Leipzig Book Convention 2018: No Record but Lots of Suspense


LEIPZIG-  If there is one theme that would sum up the 2018 Leipzig Book Convention this past weekend, it would be suspense. While members of the committee had expected another record year with a possible 300,000 visitors, that mark was missed by a long shot and for the first time in six years, the number of visitors at this year’s convention had decreased. 271,000 visitors went to the convention that took place from 15th to 18th March, a decrease of 14,000 from last year’s number of 285,000.  But despite the decrease, there was a lot of suspense in this year’s convention, which goes beyond the theme of Romania as the guest country. Here are some examples based on the author’s annual visit together with family members:

Snow and Cold- The decrease in numbers had a lot to do with Old Man Winter’s last grasp. Snow and blowing snow, combined with extreme cold temperatures brought vast parts of central and northern Germany to a near standstill, with parts of Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia taking the brunt of the storm.  Frozen overhead lines and crossing points were additional factors that led to the shut down of the main railway stations in Leipzig and Halle (Saale) and the cancellation of train services spanning seven German states and points to the east. This led to overfilled streetcars and buses to the Messe Convention. Adding traffic jams on the major highways also because of blowing and drifting snow and many who wanted to go to the book convention decided to stay home- at least until the sunniest day of the convention, which was the last day (Sunday). But even then, the one critique point that seems to be the problem in Germany is snow removal, where much of the parking lots were still unplowed when guests arrived on Sunday, undoubtedly the peak of the four-day long convention.

Fighting the Right- Another factor affecting the numbers is the increase in the number and influence of the far-right media. Several publishing companies producing such propaganda in newspapers and books were present, mostly in Hall 3. This included Compact and Neue Stimmen, a pair of most prominent magazines that have ties with the far right groups including the Pegida, National Party (NPD) and Alternative for Germany (AfD), the third of which is currently in the German Federal Parliament as an opposition to the newly created Grand Coalition with the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats.  Especially on Friday and Saturdays clashes broke out between the far right and far left, resulting in police involvement and arrests. As they wanted to avoid massive conflicts like it happened at the 2017 Book Convention in Frankfurt/Main, it was met with partial success for despite measures to prevent violent outbreaks, the far right, with its anti-democratic and anti-European policies kept many away because of their strive to commit strife. On the flip side, several prominent authors who have written about right-wing terrorism and its threat to democracy were on hand. One of them, Norwegian author Åsne Seierstad, won the European book prize for her work on Anders Breivik, a far-right terrorist who killed 77 people in two separate attacks in 2011. People like Seierstad believe that right-wing extremism has been on the rise since then, including her home country.


Peaceful Co-existence- While the snowstorm and the far-right made waves in the media, one aspect that was seldom touched was religion. In Hall 3 there was a section where Christianity and Islam were in peaceful co-existence of each other. At least four booths with publications and newspapers on Islam and another seven on Christianity were found clumped together with people gathering to both sides of the aisle. Interesting was how the two religions attracted the people. On the side of Islam, people came in droves because of their interest in the religion and the literature that pertained to it. This is disregarding how it was written- which was either German or Arabic with a couple English examples.  This included the Islam Newspaper in German, which judging by my observations, has a lot of culture and history, but go along the mentality of the Native Americans as described by historian Dee Brown: “We are still here.” Why? Because of attempts to suppress their culture by the domination of Christianity and the western way of life, one can see that Islam still exists and the impression is that they are open to anyone wishing to learn at least a bit of the religion. There had been fears that the religion would dominate the European landscape. That is not true. The people of Islam wish to have a sort of peaceful co-existence that has not existed for a long time, for many since the time before the Arab Spring of 2011 which led to millions fleeing the war-torn areas. On the other side, Christianity was presented in a marketing fashion. While on the way to the main entrance of the convention, we were greeted by hippie-style Christians who gave us a free coupon to one of the booths that was giving away books dealing with stories involving Christ, philosophy and the existence of God. Another booth was continuing the Martin Luther celebrations of 500 years ago by illustrating the printing press used to produce the 500 Theses written by Luther. And then there was Christianity in the form of music and schools that offer both. Target language was both German and English and they attracted a fair number of people. Yet despite the moderate increase of younger people joining Christ, the numbers have decreased on a global scale thanks to corruption, sex abuse scandals and attempts to associate Christianity with far-right figures, such as US President Trump. One can see the desperate attempts to convince people to join by giving away books upon leaving the Buch Messe- and seeing tons being discarded in garbage cans in the parking lot. It does appear that if Christianity was to regain its original form, it may need to separate itself from politics and reinvent itself by adapting to the needs of today’s generations, a step that has been taken in some aspects, like homosexuality, but in others- like tolerance- it’s having problems doing.


Blocks at the Manga–  While the Manga exhibition, located in Hall 5, attracted its typical individuals, which included superheroes, waitresses in short skirts, aliens, and people dressed up in outfits dating back 125 years ago, one has to look more carefully at the trends that a person can find. While the theme from last year  was lighting in Japan, this year’s theme seemed to be boxes and its several shapes, designs and sizes. No matter whether they were lunch boxes, jewelry boxes or even mini-storage boxes or even designer boxes  found at booths like the Sega games, it was a real treat just to see these boxes while looking at the products typical of Japan, which include stuffed animals, sweets, games, books and even dishware, just to name a few.


