Saturday, August 1, 2015

Madison's Flag Flies on the Kaiserbrücke

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©BZ/Ingo Schneider
Last Wednesday in their last session before the summer holidays, Freiburg's city councilors were confronted with a heavy agenda. Among the many topics there was the discussion on the placement of the Siegesdenkmal (Victory Monument) that I had announced.

Mayor Salomon opened the debate using a well-known witticism*: Dann kämpfen sie mal schön (Have a nice fight). Eventually there was little controversy except for a proposal to postpone the decision and in the meantime "park" the monument in Freiburg's Stadtgarten (municipal park).
*In 1958 Germany's First Federal President Theodor Heuß when visiting soldiers participating in a field day had wished them: Dann siegt mal schön (Have a nice victory).

For many of the deputies, moving Victoria back into the visual axis of Kaiserstraße was delicate in particular with respect to the many visitors from France. Therefore, in a typical German decision, the majority of the city council asked that in its new, i.e., old position an explanatory plaque be added to the monument.

The one deputy from Germany's fun party Die Partei demanded that the bronze of the monument be melted down and a big middle finger be cast that could optionally point to France or to Greece.

Another topic dealt with was Freiburg's sister cities. The city council approved unanimously new partnerships with Wiwili (Nicaragua) and Suwan (South Korea) as well as a special declaration of friendship with Tel Aviv (Israel). There was however one abstention from the vote with respect to Suwan. The councilor criticized that Koreans do not speak English and that each time a delegation from Suwan comes to Freiburg interpreters are required.

I wondered whether Koreans are worse than Japanese visitors. Red Baron remembers that he was once sitting on a program committee for a conference when chairpersons for the various sessions were selected. An American colleague had written on the proposal for a Japanese chairman in capital letters: MUST SPEAK ENGLISH.

Freiburg's dozen is full. The round number of twelve partners was celebrated by replacing the flags of the Zähringer cities on the Kaiserbrücke by those of Freiburg's sister cities. The flags of cities founded by the Dukes of Zähringen in southwest Germany and Switzerland had in turn superseded the provincial, state, or national flags of Freiburg's partner and would-be partner cities in 2013 following an incident with the Iranian flag. At that time they had hoisted the flags of Franche-Comté for Besançon, Tirol for Innsbruck, Veneto for Padua, Wisconsin for Madison, and England for Guildford.

Freiburg now has six sister cities in Europe: Besançon (France), Granada (Spain), Guildford (England), Innsbruck (Austria), Lviv (Ukraine), and Padua (Italy) of which the flags are hoisted on the right-hand side of the bridge when entering the city from the south.

Right-hand flags on Kaiserbrücke. Note the streetcar direction Zähringen.
The flags of the six partners outside Europe are on the left-hand side, namely Isfahan (Iran), Madison (USA), Matsuyama (Japan), Suwon (South Korea), Tel Aviv (Israel), and Wiwili (Nicaragua).
Left-hand flags on Kaiserbrücke. Madison's flag is the first.
St. Martin's Gate in the back is in the visual axis of Kaiserbrücke/Kaiserstraße.
Will there be more sister cities in the future? Mayor Salomon answered in a truly Solomonic way: I don't know whether there is a limit but you can't take care of too many cities permanently.
*

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