Tuesday, November 24, 2009
In the political life, the kiss between men had formerly a certain success. I say : to kiss him on the mouth. Very often, it was the sign of alliance and harmony. It was naturally a heterosexual kiss. Symbolic example, the poem of Louis le Pieux, written near 828, which evokes an official meeting between the monarch and the pope Etienne : "then both, king and the respectable pontiff, kiss on eyes, on lips, on forehead, on breast, on neck. And hand in hand, interlaced fingers, César and Etienne go towards the white houses of the city ", then they go to Church to pray, and then to the palace to celebrate. Obviously, the kisses on the lips that exchange in public the pope and the king are not the mark of a passionate eroticism, a prelude of a crazy sex night. It is simply about ritual gestures intended to point out the harmony between two sovereigns, who intend to clearly show their alliance to each other. Also, in the medieval literature, it is very frequent that the knights kiss each other on the mouth to express their deep friendship : the examples are uncountable, and this gesture is not perceived as being necessarily a sign of "sexual abnormality". Having said that, in France, at the end of the Middle Ages, things go bad, as reveals it the affair of the Knight Templars. The story is well known : on Friday, October 13th, 1307, Philippe le Bel makes 140 members of the Order arrest, the Knight Templars being monks-soldiers who have for mission to save the Temple of Jerusalem at the time of the crusades. Number of them was put to death. We know Philippe le Bel's political and economic motivations, but the fact that we find the kiss on the mouth among the grievances used against the members of the Order, to strengthen the accusation, reveals that this gesture was already not perceived in the same way at this time : widely heterosexual rite until then, it began to be interpreted as a sign of homosexuality. The kiss between men was already in the era of the suspicion ; he entered henceforth the era of the condemnation. However, this practice continued to have certain success in some other countries, in Russia, then in Soviet Union, for example. Posters or photos do not miss, which show Brejnev, for example, kissing on the mouth such or such of his interlocutors during public meetings. But today, the political kiss between men is much less made in Russia because we know that this gesture could be interpreted in the West or somewhere else as a sign of homosexuality, what we want to avoid. We see that the evolution of the cultural codes requires an approach which is at once semiological and historical.
There was a picture of François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl hand in hand, in the ossuary of Douaumont, France, built in homage to the deaths of the battle of Verdun, on September 22nd, 1984. This picture became the symbol of the French-German reconciliation. There will be now Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, on November 11th, 2009, in Paris. It is indeed the first time that a German leader of the government participated beside a French president in the remembrance of the armistice of the war of 1914-1918. Two days after having celebrated in Berlin twenty years of the fall of the Wall, Nicolas Sarkozy welcomes the German chancellor in Paris on Wednesday to celebrate the end of the Great War, during a ceremony conceived as a new episode of the French-German friendship. Friendship that Sarkozy qualified, in front of Merkel, Place de l’Etoile, as "treasure", wishing a "narrower association" of the politics of their two countries, " The friendship of Germany and France is a treasure. We owe to our relatives, who suffered so much, to make everything possible to protect and make big this treasure ", said the Head of State, "We owe it to all the peoples of the world". Angela Merkel had almost the same speech, and qualified the "reconciliation" and the French-German "friendship" as "a present ". She added: "the freedom on the European continent is a miracle, and we know very well how much it cost. " " This strength of the reconciliation allows us to face new challenges and to assume our responsibilities ", said Merkel. In the morning, the French President welcomes the Chancellor at the Elysee, where both of them joined the Arc de Triomphe. They have, together with a detachment of the French-German brigade and the pupils-officers of both armies, revive the flame of the grave of the unknown soldier and pronounce a short speech. Exceptional fact, the German hymn was played under the Arc de Triomphe. After the Marseillaise, the Choir of the French Army intoned Deutschlandlied, while Sarkozy and Merkel stayed in front of the grave of the unknown soldier. After the death last year of the last French “poilu” at the age of 110, Nicolas Sarkozy wished to make of November 11th, 2009 "one day of French-German reconciliation, to build a shared future". After difficult debuts, the relation between Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel knows since a few months a "honeymoon", which is translated by a multitude of common diplomatic initiatives. Both leaders should announce new initiatives to dope the French-German couple in January, at the occasion of the anniversary of the treaty of the Elysee signed in 1963 by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer.
