The New Traffic Penal Code in Germany: It will cost you more for your actions!

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In the past 10 years, we have seen an exponential increase in the number of cars and bicycles on German roads and highways. And with them, we have lawless behavior, whether it was speeding and distracted driving or it was using the rescue lane as a driving lane and hindering crews in the process. There’s also passing in a no passing zone and disregarding the handicapped and those with E-cars in parking areas. We must also not forget the profanity and lewd language from the drivers onto the police officers and/or other drivers, which has caused a lot of stress on both sides.

Since 9 November 2021, if one does one of more of the above-mentioned examples, it will cost the person dearly. The new traffic laws catalogue (Bußgeldkatalog) is now in place and if one violates the traffic laws, one has to dig much deeper to pay up. In addition to that, it will be much easier to get a point or two from the German Department of Vehicle Registration (BKA) in Flensburg for each violation and the chances of getting a ban from driving is greater. Basically, the new catalogue will cause extensive pain to the driver while at the same time, provide painful lessons for the ages with the goal of bringing driving behavior back to levels where people should drive professionally and be courteous to others.

Some examples of what the new catalogue introduces for measures for driver violations include the following:

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Speeding:

For the most part, the fines have doubled for those who are caught speeding. For example, if you drive 10 km/h or less in town, instead of 20 Euros, the fine is 40 Euros. Between 11 and 15km/h, it’s 60 Euros and one can get a point from 16 km/h onwards. Two points are received if a person goes 26 km/h or more too fast and have to pay 235 Euros or more.  In the countryside, it’s 30 Euros for up to 10, 50 Euros for 11-15 km/h and 70 Euros for speeds up to 20 km/h. One point rule remains in effect for speeds between 21 and 30 km/h too fast but a 1-month driving ban is enforced if a driver goes 26 km/h or more too fast.  Fines for speeding can go as high as 800 Euros, up 120 Euros from the maximum fine in the old catalogue

More on the speeding catalogue here:  https://www.bussgeldkatalog.org/geschwindigkeitsueberschreitung/

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Parking:

The sharpest increase in fines happen to be for parking violations. Instead of 15 Euros for parking in a no parking zone, the fine for this violation is now 110 Euros. One has to remember: Red ring with one slash means a three-minute stopping period but a red ring with the X means absolutely no parking or stopping. For parking in a handicapped zone as well as a reserved spaces for E-cars and car-sharing, the fine for such violations is 55 Euros, up 20 from the last catalogue.

More on the parking catalogue here: https://www.bussgeldkatalog.org/halten-parken/

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Red Light Violation:

Regardless of how many seconds you go through the red light and which vehicle, going through the red light has become a costly factor for not only costs but also the driving bans have gone up. For the time span of up to one second the fine is 90 Euros and 1 point. When even having a close call with other drivers, one can face fines of more than 200 Euros, receive two points and be banned from driving for 1 month.  If the red light was for longer than a second, the driver could face a one month ban and 200 Euros even if he/she didn’t cause an accident or force cars to stop to avoid one.  For cyclists who commited the red light violation, regardless of how many seconds, the fine has nearly doubled to 100 Euros and 1 point. Previously, it had been 60 Euros and a point.

More on the Red Light Violation here:  https://www.bussgeldkatalog.org/rote-ampel/

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Profanity and Vulgar Language:

While driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs has considerably one of the stiffest penalties, which includes the loss of license and possible jail time, the use of profanity and insulting police officers and other passers-by definitely can be considered a crime and can cost a person dearly both in the pocket books as well as in court. The least expensive penalty is 150 Euros for sticking out the tongue. However, the use of certain degrading words can range from 200 Euros for calling someone a “Girl” (Du Mädchen), to 1500 Euros for calling someone an “Idiot.” Call someone an “A**hole”, it’s 1600 Euros. If you consider a police officer an “Old sow” (Altes Sow), you can face a penalty of 2500 Euros.  Even hand gestures can cost a person in the thousands. The classic index finger to the forehead (der Vogel) can cost you 750 Euros. The hand-windschield-wider across the forehead (Scheibenwischer-Geste) can lead to a 1000 Euro fine. The middle finger is the costliest of penalties. You flip the bird, you can expect a fine of 4000 Euros!  Furthermore, a date with the judge and possible jail time for one year can be in store.  Because of the increase in insults and assaults on police officers within the past five years, such penalties are necessary and serve as notice to drivers to behave themselves in a professional manner. As one person mentioned: Money is the most painful punishment you can impose.

More on the Penalties involving Profanity, Vulgar Language and Illegal Gestures can be found here:

https://www.bussgeldkatalog.org/beleidigung-im-strassenverkehr/

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New, stiffer penalties also include 320 Euros fine, one month driving ban and 2 points from Flensburg for driving in and/or blocking the rescue lanes during an accident. One can get a point and a fine between 60 and 120 Euros for driving with the wrong set of tires. And for cyclists and E-scooters, using the sidewalk and pedestrian paths and getting caught means at least 55 Euros. Distracted driving, which includes texting/phoning while driving is one of a few that have remained the same. Those caught can receive 1 point and a fine of at least 100 Euros.

