Stealing from little baby Jesus

This is only a baby elf, but he looks malleable enough — Jesus should be even better

So is he coming, or isn’t he? Kids around the world, well the Christian &/or western world I should say, are wondering if & hoping that St. Nick makes an appearance tonight. Even in northern Germany, the little ones are waiting for the Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man, literally).

He purportedly comes early enough on Xmas Eve that the kiddos in that neck of the woods can open all their gifts sometime this afternoon/evening. This is all hearsay, though. I’ve neither had children in northern Germany nor been a child there. Here in Bavaria, though, I know the drill. It’s not the Christmas man here, but instead the Christkind (Christ child) hauls all that loot to the little boys & girls. Please don’t ask me to judge this complete hogwash. I’m sorry, but I’ve got a hard enough time with the whole St. Nicolas scenario. Even if he manages Germany in the afternoon here, he can’t get to the rest of the Christian world in one night.

The little baby Jesus, on the other hand. Now that’s plausible. I’m with Ricky Bobby on this one. When I pray, I turn to the infant 👶 in swaddling clothes. I look at my baby in her childlike innocence & I think, ‘It’s gonna be a lot easier to get this one to give me cool stuff than it would’ve been with that grumpy old Santa geezer.’

Our baby is easily distracted, so I assume the deity in his smallest person form would be a piece of cake to bamboozle. This is a great idea. The more I think about it, I think this might be the best Christmas EVAH!

I’ll let you know how it goes with my Christkind heist.

Feuerzangenbowle and those silly dogs

What in God’s name is this one? I’ve lived in Germany this time around for nearly two decades, and there are still times I feel like I’ve just arrived. Regularly, I have an expat problem that’d be solved by me being a bit more tolerant.

That’s preposterous, isn’t it? I’m a guest in this country, and yet I still want them, the natives, to fulfil to my expectations. I expect them to change in order to make me a bit more comfy. Really?

Now why am I calling Germans ‘natives’? It’s easy really. Normally you might think of my host country as a group of hard working and dour people. That’s the stereotype at least. One exception, of course, is Karnival, which is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or even Carnival in Rio.

They’re wild, and I’m not exaggerating. Around the Christmas season, they also get a little freaky when they have holiday parties and celebrate like they’ve got no care in the world. A few weeks out of the office and heaps of time with the family – it’s a recipe for heavy drinking.

Speaking of heavy drinking, have you heard of fire tongs punch? Here’s a description:

Feuerzangenbowle (German: [ˈfɔʏɐtsaŋənˌboːlə]) is a traditional German alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine. It is often part of a Christmas or New Year’s Eve tradition. The name translates literally as fire tongs punch. The popularity of the drink was boosted in Germany by the 1944 comedy film Die Feuerzangenbowle.

It is a traditional drink of some German fraternities, who also call it Krambambuli, as the red color is reminiscent of a cherry liqueur of that name which was manufactured by the distillery Der Lachs zu Danzig in Gdańsk, Poland.

Wikipedia

That drink will get one incredibly drunk, I assure you. I know from personal experience, but that was a long time ago. I’ve not anything to drink in quite a few years, but I still vividly remember what drinking this stuff was like.

Apropos of the Feuerzangenbowle, I’ve been invited to Weilheim to see a performance of the original stage play, and I’m going. Even have an extra ticket I’m trying to give away. If you live near Munich (or Weilheim, even better) and want to go, call me. I’m not online on Sundays, so you’ll have to use that old-fashioned telephone.

The last thing I want to mention is that although I’m not posting about it as much as I’m feeling it, the turmoil of losing Ella has been a bit breathtaking, but not in the positive sense. I’ve found myself in the weirdest moments tearing up at the thought of her and her brother frolicking in the wild yonder there.

Yes, I was lucky to have them for such a long time. They cared for me in a dark time, and more importantly they gave me a daily opportunity to take care of someone else. Bear with me here, ok?

Despite me being a new parent, I’ve got plenty of opinions on parenthood. If you listened to me talk, you’d think, ‘Why’s this guy mansplaining raising children to me?‘ Having said all that, my takeaway is that as a father (or mother) must often put his needs on the back burner. It’s how it is – for me, it’s the feature I most need. To think less of Lahikmajoe, I mean.

