Saturday, July 30, 2016

Gleanings of the Freiburg Vigil

Last November Red Baron surveyed Freiburg from a shelter mounted on the roof of the municipal theater serving as one of the tower warders (Türmer) in an art project. When we warders had finished our vigil we were asked to write down our sensations.

In my blog I wrote: 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 mind yet.

Last month I was informed about a documentation of the project. It was not in the form of a book but composed of a thick pile of sheets in a box each showing photos of four tower warders and a short text.

When I got my copy the lady behind the counter said: Don't feel disappointed if your text is not printed. Eventually I was semi disappointed because my text had been cut and reproduced but in parts. Here is a copy of the relevant sheet from the box testifying that my vigil had started on November 23, 2015, at 1545 hours.

Here is the translation of my printed text describing my observations in part: To the right there are the twin towers of Johannes church, the tower of the university with the blue-white-blue flag where nobody knows what the combination of colors means. Next is St. Martin's Gate where you may admire its rise in height at the time of Lord Mayor Otto Winterer. He well knew that a town has steeples, a village roofs. Follow the Münster church, its steeple being an eternal building site, the steeple of the Jesuit church and the one of the Martin church. Hold on, I forgot to mention the viewing tower on Schlossberg presently with an amputated leg*. Above all a hazy two-third-moon is shining.
*The wooden construction being rotten needed a metallic prosthesis.

We were not allowed to keep or make a full copy of our handwritten impressions so the rest of my text is lost in the project and as I had mentioned in my original blog: We were not allowed to take photos neither. Therefore I appreciate the picture on the back of "my" sheet showing the final ramp to the observation shelter in the backlight of the morning sun.

Monday, July 25, 2016

My Blog Is Being Hacked

In the past I had some suspicion but now it is obvious: My blog is being hacked. Luckily it is only a minor offence but the permanent attack from the Internet is still annoying. If you look at the picture below you will notice from the intense green color that I have a high frequency of visits of my blog from Russia. Fact is, the visitors produced more than 300 visits to my site on July 19, with the same frequency (70) for a couple of my recent blogs.

The total number of the visits from Russia was 1935 last week and is still counting high. I am not excluding that those buggers (sorry) have activated a bot. In Wikipedia we read: An Internet bot, also known as web robot, WWW robot or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone.

That is not all. In visiting some of my all-time "bestsellers" frequently they catapult this "old stuff" into the weekly and monthly ranking of my present blogs falsifying my personal statistics completely. What is their interest in all this? Don't those Russian visitors have no other job?

As an immediate measure I have reset some of those abused "historic" blogs to the draft status. Furthermore I will no longer display the list of my all-time-high blogs. Finally, I shall again "Complain to Blogger" already knowing that there will be no response. I am sorry for all the inconvenience this will cause to my faithful readers but I hate being manipulated.

PS: So far Google's Blogger has not offered any remedy (e.g. banning all access to my blog from Russian territory) so I shall suppress all statistical information being completely wrong from my site.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Downtown Reading

Yesterday Red Baron represented the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft at the StadtLesen event 2016. Freiburg's municipal library participates in an European initiative to bring reading again near to the people in times of Internet, smartphones, and Pokémons.

Freiburg's Kartoffelmarkt (former potato market) equipped for StadtLesen (©StadtLesen)
In its 2016 flyer StadtLesen posed two questions: How many languages are spoken in Freiburg? How many nationalities live here? At this year's downtown reading Freiburg's Sister City Committees had the whole Friday afternoon reserved for the presentation of their texts. It was somehow unfortunate that the FMG was last in line starting the reading at 2000 hours (8 p.m.). As we say in German: Den Letzten beißen die Hunde (The devil takes the hindmost) so the attendance was manageable.

The reader from the Confucius Institute leaving the stage with the FMG following.
Red Baron is actually waiting for a promised photo showing him in the reading position.
Stay tuned for the update.
Red Baron had chosen to read Mark Twain's article: The awful German language having in mind that at present so many refugees try hard to learn Goethe's idiom. Mark Twain wrote his article in 1878 while staying in Heidelberg. You may read the original here. From Mark Twain's article I read whole paragraphs first in their German translation then in the original.

