Germany Quiz Nr. 5: The Answers to the Questions on Mecklenburg Pommerania

The Baltic Sea Coast at Zinnowitz at sundown. Photo taken in 2011
The Baltic Sea Coast at Zinnowitz at sundown. Photo taken in 2011

And now the answers to the Germany Quiz on Mecklenburg-Pommerania. There are many reasons why the state is so special to Germans. It is the state where many people growing up before and after 1990 went to for their vacation, both while growing up as well as while having families. For many foreigners and expatriates, it is a jewel where nature and history go hand in hand. Much of the state was not affected by World War II and the bombings that devastated much of Germany. And lastly, as you will see in the answer sheet to this quiz, there are many places to visit if you have not been there yet.  So without further ado, lets look at the reasons why we should visit the northeastern most state in the Bundesrepublik, shall we?

MATRIX:

MV Cities

1. What is the capital of Mecklenburg-Pommerania?      ANS: Schwerin

2. What is the largest city in Meck-Pomm?       ANS: Rostock

3. Which of the places in the matrix are islands?     ANS: Usedom and Rügen

4. Which of the places in the matrix is a lake?  ANS: Müritz

5. Name two cities whose respective universities are among the oldest in Europe.   ANS: Rostock and Greifswald   FAQ: The University of Rostock was founded in 1419, while the university in Greifswald was established 37 years later. 

5a. Which other cities have colleges?   ANS: Güstrow, Schwerin, Stralsund, Neubrandenburg and Wismar

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6. Prior to 1945, Pommerania was considered one of the states belonging to first the Prussian kingdom and later the German Empire. The eastern half was given to Poland through the usage of the Oder-Neisse border implemented by the Soviets in 1946 and respected by Helmut Kohl in 1990 at the time of German Reunification. There are six former German cities that belong to the Polish part of  Pommerania. Which ones are they?

ANS: Stettin, Swinemünde, Pyritz, Bütow, Rummelsberg and Greifenberg

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7. Which town (mythical, according to sources) sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea because of a major tide?

ANS: Vineta  (Note: A separate article is in the works…..)

8. The Störtebeker Festival, the largest and most popular open-air action festival in Germany, can be found on which island?

ANS: Rügen

9. The Ozeanum, a large maritime museum that also engages in marine reasearch, can be found in this city?

ANS: Stralsund

10. A museum, devoted to the works of Caspar David Friedrich, can be found in which city?  

ANS: Greifswald

11. Which two  towns on Usedom Island are known for its mass tourism? Hint: One are located close to the Polish border.

ANS: Ahlbeck and Heringsdorf. Ahlbeck is at the Polish Border and is known for its border shops. Wild card is Trassenheide, but it is located on the western end of the island. 

12. The _______________, Germany’s lone narrow-gauge railroad, can be found on this island?

ANS1: Rasender Roland   ANS2: Rügen

13. Which two places in Meck-Pomm can you experience the Slavic way of life? (Note: The Slavic tribes settled in the eastern part of Germany between the 9th and 12th Centuries before being driven away by Germanic tribes).

ANS: Arkona and Neustrelitz

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14. Mecklenburg Pommerania is the only state in Germany (and one of only a handful of states left in the world) that has all three types of movable bridges left standing (Swing Bridge, Vertical Lift, and Bascule). Where are they located? (Hint: please click on the highlighted links to know more about what they are and what they look like)

ANS: 

The Peenebrücke in Wolgast, built in 2000 and nicknamed the Blue Wonder, is a single leaf bascule bridge that serves rail and road traffic between the main land and the island of Usedom. It replaced a draw bridge that was destroyed in World War II.

The Hubbrücke at Karnin was built in 1908 and featured a vertical lift main span and several through truss spans. The bridge was substantially damaged in World War II resulting in all but the vertical lift span to be removed by the 1960s. That remaining span still exists today and is considered a historic monument. Plans are in the making to revive the rail line which also goes to Usedom from Ducherow. This includes either restoring or replacing the bridge.

The Hubbrücke at Plaue is another vertical lift bridge that is in service. Built in 1916, this bridge, which features a deck plate girder span, can rise to 1.86 meters above the street, making it the highest functioning vertical lift bridge in the state. Prior to its construction in 1916, a double leaf bascule bridge once existed.

The Wieck Bridge in Greifswald, built in 1887, is one of the oldest functioning double leaf bascule bridges in Germany and the oldest in Mecklenburg Pommerania

Meiningen Swing Bridge, built in 1912, is located in Bresewitz. It is the lone functioning swing bridge in the state and features several Warren pony truss approach spans, a polygonal Warren through truss span and a swing span resembling a cantilever Warren through truss span.

15. Which town in Meck-Pomm once had the longest multiple span bridge in Germany, with 20+ spans? (Today, only eight of these spans exist along the River Elbe)

ANS: Dömitz.The Dömitz Bridge  spanned the Elbe River and was once owned by the German Railways. Five of the spans were either damaged or destroyed in World War II.  During the Cold War, in an attempt to halt any attempts of escaping to the west, the East German government tore down their half of the remaining spans leaving the western half under jurisdiction of Lower Saxony, which preserved it as a historical monument. The remains of the bridge is now privately owned.

Note: An article about this bridge in English can be found here.

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16. One of the major attractions that is a must-see is one of the largest submarines ever built in Germany. This exhibit and museum is located in this city?

ANS: Sassnitz

17. The Mecklenburg Festival, which is devoted to classic music, can be found in this city?

ANS: Schwerin (as its main location), yet other concerts take place in churches and castles throughout the state.

18. The Swedish Festival, which commemorates the conquest of the Swedes in the 1700s, can be found in which city?

ANS: Wismar.  

FAQ: The city was taken by the Swedish kingdom twice: 1632 and held until 1648 and through the war with the Danish Kingdom in 1712. The kingdom held control of the city until 1903, when it was returned to the German empire. 

19.  The widest beach in Germany (measured as 3 km from the sea to land) can be found in the area of this city? Hint: You can see the teapot lighthouse as well as one of the oldest active lighthouses along the Baltic Sea in Germany.

ANS: Rostock- specifically in Warnemünde.

20. You can enjoy a fish sandwich and cheer for your favorite soccer Bundesliga team in this city?  (Also identify name of the soccer team).  ANS: Rostock and the team: FC Hansa Rostock

Zinnowitz.
Herringsdorf.

MIX:

1. How many castles does Mecklenburg-Pommerania have? Can you name at least three of them? 

ANS: You won’t believe this but: nearly 2000 castles, palaces and manors exist in the state. There are too many to name, but one can find palaces in Rostock, Wismar, Schwerin, Greifswald, Neustrelitz, Neubrandenburg and the Island of Rügen

2. Schwerin is located in the area known as the Seven Seas. True or False?

ANS: True. Seven lakes can be found in and around Schwerin, three of which surround Schwerin Castle, a popular tourist attraction and the place where the state government carries out their daily duties.

3. Which cities in Meck-Pomm have zoos and other animal parks and can you name at least one of them?

ANS: There are plenty of possibilities to visit the animals at zoos in Stralsund (3x), Schwerin, Neustrelitz, Rostock and Wismar.

