Lights Out for Hamburg Handball Team

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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The House of One in Berlin: Three Religions, One Dialog

Site of the construction of the House of One. Photo taken by Molgreen and available through WikiCommons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20150917_xl_P1030026_Berlin-Mitte_Petriplatz_an_der_Gertraudenstrasse_The_House_of_One.JPG

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BERLIN-  In light of the plight of the refugees and the terrorist attacks that occurred in Beiruit, Paris and the latest in San Bernardino, California, our short term reaction would be to follow Donald Trump’s unrealistic advice by banning the Muslims and do what Adolf Hitler did during the days of the Third Reich- which is get rid of them. Both ideas have been shot down by the majority of the public as absurd, barbaric, even cowardly. Even historian Dee Brown would tout the comments “We are still here,” in reference to the Native Americans keeping their culture despite years of repression on the reservation and failed attempts to integrate into American society.

In Germany, a new concept is being built on the ruins of history that will change that. As a sign that Germany is the posterboy for multiculture and acceptance of people from different countries, three religious leaders: a pastor, a rabbi and an imam are creating a religious institution where people of all three religions can come to worship.  The House in One brings Christians, Jews and Muslims together for one dialog and one convention with God, bringing different traditions and friends interested together. It will house a church, synagogue and moschee in one building located on the ruins of five churches, the last one being the St. Peter’s Church, which sustained substantial damage during World War II and was subsequentially removed in 1964 to make space for a parking lot. Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin,  Pastor Gregor Hohberg  and Imam Kadir Sanchi developed the concept in 2011, with the goal of expanding the concept on a global level in the future. A brief explanation can be found in the video at the end of the article. Berlin was chosen because of not only its cosmopolitan setting, but it was a place where all three religions once thrived but were suppressed by dictatorship over the course of two centuries, including the Jews during the Third Reich and Christians during the era of Erich Honecker. With a starting sum of 10 million Euros, construction of the new building began, with a donation program being launched in 2014. As of right now, over 1 million Euros of the 43.5 million Euros needed has been collected, including a lion’s sum by the German Government.

With dialog and peace being the only remedies to stop the conflicts that have been ocurring and end the attempts of fulfilling certain prophecies, could a person imagine having a place of worship for Christians, Muslims and Jews, maybe even adding other religions, like Buddhism, Taoists, or even some Native American religions? For people like Donald Trump, it is unimaginable, however their hate comes from the lack of information about religions and the real situation in society today. Inspite of the protests against taking on refugees, even in the United States (which could house 10 times as many refugees as Germany has been doing), perhaps a house of worship for many religions can serve as a place of peace and dialog. For the House of One in Berlin, the first of its kind in the world once it is open in 2016, the three founders are creating the platform for others to follow, and perhaps a remedy for all the religious conflicts going on today. If you are interested in donating for the House of One, click here for more details and watch the video for more information. Together, we can make it happen. :-)

God Bless, no matter what religion you come from.

 

The ruins of St. Peter’s Church at Petriplatz in Berlin. Photo taken in 1951, courtesy of the German Federal Archives

 

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Genre of the Week: Christmas from Heaven

christmas from heaven

This genre of the week, which ties in nicely with the holiday season, starts off with a quote the main character got from his father. It stated “From little things come big things.”  The person who learned this was not the author Tom Brokaw, who wrote this book and added to his storied biography spanning over 50 years as a writer and journalist. Nor did it come from Robert T. Barrett, who illustrated this book from cover to cover and in a realist manner which takes the reader back to a bygone era.

The quote came from the main character, Gail Halvorsen, known to many as Uncle Wiggly Wings.

For many who do not know who this person is, Halvorsen pioneered efforts to provide supplies to war-torn areas-  by air!  The story takes place in Berlin in 1948, the time when the city and the rest of Germany was divided into four zones, occupied by the US, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Josef Stalin worked to choke off West Berlin, which was occupied by the Allies. In return, airlifts were undertaken by the allies, plus Australia, New Zealand and Canada to name a few, providing Westberliners with the necessary supplies needed to survive, including food, coal, fuel and clothing. This was done by flying into Templehof Airport from the military bases stationed in West Germany.

