Saturday, December 19, 2009

Most Famous Christmas Markets of Germany

I have already jotted some glimpses of the Christmas Markets of Germany in my previous post, yet I was so overwhelmed by the beautiful markets here that I just could not resist myself sharing some more experiences of mine with Christmas markets in Germany. This year, I just could able to make it to only a few of them as I am back in my home country for holidays, well, I should say Christmas is the perfect time for me to have holidays as I can take more holidays than usually allowed 3 weeks of vacation in Germany, and also I have plenty of options to buy gifts as there are Christmas markets everywhere and the atmosphere is so majestic and mystic to just give the damn care the chilly winter. I was tirelessly wandering every possible nook and corner of the Christmas markets of Düsseldorf, Cologne, Oberhausen, Duisburg, Essen and Dortmund. Well, many Christmas markets look the same, yet every market has its own charm and tradition. This year, I just managed a few and my wish-list of Christmas markets to be visited in coming years goes this way….

Lebküchen

Image Courtesy: www.wikepedia.org

Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt: or Christ Child Market is one of the oldest in Germany. About 180 Wooden Stall, festooned with red and white cloth which gives the market the name “Little Town with Wood and Cloth”. The stalls present the famous Nuremberg spicy gingerbread, fruit loaves, bakery foods, mulled wine, Nuremberg Sausages, typical Christmas articles like Christmas tree Angels, Cribs, Christmas Tree Decorative Ornaments, perfumed candles, toys and many handicraft goods. Each stall offers a variety and tradition, therefore Nuremberg Christmas market is regarded to be one of the best Christmas Markets in Germany and draws approx 2 million visitors every year.

FFM_Weihnachtsmarkt

Image Courtesy: ©Tourismus+Congress GmbH Frankfurt am Main

Frankfurt’s Römberg Weihnachtsmarkt: In terms of number of visitors, Frankfurt Christmas Market draws more than 3 million visitors every year being the highest in Germany. The elaborate and creative stand decorations, the huge Christmas tree, and the number of Christmas Concerts are the main attractions.

original-dresdner-christstollen

Dresden’s Streizelmarkt: It is also one of the oldest Christmas markets of Germany and it references dating back to 1434. Almost 250 stands surrounds the famous “Frauenkirche” attracting more than 2 million visitors every year. It got its name from “Strüzel” or “Stroczel”, a typical cake sold at the market now popularly known as “Stollen” or “Christstollen”. Stollen is a light airy fruit cake which is quite low in sugar now available all over the world, yet the true Dresden Stollen is produced in the city and distinguished by the stamp of the city’s famous king, “August the Strong”. Streizelmarkt is famous for Pflaumentoffel (Plum Devils), Pulsnitzer Pfefferküchen (Pulsnitz Pepper Cake or Ginger Bread) and the woodent decorative ornaments like Candle Pyramids, Schwiboggen (Arch Hanging) Candle holder, Räuchermann (smoking man) Candle holder and Nutcrackers.

Krippelmarkt

Image Courtesy: muenchen.de

Munich’s Christkindlesmarkt and Kripperlmarkt: The Christelkindesmarkt is known for its 30 metres high Christmas tree decorated with 2500 candles and the famous Bratäpfel (Fried Apples), Hönigkuchen (Honey cakes) and the famous Krampuslauf when St. Nick’s trolls march thru the market. Kripperlmarkt or Manger’s market or Crib Market is one of its kind and it is Germany’s largest Crib market where you find everything to create an authentic nativity scene.

Monday, December 7, 2009

First Glimpses Of Christmas Markets in Germany

Well, it has already been two weeks into Advents and the renowned traditional Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) of Germany have added glee and colours of the Festival moods everywhere out here. Almost in every city, town, village traditional Christmas markets are opened in the city centres with colourful lights, decorations and small traditional handicraft shops along with the food centres. Almost every market serve Glühwein (Hot Wine with Herbs) to warm yourselves in chilly winter, regional food specialities along with Ginger-Bread (Lebküchen), roasted chestnuts, sweetened almonds and well the famous Sausages. Some highlights of Germany’s famous Christmas markets.
GingerBreadSweets ChristmasPyramids
05122009171 05122009170
DSCN6432 DSCN6434
DSCN6438 DSCN6454
To end with some fun with Christmas Song Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell in punjabi :-)

Image Courtesy of first two pictures: thelocal.de

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

25 Years On – Is there any Hope For Justice Yet?

It has been 25 years but the disaster and its impacts are still going on in Bhopal. Well, we all know what has happened on 3rd December, 1984, when Union Cardbide Pesticide Plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India spewed out poisonous gas Methyl Isocyanata (MIC) exposing more than 500,000 people to MIC and other chemicals. 3,787 people died immediately because of the exposure to MIC and an estimate 8,000 to 10,000 died within 72 hours and more than 25,000 have died since then from gas-related diseases. More than 100,000 people are still suffering from severe, chronic and breathing difficulties, damaged eyesight, reproductive complications, rising cancer rates and range of other ailments that affect nearly every system of their assaulted bodies.

25 years on and still hundreds of tonnes of abandoned toxic chemicals from the Union Carbide plant continue to pollute the ground waters of the region and affecting the thousands of people who depend on it as Union Carbide left the disastrous site un-cleaned. There has been many civil and criminal cases pending in USA and Indian against Union Carbide now owned by Dow Chemical Company, yet no Justice has been met. The people affected are promised compensations, yet the powerful Industrialists of USA and the dirty bureaucrats of India has denied the people their rights. They were the innocent victims of the negligence and irresponsibility of the Union Carbide Manslaughters, the terrorists without arms or bombs who ignored the basic safety norms to cut the costs. They are now the victims of the irresponsible governments and blood-sucker politicians who in the name of victims’ compensations swelling their Swiss Bank Accounts.

Will these people ever get Justice for what they gone through? Will these people ever get compensations for their sufferings? Will these people get treatments for their ailments? Will they ever get a clean and un-polluted environment to live in?

