Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Cologne for Connoisseurs

Two weeks ago on Saturday Red Baron attended a wedding at St. Apollinaris*, a small church near Düren, a city in North-Rhine Westphalia. Why was I there? Well, I am the uncle related by marriage to and the godfather of the groom.
*Apollinaris is better known as a somewhat high-browed glass-bottled sparkling water.

I will only show three photos of this private family affair.

The grey-haired guy is desperately but in vain trying
to get a front view of the bridal couple. 
The subsequent fest was a big affair with about 300 young and youngest guests, me being the oldest. On the vast terrain belonging to the bride’s father, he had organized the wedding party. We, the guests, were treated with sparkling water or wine, Kölsch*, and finger food served at various service points. The host had even a toilet van installed for the people to get rid of their liquids.
*the local beer from nearby Cologne

The fest tent seen in the back was equipped with tables and chairs for all those eating their barbecue buffet. In the foreground, the young husband is chasing his wife (?) and children are playing in the meadow ...

... with some trying to flatten the molehills with their fingers.

Here are my photos of Cologne where I stayed in a hotel:

In fact, I had already arrived in Cologne at noon the Friday before by InterCity Express (ICE). It took me only three hours from Freiburg into the heart of the city; the central train station is just a stone’s throw away from the cathedral.

I know Cologne well for Elisabeth had lived here before our marriage and we visited my parents-in-law frequently. Being alone in the city, I took a guided bus tour for the first time.

The problem for the guides is that Cologne’s inner city is a pedestrian area. So I was driven through unknown suburbs called Niehl and Riehl and had an extended trip on the right bank of the Rhine that real Cologners pejoratively call the Schäl Sick (the wrong side of the river).

Here are a few photos I took on the ”right” side. The old Malzmühle (malt mill) nowadays is a brewery and pub for Kölsch. It is little known by tourists because it is located off their usual trail.

Det hillige Köln (Holy Cologne) had already nine big churches and a cathedral all built in the Romanesque style before the construction of the Dom started in 1248 in the Gothic style. Most of the old Romanesque churches were destroyed during the Second World War but reconstructed except for St. Alban's. The ruin now accommodates a memorial for those who perished during the war in particular in the bombing raids that destroyed Cologne to 90%.

Here is a place to visit, the new Wallraf-Richartz Museum of Art. The outside walls show what paintings you will find in there. On this side of the building are marked the names of Van Dyck, Murillo, Munch, Bruyn, Piacetta, Feuerbach, Morisson, and the less known Van Henessen.

Following the bus tour, I went to one of the Merzenich bread outlets where I noticed the first plum tart of the season.

Well, for the self-service stamp-sized tart and a cup of coffee I paid more than for two packages of Merzenich’s famous Schwarzbrot (coarse rye bread). This bread thinly sliced is cult for many Germans and possibly only digestible by them. My grandchildren even don’t look at me when I savor it for breakfast spread with Pflaumenmus (plum jam).

When I left my hotel the following morning, the steeples of the cathedral standing against a blue sky invited me. On my way, I passed the fence of a building site decorated with some banners presenting historical views of Cologne.

The panorama shows that a pontoon bridge still existed in 1900. It was opened at intervals for ships to pass.

Before the present cathedral was started in the Gothic style in 1248 a Romanesque bishop’s church the Carolingian Hildebold Dom, and an episcopal palace (marked in blue) existed.

All building activities came to a halt between 1524 to 1828. Here is the famous view of the unfinished cathedral in the 19th century. The new bishop’s palace is located in front of the already finished church choir that for centuries has served as the place of worship.

Inauguration and consecration in the presence of the Kaiser on 14 August 1880
The Catholic Kölner Dom was eventually finished in 1880 using French reparation payments following the French-German war of 1870/71.

Since Kaiser Wilhelm had some money left, he served his Protestant subjects too by having built the Berliner Dom around 1900.