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While the stiffer penalties are designed to rein in driver misbehavior on German roads, there has been criticism to the plan, which includes not introducing the speed limit on German motorways. Germany is the only EU-country that has no such limit, while other countries have that in force, mostly between 120 and 140 km/h. In America, speed limits on Interstate highways are between 70 mph and 85 mph. Some experts fear that the penalties are not dependent on the income of those affected and stiff penalties could ruin one’s finances for those with lower incomes, and be treated as a tip by the “super rich.”  Nevertheless, the police unions have welcomed the new plan which clarifies how to penalize someone for exact violations. Especially for verbal and gestural behaviors are being stressed because of the treatment of police officers by those violating the rules.  While policing is a hard job, it makes it harder when someone ignores the other persons and endangers them.

If there is a slogan for the new penal catalogue that is now in place, it is this: “Behave Yourself or Lose Your Car, Your Money and even Your Freedom.”  After years of “me and me too,” it’s time to look after the other person and simply be nice.  That is the plea from all parties involved from patrolmen to politicians, to the common people.

Details of the new guide can be found here:  https://www.bussgeldkatalog.org/neuer-bussgeldkatalog-2021/

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Genre of the Week: The Collini Case

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On May 24, 1968, the West German government passed a resolution calling for the partial exoneration of much of its population for their roles during the era of Adolf Hitler which lasted from 1933 until Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 7, 1945, thus ending World War II in the European theater. The Act, known as the Einführungsgesetz zum Gesetz über Ordnungswidrigkeiten (EGOWiG), called for all crimes committed against humanity to either be considered a minor offence or dismissed altogether. The argument for the EGOWiG was that these crimes happened over two decades ago and that the statue of limitations would have long since expired. The enactment of EGOWiG sparked an outrage among the population, whose wounds caused by the oppression of the Hitler Regime and the subsequent result of World War II, had not been healed.  Half of the population saw the “Verharmlosung” (playing down) of the crimes to be heinous- on par with the crimes against humanity already carried out through the Holocaust. The other half saw EGOWiG as an attempt to close the book on Germany’s dark past and to allow the people to move on with their lives, even those who had active involvement during the Third Reich and were scarred as a result. 

EGOWiG remained in force until November 30, 2007, and even though the government claimed that it was not valid for use anymore, prosecutors and activists continued pursuing the remaining living people of that time, who were involved with the atrocities. The purpose was to bring their crimes to light and help the population remember the atrocities and ensure they never happen again. The trial of a 100-year old concentration camp worker scheduled to take place this year may be the last of a string of trials and convictions which started with John Demjanjuk’s trial and guilty verdict in 2011.

EGOWiG was the focus of a combination of a novel and a film that one should see and even talk about. The Collini Case was a novel written by Ferdinand von Schirach in 2011. The plot of the story was set in Berlin, where a retired person of Italian descent, named Collini, stormed a company owned by Jean-Baptiste Meyer and shot him three times at point blank range, killing him instantly. He then turned himself in when police arrived at the crime scene. He was represented by the defense lawyer Caspar Leinen. After not being able to meet halfway even in terms of communication, Leinen, who is the protagonist in the story, goes to Collini’s hometown of Montecatini in Italy, where the lawyer finds out the horrifying truth behind the killer’s motives. Leinen gets help from his father, who researches the atrocities committed during the Nazi occupation, and a woman named Nina, who is a student of business and Italian.

It was revealed that Meyer was a Nazi commandant who stormed an Italian town seeking revenge for the murders of two of his comrades. Using the 10 to two ratio, he ordered the execution of 20 of the townsmen, including Collini’s father, which Collini himself was forced by Meyer to watch the execution. The incident was one of many committed by the Nazis during its two-year occupation of Italy, where nearly 100,000 citizens of different social and ethnic backgrounds lost their lives. Attempts to bring Meyer to court by Collini and his sister failed in 1968. Then he remained silent until his sister’s death in 2001, the year of the story setting, where he committed his act of revenge on Meyer.

The story has a lot of twists and turns which started off with some memories of Leinen, when Meyer himself took him in for adoption when he was a child. Then there were memories of him and his close friend Johanna, who was Meyer’s granddaughter, whom Meyer himself parented when she lost both her parents and brother in a car accident in 1991, yet it becomes strained when Leinen represented Collini in the court case and pushed to the breaking point when she learned of the crimes her grandfather had committed while Leinen presented the facts. What led to the exultation of the defendant was the testimony of the prosecutor, whom Leinen questioned about his involvement in the EGOWiG ruling in 1968. The prosecutor, who was close to retirement, had played the role of the antagonist and tried very hard to bring Collini to justice and keep the EGOWiG a permanent secret, something that he failed in the end.

The novel was converted to a film by written by Christian Zübert, Robert Gold, and Jens-Frederik Otto, and was directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner. Released in 2019, the film starred Elyas M’Barek, who had previously starred in the Fack ju Göthe trilogy as well as voiced the German version of Paddington Bear. Collini was played by Franco Nero. The film has been nominated for accolades in both Germany as well as in Isreal but has won just the Haugesund Filmfestival Award in 2020. Still, after watching the entire film in its entirety, it will likely receive more accolades for its work, especially as it features historic fiction with a story based on events that happened in the past.