One of the pilots who took part was Halvorsen, who was flying a C-54 cargo plane and was filming scenes in Germany, when he met several children, underdressed and with little to eat. After conversing with them, who asked him questions about the cargo planes and how the supplies were being flown in, he sympathized with the kids and offered them two pieces of gum to be divided up into pieces to be shared among the group. He then came up with the idea of airdropping candy from the plane. The children were extactic and asked him how they would recognize his plane. His response: he would wiggle his wings.

And the rest was history. From the airdropping of candy bars, gum and other sweets (in individual parachuttes) contributed by his friends, later other members of the armed forces and companies, the mission became known as Operation Vittles, as declared by his superior, Lt. Gen. William Tunner.  And with that came the model that the US has been using to help the people affected by the war, as troops have airdropped not only candies and gum, but also books, stuffed animals, and anything that is not too heavy that can land with a parachutte.

And with Operation Vittles came reconciliation between Germany and the US, marking the beginning of a continuous close bond between the US and Germany that still exists to this day. Halvorsen still has ties to the country today, despite having long since retired from the Air Force, and has won several awards from both sides of the great pond for his work, including the German Order of Merit and the Eric Warburg Award.

The book itself provides in depth details of Halvorsen’s accounts of his mission from several aspects, including his motives and how he became who he was, including his upbringing as a Mormon. But going beyond his past, one can find many themes in the story that are worth discussing in the classroom, aside from the historical part. This includes the willingness to reconcile for the actions done to one another, to start over from scratch and develop the trust that went up in smoke because of the bombings. As the setting of the story is around Christmas time in 1948, another theme worth looking at is perpetual hope. With every crisis or war, there is hope for a new beginning  and peace between people and among groups. Sometimes one’s actions can change the perspective of the recipient in an instant, which is something that is addressed in the book. Even the smallest action can have a huge impact, even if it is not felt right away.  It is seen even in the illustrations in the book, where the setting starts as dark, with Halvorsen sitting in the cockpit of the plane, then it flashes back to his first encounter with the children at Templehof  and the gum, before returning to the scene where he drops off another shipment of candy and food to the children with dawn breaking on Berlin.

How he made the parachuttes, one can see in the instructions in addition to the Tabernacle Choir CD provided in the book.

Christmas from Heaven is one story that goes beyond being a Christmas bedtime story. It can be used as a history lesson with a moral of doing small which becomes a big thing in the end. Halvorsen’s two sticks of gum, combined with his plan of airdropping candy to the children became the platform for further missions done by air for the benefit of those in need. Sometimes a donation of a few dollars or Euros for a worthy cause will help a big deal in the end. And sometimes even donating blood and organs can save more lives than a person can ever think.  A small good deed can erase a bad one, but also produce vast effects that will reap rewards in the end.  Think about it at the dinner table this Christmas and ask yourself what you can do for the people. There is more than enough to do going around.

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Genre of the Week: Bornholmer Strasse- A Tribute to Günter Schabowski

Günter Schabowski speaking at Alexanderplatz in Berlin on 4 November, 1989, five days before the opening of the Berlin Wall, which he authorized. Photo courtesy of the German Bundesarchiv, public domain: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-1989-1104-041,_Berlin,_Demonstration,_Rede_G%C3%BCnter_Schabowski.jpg

The next Genre of the Week is also a tribute to a man whose life as well as the lives of East and West Germans alike and those of Europe forever. Günter Schabowski was a long-time journalist, who was the chief editor the East German newspaper Neues Deutschland (New Germany) and later co-founder of the weekly newspaper, Heimat Nachrichten, based in Rotenberg/Fulda. Schabowski, who died on 1 November, 2015 after a long illness in a nursing home in Berlin, was a member of the Socialist Party SED from 1952 until its dissolution as part of the German Reunification process in 1990, of which he was member of the Volkskammer from 1981 until its end, and he was the governmental spokesperson for the East German Politbüro after the removal of SED leader and dictator, Erich Honecker in October, 1989. Once feared by many, by the likes of Christa Wolf (who was a writer and critic), Schabowski’s rounded character was revealed when he and members of the Politbüro executed the putsch to remove Honecker and replace him with Egon Krenz. However, his peak of fame came with this press conference on the eve of the Fall of the Wall in 1989:

The announcement of the opening of the Berlin Wall and the borders separating East and West Germany led to many East Germans to flock to the borders and many West Germans to embrace them.

