What do they have in common? On Saturday, I saw them all. First I went to the Neander Valley (Neandertal in German), where the remains of Neanderthals were discovered in 1856. Most of this picturesque valley has been turned into a handsome nature preserve.
Large parts of it are off-limits, though, because they've been made into enclosures for the kind of Ice Age mammals the Neanderthals might have hunted or eaten: the Wisent, or European bison, the Tarpan, or European wild horse, and the Aurochs (German Auerochse), a kind of Eurasian ox that is the ancestor of all modern cattle. The wisent is not extinct, but vulnerable; there are colonies of them all over Europe. The last aurochs was killed in Poland in 1627, and the last Tarpan died in the early 20th century. The animals in the Neanderthal Valley are the product of selective back-breeding by German zoologists Heinz and Lutz Heck. In the 1920s, they attempted to re-create the aurochs and tarpan. The results are what we see today -- plausible, but of course not genetically identical with their deceased ancestors.
Here are a few photos of wisents, tarpans, and aurochses (including young'uns) in that order:
Now that the nature buffs are satisfied, we can move on to something a bit more sociological. If you went up to this pleasant-looking woman...
...grabbed her by the lapels, and yelled: "Why, you're a...a...a...Communist!", she would answer "Na, und?" ('Yeah, so what?'). She is the candidate for the DKP, or Deutsche Kommunistische Partei. She represented the party (g) in the local council of the working-class Duesseldorf neighborhood of Eller. She is now running for a position in the state government from District 41 in Duesseldorf's working-class east. Her slogan (Konsequent antikapitalistisch) means, roughly, 'Seriously anti-capitalist.' The vote is 9 May. I'll let you know how it all turns out.
In case you're asking why communists would be fielding candidates in fashionable, wealthy Duesseldorf, the answer is that Duesseldorf is not all fashionable and wealthy! On the way back from the Neander Valley, you ride through Gerresheim*, a working-class suburb. Dominating the landscape is the former Gerresheimer Glassworks, a huge glassware factory (one of the biggest in the world) that once employed 8,000 people. After a storied history, the factory was shuttered in 2005 (g), and is now being carefully dismantled by a Dutch demolition concern. Here's one part of the remaining factory, which seems to have suffered some bizarre explosions:
* I also learn from Wikipedia that the suburb of Gerresheim is home to its very own regional dialiect, called Hötter Platt. The glassblowers who moved to the area in the 1860s and 1870s lived in a settlement near the factory (Huette in German, transformed into 'Hött' in dialect) and developed their own dialect imported from the regions from where they came. A "dialect island" thus developed which has nothing to do with the regional Duesseldorfer Platt spoken in the rest of the city. With the closing of the factory and the increasing age of the last remaining speakers, Hötter Platt is slowly dying out.