Beamers & the real power in Bavaria

Church and State in Bavaria’s Hauptstadt

Please turn on the Beamer, so we can start the meeting in time,’ my colleague says. 

Huh? The Beamer?

Are they giving me a company car? 

Wow, I like the direction this is going. 

Nope. Not a chance. Instead, this is another example of them having funny English-sounding nicknames for things that those of us with an Anglo mother tongue would never have thought of. Another false friend

In this case, it’s what the Germans call an overhead projector. A Beamer

I’m not kidding. 

It ‘beams‘ they assure me. Like ‘beam me up Scotty‘, but for real. It beams their presentations and visuals up on the screen. Hence Beamer

What makes it a false friend, though?

Well, we already use Beamer for something else. Not sure about the Brits or the rest of the Commonwealth, but us Yanks? 

We use it as a nickname for a BMW. That’s right. If you’re tooling round in an auto made by the  Bayerische Motoren Werke, that’s a Beamer, baby!
Now I’m looking back at the above photo with the church at Mariahilfplatz. Beam me up, indeed. 

across fields and dales pulling your wagon and drinking all the way

 

Louis in the sunlight
 
Here’s what happens when you lie down in the grass when Louis is around. He’s going to stand over you and imply that he’s ready for you to get up and keep going. 

I bet some of you wish you had this sort of motivation. He’s happy to help you out if you need that extra bit of a push. While I’m sure he’s particularly cheerful today in the springtime sunshine, to be fair Louis is rather thrilled with any and all weather. 

We had Christi Himmelfahrt this week, which is one of the seemingly limitless holidays they’ve got here in Bavaria. That’s Ascension Day, for those of you so religiously inclined. What here in Germany is also when they celebrate Father’s Day

How do they celebrate that here? Well, this isn’t everyone. Ok? So don’t tell me you’re a German father and that you don’t do this. I’m just talking about what seems to be the done thing for many German men. 

You get a wagon – like a children’s wagon – and fill it with liquor and good beer and you and your male friends go through the village or across fields and dales pulling your wagon and drinking all the way. It’s a good old-fashioned piss up, as they say in Britain. Where they know about such things. 

Don’t think you even have to be a father to celebrate Father’s Day here in Germany. Believe I heard that you can merely be a potential father or some such. Or just be male. Can you manage that? If so, you’ve got to manage getting here for Christi Himmelfahrt one year. 

Bring your own wagon. I’m positive Louis will be happy to help you celebrate. 

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

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Light on the River Isar that runs through Munich

For quite some time, I’ve intended to change the tagline on this personal blog. I’m not certain how long it’s been, but it might’ve been from back when I started that if you clicked on my site, you’d see:

pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

It was an allusion to the Wizard of Oz, as well as a commentary on the way in which each of us creates our persona online. Essentially, I was saying: read my thoughts here, but please don’t expend any energy looking backstage.

I’ve chosen to live in a country that takes privacy very seriously. Because of Germany’s complicated history with the government surreptitiously observing its citizens, there is a genuine desire to ensure users ability to control how much of their private lives they display. It’s easy to be cynical about such a position, and my friends who work in cyber security would quickly insist that most of what we think of as online privacy is an illusion. However, I continue to respect the lengths to which they go to keep fighting the proverbial good fight. Europeans in general and Germans in particular are earnest about this. Quite commendable, if you were to ask me.

Yet the above tagline no longer works for me. It’s no longer the message I want to get across here. Not remotely. Instead, I’ve decided to take on an entirely new position. Frequently some event will happen hereabouts and I’ll receive queries along the lines of, ‘What in the world is going on over there?

My response is to write this blog as a meta answer to that exact question. The new tagline:

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

Implied in this is my eagerness to take on whatever questions you might have. If you read something here that you’d like to know more about, say something in the comments or drop me a line via email.

Hope you enjoy the new direction, and I’m already looking forward to some lively exchanges.

Searching out a uniquely Teutonic answer to those rowdy refugees in Cologne

 

Cologne is Nordrhein-Westfallen’s largest city and not to be messed with
 
A whole bunch of refugees freaked out on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and allegedly both robbed and sexually assaulted women who unfortunately were at the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn’t immediately covered in the German media, but not because of any conspiracy. It simply wasn’t known about. 
There’ve been allegations that the local police played down the event to avoid attention to their poor handling of events. Politicians insisted that the perpetrators’ countries of origin weren’t as important as the fact that they were criminals and would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

To say that this has been ignored by either the German or the European press is disingenuous. It just took a while for the story to come to light, but come to light it did. And then some. It’s been a major topic on political talk shows, and the opinion pages of the major papers have explored every possible angle. And then found entirely new angles. 

