Historic Structures and Glasses: Restore vs. Replacement in Simpler Terms

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Co-written with sister column, bhc-logo-newest1

The discussion about the preservation and reuse of historic places has existed since the 1950s, thanks to the preservation laws that have been in place. The German Preservation Laws were passed in 1958, whereas the Historic Preservation Laws that established the National Park Service and National Register of Historic Places in the USA were enacted in 1966. Both serve the lone purpose of identifying and designating places unique to the cultural identity and history of their respective countries. Furthermore, these places are protected from any sort of modernization that would otherwise alter or destroy the structure in its original form. Protected places often receive tax credits, grants and other amenities that are normally and often not granted if it is not protected or even nominated for listing as a historic site.  This applies to not only buildings and bridges but also to roadways and highways, windmills, towers of any sorts, forts and castles, citadels and educational institutions and even memorials commemorating important events.

Dedicating and designating sites often receive mixed reactions, from overwhelming joy because they can better enjoy the sites and educate the younger generations, to disgruntlement because they want to relieve themselves of a potential liability.

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Since working with a preservation group in western Saxony on saving the Bockau Arch Bridge, a seven-span stone arch bridge that spans the Zwickau Mulde between Bockau and Zschorlau, six kilometers southwest of Aue, the theme involving this structure has been ownership. The bridge has been closed to all traffic since August 2017 while a replacement is being built on a new alignment. Once the new bridge opens, the 150-year old structure will come down unless someone is willing to step in and take over ownership and the responsibilities involved. . Taking the structure means paying for its maintenance and assuming all responsibility for anything that could potentially happen. And this is the key here: Ownership.

Who wants to own a piece of history? To examine this, let’s look at a basic example of a commodity where two thirds of the world’s population wear on a regular basis- the author included as well: glasses.

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The author’s sunglasses: the older model from 2005 on top; the newest pair from 2018 at the bottom.

Ever since Marco Polo’s invention, glasses have been improved, innovated and modernized to not only make the person look great in appearance. It also helps them to better see the environment surrounding them, regardless of whether they are near-sighted or far sighted, have astigmatism or require bi-focals to read, or if they want protect their eyes from the sun in the form of shades. Glasses can be plastic or metal (or even both). And like the historic structures, the materials can be recycled if no one wants them. Yet by the same token, many of us love to keep them for the purpose of memories or give them away to those who need them. For over 30 years, I have worn nine pairs of glasses and two pairs of sunglasses; this does not count the eight years that I primarily wore contact lenses, which was during my time in high school and college. Like our historic structures, glasses have a life span. They are worn until the frames develop rust and corrosion, the vision changes or they are broken.

In some cases, many look for a new frames because they want to “look cool” in front of their peers. The “look cool” mentality has overtaken society to a point where it can be applicable to about everything: cars, clothing, houses and especially historic places and structures of interest. Basically, people just ignore the significance of these structures and things that had been built in the past, which hold memories, contribute to the development of a country, region or even community, or are simply fashionable. Still in spite of all this, one has to do something about the glasses, just as much one has to do something about the historic building.

So let’s take these two pairs of sunglasses, for example. Like in the picture above, the top one I was prescribed by an optometrist in 2005; the bottom one most recently in June 2018. The top one is a combination of plastic and steel- the temples, ends and hinges are made of steel; the eye wires are plastic. The lenses are made with Carl Zeiss branded glass with a sealcoat covering to protect it from scratches.  The bottom ones are plastic- frames, temples and nosepiece; the lenses are plastic but with a sealcoat protectant and dimmers to protect the eyes from the sun. The brand name is generic- no name.  The difference is that the changes in the eyes required new sunglasses for the purpose of driving or doing work outside.  As I wear the new sunglasses, which are not as high quality but is “cool,” according to standards, the question is what to do with the old sunglasses?

There are enough options to go around, even if the sunglasses are not considered significant. One can keep the old pair for memory purposes. Good if you have enough space for them. One can give them away to someone who needs them. If they are non-prescription lenses, that is much easier than those with a prescription. With the prescription lenses, one will need to remove them from the frame before giving them away. Then there is the option of handing them into the glasses provider, who takes the pair apart and allows for the materials to be recycled.  More likely one will return the old pair to the provider to be recycled and reused than it would be to give them away because of the factors of age, quality of the materials and glass parts and especially the questions with the lenses themselves. One can keep the pair, but it would be the same as leaving them out of sight and out of mind.

And this mentality can be implemented to any historic structure. People strive for cooler, more modern buildings, infrastructure or the like, but do not pay attention to the significance of the structure they are replacing in terms of learning about the past and figuring its reuse in the future. While some of  these “oldtimers “ are eventually vacated and abandoned, most of them are eventually torn down with the materials being reused for other purposes; parts of sentimental values, such as finials, statues and plaques, are donated to museums and other associations to be put on display.

