Leipzig Book Convention 2018: No Record but Lots of Suspense

IMGP1710

LEIPZIG-  If there is one theme that would sum up the 2018 Leipzig Book Convention this past weekend, it would be suspense. While members of the committee had expected another record year with a possible 300,000 visitors, that mark was missed by a long shot and for the first time in six years, the number of visitors at this year’s convention had decreased. 271,000 visitors went to the convention that took place from 15th to 18th March, a decrease of 14,000 from last year’s number of 285,000.  But despite the decrease, there was a lot of suspense in this year’s convention, which goes beyond the theme of Romania as the guest country. Here are some examples based on the author’s annual visit together with family members:

Snow and Cold- The decrease in numbers had a lot to do with Old Man Winter’s last grasp. Snow and blowing snow, combined with extreme cold temperatures brought vast parts of central and northern Germany to a near standstill, with parts of Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia taking the brunt of the storm.  Frozen overhead lines and crossing points were additional factors that led to the shut down of the main railway stations in Leipzig and Halle (Saale) and the cancellation of train services spanning seven German states and points to the east. This led to overfilled streetcars and buses to the Messe Convention. Adding traffic jams on the major highways also because of blowing and drifting snow and many who wanted to go to the book convention decided to stay home- at least until the sunniest day of the convention, which was the last day (Sunday). But even then, the one critique point that seems to be the problem in Germany is snow removal, where much of the parking lots were still unplowed when guests arrived on Sunday, undoubtedly the peak of the four-day long convention.

Fighting the Right- Another factor affecting the numbers is the increase in the number and influence of the far-right media. Several publishing companies producing such propaganda in newspapers and books were present, mostly in Hall 3. This included Compact and Neue Stimmen, a pair of most prominent magazines that have ties with the far right groups including the Pegida, National Party (NPD) and Alternative for Germany (AfD), the third of which is currently in the German Federal Parliament as an opposition to the newly created Grand Coalition with the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats.  Especially on Friday and Saturdays clashes broke out between the far right and far left, resulting in police involvement and arrests. As they wanted to avoid massive conflicts like it happened at the 2017 Book Convention in Frankfurt/Main, it was met with partial success for despite measures to prevent violent outbreaks, the far right, with its anti-democratic and anti-European policies kept many away because of their strive to commit strife. On the flip side, several prominent authors who have written about right-wing terrorism and its threat to democracy were on hand. One of them, Norwegian author Åsne Seierstad, won the European book prize for her work on Anders Breivik, a far-right terrorist who killed 77 people in two separate attacks in 2011. People like Seierstad believe that right-wing extremism has been on the rise since then, including her home country.

IMGP1726

Peaceful Co-existence- While the snowstorm and the far-right made waves in the media, one aspect that was seldom touched was religion. In Hall 3 there was a section where Christianity and Islam were in peaceful co-existence of each other. At least four booths with publications and newspapers on Islam and another seven on Christianity were found clumped together with people gathering to both sides of the aisle. Interesting was how the two religions attracted the people. On the side of Islam, people came in droves because of their interest in the religion and the literature that pertained to it. This is disregarding how it was written- which was either German or Arabic with a couple English examples.  This included the Islam Newspaper in German, which judging by my observations, has a lot of culture and history, but go along the mentality of the Native Americans as described by historian Dee Brown: “We are still here.” Why? Because of attempts to suppress their culture by the domination of Christianity and the western way of life, one can see that Islam still exists and the impression is that they are open to anyone wishing to learn at least a bit of the religion. There had been fears that the religion would dominate the European landscape. That is not true. The people of Islam wish to have a sort of peaceful co-existence that has not existed for a long time, for many since the time before the Arab Spring of 2011 which led to millions fleeing the war-torn areas. On the other side, Christianity was presented in a marketing fashion. While on the way to the main entrance of the convention, we were greeted by hippie-style Christians who gave us a free coupon to one of the booths that was giving away books dealing with stories involving Christ, philosophy and the existence of God. Another booth was continuing the Martin Luther celebrations of 500 years ago by illustrating the printing press used to produce the 500 Theses written by Luther. And then there was Christianity in the form of music and schools that offer both. Target language was both German and English and they attracted a fair number of people. Yet despite the moderate increase of younger people joining Christ, the numbers have decreased on a global scale thanks to corruption, sex abuse scandals and attempts to associate Christianity with far-right figures, such as US President Trump. One can see the desperate attempts to convince people to join by giving away books upon leaving the Buch Messe- and seeing tons being discarded in garbage cans in the parking lot. It does appear that if Christianity was to regain its original form, it may need to separate itself from politics and reinvent itself by adapting to the needs of today’s generations, a step that has been taken in some aspects, like homosexuality, but in others- like tolerance- it’s having problems doing.

IMGP1721

Blocks at the Manga–  While the Manga exhibition, located in Hall 5, attracted its typical individuals, which included superheroes, waitresses in short skirts, aliens, and people dressed up in outfits dating back 125 years ago, one has to look more carefully at the trends that a person can find. While the theme from last year  was lighting in Japan, this year’s theme seemed to be boxes and its several shapes, designs and sizes. No matter whether they were lunch boxes, jewelry boxes or even mini-storage boxes or even designer boxes  found at booths like the Sega games, it was a real treat just to see these boxes while looking at the products typical of Japan, which include stuffed animals, sweets, games, books and even dishware, just to name a few.

