Saturday, November 28, 2015

An American in Berlin

More than a year ago I had started a blog about a guy named E. T. Hansen sorry Eric T. Hansen who wrote for the German weekly Die Zeit. According to Eric the T. stands for terrific and this is how he feels and writes. I even dicovered an article about the Terrific in the German Wikipedia which in the meantime was translated into English. There you can read that Eric has studied in Germany and written several books in German. Both books and articles are based on solid research but characterized by satire and absurdities. Eric's credo: No one understands the Germans less than the Germans themselves. It is my job to hold a mirror up to them where he likes to be provocative.

Here is an example translated from the German original: The [right leaning] Bild-Zeitung is Germany's only newspaper for the working class. I would imagine that in a country counting Karl Marx among its national heroes there should be a serious effort to get going a left leaning newspaper for workers. Nope. In Germany left orientated newspapers are exclusively and consciously written for the upper educated class. Already in sentences of the Berlin newspaper taz overflowing with interlectually and nearly desparately exaggerated grammar one feels a deep-seated contempt for those without a college degree.

Thirteen months ago I continued my blog with the following explanatory text still valid today: The European Union and the States are presently working on a trade agreement called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). There is lots of fear in Germany that we will be Americanized eating chicken imported from the States treated with chlorine instead of consuming European bio (organic) poultry full of salmonella.

Eric however fears that TTIP will result in just the opposite, i.e., the Germanization of the States when he writes: We Americans buy any shit of European origin whereas Germany is the hardest market in the world.

There are less than 2000 hamburger restaurants in Germany (McDonalds and Burger Kings combined) but there are 3500 China restaurants and 12000 Döner places. KFC only has 120 chain stores and Wendy's withdraw from the German market following massive investments in the 1980s.
 In fact, in Freiburg the downtown Burger King threw the towel more than 18 month ago. So will the Döner really invade the States?

Well, fast food may not be the best parameter to use when describing the interpenetration of markets but Eric noted with some bitterness that America's biggest publisher Radom House now belongs to the Bertelsmann Group.

Last year Eric T's articles in Die Zeit abruptly stopped so I shelfed what I had written and had nearly forgotten about the text when suddenly Hansen's name appeared on an invitation of Freiburg's Carl-Schurz-Haus:

November 24, at the Café artjamming Eric T. Hansen will speak:
 about:me - Die Mormonen & Ich (The Mormons and me).

I went early to the café thinking that the small place would be crowded. However five minutes before eight only about twenty persons had arrived. Following an introduction by the Director of the Carl-Schurz-Haus Eric started his self-portrayal telling the audience how he had been growing up as a Mormon including his missionary efforts in Germany.

Eric at the artjamming café on November 24, 2015
At the age of 29 he broke with his religion. This self-confident American gave as reason for his decision to leave The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that it had hampered him in the development of his personality. This statement was difficult for me to accept.

Since there is no longer a God Eric is afraid of a black hole after death, a hole that makes life for him meaningless. Neither atheist nor agnostic he lives in the hope of a dream that in the transience of life the personality of a person will survive. An interesting view of the Seinsfrage (question of existence) that Eric draws from the basics of Mormonism and that he - a missionary stays a missionary - enthusiastically supports.

Note: When faith fails hope hops in.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


In Germany this beautiful flower, known in the States as poinsettia, is called Christmas star. It is a bestseller during the upcoming holiday season. In 2014 more than 32 million plants were sold in Germany with more expected this year. In recent years the classical radiant red has been complemented by orange, yellow, and even white varieties. Originally poinsettia grew in the subtropical climate of Middle and South America reaching heights of up to 4 meters. In 1804 Alexander von Humboldt took the exotic plant to Europe. In 1825 US ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, introduced the plant in the States where in his honor it was called poinsettia. As there is no date in the calendar without a special day: In the United States, December 12, is National Poinsettia Day.

Actually poinsettia's petals are unspectacular. It is the leaves around the flower-heads that show off in their radiant red.

©Badische Zeitung

For my American friends; here comes the success story of poinsettia in the States. German immigrants, the Ecke family, started to cultivate the plants outdoors around Eagle Rock near Los Angeles in 1900. The breakthrough came in 1990 when Ecke's third generation moved to Encinitas, Calfornia selling poinsettia as cut flowers in Hollywood. As the hub of their sale fell into the Christmas season the Eckes called the "flowers" Weihnachtsstern. The name came back to Germany and the plant became a hot seller over here in recent years.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Türmer von Freiburg

Imagine Red Baron standing inside the shelter (©Theater Freiburg)
The project "Die Türmer von Freiburg" (The Freiburg Vigil) by choreographer Joanne Leighton is designed to invite Freiburg's citizens to leave their everyday life behind and gain a new perspective: From the 20th of June 2015 onwards a shelter made out of wood and glass will be placed atop Theater Freiburg's roof for 365 days. Every day at sunrise and sunset this shelter turns into a safekeep and lookout for a single visitor for exactly one hour. This hour is called "the vigil". Hovering above the city one's perspective broadens either towards east over downtown Freiburg and the Black Forest or towards west over Freiburg's rooftops and the Upper Rhine Plain towards the Vosges. "Die Tümer von Freiburg" (literally translated "The watchers of Freiburg") are leaving everyday occurrences behind while watching over the city and asking themselves: Who am I in this city and what room do I claim to be mine?

