Aus! Vorbei! Und Tschüss, Jogi und Co!

 

German Soccer Team sets all time lows in their earliest exit from the 2018 World Soccer Cup in Russia in history.

There is a quote to start off this column about the defeat of the defending World Cup Champions of 2014 Germany, and it is a very simple one to swallow: Glauben und Sagen sind Gut; Kontrolle und Beweise sind besser. In English, it goes along the lines of Belief and Talk are good; Proof and Evidence are better. Germany was suppoosed to defend their 2014 World Cup title in the way it performed four years ago. However, a 2-0 pasting by South Korea in the last game of the first round of the 2018 World Cup in Russia sealed the deal in setting all new lows for the German soccer team in history.  To start off with, it was the first time in 80 years that Germany was eliminated after the first round in the World Cup. The last time it happened, it was after the Anschluss with Austria, which had been the better team before HItler took over.  It was also the first time in 18 years that the national soccer team was eliminated after the first round in an international tournament. The last time it happened was in the Euro-Cup in 2000. And like in this tournament, it featured a very lackluster performance that consisted of a tie and two defeats- a 1-0 shutout to England, its first in 32 years, and a 3-0 freightliner to Portugal.

While the German national coach  Erich Ribbeck eventually resigned after the early exit in 2000, the question is whether Joachim Loewe (Jogi, for short), Germany’s present national coach will do the same after this disastrous outing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.  After all, the ball started rolling after the team suffered its first World Cup defeat in the opener of the first round since the 1982 tournament as West Germany. And like the upset to Algeria, the German soccer team of 2018 appeared clueless and defenseless against Mexico, having been upset in the first game 1-0.  After redeeming themselves in game two with a 2-1 win against Sweden, they needed their third win against South Korea, which not only did not happen, but they were humbled, spanked, annihilated, and embarassed. The last 10 minutes of that match summarized their latest outing in the tournament.

Before going further, let’s have a look at the highlights of the three matches:

Game 1:  1-0 for Mexico

Game 2: 2-1 victory over Sweden

Game 3: 2-0 loss to South Korea.

 

Surely the pressure is on Jogi to resign, yet when asked if he was going to do so, the response was simple: “It’s too early. I’m deeply disappointed. I never thought we would lose to South Korea.”

Those were his words. The head coach, who has led the team since 2006, with two second place finishes in the Euro-Cup (2016) and the World Cup (2010) and the World Cup Championship in 2014, plus the 2017 Confederations Cup title, is considering stepping down.  My advice to Jogi is: Don’t do it.

Why take this bold approach?  As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: Nicht leichter als das  (Not easier than this.)

Germany has a long tradition of producing the finest soccer players as much as the finest coaches. In fact, some of the best players have become even better coaches, be it Rudi Voeller, Franz Beckenbauer or even Jogi himself. Each coach has had their own way of training their players to become the best in them.  Even players like Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Mueller or even Manuel Neubert would be potential coaches for local soccer teams or even a national team if they wanted to take that path because of their experience. However, Jogi’s  time has not come to step down just yet.

It has nothing to do with the contract that takes him through 2023. It has more to do with the coach with his character versus the personalities of the players.  That has to do with how he and the German team have projected themselves so far. One doesn’t need to go further than listening to some of the parodies many German radio stations  have produced, looking at the German soccer team in general: a coach who is cool under pressure, trying to keep the team together, despite all the minor personal issues each player and personnel had up until the most recent game with South Korea. The best parody so far has been with Jogis Eleven, a comedy produced by central German radio station Jump Radio (powered by MDR Radio).  If one has a team that is coherent like a family, on the same page and have the same values and goals, then one can go far.

However, if one has a team where one promises to win it all but loses it all because of the lack of will to pull it all off, then it is very obvious that a disaster like this would happen. Already the team struggled to win even one game in 2018, having won only one game in the friendly matches prior to the opening game of the World Cup- a 2-1 squeaker against Saudi Arabia, the same team that they had spanked 8-0 in the opening round of the 2002 World Cup. Otherwise, they had two additional losses and one tie. Very atypical for the 2014 Champions. There, the red flags were going up. Then came the arrogance of the team, which revealed its ugly face after Tony’s Kroos’ last second win against Sweden in game 2 of the first round.  This altercation came after the game was over:

This is just as poor sportsmanship as a man slapping a woman, invoking spousal abuse. Even as a husband of a wonderful German wife and proud parent of a German-American daughter, this act of cockiness is an act of cowardness revealing the biggest weakness of the German soccer team, which is they were just not good enough- physically but especially mentally. It would be a matter of time until this disasterous third game that exposed everything and scared every naked woman taking a shower by a peeping tomcat.

In simpler languages, the performance by the team was just not cool, and Loewe as a coach only has part of the blame.  The players themselves have at least half the blame, if not the majority. But to be diplomatic, there is enough blame to go around because of the lack of attention to the other teams and how they have improved in comparision to how Germany has improved, making their shortest showing on record look like round one of the Rocky Balboa- Clubber Lang boxing match in Rocky III:

And even that defeat presents a good quote by Robert Collier: In every defeat is a lesson showing you home to win the victory the next time.

And so, we are going home, starting over from scratch. The poor performance shows that the team is in dire need of a change. Most of the players on the roster are past their prime, beset by injuries and a change of attitude since the 2014 Cup. The gap between the has-beens and the rookies is as wide as ever before, with the latter not undertanding the importance of  representing Germany and the world on the international stage. The personnel on the team is ready to step aside from their duties in soccer, especially the ones involved with the altercation with the Swedish soccer team after the second game. And basically, the team is in total disarray- in need of a total makeover. Yet it does not require the change in guard as the coach of the German national team.

In fact, keeping Jogi would represent continuity for Germany, for he can form the next set of soccer players who are ready to redeem themselves and prepare for a shot at the Euro-Cup in 2020. For himself, staying on would provide him with a chance to achieve the impossible, which is winning of Euro-Cup. The last time Germany won that was in 1996, the only time the team won since West and East Germany reunited in 1990. If he was to keep a couple members from the 2014 team, it would be the first for them as well.  Yet one thing is  certain, the team that showed up for  the 2018 World Cup will have all but maybe one or two  players disappear come 2020. Jogi will definitely look for ways to bring the next generation onto the international stage, while looking at ways of saying good-bye to the older generation, who is ripe to move on.

