BENGALURU: In a family full of journalists, Achim Burkart’s choice to pursue diplomacy came as a surprise. Having been posted in Egypt, Namibia, Vietnam and Berlin, Burkart – whose father, grandfather and wife are all media persons – is now heading the German Consulate in Bengaluru as Consul General - a journey he took on in August last year. “I have learnt so many things, but I am far from having learnt everything,” he says. While it may have been just eight months since he arrived, it didn’t take him long to throw himself into the deep end as he got involved with multiple projects related to business, culture and travel.
With a childhood spent in Bonn, Germany, Burkart recalls how the city was surrounded by diplomats during the ‘70s, which instilled in him a similar drive for the field. And promoting culture is at the heart of his diplomatic mission. Case in point: The consulate’s initiative to fund a documentary, Maharaja’s German Gardener, directed by Ganesh Shakar Raj. The film features the works of German botanist Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel.
“He has extensively helped shape landscapes and the architecture of Karnataka. He was the master of gardens in the erstwhile Mysore kingdom and has also contributed in shaping Bengaluru’s landscape. Even though Germany is 8,000 km away, a shared history brings us closer,” says Burkart. The effort doesn’t stop there. The consulate is also digitising the works of Ferdinand Kittel, a German missionary, who published the first Kannada to English dictionary during the 19th century.
Having joined the consulate in the middle of the pandemic, Burkart spent his initial months in India spearheading relief measures. “We evacuated close to 500 German nationals back to the country from Karnataka. We also funded close to `3 crore to many private NGOs and institutions in Karnataka to help hospitals get their medical supply and sanitation tools,” says Burkart, who also heads the German consulate in Kerala. This, however, was not his first time handling a challenging crisis.
The 60-year-old calls his first diplomatic posting in Cairo, Egypt his toughest foreign soil mission so far. “During the mid ’90s, radical terrorists indiscriminately opened fire against German tourists. We had to protect a lot of people. They went after the Egyptian government and attacked Western tourists to kill tourism, which was the country’s second largest revenue source. It was one of the toughest missions,” he recalls.
While the pandemic has played spoilsport, Burkart’s time in Bengaluru has not been all work and no play. Donning a chef’s hat is something he enjoys as well, with his skills extending to Italian, Chinese, German and Indian cuisines. “I love the Indian curry that is mixed with masalas,” he says. And although the diplomat has not ventured much beyond the city, he did pay a visit to UNESCO World Heritage site Hampi with his wife in February. That he is a culture and history buff is evident when talks about the Vijayanagara empire. “Hampi is an important place of archaeological significance. It is a rare place to visit and the structural framework of the monuments is revealing,” he says.