Don’t forget that November 9th is in Germany the fall of the wall but also the cristal night of 1938. Since 20 years a woman, now 63 years old, clean the streets of the city of all the nazi propaganda, still existing in the city (but also in some other cities). With her "weapons", she fights an unlimited battle against the young neonazis, some pedestrians and, above all, the indifference. She walks all day long, scrutinizing street plates and walls. Hanging on her neck, a big camera, which allows her to establish archives. In the arm, a white cloth bag carrying the registration "Fight the Nazis " in wide white letters. She removed more than 80 000 stickers containing homophobic, anti-semitic or racist slogans. Her militant activity is not secured, because it underwent very numerous threats, and even prosecuted further to disputes with a safety guard. She assumes the malpractices which she is brought to commit, forced to penetrate into private ways to destroy some grafittis. Ironically, Nazis even threatened her with tags. Her"mission" began in summer 1986 near her house, when she discovered a sticker demanding Rudolf Hess's liberation, Nazi war criminal imprisoned to Spandau and emblem of the neo-Nazis. Contorted, she wants to tear away it, but cannot make it, her bus being on the departure. She returns that very evening, and removes the sticker. She did not stop any more this activity since. She also animates numerous educational conferences, and reports its fight by exhibitions which show the propaganda she eliminated. To establish a link between the historic events commemorated on November 9th, we also want to give an echo to the protest of Gottfried Wagner against the musical program of the day which celebrated the anniversary of the fall of the Wall. This great-grandson of the composer Richard Wagner protests against the inclusion of the opening of the opera " Lohengrin ", created by his ancestor, during the official concert of celebrations. Musicologist and indefatigable militating antifascist, he reminds that nationalism and anti-Semitism of his grandfather, precursor of the Nazism, as well as shows it moreover the work chosen, dominated by the vision of one triumphant Germany. Gottfried Wagner does not indeed stop reminding that Hitler made of Richard Wagner his cultural model.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
" Where passed the wall? ", " where we are: in the East or on the West? ", " what looked like the no-man's-land? ". Here is a sample of the questions the most put by the tourists in the streets of Berlin. The multimedia GPS-guide proposed by the city of Berlin allows to restore a visibility in the wall and in his vestiges into the townscape. If in 1989, the wall in reinforced concrete extended itself, for the only north-south border, over 43,7 km, there are not there today more than some hundreds of meters. In the 1990s, we hurried to destroy these sections of wall which still raised themselves as an obstacle to the reunification. Today, to trace the Berlin Wall, is to trace the tracks of a ghost. Present everywhere, visible nowhere... Or almost. Not to lose the memory of this page of the history of the city, the Senate of Berlin launched in 2006 a big plan of remembrance, conservation and documentation of the wall. The start of Mauerguide, at the beginning of the month, realizes one of the points of this program which should be finished in 2011. At the East Side Gallery, the longest kept segment, we give you a screen a little bigger than a mobile phone. The well propped up earphones, here you are ready to discover what stays of this monument. Thanks to the magic of the satellite, you are transformed into a flashing cursor on a map of the city which displays on the screen. You can then decide your route by visualizing the distance which separates you from commemorative sites to be discovered. You walk along the East Side Gallery towards Warschauer Strasse. The cursor reproduces faithfully your movement. Archives images appear on the screen. In front of you this mirador to which the guide asks your attention and you visualize suddenly the no-man's-land along the Spree, the covered way, and, a little farther, Checkpoint of the Oberbaumbrücke. During the visit, we remind you that the wall was not only a matter of device. The iron curtain was also a curtain of blood : the figure of 133 deaths is there to evoke the relentlessness of the frontier officers. At the end of the route, "Mauerguide" did not only show you the history of the wall and its former plan. By giving you the opportunity to visualize the city divided from the 1960s to 1980s, it also allowed you to seize better the immense construction site of the reconstruction of Berlin.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
A stalwart of Schlesishe Strasse's lively and varied bar scene, Mysliwska is a dark and small night owl hangout. It is particularly popular for its sparkling but spartan interior and regular DJ spots with irregular music, including everything from crackly old jazz to indie. Mysliwka is Polish for a kind of hunter’s bar, where you drink and talk away the hours after finishing work. This bar was opened on Schlesischestraße long before all the scenester spots and it has remained popular due to its simple concept and relaxed patrons. The drink list is to the point, no messing around. Beer, vodka and some good cocktails, what else could you need ? The interior is pleasant with its high ceilings and unadorned walls, tiled floor and vintage furniture. In the back room there is a disco-like atmosphere, but mostly it’s about relaxing in a friendly environment, without the see-and-be-seen pressure.
