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!




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.



Pics: Click to enlarge.

A Short Trip to Nördlingen or Belonging to Something Greater

What a nice medieval town!

What a nice medieval town!

This weekend was a long one, thanks to our ancestors who fought hard to make May, 1st into a holiday, the “day of work”, downshifters day to think of how to work less. 🙂

So dear grandma looked for the kids, and Mr+Mrs Woodpecker have been on a short trip to a little town about 100km away from Munich, called Nördlingen.

Weather was quite miserable, but in good old Woodpecker tradition this did not discourage us from having a good time, but on the contrary helped to keep other tourists out of our sight while enjoying history.

Like Rothenburg that we visited last year (gosh, forgot to write a post on that one!), Nördlingen is surrounded by a complete medieval wall in the form of a perfect circle (yes, you can surround it on the wall day and night, takes around 45 minutes).

On the minus side, Nördlingen has a bit less of medieval flair to offer than the infamous Rothenburg, but on the plus this comes with cheaper prices and much less tourists hanging out there.

The town is located in the impact crater of a 1km meteorite that hit south Germany 15 million years ago.
This makes it a geological unique location and there is a quite interesting museum on meteorite impacts located in town. That bloody thing had so much speed that the whole 1km-block vaporized during the impact, leaving basically a sea of molten rock – what a mess. Next impact a bit further away from Munich, if you please…

Castle Harburg

Castle Harburg

As always when travelling Germany, there is a lot of history to be found. In the case of Nördlingen it shows how a then very important town went into decline after a huge fight that took place in the 30 years’ war in 1634.

Castle Harburg

On our way back we discovered a great castle along the way: Castle Harburg.
As Woodpecker is a bit Castle-Fan, we stopped by for a guided tour, that was very interesting.
Only 15 km away from Nördlingen, that Castle was the seat of their enemies, the Öttingers and shows how amazingly small-sized the power-structures of those time were.

The castle is well worth a visit if you are around.


History – Belonging to Something Greater

More than only being entertaining, I love history because it can give you the feeling of belonging to something Greater. That you are part of something that spreads out beyond your own more or less unimportant and short live.
That in fact whoever and wherever you are, you are the today-living part of an endless chain that leads back into the fog of history and until the beginning of man-kind.And a chain that hopefully will as well lead forward into the fog of the far future of man-kind. A future that all of us cannot imagine, as little as the Harburg rulers could imagine the tourists running around in their castle with smartphones.

I think the feeling of belonging to something greater is an integral part of happiness, and next to family, friends, worthwhile projects, your history is a strong source of belonging.

Think about it!




Saving by Efficient Second Hand Buying

You can use money you saved on your cloths shopping to finance a healthy lunch at your next outdoor activity e.g. (Here: Siebenhütten,  Kreuth, Bavaria)

You can use money you saved on your cloths shopping to finance a healthy lunch at your next outdoor activity e.g. (Here: Siebenhütten, Kreuth, Bavaria)

Frequent readers noticed that I got away from focusing too much on aggressive money accumulation because it became clear to me that obsession about money leads as well to unhappiness as having no money at all.

Having said that I still 100% subscribe to the need of efficient spending.

The concept is easy:

Money can buy you nice things and possibilities but money typically is in short supply, plus we downshifters are not into working long hours to maximize income.

Thus spending money on the right things, as well as spending as little as possible on a give thing we want to buy, are important.

One way to do this is to buy second-hand stuff:

In todays consumption and throw away world, actually the second-hand market is one of the most inefficient markets I know – to the benefit of the buyer!
A book not even read but unpacked typically sells for only 60% of original price. Once read but in perfect condition it drops to 30%.
Electronic articles are incredibly cheap to get once they are half a year old and thus no more “fashionable”.
Toys, bicycles etc. are available at very low prices even if they are still in very good condition.
In general the second-hand market is always in oversupply as most people buy new stuff far too often with a need to get rid of their old gear.

The same holds to a very large degree for second-hand cloths.

