My Life

Childhood and Youth

Student Days

The Decisive Years

Time of Responsibility

Tireless Retirement

The map below shows the geographical course of my life. The bending and curving arrows represent 32 years of learning, the bold straight arrow 33 years of teaching. After 65 years of life and 65 semesters at Freiburg University the time of savouring life has begun.


Childhood and Youth

I am, in a way, a realization of the human instinct of survival: I was conceived at the beginning of World War II and born on May 20, 1940 in Dortmund, a center of heavy industry which came under attack very early in the war. Luckily, my father evaded the draft and was at home to protect the young family. He managed to get the materials for building the air-raid shelter behind our house; he and a small number of other men rescued the burning buildings when they were hit by bombs. This has saved many lives, including my own. Even though I recall a happy childhood, my oldest memories are those of terror: the sound of the sirens, low-flying planes, flames up to the sky, the darkness and stench in the shelter. Fortunately we did not suffer from famine, and in all this turbulence I somehow grew up.





When the war came to an end and everything around us lay in ruins, I was five years old. It was my father again who kept us going through the post-war chaos and the extreme winter of 1946/47. He knew how to find a side of pork and smuggle it through the British controls; he was in a position that enabled him to trade building materials for coal and fruits. So, unlike many people we did not starve or freeze, and although we had cardboard instead of glass in our windows and slept on straw, we felt prosperous. There was no money for toys, but the environment was a fantastic playground: the cellars of the ruins, the wrecks of tanks and planes, the deserted industrial areas, and the frozen bombhole pools in wintertime.

Of course the schools were also destroyed, and most of the teachers had been killed in action. So when my mother took me to start school in 1946, the authorities were most happy to send me back home for a year, arguing that I wasn't mature enough (see the 1946 photo). Today I consider this one of the most fortunate circumstances in my life: I got the chance to play for another year and develop my childish curiosity into a genuine one. As a result, I later was always ahead of my classmates, and once as a third-grader I filled the place of a missing teacher by practicing arithmetic with the fourth-graders. The educational system was so unsteady after the war that in the end I had been in nine different schools.




When my four years of elementary school were over, my parents reckoned that in the post-war situation a practical education was more useful than an academic one, and so they sent me to the German middle school (Realschule). After three years there my teachers considered this to be a mistake. It was my class teacher Fritz Arnscheidt who convinced my parents to transfer me to the German high school (Gymnasium, preparatory for university) in 1954. He also gave me private lessons every Sunday morning to make up for the lost three years of Latin in just six months. So it is him, along with my parents, to whom I owe my academic career. Despite being fortunate, I was unhappy most of 1954 and1955. First I had to change schools, then my father lost his job in Dortmund and we had to move to Essen. There I was put in the wrong highschool and after a few months had to change schools again. At 15 I was just reaching puberty, but I had to learn to cope with all these challenges.




We didn't stay in Essen for long, but it was there at the Alfried-Krupp-Gymnasium where my teacher Franz Gries kindled my passion for chemistry, by simply letting us experiment in the school's laboratory. In 1957 we moved to Duisburg, where I went to the Mercator-Gymnasium until my graduation (Abitur) in 1960. In Duisburg I found friends, and I began to feel at home again. There, while slowly and belatedly reaching adulthood, my rebelliousness, my endurance (some call it stubbornness),  my ever-observing mind (some call it merciless criticism) and my wit began to take shape.


Franz Gries


My best friends were Oswald Dilling who sat next to me in the classroom and with whom I spent the holidayas then, Eberhard Hintzsche with whom I walked to school and with whom I have shared so much laughter, and Irmtraut Peterzelt whom I had to court for so long before she became my first girlfriend. During our professional lives we lost sight of one another, but as I write this Eberhard and Irmtraut are close friends again.

with Oswald

with Eberhard

with Irmtraut
It was also in the years 1956-1958 that I found those activities which I have enjoyed ever since: photography, outdoor life, physical exercise and travelling - all manifestations of insatiable curiosity. Consistent with this, in highschool I got my highest marks in chemistry, biology and sports.

While climbing the mountains, while competing in rowing championships, and after falling in love for the first time, I also got to know the bitter taste of defeat and the hardship of beginning anew. Today I am grateful for these early experiences. Not only were they an indispensable ingredient of success in science, but also have they made me aware that it is more satisfying to do something than to be rewarded for it. Yet, when I left home at age 20 I was still quite uncertain about my prospects and abilities.


Student Days

It took me exactly seven years to become a Doctor of Chemistry. For a long time I thought that these were the happiest years of my life. But now I know that life after retirement has more to offer. Yet, I also know now that never again have I been so full of energy, optimism, and imagination, and never again have I gone through those emotional highs and lows.








