reverse photobomb

Oct 12, 2012

Summer vacation: Say married!

More reverse photobombing

Everyone is taking wedding photos all over the place
St. Michael's Church
St. Michael’s Catholic Church

Like many aspects of western culture, the idea of having a big expensive wedding with all the lacy trimmings is slowly making its way over here, and Chinese couples are starting to incorporate aspects of the modern western-style celebration into their traditional nuptial activities.

One of those adopted aspects is a photo session with the groom in a tux and the bride in a big white dress. This may or may not occur on the day of the actual wedding ceremony, and these may or may not have been the outfits in which the couple was actually married.

In the heart of the old town stands St. Michael’s Catholic Church, one of the most prominent reminders of the German presence. These days, it serves an active local congregation, and it’s in all the Qingdao guidebooks as a tourist destination. As we saw on our visit, it also performs as a backdrop for Chinese newlyweds’ photos. There were several couples in the church square, accompanied by entourages including camera, lighting and make-up people. We noticed a few photographers position their shots to catch us in the background.

Across the square from the church is a banquet hall, making this a one-stop wedding shop, if you so needed.

Enough walking around. It’s time to get back to the beach …

Sep 27, 2012

Summer vacation: Tsingtao Brewery Museum

The secrets of “China’s well-known trademark”

Inside the Tsingtao Beer MuseumInside the Tsingtao Beer Museum
Here is me, sticking my head in their giant copper vat. It was for display only, nothing was inside.
Inside the Tsingtao Beer MuseumInside the Tsingtao Beer Museum
There are beer cans on the roof of the museum!

Brewery tours everywhere are pretty much the same: “Here are our grains, here are our giant copper vats.” But you can’t go to Beer City, China1, and not visit the place where the beer was made!

It turns out, actual beer making plays only a small part in the Tsingtao beer museum. The bulk of the two-building installation takes you through history of the brewery. The early German era is represented mostly through advertising from the time and recreations of old equipment. The intervening years, in which the brewery hit some hard times in the form of both quality control issues (ex: a bottle of beer shipped with a brush inside) and a tanking economy post-World Wars, are summed up in text on a couple of placards. The exhibit really gets going in the modern age, when Tsingtao started to get its stuff together as an international brand.

Touring the Tsingtao Beer MuseumTouring the Tsingtao Beer MuseumTouring the Tsingtao Beer Museum

This period is treated with a slew of corporate speak, and a lot of attention is given to the slogans the company used. In the ’90s, Tsingtao made the huge step of changing their expansion strategy from “First bigger, then stronger,” to “First stronger, then bigger.” There’s a photographic display of the Tsingtao brand around the world: a Russian pop star drinking a bottle, an American with a 纯生 tattoo (translation: “pure draft”), a neon ad in the movie “The Mummy 3,” etc.

After catching up to the present, the installation turns toward environmentalism. There are large posters outlining Tsingtao’s commitment to the green movement, but also a small display explaining what environmentalism is and why it’s important. They suggest Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” as a good starting point, if you are unfamiliar with the concepts discussed.

Touring the Tsingtao Beer Museum

Then comes the bar. Like all good tours, this one includes a (small) free sample of the product. But surprisingly, the tour isn’t over there. Outside the bar area, there is a little display on beer making throughout the ages. We completely breezed on by it. Next, we walked through some pretty big replica fermentation tanks and other machinery, all staffed by grotesque plaster figures. It’s tough to say if this would have been more interesting before or after the beer.

After a pass through the gift shop, there was another bar! This time, this really was the end. Our tickets had a stub good for another free beer, which of course we redeemed. It was early evening and we were on vacation, so we also bought a small pitcher. As we drank, we sat at the end of a long wooden table and watched the Chinese tour groups disgorge from the tour. You could tell who was with who, because each group had its own member hat or backpack.

At the end of the tour

We watched group after group ganbei and skeddadle. As we’re learning, Chinese generally do not linger over meals or drinks; It’s consume and go. Which is alright, because it gives us slow pokes plenty to watch.

One of the funniest things we spied happened several times: the reverse photobomb, in which nearby tourists tried to sneakily capture us in a photograph of their friends. The giggling usually gave it away.

Follow us as we stumble out into the street …

1: The beer is called Tsingtao because that’s how 青岛 was Romanized back in 1903. When pinyin was adopted in 1949, the spelling of the city’s name changed to Qingdao. But it’s the same place. (See also: Peking duck, from Beijing.)