Christmas Market Tour 2015: Pella, Iowa

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Author’s Note: This stop was taken last year during the tour through the United States. Due to illness on the part of the author upon his return to Germany, the decision was made to include it into this year’s tour.  Sincere apologies for the inconvenience. 

The next stop on the Christmas tour in the US is Pella, in south central Iowa. Located 45 miles southeast of Des Moines, the city with 10,400 inhabitants was established in 1847, when 800 settlers, led by dominee Henry Scholte moved to the area to make a living. The name Pella was derived from the village Perea, where Christians found refuge during the Roman-Jewish War of 70 A.D.  Today, Pella maintains its Dutch heritage in many ways than one. One can see that with the architecture, when driving past the town square and its Dutch-style facade and its double-leaf bascule bridge spanning an artificial canal. The Vermeer Mill is the largest Dutch-style windmill in North America. The Dutch “S”, a pastry with marzipan filling that is typical in the Netherlands, can be found at the Vander Ploeg Bakery, along with other Dutch-style pastries. And when visiting the city’s two meat markets (Ulrich and Veld), one can find imported cheese and meat products from the Benelux Region (Benelux consists of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg).

And while the city is located north of Red Rock Lake, an artificial lake created in 1969 that is laden with recreational activities all year round, Pella has two important holidays that the people celerbate: Tulip Days in May and Christmas. Tulip Festival is a typical Dutch festival where tens of thousands convene for a weekend of celebrations and the crowning of the Tulip Queen.  Christmas in a Dutch setting, like Pella, on the other hand, is typically American- Christmas lights display in the city center as well as the countryside, as well as a display of Christmas trees in one house. There’s no Sinterklaas coming into the harbor by ship- how could they if the ship meets the Red Rock Dam and he has to take a truck up the road past Wal-mart and into the city? Even with his Black Peters as his helpers? 😉  A look at how Sinterklaas is celebrated (naturally on the day before St. Nicholas Day in Germany) can be found via link (here) and in the video below:

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But just because the Christmas season is more or less Americanized and makes Pella un-Dutch, does not mean a person should stay away from the city because it is not European enough nor has some European flair in the holiday season. There are many reasons to spend a few hours in this Dutch community which is anchored by three different Dutch institutes- Vermeer Manufacturing, Pella Windows and Central College, along with other Dutch-style stores. The Files has the top five places to visit during the holiday season that are worth visiting:

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  1. Vermeer Mill: Built by the Vermeer Corporation in 2002, the Vermeer Mill is the largest functioning flour mill in North America. Tours of the mill and demonstrations on how the mill works are available, but this place is a keeper for one can see how the mill works. Furthermore, as you can see in the picture above, the mill has a viewing platform where you can see all of Pella’s city center, including its famous Market Square. The Mill is part of the Museum Complex, which also features a miniature display of towns in a Dutch setting in the Interpretive Center section of the Mill. The model has existed for over 30 years, and one needs an hour to look at the details of the display.
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Grinding geers in the mill
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Winter scenery at the Interpretive Section of the Vermeer Mill

2. Historic Village: Inside the Museum Complex is a must-see attraction in the Historic Village. The Village consists of 24 buildings, many of them have existed since the founding of Pella in 1848, including the church, blacksmith shop and shoemaker. Others, such as the log cabin, one of the first built in Marion County, were brought in and restored. Even the street lamps at the complex originates from the bygone ear. Most likely gas-powered, the bulbs displayed are from the 1930s.

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One of the first log cabins in Marion County
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Vintage street light with 30s era light bulbs

Each building features a display or a demonstration, pending on which building has what. For instance, the shoemaker shop produces and displays wooden shoes, which are typical of Dutch culture. Examples and displays of these shoes, including a jumbo pair at the museum shop, can be see everywhere. Some places have displays with mannequins dressed in their Dutch apparel. The bakery offers a display and a plate full of cookies to try. And even a gallery with the displays of all the Tulip Festival dresses and a hall of fame of all the queens are a treat to see. We were welcomed with Christmas trees in the majority of the houses and buildings on display

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Dutch-style shoes after being wood-carved

3. Scholte House and Gardens: Located on Washington Street, the house is the first in Pella, being built by Hendrik Scholte in 1848 for his wife. One can see the rooms and exhibits pertaining to their lives and the history of Pella. While the house and the gardens are best seen in the spring time during the Tulip Festival as well as during the summer, the house itself has a wide display of 15 Christmas trees to see, each one has its own taste and history. While we saw the house but not the display because it was closed, a columnist visiting the house at Christmas time found the displays very impressive. Yet with the holiday season one should look at expanding their opening hours to include weekends and 2-3 more days in the week instead of only one day a week. But in either case, the house has maintained its original form and is impressive even from the business district.