You can find more information on International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) at www.bhopal.net . Let us spread this message and educate ourselves about the tragedy that has happened 25 years back, yet those affected are denied their right to live better lives. Let us raise our voice. Just participate in ICJB and help those are suffering from Bhopal Gas Disaster get their Justice.

You can read more about the tragedy at: BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Least We Can Do

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26/11 claimed 166 lives and caused unforgettable pain to everyone. We lost our fellow citizens and we lost our Heroes. Yet this figure is only 166, it has directly and indirectly affected many and brought a great loss to their families. We cannot bring back what has been lost, but we can try to heal it. That is the Least We Can Do.

“From the Ashes of Tragedy, Heroes Arise.

From the Debris of Despair, Compassion is Born.

From the Wrath of Nature, Humanity’s Strength is Forged”

str

With this Motto, The Taj Public Service Welfare Trust has started its mission to help not only those who were affected on the fateful day of 26/11 2008 in Mumbai, but also for those who may need the help recovering from what the World throws at them in Future.

TPSWT aims at alluding the pain when the terror strikes, providing the peace of mind when the war invades, and help put the lives back together when the nature rages. Therefore let us support TPSWT to achieve its mission, infact it is our mission.

We always think and talk about the pain, but we don’t find any proper means how we can part of a mission to do the least we can do. I made a difference today, Will You.

The details of TPSWT are as follows:

Contributions can be made from India and from any where in the World by direct account transfer or by sending cheques or drafts.

Indian Account Details for Online Transfers or Cheques or Drafts:

HDFC Account No: 00600310020833 , IFSC Code: HDFC0000240, Branch: Fort Branch,   Favouring “TAJ PUBLIC SERVICE WELFARE TRUST”, Mandlik House, Mandlik Road, Colaba, Mumbai – 400001

Email:tajpublicservicewelfaretrust@tajhotels.com

WEBSITE: http://www.tajpublicservicewelfaretrust.org/

For Transfers From Germany

JP MORGAN CHASE BANK, FRANKFURT, A/C NO:623-16-02308, SWIFT CODE: CHASDEFX, IBAN NO: DE26501108006231602308

For Transfers From Switzerland:  

UNION BANK  OF SWITZERLAND, ZURICH, A/C NO: 02300000094169050000E, SWIFT CODE: UBSWCHZH80A    

For Transfers From Sweden: 

NORDEA BANK AB, STOCKHOLM, A/C NO: 39527909511, SWIFT CODE: NDEASESS

For Transfers From Denmark: 

NORDEA BANK,  A/C NO: 5000015611, SWIFT CODE: NDEADKKK 

For Transfers From USA:  

JP MORGAN CHASE BANK, NEW YORK,  A/C NO: 001-1-406717, SWIFT CODE: CHASUS33, CHIPS ABA : 0002, FEDWIRE ABA : 021000021, CHIPS UID # 354459

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We are not terrorized

It has been a year now when terrorists have carried deadly attacks on 26/11 which has terrified Mumbai City for more than 60 hours and claimed 166 innocent lives. Their ultimate motto was to create fear, gut wrenching fear and spread panic and hysteria everywhere. Terrorists know very well, if they don’t create such a big fear and hysteria by such a big bloodbath, everyone will forget the tragedy much more quickly as a bus accident or a train accident. There have been many terrorist attacks before 26/11 in India, but no one remembers and neither did the whole World was glued to the Televisions broadcasting live the massacre.

Terrorists have achieved what they wanted, they crave for being noted and noticed in a much bigger way. They carried such big massacres over and over again to get noticed and to reach the maximum. Therefore 9/11, 12/10, 7/7 and 26/11 shall be remembered for the biggest achievements of terrorists. They reached the maximum hearts and created fear in them. And that is what they die for. They want us to be afraid about. Every attack has led to the blood-bath of the innocent children, men and women. Lives of people are lost for no reason. But every year if we invest ourselves in recalling those anniversaries and remember those hours, more and more fear creep into our lives and that is when the terrorists build their superstructure of fear.

resolve

We lost many of our fellow citizens, we lost of heroes on this day, we do remember them but we do not let our spirits down. Future lies in not recalling these memories and encouraging those perpetrators who leapt into our homes and try to shake its pillars and cause unforgettable pain. It is important to forget our own mistakes and prepared in much better way for the future and show the world that we are not afraid, we are not terrorized. We move on in our lives with our heads high, we are not afraid of anyone, terrorists did hurt us, but they cannot break our spirit and our resolve. We move on and we move on with courage and our heads high.

May God bring peace to all those who lost their lives on 26/11.

Image Courtesy: http://www.ns-law.net/

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chinese Hot Pot – Lecker!

Last week we had been to Chinese restaurant with some of our colleagues for a savoury Chinese Hot Pot Dinner. Well, truly speaking I have not tried of that sort before though I have heard quite often from my hubby that it is quite interesting. I was very excited thou a little sceptical about the taste.

We had been to SHOW (unusually a name of Chinese) Chinese Restaurant, in Düsseldorf Downtown Düsseldorf. Well, the very thought of dining in Downtown, Düsseldorf made me excited as I can never say no for it. We have been there many a times, still I always love to go there for a little crowded, but for variety and perfect dinner environment along the banks of River Rhine.

We were 10 colleagues in together, quite a big team from different nations having a savour for international and exotic cuisine. When we reached the  restaurant we were bit surprised by the crowd and thankfully our evening leader (Abend Leiter), a Chinese colleague of ours has already reserved a big round table for us. We were given a sheet of paper listing the ingredients of Hotpot available and our leader was quite generous to select as he is the expert and we left everything to his whims and fancies thou he knows very well the sentiments (both religious and cultural) of everyone in the team.

