Friendships: A delicate relationship between two people with common values and are willing to help each other whenever it is needed. There are many types of friendships that exist, starting with the closest friends who grow up together and are partners for life, then friends you know from your work or school with whom you go to concerts and other public events, and lastly, colleagues with whom you work together but not have much for personal relationships. While in the United States, making friends is as fast as getting married within a year after meeting your true love, and one can have over 900 friends but only a handful of best friends, Germans tend to take friendships as seriously as the way they treat their books- they are sacred! That means only a dozen friends with whom you spend time with regularly. And for colleagues, “….working relationship please! I don’t want to know about your daughter’s graduation from Gymnasium!”
Making friends in Germany is a delicate task, even when you have some people on your wish list, whom you want to befriend. Seriously, we all have a list of that kind, even if it is engrained in our heads! I personally have one too, albeit with only a couple coconuts I’m trying to pry open. 😉 But seriously, establishing a friendship can be a delicate task, especially when you encounter a person whose characteristics are well different than yours but you both feel that there are some similarities and there is that other side of the person you want to know. In some cases it takes meeting a perfect stranger and a crazy adventure and you are friends for life. In other cases, establishing a friendship between a coconut (a stiff and secluded person) and a peach (an open-minded and adventurous person) takes a long time to develop, and one mistake can be disastrous, even if one attempts to clarify a misunderstanding. Every ex-patriate has gone down this road at least once and has learned a valuable lesson from this.
In either case, people come together for a reason, and there are many ways to tear down barriers and become friends for life, as seen in this week’s profiled genre, Rocker Rudi, from the Siebenstein series. Created for TV in 1988, the show features Frau Siebenstein, an owner of a small shop with full of magical surprises. She has a talking suitcase (Koffer), who has been on several adventures and is a storyteller, and a raven, Rudi, who is careless but assertive. The show can be seen on Sundays in the German children’s channel KIKA but it also has a website you can click on here.
In this episode, produced in 2010, a friend of Siebenstein’s (Doris) asks Rudi to clean the dishes, which he puts in the washing machine along with other items only to find that it is kaputt after a few short minutes. In the meantime, a biker enters the shop, looking lost as he was looking for a tatoo shop, only to see what happened to the washing machine and offers his help. Despite the hesitancy from Rudi and Koffer, Doris allows the biker to repair the washing machine and some amazing things happen in the end. More can be found here:
The episode went beyond the tatoos, the biking and the rock music as the main characters, who once had looked at one side of the biker, later looked at the other sides of him and eventually befriended him in the end. Sometimes people only look at one side of another person without looking at the other sides or at least find out why he has certain flaws that he either has problems dealing with or is unaware of what he has. If we only look at one side of a person, we will never know what the person is like on the inside. Sometimes it takes time to get to know the person in order to understand. Sometimes there is a reason for one person reaching out to another for help. In other cases, people, like the biker in the story, whom we never expect help from, offer their services as a way of relieving the person of despair. We may never know. But the main idea behind this episode is never judge the person by one side only or even by his “outer” appearance. Time is needed to know the rest of the person and eventually, befriend him. All it takes is patience, openness and the willingness to put aside their differences and forgive each other for the misunderstandings. While Americans are more quick to befriend a person, other cultures require time and effort to know the person before taking that step. Therefore it is important not to be judgemental, but allow the time needed to make friends and let it grow.
I would like to end this Genre of the Week with a story about a person who tried to open a raw coconut. He shook it, slammed it on the ground, sat on it while thinking and even tried to pry it open with a knife. Unfortunately it was to no avail, and the person had no choice but to let it be and ferment. A couple weeks leter, it ripened to a point where it was eventually eaten. Sometimes the Lord has His ways in deciding when to befriend someone and when to ferment someone you want to befriend. A lesson for the ages to be passed down to those who are trying to make friends with people of other cultures but to no avail. Time and effort are of the essence when it comes to making friends with others. This was a lesson taken from a deeply devoted Christian recently and one I hope others will follow.
After a long hiatus, the Files is taking you back to Minnesota and the German-named villages. Just like with the villages of Bergen and New Trier, the next stop will look at the largest of the 12 villages in Minnesota that carries a name that is common in Germany, comparing the US town with the one straddling the Danube River at the borders between Baden Wurrtemberg and Bavaria.
New Ulm was one of the first villages established after the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was signed in 1851, which allowed the settlers to claim lands in the southern half of the state of Minnesota. The town was established in 1854, four years before the state entered the Union. The German equivalent, Ulm, dates back to the time of the Germanic tribes of the 11th Century. Yet thanks to the Napoleon Conquest combined with the rise of King Ludwig II, the city was subsequentially split along river lines in 1810. On the BW side, there is Ulm, on the Bavarian side, Neu-Ulm. Yet both the German communities and the one in Minnesota have parallel lives.
Before looking at the two communities further, here’s a Guessing Quiz for you to try out. One of which features a Mystery Building question. Without further ado, here are a few questions for you to try, with the answers to be given once the article is published:
Mark which cities has what for a place of interest, either with NU-G (Ulm/Neu Ulm, Germany), NU-US (New Ulm, US) or both.
Hermann the German Monument
Professional soccer team
American-style street patterns
Streets named after American celebrities
Fachwerkhäuser (as seen in the picture)
Canals that merge with a major river.
