Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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German News And Events

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

We do our best here at MyGermanCity.com and in our G-ZINE to bring you all sorts of information regarding what’s going on in Germany. If you want more German news and cultural events, programs, and even books there are plenty of English sites that’ll give you what you’re looking for.

Deutsche Welle, my personal favorite, is one of the most trusted names in German news. Their website has historical, travel, and other articles for not only the English speaking (reading?) public but in 29 other languages too. Plus, you can watch DW World live on their website.

Thelocal.de is a great site for getting all the info you want for Germany’s major cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, even the Rhineland). They’ll give you up-to-date movie listings (for English speaking movies, no less), restaurant reviews, and other cultural events.

Living or visiting Berlin? Can’t read German? Good thing EXBERLINER knows how to take care of you. They’ve got the best info on life in the capital city with restaurant reviews, listings, classified ads (need an apartment), and nightlife.

The same holds true with The Munich Times. If you want all the non-German language info on current events, sports, politics, and business in the Bavarian city — you don’t have to go any further than right here.

SPIEGEL ONLINE is the online version of Der Spiegel, and they’ve conveniently translated their German, European, and World headline stories from Deutsch to English for you.

Thanks, that’s most kind. ;-)

When trying to keep current of all the cultural events in Germany, you’ve got two choices. The first, Signandsight, might draw some of its “news” from other sites (for which they’ve translated to English for you). It’s said to be all about the “cultural and intellectual life in Germany.” That means books, music, art, etc. Love it!

The second, the Gothe Institute, is also all about German cultural life. You’ll find their website most informative about cultural programs. Plus, they have offices in countless cities around the globe (there’s even one in Kathmandu).

If you hear about any more English-speaking (or reading) websites, be sure to let us in on where to find them by posting a comment below, please? :-)

Thank You To Our US And UK Friends

Friday, January 27th, 2012

I don’t believe it. After more than sixty-something years there will be a reduced number of U.S. and U.K. military personnel in Germany. Not that we have totally minded you being here, it’s just… well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let me see if I can make sense out of this — since you have to go all the way back to May 8, 1945. At the end of World War II, Germany was carved up into pieces by the Allies — the United States being one of them.

To this very day American military presences are still maintained in Germany, albeit not in the regard they once did back in the late 1940’s. And thanks to the U.S. Government trying to “cut the fat” from its budget during its war in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’re about to reduce their presences in two of their stations.

For most people, these two are pretty hard to find or guess (that is, if you’re not in the military). Let’s see…

Ever heard of the town of Grafenwöhr? What about Baumholder, anyone?

See? Too bad, they’re pretty awesome — and Elvis Presley was stationed in Grafenwöhr when he was there.

Yes, I’m aware that nothing is written in stone yet, but since three-quarters of the country’s brigades are stationed in Germany, someone’s got to go.

A German/American alliance is nothing new, BTW. It were the Prussians who helped a newly formed United States of America during the American Revolution in the late 18th century against the Brits.

The thank-you letter to Prussian officer, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, from George Washington over at Hohenzollern Castle kind of says it all, BTW.

Oh yeah, speaking of the Brits, we’re grateful for their presence too. But, they too are pulling out some of their troops over the next few years; and will be totally gone by the end of this decade.

Throughout the decades we’ve suffered together, prospered together, and grown united together. So, it is only fitting that we Germans extend a heart-felt THANK YOU to our British and American friends — whether serving now, or in the past.

I know that many of you fell in love with Germany, our culture, and the peaceful live you enjoyed here. Well, it is peaceful because of YOU!

German Royalty Can Be Bought

Monday, September 19th, 2011

It be a good guess to say that I’m probably not the only one out there in the world that clicks the TV to mute (or off) when modern newscasters drone on about what England’s new duchess is wearing. But, it did get me to thinking that merry ol’ England doesn’t have the monopoly on the monarchy.

Germany too was a hodge-podge of kingdoms and dukedoms, and they certainly weren’t without scandal (as is the modern day English monarchy). Sorry, Elizabeth, I ain’t judging — I’m just saying. ;-)

What’s really funny (and I mean REALLY funny) is ordinary common folk also have their fair share of scandals. It just doesn’t so happen to make the tabloids or CNN. Most of the time.

So, if you’re scandal bound; why not add a real German noble title to your name?

No, I’m not kidding. With a few clicks of the mouse & a hundred bucks (or two), you can buy yourself the designation of a German noble title — such as Herzog (that’s a Duke) or Fürst (Prince).

Alright, the titles you buy might be only to the micronation of Pomerania and Livonia, but it might be fun to make all the people who think you’re a “Nobody” call you Freiherr (Baron) John Doe.

It’s downright hilarious. What? Am I the only person to find the humor in this?

What wasn’t funny when it comes to titles of the nobility is the case of Caroline of Brunswick. Oh, she was a lady of German noble blood who went on to become a Queen of England at the turn of the 17th century.

