Romy Nagy of Salut Salon Dies at Age 42

Romy Nagy (far right) with the members of Salut Salon. Source: mopo.de/ Salut Salon website

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HAMBURG/ BERLIN- The music world is reeling after a world-renowned string quartet lost a key player to illness. Romy Nagy, a cello player for the group Salut Salon,  passed away on Saturday in Berlin after a battle with cancer. She was 42. She is survived by her husband and two children.

In a statement from their websiteIt was love at first sight when we met Romy in December 2017 and she became a cellist for our quartet. Since then, we’ve been touring Europe with her, enjoying every moment with her, the musician and friend. She faced life in her own way, able to accept all aspects of reality.

Ms. Nagy was born in Gera (Thuringia). At a young age, she attended the Belvidere Music School in Weimar before studying music in Frankfurt/Main and Berlin. She was a member of many orchestras in Berlin as well as a strings group Staatkapella in Weimar. Before joining Salut Salon at the end of 2017, she had several musical roles for TV-series and films as well as for concerts led by Till Brönner, Robbie Williams and the rock music band Disturbed, having played several genres in the process. Apart from solos, she produced several duets with Andreas Wolter and was one half of the duo group Thalia Two, with Katja Schott.  More on her biography can be seen here.

Some examples can be seen below:

Ms. Nagy joined Salut Salon in December 2017, replacing long-time member, Sonja Lena Schmid and for a short time traveled throughout Europe with the group, with pieces like this:

 

Her last performance was in March 2019 with Salut Salon in Oldenburg. They had been working on a new musical project to be presented in 2020. Her passing resulted in the cancellation of a pair of concerts by the quartett. No word yet on who will replace Ms Nagy, and how the group will approach the project without her. The loss of a cellist great has been felt not only throughout the group but also by other musicians and fans in Germany as well as beyond. She will be an asset that will be missing- her successor will have a big challenge filling her shoes.  For more details on the latest, click here to the Salut Salon website.

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Berlin Writes History in Soccer

The Stadium Altere Försterei, where FC Union Berlin plays at home. Photo taken by Christian Liebscher via wiki-Commons 

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FC Union Berlin advances to the German Bundesliga for the first time ever after ousting VFB Stuttgart in the Relegation Round.

BERLIN- In the end, only the strongest survived. The strongest in terms of nerves but also in coherency. The strongest is the one that makes history. This was done last night with FC Union Berlin. After a 2-2 draw against VFB Stuttgart, who had been sitting in 16th place during almost the entire 2018/19 Bundesliga season, all the iron men could have done is put the iron curtain in place- literally in front of goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz  and let Stuttgart fire their shots- to the left, to the right and right into the goalie’s hands. And while the offense was on autopilot, a 0-0 tie was enough for Berlin to make history.

For the first time ever FC Union will play in the premier league this upcoming season, competing with the likes of Bayern Munich- fresh off its seventh consecutive title but poised to lose its top two players in Frank Ribery and Ariel Robben- the Robbery Duo- similar to the Killer Bs of the Pittsburgh Steelers in American football before Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown left the team after the 2018/19 season and its lone B- the quarterback, Ben Rothlisberger. It will be facing other teams with multiple years of experience and armed with deep pockets for 1st class players, such as Frankfurt, Dortmund, Hoffenheim and Bremen. And while Freiburg, Cologne and Augsburg may be push-overs, like it was with Hamburg SV during its time in the second tier (winning 2-0 and tying 2-2), Union Berlin will have two rivalries to contend with:

  1. Inner-City Rivalry: FC Union Berlin will have to contend with Hertha BSC Berlin, which has been in the premier league for all but two seasons since 1997. While FC Union Berlin has had many soccer rivalries in the German capital, even during the Cold War era, this one will be the battle of the iron fists that will attract tens of thousands, and whose victories will be very close. While FC Union lost a close one 2-1 on 3rd September, 2012, the two teams finished tied at 2-2 on 11 February, 2013, the last time the two played. When the rivalry continues this upcoming season, it will be the first inner-city derby in the Bundesliga since the 2010/11 season with Hamburg vs St. Pauli.
  2. East German Rivalry: Apart from its western city rival, FC Union will have to contend with Leipzig. But not the Leipzig that many soccer historians are accustomed to. While Union and VfB Leipzig’s rivalry attracted thousands of fans during the 1980s and 90s, the Leipzig they will be facing is one that will have a new (and fiery) head coach and a talented group that is regrouping after losing the 2019 German Cup to Munich and finished third in the regular season- meaning RB Leipzig. Even they have played three games, FC Union has yet to beat Leipzig, having lost two and tied one- but all in 2015 and 2016.

