Shedding the Kummerspeck



Why do I find myself going back again and again to photos of my trip to Seville?

It’s not only that it’s such a beautiful place – I’ve seen my share of those. There’s something about Spain in general and Seville in particular.

So this is a bending, sunlit corridor. At this particular moment, it seemed like the way to approach the blog this evening.

Plenty going on in the world of lahikmajoe presently. For one thing, I’ve got family visiting. That’s often good for a bit of fodder for the old Miscellaneous Blog. After that, or during their visit, the World Cup kicks off.

I could tell you I think Argentina has an easy draw and they’ll waltz through their group, but everyone knows that. Not very optimistic about the chances of the United States team, but every four years the fans get their hopes up. I’d say Germany was an early favourite a year or two ago, but they seem mismanaged of late. We’ll see if they can turn that around. I’ll certainly be cheering them on. I’m always for my adopted homeland. It’s a thing with me.

Otherwise, the weather has turned warm, or warmer, and the mostly beautiful of Munich have begun their annual shedding of Kummerspeck (‘grief bacon’) and clothing of nearly all sorts. I suppose I should talk about those last things at another time – hopefully soon.



not a Berliner

There in the distance? That's the JFK bridge in Hamburg.

There in the distance? That’s the JFK Bridge in Hamburg.

Lately, there’s been plenty for me write about, and I just haven’t been doing it. The last several posts were photos that I certainly liked, but there wasn’t much text. The whole point of this blog is to show off my writing, so these filler posts without much content go against what I originally set out to do. There might be times when a curious photo and a few lines of texts is all I’ve got time or energy for, but I’d prefer that to be the exception rather than the rule.

My favourite week in Munich tends to be when we have our Filmfest, which starts this weekend, so I already had something up my sleeve in which I’d planned to ramp up this blog again. Then I was out and about with Ella and Louis, the sister and brother Hungarian Vizslas that have featured prominently in this blog, and found myself walking across the John F. Kennedy Bridge.

Why not at least  a mention of what happened today, 26 June, exactly 50 years ago? If you’re like I am, you check out ‘this day in history’-type entries in the paper or online, so you already know that this is the day in 1963 that Kennedy gave his famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner‘ speech in front of the Rathaus Schöneberg in West Berlin

Whatever you think of his politics, and I’m most certainly not going to get into that here, it was the height of the Cold War, and a significant gesture of solidarity to the citizens living in the divided once and future capital of Postwar Germany.

The Berlin Wall went up, and the Americans response was to send planes in filled with supplies, so that the city could continue to survive while surrounded by  Soviet-supported East Germany. Not an easy time here in my adopted home country, and at that moment in history it was incredibly unclear what was going to happen next.

The gratitude that West Germany felt for Kennedy’s show of support – both symbolic, as well as practical – was what led to major German cities naming things like bridges after him. The one here in Munich is the northern part of the Middle Ring Road that goes over the River Isar. It’s not particularly beautiful, and I doubt many locals under a certain age even realise that the bridge even has a name. 

The Kennedy Bridge in Hamburg (pictured above) is what divides the Binnenalster and Außenalster, which are the beautiful lakes right in the heart of the Hansestadt that is Hamburg. Whether you’re on the S-Bahn or ICE Train between the Main Train Station and the Dammtor, in which case you’re riding along the JFK Bridge, or walking along the Alster, there’s a memorial to Kennedy staring back at you. 

Fifty years. Not such a terribly long time, I suppose. Wonder if they’d still name any of this stuff after him today. 

out of a funk…onto a journey

Where are we going, anyway?

Where are we going, anyway?

There’s only one way to ease back into this ol’ Dachshund Blog, and it’s not to ease in at all. My intention is to slog in full speed. As quickly as one can slog, I suppose. Where have I been? What have I been doing? Well, the specifics are rather unexciting for the most part, but there were a few moments in the last several months that have made it really difficult to blog. Difficult to do much more than the bare minimum, actually.

One incredibly traumatic thing happened, however, and I just couldn’t talk about it. Not here, not on social media…not anywhere for a while. There are people I’m relatively close to who didn’t hear about my moment of inexplicable horror until much later. I suppose it’s not fair for me to mention such a thing and then not to be any more specific, but that’s the way it has to be.

Almost immediately thereafter I had a moment where I questioned nearly everything. It’s not quite gone, actually. That moment seems to have spread out into a long surreal moment. I’ve lived in Germany for more than a decade and have really enjoyed it, but in an instant I couldn’t be here anymore.

