Our hearts bleed and our tears go out to the people in Paris and the entire country of France as one of the seven wonders of the country went up in smoke on the evening of 15th April, 2019. Fire broke out on the roof of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during evening mass. While the congregation got out as soon as the alarm went off, fire started to spread going up the spiral before it collapsed onto the roof of the building constructed in 1163. From there, fire took out the entire roof of the church before firemen stopped it from going to the twin towers where the church bells were at. It is very incomprehensible to look at the church before and after the blazing inferno, even as renovations had been ongoing prior to the fire. Thousands had put their heart and soul into building this magnificent architectural masterpiece. In the face of trying times, with protests against President Macron and a Europe that is divided over every issue possible, the fire at Notre Dame has brought together Europe, France and its people, unifying them now with one purpose: To rebuild the church, which is basically the same as rebuilding the nation.
As a tribute to the cathedral, which I visited as a college student in 1999, there is a poem that was written about Notre Dame by Irish poet Kerrie O’brien in 2016. Part of the poem series released as a book that year, this poem looks at the church as a symbol of light, love and unity, the three elements that were inseparable as the person paid homage to this historic icon and a visit to God at its alter. You can find more poetry on Ms. O’brien by clicking here. For now, here’s to Notre Dame- you were a beauty before, you will be again…… ❤
Certain mornings I would be the only one To see the first streams of it – Light Tumbling through stained glass Smattering everything Red gold rose blue. The beauty almost frightening. Yves Klein would daub his women Blue And hurl them at the canvas. Living brushes Haphazard and outrageous – Same effect. Different every day This glittering cave Big beautiful lit up thing. It knew and knew Why I had come. Blue gold rose red Falling like water My river walk, My morning prayer. I would step into it slow Circling the altar Gold cross flickering In the centre Anchored, rooted, still. As above, so below Eyes closed Filling my heart With the warmth of it Until my body was Sunlight and roses And the fear Fell away in petals Would you believe it If I told you Nothing felt separate.
It is one of the main anchors of German culture. It is a place where you must try when visiting Germany. It is also one where if you don’t know how to take care of yourself, you could end up endangering yourself and others too. It’s the German Autobahn. Introduced over a century ago and expanded during the 1930s, the Autobahn became the quickest way to get from point A to point B. It also became the shortest way to get to your destination. With its famed unlimited speed limits, as seen on the signs, you can get from Munich to Berlin in five hours without any traffic jams; seven when going from Cologne to Dresden. In some cases, travelling by the Autobahn is faster than traveling by train, especially when the Deutsche Bahn (DB) has to handle delays and cancellations on a daily basis. 70% of all Autobahns in Germany do not have a speed limit, whereas speed limits are enforced in blackspots, construction areas and in big cities, and they limit based on the density of traffic on the highways.
Sadly though, it is one of the deadliest places to drive because of reckless driving, disobeying traffic regulations, disregarding other road-users and sometimes, poor conditions on the pavement themselves. In comparison to other European countries, the German Autobahn has the highest fatality rate of all the member states, plus Great Britain. The rate of deaths on the Autobahn per 1000 kilometers is 30.2%, according to data provided by the European Union. The European average is 26.4%. Per billion kilometers, the fatality rate in Germany is 1.6 is double that of Great Britain’s. Comparing that with the US, the fatality rate per mile is still less but the rate may become on par with the Americans in a few years. On 25 of the most dangerous interstate and federal highways in the States, the average death rate is 0.62 per mile. Along the six deadliest, the rate per mile is 0.9! Given the increase in cars on German Autobahns, combined with distracted driving and even reckless driving, the statistics are sobering.
Other countries in Europe have them: Poland has the 140 km/h limit (85 mph). The Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Austria, have the 130 km/h (80 mph) limit (which had been proposed by the German government) Belgium and Switzerland have a 120 km/h (75 mph) limit.
A map of the countries with the speed limits can be found above.
