Nur Bares Ist Wahres: Why Cash Is More Reliable Than Credit Card

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Eidersperrwerk: The site of an unfortunate event.

This is the first of a series on the Eiderstedt Region and St. Peter-Ording in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany. Already some bridge articles have popped up in The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. The Links are found at the end of this article.

To start off this article, I would like to start with the origin of this title: Nur Bar ist Wahres. When translated into English, it literally means only cash is the real thing.

When looking at this carefully, one has to ask why it is important to have cash when we can pay everything with the plastic card.  When you look at the story that you are about to read, you will understand the logic behind taking a few minutes to go to a bank and arm yourself with valuable sheets of paper.

The story starts out at the Eidersperrwerk (The Eider Barrage), located 11 kilometers south of St. Peter-Ording and adjacent to the NABU Wildlife Refuge at Kattinger Watt. Together with my wife and daughter, we made the third of three long-distance bike tours of more than 30 kilometers round trip. We had just finished a tour through the Kattinger Watt region and were enroute going back to St. Peter-Ording to attend a local celebration at the suburb of Böhl when we were caught by the first of many waves of storms that passed through that afternoon. Known by locals as Schietwetter, the storm front presented high winds and heavy rainfall, combined with high tidal waves which are typical of weather along the North Sea Coast. Seeking shelter at the earliest possible convenience, we found a small restaurant Fischbistro Kattinger Watt, located across from the parking lot at the Barrage. The restaurant offered the most typical of local entrées in the region- anything dealing with fish and Bratkartoffeln (roasted potatoes with ham and onions), along with a good grog (hot water with rum) and a bottle of Flensburger.

There was one catch and it caught us just as we were about to pay: Nur Bar ist Wahres! We only accept cash.

Uh oh! :-O

Explaining this to the cook, we came up with an agreement where we would pay the bill the next morning. However, when living in a society where transactions are almost exclusively done by card, I could not help but find out why many places in the Eiderstedt region only take cash. As this was an occurance with souvenir shops and cafés, I had a chance to find out by interviewing a few people, including those who originated from the big cities, like Berlin, who were also caught off guard when they moved to St. Peter-Ording. After a few misses, I had a chance to talk to a taxi driver who gave me a round trip to the restaurant to pay the bill and like others, only accepted cash as transaction. His answer came along the lines of dead spots and lack of reliability with the banks.

This is where things made sense from that conversation. Why do stores in a rural but tourist region like Eiderstedt accept only cash has to do with reliability and survival? And it has to do with the following explanations:

  1. Internet is NOT everywhere. Even in a densely populated country, like Germany, you can expect to find dead spots no matter where you travel- by train (despite the Bahn’s attempts of incorporating the wireless LAN onto ICE trains and other forms of regional services), car or bike- and no matter which region. While cities with populations of more than 70,000 are well equipped to provide these services at no cost, rural regions, especially in the northern half of Germany, are prone to deadspots where people have almost no internet access. Therefore any attempts to make transactions via computer is futile for communication is patchy at best, nonexistent in the worst-case scenario. Even if you spend more for internet upgrades even on your Smartphone, there is no guarantee of 100% communication online without any distractions due to dead spots, which happen 70% of the time in areas like Eiderstedt. This leads us to the second explanation…..
  2. Banks are unreliable. Because of the housing crisis of 2008-9 in the US and its effects on banks and businesses, banks have become scrutinized by customers and merchants for a number of reasons. Many of which are focused on one of two items that we carry in our wallet: the credit card and the bank card. While with the bank card, what you purchase is withdrawn from your bannk account diretly, with the credit card, you buy on credit and pay later. Both have serious impacts on businesses who believe that in order to do business, you have to have real liquidity. After all, merchants need that real asset in order to pay their bills and purchase new products for the shelves. If you buy on credit and cannot pay, the merchant suffers because of the gaping hole you left it. If your bank bars you from making transactions because of insufficient funds, the merchant also suffers as well because they cannot earn their money through your purchase of their products. This is why many businesses prefer real money over the card because of the high risks involved. This was noticeable among most businesses along the North Sea coast, especially restaurants, souvenir shops, cafés and even bike rentals. But one should also keep in mind that other areas with sparse populations and not much access to banks and the internet have the same attitude as well, such as those in the Erzgebirge, Franconia, the Black Forest and the lakes region in Mecklenburg-Pommerania, just to name a few.
  3. The Unwillingness to Embrace Change- Like in the North Sea region, many rural areas that had once had industry have now turned to tourism as their main source of income because of its only viable way to survive. Except the population has, for the most part, gotten much older and more inflexible to different ways to doing transactions. While some countries, like Denmark, are pushing to eliminate cash and coins in favor of using just the card, the internet is making thing simpler to order and reserve things, and the bitcoin is making its way to the mainstream currency, the older generations are having reservations toward using them because of problems involving their complexity and security. With hackers invading private and business accounts for the purpose of stealing e-assets as well as real ones, many having been in the business for generations have elected to stick to the cash currency that has never failed them regarding transactions. It’s safe, easy to use, and costs can be adjusted based on personal preferences and external factors affecting their business.    “Sicher ist sicher” or in English: “Better safe than sorry” is their slogan but one that seems to work best.