My youth ended on May 1, 1960, when I left home to become a chemistry student. For the first five semesters, until the Vordiplom degree, I attended the university of Bonn. In the summer of 1962 I moved on to the university of München, where in July 1964 I obtained the Diplom and in February 1967 the Dr. degree. Until the end of 1965 I depended on the support by my parents, which allowed me only a humble life, and being a keen student I did not spend much time earning money during the semester breaks. Thus I never was the classical student, going out drinking and having fun with the girls. Instead my most intense memories of this time are those of my cheap accommodations and of constant learning.

my accommodation in Beuel-Geislar

learning for the Vordiplom

learning for the Diplom

view from my room in München

I never regretted that I chose chemistry. There is no other subject which depends as much on feeling and intuition as on knowledge and experience, and where the ability to observe and judge is the key to success. I remember with happy feelings the "big lectures" of those inspiring teachers like Otto Schmitz-Dumont and Rolf Huisgen, and even though in those days the tasks in the laboratory, which went on for four full years, were tough and extremely selective, I would still like to go back and do them again.

Bonn, 1960

Bonn, 1961

München, 1963

the "Doktorfeier", 1967

Saying that in those seven years I spent most of my time in the laboratory and over the textbooks doesn't mean that there were no other pleasures. The pictures show a few. In those days a limited budget still allowed one to get far. Hitchhiking was the means of transportation, and sleeping in a tent or on the ground was no problem. So together with my student friends I went out to find my limits in the mountains or on the shores of southern Europe.





Ibiza, 1961, with Franz Brock

Odenwald, 1964, with Dieter Sellmann

1965, with Diethard Wendt

Kaisergebirge, 1966, with Willi Regnet

Almost all my lasting friendships have resulted from my years in München, before and after my doctoral studies. Here I wish to honour four people who had fates typical of their time and who were part of the decisive turns of my life in the sixties. Tante Finchen, a widow with a golden heart but rigid moral standards, was my first landlady who made sure that my moral standards also stayed high. Bernd Hamprecht, with whom I shared a room for almost two years, by accident saved me from missing the enrollment date at München university. Willy Regnet, a member of the lost generation who was much older than I but got his Dr. degree only years after me, not only inspired my enthusiasm for the mountains but also lured me into the research group of Heinz Nöth, which so happily started my career. Jörg Lorberth, a student contemporary and lifelong friend, was not only always good for intellectual challenges and silly jokes but also essential in the history of my marriage.

Tante Finchen and Fräulein Schmitz, 1961

Bernd Hamprecht, 1963

Willi Regnet, 1965

Jörg Lorberth, 1967
After my Diplom degree it took me two and a half years to finish Dr. degree, most of which time I received generous financial support from my supervisor, Heinz Nöth. Getting a Dr. degree after 14 semesters was fast even in those days. I worked hard to achieve that, but I never felt that I was rushing. When I held the document in my hands I felt a sense of regret rather than pride. Maybe I should have wasted more time with the student time pleasures. But that was past, and now real life had to begin.

The Decisive Years

The year 1967 brought many decisions at once: I received my Dr. degree, I bought my first car, I followed my professor to Marburg, I got married, I decided to start an academic career, I got an offer to go to America as a postdoctoral fellow, and I began to realize that I did not know much yet about either chemistry or the world or life in general.




in the Arboretum in Madison, 1969
Most of my scientific development from here on is described in the section "My Academic World". The first event in my private life one week after getting the Dr. degree was the purchase of a used VW beetle, which turned out to be a real disaster. Not only did I have my first serious accident with it only a week later, but also it was in such a miserable condition that I was glad to get rid of it only five months later. Fortunately this was not a bad omen, and everything else in 1967 went smoothly and pleasantly.
When I received my Dr. degree in München, my supervisor, Heinz Nöth, had already moved to a chair at Marburg University. He offered me to stay with him, and I became an "Assistent" in Marburg. That summer of 1967 felt like a holiday after the stressful final stages of the doctorate. Jörg Lorberth and I enjoyed the hospitality of widow Herling in a beautiful house in Cappel. I had only a few duties, the work in the laboratory yielded nice results every day, and - my girlfriend and future wife being far away - I enjoyed the last months of my time as a bachelor.
Like every chemist in those years I dreamt of going to America as a postdoctoral fellow, and I had written some unsuccessful applications already when, unexpectedly, my supervisor in June 1967 handed me an offer from Larry Dahl in Madison, Wisconsin. Neither did I know who Larry Dahl was nor was I enthusiastic about going "out into the prairie". I agreed unwillingly, not knowing that this would be the happiest decision in my life. From this moment on things got hectic, as I was expected to start working in October. The first question to be answered was getting married or not. The answer was: Yes.
My relation with Carla Dluzewski was a passionate love affair from the beginning in January 1966. From the beginning, too, it was not without ups and downs, and when we got married we could not be sure whether the ups or the downs would prevail. Our civil wedding took place on July 30, 1967, the church wedding on September 16. The time in America was our honeymoon, the first years after that were the test of endurance. We had many happy days, but they did not last. We succeeded in making our social environment believe that our marriage was stable, but after 20 years all hope was gone. Yet the marriage lasted 35 years. The divorce was finalized on November 23, 2002. Since then I have lived alone.

