JACKPOT: 15,000 Euros in a playground

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Click on the picture for a currency converter

Four German children stumbled across a cash filled envelope with 15,000 Euros (22,000 dollars) on their way to school in Frankfurt, Germany. They couldn’t believe their luck and generously distributed the money to their friends on the school yard.

In addition to all the money, the children also found some legal papers and an application for a Chinese visa. They could have gotten away with their newly acquired wealth, but one of the kids felt guilty and reported everything to one of the teachers.

The police was thus involved and they wanted to collect all the money. However, not everyone felt the need to clear their conscience. Only 12,000 euros turned up at first. In the end, after the teacher made a final appeal to the students’ conscience 14,040 euros were turned in to the police station.

The possible owner of the money was identified as a 33-year-old Afghan man. He was unable to tell how much money was in the paper bag. He did say that the money was intended to cover his trip to China and to cover some outstanding debts. The police will only give him the money back if he manages to provide documentation proving that it is indeed his money.

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In Germany there is an honest finder’s fee of 3%, so even though some of the kids might not be too happy about missing out on all that money, they would still be looking at 421 euros each. In the case that nobody claims the money, they would get the full amount.

What happens to unclaimed property in the US? Every state has unclaimed property laws which declare money, property or other assets to be abandoned after a period of inactivity of three to five years. Currently unclaimed property offices hold several billion dollars of “lost money” belonging to millions of people.

If you found a large amount of money would you keep it or turn it in? Here are some interesting thoughts by Xin Lu at Wisebread on how to handle things like that. However, like the following video shows, most people who find small amounts of cash will choose to keep it but who can blame them?

Lyon Turned On

Paris may be known as The City of Lights but Lyon continues to steal the title for at least a few days out of the year. During the 10th annual Fête des Lumières, or Festival of Lights, Lyon featured over 70 light projects from December 5-8 this year. This historical event began in 1852 to celebrate the new statue of the Virgin Mary on the hill of the Fourvière Cathedral. The citizens of Lyon spontaneously lit candles in their windows and celebrated the inauguration of the statue after it survived a ferocious storm. Citizens of Lyon pride themselves on the dazzling lights and annual events that go along with the festival, like winter markets and family activities. The extravagant lighting and shadows produced during the festival provide an artistic playground for still and motion photographers. Lyonnais photographer, Lollah, took advantage of the unique lighting in her collection of festival photographs found on Flikr. French cinematographer, David Heang, put together a great video of the festival on his blog, where you can also see photographs and read a blurb on the pros and cons of this year’s festival.
This year’s festival focused on sustainable development of urban lighting, sponsored by Recylum, a company that collects and recycles used light bulbs. While Lyon uses considerable energy to light the festival each year, by using LED projectors, they are able to “light more and consume less”. Watch interviews on the EuroNews website.
When the seasonal festival is over, Lyon doesn’t pull the plug on all the lights. Lyon is known for its year-round use of lights as an essential architectural element. According to the festival website,
The Lighting Plan and the top-level skills of local experts have made Lyon a major center of “lighting design” and urban lighting, whether temporary or long-term.
How does Paris, “The City of Lights”, compare to Lyon’s yearly and seasonal display? What other cities incorporate major urban lighting into their regular night life?

They’ve Arrested Santa!

Christmas might come a bit late this year, seeing as Santa is currently on trial in The Republic of Belarus, one of Russia’s neighboring countries.

Santa's Arrest

Actually, there were 15 different Santas arrested. Dressed in red robes and sporting cotton-ball beards, they turned themselves in to the Ministry of Justice for breaking article 193.1 of the country’s Criminal Code, a law that prohibits any public activity of unregistered organizations. According to the news organization, Charter 97, the Santas handed in a petition to the prosecutor general, admitting that they were part of an unregistered association. In the petition, the Santas also made a statement reading,

“We have been carrying out the next activities: organising New Year’s Eve parties in different towns of Belarus, handing out gifts (including among the minors), making speeches at meetings and in the press with congratulations”

The Santas’ protest was a part of the “Stop 193.1!” campaign that was created by a number of NGO’s in Belarus who oppose the law. The campaign’s website claims that the law prevents the development of civil society through making it very complicated to register public associations.

