Author Archives: sowort

Building the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg

There is a certain unplanned affinity in Germany for public projects not getting finished on time. And when they are finally finished, they usually cost several times the estimated price.

Stuttgart 21 is one such case. It actually only entails putting the complete train rails and central station of a city into the ground. What on earth could go wrong. Then there is the new airport in Berlin. Everything has already gone wrong there. A satirical German blog even suggested introducing a new grammatical form of future to cater for the day the airport will actually be opened.

And then there is the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. Initial costs were estimated at around 100 million Euro, quite a nice sum for a new concert hall with an adjoining hotel and a few flats. Thing is, the price has now gone up to 800 million Euro.

I am sure the taxpayer will be getting some really fine concerts for this. That is, if he is still able to pay the admission fee.

Quite an expensive building. The acoustics are much applauded, though.

Quite an expensive building. The acoustics are much applauded, though.

On the beauty of German cities

When foreigners talk of German cities, they often think of Heidelberg, Berlin and Munich. While I generally agree on the beauty of Heidelberg and the vibrance of Berlin, I often think the hype around Munich is overdone and down to apt self-marketing. But it is possible I feel that way because I once lived in Munich and am happy not to live there anymore.

Anyway, of those foreigners visiting Germany, few usually plan on going to the smaller, but nonetheless lively cities like Würzburg, Bamberg, Tübingen, Koblenz, Regensburg, Freiburg and Passau, or the bigger ones like Hamburg and Dresden.

Which is a shame, as all these cities have a great deal to offer to anyone. All are bustling with student life and culture, all have one or several rivers flowing through them, all have, even through the bombings of WWII, retained or rebuilt many of their charming residential houses and impressive churches. Trees, green and parks are everywhere.

Dozens of cafés along the winding roads and pedestrian-zones in Germany invite you to take a rest, slurp a hot or cold drink and watch the people go by.

Really, Germany is quite beautiful in many places.

An evening view onto beautiful Würzburg. The dots on the U are intentional.

An evening view onto beautiful Würzburg. The dots on the U are intentional.

The excellent BBC and their not-so-excellent generalisation on The Germans

I love to listen to the BBC via internet. I savour the World Service and Radio 4, especially the FM version, they are fun, well made and keep me up-to-date with high-quality journalism and a different view on the world.

Which gets me to where I was getting to. So often, the BBC journalists and moderators talk about ‘the Germans’ and ‘the German standpoint’. And I ask myself: What would ‘the English standpoint’ be in any situation? The opinion of the people? Which people, the rich, the poor? Or would it perhaps be the generally agreed position of the government?

Anyhow, much the same questions apply to Germany. A German right-winger would have a different opinion than a left-winger. One can easily blame most Germans for being pretty influenced by the media, as one could say of almost any nation, I guess, most certainly of the US-Americans, the Russians and the Italians. But it certainly is not so that all Germans agree with Angela Merkel. So when I hear what ‘the Germans’ want used synonymously with what Mrs Merkel thinks, I cringe slightly.

After all, dear BBC, wouldn’t that be the same with ‘the British’ and Mr Cameron?

I have honestly no idea what the Germans on this picture are thinking

I have honestly no idea what the Germans on this picture are thinking

About the unusually cold and wet German weather

It is above all the English that we Germans would associate with talk about the weather. This year, however, things are a bit different. It seems as if the last five months, somewhere from January right up to now, May 2013, have been filled with cold, wet, cloudy and dreary weather, with the occasional snow at the beginning of the year.

Since then, there have only been a few single sunny days with temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius, and otherwise mostly below 12 degrees. Which is somewhere around the temperature you would be putting away your winter coats and getting out the light jackets. So any jokes we Germans may in the past have made about other nations’ cloudy skies and protective clothing have long since ebbed off. Instead, we are busy talking about this unjustness of nature, and complaining, which we seem quite good at.

What remains is a nation desperately hoping for some good weather to come and stay. Including blue skies, sunny days and warm evenings.

These sheep quickly adapted to the unusually cold weather by growing long fur

These sheep quickly adapted to the unusually cold weather by growing long fur