Saturday, April 23, 2016

Half a Millenium

500 years ago on this day, April 23, 1516, the Duke of Bavaria, William IV, issued the Reinheitsgebot (Purity Law) for the brewing of beer:

Wir wollen auch sonderlichhen dass füran allenthalben in unsern stetten märckthen un auf dem lannde zu kainem pier merer stüchh dan allain gersten, hopfen un wasser genommen un gepraucht solle werdn (We demand in particular that from now on and everywhere in our towns, markets, and in the countryside to any beer no more than barley, hops, and water shall be taken and used).

Red Baron wrote his first blog about beer in 2011: Commemorating Boozing Dates. He had learned that the satzung unnd ordnung über die weyne (rules and ordinance about wine) dating back to August 24, 1498, is 18 years older than the Reinheitsgebot for beer. The ordinance about the purity of wine was the only tangible result of the Imperial Diet held at Freiburg in 1498.

There is more bad news for Bavarians. In my blog Baguette de Tradition I reported that it was not their Duke Wilhelm who was the first to issue a regulation for the brewing of bierre but Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, who ordered as early as 1438 that only barley, hops, and water were allowed. Beer in Burgundy? In the 15th century, la Bourgogne was the biggest producer of hops and historians have found out that Philip's decree was aimed to protect domestic cultivation of hops rather than the purity of beer.

The Bavarians were shocked and looked further into their beer history. In my blog Back to the Roots? I reported that a Munich Reinheitsgebot already dates from anno Domini 1487 and beats at least the satzung unnd ordnung über die weyne by 12 years. In that year Duke Albert IV the Wise of Bavaria-Munich cast an order of the Munich magistrate of 1453 into law: dass Bier und Greußing* nu füran auch aus nichts anderem dann Hopfen, Gersten und Wasser gesotten werden (that from now on and forever beer and mild beer shall be seethed using nothing else than hops, barley, and water).
*a beer with less hops

Let us be clear. Originally the purity of beer was not what is meant when reading the following order:
The mayor announces that beer will be brewed on Wednesday
and therefore it is no longer allowed to shit
into the creek from Tuesday on (from Facebook).
In fact, the intention of Duke William's ordinance was to prohibit the use of wheat, rye, and oats for brewing beer for these cereals are important for the feeding of men/women and horses. Nevertheless, quoting Der Spiegel, for Herbert Frankenhauser, honorary president of the German Institute for Pure Beer, the purity law is a bulwark against incompetents and all the ills foreign beer allegedly entails: herbs, headaches, and consumer deception. He believes the purity law is "the world's first consumer protection law." Beer lovers however rather regard the purity law as consumer protection leading to consumer deception. Although carrying the name of a variety of well-known brands Germany's mass-produced beers taste more or less the same to the disappointment of many consumers. Is this the reason why beer consumption in my country dropped from 150 liters in the 1980ies to 106 liters per inhabitant in 2015?*
*Note that the Czechs are Weltmeister with 144 liters per inhabitant 

The German Einheitsplörre (universal dishwater) is a result of the way how hops is used. When visiting the Jever brewery in East Frisia in 2009 I noticed that the classical sacks filled with aromatic hop cones had been replaced by hops pressed into pellets.

Pellets for Pils in Jever (©Gert Kalischer)

Special stamp:
500 years Reinheitsgebot for beer
(©Deutsche Post)
Apparently, in the meantime the use of pellets has even been topped with the extraction of alpha acid from hops. Alpha acid gives the bitterness to the beer. Is this extract from hops in line with the Reinheitsgebot? Forget it. The problem is that alpha acid is deprived of all the flavoring substances and therefore mass-produced German beers differ in the degree of bitterness, i.e., the amount of alpha acid added to the brew.

Enter the craft-beer brewers. Most of them still adhere to the Reinheitsgebot but they experiment with the choice of yeast, barley, and the selection of "real" hops often imported from abroad. In fact, most hops grown in Germany is just cultivated for a maximum output of alpha acid.

In a blog about this special anniversary, I read this morning: Prost Reinheitsgebot! Nich lang snacken, Kopf in Nacken! (Don't chat too long, put your head back ... and down the hedge).

