I have changed my header photo to the beautiful Saarschleife to announce my arrival in Saarland, a state in the southwest of Germany. In fact I’ve been here a few days but between visiting family, getting access to the Internet, and traveling around and taking pictures of things, I’ve taken a few days before posting.
It’s good to be here, and while I’ve been in Germany a few times before, you certainly look at a country through different eyes when it is your new home. So I have been putting in a bit of extra time thinking and observing.
First, Saarland has been putting the point very bluntly that Germany is not a water poor country. While the hills of California were already turning orange this May, everything is very green here. Apparently it’s rained every day for weeks. The Mosel river is so high that the usual ferry isn’t running and the locals who have to cross the river have to commute an extra 13 kilometers each day for the bridge at Trier. Needless to say, they aren’t terribly amused by their abundance of water resources.
Having just come from living and breathing American politics, it’s also hard not to notice some distinct differences in political culture here.
We stopped by a little festival put on by a newly opened shopping center. Quite a nice little event with some games, delicious sausages and wine, and some community oriented tents for blood donations and the fire department. Of course there were the usual comments by the managers of the stores about investing in their community and the like. Nothing surprising here. But then, the local kindergartners got up with their teachers and after a couple of very cute numbers, sang about how everyone who needed to feed their dog or take care of their banking needs could use the specific shops in this center. American corporations get away with a lot, but they’d never get away with that. Holding a birthday party at McDonald’s can be controversial, a school backed endorsement would be out of the question. This may presage a different relationship between private and public sectors here.
Finally, I’d like you to take a look at the signs below. The locals were lobbying for a circle road so large trucks would no longer travel through their small town center. They got what they wanted, and responded by thanking their politicians publicly with a sign. In over a decade of working and studying American politics I have never seen a sign thanking politicians in general. The general rule in America is that politicians are awful. And though your guy is great, you thank him at the ribbon cutting, or in his office, but never on a sign. Rather the sign at the bottom from the CA water wars, which is much less civil and assesses blame with a somewhat dubious logic, is much more our speed.