlessly continue with Brägel weeks in the beginning of July before the chanterelle season takes over. Brägel are not to be confused with Brägele that are generally considered to be like Bratkartoffeln (home fries) as served in northern Germany. And then there are still the Rösti in Switzerland.

Let us work on the difference of all these delicious potato dishes and start with Brägel. Brägel are made from thinly grated boiled potatoes that are formed into a patty, seasoned with pepper and salt, and baked in a pan on both sides using Schmalz (lard).

Brägel (©Hochschwarzwälder Brägelwochen 2015)
This sounds like Rösti, but the Swiss speciality is made instead from raw potatoes.

Rösti (©Wikipedia/Musskelprozz)
Some people take the word Brägele to be a diminutive of Brägel but they are mistaken. Brägele served here in Freiburg are sliced potatoes. The slices are fried in a pan with bacon and onions and are called Bratkartoffeln (home fries) in High German.

Brägele with Wiener Schnitzel (©fudder)
Red Baron's experience is that Brägele are not as tasty as Bratkartoffeln served in the north of Germany. Why is it so? I can only guess. It seems judging from the consistency of the fried potatoes that Brägele are generally made from boiled potatoes whereas in the north Bratkartoffeln are usually made from raw potatoes. This means that Bratkartoffeln come out crustier and have more bite (al dente) than Brägele.

Here are Bratkartoffeln (home fries) I had in Hamburg last year
with gebratene Pfifferlinge (chanterelles sautées) served with Rührei (scrambled eggs).
I have never had Brägel so far but it would be interesting to taste the difference to Rösti.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 9

Red Baron just learned that June 9 indeed is a very special day not only for him. Two hundred years ago the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna was signed definitely ending the Napoleonic rule in Europe.

Signing the Final Act in 1815
The Final Act also meant the end of 600 years of Austrian reign over the Breisgau; Freiburg was degraded to a provincial city in the Grand Duchy of Baden. Already from the start the Freiburgers had not liked the change from the milde Hand Österreichs (Austria's mild had) to the Baden rule that Napoleon had decreed in the Treaty of Pressburg in December 1805 when the winner of the Battle of Austerlitz decided: Sa Majesté l'empereur d'Autriche cède et abandonne à son Altesse l'électeur de Bade le Brisgau, l'Ortenau et leur dépendances (His Majesty the Austrian Kaiser yields and transfers the Breisgau, the Ortenau, and their dependences to his Highness the Prince-Elector of Baden).

In the run-up to the Vienna conference the Freiburgers did everything to stem the tide. A delegation of Freiburg's city council visited the Austrian Emperor Franz when he paused in Basel on his way back from Paris to Vienna in June 1814. They subserviently begged "Him" for the reunification of the city and its surroundings with the Austrian Empire. In an audience the emperor fed the men with hopes about a restoration although a decision would still take a couple of months. In the meantime the Breisgauers should remain calm, obedient, refraining from any public demonstrations.

In spite of those warnings the city council had a medal struck showing on one side the Minster church and bearing the following inscription: In remembrance of the reunification of the Breisgau with Austria, Freyburg 1814. Following the warning of the emperor about a possible delay the year was later changed to 1815.

The other side of the medal shows a bust of Franz I on a pedestal with his people hailing him: To Franz I in loyalty and love. On the pedestal you can barely read: Our wishes are fulfilled. This medal issued by the city supposed to be loyal to the House of Baden is known in Freiburg's history as the Hochverratsmedaille (high treason medal).

Eventually the decision-makers at the Congress of Vienna put the final nail into the Freiburg coffin. Austria abandoned the far-away Breisgau for the nearby Salzburg territories. This also meant that Austrian Chancellor Metternich cleverly left the watch against the "arch-enemy" France on the Upper Rhine to the Prussians, happy to acquire new territories on the Lower Rhine. In fact, the carefully adjusted balance of power on the continent achieved in Vienna lasted 51 years until 1866, the year of the fraternal war between Austria and Prussia.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Being 80!

Hätten anfangs soweit zu kommen nicht vermeint (Couldn't have imagined at the outset I would go so far). This statement attributed to the Swedish Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna I used previously when somewhat astonished I announced the publication of my 250th blog just one year ago on June 8, 2014.

Today I think back and particularly remember my friends and relatives who did not have the chance to go so far. In my contacts I place all those deceased in a special category, a list that is getting longer as time goes by. In my case quite naturally die Einschläge kommen näher (the blows strike even nearer) but so far I have been lucky to have ridden them out.

Although as you would expect some physical problems haunt me, my brain still functions except for those names I tend to forget. In the meantime telephone calls are coming in at a rapid rate and I got a number of e-mails with good wishes.

What, no snail mail? Following the strikes of the Lufthansa pilots, the train drivers of the Deutsche Bahn, and the employees of the Kitas (Kindertagestätten = day care centers), the mail(wo)men walked out yesterday "indefinitely". Nevertheless this morning I received the best wishes of our mayor and Freiburg's city council sent by private mail service not affected by the strike.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What Do You Expect?

