2015年10月31日 星期六

Saturday Fun (星期六趣味)

The way the Germans deal with prostitution is more or less the way they deal with their BWM's and Mercedes Benzes:  pragmatically, systematically and seriously. But there's a sense in which prostitution is anything but serious.


Q: Did you know that O.J. Simpson, Monica Lewinsky, Ted Kennedy, and President Bill Clinton are all avid golfers?
A: O.J.'s a slicer, Monica's a hooker, Ted Kennedy can't drive over water, and Clinton can't seem to hit the right hole!

2015年10月30日 星期五

Munich 7: The Hauptbahnhof (慕尼黑. 7: 中央車站))

I had long heard about Heidelberg University in my studies. I know that it is the oldest university in Germany (established in 1386!) and the 5th oldest in Central Europe and that it's situated in a very picturesque part of Germany So, maybe I could kill two birds with one stone and pay it a visit. But first, I got to go to the train station. 

This is the Hauptbhnhof (Main Station), Munich's central railway station, one of the three in the city for long distance train (the other two being München-Pasing and München Ost. ) and handles some 450,000 passengers a day. It's a station first built in 1839 and first opened at the current site in 1849 and has since been rebuilt a number of times, the last being in 1987  and now has 32 platforms. It is also served by the underground S-Bahn ( for both urban and suburbs) with 2 platforms and U-Bahn (for the urban districts) stations with 6 platforms. And a second S-bahn station has been planned to be in operation in 2020.

The station from another angle

2015年10月29日 星期四

Munich 6: Between Heaven and Hell?(慕尼黑. 6:天堂與地獄之間?)

After visiting the Residenz, it was quite  close to 6 p.m.

On the way back to the hotel, I passed by the Hugendubel ( in business since 1893), a famous chain bookstore with branches all over Germany, more or less like Barnes and Noble in America, now selling all kinds of books for young and old and CDs and DVD's and E-books, including even English books. Like Barnes and Noble in America and Eslite in Hong Kong, it has a part of its premises specially set aside for beverages so that book lovers can take a sip of tea or coffee whilst browsing over their favourite kind of book. Germany is a country of avid readers and its annual Buchmesse (Book Fair) in Frankfurt is the largest in the the world.

Germans love to eat, especially candies, dried fruit and nuts. And there are 82 million of them, the richest consumers in the Europe. Everywhere you go, you find food stalls like this on the roadside.

2015年10月27日 星期二

Munich.5 The Residenz: Alleheiligen-Hofkirche, The Royal Bed Chambers, Antechambers, Audience Chambers (慕尼黑5: 教堂, 寢室, 前堂, 會客廳)

This is the Fountain Courtyard

At one side of the Fountain Courtyard is the Church of All Saints built by King Ludwig I (reg. 1825-1848) between 1826 and 1837. In the latter part of the king's life, he became a religious recluse. Originally, it was a Byzantine style chapel whose walls were decorated by colorful frescoes on a gold background by Heinrich Maria von Hess but during WWII, it suffered extensive damage and it had to be rebuilt with great loss of its original flavor. This is a photograph of what the Church used to look like. The idea for the church was sparked off by the king's visit to Palermo in 1823, when he was still the Crown Prince, after attending a midnight Mass in the palace chapel there which was built in a mix of Norman and Byzantine styles. He was  so moved that he exclaimed: "That's the kind of court chapel I want!" To comply with Ludwig's wishes, his architect Klenze took St. Mark's in Venice as his model because he saw this as a quintessentially Byzantine building, but  he interpreted it in terms of classical antiquity. The original floors were colored marble and its wall imitation marbles.

2015年10月26日 星期一

Munich.4 The Residenz: The Royal Bed Chambers, Pottery and Miniature Collections(慕尼黑4: 王宮: 寢室, 瓷器及袖珍畫藏)

After seeing the Antiquarium, I stepped into what appeared to be a courtyard and an exit into the streets and so made my way back to the entrance of the Antiquarium but was told there by a surprised staff that I should go and visit the other parts of the Residenz which is behind and above the Antiquarium. So I retraced my steps back into the Antiquarium until I reached that same court yard where some repairs were going on. I discovered a flight of steps. 

