Today I was visiting Emmerich am Rhein – a town on the border between Germany and the Netherlands.
Suspension bridge over the Rhine at Emmerich
While I was walking through the town centre, I came across a group of brass Stolpersteine – small plaques in the pavement reminding passers-by that holocaust victims had once lived in the house they are passing. Stolpern means to stumble – so these are literally stones that you stumble across.
This set remembers a family of three from Emmerich who fled the national socialist regime and escaped to America.
The Gompertz family fled to America in 1939 and survived the Holocaust.
This was the first time I’ve seen Stolpersteine remembering people who actually survived the war – most of them record death in one of the concentration camps. I hope the Gompertz family settled in America and had a long and happy life after the war.
I was in Kleve today – a small town on the border between Germany and the Netherlands. Best known in the English world for its most famous daughter, Anne of Cleves. Anne, of course, was the unfortunate lady who was matched with Henry VIII of England. Henry sent Hans Holbein over to paint portraits of Anne and her sister Amalia, both of whom he was considering as candidates for his fourth wife. (This was the Tudor equivalent of online dating… but without the internet it was rather unwieldy). It would appear that Holbein’s portrait of Anne was the Tudor equivalent of a nicely photo-shopped image. Henry chose her, based on the portrait… but when she turned up, he was less than enamoured with “that Flemish mare” – and allegedly the marriage was never consummated.
Nowadays in Kleve, Anne’s over-flattering portrait is still very much in evidence – which suggests it is well worth getting a decent photo done for your social media profile picture if you have an eye to posterity!
A tourist attraction… though in real life she may not have been so attractive
There were a few cool things in Kleve. The first was the fantastic (though rather dried out) wildflower planting all around the city car-parks.
Aha…. so there’s the parking ticket machine…
The other was a beautiful if slightly disturbing statue in the centre of town… anyone have any idea what this is supposed to signify?
Whoa…. what’s this all about?
Nope… it’s just as weird from this side too….
Everywhere you go in Germany, there seem to be reminders of former markets. Not that Germany doesn’t have markets nowadays too, of course. But in past times, they seemed to have one market per type of produce, at least judging by the old street names. I was in Kempen this week which has a marketplace which claims to sell only butter (there was a market on at the time, though it seemed to be all fruit and veg).
A whole market just selling butter?
There was a bit of confusion about the Viehmarkt (cattle market) – which apparently used to be a horse market. These days it’s a car park. How appropriate!
A cattle market… formally a horse market…
I also visited Rheinberg which arranges its markets very neatly, next to each other. So you can pick up your fish and also the wood to cook it on. How marvellously well organised!
Wood sellers to the left, fishmongers to the right….
Whatever market is on, it’s so much more fun than buying produce in a supermarket.
German market scene in Kempen with street sculpture…
We spent this weekend in the hilly Vulkaneifel region of Germany, visiting the pretty town of Kaisersesch.
The first thing we noticed was that something about the spire of the church next to our hotel didn’t seem quite right.
Had the spire-builders been on the schnapps?
In fact from below it looked a bit like a witch’s hat…
Wonky spire... with a brim
The historic prison building had forgotton to release this chap when it finally stopped being a jail and started being a museum…
Could anyone lend me a nail file?
Other statues in the town seemed to be having more fun….
Come on in! The water's lovely!
Typical local postal worker?
It’s been a hectic week in Planet Germany. Not only has the Rhineland been turned upside down with Karneval, but the fame of Planet Germany has been spreading.
This week I was asked by Christoph Driessen of dpa why the Germans love the British monarchy so much. Of course that one is easy. The British monarchy is in fact descended almost entirely from German nobility. In a sense, the Germans have merely outsourced its royals to Britain. As German children grow up and transition from reading about princesses in Grimms Märchen to reading about them in Bunte and Gala, the British Royals take centre stage in the German psyche.
I suspect the Swabians were behind sending the German Royals to Britain though. You see, as Germany gears up excitedly for the royal wedding, it is now the British taxpayer who will foot the bill for the celebrations. Germans everywhere are hoping for a profligate affair – especially the Schwaben.
Mr. Driessen’s article can be found here (in German).
I rather fancy moving to Britain darling, what do you think?
Apart from my new-found status as German Royal watcher, I am also now a cultural ambassador to the French apparently. The auswärtiges Amt is featuring Planet Germany on its website at the moment as a fine example of expats loving life in Germany.
I shall await with interest the response of the French to my (British) views on the Germans – these being three nations that have never been known to see eye to eye on many cultural matters.
For those of us who grew up on the output of Pinewood studios, the last role you ever wanted to be cast in was the German soldier. They always ended up being outsmarted by the cunning but underdog allies. Your last line was always something like “Gott im Himmel!” before you were taken out by a bouncing bomb, or your zeppelin went down in flames or something.
A quick trawl through some of the photo material available at the Bundeschiv suggests that there’s another side to the German military… and I thought I’d share. So next time you get cast as the idiot sleeping sentry, at least you’ll know it wasn’t all the way the script suggests…
Steve McQueen, eat your heart out!
Helmut...I think we lost something
Who stole my pint?
Rappers, Herr Oberst. Hundreds of them!
Maybe we could get a role in the Carry On films instead...