Happy birthday, Reinheitsgebot but let us not look at it the German way, i.e., in too narrow a context.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

B 31

stands for Bundesstraße 31. This Federal Highway running west-east connects Freiburg with Donaueschingen crossing the Black Forest. Initially in the 1970th the Federal Government had planned an autobahn, the A 86, bypassing Freiburg in the north. When this project was cancelled the B 31 was upgraded to four lanes but in traversing the Black Forest via the rocky Höllental (Hell Valley) the highway narrows to only two lanes. All west-east traffic runs through Freiburg along both sides of the Dreisam River where long haul Diesel trucks cause excessive noise. However, it is even more annoying that the traffic pollutes the air with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) where levels frequently exceed limits the European Union (EU) has fixed for residential areas. EU member states are requested to keep those limits otherwise penalties of millions of euros must be send to Brussels.

The easiest way to get rid of high NO2 concentrations in the city would be to place the B 31 into a tunnel. Five years ago the shorter northern and easier part was placed underground while the financing of the longer western and more complicated section got the federal financial approval just three weeks ago. With federal money the B 31 will be upgraded to become the A 860, Freiburg's city autobahn. The total cost estimate is 325 million euros (400 MU$). With 163 Euro per kilometer the western section of Freiburg's city tunnel will be the most expensive autobahn that has been built in Germany so far and it will take 15 years to complete. The EU however will not wait until their air quality standards are eventually met in Freiburg in 2031.

Planned and existing city tunnel (©Wikipedia/Maximilian Dürrbecker)
Since last year the city of Freiburg is within a "green" environmental zone of low air pollution. Only cars fulfilling the latest low-emission values fixed in the EU are allowed to enter the city boundaries. The only exception is the B 31 thoroughfare so that the important west-east traffic may transit the Black Forest without restrictions. Placing the B 31 into the "green" environmental zone will exclude many Dreckschleudern (big polluters) in particular foreign trucks from transiting Freiburg. With this ban, however, lots of traffic will escape into neighboring villages not having the necessary road stability and infrastructure. The Regierungspräsidium (the local state authority) is in dire straights.

Fitting the tunnel below an existing infrastructure is not easy (©Freiburg Garten- und Tiefbauamt)
Last week Regierungspräsidentin Bärbel Schäfer called for the help of Freiburg citizens. The local authority intended to form six working groups doing brainstorming and looking for solutions how to get to grips with the air pollution along the B 31. Eventually only 30 "experts" followed the call and only four working groups could be formed. The Badische Zeitung mentioned a few ad hoc proposals that were already made:

Since a train, the Höllentalbahn, running parallel to the B 31 transverses the Black Forest put all the trucks on rail. With no infrastructure and only one track available forget it.

Make public transport cheaper and give out short distance tickets. Sorry, truck drivers will not buy those and that.

Place the B 31 into the city's environmental zone. In case of a federal road only the Federal Ministry of Transport and not the state government can authorize such a move.

Red Baron is disgusted. Where many experts have failed to provide a solution for the long known air pollution problem lay persons should now spend their time squaring the circle. The participation of citizens in the debate is mere eyewash and an abuse of their good will. The small number of people attending the Open-Space-Conference (as the Regierungspräsidium called it) proves that the mature citizen is not as dumb as those governing us assume. Is the last call for people the final cartridge the state authorities aim towards the EU in Brussels to avoid penalties? We in Freiburg have done everything possible to reduce NO2 concentrations even asking our citizens to serve as a fig leaf.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Wrapping It Up

In March Red Baron reported on the results of recent elections in Germany in three federal states. Now the right leaning Aktion für Deutschland (AfD) is strongly presented in all these state parliaments. Still looking for their profile the protesters are just against the establishment but that is not a party platform. Therefore nobody of the "old" parties wants to deal with the new and mostly brownish deputies. Anyway, the losers rather are busy picking up their remaining pieces and are wrapping them up.

The political landscape in Germany has become more colorful* and since in none of the three newly elected state parliaments one party has a clear cut majority coalition governments must be formed.
*I pointed out the color codes for Germany's political parties in an earlier blog. Why the AfD is presented in charts and diagrams by a light blue color nobody has explained to me so far.

In Rhineland-Palatinate a classical Ampelkoalition (traffic light coalition: red-yellow-green) between the Social Democrats (SPD), the Free Democrats (FDP), and the Green is negotiated.

What is good for Castrop-Rauxel's municipal council
must be good for Rhineland-Palatinate's parliament (©Castrop-Rauxel)
In Saxony-Anhalt the Christian Democrats (CDU) try to form a Kenya coalition (black-red-green) with the Social Democrats and the Greens.

Kenya's national flag (©Pumbaa80/Wikipedia)
Finally in Baden-Württemberg following the clear victory of Winfried Kretschmann and his Greens a kiwi coalition with the CDU, i.e. green with some black spots, is likely.