The Bridge at Pointer’s Ridge. Built in 1910 by the Western Bridge Company of Omaha, NE. The Big Sioux River crossing was one of five bridges removed after years of abandonment in 2012. Photo taken in 1999 when it was still open.

One of examples that comes to mind when looking at this mentality are the bridges of Minnehaha County in South Dakota. The most populous county in the state whose county seat is Sioux Falls (also the largest city in the state), the county used to have dozens of historic truss bridges that served rail and automobile traffic. As of present, 30 known truss bridges exists in the county, down from 43 in 1990, and half as many as in 1980.  At least six of them are abandoned awaiting reuse. This includes a rails-to-road bridge that was replaced in 1997 but has been sitting alongside a gravel road just outside Dell Rapids ever since.  A big highlight came with the fall of five truss bridges between Dell Rapids and Crooks in 2012, which included three through truss spans- two of which had crossed the Big Sioux. All three were eligible for the National Register. The reasons behind the removal were simple: Abandoned for too long and liability was too much to handle

This leads me to my last point on the glasses principle: what if the structures are protected by law, listed as a historic monument?  Let’s look at the glasses principle again to answer that question. Imagine you have a couple sets of glasses you don’t want to part ways with, even as you clean your room or  flat. What do you do with them? In the case of my old sunglasses, the answer is simple- I keep them for one can reuse them for other purposes. Even if I allow my own daughter to use them for decorating dolls or giant teddy bears, or even for artwork, the old pair is mine, if and only if I want to keep them and allow for use by someone else under my care.  The only way I would not keep the old sunglasses is if I really want to get rid of them and no one wants them.

Big Sioux River Crossing at 255th Street: One of five bridges removed in 2012 after decades of abandonment. Photo taken in 1999.

For historic places, this is where we have somewhat of a grey area. If you treat the historic place as if it is protected and provide great care for it, then there is a guarantee that it will remain in its original, pristine condition. The problem is if you want to get rid of it and your place is protected by law. Here you must find the right person who will take as good care of it as you do with your glasses. And that is not easy because the owner must have the financial security and the willpower just to do that. Then the person taking it over does not automatically do what he/she pleases. If protected under preservation laws you must treat it as if it is yours but it is actually not, just like renting a house.  Half the places that have been torn down despite its designation as a historical site was because of the lack of ownership and their willingness to do something to their liking. Even if there are options for restoration available, if no one wants it, it has to go, even if it means taking it off the historic registry list to do that.  Sometimes properties are reclaimed at the very last second, just like the old glasses, because of the need to save it. While one can easily do that with glasses, it is difficult to do that with historic places, for replacement contracts often include removal clauses for the old structure, something that is very difficult to rescind without taking the matter to court.

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In reference to the project on the Bockau Arch Bridge in Germany, we are actually at that point. Despite its protection as a historic structure, its designation was taken off recently, thus allowing for the contract for the new bridge at the expense of the old structure to proceed. Yet, like with the pair of old glasses, last ditch attempts are being made to stop the process for there are possible suitors willing to take over the old structure and repurpose it for bike and pedestrian use. While neither of the communities have expressed interest, despite convincing arguments that the bridge can be maintained at a price that is 100 times less than the calculated amount, the group working to save the bridge is forming an association which will feature a network of patrons in the region, willing to chip in to own the bridge privately. Despite this, the debate on ownership and the bridge’s future lies in the hands of the state parliament because the bridge carries a federal highway, which is maintained on the state and national levels. Will it become like the old pair of glasses that is saved the last second will be decided upon later this fall.

To summarize briefly on the glasses principle, glasses and buildings each have a short lifespan because of their functionality and appearance. We tend to favor the latter more than the former and therefore, replace them with newer, more modern and stylish things to keep up with the pace. However, the older structures, just like the discarded pair of glasses, are downgraded on the scale, despite its protection under laws and ownership. When listed as a historical site, the proprietor works for and together with the government to ensure its upkeep, just like lending old glasses to someone for use, as long as the person knows he/she is “borrowing” it. When it is not listed , they are either abandoned or torn down, just like storing the glasses in the drawers or even having them recycled. However the decision is final if and only if no one wants it, and this could be a last-second thing.

The Bridge at Iverson Crossing south of Sioux Falls. Built in 1897, added to the National Register in 1996. Now privately owned. Photo taken in 1998.

