Berlin and Sylt

Sylt - A bit too busy for my taste, but no doubt a beautiful island.

Sylt – A bit too busy for my taste, but no doubt a beautiful island.

This year’s Woodpecker clan’s family trip is taking us around northern Germany and Scandinavia.

After about 8 weeks of heat wave – Munich slowly becomes a mediterranean climate – we already had our share of swimming and late nights outdoor. So we decided that the risk of bad weather (normally a downturner when doing holiday with small kids) is quite acceptable this year.

The first station (only for Mr.Woodpecker) was Berlin, to meet up for a large european gathering of wonderful people from an international exchange association I joined recently.
Berlin is a good spot for such a gathering, as it vibrates a very international flair these days. And still it is, compared to other „hip“ cities, relatively cheap. Weather was great also, so we enjoyed a great time there.
The only thing that struck me is how much Berlin changed in the last 15-20 years. I considered myself to be quite a Berlin-expert in the late Nineties, but did not often return in the last 10 years.

What a change the city made!

In the Nineties, Berlin was a slightly “run-down” and a bit shabby but very sexy and very special city with a unique frontier atmosphere that only its former isolated location was able to produce. The only cities in the world that also were able to form (a bit) of this special flair were other former communist cities, like Prague or Riga.
In the Nineties Berlin, you immediately knew if you were in the west or former east. In the former east, streets were VERY shabby, pavement full of potholes, lights broken, houses all in gray from the coal fireplaces. But also this areas very VERY sexy, full of great student and subculture live taking place in huge old houses that you could rent for an equivalent of 3 EUR per square meter or less. I had quite a few great parties there, the only mess being to carry up the coal for the ovens 5 stories from the cellar where my hosts stored a whole ton of it for the winter. Stranded Soviet soldiers were selling out their equipment and uniforms to tourists. There was the Loveparade. There were countless of barely legal clubs, parties and all sorts of alternative ideas and living.

In other words: The city gave you a sense of adventure in the Nineties.

All of this is gone.

Berlin now is a modern, bustling and in most parts clean and tidy city, flooded by tourists and WIFI-access everywhere.
It still is fascinating, and it is much more international than back then.
But it also became much more exchangeable with other western capitals.
There is no talking around it, it’s greatest days (for people who seek the special) are over. Fortunately, people who still come there in the search of the special have no idea what it has been BEFORE.
But well, that is the course of history – a very special time is only special when it finally is terminated.

Having said that, Berlin still is very much worth a visit. Go there, see the monuments, party and feel the history. Make your own experience of this unique city in the heart of Europe. Multiply by 10 and you have an idea of it’s past wild days.

The Woodpecker clan then re-united in Hamburg. Apart from Munich my favorite city for living in Germany. I am a sailor and a mountain fan – what the Alps are for Munich, is the sea, the harbour and the river to Hamburg. Great place!

Walkway through the dunes.

Walkway through the dunes.

Later we continued to the Northern Sea, to the island Sylt.
I love the Northern Sea and it’s islands, as they have a special atmosphere due to the climat, the strong tides, their dune-character and the „Wattenmeer“.

I have never been to the island Sylt before though.
Actually it is considered to be a „posh“ destination, very en vogue among “the rich and famous” (or those like to think they belong to this group).
That typically is a downturner to me, as it often means unfriendly or arrogant people focussed on money and a general materialistic atmosphere.
Anyway, we were curious, because the Nature is still considered to be marvelous and there is a lot to do and see.

My judgement so far:
Nature is very nice, but there is indeed way to much people, cars and buildings on the island.
Thus, Nature seems pretty much under pressure and it is not easy to find a spot without many people. Beaches are beautiful of course, the sand is – like on any north sea island – the best in the world, much softer and sweeter than anything I have seen even in the Caribbean or elsewhere. Actually you want to bath right in the warm sand, roll around and never stand up again! (… and that is exactly what the Woodpecker body did each day…including filling our car up with this nice sand…)

People (as expected) are pretty much boring, and lack what I would call “authenticity”. As many people here feels somehow „special“, many carry their noses a bit too high. Not too much room for occasional chat, joke, or beer with strangers. These posh people somehow seem not like to get into contact. Even not among themselves to my observations. Probably chatting with strangers is too un-cool.
Also the pace of life on the island is much higher than it should be. Everybody – while being in this relaxing and beautiful surrounding, still seems a bit stressed or busy. Probably because they always have to watch out who watches them or who is there to watch. Or something like that. A down-turner was a e.g. a place called Wonne-Meyer (I prefer to call it Wonne-Kasper. A Kasper is someone who makes a joke of himself), where posh people pile up for a sun-downer, food is bad and expensive, and it was stressful crowded not in a positive party-way, but in the negative 1000-cool-people want to relax at the same spot.