Thinking Scandanavia- To round off our tour of the Buchmesse, we have some literature recommendations worth noting. One of the unique aspects of the convention was found at the international book section in Hall 4 and in Scandanavia. Consisting of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finnland, the themes most commonly written by authors in the region  consists of mysteries, tourism, mental well-being and lastly photography. Two books that represent fine examples of such works is a Danish work by Meik Wilking entitled The Little Book of Lykke: The Path to being the Happiest People in the World, which focuses on the Danish secret to being the happiest society in the world. This includes the way of life, physical and mental well-being, mentality towards materialist items and money as well as the power of the bicycle.  Another is a collection of night-time and sometimes underwater photography by Finnish author Petri Juntunen entitled “At the Heart of It All,” where he brings the new meaning of photography to light, as he focuses on relicts and other non-life forms that are shone down by a ray of light, showing the interest from above.


To sum up the visit and the highlights, the 2018 Leipzig Book Convention may have not set any records this year, yet judging from the news and my own observations, one could not get enough of the suspense that was presented, both positively as well as negatively. Still, as themes, such as religion, extremism, social and cultural issues and current affairs (such as environment and climate change) become the everyday norm, such book conventions like in Leipzig and also in Frankfurt/Main will need to adapt in a way that these issues are addressed and people understand them and take action. This action should also include putting an end to hate and violence, a commodity that has always been a burden to society but one that seems to become a universal problem on all fronts, especially since the end of 2015. It is only hoped that the next book convention will bring about constructive themes and discussion instead of propagizing hatred and inequality based on things we don’t like.

The next Leipzig Buchmesse will take place  from 21st to 24th March 2019. To see more photos of the Buchmesse, please click here as it will take you to the Files’ facebook page and its photo album. Please feel free to add your photos and impressions of the Buchmesse. We love to see them. 🙂



Genre of the Week: The History of the Teddy Bear by Jon Mooallem


To start off the Genre of the Week, here’s a question for you: How many of you have a teddy bear? What names did you give them, and how did you characterize them when playing with them? Almost every child at one time had a teddy bear in his/her lifetime and one in three adults still have that teddy bear from their childhood. More than half the children have more than three teddys in their rooms at home. And if you are like other kids, you probably have names for each of the Teddy bears you have. 🙂  In the case of my daughter, she and I had names for a dozen teddy bears she had when she was growing up; among them include Rocky (Senior and Junior) for a pair of panda bears, plus two bears who always find ways of travelling with this writer: Bam Bam and Coco, a white and brown bear duo. Their parents were included as well, including Coco’s mom, Anna Bear, as seen in the pic above.  But what do we know of the origin of the teddy bear?


The teddy bear was developed in two different locations, almost simultaneously. In Germany, a seemstress company, founded by Margarete Steiff in 1880, a teddy bear was created by her nephew Richard in 1902, based on a real depiction of the bear. It debuted in 1903 and became so popular, that a buyer for an American toy company bought large numbers for the market. The Steiff bears eventually became teddy bears. At the same time of the first teddy bear in Germany, a very popular Amercian figure, while on a hunt, saved a life of a small bear, thus becoming a focus of a cartoon shown below:

Drawing a Line in Mississippi by Clifford K. Barryman

Eventually, Morris and Rose Michtom took this depiction and created their first toy company that produced these adorable creatures, honoring that man, which became known as Teddy’s Bear. 🙂

But inspite of the two separate events that helped create the still most lovable toy for people of all ages, there was a motive behind making teddy bears. In a TED-Talk lecture, Jon Mooallem provides a detailed look behind the history of the teddy bear and its relationship with not only us humans, but also the environment we are living in. And as the bears become popular, the concern for protecting flora and fauna has become greater than it was in 1902.

Watch the video and have a look at the questions. Think about what he says and discuss about the role of teddy bears and the relationship between humans and the environment, something that is fragile and needs attention more than ever. The video is at the end of the article.


  1. Who was the person that saved a bear’s life? What happened and when did it happen?
  2. Why did he save the bear’s life? What was the result of his action?
  3. What was the relationship between bears (and other wild animals) and settlers like during that time?
  4. What measures were taken to protect the settlers during that time? How were the animals affected- name one example.
  5. What does the teddy bear symbolize according to the speaker?
  6. Why did we go from portraying animals as terrifying beasts to ones that are lovable? There are two factors that are interconnected and are still a key issue in society…..
  7. The speaker mentions that nature has become so dependent on humans that it cannot survive on its own, going from almost destroying the species to saving and educating them- aka conservation reliance.
    1. What factors have led to the natural balance being off course
    2. What examples are mentioned where humans “train” animals?
    3. In your opinion, do you agree with the speaker’s statements? If so, why and what examples support your argument? If not, what examples of uncontrolled natural areas can you think of?
  8. In your opinion, does controlling nature produce a better balance with humans or does it make sense to let “the deer and the antelope play and vegetation produce flower power?” (In other words, let flora and fauna be)? What reasons support your arguments?
  9. Do you have a teddy bear? If so, what is his/her name and how would you describe your bear in terms of appearance and character?


Enjoy the clip below! 🙂



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Flensburg Files Accepting Stories of Christmas’ Past


While Christmas is over five months away, it is the season that creeps up faster than any of the other holiday seasons of the year. It is also one that is laden with stories of presents, families, friends and lots of surprises.

Christmas also means learning about the history of how it was celebrated and this year’s Christmas  Market Tour Series will focus on just that- History.