There are many more reasons to add, but they would all fall into the categories of lack of internet, lack of security and trust and finally, the lack of willingness to change. Tradition trumps modernity, real commerce trumps e-commerce and henceforth, cash trumps the card. This was a lesson learned for the ages and one that you as a tourist should keep in mind when travelling anywhere:

Don’t leave home without cash because not every place will take the card. Enough said. 😉

 

Author’s Recommendation:

If you love fish or anything local, the the Fischbistro at Kattinger Watt is highly recommended. Almost every sort of meal offered there has fish in there or is 100% local, whether it is something with matjes or forelle or even a good Labskaus, a local specialty that features a mixture of eggs, beets and other vegetables mixed and served with Bratkartoffel. Given its location at the parking lot near the Barrage and the boat docking area, as well as at the junction of key highways and bike routes, it is a convenient stop for those wishing for a half hour break plus a small souvenir from a shop next door. There is take-out and one can buy fish at the Fish-o-thek to take home. Customer service was really hometown friendly and in cases of situations like this, they will find a way to solve that problem. Just keep in mind, Bar ist Wahres. One of many examples of places where cash gets you far. The card- stash it, cut it up and for those who are used to e-shopping, suck it up. 😉  Grade: A (1,0) for its delicious food and great service!

 

Links to a pair of Eiderstedt Bridges posted to date:

https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/mystery-bridge-nr-85-a-covered-bridge-with-a-thatched-roof/

https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/mystery-bridge-nr-86-brick-culverts-spanning-drainage-canals-and-gullies-along-the-north-sea/

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Germany Quiz Nr. 4: The Answers to the Questions about Lower Saxony

Can you guess what this building is? It's located in Brunswick in Lower Saxony. Photo taken in February 2015

There was a request by one of the readers asking for just some interesting facts about Germany and some of the states instead of the Q & A that has been posted to date. My response is by taking the Q & A away, it will take the art out of finding out the most interesting facts about states, like this one: Lower Saxony.   😉   Admittedly there is so much to write about that even some questions had to be left out of this Quiz on Germany. But admittedly, the questions are a challenge and for those wanting the answers to the facts about this rather populous northern German state and their people, here they are below. Please note, the highlighted names contains links with additional information for you to click on and look at:

🙂

Variety Pack Questions:

  1. Eight German States and the Baltic Sea border Lower Saxony, making it the most bordered state in Germany. True of False?

False. Counting the enclavement of Bremen, Lower Saxony is bordered by NINE states (Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Pommerania, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, Hesse, Bremen, and North-Rhine Westphalia), plus the NORTH Sea. It also shares a border with The Netherlands to the west. Now that’s a LOT of states. 

2a. Lower Saxony was officially established after World War II in 1946 and consisted of the mergers of four former kingdoms. Name two of the four kingdoms.  Hanover, Schaumburg-Lippe, Brunswick and Oldenburg

2b. Of the four kingdoms, which one was the largest? Hanover  

Note: It was suggested that a state of Hanover was created through the British Zone, but inspite of debates and protests, all four of the former kingdoms merged to become the state and was subsequentially renamed Lower Saxony. Today the names exists but as part of the 38 districts that exist in the state.