Yet Jogi must be aware that in the event that he stays on as coach for the German national soccer team, it will be his last chance to redeem himself, both for the Euro-Cup and for the 2022 World Cup. He must make it count but he must have the support of his personnel to make it happen. And it is very obvious that there must not be a repeat of what happened in the 2018 World Cup. The revival and return to relevance will be long, hard and bloody, like in the second boxing match between Rocky and Lang (see below). But with the right coach, like Jogi, and a set of players with as big of an appetite for an international title, the quest for success will be well worth it.

So without further ado, get back to work and look ahead to 2020. Go get ’em, Coach!

 

cropped-FF-new-logo1.jpg

Year of the Beer Day 27: Ur-Krostitzer Pils

urkrostitzer pils

This beer tasting run, going on day 27, starts off with a good quote: “Great People make Great Beer and Great Beers make Great People.” Fame is achieved when making the best beer for the people to enjoy whereas some of the great beers people drink or brew make them the greatest.  And this is how the figure on the Ur-krostitzer beer products came about.

In 1632, during the 30-years war which Prussia, Sweden and France collided with metal hardware, horses as well as blood and sweat, King Gustaf Adolph II of Sweden with his men, made their way to the village of Krostitz enroute to Leipzig, bringing with them the know-how of making beer and a trunk full of goods left behind for the villagers. Thanks to their peace offering and for making a good beer, the king was given the Braumeister crown in a form of a gold ring provided by the villagers. 🙂 ❤  Whether his peace offering contributed to the end of the war in 1648 remains open, but it was since then the king has become a legend in the town near the present border of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt between Leipzig and Bitterfeld, and the he has become the face for the beer.

Although I have drunk the Ur-krostitzer pilsener on occasion since coming to Germany in 1999, some of the readers recommended evaluating this beer because of its taste. Henceforth, I decided to give it a try and see how this beer ranks up there with the rest of the German beers I’ve tasted since starting this marathon. 🙂

Upon appearance, the beer has a gold color with a great clarity and head. The carbonation is lively and the beer has a full body upon drinking it. So far, so good and so typical of a German pilsener. Yet the flavor of the beer and the taste far trumps the aroma as the last one was rather faint with bread malt and earth hops, this leaving it neutral. However, the flavor of the beer has a strong intensity but a neutral balance leaning towards the bitter side, as the beer has a taste of grain and bread malt as well as a herbal hops and a citrus flavor to it. That combined with a warming, mouthcoating taste makes the beer taste really nice, with a long finish and a real freshness to it. In other words, the beer is herbal but hearty, and the impression is the beer was brewed with care to provide an excellent taste to it. There is a reason why this beer is recommended to drink by the readers, as I’m hardly in a position to disagree.

Grade: 1,7/ A-: Ur-Krostitzer beer has an excellent image as far as beer is concerned. Thanks to the Swedish King, the beer stands out as one of the most highly recommended to try while in Germany. The brewery has four kinds of beer available, but one should try the pilsener first as it has a great taste and gets one’s fill in a hurry. This great beer goes together with its prestige regarding social responsibility. Every year since 2004 (in light of the 470th anniversary of its founding), the Ur-krostitzer Ring is awarded to a person(s) who has done research on the history of Mitteldeutschland (namely Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt). The brewery itself has a long tradition of inventing and innovating the products. Aside from the know-how given by the Swedes, the brewery is known for its Braunbier (pure barley beer), Doppelbier (stark beer) and Kovent (light (tap) beer. Add the dark beer and pilsener to the list and the brewery has reaped in fame and recognition for its high quality and great taste. This one to be included as well.  So Prost! 😀

 

FLFI 500 beer

Genre of the Week: Planet Germany: Eine Expedition in die Heimat des Hawaii-Toasts

Author’s Note: This Genre of the Week has been pushed up a couple days due to important commitments. This is the first review that has been done by a guest columnist. And for a good reason….. 🙂

When we look at Germans, we look at high quality and how they strive to achieve perfection, priding on the likes of BMW, Nutella, soccer, universities and a good beer. However, when asking a German whether they are proud of their culture or how they perceive us Americans and our way of looking at things, we see and hear another story.  In this book review, Planet Germany: An Expedition into the country that is home to Hawaiian toasts (this is the English equivalent to the original title), Eric T. Hansen takes a look at the old question of German identity and how the Germans look at their own culture, from a humorous point of view. This review was done by Ann Marie Ackermann, an American expatriate living in Germany and working as a lawyer, translator and a writer. Here’s a look at the reason why a person should think about reading this book:

A case of a lost cultural identity

Can it be that the Germans really don’t know themselves? And that they need an American to hold up a mirror and show them why the rest of the world holds its arms open to the German culture?

One American who’s been living in Germany since 1983 seems to think so. Eric T. Hansen’s book, Planet Germany, dissects the German psyche. His scalpel is his rare sense of humor, and he cuts through layers of poor national self-esteem to find the ingenuity that created Hawaii toast. I say “rare” because Hansen manages to elicit laughs from both Americans and Germans. Any American expat in Germany will appreciate the book, not only for the insights into the collective mind of the German folk, but for Hansen’s satire.

The world admires the Germans, but the Germans don’t know it

It was in a shopping mall in Magdeburg, Germany that Hansen discovered Germans don’t know who they are. The author, a journalist, was writing an article about exports, and asked shoppers what German products and personalities they thought would be popular in America.

“Nothing,” said the shoppers. One German man said he couldn’t imagine Americans would be interested in anything from Germany.

Frustrated, Hansen spouted a number of possibilities. “What about Mercedes? Volkswagen? BMW? Are there any German cars that aren’t famous in America?” His list went on:  Braun, Bosch, and Siemens? Gummi bears and “Nutella”? Lowenbräu? Blaupunkt and Grundig? Claudia Schiffer and Heidi Klum? Das Boot, Lola rennt, and the Brother Grimm fairy tales? Wolfgang Petersen and Roland Emmerich? Kraftwerk, Nena, Rammstein, and the Scorpions?