Here are some observations I made when comparing Mark Twain's original remarks with modern developments of the German language:

For instance, my [text]book inquires after a certain bird -- (it is always inquiring after things which are of no sort of consequence to anybody): "Where is the bird?" Now the answer to this question -- according to the book -- is that the bird is waiting in the blacksmith shop on account of the rain. Of course no bird would do that, but then you must stick to the book. Very well, I begin to cipher out the German for that answer ... the rain is der Regen, if it is simply in the quiescent state of being mentioned, without enlargement or discussion -- Nominative case; but if this rain is lying around, in a kind of a general way on the ground, it is then definitely located, it is doing something -- that is, resting (which is one of the German grammar's ideas of doing something), and this throws the rain into the Dative case, and makes it dem Regen. However, this rain is not resting, but is doing something actively, -- it is falling -- to interfere with the bird, likely -- and this indicates movement, which has the effect of sliding it into the Accusative case and changing dem Regen into den Regen." Having completed the grammatical horoscope of this matter, I answer up confidently and state in German that the bird is staying in the blacksmith shop "wegen (on account of) den Regen." Then the teacher lets me softly down with the remark that whenever the word "wegen" drops into a sentence, it always throws that subject into the Genitive case, regardless of consequences -- and that therefore this bird stayed in the blacksmith shop "wegen des Regens."

Only few people in Germany still use wegen with the Genitive case: "wegen des Regens". What in the 1960th was still called the Lower Bavarian Genitive "wegen dem Regen" is now common use. It seems that the Genitive is a dying case in German according to the bestseller by Bastian Sick: Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod (literally The Dative is to the Genitive its Death). Red Baron on the other hand uses the Genitive in his German texts whenever possible.

Then there is Twain's fight with the Adjective:

Now observe the Adjective. Here was a case where simplicity would have been an advantage; therefore, for no other reason, the inventor of the German language complicated it all he could. When we wish to speak of our "good friend or friends," in our enlightened tongue, we stick to the one form and have no trouble or hard feeling about it; but with the German tongue it is different. When a German gets his hands on an adjective, he declines it, and keeps on declining it until the common sense is all declined out of it. It is as bad as Latin. He says, for instance:

o Nominative -- Mein guter Freund, my good friend.
o Genitives -- Meines guten Freundes, of my good friend.
o Dative -- Meinem guten Freunde, to my good friend.
o Accusative -- Meinen guten Freund, my good friend

Today very few people still say "Meinem guten Freunde" they rather drop the "e": "Meinem guten Freund". Some even go so far to say: Ich hab' ein Mann gesehen instead of correctly saying: Ich habe einen Mann gesehen. Dropping the endings seems to be a deadly sin in English, it is only a venial sin in German.

Twain then moans about the difference between the natural and the grammatical gender in German:

Every noun has a gender, and there is no sense or system in the distribution; so the gender of each must be learned separately and by heart. There is no other way. To do this one has to have a memory like a memorandum-book. In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has. Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl. See how it looks in print -- I translate this from a conversation in one of the best of the German Sunday-school books:

Gretchen: Wilhelm, where is the turnip?
Wilhelm: She has gone to the kitchen.
Gretchen: Where is the accomplished and beautiful English maiden?
Wilhelm: It has gone to the opera.

To continue with the German genders: a tree is male, its buds are female, its leaves are neuter; horses are sexless, dogs are male, cats are female -- tomcats included, of course; a person's mouth, neck, bosom, elbows, fingers, nails, feet, and body are of the male sex, and his head is male or neuter according to the word selected to signify it, and not according to the sex of the individual who wears it -- for in Germany all the women either male heads or sexless ones; a person's nose, lips, shoulders, breast, hands, and toes are of the female sex; and his hair, ears, eyes, chin, legs, knees, heart, and conscience haven't any sex at all. The inventor of the language probably got what he knew about a conscience from hearsay.