I reached what was called the "Black Hall", built around 1590 by Duke Wilhem V. The hall  got its name from 4 black scagliola portals erected in 1623. It got a painted ceiling which contains what appeared "real" architectural features, destroyed during the bombings in WWII and was only reconstructed in 1979 to the original design as done by Hans Werl in 1602. 

The ceiling with "false" architectural features.

2015年10月25日 星期日

German Jokes (德國笑話)

Sociologists tell us that all groups like to stereotype others who don't belong to their group. One of the best ways of seeking confirmation of that may well be through the the kind of jokes different ethnic or national groups tell about each other. The following is from someone who claims to be married to a German.


Q: What is the difference between a French pensioner, an English pensioner and a German pensioner?

A: The French pensioner drinks a glass of wine for breakfast .
The  English pensioner reads The Times while eating breakfast and then goes to the golf club.

The German pensioner takes a blood pressure tablet and sets off to work.


A German and an American placed bets on whose house would be built first.
Four weeks later the American said ‘Only 14 days and I’m done’
The German said ‘Only 14 more forms to fill out and then I can start!”


 A guest arrives at a restaurant and decides to order his meal.
The waiter arrives promptly to take his order.
The guest asks: ‘Do you have frog legs?’
The waiter answers: ‘No, that’s just the way I walk!‘”


Three astronauts from Russia, America and Germany were discussing who is the most adventurous in space.
The Russian said ‘We are, as we were the first country to go into space’.
The American argued ‘We are, as we were the first to put a man on the moon.’
The German said ‘We WILL be as we will be the first to land on the sun.’
The others said that this isn’t possible as it would be too hot.
The German argued “We have already thought of this: we will fly at night!”


This question was presented to a German national: 
‘What do you think is the biggest problem in Germany? Uncertainty or indifference?’
 He answered: ‘I don’t know and I don’t care!’”


Q:  What is the difference in Germany between a Turkish person and a Bavarian?
A:  The Turkish person can speak better German!


An American, a Frenchman and a German were sitting in a pub.
Suddenly, Jesus appeared.
The American said ‘If it’s true you can work miracles, can you please cure my injured knee?’
The Frenchman asked Jesus ‘If it’s true you can work miracles, can you please cure my terrible backache?’
The German then looked at Jesus and said ‘Stay right away from me, I’ve just been signed off ill for six weeks!’”


Q:  On which day do German civil servants work the most?
A:  On a Monday.  They need to cross off two days on their calendars!


Man: 'Boss, is it OK if I finish work two hours earlier today as my wife wants me to go shopping with her?
Boss: ‘Absolutely not.’
Man: ‘Thanks – I knew I could count on you!’”


A German Judge says to the accused: ‘You are charged with luring your neighbour into the forest and then savagely beating him. Do you not think you went a bit too far?’
Accused: ‘Yes, you are right. I should have done it much earlier. In the meadow before I reached the forest!’”


Hairdresser to customer: ‘Your hair is going grey’.
Customer: ‘I'm not surprised. You take so long to cut it!’”


"Two Martinis, bitte."
"Nein, I said TWO!"

Have a nice week ahead of you.

2015年10月24日 星期六

Munich.3 The Residenz: Treasury & Antiquarium (慕尼黑3: 王宮: 寶藏廳與古董廳)