MYSTERY BUILDING: This building, features a water tower with a red-white checkerboard pattern located next to a shed. While the building is being used for residential purposes, the water tower is out uf use at the present time. The question is when this water tower was built and what was its original purpose? One clue to help: This is located near the Institute of Technology of Neu Ulm, in an area where the US Army was once stationed until 1991. What else do we know about this?
GUESSING QUIZ: This tower is located at the north end of New Ulm’s business district. What is its purpose? What is the name of the tower and who built it?
Both cities had their share of conflicts and celebrities. Can you name at least one conflict that each town faced? Can you identify two people from each town that became celebrities and in what way?
Good luck with the guessing attempts. The answers will follow.
Note: The bridges from both towns will appear in separate articles in the sister column, The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Each place has its share of history with these crossings.
There is something about beer that brings out the best in people. Whether it brings cheer to the person’s face, brings people together or even the different tastes, beer does a body and mind good. Sometimes beer brings out the best quotes, as noted by some prominent people:
Thomas Jefferson: “Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health.”
Tina Fey: “In a study, scientists report that drinking beer can be good for the liver. I’m sorry, did I say ‘scientists’? I meant Irish people.”
Anne Sexton: “God has a brown voice, as soft and full as beer.”
Stephen King:” A man who lies about beer makes enemies.”
Martin Luther: “Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”
Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia: “Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world.”
And where in the world will you find beer in various flavors and brands? Germany. For almost 500 years, breweries have come up with the finest concoctions for people to try. Whether it was a pilsner beer, dark beer, wheat beer, malt beer, radler (alster water) or even fruit flavored beers, if there is one place where the best and brightest minds can come up with such crazy combinations of beer to satisfy the taste buds of their loyal patrons, it is Germany. And despite going through tough times- wars, economic crises and even fierce competition thanks to mergers with foreign companies, Germany still stands out as the land of beer, where it is served at any social function: get-togethers, parties and even the Oktoberfest.
If there is a posterboy for various beers that taste great and gives a person his fill, it is not necessarily the breweries in Bavaria, albeit the numbers are huge and include Löwenbraü, Oettinger, Hofbräu and Paulaner (the last two are highly recommended). Nor are they necessarily in central Germany, where many local breweries have a couple flavors only but their own unique taste that makes people buy more, like Wernesgrüner, Hasseroder, Rosen and Köstritzer. More is sometimes better if the various flavors rake in patrons and profits.
It’s located in the Hohe Nord- Flensburg. And the name: The Flensburger.
Founded in 1888, the family-owned business is not only famous for its swing top ceramic bottle cap that goes “plop!” when opening it. Because it has bucked the trend of other beers, other local German beers are following The Flens’ lead in that aspect. The Flensburger beer is known for its various flavors of beer- over 16 flavors in all, counting the water. With the flavors that have been retired, the number is close to 20!
So why is the Flens so popular, both in Germany as well as elsewhere (even in the US)? And this for a small family-owned brewery? The author of the Files had a chance to interview Sara Janisch, an international sales representative at the Flensburger Brewery to find out the secrets to the success of the beer and how it has helped give Germany and its beer in general a grandiose reputation for its taste. While some links are available to guide you through the brewery homepage, here are some answers that will get the beer drinker the opportunity to try German beer, let alone this beer:
- Personally, when a tourist or expat comes to Germany, which of the types of beer should that person try first and why?
All of them, of course! You can attend a brewery tour at our facilities and afterwards will get a chance to try all of our beers. However, the Pilsener is our classic, so this one needs to be tried for sure! An insider tip is our Flensburger Weizen and the Flensburger Kellerbier. Those are definitely worth a try. But like I said – each one of our beers has its very own and special taste so best to not miss out a single one.
- All German beers are created based on the beer purity law of 1516, which will turn 500 next year. Can you elaborate what that law is all about and why it was enacted?
Beers that are brewed according to the German Purity Law must only contain those four ingredients: (barley)malt, hops, yeast and water. It was mainly enacted to protect beer as an important staple food and to prevent tampering with ingredients that are not suitable for consumption.
- The Flensburg Brewery was founded in 1888 and is one of the oldest in northern Germany at 127 years. Can you tell me how the brewery was founded and who was behind it?
The brewery was founded by five local residents in September 1888. They had found an ideal site, a glacier spring with crystal-clear water for brewing and a way of obtaining the ice needed for the lagering cellars. When Emil Petersen took charge of the brewery in 1933, the name of the brewery was changed to Flensburger Brauereien Emil Petersen & Co. K.G., which has remained as is since then. It was during his reign until his passing in 1974 and even when Hans Dethleffsen succeeded him that the brewery expanded and later modernised, making it a one of the most successful family-owned breweries in the region. For more information, please see our homepage for further information on our history: www.flens.de/brauerei/brauereichronik (German) or www.flens.co.uk/our-history (English).
- While the Flensburg Pilsner is pretty much the flagship of the beers (and can be found throughout Germany and other countries), the brewery is famous for its various flavors. Apart from the Flensburger Radler, Flensburg Winterbock, Flensburger Lime and others, what other flavors have you created up to now, which ones can you find on store shelves and which ones would you personally recommend?
I attached a document with all beers and other products we currently have in our portfolio. For more information on the products you can also click on www.flens.de/produkte/sortiment (German). We created a helpful tool to track down retail markets (in Germany) that offer Flens: www.flens.de/flens-finder
- I also read about you creating the Flensburger Beer with quitten and pear. When did that come out and was it well received?
Flensburger Fassbrause Birne-Quitte was launched earlier this year and it turned out a perfect complement for our Fassbrause range!