Problem here is that second-hand stores are typically stuffed with all kind of crap, quality is extremely diverse and it is difficult and no fun to find good cloths in those shops.

Now Woodpecker by accident came across a very good internet service (Germany only?) to buy used cloths.

I typically do not promote internet shops and like to assure you that I am not connected nor paid by these guys.

The site is called ubup.com.

It offers an amazing choice of cloths that you can sort by quality, size and brand. They still might want to work on their search function a bit, but in general this is much better and more comfortable than eBay etc.

I (and Mrs. Woodpecker) did some test buys and went only for high-end brands (brands that we typically would seldom buy because they are too expensive in the shop) and for the very high quality section (i.e. barely used or unused).

And, voila, we were very positively surprised. Prices even in the barely used section come in around 25%-30% of the shop price, and the things we got were in fantastic condition, no shipping costs plus you can resend for free.

Please feel absolutely free to ignore this post but if you want to try the shop anyway and would like to support this blog a bit without a cost to you, you can use Woodpeckers promotion code.

That way you will get a 10 EUR deduction from your first purchase, and Woodpecker gets a voucher of 10 EUR as well.

The code works anonymously for both parties (tried it already with Mrs. Woodpecker) and would be:


Simply enter it at the check out page.



The fun of travelling Germany

Life ist great - but this guy even seems to enjoy death!

Life ist great – but this guy even seems to enjoy death!

Beginning of March – the annual boys Ski-Hiking tour to the mountains was due again.

However, as this year winter was skipped in Germany, snow is a very rare thing to find, and actually spring is all here already, we decided to cancel the stay at the hut and go for a small city trip instead.

Looking at the map for interesting cities within 2 hours drive that we didn’t know yet, we came across Passau, the “Three-River-City” at the very eastern edge of Bavaria. And off we went!

As most time with the old boys, it was a fantastic trip. Plus weather was very much on our side, as was frugality:

It is a definitive tip to go for an anticyclical city tour in Feb/March.

Typically crowded places are all empty, prices are low and people are relaxed and friendly.

So we started at Munich very relaxed in the late morning and when hunger and need for a good local beer came up (after merely one hours drive), we did our usual approach:

As we always travel without a guidebook, we just looked at the brown signs next to the autobahn that indicate natural or historical sights in the area. These are VERY frequent in Germany, in fact you find a sight each 10 km or so and we decided to pull out at a abbey (typically good beer and good food!) called “Kloster Niederaltaich” (never heard the name before).

And this is really the big fun when travelling Germany: Wherever you pull out from the Autobahn, you WILL find something interesting close by.

This time we found a church full of this homey guys lined up eight of them next to the walls:

Isn’t this great? These guys always enjoy a deluxe VIP box right in the impressive church hall.

After celebrating life with a good meal and some local brewn dark beer, we proceeded to Passau.

In off-season this is a particularly budget place, you can get a decent hotel room in a historical building right in the center for 40 EUR per night and person or less.

We went to the local youth hostel which is around 30 EUR per night and person, and then you live here:

The youth hoste is in the old castle overlooking the city.

The youth hostel is in the old castle overlooking the city.

Another view of the castle.

Another view of the castle.

Morning dust rising. Boy, the air was good there and it is amazingly quiet.

Morning mist rising. Boy, the air was good there and it is amazingly quiet.

Passau itself is a very lovely city, situated at the junction of the major rivers Donau (Danube) and Inn plus a smaller river called … I forgot.

I was bit lazy taking pictures, so the only photos I can provide is a view from our castle in the morning and the interior of the cathedral:

Passau in the morning mist.

Passau in the morning mist.

The cathedral. You cannot see it, but it also hosts the indoor largest organ in Europe (or the world?).

The cathedral. You cannot see it, but it also hosts the largest indoor organ in Europe (or the whole world?).

You will find a lot more photos in the internet. The city has a lovely old part, a magnificent cathedral, nice winded alleys, good and cheap food and a fully relaxed atmosphere.