But it’s not easy to impress a German. “That might be,” said the man. “But nothing else.”

Americanization of Germany or Germanization of America?

We – the American expat community in Germany – have all heard it before. At some point a German has sat down with us in a café and started complaining about how the Americans are taking over the German culture.

The first time I heard it, I was incensed. Every individual German votes with his or her wallet by selecting products. Collectively, the country has chosen the culture it has now. Why blame the Americans? But on a deeper level, does a country really lose its culture by purchasing foreign merchandise like Coca-cola, jeans, and pop music? In the United States, we eat tacos and sushi, sing French and German Christmas carols, and listen to Jamaican rhythms. But we call that enriching our culture.

Oh no, says Hansen. That’s not what the Germans really mean. “Americanization” for them really means “modernization.” Alas, the Germans are just mourning the loss of the culture they knew as children.

Hansen puts the complaint under a microscope and finds a better case for the Germanization of America. At the time he wrote his book (2007), the value of German exports to the United States was almost one third more than the other way around. That’s not bad for a country half the size of Texas.

But the Germans better watch out. There is another country that’s done a lot more to infiltrate their country: Sweden. Germans read Astrid Lindgren as children and buy clothing at H&M. They listen to Abba and buy their first furniture from Ikea. They read mysteries by Henning Mankell and watch movies with Ingrid Bergman. And if that’s enough, says Hansen, the Swedes have to go out and flood Germany with Knäckebrot.  But nobody in Germany talks about “Swedenization.”

Germans as World Champion Complainers

Hansen’s satire shines most brightly in his chapter on why Germans believe complaining is a sign of higher intelligence. It’s sort of an unofficial German IQ test. Whoever does the best job of spontaneous criticism is the smartest. A comparison of the headlines in Spiegel and Time Magazine proves this, says Hansen: The American magazine offers information, and the German one critique. Even my German grandfather noticed this tendency. “When a German and an American both buy a new house,” he used to say, “the American guests come over and talk about everything they like about the house, and the Germans come over and find everything wrong with it.”

And here Germans are the Weltmeister. Just as Arabic has more words for “camel” than any other language in the world, Hansen points out, German has more words for criticism. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because public, grassroots criticism plays an important role in democracy. Heck, Germans even have a holiday for political criticism. Have you ever watched German television during Fasching?

To anchor the importance of complaining in the German culture, Hansen applied for a job as professor at twenty German universities. He asked the universities to establish a chair for the esthetics of complaining (Nörgeleiästhetik) and offered a curriculum. Hansen includes his application in the book, and you can find the answers of three of the universities in the appendix. And don’t tell me the Germans have no sense of humor. When I read the appendix, I always have to pull out my Taschentücher because I start crying so hard.

About the book:

Eric T. Hansen, Planet Germany (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Verlag, 2007); 289 pages, in German. Eric T. Hansen is a journalist living in Berlin.

Author’s Fazit:

The book did provide the author with an idea for an activity that students in both Germany and elsewhere can try at home. Click onto this interview about Germany and what to expect. Make a list and ask yourselves whether there is more to Germany than what is mentioned here, and share it with your classmates and teacher. You’ll be amazed at the various answers brought up, especially if you as the teacher is a non-native German. Good luck with that! 🙂

Note: The video was produced by Jason Smith, Marc Schueler and Dan Wogawa in 2013 and powered by GoAnimate.

About the writer and critic:

Ann Marie Ackermann (small)

Ann Marie Ackermann was a prosecutor in the United States before relocating to Germany, where she worked for 15 years as a legal and medical translator. Ann Marie now researches and writes historical true crime. Her first book, Death of an Assassin, will appear with Kent State University Press in 2017. It tells the true story of a German assassin who fled to the United States and became the first soldier to die under the American Civil War hero Robert E. Lee. You can visit Ann Marie’s website at http://www.annmarieackermann.com.

FF new logo1

Genre of the Week: Planet Germany: Eine Expedition in die Heimat des Hawaii-Toasts

Author’s Note: This Genre of the Week has been pushed up a couple days due to important commitments. This is the first review that has been done by a guest columnist. And for a good reason….. 🙂

When we look at Germans, we look at high quality and how they strive to achieve perfection, priding on the likes of BMW, Nutella, soccer, universities and a good beer. However, when asking a German whether they are proud of their culture or how they perceive us Americans and our way of looking at things, we see and hear another story.  In this book review, Planet Germany: An Expedition into the country that is home to Hawaiian toasts (this is the English equivalent to the original title), Eric T. Hansen takes a look at the old question of German identity and how the Germans look at their own culture, from a humorous point of view. This review was done by Ann Marie Ackermann, an American expatriate living in Germany and working as a lawyer, translator and a writer. Here’s a look at the reason why a person should think about reading this book:

A case of a lost cultural identity

Can it be that the Germans really don’t know themselves? And that they need an American to hold up a mirror and show them why the rest of the world holds its arms open to the German culture?

One American who’s been living in Germany since 1983 seems to think so. Eric T. Hansen’s book, Planet Germany, dissects the German psyche. His scalpel is his rare sense of humor, and he cuts through layers of poor national self-esteem to find the ingenuity that created Hawaii toast. I say “rare” because Hansen manages to elicit laughs from both Americans and Germans. Any American expat in Germany will appreciate the book, not only for the insights into the collective mind of the German folk, but for Hansen’s satire.

The world admires the Germans, but the Germans don’t know it

It was in a shopping mall in Magdeburg, Germany that Hansen discovered Germans don’t know who they are. The author, a journalist, was writing an article about exports, and asked shoppers what German products and personalities they thought would be popular in America.

“Nothing,” said the shoppers. One German man said he couldn’t imagine Americans would be interested in anything from Germany.