We cannot plan ahead for things that need to be built, expanded or even replaced, for there may be someone with a strong backbone and staunch support who will step in the last minute to stake their claim. This applies to replacing older, historic structures with modern ones that have less taste and value. In the face of environmental issues we’re seeing globally on a daily basis, we have to use and reuse buildings and other structures to prevent the waste of materials that are becoming rarer to use, the destruction of natural habitats that may never recover but most importantly, remind the younger generations of our history and how we got this far. While some of us have little memories of our old glasses in schools with the exception of school class and party photos, almost all of us have memories of our experiences at, in, or on a historic structure that deserves to be recognized and kept for others to see. It’s just a matter of handling them, like the glasses we are wearing.

 

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Aus! Vorbei! Und Tschüss, Jogi und Co!

 

German Soccer Team sets all time lows in their earliest exit from the 2018 World Soccer Cup in Russia in history.

There is a quote to start off this column about the defeat of the defending World Cup Champions of 2014 Germany, and it is a very simple one to swallow: Glauben und Sagen sind Gut; Kontrolle und Beweise sind besser. In English, it goes along the lines of Belief and Talk are good; Proof and Evidence are better. Germany was suppoosed to defend their 2014 World Cup title in the way it performed four years ago. However, a 2-0 pasting by South Korea in the last game of the first round of the 2018 World Cup in Russia sealed the deal in setting all new lows for the German soccer team in history.  To start off with, it was the first time in 80 years that Germany was eliminated after the first round in the World Cup. The last time it happened, it was after the Anschluss with Austria, which had been the better team before HItler took over.  It was also the first time in 18 years that the national soccer team was eliminated after the first round in an international tournament. The last time it happened was in the Euro-Cup in 2000. And like in this tournament, it featured a very lackluster performance that consisted of a tie and two defeats- a 1-0 shutout to England, its first in 32 years, and a 3-0 freightliner to Portugal.

While the German national coach  Erich Ribbeck eventually resigned after the early exit in 2000, the question is whether Joachim Loewe (Jogi, for short), Germany’s present national coach will do the same after this disastrous outing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.  After all, the ball started rolling after the team suffered its first World Cup defeat in the opener of the first round since the 1982 tournament as West Germany. And like the upset to Algeria, the German soccer team of 2018 appeared clueless and defenseless against Mexico, having been upset in the first game 1-0.  After redeeming themselves in game two with a 2-1 win against Sweden, they needed their third win against South Korea, which not only did not happen, but they were humbled, spanked, annihilated, and embarassed. The last 10 minutes of that match summarized their latest outing in the tournament.

Before going further, let’s have a look at the highlights of the three matches:

Game 1:  1-0 for Mexico

Game 2: 2-1 victory over Sweden

Game 3: 2-0 loss to South Korea.

 

Surely the pressure is on Jogi to resign, yet when asked if he was going to do so, the response was simple: “It’s too early. I’m deeply disappointed. I never thought we would lose to South Korea.”

Those were his words. The head coach, who has led the team since 2006, with two second place finishes in the Euro-Cup (2016) and the World Cup (2010) and the World Cup Championship in 2014, plus the 2017 Confederations Cup title, is considering stepping down.  My advice to Jogi is: Don’t do it.

Why take this bold approach?  As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: Nicht leichter als das  (Not easier than this.)

Germany has a long tradition of producing the finest soccer players as much as the finest coaches. In fact, some of the best players have become even better coaches, be it Rudi Voeller, Franz Beckenbauer or even Jogi himself. Each coach has had their own way of training their players to become the best in them.  Even players like Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Mueller or even Manuel Neubert would be potential coaches for local soccer teams or even a national team if they wanted to take that path because of their experience. However, Jogi’s  time has not come to step down just yet.

It has nothing to do with the contract that takes him through 2023. It has more to do with the coach with his character versus the personalities of the players.  That has to do with how he and the German team have projected themselves so far. One doesn’t need to go further than listening to some of the parodies many German radio stations  have produced, looking at the German soccer team in general: a coach who is cool under pressure, trying to keep the team together, despite all the minor personal issues each player and personnel had up until the most recent game with South Korea. The best parody so far has been with Jogis Eleven, a comedy produced by central German radio station Jump Radio (powered by MDR Radio).  If one has a team that is coherent like a family, on the same page and have the same values and goals, then one can go far.

