Sunday, September 21, 2014

German Churches

 Over at the Hessenpark (30 min north of Wiesbaden)....they have two authentic churches from the 1800s.  Both were dismantled, and put back up in the park.

It's interesting to step inside of a structure designed in the early 1800s as a village church.

What you have is a staircase deal pulpit, where the minister would climb up six to eight steps, and do his talking from very limited wooden platform.  You basically had to make sure you didn't throw your hands around and do any foot action, or you'd end up on the floor with a concussion.

There's a table in the front of the room where you could throw up some candles or religious objects.  And there's room for a couple of singers in the that side of the room.

The rest of the building?  There's a built-up area around the room for people to stand above the crowd on the ground area of the structure.

At best?  I'd take a guess that a hundred people might have crammed themselves into the structure.

The artwork?  All saints and probably were part of the weekly service.

All in all.....there's a lot of carpentry skills that you to note as you stand there.  Some guys put a lot of effort into the structure, and they did it with manual labor and just an eye for detail.

Heat?  Well....I didn't see anything that was going to put out heat and you pretty much had to accept being bundled up for two or three hours on a cold day.

Anyway....if you had some time and wanted to observe the lifestyle of a German in the 1800s....I strongly recommend the Hessenpark.


The Problem with German Language

I've taken three German language classes in my life.  To be honest....each time....I pick up another 500-odd words.

The first couple of weeks of class....things run smoothly, and I pick up phrases and words.  Then, I start to hit this curb....or ceiling....or fall into a pit over pronunciation, the die-der-das (the "the" fit), and start to find words which are mish-mashed into phrases and fit for a German situation.  These would never work for an Englishman or American to define the moment and know when to just throw this one unique phrase out there.

The German word.....handschuhschneeballwerfer is a good example.

Yeah, it's a mouthful.  It translates into something like....you were wearing gloves---messing around with snowballs---to pitch or throw.  You'd gaze at this, and think it all means something about a winter day and not throwing snowballs around or it's cold for your hands to throw snowballs.

Well, NO.

It means that you came to criticize someone, but only from a safe distance.....such as the distance that someone could lob a snowball at you in retaliation for your ill-conceived comments or negative criticism.

For example, a German newspaper from the next town over might write a serious and negative commentary about your political speech.  Or your German neighbor will comment over your choice of landscaping, but only at a certain pub, and only with certain people around him.  Or it could fit into a situation where you condemn your German wife for stupidity but only in the company of the local Catholic Priest or your bartender.

Twenty-five letters.....tied together....with a phrase that even if you translate it in a figurative way....it makes no sense.  Then you figure out....it has nothing to do with snowballs or gloves or throwing.

This is one of those points, where I'd get to....amazed at the complex nature of German thinking over words, and language.  It's like Einstein strolled into a coffee house on a Monday.....pondered some moment of when a woman cooks a crappy meal while under the influence of alcohol, and the husband responds that her menu prepared for the dinner were lacking in "something" but tries to stay friendly.  So, Einstein invents a word out of thin air that truly amazes you in creativity, and likely will only be used by three-percent of German society....maybe twice a year each.

This is where I started to fall off the language wagon each time.

A fourth occasion?  Yeah, I'm bound in the next year to take another class and try to make up it to another level.  And some moment will occur....where I really know I'm deep in a Einstein-conceived swamp, and need to get some fresh air.

Explaining Walled Cities

Occasionally, I'll throw a history note into a blog, and this is the case today.

Nordlingen is a Bavarian village, to the far south of Germany.

You look closely and start to note a walled city that has developed over the centuries.

The way this starts....a couple of settlers come into the area....clear the land and start a community of maybe a dozen families.

Some thugs come in the middle of the night and assault some of the locals, haul off some of the harvest, and burn a house or two to the ground.  So the families band together to put up a small fort.  In the beginning, it might be a fairly small place to just withstand an initial attack of a small group.

Time passes....the community has grown out to twenty to forty families, and the threat to the group has expanded as well.  They progress over the years to various forms of walls.  This is meant also to be a practical thing against letting diseased individuals enter the city (a big thing up until the mid-1600s).

As these towns expanded out....you had city council men who sat and deemed various rules....to protect themselves, their craftsman trade, the economy of the village, and the general safety of residents.  A front gate and a back gate would require guards, and a marginal individual with no craftsman trade....would easily fit as the gate keeper.

