Adventures with auntie

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Dizzel got some snow this week but it didn’t stay

You know when your blog intervals have become too long when your parents write to you asking if you are still alive. I am but terribly busy. Like the kind of my-fridge-is-empty-and-I-haven’t-replied-to-my-whatsapps-in-5-days-busy.

Last weekend, I had my aunt visiting which was fun. Once again, Düsseldorf suddenly becomes much nicer when I have someone I like with me and that person sees Dizzel through fresh eyes. That weekend, I had also planned to take my aunt to Cologne because I had tickets to the radio choir concert. The Western Germany Radio Choir (WDR Rundfunkchor) has a Swedish conductor and they sang a concert called „Northern Lights“ with only Swedish choir music. Of course I had to attend!

The Deutsche Bahn whose a main sponsor I probably am by now had sent me a voucher inviting me to bring along a friend for free on a train ride. Great, I thought, let’s use that on the way to Cologne, we’ll even be able to take the fast train ICE without it costing much. On the train, my aunt told me a gripping story of a bike theft in her youth, and I looked out the window occasionally to check where we were. Köln-Deutz, very good, I thought, next stop is ours. But when the train started moving again, they announced, „Ladies and Gentlemen, our next stop is Frankfurt Airport“.

I have seldom felt so trapped in a vehicle. Most long distance trains around Dizzel stop all the time because there are just so many major cities everywhere. Not this one. This one went straight for an hour to a different federal state. And we were on it with concert tickets for Cologne.

An hour later we got off the train with pouding hearts and sprinted to the next platform to board the train back immediately. It only cost us 100 euros to go back…But we made it in time for the concert! The ”Northern Lights” were, mildly put, very modern. No „Vänlig grönska“ or anything in their programme, mostly spheric sounds. On the way back to the central station, we popped in the famous Cologne Cathedral – like I almost always do when I’m there and it’s always worth it. I don’t find the cathedral pretty or anything, but there is some kind of special energy in it. And special events. That night, a Saturday at 10 p.m., they had ”Nightfever” going on which essentially was Eucharstic Adoration. But if they’d call it that, I assume a lot less young people would attend. Now, there was lots of young adults coming in, sitting down, listening to the live music and enjoying the many, many candles.

And to get even more Catholic I am now on my way to Munich. We’re having an event there that I’ve been arranging and let me tell you calling the catering down there felt like calling abroad. ”Grüß Sie Gott!”, they would chirp into the phone with their massive accent. For breakfast, we’ll eat Weißwurst (Bavarian veal sausage).

This week we hosted a very successful after work event with our juniors, I booked a flight for a work trip to Stockholm in March and I found a beautifully lit building on a secret mission

Even on the train we work of course, here I’m proofreading / We have a new intern! We nicknamed him Lil’ Pesto and chuckle everytime we call him that. He’d rather be called praktikantjäveln but that name was taken (voluntarily) by his predecessor. (Lil’ Pesto originates from the meme that suggests your rapper name is the last thing you ate with Lil’ in front of it. Kind regards, Lil’ MĂĽsli.)

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På väg till tågrestaurangen: Alltså jag känner mig så kontinental som ska äta på tåget nu!

Der ist vielleicht gar nicht so farblos wie er erscheint. Innerlich ist der vielleicht ein menschlisches Holi-Festival!

Happy belated Valborg!

It was also Valborg last week! My second Valborg in exile after last year’s.
Somehow I fall for traditions and the Swedish holidays are deeply ingrained in my heart by now. To ignore Valborg is therefore not really an option and so I paid the Swedish Church in Frankfurt a short visit to hear those four spring songs that are guaranteed, get that obligatory grilled sausage, wear the student cap and shout four hoorays for the Swedish king. My theory is that the Swedes keep their traditions alive so well [because they really do even if they’d deny it] since they like the collective feeling and predictability. In today individualised society of uncertainness, who can blame them?

Valborg is the day that enhances my almost always lingering longing for Uppsala times and friends. When one of them texted me a photo of the celebrations on site, “You should be back next year!”, I got carried away replying, “Yes!”

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Frankfurt’s Swedish Church doesn’t blow the visitor away with their garden but the church is beautiful even if, for me, nothing can compete with Hamburg’s Swedish Church.

 

 

Germany’s secret capital

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Everyone knows Berlin, history-conscious people know Bonn – but do you know the secret, would-be capital of Germany? I went there last weekend.

The city, located quite centrally in Germany, is one of the most underestimated: Frankfurt. The largest city of the federal state of Hesse (and not even there it gained the title state capital) is known for being the financial center of Germany, it’s where the stock exchange has its home, the European Central Bank resides here and literally every bank imagineable has an office in the town by the river Main. Most people think of Frankfurt as the grey bank place I guess. It’s important to call it Frankfurt/Main because there is also Frankfurt by the river Oder which is east of Berlin, bordering Poland. Apparently, we had so many cities in Germany we ran out of names so some have to share now.

Frankfurt is also the airport of Germany. When we approached the city on the Autobahn, I caught sight of a – for Germany very unusual – skyline of modern skyscrapers to the left, the reason for Frankfurt’s nickname Mainhattan. As I looked back to the front, five planes were flying towards us at the same time. Like in a movie! The planes go down right next to the cars, it’s quite a view!

