Interesting Facts About Germany: Books and the Ten Commandments

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Here is an interesting story to share with you to start off this article: At an elementary school in Bad Oldesloe (between Luebeck and Hamburg), a group of pupils during an after-school class (Schulhort) saw an elementary school clearing the bookshelves of old, used school books, to make way for newer materials to be used in the classroom. Instead of putting the old books into boxes to be given away to the needy, the teacher instead discards the books into the garbage can- right in front of other pupils. An average of 30-35 pupils attend the Schulhort to do homework, activities and other things while waiting for their parents to collect them- a concept that is non-existent in the US and other countries, where classes run from 8:00am to 3:00pm- ending two hours later than in Germany.

Fortunately that group that saw the incident fished out 10 of the books and divided them up among themselves to take home with them. And while a complaint against that teacher has been sent to the headmaster of that school, little is known what action will be taken there, if at all.  But this incident conveyed the message to the pupils, whose parents and other educators would object forcefully:

 

 It is OK to throw books away because they are waste. It is OK to kill more trees because we don’t need them. It is OK to pervert the environment more than it is already.  And it is OK to waste the minds of the next generation because they are indeed cogs of the elite that believe the Earth is dead already- why not make it even deader?

 

I bet Betsy DeVos (America’s newly elected Educational Minister) is reading this right now and is about to kiss me for those comments, while also inviting me to dinner with Josef Stalin and all the evangelical Jesus-freaks, including Paul Ryan and Steve Bannon. 😉

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Ana Beatriz Ribeiro introducing the new open library at the Poniatowski Restaurant in Leipzig during last year’s Intercultural Blogger Conference. Ana is the founder and columnist of the Leipzig Glocal

 

But away with the sarcasm, the discarding of books in general would make a German cringe, for if there is one sin that is unforgivable, it is reading the book and then desecrating it. Germany prides itself on books, for one in three German households have an average of 1,200 books in their libraries! And while people may think only one in ten have a library or can find books in each room of the apartment or house, don’t be fooled when you check in the forbidden areas, where you can find boxes and shelves of books in the cellar, garage, some attics and underneath beds in the bedroom. I even saw a library of books in a neighbor’s basement! No matter where you go in the neighborhood of a German community, books are everywhere. This is why we have these key facts to consider:

 

  1. A community has an average of two libraries; in a university city- six counting a university library. For larger cities with more than two universities, don’t be surprised if university libraries are divided up ad customized, based on subject of studies and spread out throughout the city, justifying the need to bike from one end to the other.

 

  1. Each suburb of a city with 70,000 people or more has its own library full of new and used books, and these libraries have as full of capacity as the normal central libraries as well as the university ones.

 

  1. Germany prides in having book stores. You will find an average of one book store franchise and one private, family owned one in a city of 50,000 or more. And both are well-visited.

 

  1. Germany is the only known country to have an open library. On trains, in the park and in city centers, one can see a glass case with books for you to take. However, it comes at a cost of giving away one of your own. You can also borrow, read and put back if you wish. The open library displayed by Ana Beatriz Ribeiro at the 2016 Intercultural Blogger Conference at the Poniatowski Restaurant in Leipzig is another example, but it is one of the firsts in the country to have this in an eatery.

 

  1. Most importantly, Germany prides itself in hosting two international book fairs: One in Leipzig in March and another in October in Frankfurt/Main. Both taking place at conference centers (Messe), as many as a million visitors converge on these fairs to read and even purchase books from writers and publishers from as many as 90 countries on average, including one theme country.

 

To summarize, Germans treat books as Americans treat the Bible- they see these as sacred gifts never to be desecrated, period. Therefore when a person is lent a book and returns it in the form deemed different than what it was before- creases in the pages and covers, plus coffee spills (even if unintentional), that person can expect to be blocked on facebook and spammed in the GMX accounts. Ruining a book can ruin a friendship. When a person throws away books deemed useless, you can expect book lovers rummaging through the paper garbage containers at night, fishing them out to save them. Believe me, I’ve done this myself as my wife and I are bookworms ourselves.  And what is wrong with selling a book at a flea market (Trödelmarkt) for a buck? (One Euro) A loss in profits is a given, but at least the next person can share in the experience in reading the book as much as you did before selling it. 🙂

