2021 German Garden Show (BuGa) in Erfurt

What city in central Germany has the highest number of churches, bridges and people in the state of Thuringia and has two universities, dozens of parks, two main bike trails and miles of forest. It’s one of the oldest known towns in Germany and has the largest cathedral in the eastern half of Germany. It has a unique Christmas market which features its own domino stein cubes, homemade and very tasty. And it is this year’s venue for the 2021 German Garden Show (BuGa).

Any guesses?

It’s Erfurt. With a population of 230,000 inhabitants, Erfurt is located near the junction of two major motorways- the A4 between Dresden and Aachen and the A71 between Sangerhausen and Bavaria. It is the northernmost city in the Thuringian Forest region, which extends to the south and west towards Oberhof, Eisenach and Meiningen. It has 247 bridges total, though the most famous is the Krämerbrücke (Merchant’s Bridge), one of four house bridges in Germany. And it has over three dozen churches in and around the city where the river Gera flows through. This includes the world famous Erfurt Cathedral, Erfurter Dom, which hosts its summer music festival every year and has a wonderful backdrop for the Erfurt Christmas Market. And right next door to the cathedral and the market square Domplatz is one of two venues for the 2021 German Garden Show (BuGa), the Petersberg Citadel, which used to house soldiers well into the 1900s.

Erfurt is the place to visit for the 2021 BuGa. The national event is held every two years in a year that ends in an odd number. And while this is the second BuGa in the state of Thuringia (the other event took place in Gera and Ronneburg in 2007), Erfurt is no stranger to gardening and horticulture for it hosted the garden show for East Germany in 1950, the very first show of its kind in the newly created Communist state. Furthermore, Erfurt is one of the places in Thuringia where you can find the herbs and spices all homegrown, together with wild flowers, plants and other vegetation.

The concept of the BuGa was introduced in 2011 while I was teaching at the University of Applied Sciences. I had the pleasure of seeing the place live with my family most recently, and the first and ever lasting impression I had with Erfurt’s BuGa is “Lokales ist alles.” (Local is everything). Yet it has two key themes to pay attention to: water and bees. What does the BuGa in Erfurt have to offer in comparison with previous BuGa’s?

OVERVIEW-

The 2021 BuGa in Erfurt is laid out in two parts. The first part is located at the Petersberg Citadel, located next to the Erfurt Cathedral to the north. The Citadel was built in 1665 and is located on the hill that overlooks the city. The citadel was used first as a fortress to defend the city but was also a military compound that had been occupied by armies of eight different regimes until German Reunification in 1990. This included occupations by Sweden, Prussia, Napoleon, the German Empire, the Nazis, the Soviets and the Volksarmee- the East German army.  The facility has underwent an extensive makeover since then and has been occupied by a combination of city and state agencies, including the Thuringia Archives. It also hosts local events on the complex, be it outdoors or inside one of the restored buildings. The area is protected by preservation laws and is a National Heritage Site.  The Citadel presents a splendid view of the city center of Erfurt, including all of Domplatz and the Cathedral.

The second part of the BuGa is at Ega-Park on the western end of Erfurt. Known as the largest park in Erfurt, Ega-Park was once the site of another citadel, one that was the predecessor to the Petersberg. From the 12th Century until 1604, the Citadel Cyriaksburg once existed at the site and was used as a combination fortress and military complex. It lost its military importance when the Petersberg was built, and at the end of World War I, it was converted into a garden complex. The largest building remaining from Cyriaksburg was converted into a garden museum in 1995.

The fountains at the entrance to ega-Park

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 It was at this site that the first Garden Show in East Germany was hosted in 1950. 11 years later, the International Garden Exhibition (IGA) was created, but under the name International Garden Exhibition of the Socialist States. Although there had been previous international exhibitions, the current IGA exists to this day based on the Erfurt model. Ega-Park is conveniently located between the convention center Erfurt-Messe and the Media Park, where the German TV stations MDR and KIKA (Children’s Channel) are located. Some of the cartoon characters from KIKA can be found as statues throughout Erfurt, including not only EGA Park but also in the City Center, Anger. Ega-Park is reachable via street car, which also takes you to the Airport in Bindersleben, located about 10 km west of Erfurt.

PETERSBERG CITADEL EXHIBIT-

If you wish to visit the BuGa in Erfurt, you might want to visit the Petersberg first. It has nothing to do with its approximation from the City Center nor from the Cathedral, for stores are open during the daytime except Sundays in the City Center and at the Cathedral, there are markets and other events. The tour of the Citadel will take you, at the most, a half a day. Apart from being greeted with a variety of wild flowers and vegetation upon crossing the bridge into the facility, the Citadel features variety of displays and activities that will fulfill a person’s day.

After seeing some of the plants and getting a soaker with the spitting fountain at the court area, one can visit the origins of the garden through a combination of religious, spiritual and natural exhibit in the Paradise House, much of it presented in hologram. Adjacent to the Paradise House, one will find a combination of eateries and small shops in the long houses that stretch for up to 100 meters in length. Especially in the small shops will a person find everything that is made in Thuringia and one will almost never find in supermarkets, anywhere from herb liquours and mustards to homemade wines and marmalades. There are also seeds available as well as some books about Erfurt’s history. The eateries feature local specialties and you have the option of eating indoors as well as outdoors under the parasols. Given the current situation with the Covid-19 viruses and their variants, the outdoor areas are spread out and one can eat and social distance without risking infection.

