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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Germany Quiz Nr. 7: The Answers to the Quiz on Saxony-Anhalt

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After doing some research on the things that are typical and stand out for the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, many of you are wondering what the answers to the Guessing Quiz on the most sparsely populated state in Germany but also one with lots of surprises. Well, here are some facts that are worth thinking about:

 

  1. Which of the four states does Saxony-Anhalt border?   a. Thuringia   b. Brandenburg   c. Lower Saxony   d. Saxony   e. all of them

ANS: e. all of them

 

  1. List the following cities in Saxony-Anhalt in order of population, beginning with the largest:

 

ANS:  1. Halle (Saale)-232,470 

  1. Magdeburg- 232,306
  2. Dessau-Rosslau- 83,061
  3. Lutherstadt-Wittenberge- 46,621
  4. Halberstadt- 40,440
  5. Weissenfels- 39,918
  6. Bernburg- 33,633
  7. Merseburg- 33,317
  8. Naumburg (Saale)- 32,756
  9. Sangerhausen- 30,648
  10. Quedlinburg- 24,742

 

3. Match the following photos with the cities listed in Nr. 2. (Hint: Two of these belong to one city.)

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A.   Magdeburg: The World Clock Statue
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B. Magdeburg: Hundertwasser House
C. Quedlinburg: Typical Fachwerk House
The cathedral churches and the statue of George Friedrich Handel at Halle (Saale)'s city center. Photo taken in 2012
D. Halle (Saale): The City Center, Cathedrals and Statue of Handel

 

IMGP8921E. Naumburg (Saale): City Hall

 

  1. True or False: No police commissioners from the German mystery series Tatort has ever covered Saxony-Anhalt.

ANS: False: The nearest Tatort episodes were taped in Leipzig and Hannover. Interesting Fact is that another police series Polizei 110 has its venue in Magdeburg

 

  1. True or False (2 answers): The slogan for Saxony-Anhalt is Frühaufsteher, which stands for people going to work early in the morning (_____).  The people who do that (mainly farmers) are proud of that heritage (_______).

ANS: False on BOTH counts. The slogan Frühaufsteher refers to people commuting to bigger cities for work during the week but have their residence in Saxony-Anhalt. It is easy to have a word-for-word translation for this slogan and refer this to the farmers getting up at 5:00am to start their work, yet it is not true in this case.  Most of the people in Saxony-Anhalt (farmers included) hate the slogan so much that after five years, it was removed from the highways this year.

 

 

  1. True or False (3 answers) Martin Luther, the Protestant who presented the 95 Thesis harshly criticizing the Catholic Church, was born in and died in the same city (_______). His wife Katherina von Bora was not from Saxony-Anhalt originally (_______). She crafted the first champaign for him as a refresher for the brain (________).

ANS: True for the first answer- Lutherstadt Eisleben. He was born there in 1483 and died there in 1546

True for the second answer. She was born in Lippendorf in Saxony. It’s located near Leipzig.

False for the third answer. She created the first handcrafted beer for Martin Luther (see article here)

 

  1. Walter Gropius is famous for this (choose one):

_The founding of Bauhaus Dessau-Rosslau

_The creation of Worlitz Park near Dessau-Rosslau

_ The Nebra Arch

_The creation of the East German Museum in Bernburg

 ANS: A. Walter Gropius (* 1883) founded the Bauhaus University of Architecture in Dessau-Rosslau in 1919. Despite leaving his mark in architectural designs of his buildings and memorials, he emigrated to the US in 1934 after the Nazis attacked and condemned his architecture as a work of Marxism. He resided there until his death in 1969.

 

  1. Which of the following concertos was written by George Friedrich Handel, a composer originating from Saxony-Anhalt in the city of (____________)?

ANS: Halle (Saale). Handel (* 1685; died 1759) was famous for the following pieces: Alexander’s Feast, Messiah, Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks, and others in the Baroque Era.

 

  1. True or False: Johann Sebastian Bach originated from Magdeburg.

ANS: False.  Bach was born in Eisenach (Thuringia) and died in Leipzig.

 

  1. True or False: The late Hans Diedrich Genscher, one of the founding fathers of the Free Democratic Party of Germany originated from Halle (Saale).

ANS: Genscher, who established the FDP as a liberal party in East Germany, was born in Halle (Saale). He was an influential figure for the people of the former East Germany at the time of its reunification with West Germany. He died in 2016  in Wachtberg. The party itself was established in West Germany in 1948 and has been the longest running party on the German scene, having had members in the Bundestag for every year until 2013.

 

  1. True or False: Sven Köhler, one of the longest tenured soccer head coaches from Halle FC, grew up in and played for the team in Halle.

ANS: False. Köhler coached Halle FC for eight years, yet his origin is in Chemnitz, where he is now head coach of Chemnitz FC (since March 2016)

 

  1. True or False: Halle FC and FC Magdeburg are the only two teams in Saxony Anhalt which marched through the regional soccer league in one season enroute to the national stage (counting the 3rd tier of the German Bundesliga).