Frustrated, Hansen spouted a number of possibilities. “What about Mercedes? Volkswagen? BMW? Are there any German cars that aren’t famous in America?” His list went on:  Braun, Bosch, and Siemens? Gummi bears and “Nutella”? Lowenbräu? Blaupunkt and Grundig? Claudia Schiffer and Heidi Klum? Das Boot, Lola rennt, and the Brother Grimm fairy tales? Wolfgang Petersen and Roland Emmerich? Kraftwerk, Nena, Rammstein, and the Scorpions?

But it’s not easy to impress a German. “That might be,” said the man. “But nothing else.”

Americanization of Germany or Germanization of America?

We – the American expat community in Germany – have all heard it before. At some point a German has sat down with us in a café and started complaining about how the Americans are taking over the German culture.

The first time I heard it, I was incensed. Every individual German votes with his or her wallet by selecting products. Collectively, the country has chosen the culture it has now. Why blame the Americans? But on a deeper level, does a country really lose its culture by purchasing foreign merchandise like Coca-cola, jeans, and pop music? In the United States, we eat tacos and sushi, sing French and German Christmas carols, and listen to Jamaican rhythms. But we call that enriching our culture.

Oh no, says Hansen. That’s not what the Germans really mean. “Americanization” for them really means “modernization.” Alas, the Germans are just mourning the loss of the culture they knew as children.

Hansen puts the complaint under a microscope and finds a better case for the Germanization of America. At the time he wrote his book (2007), the value of German exports to the United States was almost one third more than the other way around. That’s not bad for a country half the size of Texas.

But the Germans better watch out. There is another country that’s done a lot more to infiltrate their country: Sweden. Germans read Astrid Lindgren as children and buy clothing at H&M. They listen to Abba and buy their first furniture from Ikea. They read mysteries by Henning Mankell and watch movies with Ingrid Bergman. And if that’s enough, says Hansen, the Swedes have to go out and flood Germany with Knäckebrot.  But nobody in Germany talks about “Swedenization.”

Germans as World Champion Complainers

Hansen’s satire shines most brightly in his chapter on why Germans believe complaining is a sign of higher intelligence. It’s sort of an unofficial German IQ test. Whoever does the best job of spontaneous criticism is the smartest. A comparison of the headlines in Spiegel and Time Magazine proves this, says Hansen: The American magazine offers information, and the German one critique. Even my German grandfather noticed this tendency. “When a German and an American both buy a new house,” he used to say, “the American guests come over and talk about everything they like about the house, and the Germans come over and find everything wrong with it.”

And here Germans are the Weltmeister. Just as Arabic has more words for “camel” than any other language in the world, Hansen points out, German has more words for criticism. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because public, grassroots criticism plays an important role in democracy. Heck, Germans even have a holiday for political criticism. Have you ever watched German television during Fasching?

To anchor the importance of complaining in the German culture, Hansen applied for a job as professor at twenty German universities. He asked the universities to establish a chair for the esthetics of complaining (Nörgeleiästhetik) and offered a curriculum. Hansen includes his application in the book, and you can find the answers of three of the universities in the appendix. And don’t tell me the Germans have no sense of humor. When I read the appendix, I always have to pull out my Taschentücher because I start crying so hard.

About the book:

Eric T. Hansen, Planet Germany (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Verlag, 2007); 289 pages, in German. Eric T. Hansen is a journalist living in Berlin.

Author’s Fazit:

The book did provide the author with an idea for an activity that students in both Germany and elsewhere can try at home. Click onto this interview about Germany and what to expect. Make a list and ask yourselves whether there is more to Germany than what is mentioned here, and share it with your classmates and teacher. You’ll be amazed at the various answers brought up, especially if you as the teacher is a non-native German. Good luck with that! 🙂

Note: The video was produced by Jason Smith, Marc Schueler and Dan Wogawa in 2013 and powered by GoAnimate.

About the writer and critic:

Ann Marie Ackermann (small)

Ann Marie Ackermann was a prosecutor in the United States before relocating to Germany, where she worked for 15 years as a legal and medical translator. Ann Marie now researches and writes historical true crime. Her first book, Death of an Assassin, will appear with Kent State University Press in 2017. It tells the true story of a German assassin who fled to the United States and became the first soldier to die under the American Civil War hero Robert E. Lee. You can visit Ann Marie’s website at http://www.annmarieackermann.com.

FF new logo1

The Fight to Save Fehmarn Island from Progress

Fehmarn Bridge side view new

Co-produced with sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles

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

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

IMG_9607

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_9638

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

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

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

Beltretter

Bewahrt Fehmarn (Preserve Fehmarn)

Comp2Kreuze CompKreuze Unknown-12 Unknown

FF new logo1  &  bhc new logo jpeg

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

Happy Children’s Day

P1030336This is a throwback article dating back to 2012. This was reedited and resent on a special day commemorating the children of this world and how they are important to our future.