The landscape of Baden-Württemberg with respect to the directly elected deputies
has a faint resemblance with a cut-up kiwi.
Note the two disturbing blue spots that previously had been red (©SWR)
In the still ongoing coalition negotiations many conflicting interests must be ironed out. Stumbling blocks are economic growth against green sustainability, more roads against maintaining the existing network, differentiated education against a unified schooling system only to name a few. The fact that it is is awesome to be in the government facilitates for some negotiators the swallowing of toads (as we say in German) or as Kretschmann said in his pragmatic way: It is better to establish something than stubbornly defend a position.

And there was another controversial issue that was wrapped up ... in Freiburg. In January 2013 Red Baron reported on a dispute about a planned painting on St. Martin's Gate (Martinstor). Here is a somewhat crazy proposal that would not be too much in contrast with the McDonald's advertisement nearby.

It is true: Many Italians visit Freiburg (©BZ)
To get an independent recommendation on the painting issue the municipal council charged an art commission in the beginning of 2013 to look into the matter. The wise guys eventually met for the first time in 2015 but then they suddenly worked fast. They deliberated the question what kind of picture should embellish the presently white surface of the gate in only four sessions. Last week they came to their earth-shaking conclusion: Leave the surface white. Will this decision silent the discussion? I doubt.

The present and the future? (©BZ/Ingo Schneider)

P.S. 1: And here we go. Today April 11, the Badische Zeitung published a letter to the editor. Dr. Eugen Baldas from Freiburg wrote that the decision of the art commission to leave the front face of St. Martin's Gate white comes untimely. This year is the 1700 birthday of St. Martin, born in the Roman city of Sabaria (today in Hungary) in 316.

In 2005 the Council of Europe declared St. Martin a person of sharing and of common values in Europe. In times of refugees living in misery coming to a divided Europe Dr. Baldas would like to see a painting of St. Martin encouraging sharing when facing Freiburg's shopping mile, the Kaiser-Joseph-Straße.

P.S. 2: On April 12, Freiburg's city council followed the recommendation of the art commission and with a large majority decided to leave the front face of St. Marin's Gate naked. Freiburg's Mayor Dieter Salomon commented the decision: "This is a plea for Nacktheit am Bau (nakedness on the building)". When one deputy complained about the yellow sauce (algae) spoiling the white surface Salomon replied: "Baubürgermeister Martin Haag will lend his hand to clean the surface so that at least one Martin will be on the gate". Our mayor had been funnier before.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Labeling Fraud

... or in German in just one word: Etikettenschwindel. When reading today's Sunday newspaper Red Baron was shocked about an article headed: Badischer Gutedel in Schweizer Verpackung (A chasselas from Baden in a Swiss package). What happened?

When it turned out that the 2015 grape harvest in the Romandie (the French speaking part of Switzerland notably Valais and Vaud) was below expectations Coop, biggest retailer of wine in Switzerland, bought Gutedel wine from southern Baden to fill its inox steel tanks rather than its oak barrels. So far so good, thirsty throats need their cheap fill.

Unfortunately the story did not end here. The wine from Baden was mis en bouteille (bottled) in Basel and sold at Coop's as table wine labelled Chasselas, Vin de Pays, with the addition Les Coursons. Although Red Baron had lived in Geneva for 32 years and enjoyed in particular the Fendant, a chasselas from Valais, he had to look up the word courson in a dictionary. I did not find the translation right away. Only with the help of Google I dug out that the word courson is used when grafting trees. So a courson à bois is a renewal spur and a courson à fruit a fruiting lateral. Therefore I regard the words Les Coursons printed on the label of a wine bottle sold in the German speaking part of Switzerland as misinformation and a pertinence to customers. In fact, Coop said that they will (dare?) not sell this cheap wine in La Romandie where the connoisseurs of chasselas are native.

Intended? confusion at Coop's in Basel: A bottle of  Swiss Chasselas de Romandie
between two bottles of German Chasselas, Vin de Pays.
The bottles are similarly labelled with the addition of Les Coursons (©Der Sonntag/Dietrich)
It's common practice in Switzerland to sell consumer products either labeled in their three national languages or with different labels in the German speaking part of the country and in la Suisse romande. So Les Grands Dignitaires, the better quality Fendant from the Valais, is sold in La Romandie as Les Chanoines (the canons), Idéal pour l'apéro, le bistro et le caveau and in der deutschen Schweiz as Domherrenwein, Idéal pour l'open air, la raclette et les afters. Sorry, that is no German text but a mixture of French and English considered chic. For a German speaking reader: What are afters if not several anuses?