4. Rote Grütze is the German version of Jello and is the main desert in Meck-Pomm. True or False?  

ANS: False.

FAQ: Jello is an American form of gelatin that is wobbly when made. You don’t find that in Rote Grütze as it features fruit pudding (that is NOT wobbly) coated in vanilla creme. 

5. The main delicacy in Meck-Pomm is fish.  True or False?   ANS: If someone says FALSE, then he doesn’t know the state. 😉   FISH is the flagship of the state’s delicacy- regardless of type and how they are fried, smoked, or cooked. Answer is TRUE!

6. The main fruit in the state, with which you can make juice or marmalade is….

a. Strawberry    b. Sandorn      c. Peach       d. Wildberries       e. Gooseberry      

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CAN YOU SPEAK PLATTDEUTSCH?  Guess which word is Plattdeutsch, the local language of Meck-Pomm and other parts of northern Germany. An English equivalent is provided.   NOTE: Answers are in bold and italicized print

1. Frau (EN: Lady/Woman)

a. Fräulein            b. Fru                c. Frilein          d. Free

2. Zeit (EN: Time)

a. Tied                  b. tiid                c. tea               d. tut

3. Haus (EN: House)

a. Houd                b. Hiess          c. Huus              d. Hoose

4. Freund (-in) (EN: Partner)

a. Uhiesscher      b. Macker       c. Freon           d. Froin

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To close things off with this quiz, I would like to finish the quiz with a song sung in low German (Plattdeutsch) entitled Mein Heimat. Sung near Warnemünde near Rostock, the a group of sailors provide you with an example of how Platdeutsch is spoken. You can find the lyrics here. Enjoy! 🙂

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And lastly, one cannot forget a tour through Schwerin, where there are numerous old but ornamental structures. Click here to view and enjoy! 🙂

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Blackheaded Seagull, typical bird to be found along the coast of Mecklenburg-Pommerania.
Blackheaded Seagull, typical bird to be found along the coast of Mecklenburg-Pommerania.
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Germany Quiz Nr. 5: The Answers to the Questions on Mecklenburg Pommerania

The Baltic Sea Coast at Zinnowitz at sundown. Photo taken in 2011
The Baltic Sea Coast at Zinnowitz at sundown. Photo taken in 2011

And now the answers to the Germany Quiz on Mecklenburg-Pommerania. There are many reasons why the state is so special to Germans. It is the state where many people growing up before and after 1990 went to for their vacation, both while growing up as well as while having families. For many foreigners and expatriates, it is a jewel where nature and history go hand in hand. Much of the state was not affected by World War II and the bombings that devastated much of Germany. And lastly, as you will see in the answer sheet to this quiz, there are many places to visit if you have not been there yet.  So without further ado, lets look at the reasons why we should visit the northeastern most state in the Bundesrepublik, shall we?

MATRIX:

MV Cities

1. What is the capital of Mecklenburg-Pommerania?      ANS: Schwerin

2. What is the largest city in Meck-Pomm?       ANS: Rostock

3. Which of the places in the matrix are islands?     ANS: Usedom and Rügen

4. Which of the places in the matrix is a lake?  ANS: Müritz

5. Name two cities whose respective universities are among the oldest in Europe.   ANS: Rostock and Greifswald   FAQ: The University of Rostock was founded in 1419, while the university in Greifswald was established 37 years later. 

5a. Which other cities have colleges?   ANS: Güstrow, Schwerin, Stralsund, Neubrandenburg and Wismar

6. Prior to 1945, Pommerania was considered one of the states belonging to first the Prussian kingdom and later the German Empire. The eastern half was given to Poland through the usage of the Oder-Neisse border implemented by the Soviets in 1946 and respected by Helmut Kohl in 1990 at the time of German Reunification. There are six former German cities that belong to the Polish part of  Pommerania. Which ones are they?

ANS: Stettin, Swinemünde, Pyritz, Bütow, Rummelsberg and Greifenberg

7. Which town (mythical, according to sources) sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea because of a major tide?

ANS: Vineta  (Note: A separate article is in the works…..)

8. The Störtebeker Festival, the largest and most popular open-air action festival in Germany, can be found on which island?

ANS: Rügen

9. The Ozeanum, a large maritime museum that also engages in marine reasearch, can be found in this city?

ANS: Stralsund

10. A museum, devoted to the works of Caspar David Friedrich, can be found in which city?  

ANS: Greifswald

11. Which two  towns on Usedom Island are known for its mass tourism? Hint: One are located close to the Polish border.

ANS: Ahlbeck and Heringsdorf. Ahlbeck is at the Polish Border and is known for its border shops. Wild card is Trassenheide, but it is located on the western end of the island. 

12. The _______________, Germany’s lone narrow-gauge railroad, can be found on this island?

ANS1: Rasender Roland   ANS2: Rügen

13. Which two places in Meck-Pomm can you experience the Slavic way of life? (Note: The Slavic tribes settled in the eastern part of Germany between the 9th and 12th Centuries before being driven away by Germanic tribes).

ANS: Arkona and Neustrelitz

14. Mecklenburg Pommerania is the only state in Germany (and one of only a handful of states left in the world) that has all three types of movable bridges left standing (Swing Bridge, Vertical Lift, and Bascule). Where are they located? (Hint: please click on the highlighted links to know more about what they are and what they look like)

ANS: 

The Peenebrücke in Wolgast, built in 2000 and nicknamed the Blue Wonder, is a single leaf bascule bridge that serves rail and road traffic between the main land and the island of Usedom. It replaced a draw bridge that was destroyed in World War II.

The Hubbrücke at Karnin was built in 1908 and featured a vertical lift main span and several through truss spans. The bridge was substantially damaged in World War II resulting in all but the vertical lift span to be removed by the 1960s. That remaining span still exists today and is considered a historic monument. Plans are in the making to revive the rail line which also goes to Usedom from Ducherow. This includes either restoring or replacing the bridge.

The Hubbrücke at Plaue is another vertical lift bridge that is in service. Built in 1916, this bridge, which features a deck plate girder span, can rise to 1.86 meters above the street, making it the highest functioning vertical lift bridge in the state. Prior to its construction in 1916, a double leaf bascule bridge once existed.

The Wieck Bridge in Greifswald, built in 1887, is one of the oldest functioning double leaf bascule bridges in Germany and the oldest in Mecklenburg Pommerania

Meiningen Swing Bridge, built in 1912, is located in Bresewitz. It is the lone functioning swing bridge in the state and features several Warren pony truss approach spans, a polygonal Warren through truss span and a swing span resembling a cantilever Warren through truss span.

15. Which town in Meck-Pomm once had the longest multiple span bridge in Germany, with 20+ spans? (Today, only eight of these spans exist along the River Elbe)

ANS: Dömitz.  The Dömitz Bridge spanned the Elbe River and was once owned by the German Railways. Five of the spans were either damaged or destroyed in World War II.  During the Cold War, in an attempt to halt any attempts of escaping to the west, the East German government tore down their half of the remaining spans leaving the western half under jurisdiction of Lower Saxony, which preserved it as a historical monument. The remains of the bridge is now privately owned. 

