During our last visit to Germany (Stuttgart, Baden Württemberg, Southern Germany) we learnt that also this city, as all major German cities, has an artificial hill made of debris removed from the bombed buildings.
Downtown Stuttgart on a cloudy day. The city is surrounded by hills. The high density of new buildings mixed with older ones is a war legacy
Around Stuttgart lies a range of heights which give the city its beautiful look of an inhabited hollow surrounded by a crown of green hills.
One of those hills was chosen as the final resting place of Stuttgart’s postwar debris. The place’s name is Birkenkopf, and with its additional 120 ft of height due to piled rubble, has become the highest point in Stuttgart. Dirt has been added to allow tree growth.
The total amount of ruins piled on Birkenkopf is 15 million cubic meter.
In the Globalization Era coping with cultural shock is a more and more hot topic. I am going to give an example of what happened to me and how I dealt with it.
Culture Shock Typical Pattern
When I was in Switzerland since less than a year, more or less at a time when I was at the first low of the pattern(*), in a period in which many typical Swiss-life-things gave me stress, I received a letter from the local city hall.
Despite my lack of knowledge of German, I understood at a glance what the letter was talking about .
Saint Gotthard Pass in Switzerland, together with Saint Gotthard railway tunnel and the road tunnel, represent a major European transit point connecting Northern and Southern Europe through the Saint Gotthard Massif, a mountain range in the Swiss Alps.
Saint Gotthard Pass
Saint Gotthard Pass in summer – Click on it
Saint Gotthard Pass is a relatively low altitude (2,100 m, or 6,900 ft) passage point in the Gotthard Massif, in the middle of the Swiss Alps. It has been used over the last hundreds of years as a crossing point for people and goods transportation. To the north lie the Swiss cities of Zurich and Bern, then the Rhine basin and Germany. To the south, the Ticino Valley with the Swiss Canton bearing the same name, followed by the valleys of Northern Italy.
Although the pass is entirely located on Swiss territory, it is part of both a geological and a linguistic continental divide.
The pass crosses the European continental watershed that separates the Mediterranean Sea basin from the North Sea Basin. This division also reflects on languages spoken by inhabitants of both sides: while both Swiss citizens, south inhabitants (Canton Ticino) speak Italian, while north ones speak German (Canton Uri).
This separation is found throughout all the Alps.
Nowadays Gotthard Pass is mainly a leisure summer destination where enjoying sight of mountains’ majesty and refreshment from heat. It is closed to traffic in winter. A few small lakes lie on pass plane.
Saint Gotthard Railway Tunnel
Saint Gotthard Railway Tunnel is a 15-kilometer (9 miles) tunnel built inside Saint Gotthard Massif at an elevation of 1,100 meters above sea level.
It was excavated in the 1870s and opened to rail traffic in 1882. Its construction claimed the lives of approximately 200 people, including the engineer leading construction, Louis Favre.
The tunnel took over traffic from the pass since its completion and has served as a major connecting passage between northern and southern Europe to this day. It is mainly crossed by passenger and freight trains that reach Italy from Switzerland and from Germany.
Railway and Motorway Approaching Saint Gotthard
A Glimpse On The Valley While Approaching Saint Gotthard
Following car traffic increase in the 1960s and 1970s, a road tunnel was constructed at approximately the same level of the old railway tunnel, and opened in 1980.
With its length of just over 16 km (10 mi), Gotthard road tunnel was the longest road tunnel in the world at its completion and it is now the third.
The tunnel features a heavy traffic load. Since there is only one lane for each direction and a safety distance is mandatory for vehicles, traffic lights are placed at both ends in order to dilute traffic inside the tunnel. This can result in massive traffic jams outside the tunnel, that can reach almost 20 km (12 mi) in length in summertime.
Traffic jam at north portal of the Saint Gotthard road tunnel, August 2012 – Click to enlarge
While Saint Gotthard Pass is no longer used for transportation, both Gotthard railway tunnels and road tunnel will see their traffic increasing in the following years, gaining importance for trans-Europe transportation.
If you’re not a native English speaker, many will tell you how important it is for you to understand and speak English. How little you can do if you master only your own language, which, while spoken by [put how many million speakers you like here] will turn completely useless as soon as you cross the border. That if you want to work abroad, without English you’ll never stand a chance for international jobs.
All of that is definitely true. Together with Spanish, English is the 2nd most spoken language in the world as a native language (after Chinese), and the most widely spoken if we include non-native speakers. It is the Lingua Franca of modern times.
So, I speak English quite well. Do I need to learn another language?
Well, it depends on the country you’re going to, and on how long you plan to stay.
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