  1. Put the following cities in order based on population from largest to smallest:

Oldenburg    Brunswick (Braunschweig)   Stade    Wolfsburg    Hannover   Lüneburg   Uelzen   Emden  Osnabrück

ANS:  1. Hanover (518,386); 2. Brunswick (247,227); 3. Oldenburg (159,610); 4. Osnabrück (156,315); 5. Wolfsburg (122,457); 6. Lüneburg (73,581) 7. Emden (49,790); 8. Stade (45,317); 9. Uelzen (33,269)

  1. Lower Saxony is ranked SECOND in size behind Bavaria and FOURTH in population behind Bavaria, North Rhine Westphalia and Hesse, but is the state that is the most dense population of Germany.  True or False (just the points in cursive and bold print)

Lower Saxony is ranked fourth in population behind Bavaria, NRW and BADEN-WURTTEMBERG (ans. for 1st part is false)

But the state is the most densely populated in all of Germany. (True)

  1. Which rivers flow through and/or in Lower Saxony? Name three of them.

ANS: Elbe, Oker, Ems, Weser, Aller, Seeve, Aue, and others

  1. Braunkohl is a German vegetable that is well known in Lower Saxony and can be served with a local sausage. True or false?

TRUE: Never mistake this term with Braunkohle (brown coal) that you can find in the Ruhr River region and near Zittau in the Black Triangle Region. Both this rare cabbage type and the local (curry) sausage are a tasty combination.

  1. At Steinhuder Lake,located west of Osnabrück, you will find eels. True or false?

FALSE: True there is a Steinhuder Lake and the eels are easy to find (and delicious when eating them), BUT the lake is northwest of Hanover. 

  1. Das Alte Land, located in the vicinity of the Elbe River north and west of Hamburg is Germany’s fruit garden. Name three fruits that grow there annually.  Apples, Pears, Cherries, Berries, and other fruits. 

Multiple Choice:  Choose the correct city to answer the questions.

  1. Which city is home of one of the three automobile manufacturers in Germany. Choose the city and fill in the blank regarding the car brand. (Hint: Fahrvergnügend is still the most popular car brand in the world.)

a. Wilhelmshaven          b. Wolfsburg         c. Celle       d. Lüneburg      e. Hannover

The car brand?  If you don’t know the car brand VOLKSWAGEN, Das Auto, then there’s something seriously wrong with you. 😉 

  1. Which city in Lower Saxony does not have a college or university?  How many colleges and universities does the state have?  ANS HERE: 26; six of them are in Hanover.

a. Hildesheim     b. Göttingen     c. Hannover    d. Cuxhaven     e. Emden

f. Vechta      g. Bremervörde

  1. In this town (A), you can try a drink with a spoon (B), but don’t forget to say your blessings first. 😉

A:

a. Bad Zwischenahn          b. Bad Brahmburg      c. Leer        d. Norden

e. Bad Oldesloe     f. Brunswick

B:

a. Braunschweiger Mumme      b. Löffeltee      c. Ammerländer Löffeltrunk

d. Angler Muck     e. Toter Bruder

LINK: AMMERLÄNDER LÖFFELTRUNK

  1. Which city in Lower Saxony is not located in the Harz Mountains? (!: There are two different answers)

a. Goslar           b. Clausthal        c. Wenigerode        d. Osterode      e. Salzgitter       f. Braunlage

  1. Which city does not have a premier league sports team?

a. Buxtehude     b. Hannover      c. Brunswick      d. Emden       e. Oldenburg

  1. The New York Lions in the German American Football League is actually located in which city?

a. Hannover     b. Bremen        c. Brunswick       d. Göttingen     e. Celle

  1. Germany has the only true transporter bridge in left the country. It is located in Lower Saxony in which community?

a. Ostende      b. Hannover     c. Wilhelmshaven     d. Stade     e. Brunswick

LINK: TRANSPORTER BRIDGE AT OSTENDE

  1. The only combination cantilever-suspension-swing bridge left in Germany (and perhaps on European soil) is located in Lower Saxony. Where exactly is this bridge?

a. Göttingen    b. Wilhelmshaven    c. Lauenburg    d. Stadland   e. Hannover         f. Wattenscheid

LINK: WILHELMSHAVEN SWING BRIDGE

  1. Which town in Lower Saxony will you most likely find in the US?

a. Emden    b. Bergen     c. Hanover     d. Oldenburg    e. Berne    f. Uelzen

FACT: There are 19 towns in the US that carry the name Hanover, as well as 23 townships. The largest of them is Hanover, New Hampshire, where the state university is located. That one has 11,800 inhabitants.

Celebrities and Birth Places: Determine whether these statements are true or false. If false, correct the statements

  1. Maria Furtwängler, an actress who plays Charlotte Lindholm in the Tatort-Hannover series originates from Hanover.

ANS: False. She was born in Munich and belongs to one of the most powerful dynasties that still exist in Germany today. 

