Grapes from Thorns

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


A great view of the Hauptbahnhof (train station) in Hannover. The statue is of Ernst August, former king of Hannover.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hildesheim III

More scenes from St. Mary's cathedral. At top is a statue of Bishop Bernward; next is a memorial to an early missionary to this region of Germany, Heiliger Ansgar, who worked in the area in the 820s and became bishop of Hamburg; and a general view of the interior of the church. The candelabra hanging from the ceiling is from the 11th century.

Hildesheim II

St. Mary's Church in Hildesheim dates from the 9th century. It was destroyed in 1945 and rebuilt after the war. At top is the approach to the entrance, then a shot of the side of the cathedral. Then are are the famous medieval Bishop Bernward's doors (1015), apparently made of a single casting. At bottom is the sarcophagus of St. Godehard. The cathedral is on the UNESCO world heritage site.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hildesheim I

I took a trip to nearby Hildesheim, an old city with an interesting history. It has two beautiful churches on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. Above, is the town square that has been beautifully restored after being flattened by bombing in World War II. At bottom, a warning to neo-Nazis in the area, I guess, but I wonder how many of those geniuses are likely to be able to read English??


During our recent trip to Lubeck we went to Travemunde, a resort area on the Baltic Sea. At top are the students enjoying the beach. We later went down to the water and some of them took a dip in the icy cold water. Next, you can see the Germans have these little huts that you can rent on the beach. They look kind of funny but have a practical side - a place to sit and get some shade.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"No. 44 has spoken"

Enormous excitement here in Germany about Obama. A friend of a collegue who I went to dinner with the other night was sporting an Obama button! Some of my students skipped class yesterday to go to hear Obama speak in Berlin. Over 200,000 were in the massive crowd.

Below is an opinion piece from Der Spiegel. I sure hope they are right.

No. 44 Has Spoken
By Gerhard Spörl
Anyone who saw Barack Obama at Berlin's Siegessäule on Thursday could recognize that this man will become the 44th president of the United States. He is more than ambitious -- he wants to lay claim to become the president of the world.
It was a ton to absorb -- and what a stupendous ride through world history: the story of his own family, the Berlin Airlift, terrorists, poorly secured nuclear material, the polar caps, World War II, America's errors, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, freedom. It's amazing one could even pack such a potpourri of issues into sentences and then succeed in squeezing them all into the space of a speech that lasted less than 30 minutes.
So what still sticks? That Barack Obama is a passionate politician who is fixated on and takes very seriously his desire for a bit of uptopia and a better world. That he is an impressive speaker who knows how to casually draw his audience into his image of the world -- one who doesn't have any need to resort to the kind of cheap effects that tend to prompt the uproarious applause of an audience. That he is a typical American -- an idealist in the true spirit of the American success story who is now very casually making his claim to become something akin to the president of the world.
He also could have said: We are a world power, the only one that exists on this planet at the moment, and I am going to act as if that were the case. But you're also allowed to participate in the attempt to try to save the world -- at least a bit of it. In that sense I am different from George W. Bush -- very different. Indeed, Barack Obama has his own sound -- it's more utopian, he speaks of the general human desire for better conditions for all of humanity; and he speaks of the longing for strong and dynamic presidents and chancellors who are capable of acting on a global scale. With this drive and this radiance, he managed to drive Hillary Clinton out of the campaign. It is also the way he is going to outpace John McCain on November 4. It is the way he took the hearts of Americans by storm and it is the way he is now taking Europe by storm.
Anyone who saw him make the short way from the Victory Column in Berlin on Thursday to the podium saw a man with the serious gait of a basketball player, a man who seemed young, decisive and focused. For those who witnessed his appearance in Berlin, it is hard to imagine that John McCain still has any chance. McCain is 25 years his senior, a man who because of the torture he endured in Vietnam is in constant pain -- unable to comb his hair or lift his arm in celebration.
Europe is witnessing the 44th president of the United States during this trip. Anyone who listens to him quickly realizes that he is not only ambitious but will also make demands. In the inner circles of Angela Merkel's Chancellery, he is reportedly seen as a pleasant person, one who arouses curiosity.
However, he is also certain to demand the help of the Germans, Brits and French in Afghanistan and Iraq. He's not going to allow NATO to shirk its duty -- and that is where the perils of the engaging "we" and the catchy "Yes, we can" lie. Otherwise all these hard-nosed Europeans will hope and pray that the future President Obama isn’t really all that serious about the saving the world of tomorrow, the polar caps, Darfur and the poppy harvest over in Afghanistan.
George W. Bush is yesterday, the Texas version of the arrogant world power. Obama is all about today: the "everybody really just wants to be brothers and save the world" utopia. As for us, we who sometimes admire and sometimes curse this somewhat anemic, pragmatic democracy, we will have to quickly get used to Barack Obama, the new leader of a lofty democracy that loves those big nice words -- words that warm our hearts and alarm our minds.
Let's allow ourselves to be warmed today, by this man at the Victory Column. Then we'll take a further look.
Gerhard Spörl is the chief editor of DER SPIEGEL's foreign desk.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bombing of Lübeck, 1942

Lübeck was the first large German city to be attacked by the RAF using its area bombing tactics. Early in the war, the British recognized that it was very difficult to actually strike a single target like a factory, especially if they flew high enough to get out of reach of the flak. Soon, RAF Commander Arthur "Bomber" Harris adopted a nighttime approach. The smallest target they could strike from high altitude at night had to be the size of a city. In 1942, Lübeck was thus attacked at night from high altitude and was viewed by the RAF as the first successful attack on a city in World War II.