Well once we finished with our Chinese, to be frank enough after a long wait our two pots arrived on our table which looked like the one in the picture below.chinese hotpot A big aluminium pot was separated into two halves, one half was filled with hot chilli soup and the other more plain soup. Well, it is not quite usual that it is separated into two halves, yet it was on request for “HOT” and “NON-HOT” people, i mean to say, the red hot part for those who love to eat hot and spicy and the other half for those who cannot bear spice. Thou being an Indian and a little used to eating spicy food, I was even little sceptical if I can manage the Red-hot chillies. The pots were placed in stoves and slowly the soup (usually made of rice water) started simmering. There were already a small porcelain bowl along with a small porcelain plate were served to every guest and we were directed towards the Sauces table to prepare our own combinations of the sauce. Our Chinese colleague helped us understanding the different sauces and their level of hotness and we prepared our sauce (combination of different ones like chilli sauce, coriander, garlic, chilli oil, Soya sauce, Hoisin sauce, Peanut butter, sesame butter, Sa cha sauce). By the time we returned to our table, we found the Hotpot ingredients we ordered were placed on our table. Well, the usual ingredients shall include different kinds of sliced raw meat, prawns, Fish, Fish Balls, Prawn Balls, Mussels, Squid, Spinach, Bean sprouts, Tofu, Mushrooms, Rice Noodles, Noodles etc.

HotpotIngredientsWell as you guess, we have to put these uncooked raw ingredients into the hot simmering soup in the pots and allow it to cook for approx 30-60 seconds and can eat it. Usually we don’t place all the ingredients together in the hot place, depending upon the individual tastes, we place the things we like to eat and cook it for a while and just mix with the sauce we prepared earlier and enjoy it. Thou, initially scared, I dared to try the hot soup and well it was bearable and amazingly tasted much better than the non-hot soup cooked stew.

I really enjoyed our self-cooking Chinese Hot Pot event as it was something very exotic and very tasty enough. It was refreshing to sit with bunch of colleagues, cooking slowly and enjoying the spicy food in a chilling evening of Winter. We spent almost three hours cooking and eating and truly speaking I never ate for such a long time in my life before. I am now looking forward for another Chinese Hot Pot evening.

Image Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_pot

Friday, November 20, 2009

Credit Card, Debit Card or ATM Card Skimming

Off late one of my colleagues received a letter from her bank that her Debit Card has been skimmed i.e., forged and the perpetrator has withdrew 1200 Euros somewhere in England from her account by duplicating the card. Well, being a Japanese, she could not understand the real content of the letter which was in German, and then she ignored it. Yet, when she had been to the bank to withdraw some money, she could not able to do it. Then she printed the statement to get shocked that there is no money in her account. She was panicked and reached the bank where the entire fraud has been narrated to her which left her with both shock and embarrassment. Well, that is when I heard first time like many others, about “Skimming”.
card2

We have been hearing about Credit Card frauds every now and then. To add to this list, the biggest ever fraud discovered recently in Spain whereby many banks in Europe and almost all the banks in Germany are the victims of fraud. It has been found out that some fraud ring from Spain has skimmed both visa and master cards from the European customers. Therefore many German banks have recalled more than 100,000 cards so far.
What is Credit Card Skimming?
Credit Card Skimming is theft of Credit Card Information used in legitimate transaction. This is considered to be “inside job”, as some dishonest employee of a legitimate merchant misuses the credit card information of the merchant’s customers. The thief procures the credit card information by photocopying payment receipts or in a more advanced methods such as using a small electronic device called Skimmer which when swiped thru stores hundreds of customers’ cards’ details. A small keypad is used to unobtrusively transcribe 3 or 4 digits of security code which is not present on the magnetic strip.

How do you become a victim of Skimming?

Well, the most common chances of getting skimmed are restaurants or bars where the skimmer possess your credit card for short time out of your immediate view.

Nowadays the thieves are inserting a device in the card slot of the Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), which reads the magnetic strip as the user unknowingly inserts the card in the slot. These devices are used in conjunction with a pinhole camera to read the user’s PIN at the same time. This is how besides credit cards, the bank cards are skimmed, duplicated with the bank details, distributed and used somewhere in the World. It does not mean, every ATM is skimmed, it usually happens with the ATMs located in the remote places, Gas/Petrol Stations, Open ATMs in public places.

 

How can you protect yourselves and what are the measures you have to take incase of the theft?

To some extent it is out of your control to protect the theft of the data, yet being careful can avoid possible risk.

  • Avoid using the remote ATMs, ATMs at Gas/Petrol Stations on Highways and open ATMs at public places.
  • Do not use the machines where you suspect any manipulations.
  • Regularly check your bank statements and in case if you find any unauthorized withdraws, you can immediately block the card and inform the bank. For banks in Germany, you can use 01805 / 021021 or 0049 / 1805 - 021 021 round the clock.
  • If you notice any theft of your card or theft of information, immediately report the theft by calling the central emergency number of Germany 116 116. It is also centre to the liability for possible fraud with the card. In addition, you need to file a police compliant and inform the bank. Sometimes if you inform the bank, the banks shall guide you in filing the police compliant and with further follow up.
  • Pay attention when you enter the PIN at ATMs, make sure you cover it with your free hand.
Do my Banks pay for the data theft or being skimmed?
In the most cases, if the data theft has occurred not because of your negligence, then banks shall pay for your loss as usually every customer is insured for fraud with your account.
Well, atleast my friend got her lost 1200 Euros after 45 days from the bank. I know since she and we are living in Germany, we are a bit lucky that still banks care for the customers and some or the other way, the accounts are insured and the lost amount is being paid. Well, it does not happen everywhere.
Image Courtesy: www.spiegel.de
Excerpts From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_card_fraud

Monday, November 16, 2009

New Tax Reform - What it means to me?