Our trip continued with a day excursion to the National Park Bayrischer Wald. Nice, but not really my cup of tea. Maybe I’ll try again in 20 years as it seems to attract a more “senior” type of people. 😉

On our way back we also stopped in Altötting, a place of pilgrimage in Bavaria, with an amazingly catholic atmosphere. There definitly must be more churches than houses and more priests than bakers.

See pictures here (click for large version and caption):

All in all a great short trip at low expenses.

Recommended and a great start to the 2014 travelling season!



Housing – Buy or Rent?

3.000 EUR rent equivalent per month might be ok for this house. But for an ordinary row house in a suburb of Munich?! (Photo: Provence, France)

3.000 EUR rent equivalent per month might be ok for this house. But for an ordinary row house in a suburb of Munich?! (Photo: Provence, France)

One of the biggest financial decisions in your life will be the potential buying of a house.

Actually, this is a really  severe decision, especially in big cities or other expensive places; a decision than will determine your cash flows, your freedom and even your way of life for decades to come.

Thus it is amazing how blue-eyed most people approach this decisions. At least in Munich, Germany, where Woodpecker’s live, and where real estate prices are sky rocketing currently, the only thought people seem to have is:

How can I quickly get in the market before prices rise even higher?!

Woodpecker kept on observing this for a while now and I speak to as many people as possible who are currently buying houses or are looking for some, and virtually nobody ever put forward real economic arguments, like return on investment, opportunity costs etc.

Instead it is always:
Prices will continue to rise, so we have to join now.
Plus the inevitable:
Real estate is the only asset that will protect me from the coming hyper-inflation.

Real estate markets in Germany have not been booming for a long time, thus Woodpecker has limited experience, but I strongly belief these are signs of a bubble formation.

However, let’s get away from speculating and let’s look at the economics:

Does it pay to buy a house?!

I will not go into deep details of the economics (there an endless tools in the internet for those interested), but start with a more general quick-scan approach – some questions, that, although basic, most potential buyers seem not to consider (at least in Germany today).

First question is your motivation to buy a house.
This question will determine the value the good “living in an own house” has to you.

  1. Is your motivation purely economical on the optimal provision of the good “living in a house”? I.e. your decision is only driven by efficiency: Will you pay more by renting over decades or by buying?
  2. Does your motivation include a speculative element? I.e. apart from receiving the good “living in a house”, you want to speculate on the price changes of your asset “house” (You do that automatically, when you assume “prices will continue to rise”, “my city will continue to boom” etc.!).
  3. Do emotional values play a role for buying a house? Like feeling better or more secure when owning. Do you value very much the freedom to change things at your house, that would be difficult in rental homes? How much is this emotional part worth to you?

Next question is your investment alteratives. This will define your opportunity costs, i.e. the the chances you are forgoing as your money will be tied up in the house.

  1. Do you have an idea where to invest your principal in, if not in a house?
  2. What is the return you’d expect from such an investment?
  3. Does investing and caring for your money (e.g. buying stocks) is fun for you? Or is it a bore and secretly you’d be happy to put all your money in your house, so you don’t have to care about it anymore?

The third question is your expectations of the future. This tells you how the price of your house will develop. (I’d not overrate this bullet though – as the future tends to be a difficult beast to predict 😉 ).

  1. Do you really think the price of your house will always go up? Why should it? And why hasn’t prices always gone up in the past? Why do markets crash here or elsewhere? Are you sure you can judge the market and all factors better than those poor guys that messed up in the past or elsewhere?
  2. Do you really know how inflation works and that it will sky-rocket in the future? Do you have arguments for that or are you simply repeating statements that are circulated by others? Could it be the majority is wrong here?

The last question is very important for a downshifter, as it targets at your freedom.