This is the Bavarian State Theatre, about 15 minutes on foot far from Marienplatz. It forms part of the complex called the Residenz first built in 1508 but added to by successive  kings and which served as the seat of royal administration until 1918. Not many know that it was Ludwig II, who sponsored the buidling of the  Bayreuth Festspielhaus or Bayreuth Festival Theatre specially for Richard Wagner who wanted to combine art, music and drama into one combined art form  which he called Gesamtkunstwerk (or total work of art), a project supported by Friedrich Nietzsche before he fell out with his idol upon the opening of Wagner's inaugural production there, the first part of the Der Ring des Niebelungen (The Ring of the Niebelung) for which Wagner wrote not only the music but also its libretto. The Germans love the music and opera. This is where the music lovers of Munich flock to.. This is the base of the Bayerische Staatsoper ( Bavarian State Opera)  first established in 1653 and has had as its directors such illustrious conductors as Wolgang Sawallisch (1971-1992), Peter Schnieder (1992-1998), Zubin Mehta (1998-2006), Kent Nagano (2006-2013) and thereafter Kirill Petrenko whose appointment  was just confirmed earlier this month to be extended to 2021.In 1875 the Munich Opera Festival took place for the first time. It is  now one of the most important opera festivals worldwide.

A monument to Max Joseph or Maximilian IV, (1856- 1825) as Prince-Elector of Bavaria or Maximilian I (as King of Bavaria) erected since 1818, at the centre of the Max Joseph Platz, when the National Theatre of Bavaria Building was opened but was not revealed after his death in 1835 because he resolutely refused to be portrayed sitting down instead of standing up.

2015年10月23日 星期五

Munich.2 Marienplatz (慕尼黑. 2. 瑪利亞廣場 ) 

Germans love their trees. Wherever possible, they'd keep them, even in the middle of a clump of buildings. Here's one, right in front of the house and growing as tall as the house itself.

2015年10月22日 星期四

München (Munich) (慕尼黑).1

München or Munich, with a population of some 1.5 million ( and nearly 6 million including its suburb towns), the capital of the state of Bavaria and the third largest city in Germany (after Berlin and Hamburg) was founded in early 12th century by some  Benedictine monks:(the city's coat of arms still figures a bald-headed monk in a habit right under the city gate) and has been the seat of the Bavarian Dukes from 13th century on and in 1506 became the sole capital of Germany. It was also the centre of of Catholic Counter-Reformation ( the Catholic League. led by the Jesuits, was founded in Munich in 1609) intended to stem the rising tide of the Protestant Reformation movements started by such figures as John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, Martin Luther and which eventually led to the so-called Thirty-Years War (1618-1848) which devastated entire regions of Central Europe, something which contributed to the break-up of the Holy Roman Empire. Its ruler gained the status of an Elector in the 17th century (1623) (one of 7 to heads of European states who were given the right to elect the Holy Roman Emperor). But a third of its population was wiped out during the bubonic plagues of 1634-35. From its founding until the end of the first World War in 1918, it was ruled by the influential Wittelsbach family of the Duchy of Bavaria and in 1314, Duke Louis IV, a native of Munich, was elected German king and 14 years later crowned as the Holy Roman Emperor. It's a city with a very complex history and has been a centre of arts, culture and science since the early 19th century, with the founding of the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1806 whose kings like Ludwig I started putting up some of the finest buildings and boulevards in the city we now see. But in the latter part of the 19th century, his son Ludwig II who also sponsored the works of Richard Wagner, preferred building fairy castles in Munich's outskirts.  For a brief period after WWI, in February 1909, the German communists proclaimed the establishment of a Bavarian Soviet Republic in the city but it was quickly suppressed by the Freikorp after three month and since then Munich has become the hub of the conservative Nazi movement and was called Hauptstadt der Bewegung. Munich became the headquarters of the NSDAP (Nazi party) which seized control of the German government in 1933 and it was at Dachau, some 10 miles northwest of Munich that the Nazis built their first concentration camp for the Jews. It was also at Munich that Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister agreed shamelessly to the annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland region into Hitler's Third Reich. During WWII, Munich was subjected to heavy bombings by the Allies ( 71 air raids in 5 years) but recovered quickly enough to become the host city of the 1972 Summer Olympics, where the members of the Palestinian  terrorist group called "Black September" perpetrated the so-called Munich massacre. Munich is also the home of BMW and the world renowned beer festival, the annual Oktoberfest. 