A new development among young Germans influenced by Turkish-Arabic syntax would possibly have delighted the frustrated Twain. The speakers not only do no longer care for gender Ich hab Vertrag instead of Ich habe einen Vertrag (I have a contract) but in addition they drop prepositions: Wir sind Kino instead of Wir sind im Kino  (We are at the movies). Such rudimentary forms lend themselves to short messages as SMSs.

German language, quo vadis?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Art of Style

Red Baron's battered copy
of Reiner's Stilkunst
When Red Baron left high school his Stilkunst (art of style) was somewhat limited. My German sufficient to publish scientific papers lacked fluency and elegance. Knowing this I started to work on the problem and bought the one and only expensive book - nearly 17 Deutsche Mark in 1961! - titled Deutsche Stilkunst. The author was Ludwig Reiners, a trained merchant with literary ambitions. He had died in 1957 and all what he is remembered for is his book Stilkunst.

It was a surprise when last week I came across another book called Deutsche Stilkunst written by an intellectual giant Eduard Engel. The list of Engel's publications is long. His Stilkunst, first published in 1911, saw many improved reprints until 1931 when the book already was in its 31st edition. Politically Engel was a right-winger and hailed the Machtergreifung (takeover) by the Nazis in 1933 simply forgetting that he was a Jew.

In spite of his patriotic views the Nazi government banned Engel from publication, they canceled his retirement pension, his life's work was no longer printed. Only friends supported the 82-year old Engel. He died in 1938 impoverished.

Engel's Deutsche Stilkunst republished
 in two volumes in a slipcase
In 1943 Ludwig Reiners published his Deutsche Stilkunst based on Engel's work. He copied whole paragraphs unnoticed - there was no longer any copyright on Engel's Jewish Stilkunst in the Nazi area - while the original printed in Gothic had simply been banned from libraries and became forgotten. In addition, in 1941 the Führer had ordered that for the German 3rd Empire Antiqua (Latin-script) was now mandatory and prohibited all new publications using Fraktur (Gothic letters). So it was easy for Reiners, member of the Nazi party, not only to plagiarize but to aryanize Engel's book ruthlessly including a "modern" typeface. Denazification only came in 1949 when Reiners deleted some compromising sentences and rebaptized "his" book Stilkunde leaving the deutsch out. Still, in my edition of 1961 the name Engel is not mentioned at all.

Last month Die Andere Bibliothek (The Other Library) republished Engel's original Deutsche Stilkunst in its 31st edition of 1931 printing only 4444 copies. The publisher is advertising his two volume edition as follows: May others publish the copy we prefer the original.

Immediately Red Baron was on fire and ordered the two volumes right away. When they arrived yesterday I opened them and I found out that my copies bear the number 3237; but then I became slightly disappointed: The books are printed in Antiqua and not in Fraktur.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Alto Adige

My readers know that Red Baron is member of the Museumsgesellschaft, Freiburg's oldest civic society. Once a year we start out for a Museumsreise, an annual trip exploring cultural highlights in regions that can still be reached by bus. In 2012 we were in southern Burgundy, in 2013 we visited Cologne and the Roman Rhineland, in 2014 we saw inner Switzerland, in 2015 we explored the south of the Harz mountains, and this year we went to South Tyrol, a region named Alto Adige in Italian that will translate into Oberetsch (Upper Etsch). The Etsch is the famous river that in former times was referred in Germany's national anthem as the southern border of all German-speaking people.

The Etsch bordering marble town Laas (see below)
In fact South Tyrol was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire before 1918. In the peace treaty of St. Germain following the First World War this German-speaking region was assigned to Italy.

In Merano, our headquarter during the trip, today still 70% of the population is of German mother tongue whereas 50 kilometers further south in Bolzano 70% of the inhabitants rather speak Italian. Advertising and street signs in Alto Adige are bilingual but the farther you move south the more Italian becomes dominant.

You will find an extensive gallery of photos of our trip on the Museumgesellschaft's web site. Here I shall concentrate on some highlights and curiosities.

In Merano we stayed at the Bellevue, a classical hotel that had seen better times.

Most impressive were the nostalgic double doors to the rooms with classical keys. Red Baron occupied room number 006, one short of 007.

