Americans in Germany 1: From Lawyer to Writer

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Ann-Marie Ackermann giving a tour of a murder site in a small German community.

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Reunification of Germany, the Flensburg Files will be providing stories of Americans who found their way to Germany and have since considered the Bundesrepublik home. Many stories have been collected of Americans who decided to try their luck with Germany because of the need for something new. Some of them are interesting enough for you to read, share with others, and if you are dying for an adventure, want to move over to a place laden with history, culture and beautiful landscapes. 🙂 These stories and interviews will be posted during the month of October in addition to the continuing series on the 25 Reasons to Love Germany and the Quiz Series on the German states.

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Our first story in the series looks at an American who used to make a living as a lawyer in the United States. Yet, her heart fell for Germany, not only because of her father originating from the country, but also because she found romance with a German. For many years, she has made her home in Bönnigheim, which is located near the Neckar River south of Heilbronn in Baden-Wurttemberg. There, she’s a writer and translator, while enjoying her life with her husband and children. Here’s more on how Ann-Marie Ackermann rediscovered her roots by returning home to Germany. Note that this is the same person who was a guest writer a few weeks ago (her book review you’ll find here):

Question 1: What motivated you to move to Germany?

It was love…. I fell in love with a German and married him. The move overseas wasn’t as much as a shock as it might have been for other Americans. I’m first generation American and my father was from Germany, so I grew up with exposure to the German culture and language. And I love the country!

Question 2: You went from being a lawyer to a writer. Why this change?

In Germany I would have had to repeat law school. Not only does Germany have different laws, it’s based on a different legal system – the civil law system instead of the common law system of England and the United States. Law school just wasn’t practicable while I had small children underfoot. So I started a small translation business from home, translating academic articles in law and psychiatry.

Question 3: What books and essays have you written since living here in Germany?

No books, but a number of my translations have been published in English. I’ve also written about birds in German (I’m a life-long bird watcher) and have had about a dozen articles printed in magazines and an academic journal. I had a German newspaper column too. And I’m the English text editor of a German ornithological journal.

Question 4: You have a blog on history and mystery, esp. when focusing on the disappearance and death of King Ludwig II. Are you a big fan of mysteries and if so, why?

I’ve loved criminal law even when I was a kid. That’s one of the reasons I chose to study law. And working as a prosecuting attorney only honed my interest.

While researching an article about birds, I discovered a 19th century murder in my adopted German town, referenced in a forestry journal. The murder was solved almost forty years later in the United States. That  makes the case unique in 19th century German history. As a former prosecutor, I got interested and started researching, thinking I had the basis of a great article for the Germans. When the assassin’s archival trail led me to Robert E. Lee, I knew I had a great story for Americans. I have a book contract with Kent State University Press and the book will come out in 2017.  www.annmarie.ackermann.com

All in all, historical mysteries offer intellectual challenges that modern true crime doesn’t. They aren’t as sensationalist. The blood has dried and it’s the mystery that remains. And 19th century detective techniques are easier to understand than modern ones. That makes them especially appealing.

Question 5: Are you a fan of Tatort or Polizeiruf 110?

Nope! We don’t have television. I’ve watched BBC’s History Cold Case, starring forensic anthropologist Sue Black, on the internet. It is a perfect example of the kind of television show I love: science meets historical mystery.

Question 6: What places in Germany have you visited since living here? Which ones would you recommend and why?

My favorite German cities are Freiburg i.B., Stade, and Trier. All offer some history and have a charm of their own. I also love the Alps and the Wattenmeer for their nature.

Question 7: What difficulties have you encountered while living in Germany?

Navigating the German bureaucracy is quite a challenge. I particularly hate doing my taxes in German. Was it Mark Twain who wrote that a German tax return is so long you could wallpaper your living room with it?

While researching for my book, I had to learn to read the old Gothic handwriting the Germans used in the 19th century. That wasn’t easy, but I’m so glad I did. It’s fascinating to read old documents in the German archives. Learning local history has made me feel even more connected to my German town.

Question 8: If someone wants to live in Germany, what advice would you give him/her before embarking on this adventure, speaking from experience?

Language is the key to any culture. If you master the German language, it will open so many doors. It’s best, in the beginning, not to befriend Americans. If you keep your social circle exclusively German at first, you will learn the language so much faster. And it will help you make lasting German friendships.