When was the last time you did something special for your child? Did you take him/her to the zoo to feed the animals, throw a party and invite his/her friends over, or made a special treat for him/her? If it has been a while and you have not had a chance to make a child happy, then today is the day. While we have special days of celebration for mothers and fathers, today is Children’s Day, where we take pride in our children and do something really special for them.
The interesting part about Children’s Day is that for the most part, they are celebrated on two different days: 20 November and 1 June, which is today. The one on 20 November was based on an proclamation by the International Union of Child Welfare in Geneva in 1953, which was later supported through an agreement with the United Nations General Assembly in 1954, calling it Universal Children’s Day. Five years later, a Declaration on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN and signed by all its members 30 years later.
While Universal Children’s Day is still being proclaimed by the UN to this day, most countries in the world celebrate Children’s Day independently instead of celebrating it with the UN- Canada is one of a handful of countries that have Children’s Day on the same day as the UN’s Universal Children’s Day. The main date of celebration is 1 June, as an International Day of Children was proclaimed in 1950, based on agreements made by countries in the former Soviet Bloc, including East Germany. When Communism made a rapid descent to oblivion beginning with the Berlin Wall falling on 9 November and ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the former states continued to celebrate Chidren’s Day on 1 June. East and West Germany had their Children Day celebrations on two separate dates: 20 September in the western half and 1 June in the eastern half. Since the Reunification, the country has still celebrated Children’s Day on two separate dates. Officially it follows Canada’s suit, yet still the former East German states celebrate on 1 June.  Interesting enough, the USA is one of only a few countries where Children’s Day is recognized in regions within their own boundaries. Although Children’s Day has been celebrated on the first Sunday in June since President George W. Bush introduced it in June 2001, many communities, states and churches celebrate either earlier or later, thus making the national holiday obsolete. And is there a country that does NOT celebrate Children’s Day or even recognize Universal Children’s Day? You betcha, and alarming enough, you find this on European soil- in Great Britain. With claims that it is a holiday that is wasted and keeps children out of schools, as Gordon Brown claimed during his time as Prime Minister, Children’s Day is not celebrated in the UK, although its western neighbor, Ireland, celebrates this day on 25 March. (Makes me wonder whether current Premier David Cameron should set an example for others like Brown to follow….)
So what do children do on this special day? It varies from country to country. In places like Ecuador, Albania and Bulgaria, children receive gifts from their parents and other family members. In places like Australia and New Zealand, they organize activities around annual themes that deal with domestic issues and children. In some places, like Mexico, children are honored with activities, parades and other events. Bulgarians promote children’s safety by driving with their lights on all day long. In Vanuatu, children make speeches addressing the issues like child labor and abuse, while being honored through parades, etc. In Paraguay, Children’s Day is in connection with the anniversary of the infamous Battle of Acosta Nu on 16 August, 1869 where the army of 20,000 men crush an army of 3,500 children ages 6 through 15 who were fighting a battle already lost. It is a national holiday to commemorate the atrocities that were committed by the Brazilians during the five-year war. While the children can visit the zoo for free on their special day in Slovakia, they are treated like kings in Thailand, where a theme is created by the government and children can tour all aspects of the Thai regime and other institutions. And yes, they can use the public transport and visit the zoos and other places for free as well.
While the churches in the USA honor their children during a Sunday church service- as agreed upon through first the Universalist Convention in Baltimore in 1867 and later through the proclamation by now former President George W. Bush- in Germany, children usually receive presents from their families and schools and kindergartens arrange for field trips and other events to make their day special. After all, the children are the future and efforts are being made to encourage families to have children. This includes many states providing funding for parents who take maternity leave for up to three years, as well as for constructing kindergartens, renovating schools and hiring teachers. Even companies are constructing kindergartens and encouraging their workers to work and take care of their children, a mentality that is for the most part unthinkable in other places, like the US and the UK.

There is a reason for that, which is the fact that Germany, like many countries in western Europe is on the decline in terms of population. At the moment, the population is at 79 million, down from 82.3 million in 2000. The causes of such a decline are emigration to other countries, the population is aging, and lastly, the working conditions which discourages people from creating families. Henceforth beginning in 2005, the government and the private sector began taking a proactive stance and created measures to encourage people to have children. In the seven years since the initiative was started, we have seen a moderate increase in the population but only in areas where the job prospects are at their highest- in technology areas, like Jena, Dresden and Frankfurt, as well as in large cities in the northern parts of the country, including Berlin, Hamburg and other areas. Even big cities like Nuremberg and Munich are seeing population growth as a result of these measures. Whether this will offset the population decline remains to be seen, but Germany is taking steps in the right direction to replenish the population.

Regardless of the reasons for having children, we should take advantage of Children’s Day and look at our young ones for who they are, treat them like king and help them along the way. After all, we are the ones responsible for our children’s future and the children are the ones who are leading the way to one that will be better than what we have at the moment. I would like to close this entry with a Thai saying that states: “Children are the future of the nation, if the children are intelligent, the country will be prosperous.”  We have taken many steps to foster the children’s development. We should enjoy the day and take pride in the next generation that will lead the way after we are gone. Enjoy this day, everyone.

FF new logo1

Germany Quiz 3: The Answers to the Questions about Bremen and Bremerhaven

Skyline of Bremerhaven. Photo courtesy of Uwe Friese. Public domain via wikipedia

After having a look at the questions and doing some research about Bremen and Bremerhaven, here are the answers to the questions posted two and a half weeks ago. You can download the Guessing Quiz here and encourage others to give it try, providing them with an incentive to visit this rather unique German city-state.

Here are the answers (all in cursive and bold print):

Freebee Questions: Guestimate the answers to the following questions below:

  1. Bremen is the smallest of the German states and city-states. It has a total of   670,000 (548,000-Bremen and 122,000-Bremerhaven)   inhabitants.
  2. In comparison with the universities/colleges in Berlin and Hamburg, Bremen (and Bremerhaven) has only  five: University of Bremen, Bremen University of Applied Sciences, Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences, Jacobs University, Bremen University of the Arts.
  3. How many German immigrants leaving their marks on American history came from Bremen? (Hint: research in Wikipedia for the answer)   Five: Henry Bohlen, Charles Henry Nimitz, Carl Runge, Edward Voigt, and Frederick Charles Winkler- two of these men served in the Civil War

True or False?

  1. The Plot of the Bremen Town Musicians originated from Bremerhaven.   False. The animals wanted to go to Bremen but never did. More here.
  2. Bremen was once occupied by the Swedes.  True, from 1653 to 1667
  3. Beck’s brewery did not originate from Bremen, but from Hamburg.  False, Becks was founded in 1873 in Bremen
  4. Bremen was once occupied by the Americans after World War II.  True. From 1947 until the establishment of West Germany in 1949, the Americans created the free city-state of Bremen being enclaved by the British Zone
  5. Bremen is located along the Weser River. True- both Bremen and Bremerhaven
  6. Bremen has the lowest land above sea level of all of Germany. False, Bremen has the lowest high level of land of all of Germany with the highest point being only 32 meters above sea level.
  7. The soccer team SV Werder Bremen has won more soccer titles than Bayern Munich. False. Adding up the titles on the national and internation levels, Bayern Munich far outpaces Bremen 62-18. This is between 1960 and 2014.

Fill-ins

11. The Schnoor features houses dating back to the _____A___ and sells goods from the Medieval Ages.

A:

  1. 1300s
  2. 1400s
  3. 1500s
  4. 1600s

12. The Schlachte features a combination of a promenade of shops  (hint: sight seeing) and eateries and bars  (hint: beer and food) along the Weser River.

