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. 

Moving On Up in the East in German Soccer

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RB Leipzig, Dynamo Dresden and Erzgebirge Aue, all in Saxony, are going up one league in the coming soccer season.

The German state of Saxony is celebrating this week, for despite having a week left in the regular soccer season, three teams are being promoted to the national level, one of which will make its debut in the German Premere League (1st Bundesliga). The automatic promotion only applies to the top two teams in each flight of the soccer league, with a relegation playoff match taking place between the third place finisher in the lower league and the third to last place finisher in the upper league. Dresden and Aue finished in the top two respectively in the third league, thus automatically qualifying for the second league or what Germans call the Unterhaus der Bundesliga. Würzburg can join them if the team defeats the third place finisher in the playoff match once the regular season concludes. Despite its placing in second behind SC Freiburg, RB Leipzig will enter the top tier of the German soccer league next season after its victory today. How they got there? Here is a brief summary:

SG Dynamo Dresden-  The team carrying the colors of Germany will make its debut in the second tier of the German league for the first time since 2014. After finishing sixth in the standings in the third league last season, the team under head coach Uwe Neuhaus and assistant coach Peter Nemeth started the season strong and on top and never looked back for despite having 20 wins, 15 ties and two losses, the team advanced to the second league two weeks ago after tying Magdeburg 2-2. The team set the mark for being the earliest promoter with four games left in the season. Another reason to celebrate is the team being debt free for the first time since 1995. Acquiring players and coaches, combined with the construction of a new soccer stadium in 2009 contributed to the team’s financial woes. However, despite this, the team utilized a variety of players from many parts of Germany and eastern Europe to pull it off. The question is how to advance in the next stage, for the team had struggled mightily in the second league before being demoted to third league play in 2014. But with a clean slate and high quality players, it is possible that the team might achieve its next goal: the return to the Oberhaus for the first time since 1995. Whether it is in the next season or the 2017/18 season depends on the team’s developments but things are looking really good for Dresden at this point…..

Erzgebirge Aue- Located in the Ore Mountain region in southern Saxony, the 72-year old club is no stranger to the second league as it had been competing in that league for 10 out of the last 13 seasons since 2003. After being relegated in the third league last season, the team and its head coach, Pavel Dotchev made it clear that it wanted to go back. The team’s wish came true yesterday, after Aue defeated Fortuna Cologne 2-0, solidifying its second place finish and forcing third place finisher Würzburg to play in the relegation playoff game at the end of the season. This with one game left in the regular season.

RasenBallsport Leipzig- People in the city of Leipzig are celebrating its return to the big times for the first time since 1994. That was the last time a soccer team had competed with the likes of Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Berlin. VfB Leipzig was the last team to compete in the Unterhaus before being demoted after the 1993/4 season and subsequentially beginning its gradual demise, which ended in the team being dissolved through bankruptcy in 2004. Other teams in Leipzig have made attempts to climb back to the national stage, such as the (now defunct) Saxony Leipzig and Loc Leipzig but with no success. However Leipzig is returning to its glory days this fall with RB Leipzig making it to the first league! After defeating Karlsruhe 2-0 today, the team under Ralf Ranick has placed the city back on the map again. The team, which is owned by Red Bull Beverages in Austria, has been the darling of German soccer, as it has marched its way through the ranks since its inception in the fifth league (Oberliga) in 2009, having advanced every season except last year, where it finished sixth in the second league. However this season, the team upgraded its talent and finished in second place with 20 wins, six losses and seven ties, two wins less than SC Freiburg but two more than FC Nurnemberg, which awaits its opponent from the 16th place finisher in the Oberhaus. Leipzig will receive new faces come this fall as Ralph Hasenhuttl will take over as head coach of RB Leipzig, while Ranick, whose storied career included creating a winner in Premere league team 1899 Hoffenheim, will continue operations as manager. In either case, after being the first of 90 German soccer teams that formed the Bundesliga in 1900 but being absent from the top league for 22 years, Leipzig is back, and with that, tens of thousands of fans will storm the stadium this fall to watch them annoy the well-established Bundesliga teams! 🙂

 

With these three teams already going up, we may have another one after this month if FSV Zwickau in the Oberliga North East Division maintains its course. With three games left, the team in first place has more or less locked up its regular season championship. It must participate in the relegation playoff game with the first place finisher in the western division of the Oberliga after the regular season ends. The team with the highest goal ratio in their favor after two games will advance. The team failed to achieve this last season with Magdeburg advancing to the third league. However, this team has a greater chance of achieving this goal this time around. If so, there will be four teams from Saxony moving on up, thus making the eastern German state an attractive place for people to go for soccer. More on this development to follow.

In the meantime, the Flensburg Files would like to congratulate Dresden, Leipzig and Aue for making it to the big times. Best of luck in the coming season! 😀

 

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The Flensburg Files at the Leipzig Buchmesse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Flensburg Files at the Intercultural Blogger Cafe Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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For Kurt Masur

Link: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/34/Kurt_masur.jpg

….with many thanks for what you have done.  There’s one less light in the city of Leipzig tonight but one more light in the skies, one that is singing songs of praise, freedom, joy and love, one that is leading the stars to a better hope for us down here on Earth. Going from doing an doing work for your father as an electrician to a musician and a revolutionary, you provided us with a sense of hope when the people were suffering from repression by the East German regime. You may have collected many years of experience conducting orchestras in Halle (Saale) and Erfurt, but your heart and soul remained in Leipzig, where you studied music at the academy, took over the Gewandhaus Leipzig Orchestra in 1970 and made it famous, and even taught music at the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy College of Music and became honorable professor at the University of Leipzig. Yet despite all the honors and accolades you received by the city and the East German government, your biggest award was the love and respect you received by the people in Leipzig, by being the first to lead the non-violence protests at St. Nicholas Church on 9 October, 1989, keeping the security police force at bay and allowing people to demonstrate peacefully. 100,000 people were on hand demanding change, all done peacefully. Peace leads to progress, and oppression to openness, as we saw with the Fall of the Wall on 9 November, 1989 and subsequentially, the Reunification of West and East Germany on 3 October, 1990. It was through your merit that you were honored by the City of Leipzig by being the first person to receive the Order of Merit on 27 December, 1989.  After 26 years conducting the Leipzig Orchestra, you leave for bigger challenges in New York, Paris and London, taking with you your diligence, courage and creativity along with the memories of your days in Leipzig, yet your heart still remains with us.  And now, we mourn you but also honor you, as you take your place in the heavens, conducting the pieces of Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt and Mendelssohn  in front of the audience consisting of the likes of Vaclav Havel, Alexander Dubcek, Lech Walesa and all those who undertook efforts to free the countries of the Communist Bloc but left us too soon.  We will be listening to the likes of the following below…..

 

 

 

…..and in the end, with all that you have done, we thank you for your contributions not just as a musician, but also one of the revolutionaries who set us free from the grasp of totalitarianism. Leipzig, Germany and the rest of the world are saluting you tonight, but will also miss you.

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Kurt Masur passed away today in Greenwich, Connecticut after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 88. There are many obituaries going out in his honor and memory. But the City of Leipzig has one depicting his career and contribution, which can be found here.