4. Jaarsma Bakery and Smokey Row Café: Both located along Franklin Street, the shops are literally a block apart, but each one serves the finest pastries, bars and coffee products. The Jaarsma Bakery, located across the street from the Public Gardens, offers a wide variety of Dutch pastries, including the Dutch apple cake, almond bars and the Dutch “S”. They are excellent to take home for the holidays to share with family and friends, as we did just that.  The Smokey Row Café provides travellers and tourists alike with a wide selection of coffee with pastries to eat in a historic coffeehouse setting, as you can see in the pic below. The café is also a great meeting place for the young and old alike and has a family setting that makes a person stop there again and again.

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5. Market Square: Behind the Jaarsma Bakery is the Market Square, one of the most modern places in Iowa and one that mimics a Dutch setting, with its famous red brick buildings and Dutch facade . The square is the central point of entertainment, as the Opera House, the Cinnema, The Amsterdam Hotel and Conference Center and the Pella Showroom are all located in one block, divided by a man-made canal that is crossed by a double-leaf bascule bridge, typical of the bridges in the Netherlands. While the square is laden with flowers and other floral decorations, it would be a perfect place for a Christmas market, if city officials are willing to at least experiment with it. As Christmas markets are popular in Germany, France and the Netherlands, the city can benefit from having one at least for a couple week(end)s during the holiday season.

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After a few hours in Pella, it was time for us to move on, but not before collecting some thoughts and recollections on the city and its settings around Christmas time. Although Pella does have a lot to offer for Christmas events and places to visit during the holiday season, it is clear that the Dutch community is more focused on the Tulip Festival and other events in the summer months, which means the holiday events are like the ones in an American town: light festivals, music concerts in churches and shopping. But can you imagine what Pella would look like if they had a Christmas market in the Market Square and Public Gardens and events similar to what the Dutch have at home in the Netherlands? Could you imagine how Pella would stand out among the rest of the communities in Iowa during the holiday season? And can you imagine how it would be a big of a magnet for tourists?

Check out the photos and think about it. 🙂 ❤

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Author’s Note:  Sister column the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles did a series on the historic bridges in Marion County, including the bascule bridge in Pella, as well as historic bridges that existed over the Des Moines River before the Red Rock Lake was created in the 1960s. More on the bridges here:

Horn’s Ferry Bridge

Bridges at Red Rock Lake

Old Hwy. 14 Bridge near Cordova State Park

Pella Bascule Bridge

Fast Fact:  Pella was the birthplace of Wyatt Earp, famous US marshal. All his brothers except Virgil were  raised near Pella.

Germany Quiz 1: The Answers to the Questions about Schleswig-Holstein

Sheep grazing along the Eider outside Friedrichstadt with the railroad bridge in the background. Photo taken in 2012
Sheep grazing along the Eider outside Friedrichstadt with the railroad bridge in the background. Photo taken in 2012

And now, the moment you have been waiting for, for two weeks: the answers to the questions about the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Going from north to south the Files is providing readers with a guessing quiz on each of the German states as part of the series on Germany at 25. For the northernmost state in Germany, the area is rich in culture and history, which after looking at the answers to the guessing quiz, you will be motivated enough to spend a few weeks up there.

The answer key is only a complement to the guessing quiz which you can access here and print out for you to try on your own, as well as test your family and friends, especially those originally from the region who might need a refersher. However, you are also free to comment on the answers to the guessing quiz, either in the comment section or directly via e-mail, using the contact info available under About the Flensburg Files header page.

So without further ado, here are the answers to the quiz on Schleswig-Holstein:

ANSWERS FROM THE MÄÄHTRIX EXERCISE:

  1. What’s the capital of the state of Schleswig-Holstein

 Answer: Kiel

 

  1. Which of these communities is NOT a community but an island?

Answer: Sylt

Interesting Fact: The Island of Fehmarn is also considered an island featuring several small villages plus the towns of Burg, Burgstaaken and Puttgarden. Yet since 2003, all the communities consolidated to form an Island-Community or City Island. Sylt still remains an island with many small communities run locally by their own governments.