The website continues to explain that the organizations hope to abolish Article 193.1 through cooperating with their nation’s authorities and informing the people of the problems that have been encountered as a result of the law. Obviously this Santa sit-in was initiated as a result of the latter part of the plan. And it seems like it’s working; a writer from the blog Eternal Remont has been following the story and initially joked about the incident. But after hearing that the Santas are indeed going on trial, remarked

Yeah, this is far from over. I’m going to run out of poster board with all the protests this year.

And in case seeing pictures of Santa Claus getting hand-cuffed and taken downtown by Belarusian officials isn’t off-putting enough to make you join in the protest of Article 193.1, the organizations behind the protest have conveniently created this animated video of Santas being beaten into submission to further illustrate their point.

“Ich bin ein Berliner.”

DonutThe famous line, “Ich bin ein Berliner” was said by John F. Kennedy when the Berlin Wall isolated East Berlin from the rest of Germany. The common misconception is that he said he was a doughnut. While a Berliner is a type of pastry in Germany, if used in the correct context it can also mean you are from Berlin.

British comedian Eddie Izzard makes fun of Kennedy saying he called himself a doughnut in front of thousands of Germans. In reality Kennedy did get the phrase correct but only because of the context he was using it in. Had he been in a bakery, Kennedy might have been laughed at. Learning how to say a phrase in another language can be easy but really understanding what it means can be difficult.


Language is one of the most complicated aspects of life and translations can be lost or misunderstood so easily. Throughout my time posting on EuroKulture I have found how exciting and complicated it can be to write about another country’s popular culture. In my first blog post An intro into culture shock, I discuss that the differences between cultures is what makes them great. I hope EuroKulture has brought insight to many readers and encouraged others to explore and celebrate cultures that are different from their own.

The world is getting smaller and we are going to have to come into contact with people that are different than us. It will no longer be enough to be aware of other countries but actually to study and to learn about their culture. Popular culture is a good starting off point, because it really shows what other countries are like. Where will America be in ten years? Does America need to become more aware of other countries cultures and languages? Was this blog helpful to people unfamiliar with European culture? What could we have done differently to make this blog better?

The Simpsons take on Sarkozy

In a recent episode of “The Simpsons,” Homer and his pal Carl visit France and meet French first lady Carla Bruni and President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Carla Bruni and Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008.

Carla Bruni and Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008.

No state visits or official recognition were planned and few people even realized it had happened until much later. The parody episode, titled “The Devil Wears Nada” slipped under the French radar for a few days before becoming an Internet hit.

What’s funny is that more attention seems to have been paid to Carla Bruni Sarkozy’s appearance on “The Simpsons,” than her husband’s. Maybe the French are used to people making parodies of the first couple.

Screengrab of The Simpsons episode

Screengrab of 'The Simpsons' episode

Bruni, it seems, has been in the news just as much as her husband recently because she agreed to star in the newest film by Woody Allen. But that revelation has received far less news play than her “appearance” on the Simpsons. Here’s what a few media outlets had to say about the Simpsons episode:

AFP’s version on France 24 noted that few French citizens knew anything about the lampoon of the first couple until: “… news websites started linking to pirated clips of the episode, creating a buzz which saw more than 117,000 fans linking to the DailyMotion site alone.”

Le Monde wrote two paragraphs, but did include this quote from Bruni’s parody: “Je veux faire l’amour ! Maintenant !” According to Google Translator, it translates as “I want to make love! Now!”  No idea if there’s some reference specific to Carla Bruni’s sexual appetite or just the writers playing off a stereotype of the French seductress.

I found much less news or information about her Woody Allen movie debut, but maybe her television appearance will boost Bruni’s ego. She’s not doing a great job of selling herself as an up-and-coming actress. In interviews with the press, she said:

“I go into everything blindly, or I’d never do anything at all.

“I’m not an actress at all. Perhaps I’ll be completely hopeless but I can’t miss an opportunity like this one. When I’m a grandmother I’d like to be able to say I made a film with Woody Allen,” she gushed.

And she will — maybe. No word yet on when Woody Allen’s going to start filming, or what the picture will actually be about. For now, her fans will just have to keep replaying that short Simpson’s clip.

How would Americans react if first lady Michelle Obama was cast in a film or parodied on TV? Should the French be more concerned about the actions of its first lady?