One of many playgrounds at the BuGa.

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To the north of the court area, one will be greeted with many forms of entertainment. This include many playgrounds and the long slides, with fancy, modernized playground equipment to satisfy everyone of all ages. Not far from there is the live events that take place going down the hill and behind the complex. This includes small concerts and even live chess.  We had a chance to watch a game live with two opponents ordering their live armies to “move and attack.” This live chess event is sponsored by the German Chess Federation (DSB).

After watching the live chess match, one should not forget the Creative Gardens section, which features creative gardening and different flowers, all lined up along the northern gate and the Festwiese and includes a cultural section where various food and drink from different areas of the globe plus entertainment are found under the orange and white canopy.

Many people don’t know much about the Citadel Petersberg and its history when visiting Erfurt. Yet like in my very first visit in 2010, the Citadel is full of surprises for the young and old. One will find a lot about the place and the exhibits when being there for a few hours. It is one place that you will walk away from- more impressed with what it offers on the inside than when you enter the complex from the outside. And it goes well beyond the grand view of Erfurt’s City Center and Cathedral.

EGA-PARK-

There is an old saying when it comes to a place like Ega:  Come early and stay the whole day.  As mentioned in the introduction of Ega, the park complex is the largest of all of Erfurt’s parks and it fits into the top 10 of the largest city parks in the state of Thuringia. It would be in competition with the best looking parks with the likes of Leipzig, Bad Muskau, Berlin and even Munich. When visiting the BuGa site at Ega, one needs a whole day- from opening time at 9:00am until its closing at 8:00pm.

Ega Park is spread out along the main street, Gothaer Strasse with two entrances on each end, plus another one on the opposite end. Twenty Gardens- each with different themes-, three exhibition halls, a half dozen parks, one swimming area and tens of thousands of different types of flowers, plants and trees dominate the 36-acre area. In addition to that, the German TV-Station MDR hosts its weekly Sunday Garden Show on these grounds, and its exhibit can be found on the grounds. And lastly, an observation tower, using the remains of the former citadel can be found on the southeastern corner, where one can view all of Erfurt and other areas, as far as the eye can see, from the Thuringian Forest to the plains area to the north and east. Even the tower of the former Buchenwald concentration camp and parts of Weimar can be seen- from 30 km away!

The Observation Tower at ega-Park

While it’s impossible to include everything into the Ega-Park portion of the BuGa Tour Guide, I’m only going to make a few recommendations for you to visit if you want to at least get to the most important places first.

Exhibit Hall 1 (Halle 1):  This is located at the main entrance to the Ega-Park complex and there, it hosts monthly exhibits, all of which have to do with gardening and horticulture. Whether it includes pottery or exotic vegetation, the exhibits provide a person with a detailed insight into the topic and provide some ideas for their garden.

Japanese Garden: This was probably our most recommended place to visit. The garden features a combination of Japanese architecture and rocky landscapes with a gorgeous waterfall. Many exotic plants that are typical of Japan can be found there, as well as a pavilion and a pair of bridges built using local architecture.

Sculpture Garden: Located next to the Observation Tower, the gardens feature a display of sculptures and plants- each sculpture representing a scene from a fairy tale written by German authors.

Danakil Desert and Jungle Exhibition Hall: This was the most impression of the Ega-Park portion of the BuGa for the exhibition hall was designated solely for the purpose of addressing the most important theme that we are facing increasingly today, which is water. The hall features an exhibit on the desert with a gallery of cacti and other plants that adapt to the hot and dry conditions. The other half features the jungle section resembling the Amazon Rain Forest. Each one feature rare live animals on display, including exotic butterflies and frogs, as well as desert prairie dogs.  This hall itself, you need two hours to walk through and allow for the information to sink in on how important water really is for everyone.

Bee’s Exhibit: Located on the south end of Ega-Park, near the Rose Garden, the Bee’s Exhibit presents visitors with not only the history of bee-keeping, but also ways to help the bees through plants and other measures. It includes a gallery of “bee-friendly” plants. Bee’s are the other topic of interest for this year’s BuGa as they are facing an increasing threat of extinction caused by overfarming and urbanization. Yet the bees were plenty at the BuGa in general for one will see a bee pollinate for every third plant- on average. In other words, thousands of bees of different types can be found no matter where you walk in the BuGa.

Other noteworthy places to consider include the Gardens of Karl Foerster (1874- 1970), a gardener who popularized the use of grasses and other plants for gardening, the space observatory next to the Japanese Garden, which was also a venue for some concerts, the Iris Garden and Water Fountain, the Rose Garden and lastly, the large flower field that extends the entire length of the Ega-Park Complex. A garden featuring plants from its sister city, Mainz, must not be excluded from the list.

SUMMARY-

The 2021 Erfurt Garden Show (BuGa) brings together several themes that will have a person think about them after spending a couple days there. It goes well beyond tourism, which despite the ongoing fight against Covid-19, the city has attracted thousands since its opening in April. It brings together local culture and specialties that are typical in the region. It also brings forth the importance of our planet and the environment for the two main ingredients of human life- bees and water- will play an even bigger role in how we want to live in the coming decade and beyond. It brings children together as they are treated with lots of activities to enjoy. It brings together art and creativity for gardening and conservation brings out the best among people who work in these areas. And lastly, it brings out the appreciation and love that we have for our plants, both near and far. If there is a saying that best fits this BuGa, it would be this:

Plants bring us creativity. We find ways to protect them and let them grow, they will in turn find creative ways to help us. If we start finding creative ways to help them, we will be rewarded in the end.

