Monday, November 20, 2017

What Went Wrong?

In terms of the coalition failure, basically seven things.

1. Merkel charm has decreased in the last four years, even if journalists say otherwise. 

2. You needed four parties to agree to an agenda, and that's never been done in German politics before.

3. This long discussion on tax relief (led by the FDP) failed because of the Greens.

4. Total SPD and CDU votes were about 55 percent, meaning the lowest total since WWII.

5. Immigration issues ate up a lot of coalition talks, with no clear outcome.

6. The news media hype just never amounted to much.  They spent tons of time on Merkel and Schulz.  The other parties got minimum face time.

7. It becomes obvious now that two elements of the Green Party exists.  The public is amused by the divide of the two.

Another election? I doubt if it gets to a clear end.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Merkel Out?

Overnight, the unspeakable occurred, the coalition effort failed. Next?

New election by February is my prediction. Merkel likely does not run. This will create a major hyped period for four weeks as the CDU determines the next face of the party.   There are at least six people who could be the party chief.

The SPD? I expect Schulz to be pushed aside.

The Linke Party? They might also fire their chief.   The Greens? They might find chaos as well.

The AfD? They might find another two percent in votes, reaching 15 percent.

Serious period? Absolutely.

Defeckt

Back in the late 70's when I arrived in Germany...you might see a sign up somewhere...maybe twice a week, with the term 'defeckt' on it (meaning: it's broke).

It'd typically be a urinal in some public restroom, or some ticket-machine at the train station.

In the past five years, on average, I'll see a 'defeckt' sign up now about forty times a week. A logical guy would ask....are things breaking that much in Germany?  Well....no.  What you have is a very technology-drive society and thing simply break.

I'll walk into a bakery a couple times a week, and the coffee-espresso machine will have a sign up.  Most bakeries and cafes don't buy their coffee machines anymore.....they lease them.  And with that comes the little free maintenance deal. 

I'll walk into some public bathroom with sensors on the urinals, and it'll have a sign up indicating 'defeckt'.

I'll use some ATM machine and discover it has a 'defeckt' sign.

I'll try to return bottles to some deposit machine at the grocery and find a 'defeckt' sign.

I'll find some ice cream freezer at the grocery empty....with a 'defeckt' sign indicating why it's empty.

The list goes on and on.  Germans, I think....are getting used to this dilemma and don't whine much about it.  Me?  I'm looking at the amount of technology now part of daily life events, and wondering where this will go in thirty years. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Champagne Topic

I noticed this got brought up in the news about two weeks ago.

There is a class-action lawsuit starting up out of Quebec, Canada.  The issue?  Sunwing airlines offer this flight deal to Cuba (don't ask why).  So they kinda say in the advertising that there's going to be a cup or glass of Champagne involved.

For those who aren't into Champagne....it's a French-product from a particular region of France.  If you make anywhere else (even 10 miles outside of this Champagne-identified zone....it's Sparkling Wine.

Yep....same stuff. 

So here's the thing....you can buy Sparkling Wine for a cheaper price than Champagne.

In this airline case.....they served up Sparkling Wine, and some flyer noted the difference.  He says it's just not right and wants to be compensated for what he bought.  The fact that the airline uttered the phrase "Champagne service" in the advertising?  Well....it'll hurt the case in court.

I sat and pondered over this.  Personally, I just don't have a taste for Champagne.  My wife will pull out about three bottles of the stuff per year, and force me to sip the stuff.  I really can't stand it.  On my preferred list of drink items?  I'd probably drink Tab or Dr Pepper, before I'd drink Champagne.

This need to pump up customers over Champagne?  Out of a hundred folks....the minute you mention free Champagne....I would guess that 70-percent would get all hyped up and feel 'special' when served.  If you mentioned later it was Sparkling Wine?  They'd be all negative.  Same stuff though.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Beer and Summer

There are a hundred things about beer gardens in Europe that I've come to appreciate.

In most countries (Denmark, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, etc), you will find tables on the side of the street with a dozen types of beer available. 

You sit for a while....cooling off or pausing from the walk, and sip through a decent beer. 

In most every town that I've come to travel through, I've found another beer to taste.  Some are unique.....some are 'cheap' (without any taste....and some are worthy of remembering.

