Bill Weye

Tag: Germany (page 1 of 2)

Who are the idiots that began this torch business?

Torch security
Creative Commons License photo credit: tomsflickrfotos2

The Greeks started the Olympic flame business, but the people to start running this stupid candle around the world were the Nazi’s before the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany. That’s right, the idea to have a relay around the world with the terminus being Berlin were the Nazi’s.

A enlightening article by the BBC succinctly gives us the history:

The organiser of the 1936 Olympics, Carl Diem, wanted an event linking the modern Olympics to the ancient.

The idea chimed perfectly with the Nazi belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich.

And the event blended perfectly the perversion of history with publicity for contemporary German power.

The Nazi’s ran this torch through countries it would later invade.

So, why do you think China is going to run the 2008 Olympic torch through Tibet?

Olympic Torch Relay Protests at Tower Bridge London - P1220502e
Creative Commons License photo credit: clearbrian

Update: This just came to my attention. See those guys dressed in the friendly looking powder blue track suits, sort of looking like United Nations peace keepers? Well, they’re from the Chinese secret police, which Great Brittan, France, and the United States have allowed in their countries to protect the Olympic candle. Japan said “no, thanks,” we’ll take care of it ourselves.

Blog Action Day: The Environment

When I read that the topic for Blog Action Day was the environment I knew almost immediately that I was going to write about my trip to Germany this past summer. It was my first trip to Europe, my first trip beyond North America, and immensely influential to my environmental consciousness. When comparing the environmental consciousness of the average person in Germany and the United States, there really is no comparison; the people of Germany, either compelled by state policies or through individual belief, consider the environment when making choices.

Baden-Württemberg 1I first had to get used to taking a shower differently. Instead of leaving the water on during an entire shower, in Germany (and I guess all of Europe) people rinse, turn the water off, soap up, then turn the water on again and rinse. I was aware of that method, but thought it was a pain in the ass. It’s not, and I think you might get a better wash. Regardless, it saves a lot of water when you turn it off when it’s not needed.

A valley:  Baden-WürttembergI’ve tried to alter my behavior in other small ways: recycling more, being more conservative when using water, and turning down the temperature on my water heater. But these small actions can’t compare to the policies the German government has instituted to slow the increase in greenhouse gases. Germany produces the most wind turbine electricity in the world, and is rapidly growing its solar power base. Besides direct investment in these technologies, the government has required utilities to pay a competitive rate for solar power generated and put back on the grid. In the real world, this means that it makes sense for people to invest in solar panels. Traveling around the Black Forest, I saw these panels everywhere, even on the smallest farmhouse or factory.

During my trip to Germany, I came up with an idea to increase the environmental consciousness of Americans (who need this the most, it seems): the U.S. government should pay for a two week trip to Europe for every citizen, during which people can get some sense of how others are treating the environment. For me, this trip was an environment changing event.

I miss Hamburg, Germany

photo from flickr
I was here, looking at the harbor in Hamburg. It’s a pretty impressive place, with all of the shipping and commerce happening every where you look.

At night this scene is definitely eye catching! Dim yellow lights from the ships and cranes light up the harbor.

Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin

This is what you see as soon as you enter the Helmut Newton Foundation’s Museum of Photography, which mostly contains his photos. Yup . . . those are big photos of nude women showing a lot of bush.

The museum is not a must see in Berlin, unless you’re like me and were mesmerized by Newton‘s photos when you were young. In addition to finding his nudes appealing when I was a kid, the (mostly) women in the photos have a certain power and style that I found compelling. Still do.

Photo by zak mc and republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Jewish Museum Berlin

This place was exceptional, confusing, troubling, joyful and thought provoking. It’s all those things because Daniel Libeskind designed it that way, which is a good thing . . . I think. The Jewish Museum Berlin in many ways asks its visitors to reconsider what a museum is, what it means to put things on display, and what do we do when so much of a culture has been destroyed, as the Nazis tried to do.

But in many ways the meaning of the design and the museum’s contents is left open for visitors to create. And that might be my one criticism of the museum as Libeskind conceived it: his design is what draws your attention, not the displays. Then again, maybe that’s a good thing; I’m not sure. I will be putting some photos up, but until then here is a video I took of the “Fallen Leaves” exhibition. This exhibition very much stands on its own, but could not work if it wasn’t for the Libeskind design.

Berlin various notes

Trying to keep up with my blogging duties while traveling around Germany has been tough; I have to rely on Internet cafes because there really is no free access anywhere, even at colleges. Plus, I’ve been on the go since minute one, which is fine, but I’m feeling whipped by the end of the day. The plan is to write a few different posts on Monday, my first real off day in a week and a half.

It’s also the first time Babette and I will be going our own way for an extended time. I will stay in Berlin for another 3 days while Babette heads back to Hamburg. Then I will go to the Black Forest and stay with Babette’s Uncle Roland (you can see his picture in the photos section), and 3 days later Babette will join me in the Black Forest. Oh, you can read Babette’s account of our trip (which sometimes varies from mine) at her blog, Motherland My Ass.