Events like that of the EGOWiG. The film and the novel is important for much of the attempts to sweep the tragedies under the rug still exist to this day. We don’t need to look further than the incident in Washington, DC on January 6th of this year, when outgoing US President Donald Trump marched onto the Capitol demanding that the votes from the November 6th Elections be overturned, only to watch thousands of his followers storm onto the grounds and into the building in what is now called the Insurrection.  These events drew stark parallels to the burning of the Reichtstag Building in Berlin in 1932, prior to Hitler’s rise to power. But attempts on the part of Trump’s supporters to turn a blind eye at the expense of those who defended the Capitol, let alone those who want to get down to the bottom of the incident has the same pattern as when Germany tried to exonerate those involved as a Nazi during Hitler’s regime with the EGOWiG. Still, like the Collini Case shows, no matter how hard a person tries to ignore it, or even cover it up, the constant variable that always prevail is justice. The truth will always be uncovered and justice will be served, no matter how and no matter the consequences. And even when Collini was at peace when the ECOWiG was exposed in the court trial towards the end, justice did have its consequences both affecting the past as well as the present.

The question that is left from this review is what happens when such exposures like this one in the novel and film, affects the future, in terms of friendships, careers and the like. This depends on how the affected are able or even willing embrace this new discovery. As a general rule, such discoveries bring out the real characters in a person. There are those who are willing to get it over with and be at peace. There are those who are not willing to hear it and want to continue as is.  The Collini Case provides us with this food for thought: Actions impact the future of the person who committed it. What was done in the past will be uncovered in the future.

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A Tribute to Aschenbrödel (Cinderella)

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Every year at Christmas, families in Europe take a couple hours to watch a classic fairy tale, based loosely on the works of the Grimm Brothers. Three Wishes (or Nuts or Gifts) for Cinderella (Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel) was a film jointly produced by East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Released in 1973, the plot of the film runs similar to the original works of Cinderella that has been produced in many versions, each having a different place of scenery. In this case, the main character finds three hazelnuts and wishes for different attire to attract and capture the love of a prince. Much of the film took place in the winter time and in a village in the forest, with the prince having his home in the castle, with a laid-back queen and a traditionally oriented but also understandable king. To give you an idea what the film looks like:

Much of the filming took place in the forests of Bohemia in Czechoslovakia, yet the Moritzburg Castle near Dresden was used for the festivities of the royalty. The castle has hosted an exhibit dedicated to this film at Christmas time.

The film marked the rise of a Czech star, whom we’re paying tribute to in this post. Libuše Šafránková was 20 years old when she accepted the offer to play the main character. She was a young, beautiful woman with a promising future in show business. She had joined the Prague Theater club in 1972 after having grown up in Brno (Brunn). After actress Jana Preissová had declined the role due to pregnancy, Šafránková accepted the role of the shy but clever character, who endured ridicule of her step-mother and sister, but found a beautiful prince and lured him through riddles and trifles- that is until the shoe fit and the main character won her prize. Šafránková provided the character with one with an open heart despite being underappreciated, opportunities to thwart her step-sister’s attempts to win the prince despite the oppression endured, and some trickeries and laughs despite being looked down upon by her adversaries.  Her character made her a star for Czechoslovakia and East Germany as the film debuted on both sides of the German border. After the film was released in Czechoslovakia in 1973, it debuted in East Germany the following March; in West Germany nine months later, and by 1976, the film became an international hit in Europe, Canada and the USA.

Šafránková became the face of Czechoslovakia, having starred in as many as 24 films in the next 20 years until the Velvet Divorce between the Czechs and the Slovaks in 1993. It included two more films that starred her and the prince from the 1973 film, Pavel Trávníček entitled the Salt Prince and the Third Prince, both released in 1982. The Prince and the Evening Star (1979) and My Sweet Little Village (1985) belonged to her bests.  She won the Czech Lion Award for one film in 1996 and the Star of my Heart Award in 2008 for her work.

Šafránková married fellow actor Josef Abrhám and withdrew from the stage beginning in the 1990s to have a family of her own. Together they had one son. Her last film was in 2013. On June 9, 2021, Šafránková died as a result of lung cancer, the illness she had fought for a decade, resulting in losing 20% of her lungs through operations and treatment. She was 68. Her passing has been a shock to both Czechia and Germany because of her popularity as an actress as well as a person. When people talk about her, the first film that will come to mind is the first one she starred in, the one where she played Aschenbrödel who rose from adversity and used her beauty and wit to win the heart of her big love, the prince. It’s not only the film that made her a celebrity, it’s a film which provides hope during a season that is of perpetual hope, which is Christmas. Three Wishes for Cinderella is one of the films that is a must-see during the holidays, and this holiday season will be even more special because the film will honor that girl who found her way to a boy’s heart.

And this kind of love makes a person a legend.  Rest in Peace, Aschenbrödel. We love you too. ❤

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Germany goes into Hardest Lockdown yet over Easter

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Merkel and the state ministers agree to measures after a 15-hour, emotionally charged conference.