My first action when I enter the cathedral always is to light a candle in front of the Schmuckmadonna. Since the end of the 17th century, the faithful have come to the small figure of the Madonna of the Jewelry placed in front of the left northern transept. The believers offered their precious gifts to the baroque, partly painted, partly gilded wooden statue of Our Lady.

Since December 2013, the Cathedral has a “new” relic. It is a scrap of cloth with a drop of blood of Pope John Paul II. The relic is contained in a silver reliquary depicting Karol Józef Wojtyła leaning on his Ferula.

Sideward of the doors of the northern transept, I discovered the statues of St. Mary and her “husband” Joseph. It was always my impression that the Church is not at ease regarding this special relationship. Here Joseph and Mary even look in opposite directions confirming my point of view.

To replace some broken windows the cathedral chapter mandated German artist Gerhard Richter in 2006 to fill the opening of the southern transept. Richter worked without pay.

Although one doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth Cologne’s Cardinal Joachim Meisner - not a member of the cathedral chapter - started a controversy about the Richter-Window, "It rather fits into a mosque or another house of prayer. If we already get a new window, it should also clearly reflect our faith. And not just any."

While the tourists started streaming into the cathedral, I stepped out into the bright sunlight heading for Brewery Früh just a stone’s throw away from the Dom.

Before I started on my trip to Düren, I had to strengthen myself with a Halve Hahn and a few test tubes of Früh Kölsch.

In the meantime, groups of tourist with their guides were continually passing by. My second breakfast attracted many an envious glance.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Change, Crisis or Catastrophe?

This morning Red Baron stepped out of the front door to do some grocery shopping well before 8 a.m. The temperature was already 24 ⁰C (75 ⁰F). They say that today Freiburg may break its temperature record of 40.1 ⁰C (104.2 ⁰F) established on August 13, 2003. So better be out of the house early and keep the blinds shut.

I already told you that German journalist in their texts changed from Klimawandel (climate change) to Klimakrise (climate crisis), but I had not read the word Klimakatastrophe (climate catastrophe) until this morning.

Warm nights keep people awake and so climate activists posted stickers on the somewhat ”bigger” cars parked in the streets around my apartment.

Here is a collection of photos.

Don’t worry, scratching ice will soon be history.
Climate catastrophe? So what, I am driving a bus.
Climate catastrophe? I am guilty.
Again: German guilt mixed with German angst.
Still convinced that the present climate crisis is just a normal climate variation and not man-made? I just read about an additional argument for the man-made change published in Nature by some Swiss scientists from Bern University.

They show that the Little Ice Age gradually changed different regions of the earth over several centuries. ”So in the 15th century, the lowest temperatures prevailed in the central and eastern Pacific, in the 17th century in northwest Europe and southeastern North America, and in the 19th century in other regions of the world again.”

"By contrast, we see that the warmest period of the past two millennia we are currently living in takes place on 98 percent of the earth," they write. ”This is a strong indication that the global temperature increase caused by humans is unprecedented - not only in terms of absolute temperatures but also in terms of spatial distribution.”

Monday, July 22, 2019

Evian Is Everywhere

You may have read about German Captain Carola Rakete of Sea-Watch 3, a rescue ship, who defied the Italian government ban and eventually docked at the port of Lampedusa. On-board dozens of African migrants rescued from distress. She committed the desperate measure following a two-week odyssey in the Mediterranean with many people on board being sick.

It was like the year 1939 reloaded when for weeks the steamer St. Louis with 927 Jewish refugees tried in vain to moor in the New World. Neither the US nor Cuba opened their ports. Eventually, the ship had to return to Europe where at least 254 of the former passengers died in Nazi extermination camps.

This so-called Journey of the Damned had been preceded by the Evian Conference of 1938. The conference followed an appeal by President Roosevelt to help persecuted Germans and Austrians Jews leave the Großdeutsches Reich. Initially, the meeting was scheduled in Geneva at the headquarters of the League of Nations. However, Switzerland insisted on relocating it to the French side of Lake Geneva in order not to annoy the increasingly threatening Nazi Germany.

