Wednesday, 15 August 2007

East meets West

Berlin, central Europe: a city named by Slavic settles with a name probably meaning "swamp". A city chosen as capital by the Hohenzollern electors of Brandenberg.

A city that welcomed persecuted Jews from Austria, Huguenots from France and other refugees from Poland and Bohemia in the 17th century. (The domed church constructed by the Huguenots sits opposite the similar German church contructed in response.)

The city of Frederick the Great and the Kingdom of Prussia. A city occupied by Russians and then by Napoleon. A city whose iconic gate was carried to Paris, and on return, had Victory's wreath of peace replaced with an Iron Cross. (Victory now looks straight at the French Embassy.)

The capital city of the German Empire, the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. An Olympic city, where the infamous 1936 games meant the "Forbidden for Jews" signs were temporarily taken down. A city full of memorials.

A city whose old buildings, the Reichstag and more, are riddled with patches of stone used to repair bullet holes, and decorated with black statues that had been buried during the war. A city conquered by the Soviet Army and then split with their Western allies.

A city divided by blockades and then a wall. A Western island including the world's second largest department store, next to an Eastern capital with government buildings lined with propoganda murals. The city of Checkpoint Charlie, where tanks faced each other and spies were exchanged.

A reunified city, full of construction sites. A city where the largely demolished wall has been further whittled away by souvenir hunters, and street stalls sell communist memorabilia. A city hosting a European conference on reading opposite Bebelplatz, where the Nazis burned books. A city where full coaches drive in from Poland and further east, exchanging passengers before heading to different Western destinations.

For 12 points, tell me who could carry this flag now found in the Zeughaus. For thoughts on the flag's inscription, see Byron's excellent series.

Friday, 3 August 2007

A Tale of Two Summers

Here are five differences between summer in London and summer in Sydney:

Temperature: There is a reasonable chance that the maximum temperature for a summer day in London will be similar to the maximum the same day in Sydney, where is it winter.

Day length: The sun setting around 9pm even a month after the solstice is one of the highlights of the London summer.

"Football": In Australia, the top soccer (football to the English) league now plays in summer. In England, summer is the time for professional rugby league (football to most Sydneysiders).

Ice Cream Vans: In summer, the ice cream vans come out no matter how warm it isn't, and here, that means many different tunes floating down the street. As I remember it, ice cream vans in Sydney generally all play the same tune.

Parks: While I have been pleased to see many people playing informal games of cricket, the parks in London lack public barbecues. Instead, whenever the sun is out for an hour, the locals seem to head to the park to strip down, lie down, and roast themselves.

I may as well give 10 points to the first person to name the park in the picture