However, if one has a team where one promises to win it all but loses it all because of the lack of will to pull it all off, then it is very obvious that a disaster like this would happen. Already the team struggled to win even one game in 2018, having won only one game in the friendly matches prior to the opening game of the World Cup- a 2-1 squeaker against Saudi Arabia, the same team that they had spanked 8-0 in the opening round of the 2002 World Cup. Otherwise, they had two additional losses and one tie. Very atypical for the 2014 Champions. There, the red flags were going up. Then came the arrogance of the team, which revealed its ugly face after Tony’s Kroos’ last second win against Sweden in game 2 of the first round.  This altercation came after the game was over:

This is just as poor sportsmanship as a man slapping a woman, invoking spousal abuse. Even as a husband of a wonderful German wife and proud parent of a German-American daughter, this act of cockiness is an act of cowardness revealing the biggest weakness of the German soccer team, which is they were just not good enough- physically but especially mentally. It would be a matter of time until this disasterous third game that exposed everything and scared every naked woman taking a shower by a peeping tomcat.

In simpler languages, the performance by the team was just not cool, and Loewe as a coach only has part of the blame.  The players themselves have at least half the blame, if not the majority. But to be diplomatic, there is enough blame to go around because of the lack of attention to the other teams and how they have improved in comparision to how Germany has improved, making their shortest showing on record look like round one of the Rocky Balboa- Clubber Lang boxing match in Rocky III:

And even that defeat presents a good quote by Robert Collier: In every defeat is a lesson showing you home to win the victory the next time.

And so, we are going home, starting over from scratch. The poor performance shows that the team is in dire need of a change. Most of the players on the roster are past their prime, beset by injuries and a change of attitude since the 2014 Cup. The gap between the has-beens and the rookies is as wide as ever before, with the latter not undertanding the importance of  representing Germany and the world on the international stage. The personnel on the team is ready to step aside from their duties in soccer, especially the ones involved with the altercation with the Swedish soccer team after the second game. And basically, the team is in total disarray- in need of a total makeover. Yet it does not require the change in guard as the coach of the German national team.

In fact, keeping Jogi would represent continuity for Germany, for he can form the next set of soccer players who are ready to redeem themselves and prepare for a shot at the Euro-Cup in 2020. For himself, staying on would provide him with a chance to achieve the impossible, which is winning of Euro-Cup. The last time Germany won that was in 1996, the only time the team won since West and East Germany reunited in 1990. If he was to keep a couple members from the 2014 team, it would be the first for them as well.  Yet one thing is  certain, the team that showed up for  the 2018 World Cup will have all but maybe one or two  players disappear come 2020. Jogi will definitely look for ways to bring the next generation onto the international stage, while looking at ways of saying good-bye to the older generation, who is ripe to move on.

Yet Jogi must be aware that in the event that he stays on as coach for the German national soccer team, it will be his last chance to redeem himself, both for the Euro-Cup and for the 2022 World Cup. He must make it count but he must have the support of his personnel to make it happen. And it is very obvious that there must not be a repeat of what happened in the 2018 World Cup. The revival and return to relevance will be long, hard and bloody, like in the second boxing match between Rocky and Lang (see below). But with the right coach, like Jogi, and a set of players with as big of an appetite for an international title, the quest for success will be well worth it.

So without further ado, get back to work and look ahead to 2020. Go get ’em, Coach!

 

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The Last of the Dinosaurs is Dead: Hamburg SV Demoted After 55 Years in German Soccer Bundesliga- Quiz

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Flag of HSV Soccer team

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54 years, 261 days, zero hours and 15 minutes. That was how long the German soccer team Hamburg SV lasted in the German Soccer League in the Top Tier. The team was one of the 16 founding fathers that created the Bundesliga in 1963. Its last Bundesliga title came in 1983. Now, the clock that had been keeping track of the time in the Bundesliga has stopped. Despite a 2-1 victory in the last game of the 2017/18 season against Mönchengladbach, Wolfsburg sealed HSV’s fate by running over FC Cologne 4-1. Wolfsburg needed to lose in order for HSV to play in the relegation playoffs with third place finisher in the second league Holstein Kiel. As it stands, HSV finished in second to last place in the standings and will play in the second league of the Bundesliga for the first time ever this fall. It will be accompanied by another founding Bundesliga team, last-place Cologne and if Kiel wins playoff series and enters the top league, Wolfsburg.

And while the last dinosaur officially became extinct after many years of being beset by misfortunes in management and sports and barely escaping the relegation series at least twice, it makes a person wonder how many times did the founding fathers have success in winning titles in comparison to being demoted down one league- that is until Bayern Munich’s current run of winning its fifth Bundesliga title in a row, and in cakewalk fashion. But before presenting the facts, why not try out a Guessing Quiz that looks at the founding fathers of the Bundesliga?

There were 18 teams that started play in the 1963/64 season. Since HSV’s official demotion into the second league, there are no more dinosaurs left, who played every season in the top league.

Guessing Quiz:

1. Who were the founding fathers of the Bundesliga in 1963? There were 18 of them.

 

 

2. Bayern Munich entered the top league later on and has been in the Bundesliga ever since. It now holds the title for being in the top league the longest without ever being demoted.