And the rest was history.

But how about looking at it from the point of view of the border guards who had patrolled the Wall and the borders prior to November 9th, 1989? Maybe a bit of satire to go along with that?

This is where this film comes in: Bornholmer Strasse, a German film produced last year in commemoration of the event that is going on 26 years. The plot of the story is the border patrolmen guarding the border crossing at Bornholmer Strasse, at the site of the Bösebrücke, separating East and West Berlin, whose lives had been anything but spectacular until the events culminating to November 9th, where thousands of people stormed the crossings after hearing of Schabowski’s announcement of the opening of the borders. After much resistance because of misunderstandings between them, the media, and the SED, the patrolmen gave the green light, thus marking the beginning of the end of their lives, which was depicted at the beginning of the film, and whose display can be found at the GDR Museum in Berlin on Karl-Liebknecht Strasse 1.  Here’s a trailer to the film:

The one caveat in this film was the fact that it was filmed at the Swinemünde Bridge near the train station Berlin Gesundbrunnen instead of at the actual site, but part of that has to do with the memorials that had been in place and the increase in traffic since the border’s opening. For more on the crossings, check out the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ guide to the crossings along the former Berlin Wall, here.

The producers of the film did a great job of keeping to the realities of the events, for the film depicts the confusion that not only the members of the SED had, but also the border guards and the people lining up just to see the other side of Berlin. It showed that once Honecker had been removed, it was a matter of time before the calls for democracy and the Wall to come down were heeded.

It is unknown whether Schabowski’s announcement to the media that the borders were going to open was accidental or intentional. But given his later renouncement of the SED and admittance of guilt of his involvement in the prevention of people from fleeing to the West (the latter resulted in a lighter sentence of only a year in prison), it seemed that he too realized that the changes were going to come eventually, either peacefully or by force. Already Mikhail Gorbachev allowed the countries in the eastern block to go their own way and announced that the Soviets were not going to be involved. Poland and Hungary had removed their dictators and opened their borders to the West. Realizing that Honecker was becoming an obstructionist who lived in his shell outside reality, Schabowski and others removed him from power peacefully. He eventually left Germany for Chile, where he died in 1994. The pressure was growing on Schabowski to open the gates. It was just a matter of time before he pulled the trigger- and this willfully.

Despite him being one of the worst politicians of the SED, he made good on his promise to unite East and West, even if the announcement was misunderstood as many scholars have mentioned. Sometimes when there is nothing left, the only solution is make the move and go on with life, leaving the past behind for a greener future. Because of him, we have a united Germany, and a united Europe. And looking at it from an East German’s perspective, we say Thanks! Looking at it from an author’s point of view, being an outsider from rural Minnesota, we say this: normally, bad guys should not be getting tributes like this, unless their merits warranted it. Schindler and Schabowski  right now are probably sharing their experiences and embracing each other for their actions in saving lives of thousands in the face of repressive regimes even as this tribute and genre is being posted. And here I say, Vielen Dank und Gott segnet Sie. :-)

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Germany Quiz Nr. 6: What you need to know about Brandenburg

View of the city of Brandenburg from above. Photo courtesy of Nancy Grimm

View of the city of Brandenburg from above. Photo courtesy of Nancy Grimm

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! :-)

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Germany at 25: The ICE-Train

ICE- Diesel stopping at Schleswig south of Flensburg. Photo taken in 2012

ICE- Diesel stopping at Schleswig south of Flensburg. Photo taken in 2012

“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 Experimental as it travelled towards Munich in 1986. Source:

The Experimental as it travelled towards Munich in 1986. Source: Marco Voss; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3A410001MKF_Zug_1152.jpg

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.

ICE-1 Train. Source:

ICE-1 Train. Source: S. Terfloth; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AICE1_Schellenberg.jpg

ICE-1: 

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.

ICE-2 Train between Ingolstadt and Nuremberg Photo courtesy of Sebastian Terfloth via source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AICE2_Hilpodrom.jpg

ICE-2: 

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.

 

ICE-T Train crossing a bridge at Grossheringen in Thuringia along the Berlin-Leipzig-Nuremberg-Munich Line. Photo taken in 2011

ICE-T: 

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.

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.

