Germany may not conjure the romantic thoughts of France or Italy, but I feel in love… with the country that is. There are still many pictures I haven’t shared about my trip but here are a few from the Fourth of July party hosted by the American Embassy in Berlin. Enjoy.
Posts Tagged ‘Germany’
I wanted to share this report form the Friedrich Naumann Foundation of Germany. They provide an in-depth analysis with a unique European perspective of the situation. I recently went to Germany with the foundation earlier this month and respect their opinion. They have offices throughout the planet and have an incredibly gifted staff with an amazing ability to understand the complexities of politics and culture of different nations.
The article confirms that Honduras is not experiencing a military coup. All actions are legal and persistent with the law and Zelaya has no one to blame but himself.
“The current political development surrounding the ousted president “Mel” Zelaya begins not only on June 28th, the day of his disempowerment. Zelaya has a long political history and he himself substantially is at fault for his disposition. There are reasons why nearly nobody has critically questioned the toppled president, or analyzed the political development in Honduras in a differentiated and neutral way: for the last few weeks and months, nobody really was interested in the political developments of Honduras and now Zelaya presents himself as the victim, a role he played to perfection during the last few days.”
Read the article written by By Christian Lüth, Project Director, Friedrich Naumann Foundation Tegucigalpa, Honduras. It was published in the German newspaper DIE WELT earlier this month.
Why Europe and the UN are mistaken concerning Honduras
The United States, Europe and the United Nations have solely shown support for the ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. By doing so, they are however doing wrong those that ousted Zelaya. After all the supposed putsch was decided upon by the elected representatives of the people and it was done so as to preserve the country’s constitution.
Honduras, a small and for many an unknown country, has had to endure many misfortunes. Laid between Maya Temples and Caribbean beaches Honduras with its friendly people has much to offer. Nevertheless it has had to brace natural catastrophes such as Hurricane “Mitch” in 1999 from which the country has yet to fully recover. Just like the people the capital – Tegucigalpa – is friendly and slightly dozy. With just about one million inhabitants living in a tightly built city it also rather belongs to the provincial parts of Central America.
This is part of the reason why people there have been so unsettled by the latest events. When just a few days ago people would discuss soccer – the latest sensation being that the national team kept alive their chances of participating at the World Cup in South Africa – and the latest soaps in supermarkets and canteens, now there is no other topic than the political events. The current curfews have brought the enjoyable evenings in the capital to an abrupt ending.
It has been 33 years since this slow-paced folk had to endure the last coup d’état. Back then the military junta violently took over power and governed Honduras with an iron fist until 1981. With that in mind it is easy understandable that the world’s public, foremost the EU- States, felt reminded of that time in the first moment of shock when, last Sunday, they learned that the President of Honduras had been deprived of power by the military.
When in the middle of the night an ousted President is flown out of the country by the military while still in his pajamas just to appear half an hour later on all TV channels in exactly that dress, it is easy to understand that one feels reminded of military coups. Even more so when the accusation of a state coup is made by the military. This image is only reassured by the fact that the new ruler proclaimed a gag order for all news the next day, praised the military and let himself be shown and photographed in a victory pose with them.
From afar this must seem like a violent coup by rightwing militaries in Honduras. Why look more closely, why ask more questions? The toppled president has to be returned and reinstated right away, democracy has to be reestablished. It is a scandal that such a thing could happen in this day and age anyway!
What a pity that next to nobody did care to ask more questions on June 28th and on the following days. If they had, they would have noticed that this “military coup” was ordered by the lawfully elected representatives of the people, the members of the national parliament and the Supreme Court – with a parliamentary majority of 124 to four votes – crossing all party lines. Another piece not fitting the puzzle of a military coup is an arrest warrant for the ousted president which was a result of a number of pending court cases. How does this all fit together?
Happy Fourth of July. Yesterday we went to the American Embassy in Berlin and celebrated the 4th with hot dogs, hamburgers and buds. It was great to hear American music, dance with American troops and enjoy the fireworks. Being in Berlin on such a special holiday makes me even more thankful to be an American. I thank the Lord for our traditions of opportunity, liberty and freedom. While our nation is not perfect it still the best place on earth.