You can find more information and stories of crimes, history and other interesting items through her website, which is: http://www.annmarieackermann.com/. Subscriptions are available. From an author’s perspective, there are many aspects she has discovered that should at least be mentioned in the classroom to raise interest among the students. This is what spending time in a foreign country can do to a person: to discover the talents that had been locked up for years while at home, only to be set free when in a different place. Ackermann’s talents is a writer and apart from enjoying her short story narratives, many of us will be looking forward to her first novel on a rather mysterious crime to be released in 2017. Keep your eyes open on some more hints and facts pertaining to this theme. 🙂

Leaving Bönnigheim, we will head to the cities of Memmingen, Jena and Potsdam, where a unique set of hometown heroes decided to leave their roots to make their homes in Germany. More on that in the next article/interview.

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Bloodmoon in Germany

Photo taken on the morning of 28 September, 2015
Photo taken on the morning of 28 September, 2015

FlFi Newsflyer Logo newBERLIN- Millions of people in Europe and the US took advantage of a once in a lifetime event this morning, as the moon became the Earth’s shadow for one and a half hours. From 4:11am to 5:27am Berlin time, the moon went from its usual white color to several shades of red, resembling the planet Mars, but many tout this as the Bloodmoon. For Germany, this total lunar eclipse was the first in 33 years. Furthermore, the moon orbited as close to Earth as never before- 30,000 kilometers- making it bigger than usual. The last time this happened without the eclipse, was in Spring 2011. Lastly at 6:00pm Sunday evening, the moon rose presenting its fall color of yellow and orange, touting it as the Harvest Moon (Erntemond in German).  Astronomers, photographers and many interested people took advantage of this opportunity to see the moon in its unusual form. The author did the same himself, and pictures of the event can be seen here through the Files’ facebook page.  Expect to see this phenomenon happen again in the year 2574. By that time, we’ll have soldiers of the Battlestar Galactica and spaceships being part of our lives, instead of autos and trams. 😉

For Germany and Europe, this year can be considered the year of the eclipse. Back in May, people witnessed the total solar eclipse (photos of that are also in the Files’ facebook page). With this total lunar eclipse, this marks a once in a lifetime event that will happen again much later than 2574. However, if you are like the author, who photographed the moon up close on those two occasions, then you just got yourselves two wishes to make that will change your lives forever, at least that is what the old saying goes. So if you kissed the moon, start wishing. Yet be careful of what you wish for- you may get it sooner than you think. 😉

Note: People wishing to add photos to the Files’ facebook page are free to do so. Just post your photo here, including your name and where this was taken.

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Germany Quiz Nr. 7: What you need to know about Saxony-Anhalt

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Saxony-Anhalt-the state with two faces, but loaded with some interesting facts and friendly faces. With a population of 2.37 million inhabitants and a land area of 20,452 squared kilometers it is the most sparsely populated region in Germany and one of the most sparsely populated areas in Europe, with over 70% of the people living in cities with more than 30,000 inhabitants, including Dessau-Rosslau, Weissenfels, Halle(Saale) and its capital, Magdeburg. The rural areas, once laden with industry from the days of East Germany, are now places dominated by nature and agriculture. Yet despite this, Saxony-Anhalt has some jewels that are worth mentioning. Cities and towns pride themselves on their history and heritage; despite being landlocked by four states, the landscapes vary between hills and mountains in the western half and plains in the northern and eastern areas, thus encouraging tourism in the region. And thanks to the new ICE line through Halle (Saale), train connections are enabling the establishment of new commerce and business partnerships with nearby cities, such as Leipzig, Hanover, Jena, Erfurt and even Berlin, thus helping keep much of the population from emigrating to the western and southern parts of Germany and beyond.

But what do we know about Saxony-Anhalt in reality? This is where the seventh quiz on the Germany series on this state comes into play. Like in the first six, the object is to test yourself on the knowledge of the state, with the answer key to come before the end of June. Both of which will appear in the Files under the page Interesting Facts about Germany. 

So quiz yourselves and knock yourselves out with these Guessing Quiz questions about Saxony Anhalt 🙂  :

  1. Which of the four states does Saxony-Anhalt border?

a. Thuringia   b. Brandenburg   c. Lower Saxony   d. Saxony   e. all of them

 

2. List the following cities in Saxony-Anhalt in order of population, beginning with the largest:

Quedlinburg     Zeitz     Halle(Saale)   Halberstadt   Naumburg (Saale)   Weissenfels    Magdeburg    Lutherstadt- Wittenberge   Dessau-Rosslau   Bernburg   Merseburg       Sangerhausen

 

3. Match the following photos with the cities listed in Nr. 2. (Hint: Two of these belong to one city.)

 

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A.
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B
C
The cathedral churches and the statue of George Friedrich Handel at Halle (Saale)'s city center. Photo taken in 2012
D.

