Film Night: “Free to Rock – How Rock & Roll Helped End the Cold War”

by Zoey Tu ‘21

On November 13, a film event was held by the Durden Dickinson Program in Bremen, at the suggestion of the U.S. Consulate General Hamburg. It was also a featured event for all students who take German 340 “Comparative Cultures: USA-Germany.” In addition to the required reading materials in class, which mainly focused on political issues, the film offered a distinctive perspective of the American cultural influence in the communist world from the 1950s to the 1990s – how soft power played a significant role during the Cold War.

Doug Yeager, the producer of this documentary film, attended the event and was interviewed after the film by Dr. Janine Ludwig, Academic Director of our program. Yeager gave insights about his motivation for making this documentary and emphasized again the huge but unconscious power of music as well as other kinds of popular culture. He talked about the twelve-year process for the team to complete this documentary, which includes interviews with Jimmy Carter, the former president of the United States, and Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union, who both realized the significant role of rock bands in the USSR and recognized the idea of freedom behind this specific music genre.

The 60-minute film introduced how rock music influenced the young generations in East Germany and the Soviet Union, explained how it was banned in the socialist world, and how it contributed to the collapse of the Iron Curtain. When rock music first came to the socialist world, it won great popularity among the youth. It awoke and inspired the young generations to demand the right to listen and play the music they loved and the right to express themselves freely. However, the idea of rock music – freedom and rebellion – was against the authoritarian governance of the Soviet Union.

It was a battle between two different ideologies: Democracy and Commu-nism. The US government hoped that rock music could be used as a certain means of propaganda. Looking at the results, this type of cultural propaganda was effective. The dissatisfaction among the Soviet public due to the censorship of rock music eventually led to movements as well as riots between the youth and the police, urging for freedom of expression. The idea of freedom, represented by rock music, also widely spread to the Baltic countries, since they demanded independence from Soviet control as well.

All pictures: © Calvin Wirfel

Compared to other factors, the soft power of pop culture has been less discussed in public discourse when analyzing the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, it is an area that is worth further research. Therefore, the influence of US pop culture is included in the syllabus of the German 340 class, taught by Dr. Ludwig, and will be discussed further. Moreover, besides the required readings and the class discussion, the film is also a good supplement for the students to gain a better understanding of different cultural influences.

Please hear a sound bite here:

Please find the link to the movie presentation here: https://www.freetorockmovie.com/

and the poster here: Poster Free2Rock Bremen rev.0

A cooperation between the William G. and Elke Durden Dickinson Bremen Program, U.S. Consulate General Hamburg (specifically Dr. Susanne Wiedemann, Cultural Affairs Assistant), Carl Schurz German-American Club (specifically Ulf-Brün Drechsel, Vice President), the University of Bremen, especially the department English Speaking Cultures (specifically Dr. Karin Esders-Angermund), and the Institute for Cultural German Studies (ifkud).

Biking in Bremen 2019

by Jack Xia ’20

This is a verdict from a person who grew up in Beijing, a city of 20 million people. It is a recollection of my exchange semester at Bremen. To summarize, I want to show you how Bremen blossoms in different seasons. As the Germans say, there is no wrong weather, you’re wearing the wrong cloth.

Bremen was in its February winter when I arrived. The gloomy days and rainy weather definitely affected me in the early days. But I soon adapted after restocking my wardrobe with some wind breakers and rain proof jackets. I learned to compensate the rain with warm coffee or hot soup. Also, the weather makes studying inside GW2 and the Dickinson room more enjoyable because I appreciated the serenity much more. The mist and drizzle on the stone roads by the Roland statue add to Bremen’s charm as a romantic, fairy-tale city. The winter days passes slowly but surely. I noticed the sun sets at a later time too. Eventually the weather was warm enough that the flowers blossomed at the Botanika. I could walk to Rewe instead of biking. At one time, I woke up overheated because there was no air conditioning. In contrast to the weather, I had a much more predictable and reliable bike.