- Have there been some flavors that were experimented but failed and were subsequentially taken off the shelves? If so, which ones and why?
A while ago we had two flavours of Flensburger Biermix (Blood orange & Grapefruit and Lemongrass), which are no longer in our portfolio.
Author’s Note: The lemongrass version I tried during the 2012 trip to Flensburg. The taste is similar to the Alsterwasser (Radler) but had a twist of lime. Nice taste but “schade” that it was pulled from the shelves.
- Are there any flavors that you are willing/planning to experiment with? Like strawberry, apple, etc.?
Please understand that this will be kept our secret.
Author’s note: Sometimes family breweries have the right to surprise the customers with their own concoction to market. So having this be kept top secret is no surprise and understandable, for it makes the customer become more interested. 😉
- Flensburger beer is common in English-speaking countries, including the US, where it was reported to be sold in places, like Texas, New York, North Dakota and even Minnesota (the last one because of the village of Flensburg located there). Why do you think the people choose Flensburger over beers, like Budweiser, Coors or even Miller?
Our Flensburger beers have their very own distinctive tastes, in which they differ from most of the other “mainstream” beers. We are not compromising on the high quality of our products. This as well as the unique design of our swing-top bottle and the plop’ sound when opening it convinces people all over the world.
- While many breweries have been bought out or consolidated, the Flensburger has stood out as the “last man standing,” outfoxing the competition. In your opinion, what has been the secret to being successful?
People up here in Northern Germany are quite down-to-earth, straightforward and persistent. We don’t give up too easily, even in hard times we work as a team and face challenges together. We take pride in our history and the independence our brewery has maintained over all those years. That is something we will never give up at any price.
- Apart from supporting the handball team SG Flensburg-Handewitt, what other social engagements has the brewery undertaken in recent years?
The Flensburger Beer has been a proud sponsor of many sporting leagues in Schleswig-Holstein. This includes the state soccer league and our engagement in the Flens Cup tournament. We also cooperate with the SHZ Newspaper Group in awarding the People of the Year to those who engage in extraordinary activities to help those in need. Please check out the following link for further information on this: www.flens.de/aktuelles/engagement (German). We mainly focus on local projects and events.
- Last question: If you were to market the beer in the US and on the international scale, how would you like this logo: “Never party without the Flens!” ?
Our logo is “Flensburger. Experience the taste.”, which is not only communicated on a national basis but also internationally. Our Flensburger beers can be drunk at numerous occasions, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a party. In our portfolio we have at least one kind of beer for everyone, not only for youngsters who like to party but also for people who simply enjoy drinking an incredibly tasty beer!
To sum up on this interview, the Flensburger beer has established itself as one of the main beers that one will see often when visiting Germany, because of its various flavors and its beloved ceramic “plop!” cap. Because of its successes other breweries are looking to the Flens for guidance as they too want to set foot on the ground in the beer business. For those who have never tried a good German beer, do not worry. There are two ways of trying the beer: One is through visiting Germany (and if time allows it, the Oktoberfest). The other is asking (or even hoping) that a good friend brings something to share with others. This was my experience when bringing two 2 liter bottles of Flensburger beer to a friend of mine in Pittsburgh in 2010 to share with others. Since that time, he has found ways to fly to Europe for some more. If a good German beer, like the Flensburger can get someone to become a world traveller, then that person is bound to become more informed of the outside world and try new things while visiting other countries. After all, a good beer and a few small steps will make that big difference.
Note: The author has a pair of good tricks up his sleave regarding this topic. One of which will be posted soon. The other will be announced in the fall. Stay tuned.
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.
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 group 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:
- 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Special thanks to Mirko Kaminski for the use of the photos, as well as Karin Neumann and Hendrick Kerlen for their help in contributing some valuable information for this story.
Germany has its place in history as far as music is concerned. We have our share of componists and conductors of classic music, like Haydn, Bach and Beethoven. We have our rockers, like the Scorpions and Die Toten Hosen. We also have our accapella groups, like the ones we presented last week with The Wiseguys.
Then we have a quartet of ladies, armed with strings and a piano, whose main purpose is to show off, and make the audience laugh, like this piece to watch, entitled Competitive Foursome. Enjoy this work, people!
This piece was one of many produced by the likes of Angelika Bachmann, Iris Siegfried, Sonja Lena Schmid and Anna-Monika von Twardowski, also known as Salut Salon. Formed in 2002 in Hamburg, the name of the group originated from a combination of Edward Elgar’s work, “Salut d’amour” and their regular concert at a music-literary salon in Eppendorf, the suburb of Hamburg during the 1990s. At that time, the quartet featured Bachmann and Siegfried as well as Simone Bachmann and Ameli Winkler, as the original founders of the group. Salut Salon’s taste of music is a combination of classical, jazz,pop and tango music with some acrobatic talents and some puppets in the mix. Apart from this feature song, they have produced several albums and individual pieces. Many of them can be seen via YouTube, which you can click here to subscribe.
This piece has it all: four ladies approaching the stage and competing to see who is the better one at the beginning: first the celloist and then the voilinist. The pianist follows and lastly the second voilinist. In the end, they make the best out of the classics, as you have seen in the video clip above. Seeing the clip for the first time, the first impression was it can only be done from Germany because of its high quality of music produced, with some showing off of their struts and strings. As you listen to the piece again, as well as other pieces from the group, you will find the group as an opportunity to drown into some music and indulge into some laughter and awes with their acrobatic acts.