One of my favorite action films, Bourne Supremacy, was filmed in Berlin. In fact, scenes that were supposed to be in other cities like Munich were really filmed in Berlin. One disappointing visit was Alexanderplaz, where the place has been overtaken by construction and is really just a tourist trap with panhandlers everywhere. Here is a video of the real-life locations in Berlin:

From Hamburg, Germany

We got to the big city, Hamburg, Germany on Monday after a long day of traffic jams, family obligations, then settling in. Babette’s brother Sascha and his new wife Maren have a great appartment in Hamburg (photos forthcoming), a nice bike ride or short train trip into city center.

The way to get around Hamburg is to use a bike, otherwise you’re likely to get caught in the traffic; but, the city is made for bikes unlike any big city in the states. In Hamburg bikes go along a special lane on the side walk, and pedestrians have to look both way before crossing that bike lane, otherwise they could get clipped.

Speaking of bikes . . . we had a little altercation with a bike messenger yesterday. Looking back on it the event was kind of funny, even though we almost came to blows. It started when Babette and I were waiting at a light and next to this person who appeared to be a bike messenger, and Babette started to chat him up. Years ago Babette was a bike messenger in Hamburg and she was just trying to be friendly, but this guy was acting weird and ignoring her. Finally he turned his head, said something rude (in German), then Babette cursed him and said she was only trying to be friendly. The situation got worse from there when he spit on Babette as she was riding away. I then got off my bike and went after him, chasing him away from Babette (he had run after her). Okay, here’s the funny part: this tough guy bike messenger threatened to call the cops! I almost started laughing right in his face, it was so comical. I guess we got a little flavor from the streets, which is okay by me.

. . .

In my entire time in Germany thus far I haven’t seen an SUV. Not one. It isn’t surprising because the roads are too narrow.

The perfect beer in Germany should take 7 minutes to pour, with the head having a prescribed height (all beer glasses have a mark on the side indicating the level where the head should begin). When it comes to beer, this attention to detail seems like a good thing.

Air conditioning either doesn exist or is on very little.

Ah, time to go . . .

Wrap-up from Leer, Germany

This morning we leave Leer, traveling first to Wincent (I think that’s the spelling) to pick up some clothes and a bike, then onward to the big city Hamburg. We’re going to stay there a couple of days before going to Berlin for 5 days or so (3 for Babette), then I will meet Babette in the Black Forest (Baden-Württemberg). We will be staying in the Black Forest with Uncle Roland, where he’ll show me the sites, letting me stay at his place. I’ve already met Roland, and he’s a great guy–down to earth and always quick with a smile.

I spent most of the day exploring Leer by myself while Babette attended a family brunch. This little town was a treat, and was probably a good way in get introduced to Germany; I think I might get a little overwhelmed in Hamburg, but we’ll see.

I ate my first Currywurst, which Babette and I have been talking about for months, if not years. She doesn’t like them, thinking they’re horrible junk food, which they are, but not that bad . . .

ah, got to run; time to check out of the hotel.

Public drinking in Germany

Brief notes . . .

We went to a little snack bar near the hotel around midnight, getting a little something to eat and a beer. Funny thing was we weren’t allowed to drink the beer inside the place, but instead had to walk about 50 feet outside into the street, open the beer there (by this young punk and his other homeless type friends), and then drink the beer in the streets. So, public drinking is the law in Leer! Only drinking with your friends in the street will be tolerated!

I have been trying to eat and drink as many of the local delicacies as possible. In northern Germany that means herring! I think I’ve had herring at least 4 different ways in the past 2 days. I’m sure I’ll find more . . .

The second and final wedding is at 4pm today. This is the big one, for the church. After that there will be drinking and eating into the night . . . oh! then something we didn’t plan on . . . brunch the next morning with the whole family again. As Babette would say, “social over load”.

I am picking up some German vocabulary, but it’s a truly difficult language to learn. There’s something about making certain sounds with your mouth that aren’t natural for English speakers (today I learned that I speak a “special English” when trying to communicate with a German). Nevertheless, I am able to say good morning, generally great people, know when it’s time to eat, and say thank you and please . . .

more later!

more notes from Germany: Ech!

One of the tough things that make writing quick posts difficult here in Germany is using a German keyboard. Every time I want to use a y, a ‘z’ is entered . . .

Security in the airport in Milan, Italy and from what I have seen in Europe is very good; it may look like less security, but there is less “show” and more real useful observation. It seems like they rely less on technology and more on observation and questioning. Dogs too! A cute little dog smelled everyone has they entered the airport from the plane, with security officers pulling other people aside for questioning.

Last night after dinner and many drinks I dropped off a tipsy Babette in the room and went out in this little town by myself (the town is Leer, Germany). Walking around at midnight in the little town (a port town) was interesting because I didn’t want anyone to know that I was an American, so when someone would say “hello” (I think it was hello, but I couldn’t be sure), I made a sound that I thought resembled German: “ech!”. I would grunt “ech!” to everyone that said something to me. According to Babette, “ech” doesn’t mean anything.

I’ll try to write later, plus post some photos to Flickr. Off to the first wedding!

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