A Bridge Made of Boats in Flensburg

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A Bridge made of Paddleboards was Constructed to Address Attention to Dolphins. World Record expected. 

FLENSBURG- Flensburg has several things a person can take pride in. There is the Rum Industry with six generations of distilleries that are still in business today. There is the home-grown but well-known Flensburger Beer. There is the beloved handball team SG Flensburg-Handewitt. There is the historic city center and churches. And if one looks more closely, one can take pride in the city’s bridges (click here to see the guide).

Yet the city was placed on the map recently for another feat: bridging the harbor- using boats!   🙂

While Flensburg has several yachts, clippers and the steamboat Alexandra one can awe while walking along the promenade, hundreds of spectators this past weekend (July 9th) watched paddle boaters and canoers build a bridge across the Flensburger Fjord.  What was needed were 200 paddleboards lined up side-by-side and one person crossing it from side to side without falling into the icy cold water.  Although only 133 paddleboards were placed across the fjord, totalling 160 meters, the attempt to cross it by one of the two colleagues was a success!

The concept was developed by Ric O’barry of the organization Dolphin Project and his colleague, marine biologist Dr. Andreas Pfaender, as a way of addressing the senseless slaughter of dolphins at Taiji Cove in Japan. Alone from September 2015 to March 2016, approximiately 2000 dolphins of various kinds have been harassed, rounded up, captured and selected either for captivity at a zoo or the slaughterhouse to be eaten. This statistic alone is alarming and sobering, and it has forced O’barry to address this issue to the public. The feat of building this bridge was for two purposes: 1. To ensure that the public knows about the event and ways to protect the dolphins and 2. To commend the City of Flensburg for their part in handling a recent event involving dolphins swimming in the fjord- a rarity that has garnered national attention.   The idea of a bridge came from the history books, for a bridge was built for a limited time across the fjord in the 1800s.  O’barry, who started the project in 1970, has received many appraisals from his work, yet he was also the subject of criticism by the Japanese government for his interference in the business. Despite the travel sanctions imposed on him by Tokyo, it hasn’t stopped him from addressing the issue on the international stage. While his colleague Pfaender fell into the water in his attempt to cross the bridge, O’barry succeeded and now, the word on the acknowledgement of the Guiness Book of World Records is pending.

Yet no matter the result, the project brought people, young and old together to watch this feat, and has brought the attention of protection of dolphins and other marine life in the oceans to a higher level, especially as the numbers of species has plummeted in the past 15 years to a point where the oceans will have no more fish by the end of this century. It is hoped that an international concert of laws and organizations will put a stop to the fishing before it’s too late. It is just a question of how many more campaigns like this one will be needed to ensure that the issue of fishing and protecting marine life is brought to the international table and kept there until the laws are signed and action is taken.

 

The steamboat Alexandra at its dock.
The steamboat Alexandra at its dock.

 

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And now a row of Fast Facts  for you to read about:

  1. Albeit not listed on the bridge tour guide, the English Bridge was built in 1857 in response to the railroad line reaching Flensburg and its harbor. At 257 meters, the English Bridge crossed the harbor and connected the two railroad ports on each side. It is unknown whether the bridge was a pontoon span or one made of wooden trestles. Speculations are that the bridge was built in the vicinity where the Steamboat Alexandra is located today- and it was most likely the site of the world record feat. In either case, the bridge was removed in 1883 to accomodate shipping traffic. The railroad lines on both sides have been decomissioned for many years, while the eastern branch is to be converted into a bike trail. The western branch is abandoned, but one can see the tracks along the promenade.
  2. Ric O’barry was a dolphin trainer, who trained dolphins for the TV series, Flipper, which ran from 1964 to 1967. The turning point in his life came in 1969, when Kathy, one of the dolphins he trained for the TV shows, died in his arms. Her death was a result of a suicide, when the dolphin drowned in the water. It was at that point where he started the Dolphin Project, which was launched on 22 April, 1970- the same day as the first Earth Day celebration- and has been a success ever since.
  3. Apart from the Taiji incidents, the organization, featuring O’barry, several marine biologists, politicians and volunteers have been addressing the issue of dolphin protection and whistleblowing on several dolphin slaughter activities in the Pacific, including Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Thailand and other parts of Asia. Yet the Taiji Cove area in Japan is one of the largest issues as dolphins have been victims of drive fishing (mass fishing caused by dolphins being signaled to follow the fishing boats before being captured) and mercury poisoning.
  1. Two dolphins made their way to Flensburg Fjord in February of this year, a rarity that was documented (click here for a summary) and filmed, including this clip. It is unknown where they originated but despite its contact with people nearby, no harm was done to them, nor any known intervention.  The dolphins were first spotted on 7 February, as they escorted two fishermen towards Flensburg before disappearing. They reappeared later after a few days absence before leaving the fjord in March.