During my Christmas market tour in Saxony last year, some recurrent themes came up that sparked my interest. In particular in the former East Germany, this included having Christmas be celebrated with little or no mentioning of Jesus Christ. In addition, we should include Räuchermänner (Smoked incense men) that were a rare commodity in the former Communist state but popular in the western half of Germany and beyond, traditional celebrations with parades honoring the miners, and lastly, the Christmas tree lit with candles.  Yet despite the parades along the Silver Road between Zwickau and Freiberg, a gallery of vintage incense men in a church in Glauchau, church services celebrating Christ’s birth in Erfurt, Lauscha glassware being sold in Leipzig and Chemnitz, and the like, we really don’t have an inside glimpse of how Christmas was celebrated in the former East Germany.


  • What foods were served at Christmas time?
  • What gifts were customary?
  • What were the customary traditions? As well as celebrations?
  • What did the Christmas markets look like before 1989, if they even existed at all?
  • How was Christ honored in church, especially in places where there were big pockets of Christians (who were also spied on by the secret service agency Stasi, by the way)?
  • What was the role of the government involving Christmas; especially during the days of Erich Honecker?
  • And some personal stories of Christmas in East Germany?

In connection with the continuation of the Christmas market tour in Saxony and parts of Thuringia this holiday season, the Flensburg Files is collecting stories, photos, postcards and the like, in connection with this theme of Christmas in East Germany from 1945 to the German Reunification in 1990, which will be posted in both the wordpress as well as the areavoices versions of the Flensburg Files. A book project on this subject, to be written in German and English is being considered, should there be sufficient information and stories,  some of which will be included there as well.

Between now and 20 December, 2017, you can send the requested items to Jason Smith, using this address: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. 

The stories can be submitted in German if it is your working language. It will be translated by the author into English before being posted. The focus of the Christmas stories, etc. should include not only the aforementioned states, but also in East Germany, as a whole- namely Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Berlin and Mecklenburg-Pommerania, the states that had consisted of the German Democratic Republic, which existed from 1949 until its folding into the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October, 1990.

Christmas time brings great times, memories, family, friends and stories to share. Over the past few years, I’ve heard of some stories and customs of Christmas past during my tour in the eastern part, which has spawned some curiosity in terms of how the holidays were being celebrated in comparison with other countries, including my own in the US. Oral history and artifacts are two key components to putting the pieces of the history puzzle together. While some more stories based on my tour will continue for this year and perhaps beyond, the microphone, ink and leaf, lights and stage is yours. If you have some stories to share, good or bad, we would love to hear about them. After all, digging for some facts is like digging for some gold and silver: You may never know what you come across that is worth sharing to others, especially when it comes to stories involving Chirstmas.

And so, as the miners in Saxony would say for good luck: Glück Auf! 🙂



Martin Luther and the Apple Tree


This Food for Thought Commentary ties in the series on Martin Luther and the Apple to look at one important aspect in society today, which is people and proof of power versus praxis.

I would like to start my commentary with a story about the German word, Mogelpackung. Known in English as the sham packaging, in the literal sense of the word, it implies a product that is half-full and whose contents have the worst quality imaginable, but is fully packaged in bright shiny bags, thus making a person buy it because of its appearance.

It happened at a time when I was 13 and living with my parents at a university town in Minnesota, known as Marshall. My father was professor for technology at the university there, and every time he was teaching, I would hang out with my aunt and her (now ex) husband in the art department, where the latter was producing world-class paintings and offering classes, such as modeling, painting, sculpting and the like. And for the record, I was his “guinea pig” for one session of modelling, having to earn money to pay for film after using my mother’s camera for taking pictures. 😉




But given the size of the campus, I would usually roam around every department and come across vending machines that were in each building. One day, I happened to find a vending machine and with 50 cents in my pocket, I bought a small bag of Ruffles potato chips, only to find that upon opening the bag, the contents were not even half full. Worse was when eating them, it tasted like it had been in the machine for YEARS!!! They were stale, dressed in salt!!!

When I mentioned this to my aunt upon returning to the art studio, she explained the concept of sham packaging and how companies try successfully to take that extra quarter out of the pockets of the innocent  just to earn that little money for their machine- a half-full package that is vacuum-packed but dressed in aluminum covering to make it look glamorous.

Companies can be really sneaky, can’t they?

But when looking at our society today, we not only see sham packaging everywhere but going beyond vending machines and shopping malls and mega-retailers. People can be shams too. One in three people on average are considered narcissists- people who take advantage of others for the purpose of personal gain.  It is unknown how a person can become a narcissist except to say that environmental factors, such as personal experience and trauma, external influence from others, the strive for new trends, craving attention and sometimes personal revenge are factors that can contribute to having a narccist personality, aside from a childhood upbringing where abuse, neglect and being controlled by parents and other family members. Sometimes the use of technology, like social networks, or a strict religious upbringing can play a role.  In either case, when a person promises the world and gives you a gagging grin are the people whom you want to avoid at any cost, for narcissists are capable of getting their way at the expense of others and enjoy watching others suffer from their defeat. These people can be best compared to sham packaging as I mentioned at the beginning- glamoring and god-like on the outside, but evil and incompetent on the inside- both in terms of hard skills as well as soft skills.