The Pleasure and Pain of a Russian Ballerina

Since the Christmas season is here, many families will be purchasing Nutcracker tickets. Today a ticket to Moscow Ballet’s Nutcracker is approximately $75 for average floor seats. I would not say this is terribly expensive, but it also is not terribly cheap, and it would make a nice Christmas gift. To see what cities the Moscow Ballet will be touring, visit their site.

As you can see from the video, Russian Ballerinas train their whole lives in hopes of one day being able to perform on a large scale in front of hundreds of audience members. They feel a rush of adrenaline when in front of such a crowd. This can be the equivalent of what a Broadway Star feels like when they finally get a lead role in a Broadway play.

Ballet has been a part of Russian culture for decades. Spectators from all around the world attend Russian Ballets to appreciate the beauty and grace in which these dancers perform. The original purpose of the ballet was to entertain the royal court, but there were areas called “райok” or “heaven” that consisted of wooden benches. These tickets were inexpensive and anyone who could afford one was able to watch.

This blogger comments on the techniques of pointe and what dancers could do to minimize pain. Yet this blogger, who is a ballerina training for a tour talks about the physical pain that dancers often times have to go through.

You are at a point where you cannot retreat, compromise, hesitate, you just have to go on and DO IT, overcoming yourself if necessary.

This ballerina lives in Moscow and her blog is like a journal about what goes on behind the scenes. She also discusses how everyone knows everything about each other behind the stage. I guess a great part of it is because the dancers spend all of their time together rehearsing.

News here travel faster than light –  you can trust the artistic director to know everything before it even occurs. Are you pregnant? In a new relationship? Planning to quit? Fractured your bone? He knows. Everyone knows. In fact, everyone has already formed an opinion about it and it is now old news.

This reminds me of a classic soap opera. I can see how their lives are hectic and how everyone knows everything about each other. I can see how it would get annoying to not only be around the same people all the time, but also for them to know your personal business. Outside of the physical demands ballerinas go through, there are obviously mental ones as well.

It’s Tecktonik!!!

Believe it or not, the term tecktonik is a registered trademark. But, you definitely don’t need anyone’s approval to practice it.

After originating in the Netherlands and moving to the streets of Paris in the early 2000’s, tecktonik dance has spread – and is continuing to gain popularity – through the veins of the Internet,  into the bodies and out through the fingertips of young men and women around the world.

The pop-underground movement of Tecktonik (a.k.a. TCK) – or electro – dance is “based on a blend of techno, rave and hip-hop styles – (late ’80s vogue, ’90s waving and b-boying, and ’70s disco).” And with this kind of dance, it’s all about the arms; in this video, I almost expect one or two to fall off.

Once you’ve mastered the movements, created your own or you just want to look the part, all that’s needed is a pair of skinny jeans, a tight neon-colored shirt and an arm band or two…funky hair cut and color is optional.

In 2007, L’Agence France Presse wrote a story on this “homespun urban dance phenomenon,” which the organization called “the talk of this year’s Paris Techno Parade.” The AFP spoke with the artistic director of the Metropolis – a series of clubs on the outskirts of Paris where TCK originated – who said the craze started when he founded dance nights called Tecktonik Killer. For seven years, it was here where young adults “rocked out” to the harder sounds of Northern Europe and the softer sounds of its Southern counterpart, until the tecktonik movement truly broke into the City of Light.

“Little by little, the clubbers who came invented a choreography,” he added, explaining how Tecktonik dancing came to be born.

And thanks to the Internet, you can learn too! Click here before continuing to read…

…if you did click there, I bet there was a 9/10 chance you just attempted those step-by-step arm and hand movements yourself. Yet another reason why this dance gained popularity via the Internet – you can learn it in the privacy of your own room with no one to critique you except the mirror. If you’re in Paris and are feeling some confidence, head out to Le Centre Pompidou where street dancers frequent.

Practice makes perfect, and if cartoons can do it, so can you! Just make sure you dance in a safe location…

Moulin Scrooge

France's Moulin Rouge with its famous windmill. The girl is my friend and I made her do that to fulfill stereotypes.

France's Moulin Rouge with its famous windmill. The girl is my friend and I made her do that to fulfill stereotypes.

Ah the Moulin Rouge. I don’t care how naked they are, it’s too rich for my blood.

Ever since the 2001 film, the famous cabaret has been high on my list of things that I wanted to see while visiting France.

Unlike the film however, the actual Moulin Rouge has more nudity than HBO after midnight.