Click here to find out how you can purchase a ticket for the 2021 German Garden Show (BuGa) in Erfurt. There are plenty of rates available for people of all ages and groups. They also include the free usage of public transportation, which includes all of Erfurt’s buses and trams, but also for the VMT, which includes train service along the Jena-Weimar-Erfurt-Eisenach corridor as well as within Thuringia.

Hotels in Erfurt may be too expensive. Therefore other lodging possibilities in small towns between Erfurt and Weimar as well as to the north and west should be considered. As a tip, call the hotels and bed and breakfasts directly instead of booking through Booking.com for a direct call will give you cheaper rates than with online booking.

The 2021 German Garden Show in Erfurt runs from April 23rd through October 10th.  Afterwards, the next Garden Show will be held in 2023 in Mannheim.

A photo exhibit of the 2021 BuGa taken by the author and his family can be found by clicking here. Enjoy the pics! 🙂

Christmas Pyramid: Fun Facts and Activities

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One of the main features of Christmas in Germany are the Pyramids. Christmas pyramids have existed for centuries but can be found at every Christmas market big and small. Even some markets in other countries have adopted the pyramid as one of the key attractions for tourists to see, especially as the blades are turning, powered by candles.

But what are they, really?

To answer that, I’ve compiled a pair of activities for you to try out. They include a Guessing Quiz and a wordfind with some words describing figures that you will most likely see in a pyramid. An answer sheet is enclosed so that you can display the colorful murals on the white board while answering the questions on a sheet of paper.

The answer sheet can be found by clicking here. Without further ado, have fun with the activities that you are about to do. 🙂

Christmas Pyramid Fun Facts Part 3

BONUS QUESTION:  Which motif is most likely found on every Christmas pyramid?

a. Nativity set with the Birth of Jesus

b. Winter landscape

c. Miners and angels

d. The Church of our Lady (Frauenkirche) in Dresden?

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The printable worksheets you can download via pininterest here:

Christmas Pyramid Fun Facts Part 3a

Christmas Pyramid Gun Facts Part 5

If you don’t have pininterest, you can access the worksheets via link below:

https://www.canva.com/design/DADuEEup26I/Rz1FBuIT8MMQv8fVLusAow/view?utm_content=DADuEEup26I&utm_campaign=designshare&utm_medium=link&utm_source=sharebutton

For both versions, just simply save as jpeg, then open before you print. 🙂

Please keep in mind that although the words in the Wordfind and the diagram can be used only once, there is one word in the worksheet in the Pyramid diagram that can be used twice. Can you find that word? thinking-face_1f914

Seasons eatings

Christmas Market Tour 2019: Waldenburg (Saxony)

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We have read a lot about Christmas markets in big cities, like Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Hamburg, and Frankfurt and their large selection of goodies and entertainment. We’ve also looked at those in medium-sized communities with populations between 40,000 and 250,000 people, thus putting the likes of Flensburg, Kiel, Erfurt, Zwickau, Weimar and the like on the list. For those who don’t like big town settings and would rather narrow it down to more local traditions with a cozy atmosphere, these would be better options, especially if they include castles with their medieval market setting.

Yet smaller communities, namely those with 2,000 to 10,000 people can also surprise visitors with specialties that are homemade and are worth taking with to give to your loved ones. There is one market in particular that represents a classic example of one that offers a wide array of hand-made crafts and homemade goodies- all in one setting; and ironically, all in one castle.

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The community of Waldenburg in western Saxony, is located six kilometers northeast of Glauchau along the River Zwickau Mulde. It has over 4400 inhabitants and has a castle that dates back to the 12th century but whose current structure was built during the Renaissance era. The castle overlooks the river valley and parts of the community, yet it is located just down the hill from the town’s historic city center- characterized by its triangular shaped island surrounded by streets and historic buildings and decorated with a fountain. At Christmas time, a pyramid occupies the spot where the fountain is located. The square also has a couple shops and a historic town hall.

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Waldenburg’s Christmas market is located at the castle. For one weekend and at a price of two Euros per person, one can enjoy the whole day at the castle, looking at handcrafted items made of ceramics, fabrics, wood, glass, bee’s wax and stone, including incense houses, pyramids, mining set, ceramic money holders, figures from the Nativity set, bowls, dish set and the like. These items are locally made from Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg. The examples are many but some examples can be found here as well as in the links at the end of the article. The market is arranged in a way that the front court yard is surrounded with huts arranged in a horseshoe fashion with huts extending along the longer, eastern end going down the hill. At the bottom of the hill where one can see the castle from below, scenes from the fairy tales line up along the path which takes you to the stairs leading to the castle from the river side. Most of the fairytales originate from the Grimm Brothers series. The booths don’t stop at the courtyard. As you walk into the castle, one will find more of them in the basement section on one side. On the other side, there are separate rooms where children can either bake their own cookies or paint a white ceramic product with tutors standing by to help. There’s a chapel where dances and concerts take place. Finally, when leaving the castle, one will not miss the giant, 3.5 meter tall Christmas tree in the entry hall (Halle).