ICE 3 near Ingolstadt. Photo by Sebastian Terfloth Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AICE_3_Fahlenbach.jpg

ICE-3:

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.

ICE 3V- the newest version of the ICE 3. Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1c/Innotrans_407.jpg

ICE-3V: 

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.

The ICx Train Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/27/ICX_Mock-UP_01.JPG

ICx:

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.

Prognosis:

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. 😉

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Niklas Blows Through Germany

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High Winds Causes Downed Trees, Hinders Train Services, Causes Damages to Buildings

Bikers being blown off by high winds, high waves causing local flooding and damages, flying carousels, and trains eating fallen trees pretty much sums up a day in total chaos throughout Germany and central Europe yesterday, as the storm Niklas blew through the region, with winds gusting up to 190 km/ph or 100 mph. Many downed trees and flying debris caused damage to overhead powerlines on rail lines, thus bringing rail service to a standstill in many parts of the countries. In Bavaria, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, rail service was suspended completely, forcing many trains to stop at the nearest train stations and personnel to provide lodging possibilities for tens of thousands of stranded commuters. In Lower Saxony, one regional train was unable to stop in time to avoid a falling tree. In many cities, such as Munich and Berlin, light rail (S-bahn) services were halted. High winds also caused many semis and even cars to flip over on German autobahns, causing many to be closed for long periods of time. Flights in and out of Frankfurt and other cities were cancelled due to high winds. Even some festivals, like the annual city market in Flensburg, were called off due to flying debris and high waves.  Snow was reported in the northern half of Germany, in places like Rostock and Hamburg. The storm is believed to be one of the worst in recent history, comparing it to the storm Kyril, which devastated many parts of Europe in February 2007. There, high winds and torrential rainfall caused extensive damage, power outages in entire cities, like Magdeburg (in Saxony-Anhalt), and the first-ever shut down of rail service and highways on a federal level.

While the winds have now subsided a bit today, Easter here in Germany and parts of Europe is not looking good for any children wanting to hunt for Easter eggs. Snow, rain and winds are expected through the weekend, thus creating the possibility of a white Easter for the third time in four years. Better get the Bing Crosby song out for Easter Sunday, because “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christ- ma; Oh wait! Ea-ster!” 😉

Wishing you safe travels and make the best of Easter despite Old Man Winter’s attempt to try and ruin it!

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The Flensburg Files has compiled a list of links taking you to the galleries, where you can see the damage done by Niklas. The sources are below:

http://www.shz.de/schleswig-holstein/panorama/sturm-ueber-deutschland-orkan-niklas-in-bildern-id9357301.html

http://www.dw.de/germanys-storm-niklas-one-of-the-biggest-in-years/g-18351411?maca=en-Facebook-dwde

http://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/Niklas-zieht-ab-Zuege-fahren-wieder,sturm1526.html

http://www.br.de/nachrichten/unwetter-sturm-bayern-niklas-100.html

 

 

 

Germany into Darkness

Total Eclipse shadows the entire state, as 80% of the moon covers sun. 100% covers extreme Western Europe and the North Atlantic.

BERLIN/ERFURT/COLOGNE- As many as 70% of the German population or 50 million took advantage of the gorgeous weather and, armed with their cameras, smart phones and specialized sunglasses, photographed the sun as the moon covered up to 80% of it, putting the country into partial darkness. Despite worries that the eclipse could wreak havoc on the electirical power systems because Germany is mostly dependent on solar energy, it was reported that there were no problems and everything was running well as if nothing happened. The eclipse occurred at 10:42am Berlin time, almost an hour after the process started, and ended shortly after 12noon. The area where people could get the best view of the eclipse was in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony. However, people in other German states had an opportunity to see the moon cover 70-75% of the sun.

This included the city of Erfurt in central Thuringia, where the moon covered up to 75% of the sun, making it resemble on the one hand, the moon at first quarter mode, but on the other hand a full moon. In other words, there was the brightest first quarter on record, if one looks at it from an astronomer’s point of view.  The clear weather made it difficult to purchase specialized sunglasses, which you can wear to look up to the sun at the time of the eclipse, for many drug stores, pharmacists, glasses dealerships and optometrists ran out of stock up to two days prior to the event. This was the exact opposite of the last partial solar eclipse that occurred in 2005. There, rainy weather hindered any chances of viewing this rare event, thus dropping sales for these eye protectors dramatically.