Around mid-October, beer gardens start to shut down and you have this long 'dry' spell (until almost early April), and then all heck breaks loose as everyone tries to get their operation back into full-swing.

If you've never been to a beergarten.....you ought to try it. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Blauer Brief

The 'Blauer Brief' (the blue letter) is a German expression typically used by teenagers. 

After you've screwed up enough with the teachers....you will get a letter which has to be seen and read by the parents, and signed.

Where does the expression come from?  This is one of those curious things.  If you go back about two-hundred years ago....regional German authorities  would want to get your attention and they'd send you a document which you had to sign and return (noting that you'd been warned).

The material used for this act?  Usually scrap clothing (blue in nature).  You (as the authority) would not have a stock of paper, so clothing was the natural alternate means.  You'd write the document on the clothing.

The other use of the term 'Blauer Brief' would be the termination notice by a company to an employee.  So if your neighbor mentions something in the conversation and Blauer Brief comes up....it's a pretty negative thing. Same for a kid bringing up the topic. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

German Phone Booths

I can easily remember being introduced to the public German phones in 1978.  You could go into Frankfurt and find them within a three-minute walk in any direction. 

In the 1990s as cellphones came along, you started to notice the public booths disappearing.

I would take a guess today.....throughout the whole city of Wiesbaden, there's probably only fifty of these still left.  At best, there might be five or six calls a week now made from these. In another ten years, I expect all of them to be gone.

If you had suggested back in 1985 that they'd all rapidly disappear, most Germans would have laughed. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ten Things Over German Bars

This is my list of ten things that you ought respect or grasp about German bars in general (remember, I'm an American):

1.  Quiet, small-town German bars tend to be a place where you walk in and observe three tables occupied by four older guys each....playing cards....and mostly hiding out from their wives.  They tend to drink beer only.  The only background noise might be a TV on with a soccer game underway.  Two or three women will be in the corner....mostly discussing gossip, failed marriages, or personal problems.

2.  Most German pubs will offer six to ten variations of beer, with one being non-alcoholic.  The most popular brand you will come across is Bitburger (a marginal two-star beer on my scale).  Beer from the tap always seems to come across with a better taste (at least I think so).  Newer establishments will offer wine.  Straight shots of Bourbon and whiskey are always possible.  Cocktails?  Most German bartenders will just look at you and ask if you know where you are. 

3.  Most German bars don't sell food.  If they do sell food...you need to be suspicious.  And if you find a place that does great food and great beer....you need to stick with them.

4.  If you had some high quality standards with toilets and sanitary conditions....well, don't go overboard with German pubs.  The owner probably puts a mop to the floor weekly....ensures paper towels are in the machine, and hopefully has some liquid soap to dispense. 

5.  The old guys will tell you of the dozens of pubs and gasthauses that used to exist in their local area, and today they've all dwindled down to five or six.  Part of this is due to stronger DWI-laws, and part is due to guys fixing up their patio or basement 'men-cave' for off-time.  Some of this also revolves around men changing their drinking habits and sipping less beer (more wine).

6.  Picking up on women at a German bar?  No.  The older guys, if you bring up this topic....will just start laughing. 

7.  Beer gardens?  A decent German pub will have an area set up around the back, or maybe in the front of the building for spring and summer beer consumption.  If the waitress is attentive and does check occasionally on empty steins, you need to remember that on the tip-business.  In the heat of the day?  My advice is that you need to order a bottle of water to hydrate yourself prior to the beer consumption.  The worst thing to do on a hot day is to consumer vast quantities of German beer while thirsty.

8.  Unlike Irish pubs where strangers enter and want to tell you their life story....Germans don't get very chatty with strangers.  You need to accept that.  On the list of topics to avoid with a German?  American politics, Bush, Trump, WW II movies, Hitler, and anything British. 

9.  Pool tables?  If you walk into a hundred small-town pubs in Germany....I'd take a guess that fewer than four will have pool tables.  It's just not something that goes hand-in-hand with German beer drinking.

10.  Older German pub establishments will still have a slot machine around in the back of the place.  Over the past twenty years, I'd take a guess that most pubs have terminated the slot machine gimmick. If you stand and play a hundred Euro over two hours....you can be fairly assured to walk out with nothing in your hand.