What’s difficult for me is that being here is part of my identity. This focus of this blog has partially been about being an outsider in a very curious place. A place that’s equal parts charming, preposterous and inexplicable. How can one attempt to explain such a thing, you ask? Those are the best things to try to get at, actually. The ones that might at first seem insurmountable.

So, what happens next? First of all, I’m going to use this space to say goodbye to Germany. There’s no telling what’s in store for me, so it’s entirely possible that I end up back here someday. Perhaps I only come back here periodically. We shall certainly see.

I speak the language, am fascinated by the culture, and am genuinely curious about how they got to this point and where they’re going. My German experiment is by no means completed. However, things do change, and my intention is to take you along for the ride.

There aren’t any definite plans as of yet, by the way. What’s that line about a journey of an incredibly long distance starting with a single step? This is my first one of those. Right now I’m wondering if there are still any of you who’d like to come along.


has it really been eighty years?

Die Neue Synagoge

Die Neue Synagoge

There’s been a lot in the German media this week about the 80th anniversary of the Nazis taking power in Berlin. Actually, there was much more written about a ridiculous story involving a politician allegedly making sexist remarks to a relatively young journalist more than a year ago, but that’s gotten more than enough coverage. I’m certainly not going to add to it.

The anniversary wasn’t exactly forgotten, but was arguably overshadowed by what seemed to me to be a non-story. Overshadowed maybe but certainly not forgotten.

I took the above photo of Die Neue Synagoge when I was in Berlin last year, and going to that city often makes me think of the plight of the German Jews. Not a pretty story, but important to remember what happened there. Also read something in the Guardian this week that I found compelling. Take a look at Hitler came to power 80 years ago. I remember it like yesterday by Fritz Lustig.

It sounds so cliché to say that we should stay aware of the past to avoid its repetition, but it’s times like these that we need to remember. This generation of people who were actually there are slowly disappearing.

Maybe because I enjoy living in Germany so much, I find myself particularly vigilant about keeping these topics fresh. That’s not to say that I think this country should be forever shunned and cowed by its past.

Nevertheless, most Germans I know have been raised in a particularly pacifistic society that, as a rule, goes out of its way to distance itself from the National Socialists. It’s a difficult balancing act that I think the modern German state does a decent job of walking.

If the German media this week is any indication, this society’s not in danger of forgetting anything. Not remotely.

the monks are at rest and so am I…mostly


monks playing their flutes and drinking their beer

In Munich, like most of the rest of Germany, the people have closedup shop and Christmas is in full swing. You might say that’s typical for countries that celebrate this holiday, but there’s something almost eerie about the way everything grinds to a halt here.

Germans take family and friends seriously, and this is a holiday for the former rather than the latter. The expectation is that if your mother and/or father are still living, you make your way home at all costs. Again: something that might be true elsewhere, but here it seems particularly suspect if you’re still on your own when this particular holiday rolls round.

The meta message when it comes to the birth of little baby Jesus is to go home and treat your parents right. Do it. Yes, I mean you.

Don’t lollygag. Go, now. Really – go!

You didn’t move, did you?

I doubted you would.

The reality is that sometimes it’s simply hard to make such a journey. For whatever reason. We all have our excuses. Maybe it’s because of children that you can’t travel home. You’ve now got your own family to look after, and the people you’re with during the holidays are your in-laws.

Or it’s also possible you’ve fallen out with your family. You’re not even welcome there. the last thing anyone said was, ‘You’re no longer welcome here.’

Hope that’s not the case for you, but if it is…I’d do my best not to judge you. Who the hell am I, right?

The monks in the photo above, who’re adorning the exterior walls of the Neues Rathaus in Munich’s city centre, probably wouldn’t have made any journey for Christmas. Not sure what exactly monks did to mark the Yuletide back then, but I doubt it had anything to do with what we seem to be doing. Things such as giving gifts beyond our financial means. Or watching either American Football or that other game, which the rest of the world calls football.

Me personally? What’ll I be doing?

Well, starting on Boxing Day, I’ll be watching Tottenham Hotspurs play Aston Villa away and then a few days later they’ll travel up northeast to Sunderland.

After that, the Londoners host Reading at home at White Hart Lane, which might turn out to be a decent match. The English Premier League is the only European league (that I know of) that keeps going over the holidays, and if you’re a fan of the beautiful game, it’s a tradition to catch a tonne of matches in a rather short period of time. To each his own, yeah?