The Deutsches Theater,  a building built in the neo-Baroque style, close to my hotel, first opened in September 1896 was originally built for vaudilles and popular comedies and folk plays, balls and carnivals but was re-designed in 1939 by the Nazis but was partly destroyed by bombings during the WWII and only re-opened in 1951 and since the 1960s has been used for classic drama, ballet, operetta and classial concerts in addition to  musicals.

2015年10月20日 星期二

A Pilgrim's Progress (朝聖步履)

Germany is a country known for its methodical efficiency and precision, its technological advance, its wealth and its emphasis on the importance of music, literature and the depth of its philosophy, psychology and theology. One can hardly think of serious music without immediately calling to mind such names as  Bach, Haydn, Handel, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Bruch, Richard Strauss, Wagner, Mahler. Likewise one can't think of psychology without thinking of Freud, Horney, Jung, Fromm, Erickson, Katz, Eysenck, Arnheim , Goldstein and its philosophy without recalling such illustrious names as Leibniz, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kant, Husserl, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Scheler, Jaspers, Marcuse, Gadamer and such social philosophers as Dilthey, Marx, Weber, Horkheimer, Habermas, Benjamin, Spengler and such logicians as Frege, Carnap etc and theology without thinking of Luther, Tillich, Schleiermacher, Bonhoeffer, Barth and Kung.  Who hasn't heard of such authors as Goethe, Herder, Schiller, Hölderlin, Mann, Hesse, Frisch, Grass, Dürrenmatt? One can't think of painting without thinking of Dürer, Kandinsky, Macke, Ernst , Klee and performance art without thinking of Beuys and of course, its most notorious  "forger" Beltracchi. One just can't imagine what the modern world would be like without the contribution of the Germans.  And one could never forget that brief but dark episode in its recent history when it was overwhelmed by the ideology of the National Socialists or Nazis which caused such untold suffering to the Jews and the rest of Europe. Yet, until the Renaissance, the Germans were considered barbarians and it wasn't until 1870 that the modern German nation was born. For a long time, German culture is something most puzzling and fascinating to me.  And in every October, there would be two great festivals there, the beer festival and the book fair. I was just in time to be late for the Oktoberfest in Munich but I managed to catch a glimpse of that other famous event called the Buchmesse in Frankfurt. 

When I went through immigration at the airport at Munich, I was subjected to the most thorough security check in my entire life. I had to take off everything: belt, wallet, jacket and shoes but I did not expect that I had to hold up both my hands above my head for a photograph too. I felt like I were some kind of criminal! But upon seeing that they did exactly the same thing to the native Germans as they did to me, I felt a little less offended. At least there's equality of treatment! After that ordeal, I could finally go out and have my first glimpse of Germany: the luggage reclaim area at the Munich Airport: clean, spare, quiet and efficient.

2015年10月3日 星期六

An Uyghur Wedding (一個維吾爾族的婚禮)

  On our  way to the Black Oil Mountain ( 黑油山) after our breakfast at the hotel, we stopped at a park originally as a piss stop but unexpectedly ran into part of an Uyghur wedding celebration.

The Uyghurs are a central Asian ethnic group living in Xinjiang, numbering more than 10 million in 2009, when for every 39 Han Chinese, there were 46 Uyghurs. They are one of China's largest ethnic minorities. There are also Uyghurs in neighboring Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Uzbekistan and some in Turkey. The Uyghur (or Uighur or Uigur) language is a Turkic language very similar to Turkish and the term "Uyghur" means simply "united" or "allied" .

In an
cient times, Xinjiang was called Western Region (西域) and the region was populated by nomadic tribes. During the Han Dynasty, (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.), Han Chinese fought with the Xiongnu (匈奴) tribes who originated from current-day Mongolia on and off until 60 B.C. when the Chinese won. The Uyghurs were the first Turkic group to shift from being nomads into settled farmers. During the late Tang Dynasty, (618-907 AD)  when the Buddhist Uyghur Empire was at its height, the Chinese enlisted their help to fight off other border tribes in return for trade and marriages between Chinese nobility and Uyghur leaders but by the mid-800s AD, the  Uyghurs Empire had declined and in the 10th century, were converted to Islam but even today there is still a group of them called "Yellow Uyghurs" or "Yogurs" who maintain their Buddhist belief.