While I was unable to purchase this pair of sunglasses, I did find one to use with an optometrist, whose shop was located at Erfurt’s city center, Anger- located between city hall and the train station. Although the pair was for lending and sharing purposes, I took the opportunity to wear them, while at the same time, cover the lens of the Pentax camera I had in my possession in an attempt to get a close-up look at the eclipse. Normally you are not supposed to get a direct shot at the eclipse for two reasons:

  1. The photo would turn out the same as it were without the eclipse- beautiful sunny skies just a little dimmer and
  2. Most importantly, looking directly at the sun at the time of the eclipse is very dangerous, for the rays could cause irreparable damage to the cornea, thus causing damage or even blindness.

As a tip one can get a selfie of the eclipse with the back towards the sun or simply leave it and have a look at the eclipse through TV and internet. However, even though I did get some shots of the places in Erfurt at the time of the eclipse (not to worry, I did this with my eyes looking down), I experimented by placing the specialized sunglasses over the lens of the camera, then zoomed in manually as far as it could go.

The result:

Photo taken in Erfurt at Anger just minutes before its peak

Photo taken in Erfurt at Anger just minutes before its peak

 

Unless you have had many years of experience in photography as I have had (I’ve been photographing since I was 11 years old), and you are daring enough to do this, this author does not recommend doing this- at least not without supervision. In order to get a shot like this, you need a special lens equivalent to what I used in order to get a shot like this. All other options are useless, for they would end up like the pic below- at the peak of the eclipse:

Erfurt Cathedral (Erfurter Dom) at the peak of the eclipse without the glasses. Not to worry, the author stared down while taking this shot.

Erfurt Cathedral (Erfurter Dom) at the peak of the eclipse without the glasses. Not to worry, the author stared down while taking this shot.

 

Whether a pic like this can be done like this with a special lens is doubtful for you may not get the picture you need. Admittedly though, it is worth experimenting, but if and only if the next opportunity arises, which for a solar eclipse like this one, it is rare. For many of us, this is perhaps the last time we will ever see one like this as the next one to come to Germany will be in 66 years. A partial eclipse in Germany will come again in 2022.  However the next total eclipse to reach the US will be in two years’ time. So for those who are hunting for the next solar eclipse (and I’m sure there are groups out there who are crazy about solar eclipses), mark this on your calendar at least, even though one may come beforehand.

But even not, for many like yours truly, this experience was once in a lifetime, which has now been crossed off our bucket list.

Author’s Note:

The Flensburg Files has an album on the solar eclipse in Germany through facebook, which you can click here to view. The Files’ is accepting photos taken by other photographers- amateur and profis alike- to be added to the album. If you have a photo or two to contribute, please send it to Jason Smith either through facebook or via e-mail at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Please cite your name and the place where the photo(s) took place. The purpose of the album is for other viewers to see. Thank you for your help in this matter.

 

Highlights of the solar eclipse are also available through the following sources:

MDR Info (Video of the Solar Eclipse) in D: http://www.mdr.de/nachrichten/video260046_zc-e9a9d57e_zs-6c4417e7.html

Deutsche Welle (Highlights of the Solar Eclipse) in EN: http://www.dw.de/cloudy-skies-obscure-solar-eclipse-in-much-of-europe/a-18330146

MDR Info (Gallery of the Solar Eclipse in Germany) in D: http://www.mdr.de/galerie/mdr/thumbnails.php?album=73

Tagesschau (Information and pictures of the Solar Eclipse) in D: http://www.tagesschau.de/sonnenfinsternis-165.html 

 

 

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Hamburg in 2024!

Hamburg Central Station will be a bit more crowded than normal, should it win the bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games. Photo taken in 2011

Hamburg Central Station will be a bit more crowded than normal, should it win the bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games. Photo taken in 2011

 

German Olympic Committee Recommends Hamburg over Berlin as Host for 2024 Summer Olympic Games- Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Pommerania and Lower Saxony to Benefit from the Games

 

FRANKFURT (MAIN)- It came down to two of the five major German metropolises to host the 2024 Olympic Games- Berlin or Hamburg. Both of them in the northern half of the country. The German capital last hosted it in 1936, less than three years before World War II broke out. Being the third time it would have hosted the Games, it has the 1936 stadium, various sporting complexes and various lakes. Hamburg is an up and coming city. The second largest city has a dense and advanced infrastructure, is modernized and environmentally friendly and has direct access to the Baltic Sea through neighboring Schleswig-Holstein.