ANS: True. Halle achieved this in 2012/13 and Magdeburg in 2014/15.

 

  1. True or False: The handball teams of SC Magdeburg (men) and the Halle Lions (women) compete in the premere league.

ANS: False. Only the SC Magdeburg has a men’s handball team in the premere league. The Halle Lions have a women’s basketball team in the premere league.

 

  1. Which of the following beers originate from Saxony-Anhalt?

Porter              Hasseröder                 Gessener                     St. Moritz                   Glauchauer

 ANS: Hasselrödaer beer originates from Saxony-Anhalt and is brewed in Wenigerode

  1. Which of the following specialties are NOT considered a pastry?

Bienenstich                Nähstänge                  Garley             Baumkuchen            Streuselkuchen

 ANS:  Garley. Garley is not only a traditional soup for Saxony-Anhalt, but also the name of the oldest brand named  beer in the world, having been brewed in Saxony-Anhalt from 1314 until its closure in 2013.

 

  1. True or False: The Nähstänge is a pastry that originate from  Tangermünde.

ANS: True. Consisting of a burro-shaped pastry filled with chocolate, the Nähstänge is a local specialty of Tagermünde, in northwestern Saxony-Anhalt.

 

  1. What constitutes a typical Bauernfrühstück in Saxony-Anhalt?

ANS:  This one consistes of potatoes, onions and eggs. More on the recipe here.

 

  1. The Weinmeile is an annual event that takes place in Freyburg (in the Saale-Unstrut Region),  famous for the production of wine and sect  

 

  1. What is a Feuerstein from Schierke?

ANS: The Schierke Feuerstein is a half-bitter herbal liquor with 35% alcohol and is 70-proof. Best served cold and in combination to form long drinks, the beverage was developed by Willy Drube and the name was derived from the redness of the color of granite, located in the Harz Mountain region. Still exists today and highly recommended. 

 

20. If legend is true (and it still is), salt is the most priceless commodity that exist in Saxony-Anhalt. Which areas can you find salt production?

ANS: True. Salt is still being mined today in areas west and south of Halle (Saale) and has a lot of value as a mineral.

 

  1. Salt is used for what purposes?

ANS: Salt is used for spicing food, as an inhalant for colds and other ailments, and for various forms of physical and psychological therapy.

 

  1. Which of the cities in Saxony-Anhalt does NOT have a castle?

Halle (Saale), Naumburg (Saale), Magdeburg, Sangerhausen, Quedlinburg, Dessau-Rosslau, Tangermünde

ANS: Magdeburg 

 

  1. Which of the following cities have a cathedral?

Naumburg (Saale),  Magdeburg,  Halle (Saale), Havelberg, Lutherstadt Wittenberge, Arendsee

 ANS: All except Arendsee have at least one cathedral. Arendsee is a lake and resort town.

 

  1. How many churches and “klosters” does Magdeburg have?

ANS: One cathedral and 13 churches exist in Magdeburg. Before World War II the number of churches was 20.

 

25.  How many bridges do the following cities have? Name two of them per city you know. (Click on the names of the cities for more information on the city’s bridges)

Magdeburg:  70+ 

Halle (Saale): 131

Quedlinburg: 20+

Zeitz: 15

Merseburg: 3- including the Leuna Arch Bridge, the stone arch bridge and the railroad overpass at the train station. 

 

26. Match the pictures of the bridges with that of the locations below.  Name the bridge if you know it.

Halle (Saale)    Magdeburg    Zeitz    Bad Kösen    Saale-Unstrut Region    Merseburg   Quedlinburg    Tangermünde    Köthen

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Check out sister column the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles for more on the bridges in Saxony-Anhalt, including those in Quedlinburg, Magdeburg and the Saale-Unstrut Region. In the meantime, onto the next German state…… 🙂

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Germany Quiz Nr. 7: What you need to know about Saxony-Anhalt

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Saxony-Anhalt-the state with two faces, but loaded with some interesting facts and friendly faces. With a population of 2.37 million inhabitants and a land area of 20,452 squared kilometers it is the most sparsely populated region in Germany and one of the most sparsely populated areas in Europe, with over 70% of the people living in cities with more than 30,000 inhabitants, including Dessau-Rosslau, Weissenfels, Halle(Saale) and its capital, Magdeburg. The rural areas, once laden with industry from the days of East Germany, are now places dominated by nature and agriculture. Yet despite this, Saxony-Anhalt has some jewels that are worth mentioning. Cities and towns pride themselves on their history and heritage; despite being landlocked by four states, the landscapes vary between hills and mountains in the western half and plains in the northern and eastern areas, thus encouraging tourism in the region. And thanks to the new ICE line through Halle (Saale), train connections are enabling the establishment of new commerce and business partnerships with nearby cities, such as Leipzig, Hanover, Jena, Erfurt and even Berlin, thus helping keep much of the population from emigrating to the western and southern parts of Germany and beyond.

