Snowpocalypse in Germany

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

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MUNICH/CHEMNITZ/SCHNEEBERG-

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

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

Gallery of film and photos:

 

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

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

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

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From the Attic: Blizzard 1978/79

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

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

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

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

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

Documentary 1:

Documentary 2:

Documentary 3:

Documentary 4:

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

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Bundesliga Guessing Quiz: The Answers

Stadium woes

After a season of records in 2017/18 and the decisions have been made for the teams winning the relegation playoffs (a heartfelt congrats to the teams that won successfully), let’s have a look at the answers to the quiz dealing with the history of the Bundesliga. As we know, Hamburg was the last founding team to relegate into the second league. But what about the history of the other teams. After doing your homework, let’s check our answers, shall we? 🙂

Guessing Quiz:

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

Eintracht BraunschweigWerder BremenHamburger SVBorussia Dortmund1. FC KölnMeidericher SV (now MSV Duisburg), Preußen MünsterSchalke 041. FC Kaiserslautern1. FC SaarbrückenEintracht FrankfurtKarlsruher SC1. FC Nürnberg1860 MunichVfB StuttgartHertha BSC

 

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

When did the team enter?  1965   When did the team win its first title?  1969

 

 

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

Bayer Leverkusen entered the Bundesliga in 1979 and has been there ever since. 

 

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

Borussia Dortmund entered the second league in 1972 and  had played there before reentering the top league in 1976, where it has remained there ever since. 

 

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

FC Cologne and FC Kaiserslautern

 

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

Hertha BSC Berlin

 

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

Preussen Münster and FC Saarbrücken

 

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

Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart

 

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

Berlin and Frankfurt

 

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

FC Kaiserslautern

 

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

On the western side, we have Bayern Munich, FC Cologne, Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund.

On the eastern side we had Dynamo Dresden, Dynamo Berlin and Hansa Rostock

 

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

Hansa Rostock: 1995- 2005

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

Dynamo Dresden

Fast fact: Rostock and Bayern Munich were rivalries before Rostock’s demise beginning in 2005

 

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

Bayern Munich has finished no worse than 3rd since 2007 and no worse than 5th since 1995, when they finished 6th. The worst they have finished was 12th in 1978. 

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

Eintract Brunswick           Lions

MSV Duisburg                   Zebras

FC Kaiserslautern             Devils

Hertha BSC Berlin            The Iron Ladies

Eintracht Frankfurt          Eagles

Hamburg SV                      Dinosaurs

FC Cologne                        Billy Goats

 

Bonus: Holstein Kiel, whose mascot is the flying stork  has not been in the Bundesliga since 1981.

 

ONE MORE THING: 1899 Hoffenheim still holds the title as the only “small town” team that is in the Bundesliga. The community of only 4,000 people marched through the ranks and entered the league in 2007 and has been there since.  They play at a stadium near Mannheim. 

 

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Showdown at Fehmarn

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

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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.

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

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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 wordpress version of the Flensburg Files. There, you can click on the gallery with pics of the places visited this year with some comments on my part.

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

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Facts about Germany: Pfandsammler

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Ladies and Gentlemen, meine Damen und Herren: Introducing an all new video game, which you can download and play on your laptops and apps. It is a game which you can play with as many participants as possible. The object is to collect as many bottles as possible before getting caught by the police or security guards. The point values are based on the number of bottles collected as well as the size and value per bottle. Player with the most number of points wins the contest.

It’s better than any Pac-Man game you will ever see.

 

It’s Pfandsammler!  😀

 

The beauty of this game is you can play it anytime, anywhere! You can even watch the professionals do it- from students wanting to make an extra Buck by walking the grounds of the park, to a group of unemployed people working for a collection agency asking students for their empty bottles, to even the sportiest business person rummaging through garbage cans while running on the platforms of train stations. You can even adjust your settings based on the city of choice- from Hamburg to Lahr; Frankfurt to Ulm; Jena to Buxtehude. Each city has its own obstacles to overcome to get the best bottles without dealing with your enemies, which include police officers, security guards, janitors, paranoid citizens, or you can create your own custom-made enemy.