The enforcement of the speed limit would increase the cost for mobility in Germany, especially with the subsidies involving e-cars, tax hikes for gas, introducing incentives to replace old diesel cars with newer ones conforming to standards and enforcing a ban on diesel cars in big cities.
“Reducing speed limits would bring down the number of fatalities, which is one in four-“ an argument presented by Michael Mertens, Chair of the German Police Officers Union in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Money should be spent on expanding public transportation services, such as trains and busses, as well as bike trails for they provide healthier choices.
He adds further: “By even reducing the speed limit to 130, it would help prevent serious accidents and tailbacks (traffic jams)” To add to his argument: A report showed that 2018 was the worst year regarding traffic jams as over 745,000 were reported, an average of 2000 per day. This was a 3% increase since 2017.
The Autobahn is a tourist trap and visitors to Germany would like to experience driving the Autobahn and stop at well-known rest areas and eateries along the way.
Speed limits would reduce carbon dioxide emmissions- in 2017 alone, 115 million tons of CO2 released in the atmosphere in Germany came from cars. The rate has increased steadily since 1990.
Reducing the speed on the Autobahn would hurt car sales, especially with the likes of BMW, Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, etc.
A report on mobility was expected to be released at the end of March, outlining the details on how Germany can reduce carbon dioxide emissions without being penalized millions of Euros by the authorities in Brussels. Already the government has come under fire for admitting that its goal of reducing emissions by 8% by 2020 would not be reached due to several factors, including weening itself off of coal by 2038, lacking support for European measures to tackle climate change and the like. Yet the report is expected to include the enforcement of speed limits on Germany’s Autobahn system. While a general speed limit already in place on most streets and two-lane roads, the question is why not introduce it onto German highways, just like in every other state?
This is where the question between culture and conformity come to mind- Are we ready to rein in speeding at the cost of tradition or do we have bigger environmental issues to tackle and speeding “…defies all common sense,” as mentioned by German Transportation Minister, Andreas Scheuer?
Questionnaire: Should Germany enfore its speed limit on its Autobahn system? If so, what speed is acceptable?
Feel free to vote and also write your thoughts in the comment section. Click on the highlighted links to read more about the speedlimits.
According to German Traffic Laws, drivers are allowed to speed up to 100 km/h on all roads and 130 km/h on expressways and designated stretches of the German Autobahn. When in town, the speed limit is 50 km/h unless posted. Some speed limits allow for 60 km/h.
2. Beware of the magic number! The 60 km/h limit is the most commonly used speed limit in Germany, used on many different occasions. One will find it inside the city, on speed limit signs designated for trucks (although the maximum speed is 80), and in construction zones- even on Autobahns. The second most common speed sign is the 70 limit, which is found in cities but is required at all highways intersections.
3. Blackspots are defined as areas that are most proned to accidents. They can be found construction sites as well as areas along the highway- curves, intersections, built-up areas in the city and other dangerous spots where accidents most often occur.
There is an old saying to start off the forum: If you are born to an American parent, you automtically become an American. How about when you pass on: Should you automatically become an organ donor?
This is the question that is floating around aggressively in Berlin and is being talked about in hospitals and medical centers in Germany, thanks to German Health Minister Jens Spahn and his most recent proposal.
The “dual opt-out” donation system would automatically make everyone in Germany a registered organ donor.
People could still opt out at any time by putting themselves on a register that says they object to being a donor.
Family members could also revoke consent after a person dies.
Doctors would be required to consult with the family before removing any organs in the event a person is declared brain-dead.
People will be informed multiple times about the new system and the options to opt out.
The proposal comes in response to the sharp decrease in the number of organ donors between 2012 and 2017, combined with the increase in the number of patients who are on the waiting list for an organ donor. According to a recent study, the number of organ donations carried out in Germany decreased from 1097 in 2012 to only 797 in 2017. Last year alone, some 9,400 people were on the organ transplant waiting list. Less than 1,000 organ transplantations were carried out, while 2,000 on the waiting list died.