When did the team enter? _____________ When did the team win its first title?

 

 

3. Another team entered the Bundesliga and has yet to also play in the second league after being demoted. It holds the second longest record of its kind. Which team was it and when did it enter the first league for the first time ever?

 

 

4. One of the founding fathers actually had to play in the second league only once. After four years it returned to the top league and has been there ever since. It currently holds the title as the second longest tenured team even after it had been demoted before. Which team was that and how many years has it been in the league since its last demotion?

 

 

5. Prior to HSV’s demotion to the second league, there were two other founding teams that had been in the top league for at least three decades before being demoted for the first time. Which teams were they and when did they get demoted for the first time?

 

 

6. Which (current) founding team in the Bundesliga has never won any titles since the league’s creation?

 

 

7. Which two founding members of the Bundesliga has been in the top league the shortest time (and has still yet to return)?

 

 

8. Which German cities used to host two Bundesliga teams, one of which was a founding member of the team? Which teams are they?

 

 

9. Which German cities used to have two professional teams in the second league competing with each other before one of the two was promoted to the top league?

 

 

10. Which team would have competed with HSV as the longest tenured Bundesliga team had it not been for the one-year exile in the second league? Hint: This team has been in the second and third tiers since 2006.

 

11. Which seven teams have won doubles at least once (meaning the national cup and the Bundesliga title)? Hint: Four were from the former western half and three from the eastern half of Germany.

 

12. Of the three in the former East German Bundesliga (which dissolved after German reunification in 1990), which of them was the longest tenured team in the Bundesliga?

 

13. Of the three above-mentioned teams, which ones defeated FC Bayern Munich once before 1990 and at least once since then?

 

14. Since when has FC Bayern Munich finished no worse than third place? Fifth place?

 

15. The following teams had mascots. What were they?

Eintract Brunswick

MSV Duisburg

FC Kaiserslautern

Hertha BSC Berlin

Eintract Frankfurt

Hamburg SV

FC Cologne

 

Bonus: Holstein Kiel, whose mascot is a ___________ has not been in the Bundesliga since _________.

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End of the Line for AreaVoices

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The Flensburg Files and The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ AreaVoices websites to permanently shut down on May 15th, 2018. Their wordpress pages will remain open. Restructuring to commence immediately

Dear fellow readers, followers, fans, family  and friends,

For the past eight years, I have had the privilege to provide you with some stories, history, facts and cultural aspects for you to mull over and discuss, let alone share with others. I have also had an opportunity to meet many of you, both online as well as in person, learning new things and bettering myself and my two blogs. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and the Flensburg Files were launched almost simultaneously in October 2010. The Chronicles focused on historic bridges, providing people with a tour of regions laden with them and tips on how to preserve them for years to come. The Files focused on German-American culture and current events from the author’s perspective with a small pocket of stories originating from the northernmost region in Germany, where my heritage comes from and where I spent lots of time up there. It took the likes of Kari Lucin, Tracy Briggs-Jensen, Todd Wilson, Tony Dillon, James Baughn and others like you to get the blogs launched (although I do say they are online-columns because they are homemade and served with a little food for thought). Despite having websites on historic bridges, the Chronicles was the first blog to be introduced that solely focused on historic bridges. The Files was one of the first for German-American culture.  A lot of success has been raked up in the almost eight years in the blogging business.

Sadly though, I received word from the mother firm, Forum Communications, based in Fargo (USA) that the AreaVoices platform will shut down completely, effective 15th May 2018. And with that, the Files and the Chronicles will also cease as AreaVoices websites. The reason for their decision was the plan to create public-face media and a new CMS format, which means all the energies will be focused away from AV and onto the newer form of media. More information can be found here in their news story.  The shut down is as painful as the giant retailers BonTon and Toys R Us shuttering their doors and with that, all their subsidiaries, like Herberger’s, Younker’s and Carson’s.  However, not everything is as bad as it seems.

Both the Files and the Chronicles still have their wordpress websites, at least. They were launched in 2015 to expand to a wider audience outside the United States. They will continue to operate as is. The same applies to their facebook pages, twitter accounts, the Files’ tumblr website and the Chronicles’ Instagram page.  For those who are subscribed to the AreaVoices pages of one of the two or both, you should switch platforms immediately and subscribe to the sites that will remain in operation. The pages are below:

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FLBHAVSmith

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bridgehunters_chronicles17/

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheBridgehuntersChronicles/

 

The Flensburg Files: https://flensburgerfiles.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ffjds13

Tumblr: https://the-flensburg-files-smith.tumblr.com/

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Flensburg-Files-421034214594622/

 

Yet what will happen next?  Because of the announcement of the shutdown, the first order of business is to save all the work that has been written since 2010- which is a good 800 or so- and transfer them all to the wordpress sites, as well as another blog platform. This ranges from bridge tours and Christmas markets to interviews and fast facts; genres to history, cultural themes to current events.  Some of the articles that are deemed redundant will be deleted. This work of sorting and transferring will probably take the longest and be the most intensive, but it is expected to be completed before 15 May.  Because of this, both wordpress sites will need to be restructured so that the categories are easier to see and the articles are accessible to all.

