Sunday, April 25, 2010

On the Great Wall

Greetings from Beijing.  Today I hiked on the Great Wall of China, my last of the "Seven Wonders of the World" according to the following list which is not universally accepted.

See the following link for other lists of the "Seven Wonders."

I hiked along the Mutianyu section of The Wall which is about an hour and a half from Beijing. Construction of the Great Wall began about 220 B.C. and it is 5,500 miles long.

On Saturday I joined a tour to see other historical and cultural highlights such as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and Tienanmen Square.

At the Forbidden City
Click on the following links for more information and pictures of these interesting places:

A few days ago I sent a few friends some Chinglish quotes.  This became an issue of interest during the Shanghai Worlds' Fair as reported in the following two links from the New York Times.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kim and Kimchi in Seoul

Greetings from South Korea where Kim is by far the most common family name ( and Kimchi is the country's best known food. With a German wife, I know well the role of  sauerkraut in the German diet but it doesn't begin to compare with the importance of pungent Kimchi in Korea.  It seems that no Korean meal is complete without it and I had no idea that one could prepare cabbage in so many different ways ((

I was in South Korea once before but since my cultured better-half wasn't with me then, I  paid little attention to the nuances of Korean history beyond the fact that the country was divided into North and South Korea following WWII.  From visits to several museums and palaces, I now see Korea as "the Poland of Asia" -- a pawn of history due to its unfortunate location between two powers. Japan and China have played dominant roles in Korea's history just as Russia and Germany have played in Polish history.  I am embarrassed to admit that until now I had not realized that Korea belonged to the Japanese Empire until 1945. which I'm sure all the rest of you remember from school!!


From a tourism point-of-view, there is more to see in Seoul than we expected, including several royal palaces and excellent museums.   (  Unfortunately we didn't make it to the DMZ ( but the US military presence in Korea is still much in evidence.  (  Most Koreans appreciate Americans and seem to emulate our lifestyle more than most Asians. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tokyo - Lost in Translation

Gertrud and I have been in staying in the Tokyo Ginza for the past week. For a short introduction to this area you can check out the following clip based on the movie "Lost in Translation" which was filmed here, 
We too have certainly gotten lost in the Japanese language and culture but have had a wonderful time nevertheless.  Gertrud has enjoyed browsing in the high-end stores during the week and we were able to visit the ancient capital of Kamakura on the weekend (  The famous Japanese cherry blossoms are currently out in full glory as shown below:

Gertrud with Japanese acquaintances
The Internet contains a great deal information on Japan so we will not bore you with a travelogue.  But you may be interested in knowing that the famous Japanese toilets are for real.  We have one in our hotel room and it is just like the one in the following clip.
Here is another unique Tokyo institution -- the hanging gas station

And here are a few news clips from what appears to be the Japanese equivalent of "The Onion":

From - The Negi "Reporting the News Before it Happens"

Toyota executives faced hostile questioning from a US congressional subcommittee on Wednesday, as Senators investigate reports of numerous, often deadly accidents involving highly intoxicated drivers who lost control of their vehicles. It is believed that Toyota cars and trucks are prone to accelerate without warning and difficult to bring under control when operated by inebriated drivers.

In graphic, sometimes horrifying testimony, Toyota owner Dale Hicks recounted losing control of his Corolla on March 12, 2006.

“I was coming back from a night with my friends at Pete’s Tavern when I reached for the fifth of whiskey in the passenger seat,” Hicks said, in a sometimes wavering voice. “Suddenly, the car swerved. I tried to correct it, but the wheel spun out of my hands. I tried desperately to regain control, but the car wouldn’t respond. The more I tried, the more erratic it became. Fortunately, I was able to stop with the help of law enforcement officials.”

“These high-speed death traps must be taken off the road, before more of our nation’s innocent drunks are senselessly killed,” thundered Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.).  Toyota executives responded by announcing a new drunk-driving-friendly auto made entirely from Nerf and Styrofoam.


Oscar-winning documentary The Cove continues to stir up controversy in Japan, where critics argue that the film paints a one-sided picture of the dolphin slaughters in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture.

“The concept that it is unlawful or immoral for the Japanese people to continue a centuries-old tradition is absurd,” said Fisheries Minister Sakana Ippai. “Because Americans think these animals are cute, they expect us to forget our own culture. For us Japanese, a 17-year-old idol eating a dolphin donburi is cute. But at no point in the movie did [the filmmakers] allow an adorable teen to remark how ‘Oishii’ this sea creature truly is. Without this, the film is biased and seems to suggest dolphins are smarter than our pop stars, which we know to be false. They are clearly equally intelligent.”