Americans keep asking me about the elections. I'm as baffled as anyone. One German I mentioned this to said "If they figure out what's going on, could you have them tell us?" Fortunately, my favorite political junkie was over last night, and here's what I was able to discern from the conversation.
The whole thing seems to hinge on the FDP, the "liberals." Like any good liberals, they don't really stand for anything, at least not monolithically. The party is divided between a rightish-sorta wing and a leftish-sorta wing. Depending on which party, the conservative CDU/CSU or the social democratic SPD (currently in power), gains the upper hand, it will form a coalition with the FDP, and that wing of the liberals will be the dominant one in the party. However, nobody seems to know who's going to get the upper hand. There is a lot of talking going on, more than usual, which may account for the cloud of hot air I saw over the Reichstag yesterday when I went to record some Fresh Air pieces at ARD.
But even with the FDP on deck, it's still not going to be a big enough coalition to actually rule. Thus, it would appear it'll be a three-way coalition, but which of the two major parties gets to pick the Chancellor is still up in the air. It's likely that because she performed so badly in the vote, Angela Merkel won't be given the Chancellorship if the CDU/CSU comes out on top, and it's just as likely that Gerhard Schröder's run is over. As for the only politician everyone I know likes, the Greens' Joschka Fischer, he's announced that he's through with having a big-time position (he's been Foreign Minister) and will be stepping down.
In short, it's a mess. And if you don't understand it, you're in very good company. Like, most of Germany
Getting back to things I do understand because I can see and experience them directly, that strange shop with the Mörder sign near my house is proceeding slowly, and is giving out business cards for something called Unternehmen-Mitte, featuring a website with nothing on it yet. Unternehmen means business, concern, or enterprise, and they promise "arts and crafts and an espresso bar," according to the sign. All very mysterious and inconclusive.
Two doors down, the Turkish bakery is now offering bagels and ciabatta. A certain cultural boundary has been breached, I think. Although the thought of Turkish bagels, I have to admit, is extremely scary.
Another thing people keep asking is how the move to France is coming, and the answer is, slowly. I have made one very nice discovery, though, in The Languedoc Page, a very nice collection of links and information maintained by a guy named Peter. It's also got a forum/community thing going which I joined, mostly to lurk and see what's going on. (Seems to be some difficulty in getting a cricket game going at the moment).
Languedoc seems to be turning into the new Provence, albeit without quite the publicity, since Kevin Moon doesn't seem to have turned into Peter Mayle yet. There's lots of talk about buying country property and transferring money from England. I have some questions about that, too, but it'd be about transferring a little over €10,000 -- once I have it -- from Berlin rather than a few hundred thousand pounds from Britain.
Sheesh, I'm already intimidated by my neighbors and I haven't even moved there yet.
Coming attractions, posted here mostly to shame myself into getting around to doing them, will be the adventures of Chinky Chinaman and Co. in Berlin (new adventures in racism and cultural incomprehension), and a trip to a vanished spa, yet another tale of Berlin's completely ignoring its history. Both with photos. I gotta get that camera out and working!
More later, I promise.