Anyway, no comparison in relaxation to other German islands, like the Ostfriesische Inseln or (my relaxation favorite) Hiddensee in the Baltic sea.

The captain of our Pirate cruise during the kids' attack on the sister ship...my boys were convinced that he has been a former real pirate, and I tend to agree!

The captain of our Pirate cruise during the kids’ attack on the sister ship…my boys were convinced that he has been a former real pirate, and I tend to agree!

Good thing ist hat Woodpeckers of course picked the camping place for their stay. And all the proms of course make a big circle around the camping place, and so do all the would-like-to-be-poshies. So at least in the daily routine (and even at the beach stretch next to the camping), the atmosphere is much more relaxing than in general.

And there are areas (especially in the North) were Nature ist still magic, and you can have wonderful evening hikes or bike tours. Plus we made a Pirate-Cruise from List. Very much recommended with kids, one of the best value entertainment I have ever seen.

Recommendation: For a week of camping, or maybe in the off-season, ok. For the real experience, go for the smaller and less prominent islands.

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Pics: Click to enlarge.

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The Importance of Ethical and Good Behaviour for your Happiness

 

Among the Living, this guy has probably the most to say on how to be "good": Dalai Lama.

Among the Living, this guy has probably the most to say on how to be “good”: Dalai Lama.

You want to transform your life into something beyond being a pure economic subject that consumes, works, produces, pushes the GDP and ultimately dies to be replaced by the next robot?

Then it is worthwhile to look back in time on what previous big minds have said about self-actualization and living a good life.

The thing is:
While many things change very quickly, the large questions about meaning, sense etc., stay absolutely constant over the centuries. And the “old” masters of happiness and good life (btw: they were called philosophers, not as today “coaches” 😉 ) have one advantage:

Their theories obviously passed the test of time.

If you can still buy and read the books of those persons that lived hundreds or thousands of years ago, there must be a profound truth in what they said. A basic truth that was able to withstand so many waves of change and progress (whatever progress is).

So this reading is what Woodpecker did in a quite difficult time of his life, i.e. long before this blog, at a time where I decided that I am not happy with the average consume-produce-die-approach to life that so many people around us want us to pursue.
At that time I basically went through a whole library of philosophers, starting from the ancient Greeks (Aristoteles, Platon, Epicurus, Diogenes, Stoa), over romans (mainly Cicero), the big Germans (Kant, Schopenhauer), some others (Kierkegaard, and a lot that I forgot). Plus I added some religious and spiritual leaders, because very often there were (and are) intelligent and progressive people among them too.
All of this writers were people who thought way beyond their own ego, who ventured out to picture the big lines.

Plus I also added to my reading the big negative examples in history, to understand the dark side as well: Caesar, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Napoleon.
Being sinister people who in contrast were only interested in themself, their own power and their own ego.

The learing benefit of spending these 5 years or so of reading was nothing less than massive. It definitely changed my life and my view on the world (much to the better!) and it is a treasure that will delight me until the very end.

Why do I write all of this?

Because one fact really struck me as amazing, and it is a good starting point if you do not have the time now for five years of reading:

Through the history, throughout the centuries and over all cultures, be it west or east, philosophers and religious leaders stress the importance of ethical living if you truly want to become a happy and fulfilled person!

Recommending an ethical living is the most common denominator from ancient Greeks over buddhism, from Emanuel Kant to Dalai Lama.

There are only very few exceptions, but if you continue to explore the biographies of those, you quickly see that while intellectually fascinating, you do not want to follow their path (e.g. Nietzsche was one, but he became mad and died alone and in bitterness).

Thus I safely can follow this large minds and recommend ethical living, too.