Other than that, what do I do at this time of year?

Since I moved to Germany more than a decade ago, I’ve really taken advantage of this dark, quiet time of the year. People are somehow a bit more circumspect. A tad more philosophical. What have I done this year? Have I left any stone unturned?

Is there any unfinished task that I need to take care of before the old man that is 2012 makes his way offstage and the baby that is 2013 comes toddling into the footlights?

As Robert Hunter wrote in his and Jerry Garcia‘s song Franklin’s Tower:

If you plant ice, you’re gonna harvest wind.

I think I’d rather avoid harvesting that. Unless he was talking about gas. I’m sure I’ll be harvesting plenty of that before the holidays are out.

Left Hamburg nearly two weeks ago, but I cannot stop daydreaming about it

starting out at the Eppendorfer Baum

The first few days in Hamburg were so rainy that when the sun finally came out I purposely went on a walk through one of the nicest parts of the city. Purportedly, there are more bridges in the Hanseatic city on the Elbe than there are in Venice, but I still don’t know if that’s true. I did read it on the internet, so I suppose it must be undeniable.

The Hochbahn glides above on a gorgeous autumn day

I wrote about this somewhere else recently, and maybe here as well, but Hamburg has an element of its public transport system that reminds me a bit of Chicago, which is one of my favourite American cities. Similar to that, Hamburg’s is an above ground train (Bahn) that sometimes goes underground. Other German cities have a U-Bahn or underground train (Untergrund Bahn) system, but this one is above the street, so it’s called a Hochbahn. ‘Hoch‘ is German for high or above.

Beautiful old Realschule

Especially in such glowing sunlight, I love buildings like this. I could try explaining the German education system and the difference between a Gymnasium (college preparatory ) and a Realschule (intermediate school), but just the thought makes my brain hurt. I do like the thought that the latter is a ‘real’ school. I spent enough time in Montessori and Steiner type schools that I know what an unreal school looks like. I prefer those to the real ones.

hair stylin’ at the Friseur

This poster made me smile, and I like the way you can see the building in the reflection of the mirror. Cool, eh?

masonry under the balcony

Look, I know there’s beautiful masonry and there’s not so beautiful masonry. According to a historian, these are probably of no consequence, but I simply love the lion and the faces of the men. Maybe it’s that the style of facial hair is similar to a blogger we all know.

your not always so humble blogger and the nearly always humble musician Jarrod

So, there you have it. My fascination with the era of the Fin de siècle (turn of the 19th to 20th century) is based on art and music and architecture, but I have to admit that beard styles are not a small part of all of that.

the leaves changing colours as we speak

I could’ve easily just included only shots of bridges and water. The light on the water is something that I’d likely never tire of were I to live in Hamburg.

under the Hochbahn

Reminds me of my trips to Chicago when I was studying music in Cincinnati. The above-ground trains in both places were probably built in the same era…can’t be too dissimilar. A better blogger would go do a bit of research. I’ve got better things to do.

church on the way

This is Sankt Johannis. Beautiful, isn’t it? I really like the architecture in northern Germany. More on that in a future blogpost.

a lamp in Pöseldorf next to the Alster

So, that’s it. There’s your latest tour of Hamburg with the inexhaustible Lahikmajoe. More soon. Might even start in on London. One can dream, eh?

Saint George and the dragon

This guy’s *all business*, you know?

Most of you know the story, but for those of you who don’t I’ll run through it briefly. St George and the Dragon. The English know it. Anyone who grew up in the Anglican Communion knows this one.

St George slays the Dragon. Exciting, eh?

You probably know a dragon or two from that trifling trilogy by Peter Jackson. Hopefully, you’ve also read the books. Tolkien was a brilliant writer. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Well, you know I don’t talk much about religion here, and I’m not about to start. I’m not opposed to religion, and as a matter of fact I truly believe we’d be better off if people stopped talking about what they believed and actually started believing those things they profess.

However, like I say, I’ve no truck with religion. Not my bag, as the kids today are saying.

But I do like some St George, me. Many people who’ve been to Hamburg know the Alster and the harbour, but drive right past the neighbourhood of Sankt Georg without ever realising what they’re missing.

Homosexualists don’t. They know a good part of town the way my boydog Louis knows where to scratch. It’s innate. This ability to find/create the coolest part of town. Those homosexualists should go into business. Open their own shops and whatnot.

Oh, they already have? Really? Where?

