Germany – a far away country

It takes only a little more than nine hours in the plane to get back to Germany, so some of my journeys within China have been much more time intensive, like the 12 hour bus ride from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou or the 18 hour train ride from Guilin to Kunming. Although places inside China are not the all same either, there is still a huge difference of traveling within China and going back to Germany. In a recent post I already mentioned some of differences that Liu Yang points out in her artwork that just too true – and now I had to cope with them by myself.

After a very nice flight (left Beijing around 2 p.m. and had daylight outside for the whole flight) I got back to Germany, a little colder than Beijing, but the air was much cleaner. I’ve been to some places in the mountains with very clear air, but even after being in Germany for a few days, it still surprises me to see the crystal clear sky between buildings. On the other hand I am back to German bureaucracy and unfriendliness. While waiting for my luggage at the Frankfurt airport I could once again experience how German custom officers behave when checking the luggage of a foreigner who barely speaks any German.
When I in China, people seemed happy with me speaking Chinese (even so with errors) and were typically very eager to help me. Of course, at some places I have been to during my journey, I have was somehow standing out at places where few foreigners come to. But in general this only made Chinese more friendly and the locals were trying to show us something about their village. In Germany I am not special any more, but I like it that way…

One of the big differences is the price gap. Things are so much more expensive in Germany, especially food! Even prices in China have risen in the past months, it is still much cheaper to go shopping in China. And there are a lot of things that I simply cannot effort in Germany because they are too expensive for me: While taking a taxi every now and then in China was not a huge expense, a single trip tram of bus ticket in Kassel costs more than a 4 or 5 km taxi ride in Beijing.

When I got back to Kassel, I went to the documenta, one of the world’s most important exhibitions for contemporary art. This year there was somehow a focus on Asia, or maybe the works by Asian artist were simply more outstanding for my eyes. The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) who is also involved in the 798 factory was one of this year’s documenta’s stars. He brought 1001 Chinese people to Kassel with his “Fairytale” project, making it possible for very different groups of Chinese (farmers, students, a designer, …) to come to Germany. Today I watched a movie that was shot during the project, total length was about eight hours so I only saw part of it – I missed the part of the Chinese actually being in Kassel, but I saw them preparing their journey. So many of there customs and habits as well as the surroundings were familiar to me…
Another work by Ai Weiwei is the “Template”, a huge gate made from old windows and doors that were once used in Hutong streets that were tore down.

Ai Weiwei’s Template
Ai Weiwei’s “Template” was built from doors and windows from old Hutong streets…

Old doors are used as fence in Shanghai Hutongs
…so the artwork reminded me on the doors used as a fence in a Shanghai Hutong area.

Another artwork of the documenta also is dealing with the aspect of changing cities in China and the vanishing Hutong streets in the capital. Beijing based artist Lu Hao (卢昊) had made a 50 meter wide drawing of Chang’an avenue to the left and to the right of Tian’anmen. He used the a painting style from old Chinese paintings but actually draw the street as it was in 2005. Even by now, I could notice a little change to the street in 2007 here and there.

Lu Hao’s drawing of the Xinhua gate of Zhongnanhai
Lu Hao’s drawing of the Xinhua gate of Zhongnanhai

Xinhua gate of Zhongnanhai
…and a picture I took there on my last day in Beijing.

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