So in Qingdao, China, industrial city of 8 million (while teaching this summer at China Petroleum University), in the famous ‘Germanytown’ area, home to Tsingtao beer, I let my 13-year-old drink.
Germany controlled this strategic port city , on the Yellow Sea, a quick ferry ride from Korea, from about 1900 through the Second World War. They bequeathed their love of beer, visible in kegs stacked at every corner store. About 100 German stone mansions remain, many on winding, tree-lined, hilly seaside roads.
Germans built the Tsingtao Beer brewery in 1903, now (modernized) China’s top brewer & beer exporter (85% market share). Chinese tourists love Qingdao’s beach, cool sea breezes, beer and seafood (we avoided it–sadly…too much industrial effluence in these waters). About a year ago, the world’s longest over-sea bridge opened here (26 miles).While historic Chinese vernacular architecture is constantly lost, (admittedly, it’s wooden), Qingdao preserves its German heritage (stone construction helps?). Maybe it’s an undue reverence for Western things.
Some are museums; some are hotels; some apparently are Party resorts, offices–holiday residences? We had wienerschnitzel at the one above, the largest, a museum.
I mistakenly let my kid have a whole bottle of beer the first time. Insight: being 6’1″ will not keep a person who has no tolerance from getting way too drunk. I downgraded to a regular-size glass at a banquet with the dean, where he made a kind of awkward spectacle by going on and on about Ai Wei Wei. Then we moved to teeny tiny glasses, which works. I think it has successfully de-mystified beer.
This German building houses the omnipresent northeastern Chinese chain restaurant, Mr. Li’s (a Chinese-American version of the KFC ‘Colonel… I hear he lives in California). We find Mr. Li’s food watery and bland, but love this building.
No beer for sale.
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PPS: Sorry the last email about modern architecture went out too early; complete post is at coplansinchina.com .