On July 6, 1938, representatives of 32 states met at the noble hotel "Royal" in the French lakeside resort of Évian-Les-Bains. They were discussing the fate of about 550,000 people, 350,000 German and 200,000 Austrian Jews. The big three negotiators were: American Conference President and a friend of Roosevelt, Myron Charles Taylor, the French ambassador and a man with literary ambitions, Henry Victor Bérenger, and British emissary and conservative parliamentarian, Edward Turnour Earl of Winterton. These gentlemen mimed empathy followed by long laments.

For the Nazis, Bolshevism was Jewish as well as international finance.
Taylor reminded the participants that the US was still feeling the consequences of the great depression; therefore, the quota of 27,370 emigrants from Germany and Austria per year would remain fixed.

Lord Winterton said, ”Great Britain is not a country of immigration. Asylum can only be granted within narrow limits," sparing out the mandated territory of Palestine, the destination and port of longing of many Jewish emigrants in the 1930s. But given the conflicts that had arisen in the Middle East, the British did not want to spoil it with the Arabs.

Bérenger mentioned the already hosted foreigners and whined, ”France, despite its long liberal tradition, has reached, if not exceeded, an absolute saturation point concerning the admission of refugees.”

These statements revealed all the flimsiness of the argumentation, which determined the conference climate: Yes, the fate of the German and Austrian Jews was pathetic, they had to be helped in the face of inhuman persecution, but a great BUT always followed suit.

Delegates from other countries sang the same tune. Sir Thomas Walter White, the Australian Chief Delegate, said, "It will undoubtedly be understood that we, who have no real racial problem, do not wish to introduce such a problem in our country."

Heinrich Rothmund, Swiss Chief Delegate and Chief of the Federal Aliens Police, stated, "Switzerland has just as little use for these Jews as Germany. In collaboration with the Vienna [Nazi!] police, we will take measures to protect Switzerland from being inundated with Jews.”

A more than critical observer from Palestine was Golda Meir. later Prime Minister of Israel, ”It was a terrible experience to sit there in the magnificent hall and watch delegates from thirty-two countries rise one after the other and declare that they would have liked to receive a considerable number of refugees, but regrettably were unable to do so."

"Only those who have gone through similar experiences can understand the feelings that filled me in Evian - a mixture of sorrow, anger, frustration, and horror. I would have liked to have jumped up and screamed, 'Don't you know that these numbers are human beings? If you don't take them, they may spend the rest of their lives in concentration camps or wander around the world like lepers.' "

As expected, the results of the conference were more than meager; vague declarations of intent, otherwise only the establishment of a refugee council in London. The Intergovernmental Committee of Refugees was to negotiate with Germany the modalities of an orderly exodus of the Jews, including permission to take their goods with them.

Nazi party rally at Berlin's Sportpalast
But the Nazi government immediately categorically rejected this; it would have restricted the greedy grip on Jewish property. The Nazi press cheered the results of the Evian conference. The Völkischer Beobachter commented, ”Nobody wants them." The paper continued that the participants had taken precautions at the meeting "to protect themselves from an influx of Jewish immigrants because the disadvantages of Jewishization had been clearly recognized.”

This indeed was echoed in 1939 by a high-ranking Canadian immigration officer commenting the reception of Jews in Canada, "None is too many."

All photos and some written material were taken from an article by Hans-Peter Föhrding: Als die Welt sich abwandte (When the world turned its back) published in Der Spiegel of July 2018.

Monday, July 15, 2019


In May 2016 Red Baron wrote about the foundation of a European campus composed of five universities located on the Upper Rhine: Basel, Freiburg, Strasbourg, Haute-Alsace (Mulhouse and Colmar), and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. So when in fall 2017 French President Emmanuel Macron called for the creation of 20 European universities until 2024 he at least kicked at one open door already.

©Steve Przybilla/BZ
EUCOR's acting president Hans-Jochen Schiewer called the network of those five universities - the European Confederation of the Upper-Rhine* Universities - a center of gravity of humanities, arts, and science.
*the “O” stands for Oberrheinisch

This center became somewhat crippled in 2018 when the four universities located within the European Union asked for money in Brussels.