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What’s untypical of Waldenburg’s Christmas market are the many kinds of Christmas punch served there, which are non-alcoholic. Normally, alcoholic beverages, including the many types of mulled wine, outnumber the non-alcoholic kind by a margin of 10:1. Here at this market, the ratio is only 2:1. There are many reasons for the wider than usual selection. One is because of no train service going through the community, thus limiting the options to either bike or car. The other is the wide selection of booths that sell their products; all but a couple of them are homemade. There are two types of punch that I would recommend: one with quince (Quitten) and the other with apple and cinnamon. Both are sweet but they keep you warm for awhile. It was a necessity for our visit as the town received a dusting of snow and was at the freezing point for much of the day. For those who cannot get away from the market without a warm drink, Waldenburg definitely has the selection.

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Another plus that is worth recommending are foods from France. At the time of our visit, Waldenburg and Noyelles-lès-Vermelles were celebrating their 50th anniversary of their partnership. And what is typical of France are the different types of cheese, wine and even beer. If many consider German beer to be good, they haven’t tried the French beer, like Leffe, Ste. Etienne or Jelain. Especially the Christmas beer as it had a herbal taste to it that was hearty and good with any meat or bread. Also special (but didn’t try it) was the chicoree soup, which is typical of French soups. The partnership has played a big role in Waldenburg’s education system, for the European School is located directly in town and offers classes in German, French and English, along with other languages of Asia and Europe. Students from different nationalities attend this school if they decline to attend the schools in Glauchau or Meerane; the former has the public school system, the latter has the Saxony International School.

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If you are not up to hot soups and dishes that are offered at the stands, a snack that is making its popularity at the markets are the potato-tornadoes. They consist of potatoes that are peeled to the middle, like a spiral, and then placed on a stick and fried. The crispiness is on the same level as the Hungarian Langosch but the taste is like potato crisps from Great Britain, especially if they are sprinkled with curry or paprika. It was the first time seeing this at a Christmas market but it will not be the last, especially if the likes of Friweika continue to be innovative and create different kinds of fried potatoes to compete with the likes of any meat roast (or wraps) with red cabbage.

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Inspite the positives that the Waldenburg Christmas Market has to offer, there are a pair of critical points to address to make the market much more attractive. As mentioned at the beginning, Waldenburg has around 4400 inhabitants, and its town setting is typical of that in Saxony, Bavaria, Thuringia and Hesse- very close with problems finding parking. With the Waldenburg market, parking is the biggest problem, for even though a parking lot exists across the castle, it is not only filled up almost instantly, the parking spaces along the side streets are filled to a point where it is almost difficult for cars to even drive on the streets. It’s comparable to the Rettungsgasse (Emergency Lane) that can be found on the German Motorway- one lane open and little room to maneuver, yet high risks of an accident if a car blocks your lane. And while one can face hundreds of Euros in fines and receive points in Flensburg for blocking the Rettungsgasse, it’s hard to fine someone if he parks as close to the curb as possible without ruining the tires or smacking a tree, while risking blocking the street for passing cars in general; that is unless there is a parking ordinance in place.

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As the Christmas market is on one weekend, there is a risk of overfilling it with people and cars. We were fortunate enough to arrive at the opening of the market, which was 10:00am. By the time we left, five hours later, the place was becoming overfilled. Part of it has to do with the fact that the market closes at 6:00pm on each of the days open. Given the proximity to the likes of Glauchau, Meerane, Zwickau, Chemnitz, Crimmitschau and Werdau, it is understandable to have a Christmas market on one weekend, coordinating it with the neighboring communities to allow local businesses and artists to attend. But sometimes one wonders if one weekend is not enough; especially as Zwickau and Chemnitz have theirs during the entire Advent period and Werdau and Crimmitschau have theirs for only a week. Only Glauchau and Meerane have theirs for one weekend.

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But what about if Waldenburg would have theirs for two weekends or even the entire time?

 

As I reported on Frankenmuth, Michigan, the policy of expansion and marketing by the likes of Bronner and Zehnder not only saved the Franconian community near Lake Huron, it also attracted more visitors every year. Even the Christmas Market, which was introduced in 2005, has become an attraction in the winter time, adding it to the tree with ornaments full of events to do in the community. Waldenburg already has an establishment of having two types of markets during the year: a pottery market and an arts and crafts market. Building off from that one can try and expand the Christmas market in the sense of space and time. For space purposes, it could include the historic old town and even the parking area, but it would come with closing off the area to all traffic and utilizing the open space at the castle grounds next to the river as well as some other parking areas for parking. Wishful thinking would be a shuttle service to the market from Glauchau or Meerane so that one can leave their cars at the respective cities and use the bus, without having to worry about parking. For time purposes, there are two options worth experimenting. The first is having it for 1-2 weeks, as seen in Crimmitschau and Werdau. The second is having it only on Advent weekends. This is practiced at the Osterstein Castle in Zwickau, which has been hosting the markets since 2009. Both have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of traffic and business. Especially for the former, for only main highway passes through the city center enroute to Hohenstein-Ernstthal.

