Genre of the Week: Planet Germany: Eine Expedition in die Heimat des Hawaii-Toasts

Author’s Note: This Genre of the Week has been pushed up a couple days due to important commitments. This is the first review that has been done by a guest columnist. And for a good reason….. 🙂

When we look at Germans, we look at high quality and how they strive to achieve perfection, priding on the likes of BMW, Nutella, soccer, universities and a good beer. However, when asking a German whether they are proud of their culture or how they perceive us Americans and our way of looking at things, we see and hear another story.  In this book review, Planet Germany: An Expedition into the country that is home to Hawaiian toasts (this is the English equivalent to the original title), Eric T. Hansen takes a look at the old question of German identity and how the Germans look at their own culture, from a humorous point of view. This review was done by Ann Marie Ackermann, an American expatriate living in Germany and working as a lawyer, translator and a writer. Here’s a look at the reason why a person should think about reading this book:

A case of a lost cultural identity

Can it be that the Germans really don’t know themselves? And that they need an American to hold up a mirror and show them why the rest of the world holds its arms open to the German culture?

One American who’s been living in Germany since 1983 seems to think so. Eric T. Hansen’s book, Planet Germany, dissects the German psyche. His scalpel is his rare sense of humor, and he cuts through layers of poor national self-esteem to find the ingenuity that created Hawaii toast. I say “rare” because Hansen manages to elicit laughs from both Americans and Germans. Any American expat in Germany will appreciate the book, not only for the insights into the collective mind of the German folk, but for Hansen’s satire.

The world admires the Germans, but the Germans don’t know it

It was in a shopping mall in Magdeburg, Germany that Hansen discovered Germans don’t know who they are. The author, a journalist, was writing an article about exports, and asked shoppers what German products and personalities they thought would be popular in America.

“Nothing,” said the shoppers. One German man said he couldn’t imagine Americans would be interested in anything from Germany.

Frustrated, Hansen spouted a number of possibilities. “What about Mercedes? Volkswagen? BMW? Are there any German cars that aren’t famous in America?” His list went on:  Braun, Bosch, and Siemens? Gummi bears and “Nutella”? Lowenbräu? Blaupunkt and Grundig? Claudia Schiffer and Heidi Klum? Das Boot, Lola rennt, and the Brother Grimm fairy tales? Wolfgang Petersen and Roland Emmerich? Kraftwerk, Nena, Rammstein, and the Scorpions?

But it’s not easy to impress a German. “That might be,” said the man. “But nothing else.”

Americanization of Germany or Germanization of America?

We – the American expat community in Germany – have all heard it before. At some point a German has sat down with us in a café and started complaining about how the Americans are taking over the German culture.

The first time I heard it, I was incensed. Every individual German votes with his or her wallet by selecting products. Collectively, the country has chosen the culture it has now. Why blame the Americans? But on a deeper level, does a country really lose its culture by purchasing foreign merchandise like Coca-cola, jeans, and pop music? In the United States, we eat tacos and sushi, sing French and German Christmas carols, and listen to Jamaican rhythms. But we call that enriching our culture.

Oh no, says Hansen. That’s not what the Germans really mean. “Americanization” for them really means “modernization.” Alas, the Germans are just mourning the loss of the culture they knew as children.

Hansen puts the complaint under a microscope and finds a better case for the Germanization of America. At the time he wrote his book (2007), the value of German exports to the United States was almost one third more than the other way around. That’s not bad for a country half the size of Texas.

But the Germans better watch out. There is another country that’s done a lot more to infiltrate their country: Sweden. Germans read Astrid Lindgren as children and buy clothing at H&M. They listen to Abba and buy their first furniture from Ikea. They read mysteries by Henning Mankell and watch movies with Ingrid Bergman. And if that’s enough, says Hansen, the Swedes have to go out and flood Germany with Knäckebrot.  But nobody in Germany talks about “Swedenization.”