The current system allows for opting in to donations, where people who volunteer receive a donor card and their names are in the data bank. Critics feel that the opt-out clause is the same as forcing people to donate their organs when they die, even though they don’t want to. Already an alternative proposal is in the works which would require repetitive questioning about donating organs when at the doctor or renewing their personal ID. The belief is that organ donations should be a conscious option that remains voluntary and not obligatory by the state.
While the debate goes to the Bundestag, the German upper parliament, which will be debated and voted upon soon, the question is whether being an automatic donor after death with the clausal to opt-out would make the best sense in the interest of the German population. Or if it makes sense to leave it the option to donate to the person him/herself. Henceforth, a poll has been created for you to vote upon. Feel free to do so and if you want, comment on this issue.
While the author does see many advantages of being an organ donor (he is one himself, plus there’s a success story on that which you can click here to read.), there are some who don’t want to based on past experiences or even religious beliefs. There are two sides to the story on this topic, just as much as two sides to the story on becoming Americans automatically when a child born to American parents is born abroad. It’s a question of listing the facts on both sides of the aisle and deciding based personal feelings towards this subject. 🙂
The next comparison we have is the difference between Present Simple and Past Simple. Here one needs not much for explanation for the difference is sometimes too easy to see. Present Simple deals with three key aspects: statement, routine and fixed scheduling. An example for each one can be seen below:
There are many people at the rock concert.
The Wacken Rock Festival takes place every summer in July.
Thousands of rock fans travel there every year to cheer their favorite band on.
Werner the motorcyclist goes there with his friends.
To help with the difference, one should keep in mind of the time markers that are used, which is below:
Time Marker Present Simple
always, mostly, mainly, often, never, sometime, occasionally, (un-)usually, normally, traditionally, frequently, seldom, rarely, hardly (ever), certain days, weeks, months and years, each/every (day, week, month, year,….), daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, annually, bi-annually, regularly, and the numerical frequency (once, twice, three times, etc.)
For past simple the purpose of that is describing the event that is finished. One however needs to pay attention to the fact that present perfect can be used as well. The difference between the two, as described in this post (here) is that past simple is used solely for confirmed and/or exact time; present perfect is only for an undescribed time.
Difference between past simple and present perfect:
20,000 fans have attended the rock concert. – present perfect
20,000 fans attended the rock concert last night. – past simple
Tickets for the 2019 Wacken Festival have been sold out– Present Perfect
Tickets for the 2019 Wacken Festival were sold out three months ago.- Past Simple
Past simple verbs can be divided up into regular and irregular verbs, which also applies for the present perfect verb tenses. A link to the list of irregular verb tenses can be found here. A guide on pronouncing regular verb tenses, known as Ted is Ded, can be found here. It is very important when learning the English language is to know the difference and to conjugate the irregular verb tenses for they have no clear rule in terms of endings in English.
Time Marker Past Simple
ago, last (night, week, month, year, decade, century & millenium), yesterday, at, in, on, for, during, suddenly, (un-)expectedly, from (a) to (b), in the course of (…), when (used as a subordinate clause), sequential order (first, second, lastly, finally, etc.- also after), other adverbial phrases (surprisingly, quickly, slowly, etc.)
Sadly though, many students mix up the verb tenses for many reasons. One of the main reasons is the inability to make the distinction between regular and irregular verb tenses and as a result, the inability to conjugate the verbs in English. Another is not paying attention to the verb form, especially with regards to the third person singular, which requires the “S”, if and only if the verb is present. But there are other reasons as well and therefore, some exercises are here to help you.
So let’s start and we’ll focus on rock music in Germany! 🙂
The following statements, dealing with the Wacken Open-Air Rock Festival, has a verb tense in brackets. Look at each one (and the time markers) and put in the correct verb tense (present or past).
