Page 1




Our little red dot JANINA LOH


Surviving together HARALD MARTENSTEIN

No strings attached

Also: United by commerce, Divided by beliefs, Friends & foes


A good friendship is like a vintage wine: unlike love at first sight, it needs time to grow and evolve. And then, with luck, it will last longer than any stormy romance. Shared experiences and similar outlooks on life enable us to forge relationships that last a lifetime.

Close friends often understand our actions better than we do and are able to accept our quirks.

This creates a strong bond that cultures have immortalized in numerous symbols and rituals over the centuries.

Where friends can keep in touch and renew their association occasionally with shared experiences, they often feel more warmth towards each other than even married couples: “That’s the way she is” is the “I love you” of platonic friendship. This sense of attachment and belonging, of feeling important to somebody for simply being the person you are – is there really anything better in this world?

He came, he saw, he stayed. Willibald Nigsch is a rock. He has been working at Gebrßder Weiss for almost 40 years. In 1978 he began his career as a freight forwarding agent. Since 1991 he has been head of the branch in Wolfurt. When not at his desk he enjoys driving his convertible in the summer and skiing in the winter – as he reveals in an interview on page 31.

Do you have any close friends? Would you want any? You can friend ­people on Facebook but could you imagine a friendship with a robot? Or even with an ­inanimate object? Thoughts like these have all found a place in the ninth ­edition of ATLAS . Janina Loh presents some specifics while Janosch Schobin focuses on fundamentals. ­Willibald Nigsch and Michael Wohlgenannt may never be best ­buddies but, being great colleagues, they show that next-door neighbors can hit it off too. And that’s almost as important. Because, as Till Hein knows, partnerships at work can often heal personal differences. In fact, friendships can even blossom in the most adverse of circum­­­­ stances, as Alex Raack’s article on the Stockholm Syndrome ­reveals. So take a little time for friendship today – by acquainting yourself with this latest issue of ATLAS . Best wishes, Gebrüder Weiss

IN MOTION I Distance traveled on foot daily in kilometers:


Stone Age man


Letter carrier (today)


Office worker (today) Source:


IN MOTION II World records in speed skiing:

A peregrine falcon in vertical descent

345 – 360 km/h


242.590 km/h



252.632 km/h   

A swift gliding

180 km/h

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

PENPALS Days taken to deliver letters from Germany to

LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS Thanks to Voice Over Internet, a cellphone call from New York to ­London can cost nothing at all today. In the days of dials, it cost a small fortune (average cost of a three-minute phone call US dollars):  


3 – 6

New Zealand

4 – 8 8 –11

South Africa China

6 –14


8 –14

38.6 %

Users that only access the platform through mobile connections:

47 %

Parents on Facebook whose children are their friends:


Facebook friends of Gebrüder Weiss*: About



in 1930

in 1960

in 2000



Source: Brand Eins Online Archive

Source: Deutsche Post

Proportion of online population worldwide that uses Facebook:



10 –18


$ Total number of Unicode emojis*:

Number of emojis sent daily via Facebook Messenger



FIVE MOST REQUESTED Unicode emojis for animals:

1. Badger 2. Flamingo 3. Hippopotamus 4. Kangaroo 5. Sloth


Number of emojis representing food and beverages:



Number of emojis representing travel and places




* Status: September 2017  Source:,,


The world in motion:




Our little red dot




The plant whisperer

You again! Take five!






Famous friends



“At that point I’m done with harmony”


Divided by beliefs, united by commerce The Reformation and economic prosperity 56 


Know your friends!


Orange network



Shrinking the world bit by bit



Famous foes



Robot love? Empathy for ­everyone – and everything



My friend the kidnapper



Inseparable companions



Surviving together


No strings attached





is e lu re, the prom



reportage:  Rainer Groothuis It was warm enough to walk around unclothed and there was food aplenty. Good care was taken of the inhabitants by the powers-that-be, and as long as you abided by their rules the world was in order: such was life in the Garden of Eden. That paradise of the Old Testament has long been abandoned, but now a little red dot graces the maps of this world: every night the average temperature here is at least 25 °C, e­ very day 29 °C. There is great food to be had on every corner and peace reigns. Welcome to the island city-state of Singapura, Singapore. In the financial district, the never-ceasing flow of globalized money rules supreme; in the port some 30 million ­containers are handled annually and new buildings are mush­ rooming everywhere. With 11 million tourists pouring in each year many are proud that their Singapore has advanced to the status of global p ­ layer. Within the space of slightly more than 20 years, the smallest country in Asia has catapulted itself to the clique of the richest countries on earth; it is the second most important financial center on the continent (after Hong Kong) and ranks fifth in the Human Development Index. FAST AND FURIOUS

Populated by a few Malaysian fishing families and a refuge for pirates: that was Singapore at the start of the 19th century. When Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, a commercial agent for the East India Company, first stood on the banks of the Singapore River in 1819, he realized what he had discovered: a potential hub for world trade strategically located on the shipping route between China and Europe. It was here that he founded the first British post. By 1824, the East India Company had already taken over the entire island for a one-off payment of 60,000 dollars and an annuity of 24,000 dollars from the Sultan of Johor. When Raffles died of a stroke in 1826, his ­legacy was a thriving trading post that became a crown colony in 1867 – and rapidly burgeoned. In 1881, the 550 square-kilometer Singapore was home to more than 170,000. The Singaporeans do not regard the British period as an epoch of colonial oppression; nor do they see their independence from the crown in 1963 as an act of liberation from ­foreign chains. There was no violence, no one was cast out of paradise … the colonial decades are part and parcel of the quest for a national identity. Raffles is honored as the nation’s paterfamilias and founder. The British and Australians who fought off the Japanese invasion in 1942/43 are held in

Half lion, half fish: a popular destination for outings, the merlion – ­Singapore’s most famous landmark – overlooks the ­water at the city’s new Marina Bay. The name Singapore ­derives from the old Sanskrit words for lion (“singha”) and city (“pura”).


high regard, the war dead revered. The surviving colonial ­edifices have been renovated, their brick facades punctuated by white window frames, shutters and columns; they shine bright amidst the modern architecture that surrounds them in shades of gray. Singapore is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations; left-hand traffic and school uniforms are just as much the norm as high tea at the five-star “Raffles” hotel. The cricket club still maintains its grounds in one of the city’s central green spaces, and on its fringes one properly spends one’s leisure time at the British Recreation Club. Somewhere a sparsely frequented pub called “The Mad Sailors” advertises British food. And the founding father greets visitors everywhere – as a statue on the Singapore River, in square and street names, as a heritage brand for biscuits (aka cookies), tea and marmalade. Thomas Raffles began settling the island by inviting ­people from China, India and Malaysia to seek their fortunes in a brave new world – and they followed his call, building houses on the plots assigned to them by the British in the brand new city. Today the city-state’s permanent population is 76 percent Chinese, 14 percent Malaysian and 8 percent ­Indian, with the remainder being ­Europeans, Arabs and others. The national flag billows in the streets and on many of the houses: five white stars and a white slice of moon against a red background. Independence day is a major holiday – the country still needs to remind residents from three ancient cultures of their common identity. Which is already difficult when one considers there are four official languages: Tamil, Malay, Chinese and English. “The Straits Times,” the country’s largest newspaper that has been published since 1845, keeps 5.6 million inhabitants informed daily – about all the projects, big and small, that serve to define a national identity and cele­ brate the success extolled in the national anthem “Majulah Singapura” (Onward Singapore): Come, fellow Singaporeans Let us progress towards happiness together May our noble aspiration bring Singapore success. Come, let us unite / in a new spirit. Let our voices soar as one: / Onward Singapore, Onward Singapore. Onward they moved, and they intend to stay at the fore – even if the pursuit of happiness is not equally successful for everyone. The treadmill of life begins turning early on: many children can already read at age four, and almost write – those who make an effort are rewarded and can become winners in the race to prosperity and its trappings. Education is the secondhighest spending item in the national budget and basic health care is free; taxes are low, people are expected to make their own provisions for old age. Many double-income families can afford expensive apartments and two cars, with a nanny and vacations to boot.


The state has clear-cut rules and its citizens obey them; no one cares about the many surveillance cameras that have become fixtures in the cityscape. To Europeans, the sometimes draconian penalties seem absurd – but they work. The crime rate is lower than in Austria, and Singapore is regarded as the best organized, safest and cleanest country in Asia. While few pets are ever seen on the country’s streets, songbirds are everybody’s darlings. Above all in Chinatown, they chirp and warble from myriad shadowy cages hang­ing outside the windows. The “fine city” of Singapore also sports the ironic reputa­ tion of being the “City of Fines”; even the most trivial misdemeanor is punished by a fine. Jaywalking close to a pedestrian crossing carries a penalty of 50 Singapore dollars. Smoking in public buildings, public transportation, shopping malls, movie theaters and the like costs up to 1,000 Singapore dollars. There is a general ban on importing cigarettes and chewing gum and indiscriminately discarding a cigarette butt is a ­minor offense. Possessing even the smallest amount of drugs is punishable by death. The fact that the death penalty is not automatic but can be commuted to a long prison term con­ stitutes a step toward liberalization. “It’s amazing, nice, safe and – free enough,” says Thomas, a European engineer who has been living in the Lion City with his family for the past three years. Conditions are also ideal for the economy and tourism: politics are extremely reliable, the laws clear, court proceedings on returned goods simple and swift. There are no pirates lurking along the coast, and the public administration is obligated and obliged to help entrepreneurs. A company can simply be registered on the internet and confirmation from the relevant ministry takes just an hour. No mountains of forms, no trekking around to various offices, no suspicious questions and stalling tactics from the bureaucrats. If you want to register a company or a start-up, you can expect the state’s confidence until further notice. Every new idea is good for Singapore; support is provided as a matter of course, projects are promoted with optimism. You try something out, you take the initiative given a calculable risk, and if you don’t win out first time around, you simply roll the dice again. “The people trust the authorities – they tell you what to do, and if you do it, everything is fine,” says Thomas apropos “freedom.” This makes Singapore a country in which people do not kowtow; despotism does not rule over the “gray ­masses,” there is no personality cult and the police are seldom seen. In fact, they mostly exist as cardboard cutouts in the malls, where they admonish the public to refrain from petty delinquencies. The atmosphere in the city is one of ­imperturbability, of peaceful coexistence.

opposite: The cupolas of the Sultan Mosque on Arab Street dazzle the city’s tourists, the brightly colored Hindu temple can rival a cloudless blue sky; here: fine products from peranakan culture in Koon Seng Road; the occasional rickshaw still ­meanders along the city streets


Panorama of the Singapore Strait from the Mount Faber cable car station; right: the view from the cable cars reveals how the port and city are slowly merging.