Germans as World Champion Complainers

Hansen’s satire shines most brightly in his chapter on why Germans believe complaining is a sign of higher intelligence. It’s sort of an unofficial German IQ test. Whoever does the best job of spontaneous criticism is the smartest. A comparison of the headlines in Spiegel and Time Magazine proves this, says Hansen: The American magazine offers information, and the German one critique. Even my German grandfather noticed this tendency. “When a German and an American both buy a new house,” he used to say, “the American guests come over and talk about everything they like about the house, and the Germans come over and find everything wrong with it.”

And here Germans are the Weltmeister. Just as Arabic has more words for “camel” than any other language in the world, Hansen points out, German has more words for criticism. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because public, grassroots criticism plays an important role in democracy. Heck, Germans even have a holiday for political criticism. Have you ever watched German television during Fasching?

To anchor the importance of complaining in the German culture, Hansen applied for a job as professor at twenty German universities. He asked the universities to establish a chair for the esthetics of complaining (Nörgeleiästhetik) and offered a curriculum. Hansen includes his application in the book, and you can find the answers of three of the universities in the appendix. And don’t tell me the Germans have no sense of humor. When I read the appendix, I always have to pull out my Taschentücher because I start crying so hard.

About the book:

Eric T. Hansen, Planet Germany (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Verlag, 2007); 289 pages, in German. Eric T. Hansen is a journalist living in Berlin.

Author’s Fazit:

The book did provide the author with an idea for an activity that students in both Germany and elsewhere can try at home. Click onto this interview about Germany and what to expect. Make a list and ask yourselves whether there is more to Germany than what is mentioned here, and share it with your classmates and teacher. You’ll be amazed at the various answers brought up, especially if you as the teacher is a non-native German. Good luck with that! 🙂

Note: The video was produced by Jason Smith, Marc Schueler and Dan Wogawa in 2013 and powered by GoAnimate.

About the writer and critic:

Ann Marie Ackermann (small)

Ann Marie Ackermann was a prosecutor in the United States before relocating to Germany, where she worked for 15 years as a legal and medical translator. Ann Marie now researches and writes historical true crime. Her first book, Death of an Assassin, will appear with Kent State University Press in 2017. It tells the true story of a German assassin who fled to the United States and became the first soldier to die under the American Civil War hero Robert E. Lee. You can visit Ann Marie’s website at

FF new logo1

Germany Quiz 3: The Answers to the Questions about Bremen and Bremerhaven

Skyline of Bremerhaven. Photo courtesy of Uwe Friese. Public domain via wikipedia


After having a look at the questions and doing some research about Bremen and Bremerhaven, here are the answers to the questions posted two and a half weeks ago. You can download the Guessing Quiz here and encourage others to give it try, providing them with an incentive to visit this rather unique German city-state.


Here are the answers (all in cursive and bold print):

Freebee Questions: Guestimate the answers to the following questions below:

  1. Bremen is the smallest of the German states and city-states. It has a total of   670,000 (548,000-Bremen and 122,000-Bremerhaven)   inhabitants.
  2. In comparison with the universities/colleges in Berlin and Hamburg, Bremen (and Bremerhaven) has only  five: University of Bremen, Bremen University of Applied Sciences, Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences, Jacobs University, Bremen University of the Arts.
  3. How many German immigrants leaving their marks on American history came from Bremen? (Hint: research in Wikipedia for the answer)   Five: Henry Bohlen, Charles Henry Nimitz, Carl Runge, Edward Voigt, and Frederick Charles Winkler- two of these men served in the Civil War

True or False?

  1. The Plot of the Bremen Town Musicians originated from Bremerhaven.   False. The animals wanted to go to Bremen but never did. More here.
  2. Bremen was once occupied by the Swedes.  True, from 1653 to 1667
  3. Beck’s brewery did not originate from Bremen, but from Hamburg.  False, Becks was founded in 1873 in Bremen
  4. Bremen was once occupied by the Americans after World War II.  True. From 1947 until the establishment of West Germany in 1949, the Americans created the free city-state of Bremen being enclaved by the British Zone
  5. Bremen is located along the Weser River. True- both Bremen and Bremerhaven
  6. Bremen has the lowest land above sea level of all of Germany. False, Bremen has the lowest high level of land of all of Germany with the highest point being only 32 meters above sea level.
  7. The soccer team SV Werder Bremen has won more soccer titles than Bayern Munich. False. Adding up the titles on the national and internation levels, Bayern Munich far outpaces Bremen 62-18. This is between 1960 and 2014.