The next and 21st Climate Summit Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris won't take place in Paris until November but already now columnists are writing articles about the meeting.

So far these summits that started in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 uniting hundreds heads of states and of governments as well as environmental and energy ministers have produced many statements on climatic goals but no positive results. On the contrary, since 1992 global COemissions have increased by 56% and Red Baron is convinced that COP21 will not turn the tide.

Change of COemissions for various countries and the globe
 between 1990 and 2013 (©Die Welt)
While between 1990 and 2013 the European Union and Russia* decreased their CO2 output all the other countries in particular those in development increased their greenhouse gas emissions considerably. The European Union has already invested billions of euros in renewable energies but all those efforts compensate for the increase of greenhouse gases in China alone by only 8%.
*It was easy for the Russians to increase their energy efficiency. Red Baron had experienced the wasting of energy under the Communist regime. Overheating badly insulated buildings by using cheap coal-generated energy seemed to be the only luxury for the people in those times.

There are new ideas about how to invest in the limitation of COemissions more intelligently than up to now. It will indeed be more cost-effective to re-afforest regions in Africa or Asia than to insulate buildings in industrialized countries further; but do you really think that the West will spend its money on such measures?

CO2-output for the most important "emitters" between 1990 and 2013 (©Die Welt)
Another proposal is to make China not looking so bad. So why not redefine the reference year taking the year 2013 as the basis instead of 1990 for the upcoming negotiations on a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions? We may indeed hope that the Middle Kingdom due to badly felt air pollution and its limited reserves of coal will not continue to increase its COoutput.

World reserves of fossil fuels and coal reserves of selected countries (©BP)
For me these proposals are just eyewash. While our first chancellor after the war, Konrad Adenauer, always warned in his Rhenish accent about the Soffjetunion (the Soviet Union) one of his successors Kurt Georg Kiesinger later had a vision when he shouted while hammering his knuckles on the lectern: Ich sage nur China, China, China (I only say China, China, China). Indeed, who will predict China's line of approach to global warming?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Fiat Lux

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light (Genesis 1:3)


Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night: God said, Let Newton be! and all was light  an epitaph Isaac Newton's admirer Alexander Pope had formulated but the church authorities did not allow to be put on Newton's monument in Westminster Abbey.

In 2013, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015). The aim is to raise awareness about how these technologies provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health.

Red Baron had prepared a blog about the IYL at the beginning of the year but then he felt that a serious plug was missing.

In today's Badische Zeitung I read an article about the replacement of incandescent halogen spotlights with LED spotlights in Freiburg's museums. They are late in doing so for Red Baron had changed the halogen spotlights in his apartment already one year ago. This exchange was not without problems with respect to light output and stability of the LED spotlights. Low price LEDs tend to flicker when connected to high current 12 volts DC power supplies intended for halogen spotlights. Better and more expensive brands of LED spotlights cure this phenomenon with built-in electronic circuits.

Two LED spotlights and a smoke detector
Due to the different angles of light emission always opt for replacements with a higher light output. A warm white (2700 K) halogen spotlight of 35 watts has an output of 350 lumen and a lifetime of 1500 hours. The recommended LED replacement with a 15,000 hour lifetime consumes only 6.8 watts for the same light output. Red Baron however considers that physiologically a warm white LED spotlight of 8 watts and 420 lumen is required to make you forget a 35 watts halogen spotlight.

Do not think that you will make an immediate economy when replacing your "heating" spotlights with "cool" LEDs. First you must consider the electrical power consumption where you only pay about 10 cent per kilowatt hour in the States compared with Germany where the price is double. Secondly you replace your halogen spotlight ten times more often than the LED counterpart but with the latter being up to twenty times more expensive than the halogen light.

From the article in the BZ Red Baron learned that there are other advantages of LED over halogen spotlights: The former emit no UV-light and no heat. Both characteristics are important when sensitive objects of art are illuminated. The replacement of halogen spotlights in Freiburg's museums will cost more than half a million euros leading to a yearly economy in the electricity bill of 30,000 euros. This covers the energy aspects of the IYL 2015.

Here is some cultural information about light. Goethe's famous last words on March 22, 1832, were: More light, more light. For more than 150 years literary scholars have claimed that he had asked that the shutters in his darkened Sterbezimmer (the room where he died) be opened.

A modern less romantic interpretation is that Goethe's brain deprived of oxygen answered with a release of endorphins and the poet's mind had entered - what people who have survived their NDE (near death experience) often described - the tunnel of light.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Dino Is Alive

Red Baron is sure that my American friends know soccer although they possibly prefer football. The resident director of the American students who were here in Freiburg spending their Academic Year (AYF) in 2014/2015 was a fan of the SC Freiburg, the leading local soccer team. Until two weeks ago the SC Freiburg played in the Bundesliga (Federal Soccer League) but having lost too often and being in the next-to-last position of the standings at the end of the season the team was relegated to second league together with the FC Paderborn who ended last. As usual the Bayern of Munich were at the top of the Bundesliga and subsequently German soccer champion. No wonder, they are the richest soccer club in Germany and can afford to buy the best players.