Silently sailing 100 meters above the city with views in every direction: the cable car from Mount Faber down to Sentosa Island is not for the vertiginous or faint of heart. The pano­ rama of the city center compensates those who brave the heights. From here it’s easy to understand why Singapore is planning – and has commenced building – a new port. The city has sprawled into the harbor facilities; neither it nor the port can expand or evolve any further. From up here you understand what it means to be a hub: it requires constant change, a fluid and dynamic approach to thinking, deciding and ­acting – if you want to continue being a hub. The city-state is perched like a spider in a net that spans China, India, Australia and Europe. Thirty percent of all goods moved globally pass through Singapore, every day hundreds of ships are docked in her port – the second largest after Shanghai. Nor does the competition ever rest: Malaysia and Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are undertaking port projects that could jeopardize Singapore’s role as the leading transshipment center. And they are not always comfortable neighbors. Indonesia’s former president Habibie dismissively dubbed the island a “Little Red Dot,” unable to disguise his scorn at this so small yet so successful patch of territory. Singapore’s ­reaction to the affront was self-confidently serene: when the

city celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, the logo chosen was “SG 50” – inside a red dot. Global warming is opening the Arctic route in northern Russia, the shortest connection between the Far East and ­Europe. In 2016 a mere 6.5 million metric tons of goods were shipped along this route, but its growth has been prodigious. As a logical result, work on the new mega-port evolving in Singapore’s southwestern sector is being intensified; by 2040 it should be capable of handling 65 million standard containers. Many of the warehouses are already finished or under construction. They tower eight to ten stories, jutting into today’s overcast sky. For Singapore, the People’s Republic of China is no longer a rival alone but a partner as well. The evolving New Silk Road is carving connections between southern China and Singapore both by rail and by ship; goods can now be transported overland from China’s interior to the Gulf of Tonkin and from there by ship to Singapore. Whereas today this ­journey takes three weeks, once the new rails are laid, the canals dug and the ports expanded, it will take less than seven days. Logistics, finance, services and biotechnology are the four main clusters with which Singapore’s government intends to seal the economic future of its country. Changi, Singapore’s main airport, is also slated for extensive enlargement: it is already busy building another major terminal. The city caters


to the global airlines and is currently very happy that Qantas, Australia’s biggest carrier, has transferred its logistics hub from Dubai to Changi. If the given area of the island doesn’t suffice, more land is created: within the next few years, hundreds of square ­kilo­meters are due to be added by way of landfill. Space is of the essence if the city is to put into practice the new plans waiting in the wings – in line with its motto “Passion made possible.” Ah, Sentosa, the cable car terminus: Sentosa, a self-declared “state of fun,” greets its guests with “Our borders are open for everyone, but shut to boredom.” On its five square kilometers, the island offers a raucous range of options for combating every flavor of tedium: an Asian Disneyland with water slides, roller coasters, rides of all sorts, parks, attractive beaches, fun and games. And on the weekends Merlion himself – Singapore’s mythical mascot, half lion, half fish – tap-dances to the tune of the Sentosa anthem: “Fun is the fundamental right for all.” LIFE IS CHANGE

Within a short half-century, the population has more than tripled. The city is still growing, life is changing. “People used to have more time – today they dash in and out of taxis while messaging and making phone calls. That’s

what Singapore has become,” says Cheng, the elderly taxi driver who has mixed feelings about the developments of ­recent years. This appears to be a common attitude among the older generation –people have both gained and lost: many more have work and an income, illiteracy is all but eradicated, there are more choices in every arena. But traditional structures are starting to erode. Many ­couples are refusing to secure the survival of their family units by having more children – Singapore now has the lowest birth rate in all of Asia. This undercuts the old system, in which the children and children’s children financed the lives of the ­aging. And it explains why so many cabs are now manned by “silver drivers” augmenting their pensions. (Apropos: taking taxis is almost second nature – there’s nothing more natural than standing in line at the market exit, laden with brightlyhued bags, waiting your turn and for the driver to safely stow your shopping in his trunk.) Now evicted are the myriad and sundry food stalls that define the smells and streetscapes of other Asian countries. In their place are the “hawkers,” market halls whose many roofs shelter tiny kitchens with special fare and foodstuffs. The longest line testifies to the best food. Less than four euros will buy a delicious meal at a hawker, complete with the sights and sounds of other people dining. Some slurp with loud relish; especially in Chinese culture, food is an audible pleasure.

Scenes from Chinatown and Geylang Serai Market; opposite: street scene in Little India

In contrast to many cities in Asia and Europe, smog is rarely an issue. The city is not “green” as such, but instead flourishing with flowering plants that bloom and blossom at every turn. Does Singapore have more tree-lined boulevards than anywhere else in the world? Even six-lane thoroughfares are flanked by palm trees, with oleander and hibiscus bushes blushing bright between them; vines climb the facades of many houses, forming an organic part of the architecture at the Otopia Hotel. The Botanic Gardens – Connecting Plants and People since 1859 – is a surprising, hushed space in the middle of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sequoias more than two centuries old tower like titans, 60,000 square meters of rainforest convey the impression of virgin nature, the National Orchid Garden is like a whole continent of flowers – the rasping chirp of the Asian cicada, as indefatigable as its European sisters, is the only disruption in this place, one that pays homage to a Mother Nature who seems boundless in her beauty and bounty as she shows off some 30,000 different species of orchid – with time, construction or traffic noise calls you back to the reality of the city. GLITTER AND GLAMOUR

People shop for fun, as a challenge, out of enjoyment or out of a passion – the shopping malls are windows into the wide, wide world, where global brands venture promises of growing affluence: “Shopping is about the pleasure of authentic dis­ covery, an urban adventure that is characterized by creative and spontaneous exploration,” waxes the firm DP Architects, ­builders of one of these consumer meccas, stating a view that critical voices in Europe long no longer second. Especially on the weekends, the malls are packed with people – drawn everywhere by “Sale!” “Take three, pay two!” and similar proclamations – and happy to partake of the “fun and excitement” touted by “Vivo City.” Another mall is called “Lucky Plaza,” even though it presents the same international brands as all the others. The mood in the malls recalls a festival atmosphere: loud, cheerful, with children skating, playing and romping – and no one hissing “Quiet!” Needless to say, it was a mall that hosted the grand competition between Asian Elvis Presley lookalikes that marked the 40th anniversary of the death of the king of rock ’n’ roll. Orchard Road, a main thoroughfare, is lined by the big flagship stores: Prada, Ferragamo, Michael Kors, Apple. “Feels like nothing – does everything,” Victoria’s Secret claims, referring to the magic of the lingerie on display. Welcome to the west. On Orchard’s sidewalks, even waiting for the green crossing light is governed by yellow lines and instructions; indeed, the wealth of signage seems to indicate that the powers-thatbe are very concerned about their citizens’ welfare: wherever there is a risk of slipping, falling, stumbling etc., a warning is sure to be posted. But back to the streets – and to other neighborhoods where there is more to discover than the artificiality of the malls.



Chinatown is a Chinatown like many others on the planet – hustling and bustling, with quick deals made on the go. The distinctive smells of Chinese cooking blanket the streetscapes, there are teahouses and stores offering everything under the sun. Food Street is a veritable funfair of potential treats. “Where do you come from?” is a favorite opener for every passing exchange. As it turns out, many people have already been to Australia and the United States, to Germany and elsewhere in search of work and a future … the number of relatives and best friends these people have all across the globe is astounding. And even if they return: “It was good to be there.” Sammy blocks my path on the New Bridge Road. He stares into my eyes as he sketches me unasked, gauging my current state of mind. Smart, I think, and ask myself how he knows whether or not the sketch is accurate. “I’m a Yogi from India,” he explains, and offers to look even further into the future. As a Western European, I can’t help but smile at his offer to read the coffee grounds, nor can I help asking his fee for that glimpse of things to come; it’s answered by a blink and “Nothing!” His adamant advice: “Secrets are important! Don’t talk to anyone about your wishes until these wishes are realized …”. “Aha,” I think, “That’s been the problem!” “Germans have good hearts,” he says at some point and asks for a donation to an orphanage he supports somewhere in India. Earnest money after all. But no matter – the encounter was stimulating because it was a surprise. That’s one way to keep on the move: just stand still once in a while. It’s worth taking an occasional glance at the sky so far overhead: the pillowy clouds piled up in gargantuan formations – towers, fortresses, monsters – heralding a shower or just for show. Even the heavens offer high-class entertainment here. The Geylang Serai Market and its environs showcase a slice of Malay life. The ground floor caters to every taste in food: fish, shellfish, shrimp, meat, fruit, vegetables, and everything in between. You meet, you stop – inundated by breathtaking smells and pressing crowds – for a neighborly chat. No one gets upset if things grind to a standstill in the narrow aisles between the stands. The women wear traditional and Malay headscarves, but few men cart their shopping. The vendors peddle their wares at full throttle; rarely is anything weighed, the bags are simply generously filled by hand – that’s a more laid-back approach that pleases the female clientele. One half of the upper level offers clothing of every shape and form, in every fabric and even the most outlandish of styles: everything from exclusive cashmere scarves to garish polyester neckties. The other side is devoted to the local ­hawkers: Malay food, as varied as its Chinese counterpart, ­reasonably priced: something for everyone. With the day’s shopping done and appetites sated, it’s time to join the taxi line, which is very well organized at Geylang Serai as well. A few steps away, in neighboring Koon Seng Road, stand some of the most magnificent architectural specimens from the colorful Peranakan culture, an outgrowth of intermarriage

opposite: High spirits in VivoCity, a typical shopping mall, and one of the few police officers; here: photoshoot with a bride and groom on Cavanagh Bridge, the sights in the background include the Arts House.

between Chinese men and Malay women. The Peranakans were the first Asians to speak English and adopt European customs. Although style icons of their age, they were deni­ grated as the “King’s Chinese” by less staunchly royalist Asians. If gray is your favorite color, patchouli makes you queasy and you don’t like being approached by strangers, then stay away from Little India. Here even a children’s high chair is more colorful than elsewhere, the potpourri of scents and smells betimes nose-numbing. “Experience the five senses”: Little India lives up to its name and claim. Sandwiched ­between the countless shops and stands are traditional trades like gold- and silversmiths – and everywhere you’re greeted by those bombastic elephants, disciples of Ganesha, that rapa­cious, merciful, happy-go-lucky Hindu deity. You are cajoled to enter every stand: “Come on, sir, we will find …”. Here too, many have already traveled the world, often Europe, and they rave about beer, Bayern Munich and German cars. SPECTACLES – ENJOY!

The daytime is for working hard but the evening is another world. Especially the young are out and about, sauntering the top streets such as Clarke Quai on the Singapore River: there is no room for workaday pressures. Restaurants, bars and clubs

sit back-to-back, people eat, drink, gossip and are merry, the music is loud and international. Live acts are particularly popular as long as they’re entertaining to listen to – just now the voice of the latest Whitney Houston is blending with a new Elvis Presley – and John Lennon is apparently crooning “Imagine” across the river. Every night there is an impressive music and light show in Marina Bay, along the Lower Boardwalk. It is best seen from the wraparound balcony of the Financial Center’s Level 33 with its magnificent views of the new marina and the towering Ferris wheel, ArtScience Museum, Crystal Pavillons, theaters and casino. Behind these lies Gardens by the Bay, yet another park measuring 55 square hectares. Its unusual presentation of floral abundance includes the Supertrees with their own light show twice every evening. Bussorah Road, part of the surviving Arab district and ­colloquially called “Arab Street,” is a palm-studded pedestrian zone flanked by Lebanese and Turkish restaurants, jewelry stalls and a little of this and that. The low-built houses hark back to an age when the city was not forced to expand upwards; now they are ringed by modern high-rises. Arab Street is chic and cool, more of a place to stroll than shop, a marvelous monument to Arabian culture from a bygone era. A sign advertises an “Original Swedish Café,” “Lickety” sells ice cream and waffles. A cappuccino costs six euros here, the

While a birthday is being celebrated in Haji Lane, the light show illuminates Marina Bay.

a­ dmittedly fantastic croissant made according to an original French recipe “directly from Paris,” another four euros – not everybody’s cup of tea. Singapore’s most resplendent house of worship stands regally at one end of Bussorah Street: the Masjid Sultan Mosque. Its golden domes reflect the waning twilight of ­another age – a favorite photo op for couples and families. Young Muslims arrive on bulky motorcycles, run their hands through gelled hair, smoke cigarettes and enter to pray. From there they head into the night, to Haji Lane. Young people from everywhere congregate in the Arab district, where tattoos, the cigarette and a glass of wine have become the new normal. The narrow street hums with different tongues. Everyone seems to be doing something important: to start up or not to start up? They open up new places and spaces to communicate, inspire, create. The live musicians thank their audiences not for the applause, but for the ­positive energy. This little lane with its houses covered in lurid graffiti breathes the spirit of New York and Toronto (see ATLAS 7), Tel Aviv, Berlin and Vienna, London, Paris and Barcelona. The powers-that-be are far away. Long live curio­sity and borders waiting to be broached. Long live the idea and the new friendship. This is the creative crux of the city. Tourists roam along the lane, some sit and stay, engaging in conversation. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. What matters is that you’re a fellow human being, one of a breed that is eager for tomorrow – even if no one knows what it will hold. But passion makes the impossible possible.