Therefore, it came as no surprise that the German Olympic Committee at a meeting in Frankfurt (Main) last night has recommended the candidate for the 2024 games goes to (drumroll, please…..)

Hamburg!

There are many reasons why the hanseatic city deserves the bid over the German capital. Hamburg has become a tourist appeal in the last 10+ years thanks to the efforts of modernizing the city to meet the demands of the population, while at the same time, bring the city and its history and culture to the forefront. Much of which you will find in the video clips below, and the Files will feature the city as the next candidate for Germany’s 25th anniversary quiz to be presented on the 24th of March. It was the host of the 2013 German Floral Show (Bundesgartenschau) with one of the largest suburbs, Wilhelmsburg being the pet for the International Building Exhibition, which ended in 2013. Once relying on coal and nuclear power, the city has embraced various forms of renewable energy, through wind, hydro and geothermal. The city prides itself on its sports teams in soccer, handball and basketball, to name a few. Plus with its sound infrastructure, one can reach the Baltic Sea in no less than 45 minutes and the North Sea in less than an hour.

The plan of the city to host the 2024 Games is easy: make it small and simple. A Olympic complex on the island of Kleinen Grasbrook that is to be a sports complex afterwards. Grasbrook was once an industrial complex. Basketball, soccer and handball would be played in the northern cities of Bremen, Cuxhaven, Travemünde, Rostock, Kiel and Flensburg, just to name a few. Boating and yachting either in Travemünde or Kiel. For Kiel, it would be blessing as it had last hosted this event in 1972. For the northern German states of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Pommerania and Lower Saxony, helping to shoulder the burden of the events (and the costs) Hamburg will have to face will make the northern region a very attractive place during the Summer Games. Speaking from the point of view of the expat looking in, the northern half of the country prides itself on it sporting events that do not require hills and mountains, but on courts and nets or in the water. So having Hamburg as the candidate for the Games is no surprise for it has what the athletes need and then some. When spending time in the region, one will want to come back again and again, because of the people, the culture, the landscape, the landscape, and lastly, the mentality where simplicity and friendliness trumps all the complications an even bigger city has, let alone all the extravaganzas that many hosts have overdone in the previous Olympics, like in Athens or Peking.

However, despite the recommendations, all is not set in stone for Hamburg. An extraordinary meeting takes place on March 21st, where the German Olympic Committee board members are expected to confirm Hamburg’s nomination. Hamburg will be competing with Boston for the rights to host the Games, with the decision to be made in Lima, Peru in 2017. Should the International Olympics Committee vote in favor of the German City-State, it will be Hamburg’s very first time, and one where many athletes, politicians and the majority of the population in the city and the affected northern states believe that the city deserves, given its pride in sports and its recent developments in their favor.

And if Hamburg wins and does a great job in hosting the games, it would not be surprising if it becomes the main go-to city for future Games, surpassing Berlin or even Munich (at least as far as the Summer Games are concerned), not just because of its attractiveness and its simplicity in planning its events, but because of its access to areas where people pride themselves in their own sporting events. And with that, the Files is throwing its support to Hamburg in hopes that the decision in 2017 falls in their favor. Best of luck and let’s bring the torch to Hollen Nord, shall we? 😀

Some reasons why one should visit Hamburg can be found here:

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Reminder: You still have one week to finish Germany’s first quiz on the northernmost German state of Schleswig-Holstein. To get access to the quiz, click here. The answers will come on March 24th, the same day as the quiz on Hamburg will be presented. 

