Saturday, July 25, 2015


Traffic lights for pedestrians are different in the States and in Europe. In New York they have changed from Don't Walk and Walk to the big red stopping hand and the walking man in white ... for the illiterate.

The European Union has defined a standard for pedestrian traffic lights based on the traditional colors red and green: a standing and a walking man.

Enter German unification. Suddenly the West was confronted with the East German Ampelmännchen (little traffic-light man).

Some foreign visitors visiting East Berlin after the Wende (German turnaround) interpreted the green Männchen as a marching VoPo (East German police man) while others thought they could recognize a hidden swastika. Nevertheless, studies proved that due to their bigger surface the little traffic-light men are better perceived than their skinny European counterparts. Even so, for new traffic light installations the Ampelmännchen are replaced with the European Standard. And so the little traffic-light man has become a cult figure.

Following the creation of figurines of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Martin Luther, Karl Marx, and Richard Wagner Ottmar Hörl did it again. For the 25th anniversary of Germany's reunification the sculptor revived the walking Ampelmännchen in three dimensions. On October 3, this year's unity celebrations will take place in Frankfurt's Paulskirche, the meeting place of the first elected all-German parliament in 1848. The motto of this year's event is: Grenzen überwinden (overcoming borders).

Naturally, Hörl's little traffic-light men come in green although he created them in red, yellow, and black (Ampel kaput?) too. On the photo his little guys are walking downstairs in the entrance hall of Hesse's Staatskanzlei (state chancellery) in Wiesbaden.

©Staatskanzlei Hessen
This blog would not be complete without mentioning a few gender-neutral traffic lights recently seen in Vienna.

Is the red pedestrian light in the middle an Austrian/German speciality?
Being in love feels like having butterflies in your tummy
(Schmetterlinge im Bauch haben) (©Kronenzeitung).

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Today Freiburg's Victory Monument was in the news when the Badische Zeitung (BZ) presented plans showing how the Platz zum Siegesdenkmal will look in the future with those rails for the streetcar line under construction to the new terminus Madisonallee.

A "new" site for the Siegesdenkmal (©Badische Zeitung)
Freiburg's Siegesdenkmal, relatively undamaged during the last war, is actually Baden's Victory Monument. It commemorates Germany's victory over the "arch-enemy" France in 1871 leading to German unification in a 2nd Reich. The monument was inaugurated in 1876 in the presence of Kaiser Wilhelm I, Grand Duke Frederick I, his wife Louise, and Reichskanzler Otto von Bismarck.

Originally the monument was placed in the visual axis of Kaiserstraße with Dame Victoria facing west, i.e. toward France.

Siegesdenkmal around 1890 as seen from Kaiserstraße.
In the back the Habsburgerstraße (©Historisches Freiburg)
After the war the the monument was in the way of increasing traffic. So the city moved the "out-of-date furniture" one hundred meters further west onto Friedrichsallee. There it has stood up to now relatively unnoticed in particular by tourists. Here is my question to my friends in Madison: Has anyone of you ever visited the Siegesdenkmal? By the way, in its current location city officials turned Dame Victoria so she is now facing east. A nod to the Cold War?

The "ugly" roundabout situation.
Note the scaffolded spire of the Minster in the back (©Badische Zeitung)
On the plans the BZ published this morning the bottle-neck roundabout at the Platz zum Siegesdenkmal is replaced by a streamlined rectangular fork with the monument moving back nearly to its initial position (see sketch above). This "old" placement is hotly debated but Freiburg's City Council will decide on it soon.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Above All Tree-Tops There Is Poison

Damaged fur trees in the Harz Mountains near Goslar (©dpa)
Über allen Wipfeln ist Gift *(Above all summits there is poison ...) With this title Germany's news magazine Der Stern stoked up German angst about the dying of the woods in 1981. Nothing is more dramatic for a German than Waldsterben: Erst stirbt der Wald, dann stirbt der Mensch (When forests die, men/women will follow).
*This is is a persiflage on Goethe's poem Wanderes NachtliedÜber allen Wipfeln ist Ruh ... (Wanderer's Nightsong: Above all summits it is calm ...). Below you will find the full text of the poem.

What happened since 1981? Have the trees died? Recently some newspapers took up the topic. There is good news with respect to oak trees. While in 2012 50% of their tree-tops were sick the figure had dropped to 36% in 2014. Germany's agricultural minister commented on the positive trend: Es ist schön, sagen zu können: Viel Laub auf Deutschlands Eichen (It is nice to be able to say: Much foliage on Germany's oaks).

The German Oak was the tree of the year in 2014. As a national symbol it figured and still figures on German coins.