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To ensure the passage is cleared so that business can be conducted during the week, it is perhaps not a bad idea to have the markets on multiple weekends. There are three reasons behind expanding the Christmas markets onto weekends only: 1. There’s normally not much business in Waldenburg during the weekend, so the streets could be closed off during that time. 2. It’s more likely to attract visitors visiting the market and the castle on weekends than on weekdays; even if there are non-Christmas events at the castle, there is a chance to share space and time so that people can visit both- hence the expansion of the market to the city center. And lastly 3. There is a chance to coordinate services between Glauchau, Meerane, Crimmitschau and Werdau to encourage people to visit the markets without having to rush to one just because they are open during a weekend. People could visit all these markets during the Advent season while not losing commerce during that time but most importantly, not congesting the streets. To sum up, more space and more possibilities to visit the market in Waldenburg beyond the lone weekend will be beneficial to the community and businesses who would like to sell their products.

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According to sources, this is the third time Waldenburg has hosted the Christmas market at the castle. And given the number of people attending the market and its 50+ stands full of local goods and handcrafted products, this will not be the last one that will take place. The market has the potential of attracting many and competing with the neighboring markets. What it takes to succeed however require more than just one weekend to host it. It will requiring cooperation with other Christmas markets in neighboring towns plus a better infrastructure in order to attract more people by not just encouraging them to see all of them during the Advent period.

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For a market like Waldenburg, it requires a lot of time to spend there, enjoying the foods, buying local and even doing some crafting for your loved ones. For all ages, the market at Waldenburg is a must-see for Christmas.

 

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Aside from the markets, Waldenburg is also a guest of a Christmas market in Waldenburg/ Hohenlohe. It’s located in the Schwabian Hall district in Baden-Wurttemberg near the conglomerate of Heilbronn. That market is also held for one weekend in a castle and includes businesses from there, Waldenburg in Switzerland and its partner city, Sierck-les-Bains in France.

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You can see all the Pictures of Waldenburg’s Christmas Market at the Castle via

Google Photos:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/moQ4seMkQkKPAV698

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/The-Flensburg-Files-421034214594622/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2872365279461491

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Seasons eatings

Photo Flick 1989 Nr. 11

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Photo taken by Kristin Krahmer

This Photo Flick ties together the Berlin Wall and the holiday season all into one. The Fall of the Wall and the subsequent domino effect which brought down Communism 30 years ago was like the biggest Christmas present that everyone had been waiting for since the Wall was put up.  While Walther Ulbricht stated as an excuse “No one had the intention to build the Wall,” when it was erected on 22 August, 1961, the people trapped by the wall didn’t have the intention to tear it down. All they wanted to do is see their families again, who were separated by the concrete and steel plates that had separated not only Berlin, but also Germany and Europe.

No one had the intention to forget the Wall in its entirety, but we move on with our lives, bidding farewell with the past and moving forward to the future. This was seen with Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, one of the sites where the Wall once stood. Once seen as the battleground fought over and between walls, the area has developed into a busy commerce, where modern architecture, shopping opportunities, business and commerce and even markets have taken over. An underground station, as seen in this pic above, now takes over in place of the walls, barbed wiring and border towers. It is like no one wants to remember this event.  Still, history seems to repeat itself elsewhere, which is why a segment of the Wall still stands to this day, as a vivid reminder of what walls can do to a country, its regions and most importantly, the families and friends affected.

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Check out the Files’ Christmas Market Tour of Potsdamer Platz, written in 2013 and containing history of this now unknown place with a past that is almost forgotten. Click here.  As today marks the start of Christmas season, check out the Files on tour as it has several markets on its list for this year, some of it with a little taste of history and heritage. You can check out its previous Christmas market tours, which includes some quizzes on Christmas. Click here to enter. Enjoy! 🙂

FlFi Christmas 2018

Berlin Wall: Keeping the Memory Alive

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FlFi FTA

 

Germany has had some problems keeping the memories of the past alive. This goes back to the end of World War II and the topic involving the German Question: “Who are We?” and “What can History teach us from this ordeal.”  While we struggle to keep the memorials devoted to the Holocaust alive to remind ourselves of what happened during Hitler’s Reign of Terror, others elect to eradicate it- either because it was too traumatizing to even talk about it (the German Population suffered as much as the Jews and Minorities that were persecuted and suffered in concentration camps) or because it is considered  “harmlos”, something that is a typical genocide because other countries have witnessed it and the people who lived through this have long passed.

The same holds true for the time after the War, as two Germanys were divided for another 45 years, 21 of which was through a series of concrete walls, barbed wiring and border guards, ordered to shoot escapees on site, who wanted to flee to the West. During the time of East Germany, the people were under surveillance by the Stasi and tortured if they were suspected of not behaving like a communist.

While many of the people living during that time are beginning to pass, we’re being confronted with keeping the memories of 1989 alive. It was an iconic moment, for the Walls that cut Germany and its capital Berlin into two have come down, yet thanks to the increase of development through urbanization and modernization, much of the memories of the Wall and the Events that led its the Fall are starting to fade, being pushed into the backburner. People born on or after 1989 have little recolection of the events that ushered the new republic of Germany and with that, the new world order, as far as Democracy is concerned.  For many, they have the mentality of “History is History; It’s the Future we’re concerned with.”

In this documentary, Richard Quest of the American news network CNN looks at the Berlin Wall in the present and two generations with different mindsets: those who have experienced it and those who were born afterwards. The goal is to bridge the gap between the two so that this important event is passed down to the next generations in order to understand the significance of the event. This was produced in 2012 as part of the series Future Cities.