 

As a writer and teacher myself, if there is a Ten Commandments as far as books are concerned, there would be the following:

 

  1. Thou shall treat the book like the Bible. Handle it like it’s the most valuable gift in the house.
  2. Thou shall not desecrate the book in any form. Karma will kick the offender in the Gluteus Maximus for any petty misdemeanor with this.
  3. Thou shall treat the book like a gift. Books are great gifts at any occasion and no person can deny this.
  4. Thou shall not discard books for any reason. Even if a person dies, his books are also your valuables.
  5. Thou shall donate unwanted books. Libraries and second-hand shops are always forthcoming in taking on books for their collection.
  6. Thou shall ask before lending out books. When living in a flat with your partner, if you have a book to lend to a colleague, consult first before carrying it out.
  7. Thou shall treat a borrowed book like the Bible. It is a sin to read the book and return it altered.
  8. Thou shall visit one international book fair in thou’s lifetime. You’re not a true German if haven’t spent a whole day at a Buchmesse- better, two: one in Frankfurt and one in Leipzig. Both are experiences of a lifetime.
  9. Thou shall cherish the memories from reading a book. Books are brain food, providing some memorable experiences when reading it and some topics for discussion.
  10. Thou shall set examples for others when treating the book. Remember, one tree produces 5 books. One book produces memorable experiences similar to a vacation. That means paper can be recycled but not the book itself.

 

With a lot of writing greats coming from Germany, one should try and write a book to keep up with tradition. Not a column like this one, but a classic 200-page novel dealing with mysteries, travels, social and medical themes, business and history- the things Germans love to read. 70% of Germans prefer print media over e-media. That trend is bound to stay the same in the coming years. The smell of paper from the press is impossible to refuse, and e-books to many is just a piece of plastic that hurts the eyes. Germans have a very close and erotical relationship with books and the paper product with pages needs to be taken very seriously.

After all, as one person in a forum about Germany and books stated: Having a library full o books does not justify NOT buying more books. So if you see that in a German household next time, imagine a library full of Bibles, Quorans and Testaments, treat them with care and understand why books are to be kept as collectibles and not desecrated.

Thank you! 🙂

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Disclaimer: The location and name of the school where the incident took place was changed to protect the identity of those involved. 

Alexandra Back in Service

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The Alexandra at the Dock Schiffsbrücke in Flensburg

109-year old passenger steam ship back in Flensburg Harbor after “Heart Transplant” in Husum.

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FLENSBURG/ HUSUM- It has been four months, since Flensburg’s iconic ship, “the Alexandra” disappeared from the dock area Schiffsbrücke, located near the Rum and Ship Museum (Schiffahrtmuseum). The 109-year old steamship, built in 1908 by Janssen & Schmilinsky, is the last saloon ship of its kind that is operated on steam, had been at the docks of Husum, undergoing one of the most complicated operations in its own history.

That operation was the replacement of the boiler!

Crews at the Husum Dock and Repair Corporation had to cut open the 37 meter long ship, removing parts of the upper deck and its signature smokestack to remove the boiler that had been in the ship’s hull since the ship was built. The boiler, which used wood and coal to heat the water and at between 180 and 200°C, was considered functionally obsolete and was therefore swapped in place of the newest boiler, which has the same function as its predecessor, but dependent mostly on wood. The total cost for the replacement was 780,000 Euros (appr. $810,000)  A film demonstrating how the new boiler works, courtesy of SHZ.de, is below to show the readers.

Although the replacement took place in November, rebuilding the ship to its original form, combined with technical inspections and pursuing permission to operate the ship and return it back to Flensburg delayed its debut until today.

After a two-day journey, totalling over 400 kilometers, the Alex was greeted by thousands of visitors and fans today as it arrived at its original home for the first time after a four month absence.

The replacement of the boiler was one of seven successful restoration projects on the Alex since 1975. In 2015, new steel was added to the ship’s hull, replacing original parts that had corroded and put the ship at risk of being decommissioned. With the ship back in Flensburg, the next steps are to prepare it for its seasonal use beginning the weekend of Ascension Day in May. By then, the ship will welcome visitors, locals and fans as it tours the Flensburg Fjorde, while the ship’s captain, Guenther Hermann, talks about the ship’s history, together with the city’s history.