Carla, 1966

my inlaws, Ilse and Karl Dluzewski

the wedding photo

Carla, 1978




Three days after our church wedding we set out for America, taking our new VW beetle along. Those one and a half years in and around Madison (October 1967 - April 1969) were the golden years of my life, starting with the journey aboard the Queen Elizabeth and ending with the tour across the country. Never again have I been so lucky in everything I started, never again have I met so many beautiful people in such a short time. The city of Madison and the state of Wisconsin turned out to be the best possible home in America, and I am proud to be an Alumnus of the University of Wisconsin. My boss Larry and his secretary Audrey who ran the group were the best ever, and the community integrated us into the enviably magnanimous Amercan spirit.

aboard the Queen Elizabeth

full moon over Lake Mendota

arriving in our new home

My boss expected me to do preparative chemistry, I was determined to learn structure determination. What looked like a conflict turned into a perfect symbiosis, thanks to my preparative knowledge and the helpfulness of everybody around me. The photos below which were taken on the very first days of my visit show the most important people involved. I call them my friends and meet most of them frequently up to this day.

in room 2228

Larry Dahl

Audrey Aylesworth

Chuck Strouse, Dick White, Joe Calabrese, Vern Uchtman, Alan Foust

From Larry I learned the quote "Work hard, play hard" which I have done and which I cite frequently. My strongest affection for him, however, goes back to his answer "Henry, you live only once", when I asked for a free month without pay, and he gave me the free month and the pay, allowing us to make our big trip to Mexico. It was his generosity, too, which allowed us to travel around in our VW and get our first impressions of the great American West.

Monument Valley

Black Hills

Salt Lake

Looking back I always remember people first. Gordy and LaVonne Muller were our neighbours in the student village of Eagle Heights, and I like to remember visiting them on Sunday evenings for having beer and popcorn with their big family. My labmate, Vern Uchtman, and I taught each other what we knew and have continued the practice since then. In 1968 he and his wife Sue had just the first of their three children. I am particularly happy that I could talk my parents into visiting us in September 1968; this was a highlight in their lives as well as in mine.

the Muller family

a Sunday with my parents

the Uchtman family

Meeting those people has made me a friend of America for life. Getting to know Larry Dahl and his attitude toward science have shaped my views of Academia. The things which I learnt in Madison - cluster chemistry, X-ray crystallography, and enthusiasm - have been the basis of my success in science. Larry offered me an opportunity to stay, and in those days it would have been easy to find an academic position in an American university. But my intuition told me to return home, which was the final happy decision during my postdoctoral time. I was ready for an academic career in Germany.
We returned to Germany by plane in May 1969. I worked for a short time in Marburg again. But Heinz Nöth was moving back to München to become the successor of the great Egon Wiberg. So in the fall of 1969 I was back in München. There we intended to consolidate our lives and settle for a while. We rented and furnished our first spacious apartment in Eching, and we bought a sporty car. Having learned this in Madison, we started all kinds of social activities. Before I was 30 I was even a member of the local church board.

my parents in Marburg

our home in Eching

our Ford Capri
My scientific work proceeded nicely. I attracted my first coworker, Winfried Ehrl. The close neighbourhood of the Technische Hochschule München brought me to the attention of E.O. Fischer who became a generous patron. I attended my first international conference in Moscow in 1971, where for the first time I met all the famous organometallic chemists. My strongest supporter, however, was again Larry Dahl who stayed in München for a sabbatical in the summer of 1970. He made me believe in myself and he often got on people's nerves by praising me.

discussing with Winfried Ehrl, 1972

E.O. Fischer at ICOMC 5, Moscow 1971

excursion with the Dahls, 1970

We felt well at ease in München in the early seventies, and I was convinced that there wasn't a better place in Germany. I finished my thesis submitted for the certificate of habilitation in the summer of 1972. With the status of a Privatdozent and the prospect of getting a permanent position as an Akademischer Rat, working in the hottest field of inorganic chemistry in one of the best German chemistry departments, everything seemed to be arranged for a pleasant and trouble-free future.
Then, one day in February 1973 I was invited at short notice for a lecture at Freiburg University. That was only my third invited lecture, and I did not know that a chair was to be filled there. Hence I was quite relaxed and enjoyed the lecture and the ensuing discussion. Less than a week later I was appointed on a preliminary basis for that chair, and in the summer of 1973, still 32 years old, I was a full professor. The time of playing was over.

Time of Resposibility

I served as a chemistry professor in Freiburg for 65 semesters, which at the time of my retirement was exactly half of my life. The Bible (Psalm 90,10) says "The length of our days is seventy years, or eighty, if we have the strength; yet even the best of them are struggle and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away." That's what it was. While I write this I am 70, and I can say: they were the best, they were struggle and sorrow, and they quickly passed. I hope that I shall not fly away too soon, see "Every Day is Sunday" (below) or the "Highlights" section.
This chapter covers 30 years, and of course many things happened during that time. But since the inner clock moves faster with increasing age the chapter isn't much longer than the other ones. Furthermore, if I would really mention some critical names and places the risk of legal action would become critical itself. And, again, the reader is referred to
the section "My Academic World" for details on my scientific development.