FC Union Berlin will be the sixth East German team to be in the top league in almost three decades- the others were Dynamo Dresden, Hansa Rostock, VfB Leipzig (now FC Lok), Energie Cottbus and Hertha. It is the 56th team in history to reach the top tier. And after years of toil and disappointment, the team has entered chartered waters bound to make history. The team has the largest fan club in German soccer and its culture is implanted in Berlin soccer, with a stadium that has hosted soccer games, Christmas events and concerts and crowds that come to enjoy the game and not rampage it, like in some cities. This was noticeable with last night’s relegation game with Stuttgart- it ended in celebration and with no incidences! One could blame Stuttgart for its shortcomings, which will land them in the second league for the first time in three seasons, but the timing of FC Union Berlin’s rise to the top could not have come at a better time. All it needed was unity and the team got it.

And should this unity continue in the upcoming Bundesliga season, then FC Union Berlin will be making even more history as it climbs in the rankings at the expense of those who have been there for years. Seven years ago, one wondered whether professional soccer will return to the east. With first Leipzig and now Berlin, that question has been answered.

 

Congratulations to FC Union Berlin on making it to the big leagues! 🙂

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FC Union Berlin won the relegation based on the “Goal Away from Home” rule. This means the team that has scored more goals “away from home” wins, if the total goals scored by each team are otherwise equal. This is sometimes expressed by saying that away goals “count double” in the event of a tie. In this case, Berlin won against Stuttgart based on that rule by a score of 2-0 because of the 2-2 draw in Stuttgart. 

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Notre Dame by Kerrie O’brien

Photo by: Madhurantakam [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
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.

 

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Frage für das Forum: Should Residents in Germany automatically become Donors after Death?

Photo taken by Piotr Bodzek, MD [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D
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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.

According to the 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. 🙂

 

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Snowpocalypse in Germany

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Record-setting snowfall in southern and eastern Germany brings life to a standstill;  features 2-meter high drifts

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MUNICH/CHEMNITZ/SCHNEEBERG-

A friend of mine from Minnesota coined a term that many of us had not expected to witness for a long time, especially in light of the problems with global warming, a Snopocalypse! Since the beginning of this week, a storm front Benjamin roared through Germany, providing high winds and vast amount of precipitation- in the low-lying areas, rain and in the mountain regions, snow! With that, the northern and eastern parts of Germany, in particular the coastal areas, had to put up with coastal flooding because of high tides, high winds and rain. Places, like Wismar, Lübeck and Flensburg were flooded in many places, including the city center.

In the mountain areas, massive snowfall, combined with blowing and drifting and sometimes icy rain brought transportation services to a standstill in most places. Hardest hit areas were in the Alps region in southern Bavaria, but also in the mountain areas in northern Bavaria, as well as most of Saxony and Thuringia, where train services were shut down due to snow drifts. On the Harz-Brockenbahn Service route in Saxony-Anhalt, snow drifts buried a train causing rescue crews to work tirelessly around the clock to set it free. Parked cars became little mountains and hills due to the thick snow cover. Heavy, wet and sometimes sticky snow on trees caused many to fall under their own weight and their branches to break. Forests were blocked off in many parts of the Ore and Fichtel Mountains for safety reasons. Schools in Saxony and Bavaria were called off due to the snow, while other facilities were closed for safety reasons- some due to the heavy snow on Roofs; others because People living far away needed time to drive home. Yet with motorways and main roads  blocked with cars and trucks due to accidents, the trip home was for many an Odessy.  A collection of film clips with interviews of those affected will give you an idea how bad the Snowpocalypse is for much of the southern half of Germany.  