Rainer Groothuis, born in 1959 in Emden / East ­Friesland, is Managing Partner at the communications agency “Groothuis.” With a big thank you to Cristian Predan and the GW Team in the Lion City.


GW SINGAPORE IS KEEPING PACE masters from its base by the port (photo bottom right). The combination of commitment and responsibility has paid off. Since 2016 the terminal has also served as a customs warehouse, a boon particularly for those clients needing to store merchandise in transit without paying duty or taxes.

Like the city, Gebrßder Weiss Singapore is also growing fast. Established with six employees in 2015, the Managing Director Cristian Predan and some 20 personnel from eight nationalities typify the city-state’s conviction that anything is possible. The office staff plan and prepare the challenges ahead (photo bottom left) which the terminal team then

(from left to right) Cristian Predan, Mohamed Sahrom Abdul Kahar, Mandy Lee Sze Hooi, Fanne Polad, Mariane Dullah Tabilin, Noy Denman, Zainabah Beevi Mohd Sahdat, Komala Raju, Hanis Hashim, Leroy Oh Kong Wee

(from left to right) Roziyah Ismail, Derek Tan Lye Hee, Murugeswari Mergaya, Hoo Chern Kiong, John Lim Chew Huat, Janbasah Maniaman, Ravin Pragsarau, Jason Lim Wen Xuan, Kalliyapan Gunasakram, Cristian Predan

SINGAPORE The island state of Singapore is the smallest country in southeast Asia, despite land reclamation extending its territory by over 20 percent since the 1960s. Singapore consists of three major and 58 smaller islands.



7,799 per km2



719.2 km2




Tamil, Malay, Chinese and English


The plant whisperer

Green walls are a signature trait of Singapore’s architecture: along the pedestrian path in Mediapolis, the main quarter for media and communications industry companies (top), and a residential property in Belmont Road (bottom).


interviewer:  Susanne Perras By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities. Climate change, shortages of food and water, and the destruction of the environment will become increasingly important issues for humankind, even – and indeed specifically – in rapidly growing urban centers. How can life be made healthier and more attractive in these conurbations? The botanist Veera Sekaran has devoted his “Greenology” workshop to finding solutions for these problems. Singapore is his test laboratory. Before launching his own company, Veera was the Head of Horticulture at Changi Airport and held executive positions at Singapore Zoo and the country’s National Parks authority. He has been the architect of many of the famous living walls, the green skins that clothe tower blocks in Singapore. With his degree in Botany, the 54-year-old can comfortably tell you the Latin names of 3,000 plants. But he isn’t just a scientist; he’s a philosopher and visionary as well. Here in Singapore people refer to you as the “plant whisperer.” How did that come about?

While teaching at the university, I assigned a certain task to students who had no previous contact with horticulture: write a poem about a plant that once played a significant role in your life. At first they were unsure how to proceed. But then, slowly but surely, they all began showing up with their texts. Some couldn’t hold back the tears as they read them out. I remember a young Chinese woman who was sobbing as she described a tree in the courtyard at her home. It had seen her entire family grow up: she herself, her parents and even her grandparents who were already in their graves. The woman had suddenly realized that the tree had been a constant companion to the family’s history – a witness to the changing generations. At the end of the course, the students presented me with a T-shirt bearing the words “The Plant Whisperer” – as a token of gratitude because I had taught them the value of plants and, in doing so, enriched their lives in some way. You create vertical greenery or living walls. But your motive isn’t solely aesthetic, is it? When I first started to create the green walls, it was due to the lack of space and specific circumstances in Singapore. There wasn’t enough light for trees to grow between the highrises, and many plants withered and died. So we took up a French idea – “vertical gardens” – and adapted it for tropical climates, by adding new ideas and new technologies. I saw that as the solution, a way of reintroducing plants and all of the benefits they bring to the cities. The plants keep the temperature down, attract dust, improve air quality and

reduce noise levels. And, of course, they exert a positive influence on people’s state of mind. You run a charitable project in which people with disabilities and dementia work with plants. Can you tell us about your experiences? I’ve seen lots of retirement homes and often find it depressing to see the residents lying in their beds, trapped inside their four walls, simply waiting to die. But if you take them outside into nature, let them burrow around in the soil and enjoy the smells of repotting and replanting, that brings back memories and soon has them smiling again. My autistic nephew made huge strides in his development when he spent four weeks on a training course with me. All of a sudden he was responsible for something that was alive, a plant. And that was evidently important to him. And young Singaporeans? Is it easy to interest them in horticulture? You know, people in Asia tend to look down on work where you get your hands dirty. Manual labor of every type and jobs where you are handling soil. Parents often discourage their children from engaging in these activities. For them there is no difference between horticulture and agriculture. So when we launched Greenology we reinvented ourselves as urban greening specialists. Nowadays we need help from lots of electricians, mechanics and engineers – people with technical expertise, not just appreciation knowledge of plants. Today people are proud to tell their parents they have a job in this field.

Veera Sekaran established Greenology in 2008. Since then his company has created well over 15,000 square meters of “living walls” in Singapore.


That doesn’t sound easy. Could non-professionals maintain an indoor green wall in their homes as well?

Sure, that’s possible. Our systems are sophisticated and ready to use. Switch them on and they work. People don’t have to keep replacing our plants; they won’t wilt and die within months. We want to create something that will last and thrive. These plants are living organisms. I have a lawyer friend who is always under pressure. Every evening he looks forward to picking and cutting the plants on his green wall. There’s no better antidote to stress, he says. When doctors had given up hope, you cured yourself of a rare nervous disorder through your work with plants. How did you manage that? I can’t explain it, but it had something to do with my life’s path and my bond with nature. That kept me going and gave me the momentum I needed to enjoy life and survive. That instinct is so strong in plants: they will do anything, whatever the challenges, to survive. People should try and emulate them. We are mobile creatures, we can avoid adversity. But plants will do everything within their power, they will fight to survive. Living organisms do this instinctively. If we abandon this instinct, humankind will die out. This, in my view, was the conviction that kept me going when my prospects looked dim. You are always inventing new systems. What’s your vision for Singapore and the rest of the world? I’m looking forward to the day when I can create a sustainable habitat or ecosystem, one that is controlled remotely and in which everything communicates with everything else. We’re working hard to achieve that. I’d like to create a habitat with plants everywhere that have a positive impact on air quality living conditions and the people’s state of mind. My idea would be for every balcony, every home, to have a green wall. That might be a small step for individuals, but it would make a huge difference overall. In this way everyone can make a contribution to the environment and transform our world into a better place. W W W.GREENOLOGY.SG

Green, inside and out: Fire ladder at The Heeren (top) and vertical daylight flooding the building on Duxton Road (bottom)

Susanne Perras, born in 1963, took a degree in Romance, Germanic and Latin American Studies. The television journalist lives with her family in southeast Asia. She contributes to a range of magazines and is currently writing a satire entitled Mama Mzungu.

Update The new tube Hyperloop One has set a new speed record on a test track in Nevada’s Mojave Desert: harnessing low air pressure technology, the start-up propelled its XP -1 test capsule a distance of 300 m through a tube and reached a top speed of 310 km/h. “A new era of transportation is dawning,” enthuses co-founder Shervin Pishevar. Having proved that Hyperloop technology works, the company will now be discussing its next steps with partners.

“Old friends” en route to the top In June the American Alex Honnold, currently considered the world best free-solo climber (as reported in ATLAS 05/2015), became the first person to scale the 1,000-meter El Capitan rockface in California’s Yosemite National Park without safety equipment. He completed the ascent in just three hours and 56 minutes. Afterwards Honnold said, “I knew exactly what to do the whole way. A lot of the handholds feel like old friends.”

Brussels: City Logistics Prize The 08/2017 issue of ATLAS described a range of intelligent ideas for developing urban spaces. In a competition launched by the E. U. Commission, Belgium has now been recognized for its regional urban freight management program. Brussels impressed the jury by establishing central collection points for goods and incorporating its port into a logistics strategy that will cover the first half of the century.

Jeff Bezos follows Heidi Senger-Weiss

“Let’s tread the Silk Road together” At China’s invitation, representatives of 130 nations convened in Beijing this past May to discuss the New Silk Road infrastructure initiative, aka “One Belt, One Road” (see also ATLAS 07/2016). China, which composed the song “Let’s tread the Silk Road together” especially for the event, announced it would be increasing its already huge financing package by a further 14 billion US dollars.

Like Heidi Senger-Weiss in 2015, the founder and CEO of Jeff Bezos has been inducted into the Logistics Hall of Fame. According to the jury, the American, who launched his career with an online bookstore in 1994, has decisively advanced innovation in the e-commerce and logistics sectors. As such he epitomizes a new generation of entrepreneurs that bases its business models on algorithms.

Famous friends Friendship has many faces. And even if no two are ever quite the same, the famous twosomes we present on this page embody the universal qualities that connect people who feel attached to one another: acceptance, trustworthiness, empathy and loyalty – sometimes even above and beyond death. text:  Miriam Holzapfel  illustrations:  Gerd Schröder


The friendship between Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Uwe Ludwig Horn is rooted in shared backgrounds. Both German-born sons of alcoholic ­fathers, they managed to tap their talent and ambition to escape oppressive home environments. As a duo they achieved global fame as one of the most successful and expensive acts in Las Vegas; their performances with the white tigers were legendary. When Roy lost consciousness onstage in 2003, he was seriously mauled by a tiger named Montecore.

For weeks Roy was at death’s door. By this time the two magicians were no longer an item, but they ­remained close. In the hospital, S ­ iegfried played his friend a piece from the opera Thaïs the signature song for the big cats’ arrival on stage. “When I saw a tear run down his cheek, I knew he had heard and understood me. And that’s when I knew that everything was going to be okay,” Siegfried said. For some, this may testify to the intense rapport that ­fuels true friendship. For others, it is pure magic.



According to today’s scientists, computers will soon be performing many tasks better and more cheaply than humans. In the 1980s, however, this vision was confined to early-evening TV series, and fueled by a desire to be protected by supernatural powers. Let’s be honest: who wouldn’t want a reliable friend who is always there when the going gets tough? Michael Knight – of the famed “Knight Rider” series – had struck lucky. All he needed to do was whisper “KITT , I need you buddy!” into his digital watch and the supercar of the same name came at turbo speed to his rescue. In 1982, the four-season series conquered the United States and then the world, with David Hasselhoff and a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in the leading roles. And although the actor is now over 60, the series is being revived. Of course, Hasselhoff has changed a bit, but so have his ‘wheels:’ he now drives a black Shelby GT 500KR Mustang. But the basic formula remains the same: car meets computer meets man.


Laura Dahlmeier and Gabriela Koukalova are friends – and yet fierce rivals. Both rank among the world’s top biathletes and race against each other at major events. But away from the cross-country trails and shooting ranges, the two women are the best of buddies – despite having very little in common beyond their sporting prowess. Koukalova, who adores shopping sprees, would never enter a race without makeup, while Dahlmeier prefers the outdoor life and enjoys mountaineering. “I find shopping terribly exhausting – unless I’m in the market for climbing boots. And I would never dream of competing in full makeup.” Koukalova, on the other hand, has no interest in rock faces – and doesn’t care that Dahlmeier pursues different hobbies. “She’s a very special person with a great personality; she’s simply fantastic. When I think of her only good things come to mind.” Similar, yet so very different: for Dahlmeier and Koukalova this seems perfectly natural. And at the end of the day, the better biathlete wins, but life still goes on.




Going through thick and thin, standing up for each other – in Friedrich Schiller’s ballad “Damon and Phintias” fiery pledges such as these – normally uttered in the heat of the moment – are submitted to the toughest of tests. When Damon is sentenced to death for plotting to murder the tyrant Dionysius, and he requests a delay so that he can attend his sister’s wedding, Phintias courageously offers himself up as surety. If Damon fails to return on time, he even agrees to die in his place. With the minutes running out, Damon returns – only to be warned that time has run out: “Go back – the time is past to save your friend./ So save your own dear life. / His death is hanging by a thread! / He waited forever throughout the strife, / In hopes of your return.” But Damon has no intention of taking this option, preferring to die with his friend instead: “Still, if it be too late! / For him to welcome his savior! / We can be reunited in death.” In the end, Dionysius is so moved by their devotion to one another that he sets them both free. Dionysius evidently hoped they would befriend him too, but that outcome remained shrouded in secrecy.