The most pleasant memories are assiciated with the places where we lived. In the fall of 1973 we rented a semi-detached house in Wolfenweiler. It was only 5 m wide, but it seemed like a castle. Remarkably, during my first few years in Freiburg I still had enough time after work to enjoy the place and to explore the region. We were happy at home, made friends with many neighbours, and enjoyed frequent visits by my parents.


Only four years later we felt strong enough to build our own house. We chose a lot overlooking the village of Ebringen, and we never regretted that. The house was built big enough that my parents could move in, but only my mother lived with us from 1983 to 1995, as my father died before having the opportunity. Since 2002 I have been the only inhabitant.


One of my great dreams became a reality in 1992 when we built our second home in Archsum on the island of Sylt - a genuine Frisian house with a thatched roof. Originally thought to be our retirement home, we enjoyed it for only 10 years. I still miss it, because I love the island and the sea. But after our divorce it became a burden, and it became clear that the cool and wet climate is not ideal for me. So after 15 years I gave it up and sold it in 2007.


In terms of my daily work, teaching, research and administration, life was not so pleasant. When I checked in for work on April 1, 1973, I had a chair as a professor, but not a chair to sit on. My colleagues had not been able to provide me with an office nor with appropriate laboratories. I had no secretary and no budget, no coworkers and not a single big instrument. Getting all this took time, and living in that world of predators was not possible without producing some collateral damage. When I started I declared it my duty to make my institute as strong and successful as the neighbouring ones. Today, almost 40 years later, I can say that I, my colleagues and our successors have achieved that.
The major advances came in 1976 with the creation of an independent Institute of Inorganic Chemistry and in 1980 when Gerhard Thiele became my colleague. After our junior colleagues Bernhard Lippert (1985) and Thomas Schleid (1994) had arrived, we finally were fully operational and efficient. Since then we have enjoyed a succession of talented young professors who came and then moved on to become full professors at other universities.

The Institute today

Gerhard Thiele

Bernhard Lippert

Thomas Schleid
In research progress was a little faster, although the first years, due to lack of people, equipment and money, were also frustrating. But in the late seventies I was blessed with a group of coworkers who turned out to be the best whom I have ever had. They produced the chemistry which made us successful. They were all excellent, and it is with some regret that I can show only four of them here as they looked in the year 1980.

Egbert Keller

Thomas Madach

Felix Richter

Harald Beurich
The successes in our cluster chemistry opened many doors, and I came to enjoy the slogan "be a chemist and see the world". Within a few years I had been on all continents, and even in the early eighties I already had coworkers from the U.S., China or Brazil. They and all their successors (see the section on Coworkers) are my big family now, and they prove the thesis that the community of chemists is like a medieval brotherhood of monks: wherever I go there will be food and shelter for me.
I like to remember all the places where I stayed as a lecturer or as a visiting professor, in between La Plata in Argentina and Huhehot in Inner Mongolia, in between Pietermaritzburg in South Africa and Juensuu in Finland. Again it is the people who really make the happy memories, and again I can only show here a few of the many with whom I shared duties and pleasures, successes and failures, disappointments and rewards.

Pierre Braunstein, Strasbourg

Tapani and Tuula Pakkanen, Joensuu

Pradeep Mathur, Bombay

Gerard Parkin, New York

People have called me a workaholic. This is only correct insofar as I have always been keen on finishing a job (my definition of "professor" is "problem solver"). But for all these years I have kept in mind two statements by Larry Dahl whom I hold in such high esteem: "Henry, you live only once" and "work hard, play hard". I am a dedicated teacher, and in my whole career I never missed a lecture due to illness. I never let my coworkers wait when they had a problem or when their theses had to be finished. Yet, up into the eighties I managed to keep Saturdays and Sundays free from duties. After the first tough years I took advantage of every opportunity to have a sabbatical semester, during which I spent several months abroad, taking my wife along. I worked and lectured in New Zealand (1981, 1986, 1995), Italy (1985), South Africa (1987), Finland (1988, 1992), Argentina (1988),
France (1990 and 1996), China (1991 and 1999), India (1995), Taiwan (1996), USA (2004) and South East Asia (2006).
One price for success in science is being a referee. Already in the early eighties I was a member of the refereeing commitees of the Fonds der Chemischen Industrie, and already in my forties I was an elected referee of the German Science Foundation. In my fifties I served for six years in the Senate commitee for "Sonderforschungsbereiche" of the German Science Foundation and for ten years as the head of the Curriculum Commitee of the German Chemical Society, while at the same time being the most-cited chemist from Freiburg. That stole my free Saturdays after 1980 and my free Sundays after 1990. On top of that came the temporary duties that no professor in our universities can evade: head of department, dean of the faculty, member of the university's senate, head of the examination commitee, member of funding bodies, speaker of research teams, member of editorial boards. At the peak of this time of duties I was the supervisor of seven secretaries. My last and most influential function was that as the President of the Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft Freiburg, which I finally gave up in 2008.
Thus time passed and my hair turned white. A rough count has revealed that I delivered almost as many referee reports as I gave lectures (around 3000). Therefore, considering the academic tasks of teaching, research and administration, at the beginning of one's career it is all research, and at the end the load of administrative duties has eaten up everything else. Many colleagues keep part of their research group and hope to dive into research again after retirement. I decided to make a clean break at the earliest possible date. One reason for that was a wisdom which came from being a professor at such an early age: he who is the youngest in a team at a very young age will also be the oldest at a very young age. In 2005 I had been a professor of chemistry in Freiburg for a longer time than any one of my predecessors. I made sure that all of my coworkers had finished their doctoral work and that the faculty hired my successor in a timely fashion. Ingo Krossing moved into my office the day after my retirement. I avoided all official festivities, gave a long speech on all the things which I like to remember, celebrated all night with my academic friends, and said farewell.