 

 

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E.

 

4. True or False: No police commissioners from the German mystery series Tatort has ever covered Saxony-Anhalt.

 

5. True or False (2 answers): The slogan for Saxony-Anhalt is Frühaufsteher, which stands for people going to work early in the morning (_____).  The people who do that (mainly farmers) are proud of that heritage (_______). 

6. True or False (3 answers) Martin Luther, the Protestant who presented the 95 Thesis harshly criticizing the Catholic Church, was born in and died in the same city (_______). His wife Katherina von Bora was not from Saxony-Anhalt originally (_______). She crafted the first champaign for him as a refresher for the brain (________).

7. Walter Gropius is famous for this (choose one):

_The founding of Bauhaus Dessau-Rosslau

_The creation of Worlitz Park near Dessau-Rosslau

_ The Nebra Arch

_The creation of the East German Museum in Bernburg

 

8. Which of the following concertos was written by George Friedrich Handel, a composer originating from Saxony-Anhalt in the city of (____________)?

 

9. True or False: Johann Sebastian Bach originated from Magdeburg.

 

10. True or False: The late Hans Diedrich Genscher, one of the founding fathers of the Free Democratic Party of Germany originated from Halle (Saale).

 

11. True or False: Sven Köhler, one of the longest tenured soccer head coaches from Halle FC, grew up in and played for the team in Halle.

 

12. True or False: Halle FC and FC Magdeburg are the only two teams in Saxony Anhalt which marched through the regional soccer league in one season enroute to the national stage (counting the 3rd tier of the German Bundesliga).

 

13. True or False: The handball teams of SC Magdeburg (men) and the Halle Lions (women) compete in the premere league.

 

14. Which of the following beers originate from Saxony-Anhalt?

Porter              Hasseröder                 Gessener                     St. Moritz                   Glauchauer

 

15. Which of the following specialties are NOT considered a pastry?

Bienenstich                Nähstänge                  Garley             Baumkuchen            Streuselkuchen

 

16. True or False: The Nähstänge is a pastry that originate from  Tangermünde.

17. What constitutes a typical Bauernfrühstück in Saxony-Anhalt?

18. The Weinmeile is an annual event that takes place in ___________________________, (region or city will suffice)  famous for the production of ________________ and ___________________ (pick two from the selection below)

champaign           brandy            wine                sherry             sect                 champaign            beer

 

19. What is a Feuerstein from Schierke?

20. If legend is true (and it still is), salt is the most priceless commodity that exist in Saxony-Anhalt. Which areas can you find salt production?

 

21. Salt is used for what purposes?

 

22. Which of the cities in Saxony-Anhalt does NOT have a castle?

Halle (Saale), Naumburg (Saale), Magdeburg, Sangerhausen, Quedlinburg, Dessau-Rosslau, Tangermünde

 

23. Which of the following cities have a cathedral?

Naumburg (Saale),  Magdeburg,  Halle (Saale), Havelberg, Lutherstadt Wittenberge, Arendsee

 

24. How many churches and “klosters” does Magdeburg have?

 

25.  How many bridges do the following cities have? Name two of them per city you know.

Magdeburg: ________

Halle (Saale): _______

Quedlinburg: _________

Zeitz: __________

Merseburg: __________

 

26. Match the pictures of the bridges with that of the locations below.  Name the bridge if you know it.

Halle (Saale)    Magdeburg    Zeitz    Bad Kösen    Saale-Unstrut Region    Merseburg   Quedlinburg    Tangermünde    Köthen

 

 

The Answer Key to this Quiz you will find here.

 

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Germany at 25: Cycling on Germany’s Bike Trails

Sachsenburg Bridge w Gertie

Cycling. Of all the quotes that are out there (see link), there is one that sticks to mind when taking the bike out for a spin: The best ideas come from sitting on the bike, pedaling into the unknown, for hours on end.  Bicycling has become a habit to many in Germany who are searching for an alternative to travelling and commuting. Of 90% of households that own a bike, 31% of people would prefer the bike over the car, because biking is much sexier than travelling by car- at least that’s what 22% of the population think of that. No wonder why because 72% of the population bike at least seven hours a week, the number of bike trails have increased by 25% since 2000! 😀 Germany is catching onto the Copenhagenization craze, but why?

