Archives for March 2009

Children are welcome…

… as long as they can be seen.

That was the impression left by a visit to one of our favourite service stations on the way from England yesterday.  The sign on the door says “Kinder sind hier gern gesehen”, meaning “children are welcome”, but actually translated as something like “children are gladly seen”.

Kinder sind hier gern gesehen

"Kinder sind hier gern gesehen"

Anyway, we like this particular stop because they have good value family meals and it is at about the right place to have a break on the 6 hour journey from Calais to Frankfurt.  As usual, we stopped there yesterday and ordered our meal at the warm food counter.  We then let our daughter go to play in the childrens’ area which is located between the food section and the seating.  This was our mistake.

When we came to pay at the cash desk, we were charged the full price for our drinks because the cashier could not see our daughter from her viewpoint.  This all made very little sense, as she was still prepared to charge the food as a family meal, so accepting that we could have the deal on the food but not on the accompanying drinks on the same tray!

Strangely, my offer to go and get our daughter to “prove” to her that she really was with us made her change her mind and she duly removed one of the drinks from the bill.  Perhaps she didn’t want us to hold up the queue anymore?  (Sound familiar?)

Gründonnerstag

Gründonnerstag is the German name for Maundy Thursday.  It is the day before Karfreitag.

On this day, people go to Church to be freed of their sins in order to make a “clean” start for Easter, thus leading to one explanation of the name: the idea is that “green wood” is said to be fresh.

Another reason for the name may be that it is the end of the fasting season, and people used to eat mainly vegetables on this day.

It is a normal working day, although many people do take the day off to go away for a long weekend.

To hear a simple explanation and a short discussion in German, listen to the podcast:

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Cologne’s City Archive

There’s been quite a bit of news from Germany that has made in into the UK headlines recently.  One of the items closest to use, geographically speaking, was the collapse of the Cologne City Archive.

The city archive in Cologne was the largest archive of its kind in Germany, containing not only important documents such as the building plans of Cologne Cathedral, but also the personal documents of a number of well-known German citizens such as Heinrich Böll and Konrad Adenauer.

Just over 2 weeks ago, the building collapsed burying about 90% of the archived material and tearing away parts of the adjacent residential buildings which lead to the death of two people.  Since then, the media have been reporting almost daily on the progress of the hunt for the bodies, the rescuing of the archive material, and trying to find out who is to blame.

The building was opened in 1971 with modern methods such as controlled air-flow and lightling to protect the documents contained within its think walls.

Almost immediately, the media attention turned to the unterground rail line that we being built under the road in front of the archive, when it was suggested that part of the ground under the archive may have collapsed into the tunnel and caused a whole for the building to fall into.  After much speculation, this week information surfaced that there had indeed been problems with water in the tunnel in September of last year, which in the eyes of many confirms their opinion that this was indeed the cause and, had the problem last year been investigated, may well have avoided the collaspe and the subsequent deaths.

Of course, what do you do when you are building an underground railway and suddenly found out that you cannot go the way you wanted to, because the water table is too high?  Cologne is similar to London, in that it is divided by a large river, in Cologne’s case the Rhine.  Unlike London, there have not, until now, been many attempts to tunnel under the river.  Most tram and rail lines cross the Rhine on bridges, and new tunnel in question was not actually going under the river, but running parallel to it.

Surely the unexpected water in the tunnel last year should have made someone sit up and take a look at the plans, to see if they needed changing.  I’m no architect, but perhaps they should have gone deeper, or maybe the ground is just unsuitable for tunneling?

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