Long live the Great Human Adventure!

Europe around 1740. Go back or forth in time and you will find all sorts of different maps. This teaches you that your precious "Nation" is not more than an arbitrary concept to organize things.

Europe around 1740. Go back or forth in time and you will find all sorts of different maps.
This teaches you that your precious “Nation” is not more than an arbitrary concept to organize things.

One of woodpeckers numerous hobbies is the study of history.

Although ignorants consider it nerdy or boring, there is a lot to gain from this occupation.
So I let it take up increasing parts of my spare time, which luckily is ample due to downshifting and reducing superfluous occupations of my past (like excessive money counting, or pointless anonymous discussions in the internet).

The study of history is a very worthwhile endeavour, especially when you live in Europe, an area where every country, every city, and virtually every square meter is soaked with history, where virtually all peoples and nations had sky-high moments and times of darkest night in their past. A place where our fates are intermingled to a point such that people without history knowledge will never be able to understand what is going on today, why it is going on and what will happen next.

To polish up the image of history as an occupation, I have a few benefits for you to consider:

  1. You gain a much broader view on life, on your own existence and the tininess of our daily worries and fears compared to the “whole thing” in space and time
  2. You understand that we all are only small parts in the huge chain that I’d like to call the „great human adventure“, a development that leads our race from the caves of the stone age through the rise and fall of empires, rulers, nations, to where we stand today
  3. You understand how we all, and all our actions are influenced by the power of the past. How the experiences, traumata and fates of our ancestors somehow live within our collective thinking and influences our actions and feelings as a society
  4. You see that the same holds true for the societies around you and their relationship towards the group you are part of
  5. You understand that you are not part of one group, but of groups on multiple levels. E.g. in Woodpeckers case, I am Franconian, Bavaria, German, European and World-Citizen, depending on the situation, and depending on the way I want to see myself
  6. You can see how errors are repeated and you can try to avoid them, or even predict the future to some extend. You can also see how things are done to avoid errors (yes, that happens! See bullet 9)
  7. That all makes you much more mild and relaxed towards all the hustle and bustle around you. You get an understanding that the great human adventure, that we are all part of, was always a chaotic and non-linear mess, with ups and downs, with distractions and confusion. Nevertheless, we are still here! 🙂
  8. Alias, from that higher perspective, you will clearly see that, overall, the human adventure constantly makes progress. Despite all errors and cul-de-sacs, despite atrocities and terrible mistakes, it is amazing how our race moves on, how it was (and still is!) able to tackle and overcome even the largest and most fearsome problems that it encounters on it‘s way
  9. You will better understand politics.
    Politicians are not all stupid or the always selfish pack that minor mind think they are (in typically projecting their own selfishness on them). Of course they are sometimes, but very often, you will just not understand the reasons why they are doing certain things. Because many, if not most, decisions of our so-called rulers are not as free as they seem, but they are embedded in the course of history, they are forced by the strong and ever-pushing current of history and by the state of society, that pushes humanity forward. Politicians mostly do (and did) just mirror the society they live in. The good politicians are the ones that know history well and are able to see beyond their time. They will be criticised a lot by their people, but only later be called genius.
    Many short time unfavourable decisions might turn out brilliant in the long run, many clever short-term gains turn pale in the bleaching light of time going by.
    By studying history you will be better able to understand the forces and the currents in the river. You will see when it is worth an effort to reach the shore or when you’d better not swim against the current.
  10. For me, seeing how humankind overcame so big confusion, chaos and catastrophes in the past, makes me very confident that humanity will be able to master the future too, no matter what comes.
  11. This is a precious insight in times where most people seem to agree that the future will be grim.
    It ist not! It is just different. And always was.
    Future might look grim from our daily “ant” perspective, but difficulties are nothing new to humankind. They were always there, and we always mastered them.
    We can and we will master them again!

I seldom do book recommendations, but in this case I have a book that is almost too good to be true.

It is of interest for German readers mostly, but also for all European neighbors:

„German History of the 19th and 20th century“ by Golo Mann.

