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! 🙂

Berlin Wall: Keeping the Memory Alive

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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- 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

Cool Christmas Ideas 1: Mind Games

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Christmas has become the time where electronics have dominated our lives, literally. It seems that wherever we go, we always find that nothing works without the use of robots, internet or any sort of technology. Everything is all run electronically and we don’t have to use our brain. Did you know that we use only 30% of our brain on a daily basis, and we don’t know what for, aside from the basic motor skills, the usual routines and the like. The rest of the brain mass left aside is inert, like a vegetative state. With that majority we have our creativity, our logic and the problem-solving skills both on paper as well as in praxis. In other words, we have more convenience than logic

This leads to the question of what gifts are available that will train the person’s logic and challenge them with problem-solving WITHOUT the use of any sort of computer or electronics, whatsoever?

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Enter two woodworkers who have teamed up to create some “hands-on” toys and other games for families to enjoy. The first one is Constantins Rätsel Werkstatt, located in Liel (Schliegen) in Baden-Württemberg. Its founder, Jean-Claude Constantin is a staunch opponent of massive production, internet sales and “big business” and as a result, he has used his expertise in woodworking, combined with the use of Querdenken (logical thinking) and a philosophy of human-to-human interaction to create some unique handmade games and other items which will lead people to spend time to break the codes, unlock the most impossible locks and solve some hard problems.

Joining him in the creation of some unique games is a woodworking firm deep in the heart of the German state of Thuringia called Kokolores Knobelwerkstatt. Founded in 2016, the company has a hand full of workers who have been supported by Constantin in creating some mind-boggling games, following his concept but having a lots of fun doing that and presenting people with a challenge at the Christmas markets.

Currently based at the Christmas markets in Wiesbaden, Mainz and Jena, there is a chance that if the sales are successful that they could expand to add a few Christmas markets, although the principle is to make the presence on a low scale to encourage people to visit their booths. There are enough reasons to do that.

Mazes, games that unlock “secret passages”, boxes with specials keys, locks that take a genius to unlock, and all kind of wild games- all of them have a duo purpose: to reactivate and make use of one’s logical thinking skills while requiring some creative thought and lots of luck, but also to give a person a chance to work with them with a lot of fun and passion for hours on end. All of them are handmade and put together with a lot of thought and passion to it.

I could go on forever talking about them and my experiences, combined with that that my wife and daughter both had, but it would take a couple more pages to write about the highlights. Plus it would spoil the fun for others wishing to find that perfect but challenging gift. Plus apart from what the cashier at the Christmas market in Jena mentioned: “They are really cool activities that you can spend hours of fun with,” it would be nice to allow others to go to the booths and try for themselves. So henceforth, have a look at the pics and if you are in the area of Jena, Mainz or Wiesbaden, go to the booth at their respective Christmas markets and give them a try. You will never go wrong with finding a present that requires the “natural” e-brain of a human to do the work and train it, instead of the plastic and metal version we see every day in front of us on our desks.

You will thank them for it.

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FlFi Christmas 2018

Photo Flick Nr. 8

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For the first Advent here’s a cool Photo Flick for you. Imagine this scene: An angel and Father Christmas, the more athletic and European version of Santa Claus are sitting at the table at a Christmas market. What do you think they are saying to each other?

 

Here’s an additional hint to add to the conversation:

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Share your stories and take a guess at where in Germany will a person find the Christmas market where this scene takes place. The answer will come soon! 🙂

Happy First Advent! 😀 ❤

FlFi Christmas 2018

 

Santa Goes Shopping- Kaufland Commercial ’18

 

With the holiday season around the corner, we have Father Christmas (Santa Claus) in action, as seen in the Christmas commercial presented by German supermarket chain Kaufland. This was released shortly before Thanksgiving and even though it is a tradition over here in Germany to have food chains to release commercials with special themes just in time for the holiday season, this one is special as Germany, like many countries in Europe, is latching onto the Black Friday tradition, where people line up in front of malls and major stores to get the best deals for Christmas. The difference here is that Kaufland, like many store chains, are introducing Black Week. Taking place at the same time as Thanksgiving, Black Week shoppers can find the best deals both in stores as well as online- mostly through Amazon, who may have started this tradition. Whether it is a good idea to order online or not remains to be open, but if Father Christmas keeps huffing and puffing to get everything last minute, he won’t have to worry about weight loss come Christmas time. It’s just a matter of persuading people perceiving him as fat and jolly that being slim and active is a wonderful thing. 😉

 

So let’s shop and celebrate smart, shall we?

 

The Flensburg Files is about to go on tour to the Christmas markets again, as the first one opens after Thanksgiving. To look at the previous places visited, click here.

There is also a collection of other Christmas stories, films and poems in the Literature and Genre section. Click here and scroll down, there are some funny ones worth seeing.