Since coming to Germany in 1999, there has been a shift in attitude in terms of what form of transportation to use for travelling. Of course Germans love their cars (and treat them like they treat their books- as sacred as the Bible). But too many cars on the road means less time to spend on vacation for much of that is spent in traffic jams. Therefore we are starting to see more and more people hit the pedal and hit the trails- not for the purpose of commuting (like the author does), but also for travelling on vacation- to see the sites, visit places almost inaccessible by car or train, enjoy good company over a radler with some friends (not to mention have a picnick along the way), and lastly, clear the mind of all the stress and problems for at least one day.

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The number of (kilometers of) bike trails have increased by 50% since 2000, with the majority of the trails running along a body of water or through the cities. This includes trails running along rivers, like the Elbe, Rhine, Main, Saale and Weser, but also those along the North and Baltic Coast lines. We also have some that connect historic villages and castles as well as dense networks of trails going through big cities. The trend is increasing as the German Bike Association ADFC has mapped out an Agenda 2020 Plan, which is designed to accomodate bikers with better trail networks, services and other ammendities. And with the increase in bike traffic comes the increase in bike shops and bike brands you can only see in Germany. The trend is clearly going towards keeping the car in the garage and using the bike as the main source of transportation.

There are many reasons for taking the bike anywhere these days. For many, it is for the purpose of independence. For others, it’s the norm. For me as an expat, minus the commute, it is for exploring new places and taking in something new each day, whether it is biking across a bridge, through the mountains and villages, or even to a castle for a tour. Sometimes seeing something new everyday is a way of expanding your horizons and having a better understanding of the place you’re living in. And while many Americans at home don’t understand the concept yet, when taking a week in Europe, going by bike to many places, like I have with my companion Galloping Gertie (a black Diamant bike made in Germany), they will eventually change their minds and do what we’ve done in the last 15 years- put the helmet on and start pedaling. 🙂

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FF 25 Logo

Germany at 25: Cycling on Germany’s Bike Trails

Sachsenburg Bridge w Gertie

Cycling. Of all the quotes that are out there (see link), there is one that sticks to mind when taking the bike out for a spin: The best ideas come from sitting on the bike, pedaling into the unknown, for hours on end.  Bicycling has become a habit to many in Germany who are searching for an alternative to travelling and commuting. Of 90% of households that own a bike, 31% of people would prefer the bike over the car, because biking is much sexier than travelling by car- at least that’s what 22% of the population think of that. No wonder why because 72% of the population bike at least seven hours a week, the number of bike trails have increased by 25% since 2000! 😀 Germany is catching onto the Copenhagenization craze, but why?

Since coming to Germany in 1999, there has been a shift in attitude in terms of what form of transportation to use for travelling. Of course Germans love their cars (and treat them like they treat their books- as sacred as the Bible). But too many cars on the road means less time to spend on vacation for much of that is spent in traffic jams. Therefore we are starting to see more and more people hit the pedal and hit the trails- not for the purpose of commuting (like the author does), but also for travelling on vacation- to see the sites, visit places almost inaccessible by car or train, enjoy good company over a radler with some friends (not to mention have a picnick along the way), and lastly, clear the mind of all the stress and problems for at least one day.

IMGP2088

The number of (kilometers of) bike trails have increased by 50% since 2000, with the majority of the trails running along a body of water or through the cities. This includes trails running along rivers, like the Elbe, Rhine, Main, Saale and Weser, but also those along the North and Baltic Coast lines. We also have some that connect historic villages and castles as well as dense networks of trails going through big cities. The trend is increasing as the German Bike Association ADFC has mapped out an Agenda 2020 Plan, which is designed to accomodate bikers with better trail networks, services and other ammendities. And with the increase in bike traffic comes the increase in bike shops and bike brands you can only see in Germany. The trend is clearly going towards keeping the car in the garage and using the bike as the main source of transportation.

There are many reasons for taking the bike anywhere these days. For many, it is for the purpose of independence. For others, it’s the norm. For me as an expat, minus the commute, it is for exploring new places and taking in something new each day, whether it is biking across a bridge, through the mountains and villages, or even to a castle for a tour. Sometimes seeing something new everyday is a way of expanding your horizons and having a better understanding of the place you’re living in. And while many Americans at home don’t understand the concept yet, when taking a week in Europe, going by bike to many places, like I have with my companion Galloping Gertie (a black Diamant bike made in Germany), they will eventually change their minds and do what we’ve done in the last 15 years- put the helmet on and start pedaling. 🙂

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Genre of the Week: The Fire Within by Sophie Scholl

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Author’s note: Due to the 25th Anniversary of German Reunification festivities and the number of articles pertaining to this theme on the way beginning next week, the Files is posting a Genre of the Week profile for the coming week, which serves as a little food for thought as the weekend before the celebration comes.

