An evening at the German Institute Taipei

Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2010, is home to the German Institute.

The German Institute Taipei is located on the 33rd floor of Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2010, when it was surpassed in height by Burj Khalifa, a skyscraper in Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates.

In the absence of diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of China, still Taiwan’s official name, the institution is supposed to represent German interests on the island.

Its tasks not only include increasing cultural and economic cooperation between both sides, but also providing consular services for both German and Taiwanese citizens as well as Germany-related information.

Since July 2021, the German representative, or unofficial Ambassador to Taiwan, is Dr. Jörg Polster, born 1962 in Thuringia, then part of the Communist German Democratic Republic (GDR), who has also been posted to South Korea, Vietnam, the United States, Venezuela and India.

We both met more than 20 years ago, when he was Deputy Director General and I was still working for the Taiwanese government. I remember that he even attended the best party that I ever managed to organize at my place back then, with seven guests able to speak Russian, including himself.

I was glad to know that he’s back in this city and greeted him immediately when I arrived for a literary event at the premises on November 9th, an extremely significant date in German history. It’s the day when World War 1 ended and the Berlin Wall came down.

German sinologist, translator and author Dr. Thilo Diefenbach presented his new book, Zwischen Himmel und Meer, a compilation of Taiwanese literature from the 17th century to the present, translated from both modern and classical Chinese, Japanese and Minnanese.

The problem with the latter, a regional language also spoken in the south of China’s Fukien province, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, is that it doesn’t exist in written form.

So, the project’s translation team had to rely on sources provided by a few English-speaking missionaries, who arrived in Formosa in the second half of the 19th century and tried to somehow romanize the dialect, mostly in order to spread the Gospel more efficiently.

Although I do not agree with some of Dr. Diefenbach’s opinions, it was a very informative, well-prepared lecture and afterwards I took the chance to have a little chat with him.

The catering was provided by Oma’s German delicacies, a restaurant and bakery operated by a local friend of mine, who has almost 30 years of business experience. The pretzel could be improved, though the three types of sandwiches looked and tasted great!

After almost three hours in that office, another participant offered me a ride home, which I gladly accepted. That’s how I got a chance to see the gigantic underground parking lot, matching the rest of this impressive structure! All in all it was a quite rewarding experience.