IMGP1695

Thinking Scandanavia- To round off our tour of the Buchmesse, we have some literature recommendations worth noting. One of the unique aspects of the convention was found at the international book section in Hall 4 and in Scandanavia. Consisting of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finnland, the themes most commonly written by authors in the region  consists of mysteries, tourism, mental well-being and lastly photography. Two books that represent fine examples of such works is a Danish work by Meik Wilking entitled The Little Book of Lykke: The Path to being the Happiest People in the World, which focuses on the Danish secret to being the happiest society in the world. This includes the way of life, physical and mental well-being, mentality towards materialist items and money as well as the power of the bicycle.  Another is a collection of night-time and sometimes underwater photography by Finnish author Petri Juntunen entitled “At the Heart of It All,” where he brings the new meaning of photography to light, as he focuses on relicts and other non-life forms that are shone down by a ray of light, showing the interest from above.

IMGP1733

To sum up the visit and the highlights, the 2018 Leipzig Book Convention may have not set any records this year, yet judging from the news and my own observations, one could not get enough of the suspense that was presented, both positively as well as negatively. Still, as themes, such as religion, extremism, social and cultural issues and current affairs (such as environment and climate change) become the everyday norm, such book conventions like in Leipzig and also in Frankfurt/Main will need to adapt in a way that these issues are addressed and people understand them and take action. This action should also include putting an end to hate and violence, a commodity that has always been a burden to society but one that seems to become a universal problem on all fronts, especially since the end of 2015. It is only hoped that the next book convention will bring about constructive themes and discussion instead of propagizing hatred and inequality based on things we don’t like.

The next Leipzig Buchmesse will take place  from 21st to 24th March 2019. To see more photos of the Buchmesse, please click here as it will take you to the Files’ facebook page and its photo album. Please feel free to add your photos and impressions of the Buchmesse. We love to see them. 🙂

flefi-deutschland-logo

Advertisements

Showdown at Fehmarn

IMGP0759
The Beltretter Petition Drive at the Burg Market Square. Photo taken in August 2016

FlFi Newsflyer Logo new   Co-produced with sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles

Petition Drive to Stop the Construction of the Tunnel at Puttgarden in Full Gear; Discussion about the Fehmarn Bridge’s Future is on.

BURG/ FEHMARN- For the second time in three years, I had a chance to take a trip to the German Island of Fehmarn, located between Denmark and the state of Schleswig-Holstein, connected by the Migratory Route Highway connecting Copenhagen and Hamburg. Astonished by its beauty and the hospitality the people there gave us our last time, for my family and me, which also includes a friend of ours and her daughter, Fehmarn appears to be the place to go to relax, swim, run along the coast with the wind in our faces and bike to our favorite places for fish with fried potatoes Holstein style.

Yet on this trip it was totally different. Different in a way that the inhabitants of the island are divided over a mega-project that is coming to cross the island- the noise that is comparable to the noise one see along the Migratory Route, which seemed to have increased since our last visit. When visiting the state of Schleswig-Holstein, especially in the eastern part, one will see a blue X every second house along with its slogan, a Christmas light set depicting the Fehmarn Bridge at every fourth house, and this van with the Belt Retter slogan on there, lined up with hundreds of people talking to representatives of the group fighting to stop the project from happening, and signing petitions in the process.  The scene is getting brighter and bluer as the weeks come along….

…..and for a good reason!

Since my visit in 2014, I’ve been covering the events on Fehmarn, which involved not only the island’s future, but also that of the Fehmarn Bridge. To recap on the situation, the Danish Government have been cooperating with the German authorities regarding the construction of the multi-track/lane tunnel connecting Puttgarden (GER) and Rodby (DK), thus eliminating the need for ferry service. The tunnel would feature two tracks accomodating long-distance trains as well as six lanes of motorway traffic, creating a total width of one kilometer including the property acquisitions. At 20 km, it would be touted as the longest tunnel in the world that would serve automobile traffic. At the same time, German government authorities in Berlin and Kiel as well as the German Railways are working together for a new bridge on the south end, spanning the Fehmarn Sound- replacing the island’s iconic span which is the first of its kind ever built.  At the moment, transportation authorities have deemed the 1963 bridge to be functionally obsolete and at the end of its useful life. According to the latest reports from LN-News in Luebeck, planning is in the works to have a new iconic span resembling the Golden Gate Bridge to be discussed and possibly voted on. If approved, construction could start in 2018 and be finished in 10 years.

The current situation during the visit:

The Belt Retter movement has been gaining steam in the past weeks, with organizers and supporters collecting signatures and letters of petitions in much of Schleswig-Holstein- in particular, the eastern half and of course, Fehmarn Island itself. Tens of thousands of signatures have been collected online, as well as in person at the markets and other events. I was lucky to stop at the Belt Retter site at the market square in Burg during our visit to talk to the representatives there, and get some information on the latest with the Puttgarden-Rodby Tunnel (aka Belt Tunnel). The Danish government, which has been keen on moving forward with the project, had previously rejected an earlier proposal for the tunnel last year because of approximately 249 errors in the design and concept, according to officials of the organisation I talked to at the market. After reworking the project, a new proposal was submitted back in June by the coordinators of the project, LBV Luebeck and Femmern A/S, and now the clock is ticking on the part of the locals, the Belt Retter organisation and all other parties opposed to the plan, who had previously petitioned to stop the first draft and succeeded last year. Between now and August 26th, you have an opportunity to submit your petition online or through contact with the representatives of Belt Retter, who will then forward that onto a committee that will feature representatives of the tunnel project, environmental and legal experts, local, regional and state representatives and others involved with the project, who will review it and take further measures. Possible legal measures, such as lawsuits and court order injunctions are on the table should it become a necessity.