Some friendships come in threes. Anyone accessing the website in 2017 will find a report in the “Current News” section that is ten years old! It contains the announcement of Georg Danzer’s death. A further decade earlier, Rainhard Fendrich, Danzer and Wolfgang Ambros had created the band Austria 3 – originally for a single charity event in support of the homeless. Inspired by the huge success of their act, the three Austrian musicians were persuaded to continue performing as a trio. The group’s name alludes to a cheap brand of nonfilter cigarettes that the company Austria Tabakwerke was still producing into the 1970s and, in a bitter twist of fate, Danzer was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after the group disbanded. He died a year later. There was no way of replacing Georg Danzer, and relations between Fendrich and Ambros broke down in 2011 over a proposed reunion. In that sense, the article on Danzer’s death really is still current news. If one out of three goes missing, the sum of the remainder may be far less than two.

“At that point I’m done with harmony” Michael Wohlgenannt and Willibald Nigsch on achieving the right balance between proximity and detachment

interviewer:  Frank Haas  photos:  Lukas Hämmerle The two Gebrüder Weiss locations in Lauterach und Wolfurt are separated by a mere mile. More than enough reason to ask the two branch managers Willibald Nigsch (Wolfurt) and Michael Wohlgenannt (Lauterach) about the dividing line between comradeship and competition. At Gebrüder Weiss management meetings, you and your colleagues from the West region can always be seen sitting at the same table. Are appearances deceiving, or do you really get along so well, despite the rivalry between you?

Michael Wohlgenannt: Friendship is a matter of perspective. But I would agree that we have a friendly relationship. That’s probably because we have a long history of shared success in the region, so envy doesn’t really come into play. Willibald Nigsch: But there’s another more practical explanation as well. Mr. Mayr (the Branch Manager in Hall / Tirol) always arrives at conferences two hours before anyone else, and lays claim to the seats for us. Otherwise I could imagine sitting at a different table for a change. (laughs) But relations between your predecessors is supposed to have been anything but harmonious. MW : That’s true enough. But it was a very different world back then. There was much more pressure on them to compete. WN : As a man of his times, my predecessor naturally embraced a different management style. The profit-center mentality in the locations was far more intense than today, and the rivalry was all the fiercer. We still operate as a profit center –

but within a framework of overriding corporate goals and structures – and are managing very nicely. What brought about this different approach? WN : Commerce has changed considerably in recent decades. Today things are much more interconnected than they used to be, so even service providers need to have good working relations if they want success. The benefits of a constructive partnership are too apparent for them to be questioned anymore. How would you describe the rapport between you? MW : As a good working relationship. WN : Right, in the sense that we accept each other and also respect each other’s work. We have shared targets we are working towards – that helps too. In recent years we have made fundamental changes to the Vorarlberg region and reorganized things to keep them functioning smoothly during the next few years. So the right structure was a factor in your good working relationship? WN : Exactly. Our branches aren’t competing as intensely as before. Today their portfolios complement each other. We’re both happy to have the other one at our side. Nevertheless: stable personal relationships are vital if you are creating shared structures and pursuing common goals. MW : The circumstances really are unusual. Willi and I have been at the company for decades. And we’ve also spent years and years together in management. So we’ve had plenty of chances to forge mutual trust. WN : And the confidence we have in one another isn’t limited to the two of us working together. It spreads to both our departments as well. If there’s no animosity, our two teams can post the results we want quickly.

What do you like about each other? MW : What I like about Willi is his technical expertise and

his many years of experience in shipping and management. You know exactly what he’s going to do, he’s predictable – and I mean that in a positive sense. Put simply, I always know where I stand with him. WN : Michael has a straightforward way of talking about things. And technically speaking we are on the same wavelength too. Like me, he has been in freight forwarding for over 40 years. I also appreciate the style of management he employs at his branch. We’re totally different in that respect. What do you mean? WN : I talk a bit more, I like to foster harmony and always try to make sure that everybody is happy with a situation. In other words, Michael doesn’t communicate, doesn’t care about harmony and puts the pressure on to get things done. Right? MW : I would put it differently. I call a spade a spade, plain and simple – and I don’t like beating around the bush. If our managers spend weeks talking around the same subject, I’m done with harmony. What bothers you about the other person? MW : Nothing really. And that’s not mere flattery. But I’d have to think back to know whether that has always been the case. WN : We found a mode of working together and accepting each other for who we are. Since we haven’t changed much over the years, things have run smoothly for a long time. I’d have to say, though, that I don’t impose lots of different expectations on Michael – beyond the fact that he continues to post good results. And if the results are less good at some point? WN : Well, he’d know about it from me straight away! We’d

have to sit down and talk things through. Of course the same also applies to me. We both depend on the other doing a good job. All of our earnings end up in the same pot. We expect from each other what our boss expects of us. We always keep an eye on each other. As long as the numbers add up, everybody’s happy. Have there been any crises along those lines? WN : Needless to say, the 2008 – 2009 crash hit us both equally hard. But even then we reached a joint decision not to make anyone redundant, despite the nosedive in earnings. Today we are reaping the rewards of that decision, and are stronger than ever as a result. If you were to swap roles for a day, what would you do? MW : Well, I would take a good hard look at his other sites. I’m really not very familiar with Feldkirch and Bludenz at all. And you? WN : I know all I need to know about your sites. I suspect I’d be more interested in communicating. I’d talk to your people, ask them how things are going, where the shoe pinches. Is there anything that you envy about your colleague? WN : From my perspective as a shipping guy, Mr. Wohlgenannt’s remit is a little more interesting than mine; that’s due to the international land transport services. I’m responsible for domestic land transport and suspect I would really enjoy working more closely with international partners – although I’m aware that, given the product management angle, these operations are much more highly regulated than they used to be. MW : I envy Willi more because he gets to work with GW offices most of the time. Cooperating with the different partners from other countries is genuinely enjoyable and interesting, but integrating them all brings some major headaches.


Michael Wohlgenannt, born in 1959, started out as an apprentice at Gebrüder Weiss in 1976. He then worked for Davies Turner, a company partner in London, before taking up a post as head of logistics. Since 2005 Wohlgenannt has been in charge of the Lauterach branch.

Willibald Nigsch, born in 1956, joined Gebrüder Weiss in 1978 at the Bregenz branch where he worked on domestic bulk freight within the shipping department. He was appointed manager of the Wolfurt branch in 1991 and added the Feldkirch-Bludenz site to his remit in 2008. In 2005 he was also appointed director of GW Rail Cargo.


Lake Constance

TOGETHER BY THE LAKE Since the 1980s the two Gebrüder Weiss branches Lauterach and Wolfurt have been close neighbors near the banks of Lake Constance. In Lauterach, also home to corporate headquarters, the branch has 220 employees and warehouse space exceeding 23,500 square meters. Just across the autobahn, Wolfurt employs a workforce of 165 to manage 13,800 square meters.²

Rheintal motorway Rhein Rhine

Lauterach Wolfurt



The IT interfaces need to be right, the systems need to be compatible. I don’t think you face these obstacles if you are working mainly within the GW organization. On a more personal note, which of you has the more attractive working environment? MW : Well, Willi’s office is more modern. I have solid wood. But I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. WN : But I look out at the mountains, so I have a better view! MW : You can’t say that! I have a perfect panorama of our Head Office. What could be better than that? WN : A black block. Twelve meters high. OK. (laughs) Do you spend time together off the job as well? MW : Not really. Sometimes we go to soccer games in Altach, or watch the Bulldogs play ice-hockey in Dornbirn. WN : But not on a regular basis. When our apprentices have their graduation ceremonies, we attend together with our ladies. MW : Our wives have already met at various birthday parties. Watching soccer together, mutual invitations – that doesn’t exactly sound like you’re avoiding each other. Both: No, no, it’s not that … WN : … but actually we don’t have that much in common. He rides a motorcycle. I don’t enjoy that. I drive a convertible. He doesn’t like that. MW : He goes skiing in Canada. That wouldn’t be my thing. I’m not the big globetrotter. I’m OK with everything that I can reach on my motorcycle. What kind of person do you need to be to be accepted and successful at Gebrüder Weiss? MW : What makes working at Gebrüder Weiss so special is the free hand you have. Everyone gets the chance to contri­bute their own ideas here. You have the feeling that people trust

you from day one. And if you make a success of things, you can continue to work on your own initiative without too many interventions from on high. That works as a motivator. Despite being part of a major company, you get plenty of scope for free enterprise. WN : That’s correct. What’s more, as entrepreneuriallyminded branch managers we benefit from the company’s strategies and policies. The Gebrüder Weiss network has been expanding rapidly for over 20 years now. Our export-oriented customers in Vorarlberg appreciate the fact that we have our own branches in all of their destinations worldwide. Gebrüder Weiss has just opened a raft of new locations in Asia and the United States. In your view, how will this change the company? MW : To me this expansion is simply the next step in our development over the past years. And the timing is right because the company is stable, with strong foundations. In my view, the corporate culture won’t change that much. WN : Giving capable regional managers a lot of latitude to make decisions is part of the Gebrüder Weiss formula for success. If we can maintain this approach, we will continue to enjoy success in future – in Vorarlberg and every other part of the world.

Frank Haas was born in 1977. He studied History and Ph­i­losophy and, as Head of Corporate Com­ munications at­­Gebrüder Weiss, is editor-­in-chief of ATLAS .

Shrinking the world bit by bit On the popularity of social media and messaging ­services worldwide


text:  Imke Borchers College friends in Spain, fellow tourists in China, a South African from a student exchange program. We can keep in touch with them daily, hear what they ate for dinner and where they are vacationing – provided we have joined the three billion and more enthusiasts around the world who actively use social media. We can even advance our careers online in a net­ work for professional contacts. And when the day is over there are numerous forums where I can share my thoughts on music, books and more – with people who, despite living anywhere from local towns to the other end of the world, have one thing in common: I have never set eyes on them.

With slightly over 2 billion active ­users a month, Facebook is still the ­planet’s most popular social media hub. ­Following in hot pursuit are YouTube (1.5 billion users) and the instant mes­ saging service WhatsApp, which itself can claim 1.2 billion subscribers.* Fili­ pino users spent the most time online ­during 2016, totting up an average of 257 minutes a day. Chinese surfers ­devote 110 minutes a day to the Web, while a meagre average of 40 minutes puts the Japanese rock bottom of this ­table.** CONNECTED IN CHINA

A different provider is prevailing in ­China and parts of Indonesia and India, despite being largely unknown in the West. Operated by the Chinese internet company Tencents, Weixin – known as WeChat abroad – is available to 76 per­ cent of Chinese surfers and boasts a ­total customer base of over a billion. Of course, it owes its success partly to a Chinese ­authorities’ decision to block services like YouTube, Facebook, ­Twitter and WhatsApp.

WeChat is a messaging service and social network in one. It also offers op­ portunities for online shopping, booking flights, buying train tickets and reserving cinema seats. WeChat Sports features fitness tracking while the app Wechat Wallet is an integrated payment system used by 200 million customers. Friends no longer pull out their purse, preferring to send even tiny amounts to one an­ other via WeChat on their smartphones. The operators’ strategy is to offer users everything they need to manage their everyday lives, so that they have no need of external apps and services. Their Western rivals are frantically struggling to catch up.



People are not only going online to maintain contacts with friends and acquaintances abroad. They are increas­ ingly venturing onto the Web to find the love of their lives. The popularity of dating apps has grown rapidly in recent years. In Germany alone 32 percent of adults admit to having sought a partner online at least once. Corresponding forecasts suggest that sales in the online dating segment will surge to 265 million euros by 2020. When it comes to ro­ mance, regional services seem particu­ larly popular; cultural conventions are evidently crucial in dating and mating. Worldwide, Tinder is the hottest app for flirts and long­term relationships. In South America Badoo leads the way, in Russia Frim and in China Momo.