Following the Second World War: there was hope for the German people with a new currency.
Planting an oak tree on a 50 pfennig coin (©Wikipedia/Raphael).

Oak leaves on the one pfennig coin
(German mark)(©Wikipedia/Turmenistan)
Oak leaves with acorns on the German
one cent coin (euro) (©Wikipedia/Nightflyer)

Red Baron remembers his school days when rather casually the teacher mentioned the oak tree and I trumpeted in class: Die deutsche Eiche. She told me that she was going to teach me about the German oak; and she really did. Oh, that's history.

The positive development with respect to oak trees is not mirrored in the case of beech trees for which the status of the tree-tops has dramatically deteriorated. On the other hand, today 11.4 million hectares (28.2 10acres) of Germany's surface are covered by woods, that is, one million more than in 1980. Thanks to built-in filters in coal-fired power stations the sulfur contamination of the soil has dropped from up to 30 kilograms per hectare and year to one tenth of the value. Today it is no longer acid rain that stresses trees but instead climatic change.

The new enemies of Germany's trees are bark beetles, oak processionariy carterpillars and other new pests wandering north following the climatic change. As one expert said: The situation of the forests is not life-threatening but we'd better keep an eye on it.

Be assured: more than 150 million German eyes will be watching.

Healthy deer in healthy Taunus woods (©dpa)

Wanderers Nachtlied
Style censors will teach you that adjectives are verbiage, are evil. I do not know whether Goethe had this rule in mind when he wrote Wanderer's Nightsong on the wall of a wooden cabin on the evening of September 6, 1780. No adjectives! Some Germanists regard Wanderers Nachtlied as the most perfect German poem although, as you already know, it is not the most popular one.

Über allen Gipfeln
Ist Ruh,
In allen Wipfeln
Spürest du
Kaum einen Hauch;
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch
O'er the hill-tops
Is quiet now,
In all the tree-tops
Hearest thou
Hardly a breath;
The birds are asleep in the trees:
Wait; soon like these
Thou too shalt rest.

My mentor and lector Professor James Steakley made me aware of Henry W. Longfellow's beautiful English translation.

A different, rhymed English translation in the now famous wooden cabin near Ilmenau (©Wikipedia/Fewskulchor)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Total War?

The other evening Red Baron assisted in a book presentation at Freiburg's Wentzingerhaus: Der Erste Weltkrieg am Oberrhein (The First World War on the Upper Rhine). Many books have already been written and lectures given about Europe's Urkatastrophe (primal catastrophe) so the number of people present was astonishing.

Some of the attraction was certainly due to Professor Gerd Krumeich who presented the book in his usual compelling way distributing praise to the various authors of the anthology describing how the people experienced the Great War in the Upper Rhine region. Although I had reported earlier about the topic the present book using the information of personal diaries stresses even more intimate views.

I shall limit my blog to German enthusiasm for war and unconditional air warfare.

The prevailing view is that Germans enthusiastically hailed the outbreak of the Great War. In fact, not only young Thomas Mann regarded the war as a purifying act; it was a theologist at the University of Freiburg who on August 5, 1914, wrote: Ist es nicht eine Gnade Gottes, die unser deutsches Volk vor dem Versumpfen bewahrt? Hat man nicht immer gesagt, wir brauchen einmal Krieg, der uns moralisch aus der Niederung und politisch aus dem Parteihader herausreißt? (Is it not the grace of God that keeps our German people from going to pot? Haven't people always said that we need a war to tear us away morally from decadence and politically from party discord?) This man had no idea about a pluralistic society and the basic elements of democracy.

It is true that most teachers at Freiburg's University were shocked by the imminent war. Three professors, a historian, a classical philologist, and an anatomist, had dinner when they learned about the breaking-off of diplomatic relations between Austria/Hungary and Serbia. They immediately broke up their meal with the historian writing in his diary: Mit einem Schlage war das Festmahl zu Ende und in tief ernster, ich muß wohl sagen bedrückter Stimmung gingen wir durch die Kaiserstraße nach Hause, vorbei an dem Siegesdenkmal von 1870, um das sich eine Studentenschar gesammelt hatte und jubelnd die Wacht am Rhein sang. Uns Alten war hier nicht zum Jubeln. Das was jetzt vor uns lag, war viel dunkler und unberechenbarer als das was einst im Juli 1870 aufgeflammt war. Von dem Willen aber, stark und entschlossen zu bleiben, waren wir alle erfüllt (All of a sudden the banquet was over and in deep concern, I should rather say depressed mood, we went home through Kaiserstraße. In passing the Victory Monument of 1870 we saw a group of students jubilantly singing "Die Wacht am Rhein". We, the old professors, did not feel like cheering. What now lay ahead was much darker and less predictable than what once had flared up in July 1870. Nevertheless, we three were suffused with the will to remain strong and resolute).