The game is free and you can get off any street in a German community. Just ask your nearest bottle collector where to get this unique game. Open to all ages! 🙂

 

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Bottle-collecting is something a non-native of German will not see on the streets of Germany. Even Americans would frown upon the logic of a person asking you for your bottle once you drink up the last drop of Club Mate cola (the one seen in the picture above). After all, they do take pride in having their bottles and aluminum cans recycled at the nearest recycling center or grocery store for the price of 5-15 cents per recycled item, pending on which state you redeem them. At some centers where cans are taken, a person could come away with an average of 25 cents a can, thus receiving a bundle of money when giving them 10 bags full of crushed cans! As a child growing up in Minnesota, my father and I would do just that, only to splurge what we received for the cans on ice cream cones, a can of Coke each and Polish sausages! Those were the days. 🙂

Yet as a German, or (in my case) as a long surviving American expatriate who can never get enough German culture, bottle collecting in Germany is considered the norm. While Germany does not have as many aluminum cans in mass amounts as in the United States, most of our beverages we see can be found in plastic or glass bottles. Yet while one can get away with a 25 cent can of Red Bull, when redeemed through the beverage collector machine at a grocery store, the prices of the bottles vary on material and brand. That means as far as glass bottles are concerned, a bottle of Flensburger beer is worth 15 cents, while a small bottle of Budweiser is eight cents its worth. For plastic bottles, they’re worth more. A 1.5 liter bottle of water is worth 25 cents when redeemed at the store. A one liter bottle of a local beverage: 15 cents. Yet when buying a six-pack of water, you can receive as much as one Euro fifty cents back when you bring them back to the store for a refund.

And this is why many people take advantage of bottle collecting, not just because of necessity, but because one can earn a lot of money through a day’s work of reaching into garbage bins, asking people for empty bottles, climbing over walls to get a crate of empty cans, or even grab some out of the woods. Wherever they may find the best of luck, they will take the risk and collect what they can. While some people don’t mind the collectors doing their jobs- many even talk to them and listen to their stories- others see them as a nuisance and have taken action to ban them from various facilities in many cities, such as Berlin and Hamburg, for example.  And while the majority of these bottle collectors consist of unemployed people living off social welfare, there are some who just do it not just for the hobby of it, but just to get the best buck out of a bag of bottles.

And therefore, my word of advice: if you see someone rummaging through looking for empty bottles or offer to take yours, you will see why. Denying them is fruitless for if one thinks logically, no matter who gets to keep the bottle, they eventually make it to their final destination: the beverage collector machine and eventually, the recycling center. And is it worth fighting over 25 cents when we have enough to go around, but the collectors don’t? Think about it…. 😉

Club Mate is a cola made with mate extract and has less sugar than most energy drinks. It has several different flavors and can be found in all stores and even at the cafeterias at German universities. Founded in 1924, it has a website, which you can click here.

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And yes, I challenge the next computer programmer to develop the game that is mentioned here. It makes an excellent competitor to Pac-Mac and Super Mario Brothers. So go ahead and let everyone know once the game is created and on the market. Go ahead now…. Just get it done! 😉

Lights Out for Hamburg Handball Team

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Hamburg SV leaves German Handball Bundesliga because of Concourse and License Revocation. Legal Action expected.

HAMBURG- There is an old saying that describes the mentality of the European sports leagues: “Money makes the world go round.” If there is no money to operate a team, the team folds. Teams go up and down the elevator model, where promotion to higher tiered leagues and demotion lower tiered leagues are not only based on the performance of the players, but also the financial health of the club. If one puts the American basketball team the Philadelphia 76ers in the equation, that team would have folded by now. The fortunate part is in case of hard times like the basketball team is going through, the league steps in to take ownership, reshape the club and look for a new owner to replace the one ousted for the inability to operate the team properly, especially in financial terms.

For the German professional handball team, Hamburger SV, the management is probably wishing that the American model was in place right now. The HSV has shut down operations this evening after receiving word on Wednesday that the team has lost its license to compete in the Premere League for the rest of the season. Furthermore, they will not be allowed to apply for the first or second tiers of the Bundesliga, thus putting them in the local league. The reason behind this was a snowball effect which has been in the making for well over a year. It started with a deficit, followed by the withdrawl of the main sponsor Andreas Rudolph, who had promised to invest 2.5 million Euros ($3.3 million) into the team, according to information from German public radio station NDR. The team was unable to come up with 2 million Euros at the end of the first half of the season. As a consequence, HSV filed for bankruptcy in December due to not enough liquidity to finance the remaining games of the season and the players. The German Handball Bundesliga revoked its license on Wednesday as a consequence, and the reaction was enormous. While almost all of the players have left the team, the revocation and as a result, the decision to shut down the Premere League team today will have negative repercussions on the league, as many teams hosting HSV in the second half of the season will have to recall the tickets, resulting in massive losses. Some of the teams, including Berlin, Minden and even Flensburg are considering legal actions against the now defunct team, demanding compensation for damages.