Gallery of film and photos:

 

To give you an idea of how bad, here’s an example of the snow that piled up in the town of Schneeberg in western Saxony. Nearly a half meter of snow fell and drifts were up to a meter in height. Yet Schneeberg normally receives half of what Oberwiesenthal near the Czech Border receives for snow. And as seen in the videos above, the city near the Fichtelberg got three times as much snow, plus drifts of up to 2-3 meters high.

The good news is that milder weather is coming, with temperatures ranging from the freezing point to 8°C in some places. However, it will be short-lived, for another front in the coming week will bring more snow and high winds to Germany, thus excacerbating the situation in the mountain regions. A cold front will then come and drop temperatures to well below freezing.

For those who are tired of the snow already, hang tight, we will be in for a rough ride. The Files will keep you posted on the latest on the Snowpocalypse in Germany. Yet a guide on how to survive a winter like this is in the making and will be posted here. Stay tuned.

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Promotional Campaign for the 2018 Mid-Term Elections

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In light of the Mid-term Elections in the United States, which takes place on November 6th, I’ve produced a video about the state of the US from an American expatriate’s point of view, asking the American people both here and abroad: Is this the America we want?

There are two options: One can sit out and allow for events to happen, or one can take the extra hour and vote. If you don’t like what you see in the US and its standing in the world, then my only advice is this……

VOTE!

 

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FINALLY! SG Flensburg-Handewitt Wins German Premere League Handball Championship

SG Flensburg-Handewitt wins German League Title for the second time in 14 years; its first title since 2015. 

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FLENSBURG- Schleswig-Holstein has had some interesting times lately as three teams tried to advance onto the (inter)national scene after finishing in the top three. Holstein Kiel tried to break the 36-year Bundesliga drought in soccer. But the fighting storks finished third in the Second League standings and lucked out in the relegation playoffs against VFL Wolfsburg 4-1 in two games.  SC Weiche Flensburg won the Regionalliga North title in its inaugural season after the merger between two teams in Flensburg. They came one goal and a possible shootout short against Energie Cottbus in the playoffs to become the second team from Flensburg to enter the national scene in Third League German Soccer.  The score in two games: 3-2.

While the two teams are licking their chops and reloading their manpower for another run in the 2018/19 season, one team finally broke the drought and put the northernmost sea-locked state in Germany back on the map; and that was the Albatrosses of SG Flensburg-Handewitt (FH)!  😀

After finishing in fifth during mid-season, FH capped off its comeback of the season under first-year coach Maik Machulla by holding off Göppingen (in Baden-Wurttemberg) 22-21 in the last game of the season. FH needed an outright win in order to seal the deal, for a tie would have meant a heartbreaking loss, and a third, second place finish in a row, two of which would have been behind the Lions of Rhein Neckar. The Lions defeated Leipzig 28-25 thus closing the door on the opportunity of a tie between Flensburg and Göppingen. Both teams were tied at half-time at 12-12 before FH started an offensive to take a three-goal lead with six minutes left in the game. A furious comeback was stuffed by FH’s defense despite cutting the lead to one before the buzzard. Once the game ended, it was pandemonium in Flensburg!

In its 28th season, this is only the second German Premere League Handball title ever, the team’s first since 2004. As far as (inter) national titles are concerned, while the team has yet to win the triple crown like its rival in Kiel, this is Flensburg’s first title since winning the German Cup (DHB Pokal) in 2015. In this decade alone, FH has won each of its international and national titles once: The Champions League in 2014, The Super Cup in 2013 and the European Cup in 2012, the same year Kiel won the Triple Crown (German League, Champions League and German Cup).

With the monkey off its back, Flensburg will be focusing on bigger goals as it enters uncharted territory. It will compete in the Champions League together with Rhein Neckar, Berlin Foxes and SC Magdeburg in Germany. The European competitors will be tougher to beat. Yet even though it will defend its German League title, it may face an old nemesis when in the German Cup: HSV Hamburg. The team reemerged from bankruptcy with winning the Third League title this season and will be in the Second League. Hamburg and Flensburg had battled back and forth before the team went into administration after the 2016 season. Hamburg’s last title before that was in 2011.

But in the meantime, let’s celebrate this victory and rearm for the next season. You guys deserve this title! 🙂

Highlights of the game can be found here.

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