Trump: I will impose a 35% tax on BMWs made in Mexico for the American market.
Germany: BMW’s largest factory is in the USA. BMW employs 70,000 Americans. We make parts for Ford and Chrysler in Mexico, as does Bosch, etc. We just might move all jobs to Mexico, too.
Trump: There are no Chevrolets parked outside of German houses.
Germany: Make a better car.
Trump: The EU is the vehicle for Germany’s economy.
Germany: Let us drive, we have no speed limit and we just won the Formula One Championship. Again.
Trump: Merkel’s ‘Refugee Policy’ was utterly catastrophic (said 3 times).
Germany: We’ve got this. It’s called leadership, even when unpopular.
Trump: Merkel’s policy caused Brexit.
Germany: Finally, and good riddance. They were never wholly in. What does the UK make again?
Trump: Other countries will follow suit. They will leave the EU.
Germany: We hope so. Then it’ll be better. Countries like Norway and Sweden would reconsider.
Trump: NATO is obsolete.
Germany: Thanks for the assist, forever indebted; we can stand on our own (see BMW, Audi, etc.).
Given this past Sunday, one has to wonder why so many of Trump’s attacks were on Germany, a friend, when others mean the USA harm. Is it fear of the Teutonic giants, who can work circles around their American peers? And get 30 days paid vacation? And have unions? And still turn out massive profits? AND win World Cups?
This place is usually one of humor and fun, but some things cannot be overlooked.
The spell has been broken. For years, many Germans and especially Bavarians have felt that a combination of factors were at play that had spared it the brunt of terrorism. In all honesty, it was a bit like a fairy tale. Everyone knew it was possible, but perhaps, Munich and Germany might continue to be safe.
Regardless of whether the perpetrator was an Islamist or simply an ill person who was Muslim, the reaction to this most horrific crime must be thoughtful and rational. I expect the citizens of Munich will react just that way.
The security in Munich is some of the best in the world. Twice a year they are put on the highest alert, at the Oktoberfest and during the Munich Security Conference. But they cannot stop what happened and are incapable of policing every potential target. It is a fact of life.
People in Munich will not clamor for ‘more guns for everyone’, as some members of America’s NRA would. They will not misplace the blame on Merkel’s refugee policy. Though it has not been easy, it is on many levels working. Any problems which remain are not insurmountable. These most tolerant people of Munich will not build walls to keep people out, they will not blame a whole religion, and they will not look much differently at the countless Muslims who already live here. In fact, I expect there will be demonstrations for peace and brotherhood, with Germans, Turks, and any other person who believes in those ideas and is willing to work on them, can and will come.
If the shooter was radicalized, the Germans will look closely at the reasons he may have been. Could it be the West’s constant meddling in the Middle East? Egypt is a perfect example. Mubarak was replaced by a legitimately elected Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood. Not feeling it, we ‘allowed’ him to be replaced by somebody else from the army (Mubarak and Sadat both came from there), el Sisi. Could it be some European countries and the USA’s unwavering support for Israel, though the UN has declared that Israel’s current program of ‘settlement’ is in fact an occupation of Palestinian lands? Could it be that for too long the West has turned a blind eye to the machinations of Saudi Arabia, the most oppressive regime in the Middle East which just happens to be the world’s gas station?
Iraq, Libya and Syria are simply the latest examples of where and when the West attempts to dictate which dictators stay and go. I recall after the attacks of 9/11, the German chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder said, “We must dry up the swamp of terrorism.” And I believe he was exactly correct. It will get its start in places like Munich, which will refrain from the populism and isolationism gripping so many of the Western countries at the moment. It will begin with a long look in the mirror, and it will begin in a place like Munich.
When I first arrived in Munich back in 2000, I recall that for all the culture of this great berg, I could not find a decent cheeseburger. Eventually I discovered an American chain-hotel, the Marriot®, which had one that was at best, passable. But they carried NFL® football games before Germans even knew about the game. The beef patty was always exactly the same size and cookie-cutter shape, exactly the same thickness and exactly the same amount overcooked. Always. But in America we have sausages that resemble Nürnburger Rostbratwurst® flavored with maple syrup, so I just bucked up and did my best to imagine how good a real American cheeseburger might taste.
For years I took a lot of grief about America’s lack of culinary culture. “Believe it or not”, I told my German friends, “We have more to eat in America than McDonald’s® and Kentucky Fried Chicken®.” Unfortunately, that was before the omnipresent Google®, so they had to take my word for it. I can now show them a picture of a porterhouse steak, cooked medium rare (anything beyond that would be sacrilegious) with a baked potato, to confirm my earlier thesis.
I am happy to say that cheeseburgers have arrived in Munich. There are many restaurants which have cheeseburgers on the menu, and even restaurants whose whole menu is devoted to different types of burgers. It has turned around so much and improved that I now have nightmares about one day seeing a cheeseburger on the menu at the world famous Hofbräuhaus.® And in my most honest humble opinion, the burgers come pretty damned close to an American original. They do seem to have some kind of love affair with 1000 island dressing, however, as if a splat of it on a bun makes everything more American. And they are still way overcooked. My local butcher grinds my beef fresh for me when I so desire, therefore I can eat my homemade cheeseburgers the way God® in the ‘Bayerisches Himmel’® (Bavarian Sky) intended them to be eaten. RARE.
And about the way they are to be eaten? The proper instruction manuals seemed to have been lost in the mail, or they were too much like a manual from IKEA®. The Germans who are not known for spontaneous decisions must have decided somehow that the best way to eat a cheeseburger is with a knife and fork as if it were some kind of schnitzel. The incorrect information has already been widely been disseminated, and it is the societal norm now.