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  1. The ship was named after the Princess of Schleswig-Holstein/Sondernburg/Glücksburg  Alexandra Victoria (1887-1957), whose royal family had resided in Glücksburg Castle until 1918.
  2. The ship runs at a horsepower of 420 PS and travel at a maximum of 12 knots (22 km/h)
  3. The ship was the ambassador for the sailing competition at the 1936 and 1972 Olympics. Kiel was used as the venue for both, even though the remaining competition was in Berlin and Munich, respectively.
  4. The ship was used extensively for scuba crew and as a torpedo interceptor during World War II. It was also a rescue ship.
  5. The ship provides passenger service between Flensburg and Glücksburg, as well as tours around the Fjorde.
  6. Since 1982, the Alexandra has been listed in the Denkmalschutz Buch, the German equivalent to the National Register of Historic Places in the United States. Since the 1990s, it is the last passenger steamship of its kind in operation in Germany.

 

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JC Insurance Now Offers Insurance Coverage

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LUTHERSTADT-EISLEBEN, GERMANY:  Indulgence, the one way ticket to Heaven without having to do hard labor at the Purgatory. According to Catholic tradition, when a person passes on, he/she is taken to the Purgatory where the determination of his destination is dependent on the number and degree of sins the person committed during his/her life time. The purgatory is like doing hard labor, the person works off the guilt before taking the next step to heaven. To avoid that, at least according to Catholic history and later stressed and criticized by Martin Luther in his 95 Theses in 1517, people can buy indulgences, cleansing him of their sins and guaranteeing direct passage to dine with God and talk to Jesus in person.

Although indulgences had long since been eliminated by the Catholic Church by the 1600s after Luther reformed the Church and eventually branched off to form his own, they are making a come back in Germany. 🙂  Recently, JC Insurance has started offering indulgence insurance to church-goers wishing for direct passage to heaven, while at the same time, wanting protection from potential sins in the future. It’s a rather unusual concept, but one that required some research into finding out how it works.

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Thanks to a tip by a local Jehovah Witness chapter in Leipzig, I interviewed Jeremy Christian, the JC Insurance agent based in Lutherstadt-Eisleben. Located 30 miles west of Halle (Saale) in Saxony-Anhalt, Eisleben is both the birthplace of Martin Luther as well as the place where he perished. Why he has an insurance agency in the heart of the Protestant Church, the place where Luther started the religious cult is a mystery, especially, as Catholicism can be found in Bavaria, however, his concept was rather interesting to know about.

Because of the length of the interview, I’ve decided to provide you with a link, taking you to the page where you can read it in full. Please click on the picture below, and you’ll be directed to the wordpress version of the Files. Then you can see if opening an insurance selling indulgence is right for you. Keep in mind that the picture has an important meaning as you read about indulgence coverage in full.

Therefore, click on it and enjoy! 😉

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Flensburg Second

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Since Donald Trump has taken office as President of the United States, he has been keeping his promise of ensuring that America goes first before all other countries, thus upsetting not only his counterparts in Europe and Asia, but also his fellow countrymen at home and even some members of his own party, many of whom have close ties with relatives and businesses abroad.  In either case “America First” has become the cliché that has become the norm in a globalized society.

It’s just so funny that other countries, regions and even cities have caught onto the trend and countered the President with their versions of being first.  Coined Being Second, organizers have put together a video, highlighting the best places the countries have to offer to the President, along with the attitudes and culture of people, showing him the dos and don’ts when visiting the country- if he visits a country before being removed from office by the latest, 2020. 😉  Besides Germany (see the video below), videos have been produced by the likes of Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, India, Kazahkstan and Luxembourg. Even the region of Frisia has a video of its own!