While the group has received many accolades, this piece has been added to the Files’ Genre of the Week as a pure example of how music can be produced and spiced, impressing even those who have never heard of the group before, let alone listen to classic music as much as they should. If one would like some more evidence, here is a 40+ minute concert/documemtary on their successes, with the ladies showing their flower power, musical style. Enjoy!
There is an old saying worth noting as we look at this week’s Genre of the Week: Be careful with what you wish for, for you may get more than what you bargained. Sometimes when a person wishes for something better, it comes at a price. Most of that it comes at an expense of others and in the end, the person is just as unhappy as before, but the mess is much bigger than before.
The theme for this genre, The Fisherman and his Wife, another literary work published by the Grimm Brothers, is satisfaction and the strive for something better. The plot of the story features a fisherman in the north of Germany, who lives in a hut (Lower German: Pissputt/ High German: Hütte) that is messy and somewhat broken down. He has a lovely wife Isebill and everyday, he tries to make a living with fishing. One day, he catches a flounder, who asks him to be released, for he was proclaimed a prince. He sets him free, but see’s a trail of blood in the water before he leaves. He explains to Isebill what had happened and she demands that because he had set the flounder free, that the fisherman asks him for a wish. Despite his hesitancy, he concedes and goes to the sea shore, where he catches his fish. There, he says this enchantment which brings forth the flounder prince:
Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!
Flounder, flounder, in the sea!
My wife, my wife Ilsebill,
Wants not, wants not, what I will
The flounder asks what the fisherman wishes for and the response:
Go back! It has been done!
The first wish is an orderly cottage, which starts a greedy trend where the wife wants more. But unfortunately her wishes become more extravagant and they come at a price…..
The story was first conceived by Philip Otto Runge in 1806, but after three failed attempts to convince publishers to release his work (despite the changes in variations), the piece landed onto the desk of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who translated it from Lower German (Plattdeutsch) to High German and released it as part of the Aarne-Thompson series of literary works in 1812, classified as ATU 555. It was later translated into several languages, included English, which you can view by clicking here. The story was later adapted into several forms, including a poem by Aleksndr Puskin in 1833, Emmanuale Luzzati’s story “Punch and the Magic Fish” and Günter Grass’ novel “The Flounder.” Several German versions were adapted for print and medial purposes, which included a 60-90 minute film produced by German TV station NDR in 2013, which you can see below:
The story brings the question of happiness and satisfaction in our lives to the forefront, especially in today’s society, where the advancement of globalization and technology has played a key role in our decisions. This includes the strive to improve our lifestyle to compete with and conform with others. Yet when we do that, it comes at a painful price. That price is we have to give up something we cherish for something that may be newer but it cannot match what we had given up for. There are many examples where our strive for a better life has resulted in sacrifices which we regret in the end. This includes putting career in front of family, replacing a partner with a newer partner, moving from a town where we grew up to a bigger city with all the conveniences and jobs available, and the like. Sometimes we look at these decisions and not regret them, as we march on and forward to bigger things. Yet many times, we regret our decisions and end up either living a life full of dissatisfaction or return to what we had before. While there is an ending in The Fisherman and his Wife where both characters were happy with, as seen in the film and literary example, sometimes our decisions do not have happy endings unless we find something where we can feel comfortable with.
So if you are unhappy with your life and intend to strive for something better, sit down first and make a list of benefits and drawbacks to making changes for the better, talk to some people about it, and maybe even read or watch this classical genre. If you intend to make your change for the better, ask yourself why. Because once the decision is made, chances are likely that there is no turning back. Furthermore, your decision will come at a price of the people surrounding you. So be careful with your wish for change……
After a brief hiatus, the Files takes you back to the Quiz series on the 16 German States and to the next candidate: the state of Brandenburg. Located in the eastern part of Germany, where Potsdam and Berlin are located, Brandenburg is perhaps one of the greenest states in Germany, joining the ranks of Mecklenburg Pommerania, Hesse, Thuringia and Saxony. This is in part because of the combination of forests, natural landscapes and wildlife that cover about half the state, mostly in the northern and western parts. The state also has the largest mass of water in the country, with over 33,000 kilometers of river and canals plus 3000 bodies of water, including 860 lakes. Both account for almost a fourth of the number of lakes found in Minnesota, the author’s homestate, where 11,800 lakes and over 111,000 km of rivers and streams exist. Yet while Minnesota can pride itself with its Winter Palace, the state of Brandenburg can also pride itself with its share of palaces and churches . Yet there is more to the state than just that, especially as it is the main attraction of this year’s German Garden and Horticulture Show (short: BUGA). For those wanting to visit Brandenburg for that purpose or for a vacation, perhaps a small Guessing Quiz will both test your knowledge of the state as of now, but also get you more interested and acquainted with the state. Without further ado, here is the challenge for you to take:
1. Which city is the capital of Brandenburg?
a. Potsdam b. Burg c. Brandenburg/Havel d. Neubrandenburg e. Frankfurt
2. Rank the following cities from most populated to least populated.
Bernau Rathenow Prenzlau Neuruppin Frankfurt Cottbus Werder Senftenberg Brandenburg/Havel Eberswald Falkensee Potsdam Görlitz Oranienburg Schwedt
3. Apart from German, which language is also spoken in Brandenburg? (Hint: Cottbus is known as Chosébuz; Lausitz means Luzyca)
a. Czech b. Polish c. Hungarian d. Danish e. Sorbian f. Slovakian
4. Which states border Brandenburg? Mark all that apply.
Lower Saxony Mecklenburg-Pommerania Thuringia Saxony Hesse Saxony-Anhalt Schleswig-Holstein Berlin Hamburg
5. How many districts and independent cities exist in Brandenburg?
6. Which rivers are NOT found in Brandenburg? Mark all that apply.
Elbe Elster Spree Havel Saale Ucker Trave Oder Neisse
7. Before 1947, the state of Brandenburg was once known as the Margraviate, going by the name of ___________ Brandenburg.