my guests during the farewell lecture

my beloved academic teachers, Heinz Nöth and Larry Dahl and their wives

Retire 4a

Every Day is Sunday

The Best Years

Time for Pleasure

It was easy for me to leave the academic world behind. My favourite mottos "brood more, cackle less" (1) and "red tape is forbidden" (2) had become old-fashioned, and I had to resort to motto (3) "act lively, say what you think, finish in time" which is ascribed to Martin Luther. Step by step I withdrew from writing reviews and going to meetings. My last paper was published in 2007. At the end of 2008 I gave up my last public position, the presidency of the "Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft in Freiburg". In 2009 I was obliged (not entirely voluntarily) to give up my tiny office in my Institute, and in 2010 the relation between me and my Institute had become so distant that it would not have been appropriate to stage a public event there for my 70th birthday.

motto no.1

motto no.2

motto no. 3


                                                    Every Day is Sunday

Since I have been retired, I experience what every retiree tells me: I am busy all the time. Part of this comes from getting up later in the morning and having a coffee break every afternoon, part from the fact that at my age everything takes longer. But the main reason is the discovery late in life of so many things which are worth doing. I spend little time in front of the TV, I don't read many books. There is always something waiting, and there are still so many projects which haven't been tackled yet.

Of course being a chemistry professor means being in love with science for one's whole life. In my case this means that I will always enjoy teaching. I have not stopped my efforts for the public understanding of science, and I still give popular science lectures once in a while. But I have stopped writing popular science publications.

The "Saturday University", Freiburg 2010

my last review article

A title from the "Why" series
My main and happiest activity in the field of teaching, however, has been my employment as a visiting professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Beginning in 2006 I have spent the cold months of the German year in Southeast Asia (see below), and it so happened that the Chemistry Department at Chula needed English speaking lecturers for their international "Bachelor of Science in Applied Chemistry" program. I was most happy to join in, and for three years I taught freshman chemistry for large classes of 19-year-olds. My teaching load was light, and I had a lot of free time. I stayed in the University Guest House right on the campus, in a green island of peace in the heart of loud and polluted Bangkok. This has given me the motivation and the time to get to know and understand Southeast Asia, which has resulted in so many new friendships. My interactions with people at Chula were the beginning, and I remember with gratitude the help and cooperation of Patchanita, Soamwadee and Jutatip, and particularly of my co-lecturer, Preeyanuch from Mahidol University.

the program

my course

my opening address


Jutatip and Soamwadee

Really the first thing which I discovered after my retirement was my garden. Before 2005 I never cared about it, and now it is a source of satisfaction and joy for me, the old man's ever-pleasing motivation for improvements and physical activity. Likewise, there is always something to be improved in the house, and during the first five years after my retirement I completely repainted it inside and outside and had large parts of it renovated. The desire for physical activity also makes me move about on the bicycle or on foot, easy to do in this lovely part of the world where I have the pleasure to live. My camera is my steady companion, and sometimes I spend as much time editing my photos as I have spent for the excursion. Enjoying outdoor activities so much, I have converted my Opel Zafira, a family car, by removing the back seats, into my "hypnomobile", the simplest-possible campervan, which gives me freedom and independence, and in which I have already travelled as far as Cabo Finisterre in Spain and the North Cape in Norway.

my garden

hiking in the Black Forest

camping with my hypnomobile
During my career I did not "waste" much time for social activities, and when I went into retirement I had rather few friends. Fortunately this has changed, and now maintaining my friendships has become one of my most pleasant activities. It was so delightful to "find" my youthtime friends Eberhard and Irmtraut again and to re-activate my old relation with Wolfgang and Almut. A special highlight was the reunion with my highschool classmates, upon the occasion of the 50th anniversary of our graduation, whom I had not seen for 50 years and with whom I meet regularly now. In the academic world colleagues
very seldomly become close friends, but after retirement a small group of us have managed to be that, and our monthly "Stammtisch" is a fixed date on my calendar now. Moving around with an open mind, it has become easy for me to find new friends. Of all these, located everywhere in the world, my neighbours, Sylvie and Dieter, deserve most to be mentioned here.