16. One of the major attractions that is a must-see is one of the largest submarines ever built in Germany. This exhibit and museum is located in this city?

ANS: Sassnitz

17. The Mecklenburg Festival, which is devoted to classic music, can be found in this city?

ANS: Schwerin (as its main location), yet other concerts take place in churches and castles throughout the state.

18. The Swedish Festival, which commemorates the conquest of the Swedes in the 1700s, can be found in which city?

ANS: Wismar.  

FAQ: The city was taken by the Swedish kingdom twice: 1632 and held until 1648 and through the war with the Danish Kingdom in 1712. The kingdom held control of the city until 1903, when it was returned to the German empire. 

19.  The widest beach in Germany (measured as 3 km from the sea to land) can be found in the area of this city? Hint: You can see the teapot lighthouse as well as one of the oldest active lighthouses along the Baltic Sea in Germany.

ANS: Rostock- specifically in Warnemünde.

20. You can enjoy a fish sandwich and cheer for your favorite soccer Bundesliga team in this city?  (Also identify name of the soccer team).  ANS: Rostock and the team: FC Hansa Rostock

Zinnowitz.
Herringsdorf.

MIX:

1. How many castles does Mecklenburg-Pommerania have? Can you name at least three of them? 

ANS: You won’t believe this but: nearly 2000 castles, palaces and manors exist in the state. There are too many to name, but one can find palaces in Rostock, Wismar, Schwerin, Greifswald, Neustrelitz, Neubrandenburg and the Island of Rügen

2. Schwerin is located in the area known as the Seven Seas. True or False?

ANS: True. Seven lakes can be found in and around Schwerin, three of which surround Schwerin Castle, a popular tourist attraction and the place where the state government carries out their daily duties.

3. Which cities in Meck-Pomm have zoos and other animal parks and can you name at least one of them?

ANS: There are plenty of possibilities to visit the animals at zoos in Stralsund (3x), Schwerin, Neustrelitz, Rostock and Wismar.

4. Rote Grütze is the German version of Jello and is the main desert in Meck-Pomm. True or False?  

ANS: False.

FAQ:Jello is an American form of gelatin that is wobbly when made. You don’t find that in Rote Grütze as it features fruit pudding (that is NOT wobbly) coated in vanilla creme. 

5. The main delicacy in Meck-Pomm is fish.  True or False?   ANS: If someone says FALSE, then he doesn’t know the state. 😉   FISH is the flagship of the state’s delicacy- regardless of type and how they are fried, smoked, or cooked. Answer is TRUE!

6. The main fruit in the state, with which you can make juice or marmalade is….

a. Strawberry    b. Sandorn      c. Peach       d. Wildberries       e. Gooseberry      

CAN YOU SPEAK PLATTDEUTSCH?  Guess which word is Plattdeutsch, the local language of Meck-Pomm and other parts of northern Germany. An English equivalent is provided.   NOTE: Answers are in bold and italicized print

1. Frau (EN: Lady/Woman)

a. Fräulein            b. Fru                c. Frilein          d. Free

2. Zeit (EN: Time)

a. Tied                  b. tiid                c. tea               d. tut

3. Haus (EN: House)

a. Houd                b. Hiess          c. Huus              d. Hoose

4. Freund (-in) (EN: Partner)

a. Uhiesscher      b. Macker       c. Freon           d. Froin

To close things off with this quiz, I would like to finish the quiz with a song sung in low German (Plattdeutsch) entitled Mein Heimat. Sung near Warnemünde near Rostock, the a group of sailors provide you with an example of how Platdeutsch is spoken. You can find the lyrics here. Enjoy! 🙂

Blackheaded Seagull, typical bird to be found along the coast of Mecklenburg-Pommerania.
Blackheaded Seagull, typical bird to be found along the coast of Mecklenburg-Pommerania.

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The Game Theory: A Film about and a Tribute to John Nash

This genre of the week starts off with a quote: Sometimes the brightest minds happen to be the craziest, and even the craziest people are the ones that make the difference in our society. The genre also is a tribute to a fallen warrior, whose economic theory developed in college, reshaped the way we handle our affairs on the political, social and economic front.

John Forbes Nash, Jr. was a world-renowned mathmetician, economist and professor, whose theory of equilibrium, developed in 1950 and serving as a counterpart to the works written by Antoine Augustin Cournot in 1838, earned him international fame. He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, the Neumann Theory Prize in 1978 and the Abel Prize this year. In a nutshell, the theory states:

A Nash equilibrium exists if and only if  no player in a game or negotiation can do better by unilaterally changing his or her strategy. That means if the player does not change his strategy because his competitors have their stretagies etched in stone, then there is an equilibrium, for it implies that the strategies serve as the best response. If the player does change the strategy in an attempt to gain an advantage, then there is no equilibrium. This theory, as seen in the video, is based on the question: “Knowing the strategies of the other players, and treating the strategies of the other players as set in stone, can I benefit by changing my strategy?”

 

This scene comes from the film A Beautiful Mind, based on the book written by Silvia Nasar in 1998 and produced as a film by Universal Pictures in 2001, starring Russell Crowe. A simpler version  of Nash’s Game Theory can be found in the Stoplight example, presented below:

 

 

Both the book as well as the film about Nash focused on two key themes that dominated his life. One was the Game Theory, which he developed further after it was published in 1950, while holding teaching positions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Rand Corporation and lastly, Princeton University.

Yet the second aspect dealt with a very dark part of life, which doctors and scientists are still researching on in hopes to find treatment and even a cure: schizophrenia. He was first diagnosed with the disease in 1959, he spent the next decade in and out of hospitals, going through treatments before leaving the hospital to live a quiet life with the love of his life, Alicia. He had been married to her prior to being diagnosed, later divorced, but in the end, remarried in 2001, going through the worst of times before starting a long recovery that resulted in his schizophrenia being controlled and not interfering with his normal life. In the end, as depicted in the book and film,  Nash returned to his career as a teacher and mathmetician. While there were some discreptancies in the film, especially with regards to the scene with the use of medication to treat schizophrenia, Nash mentioned that he never took medication except during his stay in the hospital. It was only after he was released from the hospital for good in 1970 that he never took medication again. Although not noted in the film or book, he and Alicia eventually became advocates of mental health, especially after their son was diagnosed with the same disease. Over the years, they travelled around New Jersey and the region, talking to government officials and health care agencies to promote mental health care and help those affected by mental illness to carry on their normal lives instead of being institutionalized.

Nash’s life can be summed up into one sentence: He was the man whose rational thinking, mathematical genius and creative talents led him to conquering the power of oligarchy, delusion and ignorance. He had been locked up both literally and in his head, but found a way to escape, leaving a mark for people in both the fields of economics and social sciences on one hand, but also medicine on the other, to read about, research further on, and continue on with his work. For those who have yet to read the book or see the film, it is highly recommended, for they both cover the aforementioned fields in detail, while looking at and paying tribute to the man who will forever be one of the faces of math and science.