We have been hearing quite a lot these days that the new coalition government in Germany pressed by FDP (Free Democratic Party) shall bring new tax reforms. The issue is much debated as the new Finance Minister Schäuble has refused for any major changes as the total rehaul of the tax system shall definitely take longer time and introducing the reduction of income tax shall bring more deficit to the economy inview of the current financial crisis thou Germany has declared itself totally out of recession. Moreover many states have challenged the proposed tax deductions as it may make bigger holes in their treasures. Despite rejections from Wolfgang Schäuble, the Finance Minister of the Germany, FDP is pressing hard to bring in the new Tax System in Germany with "Three Level Tarif".

Well, we may be wondering what these Tax reforms shall bring to us as an individual and what difference it shall bring to our incomes. The "Three Level Tariff" is as follows:
  • 10% Income Tax on Gross Annual Income upto 20,000 euros
  • 25% Income Tax on Gross Annual Income upto 50,000 euros
  • 35% Income Tax on Gross Annual Income above 50,000 euros
Thus FDP is pressing towards a simpler and more transparent Tax Systems in Germany.

You can calculate here by inputing your Gross Salary Income how much you are paying now and what shall be the impact of the Level Tariff.

Please donot forget to leave a comment if this information has helped you.

Vergleich Steuermodelle
(c) steuerberaten.de

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Autumn Colors

It has been gloomy weather everywhere out here, no guesses, it is ofcourse due to Winter being set-in Germany. Well, the days gone-by were not bad, the past couple of months were absolutely colorful out here, the colors I have never seen in live before. Well, I was so appalled by these colors that I could never fail to admire it and whenever i get a chance, I tried capturing it but not to the perfection, which one of my friend and his wife could do. I am posting here some of the beautiful pictures of Germany's Autumn from my friends David and Marcia and some of the pictures we tried our hands.











Thursday, November 12, 2009

Updates Swine Flu Vaccinations in Germany

I did already post earlier about Swine Flu vaccinations in Germany, yet there has been lot of confusion everywhere about the genuinity of the vaccinations their side-effects and also about its need. I am hereby providing some insight into the recent developments about the Swine Flu vaccinations controversary in Germany.


Well, we all have heard about the first controversary about the genuinity of the Swine Flu vaccinations itself. Germany has placed orders for two types of vaccinations, Baxter's Celvapan and Glaxosmithkline's Pandermix. There has been revelations that Baxter's Celvapan which are ordered in less number and introduced in Germany for the first phase of vaccinations whereby only "people in power" are preferred has less side-effects compared to massly ordered Pandermix. Pandermix, less tested and containing adjuvants, definitely may have more side-effects than to Celvapan, yet the side-effects are neither fatal nor serious. The side-effects may be more in children and pregnant women. But the side-effects range from fever, swelling of the injection part of the body, dizziness, shivering. But every vaccination has similar side-effects and it is quite usual. Yet every individual is different and every individual will have different experiences.

Well on the other side, the swine flu vases are multiplying in tens and thousands everyday in Germany and already the number of infected has reached beyond 47,000 and the death toll has reached 17. I dont emphasize that you should go for vaccinations, it is left to individuals choice.

Yet, Prevention is better than Cure. Protect yourselves by keeping yourselves healthy. 
Dont forget to add turmeric to your food - turmeric increases your immunity. 
Wash your hands properly with soap whenever you come back after going out of your house.

The list of doctors where you can have vaccinations in some of the important cities of Germany are as follows:

Aachen : Click Here
Berlin: Click Here
Bochum: Click Here
Bremen: Click Here
Dortmund: Click Here
Duisburg: Click Here
Düsseldorf: Click Here
Essen: Click Here
Hamburg: Click Here
Hannover: Click Here
Köln: Click Here
München: Click Here
Stuttgart: Click Here

Well, decide for yourselves if you need a vaccine or not. Please take care and protect yourselves. Share your experiences with Swine Flu vaccinations in comments, may be it helps others and everyone.

Image Courtesy: DailyContributor.com
Links: Bild.de

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It Indeed Does Exist - Santa's Post Office

I have always heard and wondered if I do can send a letter to "Ho Ho Santa Claus" with my "Wish List" when I was a kid. When I disclosed this to anyone who themselves thought they are much wiser and knowledgeable than me promptly told, there is nothing like that, there is not address for Santa Claus. But it really does, atleast in Germany and it is well-known across the globe.

Six weeks before the Christmas, the Santa Claus post offices across Germany have started working on children's wish-lists from all over the World. Eight Post Offices spread across the Germany with seasonal names such as Heaven's Gate, Angel Church and St.Nicholas are funded and organized by Germany's Post (Deutsche Post) and employs people to answer each child's letter they receive. It is estimated that they receive approx 280,000 letters from 80 countries including India, US, Ghana, Mali etc. The employers of these Santa Clause Post Offices can write letters in 16 different languages and attend to each letter with utmost care. All the German postmen have received instructions to forward any letter addressed to Santa, Jesus or St.Nicholas eventhou no postage stamp has been attached to one of these eight post offices.

One of the famous Santa Claus Post Office address is as follows:
Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus)
Weihnachtspostfiliale
16798 Himmelpfort
Germany
In Germany, Christmas is called Weihnacht which means Holy Night and Weihnachtsmann means Holy Night Man or Santa Claus.
So get ready to prepare your wishlist and send it to Santa Claus, you will definitely get a reply back from Santa may be with lot of surprises :-)

Binge Drinking among children

I happened to read a news article today in which a 7 year old boy was hospitalized in Berlin, Germany later "after 6pm" in serious conditions due to over-consumption of alcohol which German media described it as "Alcohol-Poisoning", ofcourse it should have been more termed as "self-poisoning". It was shocked at the very thought how come a seven year old get access to what is called "the prohibited" to the under-16. Well, it was also stated that the "the seven year child" drank alcohol at the playground with his nine year old brother who acquired the beverages from the other under-age teens. God! They all are just children.

I really wonder where are the parents? May be I was raised in totally different World than the rest, may be parents were over-protective. I remember, when I was seven years old eventhou it was close by, even if my brother accompanied me, I was not allowed. And we had just one rule, never move your ass out after 6pm and be in the house premises before 6pm and before the street lights are switched on. It was not just for me being an "Indian Girl" but the same rule applied for my elder brother too. I am very much disturbed when I read the news article.