Les Chanoines (©provins)
Domherrenwein (©provins)
The winegrowers from Baden are somewhat indignant with Coop's marketing of their Gutedel but do not like to speak out for fear of loosing their deal with the Swiss market leader for wine. Luckily Red Baron is not concerned and hence could not care less. He rather follows Goethe's maxim: Das Leben ist viel zu kurz, um schlechten Wein zu trinken (Life is much too short to drink bad wine).

Friday, April 1, 2016

Painter in Her Majesty's Service

Maler im Auftrag Ihrer Majestät

Here comes the blog many of my American friends have been waiting for. On March 20, the Franz Xaver Winterhalter exhibition at Freiburg's Augustinermuseum closed its doors. It was the first Winterhalter retrospective in Germany so it is not surprising that a new record of 62,000 people from all over Germany visited the special exhibition admiring the wall-filling paintings.

The artworks are now on their way to Houston, Texas, and will be on display at the MFA, the Museum of Fine Arts, starting Apr 17, through Aug 14, 2016. I understand that a group from Madison will fly to Houston especially to see the paintings. What are they going to see?

Here is a report about my visit to the Freiburg exhibition. For Winterhalter's life you may like to consult Wikipedia.

As painter Winterhalter had his breakthrough at the Salon in Paris in 1836 presenting an Italian genre scene Il Dolce Farniente.

Il Dolce Farniente (1836) (©Wikipedia)
While many admired his "genius" some criticized his style as manneristic. He could not care less for soon he was appointed court painter of the French King Louis-Philippe. In 1839 Winterhalter finished the portrait of the Citizen King, three years later that of Queen Maria-Amalia.

Louis-Philippe I, King of the French (1839)
Maria-Amalia of the Two Sicilies,
Queen of the French (1842) (©Wikipedia)
Winterhalter became an international celebrity as a portrait painter and ... rich. Among his many regal sitters was also Queen Victoria. Winterhalter first visited England in 1842 and became court painter in Her Majesty's Service. From 1842 to 1871 he produced more than 100 paintings at and for the English court.

In 1851 Queen Victoria wrote in her diary: Took another painting lesson with Winterhalter after luncheon. He is so good natured & straight forward.

Winterhalter, now with royal patronage, was internationally celebrated. In Napoleon's III Second Empire, Winterhalter became the chief portraitist of the imperial family and court of France in 1854. The beautiful French Empress Eugénie was his favorite sitter and some experts regard the painting Empress Eugénie Surrounded by Her Ladies in Waiting of 1855 as Winterhalter's masterpiece.

Empress Eugénie Surrounded by Her Ladies in Waiting (1855) (©Sstjean/Wikipedia)
In the same year he also finished Napoleon's portrait and five years later that of Empress Eugénie.

Portrait of Napoleon III (1855)
Portrait of Empress Eugénie (1860)
One of Winterhalter's French critics wrote: Le seul peintre en France qui comprenne que l'artiste doit reproduire non seulement la nature, mais la beauté (He is the only painter in France who understands that an artist not only must reproduce nature but beauty). While his male portraits sometimes seem stiff (is it the uniform?) his female portraits are more than just a color photo. The faces of his ladies are of radiant beauty, a beauty accentuated by those wonderful gowns the women are wearing following the motto: Die Frau ist das Aushängeschild des Mannes (A wife is a husband's flagship). Winterhalter became victim of his own success. It meant that for the rest of his life he worked almost exclusively as a portrait painter.

And Winterhalter became better with time. Here is a most frivolous portrait of Barbara (Barbe) Dmitrievna Mergassov Rimsky-Korsakova, a rich Russian lady who lived in Paris most of the time. Somehow Winterhalter replicated her way of living for she said about herself: I am free and independent. My mistakes are my mistakes. My success is my success. I believe in myself, I do everything alone and don't make a tragedy of it.

Barbe Dmitrievna Mergassov Madame Rimsky-Korsakov (1864)
However, Winterhalter's best known and loved portrait is that of Sisi, the favorite empress of all German-speaking people.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Courtly Gala Dress
with Diamond Stars (1865) (©Wikipedia)
After Winterhalter's death, his painting fell out of favor, being considered romantic, glossy, and superficial. This loss of appreciation was aggravated by the fact that he had neither created a school nor had he pupils. In addition he fell somewhat into disgrace in Germany as the "French painter" following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/71. Hopefully the Freiburg/Houston exhibitions will help rescue Winterhalter from oblivion.