Five-day complete shutdown over Easter planned

BERLIN- Fifteen hours, highly charged emotions from multiple sides, multiple long breaks and what Bavarian minister Markus Söder calls a hard, difficult birth. Businesses, especially in the hotel and restaurant sector  bank on hope for customers over Easter. Parents hope that their children will soon go to school. Families hope to travel to see relatives and friends. Sadly, the Corona Virus does not pause on the holidays and especially the British mutated version 1.1.17 is infecting the younger population at a rate that is twice as fast as the original virus on the elderly.

Therefore, the toughest measures to combat the virus yet is going into effect. Aside from the fact that Germany has extended its lockdown to April 18, guidelines at Easter will turn Germany into a ghost town, with empty highways and streets and market squares being occupied by doves and pigeons instead of people and produce stands. There will be a mandatory five-day shutdown of all elements of life in the country. From April 1 to April 5, all businesses will be forced to shut down operations. Restaurants with outdoor dining will be closed during that time. Even in the supermarkets and gas stations they will be allowed to open only on Easter Saturday. The rest of the time they will stay shut. Gatherings at public places will be banned. And family gatherings are reduced to households with a maximum of five persons, minus children aged 14 years and younger. Churches will be asked to hold virtual Easter Sunday services.

And despite pleas from the northern states (Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Pommerania and Lower Saxony) to allow for overnight stays for guests travelling inland, all hotels and restaurants will remain closed to tourists during Easter and through April 18th.  Travelling will be considered unwelcomed and those traveling in foreign countries will be forced to go into quarantine for 10 days for areas not high risk and 14 days for areas that are high risks. This is in response to the sharp increase of travelers going to Mallorca in the past week.

These guidelines are the toughest ones that have been put into force since the start of the Corona pandemic in March of last year. But it sends a clear message to the population that the virus is a serious issue and one that must be paided attention to, closely. In the past month, there have been numerous protests in almost every city with more than 10,000 inhabitants throughout the country, demanding that the Corona lockdown be lifted, businesses be reopened, children be sent to schools and there is a return to normalcy. This included the latest protests in Kassel, Berlin and Dresden involving tens of thousands of demonstrators, many of them not wearing masks and disobeying Corona guidelines. 

There has been pressure on the German government in Berlin and especially Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state ministers from not only within the political party of the Grand Coalition of the CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats, but also from the Greens, AfD, the Leftist Party Linke, and especially the FDP and its chairperson Christian Lindner, who recently challenged Merkel to make a pledge to have the majority of the population innoculated before the summer break, using US President Joe Biden’s campaign to have most of the Americans vaccinated before the July 4th celebrations.  Yet with the delay in having tests available for use and the delay in vaccinations, frustrations are brewing and there have even been calls for Germany to deviate from the course of the European Union and go it alone, like it is being done in Hungary.

Still, with the seven-day incidence rate skyrocking on a daily basis, together with the number of new infections, and the sharp decrease in the number of intensive beds available, the measures are necessary to break the third wave, something Germany is right in the middle of. The current incidence rate is 108.7 per 100,000, up from 83 a week ago and from 60, two and a half weeks ago when the government introduced the limited openings on March 3rd which included the Click and Meet strategy, where shopping was allowed with an appointment and the emergency brake was applied if the incident rate is over 100 in a seven-day timespan. The number of new infections have increased by 35% in the past week, ranking Germany in the top five together with France, Brazil and India. Similar percentage rates can be found in the number of intensive station beds in hospitals nationwide.  And with these new measures, it is hoped that the general population will come to their senses and understand the severity of the new Corona variant that is effectively wreaking havoc on the younger populations, including school children. Furthermore it should serve as an incentive to save traveling until the summer, where it is hoped that the rates will decrease to a point where restrictions are eased up, while at the same time, half the population will have received at least their first Covid-19 shot.

Still, this will not be the last total shutdown due to the Corona pandemic. Researchers have revealed that there are hundreds of new Corona variants discovered, several of which are capable of adapting to the immune system including those who are vaccinated against the virus itself. Already known are the British, South African and Brazilian variants, but there are several more that will be more dangerous than the one Germany and the rest of Europe are fighting at present.  It is highly expected that Covid-19 will be part of normal life and with that, we will have to introduce long-term solutions to the pandemic. There will never be a return to the pre-Corona normalcy like many are wishing for, but there will be more of these pandemic restrictions, such as limited crowds at markets as well as sports and cultural events, click and meet concepts for shopping, daily virus testing and total shutdowns. It’s a question of how this can and will be integrated into the societal landscape.

And this will lie in the responsibility of the next governmental coalition in Berlin once Angela Merkel retires from politics after the September 22nd elections. And that in itself will feature new faces with new ideas on how to get the country running in a new corona society.

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From the Attic: The first episode of Mouse TV (Sendung mit der Maus)

The Orange Mouse at the entrance to the WDR Studios in Cologne. Source: User Bodoklecksel on de.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

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March 7th marks the 50th anniversary of Germany’s beloved Orange Mouse. On March 7th, 1971, the very first episode of „Die Sendung mit der Maus,“ made its debut on TV through the channel WDR. Many of us have been used to watching the modern version with the Mouse, Elephant and the Duck, yet when the series started, not only was the title different but also a lot of other things. Have a look and find out what is different between the very first episode and the episodes that we have been watching on TV, many of which you can find in the following links:

First Episode:

Links:

Mouse TV: https://www.wdrmaus.de/

KIKA (Kinderkanal): https://www.kika.de/sendungen/index.html

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Jogi Calls It Quits

Head Coach of the German Soccer National Team to resign after the European Cup.