Society must be equal. But equality in this case has nothing to do with the gap between the rich and poor. It has more to do with checks and balances. One power strives to take control of our resources and our lives, yet even if we are conquered, there are many of us who take the effort to fight back and set the boundaries- showing them where not to cross. Countries have tried seize the natural resources of others at their expense, only to fail because of resistance, either as one nation or in case one leader falls, guerilla warfare, protests and even standing trial in front of the conquerer’s leader. Sometimes we need this equilibrium- enemies, archrivals, even the simplest counterpart in order to stop the conquest and greed, as well as leave the society of others alone. Without that balance in power, people become displaced, as seen in a previous article written, seek comfort of other countries and regions that are willing to do the work that their home country failed doing because of the lack of power to resist.

When Adolf Hitler seized power in 1933, many Germans fled the country for fear their freedom of expression would become ashes through the Holocaust. Those who stayed and tried resisting his regime were arrested and executed. This was proved by the Night of Long Knives on 30 June- 2 July, 1934, where the Nazis purged various offices and homes and arrested many people Hitler claimed as enemies of the Third Reich. Although the official number of people killed by the raids was 85, other sources claimed over 100. This included Fritz Gerlich, a journalist who wrote about the dangers of Hitler before being arrested and later killed in Dachau.

Yet still, we keep fighting for our right and try to put the government in its place, showing it that we need this checks and balances- this democracy of/by/for the people and not for the select few, a society that is not dystopian but equal with the right to express ourselves within the comfounds of regulations enforced by law. And this is where The Fire Within, our genre of the week comes in. Written by Sophie Scholl, the narrative, written before her execution in 1943, shows how many of us try to have our own living, even if it means fighting for it. Each of us has a way of dealing with our environment- through silence or through action. Yet, as she describes it in detail with a comic strip drawn by Zen Pencils, our actions do have one consequence in the end, but it is for one purpose. Society needs equilibrium in order for the country to have its own checks and balances; in order for society and the government to co-exist peacefully.  More on this here:

Quote from Sophie Scholl; Link to strip: http://zenpencils.com/comic/108-sophie-scholl-the-fire-within/

To end this profile, here is a question worth asking: If Nixon visits China and Willi Brandt visits Erich Honecker, then for what purpose? Is it for the purpose of making peace or for the pursuit of power and if so, in what way? Who benefits and who loses in the deal? Comparing that time period (the 1970s) with the current situation in the present (and this includes intervention from outside), one can ask if we are happy with our own surroundings and what the government is doing for us (and for the people immigrating here for a better life as well), or if not, what we need to do to improve the situation. And if so, how…..  Have a look at your own surroundings tonight, after reading this, and ask yourself if and how we can make these changes…..

More on Sophie Scholl and her life and involvement in the White Rose Movement can be found here.

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Genre of the Week: The Fire Within by Sophie Scholl

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Author’s note: Due to the 25th Anniversary of German Reunification festivities and the number of articles pertaining to this theme on the way beginning next week, the Files is posting a Genre of the Week profile for the coming week, which serves as a little food for thought as the weekend before the celebration comes.

Society must be equal. But equality in this case has nothing to do with the gap between the rich and poor. It has more to do with checks and balances. One power strives to take control of our resources and our lives, yet even if we are conquered, there are many of us who take the effort to fight back and set the boundaries- showing them where not to cross. Countries have tried seize the natural resources of others at their expense, only to fail because of resistance, either as one nation or in case one leader falls, guerilla warfare, protests and even standing trial in front of the conquerer’s leader. Sometimes we need this equilibrium- enemies, archrivals, even the simplest counterpart in order to stop the conquest and greed, as well as leave the society of others alone. Without that balance in power, people become displaced, as seen in a previous article written, seek comfort of other countries and regions that are willing to do the work that their home country failed doing because of the lack of power to resist.

When Adolf Hitler seized power in 1933, many Germans fled the country for fear their freedom of expression would become ashes through the Holocaust. Those who stayed and tried resisting his regime were arrested and executed. This was proved by the Night of Long Knives on 30 June- 2 July, 1934, where the Nazis purged various offices and homes and arrested many people Hitler claimed as enemies of the Third Reich. Although the official number of people killed by the raids was 85, other sources claimed over 100. This included Fritz Gerlich, a journalist who wrote about the dangers of Hitler before being arrested and later killed in Dachau.