During the Qing Dynasty, led by the Manchus, Chinese forces took control of the region and in 1884, renamed the  region  Xinjiang. In the period after the Nationalist Republic of China was established in 1911, the Uyghurs have staged several uprisings and in 1933 and again in 1944, established an Eastern Turkestan Republic Republic but both were overthrown by the Soviet Union.

During the civil war between the KMT and the CCP, the region came under Communist control which they have retained until now. Because of massive state-encouraged Chinese migration in the late 1950s and since 1978, voluntary economic migration, there are now rising tension between Han Chinese and Uyghurs, some of whom,  trained by Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan have resorted to terrorism like the 1992 Urumqi bombings, the 1997 Ürümqi bus bombings, the 2010 Aksu bombing, the 2011 Hotan attack, 2011 Kashgar attacks and the 2014 Ürümqi attack.  As a result of such terrorist activity, security relating to our entry into Urumqi Airport was very strict: we had to take off everything, including our shoes, belts and jackets. But again, these are activities of extremists. The Uyghurs we met at this wedding were very friendly indeed.


This pair of best man and bridesmaid were obviously happy to be dancing together

2015年10月2日 星期五

Karamay or Kelamayi (卡拉瑪伊)

Some 60 years ago Karamay 卡拉瑪伊 didn’t exist. In 2012, it became the richest city per capita in the whole of China, overtaking even Shanghai. BMW, VW , Honda have all got showrooms in this little town. The reason? Oil was discovered here in 1955. For quite some time, an old man on a mule had been selling an oily black oil liquid for use as fuel to villagers at the local fair. But he kept the source of his income a closely guarded secret. Then those with a nose for money paid other villagers to discreetly track him around and eventually discovered the second largest oil reserve in China. This happened in 1955. When the oil drillers first came, they had to live in tents and travel around on the back of camels. Experts say that its proven oil reserve stand at around 3 billion barrels. China National Petroleum Corporation and other oil companies in the region are now producing some 290,000 barrels a day. This year, Xinjiang-Uyghur is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the autonomous region.  So is Karamay three quarters whose population are either Uyghurs or Hui and the rest Hans. 

And in August this year, some 20 agreements worth USD 1.6 billion had been signed here between Pakistan and China and the two countries made a joint "Karamay Manifesto" on building a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major project in China's Belt and Road Initiative, with promises of continued co-operation in industrial, health, educational and regional  co-operation, especially on energy.
The CPEC will link Gwadar Port, Pakistan, with Xinjiang through a network of highways, railways as well as pipelines. It is among the six economic corridors crucial to China's Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. But what matters to our tour group has got nothing to do with such grand projects.

What interest me more are the flowers growing outside our hotel are cockscomb flower ( Celosia cristata)(雞冠花, 雞冠頭花、雞冠莧雞花、雞冠頭、雞髻花、雞公花、雞米花、雞骨子花、雞角槍、白雞冠花、紅雞冠花、 紅雞冠、大雞公莧、海冠花、家雞冠花、塔黑彥-色其格-其其格、老來少)

2015年10月1日 星期四

From Place to Place (由地方至地方)

There are a million and one things we may complain about our civilization. But there is one thing we can hardly complain about. We can now hop from place to place in the space of one third of a day. That's how I felt as I moved from Hong Kong to Shenzhen (深圳) then to Chengdu (成都) in Sichuan (四川) and then to Urumchi(烏魯木齊) of Xinjiang (新彊), all within about 8 hours. It's part of my photo-trek to some of the most beautiful places in that far away place about which I knew hardly anything except that it was where we had the best Hami melons (哈密瓜) and fine white grapes (白葡萄). 

 This is the first place I went to when I reached the new Shenzhen Airport(深圳機場).