BERLIN/ FRANKFURT(MAIN)- „I’m knowingly taking this step with pride, thankfulness and with full continuous motivation as far as the European Cup is concerned.“  This was the statement of Joachim Löwe, the head coach of the German National Soccer Team as he announced to the German Soccer Federation DFB today that he is stepping down after the European Cup. The Cup is scheduled to take place from 11 June to 11 July 2021 in several European cities, and it will mark the 60th anniversary of the event. After 17 years at the helm, the 61-year old is leaving but not without taking one last shot at a tournament title.

Löwe started as an assistant coach for the team in 2004 when Jürgen Klinsmann was head coach, but was promoted to the position in 2006 when Klinsmann resigned from his position. From that point on until the present, Löwe coached a talented group of players which included Sebastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Robert Lewandowski, Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neubert and Robert Müller, just to name a few.

The highlights of Löwe’s career include a 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup Championship, bronze medal in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the Creme de la creme: the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which included a 7-1 pasting of the host team in the semi-finals, followed by a 1-0 victory over Argentina to seal the deal with the gold medal.

Since bowing out of the first round of the World Cup in 2018, Germany has not fared well in international competition which included an embarassing 6-0 loss to Spain in November 2020, its worst loss since 1931 and one which stoked calls for his resignation.

Still, Löwe has plans to leave the team with a bang and hopes to put the devil to sleep by winning the European Cup, but Germany will have Hungary, Portugal and France to contend with in Group F of the first round of play. Nevertheless, many like Julian Nagelsmann, head coach of RB Leipzig, believe that because of his impact he has had for soccer, that he will be successful. „I hope this will be a glorious send-off,“ he stated in an interview with MDR.  Should Löwe win the cup, it will mark the only time a German coach won each international tournament at least one time, and this in addition to the record he will leave behind, namely:

219 wins, 93 losses and 86 ties in 25 years as soccer head coach in general, of which 120 wins, 31 losses and 38 ties come from his time as the head coach of the German national team……

………and still counting between now and July when he steps down for good. To Jogi’s 11: best of luck and let’s do this! 🙂

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Christmas Market Tour: Werdau (Saxony)

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Author’s Note: This tour was taken in December 2019

There is an old saying: In a small town, creativity runs wild. Small towns don’t have the luxury of all the “good stuff” that big cities have, such as sports venues, places of entertainment, shopping malls and all. If you live in a small town, you make do with the limited resources you have. Sometimes when having that, you can be creative in making something that is either functional, fancy or both.

And this was something I learned during a brief stop in the town of Werdau. The small town of 23,400 inhabitants is located along the River Pleisse in the western part of Saxony. It’s the next door neighbor to Zwickau, yet it is located at the junction of two of the oldest rail lines in Germany: The Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate and the Leipzig-Hof-Munich lines, both of which are almost 180 years old. The town has four viaducts that are located either west or south of the city center. The city center itself consists of a straight line of a wide street, flanked by many historic buildings, such as the city hall, bank and St. Mary’s Church. The historic fountain is found on the southern end of the strip, which runs from Querstrasse in the south and Brühl in the north, where Highway 175 is located.

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It’s along this stretch of street is where the Christmas market is located. Each side of the street is lined with huts made of oak with the stage for entertainment on the left, as seen in this picture. The tree is located at the fountain and behind that is Santa’s house, where kids could enter and leave him their wish lists. The fountain is decorated as an Advent Wreath with four lanterns, each one represents the week of Advent, though during the visit the lanterns were shut off, even though it was during the time of the Third Advent.

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Up until 2018, Werdau’s market was held for only one Advent weekend and for a few hours on Sunday. Yet public demand called for the market to be held during the time of Advent from November 28th until December 22nd, to compete with the likes of the ones in the regions, including Zwickau, Crimmitschau, Schneeberg and even Glauchau/ Waldenburg. As you can see in the pictures, the market is well received by the visitors, though parking possibilities in and around the city center, given the infrastructural landscape of Werdau, could use some improvement for with the car, the possibilities are limited, yet with the bike and by foot, they are all within a three-minute reach.

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Werdau’s market offers local specialties that are typical for the state of Saxony, yet one hut caught my eye which sold handmade goods, and it is the one of the Sonnenberg Schule. The school is a state-accredited institute and is a special school for students with developmental disabilities, The school is open for these students between the ages of four and 23. I was at the hut and found a wide array of handcrafted Christmas items, renging from bottle lanterns to ornaments made of nuts, clay and wood.