13. The Bremen Houses (Bremer Häuser) features a three-story family house built between the 1880s  and the 1930s.

14. The ______A__________ is the oldest church in Bremen. It was built in the ______B________ but has glass murals dating to the _______C______.

A:

  1. Peter’s Cathedral
  2. The Church of Our Lady
  3. Nicholas Church
  4. Benedict

B:

  1. 900s
  2. 1000s
  3. 1100s
  4. 1200s
  5. 1300s

C:

  1. 1100s
  2. 1200s
  3. 1300s
  4. 1400s

15. A famous dish for Bremen is the Gruenkohl and Pinkel. It features Sausage, Potatoes, bacon, spiced green cabbage and onions.

16. The most common vegetable found in Bremen is (in German): ___________________.

  1. Grünkohl
  2. Rotkohl
  3. Braunkohl
  4. Weissenkohl

17. The Bremerhaven Sail International Festival takes place in August every 4-5 years and features many varieties of sailing vessels. It was founded in 1986.

18. Das Deutsche Auswanderhaus in Bremerhaven was founded in 1852  and its function was to assist in allowing 1.3 million Germans to do what? Emigrate to America

Note: 1.3 million Germans emigrated to the New World by 1890; 7.2 million by 1950.

19. Bremerhaven was founded by Johann _____________

  1. Smith
  2. Schmidt
  3. Smidt
  4. Smithers
  5. Schmiedt
FF 25 Logo

Germany Quiz 3: The Answers to the Questions about Bremen and Bremerhaven

Skyline of Bremerhaven. Photo courtesy of Uwe Friese. Public domain via wikipedia

 

After having a look at the questions and doing some research about Bremen and Bremerhaven, here are the answers to the questions posted two and a half weeks ago. You can download the Guessing Quiz here and encourage others to give it try, providing them with an incentive to visit this rather unique German city-state.

 

Here are the answers (all in cursive and bold print):

Freebee Questions: Guestimate the answers to the following questions below:

  1. Bremen is the smallest of the German states and city-states. It has a total of   670,000 (548,000-Bremen and 122,000-Bremerhaven)   inhabitants.
  2. In comparison with the universities/colleges in Berlin and Hamburg, Bremen (and Bremerhaven) has only  five: University of Bremen, Bremen University of Applied Sciences, Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences, Jacobs University, Bremen University of the Arts.
  3. How many German immigrants leaving their marks on American history came from Bremen? (Hint: research in Wikipedia for the answer)   Five: Henry Bohlen, Charles Henry Nimitz, Carl Runge, Edward Voigt, and Frederick Charles Winkler- two of these men served in the Civil War

True or False?

  1. The Plot of the Bremen Town Musicians originated from Bremerhaven.   False. The animals wanted to go to Bremen but never did. More here.
  2. Bremen was once occupied by the Swedes.  True, from 1653 to 1667
  3. Beck’s brewery did not originate from Bremen, but from Hamburg.  False, Becks was founded in 1873 in Bremen
  4. Bremen was once occupied by the Americans after World War II.  True. From 1947 until the establishment of West Germany in 1949, the Americans created the free city-state of Bremen being enclaved by the British Zone
  5. Bremen is located along the Weser River. True- both Bremen and Bremerhaven
  6. Bremen has the lowest land above sea level of all of Germany. False, Bremen has the lowest high level of land of all of Germany with the highest point being only 32 meters above sea level.
  7. The soccer team SV Werder Bremen has won more soccer titles than Bayern Munich. False. Adding up the titles on the national and internation levels, Bayern Munich far outpaces Bremen 62-18. This is between 1960 and 2014.

Fill-ins

  1. The Schnoor features houses dating back to the _____A___ and sells goods from the Medieval Ages.

A:

  1. 1300s
  2. 1400s
  3. 1500s
  4. 1600s
  1. The Schlachte features a combination of a promenade of shops  (hint: sight seeing) and eateries and bars  (hint: beer and food) along the Weser River.

  2. The Bremen Houses (Bremer Häuser) features a three-story family house built between the 1880s  and the 1930s.

  3. The ______A__________ is the oldest church in Bremen. It was built in the ______B________ but has glass murals dating to the _______C______.

A:

  1. Peter’s Cathedral
  2. The Church of Our Lady
  3. Nicholas Church
  4. Benedict

B:

  1. 900s
  2. 1000s
  3. 1100s
  4. 1200s
  5. 1300s

C:

  1. 1100s
  2. 1200s
  3. 1300s
  4. 1400s
  1. A famous dish for Bremen is the Gruenkohl and Pinkel. It features Sausage, Potatoes, bacon, spiced green cabbage and onions.

  2. The most common vegetable found in Bremen is (in German): ___________________.

  1. Grünkohl
  2. Rotkohl
  3. Braunkohl
  4. Weissenkohl
  1. The Bremerhaven Sail International Festival takes place in August every 4-5 years and features many varieties of sailing vessels. It was founded in 1986.

  2. Das Deutsche Auswanderhaus in Bremerhaven was founded in 1852  and its function was to assist in allowing 1.3 million Germans to do what? Emigrate to America

Note: 1.3 million Germans emigrated to the New World by 1890; 7.2 million by 1950.

 

  1. Bremerhaven was founded by Johann _____________
  1. Smith
  2. Schmidt
  3. Smidt
  4. Smithers
  5. Schmiedt

FF 25 Logo

Christmas Market Tour 2012: Magdeburg, Germany

Author’s Note: This is the first of five series on this year’s Christmas market tour in Germany. This year’s tour focuses on two themes: locality and rural. The tour through the German state of Saxony-Anhalt with stops in Magdeburg, Quedlinburg and Halle (Saale) will address these two in full detail.