Attempts are also being made regarding ways to preserve the Fehmarn Bridge. Rehabilitating the bridge for continual use has been ruled out because of the cost intensitity, but also because it is predicted that the bridge’s lifespan would be prolonged by only 30 years. However, such rehabilitation techniques have been tried on several bridges made of steel, including the steel wiring that is also found on the Fehmarn Bridge. The findings: such rehabilitation can prolong the life of a bridge by up to a century, counting maintenance and other essentials. Already done was the Bay Bridge and (also) the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, this is also being conducted on the George Washington Bridge in New York City, built in 1938 under Swiss Engineer Othmar H. Ammann. Crying wolf over the potential failure of the bridge, as was stated by authorities of the government in Berlin and the German railways, the issues of rust, especially seen by the author while revisiting the bridge this year is only minor. Bridge rehabilitation experts would also agree that rehabilitation would be cost effective, saving taxpayer money by up to half the cost for a new bridge. In other words, and as I signed my petition against the project, I even noted, the movement to stop this mega-project with the tunnel should also include rehabilitating the Fehmarn Bridge.

Opinions are split down the middle among those who are vehemently against the project because of the negative environmental and economic impact as well as those involving tourism and culture and those who are in favor because of the need to modernize the infrastructure and bring in more tourism. It can even be found with the two different stickers at a souvenir shop at Suedstrand in Burgtiefe with the blue X and green check marks, the latter being for the project. Protests from different factors, including the Scandlines (which operates the ferry between Puttgarden and Rodby) have increased loudly in numbers, opposing the entire project. While those supporting the project say that it is a necessity and will come anyway, the Danes are becoming more and more sceptical of the tunnel concept because of the exploding costs for surveys, legal issues and the redesigning of the system. Many have joined the movement on the German side, which has increased tremendously since my last visit.  While it is expected that the construction of the tunnel is to begin in 2020 and last 10 years, should the petition become a success for the second time, it might derail the entire project, putting it on ice indefinitely.

And with that, hopefully in the eyes of locals and people attached to Fehmarn, a return to normalcy which includes accessing the island by two-lane traffic or ferry, coaxing passers-by into stopping on the island for a visit and vacation. This is something you cannot do with a mega-project that would cut the island into two if proponents have their way.

Do you want to stop the project, click here to read the information and sign the petition. Contact details are available if you need further information. The information is in German, but you can talk to someone with English or Danish knowledge if you have any questions. It takes 2-4 minutes to do and consists of multiple choice questions that are user friendly.  If you’re still not convinced that the project cannot be stopped, go to the pics below.  There, you can click on the gallery with pics of the places visited this year with some comments on my part.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Checkout the articles written about the Fehmarn Bridge Situation including the bridge, by clicking here, here and here.

Beltretter_Logo_FINAL-URL_JPG_square  bhc logo short new FF new logo1

In School in Germany: Teaching Beowulf and Old English- Introduction

wikingerschiff_oslo
Viking Ship at the Museum in Oslo. Source: Wikipedia (Hifi0006)

Old English: one of the main origins of our language. Consisting of the languages of the Anglo-Saxons, Old English was first spoken by the Germanic tribes and consisted of words most commonly found in today’s German, English and some Scandanavian language. With the Norman Conquest of 1066, Old English transformed itself into Middle English while adopting words and phrases from the Norman language. Eventually all of the historic elements, as seen in the clip below, made up today’s language, which has its common, fixed structure in terms of grammar and sentence construction, but is constantly evolving because of the language’s adaptation to the changing environments, including the development of technology which is influencing the way English is being used.

 

And this takes us to the story of Beowulf. Written between the 10th and 11th Century, before the Norman Conquest, Beowulf is the oldest known literary work that was conceived in Old English. Although the work has been translated into today’s English, with the most recent work written and edited by Seamus Heaney, it is unknown who wrote the folklore, consisting of a poem with 3182 lines. The work has however been adapted into film, TV series and even children’s stories.

But who is Beowulf and why is it important to teach that in class?

To summarize, Beowulf was a warrior of Scandanavian descent who ruled the Geat kingdom. His strength is equal to 30 men, and he can battle with sword and hand-to-hand combat. He helps the king of Danes, Hrothgar, in defeating a monster named Grendel, who had invaded the dining hall, killing some Danish soldiers. Grendel loses his arm in the battle with Beowulf, runs home to the mother and dies at the end. The mother becomes angry and invades the hall again. Beowulf chases her down and kills her in the end as well. The warrior receives many rewards and eventually expanded his kingdom in the end. Fifty years have passed, and Beowulf, in his 70s, faces another challenge in a form of a dragon. Accompanied by his nephew, he battles the dragon and defeats it, but not before he is mortally wounded. He is honored in his funeral, where as a custom, he is burned on a boat but others give him something as a sacrifice to remember.  Many adaptations exist but a couple shorter animations shows how the story takes place:

Because the poem was written in Old English, Beowulf presents an insight of how English was used during that time, especially as some of the words originated from that period. Furthermore it is important to learn about history after the Fall of the western half of the Roman Empire, especially as far as the creation of the Anglo-Saxon and Scandanavian regions are concerned. Much of that is taught in history classes in schools in Germany, especially in the sixth and seventh grades, but some elements are even being presented in English classes, including the culture of the kingdoms in the regions during that time. While some elements of European history is introduced in American schools, it is important to learn about this, for the Vikings, who explored North America in the 9th Century, the time of the release of Beowulf, came from the regions in Scandanavia, including Denmark, and had been known for invading the Anglo-Saxon kingdom (especially in present-day England) several times before the Conquest of 1066.