The relationship between my bike and myself would be best characterized as one of companionship. Our short but nonetheless unforgettable journey is one of love and pure enjoyment. And I have nothing but appreciation for it. My bike in the special army green livery has been more than forgiving. When I rode it back on a cold February day, it had a subtle presence of reliability and perseverance. Indeed, these are rare adjectives to be used for something as simple as a bicycle. But riding on that bike gave me a feeling of confidence and pureness, and I would trust it as a war horse. It’s that feeling when you get a used baseball glove or a pair of hockey skates from your dad or uncle; it wants you to use it, instead of treating it like a garage queen. Perhaps because of this sense of dependability, I decided to use my bike to its full potential. I had it serviced three times for tire and light change. Swapfiets is the Dutch company that I’ve rented my bike from for fifteen euros per month. It promotes the Danish love of bicycling through providing rental service in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Denmark. To standout and to relate to its Danish origin, Swapfiets’ bikes can be easily distinguished by the iconic front blue tire and the Dutch style bucket support on the front wheel. The word “Fiets” in Dutch means bicycle, which also rhymes with the English word “feet”. This self-explanatory name invites people to substitute their foot with bikes from the bike company.

In my humble opinion, biking in Bremen has been very enjoyable because of the relatively small size of the city. Tram 4 and 6 are the two trams that’s close to my WG. I follow number 6 to get to the inner city of Bremen and tram 4 to get to my gym. I usually follow the route to Schwachhauser Straße and turn left on Kirchbach Straße and with zigzagging in a community on to Fredrick Straße. My Thai boxing gym is located right by the station “Am Hulsberg”, so I follow this direction at least twice a week to train. At Carabao I became a friend to my trainer Julius, also a Uni Bremen student. We would talk about school, about our plans for future and just about anything and everything while we train. Being away from Germany, the good times of training in both English and German come back to my mind and remind me how Bremen has treated me so well.

Biking becomes even more enjoyable when it is a group activity. Together with Corson, James and Sandi, we explored so many parts of Bremen. We biked from the Osterdeich to the Westliches Hollerland. Eating out was also fun because we biked there together and back. While biking, I’ve learned that Bäckerei Otten has above the standard croissants, Eis Molin has amazing Nutella flavored ice creams and the Dim Sum Haus near the Hbf cures my lust for food from home. Some might expect Bremen to be homogenous in sense of culture. But I strongly disagree. The range of culinary experience one can find is surprising. To name a few, one can find authentic Greek, Turkish, Philipino and Afghani food.

A majority of my experience is closely attached with my bike. I enjoy biking. I enjoy the breeze when I pedal. I enjoy my control of the bike. I am able to capture and remember the neighborhoods, as I bike past the buildings, the bus stops and the ice cream parlors. In the present days when efficiency is so emphasized and applauded for, to bike is somewhat against this philosophy and to be different. I also ride bicycles in Beijing, but only as a mean of transport. In Bremen, however, biking becomes enjoyable and entertaining. Therefore, I hope to use this blog as a way to reflect and commemorate my six months in Bremen, as my memories are inseparable with my swap Fiets. And I wish to say goodbye and thank you to Bremen from the bottom of my heart. Good morning and good night Bremen, I hope to visit you again very soon.

Day of the Fans at Werder Bremen

On Aug 3, 2019, in preparation for the new season, our soccer team Werder Bremen played a friendly vs. Premier League’s FC Everton – an unspectatcular 0:0. That meay sound a little lame, but considering the Toffees` team is worth 300 million and our green-white boys just one third of that, it puts things into perspective…

Otto Rehhagel, or, as the Greeks call him: “Rehacles”

The best came after the game anyway: At the Day of the Fans, we saw on stage some Werder legends, such as Per Mertesacker (defender, World Champion 2014), Otto Rehhagel (successful German coach, known for winning the European Cup with Greece in 2004), Thomas Schaaf (long-standing Bremen coach), and strikers Mario Basler, Ailton, Marco Bode, and Claudio Pizarro (who is both a legend and still playing at 41).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgf9ci-tz1Q

Eventually, the team for the coming season presented itself and gave autographs. Our student Sandi, though a devout Schalke fan, was very happy about an autograph and a quick chat with Bremen’s up-and-coming American striker talent Josh Sargent (once the second-best high school soccer player of the US):

Meeting a famous politician

by Dr. Janine Ludwig

On May 19, 2019, we had the great pleasure to visit Dr. Rudolf Seiters who had been the Federal Minister for Special Affairs and Head of the Office of the German Chancellery of the FRG under Helmut Kohl from April 1989 to November 1991. In this position, he successfully negotiated with the GDR government under Erich Honecker the passage of the East German refugees in the West German embassy in Prague to the Federal Republic of. He was responsible for diplomatic relations with several major East German governmental figures during the 1989 revolution (Honecker, Egon Krenz, Dr. Hans Modrow) and later involved in negotiating the contract for German Unification.