  1. Heiner Brand, head coach of the German National Handball Team, was born and raised in Brunswick.

ANS: False. Brand was born in Gummersbach in North Rhine Westphalia. He is the only German handball player and coach to have won the World Championship both as a player (1978) and a coach (2007). He was coach of the German National Handball Team from 1997 until his resignation in 2011, taking the team all the way to the World Cup Championship in 2007.

  1. In the film the Inglorious Bastards by Quentin Tarrantino, there were no German actors/actresses.

ANS: It would not be typical of the well-cultured producer and director to not have native-born German actors/actresses in a film, whose setting was in Nazi Germany. At least 25 people, including Daniel Brühl and Til Schweiger were casted alongside Brad Pitt in this film. This included Diane Kruger, who was born in Hildesheim (near Hanover) and played Bridget von Hammersmark in the film. A well-thought film produced by a well-known name, but the answer to this question is clearly FALSE!

  1. Gerhard Schröder, the successor of Chancellor Angela Merkel, was born in Mecklenburg-Pommerania but grew up in Lower Saxony.

ANS: False. He was born and raised in Lower Saxony and even started his career in politics during his university days in Göttingen, thus paving a path to chancellorship, which he ruled Germany from 1998 until his landslide defeat in early elections in 2005, into the hands of the country’s current chancellor, Angela Merkel.

  1. Herbert Grönemeyer calls Göttingen home. No wonder because he was born there.

ANS: True. Yet he was born there because his mother brought him into the world through a specialist in a very unusual way (read more here). He however was raised in Bochum in North Rhine Westphalia.

  1. The band The Scorpions was established in Hanover with the lead singer originating from there.

ANS: True. Klause Meine originated from Hanover. Together with Rudolf Schenker (who was born in Hildesheim), the band was founded in Hanover. It is the longest running band in Germany and second longest in the world behind the Rolling Stones, having been in business for over 50 years.

  1. The Creator of English for Runaways originally came from Emden.

ANS: False. Heinz Heygen was born in Frankfurt/Main.

  1.  Chris Barrie, a Hannoverer  who starred in the Tomb Raider movie, grew up in Northern Ireland.

ANS: True

  1. Prince Ernst Augustus of Hanover was born in Hanover.

ANS: It is logical that the Prince, who is married to Princess Caroline of Monaco, and has his residence in Hanover, must be naturally-born Hannoverer. Hence, True. 🙂

BONUS QUESTION: Can you guess what that building in Brunswick is?

The building is the site of the Tauch Center, located across the Oker River from the campus of the Technical University. When it was built and other details is unknown, but you are free to add some information in the comment section if you wish to do that.

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A Valentine for Two

Flensburger Fjorde: Where lovers meet Photo taken in June 2010

One can never ask for a more perfect day than this: when two lovers meet by boat out at sea.  It was a lovely sunny day out in Flensburg Fjorde when two yachts encountered each other. Each were heading in the same direction- to a place far away from any form of civilization, be it a city like Flensburg or Sonderburg or a small farm located along the shores in Denmark. All they both wanted was some time to make sense out of what was going on in their lives. Both the man and the woman were victims of a break-up with their partners. The woman caught her husband of 17 years in bed with a 24 year old blond, whom he met at a restaurant in Nordermarkt along the pedestrian district Roter Strasse in Flensburg. And this on the worst day of her entire life as she was sacked from her post as a Danish lecturer at the university after 13 years on the job- a victim of budget cuts that the state government in Kiel had insisted on doing, just to balance the budget.  All she had wanted was the comforts of the man whom she thought she had loved, but realized that this blond waitress got to him first before she could slam the brakes on her Audi A4 to avoid hitting a photographer on the bike as he was taking pictures of the city landscape for a book he was writing. It did not take her long until she threw her husband and the blond out of the house in Twedt they had owned together since the day they got married. And it didn’t take long until she realized that she had destroyed all the ceramic tea pots she inherited from her grandmother when she passed on 10 years ago- all 230 pieces used as weapons of rage to destroy a machine full of lies and deception, 17 years of unknown dissatisfaction between the two, which was revealed as she saw him and her embracing themselves by the flesh and soul under the blanket.