a. Marge b. Jim c. Marcus d. Ulla e. Mark f. Maik g. Mork h. Paul
8. In reference to this Margraviate, the kingdom goes as far back as which century?
a. 10th b. 12th c. 16th d. 18th e. 19th
9. Berlin is part of the state of Brandenburg. True or False?
10. A German women’s soccer team is the only team from Brandenburg that is in the premier league of a sport. True or False?
11. The origin of Frankfurt is Vrankenforde and applies to this city on the Oder River as well as the city on the River Main in Hesse. True or false?
12. Jim Brandenburg, a world-renowned nature photographer from Minnesota, once visited and photographed the flora and fauna in the state of Brandenburg. True or false?
13. The German motion picture studios, where most of the films are made, can be found in Brandenburg. True or false? Name the city where you will find most of the action.
14. The annual Festival of Lights, where the castle and the grounds are lit up and musical concerts draw in a crowd of 40,000 visitors, is held at the Sanssouci Palace, which is located in this city?
15. The Brandenburger Klostersommer festival, which takes place every June and July, features music, art exhibits and other events taking place in which churches in Brandenburg? Name two of them.
16. Which of the local beers will you find in Brandenburg?
a. Beck’s b. Wusterhausen c. Kneipe Pur d. Potsdamer Weise e. Red Elephant
17. Brandenburg is famous for its pickles, which can be found in this region? (Hint, this region has been declared a biosphere and listed by UNESCO since 1990).
18. During the days of Communism, Brandenburg was dependent on two key commodities, one of which is still in use today. Choose from the list below:
Mining Tobacco Agriculture Fishing Nuclear Power Tourism
19. Which of the lakes in Brandenburg is the largest and where is it located?
20. There are 82 castles and palaces in the state of Brandenburg. Identify the following below:
a. Altogether (2 of them)
b. Potsdam (3 of them but NOT counting Sanssouci)
c. Spreewald (1)
d. Elbe/Elster District (2 of them)
21. How many churches will you find in Brandenburg with the exception of Potsdam and Cottbus? Estimate your numbers in tens.
22. Which bridge in Brandenburg is famous for its spy exchange during the Cold War? (Note: It is one of many that existed along the Berlin Wall before 1989 and is still in use today).
23. Which city has the highest number of bridges?
a. Potsdam b. Brandenburg c. Cottbus d. Frankfurt e. Görlitz f. Prenzlau
24. The Glienicke Bridge in Potsdam and the Seegarten Bridge in Brandenburg/Havel are the only two cantilever bridges left in the state that carry the same truss design. True or False?
25. Name two existing bridges along the Oder that are older than 75 years.
Have fun taking the challenge. An answer sheet with some interesting facts will follow. Good luck!
“…failure with clay was more complete and more spectacular than with other forms of art. You are subject to the elements… Any one of the old four – earth, air, fire, water – can betray you and melt, or burst, or shatter – months of work into dust and ashes and spitting steam. You need to be a precise scientist, and you need to know how to play with what chance will do to your lovingly constructed surfaces in the heat of the kiln.”- A.S. Byatt, The Children’s Book
Germany has been known for its creativity, impressing visitors with their high quality products, carefully designed and built with handcraft to ensure that they last a lifetime. One of the products that has been raved by many in the past 25+ years has been ceramics. Over the summer, when you visit a market square in a German community, do not be surprised to find a pottery market taking place for 1-2 weekends between late June and middle of September, where one can find the right gift made of clay, regardless of where they originate. They can range from flowerpots to wine cups, animal figures to plate sets, gargoyle statues to even coffee cups. People buy them to add to their sets at home, while others like me, buy small pieces bit by bit, to build a set for a loved one. In my case, it was for my grandma before she passed away a few years ago. But even when she was alive, she adored the increasing pottery set featuring plates, cups, jars for jam and the like.
But handcrafting such items take vast amounts of time and effort, and many who embark on this adventure have to forego their full time job in the office to spend time creating pottery, in many cases being dependent on the partner for extra support to help cover the cost for clay, oven, other machinery and cutting utensils. But despite the shortcomings, such an occupation can be a fun experience if one sticks out and attracts the right crowd.
This two-part article will look at Germany’s obsession with pottery and why they are still popular even to this day. While the second part will feature the art of creating something using clay, the first part has a Guessing Quiz for you to try out. The answers will come when the second part is featured. Without further ado, let’s have a look at the questions for you to try out:
1. Which German states will you most likely find pottery places and markets? Name at least three of them.
2. Use the two pictures below and translate what the expression means in English. Remember, literal senses do not make the best sense. 😉
3. What is a gargoyle? Mark those that apply only.
a. goblin b. angel c. devil d. monster e. alien f. human g. borg
4. Identify this machine, both in German as well as in English and explain what it is used for.
5. Ceramics can be produced using which kind of clay? Which rocks are best for ceramics?
6. What is this gentleman in the picture doing with one of the ceramic pots? What is the purpose of this process?
7. True or False: Any bird can be made using clay. Please note, it is NOT ONLY in connection with pots, as seen in the picture below. T/F
8. Which product can you NOT imagine being made of ceramics?
Thing about these questions, discuss them in the forum, take a stab at the answers, even in the Files’ comment sections or on facebook. When part 2 appears later in the year, the answers will follow, some of which may take you by surprise. Sometimes a visit to a pottery market to look at the products available and research can help you answer the questions. In any case, if there is a pottery market in your neighborhood next time, take advantage of the sunny weather and visit it with your family and friends. Who knows? You might be lucky and have all your loved ones marked off your Christmas shopping list with one swift and impulsive shopping spree with two bags full of ceramic products they will be happy with.