 

Many thanks to Bridge of the Week for the information on this project. This article is co-produced with sister column, The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, both proud supporters of this project to save and protect the dolphins. Please click on the links in the text to learn more about how you can help in the efforts.

 

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The City of Lights

St. Jürgen’s Cathedral taken from the west end of the harbor. Photo taken in April, 2011

 

 

Revisiting the town for the first time since Pentecost, I’ve already found a few nicknames that makes this city a unique place to visit, let alone live there, if the opportunity knocks. Apart from it being a border town, as it borders Denmark and is next to its neighboring city of Padborg, the city is the birthplace of rum and still is a powerhouse in that area, despite its loss of significance in the past two decades. An American counterpart exists in Minnesota, which a commentary will be written about it at a different time. It is a very popular place for clippers and sailboats, as they cruise along the Fjord and provide some impressions from many who are fascinated by them. When I was there last year, I considered Flensburg as a City of Solitude, where people go to find their inner piece and reflect on themselves. One can also add that it is a City of Solidarity, where friends meet and prosperity exists no matter where you go. Part of that was due to its coexistence of Germans, Danes, and other foreigners alike. In other words, it is truly multicultural where you witness several languages and cultures, and experience the history that makes the city of nearly 90,000 special.

The author on his latest visit over Easter found a brand new nickname that makes Flensburg what it is: The City of Lights!  While the city may look like any other city when you enter it, with all of shopping areas and freeways tangenting its way around the city. However, when you drive in the direction of the city center, past those areas, past the very large but vacant EXE Center, which hosts many events including outdoor concerts and flea markets, and head down the hill towards the harbor, you will know what I’m talking about. Both sides of the harbor are well lit that it not only presents passersby with some unqiue attractions worth stopping to visit, but also (especially with the areas along Roter Strasse and right on the harbor’s edge), it resembles Flensburg as a place where everyone goes out on the town until the wee hours in the morning. It may not be like the bigger cities, like Berlin, Leipzig, or Frankfurt (Main), but the town never sleeps at night, unlike some of the towns its size, including Bayreuth or Eisenach.  No matter where you go at night, there is always something going on at the harbor area.

Flensburg’s skyline at night- it is just as active as its looks. Photo taken in April, 2011

 

 

While it is impossible to describe every aspect of Flensburg at night, as it would take up a library’s worth of the column, the author decided to choose the most important pics worth seeing (with a few notes) to show how attractive the City of Lights is and how lively it is, no matter where you go. So without ado, here it goes:

1. St. Jürgen’s Cathedral: This is one of the first sites you will see when entering the city center and harbor area, as it overlooks the area from the east end of the harbor on the hill. The second tallest building behind the city hall (built in the 1960s), one can be awed in its beauty from a distance, regardless of the time of day. However, up close and personal, you can see why people flock to this unique historic place of interest.