Eberhard with Christa


Wolfgang and Almut

the classmates

the Stammtisch

Sylvie and Dieter
Like many retirees, my favourite pastime has been travelling. Up to my 40th birthday the attractive part of the world was to the West, particularly North, Central and South America. I still make about one trip per year to the U.S., and I love the American West. But my heart beats for the East now. I fell in love with Bangkok when I first saw it in 1981, and since then I have spent a total of more than one year of my life in Thailand. That had to be the case for me, being a passionate reader of Joseph Conrad's novels. So I keep following his traces and hope that one day I will understand the magic of the East and its people.

Since my retirement I have been in East Asia once or twice a year for extended periods, getting around by public transport or with rented vehicles. There isn't a country between Sri Lanka and Vietnam or between China and Australia which I haven't visited. The booming cities, the tropical nature, and the wealth of history and culture attract me again and again. The real irresistability, however, lies in the souls of the people. I have sunk into so many of their deep dark eyes, and I still haven't found a bottom.

Rangoon - the Shwedagon Pagoda

Singapore - Sir Stamford Raffles

Saigon - Ho Chi Minh

Sukhothai, Thailand

Angkor, Cambodia

Bagan, Myanmar
China and Thailand are the countries where I have spent most time. It was in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, where my serious encounters with the East began in 1991. My close scientific ties with China and Chinese coworkers have led to many visits. Now I can summarize my feelings about China by answering the question, do I love China or hate it, with "yes". The two people dearest to my heart are Chinese, but I could kill every Chinese when I have to use the local trains in Beijing. China is unfathomable.

Huang Shan, the magic mountains

Beijing, the Qing style restaurant

Huanglong, the Tibetan foothills in Sichuan
Bangkok is my second home now. For me, there is no better place to live in, and there are no better people to live with. I was fortunate to find what I was looking for, my post-retirement occupation, at Chulalongkorn University. Many friendships have resulted, and I have had the time to see Thailand and its people. Slowly but surely I dare say that I begin to understand them.


Bangkok - Chulalongkorn

Bangkok - Chinatown

Bangkok - old and new
Of the people of the East, those who move me most are the children, even more confiding and curious than ours. When they cast me a serious look I think that I will never find the bottom of their dark eyes. But when they smile I have hope that I will.

No wonder that all of my "adopted" children (see the section on my family) are from the East, three from China, two from Myanmar and one from Thailand. The photos show them as they look in 2011.

Nin Nin in Bagan

Freia in Fuzhou

Nalapan in Bangkok

Nin U Mong in Mandalay
My three Chinese girls are well off. I hope that I can help Nalapan in Bangkok to improve her education. My two "daughters" in Myanmar need more support, and I am busy providing that, again hoping to give them a better future through education. For Nin U Mong this is a long term project, but for my dear Nin Nin it will hopefully bear fruit in the foreseeable future.

with Nalapan

with Nin U Mong

with Nin Nin
My adopted children and my students are my life. I have no children of my own, but with them I can enjoy the pleasures of a grandfather. Thinking of them and even more being with them really does make every day a Sunday.


While I write this I am 70 years old. I have been blessed with a reasonably good health. Until now I have lost very few days due to illness, and I still have all but one of my own teeth. At age 65 my heart started beating irregularly, and due to that I am taking six pills every day now. But that does not bother me, and it has not impaired my physical strength yet. Many a good friend has passed away already, and the world is getting smaller. But even that makes the sun seem brighter every morning, and it is a motivation to find adventure in every activity. Above all the little troubles of old age I am still convinced that every day will be a Sunday.



                                                                      The Best Years

Life goes on, and now I am 75 years old. Like everybody in my age I feel that time rushes away and becomes ever more valuable. But I also enjoy my time ever more, despite all the troubles of old age. I have still been quite active in these last five years, and I am still not finished with all the things I want to do. Here is the story of those five years, mostly told by my photos.

What am I doing?

My life today is almost equally shared between the western and the eastern world. I have always loved my home in Ebringen, but I have found equally enjoyable locations in Bangkok and other cities of South East Asia where I can relax before setting out for my activities.

Bild Ebringen
Bild Bangkok

     Garten in Ebringen
in my garden in Ebringen
Ayarwaddy am
overlooking the Ayarwaddy in Mandalay

While my professional life was full of official events, they are rare in my life as a retiree. But they still occur, such as on my 75th birthday with the visit of a delegation of my village led by the mayor, or upon my election as a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.

my 75th birthday
the Bavarian Academy

Thus I have the time to pursue my favorite interests as shown below: going out for physical exercise, visiting historical places, enjoying the beauty of Nature, and meeting people everywhere in the world, capturing everything with my camera.