Mann writes the German (and European) history of the last two centuries not in tables and maps, but as a continuous tale and from all different perspectives without any bias. It can be read like a novel and is much more fascinating than most of them. Imagine: A history book as a pageturner! You just want to read on and on and see what happens next.

If you are German, please read this!

If it does NOT change your view on the world and on your country, let me know and I’ll spend you a beer in Munich!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

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To the next 70 great years for Europe!

eu

The European Family – let’s stick together in crisis time instead of running for divorce!

European Readers:

As you know, Woodpecker is a great fan of the European idea.

I just came back from London today and have been to three other European countries already this year (Austria, Italy, Netherlands). And again and again I find it fantastic that finally we are living on a continent of peace, freedom, open borders, good relationship and even a common election throughout dozens of countries!

Whatever one might criticise of a European Union that – as all political and social constructs – is obviously not yet perfect and probably never will be, we always have to take into mind that freedom, peace and good relationships are not an automatically given thing – in fact it is a state quite new to this continent!

For 2.000 years or more, the people on this beautiful and unique patch of earth banged their heads, crossed swords, fired rifles and sent tanks at each other. And it is only 70 years ago that we finally overcame all of this crap and now live in one of the best places in this world in a harmony never seen before.

If you have not done yet, go and vote for the European parliament!

Let not pessimist, nationalists, populists and other narrow-minded people destroy what was built here!

Let not disappointed and angry people take the easy way and simply blame all the problems of this continent, its countries and economies on the EU as the new universal scape-goat.
Do not forget that many problems stem from other sources (demographics, greed, financial system imbalance, global competition, speculative bubbles to name a few) and that it is naive to think that weakening the EU would help in any way.

I firmly belief the opposite is true – we need Europe to have any weight in this world compared with the big chaps like China, Russia, the US etc.

Instead vote for something that might not be perfect yet but could very easily get replaced by something very nasty and much more unpleasant if we are not careful!

Woodpecker recommends:

Be optimistic! No one said it will be easy, but we will overcome current problems together.

Vote pro Europe! Vote against Nationalism!

 

Cheers,

Woodpecker

 

Long live Europe!

The castle of Kufstein, part of the European miracle.

The castle of Kufstein, part of the European miracle.

This weekend plus two days off from extra hours (who would ever opt for getting them paid out if he can have additional free time for it?!?), was good for a spontaneous four-day trip of the Woodpeckers clan to the Bavarian mountains.

Staying at a nice basic apartment close to lake Schliersee for about 40 EUR per night, we had a fantastic and not too unfrugal time.

Luck was with us, the first snow of the year fell plentiful only one day earlier, it was crisp cold and clear, sun was shining the whole time.
Thus nature abundantly granted us with all its beauty and free wonders. A nights walk through the snow, a hike up to a mountain hut with a 5 km sledge ride back, snow-ball fights, half a day in the local steam bath and all the other stuff you wouldn’t want to miss when being out with your kinds on a winter day.

However, as much as I could talk on and on about the fun and good feelings nature provides to our lives, this is not my topic today.

My topic today is Europe. Continue reading

Poland and its lovely cities.

The historic harbour side of Danzig / Gdansk. A lovely spot! (more pics below)

The historic harbour side of Danzig / Gdansk. A lovely spot! (more pics below)

The Woodpecker clan’s summer tour continued from our sailing trip to Poland, Germany’s eastern neighbour.

Definitively a frugal option, as this place is quite affordable from a German point of view, and obviously much less crowded than southern countries.

And an exotic one as well.
A quick survey among Woodpeckers mates and colleagues showed that about 20% of them have already seen Thailand, but only 5% have seen Poland.

Did I like it?

Difficult to say.

Crossing the border to Poland. Left Germany, right Poland. No controls, nothing!  This is Europe, may it live long and prosper!

Crossing the border to Poland. Left Germany, right Poland. No controls, nothing!
This is Europe, may it live long and prosper!