John Nash and his wife of 60 years, Alicia, were killed in an automobile accident on 23rd May. They had originally returned from Oslo, where he had received the Abel Prize and were heading home in a taxi when the accident happened. Neither of them wore a seatbelt and were thrown from the car. John (aged 86) and Alicia (aged 82) leave behind their son, John Jr. The passing was untimely, and they will be missed by those who knew him, from those in West Windsor Township, to those at Princeton, to Russell Crowe (who paid tribute to him upon hearing the tragedy) and the millions of others who considered Nash a hero.

Including the author, whose Genre of the Week, A Beautiful Mind, includes a homage to the man who left a mark for others to follow, despite going through the darkness of life before coming out into the light.

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Tribute to John Nash and the Game Theory

This genre of the week starts off with a quote: Sometimes the brightest minds happen to be the craziest, and even the craziest people are the ones that make the difference in our society. The genre also is a tribute to a fallen warrior, whose economic theory developed in college, reshaped the way we handle our affairs on the political, social and economic front.

John Forbes Nash, Jr. was a world-renowned mathmetician, economist and professor, whose theory of equilibrium, developed in 1950 and serving as a counterpart to the works written by Antoine Augustin Cournot in 1838, earned him international fame. He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, the Neumann Theory Prize in 1978 and the Abel Prize this year. In a nutshell, the theory states:

A Nash equilibrium exists if and only if  no player in a game or negotiation can do better by unilaterally changing his or her strategy. That means if the player does not change his strategy because his competitors have their stretagies etched in stone, then there is an equilibrium, for it implies that the strategies serve as the best response. If the player does change the strategy in an attempt to gain an advantage, then there is no equilibrium. This theory, as seen in the video, is based on the question: “Knowing the strategies of the other players, and treating the strategies of the other players as set in stone, can I benefit by changing my strategy?”

This scene comes from the film A Beautiful Mind, based on the book written by Silvia Nasar in 1998 and produced as a film by Universal Pictures in 2001, starring Russell Crowe. Both the book as well as the film focused on two key themes that dominated Nash’s life. One was the Game Theory, which he developed further after it was published in 1950, while holding teaching positions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Rand Corporation and lastly, Princeton University.

Yet the second aspect dealt with a very dark part of life, which doctors and scientists are still researching on in hopes to find treatment and even a cure: schizophrenia. He was first diagnosed with the disease in 1959, he spent the next decade in and out of hospitals, going through treatments before leaving the hospital to live a quiet life with the love of his life, Alicia. He had been married to her prior to being diagnosed, later divorced, but in the end, remarried in 2001, going through the worst of times before starting a long recovery that resulted in his schizophrenia being controlled and not interfering with his normal life. In the end, as depicted in the book and film,  Nash returned to his career as a teacher and mathmetician. While there were some discreptancies in the film, especially with regards to the scene with the use of medication to treat schizophrenia, Nash mentioned that he never took medication except during his stay in the hospital. It was only after he was released from the hospital for good in 1970 that he never took medication again. Although not noted in the film or book, he and Alicia eventually became advocates of mental health, especially after their son was diagnosed with the same disease. Over the years, they travelled around New Jersey and the region, talking to government officials and health care agencies to promote mental health care and help those affected by mental illness to carry on their normal lives instead of being institutionalized.

Nash’s life can be summed up into one sentence: He was the man whose rational thinking, mathematical genius and creative talents led him to conquering the power of oligarchy, delusion and ignorance. He had been locked up both literally and in his head, but found a way to escape, leaving a mark for people in both the fields of economics and social sciences on one hand, but also medicine on the other, to read about, research further on, and continue on with his work. For those who have yet to read the book or see the film, it is highly recommended, for they both cover the aforementioned fields in detail, while looking at and paying tribute to the man who will forever be one of the faces of math and science.

John Nash and his wife of 60 years, Alicia, were killed in an automobile accident on 23rd May. They had originally returned from Oslo, where he had received the Abel Prize and were heading home in a taxi when the accident happened. Neither of them wore a seatbelt and were thrown from the car. John (aged 86) and Alicia (aged 82) leave behind their son, John Jr. The passing was untimely, and they will be missed by those who knew him, from those in West Windsor Township, to those at Princeton, to Russell Crowe (who paid tribute to him upon hearing the tragedy) and the millions of others who considered Nash a hero.

Including the author, whose Genre of the Week, A Beautiful Mind, includes a homage to the man who left a mark for others to follow, despite going through the darkness of life before coming out into the light.

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Flensburg: 23 May, 1945

FIL33397
German Naval Academy in Flensburg: Once part of the last Nazi stronghold in 1945

Flensburg: 23 May, 1945. The war in the European theater was officially over. Hitler and Goebbels, along with many of his followers were dead. After signing the agreement of unconditional surrender of the German armies in northwestern Europe to British Field General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery near Hamburg on May 4th and Nazi Colonel General Alfred Jodl agreed to unconditional surrender to US General Dwight Eisenhower three days later at Rheims (France), millions of Europeans celebrated V-E Day, as Nazi Germany became no more.

Or was it?

On this day, 70 years ago, the last pocket of the Nazi government surrendered to British forces stationed in Flensburg, Germany. Jack Churcher had installed his post in the southern part of the city center at Norderhofendem 1, and British troops had taken control of the northernmost city in Germany. In comparison to other cities, Flensburg sustained minimal damage, and much of the city’s population was well-fed and dressed. They were for the most part aware that the war was coming to an end, and according to historian, Gerhard Paul in an interview with the SHZ Newspaper Group, “It was a matter of time before this absurd came to an end.” With the British troops entering Flensburg, the Nazi era had come to an end.

All except for the suburb of Mürwik, located on the eastern end of the harbor.

There, a small area in the suburb, extending for six kilometers and including the Naval Academy, was still under de facto Nazi control. Admiral Karl Dönitz had assumed power as the German president after Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels committed suicide on 30 April- 1 May, 1945.  Realizing that the war was lost, he and his remaining government officials fled the oncoming Soviet troops to Flensburg to set up a government there. The goal was to get as many fleeing German troops out of Berlin and out of reach of the Soviet troops and eventually broker terms of surrender to the western allies of the US, Britain and France. Originally they wanted to defend what was left of Nazi Germany, but they lacked the manpower and the ammunition for the efforts. After securing the agreements, it was a matter of time before the enclavement would be revealed, and the rest of the Nazi regime would surrender. Yet how they held out for so long until this date, the 23rd remains a mystery. Yet, as seen in the film produced by Pathé, soldiers of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, were in for a surprise when they found out not only how many people were holed up in Mürwik but who held out until the very end:

This leads to two main questions that are worth discussing:

1. Why did Dönitz and his government wait for so long until they were discovered by British troops and were arrested? Could they not have surrendered to Churcher?

2. As Dönitz claimed to have power in Germany, even after the agreements were signed and the war ended, would it not have made sense to declare 23 May as V-E Day and the end of Nazi Germany instead of May 8th?

Perhaps these questions will be speculated for a long time and may never be answered, but for Albert Speer, the architect of Hitler’s who received 20 years of prison time, “Flensburg was considered only the stage for the Third Reich, but nothing more than that.”  But why the town of Flensburg, of all the places Dönitz could have chosen? Was it an escape route for him and his people to flee the country through Denmark and the seas? Were there that many people sympathizing with the Third Reich, even though numbers indicate much lower support? Was it because of the navy, the rum, the beer? We may never know….

