Flensburg Files News Flyer 5 September 2012

There were a lot of events that happened while I was on hiatus for a few weeks, two of which were spent back in Flensburg and the surrounding area with my family. Most of the events have a zero at the end of each number, marking some events that should not have happened but they did. However some high fives are included in the mix that are deemed memorable for Germany, and even for this region. Here are some short FYIs that you may have not heard of while reading the newspaper or listening the news, but are worth noting:

Rostock-Lichterhagen:

22-24 August marked the 20th anniversary of the worst rioting in the history of Germany since the Kristallnacht of 1938. During that time, Lichterhagen, a suburb of Rostock, the largest city in Mecklenburg-Pommerania in northeastern Germany was a refugee point for Roma and Vietnamese immigrants. However, it was a focus of three days of clashes between residents and right-wing extremists on one side, and the refugees on the other. Fires broke out in the residential complex where the refugees were staying, causing many to escape to the roof. Hundreds of people were injured in fighting, while over 1000 were arrested, most of them right wing extremists originating as far as the former West Germany. The incident cast a dark shadow over the city and its government for not handling the issue of foreigners  properly, let alone having trained police officers to end the conflict. It also set off the debate dealing with the problem of right-wing extremism in Germany, especially in the former East Germany, where neo-nazis remained underground until after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Over 70% of the refugees affected by the violence left Rostock after the incident. President Gauck attended the 20th anniversary ceremony on 24 August and spoke about the dangers to democracy.

More info on the incident can be found here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riot_of_Rostock-Lichtenhagen; http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,16194604,00.html

 

Munich:

Today marks the 40-year anniversary of the Munich Olympics Massacre. A Palestinian terrorist group stormed the a house where 11 Israelis were living, held them hostage and later killed all of them as the police tried to set them free. It overshadowed a then successful Olympic Games, which was the first for Germany since hosting the Games in 1936 in Berlin. Germany was in the process of reconciling with the Jews after the Holocaust, only to be reminded painfully through the event that it had a long way to go in order to become a multi-cultural state and be able to mend its relations with the Jews. Since that time, the country has long since healed from the wounds of the terrorist, the relations with Israel and the Jewish community have improved dramatically, but memories of the event are still there and will not be forgotten.  Info here.

The famous slogan that was found throughout all of Sonderburg. Better luck next time.

Aarhus:

Every year in Europe, there is a city that is nominated as a Capital of Culture, based on the cultural diversity and economic state. During that year, a variety of festivals and events marking the city’s heritage take place, drawing in three times as many people on average than usual. While this year’s title goes to Maribor (Slovakia) and Guimares (Portugal) and the hosts for 2013 goes to Marseilles (France) and Kosice (Slovakia), Aarhus (Denmark) outbid Flensburg’s Danish neighbor to the north, Sonderburg to be the 2017 European Capital. It is the second city in Denmark to host this title (Copenhagen was the Cultural Capital in 1996). Had Sonderburg won, it would have joined Flensburg to host the event, which would have made Flensburg the fourth German city to host the event. Both cities will continue with joint projects to draw in more people to visit and live in the region. Berlin (1988), Weimar (1999) and Essen (2010) were the other German cities that were Cultural Capitals since the initiative was approved in 1985. More information here:    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Capital_of_Culture

Mirror reflection of Gluecksburg Castle. Photo taken during the 425th birthday celebration.
Low attendance at the open-air church service due to hot and humid weather.

Gluecksburg:

The castle of Gluecksburg, located northeast of Flensburg,  celebrated its 425th anniversary during the weekend of 18-19 August, with concerts and an open-air church service. Attendance was low due to warm and humid weather, plus it had celebrated the 12th annual Beach Mile a weekend earlier. The castle was built to house of the Royal Family of King Christian IX of Gluecksburg-Sonderburg, whose family bloodline covers five countries including the UK and France. The Castle was vacated after World War I when the Royalty was forced into exile but was later converted into a museum. The castle is one of a few that is surrounded by a lake, making it accessible only by bridge. More information on the castle will be presented in another separate article.