Yet still, we keep fighting for our right and try to put the government in its place, showing it that we need this checks and balances- this democracy of/by/for the people and not for the select few, a society that is not dystopian but equal with the right to express ourselves within the comfounds of regulations enforced by law. And this is where The Fire Within, our genre of the week comes in. Written by Sophie Scholl, the narrative, written before her execution in 1943, shows how many of us try to have our own living, even if it means fighting for it. Each of us has a way of dealing with our environment- through silence or through action. Yet, as she describes it in detail with a comic strip drawn by Zen Pencils, our actions do have one consequence in the end, but it is for one purpose. Society needs equilibrium in order for the country to have its own checks and balances; in order for society and the government to co-exist peacefully.  More on this here:

Quote from Sophie Scholl; Link to strip: http://zenpencils.com/comic/108-sophie-scholl-the-fire-within/

To end this profile, here is a question worth asking: If Nixon visits China and Willi Brandt visits Erich Honecker, then for what purpose? Is it for the purpose of making peace or for the pursuit of power and if so, in what way? Who benefits and who loses in the deal? Comparing that time period (the 1970s) with the current situation in the present (and this includes intervention from outside), one can ask if we are happy with our own surroundings and what the government is doing for us (and for the people immigrating here for a better life as well), or if not, what we need to do to improve the situation. And if so, how…..  Have a look at your own surroundings tonight, after reading this, and ask yourself if and how we can make these changes…..

More on Sophie Scholl and her life and involvement in the White Rose Movement can be found here.

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Genre of the Week: Zwerg Nase (Chef Nose the Elf)

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Every profi was once a beginner. Every profi learns from his master. Every profi is best at what he does. But if the profi is missing something, then no matter how well he does with his job, that profi will never feel complete until he finds what he is looking for.

This is the theme of this week’s genre, which is a fairy tale entitled Zwerg Nase (in English: Chef Nose the Elf). Written by Wilhelm Hauff in 1826 and adapted for film at least three times, the focus of the story is on the main character, a 12-year old boy named Jakob, son of a shoemaker and a stallholder selling produce in the market square of a small German town. In the story, Jakob helps his mother sell fruit and vegetables when a old witch comes and asks him for herbs. She then chooses cabbage and has him carry them to her place, where she kidnaps him and holds him hostage for seven years. Jakob learns the profession of cooking but he encounters a special herb that converts him to an elf with a crooked nose. From there, things go down hill, as he is shunned by society- even his own parents disregard him and consider him gone. Yet, he finds a way to climb back from rock bottom, as you can see in the video below……

Despite his success as a cook, he found that through his befriending with a goose, he felt there was something missing that needed to be found. He eventually finds the herb that converted him into the elf, and after smalling it, returns to his form as a human, and things return to what they were, despite him growing older by 12 years. His goose companion becomes a beautiful woman. And he reunites with his parents, who had given up hope on ever seeing him again many years before. In other words, through his discovery of the truth, the family reunion became the one made in heaven, as seen in the film above. 🙂 ❤

This version of the film above is highly recommended because of the actors/ actresses in the film- among them, Mechthild Großmann (who plays the old witch), famous for her role as Commissioner Klemm in the Tatort- Münster series. Her role as the witch is perfect because of the wicked personality- wicked enough that the author is waiting for a Tatort scene where she grabs a person by the collar and threatens him with a Gollum, the Wicked Witch of the West comment: “I’ll get you my precious, if it’s the last thing I do!” 😉

But on the serious side, Zwerg Nase takes the theme of satisfaction to a new level. No matter how great a person is in his profession, the person is not completely whole unless all the pieces of the puzzle in life are found and placed in their rightful places. This includes factors, like love, the truth, real identity and happiness. You can be the greatest, yet how can it be shared when there is no one to share it with, let alone have that person value your work and you as a person? A facade can only be held for a short time, especially when the truth is revealed. And as shown in the film, the truth sometimes can hurt, but in the long run, it makes you even stronger than before. And sometimes, the quest for the truth, and the person who admires you and whom you love, can take lots of time and efforts before it is revealed. For Jakob, it took many years to find that the elf, the famous cook, was a facade waiting to be revealed. And in the end, he got more than what he bargained for.

So the author’s word of advice to all is this: If you are really good at what you are doing and have garnered immense popularity, but feel constantly unhappy on the inside, have a chance to look at yourself and ask yourself why? Is there something missing? Is there a person blindsiding you with praise that you have never had in a long time? If so in this case, then it is time to start digging for the truth. And sometimes, as seen in the story, the truth can be as beautiful as the person blindsiding you. 🙂

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Genre of the Week: Zwerg Nase (Chef Nose the Elf)

BUGA 15

Every profi was once a beginner. Every profi learns from his master. Every profi is best at what he does. But if the profi is missing something, then no matter how well he does with his job, that profi will never feel complete until he finds what he is looking for.

