The burden of growing up in China. A youthful Mao reflects:

The study of how to be a citizen is the study of the history, geography, political doctrine, and artistic climate of one’s country … Certainly, the study of being a person or a citizen is easy, while the study of being a Chinese is difficult. There are five thousand years of history, the land extends over seven thousand li, political doctrine is extremely complex, and human feelings and customs are broad and complex. How can we approach all this? If we were Japan, with only three islands within our borders, or Germany, with a history of only half a century and land equivalent in size to our two provinces of Guangxi and Guangdong alone, how easy things would be! (Mao’s Road to Power, vol. 1, p. 79)

The Germans may have their Würste, in all manner of intriguing formations, as I have noted earlier. But on one thing at least the Danes comprehensively beat the Germans – in the grossness of their sausages. To wit:

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They call this a Fransk Hotdog, but it looks more like a dog’s dick. Note the ring of mayonnaise at the base.

Even more inventive is:

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Correct me if I am wrong, but that bun looks remarkably like a pair of bum cheeks.

P.S. Given the popularity of these items and given the obvious fact that they are decidedly bad for you, I am struggling to see how the infamous homo economicus fits into this picture. Isn’t he supposed to determine, rationally, what is to his own benefit?

On a long ride today I passed through the Czech Republic and then back into Germany. As I neared the border, the Czechs shook their heads in bewilderment, as if to say, ‘why would you want to go there?’

I soon realised why. First, the award for Captain Obvious would have to go to this sign:

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Then, a clear statement of the German government’s policy regarding immigrants, visitors and any other country in Europe:

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Finally, the real reason the Czechs were shaking their heads:

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Rockin’ Accordions? Only in Germany.

Having arrived in that rather unique corner of the world in Oberlausitz, and having jumped on the bike as soon as possible for a longish ride, I encountered the German approach to snow clearing. A little over a week ago about half a metre of snow fell, much of it still on the ground:

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It gets better:

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It must be the 60th anniversary of Joe Stalin’s death today that has brought up a somewhat strange conjunction. Only a few days ago I was enjoying the company of some of those involved in the Lenin research group in Nanjing:

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Here is to be found a person holding a position to which everyone should aspire: a Professorship of Scientific Socialism.

Needless to say, I gave a lecture while in Nanjing:

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 And then, hours later, I was trudging through the snow of eastern Germany:

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Climbing a hill called Langsamer Tod (Slow Death):

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All in order to get to the evening meal of the Zinzendorf Society:

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… as one does.

The Germans are a strange people, as anyone can attest. Take the trains. At each entry door one finds the following image:

It took me a while to figure this one out. And then the insight came: in order to board a train, you need to pull your head into your shoulders, lean right back and then lift a leg to board the train. Quite a feat with some heavy baggage, either external to your body or as a result of devoted consumption of those ubiquitous Würste. I understand this approach does wonders for your lower back.

With a year passing since the dreadful attacks by Anders Breivik in Oslo and on the island of Utoya, not a few have noticed how deeply Germans seem to have been affected. For a goodly number of Germans, something seems to have shattered in their souls. They have been obsessing about the events of a year ago, spilling tears, lamenting the loss of a mythical peace-loving Norway (despite the fact that Norway was at war at the time), feeling that the small Germanic nation in the far north has fatefully stepped out of the Garden of Eden. Why?

I would suggest that Norway comprises, subconsciously and even now, the heart of the mythological Aryan utopia. Here is the pure, untainted Aryan race; here one may find the old myths that speak of human origins above the Arctic Circle rather than among those Semites of the Fertile Crescent; here blond, broad-shouldered men and wide-hipped women frolic in the mountains, forests and fjords; here peace, equality and justice prevail. ‘Subconscious’ of course, but one may trace these lines in the rediscovery of the power of myth in the 18th and 19th centuries, the argument that the Nordic myths spoke of a Herrenvolk that originated in the north, all of which mutated (when it became less than respectable to hold such opinions openly) into the Indo-European hypothesis.

A small insight into how the German approach to debt operates, at least on a personal level. Earlier this year, I purchased a ‘Bahn 25′ card: at 25 Euro it gives you 25% discount on all travel on the German rail network for three months. The German network is adequate, not brilliant, but the deal sounded attractive. Soon enough, the outlay seemed to be returned. Generous buggers, I thought, especially if you book early, get the 29 Euro ticket for anywhere and then an additional 25% off.

But … when the initial period of my Bahn 25 card ran out, I was sent a friendly looking notice about renewing it, now for a year. This time it was over 60 Euro. Since this one wasn’t worth my while, I simply ignored it. Before I knew it, a stern letter arrived in the mail (or in Christina’s letter box in Berlin). Pay up, it said. You have seven days or the debt collectors will call, with leather straps, pliers and chains, in order to extract that amount. A flurry of inquiries ascertained that I had automatically, without any acquiescence on my part or even notification, been signed up for the year-long contract and that I was now – without warning – indebted to the German state.

A small insight into the experiences of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, let alone all those countries in eastern Europe?

Is it really possible? How much communism can you really find on a bicycle in eastern Europe? To begin with, find a Marxist bicycle route:

Plenty of signs will help you on your way:

As you peddle through quiet fields on the first real day of spring:

Communist era garages – of a solid, eternal aesthetic  from a simple design – will greet you as you pass:

Every village has street names that really should be found throughout the world:

Even those with a Christian communist leaning:

Juxtaposed with the other standard, such as ‘Lower village street’:

And given that communism keeps and raises to a new level the best of the past, simple hotels in the Czech Republic still use those glorious old keys:

And if you look carefully, even simple items such as taps are strong, functional and made to last:

Add all this to some frisky spring weather when the sap is rising and you couldn’t have it much better than that:

All of which leads one to take regular breaks … to enjoy the spring air:

Why waste a good crisis? Or so the adage would have it. North-western Europe is using the ongoing euro-crisis to wage a ‘civil’ war against the south-east. And the purpose of that civil war is a desperate effort to bolster the fading dominance of the north-west. Having ensured that the old communist bloc of Eastern Europe is an economic basket case, now the target is Greece. After all, the time has come to relegate Greece to its true status as a Balkan country in Eastern Europe. For instance, in 2008 Romania cut all public wages by 25% and is sitting on the same rate of unemployment. In the recent package of ‘austerity measures’, Greece is set to emulate such a wage cut while unemployment has passed that figure. And in the midst of that war, the propaganda war is at full tilt. In north-western European countries, news reporting on crimes always makes a point of commenting if the perpetrator is Bulgarian, Romanian, Polish, Greek …, but no comment is made if the perpetrator is an ethnic Dane, German, Dutch. Spoken as if it were the gospel truth, people observe that Greeks are lazy and have been sponging off the government purse, Italians are corrupt, Poles criminals. The increasing opinion is that Eastern Europeans are not European at all. Meanwhile, back in Greece with its massive strikes and protests, the Germans are portrayed as reborn Nazis out to dominate Europe, the French as imperialists under a new Napoleon, and the craven politicians (including so-called socialists) as lackeys of these supposedly dominant powers. But are the Germans and French really that strong? The Germans for one are in deeper trouble than they make out: aging infrastructure, relying on workers from the east, threadbare public institutions, universities that are running purely on reputation. No wonder they want to take out someone else.