If there is one thing I refuse to do, it is eating a cheeseburger (and the fries) with anything other than my hands. Oh, and here is another.
You, Oktoberfest, are without compare,
Overpriced everything, and especially the beer.
Drunken Debauchery, in December we do detox,
Fill up on roast pork, dumplings, or a slice from an ox.
Fill up my glass, sir, ten euros is very dear.
With girls scantily clad, call it tradition I might add,
After a liter or two, the lager ain’t half bad.
Up on the benches, the floor is not far,
Wooden floors cushion blows, they aren’t really that hard.
Teenies step aside now, and be a good lad.
The lights go up, and the place is a mess,
If I could only find a way to get her out of that dress.
Not this time, sorry, your lederhosen are too poor,
Big security guards, not German, forcibly showing you the door.
Pour yourself into a taxi, ask thy ‘what’s my address?’
We are in the middle of one of the truly great times in Germany. Though this winter was mild it is still a big deal, this springtime festival.
Ah yes, ‘Spargelzeit’ (asparagus season) is here. Fifty-five tons of the edible ivory will be devoured in a year. Nothing seems to captivate the Germans, the Bavarians even more so, than those 8 weeks that end on June 24th. And the fascination runs across all generations, genders and socioeconomic strata. The health benefits of asparagus are many and well-documented, but the love of it goes well beyond that. But why?
The history of the vegetable goes back around 4,000 years and it is grown throughout the world. Most people eat the green variety but the white type grows larger and is tenderer (but is much more expensive because the cultivating and harvesting methods are very tedious and complex), and is coveted by Germans. Whether you eat white or green asparagus the most important factor is it must be fresh. Any person with a little bit of experience with asparagus can taste fresh from not so fresh because the flavor turns from a sweet yet distinct mild flavor to a bitter one. And this brings us to our first point of why the Germans like it so much.
The Germans, very rightfully so, are proud of their skills of organizing and transporting. Getting asparagus to the market while it still has retained the desired freshness requires the skill set that most Germans seem to have. From harvesting to consumption, the whole process should be completed in about 12-24 hours when things are working properly. An old farmer’s rule says asparagus is best when “Morgens gestochen und mittags verzehrt” (picked in the morning and eaten at lunch). This is also why many Germans choose to take their cars to the source of the asparagus. Here in Bavaria, the most famous place for asparagus is Schrobenhausen, though nearly anyplace in Germany has excellent asparagus, and the countryside is dotted with stands that sell the very freshest and tastiest product. So whenever a box of fresh asparagus is opened it is like a reaffirmation of what it is to be German and their ideas of time and order.
The second reason, and I believe the more important reason, is that Spargelzeit signals the end of winter in a way altogether different from Carnival or even Starkbierfest (Strong Beer Festival). While those celebrate the end of winter with lots of alcohol and craziness, asparagus is the first fresh vegetable or fruit grown in Germany that can be eaten by Germans, and can be enjoyed by everyone to some degree or another. It heralds the coming of spring, with its infinite promise of great weather (before June’s reality of rain dampens the excitement, May rains this year), a return to the outdoors, the eating of fresh fruits and vegetables after a winter of heavy roasted meats, sauerkraut and dumplings. Quite often in May the weather in Bavaria is what can only be described as epic. The Bavarian sky takes on its special blue hue. Farmhouse balconies are tidied up and flowers are planted, as the gardens are readied for a season of grilling and beer drinking. Bicycles are serviced and people begin to try to lose their ‘Winterspeck” (winter’s bacon), the few extra kilos that were accumulated during the winter. The first few shoots of asparagus seem to set the buzz of activity in motion.
If you don’t know how to prepare asparagus have no fear, nearly any decent restaurant has a “Spargel Menu”, that is right, a menu devoted entirely to the asparagus. From soups to starters, main courses to desserts (yes, it is even in some desserts!), one does not have to look far for some excellent dishes that celebrate the asparagus. And remember, the smell in the WC (toilet) a few hours after eating asparagus can mean only one thing: Spring is on the way! And your kidneys will thank you too!
The weather the last two days was whacked. It was too warm. The Germans don’t like it that way. It needs to be average. Restaurants with outdoor seating were jammed, managers stressfully trying to unfold and set up tables that hadn’t been clean since October. Bike shops can charge as much as they’d like for a ‘Spring Check-up’, and they do, much to the chagrin of the locals. But a man’s got to ride. For those bike riders who don’t need a check-up, have you completely forgotten how to ride? There are rules to obey, both written and unwritten! It’s been so warm the last two days that I even saw some naked bodies sunbathing near the Isar River. I’ve heard of cabin fever and a strong desire to get outside, but au naturel the first week in March? Germans need few excuses to get naked, surely. Meanwhile, I read that in my home state of Florida the Republican governor forbade any officials connected to the government to use the terms ‘global warming, climate change, or sustainability’. You read that correctly (reason #67 I choose to live in Munich). Can there be a flower more popular than a tulip this time of year? I love them too! The best tulips are grown in The Netherlands, a country which seems to have carved out a nice little business supplying the EU with these colorful blooms, when not wooing young travelers to their coffee shops. The drawback for tulips is that no amount of care will extend their vase life beyond a week. I grilled on Monday, the SECOND time this year already. I can recall the summer of 2009, when the whole year only afforded me two opportunities to grill. I missed them both. I’m going to make up for 2009 this year. I’ve been trying to make up for that summer of 2009 for the past five years, but the weather hasn’t cooperated. It’s been normal when I needed exceptional. The extended forecast is looking good, a little rain, a little sun and only a marginal chance of a white Easter. Exactly how the Germans like it. Nothing too unusual. I bet you a bratwurst and a beer we’ll have snow on Easter.