Franz Kafka was a frequent guest at the spa. In the background stands the 19th-century Lutheran church that attracted rich people from the north of Germany looking for warmer weather.

On our walk through Merano we passed the following trilingual text:

Sadly enough, this terrible event has been surpassed.
A truly international lunch: Italian Prosecco, Danube Monarchy Kaiserschmarren
(sweet cut-up pancake with raisins and wild cranberries),
and Merano sparkling water all served by a Hungarian waiter.
On our way to Bolzano we noticed a strange roundabout decorated with old buffers near the train station, where else?.

In Bolzano we visited the Tyrolean iceman. Ötzi, the wet mummy, is on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.

Still at minus 6 degrees centigrade with ample DNA.
Ötzi was discovered in the Ötztal (sic!) Alps in 1991 freed from a glacier that is suffering from climatic change. Free at last after more than 3000 years conserved in ice.

For lunch I dug into classical Austrian Mehlspoisen (pastries and cakes): 

Apricot cake, cherry strudel, and iced coffee (Eiscafé).

Another highlight of our trip was the visit of the marble quarries at Laas. Here a railcar of the Vintschgaubahn with the name Usedom enters Laas station.

In the background the marble storage area.
A mystery: Why does the name of a small island in the Baltic Sea, now split between Poland and Germany, figure as the train's name?

We were told that marble from Laas is better than Carrara marble. The reason: Laas marble formed at higher geological pressure is finer-grained, has a higher density, and therefore is more resistant to wear and chemical attack. This is why the new WTC in New York ordered all their marble plates and panels - the only production that is still profitable - at Laas.

Marble for eternity at the cemetery in Laas. Mind you, they do not pay for the stones.

Austrian Emperor Francis I visited Laas while taking a cure in Merano.
A heavy souvenir

In 1966 Elisabeth and I visited the St. Proculus church in Naturns where I took photos with a Zeiss Contax  in B&W.

At that time the place was open to the everybody, the interior of the church was cold and damp but at the wall there were impressive frescos dating back to the 8th century.

Once of the scenes shows the Apostle Paul on a swing? It happened while Paul (aka Saul) was in Damascus. The story goes like this : After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plot. Day and night they watched the city gates in order to kill him. One night, however, his disciples took him and lowered him in a basket through a window in the wall ... (Acts 9:23-25)

Here are the same motifs 50 years later and in color taken with my iPhone 6S Plus. Color is the killer. As far as contrast and sharpness are concerned, what a technical progress!

There were more frescos at Castle Rodenegg illustrating the Iwein-Cycle.

A fresco at Schloss Rodeneck showing the castle in its surroundings

Iwein, a knight from King Arthur's Round Table, before fighting King Aschelon (Askalon) meets the Woodman and passes the two Germanic trees, the oak and the linden tree.

Following their lance bout (right) the two kings continue their fight drawing their swords with Iwein hitting Aschelon right on his head (left).

On our way back in Brixen I noticed a commemorative plate in the prince-bishop's church.

Palace of Brixen's prince-bishop.
The  entrance to the church is the one in the back.

Pope Pius VI was there on May 23, 1782, on his way back from Vienna. There he had tried in vain to convince Emperor Joseph II to rescind his decision on closing monasteries and making monks and nuns do useful work in education and nursing care. When the pope insisted Joseph simply answered: Tempi passati (Times have passed).

In the cloisters of Brixen's cathedral we saw more outstanding frescos, this time in Gothic style.

Adoration of the Magi

St. Christopher
Before the long leg back to Freiburg some of the group visited the Dark Innkeeper (Finsterwirt) for lunch.

A perfect translation

Pork loin with polenta and 0,1!! liter of local rosé wine. That was all.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


You may know the term Decapolis (ten cities) from the New Testament: Again Jesus went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis (Mark 7:31). However, in this blog I shall refer to another Decapolis, a league of Imperial Cities, formed in Alsace at the time of the outgoing Middle Ages.

Here is a map of the region showing the cities forming the Decapolis in Alsace. You will actually count more than ten but do not blame me. This is due to the fact that in the course of history some members left the league while new cities joined.