More to come on this topic soon……
“Ding-Dong! Gleis eins, Einfahrt ICE 737 nach Hamburg Hauptbahnhof über Neumünster. Abfahrt 13:25. Vorsicht bei der Einfahrt!” Seconds later, a white worm with black and white stripes approaches the platform of Schleswig, south of Flensburg, where a half dozen passengers board the train heading to Hamburg and all places to the south of there. As the train departs the platform, it takes off at high speed, as it heads to its next station.
Speeds of up to 350 km/ph (218 mph), with comfort seats, a children’s compartment, a rather formal Bord Restaurant and lastly, enjoying the company of other passengers while checking the train schedule via broschure or even computer. At the same time, one can see the landscape fly by with a wink of an eye. These are the characteristics of the Inter City Express trains (short: ICE-trains), the flagship of the German Railways (The Bahn). Since the introduction of the Experimental in 1985 and the ICE-1 in 1991, the ICE-trains have become the most beloved for its service and quickness yet the most scrutinized by others for their delays and air conditioning units going awry (as you probably heard through the song by Wiseguys in the last entry). But little do the readers realize is that the making of the fast train goes back many years, and it took efforts by many people and organizations to make it happen. In this 25th Anniversary of Germany special, we will look at why the ICE-Train has become an integral part of German culture since 1990 and why other countries are looking up to the Bahn and its trains for guidance in constructing their train lines and locs. Furthermore, we will look at the future of the ICE-Trains as the Bahn is entering its next chapter in its storied history.
The First Train: The ICE Experimental
There is an analogy that best describes the development of the ICE-Train, comparing that with the one from the film “Chicken Run”: You cannot have the egg without the chicken- or was it the other way around? Click here to learn more. The same can be applied with the development of the first ICE Train: do you start with the train first or the rail line? The idea of the InterCity trains, which go as fast as 200 km/ph (124 mph) had been realized and put into service since the 1960s, providing services to cities with at least 25,000 inhabitants, yet the Bahn (which was known as the Reichsbahn at that time) was thinking bigger, bolder, and faster. And for a good reason: much of Germany has rugged hills and winding rivers, which made it difficult for trains to achieve speeds higher than 140 km/ph (87 mph). If one combines the amount of regional trains clogging up the rail lines, then it is a foregone conclusion that trains arrived at their destination- eventually!
Henceforth in the 1970s, the German Ministry of Transportation (which was based in Bonn at that time) started an initiative to construct the main artery lines, which would serve fast train services in the future. This included the lines from Mannheim to Hanover via Frankfurt and Fulda, Würzburg to Frankfurt, Hanover to Berlin, Mannheim to Stuttgart, Ingolstadt to Nuremberg and Frankfurt to Cologne. Authorities had envisioned trains travelling along these lines at 300+ km/ph (186 mph) with little or no delays. At the same time, the government (which still owns the Bahn today) contracted to companies like Siemens, to construct the first fast train that was supposed to travel these lines. The end result, after many attempts, was the introduction of the ICE Experimental in 1985. It featured two locomotive heads on each end plus 2-3 coaches. The purpose of the Experimental was to test the maximum speed of the train in hopes to further develop the train for passenger use. The Experimental broke several records, including one on 1 May 1988 at a speed of 406.9 km/ph and topping the French Rail Service’s TGV’s record twice in May 1990: 510.6 km/ph (317.2 mph) on the 9th and 515.3 km/ph (320 mph) on the 18th. All of this was along the completed stretch of the line between Mannheim and Hanover, Würzburg and Frankfurt and Mannheim to Stuttgart. Although passenger use was restricted, the Experimental took the then Soviet President Michail Gorbachev to Dortmund in June 1989 to meet with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, introducing him to the advancement in train technology. Although the Reichsbahn set a speed limit of up to 300 km/ph for fast train services for safety reasons, developments involving the ICE continued, culminating in the introduction of the first of seven types that are still in use today.
After several successful test runs, contracts were let out between the Bahn and German companies, like AEG, Siemens, Thyssen-Henschel, Krupp, etc.) to design the first of seven ICE class trains that are still in use. This class is not only the oldest in service today, but also the longest, as it features (minus the two loc heads) at least 15 coaches- one of which is a Bord Restaurant that resembles a double-decker but in reality, it provides a skylight view while dining. 2-3 coaches are reserved for first class. A computer information system was also included in the trains to provide travellers with information on the train connections- this was later included in future ICE trains. Unlike the InterCity trains, where passengers had to use steps to get on board, the ICE-1 became the first class to make boarding much easier, especially for those who need special assistance. And lastly, the train was climate-controlled, which made travelling a convenience year round.