Link: https://edition.cnn.com/videos/business/2012/03/26/future-cities-berlin-quest-urban-landscape.cnn

 

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Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

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Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Photo by Kristin Krahmer

 

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From art exhbitions to dance performances, here are 10 ways to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the event.

Source: Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

 

Furthermore, a conference talking about the Fall of the Berlin Wall and its implications 30 years later will take place this Weekend in Berlin.

Details: http://www.berlinwall30.de/index.php?en_conference_agenda

And for a solid week, celebrations will be taking place in and around Berlin to celebrate this Special Occasion.

Details here:  https://www.visitberlin.de/en/event/30th-anniversary-peaceful-revolution-fall-wall

Even if it’s for a day or two, the trip to Berlin for the celebrations is worth it. 🙂

 

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Photo Flick 1989 Nr. 3: Oberbaumbrücke

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Co-written with sister column   bhc-logo-newest1

The third Photo Flick in connection with the Revolution 1989 is basically a throwback to 2010 and it takes us to the Oberbaumbrücke, which spans the River Spree on the east side of Berlin, between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. Built in 1896 under the direction of Otto Stahn, the bridge is one of Berlin’s key landmarks because of its gothic design. It’s a key crossing for subways (U-bahn) and car traffic. But it was one of the key symbols of division during the Cold War. From 1961 until the Fall of the Wall in November 1989, the concrete wall went right through the roadway portion of the bridge, and even though the structure was badly damaged and a truss span was built for U-bahn traffic, that track was barricaded shut, thus almost effectively halting passage to West-Berlin except through the border controls on the Kreuzberg side of the bridge.  Shortly after the Wall fell, the bridge was rebuilt, piece by piece to resemble its original form before World War II.

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View of the Oberbaumbrücke from the TV Tower. The East Side Gallery is on the left side of the Spree. 

Regardless of whether it can be seen along the river or even from the TV-Tower from a sniper’s view, looking at the bridge today, almost nothing is left of the Wall that cut the bridge (and Berlin) into half. Much of the area that used to be heavily patrolled with tanks, watch towers and guards have been heavily built with modern buildings with businesses, large and small, occupying the area. One of them buildings houses Universal Music Company, part of the Universal Studios consortium based in the States.

Yet it doesn’t mean the relicts have disappeared altogether. Two important points of interest still exist and should be visited while in Berlin. The first one is the East Side Gallery, a 1300 meter (4300 foot) section of the Berlin Wall that features open air art; the sections created by over 100 artists both before and after 1989. The stretch is on the Friedrichshain side of the former Wall, stretching from the bridge to Ostbahnhof Railway Station. It was renovated recently (in 2010) and is open to the public. A watch tower is included as part of the exhibit, just as much as one at the bridge itself, which was sitting empty at the time of the photo but has most likely been removed.

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The former Watch Tower on the Friedrichshain side of the bridge. 

The Oberbaumbrücke is a symbol of architecture that has withstood the test of time and the history that includes years of division. For architects, artists and bridge lovers, it’s a work of art. For educators, it is a classic example of how it became a “Borders to Bridges” story in light of going from a divided Germany and Europe into a united one. For the rest, it’s a symbol of Berlin and how it brings people together from all aspects of life. It’s definitely one worth visiting.

 

More on the bridge’s history can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oberbaum_Bridge

Information on the East Side Gallery and its paintings can be found here: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Side_Gallery

It’s part of the Tour Guide on the Bridges of Berlin, which you can click here:  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/berlin-the-bridges-and-the-wall/

 

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Christmas Market Tour 2018: Plauen (Vogtland)

Our last stop on the 2018 Christmas market tour keeps us in the state of Saxony but takes us way out west, to the wildest of west, namely the Vogtland. The reason we say this is for three reasons: 1. The Vogtland region is laden with rich forests, a large number of reservoirs and lakes and hills. For some of the rivers in the region, such as the White Elster, Zwickau Mulde, Eger and other notable creeks, the region is their starting point. 2. The region is rustic with wooden houses along the countryside, buildings with wooden facades, etc. Despite it being a part of East Germany with its communist housing, the region has a lot of attractions, competing with the likes of the Fichtel Mountains in Franconia (Bavaria), Thuringian Forest and even the Ore Mountains (Czech and German sides). 3. As far as activities are concerned, the Vogtland is filled with outdoor activities year round, including skiing, horseback riding, biking and hiking, just to name a few. And lastly, the Vogtland is the archrival to the Ore Mountain regions in terms of woodcrafting. Especially with regards to Christmas arches (Schwibbogen), pyramids, and other figurines typical of Christmas, the Vogtlanders pride themselves on their work and there has been a debate as to which regions these products were made, let alone their origins.

But that is for another time.

