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Warnemünde, Germany

Third stop on our Baltic cruise last year was Warnemünde, North Germany. It lies at the mouth of the River Warnow and is effectively the port for Rostock, of which it is administratively part.

We could have taken trips to Rostock – or Berlin – but decided not to. The Berlin one involved a long bus trip would only have allowed a few hours in the city and Rostock wasn’t particularly attractive.

From the dockside on the River Warnow you have to cross an inlet to get to the main part of Warnemünde. Looking north:-

Warnemünde, Inlet of River Warnow from Bridge

Looking south:-

Warnemünde, Looking South on Inlet of River Warnow

Warnemünde is a nice wee place with quite a lot of modern architecture but in the town centre mostly older type buildings:-

Warnemunde street, Germany

Building, Warnemünde

One of its tourist attractions is this lighthouse, which is not beside the sea:-

Lighthouse, Warnemünde

I also spotted this windmill up a side street:-

Windmill, Warnemünde

Rochdale Town Hall, Stained Glass

One of the striking features of Rochdale Town Hall’s interior is the stained glass windows many of which feature portraits of the Kings and Queens of England.

The windows flanking the entrance though have stained glass representations of the coats of arms of European countries, here Greece, France, Belgium, Turkey, Russia and Portugal:-

Rochdale Town Hall, Stained Glass Windows 1

The other such window betrays the building’s age. Coats of arms for Sweden & Norway, Prussia, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark and Austria. Note Sweden & Norway, as was (they separated in 1905) and Prussia which, subsumed the rest of Germany in 1871.

Stained Glass Window, Rochdale Town Hall

Grand staircase:-

Rochdale Town Hall Staircase

This is a closer view showing the stained glass window on the half-landing to greater effect.

Rochdale Town Hall, Stained Glass

The World Turned Upside Down?

You may have noticed there’s a rather large and important football competition taking place at the moment. (A swift glance at TV schedules would be enough to tell you that.)

Four years ago I expressed my fear that a period of Germanic hegemony was upon us. Notwithstanding Portugal’s efforts at the last European Championships the young German side which triumphed at last year’s Confederations Cup boded well (or ill, according to view) for that prospect.

It seems that hegemony is not to be. In three performances of stunning inadequacy Germany have been so poor as to finish bottom of their group, only a moment of individual brilliance on the part of Toni Kroos yielding them a solitary win over Sweden.

It’s been a topsy-turvy sort of tournament what with England playing well (so far) and Argentina, like the Germans, struggling badly – but still managing to reach the second round.

I’ve not been overly impressed by anyone – though I thought Colombia looked good against Poland. But that may have been because the Poles were totally ineffective.

Brazil seem unbalanced to me; too much in thrall to their star player, Neymar, who doesn’t look fully fit. Belgium may be dark horses but haven’t played anybody of standing yet.

Judgement must be reserved till the knockout games. Too often before, a good showing in the group has unravelled at the next step.

But… Could this be Uruguay’s year again? They’re the only side yet to concede a goal.

(Cue a Portugal win on Saturday.)

Chile 0-1 Germany

Confederations Cup Final, Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, 2/7/17.

To slightly amend Gary Lineker. Football is a simple game. Twenty-two plus men chase a ball around a pitch for 95 minutes, and the Germans win. Even if it’s their B-team.

Well, they might not have got to the final of the last European Championship but after this tournament who can doubt the strength in depth the German national team now has?

It’s a frightening thought for the other possible contenders for the 2018 World Cup.

Mind you, had it not been for a dreadful mistake at the back by Marcelo Díaz the game might have ended 0-0.

Still, Germany took that golden opportunity and Chile, despite their domination of possession, failed to take any of their chances.

And Germany always looked capable of getting another goal whenever they forayed up the park.

Not bad for a country whose normal first choices had been given the close season off.

For Joachim Löw it’s a good selection headache to have.