The question is how to teach Beowulf to students in school without having to bore them. As mentioned before, over 3200 lines were written and translated, yet the time limit is a factor, as well as determining how it fits in the curriculum for either English or history. One can reduce the content to the most important aspects, but doing so creates a risk of leaving out some elements that may become important later on. Reading it straight out would be as brutally difficult as reading Chaucer, even on the high school level.

But one can create their own adaption of Beowulf. This includes adapting Beowulf to a modern version, such as Beowulf 2.0, Beowulf on Twitter, etc. It also includes activities to fill in the lost years, video games, and the like. It is a matter of presenting a summary of the story, while introducing the details, including Beowulf’s family, childhood, kingdom and even the culture of the Geats, Anglo-Saxon, Danish and Scandanavian regions, which one may need a two sessions for, pending on the time alloted per session. After that, students have a chance to create their own versions of Beowulf.

In July, some examples of how Beowulf can be taught will be presented to give teachers and students some ideas for their own project as well as possibilities to teach it in class. These were done by fellow college students at a university in central Germany. More on that will come then. In the meantime, what are some ideas you would have to teach students the importance of Beowulf? What projects did you try doing? Place your stories in the comment section below.

Stay tuned! More on Beowulf will come in July. 🙂

flefi-deutschland-logo

Look, Listen, and Learn

Author’s Note: As the Files turns five in a couple months, some throwbacks will be featured for readers to enjoy and think about. This is one of the first articles published in 2010, dealing with friendship over feindschaft, interculture over ignorance, peace and love over hate and war. This also ties in with my very first visit to Flensburg and the region that year. Enjoy! 🙂 

Biking on a trail going along the Baltic Sea Coast, I had to put away my thoughts and fears that were affecting my everyday life and embrace the unknown. I had never been up to the Baltic Sea for a long time, and the area I was visiting- Flensburg, Sondernburg, northern Germany, and southern Denmark- was untouched until I got off the train at the station and explored the region that I hadn’t seen before. The first thing I did was get to know the people up there, the culture, and the surroundings. I looked, I listened, and I learned. It started with a trip down the beaten and rutted trail that snaked its way through the forest, after crossing the wooden bridge into Denmark north of Wassersleben. The various jumps up and down the hill, the sound the wind breezing in from the sea, and the multiple shades of green and brown are all that occupies me opens up new doors to the things I’ve never heard and seen before. However, the dangers have to be figured into the equation: The trail was rutted, rocky, and really run down. It had pine trees placed in and along the road, and the down hill ride was filled with the unknown. I looked, I listened, and I learned.  By the time I ended up in Sondernhafen (Danish is Sondernhav) enjoying Europe’s finest hotdog and Danish ice cream at Anne’s Hot Dog stand, I had mastered 15 km of rugged terrain and gathered some images that were worth taking with me. I tried some Danish delicatessen, listened to the good humor of the Danes and learned about the long-standing relationship that they had with the Germans, that consisting of love and hate, trials and tribulations, toil and tears, and division and unity. Both sides had their differences that had to be settled through military conflict- among other things the war of 1864 between the then Prussians and the Danish kingdom which included a lop-sided Prussian victory at Dubel (near Sondernburg). There was of course the battle over Flensburg and who possesses it as both sides laid claim to it until 1951 when it was considered a border town for both the Danes and the Germans. This was in addition to World War II and Hitler’s quest for breathing room. But today- they live in peaceful co-existence for one reason and one reason only: because they looked, they listened, and they learned. They looked at the benefits of coexistence, they listened to each other, and they listened to each other.

Leaving that as is for another time, I took this experience with me and re-entered reality- a reality that is filled with multicultural diversity but it is the target of xenophobia, cleansing, and pure hatred. This multicultural diversity does not necessarily have to do with the place of origin or ethnical, religious, or cultural backgrounds. It can also focus on family tradition, socio-economical backgrounds, and even the preference of a certain group disregarding politics, themes worth talking about, or even sexuality.  Each of us has its own set of values, thinking, and ideal world that we feel comfortable with. The problem with that is we are being sounded out, played down, browned off by factors that don’t want us to be who we are, let alone share our views with others. Through the actions of these factors, consisting of harassment, intimidation, and even verbal or physical assaults on our identities,  we are vulnerable to a change that is against our nature mainly because the factors don’t look at us, listen to us, and learn from us. It is no wonder why so many people take their own lives and those with them- because they feel that they don’t belong to society and need to express their frustration to the rest of society.

When I read about an 18 year old taking his own life because he was gay and therefore was cyber-bullied, or a 17 year old storming a school to pelt others with bullets before providing his own head with one, it makes me ask myself, why are these people doing this. Like us, they had a right to live and share their experiences with others without being ashamed of it. But the people who bullied them to a point of suicide did this because they were afraid of seeing them in their world. These are the people who are careless because they don’t look at the people for who they are, listen to them and how their lives developed the way they were, and learn from that experience and perhaps can relate to them. By being wreckless, ignorant and fearful, what happens to the victim actually comes back to haunt them. It’s like travelling along that rutted path through the forest, that I mentioned earlier- the careless and faster you bike, the more likely that you will create a very nasty fall that will cause injuries (some serious pending on the degree).  If you look at the incidents that has happened over the past decade: Littleton in 1999, Erfurt in 2002, Cold Springs in 2005, Red Lake Falls in 2007, Virginia Tech in 2008, Ansbach and Winnenden in 2009, and now a slew of suicides that has been happening over the last six months, including the aforementioned cyberbullying that resulted in a suicide in Massachusetts, they all follow the same pattern.