Today, Flensburg is a thriving city with many multi-cultural aspects. It still has the largest number of Danish people living there, along with many from other countries, even some from the US, Britain and Russia. The Naval Academy is still in business, and the city prides itself with its handball team, rum, beer, and other northern delecacies. But this 70-year old scar still remains, even if the city survived almost entirely unscathed by the war.  Time always has a way of healing, yet memories still remain, even on this day, when Dönitz and his men were arrested for their crimes, of holding the city (and in particular, one of the suburbs) hostage despite the war being over, and were brought to justice. This, in my eyes, was the real end of the European theater of World War II, and with that, a chapter in history we must never repeat again, period.

Note: Check out this documentary on the Flensburg Fiasco in German, as reported by SHZ, here. It was the last of the series written on the 70th anniversary of the End of World War II. A guide to earlier articles you find on the SHZ web, here.

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Flensburg: 23 May, 1945

German Naval Academy in Flensburg: Once part of the last Nazi stronghold in 1945
German Naval Academy in Flensburg: Once part of the last Nazi stronghold in 1945

Flensburg: 23 May, 1945. The war in the European theater was officially over. Hitler and Goebbels, along with many of his followers were dead. After signing the agreement of unconditional surrender of the German armies in northwestern Europe to British Field General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery near Hamburg on May 4th and Nazi Colonel General Alfred Jodl agreed to unconditional surrender to US General Dwight Eisenhower three days later at Rheims (France), millions of Europeans celebrated V-E Day, as Nazi Germany became no more.

Or was it?

On this day, 70 years ago, the last pocket of the Nazi government surrendered to British forces stationed in Flensburg, Germany. Jack Churcher had installed his post in the southern part of the city center at Norderhofendem 1, and British troops had taken control of the northernmost city in Germany. In comparison to other cities, Flensburg sustained minimal damage, and much of the city’s population was well-fed and dressed. They were for the most part aware that the war was coming to an end, and according to historian, Gerhard Paul in an interview with the SHZ Newspaper Group, “It was a matter of time before this absurd came to an end.” With the British troops entering Flensburg, the Nazi era had come to an end.

All except for the suburb of Mürwik, located on the eastern end of the harbor.

There, a small area in the suburb, extending for six kilometers and including the Naval Academy, was still under de facto Nazi control. Admiral Karl Dönitz had assumed power as the German president after Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels committed suicide on 30 April- 1 May, 1945.  Realizing that the war was lost, he and his remaining government officials fled the oncoming Soviet troops to Flensburg to set up a government there. The goal was to get as many fleeing German troops out of Berlin and out of reach of the Soviet troops and eventually broker terms of surrender to the western allies of the US, Britain and France. Originally they wanted to defend what was left of Nazi Germany, but they lacked the manpower and the ammunition for the efforts. After securing the agreements, it was a matter of time before the enclavement would be revealed, and the rest of the Nazi regime would surrender. Yet how they held out for so long until this date, the 23rd remains a mystery. Yet, as seen in the film produced by Pathé, soldiers of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, were in for a surprise when they found out not only how many people were holed up in Mürwik but who held out until the very end:

This leads to two main questions that are worth discussing:

  1. Why did Dönitz and his government wait for so long until they were discovered by British troops and were arrested? Could they not have surrendered to Churcher?

  2. As Dönitz claimed to have power in Germany, even after the agreements were signed and the war ended, would it not have made sense to declare 23 May as V-E Day and the end of Nazi Germany instead of May 8th?

Perhaps these questions will be speculated for a long time and may never be answered, but for Albert Speer, the architect of Hitler’s who received 20 years of prison time, “Flensburg was considered only the stage for the Third Reich, but nothing more than that.”  But why the town of Flensburg, of all the places Dönitz could have chosen? Was it an escape route for him and his people to flee the country through Denmark and the seas? Were there that many people sympathizing with the Third Reich, even though numbers indicate much lower support? Was it because of the navy, the rum, the beer? We may never know….

Today, Flensburg is a thriving city with many multi-cultural aspects. It still has the largest number of Danish people living there, along with many from other countries, even some from the US, Britain and Russia. The Naval Academy is still in business, and the city prides itself with its handball team, rum, beer, and other northern delecacies. But this 70-year old scar still remains, even if the city survived almost entirely unscathed by the war.  Time always has a way of healing, yet memories still remain, even on this day, when Dönitz and his men were arrested for their crimes, of holding the city (and in particular, one of the suburbs) hostage despite the war being over, and were brought to justice. This, in my eyes, was the real end of the European theater of World War II, and with that, a chapter in history we must never repeat again, period.

 

Note: Check out this documentary on the Flensburg Fiasco in German, as reported by SHZ, here. It was the last of the series written on the 70th anniversary of the End of World War II. A guide to earlier articles you find on the SHZ web, here.

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From the Classroom: How to say Tschüss in English

Closing a letter is like closing a day, as the sun sets, we know how to say good bye to yesterday and look ahead to tomorrow.
Closing a letter is like closing a day, as the sun sets, we know how to say good bye to yesterday and look ahead to tomorrow.

There is a story that is in connection with this topic I wish to write about.  It happened during a birthday of one of my friend’s former colleagues during his teaching days at Dresden. Martin was hosting the Wednesday night English roundtable with a dozen students and one other colleague and were drinking to his birthday- with beer, hard liquour, and other concoctions. He had been receiving birthday wishes on his Smartphone from his friends, colleagues and family members, when all of the sudden, he received a rather weird birthday message from his boss named Charlenè, which stated:

“Happy Birthday Herr Stöhr. Wishing you a thousand blessings and may your wishes come true. Love, Charlené.”

Now to better understand the story, Martin and Charlené were on formal terms, by the book as the Germans do, behaving professionally, using the formal second person greeting “Sie” instead of “Du” when speaking in German, and not having much to do with each other except for correspondence in connection with English classes and course planning. But the closing took Martin by surprise, for normally, if there are formalities between the two, one would answer with Best Regards or Best Wishes, right?

Wrong! Martin confronted Charlené the next day, asking her why she used love instead of other closings. Her response was simple: “I don’t know of other closings apart from love.” And this from a married woman. 😉

Speaking from the point of view of the native speaker, my first impression of the story was whether Charlené had been intoxicated while texting the message, found a unique feature of Martin worth pursuing despite not being on informal terms, or had no clue about closing a message in English and wanted to “test him.” But if we look at the real aspect of this rather unbelievably weird story, there is a point which I want to address: We just don’t know how to say good-bye in written terms, properly.

Germans have a rather simple way of opening and closing. We open with Sehr geehrte, Lieber, or Hallo (formal, semi-formal and extremely informal, respectively) and close with Liebe Grüße, Gruß aus Flensburg (informal) and Mit freundlichen Grüßen (formal). And while we open with Dear or Hi, we have way too many closures in our correspondences, resulting in the utter confusion of which one to use.

