22 01 2019

Your Blogmeister’s German Desk

Tomorrow I hit the road again, for about a month.

The two main stops will be Berlin and Warsaw.

In spite of what I’m doing here, and in spite of something I did in Berlin over the summer voyage meant that I now have the job that I have living where I now do, I neither have to live in Berlin, nor have to go there that often.  Which is fine by me, because I’m indifferent about Berlin as a city.  I don’t love it, and I don’t hate it.  The big issue with modern day Berlin is that it’s flopping around like a fish out of water trying to find an identity.  In spite of being the national capital, it’s not really a government town, because German Federal agencies are rather spread out well over the country, many of which were in Bonn during the wall and curtain days are still there to this day.  Otherwise, Berlin is just Germany’s biggest collection of people in one place.  It’s there because it’s there.  And by all geographical rights, a city that big has no business being there, where it is.  But, I can assure you it’s there.  And there is where I’ll be for several days starting tomorrow.

Berlin’s status as a capital city goes back to Prussia being the spine of German unification.  Berlin was the capital of the Prussian state starting in 1718, before that it was Königsberg, which as you know is no longer even German.  So it was only natural that the Prussians running a unified unitary German nation-state starting in 1871 would make Berlin its capital.  I told you back on Unity Day that a subtext of the politics of German reunification were the politics of the national capital, and that, while moving the Bundestag back to Berlin did happen, the politics were nowhere near unanimous, the substance was not consummate, and the process was not instantaneous.  I’ll add now that, if you get many German political types into an honest moment, they’ll wish that the capital was still in Bonn.  And I can understand why:  The Rhine-Ruhr Region is where Germany happens, the place that will either make you or break you if you have national ambitions.  Which is the main reason why I live there.  For better and worse, past and present, Cologne is the Germany-iest city in Germany.  It’s also why the first and what was for quite awhile only high speed rail service in Germany was Frankfurt-Cologne, in order to shuffle people back and forth between the international airline hub and the largest city in the most important region.

While I’ve already been to Poland, more or less perfunctorily over the summer, this will be my first time going to what has historically been Polish territory in terms of ethnicity, even if not in terms of statehood.  And no, I’m not taking my Make Poland Germany Again hat with me on this trip.

After I’m done with my secret mission in Warsaw, I’m going to take in the Pope John Paul II cities of Krakow and Wadowice, then from there, take in the parts and various cities of northern Germany I have yet to see, including getting to Meckelburg-Vorpommen, the only state I have yet to clinch, and touching toes in Denmark in order to be able to stamp it on my passport.  When that’s done, I think I will have seen more of Germany than probably 90% of Germans have.

And I’m hoping for a really slow news month starting now.




2 responses

22 01 2019

Going back to one of my serial points about learning this language:


Hoch = high
Geschwind = fast
Bahn = path
Verkehr = transportation

Put it all together and it’s:

High speed train service.

Also, geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung — “begrenz” as a root word relating/translating to a limit. And you already know that geschwind is fast. Put it together, and the long word means “speed limit.” I’ve also seen geschwindigkeitsbeschränkung for speed limit — “beschrän” is the root word that relates/translates to “restriction.”

Which is why German road speed limit signs don’t use the German word for speed limit on them. Just a red border, white-ish middle, and the km/h limit in numerals. The Vienna Convention way.

23 01 2019

And to think English evolved out of a Frisian dialect, with more than a little Franco-Viking admixture.

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