The serpeant was a complete sham when it offered Adam and Eve an apple from the Apple of Wisdom, according to the readings of Genesis. End result- God expels them from the Garden of Eden. But can an apple be a sham package?  Absolutely not; they have their own natural color, each one representing its own flavor- and to a certain degree, one’s reaction upon tasting it.  😉  Yet the apple can be a symbol of strength and wisdom, learning about life and the people who live in it, contributing for the better or worse. If we were to eliminate the apple from our own diets in both these aspects, we would become barbarians battling for the best using all forms of measures to submit our prey before going in for the kill.


zwickau church


This is where Martin Luther comes in. When he created the 95 Theses 500 years ago, he was planting the seeds for the apple tree that would later become the Lutheran Church. The purpose behind the separation from the Catholic Church was simple: The Church was also greedy and not paying attention to the needs of the people, but to the privileged, whose lives were spent in a glass ball, whose wall was thick enough to block out all the pleas and blind out the plight of poor. Yet one very perplexing comment that was extracted from Luther is making us think about how sharing or shamful the prophet was:


Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree!


One has to look at the circumstances that led to his comment. After the theses were posted a rebellion  broke out among the peasants who felt cheated by the church. The Peasants War broke out in 1524-25 resulting in the casualties of more than 100,000 people. The revolt failed as the peasants were put down by armies supported by the aristocrats in the kingdoms of Saxony, Bavaria, Thuringia and Alsace.  Churches were looted and burned. Priests were murdered. And already many of Luther’s followers were interpreting the 500 theses in their own way, setting the stage for fragments of the Lutheran Churc. This included the conflict between Luther himself (who favored a middle approach between the aristocrats and the peasants) and Thomas Müntzer, who favored justice for the peasants. The conflict resulted in a fallout between the two and an everlasting feud which lasted until Luther’s death.  Luther’s establishment of the church was meant to bring the people together, just as the apple trees were planted to bring people together. Yet it seemed that what he actually did, by supporting both sides,  was instigate violence, thus making him look like a sham, as well as the others. While the uprisings did stop in 1525,  the theses brought out those who believed in change and it was badly needed, yet it brought out those who used the changes for the purpose of the gain of power. The theses criticized the Church for its practices but never made suggestions of how to change it, resulting in Luther being ostracized by many in his circle of friends of family. Yet these critical points allowed for other followers to establish their branches of the church.


If Luther was considered a sham, then most likely because of the ideas that were as thoughtful as the package of potato chips, yet when looking down at them, they were unappealing to the Church, resulting in its bitter taste, and salty because of the people who used his thesis for their own set of religions, some of which that still exist today are too strict and the themes too controversial.  But Luther was not a sham in reality. He saw the suffering of the people and ignoring the pleas of the shams wishing to undermine his work for their gain, he planted the apple trees for them, by opening the doors of the church to them so they can learn the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. His comment would best be interpreted as the modern terms of “If I had turned back the clock, I would still do it,” yet his comments, although considered sham by critics, indicate that he would still continue to plant the apple trees for the people to ensure that they had their share of wisdom and strength, instead of the sham packaging that the Catholic Church had offered at that time.


To sum up this lengthy discussion on sham packaging and the apple tree by Martin Luther, one has to connect the half-full package of potato chips from the vending machines with the apples, planted and harvested by Luther and compare it to the events of 500 years ago with that of today.  While it is easy to turn down the potato chips in favor of the apple because of its nutrients and all the other advantages it has, looking at it from the standpoint of Christ, it is much easier to decide how to believe as long as the religion is open to all and loving to all. Looking back 500 years, the people didn’t have the luxury of potato chips but saw the packaging of the Church and decided for the alternative. And therefore, it was much easier for them to choose the apple that opened the door to Jesus.


Germany Quiz 8: Saxony Part II

The skyline of Dresden, the capital of Saxony

After getting warmed up with the Sächsisch Deutsch, as shown in Part I of the Quiz (click here to get to the page) Part II takes us to the state of Saxony itself. Having spent quite a few months there as well as having a few contacts from all over the state, I found that there is more to Saxony than meets the eye. If you ask someone who has yet to visit Germany (or even has passed through there once) the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Germany, 90% of the respondents would say Bavaria. Sure, Bavaria is home of the beer, the Oktoberfest and the sports club Bayern Munich. It would be considered the German version of Texas and would better off being on its own if the likes of Edmund Stoiber and Horst Seehofer had it their way.  😉  

However, we have the German version of California in the state of Saxony- yes, that’s right, Saxony! 🙂

Saxony used to be part of the Kingdom of Saxony, which includes present-day Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony. Since 1990, it has become a free-state after having spent 40 years being part of East Germany and having been divided up into districts.  With the population of 4.1 million inhabitants, Saxony is the birthplace of many products that we use everyday, both at home as well as on the road. Many personalities that have become famous and placed their names in the history books were either born in Saxony or have passed through leaving their mark. The Christmas market got its start in Saxony, most of the automobles we know started its business in Saxony because of its proximity to the mountains and its natural mineral resources. And most recently, many professional sports teams are climbing their way up the ladder in soccer, handball and even basketball! 

Now that’s a lot right there about the state! :-O

But what do we know about the state? This is where Part II of the quiz comes in. Dividing it up into general information, personalities and its infrastructure (which was difficult enough as is, by the way), this guide will give you a chance to test your knowledge and do some research about the state, especially if you wish to visit the region someday.  As Saxony is the where many people made their inventions, especially for the household and for the highway, a part III will be devoted to the inventors. 