Our round trip first took us from Rügen to Kolberg / Kolobrzeg (former German resp. Polish name)  a famous beach destination at the Baltic Sea.
The fine sanded and calm beach stretches out for more than 200km+ on Poland’s northern coast (no typo – due to the geology of the Baltic Sea, virtually all of Poland’s coast is beach.)
This is fantastic for beach lovers, however I personally prefer a little bit variety, e.g. some hills or mountains or cliffs plus little bays next to the sea, instead of endless flat lands.

Next we continued to Danzig / Gdansk.
A fantastic city, that beat all our expectations! A lovely old Hanse city, perfectly renovated and with a vibe and historical flair than will take you in its ban for sure, should you visit it.
Plus very affordable food in excellent restaurants on the river front, the historic place etc. Very good quality at very frugal prices – Woodpecker spent great parts of the days in fish restaurants, at prices half what you’d pay in Munich. Makes sense to take advantage of good value, as eating out at this prices strikes me quite ok. Thus, a frugal autumn/winter with much less restaurant thrills back at expensive home will be easy to stand!

We took a historic excursion by boat to Westerplatte, a little island where the Nazis started WWII on 1st September 1939, probably one of the saddest and most stupid moments in the history of my country and whole Europe.

Driving south toward Breslau / Wroclaw was kind of a bore and where exhausting, as the highway network is still quite limited in Poland. Landscape is flat, flat, flat, most villages or towns we passed did not seem interesting. No match to countries like Italy or France or Germany, where you stumble over beautiful spots or sights with every step you take. I guess the more hilly area in Poland’s South-East might be different…

Breslau / Wroclaw again was beautiful!
Especially the lovely town square, which we hit on a sunday. All the city seemed to meet up there in a way that radiated a quite southern atmosphere. Buildings and streets again form a very harmonic ensemble – you get to ask yourself why modern cities are never able to match this harmony.
Have we somehow lost some sense for this on the way?!

All in all it was a nice an affordable trip, very interesting to get to learn a bit more about our neighbor, and the cities very beautiful.

However, Poland is not a southern nation, so weather was a bit mixed, and even colder than average in Germany. Plus the countryside is a bit uniform.

So I guess next year we will be heading south again 😉

I’d recommend to visit the cities Danzig, Breslau (and Kraków probably) directly, or as a short trip, should you have the opportunity. You will not regret it.

Cheers,

Woodpecker

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hover for captions, click to enlarge:

Plitvice Lakes National Park – Woodpeckers Croatian Highlight

This park with its hundred of waterfalls was benchmark setting for Woodpecker - and belief me, I have seen a few waterfalls before!

Plitvice park and a few of its hundreds of waterfalls. Benchmark setting for Woodpecker! …and belief me, I have seen a few waterfalls before!

Last post on Woodpecker clan’s little spring travel.

You love nature and water? You love spectacular landscapes, clean air, beautiful creeks and unspoilt mountains?

You live in Europe and think about a trip to Africa, Southern America or wherever you can see all that fantastic nature?

Forget it! Save 5.000 EUR by simply following Woodpecker’s advise and go to:

Plitvice Lakes National Park.

This is a quite huge and unspoilt area in the Center of Croatia, where there still life all sorts of wild animals, including bears, wild cats and so on. And it hosts some benchmark setting waterfalls, that are created and are ever-changing due to a complicated sedimentation process typical for this area.

An astonishing area that we visited on a day trip from out base at the sea. And we were incredibly lucky – it was about the only day of the trip that entirely lacked rain.

Not perfect, but ok weather indeed for taking photos, see yourself (hover for captions, click to enlarge):

Cheers,

Woodpecker

A chilly trip to Croatia

Zadar, Croatia, Thunderstorm approaching.

Zadar, Croatia, Thunderstorm approaching.

Woodpecker clan is back from it’s little spring trip.

After the beautiful and relaxing Ljubljana we continued to our camp site in Croatia.
This was planned to be this years beaching highlight (as summer will bring an inland trip to Romania) – but boy, had we a shitty weather!

With rain virtually every day and temperatures well below 20 degree C most of the time. And then the wind!

