Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Photo space holder

Image of Cologne Cathedral from the east side of the Rhine (courtesy of iStock Photography)I haven't written in a while...but I promise, promise, that I am not malingering. I broke my arm last week and can't yet summon up the energy to write a long entry. In the meantime, here's a view of Cologne Cathedral from the east side of the Rhine (it's courtesy of iStock Photography images - because I could never hope to do the view photographic justice).

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Rauchen verboten

no smoking sign
Rauchen verboten = Smoking is forbidden = Vicky is happy

Germany has banned smoking in public places. This brings the country into line with the UK, France and Italy. The ban is a radical move for Germany as it is estimated that one third of the population smokes.

As of 1st July, there is now a risk of being fined if you're caught smoking in a public place or if you are the proprietor of a public establishment where smoking takes place.

The ban hasn't been well received by some smokers - a number have claimed that the new regulations infringe their rights. There have even been murmurings regarding the fact that in 1941 the Nazi regime implemented a national ban on smoking in the quest for bodily purity. (See article from the British Medical Journal for more details...)

Many bar owners are annoyed by the potential loss of earnings as a result of the ban. Some have turned their establishments into 'smoking clubs', while others have tried to create special rooms for smokers or have spread out their chairs on to the pavements.

Myself? I am just relieved that I can go out and not have a coffee or a meal spoiled by inhaling the toxins from other people's smoke. A recent study by the German Cancer Research Center revealed that more than 3,300 people die in Germany every year due to passive smoking-related diseases. Makes you think.

Monday, 7 July 2008


group of stolpersteineMy entry for 19th June was about street signs and furniture in my neighbourhood. This entry continues the theme, but is more reflective.

I walk a lot here. It is very easy to get around on foot and April enjoys having a look around. On my many wanderings I have passed sets of little square brass plaques set in pavements. I often wondered what these were, but never really looked. Recently a friend explained their real purpose.

The plaques are called 'stolpersteine', which literally means 'stumbling stones', though the name is intended to describe the fact that they are designed to encourage us to pause and contemplate rather than trip up. They are the project of the Cologne artist Gunter Demnig and are designed as memorials to all those deported by the Nazis - Jews, the mentally or physically disabled, those opposed to the Nazi regime, Romany and Sinti people and homosexuals.

detail of plaqueEach stone - a four inch square of brass - represents one person. The stone is set outside the home from which the person was taken. Each stone is inscribed with the words 'Here lived', then the name and date when the individual was taken and date of death, if known. This photo shows a memorial to one Viktoria Herz (Victoria Heart).

According to Wikipedia, by October 2007 Demnig had placed more than 13,000 Stolpersteine in more than 280 cities around Europe. It is a life's work and he is still going. Although he initially donated 600 stolpersteine to the city of Cologne, he now works through sponsorship, creating and laying each piece for a nominal fee. He can never hope to lay memorials to all those who were affected, but if his work makes us stop and think about individual victims, then it has served its purpose.

More about the project and locations...