An additional blog platform for both will be sought after and established to provide better coverage. While AreaVoices provided some of the best platforms available, my intention is to look at all options, including newspapers that also allow for blogs to be open, as it was the case with the Forum newspapers with AV. While it may be possible to work together with Forum regarding the new program they are putting together, other newspapers, both in the States and abroad are being considered for a joint venture, including the Free Press in Chemnitz, with whom the Chronicles has work together on several bridge articles. Also the Flensborg Avis on the Danish end of Flensburg may be considered. Furthermore, a photo platform to replace the flickr page will be added to ensure that all photos taken will be posted there. The current flickr page, which I can no longer access because of an expired yahoo account will remain and accessed but as an archived website.

So the end of AreaVoices is also the beginning of a revolution that will usher in the newest generation of 3.0 technology with blogging. While AV is riding off into the sunset soon, the articles will be saved and stored accordingly, and newer technology will mean better coverage and new topics that will be published more quickly and discussed by many, be it bridges, German-American themes or other items.  I hope you understand the situation and that you still can continue to follow both blogs. Just please understand that after 15 May, AreaVoices will be a memory, but the two blogs will live on in a different form.  To the crew at Forum Communications and AreaVoices, I offer my thanks for the cooperation we had for the eight years we had together and in case we part, I wish you all the best and Godspeed.

 

Important!

Because of the reconstruction process, no new articles will be posted until the project is completed. This could take between two and six weeks to complete. For both wordpress sites, older articles from the AV sites will be added to ensure they are not lost. But they will be categorized so that you can access them. If you see articles from the past you will know why.  It will be business as usual for the other social network sites, meaning articles from external sources will continue to be posted, as well as photos taken by the author.

You will be notified once the project is finished with a new feature article of what has been done with the Files and Chronicles. In the meantime, please be patient. There’s a lot of work to do.

 

 

The Dos and Don’ts of Biking in Germany

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It’s that time of year. The shovels are being put away. The chains are oiled. The brakes are checked. And now with the sun coming out, the bike trails and streets are filling up with a pair of wheels, ridden by people with helmets; some of whom are towing trailers with children while others are carrying baskets full of food and other supplies.

It’s spring time, and with it, the season of cycling. And while biking is the best alternative to the car, like the car, German laws apply to bikers to ensure that both the cyclist and the others are safe.  In Germany, there are strict guidelines pertaining to bike safety that apply. Those violating the laws are subject to fines and penalties. In serious cases, one can get a point from the German Department of Vehicle Registration in Flensburg (Kraftfahrtbundesamt- KbA) and possible a ban from driving (or in this case, biking).

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To give you an idea of what to be aware of, here are some examples of guidelines to pay attention to:

  1. Thou must have proper lighting.  What is meant by that is that you must have a functioning head light and tail light- operated by a battery or a dynamo (which activates the lighting as you pedal your bike). In addition, you must have reflectors (nicknamed in German as cat’s eyes) on your bike pedals, spokes, tire rim as well as your head- and tail lights. Some of these are integrated in the lighting already. All new bikes have these components installed already.  However, for used bikes, they are a must.  Penalty for having improper lighting, including those that don’t work is 20 Euros per part. That means if you have absolutely no lighting or reflectors on your bike, you could face up to 80 Euros! In other words, light it up and make it work for your bike. 😉
  2. Thou must have functioning brakes.  Here, both the front and rear brakes must be present and in working condition. That is very obvious when you have to use them for unexpected circumstances. No brakes and you could break someone.  No brakes and it’s 20 Euros- sometimes per brake. So brake it in and have it ready for use.  🙂
  3. Thou must have a functioning bell or horn. Imagine you are biking and you encounter a person listening to music and not paying attention. Hollaring and screaming don’t help. But the bell does! The louder, the better and the safer both parties are. Without the bell, you could have 20 Euros sucked out of your wallet. That’s equivalent to 10 packages of Ricola cough drops, if you think about it. Save your voice and ring a bell, will ya? 😉

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While the Danes are really good about alerting their bikers to pay attention, as you can see in this picture, sometimes we just need to learn common sense when it comes to where and how you bike. We all know that showing off and even overloading your bike can give you some problems- both with the bike as well as with the law. For instance:

  1. Biking on a sidewalk (Bürgersteig) is definitely NOT allowed, unless you can prove  that you are a child.

While some cyclists have tried imitating a seven-year old in   front of a police officer, they were greeted with a pair of high-fives in cash- equivalent to 10 European clams. 😉  If you nearly cause an accident, it’s 15 and if it  actually happens, it’s 25 plus a date with Judge Marilyn Milian from the People’s Court. And you can imagine how that would turn out, as you can see in the clip below:

So don’t do that.