Dr. Seiters discussed the events of 1989/90 with our students and shared deep political insight into the highest positions at the time. We found him to be a wonderful person, who was able to convey serious historical information in a very compelling way. For instance, he described how he took over his position and all the files from Wolfgang Schäuble in April 1989 after being alerted about the most pressing issues – there was no mention of the GDR at the time. Nobody knew what was coming and how drastically things would change just a few months later. He also relayed the anecdote of how an employee asked him on the afternoon of November 9 whether he could leave early for his child’s birthday. He said, “Sure, nothing much will happen today anymore.” Little did he know that that night the Berlin Wall would fall. His honest and entertaining way of explaining political work from an insider’s perspective was most intriguing to our students – some of whom had already met former East German Head of State Dr. Hans Modrow and heard about many of the same political events from a West German perspective.

In 1991, Seiters became Minister of the Interior, a position from which he had to step back in 1993 due to the shooting of the RAF terrorist Wolfgang Grams in Bad Kleinen, although it was widely agreed that he had done nothing wrong. From 1998 to 2002, Seiters was Vice President of the German Bundestag and until 2017 President of the German Red Cross.

It was a wonderful opportunity for us and very kind that Dr. Seiters and his wife, despite busy calendars, hosted us in their house in Papenburg, a small town roughly two hours away from Bremen. After that meeting, we visited the “Van Velen Complex,” a settlement of mostly tiny houses and cots from the 17th century – in a town that was built on dried marshland.

Please find a video in German here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jeh_gdDtF6I

After that the long day, some of us went to see our beloved soccer team Werder Bremen who happened to play a friendly match that day against SC Blau-Weiß 94 Papenburg – on a small playing field that allowed us to see the likes of Claudio Pizarro, Max Kruse, and Josh Sargent close up.

 

Here is a short video of a corner kick from that match:

Bremen Night Run

by James Moore ’20

All of the students in the Dickinson in Bremen program decided, in February, to run a 5k. It was on a Friday in mid-May at around 8:30 pm, starting at the town square. It was not raining, which was surprising considering the run was in Bremen. None of us had done any real training for the run, so everyone was a little nervous of how it was going to go. By the end though, I thought it was a success. The route the 5k took was through the city, and it was very nice to run across bridges and other areas of the city around the river where I hadn’t been before. When we finished the run, we were given a free alcohol-free beer, some pretzels, and some water (and also a free T-shirt and string bag) by the organizers of this public event. I thought it was a fun experience, and a good way to see more of the city.

Congratulations to our “internal DiB winner” Jack!

WG Life

by Liz Bodenman ‘20

Deciding to live in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft) was one of the best decisions I’ve made during my study abroad experience in Bremen thus far, if not THE best. There are several reasons I’ll urge you to find a WG in place of living in the Studentenwohnheime that Dickinson guarantees, but here are the main three:

  1. Community

Upon my arrival in Bremen I was tired, confused, and nervous to begin my new life. But all those feelings vanished when I first walked through the door of my WG, greeted with a hug and a ‘Willkommen zu Hause’ from my new flat mates. Since that first day, the two young women and three young men who live with me have been nothing but helpful, supportive, and uplifting. They make coming back to the WG feel like coming home. You won’t be able to find this living alone in the Studentenwohnheim.

  1. Language Practice & Utilization

The five other young people I live with are German and have agreed with speak only German with me in order to help enhance my skills. Though sometimes it is difficult to wake up at 6am and speak auf Deutsch with whomever I encounter in the kitchen, it has really pushed me to improve my language skills. I highly recommend when searching for a WG, you try to live with Germans who are willing to help you with your speaking skills.

  1. Location

My WG is located in the Neustadt, an up-and-coming part of Bremen full of students, immigrants and young families who make it a vibrant, yet homey place to live. I am an easy bike ride away from the Altstadt, Hauptbahnhof, Viertel, and the Weser. While Horn, the area in which the Studentenwohnheime are located, is nice, it doesn’t begin to compare to other parts of Bremen such as Neustadt.