Recently the NRCC asked me what freedom means to me. Check out the video…
So much to say about Berlin but the first words out of my head are Ronald Regan rocks!
My hotel is in the former East Berlin about half a mile from the Brandenburg Gate the place were President Ronald Regan gave the famous speech saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
I woke up at 7:00 AM Berlin time (1:00 AM EST) with one purpose to take a jog to the Brandenburg Gate. I can’t but feel blessed that I am running freely down East Berlin, playing rock music on my ipod to hang out in a place once the symbol of communist oppression. Enjoy a then and now view of Berlin….
the view from the East..
People will never forget….Viva Libertad!
It is Wednesday morning in Germany and we are making our way to the south. For the last few days we have enjoyed northern Germany. First staying in Lübeck and then yesterday visiting Kiel, the capital of the in Schleswig-Holstein state.
Most of our time in Germany we have focused on political parties and governmental structure but today we are taking a little closer look at Germany’s reunification history. We left the city of Lübeck and traveled east toward the former communist country of East Germany. Lübeck, was once a border town.
Claus, our director, has shared a lot during this trip giving us a unique and personal understanding of German history and culture. Today he talked about his days visiting his grandmother in the East and crossing the border from the West. Trying to smuggle in magazines in with the gifts of chocolate, coffee and cigarettes. His family had illegally migrated from East Germany in 1960, before he was born, on the demands of his grandmother who wanted them to have a better life. They knew there was only so much that could be done when trying to survive in a communist country.
As a teenager Clause would visit his grandmother every six weeks or so and bring her items they otherwise had no access to in the communist nation. West German could freely visit East Germany, after they paid an expensive visa and various fees. East Germans didn’t have the same freedom to travel.
We drove about 10 miles from Lubeck to a museum created by private citizens to remember that time period in the country’s history. We then traveled south-east to another site were we could actually visit a former watch tower and see the hellish border crossing.
As we crossed the former border that use to divide East and West Germany I couldn’t but feel emotional. My mother’s family has suffered so much at the hands of communism. They lost everything to socialist revolution in Cuba. Now I was taking a very direct look at a former communist nation to look at what happens next.
Clearly Cuba’s communist history is nothing like Germany. They suffer from different challenges, different strengthens and completely different leaderships. Yet I couldn’t but focus on the symbolic similarities. A grandmother wanting her grandchildren to have a better life, a family fighting with reunification and a people trying to figure out how to learn from the past and make a better future.
We continued to talk about the German Reunification, which started by accident in 1989. I asked myself a million questions, including: How did the East Germans after 20 years of communism integrate into a democratic society? How did people deal with revenge? Weren’t they mad? How did the nation develop into a self-sufficient democracy? What happened to all the communist believers?
I really got emotional when we visited Claus’ grandmothers childhood home in the German country side in East Germany. His cousin bought back the house 14 years ago and made it into a hotel. During World War II the Russians took over the house and the communist made it a school. Years later when it fell to disastrous conditions it went on sale and the family bought it back.
A few years ago Claus’ mother celebrated her 89th birthday in the same home she had celebrated so many childhood birthdays. The entire family joined her for this historic moment. I was so happy for him but all I could think is that my grandparents could never do the same. Both of my Cuban grandparents died and never saw a free Cuba.
It made me think about what Cuba can learn from Germany….. TO BE CONTINUED
Today we left Lubeck and travel north to Kiel, the state capital of Schleswig-Holstein. Located on the Baltic Sea, Schleswig-Holstein is the most northern state in the German republic with a population of 237 thousands inhabitants.
During our visit to Kiel we first visited the State Legislature, the Landtag. The state is governed by a coalition of the two biggest German political parties: Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD). The Minister President is Peter Harry Carstensen of the CDU. The ancient building housing the Landtag was once used to train naval officers. It was rebuilt using a combination of classic and modern architecture. Our first impression of the Landtag was not the government officials but a piece of machinary, a pop art like constantly moving elevator.