In fact, most Germans in particular farmers, craftsmen, retailers, and industrial workers, had no war fever but simply performed their duty: The Fatherland calls and so we must go. A mother knitted a scarf for her son leaving for the front reading: Gott sei mit dir (God be with you). This was so different from the official bombastic slogan engraved on all German military belt buckles: Gott mit uns! (God is with us!).

It is astonishing that the invention the Brothers Wright had made in 1903 was already used as a military weapon ten years later. Already in 1914 airplanes flew missions against military objects but as early as December 1914 against civilians too. Particularly Freiburg was within reach of enemy planes and suffered a total of 25 allied air raids during the war killing 31 persons in total.

The front cover of the book shows an anti-aircraft gun on Freiburg's Schlossberg. Russian pieces of artillery captured on the Eastern Front had been converted into Fliegerabwehrkanonen (Flaks). When fired these guns made lots of noise but turned out to be completely inefficient. Interceptor aircraft stationed in Freiburg needed thirty minutes to reach the necessary height while it took enemy aircraft only one quarter of an hour from their bases in France to reach the city.

The daily arrivals of wounded soldiers from the nearby front and the more and more precarious food provisioning were clear signs that Germany was at war. However, it was the air raid on April 15, 1915, causing the death of eight children who had played outdoors and of one adult that confronted the Bobbeles* with the fact: Freiburg is a front city. Suddenly people felt unprotected, uncertainty and fear were creeping in. Some historians claim that this was the beginning of total war.
*nickname for a Freiburger

The death of the eight children made headlines in Stuttgart.

During an air raid on April 14, 1917, one bomb exploded in front of the main building of the university.
 The impact holes left by shrapnel are still visible (©Wikipedia/Andreas Schwarzkopf).

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Although Halberstadt has a big cathedral and an important chamber for its Medieval church treasure Red Baron regards Halberstadt as Gleim City. Gleim who?

Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim
(2 April 1719 – 18 February 1803)
Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim born in 1719 was a German poet well known in his days among his peers; today his name is nearly forgotten. In 1747 he was appointed secretary of the cathedral chapter at Halberstadt. From then on Gleim created a network of friendship among his colleagues where in those days letters instead of e-mails were the means of communication. For his kind-hearted patronage of young poets and would be writers they soon called him Father Gleim. Many of his young colleagues counted on the support of the genius of friendship, paid him a visit or even came to Halberstadt for longer periods.

Since 1648 Halberstadt and its surroundings belonged to Prussia. Gleim adored his king calling Frederick the Great the One and Only although the latter never became a friend of German literature for he preferred French language, literature and philosophy. Gleim eventually met the king in December 1785 only a few months before Frederick's death.

In his Halberstadt residence Gleim created a Temple of Friendship (Freundschaftstempel) starting a collection of portraits of his friends. Still today two rooms in the Gleimhaus are devoted to those paintings that numbered more than 120 by the time of Gleim's death. Here are a few of his friends:

Johann Joachim Winckelmann
(9 December 1717 – 8 June 1768)
Johann Jakob Bodmer
(19 July 1698 – 2 January 1783)

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
(22 January 1729 – 15 February 1781)
Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock
(2 July 1724 – 14 March 1803)

Christoph Martin Wieland
(5 September 1733 – 20 January 1813)
Johann Georg Jacobi
(2 September 1740 – 4 January 1814)

Johann Gottfried von Herder
(25 August 1744 – 18 December 1803)
Johann Gottfried Seume
(29 January 1763 – 13 June 1810)
Paintings of two distinct contemporaries are missing in the gallery: Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1 July 1742 – 24 February 1799) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832). There are reasons.

Goethe did not like Gleims sentimental Anacreonic poetry that in his eyes succeeds only with wenches and gentlewomen or was Goethe just jealous again?: These females think only about sentiments, words, and verses when they regard a poem as beautiful. Nobody realizes that true power and effect of a poem depends on situations and motifs. However thousands of poems are made where the motif is zero. These pathetic efforts pretend an existence with the help of sentiments and tingling verses.

Entrance to the
literature museum
Gleim's workstation
for writing letters to his friends
Nowadays at the Gleimhaus there use modern techniques. In the following Johann Gottfried Herder posted his status on Facebook as early as 1780: It is a real shame that Gleim and Goethe do not get along well otherwise today Goethe could be with us too. A truly great spirit.