So why don’t we all be careful with what we say or do with other people? Is it necessary to be wreckless and take action without thinking of the consequences? And what is wrong with embracing other people and cultures? It’s free and priceless. You learn more about them and make yourself a better person at the same time. You become more popular to the community because of your openess, tolerance, and acceptance of other people and their views on life. And the most valuable experience from all this is you may end up befriending the person whom you wanted to bully to begin with.  It’s very easy to do. One just has to look, listen, and learn.

I would like to close with some food for thought, looking at this topic from a historian’s point of view. If you look at the picture at the end of this entry, you’ll see a fort that was built at Dubel in 1864 as a fortress to fend off the advancing Prussians and protect neighboring Sondernburg. While the defense was not successful and the Danes lost the war, both sides 87 years later realized that there was no point in wasting lives and resources not only in fighting each other but also erecting memorials comemorating the battles, so they took the cheapest and easiest way out and built a bridge connecting the two cultures and embraced each other. They didn’t care about their backgrounds or their differences, and it’s understandable why. We spend more money, resources, and nerves on conflicts and the memorials commemorating them than we do when we spend the few precious free minutes of our lives to say hi to another person and get to know him/her. And the benefits of just a few minutes to learn from the person far outweigh that of ignoring or even bullyiing them. So instead of spending that money on defending ourselves against people who don’t fit in society why not build a bridge for them and do what we should be doing in the first place- look, listen, and learn.

And the file closes with the pics worth taking with you. Until next time, happy trails until we meet again.

Photo taken by Jason Smith in May, 2010

Fort Dubel near Sondernburg- the source of the conflict between the Danes and the Germans in 1864 and the symbol of division and the fear.

SOLUTION: BUILD A BRIDGE AND OPEN UP!

Photo taken by Jason Smith in May, 2010

FAQ: This bridge, built in 1926 did serve as a symbol of unity between Germany and Denmark. Up until the Schengen Agreement in 1995, the bridge was guarded by the patrolmen on both sides, who maintained peace free of conflict, and people had to present their passports before crossing. Since then people can bike across freely and the patrolmen’s house on the Danish side is all that remains.

five years flfi

The Fight to Save Fehmarn Island from Progress

Fehmarn Bridge side view new

Co-produced with sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles

FEHMARN, GERMANY-   Last fall, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles did a segment on the preservation of the Fehmarn Bridge, the first bridge in the world that carries the now popular basket-handle tied arch bridge span. The battle is part of the series where residents of Fehmarn Island are fighting with both the German and Danish governments to stop a project where the Migratory Bird Route, connecting Hamburg and Copenhagen, would be widened- both the highway and the railway. This includes new bridges to replace the Fehmarn Bridge and a tunnel on the opposite end connecting Puttgarden (D) and Rodby (DK). And lastly an industrial areal was planned for the island.  Unfortunately, despite the Areal being blocked earlier this year, the European Union, according to reports from the BBC, has given Denmark the green light to start the construction of the tunnel, by providing 589 million Euros in the next four years for the project.

Yet while the Danes are prepared to start work beginning this fall, residents of the island and the surrounding area along the Baltic Sea coast are up in arms against the project and have started their own initiative to stop the project.

IMG_9607

Tourists and locals have seen the blue X’es popping up in neighborhoods, along highways and beaches and even in the skies between Hamburg and Lübeck and the island itself. The Blue-X Initiative was adopted by the groups Preserve Fehmarn and Beltretter, with the purpose of showing support for preserving the island and stopping the project from taking place. Almost one in every three households have this on their lawns as a way of demonstrating solidarity against the project. And there are many reasons for this initiative:

1. The construction of the tunnel would coincide with the expansion of the highway and rail line going through the island as well as the construction of the new Fehmarn Bridge, resulting in the island becoming a construction site. As small as the island is, and with the economy being dependent almost solely on tourism, analysts predict a loss of up to 800 million Euros (or close to $1 billion) in revenue during the time of the construction because of loss of tourism and commerce, plus additional money to improve the island’s imagery once the project was completed, which could take years to complete.

2. The project would involve a loss of sensitive vegetation and marine life that would be immense and possible irreplaceable. This includes the plan to scrap the underground tunnel similar to the Euro-Tunnel connecting France and Great Britain in favor of one above the sea floor, similar to the Oresund Bridge and Tunnel between Copenhagen and Malmö (Sweden), which could be devastating to marine life alone. The width of the construction area between Puttgarden and Fehmarn Bridge would average approximately five kilometers. The maximum width of the island is only 21.8 kilometers- and this given the size of the land to be 185 squared kilometers!

3. Some discreptancies in the environmental and economic impact surveys conducted by Denmark have resulted in rechecking the figures. Alone with the economic impact survey released in January 2015 led to a debate on the credibility of both the Danish government, the conglomerate spearheading the tunnel initiative Fehmarn A/S, and even the European Union. While both Denmark and the EU claim that the new crossings would produce a revenue of 4-5% of the gross domestic product in the region or approximately 3.48 billion Euros ($5.5 billion), other surveys indicate that the loss of revenue through construction combined with years of recovery, the new crossing would net an annual loss of 6.7 billion Euros ($8.2 billion). For the residents on the island, the risk would be too high to take.