Now that I have convinced you that WG life is the way to go in Bremen, here are the best places to find a WG:

Viel Erfolg und viel Spaß!

Thanksgiving Dinner

by Sandi Kadric ‘20

On November 24, 2018, we celebrated Thanksgiving with Germans who accompanied us. Everyone at the event wore formal clothes like suits and dresses. Before dinner, we introduced ourselves to other friendly Germans. The organizer of the event, the President of the Carl Schurz German-American Club Neil van Siclen, introduced himself. Then, we could select our food from a variety of options. There were green beans, mashed sweet potatoes, casseroles, turkey etc. that came along with a salad bar.  You were welcome to eat as much as you can (I had four plates). There was vegan and vegetarian friendly food as well. While we ate, everyone introduced themselves to the table and had conversations with each other. It was mostly German, but we could also speak English when something was too difficult to translate. The table was diverse with people from different age groups and from different areas of Germany. After the meal, we played a little quiz game with prizes. The Dickinson participants were really good: three of the four contestants received a prize. At the end of the evening, people went to the bar and ordered some drinks. It was a nice evening where we made some fun memories.

Cooking in Bremen

by Liz Bodenman ‘20

One of the biggest differences between being a student at Dickinson and a student in Bremen is the access to healthy eating. While Dickinson has multiple difference spots on campus from which students can quickly get nutritious ready-made snacks and meals, Uni Bremen only has a few eating spots with limited open hours. Therefore, it is impossible to depend solely on the university to provide oneself with food, making cooking an essential skill to have when studying in Germany.

To ease the transition of going from American convenience to German independence, the Durden Dickinson in Bremen Program provided us with a professional cooking instructor and a night of fun food experimentation! To add to the experience, Uni Bremen students interested in studying at Dickinson for the year were invited to cook with us, thus making it not only a time to learn new cooking skills, but also meet new people and further enhance our German speaking skills.

After spending the evening shopping for ingredients, bustling around the kitchen, and enjoying the fruits of our labor together, we concluded that cooking is far easier and more enjoyable than it may seem for those of us who are beginners (or let’s face it…those who are too lazy to make a nice meal after class).

Bremen for Runners

by Ben Soder ’19

Bürgerpark

Getting Started: Bremen is quite a nice city for running. The fields to the north of the city, the Bürgerpark, and trails along the Weser are great scenic places to train. Additionally, you will never share a busy road with cars, given the great biking/waking infrastructure in the city. All in all, you can’t go wrong running in Bremen!

 

 

Here are links to some good runs from the apartments on Spittaler Strasse:

5 miles through Blockland: https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200125871

Run to the 1 mile race course in the Burger Park (soft surfaces): https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200129711

10 mile run through Bremen: https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200133767

Stadtwaldsee (lake with great swimming): https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200135885

These are some good starting points that will lead to areas of Bremen that are definitely worth exploring. One of my favorite things to do while abroad in Bremen was to find new places to run. Don’t be fooled when you step off your train or bus when you first get to Bremen… There is much more to the city than the Hauptbahnhof!

 

Cross Country/Track in Germany:

Now, the previously mentioned routes are great and all, but you will get very bored out there running alone. There is no track or cross-country program affiliated with the University of Bremen. Instead of running for the University, you will have to join a club if you want to join a formal team. Of all the clubs in Bremen, your best option is ATS-Buntentor. Marian Skalecki coaches a competitive group cross country and track runners. For further information, visit the Buntentor website (https://www.atsbuntentor.de/sportangebot/laufen.html) and/or contact Marian (Director Ludwig has the email address). The German Cross-Country season starts in October, so if you would like to compete, it is recommended that you come in with at least some summer base training and join the team immediately when you get to Bremen in late September/early October. This club is not only a place to train and compete, but also a great place to work on your German skills and meet some awesome people!

Besides, the Bremer Nachtlauf (Bremen Night Run) happens every May – a great, friendly, fun event. Dickinson students have joined and ran 5 or 10 k through the city center. Up-to-date infos on other running competitions in Bremen and vicinity can be found here: http://www.runme.de/wettkaempfe/bremen/