Sort of.

Her husband, King George IV of England, was illegally married to his mistress prior to Caroline. Their tumultuous relationship was chocked full of gossip, adultery, and scandal. Hmm, you mean these aren’t just modern day problems?

Anyway, Caroline was so despised by her hubby that he had her turned away at the doors of Westminster Abbey for the coronation — and those loyal to the king referred to her as just a simple Duchess. Oh, a snub to a proper queen, don’t you think?

For us mere mortals, I wouldn’t be offended if someone called me just a Graf (that’s a Count).

Once you buy your coveted German title, I wouldn’t worry too much about an assassination attempt like the Archduke Franz Ferdinand (in line for the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), whose death kickstarted World War I.

Wheww, that’s a relief — ’cause I’m about to go get me a title (just kidding).

And if you’re interested in hearing more scandalous stories in German history, let me know — there are PLENTY. ;-)

Hope Found When The Berlin Wall Came Down

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the building of the infamous Berlin Wall. A series of events marking this not so auspicious day was (and is) found throughout Berlin and the rest of Germany.

It was on August 12th, 1961 that East Germany leader, Walter Ulbricht, gave the order to build a separation wall between them and the West Germans, which had started the day after. Hmm, interesting since only two months beforehand he said that “no one wants to build a wall.”

But, he did build a wall. A 160km concrete barrier around Berlin, to be exact.

As if the wall wasn’t insulting enough, watchtowers (which is believed that no two were alike) were added along the wall’s perimeter with soldiers ordered to shoot anyone trying to defect. They called it Repulikflucht, or illegal immigration.

East Germans were a bit creative in trying to flee to the more free West Germany, using a variety of methods to get across, including tunneling, hot air ballooning, and one soldier drove a tank through it.

In 1989 after the East and West Berliners could cross “freely,” it was still dangerous, as the Soviets had buried landmines along the Eastern side — so it did take a while for it to be truly safe. And there’s no exact number of people who perished trying to cross the wall, estimates guess somewhere between 136-200 souls lost trying to reach freedom.

Now a little more than two decades after the fall of the wall, a new exhibit has opened up at Unter der Linden 40 in Berlin with never before seen photos taken from the East German perspective. Which is to say, taken from the eastern side of the wall.

The exhibit opened August 5th, which will until October 3 before heading off for an exhibition in Poland.

Maybe the exhibit should circle the globe, as a reminder of hope to all those who are repressed.

On June 26 Everyone In The World Is Ein Berliner

Monday, June 20th, 2011

The date of June 26, 1963 may not be a day that stays in the mind of many people these days. However, for those living in West Berlin at the time, this marked the day that everyone in the world was with them in mind and spirit. This was the date when the US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy stood in front of the City Hall and spoke these words: “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

Let’s go back a bit before this speech to see why it resonated so much with the citizens of Berlin.

Twenty-two months before this famous visit, one of the monstrosities of modern time was erected in the city of Berlin. This was, of course, the reviled Berlin Wall, which divided the city as well as families and friends by a huge block of concrete and barbed wire.

Berlin, for those who haven’t yet visited our lovely country, was situated in the middle of former East Germany, which was under the power of the Soviet Union.

As occupied Berlin was split into four zones, those who lived within the Soviet area soon found that the repressive nature of the Soviet Union was working its way into their beloved city. And so, they began to flee into the western half of the city.

Naturally, the USSR did not appreciate this drain on their population and built the Wall to prevent such freedom of movement. However, they claimed that the Western part of Germany had not yet been properly “de-Nazified” and that the Wall was really for the protection of East German citizens. They called it the “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart.”

Meanwhile, citizens living in West Berlin felt like they were surrounded by the enemy, who was hoping to take control of the rest of Berlin and fully incorporate it into East Germany.

And so, we can imagine the feeling of these West Berliners when the US President reminded them that they were not alone, and that they were not forgotten.

This speech is regarded as one of Kennedy’s best and is still well-remembered in the United States and around the world to this day. The famous words were repeated twice as the President said:

“Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!'”

—Marcus

Germany Gets Greener As It Abandons Nuclear Power

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Many of us watched in horror as the double tragedy of earthquake and tsunami hit Japan earlier this year. The disabled nuclear power plant at Fukushima reached levels of meltdown that haven’t been seen since the days of the Chernobyl disaster.

But while the rest of the world briefly discussed the possibilities of moving away from this controversial power source, only Germany has made real plans about its nuclear future. The government has announced that all remaining nuclear power plants will be put out of commission by the year 2022.

The first nuclear power plants were opened in Germany in the 1950s. During this half a century, the country experienced three near-catastrophes that resulted from problems with the reactor.