After our elevator ride we met with Martin Kayenburg, President of the Land Parliament; Ekkehard Klug, Whip of the FDP Parliamentary Group and Christian Albrecht, Spokesperson for the FDP State Parliamentary Group among others. We then got a tour of the state legislature including its new House of the Kiel Fjord (house floor.) It was completed just two years ago. The room overlooks the Baltic Sea.
As much of northern Germany, Normans and Vikings first settled Kiel. Both ethnic groups continue to have a strong influence of the region, including a political party. As part of state law, two members of Parliament must be of the South Schleswig Voters’ Association – SSW. The political party is made up of the Danish minority and is exempt from the five percent clause and are guaranteed a seat in Parliament.
Joined by some members of Parliment, we then took a short walk on the harbor and had lunch at the Hotel Kieler Yacht Club, appropriate for Kiel’s oceanic history.
Switching gears, after lunch we went next door to met with an official at the Kiel Institute for World Economics to better understand the world economic crisis and its impact on Germany. We then were off to learn more about the history of Kiel. Located on the Baltic Sea the history of Kiel is tied to the ocean. Guided by Jann-Marjus Witt (in sweater vest), Head historian of Marinebund, the navy veterans association we went on a boat tour of the harbor and of the Laboe Naval Memorial.
Kiel has a long seafaring tradition and was part of the Hanseatic League from 1284. (See first post from Germany.) Kiel was expelled from the league in 1518 for harboring pirates but continued to be part an important port and German naval base. Over 80% of the city was destroyed during World War II as Allied Forces tried to take out the Nazi Germany naval fleet.
The city was rebuilt in 1946. The harbor is again an important port and is a starting point for ferries and ships heading to Scandinavia and Russia.
The Naval Memorial houses a structure built in honor of World War I in memory to the German navy. Hated by Hitler for not being “pretty” enough, the memorial was saved by bombings by Allied Forces during WWII. It now houses a memorial to all men and women from across the world that lost their lives at war at sea.
One of the most astonishing things to experience was walking through the WWII U-boat. The tiny submarine was a real life death trap. German officers knew they were sending their well-trained men to death, especially during the final stages of the war, as the life expectancy was a week.
Here are pictures of the amazingly moving memorial and the view from the top. One of the most astonishing things is the memorials respect for all peoples of all nations….
Above, each of those marks is a boat lost in the war. Reflects all militaries of the world participating in WWII.
Today was our first full (awake) day in Germany. The first things on the agenda was going to local high school and meeting with local students. It was incredibly interesting chatting with the 10th and 11th grade students.
The first group greeted us with home made treats and questions about life and culture in America. A group of younger students came in to sing to us “God Bless America.”
The second group of German high school students, who are studying geography in English, where the “intellectual group” asking us about very serious topics such as climate change, Guantanamo, economics, tobacco regulations and nuclear disarmament. It left some in our group of political professionals, some of who are experts on these subjects, speechless with the heavy questions.
The thing that left the biggest impression on me was a young man in the second group who asked me if it was true that in America we can do anything. He shared storied of things he had heard of being a no body and later becoming president. He didn’t feel that in Germany he had the same opportunity. (boy in red)
At that moment I felt even more proud to be an American. I encouraged him that in Germany anything was possible… and I secretly thanked my parents for having me in America.
Later that day we met with local elected officials of Lubeck city council. The city legislature is composed of more then 60 representatives. I learned that in Germany’s 80 million people only about 1.8 million are members of a political party. (In Germany you have to pay dues to officially be part of one of Germany six plus political parties.)
We later met with members of the foundation to learn more of the work of the group.
We took a break in the day of political education to learn more about Germany’s history during World War II and visited a church bombed during the war, St. Peter’s. We visited the top of the rebuilt tower and enjoyed the view of all of Lubeck. We had some free time and explored the ancient city.