The ICE-1s made their debuts along the main artery route connecting Basel and Hamburg in 1991 with the first 41 trains being put into service. However, as the lines were expanded to include the Berlin-Hanover, Berlin-Leipzig-Nuremberg-Munich, Munich-Würzburg-Mannheim-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Erfurt-Leipzig-Dresden, and the Frankfurt-Cologne-Rhein Region lines, plus the extensions to Brussels, Amsterdam, Zurich and Berne, more ICE-1 trains were manufactured and put into use.
Ironically, the ICE-1 trains were introduced in the USA in 1993 to serve the coastal route- specifically, between Boston and Washington via New York City as well as as a demo route between Boston and Portland . Neither bore fruit because of the lack of interest in train travel and were later taken out of service. Yet despite the mentality that train service is for hauling freight, the thought of having high-speed train service has not escaped the minds of many Americans, especially because of environmental reasons, and many cities have been trying to copy the successes of Germany, albeit in snail’s pace.
Despite the successful debut of the ICE-1, the only caveat is because of its length, the maximum speed of this train was 280 km/ph (174 mph). On some of the stretches, the train’s pace around the curves were on par with that of the InterCity trains, which raised questions about the effectiveness of the trains and the need to shorten the trains when designing the next class of trains. This includes the introduction of the ICE-2 Train which made its debut shortly after the ICE-1’s introduction.
Introduced in 1996, the ICE-2 featured a similar design to its forefather the ICE-1, but it had two most noteworthy exceptions. The first is that the trains were shorter in length- eight coaches and two loc-heads, which includes the Bord Restaurant and 1-2 first class coaches. The second is that the train was the first to feature a coupling which can attach to another ICE-2 train, thus making it longer. A demonstration on how this concept works can be found below:
The danger of this mechanism is the potential of the train to derail due to crosswind during storms and headwind from oncoming trains. The end result: a speed limit of 200 km/ph (124 mph) and its use on lesser-used lines that use ICE-1 trains seldomly. Therefore, one can find ICE-2 trains on lines connecting Berlin, Hanover and the Rhein-Ruhr region, as well as between Hamburg and Cologne (later extending to Kiel), Bremen and Hamburg (extending to Berlin), as well as between Frankfurt and Cologne via Coblence. They are also used as a substitute for the next class of trains to be discussed, the ICE-T, should it be deemed necessary. Despite the train’s shortcomings, they have gained popularity in other European countries as they were implemented and/or mimicked in Belgium, Spain, Italy and France, just to name a few.
The next class of ICE-Trains to make its debut was the ICE-T. Not to be mistaken with the American rapper turned actor ICE-T, this train has one unique feature that makes it one of the most versatile of the ICE-trains: its tilting technology. A demonstration on how it works is below:
That, plus its ability to reach speeds of up to 250 km/ph and its coupling technology made it useful on rail-lines that normally use InterCity lines. Therefore when it was introduced in 1999, it was put into service along the line connecting Berlin and Munich via Leipzig, Jena, Bamberg and Nuremberg as well as the line between Frankfurt and Dresden via Fulda, Erfurt, Weimar and Leipzig. They were later used on lines connecting Switzerland with Stuttgart and Munich, respectively, Frankfurt and Vienna, as well as between Berlin and Rostock and Hamburg, respectively (even though its terminus had been in Kiel at one time). The trains have two different types: one featuring 10 coaches and one with 7 coaches. This include the end coaches as the motors of the trains are found in the bottom part of the train. It was also the first to introduce the Bord Bistro, a sandwich/snackbar which normally would be found on InterCity trains, as well as a play area, which has been a focus of several critiques from parents, one of which was written by the Files in 2011.
The ICE-T became a forefront of another class of ICE-Train which became one’s loss and one’s gain, the ICE-TD.
As seen in the picture above, the train stopping at Schleswig is an example of a train class that is still being used despite its shortcomings, the diesel-version of the ICE-T. Introduced in 2001, the ICE-TD was similar to its sister but ran on diesel. It operated along the Vogtland route between Dresden and Nuremberg (extending to Munich) via Hof and Bayreuth as well as between Munich and Zurich. These lines were not electrified but the high number of passengers boarding along these routes justified the use of these trains. Yet technical problems combined with an increase in diesel taxes to be paid by the Bahn made its service shortlived. While the trains were decommissioned in 2004, they were recommissioned two years later to provide extra service for those going to the World Cup Soccer tournaments taking place in Germany. Subsequentially, all 20 train units were bought by the Danish Rail Services (DSB) a year later and have since been serving the northern half of Germany: one line between Berlin and Aarhus via Hamburg, Flensburg and Kolding and one between Berlin and Copenhagen via Hamburg, Lübeck, Fehmarn and Ringsted. A happy ending for a class of trains that was one the black sheep of the Bahn but has become the darlings for the Danes.
At the same time as the ICE-T, the ICE-3 made its debut for the Bahn. Featuring eight coaches including the end coaches, the trains up until most recently had been the fastest of the ICE-Trains in service, reaching maximum speeds of up to 330 km/ph (205 mph), making them suitable for the main artery tracks that do not require the twists and turns of the ICE-2 and ICE-T trains. Introduced for the World Expo in Hanover in 2000, the trains have since served the lines connecting Frankfurt-Basel, Frankfurt-Amsterdam via Cologne, Frankfurt-Brussels via Cologne and Frankfurt-Paris via Strassburg.