But for now, let’s test our knowledge and get to know the Saxe, shall we? 🙂  Good luck!

General Information:

What is the capital of Saxony?

Leipzig               Meissen                   Zwickau                Dresden                 Görlitz           Wilkau-Hasslau


Which city in Saxony does NOT have an equivalent in the USA? Mark all that apply.

Dresden          Zwickau          Zittau              Leipzig           Meerane         Waldenburg


Which city in Saxony does NOT have a sister city in the USA?

Glauchau      Dresden      Freiberg     Leipzig    Zwickau   Riesa


Which rivers do NOT flow through Saxony?

Elbe             Mulde                Saale            Neisse              Danube


Which city does NOT have nearby lakes/reservoirs? Mark all that apply.

Leipzig                   Glauchau                  Plauen                 Meissen                Reichenbach


Which city does NOT have a castle or palace?

Zwickau            Dresden             Leipzig        Glauchau        Markkleeberg      Schneeberg


Which city in Saxony is located at the Polish-German border and is named in both languages?

Zittau         Bautzen          Oberlausitz           Cottbus        Görlitz       Grimma


Which city is the hub of the porcellain industry- you can see their products at the pottery markets throughout all of Germany?

Meissen             Riesa             Hoyerswerda           Werdau           Crimmitschau            Leipzig


T/F: The village of Amerika (near Penig) was created in 1839 and was based on the founder’s visit to the USA.


Germany has one of the oldest race tracks in the country, where race cars and motorcycles convene yearly to this city in Saxony……

a. Görlitz               b. Hohenstein-Ernstthal                     c. Leipzig       d. Hoyerswerda


Which of the two cities in Saxony were the site of the infamous beer war in 1731?

  1. Werdau and Crimmitschau
  2. Meerane and Glauchau
  3. Zwickau and Aue
  4. Leipzig and Halle


Mark the following cities that have a brewery with a check mark and circle the cities that have a liquour distillery.

Chemnitz              Meerane                Zwickau             Leipzig                   Dresden              Plauen                  Reichenbach         Zittau


The Black Triangle, infamous for years of pollution and environmental destruction caused by strip mining, consists of three states meeting near which town in Saxony?  Identify the three states and choose which city.

The three states: ______________,  __________________, & ___________________

The city:

  1. Bautzen
  2. Görlitz
  3. Zittau
  4. Dresden

 Hint: A beverage named after the region and this city, consisting of  (10%) vodka, (40%) Vita Cola and (50%) Czech beer was created by the author in 2005.


Which cities are served by the ICE-train line?  Which ones will be served by the InterCity line beginning in 2023?

Dresden            Chemnitz            Leipzig              Glauchau           Riesa               Bad Schandau


T/F: The Leipzig-Dresden Railline, the first railroad line ever built, was completed in 1839


Mark the following cities that have a professional soccer team (1, 2 and 3rd leagues) with an X, a professional handball team (1st and 2nd leagues) with a check-mark, and check-mark the cities that have an American football team.

Aue        Dresden         Leipzig          Meerane        Zwickau            Chemnitz           Glauchau


T/F: FC Dynamo Dresden is the only team from Saxony that has defeated FC Bayern Munich in a soccer match.


How many soccer teams does Leipzig have, including the Red Bull Team?



Information about the Christmas markets in Saxony:

The oldest Christmas market known to man can be found in which city?

a. Dresden    b. Leipzig    c. Bautzen       d. Nuremberg             e. Glauchau


The origin of the Stollen (the German fruit cake with raisins and powdered sugar) originated from which city?

a.  Plauen   b. Naumburg (Saale)    c. Dresden      d. Rochlitz      e. Flöha


The shortest Christmas market in Germany can be found in this city?

a. Glauchau     b. Crimmitschau     c. Werdau       d. Meerane     e. Aue


Which region in Saxony was the birthplace of the Schwipbogen (Christmas arch)?

a. Ore Mountains      b. Vogtland        c. Lausitz Region       d. Black Triangle


T/F: Customary of a Christmas market in Saxony is the parade of miners in the villages Ore Mountains.  If true, name at least one town that does host this.


T/F: Räuchermänner were common but rare decorations during the East German Communist era.


T/F:  Pulsnitzer Kekse is a cake with a jelly filling that can be found at a Christmas market in Saxony.


Which Christmas market does NOT have a castle setting?

a. Wolkenburg          b. Glauchau         c. Zwickau                  d. Crimmitschau                             e. Waldenburg


Who is the disco-king in this picture? Have a look in the activities below.  😉

Information on the Personalities from Saxony:

Look at the quasi-autobiography of these personalities of Saxony and guess who they are. The first and last letters of the names are given. Some research is required. Good luck! 🙂


  1. I was born in Chemnitz, which was known at that time as ______________, and started ice skating at the age of six. I won several gold medals in the Olympics and the world championship in figure skating, while pursuing a side dish career in acting and sports commentator. I was not only the face of East Germany before the Fall of the Wall in 1989 but also one of the best models of all time. Who am I?

K_____________A   W_______T


  1. I was born in Dresden to a family of actors and became one myself. I also love writing and conducting musical pieces and playing golf. While I used to be one of the most outspoken opponents of Communism during the 1989 revolution, I settled down and became the well-known, politically correct, sometimes stuck-up and arrogant professor of forensic medicine in a well-known but very popular “Krimi-series” playing opposite a St. Pauli junkie of a police officer. Who am I?

