Saturday, 23 January 2010

Wine, thistles, snails and soil

On a package tour to Austria a few years back I went on a day trip to Südtirol, the part of Tirol that the Treaty of London transferred to Italy after WWI. It was strange being in Italy zet finding most people spoke German. The trip included a visit to a Weinberg. The owner spoke German and the travel rep translated as most of our party had no German. I remember laughing uproariously at some of the Weinsprüche (proverbs and sayings about wine). His his final offering had the travel rep blushing - she didn't translate it either.

As well as Weinsprüche there are Weinbauernregeln - traditional and proverbial sayings about vine cultivation. These give more or less reliable prognoses about the expected vintage or present age-old experiences as proverbs or rhyming epigrams.

Vines need light to thrive.
Blüht der Stock in vollem Licht,
große Beeren er verspricht.
I think the next expresses the same idea as thistles grow well when there's plenty of sun.

Blüht die Distel reich und voll,
ein guter Herbst dir werden soll.

The healthiest grapes offer the best nourishment for snails so in Switzerland they say:

I guess if you were expressing that in standard German you'd have to say something like: Im schönsten Weinberg gedeihen die meisten Schnecken. In English I would use comparatives rather than superlatives: The better the vineyard, the more the snails flourish - which reminds me of the pattern often found in German using je ..., desto ...

Vines need a loose, well aerated soil and plenty of dung applied before the ground freezes in Winter.

Dreimal gehackt,
und der Wein schmackt.

Räbbauer, führ dyn Mischt, vor's Jahr ummen ischt!

Obviously another from Switzerland: Grape-grower, spread your muck before the year's end. Or in German: Rebbauer, fahre deinen Mist, bevor das Jahr zu Ende geht!

There are also lots of Weinbauernregeln (Winzerregeln is an alternative word) related to the calendar (Kalendarsprüche). I think I'll save them for another post.

If you have some sayings about wine, grapes or anything do share them by leaving a comment.

Computers, Internet and Politics

I still have my first computer bought in 1980 and stored in the attic. With only 16KB of RAM (yes, KB) and the only storage a built in cassette tape recorder it took ages to do anything. There really wasn't much software around and I ended up writing my own programs. Try writing a compiler in just 16K! Things have moved on amazingly and I can barely keep track of progress, though I do try.

Sometimes I manage to link my interest in computers with learning German. One source of information is 3Sat neues and I subscribe to the RSS feed so I can watch their video podcasts Das Computermagazin. There's also the

I've only just caught up with the last two episodes. The first of the year included an interview with a blogger called Markus Beckedahl. This is a really massive blog that can help you keep up with what's happening on the internet and political responses to the net. I'm now following and the quote below is from its Über dieses Blog page ist ein Blog und eine politische Plattform für Freiheit und Offenheit im digitalen Zeitalter. Thema sind die wichtigen Fragestellungen der digitalen Welt und wir zeigen Wege auf, wie man sich selbst mit Hilfes des Netzes für digitale Freiheiten engagieren kann. wurde in einer Vorläuferversion 2002 gestartet und ist seit 2004 in der jetzigen Form online. Alles andere erschliesst sich aus dem Inhalt.

Friday, 22 January 2010


The theme of this year's Kirchentag, to be held in Munich 12-16 May, is "That you may have hope" Damit ihr Hoffnung habt.  Topic areas include:
  • Acting responsibly-being Christian in one world
  • Living together-being Christian in an open society
  • Seeking and finding--being Christian alongside a variety of worldviews
  • Living our faith-being Christian in a variety of Churches

 Full details on the website of 2. Ökomenische Kirchentag You don't need to be able to speak German to take part but it could be a good opportunity to practice and learn German as you should get to stay with a German family. The organisers are looking for 15,000 beds.
Der 2. Ökumenische Kirchentag sucht ab sofort 15 000 kostenlose Schlafplätze in privaten Haushalten. Benötigt werden die Betten für die Teilnehmenden des 2. ÖKT, vor allem für ältere Gäste, Familien mit Kindern und Menschen mit Behinderung. Gesucht wird im gesamten S-Bahn-Bereich Münchens.
If you happen to live in Worcestershire or Dudley it's still not too late to join a group organised by Worcester Diocese - see details