There has been several reports that Binge Drinking is rise among children in countries like Germany, UK etc, but to my surprise when I googled i found almost 30% children are passionate towards drinking alcohol or Binge Drinking - consuming 5 or more drinks in a row. The reasons for Binge drinking among the children is just the pressure from the peers, curiosity to know what it is like and how it feels to be over-drunk, and to make themselves feel that they are older. But these children never realize that it is much dangerous than what it seems like. The passion to "Do It" is more than the ability to think about its consequences.

Studies have been made every year, and every year there has been rise in binge drinking, is it due to lack of proper measures or there is something seriously going wrong? May be there is something or much to do with the environment or circumstances in which child is reared or parents more careless towards their children or children just don't listen to their parents? Sometimes, i feel I am lucky being an Indian whereby the access to alcohol is quite limited, yet the ever-growing urbanization is leading to more negative impacts than to positivities of it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

When the Berlin Wall Went Down

There is quite a buzz in here these days, well why not, Germany is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of "the Fall of Belin Wall". Well, may be wondering how come "The Fall of a Wall" is the mark of Celebrations.  Hmm!! it is quite a history. Well, in short, Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 to separate East and Western parts of Berlin, yeah, more so ever to separate East and West Germany. The immediate effects of the building of the Wall led ot the separation of many families and also many lost jobs as borders were completely closed.

On 9th November 1989, ARD, a West German Television Channel broadcasted an incomplete information from East German Press Conference stating that the East Germany has announced  starting immediately its borders are open for everybody. Thousands of East Germans gathered at the Wall and demaded for the opening of the Gates to enter the West. No one could dare to stop and  the borders are opened and that is how the East and West are united and thousands of people gathered at the Wall started celebrations for their freedom and for their unity. Many started chipping off the Wall to break open the borders and aslo to collect the pieces of the famous Berlin Wall as memenots for their Freedum and Unity. From then 9th November is celebrated as "The Fall of the Berlin Wall or The Freedom Day"

Read more at: Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall Now and Then:
1. Branderburg Gate in June 1989 before the Fall of Berlin Wall and now the most famous tourist attraction in Berlin



 2. The Most Famous CheckPoint Charlie in Berlin Now and Then


The complete Album can be browsed here.


The 20th Anniversary celebrations have already started and on Monday, November 9, many World leaders gather at Brandenburg Gate and topple many Giant Dominoes painted by the students placed along the former path of the Berlin Wall to commemorate the "Fall of Berlin Wall".
Image Courtesy: www.spiegel.de

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Needless Isolation

When AIDS was still a little understood disease, the governments across the globe have taken initiatives such as Isolation of the AIDS victims and also travel restrictions were put into place to slow or altogether stop people living with HIV to travel. Over 20 year after the restrictions were originally implemented, many countries have eliminated these inappropriate restrictions after a broad consensus from the public health community agreed about their ineffectiveness and discriminatory nature. In spite of this, 74 countries still have some form of HIV specific travel restrictions, and 12 countries ban HIV positive people from entering the country for any reason or length of time.


This picture depicts "THE MAN IN THE BALL" campaign. This initiative is to highlight the isolation felt by the people living with HIV/AIDS. 1st December is observed as World AIDS Day. Take a pledge not to isolate the AIDS victims and spread this message.

Image Courtesy: www.spiegel.de


Monday, November 2, 2009

India pens the Social Security Agreements with Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and other European Countries

Well, it has been almost an year that I tread into Germany after working as Accounts Manager in India, and one of the things or I should say the only thing that I impressed me a lot is the Social Welfare System of the Germany. It is quite an elaborate and comprehensive system. People employed in Germany have to contribute to four principal social insurances whereby employee pays half while the employer contributes for the other half. The contributions are:
  • Pension Insurance: 19.5 %
  • Unemployment Insurance: 6.5 %
  • Health Insurance: 14.3 %
  • Nursing Care Insurance: 1.7%
The Health Insurance and Nursing Care Insurances privileges you can claim whenever you needed a medical service in your day-to-day life. The Unemployment Insurance privileges can be claimed once you are down and out  (Jobless) in Germany. You can claim the Pension Insurance only once you have reached 64. Well most of us Indians do come to Germany for work temporarily, yet entitled to pay the pension insurance which God knows if we can claim it once we leave Germany.

I have been wondering when we stay here temporarily, what's the funda to pay Pension Insurance which we are not sure if we can claim it. 19.5% is quite high, isn't it?



Well, answering to my queries and bringing relief to everyone who come to Germany temporarily, the Government of India has signed Social Security Agreement with Germany on 7th October, 2008. This Agreement shall exempt the nationals of either countries (Germany and India) working in either countries from social security contributions. But the exemption is given only to those on short-term contracts for a period of FOUR years, extendable to ONE more year. The agreement provides for portability of the benefits at the time of relocation for those who are self-employed and have lived longer, but they have to contribute for the social security system of the host country.

Officially, this agreement should have become effective from 1st October 2009, yet Employee's Provident Fund Organization of India has not updated with this regard.
Check this link for further updates:
http://epfindia.com/IntWorkers/IntWorkers.htm

But for sure this agreement shall protect the interests of all those professionals who are sent from India to many German companies or subsidiary of German-based companies in India or subsidiary of Indian-based companies in Germany for short term contracts up to 48 months.

Well, though I have highlighted the Germany's case, this has been true with some other European countries too.

Indian Government has signed a Social Security Agreement with Switzerland on 03 Sept, 2009. This agreement shall allow the nationals of one country who are working in the other on a short term basis - not more than 72 months - to be exempted from social security contributions in their host nation.