 

But can you imagine a city taking up the task of challenging Trump? The city of Flensburg did just that. A group of residents decided to produce a video about the rum port prided with its history, culture and way of life that “might suit the president,” should he decide to travel to this small but lively town. Here is the official video:

 

Needless to say, the video has gone viral since its post onto youtube yesterday, thus breaking the ranks and becoming the first city to pride itsself as being the counterpart to this America First trend. 🙂

It makes a person also wonder if other states AND EVEN communities, both in Germany and Europe as well as in the States and elsewhere are willing to step up to challenge to say Community First and not America, or America First and Community Second. In Germany alone, there are enough examples to put together, whether they are states, like Schleswig-Holstein, Saxony, Thuringia, and North Rhine-Westphalia. Bavaria, Zugspitze and Baden-Wurttemberg have already released their bragging rights. 😉  Cities, like Berlin, Munich, Leipzig, Dresden and Hamburg can step up to the plate.

As big as the cities are, they are very diverse and have unique places to visit worth noting. Yet, as small as Flensburg is (it has 100,000 inhabitants minus the city’s neighbors and suburbs, any small community can do it. It’s just a matter of looking at the community’s identity, what it has to offer for places and cultural events and lastly, showing them what to do and not to do.  There are enough examples one can imagine filming, whether it is Fehmarn and its unique places, Halle and its association with Luther and Haydn, Bayreuth and its history with Richard Wagner, Erfurt and its charming historic buildings and its bratwurst. Anything is possible. Just let the imagination go wild. 🙂

And with that in mind, allow the author to end with a Denkfoto, allowing you to sit with a good local beverage in your hand while enjoying the view of Flensburg’s skyline from the now Heimathafen Restaurant at Hafenspitze. Enjoy and good luck with your film project! 😀  Looking forward to seeing more on this.

Remember: This challenge similar to what was presented is open for anyone wishing to beg to differ in Trump’s America First Comment.

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2017: The Year of Luther

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Many people know that the Lutheran Church was named after a monk who presented 95 Theses to the Catholic Church and as end result, was expelled by the pope in 1517. Yet what do we know about Martin Luther and his life? And how has his teachings influenced the Lutheran Church to this day? And while America has been traditionally known as the country whose culture is based on Christianity, how do they stack up to the Germans practicing the importance of Jesus Christ, especially as Lutherans because they make up for 70% of Germany’s population? As a side dish, how has Martin Luther influenced regions in the country, especially in the eastern half, where the religion had not been practiced prior to 1990?

This FlFi series looks at Martin Luther and his legacy in Germany, as we celebrate 500 years of his 95 Theses in 2017. Apart from looking at his masterpiece and the cities where he had his strongest influence- namely those in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, but also cities like Trier and Worms, we will have a look at how Luther has influenced the way Germans and Americans worship Jesus Christ, comparing traditions and trends, and looking at interesting facts that many people may not have heard of. For instance, what is the difference between Lutherans and Evangelicals, how did Luther celebrate Christmas in comparison to today’s Christmas, or how is Luther interpreted in the eyes of other generations, or what compelled East Germans to become Christians at the time of German Reunification and how do they view Christianity since then? There are also some interesting questions to address, like the definition of Indulgence and why is it still hated by Lutherans today, why have Fifth Quarters after every football game in some American communities, why Andreas Tag has been replaced with Halloween when it comes to trick-or-treating (not to mention also Reformation Day), how do you characterize a “Jesus-freak” or even more interesting: How christlich is a motorcycle club?

Interviews will be conducted with many who have done a lot of work in the field of Lutheranism, including pastors, historians and the common people. This includes inteviews with American and British pastors, who have made Germany their home, and their views on Martin Luther and the trends in Christianity, especially in Germany.

Yet that will not be all: author’s commentaries and interpretations, tour guides, literary works dealing with Luther and also activities dealing with Luther will be featured as we will celebrate his work and his influence on the church community, all 100% made in Germany! This includes links to podcasts from other channels that have done series on Martin Luther (albeit many are in German).

So sit back, take out the book on 95 Theses, turn onto some organic music by Johann Sebastian Bach, have some popcorn and beer on hand, and enjoy this series on Martin Luther and the establishment of the “real church,” at least from his perspective. 😉

Enjoy! 😀

You’ll find all the articles pertaining to Luther on the Files’ wordpress page by clicking here. You can also follow the Files on facebook, twitter or through subscribing to the wordpress page.

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