Thursday, October 21, 2010


Cousin B and I had a couple of lively debates (ahem) over the aggressive tendencies of different groups, including the U.S. and ancient Rome. And while there's certainly nowhere in the world you can go that hasn't seen bloodshed, the fact that it happened so recently in Germany affected my perception of the country.

It was as if a shroud hung over Cologne on some level. We walked by a park one day; there was a big stone building in the center of the park, and a sad-looking statue similar to an Irish potato famine monument on my jogging route in Cambridge.

Turns out the stone building was the headquarters of the Gestapo.

Later, at the train station, we saw a plaque denoting the horrible side of German efficiency: 11,000 Jewish people had been shipped off to concentration camps from that very station in just one year.

What I found more strange than sad was the street vendors selling laminated placemats. One side featured brightly-colored maps of Germany.

The other had a collage of black-and-white photos of various landmarks and parts of the city after 93 percent of it was bombed-by the RAF, it turns out. (I'd originally thought perhaps it was us.)

I can't imagine why they were selling this stuff, other than the most obvious-that people buy it.


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