Hamburg’s demise is not the first in German or even American sports. Its exit from the top league is the first in handball since 1990. Yet its fall from grace is the first in German sports since the soccer teams of Kickers Offenbach and Dynamo Dresden. Offenbach was delegated to the regional league from the 3rd tier of the Bundesliga after the 2013/14 season for insufficient funding to continue in the upcoming season. Yet the last fall from the top came in 1995, when the German Soccer Federation denied the request of Dynamo Dresden to play in the 1st and 2nd league, thus forcing the eastern Saxony team to play in the regional league. That team is currently in first place in the 3rd League and is knocking on the door to its return to the 2nd League for the first time since 2014. On the American front, most of the teams folding due to financial issues came in the women’s basketball league, WNBA. The last casualty was the Sacramento Monarchs in California, where despite winning the WNBA championship in 2005, the team disbanded in 2009.

However, like this team as well as the Cleveland Browns in American football (which went on hiatus from 1996-99), handball in Hamburg will eventually return to national stage. While the Premere League team, which won the Bundesliga championship in 2011 and the Champions League in 2013, is officially disbanded, despite its current 4th place finish, HSV’s junior team is making its way to the third tier in the handball food chain with its lead in the state league standings. Because the HSV sports organization will not be affected by the sudden destruction of the Premere League handball  team, the junior team will have a chance to fill in the footsteps of the fallen dinosaur. If successful and if management can build a fan base and good sponsorship from companies in the free city, chances are that handball will return to national stage before 2020. It is highly unlikely that despite the potential legal actions, HSV will disappear and not return, like it happened to Saxony Leipzig in 2012. It would be too cruel to the city of nearly 2 million that has a popular Bundesliga soccer team. It will just be a few years before handball returns to national stage, and with that, a bigger fan base that will stay loyal until the very end. Just ask the fans of the Cleveland Browns, let alone the people in Sacramento, who are working to bring back the Monarchs to women’s basketball. 🙂

 

For more on the latest with HSV, please follow NDR whose link is here.

 

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Year of the Beer Day 15: Astra Arschkalt Beer

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Author’s Note: This was written in connection with the beer tasting experiment, which was done on 15 January 2016- the fiftteenth day. 🙂

Day 15 starts off with a nice quote that fits nicely to the winter weather in January. Snow plus beer equals- Arschkalt (icy cold in the tail)! 😉 Astra beer, originating from Hamburg’s suburb of St. Pauli, has its origin from its days known as Bavaria-St. Pauli, when it was established in 1647. Since 1909, the brewery has carried the name Astra, and its slogan “Was dagegen?” (Anything against that), plus its heart-shape logo has been running strong since 2008. Astra is well-known for the younger generation, especially among college students in Germany. One will find them on sale at restaurants, cafés and even small eateries that accompany mainly college students and others ages 30 and younger. More information on its history can be found here.

Like the Lammsbräu, the Astra has gone radical in terms of creative beer flavors, including this one, the Winterfestbeer. Found among the store shelves, I found it at the most perfect time, as it was a couple days before the snowstorm and subsequentially, cold spell which is giving the German fits. How? We had a tropical Christmas and a spring-like New Year’s- so Old Man Winter is no longer invited. He invited himself and we’re freezing our pos off! :-/

Anyway, the Arschkalt is similar to the Glühbier, a mulled flavor beer with spices, only that it is wise to drink it cold to warm up. At least, that was my impression. When drinking the dull, copper-colored beer with a persistent head, one can tell that the aroma and flavor are both super strong, resembling an ale flavor with flavors of grain, toast and nut malts as well as floral and herbal hops and corn flavor. The alcohol content is 5.9% which makes the beer taste not too bitter but herbal. The beer leaves an astringent and somewhat prickly taste when drinking it, yet it is not bitter, like some other brands, leading to the conclusion that the ale product is definitely worth drinking, especially in the winter time.