It might be assumed that these ser­ vices are bringing today’s global citizens together, but not everybody agrees. In 1967, long before the advent of online social networking, Stanley Milgram dem­ onstrated his “Small World” hypothesis. According to this there are only six de­ grees of separation between people across the globe. If you ask your friends if they know a specific person, and they ask their friends, and these friends of friends re­ peat this process a further four times, you will create a human chain with six links and somebody who knows your target. In 2008 Microsoft engineers successfully verified Milgram’s theory using an instant messenger network. So maybe the world hasn’t shrunk so much since the inter­ net connected us all. Maybe it was simply smaller than we initially thought.

Imke Borchers, born in 1982, is a literary scholar and a journalist for ATLAS.

* Statistics from August 2017, Source: Global Digital Stat Shot Q3 2017 by Digital Agency “We are social” ** Source:


Robot love? Empathy for everyone – and everything

text:  Janina Loh  illustration:  Frederik Jurk


I once met an elderly woman on a bus in Berlin. She was evidently on her own. She had a small lesion on her leg. After giving her a Band-Aid, I asked where she was going and whether I could help her in any other way. She gave me a tired smile – and a surprising response. She was fine, she said, and she wasn’t going anywhere at all. She took a bus every day for the sole purpose of meet­ ing people. Otherwise she would be completely alone. This encounter was several years ago, but my thoughts keep returning to it. People possess a fascinating ability: they are able to form relationships. They

can attach themselves to a partner, an “other half ” who – as with the woman on the bus – doesn’t have to be a specific person. In numerous other cases it isn’t even a human being. A spectrum of different relationships is available – ranging from business associations through to love affairs, sexual liaisons to platonic friendships – but it is no broader than the range of potential “other halves.” People adopt animals into their family and mourn their eventual pass­ ing. They play violin pieces to their houseplants to make them grow faster. Some can’t bear to part with blankets from their infancy; others give names

to their cars. If we take the political theo­ rist Hannah Arendt at her word, there may be a simple reason for this: in their minds people are never really alone. ­Instead, they maintain a personal attach­ ment to an imaginary partner. Arendt calls this fact of human existence the “inner dialogue between me and my­ self.” And every relationship that people enter into is a manifestation of it. That also applies to relationships with the inanimate world. Objects arouse an array of emotions in us. They evoke reassurance and security, keep us company and even annoy us on occa­ sion. Be honest now! How many of you out there have never screamed at a computer? Which of you has a favorite cup in your kitchen, a lucky sock, or an old teddy bear you confide in? Some of us even enter intimate associations with inanimate objects. In 2016 Aaron Chervenak married his iPhone in Las Vegas, while a Berlin resident named Michelle has sustained a relationship with a Boeing 737-800 since 2014. That makes these two individuals members of a rare class of people who have been “diagnosed” with objectophilia, an ­ability to forge strong emotional bonds with physical objects. For most people, cases like this provoke laughter, a head­ shake of disbelief or a rejection as of them as pathological nutcases. I, how­ ever, interpret them honest, if rather odd, examples of the aforementioned ability to maintain relationships with ­inorganic entities as well as animate ­organisms like people and pets. In short, not only with everyone but with every­ thing. But – as some individuals might be inclined to protest – am I not taking the easy way out by trying to measure every type of relationship with the same yardstick? Isn’t there a difference in quality between a business relationship and a close friendship? And seeking the comfort and protection of your favorite blanket isn’t the same as loving it. Could it therefore not be that Michelle and Aaron have a screw loose if they choose to marry their iPhones and have sexual relations with model aircraft? ­Aristotle at least would have thought so.


Theodore: “Well, you seem like a person but you’re just a voice in a computer.” Samantha: “I can understand how the limited perspective of an unartificial mind might perceive it that way. You’ll get used to it.” Dialogue between a correspondent and his talking operating system in the 2013 movie Her by Spike Jonze

He distinguished between three types of friendship – pleasant, useful and good – and categorically ruled out “inorganic” relationships. He supported his theory with the treatise On the Soul, to which the majority of readers will intuitively subscribe. In his view, objects are ­specifically defined by the fact that they are dead and possess no metaphysical qualities, i. e. they are mere “things.” On the other hand there is plenty of room for debate about what a soul really is, and which entities within the cosmos can justifiably lay claim to having one. The answer to this question also varies from culture to culture. For example,


“We take machines and we stuff ’em with information until they’re smarter than we are. (…) Most guys spread more love and time and money on their car in a week than they do on their wife and kids in a year. Pretty soon, you know what? The machine starts to think it is somebody.” Tennessee Steinmetz in the 1968 movie The Love Bug (directed by Robert Stevenson)

Aristotle’s position epitomizes the tradi­ tional western view of the world. By contrast the concept of animate objects is fundamental to animist religions such as Japan’s Shintoism, and common­ place in Germanic mythology. More­ over, individuals like Michelle and Aaron don’t justify their attachments to their preferred objects by claiming that they have a soul or spirit that make them lovable, but rather by the fact that they consummately fulfil their ex­ pectations of an intimate or romantic relationship: a feeling of being in harmo­ ny with and in the object – falling asleep together, experiencing sexual satisfac­

tion, holding conversations, and valuing one another. For this reason I would like to pro­ pose a different definition of friendship, one that can function without a spiritual dimension: the better the “other half ” can satisfy one’s own needs, the easier it is to enter into a relationship (including a friendship). People can decide for themselves in which way and to what extent that is the case and under which circumstances the response is inter­ preted as appropriate. Consider, for instances, E. T. A. Hoffmann’s famous short story The Sandman, in which the student Nathanael falls in love with an automated, humanoid wooden doll called Olimpia – albeit without realizing that the beguiling figure is a lifeless machine. Despite appearing taciturn and slightly simple­minded, Olimpia can ini­ tially provide the response to Nathanael’s needs that he desires. Who are we to say whether this form of affection is better or worse, or of a “lesser quality,” than one to another living creature? Readers who are uncomfortable with the idea of feeling love and friend­ ship towards an object might consider less intimate types of relationships. In the area of service robotics, artificial systems are currently being developed to help people in their everyday lives. Examples include the automatic vacuum cleaner Roomba (iRobot), self­steering lawnmowers like the Automower (Husqvarna), the sales assistant Paul who guides customers through Saturn electronics stores and, notwithstanding their still very limited functions, the household assistance systems and enter­ tainment robots like Pepper (Aldebaran Robotics SAS in conjunction with Soft­ Bank Mobile Corp.). As representatives of a growing collection of social robots that provide services within people’s personal spheres, they need to possess social skills – regardless of their function and the degree to which they directly interact with human beings. The existence of relationships be­ tween people and machines is more apparent in the areas of social care and therapy. A 2007 study by William A. Banks showed that old people can estab­

lish similar bonds with robotic canines (in this case Sony’s AIBO ) as they do with real dogs. Dementia victims, many of whom tend to isolate themselves from human caregivers, can above all relate to the robotic seal Paro (designed by Takanori Shibata). To my mind there is not the slightest doubt that the old woman I met on the Berlin bus would have taken to AIBO and Paro. An artificial companion might not be able to replace all forms of human interaction, but it can at least alleviate solitude. Maybe she would even experi­ ence a renaissance and again feel valued and understood – all the more so than she has with people in recent years. Humans don’t instantly lose their amaz­ ing ability to enter into relationships with everyone and everything as soon as a robot enters the scene. For me person­ ally, cultivating this human capacity for relationships – irrespective of one’s counterpart – is much more important than discussing whether affection for a human is better than affection for an animal, a plant or a robot. I would consider it dishonest if somebody in an age of increasing old age solitude, of appalling exploitation and extreme physical pressure in geriatric nursing, would oppose implementing robotic as­ sistance systems because they might deter people from forming relationships with other human beings. After all, when was the last time you visited your great aunt or uncle in a retirement home? And how many of you are dream­ ily caressing the smartphone next to you as you read these lines?

Janina Loh (nee Sombetzki) is a teaching assistant in the Department of Technology and Media Philosophy at the University of Vienna. She is currently working on an introduction to trans- and posthumanism (due to be published by Junius in 2018) and a primer on the ethics of automation (Suhrkamp 2019).


INSEPARABLE COMPANIONS There are things that are simply indispensable in our everyday lives, despite often being very small and inconspicuous. We asked GW employees to open their bags for us and reveal the items that they keep with them every day.


As somebody whose handbag is always full to the brim, it’s hard to pick out specific things I can’t do without. After all, everything you keep in your handbag is absolutely essential. As I’m an e-book, music and movie junkie, I can’t possibly leave my house without my iPad. And since variety is the spice of life, I always carry mini salt and pepper shakers with me. Not to mention chewing gum.



Taiwanese people go to temples every year and pray for a lucky charm. The charm fits inside your purse or wallet so you can take it anywhere and pray to God that you become rich and successful.


A key chain showing Pope John Paul II. Faith is important to me, giving me the strength to keep going in good times and in bad times. And lipstick – in case I need a boost to my confidence.


I always have this key chain hanging from my bag. It shows the jersey worn by my favorite soccer team VfB Stuttgart, and always reminds me of the most exciting scenes and moments in its stadium!



I always have my flash drive, which looks like a Russian doll. It’s really practical and looks good too. It was a giveaway from FarFreight (now GW East Plus) to advertise the company’s branch in Russia.


Always by my side, always with an answer, always willing to help, and always remembering the important things in my life – my orange Gebrüder Weiss notebook that keeps all my thoughts and the information I need at my fingertips. Like a true friend, it accompanies me every step of the way.


Roses are red, violets are blue, I have a “few” usb’s – how about you?

Surviving together Friendships: what makes them tick and how they work – an interview with Janosch Schobin


The sociologist Janosch Schobin has analyzed the social importance of friendships. From 2006 to 2015 he was a researcher at the Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung. During this period he wrote his monograph Freundschaft und Fürsorge. Bericht über eine Sozialform im Wandel (Friendship and Caring: a Report on a Social Form in Flux). He has subsequently published his book Freundschaft heute: Eine Einführung in die Freundschaftssoziologie (Friendship Today: an Introduction to the Sociology of Friendship). He currently heads the junior research group Gamification as a Sociological Problem at the University of Kassel.