This is how Joanne Leighton's art project is introduced on the website Die Türmer von Freiburg. Originally a tower watchman or tower warder guarded a town from high above day and night. In case he (in those days it was a man's job) detected a fire or saw enemy troops approaching he rang the church bells when on a church tower or blew horn signals to alarm his fellow citizens.

When Red Baron learned about Joanne Leighton's art project he was looking for a vigil during the morning hours in summer but all days were already booked until November 2015. Getting up in the dark on a cold November morning is not at all my taste so I switched from sunrise to sunset.

Generally there are more female than male tower warders but during "my" week the ratio was extreme counting 10 to 4. The day before yesterday, November 23, was my day. I became a Freiburg Türmer from 15h45 to 16h45.

Approaching the site. The shelter for the tower warder on the roof of the theater is clearly visible.
Left the new university library. In front the construction site for Freiburg's new boulevard.
I arrived at the theater half an hour earlier and was received by an escort. She reminded me to leave my watch and my iPhone behind. A tower warder must not be distracted. When my time had arrived the lady guided me up to the shelter with its two-sided view and locked me in.

During the vigil my intention had been to trace Freiburg's Vauban fortifications. Freiburg's theater actually is built on the former Bastion Dauphin. My first impression: Disappointment, for it was impossible to see the Colombischlösschen to my left constructed on the mount of the Bastion Saint Louis. In addition, in front the massive Kollegiengebäude II barred my view unto the old city and to my right I barely made out the University Mensa (cafeteria) on the site of the former Bastion de la Reyne. My position on the roof was just too low!

Thus looking east I concentrated on Freiburg's towers and steeples along the line of Mayor Otto Winterer's maxim: A village has roofs, a town sports steeples: the two-spired Johannis Church, University tower, St. Martin's Gate, Schlossberg tower, the scaffolded steeple of the Münster Church, Jesuite Church, St. Martin's steeple. However, with the sunset approaching I moved to the west window of the shelter. Before the sun disappeared behind the horizon a bank of clouds moved in front but looking more closely I discovered a gap between the cloud bank and the earth's surface. As the sun descended further, its lower edge appeared in the gap painting the rim of the clouds in a vibrant orange. I was lucky. After a few minutes the glowing circle was filling exactly the space between the cloud and the horizon. The ball of fire continued to descend first slowly then faster and suddenly disappeared.

In the meantime the moon had risen in the east above the Schlossberg. What a spectacle and no photos allowed!

My escort arrived but it was not over yet. Tower warders are asked to write down their sensations. I sat down and noted my impression on two pages. Are those lost? In a preparatory meeting of the art project I had asked the pertinent question. Joanne Leighton and co-workers had not made up their minds yet.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Another Berlin Wall

I shall temporarily suspend my blogging about the Holy Land and write about Berlin that I visited for a family affair.

There are some musts for visitors coming to Germany's capital:

Walking through Carl Gotthard Langhans's Brandenburg Gate,

My friend Kendall Schneider at the Brandenburg Gate
holding the copyright of the photo
spiraling on foot Norman Foster's steel and glass dome of the Reichstag building,

Photo taken in 2007
visiting a rest of Walter Ulbricht's infamous Wall, and more.

Former GDR border installations including the finely raked "death strip"
Red Baron knows Berlin like the back of his hand so whenever he has a chance to re-visit the city he rather is in quest for uncommon places.

Here is a picture of another wall that is well preserved for it dates back to the 18th century, the Akzisemauer (excise wall).

A rest of  Berlin's first wall
Governments be they local or federal need and like to levy taxes, citizens try to avoid them. Prussia's Frederick William I ordered a "wall" to be built around Berlin that was completed in 1737. It was erected not for defense purposes but to channel all traffic into the capital through 14 gates where customs duties had to be paid. Coffee was one of the severely taxed luxury goods. It is said the Frederick the Great entertained a sniffer police pinning down those citizens who had smuggled coffee beans and were roasting them at home. The Akzisemauer partly consisted of wooden palisades and was demolished during the 19th century. Only a few parts built from bricks survived that are meticulously preserved.

