A Women’s Only Train Compartment?

A Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn Train at Leipzig Central Station awaiting departure to Chemnitz. Photo taken in February 2016
A Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn Train at Leipzig Central Station awaiting departure to Chemnitz. Photo taken in February 2016

 

Imagine this scenario: You travel on a regional train from Leipzig to Chemnitz, but wanting to get off at Geithain for an interview for a teaching post at a local school. The train has seven coaches like the picture above, but are mostly full of passengers. You try to find a seat somewhere so you can practice your presentation to give to the interview panel. You walk through one coach full of children returning to a school in Bad Lausick after a field trip to a popular church in Leipzig. Another coach is full of football hooligans from RB Leipzig as they prepare to crash the party in a friendly match with Chemnitz FC, taking place in the evening, the next two coaches are full of passengers, but one male is spying on a woman in the next coach you are entering, which is full of women and children. The sign says for women as well as children up to 10 years of age only.  You see mostly women occupying the seats, ranging from nuns and teachers to businesswomen and mothers nursing babies. You find it awkward but decide to pass on to the next coach, where you finally find a seat. Two seconds after you sit down, the aforementioned male predator sits next to his prey and pries her privacy open, only to get the “Blauste Wunder seines Lebens”- in other words, the biggest but most unpleasant surprise of his life (I’ll leave the scene up to the women to complete the story to their liking). 😉

Then the light bulb goes on!  Having a women’s compartment on the train is a great idea, but is it really worth it and why?

This experiment is being attempted by the Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn (MRB), where such a compartment mentioned in this situation is being reserved for women and children. Unless granted, men are not allowed to sit in the compartment reserved for this group. The experiment is intended to make the female passengers feel safer while traveling, according to a statement by the MRB. Other countries have similar coaches reserved only for women, such as Japan, Indonesia, Egypt, Brazil, Mexico and India, while Great Britain is experimenting with reserving areas of the public transport trains, street cars and busses for women. While the goal is to protect women from being sexually harassed or assaulted, this measure presented by MRB has nothing to do with that, nor the incident on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, where over 1000 reports of women being sexually assaulted were made. Only one person has been charged. The attacks have sparked a backlash against refugees coming to Germany, as many assailants originated from the Middle East and Africa, according to the reports. Many refugees have been harassed and assaulted by right-wing extremists, their places of lodging were set ablaze, and the right populist party Alternative für Deutschland has been gaining success and votes as their anti-immigration policies have gained enormous support and traction.

Yet the idea of having a women’s only compartment on trains have sparked emotional outrage between those who are for such measures and those who consider it absurd. The article and question for the forum posted on many facebook pages including that of the Files’ have been met with mixed results. Proponents of such a measure believe that it would serve as place of refuge against people who are potential predators, giving them a warning of not to cross into their territory unless (….). Some who have supported this either experienced such incidents in person or know someone who has encountered such a person. Opponents claim that by designating areas solely for women would be going back to the age of segregation, where every facility was divided up between White people and Black people only, resulting in the likes of Rosa Parks breaking the barriers on the bus and Martin Luther King Jr. having a dream in his historical speech in Washington in 1963. Some people responded sarcastically by proposing everyone wearing burkas and having a men’s only cars, which had existed in Saudi Arabia until just recently. Others claim that such an arrangement is not enough and that more police protection and stiffer penalties are needed to keep predators and stalkers away. This includes longer sentences in prison and heavier fines. The German government has introduced tough measures to deport refugees committing such crimes, yet psychological counseling is patchy and only a fraction of the population, both victim and perpetrator alike, receive treatment, regardless of country of origin.

This leads to the question of the effectiveness of such a designation in the trains. Speaking from personal experience traveling in the family compartment of an ICE Train such designations are crowded and unwelcomed by “normal” passengers who believe that the safest and most convenient way to travel is by car. A 2011 article explains why (click here). Furthermore, should it be successful in the MRB, how can other railroad providers designate them in their trains, as the newer models are either double-decker InterCitys or sleaker Abellios, both of which have a major caveat, which is space availability, especially if other passengers have bikes to take with (another article written in 2011 on bike space can be found here).  The intentions are there, but better is civil courage either by standing up and saying NO or having others nearby stand up and help by shooing the person away. Then the person should be reported and tough(-er) measures will help him understand the meaning of NO! There are many reasons why women say no, and an article written by a columnist explains the meaning and reason why NO is used and many times ignored (click here)

Inspite of the opinions from all sides, the question will be whether this new experiment will be the norm for all rail services in the future, or if it will become a fad and other measures to protect people regardless of gender and ethnic background. Right now, the experiment is being tried on the trains traveling between Leipzig and Chemnitz along the Black-and-Blue Line, which connects the two with Halle and Magdeburg, each city having a storied history with their soccer teams and rivalries. If successful, it is expected to be expanded to other lines, and eventually to other train services, including the Bahn.