One particularly opportunistic politician has said aloud what many citizens have thought – that German taxes should not go to pay for keeping lawbreaking refugees in prisons. It’s gotten plenty of airtime, as well it should. Many Germans have a long fuse when it comes to this sort of thing – especially in public – as they would generally like to avoid being seen as racist or xenophobic, but this has hit a nerve. 

There’s certainly a sense that what happened in Cologne, as well as similar albeit much smaller incidents in Hamburg and Stuttgart, has crossed a line. Staying quiet and trying not to make too much of a fuss might’ve worked a week or so ago, but for increasing numbers of Germans it’s no longer an option. 

As I write this, there’s a huge protest going on in Cologne. Hundreds of women protesting against sexual abuse, as well as the newest incarnation of the Pegida protests which made so much noise this time last year. In addition, there are counter protests that insist the rhetoric on the streets is dangerously reminiscent of darker times in Germany in the Thirties

I’m not going to wade into a debate here about either Pegida or those protesting against their tactics. Not that I won’t at a later date; I just don’t think it’s particularly useful at the moment when these events are still so fresh. 

However, I have seen people insisting that Germans don’t care about what’s happened in Cologne or what’s going on in Germany right now. These assumptions are being made with little or no connection to what’s happening on the streets here. Whether during conversations at the dinner table or in cafés or pubs, people are talking and arguing and figuring out what needs to happen next. 

Here’s one of the things I like about living in Germany, though: there will be a measured response. Something positive will be done. Will it be as much as either radical fringe wants? Absolutely not. Will there be a thoughtful consideration of multiple possible ways to deal with all of this? I can almost guarantee it. 

Stay tuned for a uniquely Teutonic answer. One often seems to be found. 

Sylvester spoil sport – get those damned fireworks away from me

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The best part of New Year’s Eve? The next morning

New Year’s Eve in Munich is awful. I like almost every aspect of living here, but there are a few things I simply cannot tolerate. What the locals call Sylvester is one of those things. I loath it. A lot. More than a lot, if that were possible. A whole lot.

It really comes down to one thing. It’s not the drunken morons; you get those everywhere. Well, everywhere I’ve ever lived. Even far up in the mountains in Colorado or Austria, they’ve got inebriated idiots. Not as many, but they tend to make up for their lower numbers with more noise.

But it’s really not the drunks. I enjoy a bit of good cheer. Truly, I do.

It’s personal fireworks. Call me a Spielverderber, I won’t take it personally. That’s a spoilsport for the non-German speakers. Or a party pooper. Or a stick-in-the-mud, even. You’re welcome to call me all of those names and more. Doesn’t bug me at all.

For me, fireworks displays are for professionals. There’s a reason why civilised places don’t allow the man on the street anywhere near fireworks. Each year, I imagine the hospitals filled with people who’ve blown off one of their extremities.

When I first moved here, I had no idea that New Year’s Eve was a night for such mayhem. I went out on the street at midnight, and there were people shooting rockets down the thoroughfare. At each other, at the cars and pretty much anywhere they could.

Aside from a few exceptions, like Karnival time or during the Oktoberfest, this place is a model of ‘Ordnung muss sein’ (order must prevail). There are other nights of the year when disorder is tolerated or even encouraged, and I’m totally ok with all of those.

Do I have friends and/or acquaintances who spend a small fortune on their own personal stash of rockets and whatnot? I do. Plenty of my circle of friends are chomping at the bit to light the damned things and run around like imbeciles. They’ll carry on like yahoos at a prison rodeo, and then they’ll go back to being model citizens the next day. As if Mr. Hyde had simply never existed.

Am I tolerant of these folk? Nope, not a bit. Not even a little.

I’ll be up early on New Year’s Day taking my dogs to the park and stepping over the refuse left over from the psychotic frivolity of the previous night. I’m pretty sure I’ll still have both of my hands.

It’ll be great.