Grade: 2,0/ B: A solid beer with good craftsmanship, the Astra Arschkalt is not just a winter beer, as seen with some other examples. It has an ale taste that makes the beer part herbal and part bitter. For those with a sweet tooth, this beer is not recommended unless you want a shock to the system to warm up. For those who fancy an ale, it’s perfect for the winter time. And for those who are Astra fans, you can give them the seal approval for a creative mix worth drinking. So without further ado, wasail to winter. Share one with your friends and warm up with some chats and entertainment. Prost! 🙂

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A Tribute to Helmut Schmidt

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Former German Chancellor handled the RAF Affair and the NATO Double-Pact during his regime (1974-1982) dead at 96.

HAMBURG- Helmut Schmidt, whose political career lasted for over 60 years both in and outside government and left a positive image for Germany in terms of international and domestic policies has died. Schmidt passed away this afternoon at a hospital in Hamburg after complications from a surgery in September to remove a blood clot. He was 96 years old. Schmidt was a member of the German Social Democratic Party from 1946 until 1982, which included his roles as Minister of Defense  (1969-1972), as well as Minister of Economics and later Finance (1972-1974), all under Chancellor Willi Brandt. When he resign amid an espionage scandal in 1974, Schmidt took power as German Chancellor and ruled the country with a coalition featuring his party and the Free Liberals. Schmidt became the only Chancellor to lose his office through a Vote of No Confidence on 1 October, 1982, thus ushering in the era of Helmut Kohl of the Christian Democratic Party. The reason was the FDP’s alliance with the CDU, which made Schmidt a lame duck. Kohl still holds the record of being the longest reigning Chancellor, ruling for 16 years until 1998. During his time in power, Schmidt championed the strengthening and expansion of politics on the European level, including the introduction of a European currency (which was eventually introduced in 1999 and replaced the German Mark in 2002), as well as fostered domestic spending to help the unemployed, expand health insurance, and pass health and safety laws. He put an end to the reign of terror caused by the group Red Army Faction, and his policies involving the Cold War, led to the NATO Double-Track Policy, where mid-range missiles were stationed in West Germany, causing protests in many cities. Schmidt was loved and hated by many within and outside Germany because of his policies and his comments on certain events, especially on the international front. However, after he stepped down in 1982, Schmidt became an avid writer and editor, having been co-publisher of the German newspaper Die Zeit and authored several books, mainly focusing on politics and his memoirs about his time in Bonn and Hamburg. However, there are a few more facts that we don’t know about Schmidt. And therefore, we have the:

Large Blog ImageFAST FACTS:

 

  1. Upon his death, Helmut Schmidt became the oldest living former chancellor, having outlived Konrad Adenauer by five years. Adenauer died in 1967 at the age of 91. He has also outlived the oldest former US Presidents, Gerald Ford (1972-76) and Ronald Reagan (1981-88), both of whom lived to be 93 years old. They died in 2006 and 2004, respectively.
  2. During the Great Flood of 1962, which hammered Hamburg and the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Schmidt, who was Hamburg’s senator, initiated moves by taking charge of the Federal Police and the Germany Army and directed them to the flooded areas, rescuing people stranded on top of houses and providing aid where needed. This overstepped boundaries and led to a change in the German Constitution which forbade the use of federal forces unless deemed a necessity. The flooding and natural disasters were added as a necessity in 1968.
  3. Schmidt was an avid pianist, having recorded music for several composers from the 1980s on.
  4. Schmidt was an avid smoker, having smoked heavily, both privately as well as in public and especially on TV shows. This was his signature for his character which was carried all the way to the end, despite controversies involving him violating smoking bans.
  5. Schmidt was the automatic go-to guy to talk to when asked about several political themes, both on the German as well as the international fronts. This included his views on the environment, whose opposition to shutting down nuclear power plants and his comment on global warming being hysterically overheated stirred a lot of controversies, but conceded that a population explosion is the biggest threat to mankind because of the potential exhaustion of resources. He was on many talk shows, having been interviewed in German and English.
  6. He was the focus of a Loriot caricature in the 1970s, when he was at his height of popularity amid several scandals and incidents affecting Germany.
  7. Schmidt’s interest in politics came during his experience serving the Army during the Third Reich and witnessing a trial that was considered biased and brutal, as the Nazis ordered the execution of conspirators responsible for trying to assassinate Adolf Hitler, including Claus von Stauffenberg, whose streets in many cities were later named in his honor.