When Americans think of cabarets, our minds probably snap to either rows of women in big puffy dresses doing the Can-Can or some other monstrosity like Dolly Parton’s Dixy Land Dixy Stampede or whatever the holy hell her cowgirl fried chicken musical theater is called.

The Moulin Rouge is right up the street from the really raunchy part of Paris's Red Light District and down the hill from Montmartre.

The Moulin Rouge is right up the street from the really raunchy part of Paris's Red Light District and down the hill from Montmartre.

The Moulin Rouge is quite different though. I have heard it best described as a combination of a strip club, Cirque du Soleil, and the musical Chicago. Now that sounds awesome! Not only is the Moulin Rouge the original cabaret, but the ‘People’s Almanac’ credited the origin of striptease as we know it to an act in the 1890s.

Apparently what makes a cabaret a cabaret is simply that you eat dinner and have drinks during the show.

So now to the point. I have never been to the Moulin Rouge. Why? I’ll tell you… BECAUSE IT COSTS A FREAKING FORTUNE! The cheapest ticket is now $120 dollars; you get seated facing away from the stage and must buy at least two drinks. I think the recession has hit them hard, because when I was in France several years ago, the cheapest ticket was $220 dollars. This is a daily show! If you want to be facing the stage or have dinner, be prepared to shell out some real money.

Below is a video of what it would NOT be like inside the Moulin Rouge. If you want to see what it is really like, click HERE. (WARNING: Nudity!)

Russia: A Motorcyclists’s Haven

As an avid road tripper, I’ve seen many motorcyclists roaring down the highway, clad head to toe in leather and sporting the most enviable of hogs.  I would have never envisioned such a site on the streets of Moscow, but apparently  biking has become quite a popular hobby there. The Night Wolves are a motorcycle club that began in Moscow in the 1980’s. According to this article in the Times Europe, they used to be kind of rough at the beginning but have since developed, as the article says, “from social rebels to civic-minded entrepreneurs”.

I first heard about the organization when Russia Today featured a video of members roaring through Moscow streets.

In this video, it looks like the Night Wolves are more than just an organization, they almost seem like performance artists. They are shown doing motorcycle tricks amidst a backdrop of a stylish pyrotechnic display. Yeah, I’ve definitely never seen the Hell’s Angels do that. Their gatherings almost seems like some kind of fair, an event similar to a Renaissance Fair where, instead of dressing up like elven kings, the attendants wear leather jackets and elaborate tattoos.

Though their attire may look rough, they are reportedly model citizens. Members have started taking action in Moscow to create a larger biking community. According to the Times Europe article, in 2000 they partnered with the Irbit Motorcycle Company to design a bike similar to a Harley Davidson model, which they have named “The Wolf”

Igor Siletsky, a blogger for Voices of Russia, talks about how Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with the Night Wolves this past July. Putin, sporting a black leather jacket himself, went to visit their “club-house” and talked to the organization’s president, Aleksandr Zaldostanov. Apparently, Zaldostanov is referred to as “The Surgeon” since he actually was a surgeon before helping to found the Night Wolves in the 80’s. Siletsky points out how it was strange to see Putin hanging around with a crowd of bikers, but that it’s simply a testament to how the organization has changed from a group of rough-riding outlaws to active citizens. Russia Today also has an article about the encounter, citing friendly conversation between Putin and The Surgeon.

Vladimir Putin meets with The Surgeon of Russian motorcycle organization the Night Wolves.

Vladimir Putin meets with The Surgeon of Russian motorcycle organization the Night Wolves.

I originally thought to compare the Night Wolves to the Hells Angels. But, upon further research, I found that the two are vastly different. Although they both had rough beginnings, the Night Wolves have evolved into social servants. The Hells Angels, however, are still criticized for gang violence and criminal activity, as can be seen in this article from the Las Vegas Sun.

A more appropriate comparison to the Night Wolves would probably be American organizations that are registered with the American Motorcyclist Association. The members of these organizations usually ride their bikes for leisure and don’t necessarily adhere to the “biker lifestyle” of the Hell’s Angels. The Night Wolves gatherings also remind me of the Sturgis Bike Rally. Sturgis includes bike races and rides, as well as musical performances from the likes of ZZ Top.

I think it would be a great idea if the organizers of Sturgis invited the Night Wolves to participate in the rally. Or at least the U.S. government could invite them to give some helpful tips to the Hell’s Angels on how to be model citizens.