What are the Best Day Trips in Milwaukee

The worries of the winners

It's cool in the Haalamt in Schwäbisch Hall. The ceiling is low in the half-timbered house, the floor is uneven, the stairs to the office creak loudly. On a dark, gnarled wooden table, there are two large, thick, leather-bound books, about 200 years old. Peter Hubert, the Haalschreiber, is a round, comfortable man, a doctor of history with a deep voice. He only speaks in an ironic tone, now and then he makes it clear that he finds the world out there strange, that he wants to keep his distance, that you don't have to go along with everything. A guy who doesn't care about reality and its hectic pace. He says: "This morning I calculated the 115,200th part of a boil, it amounted to zero euros. Every year ten to fifteen heirs get nothing, that happens again and again." There are currently around 300 Schwäbisch Hall families with Siedrecht, the remnants of an old tradition. Salt used to be extremely important in Hall. The Siedherr was originally the German king who gave permission to boil salt to a small group. These citizens became rich with it, they leased their settlements, bequeathed them and divided them up. Sometimes they hired people to do the work for them, the boilers, who then passed on their right to a job. But after the Napoleonic Wars, that came to an end and the boilers had to cede their rights to the King of Württemberg. In return, they received a pension for themselves and their family, "as long as the sun rises". So forever. At first officials calculated the distribution of the money, but since this is very time-consuming, the Haalschreiber took over the job. Today he calculates and distributes the pension three days a week and is busy with it all year round. The system is so complicated and difficult that nobody can recalculate the result. The responsible tax office has long since stopped wanting to know the details, but only wants to see that everyone involved has signed, i.e. that they are satisfied.

In the past, heirs were rich people, but the contract did not say anything about inflation adjustment, and so one boiler picks up 18 cents today, another 3, some would be entitled to 0.01 cents. A total of 15,000 euros, which the state of Baden-Württemberg pays out annually, is split up. Peter Hubert calculates the proportions according to an old custom: "Three buckets, two Maas and six bottles is a boil. He says that with relish, he likes it when the audience is amazed. He cultivates the peculiarity of boiling.

Hubert shows a list of people who will get 0.3 cents or 0.55 cents this year. "This one gets a lot." Hubert points to a name that says: 10.30 euros. Some settlements are divided in such a way that one person receives something every seven years, another every third. However, someone who has suffrage only gets his money if he is a member of the association. Annual fee 31 euros. After all, the part-time position of the Haalschreiber must be financed. So it's clear: it's not about money. To be a boiler in Schwäbisch Hall is like a title of nobility. The status symbol par excellence. Everyone knows their Siedersbaas and Siedersvetter and speaks to them that way. And they all come together in one day. The Haalschreiber says with a satisfied smile: "It's like 200 years ago here." The Haalamt is located in a very beautiful, well-preserved half-timbered house right on the Kocher, the river that divides the city. In any other city the building would be a historical treasure, here in Schwäbisch Hall it is hardly noticeable. The old town, located in a narrow valley, consists almost exclusively of architectural monuments, half-timbered houses, Romanesque and baroque buildings, all in the best possible condition, with immaculate cobblestones in between. Fairytale. This is probably how one imagines oneself in Milwaukee Europe. On the way to the town hall, a baroque building, a fat American woman keeps calling out to her thin husband: "This is unreal. This is a movie." On her face a fascination that increased to the point of horror. She calls out too loudly: "This city must be a thousand years old." Right next to it: Hall was first mentioned in writing as a city in 1204.