INTERVIEW: Miriam Holzapfel In the European Union, the number of new marriages has been nosediving for years, while divorces are on the rise. When long-term relationships between couples fail and family ties are loosening and declining in importance, a vacuum is created from which friendships might possibly benefit. After all, friends can look after each other just as well as spouses, can’t they? But can we justifiably expect friends to provide this kind of support? Janosch Schobin has looked into the subject for us. Mr Schobin, self-interest plus deep affection – is that a contradiction in terms? Or could the two be compatible in a relationship between friends? Viewed historically, the idea that a friendship should not be

tied to a specific purpose – and that we should distinguish between friends and business associates – is relatively new. It dates back to the Scottish Enlightenment during the 18th century. In everyday life today there is little distinction between friendship and personal benefit: people might well lend money to their friends etc. But we tend to be less flexible when it comes to the opposite case: there is broad agreement that

people should not foster friendships for the sole purpose of potential advantages. And that consensus is universal. An international survey once asked whether making friends for practical gain was acceptable. It was a genuinely global study that involved respondents from 28 countries – including South Africa, Japan, New Zealand, Europe, Chile, and the United States. There was little support for the idea, particularly in more affluent societies. And that makes absolute sense. If your personal circumstances render you dependent on others for help – because, for example, your country doesn’t provide it – then you are somewhat more likely to engage in friendships that can offer real and practical benefits. But aren’t all friendships fueled by self-interest? After all, friends are about more than having fun. Our friends naturally play key roles in our lives and livelihoods. Since the Classical period, discussions of the ethics of friendship have focused on mutually dependent relationships. Often this has been symbolized by two warriors standing back to back; they can only survive if they defend each other and neither lets the other down. In short, people can only survive if they support one another, and they need make constant sacrifices to achieve this end. That’s the big picture. Embedded within this is the quality that defines friendship: that people expose themselves to risks for others and protect them from


existential threats that they cannot defend themselves against alone. The question, however, remains: is this image still relevant in our modern-day world? In my view, the answer is yes. To the extent that our lives are no longer predetermined by being a member of a social class and being embedded within a social structure. Put differently, to the extent that we are free to choose and channel our own lives, the question arises: how can I achieve this? What are my options? And people seek their answers in discussions with friends, who therefore play important roles as advisors and capable points of reference. Put bluntly, almost everyone is blind to some aspect of themselves. For example, some view themselves as extremely modest but are in fact full of themselves, or they think they are good listeners but in reality miss half of what is being said. Friends are important here because they gather information about us that we do not register ourselves. And by sharing this information they allow us to manage our lives better. What do I want in life? What motivates me? We need friends when these questions arise, friends who help us understand ourselves. Put differently, our friends strip away some of the illusions we harbor about ourselves. Do we like that? Do we really want it? Statistics show that our willingness to enter into close friendships has increased marginally within our society in recent

years: since the mid-1980s there has been a slight rise in the number of people who have at least one close friend with whom they discuss matters of personal importance. Overall, however, the figure is fairly low: about one in every three people in Germany. In this context people are often asked who they would accept uncomfortable truths from. In this respect, the proportion of people who can provide a name has remained stable, at least over the past ten years. Exactly how this pans out in practice is interesting, because it varies significantly from relationship to relationship. I myself have friends who can tell me anything they want, but there are other people who don’t like this up-front approach. For this reason, friendships always develop their own individualized forms of communication, i. e. one party knows how to package potentially awkward information so the other can deal with it. There are epiphanies in relationships when people learn something revealing about a friend. To cope with these moments, friends develop a sensitive manner of discussing weaknesses and vulnerabilities without having to mention them explicitly. They adopt a secret code of sorts that prevents outsiders from understanding these private conversations. Perhaps we need this type of encrypted communication because it makes it easier to talk about our needs and to “expose our flanks” to others. Psychologically speaking that is undoubtedly true. Friendships are built by individuals who disclose their vulnerabilities to each other. That said, the majority of friendships aren’t particularly intimate; rather they are linked to individual aspects of life. As a result the vulnerabilities themselves are limited, making them easier to bear. The trickiest situations arise in really intimate friendships, because it is always difficult to lay ourselves open to criticism. That’s part of a learning curve. But, conversely, people need the ability to lighten the load on their friends, making it easier for them to lay bare their most private concerns. If friendships are beneficial and help us manage our lives, should I not be looking for younger, fitter friends when I reach middle age so that they can help when I grow old and frail? In practice, thinking like this possesses a certain logic because personal care usually only becomes a factor during people’s advanced years. But friends are often roughly the same age. And that leads to a problem that aging spouses face as well: that they grow old and needy together. A significant age difference is needed to circumvent this drawback. However, caring for somebody isn’t straightforward, with women typically playing the leading roles. Frequently men have no idea or experience when it comes to caregiving. So if men want to care for each other, remembering that most friends of men are themselves male, there are fewer people available with the know-how required. Women, by contrast, are better placed: their close friends tend to be female. A further problem lies in the fact that friendships are ultimately keyed to ensuring independence. And care does not fit within this mold. Care during old age is usually irreversible and one-sided, i. e. most


“Is there anything more exhilarating than knowing somebody you can speak to as if you were talking to yourself ? Would we survive the greatest joy and gravest tragedy if there were nobody to share our thoughts?” Cicero

likely I won’t be able to repay the care I am getting in kind, at least not to the initial caregiver. Nevertheless, anyone familiar with the inside of a retirement home will know how important it is to think ahead. That being said, friends of significantly different ages aren’t exactly the norm. Moreover, they are particularly rare in very close friendships. But personal care is an extremely intimate activity, which is why spouses tend to be more acceptable than offspring or friends. The ways in which we find our friends are simply not suited to encouraging intimate friendships between people of different ages. At school and college we are kept together with contemporaries, and the workplaces that subsequently swallow us aren’t really conducive to forging close personal relationships. And isn’t it also true that people of different ages aren’t typically kindred spirits, and that a degree of similarity is essential to close relationships? For the most part, friends really are similar. However, this begs the question: “Was that always the case or do they become assimilated after they meet?” We know that both happen, for example that there are mutual affinities between people from similar locations, social classes and economic backgrounds. Acquired and variable parallels such as politi-

cal persuasions, eating preferences and musical tastes are also strongly influenced by friendships. In short, similarities between friends can be attributed to the process of friendship itself – and here age differences no longer really count. Is there something like a core component of friendship, something that is a shared feature of all friendships everywhere? Are there certain universal requirements that are common to every culture? The basic format of a friendship is always the same. People impart information that exposes them or makes them vulnerable in some way. Since the Classical era, this has been THE bonding mechanism that has underpinned friendships everywhere. It transcends borders, time and space. The differences lie in how we create this mechanism and which sacrifices we offer to make. In olden times blood, as the home of the soul, was the badge of honor, and that has remained the case throughout European history. The symbolism is always the same: we can only survive together, I will expose my vulnerability for your sake, and you expose your vulnerability for mine. So the types of friendships people forge are always conditioned by their circumstances in life and the individual risks these entail. Are there any obvious pitfalls that destroy friendships? Often a breach of confidentiality is the cause. Yet even more frequently, friendships simply become dormant. Not all of them are designed to last forever; they need repeated rituals to sustain them. In practice, that means that friends need to discuss private matters and expose vulnerabilities and intimacies on a regular basis – if they are to keep a relationship afloat. Friendships are not, however, the primary structures of society, the structures that define our lives. As one example, they aren’t generally as important as our careers. Many people would relocate for a job, but not if a friend moves away. In this way the friends part company and their friendship dies. However, I could imagine that this changes something. Giving up a community of friends and setting up home with a partner somewhere else can open up a Pandora’s Box. It might, for example, eliminate some of the social props that have sustained a romantic attachment, causing it to fall apart. Lots of things in life are organically interconnected. We know, for instance, that one divorce can frequently spark a domino effect among a wider circle of friends. For this reason, people should think twice about risking their social network for a supposedly practical benefit like a higher salary. I wouldn’t recommend doing so beyond a certain age; that might sound overly normative, but it’s my personal perspective.

Miriam Holzapfel is a cultural scientist and a journalist for ATLAS .


YOU AGAIN! If you spend years in a job, it gets to be like a long-term ­relationship. You know each other well, you cherish one another, but occasionally you get on each other’s nerves – sometimes even all these at the same time. The truck ­driver Tarek Kohler tells us how he establishes routines on his tours and manages to stay in love with his career. interview:  Judith Gebhardt-Dörler photos: Manuel Riesterer


I wanted to be a driver for as long I can remember. I think I must have been born with some truck gene. I grew up on a farm, and the machinery fascinated me even as a little boy. My childhood ideal could best be summarized with the words “big, bigger, and even bigger.” If ever a truck roared past, I would watch it vanish into the distance. Originally I wanted to do an apprenticeship as a commercial driver. In ­Germany that means training for three years. Unfortunately that didn’t pan out for medical reasons. So I simply got my license for driving heavy goods vehicles and looked around for a job. I’ve been working as a truck driver for 12 years now, the past seven for Gebrüder Weiss. Lots of things have changed since I entered the profession. There’s lots of automation. For example, almost every new truck nowadays has an automatic distance sensor, a lane departure warning system and, of course, automatic transmission, (When I learned to drive,



I was still using a gear stick.) Not to ­mention attention assist technology that warns you when you have been on the autobahn for a long time. “You’re getting tired, please take a break!” There are lots of advantages to this but I sometimes miss getting to decide or fix something for myself. My tours start usually early, so I ­typically arrive at work between 5:30 and 6:30 in the morning and report to the

transportation desk. For the most part I find out my schedule the evening before. I get my cargo list and go to the warehouse to load my truck – if somebody hasn’t already done it for me. Before I hit the road, I conduct a few quick tests, checking the tire pressure with a hammer and making sure the lights, connections, electrical system and freight are all in order. Depending on the customer and the route I am driving, I’ll then spend between nine and eleven hours on the road – including breaks. We’re allowed to drive for six hours at a time. After that, a 45-minute break is mandatory. Then I can drive for another six hours. So if I set off at 6:00 a. m., I need to be ­having lunch at the latest by noon. I used to cover long-distance routes before I joined Gebrüder Weiss. In those days I started out at Sunday lunchtime

left: Down time with the truck right: An interview with ATLAS is a welcome change from his daily schedule.

and returned home the following Saturday afternoon. During the week I would spend every night at a different highway motel. There’s no real alternative. You go to the restaurant, grab something to eat, down a cup of coffee, read a bit and then have an early night. You have to find a way of winding down after all the driving so that you feel fresh the following morning. I’m a floater now so I always drive on our own lines and routes. My favorite is the night line, the connection with ­Gebrüder Weiss Graz. I drive from Memmingen to Salzburg, where I meet up with my ­buddy coming from Gebrüder Weiss Graz. We exchange our swap bodies there. Then he takes “my” body back to Graz and I take his to a partner company in Munich. They then give me a new load and I head back to Memmingen.


top: Routine pre-departure check bottom: A visit to the butcher’s shop is part and parcel of a driver’s day below: Tarek Kohler’s regular routes


117 km




145 km


For the most part, it’s the same procedure every day on my job. I stop at the same stops and know the people I see on my travels. You wouldn’t necessarily think of them as friends but there are people I encounter on a regular basis and then we might sit down for a meal together. Greeting each other on the road used to be standard practice. If a truck passed you on the highway, you flashed your lights or your turn signals twice to say it was safe to pull in again. Unfortunately, those days are over. There’s not as much cooperation between cars and trucks either. Lots of drivers curse at you from their cars. Some pass you and then pull back in right under your nose. But I have an ­autonomous cruise control system that intervenes instantly and starts braking. You have to have your wits about you and take your foot off the gas immediately. But there’s no point getting worked up about it. It’s better to take it all in your stride. Relations with our customers are usually friendly because I know so many of them personally. At one customer’s in Switzerland I have been known to drive up and find the warehouse staff enjoying a barbecue. And for them it’s the most natural thing in the world to invite me to join them. “Come on over, sit down and have a bite to eat. There’s enough for us all.” I’m currently driving on the Switzerland line and every time I cross the border, I park the truck and treat myself to a snack. I always buy it at the same time – usually between 11:00 and 11:30 a. m. – at the Feurstein butcher’s shop in Höchst. I swan in and order my two meatloaf rolls. And they always welcome me with the same words: “My, my! It’s our Swa­bian again!” That really is a moment to warm the cockles of your heart.

St. Margrethen

Judith Gebhardt-Dörler studied Social and Economic Sciences in Innsbruck. As Project Manager Corporate Communications at GW, she is responsible for publications.







Take five!

It started out as a simple vacation snap but evolved into a time-honored tradition: Since 1982 five friends from California have been meeting every five years at the same vacation resort to have a group photograph taken on the same bench. Some of them even wear the same clothes! The ninth photo marked a special anniversary – the friends are 40 years older than in the first one. The cockroach in the jar alone retains the elixir of youth, as every photo features a new one.


1987 1992

1997 2002




from left to right: John Wardlaw, Mark Rumer, Dallas Burney, John Molony, John Dickson

Divided by beliefs, united by commerce The Reformation and economic prosperity text:  Till Hein  illustration:  Lars Hammer


The Reformation brought turbulent times to Europe and the world, and not only on the religious stage: people who shared a common creed went their separate ways, the old order was dismantled and reconstructed. New bonds and alliances were forged, paving the way for a truly globalized economy. Could the schism between the Catholics and Protestants have ­fathered the capitalism we know today?

