Archives for August 2010

Cola + Orange = Spezi

If you ask for a “Spezi” in a restaurant in Germany, then the most probable drink that you will be served is probably going to be a mixture of cola with orange lemonade.

A bottle of Spezi®However, the term is actually a registered trademark: Spezi® and belongs to an organisation called the “Spezi Markengetränkeverband Deutschland e.V.” which is a collection of 13 breweries that produce a drink by the same name.

Breweries?  Yes, not only was I not aware of the trademark until recently, but even less did I suspect that the drink used to be a type of beer.

And yet the product is familiar.  I have drunk products labelled as “Spezi” in the past, probably not realising that I was drinking something special.  It’s even a slightly different mixture, as it contains orange juice.

However, other products on the market using the orange lemonade recipe, “Mezzo Mix” for example, which is produced by Coca Cola, are still referred to colloquially as “Spezi”.  Not by their manufacturers, of course, but by the people buying and drinking them.

Some restaurants even mix it themselves from Coca Cola and Fanta, or Pepsi and Miranda, and write it on the menu as “Spezi”.  I wonder how many of them have no idea that they are using a trademark without selling authentic product?

There are also regional names in some parts of Germany for the mixture of cola and orange lemonade.  My favourite has to be “Kalter Kaffee” (cold coffee), but particularly confusing is the fact that it is apparently called “Diesel” in Cologne – anywhere else that refer to a mixture of cola with beer.

Spezi on the other hand can still mean a drink mixed with bier in some areas, or even with spirits.

So what does the unsuspecting tourist do when they want to try this particular German drink?

Ask the waiter would seem to be a reasonable suggestion if you are visiting someone new, unless the menu specifically refers to the trademarked drink.

I shall certainly be looking closer at any menus that I read in future to see which version they offer.  I’ve already found two interesting cases.  One says that their drink is “selbst gemischt” (self-mixed), and the other one avoided the trademark altogether and sold me a “Speetzy”!

Planet Germany

If you live long enough in another country, then you inevitably gather a whole collection of experiences in dealing with the people and the culture there.

It may be that you have to handle lots of bureaucracy, or cope with unusual customs, or it may be just plain getting used to driving on the other side of the road.

For many ex-pats, these tales of living in a strange land can often form the basis of conversations with friends and family back home, but seldom do they get published as a book for a wider audience.

Planet GermanyCathy Dobson, who we talked to last year, took this brave step and wrote “Planet Germany” which, as she puts it, documents how “one British family bungles being German”.

In the book, she takes us through an entire year in the life of her family and business as we discover how they cope with living as British ex-pats in Germany.  Many readers will be familiar with the situations that she describes, such as the first knock on the door of the Sternsinger, the madness of the Karneval season, or just the amazement at the end of each year that, after telling their fortunes by dropping molten lead into cold water, most households sit down on New Year’s Eve to watch the same little-known sketch in black and white as the previous year.

Add to this the fact that her business partner tries to help her with such traditions as the correct use of Du and Sie, whilst at the same time forming her own opinion of the simple British customs that have travelled with the family.  Stuffing a turkey, for instance.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Planet Germany.  It is a book that you will not want to put down!

Who invented the computer?

If you ask someone in the United Kingdom the question “who invented the computer?”, then one of the most likely answers is “Charles Babbage”.

But, as I was reminded last week during the opening speech of a “Computer Art” exhibition, people in Germany would give a different answer.  Most of them would probably answer with “Konrad Zuse”.

So why the difference?

A mechanical calculator - ©Can Stock Photo Inc. / friendlydragonOne reason might be that each country looks to its own citizens and their inventions.  The telephone is a similar example.  Whilst people in the UK and USA will tell you that it was Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone, most people in Germany – especially in the Taunus region – say that it was Philipp Reis.

The truth is usually that both Babbage and Zuse had a hand in the development of the computer at some time.  Babbage devised a machine that would perform calculations (“difference engine”) and later one that could be programmed using punch cards (“analytical engine”).  His machines were mechanical, and would be operated by turning a wheel on a crank shaft.

Zuse on the other hand [Read more…]

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