But is it really necessary?

frage für das forum

 

 

1. Do you think having a women and children’s coach in the train is appropriate? Why or why not? Make a list of advantages and disadvantages before answering, apart from the ones mentioned in the article.

2. Does your country have similar arrangements to the one being performed by the MRB? How does it work?

3. What measures does your home country have to protect women from predators and stalkers? Have they worked to date?

4.Using the two pictures below, how would you envision a women only compartment? Keep in mind that the double-decker train is an InterCity train with 10-12 coaches and the Abellio is a regional train similar to the MRB but has only one whole coach that can seat up to 300 passengers. Use your imagination. 🙂

ICabellioflefi deutschland logo

A Tribute to Roger Cicero

IMGP7636

BERLIN- The music world lost a soul much too soon. Roger Cicero, son of famous Romanian pianist Eugene Cicero has died as a result of a massive stroke. His passing occurred on Gründonnerstag, the Thursday before Easter, with his family by his side, living only 45 years of life on this planet, but 45 years as an actor but most importantly, a key contributor to the jazz and pop music scene. Born on 6 July, 1970 in Berlin, Roger Cicero’s career started early at the age of 16, playing alongside his father and members of his music group, before warning his way towards a career as a soloist. After founding a jazz quartet in 2003, he released his first two albums in 2006- one with jazz pianist Julia Hülsmann and a solo with the title Männersachen (Things Typical of Men). He would release eight more solo albums before his untimely passing, the latest, Cicero Sings Sinatra, was released last year and was dedicated to Frank Sinatra, whom he used as a role model all his years. Counting the years with his jazz group and his father, Cicero had 16 albums in all.

Cicero became a household name when he represented Germany in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest with this song:

 

Cicero was also a successful actor, having starred alongside Heidi Makasch in the film Hilde in 2009, before dubbing the voice as the frog and Prince Naveen in The Princess and the Frog and lastly, starring alongside American actor Robert Davi in In the Night With (…), shooting scenes in New York City’s Little Italy section.

Cicero had been experiencing health problems in the last year, having cancelled his remaining 2015 tour in November after experiencing fatigue and collapsing on stage. The tour was set to go on this year, according to various resources on the German side. Unfortunately, those looking forward to seeing him live are now in mourning, as his passing was way too soon. We have lost way too many greats so far this year, including many over here in Germany, plus many musicians, like Glen Frey, David Bowie and Natalie Cole. Cicero’s loss is in the eyes of many, too big to swallow. All we can do is honor him for his work in hopes that others will use him as a reference and continue on in the jazz music scene, where Cicero had left off.

And so without further ado, in Dankbarkeit…..

 

and in honor of Frank Sinatra, his inspiration……

 

flefi deutschland logo

The Flensburg Files at the Leipzig Buchmesse

messe

FlFi Newsflyer Logo new

 

 

LEIPZIG- There are five things about German culture that are considered sacred and should be handled with care: cars, soccer, punctuality, perfectionism and last, but especially, books. To Germans, books are like the Bible: you read them, handle them with care and give them to the next person, hoping that that person handles it with as much care as you did.

Even more so with books, one is expected to produce a book with high quality in terms of content. In some cases, if you are not into writing fairy tales but more into Krimis and politics, the themes have to be controversial and worth discussing at the table.

The Leipzig Buchmesse (Book Fair) is one of two central places where fairy tales, comics, newspapers and books come together for one weekend. Dating back to 1632, it is the second largest book fair behind the one in Frankfurt/Main (has been since 1945) in terms of the number of books presented and sold.

As many as 300 publishers from Germany and 40 different countries, including the United States present their products every year at the end of March, as well as organizations representing writers, teachers, publishers, musicians and even antique book sellers, attracting visitors in the hundreds of thousands.

Since 1995, the book fair has taken place at the Leipzig Messegelände and for a good reason: six convention halls full of book displays, including Fachbücher (books on specialized areas), antique books, newspapers, comics, German literature and others. During my visit this past weekend, I underestimated the number of halls the fair was hosting and ended up spending two hours in one hall! One needs a whole weekend to spend at the fair (luckily for me, it was spent in the Fachbücher section, where English (teaching) literature was on display).

In each hall, there is a forum on various topics as well as reading lectures and sometimes a bit of music. The convention is spacious, allowing people to manoever around. The people are friendly and willing to share some experiences and tips. And one can come away with free books, broschures and even card games if you find the right place.

While Frankfurt’s book fair is still larger than Leipzig’s in terms of books and things being found and sold there, the potential for Leipzig to surpass the Frankfurt Book Fair in terms of number of visitors is there.