An obvious and imaginative saving: the mayor lets as little renovation as possible and introduces Linux.The city archivist Andreas Maisch is sitting in his office in another beautiful old building on the historic market square and says: Hall has always been between Swabia, Franconia and Hohenlohe, was an imperial city, so independent, and almost always rich, because of the salt works and the minting of coins. The German Heller comes from here, the coin that prevailed over traditional silver coins because it was minted from sheet silver and therefore cheaper. When the residents tried to keep their distance from the Bishop of Würzburg, they said Hall in Swabia, if letters went to Württemberg, the city was just called Hall - they didn't want to share their wealth. Hall became officially Schwäbisch Hall in the Third Reich when it came to withdrawing from the Reichsgau Franconia planned by the Nazis. The Gau never came into being, but the name stayed. Mayor Hermann-Josef Pelgrim sums up the back and forth, this pragmatism of a rich city: "We are who, but we have to enter into alliances." The vaulted ceiling in the mayor's office is around three and a half meters high, the walls and ceiling are decorated with old, good-looking frescoes, recently renovated. Light colors dominate, sky blue, white tones. On the wall behind the large desk, an angel hovers in front of clouds. The room gives a sublime feeling. Wealth and ancient culture reigned here. From the high windows you can see the steep stairs of the Church of St. Michael across the market square, on the 54 steps of which the second oldest open-air theater in Germany has been taking place since 1925. Lord Mayor Pelgrim was elected in 1997, he still experienced the good times when Schwäbisch Hall was one of the richest cities in Germany and a German symbol: the building society city. The city has earned one billion euros in trade tax in the good 20 years. And spent. But there has been a lack of money since 2001 because new tax laws ensure that by far the largest taxpayer, the Bausparkasse, can offset its profits with its holding company in Frankfurt, the cooperative DZ Bank. In 2003 there was another record profit, but DZ Bank made up for its losses with the large amount of money from Hall. There was nothing left.

Even if he is annoyed, Mayor Pelgrim, an SPD member, but that doesn't matter in this city, remains calm. He speaks ready to print, smiles, takes short breaks and bends a paper clip in the process. He speaks of the great history of the free imperial city, "but also always change". He lists: Hall was a center of the Reformation in southern Germany. The cooperative system began here, and salt boilers organized here in this form as early as the Middle Ages. Then he comes back to the Bausparkasse, "the German way of building savings". It is so successful because it has organized its distribution through cooperative banks.

Finally the mayor says in his dreamy office: "We are the symbol of a new poverty. It used to be that a company was doing badly and then the city too, it was always connected. But here there is now a new poverty with a complete decoupling of cause and effect. " 2003 was the best year in the entire history of Bausparkasse Schwäbisch Hall, but that didn't help the city. One suffers here, it is entirely German, from "our incapacity to act, we are at the mercy". As a result, "these reflexes, the fear of change, are particularly noticeable" among the citizens. Because it always went so well, the contrast is particularly strong now.

Hall has had bad times, from 1800 onwards. Industrialization didn't work out. It only started after the Second World War, shortly after the bombed-out building society in Berlin came here and even called itself Bausparkasse Schwäbisch Hall a few years later. The Germans built and built, the Sparkasse earned, and the city was doing well. Hall has twice as many playgrounds as the neighboring, equally large Backnang, more cultural facilities, more sports fields. A new three-story city library in the city center. A spacious, recently refurbished brine bath. Until recently, clubs didn't have to pay anything to use sports halls. When everything went well, the citizens were served, a kindergarten, a school, and a day care center were built. In Hall there were kindergartens with only one group, very close to the apartments so that the little ones didn't have a long way to go. This luxury is now no longer affordable, some of the houses have been closed.

After the Bausparkasse, the Diakoniekrankenhaus is the second largest employer today. There are a few companies that make packaging and filling equipment. Recaro builds aircraft seats here, but fewer after September 11, 2001. There is Klafs, a sauna maker. A college for design. A little IT in Solpark, the commercial area. A little industry, a little tourism and also a bit of culture - so the situation is not hopeless in the long term.

In fact, the city's biggest financial problem right now is the levy: money that is passed on to poorer communities. It has to be paid to the county and the state two years late, which means that Hall now has to pay 34 million euros, calculated based on the good income of 2001, which has already been spent. This is the so-called levy trap that many cities have found themselves in. In Hall, the problem was compounded by the district. When he saw that Hall's good times were over for the time being, he raised the levy twice in a year in order to squeeze as much out of the city's last good year for the country as possible. Although it was clear that the city was going to have a problem.