The man was also the victim of cruel circumstances. After being married for 13 years and having a child together, he received a rude awakening one night as he was coming home from working in Bavaria after  a long week and wanting a nice quiet peaceful weekend together with his family, only to find that his apartment in Harrislee had been emptied! All the boxes of his personal belongings had been packed and stowed away in the basement, waiting for him to pick it up. The grand piano that he and his wife had owned together was sitting on the front lawn of the apartment complex and had been used and abused by a bunch of teenagers who wanted to make an open air concert out of the 45,000 Euro Yamaha whose purpose in life was to be used for Debussy and Bach, not Marilyn Manson and Disturbed!  But that’s not all. There were two notes for him: One from the landlord telling him to vacate by the next morning or risk having his belongings- including his 200+ musical pieces- be hauled away to a nearby landfill south of Handewit. The other note was from his wife telling him enough was enough and she was leaving him for another guy. He realized later that her new lover was an American who lived on a farm just outside Windom, Minnesota! When he tried to talk her into coming back to Flensburg, the response was “Not a chance! This guy is great! I’m glad this phenomenon happened and you will find someone someday.” To summarize the events on his end, he lost everything including his wife, his son of 4 years, his piano, his belongings, his appartment, and lastly, his job as Vice President of Marketing at a BMW company in Nuremberg.

Fortunately, for both the man and the woman, of all the personal tragedies and losses they had accumulated, they both had one thing that could save their lives and help them start over, even if it was from scratch, and that was their own yachts. The woman had learned the sport yachting from her father, who had a yachting business near the naval academy. He bought her yacht when she graduated from Duborg Gymnasium (High School), named it the Anne Morrow, after the wife of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh (believe it or not, also a Minnesotan), and went out and about at her own convenience, both on her own as well as with her husband when they were together. She sailed up and down the Baltic Coast going as far north as Malmö in Sweden and far south and east to Wismar and Schwerin, while enduring the hardships that came her way, both through the wrath of mother nature as well as her own trials and tribulations. Since the break-up two months earlier, she had been yachting everyday while trying to piece her life back together. The man had started learning to yacht when he was 5 years old and would go out to sea every weekend with his grandfather and father until he was old enough to have a yacht of his own, which he received when he was 20. Although he spent less time with it when he was married- probably once a month at the most, he was now finding himself living in the yacht bearing the name Tommy John after his son, cruising along both the North and Baltic Coasts, as far west as Sylt, as far east as the Fehmarn Island and even slicing through the canal connecting the two seas, despite having encounters with every bridge and passenger ship that came his way, regardless of which direction he was going.

Both persons may have passed each other from time to time without ever noticing one another. However, this day was totally different. Whatever pessimism that had plagued them for many months had suddenly been replaced with a ray of hope. Don’t ask how that was the case, but the clouds of doom, which required the guidance of the lighthouse to lead the ships to the harbor was replaced with the sun’s beautiful rays which had set the stage for any romantic encounters that could occur out in the Fjorde.  Instead of eating and drinking for themselves, they now ended up having some extras to share with whoever wanted to join them, regardless of who. Instead of being anti-social and drowning themselves in hard liquor (like the famous Pott Rum and the Aquavit) and beer (like the famous Flensburger Pilsner), they suddenly had coffee, ginger ale, and water on board their yachts. And finally, as they encountered each other again, instead of looking away, they were looking at each other. The man saw the beauty of a  well-built brunette with green eyes, who looked as old as he was but yet saw the youth and beauty of her from the inside. The woman saw through his bald headed, blue eyed and somewhat fat figure and saw a guy who was tough and muscular on the inside; especially after the rough ride he had gone through.

Egeskov Lighthouse near Garsten (Denmark) Photo taken in June, 2010

The two yachts would meet in the middle of the Fjorde. The man and the woman would open the gates and allow themselves in. After a few brief minutes of exchanges which was seen by many passersby in their yachts, the two turned their yachts into one direction and ventured off together into the unknown, going past the red clipper that was occupied by Cupid, who had been busy making new arrows for shooting- after using the ones he had for the two. As they were travelling along the shores on the Danish side, they would eventually come to a spot that was out of the way (peaceful and isolated), where they could spend the afternoon together, under the blue sky, enjoying the first day of what would become the rest of their lives.

Cupid's Clipper Photo taken in June, 2010

Valentine’s Day does not necessarily mean that you have to make it extra special for the person you love, nor is it the day where you have to curse it because you don’t have a partner to share your love with. It is actually a day of remembering what you have for your true love and a day where love eventually walks in without notice. And even if you suffer from heartbreak, it is a day where you can take pride in yourself and show your true caring side, which can and will eventually bring you what you are looking for all along. So enjoy it with yourself, your loved ones, your friends and your family and leave all the consumption and greed behind, as you don’t need it anyway.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! 🙂