  1. The Schnoor features houses dating back to the _____A___ and sells goods from the Medieval Ages.


  1. 1300s
  2. 1400s
  3. 1500s
  4. 1600s
  1. The Schlachte features a combination of a promenade of shops  (hint: sight seeing) and eateries and bars  (hint: beer and food) along the Weser River.

  2. The Bremen Houses (Bremer Häuser) features a three-story family house built between the 1880s  and the 1930s.

  3. The ______A__________ is the oldest church in Bremen. It was built in the ______B________ but has glass murals dating to the _______C______.


  1. Peter’s Cathedral
  2. The Church of Our Lady
  3. Nicholas Church
  4. Benedict


  1. 900s
  2. 1000s
  3. 1100s
  4. 1200s
  5. 1300s


  1. 1100s
  2. 1200s
  3. 1300s
  4. 1400s
  1. A famous dish for Bremen is the Gruenkohl and Pinkel. It features Sausage, Potatoes, bacon, spiced green cabbage and onions.

  2. The most common vegetable found in Bremen is (in German): ___________________.

  1. Grünkohl
  2. Rotkohl
  3. Braunkohl
  4. Weissenkohl
  1. The Bremerhaven Sail International Festival takes place in August every 4-5 years and features many varieties of sailing vessels. It was founded in 1986.

  2. Das Deutsche Auswanderhaus in Bremerhaven was founded in 1852  and its function was to assist in allowing 1.3 million Germans to do what? Emigrate to America

Note: 1.3 million Germans emigrated to the New World by 1890; 7.2 million by 1950.


  1. Bremerhaven was founded by Johann _____________
  1. Smith
  2. Schmidt
  3. Smidt
  4. Smithers
  5. Schmiedt

FF 25 Logo

Christmas Market Tour 2012: Magdeburg, Germany

Author’s Note: This is the first of five series on this year’s Christmas market tour in Germany. This year’s tour focuses on two themes: locality and rural. The tour through the German state of Saxony-Anhalt with stops in Magdeburg, Quedlinburg and Halle (Saale) will address these two in full detail.

Here’s a Flensburg Files Frage for the Forum question to start off this tour: When you encounter the word Saxony-Anhalt, what are the first three words that come to mind?  What would you expect to see when passing through the state by car or by train? There are very few tourists who have visited or even stayed in the state bordered by Lower Saxony, Upper Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia, three of which were part of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), together with this state.  Saxony Anhalt is the crossroads between industry in the south (near Halle (Saale) and Merseburg) and agriculture in the north, and in terms of landscape, mountains in the west (near Halberstadt and Quedlinburg) and the plains region in the east (including the Elbe River which flows northward through the capital of Magdeburg and beyond). The state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at an average of 12%, competing with the likes of Mecklenburg-Pommerania, Berlin and Brandenburg, and North Rhein-Westphalia. It also has one of the largest demographic changes in the country as the population is getting older more rapidly than in other regions in the former GDR and more younger people are flocking to the western half of Germany and beyond for better employment chances and prosperity.

But beyond that, there are some unique features about the state that are worth noting, and one should never underestimate the people and the culture that greet you when you pass through the state. The Christmas markets are one of those features that makes Saxony-Anhalt the place to visit around Christmas time. Our first stop on the tour was the capital of Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg. With a population of 232,000 inhabitants and home of the Otto von Guericke University (which has 13,000 students and has produced over 11,000 publications world wide), the city has a lot to choose from. It has over 20 churches, many dating back to its founding by Charlemagne in 805 A.D. Among them include the Magdeburg Cathedral, which took over 300 years to build (1209-1532). The city prides itself on its sculptures and other forms of artwork, spanning over 90 years, including the Hundertwasserhaus building, located next to the Cathedral and the adjacent state parliamentary complex, one of two of such elaborate pieces of architecture in the world (the other is in Vienna). Historic bridges along the Elbe River are easy to find and plentiful in number (please see the article on this topic through the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles  found here.)