REFORMATION At the start of the 16th century, attempts to reform the Roman Catholic Church culmi­nated in its division. At issue were teachings which many Catholics con­ sidered wrong and unjust, particularly in the areas of indulgences and official ­appointments. Martin Luther posted the clarion call in 1517 – exactly 500 years ago – when he nailed his famous theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. In Switzerland ­Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin were the driving forces behind the movement. Given the divergence of opinions, the Reformation spawned an array of deno­ minations within Europe. In Germany they ­included the Lutherans and the Re­ formed Church. In Britain the movement gave birth to the Anglican Church while in parts of eastern Europe Unitarianism emerged. For many historians the Protes­ tant reformation reached its conclusion at the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648.

In fall of 1517, Martin Luther was nailing his 95 famous theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, ­challenging the orthodoxy of Catholicism. At the same time 9,000 kilo­ meters further west, the first Spaniards were landing on the Mexican Coast and Portuguese traders were reaching Taiwan. Two years later, as Luther continued to divide the church, Hernán Cortés was conquering the Aztec Empire in Mexico. In subsequent years the Europeans created a wide-ranging colonial system – and minerals from America and Asia were soon fueling world trade. Historians agree that the corner­ stone of globalization was laid in the 16th century. But could there be a causal relationship between the Reformation and the blossoming of the global economy? The deliberations of the famous German sociologist Max Weber (1864 – 1920) explore this line of thinking. In his 1904 work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism he argued that there was an “inner kinship” between capitalism and the form of Protestantism championed by John Calvin. According to Weber, Protestants have a “specific propensity for economic rationalism” – something that fosters an entrepreneurial spirit. By way of evidence, he stated that capitalism in predominantly Protestant countries such as the Netherlands, England and the United States had developed early and burgeoned. More than anything else, Calvin’s guiding principle of “uncondition­ al election” and the “chosen” people is seen as having pro­ moted the pursuit of profit as an expression of godliness. The provincial town of Geneva, where Calvin served as a preacher from 1541, turned into a bustling economic hub within just a few decades. And the whole of Switzerland prospered com­ mercially during the Reformation. The country’s watch indus­ try and particularly its international banking institutions bear testament to this today.


Despite this, Weber’s central tenet has not gone unchallenged. After all, in the early modern era the staunchly Catholic ­Venice was the epitome of a successful trading center. The Jesuit Catholic State in South America also flourished. And in the German city of Augsburg, where the Reformation gar­ nered an exceptional number of disciples during the early 16th century, Jakob Fugger – the international trade and finance pioneer and head of the world’s leading bank – remained a Catholic. By contrast Martin Luther, the most important re­ former, was an opponent of globalization. His only goal was to establish missions in the new territories discovered overseas. In his eyes, international trade and finances were the work of the devil because the imports of foreign luxury goods such as gold jewelry, velvet and silk meant that German money was leaving the country. Fearing that a lack of funds at home would push down prices and cause deflation, Luther exhorted his fellow Germans not to buy these exotic wares. The future, to his mind, was rooted in rural tradition rather than global trade. He strove to “muzzle” the Fuggers of the world and curb their influence over society. Indeed, according to many experts, the emergence of ­Switzerland and other countries as major trading and econom­ ic powers during the sixteenth century had less to do with the new theology of the Reformation and more with the mass influx of skilled workers that the schism within the Catholic Church had sparked. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, hundreds of thousands of Protestants fled bloody religious wars over the Reformation. They relocated to countries like France and Italy, and many found a safe haven in Switzerland. Most of these refugees were educated and highly qualified. Above all,


the Calvinist Huguenots from France breathed new life into the Swiss economy. Highly educated Protestant refugees also settled in North America, Sweden, the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Russia and South Africa. Some historians believe that the in­ significant farming village of Berlin would never have become Germany’s major metropolis without its Huguenot immi­ grants. However, while religious schisms have impacted econo­ mies, the reverse has also been true on occasion, with eco­ nomic conditions sometimes opening the door to new faiths. For example, salt merchants were introduced the writings of Martin Luther in the Salzkammergut Mountains at a time when his name was still largely unknown in the rest of mo­ dern­day Austria. The wages of salt miners there were so low that they could not afford so­called “indulgences” – the prac­ tice whereby people could effectively buy forgiveness for their sins. Luther rejected the idea that people could purchase peace of mind and, with his teachings quickly achieving popu­ larity among miners, the Protestant faith established a foot­ hold in the Hallstatt region as early as the 1520s. Given the desperate shortage of salt industry workers, the Catholic rulers tolerated the “Protestant agitation” for decades. Whatever the theological disputes, people who trade with each other are rarely enemies. So while the municipality of Venice publicly burned Luther’s writings in 1527, Protestant church services were still permitted in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi on the Grand Canal, where the German merchants had their headquarters. And the Venetian merchants were almost friendly towards their partners from the North. Quite simply, business always came first.

Carpe diem The history of Gebrüder Weiss also began in the Reformation era. The events at Lake Constance back then illustrate how entrepreneurial thought can sometimes circumnavigate the most bitter (theological) infighting: the company evolved from the “Milanese Courier” express service which carried letters, goods and passengers through the Viamala Gorge and over the 2,100-meter high Splügen Pass between Lindau and Milan. From the 16th century onwards, the Lindau residents who operated the service were replaced by official couriers from nearby Fussach in Vorarlberg. How did this come to be? With the Reformation gaining ground, the city of Lindau became Protestant in 1528. However, Catholic Milan would not tolerate “heretics”’ as messengers and the religious inquisition in the city soon made life difficult for the Protestant couriers from Lindau. Fussach on the other side of Lake Constance had remained Catholic, so the merchants in Lindau selected its residents to operate the services instead. These included members of the Vis (Weiss) family, ancient ancestors of the company’s current owners Gebrüder Weiss. Over the generations they seized the opportunity, circumnavigated the theological infighting, and helped to provide responsibly managed transport services across the Alps.

Born in 1969, Till Hein is a freelance journalist specializing in science. He contributes to publica­ tions such as Mare, the Sunday editions of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in Switzerland and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Germany, the Hamburg­based periodical Spiegel GESCHICHTE and the Austrian news magazine Profil. His book Der Kreuzberg ruft! – Gratwanderungen durch Berlin (Kreuzberg Calling! – A Balancing Act in Berlin) was published by be.bra Verlag



A philosopher from the Classical era wondered how we could distinguish between people we consider friends and those who are simply acquaintances. If there’s somebody you get on really well with, weave them a friendship bracelet. That way, they can be certain that their friendship is important to you.

That’s what friends are for:

ARISTOTLE'S IDEA OF FRIENDSHIP Two and a half thousand years ago in Athens, the philosopher Aristotle expressed some very clear ideas on the subject of friendship: all people, whether they were rich or poor, young or old, needed strong bonds with others, he said. Because friends can make you stronger and smarter. They can help you avoid mistakes, and provide support if you can’t take care of yourself. Aristotle distinguished between three types of friendship, depending on the nature of the relationship. His categories were “useful,” “pleasant” and “good.”


PLEASANT FRIENDSHIPS In pleasant friendships you might, for example, meet others at adventure playgrounds and have lots of fun together. Despite the close relationship, you might not feel comfortable sharing your innermost secrets with them.

Do you have a pleasant friend?

For Aristotle, good friends are people who you really enjoy being with – for the simple reason that you like the way they are. You can tell them everything, because you feel sure that they understand you and you can trust them. And you can do all kinds of things with them.

What's your good friend’s name?

Or do you have one friend for everything?



1 Start with the cord on the left (cord 1) and wind it over and then back under the cord next to it (cord 2). Make sure that cord 2 is taut and then pull cord 1 tight into a knot.


You need 4 equally long pieces of cord that are knotted together at one end. 2

4 2




Tie the knots with this string next.

4 Using the same method, tie cord 1 around cord 3 so that it forms two new knots. And then repeat the same procedure on the final cord on the right (cord 4).

Repeat step 1 again so that cord 1 forms two knots around cord 2.



Now start with the leftmost cord again (now cord 2) and knot it twice with each of the cords to its right.


3 4


Keep going until your bracelet is long enough.

6 USEFUL FRIENDSHIPS These might be friendships where you meet to play tennis, but otherwise don’t spend any time together. They are friendships that are useful for both parties; after all, you can’t play tennis on your own.

Who is your useful friend?

Take all the cords together and tie them into a big knot at the end.

Turn to page 28 in this magazine to find more pairs of friends. Can you think of any others?


HONG KONG | The Pearl River Delta including Guangdong Prov­ince and neighboring Hong Kong is not only one of China’s key eco­nom­ ic regions. It is also a major logistics hub for goods destined for Europe and the Americas. Gebrüder Weiss has further expanded its local network by opening four new sites in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Zhanjiang and Guangzhou. Beyond their focus on air and sea freight, the agencies offer special logistics solutions – ranging from warehousing and local distribution through to e-commerce solutions featuring their own web shop systems.

UNITED STATES | Go west! Gebrüder Weiss has established its own national subsidiary in the United States. Headquartered in Chicago, it has branches in New York, Boston and Atlanta in the east and Los Angeles on the Pacific. At all of its locations, Gebrüder Weiss offers specialized logistics ser­ vices to its customers in addition to standard transport solutions.

VIETNAM | Since June 2017 Gebrüder Weiss has been operating its own customs warehouse in Vietnam as well. Currently the location in Bình Du’o’ng is being used chiefly by one long-term customer, for which the team stores 600 items on 1,000 m2. If required, the space for the customs warehouse and the procurement and distribution logistics services can be extended to 3,000 m2.



GERMANY | In Germany ­ ebrüder Weiss expanded its G Air & Sea competence and opened new locations in Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich. It also extended its land transport network by acquiring the Nuremberg-based company Deutsche Transport ­Compagnie Erich Bogdan GmbH & Co. KG (DTC ).

AUSTRIA | The Tirolean shipping company Kappeler has been incorporated into the Gebrüder Weiss logistics network as a fully-owned subsidiary. With some 40 employees and many years of experience in the segment, Kappeler specializes in event, relocation, warehouse and furniture logistics and offers art transport services. As such it will extend the Gebrüder Weiss product portfolio in the region and bolster its end-customer delivery provision.

CZECH REPUBLIC | The headquarters in Jeneč outside Prague is being significantly expanded. Three new warehouses offering a total of 9,000 m2 will boost the hub’s total storage area to 18,000 m2, thereby enabling it to handle the heightened demand – particularly in the hazardous goods sector. Employees too will welcome the upgrade, with the location’s staff facilities being modernized across the board.

DUBAI | Land and air by sea! In July the team at Gebrüder Weiss Dubai took delivery of nine cars. And one of them was the original Batmobile from the movie! Their colleagues in Los Angeles securely stowed this unique vehicle so that it couldn’t fly away on its own. After a 40-day voyage, it arrived safely in Dubai and was delivered to its new owners.

HUNGARY/AUSTRIA | Gebrüder Weiss has signed a new contract with a Japanese manu­ facturer of digital office communications equipment, and is now delivering its products in Austria and Hungary. The project’s mile­ stone marker: Gebrüder Weiss successfully programmed and rolled out the technical interface between the two companies within a mere two weeks.

Famous foes Close associations aren’t the sole domain of friends. Enemies too can share certain affinities – in the form of similar interests, similar circumstances and similar needs. Sometimes amity and enmity are only divided by one small step: an insult, an act of rejection, an affront. And then nothing can ever be the same again. text:  Imke Borchers  illustrations:  Gerd Schröder


“There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” Lady Diana said as her relationship with Prince Charles was falling apart. The wedding of the young, beautiful Diana and the Prince of Wales captivated the entire nation in 1981. The people loved Diana, despite the fact – or perhaps because – she was struggling with her new role, suffering from bulimia and experiencing tensions with her strict mother-in-law, the Queen. From the very beginning, Camilla ParkerBowles was part of the relationship between Charles and Diana. Camilla and Charles met and fell in love in the early 1970s. Shortly before his wedding, Charles allegedly sent her a bracelet. On the day itself, Camilla and the groom exchanged meaningful glances. During his honeymoon he

donned ­cufflinks bearing the initials “C & C” and a photograph of Camilla fell out of his diary. This ménage à trois made regular headlines in the media. Camilla stoically bore the burden of ­being the odd woman out and was criticized by the press for being aloof and stiff. Diana, who for her part also took refuge in extramarital affairs, adopted the public persona of a combative wife. Everyone knows how the story ended: Charles and ­Diana announced their separation in 1991, Camilla ­divorced her husband in 1995, and Charles and ­Diana divorced in 1996. And while Diana died in a tragic road accident in 1997, she lives on in British memories as the “Queen of Hearts.” In 2005, Charles finally married the woman he had always loved.