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The largest city in the Vogtland is our focus of the Christmas market and is one that has a tradition and a history. Plauen has a population of 65,400 inhabitants and is the second closest city in Saxony to the Czech border behind Oberwiesenthal. At one time, the population had been hovering over 120,000 inhabitants before the two World Wars decimated much of it. Since 1945, it has been under the mark and decreasing steadily as people have emigrated away for better jobs in neighboring Bavaria and in bigger cities. It is 30 kilometers northeast of the nearest city of Hof (also in Bavaria) but 45 kilometers southwest of Zwickau. The White Elster River as well as the Syra and Mühlgraben flow through the city, and the city is rich with historic bridges, big and small, spanning them in and around the city. They include (in the city) the Friendensbrücke, the second oldest known bridge in Saxony in the Alte Elsterbrücke (built in 1228) and the brick stone viaducts at Syratal and Elstertal. The Göltzschtalbrücke, which is located 10 kilometers to the north, is the largest viaduct of its kind ever built.  Apart from three federal highways, Plauen is also served by the Motorway 72, as well as three different raillines, including the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate, the Elster route going to Gera and Leipzig as well as the Vogtland route going to Cheb (CZ).

Despite having lost 75% of its buildings during the waning days of World War II through ariel bombings, much of Plauen’s architecture has been rebuilt to its former glory and still functions for its original purposes. This includes several churches, such as the Johanniskirche, Lutherkirche, and Pauluskirche, the Nonnenturm, the castle ruins of Schloss Plauen, the two city halls- one built in 1385; the other in 1922 which features a tower with clock- and several other historic buildings flanking the two market squares- Altmarkt and Klostermarkt.

Plauen has a lot to take pride in- its green hills and valleys, its beer, its theater and  orchestra, but it is world famous for its Plauener Spitze, a type of pattern fabric that is carefully orchestrated by needles and other cutting tools. An example of such a Spitze can be found here:

Source: Tex8 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Inspite of this, Plauen is also famous for its Christmas market, which is the largest in the region. It covers three-fourths of the city center, covering Altmarkt, extending along Obere Steinweg and Rathausstrasse, part of Klostermarkt and ending at the shopping center Stadtgallerie. Yet most of the shopping and eating possibilities can be found at Altmarkt and the shopping center. Because of parking issues, only the tree and some street performances were found during my visit at Klostermarkt.

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At Klostermarkt

Another area in the city center that was somewhat left out was the area around the church, Johanniskirche. While church services commenorating the birth of Christ, combined with concerts, were taking place there, the lot was empty with no cars around. Given its size, there could have been some potential to have some religious exhibits and/or booths in and around the church to encourage people to visit them before or after visiting the church. This was something that was found at some other Christmas markets, most notably in Glauchau and Zwickau as well as in some places in Berlin, Dresden and Nuremberg.

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Johanniskirche and Kirchplatz, next to Altmarkt

To summarize in that aspect, the space availability for Christmas market booths and events is somewhat misaligned and the focus should be less on consumption and more on the holiday and religious traditions that Plauen offers and what is typical for the Vogtland region. That means aside from the church area, Klosterplatz should be filled in a bit with some booths and other holiday events and less glamour for the shopping area for Christmas markets are an outdoor event and not indoor.  A note to some of the city planners for future reference.

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Stadtgallerie Shopping Center

Aside from this, the market itself features a combination of shopping possibilities in the Stadtgallerie and traditional products and foods in the Altmarkt. Both market appear to be well-decorated, with the Stadtgallerie having somewhat too much glamour with the Christmas decorations, thus creating more traffic for shoppers than what is needed at the market itself. Again, an imbalance that needs to be corrected. The Altmarkt itself is perhaps the nicest of the Christmas market in Plauen. The booths consist of small mahogany huts made with real wood from the Vogtland region, all decorated with spruce and pine tree branches as well as other forms of decorations. There are several picnic tables and benches, all made of cut-up wood; some of them have shelters in case of inclimate weather.

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Altmarkt

Much of what the Christmas market at Altmarkt offers is local specialties, such as the woodwork products made in the Vogtland, such as the pyramid, Christmas arch, incense products and figurines that are religious based. For eateries, the market offers not only local foods and drink, but also some international products. Most popular at the market include the Bemme- a bread with fat and pickles, in come cases with liver sausage. Then there is the Baumkuckenspitze, a layered, donut-shaped cake covered in chocolate; some of which with a thin-filling. Holzofenbrot that is cooked in a wood-burning oven is one that is most recommended, and one of the booths had a mixture of both local and international specialties. Especially in the cold weather, these bread products with are really good and filling.

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As we’re talking about international specialties, the market offers products from the Middle East and parts in Europe. Included in the mix is from the Netherlands, where I had a chance to try different kinds of Gouda cheese- those that are sometimes 2 years old and more than ripe. Regardless of what kind, the cheese is highly recommended, and the salespeople selling them, we had a chance to talk about different cultures between Germany, the US and the Netherlands. Their booth features a good place to chat, where even Father Christmas and the angel can entertain themselves over cheese:

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Apart from two different pyramids- one of which is over a century old, one can also spend time at the Spitzenmuseum at the older city hall, which by the way provides a great backdrop to the market together with the tower of the newer city hall, which one can tour the place and enjoy the view of the city and its landscape.