The Velaro version of the ICE-3 train is the newest version of the ICE train, and perhaps one that will dominate the European continent if the Bahn has it their way. The concept was first conceived in 2009 and since 2014, the first trains have taken over some of the important lines, namely between Cologne, Frankfurt and Munich. This may change in the next year as more of these trains, looking sleeker than the original ICE-3 but going just as fast as its predecessor, are set to take over some of the main artery lines, including the new line between Berlin and Nuremberg via Erfurt. In addition, with its successful test run through the Euro-Tunnel, the Bahn is looking at commissioning these trains to serve the line to London via Paris and/or Brussels. As the time to travel to Frankfurt from London takes six hours instead of 18-20 with normal trains, the use of these trains for this purpose, if successful, could take the Bahn to newer levels, causing other countries to look at Germany as an example of how passenger rail service can be developed. Sadly though, the introduction of the ICE-3V will come at the cost of two train classes: The ICE-1 and ICE-2, despite their recent renovations, will be decomissioned, bit by bit, beginning in 2020 and 2025, respectively. While the newer versions will change the image of the Bahn, many people will miss the older versions that have made rail travel faster but comfortable.
Finally, the latest advancement in train technology that will take rail travel further beyond 2020 is the ICx. The concept has been worked on by several companies in the private sectors but the trains will feature both this version, a cross between the ICE-2 and the ICE-3 with 12 coaches, as well as a double-decker version. The designs have not yet been finalized, but two factors are certain: They will be slower than the ICE-trains with speeds, maxing out at 200 km/ph (124 mph), plus they will replace the existing InterCity trains that are over 35 years old and are meeting the end of their useful lives. Already planned is the commissioning of the lines in the eastern half of Germany beginning in 2020, the lines one which InterCity and former ICE trains once travelled will have these trains in use by 2030, including areas in Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg and parts of northern Germany.
In the past 40 years, we have seen the advancement in passenger train technology in Germany and beyond, starting with the construction of new high-speed lines and the development of high speed trains, followed by the advancement of train technology to make trains faster but safer for use, the expansion and modernization of existing rail lines to attract more passengers, and the extension of rail services to as far away as the UK and Russia. The railroad landscape is currently undergoing a transformation where, with the introduction and commissioning of new trains, many lines are being designated for certain trains. While this may come at the dismay of residents of cities, like Wolfsburg, Jena, Weimar and other smaller communities, who will see their ICE train services be replaced with ICx, in the end, rail travel in Germany will still remain a lasting experience. This applies to those who never had never gotten the luxury to travel by train before because of the lack of availability, but have recently tried it and would do anything to use the train again on the next trip. A friend of mine from North Dakota had that experience during her last visit to Germany and has that on her list of things to do again on the next European trip. But for those who think that train travel restricts the freedom to travel wherever they want to, here’s a little food for thought worth mulling as this long article comes to a close:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness- Mark Twain
If one wishes to try something new, as an alternative to traveling by car (or sometimes by plane), one has to open up to the options that are in front of us, and look at all the benefits involved. This is what makes Germany a special place. We have the bus, the boats, the bike, and despite all the bickering, the Bahn. 😉
“Meine Damen und Herren, bitte beachten Sie: ICE 1209 nach Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Abfahrt 13:37 fällt heute aus.”
“Auf Grund von Streiks endet alle Züge in Buxtehude. Wir bitte um Verständnis.”
“Meine Damen und Herren, wegen der Klimaanlage sind Wagen 3 bis 5 im IC 2230 nicht verfügbar. Wir bitten um Entschuldigung.”
Cancellation of an ICE Train, trains ending in the middle of nowhere because of strikes, and three coaches are inhabitable because of a malfunctioning air conditioner. Factors which one would normally not find in Germany, especially with the Deutsche Bahn. Yet, they are the norm. And with each unexpected announcement comes more head shaking and many people looking for other forms of transportation because of announcement’s absurdity. Living in Germany for many years now and being an avid fan of train travel, one has to get used to the unexpected, despite the promises made by The Bahn to make services more convenient. But with each attempt comes another “Panne!” Another strike, another broken down computer system in an ICE train, train detours because of people setting fires to cables along the tracks, and fights over how to utilize the children’s area on a regional train. One has to witness them all in order to appreciate what the Bahn has to offer.
There are many works written about the Bahn, some of which are poking fun at the way the train service has been treating their customers- one of which I will get to in a not so distant future 😉 – yet this genre of the week looks at the a capella version of the Bahn. Featuring Daniel (Dän) Dickopf, Edzard (Eddi) Hüneke, Marc(Sari) Sahr, Andrea Figallo, and Nils Olfert, the group Wiseguys is in its 21st year in business, and is known as one of the most popular vocal groups in post-Reunification Germany. Formed in Cologne in 1995, the group has released 16 single albums featuring many satire songs mainly in German, but also some in English. They have performed mainly in German-speaking countries but have made rare appearances in the US, Canada, Poland, Luxembourg and the UK. The song “Thank You for Traveling with Deutsche Bahn,” produced in 2012, is a pun in connection with the attempts to make announcements on the trains in English, only to be ashamed of the strong German dialect that comes out of their mouths. While some announcers have done a great job of trying to conceal that flaw, others I have heard were way too over-confident when speaking that they have been analogized with the Americans trying to learn French (Believe me, you don’t want to go there!) In either case, if you choose to travel by train next time, whether you are a tourist or someone wanting to take a vacation, this is what you can get into while traveling with the Bahn (Enjoy! )
But yet there are some things a person can be happy about, when traveling with the Bahn. One of which is in the next entry…..