Gleim, one of Herder's friends, commented in his typical style: Well beloved brother Herder, Goethe is a great head but does he have a heart like us? What makes a true poet, what makes a good man?

Herder answered excusing the genius: He cannot show his heart as he would like to. His poetry impresses me again and again. Not only the Werther.

Gleim loved young poets. To have Jacobi permanently near to him Gleim procured him a sinecure of a canonist at Halberstadt's cathedral. Promptly Lichtenberg called Jacobi a doctorem jubilatum who laudably served as a professor and now retired at Halberstadt. In fact, a the Gleim-Haus Red Baron learned that although Jacobi had taken the post (and money) he rarely was in Halberstadt. On top of it Lichtenberg ridiculed Jacobi's Anacreonic poetry:

Sprach allzeit zärtlich tändelnd so wie
Der Nachtgedankenfeind* Jacobi ...
Schrieb jedem Mägden holde Briefgen
Voll Lieb und mit Diminutivgen,
Nie alles voll, stets nur ein bißgen,
Knosp ward ein Knöspgen, Fuß ein Füßgen,
Und wie Trüppgen von Pygmäen
Stehn da die Marzipan-Ideen.
Oh ruft man aus, das ist gewiß von
Gleim oder gar Anakreaon?
Spoke always dallying tenderly
Like the foe of night thoughts* Jacobi ...
Wrote to any girly lovely letters
Full of love and diminutives,
Never all full, always only slightly
A bud becomes a gemmule, a foot a tootsy,
And like a tiny troupe of pygmy
Stand the ideas of marzipan.
O, one exclaims, this surely is [a poem]
Of Gleim or Anacreaon?
*Night thoughts is a collection of poems Jacobi
dedicated to Gleim

Here are some impressions of Jacobi's working place, the Cathedral of Halberstadt. The church St. Stephanus und St. Sixtus was built as a somewhat late answer to the cathedral in nearby Magdeburg. In fact, in the year 968 the Archbishopric of Magdeburg was attributed half the eastern territory of the much older Halberstadt Bishopric of 804.

Halberstadt's choir screen is crowned with
 a triumphal cross of 1215 being older than the church.

Statues of Luther and Melanchton.
They only live a niche existence in Halberstadt's cathedral
 two years before the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

In the cathedral: Reading behind bars.
Books always had to be protected against theft (©Heiko Steuer)
Unfortunately there was not enough time left to listen to John Cage's Organ Art Project in Halberstadt's Buchardi Monastery, a concert named as-slow-as-possible. It started in 2001 and will end in 625 years:

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Red Baron had been to Goslar on several occasions but during the Museumsreise 2015 we visited two sites I had not seen before. One was the Rammelsberg or rather the mining activity in- and outside, the other the Kaiserpfalz (Imperial Palace).

The Rammelsberg houses an ore mine that had been operational for more than 1,000 years. Tracer analysis of archeological samples unearthed as far away as England show that copper from the Rammelsberg mine even dates back to the 3rd century AD. The mine eventually closed in 1988.

We continue to read in Wikipedia: The ore deposits at the Rammelsberg were caused by the escape of hot, metal-bearing, thermal springs on the sea floor in the Devonian period. This formation is referred to as a sedimentary exhaustive deposit. At the bottom of the Devonian sea, two large lenses of ore were formed that were later caught up in the folding of rocks during the Carboniferous period and so lie overturned at an angle in the mountain where they reach the surface.

One of the main problems of mining and particularly in the Harz mountains is ground water entering the galleries. When the floor of the mining galleries reaches levels well below the earth's surface it becomes necessary to pump out the infiltrating water. In the absence of electricity the miners installed giant overshot waterwheels underground to operate the necessary water pumps.

Giant underground waterwheel (©Wikipedia/pipmaru)
The wheels were driven by water collected in special higher-up ponds. The water was guided in dedicated water galleries to and from the site of the waterwheels and finally released into the valley.

The old water galleries of the Röder mine our group walked through
were rather narrow and sometimes somewhat low

Red Baron's safety helmet clearly shows the traces where his head had hit the ceiling
In the meantime the Rammelsberg mine has become an archeological site. It started in 1999 when a shoe was found on site that was dated 1024. In 2011 archeologists dug out a wooden construction that was identified as Europe's earliest mining gallery supported by wooden pillars and beams.

Archeologist Dr. Klappauf standing in front of his excavation

Painting in Goslar's Municipal Museum: Dr. Klappauf treading the bellows 
of an artisanal smelting furnace. In recent years the archeologist has dug out
a few thousand smelting sites in the Harz region dating as far back as the Middle Ages.