Over 260,000 people attended the book fair this year- an increase by 9,000 from last year’s total. And given what the fair has to offer combined with its location within the fastest growing city in Germany and  the continuous interest in reading books, it could be that maybe next year at this time the Leipzig Buchmesse will surpass Frankfurt’s, taking the top role for the first time since 1945. The 2017 book fair will take place March 27-30.

The Flensburg Files has a gallery of photos taken by the author who  visited the book fair on the 18th in connection with the Intercultural Blogger Conference at the Poniatowski Cafe that evening in Leipzig. They are at the end of this article.

More on the book fair highlights as well as German’s passion for books will be found on the Files’ wordpress website. This Areavoices site will undergo a makeover in the coming weeks and therefore, all newsflyers and forum topics will be posted in the wordpress site until the work is completed. You can click here to follow the Files.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

flefi deutschland logo

The Flensburg Files at the Intercultural Blogger Cafe Conference

FlFi Newsflyer Logo new

LEIPZIG- More than 35 people from different aspects of the globe were on hand last night at the first annual Intercultural Blogger Conference, which took place at the Poniatowski Polish Bar and Restaurant, located outside the city center of Leipzig. Hosted by Ana Beatriz Ribeiro, founder of the online column Leipzig Glocal, the conference featured presenters of eight different blogs, together with good company among people either from Leipzig or just passing through to visit. Of the eight, the Flensburg Files was one of the blogs being presented by founder Jason D. Smith that evening. However other blogs based in and around Leipzig were presented as well, one of which included a book that was recently released in time for this weekend’s Leipzig Buchmesse. Here are the highlights of the event from the author’s point of view:

The Leipzig Glocal: Ana Beatriz Ribeiro started off the conference with her story about the creation of the Leipzig Glocal, where according to her speech and a video, an English-speaking guide to the events in and around Leipzig was needed, especially for those new to the area. Since its launch in March last year, the Glocal has attracted over 1200 followers on facebook and even more visitors on its website, which you can click here.

Alexandra Köppling talked about the importance of food in Europe and how and where people can find food products (for vegans, organics, etc.) in and around Leipzig, let alone make some yummy entrées, as she contributes to the Glocal as a food correspondant.

Alexander and Juliane Klinger talked about goats and things to do in Leipzig, especially for families with little income, through their blog Heldenstadtbewohner, one of a pair of German-speaking blogs featured at the conference. The audience took very kindly to the goats, asking if they thought about a blog about that as it is a hobby. 🙂

The first presentation that spawned interest and discussion on creating blogs came with the presentation on the Flensburg Files by Jason D. Smith. The origin and development of the Files can be found here. This is minus the film and a couple other tricks. After the presentation there were questions about audience visits and discussions on articles as well as questions and advice to people wanting to create a blog for their interest, such as Italian food recipes, African themes and art. Nice to know that the interest is blogging is really high. 😀

Stewart Tunnicliff (a.k.a. the Linguo Guy) presented a Prezi-style topic on how to create a blog with wordpress, one of the most popular platforms  for blogging. During this most colorful presentation of the evening, Stu walked the audience through the steps of creating a wordpress site, while reemphasizing the importance of “backing up your shit!” In other words, have back-ups and protection against hackers and potential disasters online. 😉 He has two blogs: The Lingo Guy  and The Leipzig Writers.)

The Stadtschwärmer, featuring Babett Börner, Franziska Müller, Katrin Hofmann und Stephanie Schmidt, presented a combination blog and book of their own, one that is highly recommended when visiting Leipzig. In comparison to the mainstream places and events, their most recently released tour guide features the sides of Leipzig that many don’t see except from their point of view. Some of that has to do with the job of two of the members as city planners, the others because of the other blog founded by the other two members of the quartet, going by the name of Kiss and Tell. Some ideas for another book are being sought and created, so stay tuned. 🙂

The last presenter was Kerstin Petermann, who talked about her blog, Peterfrau, an online blog which almost solely focuses on pop music and interviews with musicians. For people loving music, this one is a treat. 🙂

The conference ended with a combination of book exchanges (an article will come afterwards), donations for the event, good food and drink and some lively conversations among presenters and audience members, as well as those interested in creating a blog. One of the lessons learned from this conference is no matter how interested the people are, if one has an idea and will to present a topic to the open, then there is a way to do that, no matter what platform is used and how it is designed. In the end, the best columnists are the ones who are most informed of the topics surrounding them (even if it means looking up some information), and the most confident and able to market onesself to the audience. The more confidence and ways to get your audience’s attention, the more likes and followers you will have. You just need to find out what you like in comparison to what they like (also to read about). For this conference, it gave many, including the author of the Files, an idea on how to further develop their blogs further. For those who have not started one, it gave them a few ideas on how to start theirs.