The first was in 1975 in Greifswald, East Germany. A fire brought about by an electrical error came close to causing a meltdown after the main coolant pumps were destroyed. Two other calamities occurred in the 1980s.

In 1986 in Hamm-Uentrop, a broken fuel rod led to the release of an excess of radiation, which contaminated the surrounding area.

And again in 1987, a stop valve malfunctioned at Biblis Nuclear Power Plant in Hesse and released more harmful radiation.

Of course, the disaster at Chernobyl was one of the worst for Germany, despite the fact it didn’t even happen within German borders! While the meltdown occurred in modern-day Ukraine (then a part of the USSR), Germany was just downwind from this catastrophe. In some areas of southern Germany, it is still possible to find traces of radioactivity in the mushrooms or in some wild animals.

Currently, Germany has 17 nuclear power plants, which provide about 25% of the country’s energy. Seven of the oldest reactors have already been shut down because of safety concerns. These power plants will be replaced by newer renewable-energy technology that will not emit greenhouse gases, which places Germany in the forefront of green countries.

Many believe that Germany could provide the “road map” that will enable other nations to give up the risky nuclear reactor system for something more environmentally-friendly.

In addition to the news about nuclear power, which was greeted with happiness and applause by many staunch environmentalists, Chancellor Angela Merkel also promised to reduce the carbon emissions of her nation by 40% in the same ten-year time period.

So in the next decade, all eyes will be on Germany to see how well it adapts to an economy and environment with clean energy and new cutting-edge technologies.

The future will be an exciting place for us! :-)

—Marcus

The Greens And Our Rising Environmental Consciousness

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Because Germany and her people are concerned with environmental health, many strides have been made in improving the country’s richness in resources. And it has been vital to protect for many reasons.

Surrounded by industrial nations, many pollutants enter the country on the breezes, via the rivers and with the rain. The autobahn offers a path for thousands of automobiles on their way to numerous vacation spots both within Germany and without.

Germany’s own factories have been a source of pollution, as well as agricultural development and the “necessary” pesticides. But don’t despair. I don’t intend to paint a black picture. Many improvements have been made. And Die Grünen a.k.a. The Greens have assisted in many ways.

The Green Party (also known as the ecologist party) have as their basic principles not only social justice, nonviolence and a desire to do away with nuclear power, but also a large stress on environmentalism. These principles are known as Green politics.

It has taken years for the Greens to reach the nationwide popularity they have achieved today.

To really be considered in the running as a political party, the contenders need to reach at least 5% of the vote. In 1983, the Greens crossed this threshold. They attained 5.6%. In the national election of 1987, they won 8.3%.

And why has their popularity grown recently? Predominantly due to the nuclear catastrophe in Japan.

As The Greens carried forward their causes, it became clear their major priority was handling environmental concerns, including ending the use of nuclear power as an energy source. This elicited environmental awareness across the country.

They have had their ups and downs, of that there is no doubt. For example, in 1990 they only got 4.8% of the vote and no seats in the Bundestag. However, this didn’t stop them. They were back with a larger 7.3% in 1994. And reached an all-time high in 2009 with 10.7% of the vote.

Now The Greens are the strongest party after the recent elections in Baden-Württemberg. Plus, they are on their way to become Germany’s second largest party.

The current environmental issues in Germany consist of everything from acid rain, air pollution from coal-burning utilities and Baltic Sea pollution to hazardous waste disposal issues and river pollution. These areas must be addressed and the Greens know it.

Now to compete with this ecologically minded party in Germany, others must jump on the bandwagon and start making a difference. And a whole “eco-industry” has formed to make environmentally friendly equipment, devices, and cars.

As The Greens have balanced ideals, they have won many German hearts. And we are sure to see more of them with seats in the Bundestag as they continue to lead the way in the areas of renewable energy, consumer rights, and environmental consciousness.

—Marcus

November Is The Anniversary Of A Reunited Berlin

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

November 1989 was a very special month, and November 9, 1989 in particular was a day that we Germans will remember for a long time, as will the rest of the world. It was on this day that the East German government announced that they would no longer stand in the way of their citizens who wanted to travel to West Germany, like they had done for over 30 years.

Citizens of both West and East Germany were overjoyed, and rushed to the hated Berlin Wall to make these once-impossible crossings. But for those of you whose German history is a bit rusty, or who can’t remember this historic event, let me present a nutshell version of this darkly fascinating time in our past!

Most people will remember from their old history classes that Germany (and the capital city of Berlin) was divided into partitions after the loss of the Second World War. Each of the four Allied countries — the USA, France, Britain and the USSR — maintained control over one part each.

The trouble began when the Soviet Union tried to consolidate their power and worked against its former allies. Ultimately, they blockaded the city of West Berlin. The Berlin airlift, one of the greatest diplomatic interventions of recent times, followed and brought food and other necessary items into a troubled city.