Helmut Schmidt, despite the controversies and the opposition from others, was considered the elder statesman with open arms. Whenever he was asked about certain political current events, he was quick to provide some food for thought, something for people to think about and discuss, something for politicians to think about before enacting or vetoing any measures being debated first in Bonn and later in Berlin. Schmidt was considered the face of Germany in the 1970s but is really the face of European politics and international affairs, for his policies and advocacy for a more European model of politics, while ensuring that countries are able to keep their sovereignty and maintain a democratic regime in tact. Cooperation was for him the key to a peaceful environment, something that was anything but that during the Cold War, but was later carried out when relations between the United States and the Soviet Union warmed up and eventually, when the two divided Germanys became one in 1990. Schmidt made and maintained ties with many politicians, many of them are still alive today. But despite warnings of smoking being unhealthy, Schmidt was unphased by it, for smoking was still for the intellectuals, and he provided that no matter where he went or who he talked with. Schmidt will be missed for his character and his guidance in international affairs, especially now, when we have bigger issues affecting Germany and we have to go on without him, or at least with the lessons he gave us.

Schmidt is survived by his daughter, Susanne, who has followed his father’s footsteps by working for Bloomberg Television, but is preceded in death by his wife Hannelore “Loki”, who died in 2010, and his infant son.  Leb wohl Herr Schmidt und vielen Dank für Ihre Beiträge und Mithilfe. Gott segnet Sie.

Helmut Schmidt Highlights:

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City Institutions, Laws and Agreements: The Origin of the Flensburg Files

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Author’s Note: This article is a two-in-one deal. It’s an article in connection with Germany’s 25th anniversary, but it’s also in connection with the Files’ five years and how this column came into being. Enjoy! 🙂 

While living in Germany, one will see a unique feature that has been talked about at the dinner table: institutions, laws and agreements named after German cities. We are not talking about institutions like breweries, whose headquarters are found at their places of origin, like the Flensburger, the Berliner Weisse, the Köstritzer, the Saalfelder and the like. That topic is saved for a rainy day, unless you want to know more about German beer (in that case, there’s an article for you right here). And what is also typical are the newspapers named after cities- these are also common everywhere and heceforth will be left out here.

What is meant by institutions are the banks and insurance companies that were founded in the place or origin, and with some exceptions to the rule, still exist today. Many of these financial institutions had their roots to the time of Bismarck’s regime beginning in 1871, the time when Germany was first founded as a country. Part of that had to do with Bismarck’s introduction of the social welfare and health care systems, where every citizen was required to have insurance in case of an accident. With that came the dawn of the insurance (More on that later). The Dresdner Bank was one of these examples. Founded in 1872 Karl Freiherr von Kaskel and based in Dresden, the bank became one of largest banks in Germany and eastern Europe, surviving two World Wars and the Cold War before it folded into the Commerzbank in 2009. There is also the insurance group Alte Leipziger, located an hour west of the city in Leipzig, which provides insurance coverage, especially for burn-out syndrome and other psychological disorders. One will find such (financial institutions) in many big cities, such as Munich, Stuttgart, Hannover and Frankfurt, just to name a few.

City laws and agreements are even more unique in Germany. While in the Anglo-Saxon countries have conferences and agreements on a larger scale in terms of international relations (such as the Washington Conference of 1922, the Bonn Agreement on Afghanistan in 2001 and the Frankfurt Documents in 1948), what is meant by agreements are the creation of domestic laws and systems that people in Germany have to abide by, which were signed and enacted at the place of origin. In some cases, like the Flensburg Point System, there is even an office that specializes in this type of law. As seen in the point system, the Kraftfahrtbundesamt (the office of vehicular registration) in Flensburg is responsible for giving drivers points for violations on the road. Other agreements known to exist include:

_The Düsseldorfer Tabelle: Founded in 1962 based on a controversial ruling and its subsequent appeal, the table determines how much child support a partner has to provide at the time of the divorce. It is classified based on the amount of money that person has to pay per month until the child is 25 years of age.

_Frankfurter Tabelle: This table is used to determine how much money a traveller should receive as a refund for lack of accomodations. This is determined by another table created in Kempten. The Würzburger Tabelle has a similar scheme but for boat cruises.