This leads to my closing remark on this conference, which will continue to be hosted, and to the bloggers out there:

TO BE SUCCESFUL IN LIFE, AIM HIGH AND LET THE HEAVENS DO THE REST! 🙂

The Flensburg Files has a gallery of photos taken by the author and several people who were at the event, with some highlights of the events. Please check back often as more will be added. If you are interested in participating in or helping out on the next blogger convention, please contact Ana Beatriz Ribeiro at the Leipzig Glocal. The contact info is on their webpage.

 

And BTW, the film in connection with the Files’ presentation….. 🙂

http://goanimate.com/videos/0jyP_uPJ5kd0?utm_source=linkshare&utm_medium=linkshare&utm_campaign=usercontent

TIP! 🙂  Located on Kreuzstrasse 15 near Augustusplatz, the Poniatowski Bar and Restaurant offers a wide array of Polish food and drink, inlcuding the famous Stille Josef vodka, which comes in many different flavors. (The author tried one with wild berry which was really fruity). The restaurant was named after a patron, who visited the restaurant very often until his untimely death. The owners renamed the place in his honor. To be acquainted with Polish food, drink and culture, as well as know the patron, click here and check it out while visiting Leipzig.

five years flfi

Germany Goes Far Right in Three States

FlFi Newsflyer Logo new

Right-wing populist party Alternativ für Deutschland enters state parliament in Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Wurttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate with double-digit results in state elections, Grand Coalition fails in RP and SA, Greens win in BW but needs help, Chancellor Merkel in serious trouble

BERLIN/STUTTGART/MAGDEBURG/MAINZ- The winds of change are being felt across Germany, the day after the state elections in the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Wurttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. Yesterday’s state elections featured a “Kantersieg” on the part of the Right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), as the Frauke Petry-led party, critical of European policies as well as the open-door policies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel regarding refugees, stormed into the state parliamentary scene with 24% in SA, 15% in BW and 12% in RP.

In SA, the AfD is now the second strongest party in parliament, which is forcing minister Reiner Hasseloff to scramble to find a new coalition, for his partner party the SPD finished with 10% of the votes (finishing fourth behind the Left and AfD- its worst results in state party history), which is not enough to continue with the Grand Coalition. Another party looking for a new partner is the SPD in RP, where state minister Malu Dreyer is looking for a new coalition to replace the one with the Green party, as it barely made the 5% hurdle with enormous losses in the elections. Dreyer declared that all parties will be in talks except the AfD.

Winfried Kretschmann and his Green party can continue governing in Stuttgart, but despite maintaining a 31% vote in state elections, the AfD sliced into the voting scene, thus making the absolute governing of Baden-Wurrtemberg impossible. Talks are underway to provide support from the CDU, SPD and even the FDP to form either a traffic coalition or similar constellations. The results of the elections you will find here.

The statues and the National Theater with flowers on memory of the victims of the terror attacks in Paris.
The statues and the National Theater with flowers on memory of the victims of the terror attacks in Paris.

 

 

End of the Line for Angela Merkel?

Already, a coup d’ etat is brewing among the Christian Democrats and the Christian Socialists as calls for Chancellor Merkel to change course regarding the refugee policies are growing louder. Leading the pack is Horst Seehofer, the state minister of Bavaria, who blamed Merkel and her policies of allowing refugees to live in Germany, even for a short period of time, for the disaster in the three states. He stated in Bavarian channel BR “We should tell the public that we understand the results and will draw the consequences.”

Also in Visier was SPD director Siegmund Gabriel, who had to answer some difficult questions of how his party finished with the worst results in history. The SPD is partner of the CDU in Germany.

Despite statements by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen claiming that the refugee issue is a European problem and that Merkel’s policies should remain on course, after increased attacks on planned housing throughout Germany, with a focus on parts of east half, combined with protests between supporters of the AfD and opponents and even internal strife within the CDU, it is a matter of time before the temperature hits the boiling point and Berlin suffers from the longest summer in modern history. And while we have no politically-motivated violence, as being practiced by Donald Trump in the US at the moment, making the US elections become the next 1968, if measures are not taken to either justify or modify the refugee policies as well as contain the increase in right-wing extremism, the German public may end up in a similar fix as in the US- and unless Merkel is forced to call for early elections, the next national elections are in two years!

 

frage für das forum

In light of the recent disaster in Saxony-Anhalt, Rhineland Palatinate and Baden Wurttemberg, what will happen next and what should Chancellor Merkel do? Vote here and feel free to comment:

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAST FACTS: In the last survey, where the question of whether the slogan “Wir sind das Volk” should be eliminated by law, two thirds of the voters favored keeping the slogan, while 13% would like to see a law protecting the slogan from abuse while discussing this in the classroom. Only 20% voted for the law. More on the vote and its origin here.

 

FF new logo