All photos here were taken in April 2011

 

 

2. Roter Strasse/ Norderstrasse: The 2 kilometer stretch beginning at the Nordertor and ending at the Sudermarkt provides the tourist with a shopping mall-like atmosphere at night regardless if all the shops are open or not. A lot of the places along this stretch show their true colors at night that it would be a sin not to photograph them. This includes the former sugar factories and rum distilleries along the Rum and Sugar Mile, the Nordermarkt, Marienkirche, and Alte Post, located between the bus depot and Sudermarkt

Roter Strasse

 

Nordermarkt
Marienkirche next to Nordermarkt
Altes Post Building- a former post office now converted into a bank. Photo taken in May 2010

 

 

3. The Harbor Front. Between the Roter Strasse and the harbor front on the west end is bustling with activity at night, as a dozen restaurants, bars and eateries attract a huge crowd through the wee hours of the morning. Most notable include Hansen’s Restaurant and Brewery, Piet Henningsen, and a pair of Irish Pubs located in the vicinity of the bus depot. This is a complement to the other activities that can only be done in the daytime, such as boating, swimming and and city tours. The only time of the day in which the city lies empty in this section is early in the morning between 4 and 6am, except on the days of rest, where in this case, many people elect to sleep in a couple hours more.

East side of the harbor with the Goethe School in the background
West end of the harbor with the Marienkirche sticking out.
Hansen’s Brewery and Restaurant- one of Flensburg’s finest local diners located on the western edge of the harbor.

 

 

 

4. Goethe, Christian-Paulsen-Skole and Altes Gymnasium Schools.  The first is located not far from the St. Jürgen’s Cathedral; the other two are on the west end, with the second one being a Danish School. All have recently been in the limelight; especially at night, where one can see all three of them from the tip of the harbor or from the north end near Murwik. All of them have one thing in common and that is its pride in educating the city’s population.

Goethe School- taken from the hill near the Catholic Church
Altes Gymnasium High School
The Paulsen Danish School

 

 

 

Then there are some other night pics that are worth mentioning even though they don’t fall into the four categories. There is a reason for these shots, as they will be explained in each pics.

Goldene Lillie near Sudermarkt
The St. Nicolas Church
Former Matz Distillery now a police station and hotel.

 

 

 

While Flensburg may be a really attractive place at anytime of the year, one wonders if the city really stands out as a tourist attraction and place to party at night, then the question is what would the city look like when the Christmas markets come to town at the end of the November and stays there until right before Santa Claus comes to town… We’ll find out eventually. In the meantime, let’s do some window shopping along the Rum-Sugar Mile, shall we?

The Beach of Solitude: The Haven for (inner) Peace and Harmony

The Beach of Solitude- Photo taken by Jason D. Smith

Solitude. There are many ways to explain this word as it belongs to the category of  the most underused terms  in the English vocabulary. While the dictionaries state that solitude means having a sense and/or place of loneliness,  there is more to this word than what is presented in print.  Solitude can mean the process of finding peace within yourself; in other words, your own inner peace. Solitude can also mean having a sense of serenity in a place where silence is the norm. Solitude can also mean finding your own personal identity as you try and reflect on what happened, try and make sense out of it, and move on knowing that you are in uncharted territory known as the future, and what you did in the past is considered irrelevant in the present.

For me, solitude means everything mentioned above plus one most important ingredient: identifying yourself through your own reinvention. This means when your life is in dire straits because of a series of tragedies or a situation where you cannot bear it anymore, you seek to find solitude to find out who you really are and what you can do to make a difference and be happy from it. This can only be done when you need to get away from society- from everything and everybody- for awhile just to reflect on what happened and plan ahead for the future with a new sense of identity.

Like many of you before me, this year was the year for me to seek solitude and find out something about myself, as a lot of events happened in my life that forced me to reconsider who I was, where I come from, and what I should really be doing.  Even though I do not want to go into detail about this, as this is my own personal matter, I felt that need to flee the ever changing pace of society- the one that is no holds barred and everything goes no matter what the circumstances are- and spend some time in my own personal confinement where I can take the time and find that inner peace that was missing in my life for the longest time.