  1. How long will you have to pay down mortgage on your house? How heavy will this burden be? Will it significantly reduce your dimensions of freedom (e.g. rates are so high, you will not be able to reduce working hours or take sabbaticals for the next 20 years or so).
  2. Are you prepared for a shock-event? Are you flexible to handle such an event even with a lot of debt on your shoulders? Shock events could be: You lose your job, you get somehow disabled, you get divorced. Etc. All that things tha can severely distort your mortgage plans and force you to very costly decisions.
  3. Are you ready to settle down here? Or do you want to keep flexibility to move around or experience new areas in your city later?
  4. Do you belief you will be able to sell the house later to consume the proceeds of the sale? If not, you will simply save for your kids – this is noble, but would certainly cut you off from much of the potential returns the house would generate.
    Typical example here: Woodpeckers elderly neighbours.
    They have no kids, but live on a huge ground, that I’d estimate 1.000.000 EUR worth, in a ridiculously huge (but run-down) house of 200+ sqm.At the same time they have to live like poor people because their retirement rents seem low and they are not willing to let go of the house. They could have it all: Travelling, great vacations, services, fantastic food, entertainment or charity for the rest of their lifes, instead they cling to this very run down house and the huge garden, while complaining about all the work it implies. A very irrational decision, but very common too. The price they pay for this “emotional aspect” of their house is virtually 1.000.000 EUR! Are you sure you will not end up like this?


In Woodpeckers case, the decision (at current market prices) goes as follows:

  • The decision on buying a house is to a great extend driven by economics.
  • We do not want to speculate on house prices. Real estate is not an asset class that we know well and I think most of my ideas on its development will be pure speculation or linear extrapolation of the status quo. Thus I’ll assume prices to rise along with general  inflation (2,5% p.a.) only, but not outperforming it. Same assumption on development of house rental prices.
  • My asset class is stock trading. I am confident to generate a minimum return of 5% p.a. after taxes. This is confirmed by past trading success and by market statistics, showing that stock markets over the long run yield even around 7% p.a.
  • Thus, I’ll expect a return of 5% p.a. for a house as well. Consequently I’ll take 20 times annual renting costs as a proxy for a “fair” house price. This is a good rule of thumb, there are some deviations to both sides as inflation, interests and change in rental fee, or renovations in the case of owning, but in general this factor has proven to work fine.
    The renting cost to be applied is the “cold rent”, as it is called in Germany, thus the rent before additional costs (insurance, utilities, taxes, heating), as the latter will have to be paid even if you own the house.
  • Woodpecker family’s current “cold rent” is 1.650 EUR p.month or 19.800 EUR per year for a 150 sqm house + garage + small garden.
  • If buying we want something similar or larger, thus a fair price for a similar house would be 19.800*20 = 396.000 EUR. Subtract around 10% of broker, tax, moving costs, this yields a house price before costs of 356.400 EUR.
  • Emotional value is existent, I’d value it at 2.000 EUR a year (…or even less, if you think about it in this way…), so let’s add 2.000*20 to the fair house price: 396.400 EUR.
  • For shock events, I’d like to subtract 10%, as cash or a liquid stock portfolio will be more flexible in those cases. And I’ll subtract another 10% as freedom and flexibility (e.g. to reduce working hours, or to take sabbaticals, or to move somewhere else) are very important to us, and much easier achieved if you have a fair amount of liquidity.
  • On the other side, I’ll add +20% to the fair price for potential security in an inflation scenario (although stocks should do ok in this case as well) and for securing against rental fee increases and potential hassles from having to leave the rental house.
  • Over all, fair price comes in at roughly 400.000 EUR (before tax and broker).

4-5 years ago, this would indeed have been an somehow achievable price in Munich for Woodpeckers type of used house.

Today, prices unfortunately are way off, probably around 500.000 EUR for our size and location of a 20-year-old house and around 650.000 EUR for a similar new built house in the neighbourhood sold to a colleague 3 months ago (and his was a row house only).

Translating this example of a new built house back to monthly cold rent, we would end at (650.000+10% broker+tax)/20/12= 2.980 EUR per month!!!

And would you pay an equivalent of nearly 3.000 EUR per month for a 150 sqm row house in a Munich suburb?

Well thanks, we would rather not, so we will continue to rent our house and maybe recalculate in case prices come down…



Film review: “Speed – In Search of Lost time”. A clever film on deceleration.