As you travel across Europe, you will notice various traces of walled cities still remaining.  For an American, your observation ought to include the thought that these villages were left to their own protection.  No one was going to come and rescue you....no cavalry, no king's knights, no army.  You depended on the strength of your community, and a wall.

For this reason, this is why people had various farming plots, that weren't always next to the house, and might even have been an hour's walk from the community.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Poster I Remember

When I first arrived in Germany in January of 1978.....within two minutes of departing the plane....this poster was on the wall of the Air Force terminal at Rhein Main.  I stood there for a minute....lacking most German skills, but figuring it for a wanted picture.

Over the next month, I probably noted it at twenty different places around base, the flughafen, the Frankfurt Bahnhof, and several public places.

The members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang....the Red Army Faction (RAF) were identified by most members of the German public as "gangsters".  They were robbing banks, assaulting and killing business men and political figures.  If your picture got onto the wanted picture....it meant you were a dangerous criminal and the cops wanted you bad.

As time went by in that two-year period that I was assigned to Rhein Main....the subject would come up in the shop every couple of weeks as BILD would feature a front-page article on the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and the German guys in the shop would talk about this.

None of them could lay out any rational reason for this brand of warfare, or figure a logical reason to act as a criminal to achieve political results.  Most of these guys had been through the Nazi era of the 1930s or been solders in the 1941/45 era.  They saw the behavior being more of crazy people than college kids on some agenda.

The vast majority of Germans today have forgotten the RAF era.  If you approach some teenage kid in his late teens today.....they might remember it being brought up in school, but there's no connection to history, or what it all meant.  An entire generation is passing the subject and remembers little to nothing.  In twenty years.....I suspect it'll all be forgotten.  Thugs on some agenda....pretending to be something they weren't.

Detlef

One of the commercial networks in Germany have kinda found this average guy, who has some charisma and on-scene talent for problems that people run into while traveling.

The guy?  Detlef Steves.  Vox found the guy, did some various various projects with him, and in 2013....his acting career finally took off.  To be honest....he can't really act.  What you see....is the real Detlef.

He's not the kind of traveler that loves adventure.  He's the typical German who'd like to get picked up by a bus....taken to faraway lands on a scheduled tour with a guide....where everything is programmed and planned to happen like the assembly of a Mercedes limousine.  The crew knows this.....and then plans out the most chaotic three-day trip possible, which would normally turn the typical average German into a frustrated mess after six hours.

The crew is back in action on the first week of October....taking Detlef to Paris.  You can kinda expect everything to go wrong, and somehow Detlef will show a good strong German character, and find some way to survive until the last hours....then escape back home to the comfort provided by his dear wife.

A reality star?  Yeah.  But in some ways....he's the kind of German that you'd want to take along for a unplanned trip to South Korea, and just see how far you could go....before you woke up in a rice field with seven bucks on you and not remember much of the evening before.

So, 5 Oct 2014 (Sunday evening) at 7:15.....prepare for Detlef Must Travel on Vox.  It's worth watching.

Looking Over

Three interesting topics from this past week in Germany and Europe.

First, the Scotland episode is over.  Kinda like I'd predicted....a fairly close vote....NO wins.  In the future though.....the Parliament establishment in London is due for a rocky period.  They promised to release various powers back to Scotland, and they have to deliver.

I'd also point out that several communities had more than the fifty percent vote for YES, and it shows that this division thing might be more regionalized than people suspect.

Second, here in Germany on Friday.....a significant number of Muslim communities came out and preached up a message of 'peace'.  They had political figures in attendance, along with Christian enthusiasts, and Jewish community leaders.

I won't go and say much positive over this....because hours later, there will probably be five or six community meetings with Islamic figures preaching here in Germany for some Jihad requirement, and convincing another dozen guys to pack up and go off to Syria in the next week.

Germany is hinting awful strongly that once you leave for your Jihad-mission in life.....you'd best not come back.  Those that attempt it....even if convinced of some moral reason to do it.....often find disenchantment.  So, after a while of dealing with incompetent leaders and a bogus war....they wish to return to Germany.  And this just won't be allowed.

Third, some story came out, and hinted that Russia could roll over borders and be in five European capitals within forty-eight hours.  The nearest one to Germany?  Warsaw.  I have my doubts that Putin made the statement, but his backers probably did.

All this does.....is make people start thinking over arrangements with Russia, the necessity of buying natural gas from them, and starving them from the markets that they need.