Here’s a Flensburg Files Frage for the Forum question to start off this tour: When you encounter the word Saxony-Anhalt, what are the first three words that come to mind?  What would you expect to see when passing through the state by car or by train? There are very few tourists who have visited or even stayed in the state bordered by Lower Saxony, Upper Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia, three of which were part of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), together with this state.  Saxony Anhalt is the crossroads between industry in the south (near Halle (Saale) and Merseburg) and agriculture in the north, and in terms of landscape, mountains in the west (near Halberstadt and Quedlinburg) and the plains region in the east (including the Elbe River which flows northward through the capital of Magdeburg and beyond). The state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at an average of 12%, competing with the likes of Mecklenburg-Pommerania, Berlin and Brandenburg, and North Rhein-Westphalia. It also has one of the largest demographic changes in the country as the population is getting older more rapidly than in other regions in the former GDR and more younger people are flocking to the western half of Germany and beyond for better employment chances and prosperity.

But beyond that, there are some unique features about the state that are worth noting, and one should never underestimate the people and the culture that greet you when you pass through the state. The Christmas markets are one of those features that makes Saxony-Anhalt the place to visit around Christmas time. Our first stop on the tour was the capital of Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg. With a population of 232,000 inhabitants and home of the Otto von Guericke University (which has 13,000 students and has produced over 11,000 publications world wide), the city has a lot to choose from. It has over 20 churches, many dating back to its founding by Charlemagne in 805 A.D. Among them include the Magdeburg Cathedral, which took over 300 years to build (1209-1532). The city prides itself on its sculptures and other forms of artwork, spanning over 90 years, including the Hundertwasserhaus building, located next to the Cathedral and the adjacent state parliamentary complex, one of two of such elaborate pieces of architecture in the world (the other is in Vienna). Historic bridges along the Elbe River are easy to find and plentiful in number (please see the article on this topic through the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles  found here.)

And the Christmas markets?

While there are a few suburbs that have markets lasting just one day, as we will see with the next article on the one in Buckau, the Christmas market in the capital is a must see for those staying for a couple days. The layout of the market features the stands being clustered together in an area that covers all of the Alter Markt Market Square (north of Ernst Reuter Strasse), all the way towards the Johanneskirche, which overlooks the Elbe River, and including the Carré Shopping Center.  The Alter Markt features many wooden huts selling traditional goods one will see at the Christmas Market, with some exceptions to the rule. These exceptions include the goods one can eat while in Saxony Anhalt, such as the Salzwedel Baumkuchen and the Magdeburger Prileke. Originally from Salzwedel in the Harz Mountain region, the Baumkuchen features a ring with 2-3 layers of pastry covered in vanilla or chocolate coating.  The Prileke is deep fat fried pastry covered in powdered sugar.  There is also the incense men and special Christmas candle holders from the Ore Mountain region, but that can be found in another article. The market fills the entire market square and overlooks the house of the city’s Burgermeister (EN: mayor) with a gold statue of von Guericke located at the front entrance to the building.

Toward the southeast end of the market is the Renaisssance section, where one can find hand-crafted items and homemade specialties that fits the time period, together with the music that is typical for that time period. Two of the most important points to see were the manger, featuring the wooden carvings of the arrival of Baby Jesus, His parents (Joesph and Mary), the Innkeeper and the Three Wise Men. That can be found between the entrance and the performance stage. The other point of interest is the church booth, featuring a rather unique Spanish style architecture with stained glass windows, but inside it is actually a bar serving its famous Gluehwein (mulled or spiced wine) and other warm alcoholic goodies. The setting reminds me of the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, a church that was converted into a restaurant and microbrewery. And while the church/brewery goes by the motto “On the eighth Day man created beer,” one can also use the “And on the ninth day, man created Gloegg,” for outside the Renaissance section of the Christmas market, there is the North Pole section, where little red huts feature hand-made products from Sweden, among them, the fruity mulled wine with spices one can only find in that rather popular Scandinavian country. One can buy it with or without vodka. If one is into whiskey, one can find Swedish whiskey at the booth. While I only tried the Gloegg, which is rather tasty with the Vodka, I bet the Swedish whiskey is better than the Scotch version. But I’ll let the whiskey lovers try it for themselves.

Apart from trying love handles (churros with caramel dip) and getting a free ceramic toy for bringing a kid to the booth, for children, the Magdeburg Christmas Market also featured an array of displays in connection with fairy tales written by many German authors, including Goethe and the Grimm Brothers. They were found at the main market, but also at the two shopping malls in the city center: the Carré located across the main street from the main market, and the shopping mall next to the central railway station, 10 minutes by foot west of the main market. These serve as main stopping areas for children to listen to fairy tales while taking a break from all the Christmas shopping.

Despite all that is offered at the Magdeburg Christmas market, the layout was rather compacted, resulting in the overcrowding of people going through, especially in the evening. One of the main causes was the fact that at the time of the visit, the Magdeburg Cathedral was undergoing extensive renovations, which included closing and barricading the Domplatz square in its entirety. This has affected many businesses in the area, including stores in the Hundertwasserhaus building which normally would see more customers at this time than in any other season of the year. By reducing its space to just the city hall and Alter Markt, it increased the chances of people veering away from the market at night because the crowd was huge, thus making passage impossible. The late opening hours (11:00am until 11:00pm) combined with the shopping malls’ opening hours (closing at 8:00pm) did not alleviate the problem of overcrowding. However, once the renovations of the cathedral is completed, chances are most likely that the market will be shifted to extend along the Elbe River, from the Alter Markt all the way to the Cathedral itself, a distance of almost 1 kilometer. This would make the city center more attractive and brighter, and it would make visiting the market more bearable. Also included in the suggestion is to coordinate the opening hours between the market and the shopping malls to make it more transparent and convenient for shoppers. Only then would there be an equilibrium in terms of crowd control versus opening hours versus profit. The more the people stream through the market does not necessarily mean more profit. In fact it will more likely turn people away because overcrowding can lead to potential outbreak in panic and a stampede that would turn Magdeburg into another Duisburg Stampede. Note: The incident happened in July 2010 at the Love Parade inside the former freight train station in the city along the Ruhr River, killing 22 and injuring over 200.