And the Christmas markets?

While there are a few suburbs that have markets lasting just one day, as we will see with the next article on the one in Buckau, the Christmas market in the capital is a must see for those staying for a couple days. The layout of the market features the stands being clustered together in an area that covers all of the Alter Markt Market Square (north of Ernst Reuter Strasse), all the way towards the Johanneskirche, which overlooks the Elbe River, and including the Carré Shopping Center.  The Alter Markt features many wooden huts selling traditional goods one will see at the Christmas Market, with some exceptions to the rule. These exceptions include the goods one can eat while in Saxony Anhalt, such as the Salzwedel Baumkuchen and the Magdeburger Prileke. Originally from Salzwedel in the Harz Mountain region, the Baumkuchen features a ring with 2-3 layers of pastry covered in vanilla or chocolate coating.  The Prileke is deep fat fried pastry covered in powdered sugar.  There is also the incense men and special Christmas candle holders from the Ore Mountain region, but that can be found in another article. The market fills the entire market square and overlooks the house of the city’s Burgermeister (EN: mayor) with a gold statue of von Guericke located at the front entrance to the building.

Toward the southeast end of the market is the Renaisssance section, where one can find hand-crafted items and homemade specialties that fits the time period, together with the music that is typical for that time period. Two of the most important points to see were the manger, featuring the wooden carvings of the arrival of Baby Jesus, His parents (Joesph and Mary), the Innkeeper and the Three Wise Men. That can be found between the entrance and the performance stage. The other point of interest is the church booth, featuring a rather unique Spanish style architecture with stained glass windows, but inside it is actually a bar serving its famous Gluehwein (mulled or spiced wine) and other warm alcoholic goodies. The setting reminds me of the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, a church that was converted into a restaurant and microbrewery. And while the church/brewery goes by the motto “On the eighth Day man created beer,” one can also use the “And on the ninth day, man created Gloegg,” for outside the Renaissance section of the Christmas market, there is the North Pole section, where little red huts feature hand-made products from Sweden, among them, the fruity mulled wine with spices one can only find in that rather popular Scandinavian country. One can buy it with or without vodka. If one is into whiskey, one can find Swedish whiskey at the booth. While I only tried the Gloegg, which is rather tasty with the Vodka, I bet the Swedish whiskey is better than the Scotch version. But I’ll let the whiskey lovers try it for themselves.

Apart from trying love handles (churros with caramel dip) and getting a free ceramic toy for bringing a kid to the booth, for children, the Magdeburg Christmas Market also featured an array of displays in connection with fairy tales written by many German authors, including Goethe and the Grimm Brothers. They were found at the main market, but also at the two shopping malls in the city center: the Carré located across the main street from the main market, and the shopping mall next to the central railway station, 10 minutes by foot west of the main market. These serve as main stopping areas for children to listen to fairy tales while taking a break from all the Christmas shopping.

Despite all that is offered at the Magdeburg Christmas market, the layout was rather compacted, resulting in the overcrowding of people going through, especially in the evening. One of the main causes was the fact that at the time of the visit, the Magdeburg Cathedral was undergoing extensive renovations, which included closing and barricading the Domplatz square in its entirety. This has affected many businesses in the area, including stores in the Hundertwasserhaus building which normally would see more customers at this time than in any other season of the year. By reducing its space to just the city hall and Alter Markt, it increased the chances of people veering away from the market at night because the crowd was huge, thus making passage impossible. The late opening hours (11:00am until 11:00pm) combined with the shopping malls’ opening hours (closing at 8:00pm) did not alleviate the problem of overcrowding. However, once the renovations of the cathedral is completed, chances are most likely that the market will be shifted to extend along the Elbe River, from the Alter Markt all the way to the Cathedral itself, a distance of almost 1 kilometer. This would make the city center more attractive and brighter, and it would make visiting the market more bearable. Also included in the suggestion is to coordinate the opening hours between the market and the shopping malls to make it more transparent and convenient for shoppers. Only then would there be an equilibrium in terms of crowd control versus opening hours versus profit. The more the people stream through the market does not necessarily mean more profit. In fact it will more likely turn people away because overcrowding can lead to potential outbreak in panic and a stampede that would turn Magdeburg into another Duisburg Stampede. Note: The incident happened in July 2010 at the Love Parade inside the former freight train station in the city along the Ruhr River, killing 22 and injuring over 200.