The possibility of crossing borders and getting to five European capitals?  Awful slim.  From the Georgia episode a couple of years ago.....it took an awful lot of effort to do what marginal movements that they did....against Georgia.  The Russian military of 2014.....isn't the Russian military of 1977.  Logistically, they'd likely start to stall on their invasion as they reached up the beginning of the second day.

Fuel-wise?  They'd basically have to stop along every interstate/autobahn fuel station along the way and fuel up that way.  They'd have to contend with locals who just won't cooperate.  And their business community and billionaire strategy would cease to exist.  They would be wiped out, and they'd be angry enough to hire mafia members to go after all of the Putin big supporters.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The State of German TV and Entertainment

As an American, I can pretty well vouch on the fact that TV in America today.....is sliding downward in a spiral, and barely ten-percent of the programming is worth watching.  One or two shows a year....show up and probably are notable.

In Germany, it's a different type landscape and you stand here...shaking your head.

State-run TV has a standard balance of rules, and rarely will there be anything that you would consider "fresh".

The two big players of state-run TV (ARD and ZDF) will run the normal group of functionary shows.  There's the cop movies (Tatort or books-turned-into-movies).  Occasionally, a modern society dilemma (Chinese gangstas, missing Libyan wives, etc) will be thrown into the works to make it seem new, fresh, and really updated.

Then you have the romantic novels turned into movies.  This usually involves the French madam who falls for a mayor of some town, an Irish lonesome ballad, a Italian mistress novel, or the mid-forties farmer widow who advertises marriage but discovers that some neighbor gal is interested in a lesbian relationship.

Then you have the game shows with either mental stress deals, promi-star pretenders guessing the capital of Peru, or some kind of physical game deal where some guy tries to climb a wall while his friend is guessing the winner of the 1970 FIFA World Cup.

Around 9:45 each evening....one network will cut to a lengthy news piece and the other will cut to a regular movie, or to a political chat forum....where ninety-five percent of the German public will automatically flip to commercial networks instead.

The commercial networks?  There are around ten now.  Some run old American shows (there are shows from the 1980s on now....in primetime....that Germans seem to watch.  Don't ask me why Magnum is still that popular but he is.

They also run the game shows....although for higher amounts of money, and more physical action (racing bicycles or demolition derby being acceptable).

American wrestling?  Well....yeah.  At least one night a week....one of the networks will run two full hours of wrestling. Germans buy into this....knowing it's somewhat fake, but they like the stunts and the action.

Original programming on the German commercial networks?  They've tried forty different type of cop show formats over the years, and there's just nothing new to get your interest.

Reality shows?  They've done just everything from kid singers, to hopeless farmers hunting for hot lusty women, and cooking shows related to failed cafes, terrible cooks, or deadend towns with no consumers.  They've gotten former B-star promi folks to agree to spend three weeks in some Australian jungle....half naked at times....without their cocaine, weed, cigarettes, booze, or bi-polar medication.....shocking the public with snakes and an almost starvation diet.

About once a year....one new fresh comedy arrives from one of the networks, that goes out to surprise the public.  A loser house manager with dysfunctional family.  A grocery check-out gal that seems to be brighter than normal.  A husband and wife who spend every weekend at some camp-ground with a bunch of crazy folks.

Someone had the bright idea a decade ago to build up a show that features unhappy Germans....who basically pack up and leave Germany.  After a while, you began to realize that none of the folks ever had a plan, and fifty percent of them return to Germany within a year or two.

The same guys also worked up an episode where some blonde Marilyn Monroe-like German gal....slightly on the naive side....bumbling her way to LA to be shot for Playboy magazine.  Yeah, she was willing to bare her boobs and show some stuff....but Playboy just didn't seem to answer the buzzer at the gate when she announced that she'd arrived.  The gal....Miss Katzenberger....was an instant German reality star.  She's got a full-time contract now, and bumbles her way through events and travels....and the German TV audience loves it.  She's beautiful, pretending to be naive, and sparkling with witty sayings that seem to work.

Then someone had the bright idea that you could take a bald headed carpenter-renovation guy with a sense of humor and hated the idea of ever traveling.....turning him into an instant travel sent off to Iceland, Turkey or places where he's awful uncomfortable.  You felt sorry for him....but it was some weird form of entertainment that Germans bought off on.

This past month?  They took five entrepreneurs into a warehouse and put a hundred-odd folks up to sell their ideas to the entrepreneurs.  The cash ran up to 400,000 Euro.