 

50 Years of Soccer in Germany:

Germany is now in its second month of the three-tiered German Bundesliga season, which marks its 50th anniversary. Initiated in 1962, the league featured 16 teams that originated from five different leagues in Germany, including ones from Muenster, Berlin, Munich, Dortmund and Cologne. The league now features three top flight leagues (the top two featuring 18 teams each and the third league (established in 2008) featuring 20 teams). To learn more about how the German Bundesliga works and read about its history, a couple links will help you:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fu%C3%9Fball-Bundesliga

http://www.dfb.de/index.php?id=511741

A couple articles pertaining to German soccer is in the mix, as the Files did a segment on the problem with German soccer. The first two can be viewed here:

Part I

Part II

What was that? I’m being photographed? Well then, here you go!

Flensburg Files now on flickr:

Available from now on, the Flensburg Files is now available on flickr, together with its sister column, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Just type in FlensburgBridgehunter12 and you are there. You will have an opportunity to view the photos taken by the author and comment on them as you wish. Subscriptions are available. The Files is still available through Twitter and Facebook where you can subscribe and receive many articles that are in the mix. One of which deals with a tour of the Holnis region, which is in the next column.

Annie’s Kiosk Coming Soon to Schleswig Holstein

Annie's Kiosk in Sonderhavn. Photo taken in May 2010

During my trip to Flensburg in May 2010, I did a pair of bike tours along the Flensburg Fjord, a bay area that is part of the Baltic Sea and enclaves the border city. On one day I toured the south end, finishing up at the eastern most point of the peninsula at Holnis. On another day, I toured the northern end, going through Denmark and biking past many small Danish towns en-route to my final destination of Sonderburg. On the way to the university city of 30,000 I stopped at a particularly interesting fast food stand in Sonderhavn called Annie’s Kiosk. This small stand resembles the appearance of a Dairy Queen ice cream stand  in the United States during the 1960s and 70s and may not seem to offer anything spectacular in terms of its outer appearance. Yet one should not judge the book by its cover, especially when thousands of tourists- consisting of bikers, boaters and passers-by- stop at this restaurant daily. Apart from offering a wide array of typical Danish goods, like ice cream, Annie’s Kiosk serves the finest hotdogs in all of Europe. It is unknown what the secret ingredient of the hotdogs is let alone all the dressings you can put on there. But if compared to any hotdog served at a soccer or baseball game, Annie’s tops them all.

But there is an underlying reason why I’m starting this column with Annie’s. While the restaurant does not have any franchises neither in Denmark nor in Germany, it is possible that an Annie’s may be coming soon to a city near you. But if that was the case, it would not be in Sonderburg, Flensburg or even Schleswig, but in Kiel- the capital of Schleswig Holstein.  A historic moment occurred during the state elections on 6 May 2012. Apart from Peter Carstensen, the former minister stepping down after ruling the state for seven years and calling it quits as a politician for the CDU, a change in guard occurred as the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Danish Party (SSW) managed to garner enough votes to form the Danish coalition. Yesterday the coalition contract was signed and today, the new administration under minister Torsten Albig will take office, making Schleswig Holstein the only state in Germany that has a coalition that is not traditional of the coalitions that are common in German politics (like the Red Green coalition, the Grand Coalition, the Jamaica Coalition with the FDP, etc.).

