The Crumbiest Month

Just a couple of random things for those who aren’t at the Berlinale…

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A friend who works with a company here in Berlin that produces trade magazines, several of them for the food industry, was over the other day. “That bread you get in the bakeries here,” he was saying, “you know they don’t bake that on the premises, right?” Well, that hardly takes a genius; most bakeries don’t have the room to mix, form, proof, and bake bread. No, of course it’s brought in from somewhere else in what readers of a certain age might recognize as Brown N Serve condition and finished in the tiny ovens in the bakery. “Yeah, right,” he contined, “but here’s the really weird part. Do you know where that bread starts out?” In some factory somewhere, I suppose. “You’re right — but the factory is in China. They fly the bread in, frozen, and it gets distributed to an intermediate point, and then it gets thawed and delivered to the bakeries.”

I’m not passing this along as gospel, although I suspect it might be true for some of the chains. I’ve often known I was approaching Berlin on the train, for instance, because of a huge Thobens Bakeries facility just outside of Potsdam, but I don’t know what they actually do there. Anyone else have info on this? It’d help explain why the bread here is so bad — the independent bakery in Berlin is virtually extinct — but it would also open up a new market for German bakers: it would be just as easy to re-heat this stuff in ovens in America or Japan as it is to do it here. And you could market it as “authentic German bread.”

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Speaking of magazines, a friend passed this article along. Ho-hum, another magazine startup. But…Vanity Fair isn’t just any magazine. It’s hard to say if the Spiegel article is tongue-in-cheek — although, like the country it’s published in, it’s not known for a sense of humor — but there are some rather astounding things in it. Like this quote: “And rumors abound that Gruner + Jahr is already working on a magazine in case Vanity Fair is successful. The working title sounds like something Poschardt would come up with: Neues Deutschland or New Germany.” Ummm, I know Germans are expert at forgetting their history, but did no one notice that this was the name of the house organ of the East German government? I mean, I can go to the DDR Museum and buy a replica copy of the first issue for €1.50.

Not to mention the folly of doing this as a weekly, doing it as a weekly with a tiny staff, and running a picture of Till Schweiger with a goat on the cover of the first issue. Till Schweiger with his shirt off, sure, but…a goat??

Read it and weep.

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Which is pretty much what I did this afternoon while trying to figure out if I have enough in the bank for a round-trip train ticket to Paris. I probably do, but when you go to the Deutsche Bahn travel information page and try to book the ticket, you’re met with a link that says “Unknown Tariff Abroad.” Click it, and you get this message:

“For the most important foreign cities (e.g. Vienna, Amsterdam, Zurich) fares are available.

“For your requested connection fares are unfortunately not available.”

So Deutsche Bahn is still fighting the Franco-Prussian War and we, the customers, get the benefit.

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