The commercial networks have run just about every single type of cooking idea possible.....even putting some big-name cook into a prison to develop the cooking talents of some pretty tough characters.

The bottom line?  The state-run TV crowd and the commercial network crowd have just about hit the maximum limit.  And there's Netflix standing there....preparing to enter the German market.  They simply say they will take popular American shows.....add the sub-texts.....and research what Germans want to watch.

I'm thinking they will find that Germans have patiently been waiting for decently-produced German science fiction.  They will find that wild and wicked comedy that hasn't been the trend of German for the past thirty years....is what the public wants.

So before you slam me....that it's not fair for an American to slam German TV.....think about my commentary.  I'm already admitting that American TV has hit some barrier and is lacking.  I'm already laying the problems of creativity today....no matter where you live.  And I'm suggesting that the TV bosses....no matter if they are German or American.....have set up barriers where they just don't want new formulas.

Yeah, maybe it's time to bring back the Vikings, King Richard, King Ludwig, and soap opera shows on ancient Greece...just to be different.

The Frankfurt Airport Story

An epic political battle of sorts is shaping up in the Rhine Valley region around Wiesbaden.  One of the largest airports in Europe....the Frankfurt Flughafen.....is slowly approaching it's limit with the two terminals in operation.  So, what they want to do....logically and with business thought in thinking....is to add terminal three.

Terminal three would be across the runway....and would involve somewhere in the neighborhood of three billion Euro, with a baggage system delivering bags from terminal one/two, and a subway or shuttle system bringing passengers from an area approximately three to four kilometers away.

All of this has to be pursued via the local state apparatus.....the Hessen state, and it's in front of the new government, which is run by the CDU (they like the idea) and the Greens (they hate the idea).

The Greens have been putting up a negative view of this for at least five years....knowing that this terminal subject was under review and locals have very mixed feelings.  If you live within a mile or two of the runways (multiple now).....you have issues over the noise level.  To counter that.....the airport has eliminated flights after 11PM, and forbid any flights taking off until around 5:30AM.

The recommendation to move forward and start construction?  It's in front of the state-committee and the Greens have a fair amount of power to limit things.

Where does this go?  Well....the Greens will look at the support around neighborhoods and regions of the area, and try to stall the whole.  Maybe a year.....maybe two years.....maybe three years.  I suspect in some ways that the FRAPORT (the flughafen management staff) team anticipated this, and just forced the hand of the Greens, and asked for early construction approvals when they knew they weren't required.

Here's the thing....the Frankfurt Flughafen is a billion-Euro enterprise.  It makes tons of money for Hessen, Frankfurt, and employs well over 20,000 employees in the region in various related or semi-related jobs.  It might be true that locals hate the noise level, but every year....they add more jobs....more tax revenue.....and it all benefits the state and local area.

The alternate plan?  The FRAPORT guys say none exist....period.  The Greens have been hinting for weeks now.....that whatever is put in front of the approval committee.....has to show some alternate concept.  So, they simply avoided discussion on this.

Is there an alternate deal for expansion?  Well....two curious airports exist outside of the nearby area....Frankfurt-Hahn (about 30 minutes driving west of Frankfurt), and Kassel (2 hours driving north of Frankfurt).  Frankfurt-Hahn is marginally operating currently with probably forty flights a day, along with some commercial-hauling operations.  Their 12,000 foot runway is one of the longest in Europe.

Utilizing Frankfurt-Hahn within the FRAPORT operation?  Basically, you'd have to build a shuttle train deal to whisk passengers from Hahn to the flughafen operation in Frankfurt....figure a twenty-minute rapid rail deal.  Not entirely impossible, but it is separate from the airport, and means some limitations.  Oddly enough....Hahn has no hourly limits and would easily accept flights twenty-four hours a day.

The Kassel Airport?  8,200 feet long and surrounded by farms.  Total flights a week out of Kassel?  Roughly four....maybe another six.....during the week (we aren't even talking daily flights).  No one in Kassel would complain about expansion or late-night flights.  The shuttle train from there into the flughafen?  Twice as expensive and likely taking 75 minutes as a minimum....to commute.

I'm guessing that FRAPORT really doesn't think they will get permission here and now.....but they are simply putting the paperwork up and waiting patiently for the Greens to fall out of favor in the next election.  A delay of a year or two....won't matter, in my humble opinion.