Joined by some of my new friends we explored the city including the Marzipan store. For those of you unfortunate enough to never have tried marzipan it is almond paste deliciousness covered by a layer of cholcalte. There are many variations to the German tradition and all could be found in Niederegger, world famous marzipan maker. The flagship store is located in the heart of Lubeck. The store also houses a marzipan meuseum.
At the museum several life size statues were created out of marzipan some weighing as much as 500 pounds each.
We later went on a tour of city hall and visited the former court house. Filled with history, ancient paintings and incredible carpentry the head of the city council shared with us traditional food (marzipan).
This is Lubeck’s court house with its amazing beautiful paintings (below). An interesting historical factoid are the doors to the chamber. One short and and one tall. The smaller door was for the use of the guilty who had to take off thier hat in shame to walk out of the door. Those who were victorious walked out the tall door, with their hat on. I am pictured standing in the doorway of the tall door.
The night was topped off with dinner at the oldest restaurant in town. By far this dinner was the best, most in depth conversation I have had on German culture and history. We talked about the lack of political activism, the party system and the role German guilt had on the apathy of the people. A true conversation that helped me better understand a foreign system and a intricate political structure.
“Hallo” and “Guten Morgen” to you from the lovely northern city of Lübeck, Germany.
Today is day two of my European excursion. For those that don’t know I am doing a trip with the Freidrich Nauman Foundation, which is a separate but affiliated group of Germany’s Free Democrat Party (FDP). This study and information tour for young American political professionals looks at Germany’s economic and political challenges and opportunities.
The foundation brings together a very diverse, very eclectic group of politicos from all across the country and political spectrum. I think sometimes the only thing we have in common is that we are all Americans and have an interest in learning more about Germany. The occasional German stein of beer probably helps find common ground as well. All in all day one and our tour of downtown Lübeck was amazing. I have posted some pictures for your enjoyment.
Lübeck is a just north of Hamburg and borders the Baltic Sea. It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The people here are very proud of the city’s old heritage. It was a member of the Hanseatic League and in the 14th century it was considered the queen of the League, as it was by far the biggest and most prosperous port.
This port city was the first to be bombed substantially by Allied Forces during World War II. Vast parts of historic Lübeck were destroyed. Three of the four main churches were burned down. We visited some of the churches. It is amazing to see how they were able to reconstruct from the ashes.
It is now 6:58 am here and 12:58 am EST. The hardest part of this entire trip is defiantly the time change. I went to bed at about 11:00 pm Lübeck time, which is 5:00 pm. I figured the execution would do me in. I was wrong the huge change in time has taken a toll on me. The red bull I took last night in order to keep up with the crowd probably didn’t help.
Today we are going to meet with locals including high school students, government officials and local leaders…. more news to come.
Above: Parade in Lubeck
Above: Downtown Lubeck
Above and below: One of the main churches in Lubeck. It was destroyed in the war. Below is the bells of the cathedral that came tumbeling down during the Allied Forces bombing of the area.
Finally I am in Germany. After 12 plus hours in travel I am finally at my destination. I went from Dulles to Frankfurt to Hamburg and now in Lubeck. I tried to sleep but if my body feels like its been beat up. I was so bubbly when my plane first landed and now, ehh…
I would show you a picture of myself but I looked like something the cat dragged in. Its currently 1:15 PM in Germany and 7:16 AM on the east coast.
Here is more info on Lubeck
Today I leave to Germany! I will be taking off in a few short hours and my suite case still looks like this:
Oh well, here are some good morning reads:
Hispanics Online: No Más E-Barrios: The US Hispanic Internet population has seen incredible growth in the last few years. This year it will grow another 8%. Check out graphs on trends, favorite markets and the forever debate English or Spanish?
Utah leaders discuss Sutherland Institutes report on SB81: A conservative think tank shocks many with a report asking for the repeal of a new law that allows local law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal immigrants breaking federal immigration laws. The group states the law will increase crime.
A Mother Pleads For Her Son’s Life: A 75 year old mother makes an international plea to save the life of her son who is in deteriorating conditions in a Cuban jail. The government will not give him treatment. He is part of the 2003 “Black Spring” crackdown. The video is heart wrenching.