We all are no mother Theresa, thus we will not always succeed, but I can say that from the day of this insight on, I tried to follow that path, much to my satisfaction so far.

Here is my observation on trying to do so:

1. The benefit of being good

Aristoteles formed a comprehensive theory on happiness and "virtue".

Aristoteles formed a comprehensive theory on happiness and “virtue”.

(a)  My observation is that people who only look for their own benefit, typically expect others to do so as well, thus they seem more often to distrust others.
They seem to lose faith that the world overall is a good place and that humans overall are good. Just because they themself do not care too much about being good, and you always project your own view of the world outward. So you look for the bad in people and will focus on it.

(b) The other way round if you try to be positive.
Trying to life ethical opens your eyes to the many positive and gentle things out there in day-to-day life. Your basic primary belief in others will be that they have good intentions, and very often you will find that, focus on that and be rewarded by your belief.

(c) Helping others without expecting something in return gives a deep satisfaction.
In the end it is not entirely selfless to help, because you feel needed, integrated etc. Good things and no one says you shall not benefit by helping others.

(d) You start to ask others for help, too. And you will see that people love to help.
Actually people deep inside want to have a positive and selfless impact on others. There is a deep-wired social component in all of us to let others around you benefit from your skills. The “market” unfortunately tries to press much of this into economic patterns. But just look at the internet: So many blogs out there, so many great content, all for free! Some of my best reading, some of the best pictures, recipes, travel tips, and many of my best investment decisions: All coming from blogs where nice people put them out there for use! Thank you, dear world!
Why do they do this? Ultimately the same reason than myself: People WANT to give something to the world. For free. Outside of a market and without pay.

(e) Ultimately, people behave reciprocal.
At least subconsciously, people will notice who wants them good and who wants them bad. And they will remember, even over long stretches of time. If you meet again in the future, they will treat you accordingly.

(f) If you behave ethical, you have more luck in life.
Lets be a bit pathetic: You can say the universe is thankful. And if you want to explain that more sober, look at point (e): There is serious theories out there that say that “good” people accumulate positive attitude towards them over time. After decades, so many people around them remember that they behaved positively, that the occasions where this people get something positive back “out of nothing” get more and more numerous. Plus again, behaving positively will automatically make you focus more on the good things happening to you, and just accepting them without doubt.

(g) Other way round with the un-ethical person.
They accumulate negative feelings against them. And beware when the lose their power over others (e.g. the nasty but powerful boss: Once he quits job, he will be surprisingly alone and become bitter despite all money and fame in the past).

(h) You will get into contact with good people very easily and all around the world.
People have an amazingly good sense if a foreigner is truly friendly to them or a potential threat. They will recognize you as an ethical person, you will recognize them and you will have a good time. And you will save money if you trust. (e.g. the laptop I am writing on this moment: It was bought via telephone from a Turkish guy living 500km away from Munich. After a chat on the phone we both decided to trust each other, I transferred 500 EUR to this total stranger and two days later this wonderful and very cheaply sold computer was here. Saved me 150 EUR compared to offers close-by…)

(i) To some extend, there emerge two worlds.
As ethical people will go out-of-the-way of un-ethical people in the long run (see below), and thus the latter are forced to deal among themselves to some degree, both groups somehow get what they expect: The non-ethicals will be surrounded by other non-ethicals (confirming their pessimistic view on the world) and the ethical people will have large networks of other ethical people around them. Both groups, to some degree, being separated from each other, at least in private life.

(j) Philosophers claim, that behaving good, apart from all fact above, is absolutely necessary to unfold your true human nature, to fulfill all of your potential.
Simply because the human nature is to help and to support others, and if you act against it, you life an unnatural life, a life that can never succeed.
I absolutely agree to this one, too. Seems to fit all observations I make.

2. What is the disadvantage of behaving “good” and ethical

I can tell you, because there are a few:

Immanuel Kant, who formulated what acutal "good" and "ethical" behaviour means.

Immanuel Kant, who formulated what actual “good” and “ethical” behaviour means.