4. While there is a one-track rail line that is suitable for transport between Hamburg and Copenhagen including the time needed to cross via ferry, there is another border crossing at Flensburg and Padborg, where they feature a freeway and a two-track rail line connecting Hamburg with Aarhus with a arm going to Copenhagen via Odense. At the present time, improvements are being made in the Flensburg area to make the crossing more attractive. While the logic behind expanding the line through Fehmarn is there, little do government authorities realize that Fehmarn is a vacation and natural area whose need for a freeway/ two-track crossing on both ends of the island would devastate the natural habitat and impact tourism negatively. In other words, better to go through Flensburg if you wish to stay on the freeway going to Denmark and not stop to go swimming.

IMG_9638

While officials in Denmark are preparing to start building the tunnel from the Rodby end, officials in Germany are in the process of discussing the project with many parties involved. This after the application for the construction of the new Fehmarn Bridge, new freeway and tunnel was submitted to the state ministry of transport. The communities affected will have a meeting in September, followed by the environmental groups, including BeltRetter in November and residents affected by the construction afterwards. The ministry will then review the opinions and information provided by those affected before making their decision- a process that could take up to a year.  Proponents of the project have already received a backing from The German Railways (The Bahn) and German Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt, the former wanting to expand and electrify its rail line to run more ICE-Trains on there.

But with the opposition towards the project crystalizing and spreading beyond the region, problems will most likely excaberbate over the course of two years, especially when the blue X’es sprout up everywhere making the area as blue as possible. Since blue is the sign of clear water, the water people deserve to swim in and marine life to inhabit, it also is a sign of preserving things as they are. With more initiatives coming up and more support pouring in, there is a chance that the project could be stalled further or even scrapped. If this is the case, then there will still be some work to be done with its current infrastructure to keep it up to date, but residents will breathe a sign of relief, for having a mega-highway for the sake of expanding commerce is not necessarily what they want. In fact with all of information on the negative impacts, combined with questions involving the credibility of the sources, this project in the end will do more harm to the region than good. This is something no one is willing to gamble on.

The Flensburg Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles are proud to support the initiative to preserve Fehmarn Island and its places of interest. Both columns will provide you with further updates on the latest involving the project. If you wish to take part in the initiative and want to donate for the right cause, please click on the following links. There you have information on how you can help.

Beltretter

Bewahrt Fehmarn (Preserve Fehmarn)

Comp2Kreuze CompKreuze Unknown-12 Unknown

FF new logo1  &  bhc new logo jpeg

Special thanks to Mirko Kaminski for the use of the photos, as well as Karin Neumann and Hendrick Kerlen for their help in contributing some valuable information for this story.   

Germany Quiz 1: The Answers to the Questions about Schleswig-Holstein

Sheep grazing along the Eider outside Friedrichstadt with the railroad bridge in the background. Photo taken in 2012
Sheep grazing along the Eider outside Friedrichstadt with the railroad bridge in the background. Photo taken in 2012

And now, the moment you have been waiting for, for two weeks: the answers to the questions about the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Going from north to south the Files is providing readers with a guessing quiz on each of the German states as part of the series on Germany at 25. For the northernmost state in Germany, the area is rich in culture and history, which after looking at the answers to the guessing quiz, you will be motivated enough to spend a few weeks up there.

The answer key is only a complement to the guessing quiz which you can access here and print out for you to try on your own, as well as test your family and friends, especially those originally from the region who might need a refersher. However, you are also free to comment on the answers to the guessing quiz, either in the comment section or directly via e-mail, using the contact info available under About the Flensburg Files header page.

So without further ado, here are the answers to the quiz on Schleswig-Holstein:

ANSWERS FROM THE MÄÄHTRIX EXERCISE:

  1. What’s the capital of the state of Schleswig-Holstein

 Answer: Kiel

 

  1. Which of these communities is NOT a community but an island?

Answer: Sylt

Interesting Fact: The Island of Fehmarn is also considered an island featuring several small villages plus the towns of Burg, Burgstaaken and Puttgarden. Yet since 2003, all the communities consolidated to form an Island-Community or City Island. Sylt still remains an island with many small communities run locally by their own governments.

 

  1. List the communities in order from largest to smallest in terms of population.

Kiel (242,000)

Lübeck (210,000)

Flensburg (89,300)

Neumünster (77,000)

Itzehoe (32,700)

Bad Oldesloe (24,100)

Husum (22,200)

Sylt (21,000)

Heide (20,800)

Quickborn (20,200)

Eutin (17,300)

Bad Seegeberg (15,900)

Fehmarn (13,000)

Plön (12,800)

Friedrichstadt (2,400)

 

  1. Which community has the highest concentration of Danish people in Germany?

Answer: Flensburg. Of the ca. 90,000 inhabitants that live in this city, 30% are of Danish descent. No wonder that the city has several Danish schools and stores, mostly in the north and west of Nordermarkt.

 

  1. Which community was established by the Dutch?

Answer: Friedrichstadt. The town was founded by Dutch Protestants in 1643 and is characterized by its houses, canals and even bridges, including its signature double-bascule draw bridge. More on the city’s bridges can be found here through the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.

 

 

  1. Which community is famous for its chalk hills and is the site of Karl May’s Cowboys and Indians Show (a.k.a. Winnetou)?

 Answer: Bad Seegeberg.  Every summer in July, Winnetou and his Native American friends make a stop here to challenge the likes of Buffalo Bill and Kit Carson, just to name a few.

 

  1. You’ll never be a full-fledged international tourist unless you visit this community with its historic city center (a UNESCO site, BTW) and try the world famous marzipan candy. Name this town in Schleswig-Holstein.