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One of the items that caught my eye was the Guardian Angel (Schutzengel), as you can see in the box on the right side in the picture above. These angels are made with clay and are easy to make. It depends on what type of clay you have, let alone whether you need to “bake them in the oven”

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Judging by the appearance, one needs to make a flat circle out of the clay, then slice the circle halfway through. Fold the pointed edges outwards and the center of the circle inwards. Then, as you can see in the close-up, extend the curve outwards to make it look like the angel is wearing a dress. The head can be added extra by rolling a small ball and placing it on top like in the picture. Paint, glaze and bake and voila! 🙂 The exact way it was made is unknown but these Werdauer Angels made for a very unique gift, with or even without facial features and other accessories. For the Sonnenberg School, this was a cool gift and one that I eventually bought for my daughter for she collects angels. A simple but lovely gift indeed.

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After about a half hour or so, it was time to leave. But if there was a word to describe Werdau’s Christmas Market it would be that it’s local and full of Werdauer Angels bringing people together. While some improvements are recommended, the town’s market left a very lasting impression because of its setting, the Christmassy feeling shown among locals and the homemade goodies that you can get the last minute and even recommend making at home if and when one has the chance to do that. And for that, my word of advice to the smaller communities that hold Christmas markets in the future:

Make it local, make it unique, make it fancy but be creative, for creativity trumps all, especially for Christmas time.

More photos of my visit can be found here.

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Happy Holidays!

Fehmarn Belt Tunnel to be Built

East of the Fehmarn Bridge. At this spot is where a new bridge would be built but at the expense of the nearby shipping dock and a road going to Strutkamp

German Federal Court rules in favor of multi-billion Euro project; Construction may begin.

LEIPZIG/ FEHMARN/ FLENSBURG- It’s supposed to be the longest tunnel in Europe, at 18 kilometers (11.3 miles), carrying train and vehicular traffic. Instead of bottlenecks going through Fehmarn Island and a 45-minute ferry ride between Puttgarden and Rodby, the trip would be 10 minutes. The time from Hamburg to Copenhagen reduced from five hours to only three.  Yet the project has been an eyesore and a platform for hefty debates for over a decade between those favoring the project and those opposing it. Their arguments: noise pollution due to a high increase in traffic, irreversal damage to the reefs in the Belt region between the Danish island of Lolland and Fehmarn, and the endangerment of porpoise, and financial ruin due to construction.

Now the German Federal Court has decided: The Tunnel can be built.  The ruling happened in Leipzig today, putting the decade long battle to a permanent end. The argument was that the contract between Denmark and Germany was signed in 2008 and ratified a year later. Denmark has already received the green light to build the tunnel since 2015 and will bear the majority of the cost- namely, 7.1 billion Euros- for building the mammouth structure that will run below the sea floor and will feature two parallel tunnels- one for vehicular traffic and one fort rain traffic. Germany will cover 3.1 billion in costs for rail tracks and for widening the highway. According to the court, the contract cannot be rescinded.

With the green light to replace the Fehmarn Bridge on the south end of the island, the plan to complete the entire stretch of the Motorway 1 from Hamburg to Copenhagen will be realized. Currently, only a 15 kilometer stretch of non-freeway route exists between Oldenburg on the main land and Puttgarden on the island, minus the ferry route, all of it is two-lanes with only one exit and one half-exit going to Burg, the largest community on Fehmarn Island.

Once a one-track route, the construction of the tunnel on both ends of Fehmarn Island will allow for the expansion of the rail line between Lübeck and Fehmarn to allow for two tracks to run along the Baltic Sea coast. Currently, only the line between Lübeck and Hamburg as well as from Ringsted to Copenhagen are electrified; the rest of the route- Ringsted to Rodby and Lübeck to Fehmarn require diesel locomotives to operate. Since December 2019, no train ferries between Puttgarden and Rodby have operated resulting in long-distance trains to detour via Neumünster, Flensburg, Pattburg and Kolding (Denmark), while regional trains end in Burg on Fehmarn Island. It is hoped that regional trains will use the new route and the route to Fehmarn will remain in use.

Strutkamp, located next to the Migratory Route and 1 km north of Fehmarn Bridge. This village would be a memory if a new bridge is built to replace the 1963 span.

The entire project, with tunnels connecting Fehmarn with Denmark and the German mainland, a motorway with four lanes and rail lines to accommodate regional and long-distance train services is expected to be completed by 2029. Already Denmark has marched ahead with its end of the tunnel. With Leipzig’s ruling, construction will begin on the German side for the Belt Tunnel project. It is hoped that noise barriers and mitigation of flora and fauna will be considered during this venture, considered the most expensive in Europe as of yet.

If there is one consolation, the Fehmarn Bridge, connecting the island with the German mainland, will remain as is, once the German tunnel is completed. Built in 1963, the world’s first basket weave tied arch bridge was rehabilitated in 2019 with the plan of leaving it open for local traffic, including cyclists and pedestrians. It’s considered not only the icon for Fehmarn and for the state of Schleswig-Holstein, but also for bridge engineering, as it’s being used as a model for other bridges of its kind that are either being built or will be built in the near future. This includes the Levansau Bridge near Kiel, spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal. The replacement is scheduled to be built come 2021.