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Christmas tree on the side of the Old City Hall/ Spitzenmuseum with a century-old pyramid

Plauen’s Christmas market features a combination of culture and history all in a historical setting. Culture is in reference to the local products that are offered, especially at the Altmarkt, and history is in reference to the historic setting the market has- to the south, the church and to the north, the two city halls. The market is well-visited and is not so crowded, although my visit was after the first Advent. Yet the magnet of the shopping center next door does raise some concern as to how to balance out the visitors and better utilize the space of Plauen’s city center. Having open but unused space makes a city center rather empty, especially at the time of the Christmas market. However, when planned better and through cooperation with retailers and property owners, Plauen can have a well-balanced Christmas market that is well-balanced in terms of visitors but also whose themes would make it attractive to visitors coming from Saxony, Germany, Czech Republic and beyond……

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Rathausstrasse going to Stadtgallerie

Photos of the Plauen Christmas Market can be viewed via facebook (click here) and Google (click here)

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Christmas Market Tour 2018- Zwickauer Schlossweihnachten

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A couple years ago in 2016, I had a chance to tour the town of Zwickau and write about its Christmas market. Located in the city center at two different market squares, the Christmas market presented a combination of anything that is typical of the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) combined with local folklore and local specialties that were not only typical of the region, but also very delicious. More on that you’ll find here. 🙂

Yet as the market expanded during my most recent visit in 2018, and in connection with the city’s 900th anniversary, there is another Christmas market in Zwickau that is just off the main highway and lured me there as I was with my family during a visit. Here, one needs no more than a 10 minute walk from the main market to this historic site…..

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Schloss Osterstein! 🙂

Mentioned for the first time in the history books in 1297, the castle used to be one of the centerpieces of Zwickau, housing three dynasties before it was vacated in 1770 and later converted into a prison, where prominent people, including writer Karl May, were locked up for their offenses. In the 1960s, the East German government converted the former complex into a washing complex, which lasted only 15 years. By 1980 the complex was abandoned, and for 26 years, it became a focus of a heated debate as to whether it was sensible to keep the complex and renovate it, or just tear it down altogether. Finally in 2006, the green light was given by the city council to restore the castle to its former glory, a project that took over two years to complete. The castle is a combination museum and center of the arts, featuring a courtyard, art gallery and an theater stage for performances by some well-known/ local personalities.

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The Schlossweihnachten at the castle has been going on since 2010, but it is one that has received lots of visits and great reviews. The market takes place only on the Advent weekends from Friday through Sunday in the afternoon and evening hours. Originally, the market featured booths and eateries in the main court. The Christmas tree is flanked with Schwibbogen (Christmas arches) with the murals representing the cities in Saxony (Zwickau included) as well as the Ore Mountains, Vogtland and places along the Mulde, which flows through Zwickau. Booths offering food and handcraft items surround the tree in a circle.

Yet 2018 marked the first time that market extended to include the Schlossgraben on the west side, where the bridge to the castle is located. Some of the booths and other places were also at the eastern entrance facing the street and inside the building itself, thus allowing for people to have a closer look at the castle on the inside and out. Part of this extension has to do with the extensive renovations that were being carried out on one of the wings of the castle.  Nevertheless, with parking scarce at the castle because of areas restricted to only customers of a local grocery store combined with residents of the nearby condos, it was highly recommended to use the city’s numerous parking garages encircling the market square and then take the 10-15 minutes to walk there. The nearest park house is at Centrum, just off the main highway.

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Inside (and around) the castle there were a lot of products offered that had to do with handcrafts mainly from the region. Whether it was made from paper, stones or other materials, shoppers had a chance to either purchase them or even make some on their own. It depends on what they were looking for: Christmas cards, tree decorations, soap products, honey, braceletts and necklaces, or winter clothing. They even had ceramics either for dining or in a shape of figurines, such as Christmas angels and manger sets. Many of them carried white and red colors, which are typical colors for Christmas (alongside the green). And while woodworking was rare to find at this market, they also had the traditional Schwibbogen and pyramids on hand, both in the traditional form with candles and/or incandescent lights but also in LED. The main outtake from this tour was homemade and with some class from the locals who put a lot of time and effort into making them for the market.

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And if it wasn’t enough, the market was loaded with fire bins, where people can warm their hands over the fire or even roast some of the local foods that were there. The market has a lot of meat and bread products that are handmade and from the fire-ovens, thus resembling memories of camping with an open bonfire. This was useful, especially for children, as the market had enough to offer them for both indoors as well as outdoors. For outdoors there is a sledding ramp, where kids can slide down with rafting tubes, yet they had outdoor performances on stage and were also greeted by Santa Claus, who came around to visit the kids daily.  The visit is not complete without taking home a custom-made Christmas market ceramic cup with the slogan on there in either black or white with contrasting writing, again all homemade but a souvenir that represents a well-worth visit.

The Schlossweihnacht at Osterstein Castle in Zwickau represents a combination of history and locality, all in the city of Zwickau. It is different from the main market in a way that everything that is offered for eateries and products are homemade and from the region, but it is family friendly in a way that whatever the child (and the parent) is looking for that is not commercialized can be found here. Children can enjoy making or buying hand-made products, watching Christmas fairy tales on stage and doing some fun activities. Adults can enjoy a little bit of food and drink and some good company in a place that one can call “home” after many years of neglect. A visit to Zwickau’s Christmas market is definitely not complete without a couple hours at this castle- conveniently located so one cannot miss it.

 

fast fact logo More than 1.5 million visitors visited Zwickau to celebrate its 900th anniversary in 2018. With a population of 98,000 inhabitants, the city is famous for its churches, culture and even the bridges. A guide on the city’s bridges you wll find here.

You’ll find more photos of this Christmas market by clicking here. 🙂

 

FlFi Christmas 2018