Snowfall in Jiangsu Province, China

A friend of mine, Reiner Gehles, has been living near Taicang in the Jiangsu Province for almost seven years. He got to experience a rare snowfall (the climate is usually temperate in winter), and gave me permission to share his most wonderful photos here.

This well-known Grand Canal runs through the entire province from north to south.



Germans are no longer World Travel Champions

Based on stats released by the governmental tourism bureau of China, Germans have just been moved to second place on the list of Reiseweltmeister (world travel champions).

Results from other tourism offices differ from this latest result, but are in agreement to China beginning to overtake the Germans in regards to Reiselust (also similar to Wanderlust).

In 2011, Germans spent almost 61 billion euro on travelling with the favorite locations being Germany itself, Spain, and Austria. The euro numbers for travel spending in 2012 are expected to be even higher.

Shanghai and Air Pollution

17 of the 20 most polluted cities are supposedly in China (source: documentary), which reminded me of the trip taken there in 2005.

Most times, we were chauffeured by our host’s driver, and unpleasant places were avoided. But on a separate trip to Shanghai, I got a clearer view of its environmental problems.

Granted, since that time, some issues might have improved, but on the big scale, Shanghai probably still has the same problems as other industrial cities do.

Cars pollute the air. In subtropical heat, I walked around in sandals during the day. I really had to scrub my feet, blackened by carbon, in the shower each evening.

Many pedestrians just dropped their trash on the spot with a city employee (mostly senior citizens) sweeping up the trash right behind. I remember seeing a young woman dropping a banana peel on the ground. The garbage bin had been in arm’s length.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Shanghai. It was taken around 3 p.m. During the three days we spent there, the polluted mist never seemed to lift its carbon veil.

Shanghai in the afternoon

Chinese Solar Power Pioneer wins Alternative Nobel

Some of you might wonder why I would report about Huang Ming receiving the 2011 Right Livelihood Award (a.k.a. alternative Nobel prize). My blog is usually about Oberursel, tourism, and my own trips.

But one of those trips took me to Mr. Huang’s home in 2005.

Starting fall 2003, I started tutoring his daughter who, at that time, was attending a boarding school in Switzerland. As half of her education was conducted in German, along with English, she then spent most of her school breaks with me in Oberursel learning English and German, respectively.

Mr. Huang had enrolled his daughter with HB.Language, a Swiss language agency, which places students for language studies in various countries. I am one of those teacher/host families.

During her first visit, her dad would call everyday to check on her progress.  With each further Study and Homestay program she enrolled, the phone-calls became fewer.

C. (name withheld) eventually left the Swiss boarding school to attend Frankfurt International School (FIS) in her final years, while being hosted by an FIS family.

Because of C., our son became interested in learning Chinese. After six years of private lessons, he had to give it up being a senior in high school now.

In 2005, with a little pressure from C. and our son, I agreed to visit the Huang family in China. Of course, we were splendidly hosted, but frankly speaking, I only learned about C.’s dad’s business/entrepreneurship while we were there. Yes, I was a little surprised to learn of  his 40 patents he holds in inventions, being a member of congress, the factory tour, and many other things.

During this time, we stayed in an apartment in Beijing. Then we were carted off to Dezhou (hometown), where we stayed in one of those worker hotels. The remainder we spent in a big beach house in Qingdao.

We were given many guided tours, served the best food, and were treated like special guests. Well, the Asian way.

The last leg of our time in China, we spent in Shanghai on our own. I like Shanghai the best, even though I learned there how polluted these big cities really are. While we were guests of the Huang family, we were driven around by a private chauffeur on every occasion. So we hopped into the van and out.

But in Shanghai, we walked everywhere. Each time we returned to our hotel to take a shower, we had blackened feet. We actually had to scrub our feet to get the dirt off.

Anyway, we got to see Mr. Huang a couple of times after that. This was usually while he was passing through Frankfurt on his way back from meetings in other parts of Europe.

Article in German: Alternativer Nobelpreis für chinesischen Solar-Unternehmer

Another article from

Congratulations to the Huang family!

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