This is the theme of this week’s genre, which is a fairy tale entitled Zwerg Nase (in English: Chef Nose the Elf). Written by Wilhelm Hauff in 1826 and adapted for film at least three times, the focus of the story is on the main character, a 12-year old boy named Jakob, son of a shoemaker and a stallholder selling produce in the market square of a small German town. In the story, Jakob helps his mother sell fruit and vegetables when a old witch comes and asks him for herbs. She then chooses cabbage and has him carry them to her place, where she kidnaps him and holds him hostage for seven years. Jakob learns the profession of cooking but he encounters a special herb that converts him to an elf with a crooked nose. From there, things go down hill, as he is shunned by society- even his own parents disregard him and consider him gone. Yet, he finds a way to climb back from rock bottom, as you can see in the video below……

Despite his success as a cook, he found that through his befriending with a goose, he felt there was something missing that needed to be found. He eventually finds the herb that converted him into the elf, and after smalling it, returns to his form as a human, and things return to what they were, despite him growing older by 12 years. His goose companion becomes a beautiful woman. And he reunites with his parents, who had given up hope on ever seeing him again many years before. In other words, through his discovery of the truth, the family reunion became the one made in heaven, as seen in the film above. 🙂 ❤

This version of the film above is highly recommended because of the actors/ actresses in the film- among them, Mechthild Großmann (who plays the old witch), famous for her role as Commissioner Klemm in the Tatort- Münster series. Her role as the witch is perfect because of the wicked personality- wicked enough that the author is waiting for a Tatort scene where she grabs a person by the collar and threatens him with a Gollum, the Wicked Witch of the West comment: “I’ll get you my precious, if it’s the last thing I do!” 😉

But on the serious side, Zwerg Nase takes the theme of satisfaction to a new level. No matter how great a person is in his profession, the person is not completely whole unless all the pieces of the puzzle in life are found and placed in their rightful places. This includes factors, like love, the truth, real identity and happiness. You can be the greatest, yet how can it be shared when there is no one to share it with, let alone have that person value your work and you as a person? A facade can only be held for a short time, especially when the truth is revealed. And as shown in the film, the truth sometimes can hurt, but in the long run, it makes you even stronger than before. And sometimes, the quest for the truth, and the person who admires you and whom you love, can take lots of time and efforts before it is revealed. For Jakob, it took many years to find that the elf, the famous cook, was a facade waiting to be revealed. And in the end, he got more than what he bargained for.

So the author’s word of advice to all is this: If you are really good at what you are doing and have garnered immense popularity, but feel constantly unhappy on the inside, have a chance to look at yourself and ask yourself why? Is there something missing? Is there a person blindsiding you with praise that you have never had in a long time? If so in this case, then it is time to start digging for the truth. And sometimes, as seen in the story, the truth can be as beautiful as the person blindsiding you. 🙂

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Copenhagenization: The contagion that could change the way we think of bicycles

Author’s Note: This is a throwback article dating back to October 2011, focusing on the future of transportation- the bicycle, and the city that is still leading the way- Copenhagen. How Germany is following and setting an example, will be seen in the next article. 

Here’s a pop quiz for you to consider before you read the column further: What is  Copenhagenization and who thought of the idea to begin with?

