The Neander Valley and Ultra-Rectilinear Mettman

Over the weekend I set out for the Neander Valley, where the first Neanderthal skeleton was found. It's also an ultra-pleasant hiking destination, complete with babbling brooks, succulent green meadows, winding forest pathways, mildly dramatic shale rock formations, and quaint villages where people set out bookcases full of old horse magazines by the side of the road. The leaves were, to use Oscar Wilde's phrase, 'ruined gold'.

During the hike I made a wrong turn or two and ended up in Mettman, famed as one of the epicenters of German Spießbürgerlichkeit (g) (petit-bourgeois stodginess). Everything there was quiet, respectable, recently-cleaned, and terrifyingly rectilinear.

Perhaps you readers can help me clear up a few mysteries in the pictures below. First, those metal studs pounded into the (mold-yellowed) wooden electricity pole? Who puts them there and  what do they mean? Second, the old stone markers by the side of the road in Bracken, Germany. What was their original purpose. Any clues would be appreciated.

Moss on rotting tree stumpPath and Meadow near Düsssel in Neander valleyPath in sunlight in Neander valleyRuined gold chestnut leaves in Neander valleySignal Studs in Wooden Electricity PoleStone marker in BrackenStone markers in BrackenUprooted tree roots amid broken slate Neander valleyView of Mettman Creek ValleyHouse in MettmanRectilinear neat garages in MettmanIch hase Zigreten machine in Mettman











Beech roots Neander valley
Bookshelf and door near BrackenDetail of mountain creek wildlife info posterDüssel river in fall Neander valleyEsel Nicht Füttern Don't Feed the DonkeyGaststätte im kühlen Grund Christmas festInformation poster about molesIvy and beech leaves Neander valleyIvy Covered Rocky OutcropMaple leaf caugh in twigs Neander ValleyMeadows in Neander valleyMein Pferd magazines in outdoor bookshelf BrackenMigrating geese and doves in Neander valleyMoss covered rotting tree branch Neander valley













Urban Archeology

The Corneliusstraße train overpass, one of Düsseldorf' many hideous underpasses, was recently stripped of its advertising hoardings, exposing squares of long-hidden posters and graffiti, including this advertisement, which appears to be for a long-ago performance of Swan Lake (Schwanensee) by the 'Ballet Classique de Paris' (extra points for anyone who can date this poster):

Corneliusstr. 18 May 2014 (Schwanensee)

Just above that I spotted the words 'raus aus Vietnam' (get out of Vietnam), barely legible in light-green ink:

Corneliusstr. 18 May 2014 (China raus aus Vietnam)

The first word was hard to read, but it's got to be the USA, right? The Vietnam War was, to put it mildly, not very popular in Germany (g) at least among the sort of people who paint underpasses with graffiti.

But on closer inspection, the first word turned out to be China (!):

Corneliusstr. 18 May 2014 (China)

That narrows things down. I'm sure I don't need to remind you that the last time China invaded Vietnam was in the 1788 Battle of Ngọc Hồi-Đống Đa, so this graffito is 226 years old!

On closer inspection of Wikipedia, it turns out that China invaded Vietnam (again) in 1979, during the Sino-Vietnamese War. No wonder the Vietnamese still distrust their giant neighbor

Now the question is who wrote this? Perhaps a Vietnamese. But I like to think it was a member of a tiny Marxist splinter group, perhaps the Autonome Autarke Syndakilistische-Solidaristische Volksfront.


People! Animals! Sensations!

Circuses disappeared from America sometime around 1975, to be replaced by God knows what.

But Europe, God bless it, still plays host to circuses. Actual traveling circuses, with genuine circus-folk and clowns with eerie, pupil-less eyes:

Welktklasse Europa Circus

Come one, come all, to see 'Snake-woman Mercedes' (who looks about 12), 'Clown Banana' (not further specified), 'Fire-fakir Santokan and Belly Dancer Destiny', 'Schecki -- Europe's smallest Pony', 'Clown Peppo', and 'Arelina and Cartier', her trained horse.

I know we're supposed to find these things slightly louche and express concern over proper animal storage and all, but I for one welcome the prospect of humans leaving behind their flickering screens, foregathering in meatspace, and watching other humans do amusing things with each other and certain animals. Who says the new ways are always better? 


Houston's Awesome, You Effete Snob

A friend in Houston, Texas sends me these two pictures. First, a scholarship fundraising drive with max killpower:

Scholarship Drive
Second, a message from some Houston-boosters. Some background: Houston has a nationwide -- nay, global -- reputation for being a crappy place to live, although it's got its share of charms for the visitor. Hours-long commutes in the spaghetti bowl of freeways; endless soul-crushing hellscapes of fast-food chains, seedy strip malls...

 

...pawn shops, titty bars, and junkyards; a sweltering humid, broiling subtropical climate; megachurches on every streetcorner; giant flying cockroaches, swarms of mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, not only fire ants but also crazy ants, the two of which are currently battling for supremacy.

To which Houston boosters have a simple four-word response:

FYHA

Get this inspiring message on T-shirts, caps, and other gear here


German Word of the Week: Zwingburg

Zwingburg (g) is a German word made out of the root of the verb zwingen (to force or coerce) and Burg (fortress).

It is a fortress or castle or citadel erected in a prominent place in areas in which (to quote the German Wikipedia article), the local residents were considered 'insufficiently loyal' to whatever feudal lord owned the country. The design is purposely menacing, the building says 'I am your Lord. This ugly-ass fortress is full of lust-crazed Swabian mercenaries who will stream through your defenseless villages and daughters unless you show me unswerving obedience, reechy-necked lickspittles.'

It's a very Tscherman thing.

I thought of this word when I took a short bicycle ride through the Hafen (harbor) area in Düsseldorf last weekend. Back in the 90s, the city fathers decided to raze most of the existing port infrastructure on the Rhine as it fell into disuse and create a sexy, stylish area full of trendy boutiques, fashion houses, lux hotels, hip bars, and other hangouts for lawyers, lobbyists, advertising executives and other wan, dead-eyed parasites pillars of the local economy. They called it the Medienhafen (Media Harbor).

On a huge promontory in the middle of the Medienhafen stands the Düsseldorf Hyatt Regency Hotel (g), glowering menacingly at the rest of the city:

Hyatt in the Clouds

Hyatt. We're watching you