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.

IMG_5440
IMG_5443

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.

IMG_5454

IMG_5459

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.

IMG_5466

IMG_5473

IMG_5486

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.

IMG_5499
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.

IMG_5545
IMG_5567

IMG_5575

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….

IMG_5618

IMG_5641

IMG_5656

Above, each of those marks is a boat lost in the war. Reflects all militaries of the world participating in WWII.

IMG_5678

IMG_5679

Advertisements

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.” IMG_5207

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)

IMG_5214At 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. IMG_5249
IMG_5253
IMG_5261

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.

IMG_5286

IMG_5294

At the museum several life size statues were created out of marzipan some weighing as much as 500 pounds each.

IMG_5293

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).
IMG_5360

IMG_5363

IMG_5375

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.

IMG_5392

IMG_5400

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.

IMG_5000Above: Parade in Lubeck

IMG_5120

Above: Downtown Lubeck

IMG_5183

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. IMG_5141

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:

IMG_4959

Procrastination anyone?

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.

It gives me great sadness when the President of the “Free World” can not make time to greet people who are struggling for freedom. Even the Washington Post asks:

Why doesn’t President Obama have time for Cuba’s pro-democracy opposition?

The President couldn’t meet with representatives for the National Endowment for Democracy’s 2009 Democracy Award recipients Jorge Luis “Antunez” Garcia Perez, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Librado Linares, Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, and Iris Tamara Perez Aguilera who are standing up for the right of the Cuban people in the Communist island.

Thank you to Babalu Blog and Naked Politics for covering the issue.

There are alot of great videos about Antunez but most in Spanish. Here is a video from Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart discussing what Antunez and other freedom fighters have gone through:

Yesterday I spoke at the Republican National Committee’s Women’s Interactive Network Summit. Joined by dear friends Cathrine Favazza and Dr. Mellisa Clouthier we discussed how women can use new media as a communications tool and to increase political engagement. We were invited by RNC’s Director of New Media Todd Herman. He was also our emcee extraordinaire creating an incredibly interactive conversation and even posting questions on twitter during the panel discussion. Here are some pictures of the event.

IMG_4940

Above: A room full of beautiful and smart Republican women eager to learn and lead.

IMG_4942

Above: Katie, Melissa and I getting ready to speak to a packed room on how easy it is to get on-line.

IMG_4947_2

Above: Sharon Day the Secretary of the Republican National Committee introducing the panel.

MORE PICTURES AFTER THE JUMP