All in all, Magdeburg’s Christmas may be small and crowded, but its attractions make it worth visiting while traveling through Saxony-Anhalt in December. However, as we will see in the next article, the markets in the smaller suburbs, like Buckau make it even more attractive to see, especially since it presents a nice warm feeling of home and homemade. But before going to the next article, here are some pictures of the market with some attractions worth seeing while in Magdeburg.



One of the fairy tale exhibits at the Christmas market


The elk greets the customers at the Swedish Whiskey and Gloegg Stand
The Church Gluewein Stand at the Renaissance Section of the Christmas market.
Christmas market at night.
Pyramid at the west entrance of the Christmas market at Alter Markt
View of Johanneskirche from the Elbe River
Magdeburg Cathedral under renovation: potential place for future Christmas markets?
Das Hundertwasserhaus Building next to the Cathedral
Christmas market at Alter Markt facing the city hall.
One of hundreds of sculptures and other forms of artwork that can be found in Magdeburg. This one is along the Elbe near the Cathedral, constructed in the 1990s.


Happy Children’s Day


When was the last time you did something special for your child? Did you take him/her to the zoo to feed the animals, throw a party and invite his/her friends over, or made a special treat for him/her? If it has been a while and you have not had a chance to make a child happy, then today is the day. While we have special days of celebration for mothers and fathers, today is Children’s Day, where we take pride in our children and do something really special for them.
The interesting part about Children’s Day is that for the most part, they are celebrated on two different days: 20 November and 1 June, which is today. The one on 20 November was based on an proclamation by the International Union of Child Welfare in Geneva in 1953, which was later supported through an agreement with the United Nations General Assembly in 1954, calling it Universal Children’s Day. Five years later, a Declaration on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN and signed by all its members 30 years later.
While Universal Children’s Day is still being proclaimed by the UN to this day, most countries in the world celebrate Children’s Day independently instead of celebrating it with the UN- Canada is one of a handful of countries that have Children’s Day on the same day as the UN’s Universal Children’s Day. The main date of celebration is 1 June, as an International Day of Children was proclaimed in 1950, based on agreements made by countries in the former Soviet Bloc, including East Germany. When Communism made a rapid descent to oblivion beginning with the Berlin Wall falling on 9 November and ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the former states continued to celebrate Chidren’s Day on 1 June. East and West Germany had their Children Day celebrations on two separate dates: 20 September in the western half and 1 June in the eastern half. Since the Reunification, the country has still celebrated Children’s Day on two separate dates. Officially it follows Canada’s suit, yet still the former East German states celebrate on 1 June.  Interesting enough, the USA is one of only a few countries where Children’s Day is recognized in regions within their own boundaries. Although Children’s Day has been celebrated on the first Sunday in June since President George W. Bush introduced it in June 2001, many communities, states and churches celebrate either earlier or later, thus making the national holiday obsolete. And is there a country that does NOT celebrate Children’s Day or even recognize Universal Children’s Day? You betcha, and alarming enough, you find this on European soil- in Great Britain. With claims that it is a holiday that is wasted and keeps children out of schools, as Gordon Brown claimed during his time as Prime Minister, Children’s Day is not celebrated in the UK, although its western neighbor, Ireland, celebrates this day on 25 March. (Makes me wonder whether current Premier David Cameron should set an example for others like Brown to follow….)
So what do children do on this special day? It varies from country to country. In places like Ecuador, Albania and Bulgaria, children receive gifts from their parents and other family members. In places like Australia and New Zealand, they organize activities around annual themes that deal with domestic issues and children. In some places, like Mexico, children are honored with activities, parades and other events. Bulgarians promote children’s safety by driving with their lights on all day long. In Vanuatu, children make speeches addressing the issues like child labor and abuse, while being honored through parades, etc. In Paraguay, Children’s Day is in connection with the anniversary of the infamous Battle of Acosta Nu on 16 August, 1869 where the army of 20,000 men crush an army of 3,500 children ages 6 through 15 who were fighting a battle already lost. It is a national holiday to commemorate the atrocities that were committed by the Brazilians during the five-year war. While the children can visit the zoo for free on their special day in Slovakia, they are treated like kings in Thailand, where a theme is created by the government and children can tour all aspects of the Thai regime and other institutions. And yes, they can use the public transport and visit the zoos and other places for free as well.
While the churches in the USA honor their children during a Sunday church service- as agreed upon through first the Universalist Convention in Baltimore in 1867 and later through the proclamation by now former President George W. Bush- in Germany, children usually receive presents from their families and schools and kindergartens arrange for field trips and other events to make their day special. After all, the children are the future and efforts are being made to encourage families to have children. This includes many states providing funding for parents who take maternity leave for up to three years, as well as for constructing kindergartens, renovating schools and hiring teachers. Even companies are constructing kindergartens and encouraging their workers to work and take care of their children, a mentality that is for the most part unthinkable in other places, like the US and the UK.

