This one came as a surprise to me, although it shouldn’t really. Many Chinese people are rather fond of Angela Merkel, whom they call Moke’er dama (dama being a term of respectful affection for an older woman, especially one’s father’s elder brother’s wife).

Why? As one person put it: ‘Merkel grew up in a socialist country. She looks and plans in a long-term way’. And another: ‘Among Western leaders, she understands the Chinese theory “seeking truth from facts” the best’.

Of course, it helps that China-German relations have steadily improved since she became chancellor in 2005.



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:


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:


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


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


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:



It gets better:


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:


Climbing a hill called Langsamer Tod (Slow Death):


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.