Speaking of views, I was rather surprised by the landscape on the way between DĂĽsseldorf and Frankfurt – it’s so scenic! Rolling hills show off their green colors, every now and then a little river meanders through the land and you pass by some picturesque castles. The route, however, is much longer than I thought. For some reasons, my distance perception is really off: it takes the same time to drive to my parents or to Brussels but those places feel much farther than Frankfurt.

I was there to attend my former roommate’s housewarming party. We met back when we were both studying in Stockholm, now a long time ago. Her guests, knowledgeable about Frankfurt, recommended museums to me because my original ambition was to visit one. (Yeah, that never happened.) One gentleman phrased the difference between the Commmunications Museum and the renowed art museum Städel as, “You need to decide whether you are looking for an aha!-experience or a wow!-expierence”. This actually made me very curious so I will probably have to return. The party continued into the early morning when one of the Frankfurters saw me sitting in an armchair and said, “I can see you are feeling dapper, you are feeling Waterloo”. What sounds like a line of out some indie band’s song came to him spontaneously and I could not find out what he meant by that. It’s a matter of perspective after all: if he was French, he’d mean I feel defeated, if English, I’d be feeling victorious and if he was a Swede, he’d just mean I was having a great party in weird costumes.

St. Paul’s: German Democracy’s Birthplace

Anyway, the next day after recovering,  I set out to join the Alternative Walking Tour. It lasted 2,5 hours which I found too much, especially since one hour was about drug addicts and prostitution. Apparently, Frankfurt is the German crime capital (“but that is counting the bank crimes in the skyscrapers as well”), has the most frequented central station and 18 spidermen statues hidden in the inner city. It also used to be the city with most Jewish inhabitants, Anne Frank was born here, and famous poet Goethe’s birthplace is also located here (he was not Jewish though). They have an active Freemason Lodge and “Batman begins” was filmed here because the director needed a skyscraper street and New York, Tokyo and Chicago were too expensive to close off for a movie shooting.

Frankfurt unites old architecture with the modern bank towers and some typical after-war ugliness. The market square should make any tourist’s heart miss a beat: Germany just how you imagined it! Half-timered houses, traditional apple wine and churches. Actually, it was one church I was most interested in: Saint Paul’s. This building is the birthplace of German democracy where in 1848, they formed the ‘Before-parliament’ which prepared the election for the National Assembly, the first publicly and freely-elected German legislative body. As a historian, you can’t but marvel at the church in awe-stricken silence. Spoiler alert though: after a year of working on a first constitution for Germany, the resistance of Prussia, Austria and some smaller German states put an end to the dream of democratic Germany, with the Prussian king rejecting the crown offered by the German people as “coming from the gutter”. It’s sad because imagine what Germany could have been if we had steered toward a solid democracy already then…

The market had some very interesting signs. Sorry, only funny if you know German.

But back to Frankfurt where I got lots of Southern-German vibes. Somehow it reminded me of Heidelberg with its red-ish sandstone buildings, sunny weather and cheerful dialect people. What’s with the capital stuff then, you wonder. Well, because of its central location and economic significance, Frankfurt considered itself to be the natural choice for Germany’s capital when it became clear that Berlin would be divided. Their post-war-mayor had the town rebuilt rapidly to present an intact city ready to house parliament.

But – this is how the legend goes – the first chancellor Konrad Adenauer who was from Cologne didn’t want to move and made Cologne’s neighboring town Bonn the capital. Bummer for Frankfurt! Historians would, by the way, argue that Bonn was chosen because of its temporary character, a small town not really fit to be the capital, the institutionalized “We will never give up Berlin”- statement. Some say Frankfurt still suffers from this missed opportunity, but I’d disagree: Frankfurt’s thriving!

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In former times, Frankfurt had a tax on each window you built (See the three-windowed half-timbered house above.) They should have kept that tax when the skyscrapers came!

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Good to know the next locomotive is only 5 metres away!

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This fancy house is actually a club. Like, a disco.

Out of DĂĽsseldorf

HRTag

When I think of Frankfurt, I think of three things: Saint Paul’s Church, the skyscrapers and the fact that Frankfurt always wanted to become Germany’s capital. The founding fathers of the German federal republic decided to choose Bonn instead, to emphasize that this was only a temporary solution and they aimed for a reunification with Berlin as Germany’s capital. Not sure how Bonn feels about having been a makeshift.

Last Thursday, I went to Frankfurt for my first event with work. I took the chance to meet up with my oldest friend Marlene (we met in kindergarten alsmost 25 years ago) and my friend Juliana who I used to lived with in Stockholm. My impression of Frankfurt was that it is an underestimated city – I should go back and do a city tour: Saint Paul’s church happens to be the place where the German revolutionaries tried to establish a democractic Germany in 1848. (It didn’t go so well in case you wondered.)

This weekend, my dear mother visited and we also went out of DĂĽsseldorf to Kaiserswerth. Kaiserswerth (meaning The Emperor’s Isle) is a part of DĂĽsseldorf and only 7 kilometres from where I live but it feels like its very own universe. The part of town has been spared from the Second World War and its historic pretty houses are well preserved. Absolutely charming!

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Random Kaiserwerth Boy looking down on us

Random Kaiserwerth Boy looking down on us

This is the hospital, no kidding.

This is the hospital, no kidding.

The Basilica with beautiful blue windows

The Basilica with beautiful blue windows

The former castle

The former castle