All in all, Magdeburg’s Christmas may be small and crowded, but its attractions make it worth visiting while traveling through Saxony-Anhalt in December. However, as we will see in the next article, the markets in the smaller suburbs, like Buckau make it even more attractive to see, especially since it presents a nice warm feeling of home and homemade. But before going to the next article, here are some pictures of the market with some attractions worth seeing while in Magdeburg.

 

Photos:

One of the fairy tale exhibits at the Christmas market

 

The elk greets the customers at the Swedish Whiskey and Gloegg Stand

The Church Gluewein Stand at the Renaissance Section of the Christmas market.

Christmas market at night.

Pyramid at the west entrance of the Christmas market at Alter Markt

View of Johanneskirche from the Elbe River

Magdeburg Cathedral under renovation: potential place for future Christmas markets?

Das Hundertwasserhaus Building next to the Cathedral

Christmas market at Alter Markt facing the city hall.

One of hundreds of sculptures and other forms of artwork that can be found in Magdeburg. This one is along the Elbe near the Cathedral, constructed in the 1990s.

 

Happy Children’s Day

P1030336

When was the last time you did something special for your child? Did you take him/her to the zoo to feed the animals, throw a party and invite his/her friends over, or made a special treat for him/her? If it has been a while and you have not had a chance to make a child happy, then today is the day. While we have special days of celebration for mothers and fathers, today is Children’s Day, where we take pride in our children and do something really special for them.
The interesting part about Children’s Day is that for the most part, they are celebrated on two different days: 20 November and 1 June, which is today. The one on 20 November was based on an proclamation by the International Union of Child Welfare in Geneva in 1953, which was later supported through an agreement with the United Nations General Assembly in 1954, calling it Universal Children’s Day. Five years later, a Declaration on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN and signed by all its members 30 years later.
While Universal Children’s Day is still being proclaimed by the UN to this day, most countries in the world celebrate Children’s Day independently instead of celebrating it with the UN- Canada is one of a handful of countries that have Children’s Day on the same day as the UN’s Universal Children’s Day. The main date of celebration is 1 June, as an International Day of Children was proclaimed in 1950, based on agreements made by countries in the former Soviet Bloc, including East Germany. When Communism made a rapid descent to oblivion beginning with the Berlin Wall falling on 9 November and ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the former states continued to celebrate Chidren’s Day on 1 June. East and West Germany had their Children Day celebrations on two separate dates: 20 September in the western half and 1 June in the eastern half. Since the Reunification, the country has still celebrated Children’s Day on two separate dates. Officially it follows Canada’s suit, yet still the former East German states celebrate on 1 June.  Interesting enough, the USA is one of only a few countries where Children’s Day is recognized in regions within their own boundaries. Although Children’s Day has been celebrated on the first Sunday in June since President George W. Bush introduced it in June 2001, many communities, states and churches celebrate either earlier or later, thus making the national holiday obsolete. And is there a country that does NOT celebrate Children’s Day or even recognize Universal Children’s Day? You betcha, and alarming enough, you find this on European soil- in Great Britain. With claims that it is a holiday that is wasted and keeps children out of schools, as Gordon Brown claimed during his time as Prime Minister, Children’s Day is not celebrated in the UK, although its western neighbor, Ireland, celebrates this day on 25 March. (Makes me wonder whether current Premier David Cameron should set an example for others like Brown to follow….)
So what do children do on this special day? It varies from country to country. In places like Ecuador, Albania and Bulgaria, children receive gifts from their parents and other family members. In places like Australia and New Zealand, they organize activities around annual themes that deal with domestic issues and children. In some places, like Mexico, children are honored with activities, parades and other events. Bulgarians promote children’s safety by driving with their lights on all day long. In Vanuatu, children make speeches addressing the issues like child labor and abuse, while being honored through parades, etc. In Paraguay, Children’s Day is in connection with the anniversary of the infamous Battle of Acosta Nu on 16 August, 1869 where the army of 20,000 men crush an army of 3,500 children ages 6 through 15 who were fighting a battle already lost. It is a national holiday to commemorate the atrocities that were committed by the Brazilians during the five-year war. While the children can visit the zoo for free on their special day in Slovakia, they are treated like kings in Thailand, where a theme is created by the government and children can tour all aspects of the Thai regime and other institutions. And yes, they can use the public transport and visit the zoos and other places for free as well.
While the churches in the USA honor their children during a Sunday church service- as agreed upon through first the Universalist Convention in Baltimore in 1867 and later through the proclamation by now former President George W. Bush- in Germany, children usually receive presents from their families and schools and kindergartens arrange for field trips and other events to make their day special. After all, the children are the future and efforts are being made to encourage families to have children. This includes many states providing funding for parents who take maternity leave for up to three years, as well as for constructing kindergartens, renovating schools and hiring teachers. Even companies are constructing kindergartens and encouraging their workers to work and take care of their children, a mentality that is for the most part unthinkable in other places, like the US and the UK.

There is a reason for that, which is the fact that Germany, like many countries in western Europe is on the decline in terms of population. At the moment, the population is at 79 million, down from 82.3 million in 2000. The causes of such a decline are emigration to other countries, the population is aging, and lastly, the working conditions which discourages people from creating families. Henceforth beginning in 2005, the government and the private sector began taking a proactive stance and created measures to encourage people to have children. In the seven years since the initiative was started, we have seen a moderate increase in the population but only in areas where the job prospects are at their highest- in technology areas, like Jena, Dresden and Frankfurt, as well as in large cities in the northern parts of the country, including Berlin, Hamburg and other areas. Even big cities like Nuremberg and Munich are seeing population growth as a result of these measures. Whether this will offset the population decline remains to be seen, but Germany is taking steps in the right direction to replenish the population.

Regardless of the reasons for having children, we should take advantage of Children’s Day and look at our young ones for who they are, treat them like king and help them along the way. After all, we are the ones responsible for our children’s future and the children are the ones who are leading the way to one that will be better than what we have at the moment. I would like to close this entry with a Thai saying that states: “Children are the future of the nation, if the children are intelligent, the country will be prosperous.”  We have taken many steps to foster the children’s development. We should enjoy the day and take pride in the next generation that will lead the way after we are gone. Enjoy this day, everyone.