 

  1. List the communities in order from largest to smallest in terms of population.

Kiel (242,000)

Lübeck (210,000)

Flensburg (89,300)

Neumünster (77,000)

Itzehoe (32,700)

Bad Oldesloe (24,100)

Husum (22,200)

Sylt (21,000)

Heide (20,800)

Quickborn (20,200)

Eutin (17,300)

Bad Seegeberg (15,900)

Fehmarn (13,000)

Plön (12,800)

Friedrichstadt (2,400)

 

  1. Which community has the highest concentration of Danish people in Germany?

Answer: Flensburg. Of the ca. 90,000 inhabitants that live in this city, 30% are of Danish descent. No wonder that the city has several Danish schools and stores, mostly in the north and west of Nordermarkt.

 

  1. Which community was established by the Dutch?

Answer: Friedrichstadt. The town was founded by Dutch Protestants in 1643 and is characterized by its houses, canals and even bridges, including its signature double-bascule draw bridge. More on the city’s bridges can be found here through the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.

 

 

  1. Which community is famous for its chalk hills and is the site of Karl May’s Cowboys and Indians Show (a.k.a. Winnetou)?

 Answer: Bad Seegeberg.  Every summer in July, Winnetou and his Native American friends make a stop here to challenge the likes of Buffalo Bill and Kit Carson, just to name a few.

 

  1. You’ll never be a full-fledged international tourist unless you visit this community with its historic city center (a UNESCO site, BTW) and try the world famous marzipan candy. Name this town in Schleswig-Holstein.

 

Answer: Lübeck. More on why you should visit this city to come in the Files. But if you don’t visit this city, you’re touristic criminal. 😉

 

  1. “Moinson!” German actor Axel Prahl, who plays Thiel in the ARD mystery series “Tatort” (Crime Scene in EN) is originally a Schleswig-Holsteiner, originating from which community? (Note: It has a fine castle).

 

 Answer: Eutin, located between Kiel and Lübeck. If you’re not convinced he uses this greeting profusely or if you want to know what he looks like, enjoy this Tatort film below:

Correction: The greeting is spelled “Moins En,” according to local sources.

 

  1. Which two communities have a premere league handball team and what are their official team names? (Hint: The Files has profiled them in many occasions since its inception in 2010)

 

Answer: Flensburg and Kiel.  The official name for Flensburg’s team is the SG Flensburg-Handewitt, featuring the acing albatrosses from two Flensburg handball teams and one from neighboring Handewitt that merged to be one team in 1990. The zebras of THW Kiel have been in the handball business for over 100 years (since  1904) and have been kings of the German and international leagues for over 50 years.

 

  1. Which community is famous for its “Kornschnapps” (EN: grain schnaps)?

Answer: Bad Oldesloe, located between Hamburg and Lübeck.

 

 ANSWERS TO HYBRID QUESTIONS:

 

  1. Which river in Schleswig-Holstein is the longest?

 a. Trave     b. Treene        c. Träne          d. Tine       e. Schwentine      f. Eider

Answer: The Trave. At 124 km in length, the river flows through the eastern part of the state before emptying in the Baltic Sea at Travemünde near Lübeck.     

Note: The Eider River would have been the right answer had it not been for the construction of the Baltic-North Sea Canal. Originally, the river sliced through the state from Tönning to Kiel, thus creating first the border between the Danish and Prussian Kingdoms then later the kingdoms of Schleswig and Holstein. It was 188 km long, however today’s river starts at Rendsburg and continues its route to Tönning, with the total length being cut down to 100 km.

 

  1. How many castles does Schleswig-Holstein have, and can you name two of them? (Hint: Eutin has one so it does not count)

 

Answer: seven. They include ones at Eutin, Ploehn (Plön), Salzau, Gottdorf (near Schleswig), Husum, Ahrendsburg and Glücksburg.

 

  1. The last of the coal-fired steamboat exists in Germany and is still in operation in Flensburg. What’s the name of the ship?

 a. Alexandra     b. Bertha        c. Clara           d. Dora           e. Euphremia    f. Flora

  g. Greta          h. Helena        i. Illonka         j. Johanna

Answer: a. Alexandra. This ship was built in 1908 and still provides tours in the region between Flensburg, Holnis and Kappeln. Rumor has it though that this ship is expected to retire soon.