There is a reason for that, which is the fact that Germany, like many countries in western Europe is on the decline in terms of population. At the moment, the population is at 79 million, down from 82.3 million in 2000. The causes of such a decline are emigration to other countries, the population is aging, and lastly, the working conditions which discourages people from creating families. Henceforth beginning in 2005, the government and the private sector began taking a proactive stance and created measures to encourage people to have children. In the seven years since the initiative was started, we have seen a moderate increase in the population but only in areas where the job prospects are at their highest- in technology areas, like Jena, Dresden and Frankfurt, as well as in large cities in the northern parts of the country, including Berlin, Hamburg and other areas. Even big cities like Nuremberg and Munich are seeing population growth as a result of these measures. Whether this will offset the population decline remains to be seen, but Germany is taking steps in the right direction to replenish the population.

Regardless of the reasons for having children, we should take advantage of Children’s Day and look at our young ones for who they are, treat them like king and help them along the way. After all, we are the ones responsible for our children’s future and the children are the ones who are leading the way to one that will be better than what we have at the moment. I would like to close this entry with a Thai saying that states: “Children are the future of the nation, if the children are intelligent, the country will be prosperous.”  We have taken many steps to foster the children’s development. We should enjoy the day and take pride in the next generation that will lead the way after we are gone. Enjoy this day, everyone.

Bergen, Minnesota

Welcome to Bergen

After a brief hiatus due to non-column related commitments, we are now back on track to start you on the tour of the German-named villages in Minnesota. We’ll start off with the first town on the list, which is more of a village than a town, but in any case it is worth a visit if one wants to take a small one mile detour off US Hwy. 71 going from Jackson north to Windom in southern Minnesota. Bergen is one of the smallest villages in Jackson County, yet it does have a unique history that is worth noting to the tourist. The village was founded by Norwegian immigrants in 1895 and became the center of dairy commerce in its own locality with the opening of the cremery in 1897. This meant that farmers in the northern and eastern part of the county could bring in their milk for processing and sale.  While it was in business for only 40 some years, the village became popular with the Bergen General Store, which started the same time as the cremery. It provided food and clothing to nearby farmers, and it later included a gas station and a post office. It was and still is to this day the only store in the village with a store-front window. It is still in business today as it now sells antiques and collectible items, something that would entice someone to turn off the main highway and stop in for a few minutes. After that, one can go across the county road going through the village heading north into Bergen Bar and Grill, a small tavern and restaurant that is a popular place for the 30+ inhabitants and nearby farmers to this day. While I have not been in there because it was closed at the time of my visit on a cold but blue December afternoon, one could imagine a nice meal with a glass of Grain Belt beer while sitting outside, talking to some friends, watching the cars pass by and having a nice view of the village and its small but noticeable stream meandering its way past the village to the south, Elm Creek. That is- when it is in the summer time.