Film review on "Speed - On Search of Lost Time"

Film review on “Speed – In Search of Lost Time”

Do you often feel stressed and having no time?

That – despite of all the efficient methods you use – available time seems to diminish, rather than to increase?

You don’t remember the last time you really idled (and enjoyed it) or when you read a book for two hours without interruption?

You are often thinking: “Tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, after I finished this and that, I will take more time for friends, family and kids”?

You cannot remember the last day (or even the last half day) you spent entirely without internet or cell-phone?

If the answer to some of the above is YES, then you are not alone.
In fact you belong to the majority in western society.

You are suffering from uncontrolled acceleration.

In my opinion the main disease of our modern times.

Actually, yesterday I had a planned internet and phone free evening (at work it is hard to avoid), so I digged out from our library a nice little documentary film on the phenomena of the “accelerated society”:

“Speed – In Search of Lost Time” (link here, unfortunately German only).

A highly recommended film, where the author tries to find out why he is always stressed and tensed, what are the reasons for society’s acceleration and what are potential alternatives.

The film is available in German only, but I’ll try to extract some highlights:

  • An interview with a man of Sueddeutsche Zeitung (a very well-respected German newspaper) who did live without internet, computer and cell-phone for 1/2 year, and his experiences while looking for fax-machines or public phone booths.
  • Meeting with Douglas Tompkins, who is planting trees that need 1000 years to grow up. This guy founded the cloth labels Esprit and Northface, but then left the business and bought a huge piece of land in Chile to “deprive it of acceleration”.
  • Interviewing one of the most celebrated business consultant lady (OMG, what a cold and dead person she is) on her “mission to make the world a better place by accelerating it”.
  • Staying with mountain farmers that live entirely without watches, have no holidays and stuff thus seem very relaxed (the secret seems to be living by a rhythm instead of a tact. A tact (like the tact of the clock or the machine) is merciless and ever pressing. A rhythm instead is repeating as well, but it adapts to the nature or the body and allows for deviations.
  • An interview with the Minister of Happiness in the state of Bhutan, where the growth of the country is measured by “Gross National Happiness” instead of GNP. This guy made the most clever comment in the film:“The key to happiness and deceleration is to forget about the notion of ‘time is money’ and replace it by the notion that ‘time is life’ “.Woodpecker couldn’t agree more.
  • Meeting with the German Sociologist Prof. Hartmut Rosa (link in German) .
    His core theory on the subject can be summarized as below:
  1. Stress is caused by having too many options in today’s world, thus being forced to make decisions all the time (and forgo millions of other opportunities at the same time)
  2. Acceleration is caused by the use of competitive logic to not only economics, but to all areas of modern life, e.g. to social contacts, friends, hobbies, family, religion. People fear very much to be “left behind” and thus do all to “stay in the game”. From a historical point of you this focus on competition was never the case before.
  3. A vicious circle is started:
    “People feel stressed by the high tact of modern life” -> “They have little time” -> “They get inpatient” -> “They expect others to act quicker (e.g. the phone hotline, the computer startup, the teller in the supermarket, colleagues at work etc.) -> “Demand is generated for more accelerated technical or organisational solutions” -> “People feel even more stressed by the high tact of modern life”-> etc.

Unfortunately, the film does not really provide a more general solution, except for small tips (like testing out your internet/iPhone/blackberry addiction by internet-free days, saying “no” more often, follow a rhythm instead of a tact, stop spinning around yourself etc.) and a vague “everybody has to find out for himself”.

And actually it misses any hint at all at Downshifting!

Where downshifting at its core (at least in Woodpeckers definition) is a lot about deceleration and living in the here and now.
As well as it is a lot about breaking out from the vicious cycle of “staying in the game” and finding ways to organise life outside the competition postulate.

But apart from this little aspects missing (maybe they are saved for part two 😉 ), the film is a must-see for any German-speaking downshifting candidate!
Go to your local library and find out!

And please let me know any similar films you know in English or German!