J_______ – J___________F  L_________________S


  1. I was born in Leipzig but grew up in Potsdam. I started acting in 1982 and have continued this career ever since. I star in many krimi-series including a Tatort series, where the setting is my hometown of Leipzig, and I play the hot, saucy investigator who eventually dies in the arms of my detective partner in the very last episode played in 2015. Who am I?

S__________________   T__________________A


  1. I was born in Hohenstein-Ernstthal in 1842. While I later became a teacher in Saxony, I started  a life of crime which resulted in me losing my teaching license and being jailed many times. During my time in a prison in Zwickau, I became a librarian and was interested in reading books. It was then when I started writing, having produced several works focusing on the American Wild West, many of which had the character Winnetou in it. I continued writing until I died in 1912 and am buried in a tomb in Radebeul (near Dresden). Who am I?

K____________   M_____________


5. I was born in Görlitz in 1976 to a father who was a soccer player and a mother who was a swimmer. I followed my father’s footsteps and started playing soccer at the age of seven, having played for Chemnitz and Kaiserslautern before making my breakthrough with the soccer team Bayer Leverkusen in 2000. There, my aggressive play brought forth many championships with Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and even Chelsea in England. I even became the captain of the German national soccer team before retiring in 2012. Who am I?

M____________L    B______________K


  1. I was born in 1873 in Dresden. Even though I was a housewife, I became famous for inventing and patenting the modern coffee filter in 1908. Six years later, I founded the coffee company which still exists today, producing coffee and filters for the coffee machine. I relocated the firm to Minden (Hesse), where I lived to be 77 years old. Who am I?

M_____________A  B_____________Z


  1. I was born in a small village in Saxony 80 years ago, but I became famous for becoming the first German astronaut to fly in space in 1978. After working for the Potsdam Institute for Physics, I later worked for the Russian Institute for Space Education and later for the European Space Agency. I was a household name in East Germany as well as in films. Who am I?

S_____________D   J________N


  1. I was born in Dresden and learned the trade as a massage therapist and remedial gymnastics teacher. I hated corsets and many of my female clients always had problems with their posture and their sensitive areas. Henceforth, I learned another trade as a seamstress and invented the modern Busenhalter (BH), which is bra in English, in 1899. Because of its simplistic design for these sensitive areas and its sexy appeal, it has since been revolutionized and one can find them in different shapes, sizes and forms, including sports bras and bikinis. Because I was the one who made the bra in Saxony, who am I?

CH_______________  H___________T


Which of these statements are true or false?

T/F:  Richard Wagner, composer and founder of the annual Bayreuth Festspiel which takes place in July, originated from Saxony.


T/F: Robert and Clara Schumann, a husband-wife piano duo of the 19th Century, were both born in Zwickau, but married in Leipzig. (Mark T or F in the highlighted areas)


T/F: Frederike Caroline Neubert, born in Reichenbach, was one of the first female pioneers in acting, having done stage performances in the 1600s.


T/F: The Semper Opera House in Dresden is named after the world renowned composer, Gottfried Semper.


T/F: The Princes is a rockmusic band that was created last year in honor and memory of Prince.


T/F: Catherine of Bora, who married Martin Luther, originally came from Glauchau.


amerika bridge
Amerika Bridge spanning the Zwickau Mulde

Information on the Bridges (and Bridge Builders) in Saxony:


1. When was the Dresden-Chemnitz-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate railline completed?  How many viaducts in Saxony does this line have?


2. List the following railroad viaducts in Saxony based on the following (click on the highlighted names to see the pictures):

  1. From shortest to longest
  2. From oldest to youngest
  3. Of which, which one(s) was built by Johann Andreas Schubert?


Syratal Viaduct near Plauen Syratal Viaduct near Plauen 

Goltschtal Viaduct in Mylau

 Göhren Viaduct

     Werdau Viaduct

  Chemnitztal Viaduct in Chemnitz

Elstertal Viaduct near Elsterberg

 Steinpleis Viaduct near Zwickau

Hetzdorf Viaduct near Freiberg 


3. Which city in Saxony does not have/ never had a bridge builder/ bridge engineering firm?

Chemnitz        Zwickau          Glauchau        Wüstenbrand              Niesky


4. Bridge builder Johann Andreas Schubert who built the _________________________________________, was responsible for the building of Germany’s first _______________________ (multiple choice). The name of it was: S____________________A.

a. automobile         b. steam locomotove        c. typewriter           d. steam ship


5.  T/F: The Blaues Wunder Bridge in Dresden, the work of bridge engineer Claus Köpke, was built in 1893, but survived the Huns’ desperate attempt of blowing it up at the conclusion of World War I.  (Mark T or F in the highlighted areas)


6. Where are these bridges located? Match the pictures with the names below.

Little Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz)     Dresden      Mylau      Chemnitz    Glauchau       Zwickau     Leipzig     Rochlitz

7. Of these eight, which one is slated to be demolished and replaced in the next five years (unless the locals have enough petitions to stop it)?


And now, the third part of the quiz series focusing on the inventors from Saxony who created and helped revolutionize the things we use today, both at home as well as on the road. 🙂



flefi-deutschland-logo  bhc-logo-newest1









JC Insurance Now Offers Indulgence Coverage



LUTHERSTADT-EISLEBEN:  A couple weeks ago, I was given a tip by one of the members of the Jehovah Witnesses, who was a former student colleague from Leipzig, about an insurance company that provides indulgence coverage for people wishing for a one-way ticket to Heaven upon their passing.

