... in east germany

Sushi in Suhl

25 Dec 2007 | 701 words | food germany east germany 90s tourism japan

So i am at my parents place (somewhere in the middle of eastern Germany some 2 hours south of Berlin) for the holidays and naturally we are talking about food most of the time. My brother just informed us of his (outrageous) plan to make Sushi for lunch. how insane is this? Making sushi somewhere in the middle of nowhere where all the shops are closed and even if they were open they would still not be selling fresh fish (my brother informs me that he has frozen fish that he intends to use, yuk!).

Now my father says that it is not such an outrageous thing to make sushi here as this area (provincial eastern Germany) used to have the best japanese restaurant in the whole of europe in the 70s and 80s. sounds a bit insane to me (why would the best japanese restaurant in europe be located deep in the provinces of (then socialist) East Germany) but apparently this has indeed been the case (if you can trust the interwebs, which of course you can’t):

In the late 60s some crazy east German engineer bought a restaurant in Suhl (local joke: ‘Suhl is so close to the edge of the world you can see Zella-Mehlis‘) and transformed it into the best Japanese restaurant in Europe [the following is my own crappy translation of a badly written article that appeared in a local newspaper on the occasion of Rolf Anschütz’s 75th birthday on the 4th of May 2007]:

In 1960 Rolf Anschütz became an apprentice Chef and started studies to become an engineer. In the mid 60s he bought the wine-bar “Der Waffenschmied” [pk: the Armorer] in Suhl. He had the idea to transform it into a Japanese restaurant since the time in the chef-school in Leipzig: Only among the people from the land of the rising sun the culture of food preparation constitutes the primary element of the national culture as a whole. He was fascinated with this observation and went to great length to create his own japanese restaurant:

41 years ago the chop sticks were hand made in a local carpenters shop and the rice bowls were sourced from a pottery shop in nearby Rümhilde and the engineer himself cut off the legs from chairs and tables to bring them to japanese proportions. He also hung cloth to the walls to simulate a far eastern ambience and on the 14th of february 1966 he started serving japanese cuisine in the GDR!

At that time he could not foresee the success that ensued over the decades to come – but a legend had been born that day in Suhl. A day that should change his life once and for all: The restaurant deep in the province quickly became insiders tip for culinary events and after japanese journalists had started reporting about this culinary highlight back in Japan reservations for a meal needed to be booked 2 years in advance.

The restaurant was running at full capacity and in 1978 he in introduced the japanese ‘Gastmahl’ [pk: guest meal] that was celebrated according to traditional rules – including a common bath of the guests before the meal. At this time the “Waffenschmied” belonged to the most respected japanese restaurants outside of Japan. In Europe it is the undisputed number “1” followed by Brussel and Japan [pk: since when is Japan in Europe?]. The whole world came to visit Rolf Anschütz: from South American cattle barons to Japanese tourists for whom it became a must to visit Rolf Anschütz in Suhl. More than 96.000 guests from Japan ate at “Der Waffenschmied”. In total more than 2 million visitors from 126(!!) countries were guests at this exceptional Restaurant and 186.000 among them took part in the bathing ceremony.

Apart from this rather dubious newspaper article there is not much information to be found online. however it seems that a feature film about the restaurant is in production at the time of writing (IMDB lists ‘Sushi in Suhl‘ as ‘in production’) and the film seems to have received production money from the film fund of the German federal state of Hessen.

Rolf Anschütz in the “Waffenschmied”

Rolf Anschütz with japanese guests

DDR 999

01 Sep 2006 | 56 words | east germany amsterdam

This morning when cycling to work i noticed this Mercedes S600 parked in front of the Hotel de l’Europe:

[DDR is the abbreviation for Deutsche Demokratische Republik (‘German Democratic Republic’ – GDR) a.k.a east Germany]. Kind of implies that not all former East Germans live in misery. also reminds me of this picture from pre-war Beirut.

Posters with multiple politicians on them

03 Sep 2005 | 282 words | elections democracy germany east germany lebanon

There are federal elections on the 18th in Germany. One of the parties contesting (and having a good chance of actually entering parliament) is the newly founded ‘Die Linke.PDS‘. This party is a merger of the PDS (which is the sucessor party to the former east German ruling party SED and the WASG which is a left wing split-off from the SPD. being a merger they have to leaders (Oskar Lafontaine & Gregor Gisi) and arguably the worst election poster so far:

That’s Lafontaine on the left and Gisi on the right. Its hard for me to imagine what went through the minds of the people who have come up with this arrangement. To me it looks like the guy on the left has died and the guy on the right is praising now dead leader for his wisdom and life time achievements. Now Oskar Lafontaine has not really died yet (although he has narrowly escaped an attempt on his life a couple of years ago) and Gisi has no real reason to kowtow to lafontaine like this (his PDS commands the bigger part of the potential electorate of the merged ‘Die Linke.PDS’) but maybe they have been inspired by the recent elections in Lebanon where having a dead godfather on your side (and lots of posters with him in the background hanging around town) has proven to be a decisive asset for the anti-syrian opposition. Speaking of Lebanon, they make much nicer posters with multiple politicians on them over there.

Update (10.09.05): Seems they have figured it out themselves and reverted to posters with single politicians on them: individual portraits of Oskar Lafontaine in West Germany and Gregor Gisy east Germany.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

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