The first Wacken Rock Festival __________ in 1990. (start) 800 people __________ the event. (attend)
The festival _________ the largest ever in the world. (to be) Tens of thousands __________ the 4-day event every year, which _____________ at the end of July. (attend; take place)
86,000 people ___________the Wacken Open-Air Festival in 2011. (visit)
The festival traditionally _________ on the first Sunday in August. (end) Tickets _______ on sale for next year’s event the next day and _________ booked out within 24 hours (go; to be)
197 bands _________ at Wacken in 2018. (play)
People usually _________ black clothing as their first choice at the Wacken Rock Festival. (wear)
It _________ matter who is on stage. (do not) People just __________ fun every time a rock band is on stage. (have)
A home for the elderly of Itzehoe frequently _______ field trips to the festival, to celebrate their over-70 parties. (take) Hosts _________them free passes. (grant)
People _________ watch the rock concert with virtual reality for the first time in 2016. (can) In 2017, the public channels __________ the the concerts available for the first time in the mediathek. (make)
After Lenny Kilmister of the rock music band Motorhead ________in December 2015, the Wacken Open Air Festival _________ a tribute to him during their 2016 concert. (die; pay) The tribute _________ 24 minutes. (last)
Determine whether these statements, all dealing with the Rock am Ring and Rock im Park Festivals are true or false, in terms of verb use. If false, please correct them.
The Rock am Ring (“Rock at the Ring”) and Rock im Park (“Rock in the Park”) festivals were two simultaneous rock music festivals held annually.
Rock am Ring started in 1985 and it later became an annual event.
The festival go on hiatus for two years after fewer people show up in 1988.
In 1993, Rock im Park take place for the first time in Vienna.
Munich hosted the festival for three years until 1996.
Between 145,000 and 155,000 fans attend the two festivals every year.
Each year, the Nürburgring and the Zeppelinfeld in Nuremberg held the duo-concert.
Over 200 bands stepped on stage for one of the two concerts between 1985 and 2018.
Use the following time markers and construct a sentence, using the correct verb tense.
There are several literary pieces and documentaries that focus on aspects of the Great Storm of 1978/79, and the catastrophic winter that followed, which brought the northern half of West Germany and all of East Germany to a complete standstill. The majority of the pieces have focused on the hardest hit areas of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein- in particular, the areas of Kiel and Flensburg.
Der Große Schnee (in English: The Big Snow), written by Helmuth Sethe of the Husumer Nachrichten (Husum News, part of shz, Inc.) focuses on both the Great Storm that started right before the New Year, plus the winter that followed, which included the winter storm on 13 February- a month and a half later. All of them affecting Schleswig-Holstein, but with a focus on the North Sea coastal area (Dithmarschen and greater Husum), as well as the cities of Flensburg and Kiel and the surrounding areas. It was originally written after the winter storm in February that same year, but has been edited and republished multiple times, with the last edition having been released in 2011.
There are several photos and stories that were in connection with the great winter disaster and were graphic in detail- with reports of people and animals both freezing to death while being snowed in, collapsed roofs because of the thickness of the snow, capsized boats and people treading through icy waters along flooded streets of coastal cities. Yet there were some glaring facts that are worth mentioning about this storm according to the writer. Here are the top five worth mentioning:
Power outages- Many towns and villages were without power because of downed power lines due to ice. But no area was as bad as the districts of Schleswig-Flensburg and Nordfriesland. There, as many as 111 villages were without electricity for days, many of them were cut off from the rest of the world. Many had to make due with cutting up wood and creating fireplaces to keep warm.
Stranded vacationers- Many vacationers were returning from Scandanavia when they were greeted by barricades at the German/Danish borders in Krusau and Ellund. Reason: The storm forced an executive order by the West German and state governments to shut down all traffic (rail and vehicular) on the German side. Traffic jams of more than 10 kilometers on the Danish side, plus stranded drivers seeking shelter were the result.