My first impression was a real eye-opener. Germany has been known by many as the place of insurance, where no matter where you go, insurance is like the Bible itself: it is sacred, it is a necessity and it can save your life. That explains the reason why health insurance is compulsory, even when working as a freelancer, a moral must if you want to leave something for your next of kin upon passing, and a pure protector of all your precious goods. And even if insurance takes up 60% of your raw income, in the long term, it can really save and even nurture your life. Pure fact if you want to live in Germany, even for a short time as a student or someone passing through. 🙂


But indulgence insurance???

To understand this, one has to look at this from a Catholic’s point of view.  When a person passes on, enroute to the Heavenly gate, he/she is screened for any impurities that was committed while on Earth. If a person happens to commit a sin, regardless of the degree, then that person has to spend time in the Purgatory. The Purgatory is like the Court of Law, where the person is tried on charges of sins that he/she has committed. These sins can include but are not limited to: violating the 10 Commandments, turning away from God and embracing other creatures rejected by Him, saying the Lord’s name in vain in front of a devout believer in Christ, being lazy and not fulfilling the work set forth by the elders, disrecpecting teachers and even breaking a woman’s heart by dumping her for another one.   Unlike in the normal courts, where the defendant is found guilty or innocent and the punishment is decided by the judge, pending on the severity of the crime, all people standing trial in the purgatory are pre-programmed to be guilty. And those who are guilty have to spend time in the Purgatory, where hard labor under the scrutiny of the Lord Jesus Christ awaits them. The amount of time spent there is dependent on the sins committed and in the end, if the person is unable to repent and ask for forgiveness, then the next step is witnessing Dante’s Inferno. Yet by working off the sins as debt, the person in the end will enter the Garden of Eden, to live happily ever after.

Jeremy Christians, the JC Insurance Agent

There is the alternative form which doesn’t necessarily relieve a person of all his/her sins (the guilt remains as a scar), but it guarantees direct passage to Heaven. This is where indulgence comes in. And with that, Jeremy Christians, who sells Indulgence Insurance for JC Insurance. Based in the heart of Martin Luther in the city of Eisleben in Saxony-Anhalt, JC Insurance recently opened its business, providing relief for Christians who fear their future in the afterlife and therefore, would like to have insurance coverage that will spare them the time in the purgatory. I had a chance to interview the agent about how indulgence insurance works and found out some interesting facts about it. For instance,

  1. Indulgence insurance works like the indulgence that was practiced by the Catholic Church in terms of coverage of all sins committed to date, yet…..
  2. Indulgence insurance also provides coverage for potentials sins to be committed in the future, regardless of age, gender, socio-economic background and even profession, which means….
  3. There are several different forms of insurance premiums available pending on the aforementioned pre-existing conditions in nr. 2.

According to Mr. Christians, insurance rates start with a one-time payment of 2000 Euros per person, 3300 Euros for straight couples, 3700 Euros for other couples and 5000 Euros for a family of 4-5 people. Afterwards, insurance carriers only have to pay a monthly base fee of a tenth of the one-time payment PLUS additional payments for the number of sins that had been committed prior to obtaining coverage. A questionnaire with the list of sins is provided when customers wish to purchase indulgence insurance through JC. Yet unlike normal practices where the customers can take their time filling it out on their own, the questions are read to the customers but lie-detector scan is used during the proceedings to scan the brain and facial reactions to determine whether the customer is telling the truth or not. Believe it or not, there is just as much thorough scrutiny with buying indulgence insurance as there is in the Purgatory. The additional payment scale is then used, ranging from 25 cents per count for lying or saying the Lord’s name in vain, to one Euro per count for showing the person the bird (both the German as well as the universal forms), even when displaying it in the form of a cyclist. For serious offenses, like speeding, fighting, protesting at public events, cheating, committing fraud or any of the other offenses that violate the Ten Commandments, the additional payment fees could go as much as ten Euros per offense. In the other words, the most innocent people are the ones that pay the least per month.

But that’s not all! JC also offers a package which covers all sins that could be made in the future, pending on the profession. That means for an additional base price of 300 Euros per month, plus additional fees, a person can be covered form life. Additional Pay Profession scale range from unemployed (which is 10 Euros a month), to teacher (which is 60 Euros) to even a businessman (which is 100 Euros). This does not cover sins done onto another, whose spiritual life is altered permanently. There, the person is permanently dropped from the coverage and is guarenteed direct passage to the Purgatory or even worse.

This really shocked me, but as Mr. Christians mentioned in the interview, with so much corruption going on in society today, many insurance companies, such as JC, are profitting from it, because of a steep increase in demand by those who wish to be cleansed of their sins and given direct passage to the Garden of Eden, dining with God and talking to Jesus in person. This is especially the case as the talk of Judgement Day has skyrocketed since Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the US this past January and white-supremecy is on the war path in Europe, thus destabilizing the global environment, bringing it to the brink of a potential military conflict last seen in 1945. He believes when people buy indulgence insurance, they are protected for life, not just on Earth, but also spiritually.

Yet this brought me to the question of why JC Insurance is selling indulgence insurance in the heart of Martin Luther’s region, namely Eisleben, where he was born and also died. His answer is simple: He wants to prove to the Reformer that this coverage works, and that his arguments of a Purgatory not existing is congruent to the story of The Lady and the Tiger, where the suspect has to open one of the two doors to determine whether he is guilty or innocent- in front of a large crowd in a colliseum.