 

  1. The Kiel Canal (a.k.a. Grand Canal) is a waterway built in 1895 connecting which two cities and their two seas? Schleswig-Holstein is bordered by these two seas.

 

Answer: The Baltic Sea and the North Sea.  Hence the name Baltic-North Sea Canal or in German: Nordostseekanal (NOK)

 

  1. The Grand Canal replaced the canal that followed the Treene River. True or False?

Answer: False. The Grand Canal replaced the Alte Eider Canal, which ran parallel to today’s canal between Kiel and Rendsburg as a canal and as the river Eider from Rendsburg to the mouth of the North Sea at Tönning

 

 

  1. Name two of ten bridges over the Grand Canal. One of whom has received many accolades for its engineering wonder. (Hint: Sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles did a report on this theme)

 

Click here to get the answers. The Rendsburg Bridge is one of the bridges that received several accolades on the national and international level because of its unique bridge design. More on that here.

 

17. Uwe Barschel, a Social Democrat, resigned from his post as prime minister amid a scandal on October 2, 1987. Nine days later, his body was found at a luxury hotel in which city?

 a. Munich  b. Berlin          c. Amsterdam             d. Berne          e. Geneva     f. Vienna

g. Budapest    h. Paris      i. Prague         j. New York

Answer:    e. Geneva   Correction: Barschel was a Christian Democrat, not a Social Democrat, according to locals and the history books.

 

  1. The 1972 Summer Olympics took place in Kiel. True, False, or Naja?

Answer: Naja. While the majority of the events took place in Munich, the yachting portion of the events took place in Kiel.

 

 

  1. Which German cartoon character originated from Schleswig-Holstein?
    1. Die Wilde Kerle (The Wild Boys)
    2. Werner
    3. Wallace and Gromit

 

Answer: b. Werner the wild motorbiker. Interestingly enough, Rötger Hoffmann, the creator of this cartoon character, just recently celebrated his 65th birthday. He founded the series in 1982.

 

  1. Which annual festival in Schleswig-Holstein does NOT exist?
    1. Apple Festival in Glücksburg (near Flensburg)
    2. The International Yacht Festival in Kiel
    3. International Kite-flying Festival in Travemünde (near Lübeck)
    4. Crocus Flower Pagent in Husum
    5. Tulip Festival in Friedrichstadt

 

Answer: e. The Tulip Festival does NOT exist in Friedrichstadt, BUT there is a similar festival some 6,000km away in another Dutch city, Pella (Iowa) in the US.

 

  1. You’re not a true Schleswig-Holsteiner unless you try one of the two local specialties (a.) and a good (b.) beer.

Answer:

a. Sauerfleisch with broiled potatoes OR any delicacies with fish

b. Flensburger beer

 

  1. Fehmarn Island is the flattest island in Germany. True or False?

 Answer: False, but the island is the largest in Germany.

 

  1. The Fehmarn Bridge, built in 1963, was the first bridge in the world to use this design?

Answer: The basket handle tied arch bridge. Since then, many engineers have embraced this design, and another bridge in Schleswig-Holstein will be built at the Levansau crossing using this design.

 

  1. St. Peter-Ording is a popular health span resort namely because of of the discovery of which mineral in a geyser discovered in 1953?
    1. Salt Petroleum  c. Sulphur       d. Nitrate        e. Hydrogen

Answer:  c. sulphur

 

  1. How many universities and colleges exist in Schleswig-Holstein? Can you name two of them?

Answer:  12 

They are:        The University of Kiel

                       The University of Applied Sciences of Kiel

                       The Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts in Kiel

                       The Europe University of Flensburg

                       The Flensburg University of Applied Sciences

                       The Lübeck Academy of Music

                       The University of Lübeck

                       The Lübeck University of Applied Sciences

                       The University of Applied Sciences in Wedel

                       The Pinneberg AKAD

                       The Nordakademie of Elmshorn

                       The Westkuste University of Applied Sciences of Heide

And now after getting acquainted with the first of 16 states in Germany, we will now move on to the second state going south. This is one of three city-states and one that was on the news most recently: Hamburg. More in the next article….

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