So how do we straighten out this misunderstanding? After doing some research, I conducted an experiment with a group of students to find out how they would close their correspondence, using a long list of closings in English to be placed on a line of extremity ranging from most formal (sincerely/regards) to the most informal (love).  Then I divided it into three categories: the informal closings, the grey area and the formal closings. The end result:

If you close with formal, then the best options are with Sincerely, Regards, Best Regards, Best, and Yours faithfully, whereby Sincerely is mostly used when you don’t know the person whom you’re corresponding with, Regards and Best regards are perhaps the most formal if you know someone, and Yours faithfully is closer to the grey area, but it is formal because it implies that you are offering some sort of peace to the recipient.  In the grey area, where you can use the closings for both formal and informal settings, we have Best (for more formal terms), Best wishes (if you know someone well enough where you wish something good) and All the Best (if someoneis leaving and you want to wish him/her Bon Voyage). Then we have the informal closings, where we have Take Care and Greetings (for the level of friendship), Love and lots of love for that particular lover you are writing to. Of course you can use Love for a family member, but the closing is more for the romantic type. 🙂 ❤

There are other examples of closings that can be found in the English language, but these are the ones that are found most often in letters and correspondences via e-mail. If you want to simplify your closing, then choose your top ones in each of the categories and use them when appropriate. This is my strategy with my written communication, as I use sincerely for strangers, best wishes for people I know on a (semi-) professional level, greetings for my friends, love for my family.

Some of you however may think that this is not a big deal. However it is, and if you want to try it for yourself, I suggest this experiment:

Present two letters, a formal one (like a letter of application) and an informal one, a love letter, leaving the closing open. Then present a list of closings on an extra sheet of paper and ask them which ones would best fit one of the two letters.  While this experiment was done with only one letter (the letter of application) most recently while teaching a class to a group of college students, the results ended the same, and should too, if you try it yourself.

To close the story, there was somewhat of a happy ending between Martin and Charlené: While Charlené caught her husband with a cat in the bed and dumped him on the spot, there was no love fling between the her and Martin and eventually they became friends, with Martin inviting her to his wedding, when he married a girl from Denmark. Yet she understood the difference between love and greetings, when Martin explained it to her.

Sometimes English teachers are the best doctors because they provide the most unusual remedies for mistakes that may be considered small at first, but have a huge impact on the way we communicate. And this is speaking from experience. 🙂

Greetings and Best wishes,

Jason D. Smith

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Honoring the Men on Father’s Day- By Playing HORSE

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Männertag. The day that we celebrate our lives as men. Some of us men intend to indulge in drinking to show our manlihood. Others indulge in bike and hike tours with a group of men, talking about everything typical of men, whether it is women and parties or talking about some of the craziest (and sometimes stupidest) things we’ve done as men. It’s a day of friendships and fatherhood, where boys become men, who in turn become fathers. A pair of songs come to mind when we talk about us guys:

 

and

While Männertag, is considered the Day of Man and it occurs during the time when another man, known as Jesus Christ, makes his ascension to Heaven to ensure that we stay out of trouble- obvious because he loves watching us like Angels from above and showing the evils that He is to mess with if the vulnerable and poor are threatened without any just cause, Männertag is also considered Father’s Day in Germany. Yet why it occurs on the day of His Ascension, instead of either on a Sunday in June, like in the US or on an international scale, like it is proclaimed on 19 November, remains unclear. Yet one could say that He is the world champion in ensuring that we fathers remain the fathers we are- namely setting examples for their children to follow.  Like His teachings to his Disciples and followers, we fathers love to show our sons and daughters what we enjoy doing, which is being ourselves. There are many notable greats who have passed down their expertise and characteristics to their children, so that they can indulge in their fathers’ experiences. Washington Roebling followed John Roebling’s footsteps and became an engineer. He even finished his father’s project with the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. Albert Speer Junior “restored” his father’s reputation as an architect. Mr. Spock (aka Leonard Nimoy) showed his children, Adam and Julie, the logic of acting and directing during his 40+ years in the business prior to his death this past year. Michael Jordan is blazing a trail in his basketball career for his son to follow. Patricia Hitchcock followed his father’s (Alfred Hitchcock) footsteps in becoming an actress and later curator of her father’s works. Each of us had a father who was a role model and set us on a path for us to follow because he knew that whatever we saw in what he did, we would follow passionately, just like Jesus did with his teachings.

This leads to our Genre of the Week and a poem written by my father, Sam Smith. While his passion of teaching in Academia trumps that of writing, he wrote many works that garnered interest from people on the local level and within his family. This poem he wrote to me when I completed my Master’s studies in Germany in 2008, describing the successes that can only be made if one works at it, no matter on which level. The name of the poem is HORSE, and it is based on a basketball game, where the shooter makes a shot, and his opponents have to mimick that shot, ensuring that the ball falls through the rim and net without missing and receiving a letter.  First person who gets all five letters spelled HORSE loses. Last person who did NOT get all the letters wins the game. This was a game that my father and I played when I was a child. The poem, which had to be slightly altered to fit the German format, speaks for itself for it describes how the son enters a new level of play and through his father’s guidance, he can climb his way to the top, even if it takes time and passion to do that. Admittedly, this poem and a couple of his works, were one of the main reasons that I’m a writer, even if it’s a side dish to what my job really is, which is teaching English.

So without further ado, here’s the poem. Think about this, ask how your fathers have set the stage for you to become successful and how you fought to become who you are today…..

 

H-O-R-S-E

I really didn’t want it to go in.

A flat-footed hook shot from 20 feet out

Isn’t exactly high percentage

But I had missed about a dozen

Equally tough shots before that

So I guess it was time.

As the ball sailed through the hoop

With its tattered, rusty chains

I could see the fight go out of you.

You gamely bounced the ball

And tried to duplicate my shot

But it didn’t come close.

“That’s ‘E’. I win!”

“Can we play another, Dad?”

“No, it’s getting dark.”

We walked off the court together.

If only I could say how proud of you I am.

Today we used the 10-foot basket for the first time

And you did just fine.

Had the old man up to ‘S’

But couldn’t put him away.

You’re going to start high school (Gymnasium) this fall,

Leaving behind the grade school (Grundschule)

And its playground with the 8-foot baskets,

And more.

The day is coming soon

When I will be the defeated one when we play.

And I wonder what you will be thinking

When you say

“That’s ‘E’. I win!”

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In School in Germany: Teaching Geography

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article is a throwback to an article written last year on Geography and how it should be introduced in American schools, as part of the series on In School In Germany. Before introducing you to the answers to the quiz provided, I figured you as the reader should try this and challenge yourself.

OMT: The Flensburg Files has updated its German-American-Multicultural Page to include articles from this and other series. It’s an ongoing process but click here to see what is being added and have a look at the articles. Many of them may be useful for you. 🙂

This class is the first of many in the series on topics that should be taught in US schools from the point of view of the teacher observing classes at a German school. The first topic deals with Geography.

OK fellow Americans (and especially fellow Iowans and Minnesotans), before we get started with the subject of classes that should be taught, here are a few questions that you should try and answer.