A Bundesliga of 18 soccer teams was founded in 1962, gathering the best teams in Germany at that time. Naturally the HSV, the team from Hamburg, having dominated soccer in the northern part of Germany was selected. In fact, the HSV as a founding member of the Bundesliga is the only team that has played in the first league from its beginning without ever being relegated into the second league. The HSV displays a clock in its stadium. For nearly 52 years the Dino, as the club is also called, has stayed in the Bundesliga.

©Axel Heimken/dpa
As I mentioned before, at the end of the soccer season the bottom two teams of the Bundesliga are relegated to the second league with the two first teams of the latter being promoted into first league. In addition the third but last team of the Bundesliga plays the third team of the second league for relegation from or promotion into the first league. It happened already last year and again this year that the Dino had to play the relegation. To make a long story short: Yesterday night the HSV just barely avoided its relegation into the second league this year too in beating the soccer team from Karlsruhe two to one. So the famous stadium clock in Hamburg will continue to run in its 53st year.

Having attended secondary school in Hamburg and having seen legendary Uwe Seeler (about my age) playing for the HSV, I am biased. Red Baron's only regret is that with the Dino surviving in the first league for another year those famous local soccer matches* between the HSV and the Hamburg cult team St. Pauli now playing in the second league will not be scheduled, at least not during the coming season.
*Compare this to games between the NY Yankees and the Mets


Monday, June 1, 2015

L'Être suprême

Leaving the south of France our group visited Rodez and settled down for the evening in Clermont-Ferrand, home of the famous Michelin tire company.


When entering Rodez from the west the view on the mighty Gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame is impressive.

Cathedral of Notre Dame in Rodez

As you would expect: Saint Mary everywhere

The annunciation: Hail, thou that art
highly favoured, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women
This is Saint Elisabeth of Hungary
lying to her husband by displaying roses
instead of the bread she gave to the poor
The window in Elisabeth's chapel shows from
bottom to top: The capture of French troopes at
Dunkerque 1940, as POWs sent to work in
 STALAG VI C (Stammlager, i.e., main camp),
liberation under the Tricolor with the dove, the
Holy Ghost, symbol of hope and faith on top.
This window called
Genesis in water

I regarded as
an attempt to reconcile creation
with evolution. An audacious
display in a Catholic church.
Tired by all the impressions I settled down in a cafe at Rodez's central square and market place for an aperitif. The yellow stuff guests were drinking at the other tables intrigued me. It was a local gentian schnapps. Following a lively conversation with people from Rodez and a second gentian I wanted to pay but those friendly Ruthénois, as the inhabitants of Rodez are called, had paid the bill already. Vive l'hospitalité francaise!

A gentian schnapps

Red Baron's frugal but tasty lunch in one of the bistros at the market place


Clairmont-Ferrand is the city of Michelin, the famous inventor and maker of tires. From our hotel we walked to the Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption, passing on the way the Romanesque Basilica Notre-Dame du Port.

Notre-Dame du Port seen from a courtyard

The interior of the Romanesque basilica is even more impressive than the outside

The Cathedral Notre-Dame de l'Assomption seen from the roof of our hotel

Pope Urban II started it all in Clermont in front of the cathedral
on November 27, 1095, when he called for the First Crusade.

The Gothic interior of  Notre-Dame de l'Assumption
A Poor Man's Bible in the form of stained-glass windows for the many illiterates in the Middle Ages. From bottom to top:
Annunciation, Visitation of Mary, Birth of Jesus, Angels announcing Christ's birth to the shepherds, Adoration of the child by the shepherds, The Three Magi contemplating the guiding star, The Magi before King Herod, Adoration of the Child by the Three Magi.

Are we not back to to icons and Emojis nowadays?

Stained-glass windows as Biblia pauperum
During the French Revolution: The proclamation of the Supreme Being at a side entrance of the cathedral: The French people recognize the Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul.

Where did the poor souls of all those people guillotined end up?
Once more French genius impressed me. I remember that during the oil crises the slogan: We French have no oil but ideas was popular. Here comes one of those strokes of genius: the tramway in Clermont-Ferrand. It is simple: Take a bus, guide it by a metallic rail and place the vehicle below one overhead line. No heavy rail construction is necessary, no double catenary as in the case of a trolley-bus is required since the guiding rail in the ground serves as the return conductor. In addition, the tramway smoothly and silently runs on tires, local Michelin oblige.

Clermont-Ferrand's tramway 

On our way back home we made a stop at Chalon-sur-Saône. It was the time of the morning market but two other items caught my attention instead:

Molière et la Ménagère at the Place du Théâtre by Philippe de Lanouvelle
Nicéphore Niépcy, the inventor of photography, was born in Chalon-sur-Saône
Red Baron wanted to visit Nicéphore Niépcy's Museum
but our tour coach in the back signalled me to hurry up.

This ends the tetralogy about my visit to the cathedrals down south: