Christmas Market Tour 2018: Plauen (Vogtland)

Our last stop on the 2018 Christmas market tour keeps us in the state of Saxony but takes us way out west, to the wildest of west, namely the Vogtland. The reason we say this is for three reasons: 1. The Vogtland region is laden with rich forests, a large number of reservoirs and lakes and hills. For some of the rivers in the region, such as the White Elster, Zwickau Mulde, Eger and other notable creeks, the region is their starting point. 2. The region is rustic with wooden houses along the countryside, buildings with wooden facades, etc. Despite it being a part of East Germany with its communist housing, the region has a lot of attractions, competing with the likes of the Fichtel Mountains in Franconia (Bavaria), Thuringian Forest and even the Ore Mountains (Czech and German sides). 3. As far as activities are concerned, the Vogtland is filled with outdoor activities year round, including skiing, horseback riding, biking and hiking, just to name a few. And lastly, the Vogtland is the archrival to the Ore Mountain regions in terms of woodcrafting. Especially with regards to Christmas arches (Schwibbogen), pyramids, and other figurines typical of Christmas, the Vogtlanders pride themselves on their work and there has been a debate as to which regions these products were made, let alone their origins.

But that is for another time.

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The largest city in the Vogtland is our focus of the Christmas market and is one that has a tradition and a history. Plauen has a population of 65,400 inhabitants and is the second closest city in Saxony to the Czech border behind Oberwiesenthal. At one time, the population had been hovering over 120,000 inhabitants before the two World Wars decimated much of it. Since 1945, it has been under the mark and decreasing steadily as people have emigrated away for better jobs in neighboring Bavaria and in bigger cities. It is 30 kilometers northeast of the nearest city of Hof (also in Bavaria) but 45 kilometers southwest of Zwickau. The White Elster River as well as the Syra and Mühlgraben flow through the city, and the city is rich with historic bridges, big and small, spanning them in and around the city. They include (in the city) the Friendensbrücke, the second oldest known bridge in Saxony in the Alte Elsterbrücke (built in 1228) and the brick stone viaducts at Syratal and Elstertal. The Göltzschtalbrücke, which is located 10 kilometers to the north, is the largest viaduct of its kind ever built.  Apart from three federal highways, Plauen is also served by the Motorway 72, as well as three different raillines, including the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate, the Elster route going to Gera and Leipzig as well as the Vogtland route going to Cheb (CZ).

Despite having lost 75% of its buildings during the waning days of World War II through ariel bombings, much of Plauen’s architecture has been rebuilt to its former glory and still functions for its original purposes. This includes several churches, such as the Johanniskirche, Lutherkirche, and Pauluskirche, the Nonnenturm, the castle ruins of Schloss Plauen, the two city halls- one built in 1385; the other in 1922 which features a tower with clock- and several other historic buildings flanking the two market squares- Altmarkt and Klostermarkt.

Plauen has a lot to take pride in- its green hills and valleys, its beer, its theater and  orchestra, but it is world famous for its Plauener Spitze, a type of pattern fabric that is carefully orchestrated by needles and other cutting tools. An example of such a Spitze can be found here:

Source: Tex8 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Inspite of this, Plauen is also famous for its Christmas market, which is the largest in the region. It covers three-fourths of the city center, covering Altmarkt, extending along Obere Steinweg and Rathausstrasse, part of Klostermarkt and ending at the shopping center Stadtgallerie. Yet most of the shopping and eating possibilities can be found at Altmarkt and the shopping center. Because of parking issues, only the tree and some street performances were found during my visit at Klostermarkt.

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At Klostermarkt

Another area in the city center that was somewhat left out was the area around the church, Johanniskirche. While church services commenorating the birth of Christ, combined with concerts, were taking place there, the lot was empty with no cars around. Given its size, there could have been some potential to have some religious exhibits and/or booths in and around the church to encourage people to visit them before or after visiting the church. This was something that was found at some other Christmas markets, most notably in Glauchau and Zwickau as well as in some places in Berlin, Dresden and Nuremberg.

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Johanniskirche and Kirchplatz, next to Altmarkt

To summarize in that aspect, the space availability for Christmas market booths and events is somewhat misaligned and the focus should be less on consumption and more on the holiday and religious traditions that Plauen offers and what is typical for the Vogtland region. That means aside from the church area, Klosterplatz should be filled in a bit with some booths and other holiday events and less glamour for the shopping area for Christmas markets are an outdoor event and not indoor.  A note to some of the city planners for future reference.

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Stadtgallerie Shopping Center

Aside from this, the market itself features a combination of shopping possibilities in the Stadtgallerie and traditional products and foods in the Altmarkt. Both market appear to be well-decorated, with the Stadtgallerie having somewhat too much glamour with the Christmas decorations, thus creating more traffic for shoppers than what is needed at the market itself. Again, an imbalance that needs to be corrected. The Altmarkt itself is perhaps the nicest of the Christmas market in Plauen. The booths consist of small mahogany huts made with real wood from the Vogtland region, all decorated with spruce and pine tree branches as well as other forms of decorations. There are several picnic tables and benches, all made of cut-up wood; some of them have shelters in case of inclimate weather.

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Altmarkt

Much of what the Christmas market at Altmarkt offers is local specialties, such as the woodwork products made in the Vogtland, such as the pyramid, Christmas arch, incense products and figurines that are religious based. For eateries, the market offers not only local foods and drink, but also some international products. Most popular at the market include the Bemme- a bread with fat and pickles, in come cases with liver sausage. Then there is the Baumkuckenspitze, a layered, donut-shaped cake covered in chocolate; some of which with a thin-filling. Holzofenbrot that is cooked in a wood-burning oven is one that is most recommended, and one of the booths had a mixture of both local and international specialties. Especially in the cold weather, these bread products with are really good and filling.

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As we’re talking about international specialties, the market offers products from the Middle East and parts in Europe. Included in the mix is from the Netherlands, where I had a chance to try different kinds of Gouda cheese- those that are sometimes 2 years old and more than ripe. Regardless of what kind, the cheese is highly recommended, and the salespeople selling them, we had a chance to talk about different cultures between Germany, the US and the Netherlands. Their booth features a good place to chat, where even Father Christmas and the angel can entertain themselves over cheese:

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Apart from two different pyramids- one of which is over a century old, one can also spend time at the Spitzenmuseum at the older city hall, which by the way provides a great backdrop to the market together with the tower of the newer city hall, which one can tour the place and enjoy the view of the city and its landscape.

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Christmas tree on the side of the Old City Hall/ Spitzenmuseum with a century-old pyramid

Plauen’s Christmas market features a combination of culture and history all in a historical setting. Culture is in reference to the local products that are offered, especially at the Altmarkt, and history is in reference to the historic setting the market has- to the south, the church and to the north, the two city halls. The market is well-visited and is not so crowded, although my visit was after the first Advent. Yet the magnet of the shopping center next door does raise some concern as to how to balance out the visitors and better utilize the space of Plauen’s city center. Having open but unused space makes a city center rather empty, especially at the time of the Christmas market. However, when planned better and through cooperation with retailers and property owners, Plauen can have a well-balanced Christmas market that is well-balanced in terms of visitors but also whose themes would make it attractive to visitors coming from Saxony, Germany, Czech Republic and beyond……

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Rathausstrasse going to Stadtgallerie

Photos of the Plauen Christmas Market can be viewed via facebook (click here) and Google (click here)

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Cool Christmas Idea Nr. 2: Christmas Lighting Display- In Pics

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While we are starting the sometimes painstaking task to take down the Christmas tree, put away the ornaments and work off our holiday fill which had gone over the waist line, there are some last minute ideas for Christmas which should’ve been about during the holiday season. However, if put down properly, one will have enough time to put them all together for the next holiday season.

Apart from family calendars, a collection of poems, a personal guide book with some quotes, exercises and food for thought, Christmas cards and the like, one can make a personal photo gallery for that particular person(s) who has a knacking for pictures and anything typical of the giver whose photos the receiver likes or anything the receiver likes.

One of the ways to have the person remember Christmas is Christmas art. Whether it has to do with Christmas trees, decorated houses, or in this case, Christmas lights, one can turn an object targeted by the camera lens into a work of art. I learned this one as I took some close-up shots of our Christmas tree in Germany before starting the process of taking it down. The origin is simple: we bought a couple sets of American Christmas tree lights, together with some decorations of clear, silver and white, combined them with our collection of birds and bells we’ve collected over the years, and made our tree similar to the nostalgic American tree that one would have seen until the ushering of the LED lights a decade ago. In order to have an 80s style tree, one needs an international converter and adaptor to ensure that there are no power outages or electrical shortages that could catch fire on the tree.

And then, after admiring the tree, take a good camera and do some close-ups, doctor some of the bests and here are the results:

Gallery:

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One can also do this with LED lights if they are in color. The same applies for Christmas stars which one can hang on the window sill. But the best close-ups of Christmas lights are best with the right combination of Christmas ornaments and the best settings. The most recommended is to bring the light to the forefront and have a dark background. Yet one can also experiment with the variables. It’s a matter of the amount of imagination and creativity a person has, combined with a passion for photography.

Once it is done, one can make a gallery online or even use some of them for a print-version album, as well as Christmas cards, coffee cups, anything that will capture the attention of the person receiving the gift.

Yet doing this will require some time and patience, something that is lacking in today’s society where commercialized items far outweigh personal items. Yet if there is a lesson learned from this holiday season, it is this:

Personal gifts are more valuable when a lot of time and thought is put into them. Therefore, start early, give it time and make it special. Sometimes starting your gift hunting early and finishing before feasting on the next turkey or goose at Christmas time will make the person appreciate what you’ve done.

It’s difficult but when you follow through, you will have more time for who you love the most, which is family and friends. 🙂

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Christmas Market Tour 2018- Zwickauer Schlossweihnachten

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A couple years ago in 2016, I had a chance to tour the town of Zwickau and write about its Christmas market. Located in the city center at two different market squares, the Christmas market presented a combination of anything that is typical of the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) combined with local folklore and local specialties that were not only typical of the region, but also very delicious. More on that you’ll find here. 🙂

Yet as the market expanded during my most recent visit in 2018, and in connection with the city’s 900th anniversary, there is another Christmas market in Zwickau that is just off the main highway and lured me there as I was with my family during a visit. Here, one needs no more than a 10 minute walk from the main market to this historic site…..

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Schloss Osterstein! 🙂

Mentioned for the first time in the history books in 1297, the castle used to be one of the centerpieces of Zwickau, housing three dynasties before it was vacated in 1770 and later converted into a prison, where prominent people, including writer Karl May, were locked up for their offenses. In the 1960s, the East German government converted the former complex into a washing complex, which lasted only 15 years. By 1980 the complex was abandoned, and for 26 years, it became a focus of a heated debate as to whether it was sensible to keep the complex and renovate it, or just tear it down altogether. Finally in 2006, the green light was given by the city council to restore the castle to its former glory, a project that took over two years to complete. The castle is a combination museum and center of the arts, featuring a courtyard, art gallery and an theater stage for performances by some well-known/ local personalities.

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The Schlossweihnachten at the castle has been going on since 2010, but it is one that has received lots of visits and great reviews. The market takes place only on the Advent weekends from Friday through Sunday in the afternoon and evening hours. Originally, the market featured booths and eateries in the main court. The Christmas tree is flanked with Schwibbogen (Christmas arches) with the murals representing the cities in Saxony (Zwickau included) as well as the Ore Mountains, Vogtland and places along the Mulde, which flows through Zwickau. Booths offering food and handcraft items surround the tree in a circle.

Yet 2018 marked the first time that market extended to include the Schlossgraben on the west side, where the bridge to the castle is located. Some of the booths and other places were also at the eastern entrance facing the street and inside the building itself, thus allowing for people to have a closer look at the castle on the inside and out. Part of this extension has to do with the extensive renovations that were being carried out on one of the wings of the castle.  Nevertheless, with parking scarce at the castle because of areas restricted to only customers of a local grocery store combined with residents of the nearby condos, it was highly recommended to use the city’s numerous parking garages encircling the market square and then take the 10-15 minutes to walk there. The nearest park house is at Centrum, just off the main highway.

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Inside (and around) the castle there were a lot of products offered that had to do with handcrafts mainly from the region. Whether it was made from paper, stones or other materials, shoppers had a chance to either purchase them or even make some on their own. It depends on what they were looking for: Christmas cards, tree decorations, soap products, honey, braceletts and necklaces, or winter clothing. They even had ceramics either for dining or in a shape of figurines, such as Christmas angels and manger sets. Many of them carried white and red colors, which are typical colors for Christmas (alongside the green). And while woodworking was rare to find at this market, they also had the traditional Schwibbogen and pyramids on hand, both in the traditional form with candles and/or incandescent lights but also in LED. The main outtake from this tour was homemade and with some class from the locals who put a lot of time and effort into making them for the market.

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And if it wasn’t enough, the market was loaded with fire bins, where people can warm their hands over the fire or even roast some of the local foods that were there. The market has a lot of meat and bread products that are handmade and from the fire-ovens, thus resembling memories of camping with an open bonfire. This was useful, especially for children, as the market had enough to offer them for both indoors as well as outdoors. For outdoors there is a sledding ramp, where kids can slide down with rafting tubes, yet they had outdoor performances on stage and were also greeted by Santa Claus, who came around to visit the kids daily.  The visit is not complete without taking home a custom-made Christmas market ceramic cup with the slogan on there in either black or white with contrasting writing, again all homemade but a souvenir that represents a well-worth visit.

The Schlossweihnacht at Osterstein Castle in Zwickau represents a combination of history and locality, all in the city of Zwickau. It is different from the main market in a way that everything that is offered for eateries and products are homemade and from the region, but it is family friendly in a way that whatever the child (and the parent) is looking for that is not commercialized can be found here. Children can enjoy making or buying hand-made products, watching Christmas fairy tales on stage and doing some fun activities. Adults can enjoy a little bit of food and drink and some good company in a place that one can call “home” after many years of neglect. A visit to Zwickau’s Christmas market is definitely not complete without a couple hours at this castle- conveniently located so one cannot miss it.

 

fast fact logo More than 1.5 million visitors visited Zwickau to celebrate its 900th anniversary in 2018. With a population of 98,000 inhabitants, the city is famous for its churches, culture and even the bridges. A guide on the city’s bridges you wll find here.

You’ll find more photos of this Christmas market by clicking here. 🙂

 

FlFi Christmas 2018

Winter Genre: Der große Schnee (The Big Snow)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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From the Attic: Blizzard 1978/79

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December 28th of 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the Blizzard that brought the World to a total standstill. It also marked the start of the Long Winter, whose combination of blizzards and high tides created havoc in both sides of Germany. Both of which have broken records and have remained in the top ten ever since.

On 28th December, 1978, a combination of a low pressure system from the Mediterranean Sea, which brought moisture and mild temperatures, and a high pressure system from Scandinavia, which featured frigid temperatures, collided over the Baltic Sea, unleashing what was considered at that time “The Blizzard of the Century!” Winds of up to 160 kph, combined with snow drifts of up to 7 meters (20 feet) and high tides that were half the height, literally brought everything to a standstill beginning on December 28th, 1978 and ending on January 3rd, 1979. An average of 70 centimeters of snow fell in most of the affected regions while 30 centimeters of thick ice were reported! The entire northern half of West Germany and all of East Germany were affected- from Flensburg and Hamburg to Brunswick and Cologne; Rostock and Neu Brandenburg to Leipzig and Erfurt. All were affected. The island of Rügen was cut off from the rest of the world for days until help arrived. Snow blocked transport of coal from the Lausitz region to the burning plants, thus bringing blackouts in electricity to wide areas in East Germany. And motorways were littered with stranded cars from Frankfurt/Main all the way to the Danish border near Flensburg and beyond.  Hundreds of people lost their lives in that storm.

This blizzard was just the beginning of the winter that crippled everything in Germany, for another round of snow and ice of similar proportions fell later on February 18/19, 1979. The total amount of snow that fell during the entire period was over 100 centimeters, double the amount the region receives per year.

And while the government was late in response to the New Year storms and have since improved on providing emergencies in cases like these (and the numbers have increased over the last 10 years), many documentaries have been produced to describe the events in detail from eyewitness accounts. Three of which have been dug out of the attic for you to have a look, to see how powerful the storm really was. It still ranks as one of the ten worst winter storms on record since 1949.  The first documentary looks at what happened in West Germany. The second is how the storm affected the eastern half. The third one looks at the storm from a photographer’s perspective, as he did a series of aerial photos of the regions of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg after the first storm hit the region. Both West German-states, combined with the coastal areas of Mecklenburg-Pommerania (and especially the islands of Usedom and Rügen) were the hardest hit regions by this New Year’s storm.

So sit back, have some hot cocoa and popcorn ready and be prepared to watch how 1979 entered both Germanys with a lot of ice and snow. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Documentary 1:

Documentary 2:

Documentary 3:

And to point out, the photos presented here were from the Winter storms that pummeled Europe and the US in 2010/11, which was half as bad as what happened here. Nevertheless, especially in the top picture, you can imagine the height and thickness of the snow drifts that left many land regions looking like those under water. Just to point this out. 🙂

 

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Twas the Night Before Christmas in Pittsburghese- Pittsburgh Dad

While another Christmas has come and gone, one cannot resist the highlights that this holiday season has left us, not just in terms of gifts and concerts, but also some parodies and things to laugh with.

This Christmas genre features a mix of Christmas, culture and American football, all in Pittsburgh in the USA.

Based on the work by Clement C. Moore, here is Twas the Night before Christmas, Pittsburgh style, presented by Pittsburgh Dad, Curt Wooten and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. If you love the Steelers and Pittsburgh, you’ll love the city’s dear old Dad.

Love and Friendship in the face of Hate- A FleFi Christmas Address

Luke 6:35-38 New International Version (NIV)
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The year 2018 can best be summed up as the following: “In the face of hate, greed and power, one cannot afford to live it alone. One needs to reach out to those who deserve the power of friendship and love because of actions that warrant it.”
A few months back, I had written a piece on the power of forgiveness based on some personal experiences that were encountered which led to my belief that not everything is as bad as we have been seeing lately. That piece you can read here.

When Donald Trump took over as President on 20th January, 2017, it marked the beginning of the era of self-righteousness, the era where in order to become successful, one has to become a total asshole and think selfishly. The more narccist you are, the more people will follow you and engage in acts of hatred because according to you, it is ok. More bomb threats, more shootings, more degradations both in person as well as in the social media, more scrutiny in the face of political ideals and views, and more discriminations and in some cases, rounding people up to be transported to detention camps. These were the ingredients of the American Reich, taking every page, every sentence and every word out of another book entitled “Mein Kampf” by Adolf Hitler. Bomb threats against news networks like CNN were never seen 10 years ago but exist today. Alienating people because of different views like we have now, were nonexistent five years ago. And infoprying, bootleg conversations to share the problems the country has was as foreign a word in 2016, as it was “fake news.”
It made me wonder if even the concept of a true friend exist, especially as we see more people who leave their loved ones behind to either pursue their own interests that will bound to fail in the end or follow the leader who will bring them to failure.
With that question, I can answer that one with a resounding yes. While the true meaning of a friend has changed over time, it does have some characteristics that bring people together in the face of hatred and selfishness that we are seeing on an hourly basis. One doesn’t need a political affiliation, religious background, materialistic items, fame and even clothing worn in order to be a friend. Interests have little value. And just because a person is on facebook and in your network doesn’t necessarily mean that person is your friend. A true friend would do the following for you:
1. Respect your rights and opinions by listening and not prying into your own affairs
2. Share stories and experiences with you and have some constructive conversations that last for hours on end, and enjoying it in the end
3. Offering a hand for help in finding peace and bringing stability in a person’s life, no matter how big or small the situation is
4. Work together for a common cause, putting aside differences, pasts that are worth forgetting, and other clichés that can potentially be negative
5. Apologize for all wrong-doing and forgive the other.
6. In the event of a long absence, pick up where it was left off and lastly,
7. When given the chance, let the friendship grow and be stronger.

Many of us do not understand why the US is isolating its friends and neighbors, let alone why people follow Trump and his policies, even though we’re seeing the same happen in places like Turkey, Poland and Brazil. It is just as logical as people in Germany, France and other countries trying to follow the far-right politicians who are corrupt and have no basis to stand on. However, political and religious affiliations are just as meaningless in a friendship as incidents, such as affairs, divorces, people losing their jobs (and sometimes their homes), and other miniscule incidents. What is important is having some common values and ways to make things better.

The concept of Global Ethics, written and preached by theologist Hans Küng, explains this concept in detail, showing the reader that people of different backgrounds in religion, politics, socio-economics, and other forms of status quo do not play a role in cooperating to solve problems on a global scale.
When looking at the current situation, we seem to have veered away from this concept when we need it the most. The environment is falling apart, people are emigrating away from areas no longer arable, many forms of flora and fauna are disappearing from the landscape and we ignore the problem as if they are non-existent.

We just don’t get it!
We just don’t get the fact that our own actions are destroying everything that holds dearly to our heart.
We just don’t get the fact that we are destroying families, relationships and even friends that way.
We just don’t get it!

Yet when looking back at 2018, if there is one lesson to learn from two years of Trump, it is this: there is a way to turn it around. There is a way to reach out for forgiveness and help. There is a way to mend ties with the friends you want to keep. There is a way to start again and make it right.
There is hope in the face of hate, and we’re starting to see this bit by bit.
We have developed a sense of conscious where the scourge of greed, materialism and singling out people needs to stop and we need to start thinking about the people that matter the most. We need to think about the other guy instead of ourselves. If we did harm to the other guy, we reach out to help and for forgiveness. After all, we may learn from the other guy and forge a friendship from this. It doesn’t start at the top in our governments; it starts at the very bottom of the food chain, meaning ourselves.
I had three different experiences this year that support this argument: 1. A bully from high school stepped forward to apologize for his actions, even though it was 25 years ago. 2. A former colleague from college who reached out to me for her actions after a fallout that occurred three years ago. And 3. Two friends from college reunited with my wife and me after a fallout from eight years ago over an incident that sparked a huge argument and then a cessation of communication. In all three instances, the three parties acknowledged that their actions were unjust, and in all three instances they found that by cutting off ties without listening and even finding a solution was more harmful than the conflict themselves. The beauty behind all three incidents was that we found a way to forgive each other and have a long, constructive and very pleasing conversation, one of which lasted into the wee hours of the morning. From each one I learned that we had more in common than we thought before and that we could (re-)forge a friendship if we wanted to. In two of the three cases it was easy, in the other one that one will take a while to do. But in the end we realized that we cannot know the person just by the cover and actions, but by learning his/her past for there is good in every aspect, each one useful for a friendship, one that is needed in times like this.
This can only happen when we ignore those who instill hate and lies, even our leaders, like Trump, Erdogan and others who practice hate and discrimination, and embrace the love of others regardless of background. A country is not a country without a network of friends and family that runs it democratically and in a way that other friends and family can benefit from it. And even in times of conflict, we still find ways to keep our common values in tact and put aside our differences. In times like these, we cannot afford to have our own personal vendettas get in the way of progressivism. Otherwise we will not have much of a planet to live on. What we saw in the Congressional elections in 2018 or in my three examples is a start. We have a lot to do to put an end to this carnage and tackle the issues that we have.

What we need are three Cs that are useful, even if they take time:
Courage- Each of us has the ability to say STOP!
Chance- Each of us deserve a chance to do something for the good of the other.
Consistency- Each of us need to be persistent and learn that what we put in will be received in the end.
And for a friendship, we need this chance to let it grow. Only then will our planet have a chance to grow again.

The Flensburg Files and sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to wish you and yours the very best this holiday season. Merry Christmas, and a great start into 2019. 🙂

Some additional Christmas market items will be coming to round off a rather busy but exciting 2018 Christmas Market Tour and Tidbits! But for now, time to celebrate with family and friends, just like you should as well! ❤

FlFi Christmas 2018