1. Peaches are an important commodity in Egypt. True or False? If false, what crops grow there?

2. __________, ____________, ____________, ______________and ___________ are the  minerals that can be found in Minnesota. Of which, _______________ is still being mined there in the ___________________ Iron Range

3. What is the capital of Palau?  aPonce          b. Melekeok      c. Koror                               d. Kauai               e. Kuala Lumpur

4. Honey is produced in Canada. True or False? If false, what is produced there?

T/F   False: ____________________________

5. Which country has the highest crime rate in the world? Why?

a. Mexico        b. Germany       c.  USA                 d. Russia              e. China               f. Poland

6. Which province in the Ukraine joined the Russian Federation earlier this year and which ones want to join?

a.: __________________; b.: ______________________________________________

7. The Rust Belt, consisting of the states of O___________,W___________V _____________, P____________________, and I______________ and the cities of I______________, P__________________,P _____________________,C ________________,C _____________ received its name because of what industry that existed between 1860 and ca. 1970?

a. Steel             b. Tobacco          c. Iron                   d. corn                 e. wood               f. both a&c

8. Rice is grown in Iowa. True or False? If false, which US state grows rice?    T/F, If false, ________________________________

9. Which Eastern European Countries became part of the Warsaw Pact in 1955? Hint: there are seven countries not counting Yugoslavia?

10. Catholicism is the predominant religion in which German states?

11. Albert Lea, Minnesota was named after an explorer who founded the region. True or False?    T/F

Do not look up the answers, but try and guess at them, either on your own or in the Comment section. The answers will be provided in a different article. Yet if you cannot answer any of the questions, then chances are you should have either visited or paid attention in Geography.  Geography is part of the curriculum in the German classroom, yet it is one of core classes that is often ignored in the classroom in other countries, or are included as a tiny fraction of the curriculum of social studies, together with history, politics, and independent living. Yet one goes by the assumption that Geography is about maps, countries and capitals. In Germany, it goes much deeper than that, as I observed in the classroom during the Praxissemester. This is what a person can expect from a Geography class:

Using a student’s guide, in this case, Diercke’s Geography book, whose volumes consists of regions, the class has an opportunity to focus on a country and its profile based on the following aspects: landscape, population, industry/economy, resources, geology, culture, societal issues, environmental issues, places of interest, and politics (governmental system and its function and flaws).  Each aspect has its own set of vocabulary words pupils need to learn, both in German as well as in English. Each one has its own graphs and diagrams, as well as certain skills pupils are expected to learn, such as presenting an aspect, analysis, comparisons of certain aspects, as well as research and presenting facts, just to name a few.  While some of these skills can be taught in other subjects, such as foreign languages as and natural and social science classes, the advantages of geography are numerous. Apart from knowing the vocabulary and the places, pupils are supposed to be prepared to know about the regions, for they can be useful for travel, any projects involving these countries, and cultural encounters with people from these countries profiled in the classroom.

Keeping this in mind, let’s look at the example of the session I sat in, with Japan.  Some of us have some knowledge about the country, apart from the Fukushima Triple Disaster of 2011 (Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Meltdown) that the Japanese have been recovering from ever since. And for some of the older generations, Japan was the champion in the electronics industry in the 1970s and 80s, mastering the Americans and Europeans before the economy took a double nosedive in the 1990s and in the mid-2000s. Yet in the session, pupils became acquainted with the Japanese industry and its ironic environmental policies, looking at the competition of the automobile industry between the Japanese and the Americans in the form of presenting a comparison and a profile of each of the automobile companies in Japan. In addition, a discussion of Japan’s secret problem of environmental pollution was presented, using the facts from Diercke and some additional materials deemed useful for the discussion. With 127 million inhabitants on a small island, whose topography comprises of 80% mountains and 20% flatlands, it is really no surprise that the country has suffered from its overpopulation, yet the topic was brand new to the students, even though it was covered previously when discussing about China, Japan’s archrival.

The class is required in the Gymnasium, yet the curriculum varies from state to state. In Thuringia, it is one year with one region, beginning with Europe. The American aspect is usually covered in the 11th grade and, pending on the Gymnasium, some aspects are offered in English, with the goal of getting the pupils acquainted with the English vocabulary. While English has become the lingua franca and is used everywhere, one could consider adding Spanish, French, and a couple Asian languages (in vocabulary terms) into the curriculum as much of the world also have countries that have at least one of the above-mentioned languages, including Latin America and Spain, where Spanish is predominant.  This way, pupils have an opportunity to be acquainted with terms rarely seen in the primary language unless translated, which loses its meaning.

This leads to the question of why geography is not offered either solely in American schools, or maybe they are being offered but only rarely. Speaking from personal experience, many schools have different sets of curriculum where Geography is placed at the bottom of the food chain, especially with regards to it being integrated into social studies. And its focus: Only North America and in particular, the United States, where the country’s history, social aspects and political systems are discussed. Current events and presenting them in writing and orally are found in these social studies classes, thus encouraging pupils to research and present their topics, yet most of the events are found in the US and Europe, and there is rarely any mentioning of countries outside the regions.  Some schools had the opportunity to be hooked up to Channel One, where news stories were presented for 20 minutes in the morning, during its heyday in the 1990s. Yet too many commercials and controversies have prompted many schools to protest or even break ties with the network, even though it still exists today after a decade of changing hands.  By introducing a year or two of Geography at least on the high school level, plus tea spoons on the lower level, it will enable pupils in American schools to be acquainted with the rest of the world and the key areas that are worth knowing about. It will save the embarrassment of not knowing some places outside the US, as I witnessed in a pair of stories worth noting:

1. A professor of political science at a college in Minnesota draws a map of Europe, placing the Czech Republic above Poland and Hungary in the area where Austria was located- in front of a pair of foreign exchange students from Germany who were grinning in the process. Of course this was the same professor who chose Munich and Berchtesgaden over Berlin and Interlaken over Geneva and Berne for a month-long seminar tour on Public Policy, where every capital of Europe was visited except for Austria, Poland, the Iberia region and Benelux. But that’s a side note in itself.

2. My best friend and his (now ex-) girlfriend meet me and my fiancée (now wife) at that time at a restaurant, where she boasted about going to Europe for a music concert. Yet when asked where exactly (which country and city), she could not answer that question- only proudly responded with “But we’re going to Europe!”

3. Then we had many questions and assumptions that East Germany and the Berlin Wall existed. One was wise enough to mention during a phone conversation that the reason he could not reach a relative in eastern Germany was that the East German Housing Development had blocked telephone access from America. And this was 10 years ago, I should add.

There are enough reasons for me (and others) to add that justify the need to offer a compulsory Geography class in American schools. While the core requirements are being introduced in the American school system, it is unknown whether Geography is part of the core. If not, then it is recommended, for the class does have its advantages, as mentioned here.  While geography contests and individual work will be stressed by those opposing the idea of teaching Geography, the main question to be asked to these people are “Are you willing to learn something about another region and the culture before encountering them, or are you willing to be ignorant and be foolish in your attempts to encounter other cultures without learning about them first?” Speaking from experience, I would rather take the safe path than one unknown and fall into several traps in the process. But that’s my opinion.

More Bike Space Needed, Please.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a throw-back article dating back to Easter 2011, when the author took a tour of Flensburg and parts of Schleswig-Holstein for articles for both the Files and sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. This article fits very nicely with the problem that train commuters and tourists have when using the Deutsche Bahn- bikes on trains and the availability of trains and coaches to accomodate them. In response to the latest strikes by the union GDL over salary increases and better working conditions, the Bahn has more issues than ever before going beyond the salary dispute, as seen with the author’s pet peeve below.

