What North Germans talked about this week: Prokon, Traffic and the weather

Maybe you have heard about ‘Prokon’. It is a company financing and building wind power plants. It employs about 500 people in its office in Itzehoe. There have been rumors about the company’s business policies being questionable.

Last week ‘Prokon’ announced the danger of a planned insolvency and made it very clear that the reason for it are investors pulling out money. They appealed to  their investors to sign a statement that they would leave their money in the company until  October and  asked people who wanted to withdraw their money to sign a form stating  that they were aware they  were contributing to the company’s bankruptcy.

Of course there have been many discussions and comments in the newspapers  trying to answer the question, whether it Is  right to put that kind of moral pressure on investors. However, when people talk about ‘Prokon’ they talk about the decline of the area around Itzehoe.

One of the biggest employers in Itzehoe is ‘Prinovis’, one of five or six printing houses in Germany. “Geo” magazine, “Stern” and many other well-known magazines are printed in Itzehoe.’ Prinovis’ will close this year. About 1000  work places will be lost, and some estimate that 2.500 others are endangered. Some years ago the government withdrew the military sites in and around Itzehoe. Soldiers and their families left the region,  and another few thousand jobs were lost. The threat of another 500 jobs gone is indeed an alarming prospect.

Empty shops in the center of Itzehoe
Empty shops in the center of Itzehoe

Itzehoe is a rural center and could be a nice little town to visit. During the last months more and more shops have closed. This afternoon I counted 8 empty shops, and you can’t blame that on amazon, eBay and zalando alone. It is sad to see, how a to town and its surrounding are going down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the finished cover could look according to the "Hamburger Abendblatt"
How the finished cover could look according to the “Hamburger Abendblatt”

Another topic widely discussed  and talked about is the planned cover across the A 7. The A 7 is one of the most frequented motorways in Germany, going from the Danish border at Flensburg to the very South of Germany. In Hamburg the  A 7 turns into a 3.3 km long  tunnel going underneath  the river. The A 7 is notorious for its traffic jams. To change that there shall be a new lane on each side between the Elbtunnel and Bordesholm. The motorway running through the city shall get a cover  in three places. On top of the cover shall be parks, playgrounds and walkways. All existing lanes shall remain open while the building goes on, but  they will be narrower and there will be no place at the side for broken down vehicles.  Many people are afraid of even longer traffic jams, of building noises and accidents. Being stuck in traffic myself almost every morning I am not looking forward to the hustle with all that building, but in the long run it will be a huge improvement both for the traffic situation and for the quality of life of those who live close to the motorway. We commuters at work are already exchanging ideas which side route to take.

 

 

 

 

100_4226

Of course, like everywhere in the world, people are talking about the weather. We have had a lot of rain, dark days without sunshine and very mild temperatures up to 12°C. Here and there you find things blooming, that shouldn’t and when walking across the lawn my heels disappear into the ground. Shall it get cold next week? Will we have frost, or even snow? Each day, when walking the dog, I discuss these questions with one neighbour or the other, I think it is great not to have any snow but if I should believe the radio forecast there is a chance of snow during the next days. Then it takes at least half an hour more to get to work as we all have forgotten how to handle a car when there is snow on the road.

Sunday Walk in Heiligenstedten

I have been numerous times to Heiligenstedten,  a small community near the town of Itzehoe, heading straigth to the big  do-it-yourself-store to buy things for the house and garden.

A few days ago, when wondering where to take the dog (and myself) on a walk, I remembered a motorbike trip we took some years ago starting in Heiligenstedten and leading along the Stör. So I decided to start my walk there,  took the car, drove about 15 kilometers  and discovered places, that  once more made me realise how ignorant I have been about the area I am living in.

I parked the car at the  St.-Marien-Kirche zu Heiligenstedten and was surprised to learn from a sign at the churchyard that as early as the  9th century a church had been standing there. The church you see on the picture below  was built at the end of the 13th century and rebuilt in 1580.