I took 2 weeks holiday. I had because if we don’t take the days before the end of the year, they’re lost. So I booked a car and I went back to France to visit Family and friends. I had of course a wonderful time but going from place to place almost everyday is no holiday at all. When I came back to work, I asked my chief if I could have a holiday to rest and he replied gently that I had to wait next year because I had no days left anymore. During this holiday, I took time to be with my true best friend like the brother I’ll never had. We know each other since school days and I hope we’ll keep up together until the end of our life. I agree we don’t talk neither meet much in the past years but you know, life … . He ‘s living in Paris with wife and kids, has a business to run and he’s a family man. I lived in many places in the world, doing a lot of jobs, being unstable, moving all the time, having affairs and short- and long term relationships. It was not always so. I had a stable life when he had the life I have now, only when we were younger. Now It is the other way round. Anyway, two weeks ago we’re talking over the phone and he says spontaneously that because It’s school holidays, wife and kids go away but he has to stay home because of the work, and he adds quickly : ”why don’t you come over ?”. Only the idea to spend some time alone with him thrills me so I quickly booked a car, called family and friends and planned the journey. Two weeks away. With the moving from Barcelona, the new flat, the job, the life by itself, I didn’t go back since more than 2 years. Those years just flew too quickly because really, It seems like yesterday I walked in my city streets. Nevertheless, I am always curious to see the changes. First my parents of course, then another very close friend who became mother almost 1 year ago. I came to Paris by car that I rented. This gives me the opportunity to visit some friends I can’t see a lot because normally I fly. So I made a stop in Karlsruhe and another one on the way back in Frankfurt. When I am in Paris, I eat French and very Parisian. I miss some tastes and I can’t help myself having for the first lunch Foie de Veau with gratin dauphinois. If you’re not French, forget it. Only the idea of the translation could make you sick. After that I just made a tour alone in the city because the weather was not bad and I enjoy the area. The next day, my best friend brought me to le Marais, in the 3rd arrondissement, where beautiful small shops are based, proposing nice things. We were too early for everything, shops open late in this neighborhood so we had the time to enjoy café and croissants at the café around the corner. Remember that life in Paris is very expensive and you don’t have to be surprised by the incredible prices you will be requested to pay. Actually, I noticed that Paris is an expensive city, but so are Barcelona, London and New York. It’s just that Berlin, when I compare, is not expensive. So the shock is mine. After the morning café, we headed to l’Habilleur. Shop front is dark and doesn't look open, but go on inside - its a special shop. Designer clothes from (at last look) Issey Miyake Pleats Please, Paul et Joe, Plein Sud, Cultura... list goes on and on and it may be different labels when you will go. Really amazing things at 30% of retail and Men’s labels are gorgeous. We had a walk rue Bonton, looking for something for the kids while they were on holiday (do your shopping without the kids, it helps) and then we decided to stop for lunch at le marché des enfants rouges. One beloved covered market dating from 1615, on the Rue de Bretagne in the third arrondissement, almost disappeared 10 years ago, but the uproar from the locals was such that the city decided to keep it open and renovate it. This required shutting down the market for six years, however, and when it reopened in 2000 most of the vendors had found premises elsewhere. The market was a sorry sight for some time, with many unoccupied stands and few customers, but today that has all changed. Not only can you pick up the catch of the day at the fish stand and organic tomatoes and plums at a vegetable stand or a bouquet at the flower stand, but you can also sit down for a meal at one of the dozens of tables in the open-air side aisles, after deciding whether you want to eat pasta, pizza, spit-roasted meats, Moroccan couscous or classic French bistro food. By the way, the market owes its name to a neighborhood orphanage, closed in the 16th century, whose small charges were dressed in red. We stopped at Le Traiteur Marocain: Moroccan pastillas, tagines and couscous. and had a wonderful time, though a bit cold outside. After lunch we carried on moving and because I am looking for new furniture for the flat, we headed to the shop of the designer Jean-François Lebrun, called tramp, rue de la Corderie. I just love every piece of furniture. In a very purified environment, chairs, tables and libraries surprise by their design. Every piece is built from what he finds like metal, old wood floor, school bench … that he collect anywhere in fabrics or warehouses. Then it becomes a unique piece. You also can ask for your own wishes and /or dimension. I was thrilled by chairs and a desk that would perfectly fit in my place ! We discovered as well the artist Christoff Baron who also has an atelier in Berlin, this is a surprise and I will have a look soon. We walked to Bastille and then Châtelet, stopped to other shops I like to pick up some ideas and took the bus home because we had an appointment for dinner at Le verre siffleur, rue d’Alesia, not far from the place. As per my friend, it is new since last winter and it is a big surprise because such a place was missing in the area. It is the place we love, an old café renovated, with ancient taste, suggesting good and simple food. Reservation was made for 8:00 p.m. and though we arrived on time, 30 minutes later, the restaurant was packed. So it is noisy, yes, because we talk a lot and loud. But we had no disappointments, and neither with the bill. We had a few drinks in two other bars in the area, but not really something to mention and too expensive. The next day, we could enjoy a wonderful weather and even café and lunch time outside. We made the usual way to Le bon Marché (I love Dyptique products), boulevard Raspail, just to have a look at Paul Smith, Galerie Sentou, and rue de Grenelle at Jean-Baptiste Rautureau. We walked by to Montparnasse and It was time for me to carry on driving. My parents always love Bretagne, at the very far west of the country. The location is fabulous, in the end of everything. There you will find more boats than cars and in the end of the street, you will find a bar and the sea. It is the perfect place to spend a few days alone to have a rest. Outside gardening, walking on the beach, eating crêpes and drinking cider, there is nothing else to do near Perros-Guirec but I agree, the landscape is one of the most beautiful. After 3 days, back to Paris, spent more time in town to drive 2,5 km than Rennes-Paris and this is another reason for me not to go back. Just the time to have a last dinner and to fill the car with things I wanted to bring back home and I drove back to Berlin, completely exhausted.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