The Bergen Store: Photo taken in Dec. 2010

About a couple kilometers to the west of Bergen is the Bethany Lutheran Church, which can be seen from the highway looking west. While the brick building has existed since the late 1920s, the congregation was one of three in the locality that had existed since 1867, but eventually consolidated into one by 1920. The church still serves the village of Bergen and all points to the east to this day and provides one with a picturesque view of the landscape; especially along Elm Creek. Bergen is one of those forgotten villages that is tucked away in the valley where no one can see it. This is partly due to the fact that the main highway, US 71 was rerouted more than 60 years ago and what serves the village now are two county roads. However, follow the signs and head a couple kilometers down hill and you’ll see a village that is still intact and anchored with businesses one may never hear about unless you are told about it by some locals or you figure it out for yourself. In either case, this Norwegian town is one place that is worth a stop, even if it’s for a few minutes’ rest.

Bethany Lutheran Church: Photo taken in Dec., 2010

This leads to the first of many Richard Halliburton Geography Guessing Quizzes. A couple weeks ago, I posted a true and false question which stated: There is only one other Bergen in the world and that is the one in Norway.

The neighborhood of Bergen: Photo taken in Dec., 2010

If you answered false, you are right. There are 13 countries in the world where Bergen exists, apart from the most popular of them in Norway, which is the second largest city behind Oslo, with a population of 260,000 inhabitants. One can find a Bergen in Poland, Czech Republic, Canada, Belgium, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, and Canada, just to name some of the countries mentioned here. Interesting enough, one can find as many as 16 towns in Germany carrying the name Bergen. This includes five in Bavaria, two in Saxony and Lower Saxony respectively, and one near Frankfurt on the Main  in Hesse. The last one was the scene of the battle of Bergen, which took place between the French under Marshall de Contades and the Allies (British and the Kingdoms of Prussia and Brunswick) under Herzog Ferdinand on 13 April, 1759. Unfortunately, the Allies lost the war to the French but there would be many more battles to come as it was part of the 7-Year War between the French and the Allies. Bergen later merged with Enkheim and is now part of the city of Frankfurt with its main feature worth seeing being the Marktstrasse- with its typical old-fashion buildings- and the city hall. The Nazi Concentration Camp Bergen-Belsen, where Anne Frank died shortly before the British liberated the camp in 1945, was located near Bergen in the district of Celle in Lower Saxony. The largest of the 16 towns known in Germany is the one on the island of Rügen in Mecklenburg Pommerania. With the population of 23,000 inhabitants, it is one of the oldest in the state, dating as far back as 1232 when the Slavic tribes settled in the town on the island. After being conquered by the Danes, the Swedes, and the Prussians, Bergen became part of the German empire under Kaiser Wilhelm I when it unified in 1871, and despite being part of the German Democratic Republic during the Cold War, it is now part of Germany since 1990, together with the rest of the former East Germany. Much of its architecture dating back to 1200s exist today and it is one of the major stops enroute between Binz and Stralsund; especially thanks to the Stresalsund Bridge, which opened in 2004 to relieve the traffic congestion along the dam, located nearby.

Elm Creek south of Bergen: Photo taken in Dec., 2010

Bergen is one of the most popular used names for a town in the world. However, these towns vary in their history and population and they are worth visiting when you get a chance. While there is a theory that stated that Bergen is associated with the Norwegian or even Scandinavian culture and their influence, based on the historic background and in the case of Germany and the Benelux Region (Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands), the geographical location to their northern neighbors, more research is needed to confirm that the Scandinavians had their influence on the region, even though some of that is proven already; especially with the one in Minnesota.


Question 2. Which country sought to conquer the city of Trier (in Germany) many times and eventually suceeded? Please include the year it happened!

a. Poland

b. France

c. Denmark

d. Spain

e. None of the above