Not really what you expect when you are up to a new sand-castle record with the kids.

So actually the only person who had a minimal bathing experience (would go so far and call it fun), was Woodpecker who forced himself to the sea for 10 minutes on a relatively dry day.

But what can I say?

Thanks to the kids, who once again proved amazingly immune against mood-swings due to bad weather, Mrs Woodpecker and me somehow managed to maintain a good spirit and after all it was a pretty good time down there! (although the single pullover and the single long trouser I brought were quite sticky after a week or so while the pile of short cloth remained untouched in the car.)

Actually the good thing is that few situations lack a positive side to them.

In our case, we had ample chance to test the rain-proofeness of our new (and fortunately very large) tent in all sorts of precipitation:

– light rain

– dripping rain

– enduring heavy rain

– horizontal wind gust driven rain

– heavy thunderstorm rain

– ordinary splashing rain.

So now we know: The tent is waterproof! A good thing to know in fact, isn’t it?

Another pro was the entire relief from any time pressure at all.

I mean we all seldom took so much time to get up in the morning, I don’t think I ever spent so long under a warm shower before, we often extended cozy breakfasts in “bed” until noon or so and when rain was pausing we strolled with amazing slowness through a little village or countryside we did excursions to.

Belief it or not, being forced to do so little was an experience in itself!

And then, the few time the sun came through: Ahhhh!

This were quite magical moments!

People flocking out to the open, breathing the fresh rain washed air, the light magic with a clear and crisp blue sky with contrasting heavy clouds in it and the light a paradise for a photographer.

See yourself (hover for captions, click to enlarge):

Next post I’ll add some fantastic pictures from an excursion to the Plitvice lakes (see here). Got lucky there and full sunlight the whole day!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Ljubljana (plus Postojna) – a real gem in South Central Europe

The Slovenian National Flag at the castle.

The Slovenian National Flag on top of the Ljubljana castle.

Travel time again!

This time, the Woodpecker clan headed out to the South East of Europe, a region a bit less well-known to us so far – and yet so beautiful.

Final destination was some beach time in Croatia (see some of the next posts on how nature did not agree to our plans on that).

But as a first stop we checked in to the capital of Slovenia:

Ljubljana, a real gem far beyond Woodpecker’s expectations!

Actually, the city is a great spot to relax, simply walk around and soak up the somehow rural and laid back feeling of this small but beautiful and diversified country.

In fact, I have never seen a capital anywhere on the world so laid back and with that kind of “village” flair like Ljubljana, and belief me, I have seen quite a lot of capitals so far. (only thing I saw as calm as Ljubljana was maybe Canberra in Australia, but this was more calm in a boring way to me, whereas Ljubljana comes in calm in a “enjoy a relaxed life” way).

Ljubljana sits in a beautiful surrounding at some small rivers between high peeks of the Alps on the horizon, it has about 250.000 inhabitants, and even the most lazy of you can reach everything by foot. Plus a funicular railway up to the castle hill if you are really that lame or have kids who enjoy riding vehicles as much at junior Woodpecker.

The most beautiful area is however the promenades and places around the river Ljubljanica with plenty of cafes and chill out places in the shade.

A great place for around three days. Not much more perhaps, but these three days you will enjoy utterly!

See yourself (hover for captions, click to enlarge):

Next stop took us to the absolute amazing

Caves of Postojna.

Simply amazing!
And benchmark setting for Woodpecker in terms of caves.

The caves are so huge that you would be able to put a dwarf city like the “Mines of Moria” there. A real Lord of the Rings setting, that is.

Actually, they even have a bridge like the “Durins bridge” in Moria that is crossed by the fellowship in “Lord of the Rings” (see pic below).

And the cave is so huge that you enter it by a roller coaster like train. It is running at high-speed through the first 3 km of the cave system. And it is VERY narrow. Stick out your head and you’d be beheaded for sure. Creepy!

See yourself (hover for captives, click to enlarge):

Next stop on this trip was close to Zadar, Croatia.

Cheers,

Woodpecker