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.

more daydreaming

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This sculpture is one I pass regularly as I walk my dogs Ella and Louis along the River Isar. Something about her staring off in the distance pleases me immeasurably.

Recently, I noticed that someone had spray painted some nonsense on her side, and I thought, ‘I’m glad I’ve got multiple photos of her without the new tag.’

At some point she’ll be cleaned up, but in the meantime this is what I’ll remember.

And for those of you nudging me and saying, ‘Hey, what’s that green stuff all around her right eye?’ I’m not sure. I’m trying to ignore it.

 

Don’t Mess with the River Isar

Don’t Mess with the River Isar

Oh man. This is good. There are plenty of things I’ve got to write about, but this Don’t Litter ad is making the rounds – I saw it at the Eldorado Cinema last night – and I think it’s brilliant.

At the end, it says, ‘Zuhause machst du’s ja auch nicht,’ which means, ‘Yeah, you don’t litter at home.’

Ella and Louis (my sister and brother Vizslas) and I spend quite a lot of time on the River Isar that runs through Munich. We completely support any attempts to get people to treat the area better.

Reminds me of the old Don’t Mess with Texas ads I saw growing up that served the same purpose. Yet another Bavaria is the Texas of Germany argument. For good or ill.

 

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. 

holding off on discouragement

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view from the Friedensengel looking down on Munich from Bogenhausen

My friend Dermot held off on telling me how impossible it is to find a place to live in Munich – especially with dogs. And one more thing against me? Many or most people here have secure employment. I’m a freelancer with work in a variety of fields. It’s never boring, but it’s anything but guaranteed.

I’d heard over the years that finding somewhere to live in Bavaria’s capital was difficult, but had never experienced it firsthand.

Here I was looking for a flat during Advent and the Christmas/New Year’s holidays. It was a bit of drudgery and appeared to be all in vain. I was looking at places as far-flung as Augsburg, Landshut and even Regensburg. All perfectly acceptable places, but definitely a commute.

Then I unexpectedly ran into my dog trainer, who I hadn’t seen in years, and told her my plight. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, she informed me that before she found her present abode, she was couch surfing and some nights even sleeping in a barn. For how long was she virtually homeless?

Seven months.

You heard me right. I thought in that moment that my situation was completely hopeless. Here was a woman very connected in the community with tonnes of clients and very well-behaved dogs. She was essentially a vagabond for what seemed like an unbearable amount of time. Where would that leave me?

She took my contact details, but I had no illusion that she’d provide anything different than the many friends who’d been looking/listening for any rental-related possibilities in my adopted hometown.

Everyone wanted to help, but it’s really a jungle here. And each year there are more and more students and professionals making their way to this beautiful city on the River Isar.

Didn’t want to say anything till I was certain it’d work out, but a flat opened up in her building. My dog trainer, who’s the closest thing I’ve found to a real-life dog whisperer incidentally, sent me a text message on New Year’s Eve, and said that if I wanted to, I could live in her building.

It’s been renovated, and is much better than anything I could’ve hoped for. Although I could’ve done with a bit less Sturm und Drang in the search for a home, I’m glad Dermot waited to tell me how screwed I was.

‘Two dogs? At Christmastime? As a self-employed foreigner? I didn’t have the heart to tell you it was nearly impossible.’

Impossible, my arse. Munich Bogenhausen here we come.