Field Landing-When the state prime minister Gerhard Stoltenberg was finally informed of the current weather situation in Schleswig-Holstein (he and his family were on vacation at that time), he did not realize how bad it was until his helicopter had to land in a nearby field and he had to go by truck and sleigh to visit the hard hit regions. Reason: The snow had drifted in at the airports and with drifts as high as 6 meters, it was impossible for any aircraft to land even.
The Sleigh as Transportation-With no possibilities with the car, many people had to make do with sleds, sleighs and even skis. It was not a rarity to watch people cross-country ski in the countryside during this time as the snow was thick enough to warrant it. Sleds were not only used for downhill fun, but also for shopping. It was a site to watch people pull their groceries home on an open sled.
Flensburg as Little Venice- The storms produced a series of high tides (up to four meters) which flooded much of the city center and Roter Strasse, as well as everything along the Fjorde. Many people had to use boats to get by. These tides left another mess though- erosion, especially along the areas near Wassersleben near the Bridge of Friendship at the border.
There are many more examples to mention in the book, yet these five came to mind when reading this book myself. There have been countless other winter storms afterwards that crippled the region and brought with it high snow drifts, ice and flooding, including the last big snow storm in Flensburg in early 2018. But none was as glaring and captivating as the one from 40 years ago, especially when reading the accounts written by the editor. The book did bring back some memories of snow storms that I dealt with as a child growing up in Minnesota and a snowstorm of similar proportions happened shortly after this one, which left a big drift of a meter to the door of our house on a lake. Yet for those who lived through this harsh winter in northern Germany of 40 years ago, this book will bring back some memories of how one survived one of the worst of all time. So read it, share your stories, ask others about it. You’ll be amazed at the stories they will share about this event.
You can also watch some of the documentaries that were from the last entry by clicking here.
With the holiday season around the corner, we have Father Christmas (Santa Claus) in action, as seen in the Christmas commercial presented by German supermarket chain Kaufland. This was released shortly before Thanksgiving and even though it is a tradition over here in Germany to have food chains to release commercials with special themes just in time for the holiday season, this one is special as Germany, like many countries in Europe, is latching onto the Black Friday tradition, where people line up in front of malls and major stores to get the best deals for Christmas. The difference here is that Kaufland, like many store chains, are introducing Black Week. Taking place at the same time as Thanksgiving, Black Week shoppers can find the best deals both in stores as well as online- mostly through Amazon, who may have started this tradition. Whether it is a good idea to order online or not remains to be open, but if Father Christmas keeps huffing and puffing to get everything last minute, he won’t have to worry about weight loss come Christmas time. It’s just a matter of persuading people perceiving him as fat and jolly that being slim and active is a wonderful thing. 😉
So let’s shop and celebrate smart, shall we?
The Flensburg Files is about to go on tour to the Christmas markets again, as the first one opens after Thanksgiving. To look at the previous places visited, click here.
There is also a collection of other Christmas stories, films and poems in the Literature and Genre section. Click here and scroll down, there are some funny ones worth seeing.
While the Christmas market tour will include some catching up from last year (the author was sick during much of the holiday season last year), it will include some cool activities for you to try out, not to mention a couple things to think about- the author sometimes has to get them off his chest and many can benefit from it.
I would like to open my analysis with a comment that was made in the film “Look Who’s Back,” a German satire film released in 2015. In one of the final scenes in the film, when the character Adolf Hitler (the reborn version, played by Oliver Masucci) is shot by the person who had discovered him and traveled with him throughout Germany, Fabian Swatziki (played by Fabian Busch) only to re-emerge as if he was unstoppable. The comment is as follows:
“I cannot be defeated because the people supported me. If I’m a monster then so is the public because they elected me.”