At top, in these photos, you can see fires raging around St. Mary's church. Next, damage around the cathedral. The third photo shows some of the damage - the churches de-roofed and destroyed and in the one photo the bells of St. Mary's that fell from their tower during the attack. Today, they have been left in place as a memory of the attack - broken, melted, and battered, a mute testimony to the night Lübeck was attacked. On the wall, next to the bells are two large nails presented in the form of a cross from the destroyed cathedral at Conventry, England. It is an attempt by British and German civilians to recognized their shared suffering under the bombs. Only about 300 civilians were killed in the raid but about 15,000 lost their homes in fires resulting from the incendiary bombs.

Harris wrote after the attack: "[Lübeck] went up in flames" because "it was a city of moderate size of some importance as a port, and with some submarine building yards of moderate size not far from it. It was not a vital target, but it seemed to me better to destroy an industrial town of moderate importance than to fail to destroy a large industrial city".

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


When I last visited Lubeck, the city gate was in scaffolding. Now it was on display. It is part of the medieval fortifications of the city and is photographed at top. It contains a museum on the history of the city. Lubeck is the home of three Nobel prize winners - Willy Brandt won the peace prize while writers Thomas Mann and Gunther Grass won for literature. Lubeck was founded by Henry the Lion, an early ruler in the 800s. Naturally, in the cathedral there is a golden lion. In our walking tour of the city, we discovered there are all these little pathways thhrough what appear to be impenetrable blocks of buildings that lead to quaint little yards like this one. We had to walk through a World War II bunker to get here although it did not look like a bunker where people took cover during bombing attacks At bottom, is a medieval altar at the cathedral.

Friday, July 18, 2008

City of Hamburg

Always nice to visit Hamburg. I had lunch at a great Indian restaurant with a former student near the university. Then I wandered about and took some photos. At top is the rathaus. There are a lot of waterways around Hamburg. Next is the Opera Haus, a beautiful building. At bottom, is a bar near the train station - Frau Moeller's. I spent quite a bit of time here waiting for trains. Interesting place.

Back in Deutschland

I'm back in Deutschland and enjoying the visit. The weather has not cooperated in these first couple of weeks. Lots of rain and pretty cold. Of course, I try to remember what things are probably like back in Cincinnati, hot and humid. I have to wear a jacket here (I had to buy it here, too, since I had neglected to bring one).
At top is the beautiful old rathaus in Lüneburg. Next is the house I am living in. My windows are in the second floor just to the left of center. There other day there was a city carnival in the old part of the city and it was thronging with children and parents. There is a photo of the crowd on Am Sande and the bottom photo has a surprising American look as people try to knock down bottles to win prizes.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Temple University

I had not been to the Temple University campus for several years (like maybe 10!) so I was looking forward to seeing all the changes I've heard about. It is a much more user friendly campus than it was when I first stepped out of the subway there in 1993. Like the University of Cincinnati it is an urban campus but much more so. And like UC it has gone through a tremendous amount of contruction in just a few years.

At top is Conwell hall, the building where my graduation was held in summer 1997. Next is the renovated Baptist Temple. The college was originally founded as a Baptist college in the 19th century to serve the needs of immigrants and working class people in Philly. It was absorbed by the state in the early 1960s. Next is the bell tower square in front of the library. The tall building on the left in the background is Gladfelter Hall, home of the History Department. Next is the student union, a new building; and next is a dormitory sitting on the sight off the old graduate dorms, which were much smaller and dumpier looking than this sleek new version. The campus looked good during my visit and was made very busy by a very large orientation for new students.

Streets of Philadelphia

This is a bit out of order but before I flew to London, I had an eight hour layover in Philadelphia. I lived in Philly for several years while I was in graduate school so being there is always like visiting an old friend. Unfortunately, contrary to my plans, none of my old friends were in town so I was on my own. I visited some of my old haunts and took the subway to Temple U., my alma mater, to see the changes there.

At top, the Union League building. The Union League was created by a group of prominent Philadelphians to support the union during the civil war. Today, it is a prominent social organization in the city. Next, is a beautiful old bank building that I've always liked. Then there is a view of city hall from Broad Street with William Penn on top. At bottom is looking across Rittenhouse Square, a beautiful little park in the city.

Quiz Night, England Style

I had the opportunity to go along with Tom and Caroline to meet two of their friend, Anna and Andy, at a nearby pub, to take part in an English tradition, Quiz Night. I was absolutely no help as all the questions were about British cultural things. But we managed not to come in last and also pocketed about 20 pounds by answering the last question correctly. Had a great time.

Fine dining at Buckland Court

When Tom and Monica returned from their cruise, we had a nice dinner at Tom and Caroline's home. At top is top as chef; then Tom, Monica, and Clare; then two photos of us in various stages of the excellent meal and drinks.

Hampton Court

During my recent visit to England enroute to Germany, I was able to visit my cousins. I stayed at the very nice home of Tom and Caroline Buckland, the newly-dubbed Buckland Court. Caroline had a day off work while I was there and we visited Hampton Court, the home of Henry VIII. I had not been there since 1990 so it was great to see the palace again.
At top is a view of an interior courtyard; then Caroline flanked by one of the many impressive staircases; an amazing clock; and two photos of the large and impressive gardens surrounding the palace.

Old times

It was just like old times when my former college roommate visited in Cincinnati recently. Visited the air museum, Newport on the Levee, and downtown Cincinnati.
Some photos. Doug and I doing what we do best; Doug and some bomber art; Bock's Car, the plane that bombed Nagasaki.