Finding My Roots in Germany, and a Piece of Musical History

While emerging markets have been my area of focus for several decades, I also travel extensively to developed countries, too. It’s quite enlightening to see how once “emerging” countries still cherish their heritage. I also find it interesting to compare various areas of progress between the different markets and what sectors or industries are receiving the most attention. In some cases, it is surprising to see where emerging economies are taking the lead.

On my most recent trip to Europe, I decided to take some time off to visit my father’s hometown of Erlbach near Dresden, Germany. As we drove to Erlbach, I was struck by how much the scenery must have changed since my father’s day.

German drivers seem to have a penchant for high speeds! Speeding along the autobahn at 150 kilometers per hour was a little frightening to me, but I was able to see the many power-generating windmills towering over the farm lands alongside the road.

Germany now produces a large part of its energy from wind power and solar. In 2016, total installed capacity of wind power in Germany produces about 13% of the country’s total electricity needs, and solar power from photoelectric cells produces about 6%.1 The numbers have been increasing, and during some periods of time over the past few years, these renewable energy sources have met more than 50% of Germany’s energy needs. Visiting small towns all over Germany it is common to see photovoltaic installation on rooftops. Germany has set a goal of relying exclusively on renewable energy by 2050.

While Germany is still regarded as a world leader in renewable energy use, it’s interesting to note China is actually the world’s largest producer and consumer of solar panels. The Chinese government announced a planned investment of US$360 billion in renewable energy by 20202 , which looks to position China at the top of the renewables race. With a huge appetite for energy and an equally large pollution problem in some cities, it makes sense that China’s government is offering incentives to shift to solar and away from coal. China actually boasts the world’s largest floating solar “farm” over an old rainwater-filled, coal-mining operation.

Exploring My German Family Roots

Church in Erlbach, Germany

In Germany, my mission wasn’t only to marvel at windmills and solar panels. Arriving in Erlbach, the small village where my father was born, there is a small but elegant church situated on a hill overlooking the village. This was my destination, as the church contains something very special inside. There are gravestones on one side of the church, one bearing the Mobius family name.

It wasn’t my first time in Erlbach. Many years ago, I crossed the Berlin Wall when it was still Communist East Germany. Around that time Vladimir Putin, Russia’s current president, was serving as a KGB officer in nearby Dresden. In order to enter East Germany, I had to get all kinds of documentation from the East German embassy in London. When my cousin Wolfgang met me at Berlin’s “Checkpoint Charlie” with his beautiful wife and two little girls, they whispered to me not to say anything politically sensitive in front of the children since their teacher would probably ask them about their “guest” from the West and what that guest said.