While the Christmas market tour will include some catching up from last year (the author was sick during much of the holiday season last year), it will include some cool activities for you to try out, not to mention a couple things to think about- the author sometimes has to get them off his chest and many can benefit from it.

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Christmas Market Tour 2010: Frankfurt (Main)

Despite having to put up with overcrowding trains as well as trains arriving two hours later, I did make it to the last Christmas market on my places to visit list- in Frankfurt am Main.  A couple of interesting points about Frankfurt that one should know about: First and foremost, there are two Frankfurts- one in the western half of Germany in the state of Hesse, and one in the far eastern part of the state on the border to Poland. When the Iron Curtain sliced the two Germanys into two resulting in 45 years of hostility between the Communists and the Westerners, the people in the eastern part of Germany (known at the time as the German Democratic Republic) could not imagine that region to not have a town called Frankfurt. Therefore, they fought to keep the name Frankfurt, which after the Reunification of 1990 became known as Frankfurt an der Oder. Both Main and Oder are rivers that flow through the cities respectively.  Another point about Frankfurt am Main that is well-known is the fact that the city is the third largest in Germany (in terms of the population), is the headquarters of the European Central Bank and the German Stock Exchange (DAX), but yet despite being the largest city in Hesse with a population of over 600,000 (minus the metropolitan area), it is not the capital of the state. That honor goes to the one of the Twin Cities straddling the Main and Rhein Rivers, Wiesbaden (ironically, its sister on the other side of the rivers, Mainz is the capital of Rheinland Palatinate).

The Frankfurt Christmas Market, which is located along the Main River at Römerplatz between the St. Paul’s and St. Nicolas Cathedrals was touted by many as the cream of the crop with regards to the Christmas markets in Germany- even more popular than the Nürnberger Christkindlsmarkt. Yet still, despite its size and various shops located in three different areas around the two churches, the market still offers the same goods as the ones in Nuremberg and Erfurt, which doesn’t really make it that spectacular to begin with. Furthermore, for those who are claustrophobic, most of the area is located in tight quarters, which does not provide for some breathing room to manoever; especially when it is on a Saturday, when most of the people do their Christmas shopping. It is even more depressing when the weather is gloomy, as it was the case when I visited the market. And finally, for those wanting to stay longer at the Christmas market- meaning beyond closing time for most shops- so that they can enjoy their last cup of Glühwein, they are more or less screwed for when the clock strikes 9:00 at night, the shops and food/drink areas close almost simultaneously! It is not like in Bayreuth, where Winterdorf is open longer than the shops, or in Erfurt where every food and beverage stand is open longer than the shops (even at Domplatz). This caused some considerable anger among those wanting to grab one more Glühwein or visit one more food stand only to find that the lights are shut off and the windows and doors hastily shut right before their eyes! I found the experience to be rather disappointing for someone who has visited the market for the first time but has seen other Christmas markets that were more flexible and relaxed than this one. I can imagine when the market is open and in full action that a person can get a considerable amount of aggression after a short time, which is easily comparable to the market in Nuremberg although the latter is more genuine than the one 3 hours to the west (by train, that is). For a person living in or near Frankfurt and does not like to travel that much, this market will provide people with a taste of typical German goods, although almost all of them originate from the south and far northwest of the city. However, if one wants to see a real market and find genuine goods, than they should look elsewhere as there are enough places to go around. It does not mean that a person should avoid the Frankfurt Christmas Market altogether. One could use the place as a venue for meetings over Glühwein and pretzels or other local specialties from Hesse and the surrounding area. The people at the stands would benefit from listening to all kinds of negotiations that take place in front of them, while at the same time, listen and learn the different languages, such as English, French, Spanish, Arabic, etc. It is also a place for any last minute Christmas shopping ideas, although you have to put up with some elbowing and some lectures on how to be polite, which is something that many in Frankfurt have forgotten about. But like the city itself, the Christmas market is something that you see only once and never again. It is like living in the city- you only live there for a short time and then you move on to greener pastures unless you are: 1. A naturally born city slicker, or 2. You were born and raised in Frankfurt and you would never trade it in for anything else.

With that said, I went back to the hotel where I could try and get a good night’s rest before taking off for home, which is in the great state of Minnesota. As I was going back by light rail and subway, I was thinking of the events that occurred earlier in the day, where I befriended a German police officer who originates from Saxony but works in Frankfurt, and her company I got while drinking a coffee and a Glühwein, while waiting for the next ICE Train to get us to where we wanted to be. I thought to myself that good company from someone you never met before can create paths that you never knew existed. Seeing the Christmas markets in Germany are only a side dish to having some good company from your family, friends, and people you meet along the way. There are times in your life that people come in and out and don’t think about who you really are until they’re gone. However there are some who come into your life and stay there because you are who you are and they like you for that. This was probably the most rewarding effects when you go to a certain event or place, like the Christmas market in Germany.