Goslar's other highlight, the Imperial Palace, is strongly connected with the mining activity at the Rammelsberg. In 1005, attracted by the presence of silver, King Henry II had his Kaiserpfalz built at the foot of the mountain. It comprised a wide complex of buildings including a large abbey church containing an Imperial Throne and the so-called Krodo Altar both made from bronze in the second half of the 11th century.

The renovated Kaiserpfalz in the 19th century
Already in the middle of the 13th century the buildings of the Imperial Residence started to fall into ruins. Eventually the church was reduced to just one entrance hall. However, the ill-fated alliance of throne and altar in German history came to an end neither then nor with the Reformation. On the contrary, Luther's Church needed and sought the support of the territorial princes not only against the Catholic Counter-Reformation but against Protestant heretics too.

In the second half of the 19th century Goslar's Prussian rulers had the Imperial Palace reconstructed as a national shrine and accelerated the building activity following the foundation of the 2nd Reich in 1871. Hence the former Kaisersaal is decorated with wall paintings commemorating events in German history. Again, Luther's Reformation is one of the key events for Germany's "Prussian" north.

Luther in Worms: God help me, Amen
The centerpiece of all the paintings however is the apotheosis of the Kaiserreich (Empire) dated 1875.
Apotheosis of the 2nd Reich (©Wikipedia/Jim Steakley)
It shows the "new" Kaiser Wilhelm on horseback followed by his son Friedrich, who in 1888 was emperor for only 99 days. Friedrich's son the later Wilhelm II is depicted as a boy on the right-hand side in a blue uniform in an awkward pose partly covered by the pillar, perhaps to hide his crippled left arm? In such a allegoric painting you will expect to find Bismarck who is standing together with General Moltke, the former hammering on the new Reich's cornerstone. The presentation is crowned by, among others, Emperor Barbarossa and Prussia's Joan of Arc Queen Louise pointing to her son Wilhelm, the new emperor. In front of the painting you will recognize Dame Germania and Father Rhine with the annexation of the Alsace now Germany's river and no longer Germany's border.

Wilhelm's equestrian statue in front of Goslar's Kaiserpfalz
In vain in the late 19th century German nationalists tried to elevate the first emperor of the 2nd Reich surnaming him the Great.

To have a look at the Imperial Throne you must visit the Kaiserpfalz ...

 ... the Krodo-Altar nowadays is on display in Goslar's Municipal Museum ...  

so eventually throne and altar became separated.

Friday, July 3, 2015


On their 2015 trip Freiburg's Museumsgesellschaft visited an old German cultural landscape east of the Harz mountains comprising the cities of Quedlinburg, Halberstadt, and Goslar. Our hotel was in Halberstadt but the first day of our stay was devoted to Quedlinburg.

Heinrich accepts the German crown.
Stained glass window in Quedlinburg's town hall.
According to an old tale the Germanic princes offered the German crown to the Duke of Saxony, Heinrich, while he was snaring finches at the Quedlinburg site in the year 919. The coronation of Henry the Fowler is regarded as one of the key elements of the First German Reich that ended in 1806 when, following Napoleon's conquests in Europe, the last Kaiser Franz I. abdicated.

Walking up the hill to the castle we passed the famous Finkenherd
although other sources claim that the legendary site was in Fritzlar

The Burgberg on the famous model of Quedlinburg in the Rathaus
Under the Saxon kings Quedlinburg was one of the leading cities in the Reich. The castle and mighty abbey church St. Servatius bear witness.

Castle and church in the 19th century ...

... and today. Note the change of the spires of St. Servatius.
When King Henry died in 1036 he was buried in St. Servatius. With the 1000th anniversary of Henry's death in 1936 approaching, another Heinrich, Reichsführer-SS Himmler, not only decided to commemorate but to re-incarnate the first German king. On July 2, 1936, Himmler had crucifix and Bible removed from the church, entered the building, and deposited a wreath on Henry's tomb.

In the following years Himmler ordered the clergy out of the abbey church and had its interior transformed into a sort of Germanic temple. When in the course of the transformation archeologists opened Henry's grave they found it empty. Himmler needed some good advice. At the end the SS defined some excavated old bones as those of the first Saxon king and interred them in a new sarcophagus bearing the inscription: Heinrich der Erste, der Deutschen König (Henry the First, King of the Germans).

Quedlinburg's German temple in 1940
(©Fotoarchiv Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt)
With the end of the war the horrific episode was history. Today when you visit St. Servatius you will see Henry's old and broken sarcophagus, empty.

Today: St. Servatius "restored"