St. Marien-Kirche in Heiligenstedten
St. Marien-Kirche in Heiligenstedten
The bell-tower of St. Marien-Kirche
The bell-tower of St. Marien-Kirche
The door handle of St. Marien-Kirche
The door handle of St. Marien-Kirche

It was closed that day, but that only gives me a good reason to take another trip there to get to know the inside of the church.

I continued my walk crossing the Stör at the old bascule bridge. Well, it isn’t that old, the modern version  was built  in 1967,  until then there was a wooden bascule bridge dating from 1777.

The bascule bridge across the Stör at Heiligenstedten
The bascule bridge across the Stör at Heiligenstedten

After crossing the bridge, there is a small cobble stone street on the left,  named  “Schlossstraße”.  I remembered that somewhere I had heard about a “Schloss Heiligenstedten”. I  decided to follow that street and was surprised to come out at a lovely old manor-house, Schloss Heiligenstedten.

Schloss Heiligenstedten
Schloss Heiligenstedten

At home I searched internet about the history of the castle and what I found is not much. However, its latest history seems somehow sad.

Since 1691 the land and the manor-house belonged to the Blome family, one of Schleswig-Holstein’s  25 or 30 families of ancient nobility. It was rebuilt in 1756 after a flood destroyed the old Renaissance building. Between 1851 and 1853 the facade of the Late Baroque  mansion a new  neo-Gothic look.

I couldn’t find out why the family sold the estate to the state of Schleswig-Holstein in 1926, but the last male descendent, Earl Hans Graf Blome, died in Rumania in 1945. The estate was turned into a Borstal. In 1939 it was briefly used as a hospital, but after a short while turned back into a house of correction until the end of the war. Until 1958 it served as shelter for  German refugees and expellees from Middle and Eastern Europe. A phase as being used as a old-people’s-home ended in 1987.

The outbuildings housed a hote and restaurant
The outbuildings housed a hote and restaurant

A private investor bought the estate, according to Wikipedia paying a symbolic amount of 10.000 DM (about 5000 Euro) to the state of Schleswig-Holstein in 1988. It changed ownership soon afterwards and another entrepreneur  invested  about 20.000 000 DM turning the outer buildings  into a hotel and restaurant and adding a big riding hall with boxes for about 50 horses.  At the same time a new and very luxurious housing project should be developed around the castle, including a mall with exclusive stores. Unfortunately,  it didn’t work out. Five years later, in 1998  a beautifully restored estate,  an unfinished housing project and enormous debts remained.

I found an announcement by a real estate company in internet asking for 3. 300 000 million Euros for the estate, but I don’t know whether that is up to date. The castle is closed to the public and decay has settled in. A symbol for an area in Schleswig – Holstein that has lost many of its economic foundations during the last years?

Not open to the public anymore
Locked and forgotten?
Decay
Decay

Truth?

Is it possible to be too honest, or is honesty always the best policy?

Well, what is honest? Shall I honestly tell you how I feel about North Germany? Maybe it is better, if I do not, because it can happen that I feel differently about it on another day. Will what I have written then,  be a lie?

The truth is, that North Germany is flat in most places. There are some areas where people joke that you can already see in the morning who is on his way to visit you in the afternoon. There are other places where it is a little bit hilly. There is the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, there are areas with big forests, and there is the heath. There is the River Elbe and there are many small rivers. But there is no spectacular nature as you will find in Norway, or Scotland or Canada or in many other places on this earth. You have to develop an eye for details and  find joy in small things in order to find North Germany interesting or beautiful.

But is that really the truth? Actually, it is only my opinion. When I visited some friends in South Germany not so long ago, I met a woman who insisted that she found the German North Sea Coast to be the most beautiful spot on earth.

The North Sea near Friedrichskoog in December at low tide
The North Sea near Friedrichskoog in December at low tide
Just outside our village
Just outside our village

Truth is often opinionated. We should be aware  that often we can only voice our own subjective  view, and be very careful when we feel we are proclaiming the truth. If viewed from another angle what we claim to be the truth might appear as the opposite.

We should say what is on our mind, but be careful not to hurt others unnecessarily (I don’t have to tell my neighbour that I think his garden is boring, do I?)

http://wordpress.com/read/post/id/489937/64715/