Entering the honey shop, only to get the lights turned off as they entered and shown the door a second later.

 

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Christmas Market Tour 2010: Bayreuth

Overview with the Christmas tree Photo taken in December 2010

After putting up with the overcrowding visitors at one of the most popular Christmas markets in Germany, the next stop on the Christmas market tour is an hour to the north in a small and quiet town of Bayreuth. The capital of the region Oberfranken (Upper Franconia) is located not far from the source of the Main River, which slithers its way for over 400 kilometers down to the mouth of the Rhein River in the twin cities of Wiesbaden and Mainz (both are west of Frankfurt/Main).  Like Jena, Bayreuth is one of those forgotten cities where people pass through enroute to either Berlin or Munich along the North-South corridor A9, and there is a good reason for that. Bayreuth is one of the biggest sleeper towns in Germany with most of the recreational possibilities located in the Fichtel Mountain region to the north and east. Its population consists mainly of those ages 40 and up and even though its main attractions include the university and the places associated with Jean Paul and Richard Wagner, the town almost always sleeps early every night of the year. That means after 7:00pm, when the stores close their doors for the evening, the whole city center becomes silent in a fashion resembling Steven King’s The Langoliers- the silence when walking through its main street Maximilianstrasse is as eerie as it gets.

However, not all of Bayreuth is as silent as the airport where the passengers were stranded in, like in the film The Langoliers. There are two time periods in the year where the city of 70,000 inhabitants is the liveliest (that is, if you subtract the basketball season in the winter time and the professional basketball team BBC Bayreuth). The first one is in July, when the Wagner Festival takes place at the Festspielhaus, located on the hill overlooking most of the city. The second one is the Bayreuther Weihnachtsmarkt, which takes place the same time as the market in Nuremberg. Like the lighted garland which runs along the Maxmilianstrasse through the city center, the Christmas market consists of booths running along the main street beginning at the west end where the Hugendubel book store and the Karstadt department store are located and ending at Sternplatz on the east end, where the bar complex Winterdorf is located. While most of the booths close up early at 7:00pm every night, the Winterdorf part of the Christmas market is open until late into the night- far later than the Glühwein booths at the Christmas market in Erfurt, which really took me by surprise given the fact that Erfurt is three times as big as its Franconian counterpart and has a very stark contrast in terms of its liveliness as a whole. If one wants to try all the concoctions in the world, ranging from Feuerzangenbowle in a cup to Winter Dream, to Nürnberger Glühwein (see the attached links for the recipes of each) then Winterdorf is the place to be, where the female bar attendants are nice looking and customer friendly, and the reunions with old friends and colleagues take place. I had the opportunity to meet up with my friends and former students at the Winterdorf, as I taught for two years at the university and they were my regular customers in all the English classes I taught there. It was a fun time as we talked about our lives in English and provided each other with some laughs and memories of the times together in the classroom, drinking all the beverages possible. Many of them I still keep in touch with through all forms of communication, as I made a difference in their lives during my two years in Bayreuth, and they made my stay a memorable one.

But aside from all the memories, another reason for nominating Bayreuth as one of the pics is its improvement with regards to city planning. In the past five years, the Maximilianstrasse was converted from an underground bus station with through traffic on the surface to one which presents some unique lighting and sculptural designs with two thirds of the street now being converted into a pedestrian and bicycle zone. The bus station is now located just off the bypass Hollernzollern Ring, which runs along the Main River. During the time I was in Bayreuth, much of the street was ripped apart for the beautification process, and most of the small shops at the Christmas market were relocated along the side streets. The entire stretch of shops between the west and east ends was completely blocked off. When I visited the market this time around, it was a whole different story. New lighting, new trees lining up along the streets, and the stretch of small shops was reestablished, making the Bayreuth Christmas one of the most hidden treasures that a person has to take a couple hours to see. While many students have claimed that Bayreuth has only Richard Wagner to offer and that the city should do more to improve its image, they are only half right. Little do they realize is that Bayreuth does offer one thing that will make their stay a wonderful one, which is its Christmas market. After all, it is the place where friends meet and/or reunite and for those without a partner, one might get lucky there.

And now the last stop on the Christmas Market tour, which requires a good 400km trip down along the Main River in one of the most popular metropolises in Europe, Frankfurt am Main. But before that, here are some recipes of beverage mixes worth trying for the holidays.

Feuerzangenbowle:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feuerzangenbowle

Winter Dream:

http://www.channels.com/episodes/show/12678283/How-To-Make-The-Amaretto-Sunset

Glühwein (EN: Mulled or Spiced Wine):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulled_wine

Reference to the Langoliers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Langoliers

More pics:

West end overlooking the book store and old town hall.

Winterdorf at Sternplatz on the east end of the market

Inside Winterdorf, where the drinks run wild and the guest are even wilder.

Ah yes, the Feuerzangenbowle!

 

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