On road with a rented bike

When I first heard of the term Copenhagenization, it was during the time I was teaching the city planners English at the university and the crew at CNN and its host, Richard Quest filmed a documentary about this subject as part of the series on Future Cities (Link: http://business.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/07/tackling-copenhagens-traffic-with-bicycles/      ).  Basically Copenhagenization, which originates from the Danish capital, is the process of encouraging people to use their bikes on a regular basis instead of the cars, by constructing bike trails in areas needed the most and in many cases, such as wandering through Copenhagen on a sunny day, making bikes available for people to use.  As one can see while wandering through the city, one will see the most basic characteristics of Copenhagen and the much dense bike trail network: bike racks full of bikes in the city center and the railway station filling up a Wal-mart SuperCenter store, six to eight lanes of traffic; two of which are designated for bikes only and 1-2 for pedestrians only, traffic signals for bikes only, and a recent development which Mr. Quest pointed out in his documentary and I can only confirm from my own personal experience, bike jams!
Unlike cars, which clog the streets with fumes from the engine and lots of noise (a major problem in the 1950s which led to the Copenhagen city council to convert the city center into a car-free bike and pedestrian zone and push cars back to the outskirts) bike jams imply that there are too many bikes on the trail, making it impossible to pass anybody in front of you who is going slower than your speed. While the jam was not bad during my time in Copenhagen, it can be potentially worse during rush hour traffic; especially when people commute to places outside the city as well as its Swedish neighbor across the sea, Malmø.
But while biking through the city, I can see with the few cars that are on the streets, the close quarters many of the residents live in, and the lanes that are designated for bikes only, bike jams are only a part of daily life that most people have to deal with.  It is as if people biking to work is the way of life in the city, and from my own point of view, there are many advantages to biking around a city like Copenhagen than by travelling with the car. You can meet new people along the way, reach your destination in the city with little or no complications, and if you’re like me and have a hobby like bridgehunting, you can visit and enjoy the places that clearly belong to your hobby (Please refer to the sister column’s  article on Copenhagen’s bridges for more details).
For me though, while Copenhagenization also has a hidden meaning, which is reduce the carbon dioxide emissions and make the capital a carbon-neutral city by 2025, it does provide people with a chance to get acquainted with the city and its surroundings while at the same time, be awed and amused at the type of bikes that are being used on the city’s designated routes.  I rented a city bike for the day and toured the city before heading to the shores of the Baltic Sea in the vicinity of the Øresundbro-Bridge, going through many villages, like Ørestad, Tårnby and Dragør, and even going through a large section of birch tree forest, which represented a scene from a fairy tale with a white deer roaming through. More on the harmony between nature and city-life will be in a later article. On the way to the foggy shores of the Baltic, I encountered many fancy types of bikes that residents use for getting from A to B and realized that when there is a will to go places (with or without cargo), then there is the bike. Apart from the 2-3 man tandem bike, there is the bike taxi, where the biker transports people sitting in the back seats from one place to another. As far as children are concerned, while parents would place their kids on a seat behind them on the back carrier or on the horizontal frame  in front of them, there are 3-wheel bikes where the compartment is at the very front of the bike-supported by two wheels. One can use the compartment for transporting goods if he does not have a child to transport around.  Others use bike trailers that are attached to the back of the bike to carry their goods around. And then there are the homeless who use their bike to carry their belongings around and camp out somewhere where no one sees them.  No matter where you go, there are bikes everywhere. When taking a break on the bench, you will see an average of 40 bikes passing by in the span of only two minutes! Compared to US or even German standards, that is a lot; especially since Americans are more automobile oriented and Germans are more dependent on public transport. Admittedly though, the trend is changing as more trails are being constructed in both countries (more so in the former) so that more people are encouraged to use the two-wheelers for getting to work and back. It is no wonder why in Copenhagen, two wheels rule the streets!
In case there are some people who think differently about biking and prefer taking the car, one should list the reasons why the car is more convenient than the bike and then look and even ask the residents in Copenhagen (and even the Danes, in general) why they choose the bike instead of the car. When looking at how Copenhagenization is influencing the way city planners both in Europe and America are making the streets more convenient for cyclists and pedestrians and seeing how each town- big and small- are introducing the bike trails in their communities, there are three underlying motives for encouraging biking: cost reduction, improving one’s health and the environment, and most of all, convenience.  While it may be a pain in the popo for those who were accustomed to using the car, in the end when looking at how the Danes treat biking as if it is a way of life and thinking of the long-term benefits, biking is well worth the efforts that are being encouraged by the communities and those who favor them. Speaking from the experience of a cyclist who has been biking in Europe for over 12 years and has seen the expansion of the bike trails over the years, I can say that Copenhagen deserves to be recognized for not only its efforts to encourage people to bike and make it convenient for them to get to their destinations without using the car, but also influencing others to consider making their streets and other areas of the communities biker-friendly. The more bikes that are on the streets and trails, the more people will leave their cars in the garage and take their two-wheelers  to the streets and enjoy a beautiful day, like I did going by bike through Copenhagen.

Photos:

Numerous bikes crowding an ice cream parlor in Copenhagen’s city center
Bike with baby trail parked in front of the apartment
Parked for a visit
Bike taxis at your disposal
Night on the Town by Bike
Eight lanes of traffic at Tarnby (near Cph.): Outmost lanes for pedestrians, followed by bicycle lanes and two lanes of traffic before meeting the center median
Cycling in the wildernis outside Copenhagen near the airport
Rows of bikes at Copenhagen Railway Station
Example of a traffic jam at Norreport (Cph)

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