Magdeburg Cathedral - The English Connection

English newspapers this week carried stories about the discovery of the body of Editha (also Eadgyth, Edgitha, Edgith or Edith) in the Magdeburger Dom. She was the sister of Athelstan, King of England, and a grand-daughter of Alfred the Great of Wessex. I'm a 'Moonraker' (that means I'm from Wiltshire) I knew about Athelstan's connection with Malmesbury but completely failed to make the connection with Editha when I was told, back in 1976, that she was buried in Magdeburg. It was a fascinating tour led an older member of the congregation who clearer loved the church and its history and was able to talk about her father's involvement in hiding the memorial to those who fell in WW1 created by Ernst Barlach (Ehrenmal für die Gefallenen des Ersten Weltkrieges).  My visit was with a group from the Diocese of Worcester They have a link - Partnerschaft - with the Evangelischen Kirchen in and around Magdeburg -find out more from News of the Magdeburg link It was this visit that got me started on learning German.

I'm still puzzled about why this story was news this week. You can find reports about this on German sites a good year back for example Mutmasslicher Sarg der Königin Editha endeckt - Weiterer Sarkophag unter dem Edithagrab im Magdeburger Dom entdeckt

You might also be interested in an English language report Did Editha, queen of Otto I, suffer a genetic disorder? posted last August on the Passionate About History blog

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Luck - Learn German podcasts

Learn German podcast PG37 - Luck

A real lucky dip this one. Good fun as well. Ich bin ein Glückskind!

This is just one of a series of podcasts to help you learn some modern colloquial German and slang ... and probably some things you didn't even know in English.


Climate Change Challenged

There seems to be a growing trend of scepticism. The IPCC (International Panel for Climate Change - der Weltklimarat auf Deutsch) has acknowledged that their own warnings about the rate of glacial melt in the Himalayas has insufficient scientific basis. Weltklimarat muss umstrittene Prognose zurückziehen is the headline in
It's good that the IPCC are open to correction and acknowledge things that don't meet their own standards. What is more worrying is the way corrections are seized on as though they were absolute proof that climate change is nothing but hysteria. Yes we need corrections but we also need prompt action to try to reduce the human contribution to global warming. Even if the climate change models were much better developed the sceptics would still be in denial.
I was also interested to see that Michael Fish commented on Monday that long term forecasting is a science in its infancy - Comment is free Climate change sceptism
Wie denken Sie über die Sache?  Wie finden Sie die Umweltpolitik Ihres Landes?

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Detektei Suni

Detektei Suni & Partner is a nine part series of audio plays available for free download in mp3 format. You can download them separately or use a link on their start page to download the whole series.

Produced by the University of Augsburg for children and young people but very suitable for adults learning German as a foreign language. You can also download the scripts for the first seven instalments in PDF format.

The start page presents the links to the episodes under a series of images. When you click on one it appears to present you with the same page but if you scroll down you'll find what you selected is presented further down the page. It seems odd to let the site navigation get in the way of the content but don't let it put you off. This is excellent material.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Starvation Wages

A report on speaks of subcontractors working for the railways paying starvation wages Hungerlöhne bei Bahn-Subunternhemen? is carrying reports that suggest increase social polarisation Soziale Polarisierung nimmt zu. One in seven Germans is threaten by poverty and the ratio would be almost one in four if it were not for welfare benefits (Sozialleistungen).

I was impressed by the quality of the comments posted on the Hungerlöhne article - well worth a look. I also want to mention CAP's campaign for a living wage in Britain. This also has links to theological justifications for similar campaigns in the US. I've tried to find similar on German sites but not been very successful so far. But I did stumble across According to the English part of their site "The work of SÜDWIND is based on the conviction that there is a connection between the prosperity of industrial nations and the poverty that is prevalent across broad sections of society in developing countries." Their work includes poverty reduction, ethical investment and world trade. I think I might be exploring some of this over the next few months.

The way in which we deal with poverty depends very much on the attitudes that people take to the causes of poverty. Here are some reasons given. Which is your view?

Es gibt Menschen in Not, weil ...
  1. Es ist ein unvermeidliche Teil des modernen Lebens
  2. Ungerechtigkeit in unserer Gesellschaft
  3. Faulheit oder Mangel an Willenskraft
  4. Sie sind von Pech verfolgt