A hundred meters away on Waisenstraße (Orphans Street) is a highlight that Red Baron visits whenever he is in Germany's capital. It is Berlin's oldest inn although the building and its name are of recent times. Originally a groom of the ruling electoral prince had opened a brandy pub at the site in 1621 that in 1715 was baptized Zum Bierstübchen am Glockenspiel (Little Alehouse at the Glockenspiel) referring to the 52 bells and chimes of the nearby Parochial Church.

The restaurant newly decorated in 2008
Later the pub was renamed Zur letzten Instanz (Court of Last Instance) because many people needed a supporting drink before they were prepared to appear before their judges in one of the nearby courthouses.

Napoleon when he had triumphantly entered Berlin in 1806 lunched at the restaurant. So Red Baron always insists on sitting on the historic seat.

On Napoleon's seat in 2015

Historic photo of 2001 with the emperor's bust watching in the back
Whether the inn-keeper had served the French emperor Berlin food is not handed down. Red Baron opted for a Rindsroulade but sadly they had run out of beef olive. So I had to content myself with a Kohlroulade as in 2001. The stuffed cabbage was excellent but much too big so I had to drown it with a dark Märkischer Landmann (Mark Brandenburg peasant beer).

The nearby Parochial Church on Klosterstraße (Monestary Street) was destroyed during the war and has only been partly reconstructed. It seems however that the parish people have now collected enough money to rebuilt the missing steeple.

A dream is becoming true
About Waisenstraße: Orphanages in Prussia were a must at the time of Fredrick the Great. His Grenadiere (privates) who died a hero's death often made their pregnant wives (the king needs soldiers) to widows. They in turn frequently died of child-bed fever leaving a couple of children behind. The atheist king ruthlessly used the services of the Lutheran Church to care for those children so, e.g., the orphanage of the nearby Parochial Church.

Klosterstraße around 1800 showing the Parochial Church.
Two views photographed in nearby subway station Klosterstraße.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tel Aviv

We visited Tel Aviv on October 31, a Shabbat, and passed the site where on November 4, 20 years ago, Israel's great hope for peace Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by a right wing Israeli.

Kids studying the tragic event
The preparation of commemoration ceremonies for the coming Sunday November 1, was in full swing:

Bill adjusting Yitzhak's tie

Yitzhak and Moshe
Starting at the Habima Theatre we walked up the Rothschild Boulevard (שְׂדֵרוֹת רוֹטשִׁילד, Sderot Rotshild). Many of the historic buildings along the axis are built in the Bauhaus style and are part of the White City of Tel Aviv, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.

Beautiful promenade

Redecorated Bauhaus style

Greetings from Weimar's Elephant Hotel?

Sitting on an art object?
Note my sandals worn throughout my stay in the Holy Land
In a restaurant on Sderot Rotshild where I had a frugal lunch the one and only hand-washing facility was used by both sexes. While a mirror deprived me of vis-à-vis' female faces hands were clearly visible.

After lunch we went down to the district Neve Tzedek at Tel Aviv's southwestern edge.

The tenent of this original kiosk will move to Lilienblum 16
Neve Tzedek was established in 1887, 22 years before the 1909 founding of the City of Tel Aviv, by a group of German Jewish families who moved to the site leaving over-crowded Jaffa.

Memories of  "Hauserbaugeselschaft" with the school for girls
The settlers constructed the new quarter with low-rise buildings along narrow streets. Their homes frequently incorporated design elements from the Jugendstil/Art Nouveau and later Bauhaus art.

Strange decorations including half a skull on the corner of Shalom Shabazi Street
At the nearby water front we met the head of the Tel Aviv Sister City Office where I had expected a more formal reception (Never on Shabbats!)

Mr I have forgotten his name and Johannes, our guide
Before we reached our hotel Red Baron stepped off the bus and went straight to the beach bathing his feet in the Mediterranean Sea.

Barefoot in the Mediterranean Sea

Against a low sun kite-surfers profited from the offshore wind ...

Kite-surfers against the sun
while I went to the terrace of a nearby hotel, drinking my first Israeli beer...

Maccabee Lager
... watching a beautiful sunset.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Allahu Akbar?

Peace for Paris
What had started as a friendly soccer match between France and Germany in Paris ISIS terrorists perverted into a perfidious multi-front attack on innocent people killing at least 120.

At the end of the match both soccer teams stayed at the Stade de France during the night. Without returning to their sleeping quarters the German team was escorted by French police forces directly to Charles de Gaulle Airport this morning to fly home.