(a) You will be called “Gutmensch” (german negative word for people trying to do good. Is it “do-gooder” in English?) from time to time.
You will be called “dreamer”, “naive”, and so on.
Just ignore that. It is mostly people who are bitter or envy you for you being able to have a positive view on the world. These people somehow feel that their approach to the world is incorrect, but to safeguard their mental system they try to argue that behaving good is actually bad. This effect was already described by Aristoteles 2500 years ago.
Don’t get in a defensive position about that. If the other person continues to insult you that way, just go out of their ways. One human contact more he/she lost. Too bad.
But in my opinion, your humanistic attitude does not require you to take all the hits. In the end, most of us are still small humans down here and neither Siddharta or Jesus nor Mother Theresa.

(b) You will get exploited from time to time.
This is the most imminent danger. As you will always go out open and expecting the good, some “bad” players can more easily exploit you than if you go out sceptic and cautious.
This will happen in private life (but not that often to my observation), and in job-life: more often, as unfortunately often the powerful people came to their position not by competence, but by playing ambiguous political games. And you will never be good in political games, because political games by nature require dishonesty and opportunism or at least concealing information. All of this is not your métier as an ethical person and should not be strived for.

(c) You can shield yourself to some extend by playing tit-for-tat
This comes from game theory and says that you always start out positive or “good”. But if the other persons responds with “bad”, you react with “bad” as well. In the end, ethical yes or no, you do not want to be exploited all the time. But that’s no fun game, so on the long run you better break off the contact if possible: Find new friends, other business partners or a new job.

(d) Economically you will do a bit worse
In the end, there is no talking around it: On the economic side, you pay a certain price for behaving “good”. It is no secret that you will miss out some career move, a bit of higher salary, some dirty earnings here and some evaded tax there, compared to the ruthless self-maximizer.
This loss is partly mitigated by the reciprocity that will also bring you additional job opportunities or small favours from others.

But all in all there is a certain economic cost, so you have to make a decision.

3. Conclusion

If you are uncertain yet, please go back up in this post, and really think what is important in life: One career step more? A few thousand bucks more on your account?
Or the priceless feeling of living in a great world surrounded by friendly people?
You can also look at old people. See who is happy and who not. Think about how all of this persons might have behaved in their past life and what is the respective result. You will see the pattern.

Or read one of my favorite books:
The life of Dorian Gray (who, by some magic, is able to transfer all the negative results of his bad behaviour to a picture of him).

I hope I was able to convince you to join the “club of the naive, dreaming, ethical living people” (Woodpecker trademark, haha) !

If yes: Welcome! Let’s have a good time!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

The Power of being Alone or: Are Efficiency and Competition your Enemies on the Way to Happiness?

The creek "Partnach", on its way down from Germany's highest peak, the "Zugspitze"

The creek “Partnach”, on its way down from Germany’s highest peak, the “Zugspitze”

Oh boy, time flies past these days.

It’s more than three weeks since the last post!

The weather this year is just way too good to spend it in front of a computer. However, today it is that hot in good old Munich, that staying inside is fun again.

Last weeks have been loaded with nice grill events, family time spent at the nearby lake (Hooray, even three-year old small Junior Woodpecker is able to make it with his bike now!), a multiple family trip to the nearby medieval festival and all sorts of other social events.

 

The gourge "Partnachklamm". Belief it or not, this is Bavaria, not Middle-Earth!

The gorge “Partnachklamm”.
Belief it or not, this is Bavaria, not Middle-Earth!

In short:

Social dividend rolled in big these days, seeded in the past by spending as much time as possible with PEOPLE and FRIENDS, and not in office maxing out your cash-flow, or with wasteful “modern life maintenance” activities.
Actually it rolles in so big that I get used to having so many friends and am more and more surprised by the fact that most people seem to have much less social contacts! If you are still in the latter group, no need to despair, but start doing something about it! All can be changed by investing time, time, time and also care and niceness. Not once or twice, but over years and years you have to prioritize friends over career…and you will build a powerfull community around you.

Woodpecker also got a new job (will report in another post). Of course I choose carefully not to get hit by the crazy modern times workaholics-hammer 🙂 , but still I am currently a bit more busy than usual with office, too.

Anyway, Woodpecker is now at a point where the great plenitude of social contacts makes something else a quite rare thing in his life:

Solitude.