The moment finally arrived when the two foes faced off. Both men had waited years for this daunting encounter: Hector, son of the King of Troy and a heroic defender of the besieged city, and Achilles, the Greeks’ most fearsome warrior. Given his ­dispute with Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae, ­Achilles had refused to participate in the fighting, as a result of which the Trojans had claimed numerous victories. But when Achilles’ cousin and lover Patroclus entered the fray disguised in Achilles’ ­ ggrieved by the damage ­armor, Hector killed him. A to his reputation and devastated by the loss of his close friend, Achilles furiously sought revenge. He rejoined the army and put all of the Trojans to flight – except Hector. As they engaged in mortal combat, Achilles struck a fatal blow with his sword at the crucial moment. Hector was vanquished ­outside the gates of Troy and a triumphant Achilles dragged his corpse three times around the city walls. It may be an ancient story, but it is one that has found echoes in many subsequent conflicts.


Two musicians who were supposed to be friends: both born in New York in the early 1970s, both raised without fathers, both drug dealers – a past they left behind after their initial success as rappers. In the beginning they were genuinely close. Until Tupac Shakur was shot following recording sessions with the Notorious B. I. G. and Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy. Both were suspected of plotting the attack. This ignited one of the most ­famous beefs in hip-hop history: East Coast vs West Coast, a war between the labels Bad Boy Records and Death Row. Their songs are diss rants against one another. But the hostility went beyond song ­lyrics. “2Pac” Shakur was shot and killed in 1996, Notorious B. I. G. in 1997 – presumably to avenge Shakur. Despite their violent ends, the popularity of their music continued to grow.




In the early 1990s, these two women were rising stars on the American figure-skating firmament. Tonya Harding was extremely athletic and ambitious. Nancy Kerrigan was technically less perfect but possessed a grace and elegance that soon made her everybody’s favorite. Perhaps therein lies the seed that spawned Harding’s wounded pride. To qualify for the 1994 Olympics, skaters were required to finish first or second in the U. S. Championships earlier in the year. A day before the showdown, an unidentified assailant hit Kerrigan on the knee with a steel pipe – forcing her withdrawal from the competition. Harding, who had previously ­finished second-best on several occasions, went on to win and qualify for the Olympics. However, ­Kerrigan’s recovery was surprisingly swift, and she was able to take her place at the Olympics too. The two women demonstratively ignored each other during their joint warm-up sessions on the ice. A weak performance left Harding in 8th place, while Kerrigan captured silver, just missing out on the gold medal. Harding’s ex-husband was later revealed as the main conspirator but nobody was able to prove whether Harding herself had foreknow­ ledge of the attack. She maintained that she only found out after the event. If this tragic story were a fairy tale, it might be called “Snow White and the Ice Witch.”

Ferrucio Lamborghini had already established a thriving tractor factory, dabbled in producing heating and air-conditioning systems, and unsuccessfully tried to launch a helicopter company – all ­before he bought a Ferrari for his private pleasure in the 1960s. As legend has it, Lamborghini was ­dissatisfied with the car and wanted a showdown with his fellow entrepreneur Ferrari – to voice his criticisms of the car’s clutch and cylinder heads. The “ingegnere,” as Ferrari liked to style himself, ruled his company with an iron fist. He refused – so the story goes – to meet with a tractor driver and ­accept the improvements recommended by his ­future rival. Lamborghini reacted swiftly, commissioning the best developers and designers to build his own version. But not just any old vehicle. With its twelve cylinders and mid-engine design, the Lamborghini ­Miura is still the gold standard in sports cars today. Celebrities lined up to buy it. At the end of the day, Ferrari’s alleged reaction – while possibly no more than a clever PR prank – became a boon for Lamborghini.

My friend the kidnapper


When hostages develop emotional ties to their kidnappers, people sometimes speak of the “Stockholm Syndrome.” However, this term rarely does justice to the captives’ harrowing experiences.

TEXT: Alex Raack “The party’s just begun!” These words heralded one of the most spectacular sieges in modern Swedish history. On the morning of August 23, 1973, 32-yearold Jan-Erik Olsson walked into the Svenska Kreditbanken bank in downtown Stockholm. He fired off a salvo from his machine gun, wounding a police officer, and then barricaded himself inside the bank with four hostages. His demand: the payment of a 3-million kronor ransom and the release of his former cellmate Clark Olofsson. The authorities decided to take Olofsson to the scene and, once the two friends had met and spoken, the hostage-taker rang the office of Sweden’s Prime Minister Olof Palme and barked into the phone: “If you don’t let us out of the bank, it’s curtains for the hostages!” How do people react if, innocently in the process of withdrawing cash, they are seized by criminals who appear out of the blue? And what happens inside their heads when they realize that the hostage-takers control their destinies? The drama of Norrmalmstorg Square ended six days later with an audacious police rescue operation which, while forcing Olsson and his accomplice Olofsson to surrender, also left the hostages severely traumatized. They were left famished and parched during their detention because special forces had failed to provide enough food and water. They had had to sleep upright because holes had been drilled into the room where they were detained. Water seeped

in through these holes and ultimately gas was pumped in to coerce the kidnappers to surrender. During this period the phone in Olof Palme’s office rang again. This time Kristin Enmark, one of the hostages, was on the line. She said “Just let us out. I’m not afraid of these men. They’re protecting us.” There is no doubt that Enmark and the released prisoner Olofsson developed a special relationship during those six days, one that evolved into a friendship and even a romance. Outsiders find this difficult to credit. How can a hostage feel affection for her captor? During the weeks after the event, Stockholm police psychologist Nils Bejerot coined the term “Stockholm Syndrome,” creating a name – that is still in currency today – for the psychological phenomenon whereby victims align themselves with their tormentors. As was also the case with Patty Hearst: in February 1974, the daughter of an American media mogul was abducted by a radical left-wing group and maltreated for weeks on end. After two months of captivity, the heir to the family fortune had joined the Symbionese Liberation Army, taken part in attacks in its name, and even been arrested herself. Years later Hearst tried to find an explanation for her astonishing metamorphosis: “The physical and psychological abuse breaks you. At some point I had absorbed a completely new identity.” A similar response came in the spring of 2003 when 17 tourists were held captive in the Sahara for 54 days by Algerian

The prototype for the “Stockholm Syndrome.” The hostage-taking in the vaults of Sweden’s SvenskaKreditbanken bank.

First a victim, then a perpetrator: Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of an American newspaper tycoon, following her arrest in 1976

Mujahideen. When their ordeal was over, they pleaded on behalf of their captors for lenient sentences. When two of the hostages, a German couple, were married some months later, one of the kidnappers congratulated them on the happy occasion. “During our confinement a kind of trust built up between us,” the two explained. “It took a whole year for us to feel it was over and that we had returned to our previous lives.” What happened to Kristin Enmark, Patty Hearst and the hostages in the desert? As U.S. psychiatrist Frank Ochberg, one of the world’s top experts in this field, has explained, at first the victims are shocked and unable to cope; then they revert to their most basic, primeval instincts. To save their own lives, they unconsciously activate the kind of reflexes that built bonds between them and their own mothers. The semi-scientific concept “Stockholm Syndrome” is controversial among experts because it simplifies a highly complex mental process. Arnold Wieczorek, a forensic psychologist at the Baden-Württemberg State Office of Criminal Investigation, says: “To prevent perpetrators from wielding their power to end their lives, victims will initially do anything they ask to save themselves out of a sheer will to survive.” He describes the moment when the hostages begin to develop positive feelings towards their captors as

“a rational and non-arbitrary modification of behavior that transitions into a mental syndrome over which they gradually lose control.” Kristin Enmark never worked out why she developed a friendship with the criminal Clark Olofsson. Did she crack under the mental and physical pressure? Could it be that Olofsson, whose release the actual mastermind had obtained, had really behaved more humanely during the six days of captivity than the occasionally brutish police? Enmark, who later trained as a psychotherapist, wrote a book about her experiences. But she couldn’t come up with clear explanations for her own behavior. Perhaps there are no straightforward answers: “I’ve been trying to come to terms with what happened for 43 years now,” the very first victim of the Stockholm Syndrome said after the publication of her story. “But I still have a long way to go.”

Alex Raack was an editor at the German soccer magazine 11 FREUNDE (11 FRIENDS) from 2009 to 2016. In 2015 he published his book Den muss er machen, a dictionary of soccer clichés, idioms and platitudes. Raack works as a freelance journalist in Berlin.


No strings attached HARALD MARTENSTEIN

on relationships between men and women

It’s a subject of considerable debate. Is true, platonic friendship between men and women possible? Isn’t sexuality likely to get in the way at some point? There are certainly examples of stable and successful friendships. In Germany these include the mutual affection shared by Helmut Schmidt and the TV presenter Sandra Maischberger. To be fair, the former German Chancellor was about 90 by the time this really took off. Further afield, Michael Jackson was good at friendships with women – Liz Taylor, for instance. Of course, as human beings go the pop star was something of an individualist, to put it mildly. In recent years a new form of association between the genders has gained popularity in Germany. It is known as “Friendship Plus,” a term taken from the German title of the movie “No Strings Attached.” A man and a woman deepen their relationship by doing it now and again, but neither party is under any ­obligation to do more. There is no desire for anything long-term, e. g. no shared household, no plans for the future. ­Anyone browsing the internet can find an array of guides and helpful websites, doubtless because this type of relationship harbors its own pitfalls. There is an ever-present risk of one partner starting to drift into the deep water of stronger feelings. It’s important that potential partners state up front what they want

from a relationship. They can say that they really like each other as friends, even during sex, but that’s as far as it goes. According to the “flirting consultant” Andy Pasion, the relationship can offer the sexual excitement of one-night stands plus the comfort of familiarity that these lack. Written mainly for women, the German website “Erdbeerlounge” (“Strawberry Lounge”) prescribes: “Cuddling is taboo. Once sex is over, the partners must leave the bed.” Friends who sleep together need to ensure that comfortable post-coital seating is available in the room. Andy Pasion advises his male target group, “Do nothing with a partner that is specific to conventional relationships.” Going swimming, watching ­movies and attending sports events are fine. After all, they feature in all types of friendship. But the list of banned activities includes kissing and holding hands in public; this might confuse other

friends. Jealousy too is taboo, but regaling others about past adventures is not wise either. It’s safe to say, “I think you’re hot,” but “You’re the woman of my dreams” is strictly beyond the pale as the stuff of misunderstandings. A “no-strings-attached” liaison with an ex is out of the question. The complications simply spiral out of control. “Friendship Plus” relationships need to be terminated abruptly or chaos is ­inevitable. Unfortunately this seems to be a major hurdle. It’s difficult to return to being “just good friends.” In fact, love – not sex – is the true enemy of a “normal” friendship between men and women. When choosing friends from the opposite sex, potential suitors should ask themselves whether they could ever feel love for them. A lasting platonic friendship can only be forged if partners really don’t gel, even if they really like one other. Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor found a formula that worked.

Harald Martenstein authors the column “Martenstein” in Germany’s ZEIT magazin and is an editor at the ­Berlin-based newspaper Der ­Tagesspiegel. His most recent book is Nettsein ist auch keine Lösung: Einfache Geschichten aus einem schwierigen Land.

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friends sometimes they’re shy, sometimes they’re loud it really all depends reserved, reckless, dumb, proud i’m talking about friends some friends you meet every ten years and always feel goodwill and other friendships end in tears because you’ve had your fill what makes a friendship really tick? it makes you want to cry some crack while others swiftly click and nobody knows why


Translated from the German by Mary Fran Gilbert & Keith Bartlett.

ATLAS No. 9: With news, views, interviews and pictures galore powered by a fascination with a world on the move.

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ATLAS 09 english