India signed a Social Security Agreement with Netherlands on 22 October, 2009 to facilitate the exchange of professionals between the two nations. The detached workers sent by Netherlands-based companies to their Indian subsidiaries, or those sent by Indian companies to their branches in the Netherlands will be exempt from social security contribution in the host country for a period of 60 months. This agreement provides that an employed or self-employed person, other than detached workers shall be subject only to the legislation of the host country. The agreement provides for portability of the benefits at the time of relocation.                                    

India and France have signed Social Security agreement on September, 2009. The agreement will ensure that short-term workers of 60 months will be exempted from social security contributions on reciprocal basis. It will also allow exportability of pension benefits, which will mean that workers can avail of pension benefit even if they change their residence between the two countries. The agreement will also allow the totalisation of periods of contributions made in both countries for calculating eligibility of pensionary benefits.

India has announced that the Social Security Agreement with Belgium has come into effect from 1st September 2009. The agreement allows the employees of the home country deputed by their employers in the host country for a short term contract less than 60 months, need not remit social contributions in the host country. The Agreement also allows the export of pension due under the legislation of one country to the other country, where the member chose to live is possible and also the totalisation of the contribution periods earned while in service in both the countries for the purpose of deciding eligibilty to benefits is possible. Check this out for more information: http://www.epfindia.com/IntWorkers/IntWorkers_files/BelgiumAgree.pdf

India has also signed similar agreements with Denmark in August 2009. This agreement shall open up opportunities for Indian skilled workers, including Doctors and Nurses to work in Denmark. The agreement shall also provide cooperation between India and Denmark in the areas of labour market expansion, mployment facilitation, orderly migration and exchange of information and cooperation in introducing best practices.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Female Force - Princess Diana comic'ized'

Princess Diana has become the latest Heroine of  "Female Force", a US series of biographical comic series. The American Political Heavy Weights like Caroline Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Condoleeza Rice, Sarah Palin have also featured as Heroines for Female Force.

The Female Force Princess Diana features the memorable events from the life of Princess of Wales who has been the most admirable British Icon and won the hearts of millions around the World as Princess, Celebrity and the Philanthropist. The comics potrays the late princesses in very positive light and also potrays the more painful private moments in her life.


Well,can't wait to get hold of one and run thru it. All the fans of Princess Diana just grab one copy and go at it.
Image Courtesy: http://www.bluewaterprod.com

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Ideal Work Place - Top 50 Most Attractive Employers


Universum, the Employer Branding Company has presented the World's Top 50 most attractive employers. From the World's Leading Economies nearly 120,000 students at top academic institutions are surveyed to choose their ideal companies to work for. The Global Rankings are based on the Employer Preference of the students from India, China, Japan, Germany, France, UK, Italy, Russia, Spain, US and Canada. This is the first Global Index of Employer attractiveness and highlights the World's Most Powerful Employer Brands, those companies that excel in talent attraction and retention.

The well-known and World-known German companies BMW, Siemens, Bayer were listed in the top 50. Despite Economic Crisis and debacle in the Automotive Industry, BMW topped at the 4th position.



The result of survey is as below:

Global Top 50 Business

Company
Ranking 2009
Google
1
PricewaterhouseCoopers
2
Microsoft
3
Goldman Sachs
4
Ernst & Young
5
Procter & Gamble
6
J.P. Morgan
7
KPMG
8
McKinsey & Company
9
Deloitte
10
The Boston Consulting Group
11
BMW
12
Coca-Cola
13
L'Oréal
14
Morgan Stanley
15
Sony
16
IBM
17
Johnson & Johnson
18
Deutsche Bank
19
General Electric
20
Citigroup
21
HSBC
22
Accenture
23
Nestlé
24
Credit Suisse
25
Bain & Company
26
Unilever
27
UBS
28
Nokia
29
Intel
30
Esso/ExxonMobil
31
Kraft Foods
32
Shell
33
Hewlett-Packard
34
Mars (Masterfoods)
35
Pfizer
36
Siemens
37
Philips
38
Oracle
39
Bayer
40
Philip Morris
41
DHL
42
BP
43
Bosch
44
Cisco
45
Daimler
46
Ericsson
47
ABB
48
Novartis
49
Schlumberger
50

Global Top 50 Engineering

Company
Ranking 2009
Google
1
Microsoft
2
IBM
3
BMW
4
Intel
5
General Electric
6
Sony
7
Siemens
8
Shell
9
Procter & Gamble
10
Johnson & Johnson
11
Hewlett-Packard
12
Cisco
13
Esso/ExxonMobil
14
McKinsey & Company
15
Schlumberger
16
BP
17
L'Oréal
18
Nokia
19
Accenture
20
Coca-Cola
21
Philips
22
Goldman Sachs
23
Nestlé
24
Pfizer
25
Bosch
26
The Boston Consulting Group
27
J.P. Morgan
28
Deloitte
29
Morgan Stanley
30
GlaxoSmithKline
31
Ericsson
32
Ernst & Young
33
ABB
34
Bayer
35
Unilever
36
PricewaterhouseCoopers
37
Deutsche Bank
38
HSBC
39
Kraft Foods
40
Bain & Company
41
Citigroup
42
Alcatel-Lucent
43
Daimler
44
Novartis
45
Mars (Masterfoods)
46
KPMG
47
Credit Suisse
48
DHL
49
UBS
50
The companies that find themselves in these ranking should count themselves as more fortunate as the appeal among the academics is increasingly becoming added advantage to the employers as it is predicted that sooner or later there may be a dearth of qualified professionals.
Excerpts from: http://universumglobal.com/IDEAL-Companies-Rankings/Global-Top-50-Rankings

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When do I get vacinated for Swine Flu?

At last there is some relief from Swine Flu scare which has been declared as a pandemic across the globe. In Germany around 23,000 people are infected with swine flu and it  is predicted to spread further this Autumn and Winter. Three people have already  succumbed to this deadly  H1N1 virus.

 
As a measure several German states have already started with vaccinations against Swine Flu on 26th October 2009.