The original can be viewed by clicking here.

This Easter kicks off the start of the biking season over here in Germany (and parts of Europe). After months of having the bikes in the garages for many months due to a rather wintry season with more snow than what the continent is used to, cyclists, like yours truly are taking advantage of the warm and sunny weather by packing the bikes and whatever they can use for on the way and head hundreds of kilometers away from their homes to their destinations, so that they can see many new places and pedal many kilometers, whether it is a nice 20 km scenic tour or a marathon of over 110 km long. It all depends on preference mainly, although some people go to extremes only to pay the price physically in the end.

For many who are taking their bikes with to their destinations, it is not unusual to load them up on the trains and take off with them. It’s easier than having to load them up on top of their cars or in the back of their trucks, and one only needs to pay for train fare for himself and the bike. Sadly though, as you can see in the picture, the German Railways (Die Bahn) are trying to indirectly discourage that possibility, as there are too many bikes clogging up the train. Now why would railway services, like Die Bahn would want to do that?

Photo taken by the author enroute to Hamburg on the IC

The explanation is cause and effect. In Germany (and you can also include the rest of Europe as they have the same issue), it is too expensive to own a car. Apart from the very high gas prices (please refer to my last column on dictating our driving habits), one has to worry about paying taxes for the car- let alone car insurance which is twice as expensive as in the United States (in most cases). Furthermore, it is obligatory to have your car inspected annually to ensure that it functions properly. The so-called TÜV inspection ensures that cars that do not meet strict requirements, such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions and eliminating harmful gases produced by the exhaust system, the car engine making minimum noise while in operation, and the outer body looking like brand new, are taken off the roads unless the problems are corrected. In a way, it encourages more business on the part of the car dealers and law enforcement agencies and safety on the part of the drivers. But by the same token, it discourages many drivers from purchasing a car and use alternative forms of transportation instead, such as bus, streetcar, bike, and the train.

Problem with the alternative with train and bike is  not just the overcrowding of bikes, but the lack of availability of coaches to store the bikes. While one can take their bikes onto a regional service train at no cost (most of the time, that is), these trains stop at every single train station at every town, big or small, resulting in the travel time being three times as long as it would be, if one would use long-distance train services, which travels faster and stops at only the big and most popular stations, like in Frankfurt (Main), Dresden, Berlin and Hamburg, for example.  The fastest long-distance train service in Germany is the ICE, which travels up to 300 km/h. The second quickest is the Inter City, which can clock in a maximum speed of 250 km/h. Yet the IC is the only one that provides the cyclists with the possibility to take the bike on board, even though they have to reserve a spot at a small price.  The problem with this possibility is the fact that the bike reservations on the ICs are as limited as the number of these trains that are still running on the tracks. And it will only get worse in the next decade, as many changes by Die Bahn is forcing many to either adapt to the changes or consider alternatives. First and foremost, the ICs are retiring, as many of the coaches have been in operation for 30-40 years and despite consistent renovations, they are approaching the end of their useful lives. At the same time however, the newest version of the ICE, the ICx will make its debut as early as 2017, which will make the ICs and the first two generations of the ICE trains obsolete. There are currently four types in operation: The ICE I, which has been in service since 1990, the ICE II (since 1993), the ICE T (since 2000) and the ICE III (since 2004). All four of these types cannot accommodate the bikes and are therefore forbidden to take aboard unless one wants to face legal action.  Also disturbing is the possible elimination of ICE routes as they are either considered non-profitable or are being bypassed with more efficient routes. This includes the weaning of the route Stralsund- Berlin-Leipzig-Weimar-Erfurt-Kassel-Dortmund-Cologne off the ICs and replacing them with regional services, which has caused some massive protests from those who want a quick route to either the Cathedral in Cologne and points in the Ruhrgebiet (an industrial area where Dortmund and Cologne are located) or the Baltic Sea, in places like Stralsund, or the islands of Rügen and Usedom [Oooh-se-dome]. Another route, the Berlin-Leipzig-Erfurt-Nuremberg route is getting a new route, which would go through Suhl instead of Naumburg, Jena and Lichtenfels and with that, the treacherous mountains located between Saalfeld and Lichtenfels. While it may cut down the amount of time because the trains will go through a series of bridges and tunnels, there are concerns that Jena and Naumburg may end up without long-distance train services, a discussion that was brought up last year in Jena, as the city of 120,000 inhabitants is the center of its optical industry and has two renowned universities that are focused on the sciences.

Regional services do have three advantages. First it better serves the communities as the trains stop at all stations and towns, big or small. People are more connected as they meet and get to know each other, and one can load their bikes on the train and take them to their destinations, no matter where they go, for free. But this privilege will not last for long. Already in some places, like Hesse, the trains now have limitations for the number of bikes allowed on board. And in Bavaria, bike fees are being imposed on certain routes. One wonders whether these restrictions will actually do more harm to Die Bahn and its profits, let alone the customers; especially those who do not want to resort to the car to load their bikes and go to their destinations, if they can help it.

Inside a regional train service enroute to Flensburg. Photo taken by the author.

While the situation is still bearable, it will be a matter of time before the frustration between the customers with the bikes and Die Bahn come to a boil and that solutions offering flexibility will have to be found. This includes looking at neighboring countries for references, as their systems are more complex but more logical than what Die Bahn is offering. This includes the rail service in Switzerland (the SBB), where bikes are allowed on any train regardless of whether it is the regional services or the quickest service, the ICN, which runs services between Basel, Geneva, and Zurich. The reintroduction of InterRegio services, which was discontinued in 2006, would provide passengers with better connections to medium-sized communities and more space for the bikes. This is one service that the SBB still retains alongside its InterCity services. And lastly, to better serve the customers, having more train services running regularly- namely three per hour in the more populated areas- would provide the passengers with more opportunities to travel and trains with more space for the bikes. This is being practiced in Switzerland; especially in the corridor of Geneva-Montreaux-Bern as well as Montreaux-Sion-Lugano, for example.

Whether Die Bahn will look to other sources for references or find other creative ideas on their own depends on the costs, let alone the supply vs. demand- namely what the customers want and what the rail service can provide them in order for them to be satisfied. No matter what the case may be, many people are not going to let any train service put them down. They will do whatever it takes to travel by train; especially now because of the increasing oil prices, which shows no signs of slowing down at all. And on a beautiful weekend, like Easter, with temperatures between 20 and 30°C and mostly sunny skies, many people, like myself, are taking the bikes into the trains and travelling to their destinations, where they will hit the trails and see the places that they want to see, but without the use of a set of wheels that has guzzled one liter of gas too many.

LINK: http://www.bahn.de/i/view/GBR/en/trains/overview/ice.shtml (All the information on the trains of the German Railways Die Bahn can be found here).

http://mct.sbb.ch/mct/en/reisemarkt/services/wissen/velo/veloselbstverlad-schweiz/veloselbstverlad-icn.htm (Info on the SBB’s ICN train and it’s availability to bikers)

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