Confederations Cup 2017 and VAR

I’ve been watching this year’s edition of the Confederations Cup. Well I missed the first half of the first game and of today’s.

The games have been fairy enjoyable. Well, Russia-New Zealand was a bit of a mismatch and Russia fairly plodding. The results in the other ties have been about right. Mexico and Portugal seemed evenly matched and both Chile and Germany deserved their wins though Germany’s decision to go with a young squad might have backfired on them. (Actually, who am I kidding? They’re Germans.) Unusually it did provide the spectacle of a German goalkeeper who wasn’t on top of his game.

The main topic of conversation among the pundits though has been the supposed shortcomings of the video assistant referee system, VAR, being used at the competition. A welcome innovation I’d have thought.

It’s only a trial, though. There are bound to be teething problems.

So far when it has been employed it has got the decisions correct – as is intended. Those occasions were when the ball was dead after the referee’s original decision and there was therefore no interruption to the game, only a slight delay in restarting.

The possible penalty incident in the Russia-New Zealand game – which the ref didn’t opt to have reviewed – did not fall into that category. If he did receive advice that he “might want to look at the incident” (it actually wouldn’t be him – it would be the assistants) that would have been in the course of ongoing play. In effect that makes the video assistant the actual referee. And when does the referee then blow the whistle?

And what would have happened if he had so opted and on the subsequent video review the decision was “no penalty”? Would that not make a mockery of the review? And where would play restart?

Better to leave the referee to it and restrict any such interventions to times when the ball is dead.

Such reviews are all very well in the case of Rugby, League or Union, where stoppages can be relatively common. Football is a much more fluid game, not so amenable to interruption.

Portugal and the Great War

It is one of the less remembered aspects of the Great War that Portugal was one of the Allies and sent troops to fight on the Western Front.

Germany declared war on Portugal on 9/3/1916 though before that there had been tensions over sea trade embargoes and border clashes in Africa. 12,000 Portuguese troops died and 82,000 civilians due to food shortages.

In São Bento Railway Station in Porto we found a commemorative display of photographs of Portuguese involvement in the war.

Grande Guerra (the Great War):-

WW1 1 Display in Porto Railway Station

Declaração de guerra (Declaration of war):-

The Great War:  Portuguese Involvement

A caminho das trincheiras (Portuguese trenches?):-

The Great War, Portuguese Trenches

A retaguarda (Training?):-

Portuguese Great War Photos

A vida nas trincheiras (Life in the trenches):-

Life in theTrenches

Destruição e desoleção (Destruction and desolation?):-

WW1 Destruction and Desolation

Campos de prisoneiros (POW Camps):-

WW1 POW Camps

O desfile da vitoria (Victory parade?):-

WW1 Portuguese Victory Parade

Mr Irresponsible’s Greatest Folly

Mr Irresponsible, aka Call me Dave, otherwise known as the Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron Esquire, has a lot of idiocies to his name. But surely the largest of these is his utterly obtuse decision to give in to the bullying of his Conservative cohorts and the threat of UKIP to his voting base by first promising and then granting them a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

Instead of lancing the boil (he warned his party not to continue to bang on about Europe) his indulgence of their obsession has now unleashed a tide of xenophobia and intolerance, egged on by those who knowingly encourage a false belief that the troubles experienced by various communities up and down the UK are as a result of external forces (the EU,) so-called lack of control (again the EU) or immigrants (supposedly the EU but there are more migrants into the UK from outwith the EU than from inside it – and many Britons living and working in the countries of the EU) rather than the banking crash and the policies his Government has followed ever since its election in 2010. (I know its first five years were in coalition but really it was a Conservative Government in all but name.)

This tide has been growing for years – stoked up by spurious newspaper stories of EU “impositions” and “red tape” and the simplicities of people who claim that the country’s problems have one solution – and has now taken the form of a vicious and intemperate “Vote Leave” campaign which has peddled all sorts of what may be politely called inaccuracies but are in fact downright lies and often strayed close to, if not over, the border of racism.