If interested in buying indulgence insurance, Mr. Christians suggested to call the JC Insurance hotline, for there is no internet, no social network page and the primary location for a nearest agent is next to the lake. One needs to go to the following areas. There a yellow phone can be found on the beach, where a person can call the agent for an appointment. When the agent comes walking on water, you have found the place and can talk about your future, both now and in the afterlife. 🙂

JC Insurance Agents:

Leipzig-  Zwenkauer Lake, Lake Markkleeberg

Brandenburg- Lake Plaue

Glauchau- Glauchauer Stausee

Neubrandenburg- Tollensee

Zeulenroda-Triebes- Zeulenrodaer Stausee

Lutherstadt-Eisleben- Süßersee

Erfurt- Stotterheimer See

Schwerin- Schweriner Innensee

Prien am Chiemsee

Starnberg- Starnberger See

Landshut- Isar Reservoir

More are being established in the coming months. If you want to know more, talk to the agent nearest your place of resident.

Amen!  😉

Glauchauer Stausee: One of the places where you will find one of the JC insurance agents




Special thanks to Carrie Shofner and Bill Moudry for the photo of the insurance agent, Jesus Christ, portrayed by the latter, a key contribution to only fake news story you will find on this column. But it does serve as small lesson about indulgences and the Purgatory and how Martin Luther criticized the Church about it in his 95 Theses. A link on this topic is in the article. 



Mystery Building Nr. 8: The Brühl (Mile) District in Chemnitz

Photos taken in January 2017

Our next mystery building article takes us to Chemnitz in central Saxony and in particular, this district. Located in the northern edge of the city center, 500 meters from Chemnitz Central Station (Chemnitz Hbf.), the Brühl Mile features a narrow street, flanked on each end with historic buildings- both those that survived the bombings of World War II as well as those that were constructed during the age of East Germany- and laden with lighting originating from the Communist era, where Chemnitz was once known as Karl-Marx-Stadt. Going from end to end between Georgenstrasse and Zöllnerstrasse, one will walk back into time to the period where everything seen is all in relation with this particular time period.  And while the Brühl district is bustling with activity during the summer, in the winter time, its true colors present itself in a form of a mixture of buildings filled with apartments and a handful of businesses as well as those that are empty but present themselves with artwork that is comparable with those presented in the large cities in Germany, like Berlin.


While the empty buildings are scheduled to be renovated before the city celebrates its 875th anniversary in 2018, the question remains where the name Brühl originated. Here is what we do know about the Mile:

fast fact logo

The Mile was once a village named Streitdorf, which was owned by the lordship Blankenau in the 1300s. The village separated itself from the city of Chemnitz by a brook and a large field used for grazing. After the purchase of the village in 1402, it disappeared thanks to land encroachment and the eventual conversion to a hatchery for fish. Given its approximate location to the River Chemnitz, the area was ideal for this industry. The area was converted into a district which by 1795, it was named Anger. Planners proceeded to construct and expand the district beginning in 1835 to include 120 apartments at first. The numbers quadrupled over the next century, and the district eventually gained a theater house, church, textile factory, museum and lastly, a market square located at today’s Schillerplatz. With the draining of the brook came the establishment of a pond at the aforementioned present-day location. The last architectural work came with the public pool, which was built in 1935.

After the bombing of Chemnitz, which affected the Brühl district, buildings to the south and east were demolished to make way for Communist.based architecture, much of which can be seen along the Mile today. This includes statues, lighting and some of the characteristics that a person will see in an East German housing development in many cities today. Even the mural that exists at the Georgenstrasse entrance depicts what the district looked like before 1989.


Yet there is a catch involved with the history of this district and that is with the name Brühl. When I first visited the district in January, my first impression was that it was part of an industrial district, where Brühl was a company. The slogan and lettering of the Mile, which can be seen at the Georgenstrasse entrance, clearly shows a trace going in that direction. Looking at the history of the industries that existed in East Germany, the connection of having residential areas near companies was considered the norm in those days, especially when looking at the relicts of the past today in many cities.


Yet history books show that Brühl was first used in 1836 and the name has been stuck to this district ever since. This leads to the question of its origin and who created the idea. Furthermore, if one looks at the mural more closely, was Brühl located near an industry and if so, what was it? Given its location near the River Chemnitz and its history of being a fishery, it is likely that perhaps the fishing industry existed either solely or alongside any industries that happened to exist during the days of East Germany. But on the flip side, perhaps the housing district used the logo as a fancy way of drawing residents to then Karl-Marx-Stadt. The theory points to the second because of the SED having its regional party headquarters there in the 1970s before they relocated to the Congress Center, two kilometers south of the Mile.

But perhaps politics and industry could co-exist in one district, as potentially seen in the area along the Mile?  What else do we know about the Brühl Mile? Add your thoughts in the Comments page here as well as in the Files’ facebook page, which you can click here to access.


The Brühl Mile is being repurposed and revitalized even as this article is being released with the purpose of having the district restored and brought back to life for businesses and residents in time for Chemnitz’s 875th birthday in 2018. Details on the project can be found via link here. At the same time, the City of Chemnitz is calling out to public on how to make the city prepared for this event. That is also in the Brühl page.

To close, here’s a little food for thought that a store owner along the Mile left that is worth thinking about. 🙂