Tag Archives: germany

Bad Urach & Schloss Lichtenstein

Residenzschloss, Bad UrachIMG_0358IMG_0359IMG_0360IMG_0361Residenzschloss, Bad Urach 6
Residenzschloss, Bad Urach 5Residenzschloss, Bad Urach 4Residenzschloss, Bad Urach 2Residenzschloss, Bad Urach 3Schloss Lichtenstein 11Schloss Lichtenstein 10
Schloss Lichtenstein 9Schloss Lichtenstein 8Schloss Lichtenstein 7Schloss Lichtenstein 6Schloss Lichtenstein 5Schloss Lichtenstein 4
Schloss Lichtenstein 3Schloss Lichtenstein 2Schloss Lichtenstein 1

Photos from today’s visit to Bad Urach & Schloss Lichtenstein in Baden-Wurttemburg.

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Cultural prejudice and booksellers’ responsibility

I’ve just returned from a trip to a bookshop in Gloucester. Browsing the history section, I noted that the shelves containing books on German history were dominated by books on the Second World War, the Nazis and the Holocaust. One of the very few books that had significant coverage of Germany before 1933 was itself a highly controversial account by A.J.P. Taylor notable for the extremes of opinion it contains. Moving to the section on Freemasonry, I noted the unusually large number (no doubt boosted by the success of The Da Vinci Code) of books there were dominated by books pandering to the Freemasonry-as-world-conspiracy mythology accompanied by dubious (by academic standards) pseudo-historical accounts of Freemasonry’s origins.

I moved on to the reference section in search of a Welsh dictionary to help me better understand the language of the neighbouring country, a language being taught in schools less than thirty miles from Gloucester, a language that is the descendant of the original British languages spoken throughout this island, long before English arrived and a language whose number of speakers is growing. No dictionary to be found, of course. Only a couple of Welsh course books among the huge array of Spanish, French, Italian….

The choices the shop’s management (or distant corporate HQ?) had made obviously reflect what they believe will sell; choices, one presumes, based on the perceived interests and prejudices of the local marketplace. What might that tell us then about the shop’s beliefs about the typical Gloucester book shopper when seeking information on these subjects? – that Germany has little history or culture of interest beyond the Nazi era – that Freemasonry is a sinister secret society bent on world domination or something equally dodgy – the indigenous language of England’s immediately neighbouring country doesn’t matter much.

A German musical coincidence

Last Friday K. and I went to a birthday party in Llanfoist, outside Abergavenny. The host had invited a recorder orchestra made up of mostly middle aged ladies from near Stuttgart who were performing in the area. They played some mediaeval-sounding numbers which were charming, but after the fourth one I went outside where little A. was complaining that she didn’t like it. Made me reflect on how the world would be if adults were as frank as children.

By chance, tonight, I’m singing barbershop songs with the Wye Valley Chorus to a group of Germans from Monmouth’s twin town in the Black Forest. I hope our performance we will be sehr gut.

Heimat: Happiness is a TV series from your adolescence

I have been excitedly anticipating a DVD release for a year or two now and last week it finally happened. The Extended Edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King? The Director’s Cut of Donnie Darko? No. It’s actually a very long German television series from the 1980’s called Heimat.

Heimat was part of the furniture of my adolescent mind for several weeks and was a drama that followed the lives of a family in a small, rural town in Germany between the first and second World Wars. Pretty dry stuff, you might think. Well, it does take some effort to get into, but you soon become so attached to the characters that when the series ends you feel you have lost old friends. A beautifully crafted work of art, it looked good, with occasional use of black and white, as well as being well acted and scripted. Heimat gave us a thoughtful and moving insight into a rarely exposed culture and historical period. Its German perspective was a refreshing antidote to the usual British and American TV diet.

I actually signed up to a mailing list which attempted, a couple of years ago, to persuade Edgar Reitz, its director, to get it released on DVD. I monitored progress on the campaign and eventually it was announced that a DVD would be produced.

I remember my French teacher at Hampton School, a Sudetenland Jew who still bore a German concentration camp tattoo on his arm, telling me that he felt it to be the best thing he had ever seen on television in any genre; and he was not a man given to hyperbole. Did Heimat perhaps give me a sentimental disposition towards some aspects of German culture that would nurture a blossoming relationship with a certain German au pair I met in London only a few years later?

Anyway, after that sort of wait, you can imagine, then, that if someone doesn’t buy it for me as a Christmas present there will be petulant tantrums! Heavy hints have been dropped within K.’s earshot.

And yes, it does have subtitles.

Available on Amazon.co.uk:
Heimat (Slimline) [2007]
Update: May 2008

Apparently Heimat was highly regarded by Stanley Kubrick.