These are just a handful of agreements and laws that exist, which leads us to this activity:

Identify which city has its own law and agreement that was enacted in its place of origin and describe briefly what it is and how it works. That you can do in the comment section, links are welcomed regardless of language. 🙂

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Origin of the Files:

Keeping German cities in mind, the next question that many readers, family members, friends and colleagues have been asking me is: Why Flensburg and not Frankfurt?  As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: Nichts leichter als das (Easy as this):

I visited Flensburg for the first time in May 2010, as I needed to get away from everything that had been going on in my life that was unwelcomed. Just to put it bluntly and leaving it there. I had heard of the city and its proud heritage from a pair of people who either come from there or have lived there for many years. One was a former student colleague from my days as a teacher in Bayreuth, another was my best friend and his girlfriend from my days in Thuringia. I had heard about the point system before that and the beer. But upon setting foot on Flensburg soil, and exploring the city and visiting the people, it became the city worth visiting (along with the surrounding region), because of its natural surroundings, its landscape, and especially its history, tied together with that of Germany, Denmark and on the international scene. Some articles have been written about it, other themes have yet to make the column (and will soon enough). 🙂

While my main profession is an English teacher (and I’ve been doing this for 15 years), my second profession is a writer, who has been contributing works not only to this one but also to other newspapers. One day, in response to a letter I had written to a local newspaper demanding that my hometown in Minnesota set an example of what Flensburg is doing with its historic architecture by saving the former high school building, a friend and former high school classmate of mine recommended me to the areavoices website, where I can write about my experiences as a Minnesotan living in Germany, providing some photos and food for thought. She works at the Forum Communications Company based in Fargo, North Dakota but has newspaper offices throughout the Midwest, including Worthington (Minnesota),  Mitchell (South Dakota), and those throughout North Dakota in Grand Forks, Jamestown and Williston, just to name a few.

After some thought about her offer, why not?

Together with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, the Flensburg Files made its debut in October 2010. The origin of the Files came from my will to keep the German tradition alive: my visit in Flensburg, using the German city name for the title, and the files- there is a file for every document submitted in a form of article, photos, interviews and the life. Besides, one can do a whole lot with the letter F, as you can see in the logos below.

Five years laters, the Files is running strong. Not only does the column provide some topics pertaining to German-American themes and places to visit (Christmas markets included), but it has extended to include more on culture, education (esp. for those wanting to learn English and are non natives), current events and some food for thought on the part of the author. It now has a wordpress website, which has attracted almost a thousand subscribers (and counting) plus unknown numbers of frequent visitors to the Files’ facebook pages and twitter. In other words, it has gotten bigger, attracting a large audience from all aspects of the world. Plans are in the making in the future to include a couple more social networks and provide a few more series beyond 2015, but the Files will remain the same, an online column that provides readers with an insight of German-American themes, even if it means going behind the scenes, as the author has done already.

This leads to the last question: Why Flensburg and not other cities in Germany? We have too many institutions, laws and agreements going by the names of Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg, just to name a few. Plus using names of other small cities are possible but they don’t provide the kick to a top-notch column like this one. One could rename it like the Husum Herald, St.Pauli Sentinal,  Münster Morning News, Nuremberg Newsflyer, Glauchau (Daily) Globe (here, the people in Worthington would have a say in that), Leipzig Local (again same as Glauchau as that group exists), Weimar World News, etc. But nothing can top what the Flensburg Files can offer for title. And sometimes using something local and building off of what the city offers for rum, beer, handball and its point system, in addition to its beaches, landscape and especially its heritage can give a city like Flensburg a boost, like it has in the five years it has been in business, with many more years to come. 🙂

To close this article here’s a word of advice for those wanting to start an online column like this one, or a career as a journalist. Because our world is full of lies and corruption, there is one variable that is constant, which is the truth. The truth is the most important commodity a person has to deal with. This includes being true to yourself and your future. If you are sure that you want to uncover the truth and expose it, then do it. People may laugh at you at first, and you may face failure for the first few months or even years, but in the end, if you are true to your heart, you will win the hearts and minds of true friends who will stay with you to ensure that you stay to your course to become a successful writer. It takes likes of patience, passion, perseverence and persistence- the 4 Ps. Once followed, and once you receive accolades and respect for you as a true writer, then you will reach your destiny and beyond. Aim high and let the heavens do the rest.

And now, back to the writing…… 🙂

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