Vosges Mountains
Black Forest
I still enjoy a reasonably good physical fitness. Nevertheless there were those setbacks, such as when a blood clot got stuck in my kidney. But my friends make sure that I always look perfect on my outside, allowing me to do my favorite act: laughing.

after the kidney infarction
schöne Zähne
after the embellishment of my teeth

My Travels 


There is nothing that I like more than looking for new frontiers.........

    On the road

Thus I travel into the corners of this world, preferably in the United States and in South East Asia, using every kind of vehicle and aiming for every remote corner and every hidden natural, cultural or historic landmark.
near the border between Laos and Cambodia
near the border between Arizona and Nevada
near the border between Thailand and Myanmar
Quite often now my destinations are places with which I associate nostalgic memories and which I like to visit again and again.

Madison, Wisconsin
Waipoua, New Zealand
Canyonlands, Utah
If it comes to cultural highlights and the splendour of the religious palaces and temples, no area surpasses the East.
Rajabophit Temple, Bangkok
Bangkok bei Nacht
Bangkok by night
Kyauktawgyi Temple, Mandalay
But the grandeur and wildness of Nature are equally exciting in the East and in the West.
Wulingyuan, China
Mekong Falls, Laos
Shiprock, New Mexico
The subsequent photos from three different continents are meant to convey how intensely these places attract me.

Bagan in Myanmar
New Zealand's North Island
        Monument Valley
Monument Valley in Arizona

Henri Mouhot

Deep in the jungles of northern Laos I came across the grave of the man whom I would have liked to be: Henri Mouhot from Montbéliard in France (1826-1861). He was the European who re- discovered Angkor Wat, and he was the first European who made it up the Mekong river all the way to Luang Prabang, the former capitol of Laos. Everything he found was new to the world, and everywhere he mastered the obstacles. He payed his price for this when, only 35 years old, he died of a fever. His grave on the banks of the Nam Khan river near Luang Prabang, forgotten and overgrown, was only found again in 1990. Remote and not easily accessible, it does not attract many visitors, quite appropriate for a character who preferred to explore the unknown by himself.

Meeting People and Peoples
Before my retirement duties filled my days, and I did not have much of a social life. Now I am glad to have the time to meet and interact with people. All races, all types, all levels of education or prosperity. The zoom of my camera allows me to capture exotic characters from afar, the friendliness of the South East Asian people allows me to get close to them and to befriend with them. I have more time for my own family, I frequently meet with my old friends, and I have found new friendships at home and abroad. Again it doesn't take many words to tell the story; the photos will do it.

Family and Friends
I had no brothers or sisters, but one male and ten female cousins. Seven of them are still alive, of which I like to mention three:
Christa from Duisburg
Fritz from Duisburg
Dörte from Stuttgart

And there are three female beings from the eastern world whom I have loved, treated and tried to educate like my children:

Lanfen from Baotou, China, with her husband Bailu
Mian from Shijuajuang, China
Nalapan from Samut Songkram, Thailand

Almost like family are those friends with whom I get along even better than with my relatives:

Vern from Cincinnati, USA
Wolfgang and Almut from München
Jörg from Darmstadt

Last but not least in this group are those friendships which blossomed in these past five years:

                      und Dieter
Sylvi and Dieter, my neighbours
Charoenkwan, my colleague from Bangkok
Nancy with Felix Richter, my former coworker

The closest of these has been my relation with Susanne from Berlin, 13 years younger than me and full of life and joy.

Su Bagan
zusammen auf Sylt

Our encounter resulted from a crazy circumstance: the lack of tables in the riverside restaurant in Bangok on New Year's Eve 2013/14. We ended up at the same table, and since then we have spent every New Year's Eve in that my favourite restaurant, the "Be My Guest", and we have shared many eventful activities at home and around the world.

There aren't many close relationships left from my professional or even more distant past. Sometimes I meet my former colleagues on birthday festivities or funeral or memorial events, and once in a year I meet the remaining few of my highschool classmates. There is a carefully selected group of former colleagues though from my department, with whom we meet every month to drink a lot of beer and to exchange old jokes and old gossip from our active times.

with my old friends at a memorial event
with my highschool classmates at the "Klassentreffen"
with my Freiburg colleagues at the "Stammtisch"

Of all the scientists whom I met in all countries during my professional life I wish to mention those two for whom I have the highest respect and who, over almost 50 years, have become real friends: Larry Dahl (now 87) who was my postdoctoral supervisor and who, together with his wife June, gave me the courage to start an academic carreer, and Pierre Braunstein (now 68) with whom I have shared a long sequence of scientific cooperations and with whom and his wife Marie-Jeanne I have spent so many joyful hours.
June and Larry in Madison, Wisconsin
Pierre in Strasbourg, France