What makes the SSW different from the other parties in Germany? Founded in 1948, the party, which is headed by Flemming Meyer, represents the Danish minority that is living in the state, as between 15% and 20% of the population have a Danish background. The majority of them live in the former Duchy of Schleswig, which was once part of Denmark before 1866. The region consisted of the western two thirds of Denmark and the northern half of Schleswig Holstein. Since the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the northern half belongs to Denmark while the southern half belongs to Germany with a border located at Flensburg dividing  the two regions. An agreement in 1955 between Germany and Denmark recognized the former region and its minorities and provided exceptions to the norm. Border controls no longer exist. The two divided regions are part of the EuroRegion and take part in cooperative efforts to foster economic growth. The Danish minority is allowed to construct schools in the northern half of Schleswig Holstein, and lastly, in accordance to the state laws of Schleswig Holstein, the five percent hurdle does not apply to the SSW Party. This means even if the SSW receives 3% of the votes in the state elections, they are allowed to participate in the state parliament, which is not the case for any political parties originating from Germany.

So what does the SSW Party have to offer in comparison to the traditional parties and why did the coalition with the SPD and Greens work out? For instance, they favor equality, not only within the gender but among people with ethnic and regional backgrounds. Therefore allowing foreigners to work for longer periods of time, providing equal pay for men and women, and stressing the importance of multi-culture especially among their people, like with the North Frisans, the Danes and the Germans are very important to them. Integration through establishing a general schooling system but providing free education to all are especially important. Unlike this concept, which is based on a Scandinavian model, the school system in Germany consists of elementary school followed by the separation of students into the Gymnasium (high school for those attending college), Realschule (for vocational training) and Hauptschule (for those wanting to work after 10th grade) after the sixth grade year. The party has been pushing for reforms of the education system for many years, stressing the need for education (both in and beyond school) to be user-friendly. The job market must be more flexible and family friendlier, according to their policies. This includes not laying off people in the event of an economic crisis, like we saw in 2008-9 and are still feeling the effects from it, but also cooperating with the schools to allow families to spend time with their children. They do favor improving the infrastructure to make the delivery of goods easier and safer. One of the projects they support is the extension of the West Coast Autobahn A 23, which starts in Hamburg and currently terminates in Heide. Some improvements are being made near Itzehoe but the plan is to upgrade the main highway B5 north of Heide so that vehicles can access the freeway. And lastly, environmental policies is based on the concept of regeneration of nature. That means existing areas that contain flora and fauna should be left alone and areas that were occupied by industry in the past should be given back to the nature. This includes supporting reforestation and establishing wildlife refuge areas.

The three parties agreed to focus on three main aspects during the five-year administrative period they have in Kiel: Social Equality, Education and Energy Reforms.  Unlike the previous regime, where cuts in spending for social and education programs were frowned upon by the public, more money will be invested in programs that will help the residents succeed. The traditional German school systems will slowly but surely be integrated into a general school system similar to the Danish model.  Energy policies will consist of producing more renewable energy than using it, while at the same time, ween its way away from coal, fossil fuel and nuclear energy. Even the underground storage of carbon dioxide was rejected by the public and is not in the program of the coalition. The West Coast Autobahn will be improved and extended, while another motorway A20, which starts in Prenzlau in Brandenburg and currently terminates near Lübeck in eastern Schleswig Holstein, will be extended to terminate at motorway A7 north of Hamburg by 2017.  And lastly, the goal of allowing 16-year olds to vote before the next state elections in 2017 is also on the table. A brief overview of the plan can be found here.

Should the plan work to the advantage of the newly created coalition, it will not be surprising if Schleswig Holstein becomes greener, more culturally integrated and worker friendlier than it is right now. It is clear that these policies will make the state become more attractive, not only to the Danes living in the north but also elsewhere in Germany. Unlike some regions in the northern and eastern parts of Germany, the state has a consistent population growth of 2% annually, but the unemployment is about the same as the national average of 8%. But with this new set of policies to be implemented, it will not only make the northern half of the state with its minorities happy, but also the rest of Schleswig Holstein. And it would not be surprising if one day, we will find an Annie’s Kiosk somewhere in the state, along with the rest of the Danish delicacies, which many of us look forward to when visiting and living in Schleswig Holstein.

 

The flag of Schleswig-Holstein Photo taken in May 2010

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! 🙂