Thursday, March 02, 2006

Freiburg Fresh

This just in from Philippe Holtzweiler, Managing Director of HOPE International Communications in Freiburg, Germany, and occasional champagne-bearing guest with us in Houston. So I pass it along because it’s got some European and Dialogue news (and a compliment or two about me).

Hello, Richard, I read about your new venture into podcasts – there has started to be some talk about them here. But again, you are impressively cutting-edge.

We finished our fiscal year 2005 with a heavy workload (i.e. a nice amount of billable hours), but with neither the opportunity to revel in ‘La trève des confiseurs*’ nor to send out any seasons greetings: I'm afraid that the ho, ho, ho tune will have to uttered by the ‘Osterhase.’ Our 2005 net profit rose tremendously. (You probably know the joke about Skoda back in Communist time: Skoda has achieved a 300% increase in production – instead of producing 10 cars a month, they are up to 40). Yet the shadow of two fairly disastrous years (2003 and 2004) still loom in the background.

We have won an interesting new account, in Paris of all places (for the national French association of heating systems professional). In parallel, we are developing our internet expertise, going increasingly from concept and screen design all the way to programming. These days maximizing the added value is the name of the game – at least in Germany or France where morale and poultry sales are low and falling further (with swans dropping dead by the dozen as well as erratic ducks and a whole turkey farm in France proving to having been infected by the H1N5 virus in the last days.

More awful yet: a cat died of the bird flue according to today’s broadcasts. With the number of cats statistically dying on any given day, I just wonder how they singled out this one, but that’s another story).

By the end of March, we will have the next Dialogue meeting in Gdansk. I just hope more ideas will surface than was the case in Budapest. Wining and dining is nice (especially when part of it is deductible from German taxes), seeing old friends too (but I think that Timo Kivi and I are the sole survivors of times gone), and going to nice places is indeed pleasurable.

With the price wars raging between low cost airlines, it has got easy to go anywhere in Europe for around US$100 return – and cheap enough to go there on one’s own. I had my last pack of beef jerky yesterday, reason enough to go to the US to replenish the stock. But it’s not yet the time. All the best to Barbara, hoping she (and you) are fine. Viele Grüße aus dem kalten und verschneiten Freiburg…Champagne Phil.

*Something to do with candy-makers – which I think means whoop-it-up-time. I have got to get better at my European languages. Meantime, Philippe, congratulations on the new business, and have a great time in Gdansk. RLB.

1 comment:

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Philippe wrote back with some translations:

“Trève des confiseurs” is an old French expression (dating back to the 18th century): it literally means the Confectioners' Truce, as it was deemed sensible (at least back then, but those seem in retrospect to have been gentler times...) to interrupt whatever conflict was going on in order to indulge in some seasonal sweets and pastries between Christmas and January 1st.

As for “Osterhase,” this one is the Easter Hare, who has brought generation of kids in the German-speaking areas and in the East of France the traditional chocolate eggs (in former times, these were just colored or decorated boiled eggs. On the fresh produce market of Freiburg, they are still on sale around Easter) that are the usual Easter gift to children.

This tradition is still much older that the “trève.” Actually, specialists trace it back all the way to pagan times, when the (rapidly multiplying) hare and the egg were considered to be fertility symbols for the return of spring. In Christian times, it just came in handy that this return of spring happened around the same time as Easter, and the tradition was absorbed and kept alive to this day.