Of course I do not mean the negative but the positive side of solitude:

Being able to be only with yourself. To concentrate on your own mind, thoughts, body.
To think things through clearly and without distraction.
To empty your mind from the constant swirl and chaos of thoughts, external demands and constant attractions around.

Thus, Woodpecker decided to go on a solo two-day mountain hike.
With the explicit goal to see as few people as possible.
To NOT make acquaintance with anyone (not easy for me, haha).
To speak as little as possible.
To be in nature.
To have a demanding physical challenge, and of course:
To be without cellphone.

So off I went to a tour in the close-by Wettersteingebirge (the mountain massive that also holds Germans highest mountain, the “Zugspitze”).

And what should I say?
I think for me it was the first time since 10 years (!) that I spent a full two days out of house without any company or meeting someone I know.
Plus, as a bonus: I did not bring any clock with me! 🙂
Two days I had no idea what time it was, and did only what my body (and nature) were telling me.
A rare experience these days.

And all of this in a majestic, or even magical, nature surrounding, as you can see from the pics (taken by my good old 3kg heavy Nikon camera, not by cell-phone…).

View from one of my "perfect" resting places. Location: Secret ;-)

View from one of my “perfect” resting places.
Location: Secret 😉

I made an interesting observation:

If you do hiking, you might know that your body picks its own speed, if you do not have to care about others, or about time. It picks the speed it needs to operate optimally, and to make you endure a long stretch of way.
In Woodpeckers case (and that seems to be a synonym for my whole lifestyle, now that I think about it), the marching pace turned out to be very high and energetic, but then I also needed frequent and long breaks in beautiful surroundings to replenish.
So it was maybe two hours tight marsh, then spending a long time to find the perfect spot e.g. at a creek (or any spot with some energy, if you know what I mean), pulling out loads of food, water and a book, and resting, reading or snoozing for one hour with nothing around than the sound of rippling water.

The thing is, normally, if you go with others, you are not able to follow that body rhythm. You have to do some compromise or you would not see each other the whole tour.
Which is fine.
But it was also great to experience the fantastic feeling of your body operating exactly at its own pace. And the energy it can muster if allowed to follow that pace.
A feeling that is long-lost in todays super-planned and scheduled world.

In the end I was surprised how easily I managed the challenging tour overall, so that I even had to add some 500 extra hight meters as I did not feel yet exhausted.

What I also did several times:

Marching tightly, and then just do a totally useless detour to explore a waterfall spotted in the distance and completely off the track. Or take a more difficult and clearly longer way, because on the map it showed to pass a spring and I felt like a drink from a spring.

Exploring the interesting creek down there took me one hour de-tour...and was worth every minute!

Exploring the interesting creek down there took me one hour de-tour…and was worth every minute!

Long life inefficiency!

Despite what I thought in the past, I more and more get the feeling that inefficiency – and not efficiency – brings the highest pleasure to life…if you are able to let go of maximization, of optimizing, of comparing and of competition. An insight I admittedly do not yet manage to life up to often in day-to-day life.

I am surprised myself, but the more I work on stage four of Maslows pyramid, I am slowly getting an enemy of optimization, efficiency and competition. Maybe these things are not needed anymore on the upper stages of the pyramid?
Maybe optimization, efficiency and competition are fine to safeguard provision of basic needs but are in your way once you start looking for the higher goals, like true happiness?

I tend to think so.

Well, that’s all I wanted to say today.

Excuse the little bit confused post, but that hike was a great experience and started a load of new trains of thought as you see.

Recommended for copy! And will repeat myself, next time for three days minimum.

Cheers,

Woodpecker

ps. Forgot to say. Total cost: Transport by car 25 EUR. Night in hut 18 EUR. Luxury food 20 EUR. Good value I’d say. 🙂

Arrived at the mountain hut. A bit crowded for my taste, but what can you do? Sleep according to your body clock. Around 8am in my case. And everybody of this competitive achievment hunters had left to climb "Zugspitze" already! So I had the whole place ALONE in the morning! Crazy world.

Arrived at the mountain hut. A bit crowded for my taste, but what can you do? Sleep according to your body clock! Around 8am in my case… and everybody of this competitive achievement hunters had left to climb “Zugspitze” already! I don’t care for ticking peaks, and thus had the whole place ALONE in the morning! Crazy world.