When waking up this morning to realize that the prophesies of the Democrats taking over the entire Congress- the House of Representatives and Senate- failed because of a split in control, the first thought came to mind was that film, the rise of the far right, the inability to stop it and this particular comment. Anger, defeat and confusion followed. The first question that came to mind was why is it that despite several firsts (first Muslims, Native Americans, homosexuals and women being elected to the House and Senate) that Donald Trump succeeded?
Let’s look at how politics work in Washington briefly and why this mid-term was so important. When a proposal for a law is introduced, it first goes to the House. If approved, then it goes to the Senate. If the green light is given, the president can sign or veto the bill. The Democrats managed to regain the majority of the House but lost out on the chance to claim the Senate, while the Republicans extended its majority by three more seats. While in theory, the House can stop every bill that Trump introduces, while at the same carry out investigations into his corruptive schemes he had with Russia in 2016 and other issues, this “split” in Washington is in fact a victory, for Trump and his Republicans. In other words, the Democrats lost the mid-terms.
The fact that the blue-wave never amounted to anything means that Trump can still control the way America is run as is. He has a stronger majority in the Senate, which can enable him to appoint people to special posts, like the Supreme Court, to his own liking. He has circumvented laws and other legal processes in order to shove his agenda down the throats of his opponents, especially including his executive orders, which he has carried out at least 100 times since having taken office in January 2017. He already has the backing of the conservative majority in the Supreme Court, thanks to his nominations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, with a third one surely to happen before his term is done, should either Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Clarence Thomas or both be unable to continue. He has the support of Vladimir Putin and Kim Il Jung, two adversaries who would like to see the western democracy annihilated. Then there is the American people- mostly white Christians coming from rural settings with little educational experience or even a sense of cultural tolerance- the likes of Homer Simpson, whom Trump is still getting a solid backing versus the city-slickers and coastal areas folks who are used to the luxuries of multicultural diversity, public transport and global awareness, which has resulted in a division of the country into two America’s- a division which has never been seen before in our time.
It was hoped that with a majority in both the House and the Senate, Trump would have been declawed and defanged- forced into a role as a lame duck. Better would have been the prospects of impeaching him and removing him from office. But now, the best but also the most dangerous solution is eengaging in bi-partisan politics, which working together with the Democrats would not fit the profile of the narccist the president is. That concept is foreign in his vocabulary because Trump has never appreciated them as much as as he has loathed liberal and mainstream media, such as public radio, CNN and NBC. The cooperation may work temporarily but it will fail before the end of 2019, resulting in the country being at a complete standstill, while breaking apart at the seams.
So the final question is what is there to be done between now and 2020? The Democrats have lost, despite regaining the House. Trump is being Trump, although he has attempted to “clean house,” which includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions leaving. Voters are claiming victory, yet they are still divided. Countries like Germany and France are forging their own alliances with other countries in Europe and elsewhere to serve as a counter-weight to America. And we as expatriates are getting footed the bill for our own contributions for voting for the right cause, which is unity, freedom, cooperation and lastly (but most importantly), democracy. This split is a loss for America for it has become more divided than ever, thus setting the stage for the fall, just like with other empires that happened before us- the Soviet Union, Great Britain and its empire, Germany under Hitler, but most importantly, the Roman Empire. With each day passing between now and 2020, we will see America and its influence wane, each American leaving the country or renouncing their citizenship, and everything American that we find here in Europe to disappear, bit by bit.
By the time 2020 rolls around with the presidential elections, we may not see much of America left to celebrate or even support. And a filled-out, mail-in ballot may become worthless in the end. From my standpoint, it will be that key factor that will force me to turn my back on the country I was born and raised, and had lots of great memories growing up. We really don’t know what will happen or what we can do at this point. All we can do is watch and pray, hoping for the best but planning for the worse.
This blog is the result of an idea that's in my head for already quite a time. I love languages, cultures, travel and lifestyle topics and would like to write articles about interesting topics related to these topics. This blog is more a project that I start for myself. Of course, I will be happy if my content is also a valuable source for others, so that we can share our ideas and experiences.