Last Saturday I listened to a lecture by Olivier Richard: Die Dekapolis im Elsass - Reichsstädtische Vergangenheit (The Decapolis in Alsace - the past as Imperial Cities) but I did not learn anything dramatically new. In fact, five years ago I read the monograph La Decapolis, ten cities in Alsace allied for their liberty compiled by Bernard Vogler. He pointed out that the league came quite naturally, for the Imperial Cities concerned were small with a maximum of 5000 inhabitants. It was better to defend their liberty from ruling princes or bishops by forming a league. Liberty, a topic fitting to the 14th of July.

When Emperor Charles VI visited the Alsace in 1354 he was entirely happy to consent to the formation of a league for Imperial Cities paid their taxes directly to the emperor. Charles, however, cleverly granted those cities exemption from all taxes and thus gained fierce supporters in defense of imperial authority against local princes in a region so far away from Habsburg's metropolises Vienna and Prague.

The first blow to the unity of the Decapolis came with the Reformation, for six cities stayed Catholic while the rest adhered to the new faith, be it Lutheran or Calvinist. There were tensions but it turned out that the urge to remain in a common Schutz und Trutz Bündnis (defensive and offensive alliance) was bigger than religious differences. A second blow came during the Thirty Years' War when in the absence of an imperial protection against marauding soldiers, a couple of Alsatian cities looked to the French king for protection.

Writing about the result of the Westphalian Peace Treaty French historians beat around the bush: En 1648 l'Alsace n'est pas devenue française par sa propre volonté; on ne le lui a pas demandé. Mais elle n'a pas non plus été prise par violence par le roi de France. C'est plutôt l'Empire qui l'a abandonnée au roi de France qui y vient en 1635 à l'appel des villes et des seigneurs alsaciens protestant (In 1684 the Alsace did not become French on its own initiative, it was not asked. Nor did it become French because the French King took it by violence. It was the (German) Empire that had abandoned the Alsace to the French King who came in 1635 when the Protestant cities and princes had called for him). Well, there is always somebody to blame. The Westphalian Peace Treaty stipulated that the Alsace became French territory including the Imperial Cities. However they, adhering to the German emperor, continued to send their representatives to the Perpetual Imperial Diet. There in Regensburg members of the Diet used to address members of the Decapolis as Unsere Städte im Elsass (Our cities in Alsace).

Such a situation was unacceptable to the Sun King, Louis XIV, but initially domestic issues (the Fronde uprising) did not allow him to take any action. In 1673 however the worm had turned when Prince Condé wrote: Les dix villes impériales, loin d’être soumises au roi comme elles le devraient être, sont presque ennemies … je crois que le roi devrait prendre le temps qu’il jugerait à propos pour mettre Colmar et Haguenau à la raison. Ce serait chose facile; les autres suivraient sans contredit! (The ten Imperial Cities far from submitting to the king as it should be are nearly enemies ... I think the king should take his appropriate time to bring Colmar and Haguenau to their senses. This should be easy; the others will follow without objection!).

Already at the end of August 1673 the French army moved into Alsace. The king's historian wrote about Colmar: C’est peu de chose, quant à ces fortifications … (With respect to its fortification, that is nothing to speak of ...). Eventually in January 1675 Louis' war minister Louvois' troops had occupied all ten Imperial Cities and bloodily brought them to their senses.

More than 340 years have passed but memories are made of this. We read in the Dictionnaire historique de Colmar in 2006: Toutes les villes qui en firent partie revendiquent aujourd'hui encore cette appartenance avec force. On évoque la Décapole avec nostalgie (Still today all cities that had once formed the league invoke vociferously their affiliation. They remember the Decapolis with nostalgia).

Monday, July 4, 2016

Lingua Franca Male Affecta?

In a recent article The downside of English as the universal language I found the following paragraph: In the 19th century, German was the dominant language of science and technology. French was the language of diplomacy. In the 20th century, both of those languages gave way to English. Today, English is the lingua franca of world commerce and academia, but will it one day go the way of Latin, the European lingua franca of the Middle Ages and into the 17th century? Will Chinese, with over a billion speakers, or some other language eventually become the new universal language?