Mystery Place: Comedy Square in Harrislee

City center of Harrislee. Photos taken in August 2020

The next mystery place takes us north- way up north to the northernmost town in Germany. Located just west of Flensburg with the Westtangente Highway (Highway B-200) separating the two cities, Harrislee has a population of 11,500 inhabitants and is located right at the border with Denmark. The city includes several small villages including those along the Flensburg Fjorde: Kupfermühle, Zollsiedlung and Wassersleben. Niehuus and Karlsberg are located north of the city at the border, with the former located in the Tunneltal (Tunnel Valley) along the Krusau River which empties at the Fjorde by the Bridge of Friendship at Wassersleben.  Two vehicle border crossings at Pattburg and Krusau as well as two pedestrian border crossings at Wassersleben and Zollsiedlung are known to exist.

Sunrise at the Fjorde in Wassersleben, part of Harrislee

The architecture of Harrislee is primarily modern with many brick houses that can be found in the city, yet the city is over 700 years old. It was first mentioned in 1345 and was once part of Flensburg, yet since 1971, it has become an independent community which later became part of the district Schleswig-Flensburg in 1974. Some historic places that exist in and around Harrislee pays tribute to the German and Danish culture that has remained largely unaffected by the changes in time, including the creation of the German-Danish border and World War II, where the city escaped most of the damages caused by arial raids; its eastern neighbor Flensburg took the brunt of the bombings albeit not as destructive as the ones that destroyed Hamburg, Berlin and even Dresden.  Such places worth visiting including the German House (Bürgerhaus), the Kupfermühle Complex- now a museum, Langbetten von Harrislee, the Meilenstein Stone at the Central School, and the Danish Church.

Then there is the Market Square in Harrislee, at Süderstrasse and Am Markt.  While the number of businesses are few in comparison with Flensburg, the market square is active with many people passing through, stopping for a coffee or dinner at one of a half dozen eateries in the city. The Square hosts many local markets and its Christmas market, which offers many handcrafted goods that are typical oft he region. As spacious as the place is, it can be comparable to some of the larger market squares that host Christmas markets, be it Gedarmenmarkt in Berlin, the Striezelmarkt in Dresden or the market in the Old Town in Nuremberg. 

Yet at this Market Square we have a mystery to solve and it has to do with comedy. At the corner of Süderstrasse and Am Markt, there is a series of flags carrying the colors of Harrislee, but at the foot of the pedestal is a group of statues of figures- all of them are laughing! Regardless of their outfit or even their age and appearance, each statue, made of metal, depicts a person that is laughiing- some rather hysterically.  Each one can be interpreted differently, just by taking a look at the figure.  The question is: „What are they laughing about?“

My question is who was behind the statues, when was it created and what was the motive behind this interesting work of art?  The reason behind that is there was no plaque that explained about the statue. Furthermore, there was no information on it in the history books. Given the appearance of the market square and the houses surrounding it, it appears that they may have been placed there during the 1970s or 80s because of the age that is appearing in some of the structural elements.

Yet, I may be wrong about this and therefore, I would like to know from you how this collection made its way to Harrislee’s city center. Tell us about it, either through social media or in the comment section below. I look forward to your stories.

For now, have a look at the gallery and feel free to comment on them- interpreting their faces and lastly:

What are they laughing about?  This one I don’t know except possibly a Dinner For One show they cracked up on and the famous comment:

„The same procedure as every year.“ 😉

New Penalty Catalog in Germany: Protecting Bikes and Scooters; No Pardons for Speeders and Fishtailers; No Mercy for the Novices

asphalt auto autobahn automobile
Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

FLENSBURG- If there is one adjective to describe the new Penalty Catalog (Bußgeldkatalog), in force since April 28th, it would be this: environmentally friendly. This is because the catalog provides more protection for cyclists and those who currently use the newest form of transportation, the E-scooter.  For drivers wishing to get a photo with a gatsometer, it will be more costly, especially if it includes a one month timeout for going 75 km/h in a 50 Zone in the city.  For novice drivers on probation, who are caught drinking and driving, they get more than just a speeder from a cop on duty. And those who are high on a Mickey (Finn) as a driver and endangers other road-users can face time behind bars guarded by Mickeys and possibly, lose his driver’s license.

bikes in winter

The new Penalty Catalog is based on a growing trend that law enforcement officials have seen on German highways within the last two years. Some were considered positive with the introduction of E-scooters and the expanded use of the bicycle. In 2018 alone, as many as 9.3% of German residents bike to work on a daily basis. Another 18.2% of people bike several days a week, and the trend is growing. With that trend comes the pursuit of new paths and additional lanes on many highways and streets to accommodate them. At the same time though, many motorists are frustrated with the fact that more cyclists and scooters are sharing the road, resulting in an increase in the number of accidents with the bike. Last year alone, the number of bike fatalities was the highest ever since 2010 with 158 deaths reported during the first half of the year, alone. Two thirds came from the involvement with the car.  The new laws that are in place are more structured to show how the car and the bike can share the road. At the same time, they will protect both the biker and the scooterist from getting hit by a motorist.

autobahn freeway highway lights
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

On the flip side, the new Penalty Catalog will help law enforcers rein in on Boston Driving on German highways. This includes but is not limited to: excessive speeding on the German Autobahn (motorway), unlawfully driving in or blocking the rescue lane (Rettungsgasse)- especially when stopping to photograph or film an accident- hogging up two lanes, doing the California roll with a yield sign although cross traffic has the right of way, punching red lights, fishtailing another car and lastly, driving while being too high on drugs and not focusing on the road.  According to the Department of Vehicle Registration in Flensburg, speeding has the highest rate of all traffic offenses. Yet DUIs and accidents are a primary concern, especially among those who are either under 21 years of age or have gotten their licenses for the first time. Therefore the new catalog will crack down on the above-mentioned offenses and force drivers to behave themselves by respecting the rules, road signs and other road users.