Who will get vaccinated in the First phase of Immunization?
  • Medical Workers - as they come in contact with more H1N1 Infected people
  • Police Officers 
  • Fire Workers
  • People suffering from Chronic diseases like Asthma, Diabetes etc.
  • Pregnant  woman
  • Pop Stars who travel a lot and perform with huge crowds.


I am a normal person, When can I get Vaccination?
The Normal Public will have to wait till the end of Novemeber to get vaccinated.


Who will pay for the Vaccinations?
According to http://www.neuegrippe.bund.de  and http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/ischgkvlv/index.html, the expenses are born by the private and public insurances one is insured with. So no worries of burning out your pockets.

Whom should I contact for vaccinations?
NRW: 0180-310 02 10
Rheinland Pfalz: 06131-16 52 00
Saarland:  0681-501 36 94 and 0681-501 36 95
Sachsen: 030-346465100 (http://www.gesunde.sachsen.de/5786.html)
Sachsen-Anhalt: 0391-537 71 11
Schleswig-Holstein: 0431-160 66 66
Thüringen: 0361-37 74 30 99
Baden-Württemberg: 01805-633 22 5
Bayern: 089-31 56 01 01
Bremen: 0421-36114444 (Bremerhaven: 0471-59614444)
Hamburg: 040-428 37 37 95
Hessen: 0800-440 05 50
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: www.regierung-mv.de
Niedersachsen: 0511-450 55 55

Contact the above Hotlines for more information on Vaccination Program in your state. You can also contact your Local Health Office (Gesundheitsamt).

I think this step towards Swine flu has a got a sign of relief in people and a new hope to beat the H1N1 virus. Yet there seem to be growing unwillingness to get vaccinated in Germany because of rumored risks associated with it. According to one survey every one-fifth is unwilling to get vaccinated. But dont believe in rumors, vaccination is a must for everyone though it is left to the individuals discretion.

The famous adage goes this way:
"Prevention is better than Cure"

References: www.bild.de
                    www.thelocal.de

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm a Chakkr - the Courier Wheel

You all might have known that taxation system of Germany is the most complicated in the World. I do really cannot follow it, and I see how much my hubby struggles to get our tax declarations done. Well, not only the language does hurt you a lot, but also the ever-changing the taxation rules add to the complications. I really wonder if even the people who work in Finance Offices (Finanzamt) are aware of all the rules.

We shell out almost 40% of what we earn every month, yes indeed Germany's income tax rate is the highest in the World, we try here and there to get some tax returns. There are lots of things for which you can claim a little portion of tax back, yet with different clauses and regulations which I think even the one who framed those might not understand on the whole. Recently, we ran thru some tax hurdles of which one of them is the "Family Maintenace Support" (Unterhaltungserklärung) for which we needed to produce a "Family Maintenance Support Certificate" (Unterhaltungsbescheinigung) duly signed by the Head of your place of residence in your country of permanent residence or nationality. Infact for our tax declarations we did produce one but was sent back stating it was unacceptable and we need to get a new one duly signed by the Head of District of your place of residence in your country. We have to respond to this request from Finance Office within a stipulated period until then our tax declarations are not processed further and if we do fail to respond, the "Family Maintenance Support" returns would be scrapped from our declaration.

By the time, we could understand what we have to do from our tax consultant our deadline was nearing, then CHAKKR came to our rescue. We heard about Chakkr from our frens here who has already tried and very quite satified with it.



Chakkr, basically is a network of people whereby you can either offer a courier service or seek a courier service for some minimal price left at the discretion of the individuals. We quickly enrolled thru it and we browsed thru the courier offers and fortunately enough we found someone flying from Düsseldorf to India offered to be a Courier. We contacted him who offered us to help with a minimal price and well we handed our certificate to him and whom my family did contact in India and took the certificate from him. We could also manage to find a courier offer from Bangalore to Düsseldorf. Pefect, we got our signed in certificate much faster than normal postal and courier services yet cheaper.

Now we are also Chakkrs. Chakkr has indeedly helped us a lot and it is more reliable and fast. I believe Chakkr indeed is doing a great job, it does not only help us our courier services get done much faster and cheaper, it also helping us build a network and earn the satisfaction of helping someone and also earn a few bucks.

Well, frens, as an ardent follower of Chakkr, I do really advise you to be CHAKKRS, yet atelast try it out. It is not only for India, it is for everyone and everywhere around the globe. Be a Chakkr and build your network.

http://www.chakkr.com/

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Politically (in)Correct words of 2009

The Global Language Monitor included "Swine Flu", the words the whole World is scared about, in its top 10 most politically (in)correct words and phrases of 2009.

The top 10 Politically Correct Words and Phrases of 2009 are:

1. Swine Flu - Though millions know the current pandemic as Swine Flu, the various governments and agencies for political motives ranging from protecting pork producers to religious sensitivity have chosen to call the virus by its formal name, influenza A(H1N1).

2. Flush Toilet - Green Movement has made Flush Toilets, Toiler Paer and Toilet use more watchful.

3. Green Revolution - Green Revolution gained popularity because many believe that the world has paid a s "stiff price in environmental degaradation".

4. Minority - Talking about minorities is considered insensitive to minorities since this can make them feel, well, like minorities.

5. Saint - In addition to the word "saint", 'bishop', 'chapel'. and 'Pentecost' Oxford has removed these words from the Junior Dictionary.

6. Politically Correct – The term politically correct has, itself, is now politically correct, Be careful how you use it.

7. Oriental – In the US considered offensive to Asians because the term is based on the geographic relationship of Asia from a Western perspective. In Europe (and in most Asian nations), however, Oriental is acceptable.

8. Founding Fathers – Though all the Signers of the American Declaration of Independence were men, this is considered sexists in some quarters. Founders, please.

9. Black Sheep – Though originally referring to the rare birth of a lamb with black fur, now considered ethnically insensitive; the same is true for Black Day, Conversely, terms like White Collar and Whiter than White all can be used to encourage a hierarchical value of skin tone.