Of course the city had reserves. But the reserve now only contains the legally prescribed 1.25 million euros. In addition, buildings were sold for 50 million euros and the money went into the budget. Mayor Pelgrim gives numbers and a few facts to describe the poverty of Schwäbisch Hall: The city's budget for 2001 was 351 million marks, roughly 180 million euros, for 2004 it is 115 million euros. A real cut. The medium-term planning provides, must provide, that the budget will continue to shrink over the next few years. New things are no longer being built, as little is being renovated as possible. Well, everything has been perfectly refurbished, but the mayor makes it clear: "The buildings are still in a fabulous condition. But under the current conditions it will look so good for five years, maybe ten, then not anymore." Pelgrim tells how at the very beginning of his tenure he wanted to slightly increase kindergarten fees, which were ridiculous compared to the rest of the republic. The local council was outraged, and everyone, without exception, voted against it. A kindergarten place now costs as much as in Stuttgart. Almost every other fee was also heavily increased. And another cost-saving measure: Schwäbisch Hall is the first city in Germany to sort out all Microsoft programs and introduce Linux in order to reduce follow-up costs. Munich is currently following suit. "That with Linux was ostensibly a financial decision. But also the answer to the question: Do we dare to do it? We said we can do it. It is time for independence and self-confidence." So is the emergency situation also a departure? Pelgrim points out of one of the large windows towards St. Michael's Church. "This is the first year that the Church is not being worked on." The building, like the whole city, is in fantastic condition inside and out, from the imposing staircase to the last relief image in the darkest corner.

The chairman of the community foundation sees the crisis as an opportunity: the citizens can carry out the city's tasks more effectively. Hall, says the mayor, is symbolic of Germany after the war because it wasn't always so nice."30 years ago the city wasn't in such good shape." The wealth was the result of "the gigantic German productivity development. That has subsided. The people are frightened." In a certain way, the city is also a symbol of the essence of the Federal Republic. "Here a lot of social responsibility was transferred to the state. Because the city was so rich, it was particularly pronounced. The alimentation through the city was extreme. The requirement profile was gigantic." There are already first approaches to reacting to the changed circumstances. A year ago a citizens' association was established, citizens and companies are now helping to finance the music school, which is the only reason why it was not closed. Other citizens take on sponsorships for trees and green spaces, thereby relieving the city coffers. Thomas Preisendanz is head of the grammar school at St. Michael and chairman of the community foundation "Future for Young People". He says: "The community foundation was founded because we are of the opinion that citizens have to take on tasks that were previously taken over by the public sector." The foundation has now collected 650,000 euros, 500,000 of which came from the building society at the start. The money is invested with four percent, makes 26,000 euros annually that can be spent. In addition, there are donations that do not come into the donation fund, but are used directly.

Preisendanz lists the activities of the foundation: the youth council was initiated, a hip-hop concert was sponsored, two teachers for emigrants, who had previously been paid for by the state, were sponsored by the foundation for one year together with the Sparkasse and the Volksbank finances, an academy for talented primary school students receives money. In addition, says the director of studies, there are other development associations. Last year one was founded to help the city archive, another one finances the museum, and the schools also have support associations. He sees the crisis as an opportunity: "If the city cuts back on its tasks and lets people do it, more will come out." At Christmas, he says proudly, citizens gave him donations, one hundred euros, another five. That sounds good, as long as you don't do the math: Schwäbisch Hall has 36,000 inhabitants, with five euros per person that would ideally only add up to 180,000 euros. However, one must not forget that there are many well-paid employees living here - larger donations would be possible.

But the citizens are unsettled. Although you earn no less than before, you still have less money because of the steep rise in fees. This leads to the stinginess-is-cool syndrome from which the retail trade also suffers. The inner city used to be characterized by local traditional houses, there were many opticians and small fashion houses, which are now slowly being replaced by H & M and others. People go to the big shopping centers, to Heilbronn or Stuttgart, because the price counts more than the quality or the maintenance of a functioning local social system. The panic leads to greed and avarice, and the constant whining in newspapers and TV does not relax either. The local press also agrees bravely with the disaster roar. "Pro", a "magazine for the Heilbronn-Franconia region", describes a situation that would be utopian in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: "Are apprenticeships in short supply in the Heilbronn-Franconia region? ...) For the start of training in autumn 2003, the employment office in Schwäbisch Hall had 3152 vacancies registered, 605 fewer than in the previous year. " It's not that bad, but what the heck: the main thing is that the situation is terrible at first.