In Sankt Georg? Well, let’s go there.

Hansa Platz in St Georg…here’s the beginning of our little tour.

This blogpost isn’t going to be a very thorough tour. That’s not my point. Not at all.

Let’s go to church, ok?


Domkirche St Marien

I’ve never been a Catholic, but I’ve known one or two. This seems like a nice enough church. If you’re moving to Hamburg and happen to be of that flock, take a gander at St Marien. It’s in a great neighbourhood, after all.

Need you shoes quickly repaired? Or your shirts laundered?

Really enjoy the architecture in St Georg. Really.

The door between Vasco de Gama and St Georg Bar is kinda sweet, innit?

This is one of the oldest buildings in St Georg, which means it’s one of the oldest in Hamburg. Don’t remember where I read that, but it was years ago in some guide book. You want facts? Go get a guide book, why don’tchya?


Café Uhrlaub…for breakfast…

Great place for breakfast. Clocks everywhere. The name of the place is Café Uhrlaub, which is a play on the two German words ‘Uhr‘ (clock) and ‘Urlaub‘ (holiday/vacation). Clever, eh? I thought so.

Tell me, do you want to come to Hamburg after my recent posts about my favourite German city? If so, my work here is done. See you back home in Munich.

Oh, one last thing. When I was a child, there was a preacher pontificating on a Sunday. You know the scene, right? He was preaching about St George slaying the dragon. It was a weird situation, because the congregation had given him his marching orders. Said to him, ‘We don’t care where you preach, but it’s no longer going to be here.

He was clearly hurt and a tad bit offended. He preached fire and brimstone for what seemed like an eternity, and then he ended with the most curious sentence that still haunts me in my dreams sometimes.

He said, ‘Sometimes the dragon wins.’

Sometimes indeed.

up in the Hochbahn in Hamburg

Sternschanze U-Bahn and S-Bahn station in Hamburg

This is a blogpost I’ve been waiting to do until I had enough photos to make it make a bit of sense. Not that this blog always makes much sense. What’d be the point of that?

No point, I tell you.

In the S-Bahn in Hamburg.

Just like other major German cities, Hamburg has both an U-Bahn and S-Bahn system. Most of the time, the U-Bahn system is underground, but like Boston’s T or Chicago’s Elevated, Hamburg has what’s called a ‘Hochbahn‘. All over the city in the U-Bahn stations, there are auld photos of the 100-year old Hochbahn. I’ll include those in a future post.

Here’s my favourite train station in Hamburg:

Hamburg’s Dammtor in the late afternoon.

This art deco train station is on the S-Bahn line, which as Wikipedia describes, is a, ‘…city centre and suburban metro like railway system in AustriaGermanySwitzerland and Denmark.’

Retro photo of a Hamburg shopping scene.

This photo has nothing to do with the Hochbahn, but I liked it and I decided it was going in this blogpost. It’s my blog. If you don’t like it, get your own damned blog.






early morning on the Reeperbahn

Early morning at the Michel on the way to Fischmarkt.

We’re going to the Fischmarkt in Hamburg, baby. What’s that? Well, it’s actually a blogpost for another day. This is the Reeperbahn on the way to the Fischmarkt.

A Bavarian-style ad on the Reeperbahn.

This is completely out of place in Hamburg. Bavaria might be in Germany, but it and Hamburg are polar opposites in so many ways. I’ll write more about this at some point. It’s really remarkable how different the cool, detached Northeners are in contrast to the very boisterous, hearty Southerners. I could have a whole blog about those differences. Not just a blogpost. A whole blog.

Looks a bit like Vegas, doesn’t it?

This is the world-famous Reeperbahn, which is the high street that goes through the St Pauli neighbourhood on Hamburg. It’s where the sailors came for their leave and where both German and international tourists come for probably Europe’s second most famous red-light district. Yes, there are whores. Of course there are. St Pauli wouldn’t be the same without them. Get over it. It’s only your puritanical leanings that mayke you think prostitution shouldn’t be legal. Well, that and that they’re notoriously poorly treated the world over. There is that, I suppose.

This guy only looks like he’s having a good time.

Rarely, do I trust one of these characters. Clowns are ok, but jongleurs? Nothing good ever comes from a jongleur. Nothing.

A moment in the mountains.

This one’s really personal. I’m not sure if any of my readers can tell you what this is, but if you know, leave it in the comments. The winner gets a prize. Really. Who says Lahikmajoe never gave you anything?