10. Senior Citizen – In the name of ‘inclusiveness,’ the UK’s Loughborough University’s suggests replacing senior citizen with ‘older person’.

The Top Politically Incorrect Terms and Phrases for previous years include:

    * 2008: “He Can’t Win” – Hillary Clinton’s coded reference to Barack Obama’s ethnic background as an insurmountable impediment to him winning the US Presidency

    * 2007: Nappy-headed Ho — Radio personality Don Imus’ reference to the women on the Rutgers University championship basketball team.

    * 2006: Global Warming Denier – Scientists not denying climate change, but the role of humans in the millennia-old process.

    * 2005: Misguided Criminals – A BBC commentator attempts to strip away all emotion from the word ‘terrorist’ by using ‘neutral’ descriptions for those who carried out the 7/7 tube bombings.

    * 2004: Master/Slave computer jargon – LA County re-labels computer documentation to remove this alleged slur that has been used for decades describing computer hierarchies.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nefertiti is back at its Home in Berlin after 70 years

The World's most admired statue of Nefertiti, the Queen of Egypt,  is finally back in its Neues Museum, Berlin, its original home in Germany after 70 years. The statue is 3500 years old and already has a missing eye, despite it is admired all over the world for its elegance and exact symmetry of her face and long swan-like neck.


Nefertiti was discovered in 1912 in Egypt and was brought to Neues Museum in Berlin. Due to bombings during World War II, it was moved to safety in Harz Mountains of Central Germany. After the World War, Americans seized the Bust and moved it to Frankfurt and finally ending up a Central Warehouse of Weisbaden State Museum. In 1956, it was moved back to Berlin, but not to its original home Neues Museum as it was destroyed a lot during the war. It was placed in Dahlem Museum, Berlin. In 1967, it was moved to Egytian Museum at Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin. It was also moved to Berlin's ultramodern Postdamer Platz and then to Altes Musuem of Berlin before it reached back to its renovated Neues Museum.

Neues Museum is open for public and hopefully we dont want to miss the chance of marvelling the beauty of Nefertiti once we visit Berlin again.
http://www.neues-museum.de/

Image Courtesy: www.spiegel.de

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Frankfurt Book Fair 2009 - Printed Words or Virtual Worlds

The Frankfurt Book Fair has already started (14th October) and shall last till 18th October, 2009 in Frankfurt. You may be wondering what`s so special about Frankfurt Book Fair though Book Fairs are organized in many countries. Yet the Frankfurt Book Fair is very unique and the biggest and well very special as Germany, which we may all know or may not be everyone, is where the first printing machines were invented by Gutenberg. (http://www.frankfurt-book-fair.com/en/fbf/general/)
 

This year 6900 exhibitors from around 100 countries have gathered in Frankfurt, yet these figures are smaller compared to the last year, well for the obvious resons of  "the great economic crisis". Well, there is one more reason, the virtual world. Nowadays more and more shift is towards the digital media. Ebooks and Kindle have been dominating the traditional paper books, yes why not, when we do spend most of the time on the PCs and our smartphones which are capable of rendering the ebooks, and obviously we may feel more comfortable using these gadgets than to carrying the bulky paper books. And also Amazon Kindle has been getting much popularity.

Despite all these, yet I feel comfortable reading those bulky paper books, probably I am used to them. May be things change sooner or later. Well, how about you, what are you comfortable of?

I am hereby posting an opinion poll, please post your opinion in the comments :-)

How do you prefer to read your favorite Book or Books?
Printed Paper Book
Ebook on Ebook Readers (Kindle etc)
Ebook on PC/Notebook
Ebook on Smartphone






Please donot forget to leave your comments with your opinion.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Floods in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka - Flood Relief - Help - Donate

The worst floods in 100 years has devasted most of South Andhra Pradesh and North Karnataka. The floods have created a massive havoc leading to the death of more than 250 people in Andhra Pradesh and around 200 people in Karnataka and rendered more than 3 million people homeless. There was death and destruction in those regions.

The governments of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have appealed for help from individuals and NGOs to rebuild the devasted areas and provide a new hope for the people affected.

I am hereby posting some of the links whereby you can contribute in aiding those affected towards flood relief.

For those living in India:
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Relief Fund:

Karnataka NGOs:
Sochara:

            1. Community Health Cell (CHC - SOCHARA), 
              85/2, Ist Main, Maruthi Nagara,
              Madiwala, Bengaluru – 560068 

              (Contact: Pushpa, 9449870223);
              Email : solidarity@sochara.org 
           2. Janarogya Andolana Karnataka (JAAK),
                Bangalore.
                (Contact: Obalesh, 9740524128); 

                Email: jaaksecretariat@gmail.com
           3. Association for India’s Development (AID), 

                Bangalore
                Contact: Prasanna Saligram 9916937280, 

                             Guru : 9845294184),
                Email: prasanna_aid@yahoo.com           

Headstreams:

       1. Headstreams, 
         2200, HAL II Stage, 5 E Cross, 
         17 A Main, Bangalore – 560 008
         (Contact: Naveen Thomas, 9342858056, 080-25200318), 

         Email: naveen@headstreams.org
    

For those living in India and Overseas:
Aid India:
http://www.eurekachild.org/andhra-karnataka-flood/ 

Aid India Collection Points in India:
     * Hyderabed
          o Srihari D - +91-9390002143 - sriharidu@gmail.com
            Kiran V - +91-9701705743 - kiranvissa@gmail.com
            Suresh D - +91-9703654585
     * Bengaluru
          o Sathish Sundaram - +91-9900505975

            sathish.sundaram@gmail.com
     * Secunderabad: 
           134A East Marredpally,
           Secunderabad - 500026
           Contact: Vidya J @ 9394006036


    Sewa USA:
    Please do help as much as you can. I shall appreciate your inputs in further updating this list.