Several recent stories about the persistent threat of right-wing politics in Germany caught my attention. The first describes the successes the city of Dortmund has had in fighting back against spreading, open pro-Nazi sentiments. The second follows some of the recent attempts by right-wingers to infiltrate the environmental movement. I can’t read such stories without forgetting the crazy one from last week, in which an American soldier stationed in Germany had agreed with some German neo-Nazis he met online to attempt an attack against his own unit in order to spark a war. The overall context should be clear to everyone: A study released last week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, hardly a lefty bastion, warns that white supremacist terrorism is “likely the most significant threat” to the United States.
For a rousing reminder and antidote, check out the video of Berlin-based radical klezmer band Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird’s song, Freedom is a Verb. (I might have cited this tune in the past.)
While meandering around Berlin steeped in political cogitations, I finally met Sophie Charlotte, whose gorgeous palatial grounds I get to enjoy so often.
Here she shows off her palace, in this statue on the then main road leading from the Brandenburg Gate and Berlin to her residence. I don’t know whether her bulbous, out-turned pockets were the fashion back then or an iconographic way of signalling her supposed generosity. Like so many monuments, this one is covered in mesh to keep away the birds, whose shitting knows no respect for persons.
Not far away, at the very edges of the Tiergarten, I came across a bucolic stretch of the Landwehr Canal that hosts houseboats.
There I discovered this absolutely gigantic structure:
My photo doesn’t do justice to the enormity and intrusiveness of this industrial giant, intrusive at least from the vantage-point of my approach, along a green canal lined with tranquil houseboats. Built in 1975-76 by Ludwig Leo, this is the Umlaufkanal des Institutes für Wasser- und Schifffahrtstechnik (Circulation channel of the Institute of Water and Shipping Technology), part of Berlin’s Technical University. One guide to Berlin sites describes (in German) the structure as follows:
“The circulation tank, which has now faded somewhat in color, once towered over the trees of the Berlin zoo in shrill pink and rich dark blue. Inside, two diesel engines drive the huge test facility, in which 3000 tons of water circulate, for experiments with ship models. The huge test tube with its up to eight meters in diameter is crowned by the blue measuring and workshop wing, the galleries of which surround an open hall like the decks of a ship. Ship metaphor and technical design go hand in hand in this unique, trendy high-tech architecture.”