 

Answer: Lübeck. More on why you should visit this city to come in the Files. But if you don’t visit this city, you’re touristic criminal. 😉

 

  1. “Moinson!” German actor Axel Prahl, who plays Thiel in the ARD mystery series “Tatort” (Crime Scene in EN) is originally a Schleswig-Holsteiner, originating from which community? (Note: It has a fine castle).

 

 Answer: Eutin, located between Kiel and Lübeck. If you’re not convinced he uses this greeting profusely or if you want to know what he looks like, enjoy this Tatort film below:

Correction: The greeting is spelled “Moins En,” according to local sources.

 

  1. Which two communities have a premere league handball team and what are their official team names? (Hint: The Files has profiled them in many occasions since its inception in 2010)

 

Answer: Flensburg and Kiel.  The official name for Flensburg’s team is the SG Flensburg-Handewitt, featuring the acing albatrosses from two Flensburg handball teams and one from neighboring Handewitt that merged to be one team in 1990. The zebras of THW Kiel have been in the handball business for over 100 years (since  1904) and have been kings of the German and international leagues for over 50 years.

 

  1. Which community is famous for its “Kornschnapps” (EN: grain schnaps)?

Answer: Bad Oldesloe, located between Hamburg and Lübeck.

 

 ANSWERS TO HYBRID QUESTIONS:

 

  1. Which river in Schleswig-Holstein is the longest?

 a. Trave     b. Treene        c. Träne          d. Tine       e. Schwentine      f. Eider

Answer: The Trave. At 124 km in length, the river flows through the eastern part of the state before emptying in the Baltic Sea at Travemünde near Lübeck.     

Note: The Eider River would have been the right answer had it not been for the construction of the Baltic-North Sea Canal. Originally, the river sliced through the state from Tönning to Kiel, thus creating first the border between the Danish and Prussian Kingdoms then later the kingdoms of Schleswig and Holstein. It was 188 km long, however today’s river starts at Rendsburg and continues its route to Tönning, with the total length being cut down to 100 km.

 

  1. How many castles does Schleswig-Holstein have, and can you name two of them? (Hint: Eutin has one so it does not count)

 

Answer: seven. They include ones at Eutin, Ploehn (Plön), Salzau, Gottdorf (near Schleswig), Husum, Ahrendsburg and Glücksburg.

 

  1. The last of the coal-fired steamboat exists in Germany and is still in operation in Flensburg. What’s the name of the ship?

 a. Alexandra     b. Bertha        c. Clara           d. Dora           e. Euphremia    f. Flora

  g. Greta          h. Helena        i. Illonka         j. Johanna

Answer: a. Alexandra. This ship was built in 1908 and still provides tours in the region between Flensburg, Holnis and Kappeln. Rumor has it though that this ship is expected to retire soon.

 

  1. The Kiel Canal (a.k.a. Grand Canal) is a waterway built in 1895 connecting which two cities and their two seas? Schleswig-Holstein is bordered by these two seas.

 

Answer: The Baltic Sea and the North Sea.  Hence the name Baltic-North Sea Canal or in German: Nordostseekanal (NOK)

 

  1. The Grand Canal replaced the canal that followed the Treene River. True or False?

Answer: False. The Grand Canal replaced the Alte Eider Canal, which ran parallel to today’s canal between Kiel and Rendsburg as a canal and as the river Eider from Rendsburg to the mouth of the North Sea at Tönning

 

 

  1. Name two of ten bridges over the Grand Canal. One of whom has received many accolades for its engineering wonder. (Hint: Sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles did a report on this theme)

 

Click here to get the answers. The Rendsburg Bridge is one of the bridges that received several accolades on the national and international level because of its unique bridge design. More on that here.

 

17. Uwe Barschel, a Social Democrat, resigned from his post as prime minister amid a scandal on October 2, 1987. Nine days later, his body was found at a luxury hotel in which city?

 a. Munich  b. Berlin          c. Amsterdam             d. Berne          e. Geneva     f. Vienna

g. Budapest    h. Paris      i. Prague         j. New York

Answer:    e. Geneva   Correction: Barschel was a Christian Democrat, not a Social Democrat, according to locals and the history books.

 

  1. The 1972 Summer Olympics took place in Kiel. True, False, or Naja?

Answer: Naja. While the majority of the events took place in Munich, the yachting portion of the events took place in Kiel.

 

 

  1. Which German cartoon character originated from Schleswig-Holstein?
    1. Die Wilde Kerle (The Wild Boys)
    2. Werner
    3. Wallace and Gromit

 

Answer: b. Werner the wild motorbiker. Interestingly enough, Rötger Hoffmann, the creator of this cartoon character, just recently celebrated his 65th birthday. He founded the series in 1982.

 

  1. Which annual festival in Schleswig-Holstein does NOT exist?
    1. Apple Festival in Glücksburg (near Flensburg)
    2. The International Yacht Festival in Kiel
    3. International Kite-flying Festival in Travemünde (near Lübeck)
    4. Crocus Flower Pagent in Husum
    5. Tulip Festival in Friedrichstadt

 

Answer: e. The Tulip Festival does NOT exist in Friedrichstadt, BUT there is a similar festival some 6,000km away in another Dutch city, Pella (Iowa) in the US.

 

  1. You’re not a true Schleswig-Holsteiner unless you try one of the two local specialties (a.) and a good (b.) beer.

Answer:

a. Sauerfleisch with broiled potatoes OR any delicacies with fish

b. Flensburger beer

 

  1. Fehmarn Island is the flattest island in Germany. True or False?

 Answer: False, but the island is the largest in Germany.