It seems that Charlie Hebdo was just the beginning. Red Baron is under shock. In their claim of responsibility for the Paris murders ISIS announced that France will remain at the top of the list of their targets. French President Hollande calls the terrorist attacks in Paris an act of war. That means France is at war against ISIS with all the consequences it will entail.

The babarian claim of responsibilty in French

Here is the decisive paragraph of the Bekennerschreiben (claim of responsibility) in English: Eight brothers carrying explosive belts and assault rifles took as targets sites carefully chosen before in the heart of the French capital, the Stade de France during the match between the two crusader countries France and Germany watched by the stupid French idiot François Hollande, the Bataclan were hundreds of idolaters were assembled for a fest of perversity, and simultaneously more in the 10th, 11th, and the 18th arrondissements. Paris trembled under their feet and its streets became too narrow for them.The result of these attacks is a minimum of 200 crusaders killed and still more wounded, praise and merit belong to Allah.

And it is not over yet when we read: A loyal group of the Caliphate's Army attacked the capital of sodomy and vices being just the first drop of rain and a warning. These perfidious terrorist attacks aim to cause angst, political chaos, and to destroy our way of life. They will change Europe more than all previous attacks. There will be an immediate demand for more police, more weapons and bombs or even the call for ground forces against the jihadists in Syria.

Let us not abandon our acquisitions. Luther broke the exclusive claim of the one and only redeeming Catholic Church, the philosophers of the Enlightenment questioned and ended the divine right (Gottesgnadentum) of Europe's princes, England, Switzerland, and the Thirteen Colonies developed a government by the people, for the people. Now Islamic fundamentalists want to take us as Allahu's hostages. Let us not go back to the Middle Ages. Let us defend our liberties, our right to free thinking, and our democracies.

Friday, November 13, 2015


Here are some of my first impressions of my ten day trip (Bürgerreise) to Israel. Our group of citizens from Freiburg comprised 30 people. Booked on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt we arrived at our hotel in the evening of October 30, rather tired having lost one hour daylight due to the time zone shift. The Sea Net Hotel was located near by the Mediterranean Sea in a suburb of Tel Aviv close to Yafo in Hebrew that is called Jaffa in English.

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea from Tel Yafo (Jaffa Hill)

View from the hill in the direction of Tel Aviv
During the time of Jesus Jaffa was known under its Greek name Ioppe. It is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles 9 and 10:

Acts 9: 36-43: In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

Simon the tanner's (Gerber in German) house

The steeple of St. Peter's Church from a distance

Pilgrims on their way to the church
Acts 10: 9-16: About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Inside the church above the high altar:
An angle is presenting "unclean" animals to Peter

Above the church entrance is the cross of Jerusalem as worn
by Godfrey of Bouillon during the First Crusade.
The five-fold cross represents variously the Five Wounds of Christ,
Christ and the four quarters of the world, or Christ and the four evangelists.
Acts 10: 17-20: While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

St. Peter finally understood that Christ did not die for the circumcised alone but for all mankind and went to see the pagan Centurion Cornelius and his Roman soldiers in Caesarea where he said:

Acts 10: 42-48: "[Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Our Israeli guide Jonathan is telling us: Napoleon was here

Napoleon not only was in Egypt to admire the pyramids but went on along the Mediterranean coast besieging Jaffa from March 3 to 7, 1799. When he sent messengers brusquely telling the city of his ultimatum to surrender they were arrested, tortured, castrated and decapitated, and their heads impaled on the city walls. This harsh treatment led Napoleon, when the city fell, to allow his soldiers two days and nights of slaughter and rape. Napoleon's deputy General Moit reported about France's "official" revenge:

On 10 March 1799 in the afternoon, the prisoners of Jaffa were marched off in the midst of a vast square phalanx formed by the troops of General Bonaparte. The Turks, walking along in total disorder, had already guessed their fate and appeared not even to shed any tears... When they finally arrived in the sand dunes to the south-west of Jaffa, they were ordered to halt beside a pool of yellowish water. The officer commanding the troops then divided the mass of prisoners into small groups, who were led off to several different points and shot... Finally, of all the prisoners there only remained those who were beside the pool of water. Our soldiers had used up their cartridges, so there was nothing to be done but to dispatch them with bayonets and knives. ... The result ... was a terrible pyramid of dead and dying bodies dripping blood and the bodies of those already dead had to be pulled away so as to finish off those unfortunate beings who, concealed under this awful and terrible wall of bodies, had not yet been struck down.

Yafo's harbor

Yafo's distinctive clock-tower was built in 1906
honoring Abdul Hamid II, the 34th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Photo of the Grand Saraya (governor's) Palace built in 1890.
The Irgun bombed the building in 1948 killing 21 civilians

Reminder of the British mandate over Palestine:
A run-down Royal Postbox cast in far away London