I know the “Remain” campaign has also given apocalyptic warnings of the consequences of a leave vote, but it has not been whipping up fear of others, nor blatantly arousing expectations which will not (cannot) be fulfilled. Against whom will the anger the “Leave” campaigners have stoked be directed when things do not get better? (Either “in” or “out”, ditching austerity is not on their or David Cameron’s agenda.)

Had I been in any doubt about which way I would vote in Thursday’s referendum the “Vote Leave” television broadcast claiming that the £350 million pounds a week of the UK’s contribution to the EU budget (a large part of which promptly gets sent back anyway) would – in a leave future – be spent on the NHS instead would have made my mind up. These guys have no intention of spending money on the NHS; they want rid of it. They want to privatise everything that moves (and everything that doesn’t.) The worse thing, though, was the highlighting of five Balkan countries said to be on the point of entry into the EU (none of which actually are any time soon) plus Turkey: Turkey! which has been moving ever further away from meeting accession criteria under its present government) and then a series of arrows, leaping, Dad’s Army style, over to Britain. As if every inhabitant of those countries would immediately up sticks and come to the UK as soon as they were given the opportunity. Some may, most will not.

Then there was “Vote Leave”‘s pamphlet – delivered by post – which handily showed Turkey as having borders with Syria and Iraq. Are Syria and Iraq applying for EU membership? I don’t think so. What possible purpose can their inclusion on this map have? (Except to stoke up fears of people from there coming through Turkey – and riding the arrows to Britain.) Well, they’re doing that anyway, as “Leave” well knows and plays on. Yet in their circumstances so would I – and so would every leave campaigner.

The circumstances under which this vote is taking place, the Eurozone under strain, a refugee crisis, a war on Europe’s margins (two if you include Turkey in Europe which geographically part of it is,) render its timing more than unfortunate. It is potentially disastrous.

I really fear that a leave vote will see other countries (but emphatically not those who border Russia) seek to leave the EU. These may even include France if the Front National wins power.

In that case there will certainly be unresolved tensions between France and Germany – and we know where that has led in the past.

What the leave campaigners don’t seem to have grasped, or have deliberately ignored, is that the EU was set up (as the European Coal and Steel Community, then the Common Market) precisely so that France and Germany would never go to war again. That is emphatically in the UK’s national interest, and may be at risk. The writer of this letter to the Guardian knows what is at stake.

Whatever the result on Thursday the passions this referendum seems to have inflamed, at least in England – there has been almost no sign of it taking place at all in the way of posters and window stickers round where I live – will not be stilled easily.

1864

 1864 cover

When this Danish TV series – the most expensive production in Danish television history – was first trailed on the BBC and I saw the blue uniforms I thought it would be about the War Between the States (known on this side of the Atlantic as the American Civil War) as the date fitted. I was immediately interested. I’ve read a lot about that conflict and watched the Jim Burns TV series several times. Looking more closely I realised that I didn’t recognise the painting shown on the trailer or the figures within it (I most likely would have for an American Civil War painting) and of course the uniforms’ details weren’t quite right.

I was therefore even more intrigued when it dawned the series was about the Second Schleswig War as that was something I knew vaguely about from History, at school. Once read, who can forget the comment the UK Prime Minister at the time, Lord Palmerston, made about the intricacies of the Schleswig-Holstein question – which in the series was uttered to that fine actress Barbara Flynn, in the person of Queen Victoria – that there were only three men who ever understood it; the Prince Consort, who was dead, a German professor who had gone mad and Palmerston himself, who had forgotten all about it?

As presented in the series, the war seems to have been provoked by Denmark in a fit of collective insanity. The programme, which has been criticised for historical inaccuracies (it would be difficult to portray any conflict televisually without some of that I’d have thought) certainly presented the Danish Prime Minister, Monrad, as an utter nutter. There seemed to be an element of hysteria in the air that prefigured the Germany of 1939. (Then again there was widespread welcome to Britain’s declaration of war in 1914, so no need to point fingers; except the UK hadn’t sought that conflict – at least not directly.)