"The negative mood is primarily a question of the media - according to the motto: 'Good news are no news, bad news are good news.' For example, Germany has been the world champion in exports again since August 2003 - ahead of Japan and the USA, which have 280 million citizens, but we only have 82 million. This is only on page seven or eight as a small note, although the heading could be on page one : 'We are export champions.' "That's what entrepreneur Reinhold Würth says in an interview in the February issue of" A Tempo "magazine. Würth has experience with development work: In 1954, the then 19-year-old took over his father's two-person business in Künzelsau, a neighboring town to Schwäbisch Hall, which today has 41,000 employees and is the world market leader in screws. Three years ago, the art collector Schwäbisch Hall donated a museum: modern and spacious, the facade made of steel, glass and shell limestone, it fits in well with the historic cityscape. Admission is free.

The Kunsthalle Würth is based on the collection of more than 6000 pictures of its founder, the main areas of which are Pablo Picassso, Emil Nolde, Max Beckman and Max Ernst. A foundation finances elaborate exhibitions, but if the funds are insufficient, Reinhold Würth also helps out personally. This is another cultural highlight for the city, one that attracts tourists, increases the quality of life - and sometimes makes people sigh wistfully.

Good art, bad art: many friends find beautiful paintings from bygone days, but modern theater is annoying. So until the end of February an exhibition with pictures by the painter Max Liebermann ran under the title "Poetry of simple life": paintings depicting upper-class country houses in homely Parks show humble workers doing simple jobs and decent citizens in a beer garden. In front of it were visitors with an average age of 60 plus, who were ecstatic about the beautiful light, the simple people, the fertile land. There was a great deal of agreement: the past was the best thing that has ever happened to people. The sun was shining, the trees were green, the houses were old but looked like new, the decent citizen was the ideal of a healthy society, the children were cute and well-brought up, and when a family got a pension that would last forever Was promised, it was not a bizarre point, but a sign of a special social position.

Oh yes, the order. Hardly anyone here wants the changes that are coming. Or any at all. That's because almost all of them are winners. Winners don't want change. Because that means giving up convenience. Privileges. Status. Schwäbisch Hall has a problem, and you can see that everywhere. For example, with shop opening hours: in the city center, shops close at 6 p.m., lunch breaks are compulsory, and some treat themselves to two hours. That is good for the individual, but it only works because there is no poverty here, no one who is willing to work longer because they need money, at least not locally, poverty is elsewhere, somewhere out there, where it is dream of kindergartens and apprenticeships. Just as they dream of the past here.

Christoph Biermeier is the new director of the Schwäbisch Hall open-air theater, the number one cultural event in the city. The building society sponsors the event, the city supports it, a large part of the tourism depends on it, 50 percent of the visitors to the three-month event stay overnight in the village. Biermeier recently staged in Halle, one of those cities in the east that are plagued by huge prefabricated housing estates, high unemployment figures and a shrinking population. It is his first year and, in addition to the traditional Shakespeare and Schiller plays, he is also performing "Dracula" in order to appeal to a new audience. He's been to Schwäbisch Hall a lot earlier because he once had a girlfriend here, and he was often surprised. "I always thought that the people here lived in a different world. But that is slowly changing. I think now they are slowly arriving in reality." On the bank of the Kocher stands the Haller Globe Theater, which is modeled on Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London. It is a three-story, round wooden building without a roof, traditional and yet modern, there are only four such theaters in the world, and this is the only one in which the concept has been expanded with modern elements. The construction cost the city nothing, several companies from Hall participated either free of charge or only for material costs. A calligrapher has inscribed the facade all around with a sonnet by Shakespeare, here, too, tradition meets modernity, and the artist, previously custodian of an almost forgotten craft, has since been doing well again. So everything is fine? No, the house should go. Because of the monument protection. In addition, it was only approved for the 2000 season. An employee of the festival says that they accepted the time limit because otherwise they would not have gotten a permit. Obviously everyone had thought the building would speak for itself. He does, but not everyone is ready to listen. The critics say the house is destroying the cityscape. The historical look. But it still stands. And that's how it will stay for the time being. There is no money for the demolition.