One year later EUCOR got 5 million euros from the European Union over the next three years but must share the money with four other universities as varied as the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands), the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (Poland), the Aristoteles University in Thessaloniki (Greece), and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna (Austria). This network of now eight universities is called EPIKUR standing for European Partnership for an Innovative Campus Unifying Regions.

While the EU bent the notion of a European region now extending from Amsterdam to Thessaloniki, the authors of the acronym in German went ad fontes in changing the Latin letter C to the correct Greek letter K.

 And what about the reputation of hedonist philosopher Epicures pursuing “a happy, tranquil life, characterized by ἀταραξία -peace and freedom from fear - and απονιά - the absence of pain - and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends”, as Wikipedia writes. Forget it; all that counts is the money and the call to the 270.000 students in those eight universities, “Study without borders.”

EUCOR, in fact, had hoped for more than just a little bit more than 200 keuro per university and year, too low to finance common professorships but enough to develop a standard language policy (English; what else) and to advance digital forms of teaching, i.e., lectures and seminars simultaneously at all locations. Professor Schiewer commented, “We want to educate young people crossing borders, disciplines, cultures, and languages and tackling the great challenges facing Europe. Teaching on a European level means strengthening the European identity.”

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Mountain View

On July 7, Red Baron wrote about the three-horned bull and the 60th anniversary of the partnership between Besançon and Freiburg.

Four drums
Last Thursday the 30th anniversary of Freiburg’s partnership with the
Japanese city of 松山 (Matsuyama meaning Mountain View) was celebrated this time at Freiburg’s Historischer Ratssaal. My loyal readers remember the place.

Freiburg’s Japanese drum group Akaishi Daiko (Four Red Drums) preluded the celebration forcefully.

The following speeches addressed the history of the partnership and stressed the development in the relations and the exchanges between the two green cities. The first two statements were translated sequentially.

Lord Mayor Martin Horn
Lord Mayor Kasuhito Noshi
Japanese Consul General Tetsuya Kimura
Afterward, Lord Mayors Horn and Noshi exchanged birthday presents on the occasion of the 30th anniversary.

A stone of the Freiburg Minster
Artist work of a steam engine in front of  Matsuyama's train station

Monday, July 8, 2019

A Vintage Streetcar

While the Besançon celebration continued with a reception at the Rathaus, Red Baron was scheduled to be at the Independence Day Party at noon. The Carl-Schurz-Haus traditionally organizes this get-together on a Saturday before or following the 4th of July.

By no means, I wanted to miss the Black Forest Badgers an impromptu band of musicians affectionately drawn by George* every year anew from the American students of the Academic Year in Freiburg.
*The music man of the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft

I intended to take streetcar number 1 from Freiburg’s center Bertoldsbrunnen to the Ganter Knoten, the stop near the Ganter beer garden where the party had already started at noon.

What a beauty!
As usual, when you are pressed for time streetcars do not arrive on time. Suddenly streetcar number 7 stopped a lovingly reconstructed tram from 1927 that is operated by the Friends of Freiburg's Streetcars on some Saturdays throughout the year. I always had intended to ride that particular Museumsbahn, and now it stood there in front of me ready to step in.

My ticket
Looking over the motorman's shoulder.
On enamel: When getting off the streetcar place your left hand on the left handle.
Happy people on wooden benches
The conductor hops in, closes the door, and off we go.

I arrived just at the fest ground when the Black Forest Badgers were refreshing themselves for the next round of songs. Due to the many participants this year, the sound of the band was more profound and more vibrant than in previous years.

In the meantime, my stomach was ready to eat itself. A salad and a pork steak both small would have been fine. See what I got on two plates. They even did not fit onto the star-spangled placemat.

On this Independence Day Party, as usual, there were quizzes, games for children, etc., but there was more music too. We had an easy listening to grassroots' sounds.