However the dire results of the Second Schleswig War for Denmark meant that, to that country’s credit, no Danish military action outside its frontiers again took place until the NATO bombing of Kosovo in 1999.

Scenes were shown from both sides of the conflict and also the sidelines as Palmerston affected to intercede. The subtitles were no intrusion (1864 went out in the BBC 4 European detective slot on Saturdays at 9 pm.) As near as I could tell each nationality in the series spoke in its own language. (I have a smattering of German but no Danish except what I could glean from the dialogue’s similarities to German, English and, occasionally, Scots.)

For the series the necessity of introducing a human aspect to the conflict in the shape of estate manager’s daughter Inge and the two brothers Laust and Peter, with whom she has a special bond, allowed the introduction of those perennial literary concerns, love, sex and death. There was love to be sure, but not much sex – only four scenes as I recall, three of them having not much to do with love, plus another featuring boys attempting to masturbate – but enough death and destruction to slake anyone’s desires. The battle scenes were impressive – and visceral.

Overall the series was magnificent television, well worth checking out if you didn’t catch it, but I thought the elements of mysticism involving one of the soldiers from the village were unconvincing and the framing device wherein a disaffected young woman from our century sent to his house for a form of community service helps read out Inge’s memoirs to an old man (who is Inge’s grandson) was perhaps unnecessary, though it did give the sense of consequences cascading down the years and a contrast to the privations of the soldiers of 150 years earlier.

When I last looked in the BBC shop, the DVD of this was out of stock but the Blu-ray was available.

Günter Grass

I see that Günter Grass has died.

I haven’t actually read any of his novels – he’s one of those novelists whom I meant to get round to sometime. The closest I have come was when I watched the film that was made of his novel The Tin Drum. The film was excellent.

There was a stooshie when he revealed he had been a member of the Waffen SS – mostly because he had managed to keep the fact to himself for 60 years and in the interim had been outspoken about Germany’s post-war attitude to the Nazis. I doubt, though, many German seventeen year-olds would have resisted being called up in 1944. In any case his war record can have had no bearing whatsoever on his abilities as a writer. As a person perhaps; but not as an author. (There were doubtless many more in Germany, Austria and various parts of Eastern Europe who may have had more reason to keep theirs quiet.)

The Nobel Committee saw fit to award him its prize in literature in 1999. That puts him in good company.

Günter Grass: 16/10/1927 – 13/4/2015. So it goes.

Dutch War Memorials

I didn’t expect to see War Memorials in out of the way places in The Netherlands. The country didn’t take part in the Great War but was of course invaded by Germany in 1940. The Dutch were unable to combat the Luftwaffe bombers – the centre of Rotterdam was destroyed – and surrendered to avoid destruction of their other cities. The fighting lasted seven days.

But then there were also the almost constant Allied bombing raids over Germany in the latter part of the war (the run-up to D-Day excepted) which flew over The Netherlands en route and on return.

It seems two such aeroplanes were shot down over or near Opende.

This view shows both memorials:-

The distinctive headstones of Commonwealth war graves can be seen. I assume these were erected after the war.

The inscription on the brick wall reads :-

In Memory of the seven heroes whose plane crashed in Opende, 15 Feb 1944.
The Residents of Opende

This is the other end of the memorial:

The aircraft was a Halifax bomber with seven crew, six of whom were Australian. It was shot down. The details are here.

Links to more information about the crew can be found on this webpage.

The other plaque on the site is for a US B 17, “Sky Queen” which came down on 28 Jul 1943.

More information about this crew is here.

In the nearby town (I would call it a town but by the Dutch definition it’s a village) of Surhuisterveen there is a War Memorial plaque on the other side of the clock tower from this view.

The inscription reads:-

In memory. To our local fallen in the war 1940-45.

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