The Exotic East
South East Asia is a challenge for all senses, be it by its climate, by its food or by its colours and sounds.
Being a male, I am of course most highly attracted by the beauty of its women, and I don't mind posing with the pretty young ones.
a holiday procession in Mrauk U, Myanmar
Myanmar beauties in Yangon
Lao beauties in Vientiane
Thai beauties in Bangkok
in Champasak, Laos
in Bangkok
in Khong Chiam, Thailand

Yet it is not only the beauty that fascinates me, but the sum of all the exotic characters, sights, places and events. Be it the makeup painting on the faces of the Myanmar women and children, the dresses of the minority peoples, or the massing of people in and on their vehicles.
in Bagan, Myanmar
in Mynkaba, Myanmar
near Mae Hong Son. Thailand

Be it the colourful appearance of  people whom you meet in the streets.....
in Chiang Mai, Thailand
in Nonthaburi, Thailand
in Mandalay, Myanmar

Be it the surprising observation that the omnipresent monks do everything that ordinary people do as well.....
Mönch mit Buch
near Luang Prabang, Laos
Mönch mit Kanari
near Mrauk U, Myanmar
Mönch mit Handy
near Chiang Rai, Thailand

All this culminates in Myanmar and in its female inhabitants.....
Frau mit Zigarre
in Bagan
my longtime friend, the beggar Cherry
Frau mit Pfeife
in Mrauk U

The Ones who are no more
As we get older, we have to say Farewell ever more often to those who have passed away. I wish to mention four who have been dear to my heart: my former wife Carla who died in 2013 at age 77, my doctoral supervisor and longtime mentor Heinz Nöth who died in 2015 at age 87, my highschool friend and unwavering optimist Eberhard Hintzsche who died in 2012 at age 73, and my student friend and fiercest intellectual challenger Diethard Wendt who died in 2015 at age 77. My photos show them as I like to remember them.


My Foundation

Ever since I started travelling in the Sout East Asian countries from Bangkok in 2008, I have supported poor families with the purpose of giving one of their children a better education. That didn't cost me much, and I got a lot of pleasure from meeting these sweet people and learning about their living. Now I can call all the infant and adult ones involved my friends.
 my little ones in Bagan, Myanmar
Htay Htay and her son in Bagan, Myanmar
Nalapan mit Freundin
a graduation in Bangkok
While checking the preschool to which one of my "children" went, I got aquainted with the people who run this preschool, the YMCA of Mandalay in Myanmar. Nay Win, their secretary general, became a friend, and during the discussions with him I became enthused about running such a place for little children myself. The idea was born, out of which resulted the formation of my Foundation "A Place for Children" ( The foundation was established in 2012 and endowed with its funds by myself. The pictures below show our emblem and myself among the directors of the YMCA Mandalay.
our emblem
the directors of the YMCA Mandalay

It was with great enthusiasm that we started building "my" preschool for 60 children which was to be operated by the YMCA. In mid-2013 the beautiful building in Patheingyi near Mandalay was ready to use. But that was not to be. By that time the aggression against non-Buddhists in Myanmar had become really severe, and the local congregation of Buddhist monks vetoed the operation of our school, and they have not recalled that veto until today. So the building remains unused and rots away in the tropical climate.
I have to acknowledge with great gratitude that my YMCA friends collected funds for the construction of a second school near the village of Myitnge south of Mandalay within the boundaries of a Baptist church compound. It is located in a rather poor environment, which suits the goals of the Foundation.
building the first school
erste Schule
unused for two years
zweite Schule
the second school
The disappointments with the first school have by now been more than compensated by the enchantments by the second one. It was opened by the local bishop in August 2015, and now it sounds with the joy and excitement of the three to five year old boys and girls. Four nurses take care of the 60 children who stay all day including a lunch and a midday rest.
with Nay Win during the opening ceremony
the school in operation
teachers and pupils posing for me
Two thirds of the Foundation's revenues go into the Mandalay school. With the remaining funds we support varying educational institutions of a similar character. Three examples are shown below: a school for orphans in Pathein and a preschool like mine in Kayinthonesint, Myanmar, and Michael Sebastian's SMILE project in Luang Prabang, Laos, for teenagers whose parents cannot support them.
 Bishop John and Father Florence in Pathein
the old church near the school in Kayinthonesint
SMILE projekt
Teacher Michael and his students
Even though our activities are just "a drop of water on a hot stone", they are gratifying, and the protection, the eagerness and the joyfulness of the children are more of a reward than any income from the invested capital. They are the sunshine of my old age.
Luang Prabang



                                                        Time for Pleasure

                                                           This part is still under construction




Fortuna with the horn of plenty, the Goddess of luck, has been on my side most of my life. She helped me stumble in the right direction, just like my Guardian Angel caught me when I was falling. Using the words of my old friend Diethard, I can say:

If I ever meet them, I will pad them on the shoulder and pay them a drink.