This is of valid concern but presently I am more interested to know in how far the use of English as lingua franca by non-native speakers will influence its grammar and vocabulary. Lingua male affecta?

The use of the conditional in conditional clauses (If I would have time instead of if I had time ...) is a common mistake of German, Dutch, or Norwegian speakers. Furthermore non-native speakers tend to create pseudo-English words like Handy for a mobile phone or use neologism like public viewing for the public screening of important soccer matches even when a perfect description in German exists that however nobody uses: Rudelgucken.

In fact, so far the argumentation about the influence of English is just overrated as the author of the article writes: I am often amused by Germans who like to complain about how English is taking over die deutsche Sprache ... Yes, there’s a lot of English used in modern German (so-called “Denglish”), but don’t think that means German is turning into English. Far from it!

Red Baron's attitude is rather pragmatic. English vocabulary is often used in German for faster communication. Sale is just shorter than Schlussverkauf. On the other hand a browser has a perfect German translation but Stöberer nobody uses. Let the more concise word be the winner. Handy is shorter than cellular phone but has not found its entry into proper English. On the other hand, so far no German word beats smartphone, a phone that is smarter than a simple Handy.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

It's Raining on Wittenberg

Our group saw the town of Luther's postings, Wittenberg, in pouring rain. Red Baron had visited the place on a bicycle tour in 2004.

The famous door at the Schlosskirche where Luther, according to many experts,
 posted his 95 theses against the sale of indulgences in 1517. The text in Latin
is now cast in solid bronze.
On our way from Schlosskirche to Marienkirche (in the background) we walked along newly created Bächle (brooklets) that rather look like brooks to Freiburgers.

We were passing Lucas Cranach's pharmacy. This guy was an entrepreneur
not only successfully running his painter's shop but printing books
 and operating a flourishing pharmacy on Wittenberg's market place too.

Luther's statue in front of the town hall

We arrived early at Marienkirche and had to wait for the visit for a camera crew was interviewing a lady in the chancel.

It was a surprise to meet former bishop Margot Käßmann, now ambassador of next year's 500th anniversary of Luther posting his theses, who generously allowed me to take her photo. I told her that when watching her from the distance talking to the television people my impression had been that of a young lady. She - mother of four daughters - said with a smile that she was already a grandmother. I only stammered: I am a grandfather too. She answered with another smile. What a charming ambassador!

The altarpiece showing the program of the Lutheran Church.
There are only two sacraments: Infant baptism and the Eucharist under both kinds.
Note Luther sitting as Junker Jörg at the table receiving the cup.
Next stop was at the Lutherhaus. Knowing well the exhibition inside Luther's house I instead opted to visit the Melanchthonhaus nearby.

The master greeting the visitor
Without Magister Philipp Schwartzerdt (Melanchthon) Luther would not have been able to read Erasmus' Greek "Urtext" properly that served for the translation of the New Testament into German. Melanchthon's house and the exhibition were somehow deceiving with mostly empty rooms filled with artist-inspired furniture surrogates.

Melanchthon through the centuries
However, some of the original documents exposed behind double glass protection were interesting.

The Augsburg Confession dedicated to Emperor Charles V at Augsburg
 in 1530 as the confession of faith of many princes and cities.
Philip Melanchthon - Luther still being banned -presented the document
 at the Imperial Diet.

Original pages of the Augsburg Confession of Faith

Back at the Lutherhaus I had just time to walk around catching some photos.

Same setup as at the Melanchthonhaus: Luther through the centuries

Luther's educational mission in 1524:
To the councilors of all cities in German lands:
that they erect (build) and hold (support) Christian schools
Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them (Matthew 19:14)

400th anniversary of the Reformation in hard times.
The memorial sheet shows Luther's usual attributes:
The Wittenbergian Nightingale,
Luther's Rose, and A Mighty Fortress is Our God

Following Marx, Goethe, and Wagner
who did it again? Ottmar Hörl.