For the Germans, November 9th reminds quite at the same time the advent of the Republic ( 1918 ), the pathetic " putsch of the Brewery " (1923), sinister " Crystal night " ( 1938 ) and the happy fall of the Wall ( 1989 ). At night from 9 till 10 November 1989, in front of the cameras of the whole world, young east and western Germans break the Wall of the shame which divides Berlin since August 13th, 1961, taking by surprise the leaders of both edges. Receptive to the policy of glasnost (transparency in Russian) introduced three years earlier by the Soviet leader Mikhaïl Gorbatchev, the Hungarian leaders were the first ones to lift the screed of communist lead. On May 2nd, 1989, they announce their intention to half-open their border with Austria. Hundreds of east Germans rush then in Hungary to pass soon on the West. In September, they are several thousands to run away so. In German Democratic Republic (GDR), in Leipzig then in the other cities of the country, the opponents of the communism leave the secret of the Lutheran temples and demonstrate in broad daylight. The power vacillates. Erich Honecker leaves the place with Egon Krenz, but a million demonstrators in East Berlin pull the collective resignation of the communist government on November 7th. Two days later, the government of GDR authorizes the east Germans to travel abroad " without any particular condition ". At the end of a few hours, the customs officers of Berlin, extended beyond by the hide of persons on the border, simply allow to pass them. That very evening, thousands of Berliners massed near the Wall and open one by one the borders in front of the redoubtable East German frontier officers who, this time, keep the weapon at the foot. The fall of the Wall (3,60 metres high, 160 kilometres long and 300 miradors) ends fifty years of separation and antagonisms between both parts of Germany, German Federal republic (FRG) and German Democratic Republic (GDR). In the general enthusiasm, nobody worries about the difficult next days of the reunification. Without loss of time, the Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl imposes a monetary then political unification of both parts of Germany. The unity is official on October 3rd, 1990, one day which becomes the German national holiday. The French president François Mitterrand, noting the inevitable character of the reunification, is going to negotiate in return the sacrifice of the Deutschmark on the altar of the European monetary union. This project will result in the signature of the treaty of Maastricht on February 7th, 1992.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Lately, there is in France a big debate like only French can start. The debate about l’identité nationale, the national identity. Well, if you know what it means, feel free to share. To launch such a debate in a country like France can become way too very dangerous following your place you found in the society. I would not participate to such a thing. I don’t think It is a big matter to have a national identity. You are born with a nationality but do you recognize yourself in your country or with the people living in there ? I am what you might call an expatriate. I made it by choice because I could not stay 1) because I found a job outside 2) I made my life outside 3) I found my place in the world outside my country, not that I am rejecting it. I am ashamed that a French president once said “France, you love it or you leave it”. It’s not because I live outside my country that I am not French anymore, on the contrary. I am proud to be a French citizen (probably because It means having a History and to respect it, and because I think I give a good image of my country) but … outside France. France has still an aura abroad that It does not have in Its own place. Strangely, when I was looking for a job in France, I didn’t find any. Was it a sign ? or was I less French because I had experiences outside ? I think the idea of national identity is wrong because It has no purpose anymore. Europe is on now and frontiers do not exist anymore (but some politics seem to have forget it). A friend of mine, leaving nearby with me in Berlin is French, her husband is half German and Finish and their kid is born in Australia. I let you guess his nationality. How would you explain to this kid the sense of national identity ? Europe offers a unique free circulation and as a European, I can work wherever I wish inside the union (forget about exceptions please). We are already a lot who work abroad and come back home for our holidays, but when I say home, I speak about the native one, you understood, not the one I built for myself. This number is compensated in France by a number of other citizens from any country who established themselves in my country. I think today you can feel yourself more European, so when will they create a European passport ? probably because everyone has a love feeling with the passport of his own country. I guess this idea of national identity belongs to people who do not like Europe but It is too late. I agree Europe builds itself very slowly but the machine is running and It tried to erase differences to accept community. I don’t pay taxes in France since almost 10 years now but I keep on voting and this is for me a great thing. But I agree with the fact that I don’t have much to do with French politics anymore. I would accept to vote in Germany but I am not allowed. This is a good paradox to explain. But for my defense, I would say I am a good example of what It is called here “Deutsch-Französische Freundschaft” (German-French friendship) : my man is German and we cook together very good meals inspired from both our cultures.