25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Wall Highlights

BERLIN; ERFURT-  More than 2.5 million people (or 70% of the city’s population) converged on Berlin over the weekend to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. The biggest highlight of the event was on Sunday, where over a million people were on hand during the course of the day and evening as speeches were held to honor those who risked their lives escaping from East to West Berlin, as well as the hundreds of thousands of people who pressured the East German government to open the borders- the demand that Guenter Schabowski, the spokesman for East Germany’s Central Committee granted on 9 November, 1989.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel and many prominent politicians spoke at the ceremony at the Bernauer Strasse Memorial. She was greeted by Michail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union whose policies of non-intervention and openness led to countries like East Germany to overthrow their communist leaders and break away from the communist bloc. He spoke at the symposium in front of Brandenburg Gate. Concerts took place throughout the evening by many singers and music groups. Among those performing at the Brandenburg Gate were former East German singer Udo Lindenburg, British pop star Peter Gabriel and German techno artist Paul Kalkbrenner. The events culminated with the releasing of 8,000 balloons along the former border dividing East and West Berlin. The led-lit balloons were established along the border where the Berlin Wall once stood, indicating where and how the wall had divided Berliners for 28 years.

Some highlights of the 25th Anniversary events can be seen in the videos below. Readers wanting to know more about the Wall and the celebrations of its downfall can be seen in the Flensburg Files’ facebook page (click here for direct access). There you can find videos, photos and articles in both German and English of the events. Like to follow as the Files will provide some articles and interesting facts pertaining to the events leading to the reunification of Germany.

The Releasing of the Balloons

Paul Kalkbrenner at Brandenburg Gate

Michail Gorbachev at the Celebrations

 

 

But Berlin was not the only place where the 25th anniversary celebrations took place. Many places along the former East and West German borders, from Lübeck to Marienhof to Modlareuth to Hof commemorated the symbolic event of 9 November 1989 in various ways. Some brief examples can be seen below:

HOF:  As many as 250 East German automobiles, among them the Trabant and the Wartburg, and their owners and passengers made a pilgrimage from Plauen in Saxony to Hof in Bavaria. There, people had an opportunity to reenact history of the event, where residents on the western side greeted those on the eastern side with sweets, champaign and the like. In order for the reenactment to be played in full, organizers reconstructed make-shift borders and inspection buildings resembling those that had existed before being torn down shortly after the borders opened. Hundreds of people took part in the event and had an opportunity to see the display of the cars typical for East Germany but are becoming a rare breed. A video of the event is below for you to look at.

Fast fact: Trabant produced its cars in Zwickau in western Saxony. The company closed in 1997. Wartburg produced its cars in Eisenach in western Thuringia. It was bought by Opel after the border opened and is still in business today.

Trabi Caravan from Plauen to Hof

 

MODLAREUTH: A caravan of Trabants and some local celebrations in the village of 60 people commemorated the opening of the border. Located on the border to Thuringia and Bavaria, Modlareuth was divided by the border as East German soldiers forced many residents to move to higher ground, while they tore down houses along the creek that flows through the village to erect the barbed-wire fence and border towers. For 28 years, this village became known as Little Berlin because of the Wall. Yet despite still being divided in terms of jurisdiction, the people consider Modlareuth one home and one village. Celebrations commemorating the opening of the gate included a tour of a portion of the border and control tower, which was given to the German-German Museum and has been preserved for visitors to see.

 

VACHA:  State ministers Christine Lieberknecht (Thuringia) and Volker Bouffier (Hesse) were at the Vacha Bridge, spanning the Werra River between the Thuringian village and Philipsthal in Hesse, laying a wreath at the center of the span and honoring those who tried to flee to the western part of Germany during the Cold War. Severely damaged and impassable because of World War II, the bridge was closed to all people when the borders were put up in 1961 and remained so until 1989. The bridge was later rebuilt. “November 9th was a lucky day,” said Lieberknecht in her speech to hundreds of people at the bridge. “The strive for freedom and democracy defeated socialism and a state-controlled economy.” More on the speech here.

 

For those who could not attend any of the events, there were plenty of opportunities to watch the events on TV, let alone the facts about the East-West Border and the Berlin Wall. This included the children’s TV series “Die Sendung mit der Maus,” which featured a special on the border between then and right now, based on the travels of one of the moderators. A link is available for you to watch and listen to the stories behind the border crossings chosen for the trip:

Summer Tour along the Former East-West Border with the Maus:

http://spezial.wdrmaus.de/sommerreise-2014

 

The rest of the programs can be found in the Flensburg Files’ facebook page. There you can access the programs in either language and learn about the Fall of the Wall and the celebrations that followed then as well as yesterday.

 

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