  1. Biking with no hands on the handlebar:

If you want to impress a girl, you might as  well impress Mr. T, whose reaction will come down to “Gimme Five, fool!” Do you want to give the man in a police uniform a high-five? If so, I guess you won’t be  having a date with that girl after all. 😉

  1. Also not cool is biking through a traffic light when it is on red.

One has to remember,  when you have red, then cross traffic does NOT stop for you- not even the moose, like in the film below:

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Here is where the lovely Danes at the KbA will get you. If caught alone, it’s 60 Euros  plus a point on your record. If you nearly cause an accident- meaning other drivers have to slam on their brakes and swear at you (YOU SON OF A B****!) it’s 100 and a  point. Yet if you cause an accident, it’s 120 Euros, a point and you get to meet Judge  Marilyn Milian of the People’s Court- again. You can imagine what her reaction    would look like:

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And lastly, for the rules of the road, you should have all eyes on the road. They are antennas- they detect everything right away- some of which can even save your life. Ears are good for listening to anything coming your way. That means without the two, you’re bound to go down like the rest of the fools trying to break the rules. For instance:

  1. We’re in Germany and we are to the Right.

To the right is both a literal phrase and also a figurative. Just ask Kim Darby whose character Maddy Ross used it in True Grit in 1969. To the right means when traveling down a street with marked bike lanes, you go with traffic- meaning on the right. To attempt to pull a Mr. Bean and bike on the left will result in a sequel to Planes, Trains and Automobiles (see the scene from the original below) plus 20 Euros to watch the sequel, produced by a police officer leacturing you about it,  when it  is done. 😉 Oh and by the way….. doing the same procedure while on a one- way street means an additional 15 to the 20 you owe them- 35 in total!

  1. The No-Bike Zone.

Just as bad as biking the wrong way is biking in a pedestrian zone, or as I call it, The No Bike Zone. Guarded by the Klingons dressed in a police uniform, if you enter this zone, stop! Go back and find another way! Otherwise, you might want to learn a few words of Klingon, like the lady at the Volkshochschule in Vienna (Austria). You’ll need it to pay  them 20 Euros for the fine.

  1. E-biking is not cool!

We’ve seen a lot of E-bikes on the trails; but we’ve seen the other version of E-bikes, meaning people listening to music on their iPhones or biking while talking or even texting. If you think you can multi- task, remember these German words: “Es geht nicht!”  If you bike and listen to music, it is 10 Euros, however, if you have your iPhone or Smartphone in your hand even, it is 55 Euros. Why? Because texting and biking can kill a friendship. Communication is key! Put the phone down!

  1. Put the beer down!

While biking with a Radler (English is Shandy) is a common German culture associated with biking, too much shandy is not a good thing. Just like with drinking and driving, drinking and riding will cost you dearly. Pending on the severity and the number of related offenses, one will face at least 2 Flensburg Points, hundreds (or thousands) of Euros in fines, a ban from the road, a seminar on how to properly behave on the road, and finally, a lecture of a   lifetime in court. And you can imagine how this  would turn out:

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If you follow these ten commandments, you will be able to govern the bike trails properly and enjoy a tour around the lake or in the city, pending on how you bike and where you go. Biking is a priviledge that reaps rewards when you are out there. However, as there are many people around, the world does not evolve around you as the biker, but the others as well. So when you follow the rules of the road, the world will be yours and you will have the best time cycling on Germany’s bike trails, be it on the bike motorway, in the city, in the country side or wherever you may go this spring and summer.  So get out there and happy trails until we meet again. B-)

 

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Living in a World They Didn’t Make, by Janet Jackson

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Our next Genre of the Week focuses on gun violence and takes us back to 1989. It was at that time that one of the members of the Jackson family released a powerful album containing songs that focused on social aspects. Janet Jackson started her career with the rest of her siblings in 1973, yet went solo in 1986 with her first solo album (and third overall), Control.  Her breakthrough came with Rhythm Nation 1814, which was released in 1989 and won six platinums, garnered 12 million Dollars in sales and made it all the way to number 1. on the Bilboard charts in the US. It was the first album where songs reached number 1 in the Top 40 Charts for three straight years, and it was the first where seven songs made it to the Top 100.  It is considered one of the most iconic pop music albums in history, with a mixture of rhythm and dance but also some slow dances. The album focused not only on themes of love and dance, but also social issues, which included drug use, domestic dispute, violence,…..

and guns.