As East Germany and East Berlin became more and more repressive, naturally, people began fleeing these harsh conditions. The Soviets realized that this “brain drain,” the loss of its best and brightest citizens, could no longer be tolerated. In the early morning of Sunday, August 13, 1961 the border between West and East was closed entirely and the construction of the Wall began.

While the Wall is symbolic of some of the darkest times in our country, it also was a time of great heroism and sacrifice. The dire situation of East Germany led some to risk their lives in order to cross over into the west.

One of the most famous and tragic of these stories is the tale of Peter Fechter. This 18-year-old boy tried to escape with his friend, Helmut Kulbeik in August 1962, by jumping out of the window of a tall building that sat right on the border of the wall, and then running across the “death strip” to scale the Wall on the other side.

While Fechter’s friend managed to evade the bullets of the East German border police, Fechter was not so lucky. He was shot in the pelvis in this “no-man’s land” between the two borders. Even though his shooting was witnessed by many bystanders in the West, no one could help him, for fear that they themselves could also be shot by entering the death strip.

And so, the tragic life of Peter Fechter ended with him slowly bleeding to death, screaming for help in plain sight of both Western and Eastern German guards who both could not and did not haid him. He died one hour later.

The cruelty of Fechter’s death was a wake-up call to the rest of the world, who could see clearly now just how repressive the East had become. It would take another 37 years for the Wall to come tumbling down.

While most of the Wall was dismantled during the months following this time, there are still sections of it remaining, left as a memorial. When you visit Berlin, be sure to take a walk along the last remaining segments, like the East Side Gallery at Mühlenstraße, or the more authentic Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Straße to see for yourself where freedom triumphed.

—Marcus

No More Public Smoking In The German State Of Bavaria

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Smoking is a hot topic in Germany at the moment, thanks to a vote in Bavaria on July 3rd to put a new public smoking ban in place. It is being called one of the strictest in Germany, and has commentators wondering what this will mean for the weak smoking bans currently in place in the rest of the country.

Smoking bans, after all, are hardly new in German. You can’t smoke in federal buildings, and there were a number of bans on smoking in restaurants and pubs passed in 2008.

However, the way things work in Germany, the national government doesn’t handle the smoking laws. Instead, each individual state has their own rules, and some of them are more strict than others.

Some of them are not very strict at all . . . and even the 2008 rules were rather quickly relaxed.

It’s not because Germany is a country of die-hard smokers. Yes, the smoky beer hall is a tradition in some areas, but just like people in the rest of the world my fellow Germans and I enjoy meals and public spaces that are smoke free.

The larger issue, of course, is that we Germans don’t always appreciate being told what we can and can’t do. Restaurant owners and bar managers also feel that smoking bans hurt their businesses by driving away customers and raising expenses as they need to create new spaces for smokers. So the smoking bans become controversial, and a subject of hot debates.

Many establishments work around the smoking bans in Germany by turning their businesses into private clubs, where smoking is still allowed. You may find yourself surprised to get a ticket or a membership card when you sit down for a drink or a meal, but it’s just a way to help skirt the local laws.

The bigger deal with the smoking ban in Bavaria is that it has been extended to include Munich‘s famous beer tents in the fall. For 2010, the authorities are saying they won’t do much in the way of ban enforcement, but for 2011, expect your trip to the Oktoberfest to be a smoke free experience!

—Marcus

Stay Connected To Germany With Deutsche Welle

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

It can be very hard to keep up with all the news in Germany when you aren’t in the country. I remember in my early travel days trying to call home and get the latest information, or hunting down old newspapers for stories. I am glad those days are gone!

For three years, I’ve found myself depending on the main news network from Germany, Deutsche Welle. It provides updates for the international community from Germany. It is a service I have found invaluable for helping me stay in touch as I travel, and I know many others who also love it.

You can enjoy their updates in many different ways. There is the online portal, DW-World.de, which is available in 30 languages. There is also a DW-Akademie, which runs a radio broadcast and trainings. Last but not least is DW-TV, available on satellite and cable worldwide networks in German, English, Arabic, and Spanish.

Even though I am not an advocate of television in general, watching Deutsche Welle from time to time makes me feel more connected to my beloved homeland whenever I’m abroad. They focus on current events, and pan-European decisions that impact Germany. Unlike some of the tabloid and infotainment offerings you can find, Deutsche Welle is very well regarded as a credible news source.

You can also use it as a way to improve your German language skills or keep your ear in practice. Though you can watch it in English, Spanish, and Arabic, their German language programming is targeted at people learning German in addition to those who already have German language skills. This is much better than boring tapes or classes!

New programs and formats are added constantly as the network expands. They currently claim more than 100 million worldwide listeners weekly.

I like to think of so many other lovers of Germany out there tuning in with me, and I invite you to be sure to take advantage of all the free resources and information provided at your finger tips by Deutsche Welle. :-)

—Marcus

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