StVO-Novelle: neue Verkehrszeichen und ihre Bedeutung - autobild.de
Two examples of new signs to promote the bike and scooter. Photo: Autobild.de

To sum up on what the rules will look like, we will look at what to expect from cyclists and scooterists.  First and foremost, motorists are expected to follow the distance guidelines where they are to be 1.5 meters away from the cyclist upon passing them. In the countryside it’s 2 meters. This also applies for pedestrians, the elderly and the disabled. Already the rule has been in place for fishtailing. Motorists are expected to maintain a distance with the car in front of them at a distance that is half the speed they are driving.  A new No-Passing-Zone sign designed for banning cars from passing scooters and bikes will be introduced. While the rules and regulations regarding fishtailing a car has remained the same as in the previous catalog, those endangering either of the groups by ignoring the distance rule while passing can face up to 100 Euros and 1 point for violation.

toddler using scooter on road
Photo by Bagus Pangestu on Pexels.com

Because E-scooters are considered qualified road vehicles, the rules that exist for bike users apply for scooterists, yet the requirement to have a scooter registered is the same as when registering for a car. Furthermore it is not allowed to latch onto the car or ride more than two riders abreast without risking an accident.  And lastly, both cyclists and scooterists will have their own bike zone and “Bike Autobahn” where only they can rule the road and not the car driver.

teddy 1
Teddy will watch you more than ever. 

Cracking down on speeding will be the centerpiece of the new policies. Fines for going up to 20 km/h over the speed limit have doubled. Instead of 30 Euros for going 66 km/h in a 50 Zone, it’s now 60.  Yet one can face at least a one month driving ban for going more than 20 km/h over the limit, in addition to higher fines and a point on the record. For more than 40 km/h, it’s 2 points and a 2-month ban. Similar guidelines are in place for trucks and vehicles with trailers.  For parking violations, those who disregard the regulations and even the biker will have to dig deeper into their wallets than ever before, for the fines are much higher. Drivers who park on bike lanes and sidewalks can face a fine of 70 Euros and a Flensburg point. For double-parking in a parking lot, it’s at least 80 Euros and a point. Brand new is a parking ban in areas reserved for E-cars, car-sharing, and handicapped parking. Violators there can face a fine of 55 Euros.

person driving and drinking
Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

To put the icing on the cake, the catalog also includes tougher penalties for impaired drivers. Already in place is the 500-1000-1500 Euro model for the number of DUI violations, plus 2 points per offense. Those who are caught driving while intoxicated and have a blood alcohol content of more than 1.1 per mil face up to 3 points and one year in prison. If he endangers others, it’s up to five years. There’s also a chance that he could lose his driving license permanently.  For drivers on probation, there’s an absolute zero tolerance for alcohol and drugs while driving. Violators can face a 250 Euro fine, be given a point and have their 2-year probationary period be extended by up to two years. This extension applies for other traffic violations.

The QEII Bridge at Dartford, east of London. It has extremely long approach ramps to get the roadway high enough to cross the River Thames while still leaving sufficient clearance for ships to pass underneath. This is the problem that a transporter bridge aims to solve. Photo by Nico Hogg [CC BY 2.0] via this flickr page

The new Penalty Catalog in Germany builds off of the present guidelines but it serves two purposes: 1. To encourage safety and better behavior of drivers on the highways, protecting themselves and other road users and 2. To encourage alternatives to the car, allowing an opportunity to use environmentally friendlier forms of transportation while paying attention to the road and others. It’s a firm but friendly approach to traveling in Germany, where one will have to think critically before and while taking to the road, for while the car is still a prized German good for the family, we’re seeing more two-wheels that are ruling Germany’s roads. And these are the ones we’re encouraging to use the road as often as we’re commuting by car.

 

fast fact logo

Mickey has two different meanings.  The Mickey (Finn) is an alcoholic drink consisting of alcohol, snuff-soaked water, tobasco sauce and a drug to put a person to sleep. The origin came from a guy named Mickey Finn who was infamous for lacing other people’s drinks using similar ingredients. You can find his biography here.  The other meaning of Mickey is an American slang that means the same as a cop or the official term, police officer. This is used mainly in big cities. The origin comes from the Disney character, Mickey Mouse.

 

Author’s Note: 

To learn more about the new penalty code for behavior on the road, click onto this link below. This will take you to the new catalog which will have all the details of the do’s and don’ts of traveling in Germany:

Link: https://www.bussgeldkatalog.org/  

A summary in English can be found here: https://www.bussgeldkatalog.org/german-driving-laws/

The Files will provide you with an update on the rules of biking in Germany as well as new rules for riding a scooter. Both of which will be in separate articles.

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