 

  1. The Fehmarn Bridge, built in 1963, was the first bridge in the world to use this design?

Answer: The basket handle tied arch bridge. Since then, many engineers have embraced this design, and another bridge in Schleswig-Holstein will be built at the Levansau crossing using this design.

 

  1. St. Peter-Ording is a popular health span resort namely because of of the discovery of which mineral in a geyser discovered in 1953?
    1. Salt Petroleum  c. Sulphur       d. Nitrate        e. Hydrogen

Answer:  c. sulphur

 

  1. How many universities and colleges exist in Schleswig-Holstein? Can you name two of them?

Answer:  12 

They are:        The University of Kiel

                       The University of Applied Sciences of Kiel

                       The Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts in Kiel

                       The Europe University of Flensburg

                       The Flensburg University of Applied Sciences

                       The Lübeck Academy of Music

                       The University of Lübeck

                       The Lübeck University of Applied Sciences

                       The University of Applied Sciences in Wedel

                       The Pinneberg AKAD

                       The Nordakademie of Elmshorn

                       The Westkuste University of Applied Sciences of Heide

And now after getting acquainted with the first of 16 states in Germany, we will now move on to the second state going south. This is one of three city-states and one that was on the news most recently: Hamburg. More in the next article….

FF 25 Logo

Fehmarn Island Spared from Industrial Areal

burgstaaken
Burgstaaken (Fehmarn) at Sundown. Photo taken in 2014

FF new logo1  FlFiNewsflyer logo

Burg (Fehmarn)-  In the last 20 years, attempts have been made to turn the largest island in Germany, located northeast of Oldenburg in Schleswig-Holstein at the border to Denmark, into an industrial area, especially in the northern half of the island. And since last summer, a petition was made to put the proposal up to vote, which was granted on March 8. The question was whether profits from the new industrial area would make sense or whether it is best to keep the island as is and feed its profits from tourism and environmentalism. In other words, do they want the industry or not.

The majority spoke for the latter- and by an enormous number of votes!

Voters on the 8th voted unanimously to reject the proposal by the conglomerate Baltic FS to establish an industrial area in the northern part of the island with an average vote of two thirds favoring the annullment of the agreement with the firm and less than a third for the agreement. The plan would have allowed companies to establish their facilities on 15 acres of land between Puttgarden and Marienleuchte, which would have resulted in the widening of the Migratory Route (Vogellinie) between Hamburg and Lübeck to the south and Copenhagen in the north.  The majority that voted against the proposal were concerned about the increase in air and noise pollution caused by the establishment of several small firms as well as the subsequential increase in traffic, and that the environmentally sensitive region would sustain significant damage as a result. Proponents of the proposal wanted additional revenue to that coming from the tourism section, which is the main source of income. Yet because of the haste in planning by Baltic FS combined with questions about the affects of the Areal being answered vaguely or even left out, the majority of the residents of Fehmarn voted to cut the cord on the deal. The proposal, according to the news source Fehmarn Heiligenhafen is now on ice for at least two years, but attempts are being made by the Initiative Bewahrt Fehmarn (Preserve Fehmarn) to ensure that the Areal plan is off the table for good, together with the widening of the Vogellinie route and with that, a new bridge over the Fehmarn Sound to the south west of Burgstaaken and a new tunnel to the north at Puttgarden. Should this plan be successful, it is most likely that the Areal may be scrapped or even relocated. The Danish town of Rodby in Lolland may be the best place for the district, if the latter is proposed, given its strategic location.

 

Fehmarn Tunnel and Bridge on Ice?

In addition to the good news regarding the Areal, work on the Fehmarn Tunnel between Puttgarden and Rodby (Denmark) as well as the proposal for building a new Fehmarn Bridge between Burgstaaken and mainland Germany has been stalled for political reasons. According to sources from the Lübecker Nachricht newspaper as well as from the Initiative Bewarht Fehmarn, work on the new 18-kilometer long tunnel will most likely start in 2018 with the completion being in 2024. This will be three years later than scheduled. Reason for the delay is the debate on the future of the Fehmarn Bridge on the south end. According to an article produced by sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, the 1963 basket-weave tied arch bridge was the very first bridge of its kind built, setting the stage for several more similar structures that have been built since then and three more to be built in the next five years; one of which is the Levansau Bridge west of Kiel. The German Railways (Die Bahn), owners of the bridge, wants two new bridges- one for railway traffic and one for the motorway and relieve its duties in maintaining the bridge- possibly even tearing it down. Residents are against the proposal for the bridge as it is one of the main icons of the island, plus it would mean residents losing acres of land and pollution setting in from an increase in traffic. While the tunnel proposal is on the table, it has not been etched in stone due to opposition and costs for the project, which politicians in Berlin are debating. While the bridge is expected to handle traffic for another 30 years at the most, according to sources, work is underway to determine what needs to be done with the bridge to prolong its life further, while at the same time ensure that the island does not witness an increase in volume of traffic through the tunnel or three-bridge solution and with that, the conversion of the two-lane road into a motorway, something the majority of residents are opposed to.

More on the Fehmarn Bridge you’ll find via Bridgehunter’s Chronicles by clicking on the logo below:

bhc new logo jpeg

The Flensburg Files and its sister column will keep you informed on the developments in the Fehmarn Region. Yet the Initiative Bewahrt Fehmarn needs your help and support. For more on how to help, please go to their facebook page and contact the people involved to see how you can help.