But what do we know about Saxony-Anhalt in reality? This is where the seventh quiz on the Germany series on this state comes into play. Like in the first six, the object is to test yourself on the knowledge of the state, with the answer key to come before the end of June. Both of which will appear in the Files under the page Interesting Facts about Germany. 

So quiz yourselves and knock yourselves out with these Guessing Quiz questions about Saxony Anhalt 🙂  :

  1. Which of the four states does Saxony-Anhalt border?

a. Thuringia   b. Brandenburg   c. Lower Saxony   d. Saxony   e. all of them

 

2. List the following cities in Saxony-Anhalt in order of population, beginning with the largest:

Quedlinburg     Zeitz     Halle(Saale)   Halberstadt   Naumburg (Saale)   Weissenfels    Magdeburg    Lutherstadt- Wittenberge   Dessau-Rosslau   Bernburg   Merseburg       Sangerhausen

 

3. Match the following photos with the cities listed in Nr. 2. (Hint: Two of these belong to one city.)

 

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A.
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B
C
The cathedral churches and the statue of George Friedrich Handel at Halle (Saale)'s city center. Photo taken in 2012
D.

 

 

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E.

 

4. True or False: No police commissioners from the German mystery series Tatort has ever covered Saxony-Anhalt.

 

5. True or False (2 answers): The slogan for Saxony-Anhalt is Frühaufsteher, which stands for people going to work early in the morning (_____).  The people who do that (mainly farmers) are proud of that heritage (_______). 

6. True or False (3 answers) Martin Luther, the Protestant who presented the 95 Thesis harshly criticizing the Catholic Church, was born in and died in the same city (_______). His wife Katherina von Bora was not from Saxony-Anhalt originally (_______). She crafted the first champaign for him as a refresher for the brain (________).

7. Walter Gropius is famous for this (choose one):

_The founding of Bauhaus Dessau-Rosslau

_The creation of Worlitz Park near Dessau-Rosslau

_ The Nebra Arch

_The creation of the East German Museum in Bernburg

 

8. Which of the following concertos was written by George Friedrich Handel, a composer originating from Saxony-Anhalt in the city of (____________)?

 

9. True or False: Johann Sebastian Bach originated from Magdeburg.

 

10. True or False: The late Hans Diedrich Genscher, one of the founding fathers of the Free Democratic Party of Germany originated from Halle (Saale).

 

11. True or False: Sven Köhler, one of the longest tenured soccer head coaches from Halle FC, grew up in and played for the team in Halle.

 

12. True or False: Halle FC and FC Magdeburg are the only two teams in Saxony Anhalt which marched through the regional soccer league in one season enroute to the national stage (counting the 3rd tier of the German Bundesliga).

 

13. True or False: The handball teams of SC Magdeburg (men) and the Halle Lions (women) compete in the premere league.

 

14. Which of the following beers originate from Saxony-Anhalt?

Porter              Hasseröder                 Gessener                     St. Moritz                   Glauchauer

 

15. Which of the following specialties are NOT considered a pastry?

Bienenstich                Nähstänge                  Garley             Baumkuchen            Streuselkuchen

 

16. True or False: The Nähstänge is a pastry that originate from  Tangermünde.

17. What constitutes a typical Bauernfrühstück in Saxony-Anhalt?

18. The Weinmeile is an annual event that takes place in ___________________________, (region or city will suffice)  famous for the production of ________________ and ___________________ (pick two from the selection below)

champaign           brandy            wine                sherry             sect                 champaign            beer

 

19. What is a Feuerstein from Schierke?

20. If legend is true (and it still is), salt is the most priceless commodity that exist in Saxony-Anhalt. Which areas can you find salt production?

 

21. Salt is used for what purposes?

 

22. Which of the cities in Saxony-Anhalt does NOT have a castle?

Halle (Saale), Naumburg (Saale), Magdeburg, Sangerhausen, Quedlinburg, Dessau-Rosslau, Tangermünde

 

23. Which of the following cities have a cathedral?

Naumburg (Saale),  Magdeburg,  Halle (Saale), Havelberg, Lutherstadt Wittenberge, Arendsee

 

24. How many churches and “klosters” does Magdeburg have?

 

25.  How many bridges do the following cities have? Name two of them per city you know.

Magdeburg: ________

Halle (Saale): _______

Quedlinburg: _________

Zeitz: __________

Merseburg: __________

 

26. Match the pictures of the bridges with that of the locations below.  Name the bridge if you know it.

Halle (Saale)    Magdeburg    Zeitz    Bad Kösen    Saale-Unstrut Region    Merseburg   Quedlinburg    Tangermünde    Köthen

 

 

The Answer Key to this Quiz you will find here.

 

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