While Janet managed to get seven songs into the Top 100, this song deserves to win the Flensburg Files Genre of the Week, even if the song was produced almost 30 years ago. Entitled Living in the World They Didn’t Make, Janet takes us to a school where memories are left over after a shooting incident that happens on school grounds. Children playing on the playground- gone. Teachers helping other- gone. Neighborhoods and families- shattered. All of these ring a bell to the problem with gun violence and the school shootings that have plagued the US as of late. While some have refused to talk about it, when looking at the March on Washington that happened on 24th of March, the theme of gun laws, school violence and issues that have led to people taking it out with the guns have been brought forward to those who want to see change and will not rest until it happens, regardless of who is representing each state in Congress and is running the country at the White House.

Gun violence was the issue upon the song’s release and is still the issue to this day. Listen to the song and ask yourselves, how can we put an end to this madness without having the teacher march around with a machine gun in the classroom.

This Genre of the Week song is for the kids at Parkland who took courageous steps and brought this up front and personal on Capitol Hill. Keep strong, be stronger. Eventually those who resisted will listen or cave in. You will have it your way soon. ❤ 🙂

 

Fl Fi USA

Enough Is Enough by Steve Hemmert

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What does it take for a person to realize that something needs to change? When looking at the issue of guns in America and the problems that have come from it, much of the population seems to be very passive about it. Guns for America is a convenience, used for hunting and self-defense. However guns have become as addicting and abusive as alcohol, drugs and tobacco. The more you shoot around the more likely you become addicted for life. And for those wishing to inflict harm on society with the use of any gun, they never realize what they have and who they are shooting,

….until they are gone. Then we all wake up. And unless we take the initiative ourselves, we go back to sleep until the next shooting occurs.

Don’t we care about our children more than our guns? 😦

Here’s one guest piece, written by Steve Hemmert, which looks at how gun-related incidents can change a person’s mind in a flash. How he looks at guns now in comparison to back then you can and should have a look.

 

The text:

 

With some hesitation born of nostalgia, I turned in two AR style rifles to the Miami Police Department as part of their gun buy-back program today.

As a former U.S. Army Infantry officer, I was well trained in the use of, and felt very comfortable with, the M-16/M-4 platform. I have always considered myself a responsible gun owner. My 14 year old daughter and I built one of the ARs- from scratch- together.

But after the events of last month, I have decided enough is enough.

How can we, as parents, force our kids to live in a world where they have to be afraid of being killed at school? 
My daughter recently told me that her plan is to only wear sneakers to school from now on, in case she needs to run. And I realize that, unlike some of my neighbors, I am lucky to still HAVE a 14 year old daughter.

Enough is enough.

There is no valid need for any civilian to own an AR. They make terrible self defense weapons because they can’t safely be stored in a condition that makes them available to use quickly, and the rounds penetrate walls too easily. They aren’t hunting rifles (it’s not even legal to shoot a deer with one). I know very well that my little AR is never going to be used to stand up to a government that has tanks and heavy machine guns. And God forbid someone steals them and uses them to kill more innocents.

Any honest gun owner will admit that the only lawful reason to own an AR is because they are fun to shoot (and they ARE fun to shoot).

But my desire- and the desire of all the other AR owners out there- to have fun toys no longer outweighs the value of the 17 lives that were taken down the street last month. Or the lives of countless other people whose lives have been taken by these toys- these weapons of war.

So, I am done.

The gun industry of today is just like the cigarette industry of a few years ago. Pushing a dangerous product that has no benefit to society. It took a long time for us to stand up to the cigarette industry and call out their lies and their political influence. But now it is a dying industry. We can do the same thing with the gun industry.

I will no longer be a pawn for their profits.

Now that I have eliminated the hypocrisy of these guns from my house, I feel comfortable calling on our government to ban them. We need the same legislation that has been so effective in Australia. Outlaw the manufacture and sale of semiautomatic centerfire firearms with removable magazines and require the legal owners of those firearms to turn them in for compensation with a year. Provide amnesty during that same year for illegal owners of those guns to turn them in. Then make it a 10-20-life offense to be caught with one.

It may not get all of these guns out of the public’s hands. But it will make it a hell of a lot harder for a deranged 19 year old to get his hands on one.

I want to be part of the solution.

Fl Fi USA