There were a lot of things about Flensburg that made me want to take a trip up there. It was not because of the beer, even though it is one of the most popular microbrews in Germany. It was not because of the rum despite the fact that it is the birthplace of rum and was once a powerhouse in the industry. It was not because of the clippers, which have been dominating the seas for over 400 years. All of those characteristics will be mentioned at a later time. What makes this city special is the fact that it is the city of peace and harmony, where people are open to each other. It is also the place where if you needed some serenity and solitude, all you need is a few minutes by bike on either side of the Flensburger Fjord, and you hit the nature and that place of confinement where you can spend as much time to yourself as possible, while trying to find a way to clean up a life full of disaster and disappointment, heartbreak and hatred, sadness and strife.  On the west end of the fjord, you meander your way past beaches that are kilometers long, crossing the Bridge of Friendship at Wassersleben at the Danish border before trekking into the forest and beyond. On the east end, you run across some gentle rolling hills and ponds, where between the suburb of Twedt and the town of Holnis, you feel like you are doing a cross country ski run. But there is one place in the city that definitely lives up to the name it carries. Located on the east side of the fjord, you will never figure out the reason why it deserves its christened name until you end up outside the city and you feel like someone pulled the plug on life as you know it. The name of the place I’m  referring to is Der Strand der Solitüde.  In other words, the Beach of Solitude.

Located just off the bike trail to the north of Mürwik, the Beach of Solitude is one that presents two different faces. On the one hand, it is a magnet for families with children who just want to take a dip into the icy cold Fjord or bake in the sun for a couple hours, while having the winds from the sea act as a giant air conditioner.  There is a restaurant nearby, where you can sit on the terrace and enjoy one of the specialties of Flensburg, made of salmon, flounder, or other types of fish, and watch the sun set over the city’s skyline and landscape. However, the other face of Solitude is something you don’t expect.

When there are no people around, it can present you with a silence that you can only find in a vacant apartment, after everything is put away in boxes and loaded up into the moving trucks to ship somewhere else. With the skies changing color between blue, grey, and white and a gentle sea water breeze fanning your face and creating some really small waves on the beach, I found myself alone on this very sandy-colored but yet to a certain degree, rocky beach, where small narrow cone-shaped peninsulas made of rocks and sand extend into the fjord, creating shapes resembling the crescent moon. I found myself in a new dimension, where I was touching the air that was heavy of salt and mist. I was looking around to see if there were other people there- to the east where the woods, ponds, and the bike trail were facing my back; to the west, where there was nothing but water with a piece of land far, far in the background- and still there was no one who came by. It was an eerie feeling that I had when I was at the beach. It felt like I was in some sort of purgatory and I was forced to reflect on my actions in my past life before the judgment was made, whether I would be in Adam and Eve’s Paradise or Dante’s Inferno, and part of this process was being alone in a place like this where no one is around where I could go back into the past to see the things I did or should have done differently.

While the last part holds true, I don’t think the Beach of Solitude is a purgatory of some sort. No place with that much beauty should be considered a place of punishment. I consider the place something where silence and reflection in response to the hardships faced (or to be faced) should be respected and reinvention of oneself is the norm. It makes you look at things from all angles of life, interpret them, try and make sense of them. It makes you go into the deepest self to look at the flaws and find ways to fix them; or handle them if they cannot be fixed. It makes you ask and answer the most difficult philosophical questions that have been burning inside of you for a long time; like for example, why am I here on this planet, or why can I not get the girl I want, or in my case, why life can be so wonderful the one minute and then cruel the next. I had a lot of questions that needed answers and no one was able to get the job done. Therefore other alternatives to answering the questions needed to be found so that I can find my way to myself and take care of the business that needs to be done.

Purgatory or Paradise- Photo taken by Jason D. Smith

After the longest time, where I scrounged round, raking my way up and down along the beach, reaching every tip of the rocky peninsula, taking a dip into the salient but shivering cold sea, and at times, just sitting down on the rocks, filling in the next pages of my journal, a young couple with two dogs- a Labrador and a black terrier came onto the scene, each looking for a sense of silence and relaxation as the dogs were feisty and wanting some fun in the water. Afterwards, a couple children kicking their soccer ball and imitating David Beckham and Miroslav Klose took to the scene, wanting to answer the call of being a profi player someday. This was my call to leave this place of silence, to eventually move onto a place where I too can eat a delicacy of Flensburg’s and enjoy the sunset, putting a close to a day of reflection and preparing another day, this time for redemption, as I return to what is known as reality, learning from my days in exile, not looking back at my past and looking forward to what is ahead.  After all, that is what solitude is all about, and the Beach of Solitude is one of many factors which makes Flensburg famous, a city which I nicknamed The City of Solitude.